Thursday, September 22, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 86

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 86

Yesterday Isaiah told us of a righteous King and a righteous kingdom. It's typical of Isaiah's preaching style to intersperse the bad news with good news. Today he moves back to the current times and warns the women of Jerusalem of trouble in the immediate future.

"You women who are so complacent, rise up and listen to me; you daughters who feel secure, hear what I have to say!" (Isaiah 32:9) It's easy to be complacent in a nation that is well off. Because Judah has never been conquered, the ladies never expect it to be conquered. They believe everything will continue to go on as it always has.

A lot has been made of "women's intuition" but as a woman I think there really is something to it. Scientists even say that women possess sharper hearing and better peripheral vision, things which give us an advantage over an attack by either man or animal. Because we are smaller in stature and not generally as physically strong as a man, God created us with a built-in alarm system. We pick up on very subtle cues in the body language and expressions of others in order to determine their trustworthiness. But Isaiah is saying that even the women have lost this important alarm system. They are failing to read the signs of the times.

"In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come." (Isaiah 32:10) The success of a mainly agricultural society depends on good harvests. In the Bible the failure of crops is looked at as a judgment for sin, for the success of the crops depends on whether or not the Lord sends the early and the latter rains on the fields. The Lord promised blessings upon the people if they remained faithful to Him, and some of those blessings involved the crops, "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today---to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul---then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied." (Deuteronomy 11:13-15) This is a beautiful promise but its fulfillment depends on the obedience of the people. "Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you." (Deuteronomy 11:16-17) There are many beautiful promises in the Scriptures but we have to be careful to study them in context, as there are usually conditions placed on them. God will be faithful to do His part if we are faithful to Him.

"Tremble, you complacent women; shudder, you daughters who feel secure! Strip off your fine clothes and wrap yourselves in rags. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of My people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers---yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry." (Isaiah 32:11-13) The armies of King Sennacherib of Assyria were never able to breach the walls of Jerusalem but they did manage to turn the Judean countryside into a wasteland. Fields were trampled underneath the hooves of warhorses. Crops were burned. Houses were destroyed. Wherever the Assyrian army went, it left a burning trail of destruction behind it. 

"The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever. the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, til the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes like a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest." (Isaiah 32:14-15) A time of discipline is descending on the nation. First they will be tormented by Assyria, then later conquered by Babylon. They did not keep their part of the bargain, which was to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, but instead turned aside to other gods. The word ad-olam is translated in the NIV and many versions to mean "forever", as if Judah and Jerusalem will be forever abandoned, but we see this is not the case because the Lord goes on to say it is only "til the Spirit is poured out". The troubles that are coming will last a long time. It may feel like the hard times go on forever, but there is a cut-off point. There is the promise of a day when the chastening ends and the precious Spirit of the Lord is poured out on the people. A revival is in the future. During the hard times that feel like they will never end, the people are to cling to this hope.

When we get to Isaiah 35 we will find the vision of a glorious future for the land. The desert will blossom like the rose. Streams of fresh water will burst forth in the desert. A King will reign in Zion and the hearts of the redeemed will rejoice in His presence. I think here at the end of Chapter 32 Isaiah is returning to his prophecy of the righteous kingdom that we studied yesterday. Isaiah knew that the time would come when his people would sit captive in a foreign land, perhaps thinking their descendants would never again see the promised land, fearing their nation had been destroyed forever. But the promise is that the nation of Israel will endure before the Lord, no matter where its people are scattered throughout the world. A King is coming from the line of David and someday He will rule the world forever in justice and righteousness. At that time, the ease and complacency of the people will be because He is in the midst of them, not because they trust in themselves or in false gods.

"The Lord's justice will dwell in the desert, His righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free." (Isaiah 32:16-20) 

Isaiah assures the people that a day is coming when their peace and confidence won't come from fortified cities or political alliances or a well-trained army or useless idols. Their peace and confidence will come from the living God. There will be no fear of an enemy breaking through or of a wild animal attacking their livestock. No drought will kill the crops and no locust will eat them up. Man will be at peace with God, with his fellow man, and with the animal kingdom. This is the day of which it is said, "No longer will there be any curse." (Revelation 22:3a) 

Continuing with the theme of the early and latter rains, the prophet Joel foretold a far-off day of abundant revival. The Spirit of the Lord is likened to the early and latter rains that fall upon sown fields. The people had experienced the early rains, the days when they walked closely with God and had not yet turned from Him to idols. But they will also experience the latter rains, the day when, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." (Joel 2:28-29) This prophecy of the latter rains of the Spirit began to be fulfilled after the ascension of Christ, when the gospel started going out to the world, and the Spirit of the Lord fell on the believers in Christ. The Apostle Peter said, "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people." (Acts 2:17a)

We are living in the last days, in the church age, and have seen the firstfruits of the fulfillment of this prophecy. We have been given a foretaste of what it will be like when we behold our Savior and King face to face, and no curse is on the earth, and we will sin no more, and nothing will ever be between us and our Lord. 

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