"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Cor 1:3-4
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 71
Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah Day 71
We will conclude Chapter 27 today known as the Deliverance Of Israel.
Yesterday we finished up with the Lord asking Israel if He had been as harsh with her as he had been with her enemies. He pointed out that she had not fallen to the point of being unable to rise again. Many ancient nations fell and are no more but not so with Israel.
"By warfare and exile You contend with her---with His fierce blast He drives her out, as on a day the east wind blows. By this, then, will Jacob's guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: When He makes all the altar stones to be like limestone crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing." (Isaiah 27:8-9) The people strayed from the Lord, their Deliverer who led them out of Egypt and planted them in the promised land. They set up altars to false gods and danced around the poles of the fertility goddess. So the Lord contended with the descendants of Jacob. To contend with someone means to debate with them, to strive with them, to compete with someone or something. In the thesaurus, some synonyms for this word are to argue with, to confront, to go after, to grapple with, to encounter, to struggle with, to appeal, to contend with, to demonstrate or display, and to persuade. The Lord should never have to contend with us to be the uppermost thought in our minds. He should not have to compete for our attention. But when this situation occurs, He first appeals to us in a more gentle way and, if the situation continues or worsens, He must confront us. This is what happened with Israel. They fell further into idolatry as time went on, scorning the warnings of the prophets, forsaking the word of God, until He had to contend with them through warfare and captivity. Sadly, we sometimes ignore the pleading of the One who loves us for so long that discipline is the only way He can get our attention. I've been there and it hurts, but these are the lessons that stick with us.
God Himself is going to atone for Jacob's sins. And in that day, all the altars will be cast down and crushed underfoot. As the prophet Zechariah foretold, "The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9) Never again will the name of a false god cross the lips of His people. Never again will an offering be brought before an idol. Never again will man whisper a prayer to a deity unable to hear his cries for help.
"Jacob's guilt" mentioned here is not atoned for by the suffering of Israel. The suffering (the warfare and the captivity and the oppression by enemies) is simply the means by which the hearts of the people turn to God for help. It is the acceptance of the sacrifice He has provided for their sins that removes the guilt. Israel comes to the Lord the same way Gentiles come to the Lord: through Christ. There is no other way, for, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) No one, neither Jew nor Gentile, comes to the Father except through Christ. He provided the only sacrifice that atones for sin.
"The fortified city stands desolate, an abandoned settlement, forsaken like the wilderness; there the calves graze, there they lie down; they strip its branches bare." (Isaiah 27:10) Trouble is coming because of the waywardness of the people. The northern kingdom and its capitol of Samaria would fall to Assyria, with the people taken captive. Assyria would make a number of incursions into Judah, not being able to break through to Jerusalem, but still making the countryside desolate and dangerous. Later Babylon will make three separate forays into Judah, doing immense damage each time and taking captives, until on the third occasion breaking down the walls of Jerusalem.
"When its twigs are dry, they are broken off and women come and make fires with them. For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor." (Isaiah 27:11) The lack of understanding here is not the type that cannot be helped. The people weren't ignorant of God or His laws. They did not have the excuse of not knowing any better. The Apostle Paul asks, "Did they not hear? Of course they did." (Romans 10:18) And he goes on to explain that the prophets gave out the message of God to a people who did not want to listen. He asks, "Did Israel not understand?" (Romans 10:19) Then he goes on to mention Moses, under whose leadership the Lord provided the commandments and the law. Of course they heard and understood, which is why God says He is showing them no favor in their time of testing. We too, in modern times, lack excuse. The word of God is available to us in the United States twenty-four hours a day. If we don't own a Bible, we can read it on the internet or listen to it on TV or we can go to one of the many places that provide free Bibles to those who want one. Nobody is stopping us from going to church or praying. I would think it is the rare person in the United States who does not have at least some understanding of the basics of the gospel, whether they believe in it or not. And so we are without excuse.
The fortified cities were broken down because God took His protective hand off them. But even as the cattle grazed where houses and government buildings once stood, the people did not take it to heart. When the cattle broke the lower branches off, the women simply came and gathered them for fires, possibly the fires upon which they baked cakes to offer to their fertility goddess. They are going about their lives as usual even though the walls are broken down and the crops ruined. This is why God says they have no understanding. They have not allowed their troubles to minister to them. They have not asked themselves, "Why has this trouble come? Why has our enemy defeated us? Why were the former days so much better?" Had they reasoned like this, they would have come to the conclusion that the former days were better and their nation stood secure as long as they were faithful to God.
Yet, in spite of her many stumblings in time past, God has a glorious future in store for Israel. "In that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 27:12-13) On the day Jesus sat on His borrowed donkey and looked down on Jerusalem and wept, He said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Luke 13:34) But a day is coming when they will be willing and the Lord will gather them from all over the world, enfolding them under His protective wings as a hen covers her chicks.
This good news is not for Israel only, but also for the Gentile nations. We have previously seen in Isaiah's prophecy a kingdom under Christ which includes believers from all over the earth. Israel's Messiah became the Gentile's Savior, and because He is the Gentile's Savior, He will become Israel's accepted Messiah and King. God has worked His awesome plan of salvation in such a way that both Jews and Gentiles must participate together as equal sons and daughters of God. What a great God we serve! What an all-inclusive offer He made to mankind when He said, "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17b)