Monday, October 17, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 111

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 111

We continue on today with the first chapter of the messianic portion of Isaiah. Our first verse will be one you recognize from the New Testament, "A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" (Isaiah 40:3) This can also be translated as, "A voice of one calling in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way for the Lord'." This verse was quoted by John the Baptist in reference to himself in John 1:23 when the people were asking him if he were the Messiah. "John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" 

God the Father chose the precise time in history in which to reveal His Son. He had maintained a prophetic silence for four hundred years and the people, suffering under Roman occupation, longed for a word from the Lord. This was the day the prophet Amos had spoken of centuries earlier, "'The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign Lord, 'when I will send a famine through the land---not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'" (Amos 8:11) One of the psalms of Asaph expresses grief over the period of silence, "We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be." (Psalm 74:9) It was following the four hundred years without a word from God that the Word Of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, stepped into history. The years of silence had accomplished what all the years of pleading by the prophets could not: they prepared the way for the Lord. They prepared the hearts of many people to hear the preaching of Jesus. Prior to the beginning of Christ's public ministry, John the Baptist walks onto the pages of the Scriptures like an Old Testament prophet and the people think he might be the one to save Israel, but he declares plainly, "No, I am not the Messiah. I am His friend, the voice of one calling in the wilderness. I've been sent to soften the hearts of the people in preparation for hearing Him." When blessing his son, John the Baptist's father said of him through the Holy Spirit, "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins." (Luke 1:76-77)

Isaiah's prophecy is twofold in that it indicates both the first and second advent of Christ. The first part was fulfilled when John the Baptist came preaching to prepare the hearts of the people to hear Christ during the days of His earthly ministry. The second half will be fulfilled when the Lord returns to rule the world from the throne of His forefather David. "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 40:4-5) There will be nothing to impede the Lord's way to the throne when He returns. As we learned from our study on the book of Revelation, when our Lord reigns sovereign over the earth, His enemies will be no more. Satan, along with the beast (the Antichrist) and the false prophet, will be cast into the lake of fire, never again to tempt or deceive the people of earth. All rebellion will be in the past. No enemy will try to lay claim to God's people or to Christ's throne. It will be as if every valley is raised and every mountain and hill laid level; nothing will stand in our Lord's way.

About a hundred years after Isaiah came preaching and prophesying to the people, they would be sitting captive in the foreign land of Babylon, and in reading the scroll of Isaiah they would have noticed a similarity in the language to a Babylonian hymn about the false god Nabu. It said, "Make Nabu's way good, renew his road. Make straight his path." (from An Introduction And Commentary On Isaiah, pg. 244) Nabu was a pagan deity that the Babylonians claimed to be the son of one of their chief gods Marduk. Though Marduk was preeminent over his son, the son was given more attention and honor in their religious festivals, and worship of Nabu eventually gained supremacy over worship of Marduk. The Babylonians made a statue of Nabu which was carried through the streets on the day of a festival dedicated to him and it was during this procession that the people would sing the hymn about making his path straight. God's people would have noticed the similarity between Isaiah's words and the Babylonian hymn, but they would also have noticed the contrast between Babylon's false gods and the living God of Israel. Where is Nabu today? Where is Marduk today? Their idols are laid low in the dust and the civilization that praised them is no more. But the God of Israel is the God of the ages, the One whose Son is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who holds the title to the throne of David and will reign from it forever and ever. He is the One whose glory will be revealed to the entire world so that all people see it together. (v 5) The prophet Daniel, the Apostle John, and Christ Himself said of this appearing, "every eye will see Him". 

Throughout the ages, Satan has tried desperately to provide us with substitutes for Christ. Cults have arisen that mimic the relationship between the Father and the Son. In the end times, the false church instituted by the Antichrist will mimic the Trinity. Satan will be a father of sorts (spiritually speaking) to the man of sin known as the Antichrist who is an impersonator of Christ. In addition, there will be a false prophet whose ministry on behalf of the Antichrist will be a parody of the ministry of the Holy Spirit on behalf of Christ. When the people of God were held captive in Babylon they would have noticed the similarity of the Babylonian false religion to the religion of Israel but far more importantly they would have recognized the monumental differences. Had Nabu ever delivered his people from slavery and given them a promised land? Had Nabu ever saved a soul or changed a life? Was Nabu going to give himself for the sins of anyone? In Chapter 40 the Lord is promising His people a sacrifice that will pay for their sins, a way to be made clean and whole, a Savior who will come someday to receive His kingdom and whose glory will appear to every person on earth. The Lord is promising them a day when they will be released from captivity, not only their physical captivity in Babylon, but their spiritual captivity to sin. Later in our chapter Isaiah will present our Savior to us as the One who is so great the universe was formed by His word but who is so loving that He is the Shepherd who tenderly cares for His sheep. There is no god like this God! There is no other Savior. And as Isaiah continues with the messianic portion of his book, this will be made clear to all who read it.

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