Monday, September 19, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 83

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 83

As we conclude Chapter 30 we see Isaiah's vision of a renewed earth with the Lord as its King. In a time when the people fear their enemies, Isaiah promises them that a day is coming when God will judge their enemies.

"See, the name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; His lips are full of wrath, and His tongue is a consuming fire." (Isaiah 30:27) Isaiah is speaking of the day of the Lord in the end times. In the book of Revelation we find the symbolism of a sharp, double-edged sword coming from the Lord's mouth. He will judge by His word. He will judge on the basis of whether His word was accepted or rejected and on whether it was obeyed or disobeyed. 

"His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; He places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray." (Isaiah 30:28) When we put something in a sieve, the smaller useless bits fall through the openings while the larger useful bits remain. It's a method of sifting. I believe this refers to the day when the Lord will separate the wheat from the chaff. John the Baptist spoke of that day, saying that the Lord would separate the wheat from the chaff, gathering the wheat into His barn, but burning the chaff. (Luke 3:17) 

When the righteous see the wicked removed from their presence, they will rejoice in the holy judgment of the Lord. "And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel." (Isaiah 30:29) We discussed earlier in the book of Isaiah that to love the Lord is to love not only His mercy but His judgment. Israel has probably been invaded more than any other nation. Her citizens have been enslaved a number of times. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt over and over. When Israel sees the Lord judging her enemies, she will rejoice in His righteousness. God cannot be holy if He does not judge wickedness. 

"The Lord will cause people to hear His majestic voice and will make them see His arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail." (Isaiah 30:30) The Bible commentator David Guzik says of this verse, "When we understand how God's perfect judgment exalts His justice and His righteousness, we see the glory of the judgment of the Lord." 

It hurts our hearts to think of those who are lost facing the judgment of the Lord, and it should bother us. We need to get the gospel out like never before. We need to pray like never before. We need to be Jesus' hands and feet in a dark world, ministering to our fellow man. I am sure Isaiah, as a man of God, was concerned about the lost, but in this chapter he seems to concentrate more on the fate of those who are active enemies of God's people. He is speaking of the joy one experiences when God passes judgment on one who is wicked and cruel. He is talking about Israel's happiness when all those who have hurt her receive their punishment.

Having gone far into the future to speak of the day of the Lord, Isaiah now backs up to the trouble at hand: Assyria. "The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with His rod He will strike them down. Every stroke the Lord lays on them with His punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as He fights them in battle with the blows of His arm." (Isaiah 30:31-32) You will recall from our study of the kings that, when a detachment of the Assyrian army camped near Jerusalem planning to lay siege to the city, the angel of the Lord smote them in the night, killing them all with a plague. God personally acts on behalf of those who love Him, stepping into history, working things out for His people and for the glory of His name. When Hezekiah realized no help from his allies was coming, he called on the name of the Lord and the Lord rose to Jerusalem's defense. The field commander of Sennacherib's army blasphemed the name of the Lord as he stood outside the gates of Jerusalem and the Lord would not let this pass. He defended the holiness of His name and displayed His great power by annihilating the army that the Assyrian king sent to Jerusalem. I would imagine there was a great deal of singing and rejoicing when the people of the city realized the enemy soldiers lay dead in the field without the people of Judah having to fire a single arrow.

"Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze." (Isaiah 30:33) Topheth was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, outside Jerusalem. It was an abominable place, where children had been sacrificed and burned in the fire to the Canaanite god Molech. It's name is synonymous with hell and destruction, of all things vile and heinous. By the time of Jesus, the words "Ben Hinnom" had merged into the word "gehenna", which the Lord used as a synonym for hell. So Isaiah is saying that the plans of the pagan people of Assyria will come to nothing, that their destruction has long been foretold, that a grave is prepared for their king, and that hell awaits him. 

The prophecy against Babylon earlier in Isaiah had a similar theme. Its king was prideful over his wealth and power but he would be brought down to hell, there to mingle with all the other wicked kings before him. The one who thought he was above God would be brought low. The king who thought he was greater than any king in history would be equal with them in death. In a time when the people of Judah were shaking in fear of Assyria and its king, Isaiah assures them the fate of Assyria and its king is sealed. It has already been determined. It is as good as done. 

Isaiah is calling the people to faith. They need to trust in the promises of the Lord. There's no need to send to Egypt for troops when God is actively working on behalf of His people. Assyria's fate has already been determined and she will never be able to breach Jerusalem's walls. King Sennacherib wrote of his many exploits and battles won, but nowhere will we find an account of him having conquered Jerusalem. It is noticeably absent from his list of defeated cities. He gives no explanation as to why he was unable to overcome that city, since ancient kings rarely had anything to say about failed ventures, but we know what happened from the holy Scriptures. The Lord stepped in. 

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