Monday, September 5, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 69

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 69

We begin Chapter 27 which is titled "Deliverance Of Israel". It begins with the downfall of the ancient serpent who led man into sin and brought the curse of sin upon the world. 

Since the creation, Satan sought to destroy the Messianic line so Christ would not come. He began his dark work on Cain, who slew his godly brother Abel, leading to Cain's exile. But Messiah was intended to come from another son of Adam and Eve: Seth who was born to them after the death of Abel. Later the patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, of which only Joseph was godly, and Satan thought surely Messiah would spring from this godly man. So he stirred up jealousy in the family so that Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. But the Lord intended His Son's lineage to come from Jacob's son Judah. Once Satan learned this, he sought to forever enslave the people of Israel in Egypt, but the Lord blessed them there and their numbers grew. So the devil attempted through Pharaoh to have all the Hebrew baby boys killed, but one woman hid her son til she could hide him no longer, placing Moses in a basket among the reeds where Pharoah's daughter found him and raised him as her own. Thus the Lord preserved the life of the one who would lead His people out of Egypt. 

In the wilderness, Satan incited the people to idolatry and attempted to make them so wicked that God would destroy them, but God gave them the commandments and the law to govern them, along with the sacrificial system which looked ahead in faith to the true Lamb of God. After the people of Israel inhabited the promised land, when the prophet Samuel went to the territory of Judah and anointed David the future king of Israel, Satan made the insecure King Saul mad with envy so he would want David dead, but God protected him from every plot, so that the Promised One would come from the kingly line of Judah. Many nations in ancient times invaded and conquered Israel, killing hundreds of thousands of them, carrying thousands captive to foreign lands, but God has always had a faithful remnant. 

In the days when Israel was under Roman rule, the Lord chose a young woman of the lineage of David to be the mother of His Son, and Satan tried to take His life by appealing to Herod's intense phobia of losing his throne. Herod was a man who killed several of his own family members because of real or imagined conspiracies against him; he did not balk at the idea of killing a few Hebrew baby boys born in Bethlehem. But an angel warned Joseph, Mary's husband, to flee with his little family to Egypt until it was safe to return. 

Right before Jesus began his ministry, that serpent of old came to tempt him away from the cross. He offered him the kingdoms of the world and in essence said, "You can be crowned with many crowns without suffering a humiliating death for these useless people. Look how weak and sinful and willfully blind they are! Are they really worth it? There are other ways to become king than saving this miserable bunch of losers. Worship me and everything in this world can be yours." Jesus didn't deny that Satan is the prince of this world and was capable of giving Him fame and wealth, but He refused to turn aside from His mission of mercy, so the devil made certain He was hated by the leaders of Israel and rejected by those who should have recognized Him as the Messiah. 

The persecution of Israel did not end when Christ went to the cross, died, and rose in victory on the third day. The persecution did not end when the redemptive word of God was fulfilled when Christ gave Himself for us. This is because there is yet prophecy to be fulfilled: that of the day of the Lord and the return of the King to reign forever. The devil has reasoned with himself that, if he could not prevent Christ from dying for man's sins and rising for man's justification, he can prevent there being a throne of David for Christ to claim. Since the Jewish uprising against Rome and the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD, Israel in a worldly sense was not a nation again until 1948. But in God's eyes she was still a nation and He will never go back on His word to preserve her. Israel has been hated more than any nation has ever been hated, but God will not break His promise. When Christ returns, He will return to the nation of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem. The schemes of that old serpent are destined to fail again and again, because the word of God cannot fail.

Today Isaiah sees the downfall of the serpent of old, the deceiver, the lawless one. "In that day, the Lord will punish with His sword---His fierce, great and powerful sword---Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; He will slay the monster of the sea." (Isaiah 27:1) There is much ancient mythology regarding great and powerful serpents or dragons. Pagan peoples considered the snake as a symbol of rebirth because the snake periodically shed its skin, revealing a new skin underneath. This is why in so many cultures the snake became associated with creation myths. There are too many snake gods for me to list and describe here, but if you have the time you might want to do a Google search on the subject. It's amazing how prevalent these snake gods were among the pagan peoples of every continent. The power behind this deception, Satan, has been quite busy over the course of time in leading people into idolatry and we shouldn't be surprised that the image he chose is one which honors him: the serpent. 

Isaiah does not believe any of these pagan serpent gods are real, but he knows that there is a destructive power behind the myths which is very real. And so he uses the word "Leviathan" (a word in the Hebrew which was symbolic for any large and monstrous serpent or sea dragon) as a symbol of Satan and of all destructive and lawless and sinful enticements. The spirit realm is as real as anything we can see or touch in this world. Over the millenia, many have bowed down to false gods that were unable to act on their behalf, but behind idolatry lies a very real force of evil. The gods themselves do not exist but evil exists. And in the great day of the Lord, He will put an end to evil. The serpent of old, the one who is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning, will meet his fate at the hands of the Holy One. 

It's not a coincidence that the Antichrist in the Apostle John's vision was "a beast coming out of the sea". (Revelation 13:1b) In addition, wee are told that it is the dragon (Satan) who "gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority". (Revelation 13:2b) The dragon, the serpent of old or Leviathan, is the power behind the throne of the Antichrist. He is the power behind all wickedness since the dawn of time. In the garden of Eden, after he enticed Eve to sin, the Lord said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel." (Genesis 3:15) The offspring of the woman was Christ who descended from her lineage, and Satan would indeed bruise His heel on the cross, but Christ will have the last word and will crush Satan underfoot. (Romans 16:20)

Isaiah foresees the downfall of all that opposes God and he sees the eternal destruction of the one who has deceived the nations. How can a created angel stand against the God who created him? He cannot! His time is short and judgment is imminent. The Lord showed the Apostle John a future day when, "The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revelation 20:10) Imagine the hallelujahs that break loose when this happens! The Lamb of God who takes away our sins will do away with the one who tormented His people. Woe to the one who has led man into sin! Great will be his judgment. 

Immediately after casting the serpent down forever, in Revelation we find the Lord making all things new and beautiful. The curse of sin is gone. Creation is restored. Man will live in peace with each other and with the animals. Sin has been rendered powerless. Death has been defeated. And the One who made all this possible will be our eternal King and throughout the unending ages we will behold His face. Whether we were worth it or not, God loved us. He was not willing to leave us in our sins. Since before He spoke the universe into existence, He intended that His holy and perfect Son would stand in our place, taking the stripes that heal us, taking the punishment we deserved. The word of God says that he who hangs on a cross is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23). In going to the cross, Christ took the curse from us and transferred it to Himself, tasting death for every man. But when He rose, He brought the promise of new life for every man, so those who look to Him can be set free of the curse of sin and can walk in "newness of life". (Romans 6:4) Blessed be the name of the Lord, who loved us this much!

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