Sunday, September 25, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 89

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 89

This next section of Isaiah is about the futility of man's plans and peace treaties. King Hezekiah joined a coalition of nations to oppose Assyria but the rebellion has been a disaster. In addition, when he sought to make peace with King Sennacherib, Sennacherib exacted an astronomical amount of tribute from Judah and then marched against their nation anyway.

"Look, their brave men cry out in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves." (Isaiah 33:7-9) The Assyrian army leaves nothing but destruction behind it, turning fertile fields into a wasteland and leveling fortified cities. The nations that came together to oppose Assyria and free themselves of oppression are experiencing Sennacherib's wrath. The nations wanted to be left alone in peace but only terror has come.

We hear a lot about "world peace" but no peace conference has ever brought about a lasting peace. No president or king has ever brokered a deal that made all nations at peace with each other. And nobody ever will do this except the King of kings: the righteous and perfect Son of God. 

Just at the point when all human effort has failed, God steps in. When victory comes, the people will know it was His doing, because their alliance with pagan nations has been ineffectual. "'Now will I arise,' says the Lord. 'Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thorn bushes they will be set ablaze.'" (Isaiah 33:10-12) Leaving God out of their lives caused the people to produce nothing of value. The holy God will judge every man's works by fire, according to the Apostle Paul. Paul stated that only the works which are built on the sure foundation of Christ will stand. "It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work." (1 Corinthians 3:13b) We also find fire used in the Bible as a process of refining, "I will refine them like silver and test them like gold." (Zechariah 13:9a) "For You, God, tested us; You refined us like silver." (Psalm 66:10) "Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of My people?'" (Jeremiah 9:7) 

Precious metals are heated so that the impurities rise to the top to be skimmed off. This is the type of refining the Lord is speaking of when He allows the people to experience affliction. This furnace is not intended to destroy them but to allow the impurities to rise to the top, where the Lord can skim them off. He is making something better of them than they were before. When their political alliances fail and their false gods don't answer, they see that their only hope is in the Lord, the One whose help they formerly scorned. 

"You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge My power!" (Isaiah 33:13) The Gentile nations (you who are far away) will hear of the mighty works of the Lord. They will know there is a God in Judah. The people of Judah (you who are near) will acknowledge the power of Almighty God when they see what His hand has done. In the church age, the gospel works in the same way. The Gentiles once were very far away from God, neck-deep in idolatry, performing useless rituals and bowing to gods who couldn't even hear them. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13) Praise God! My ancestry is Gentile and my forebears once babbled senseless prayers to carved blocks of stone, being as far away from the God of Israel as they could possibly be, but through the blood of Christ I am brought near to the Lord. I share in the promises God made to Abraham. I am a child of the God who intends to make one family of the Jews and Gentiles who trust in the name of His Son. "He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:17-18)

The Lord made peace between Jews and Gentiles. This was not done by the strength and ingenuity of man; it was the Lord's doing. In Christ, we are all one big family, a family that loves each other. And it will be the Lord's doing when at last we have world peace, when King Jesus sits on the throne of David. The spotless Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah who rules the world in righteousness. We won't ever turn on the news and hear of wars or rumors of wars, of terrorist attacks, of natural disasters, or of any horrifying stories about man's inhumanity to man. Only the God of peace can bring about a lasting peace among the nations. This is why we long for His kingdom to come! We long for the day when, as Isaiah will say tomorrow, our "eyes will see the King in His beauty". 

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