Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 140

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 140

We begin Chapter 48 today with a change of subject. The Lord has been chastising Babylon for her pride but now He turns to Judahl, the people in covenant with Him, and reproves them for their stubborn hearts.

"Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel---but not in truth or righteousness---you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel---the Lord Almighty is His name: I foretold the former things long ago, My mouth announced them and made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze." (Isaiah 48:1-4) Because He knows all things, the Lord knew to what miserable spiritual depths His people would fall. This is why He predicted captivity generations before it occurred. Because He knew what their conduct would be, He already had a means of discipline planned for them. By the time they would be conquered, trying to lead them was like trying to lead a strong and stubborn mule ("your neck muscles were iron"). Trying to reason with them was like trying to talk to someone whose mind was completely closed off ("your forehead was bronze")

Bible commentator David Guzik puts an interesting spin on verse 1, "God identifies His people as the house of Jacob,---the name Jacob essentially meaning "deceiver, cheater"---and says they only have the name of house of Israel, not the character of Israel, which means "governed by God". God reminds them of their tribal ancestor Judah who was noted for his cruelty and immorality." If this is indeed what God means by calling His people by these three names, then we see that all the way back to their forefathers they were a wayward and stubborn people. And the Lord could say the same things about you and me and our ancestors. We can't pick on Judah or Israel when we have some scoundrels in our own family trees and when we have been scoundrels ourselves. It's the carnal nature of mankind to want to follow our own foolish desires but, thanks be to God, it's His nature to pursue us with love and mercy.

The Lord reminds the people that it was He who predicted the events about to come upon them, "Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.' You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them?" (Isaiah 48:5-6a) How can they deny the existence of God? How can they proclaim the existence of any other god? The Lord calls on them to admit the truth and renounce the false gods they have trusted in. We must admit our sins before restoration can occur. 

"From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.' You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth." (Isaiah 48:6b-8) Jacob, the patriarch and founder of the twelve tribes of Israel, was rebellious from his birth. So was the nation itself. So was mankind as a whole. So were you and I. Yet God still deals with us, "For My own name's sake I delay My wrath; for the sake of My praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this. How can I let Myself be defamed? I will not yield My glory to another." (Isaiah 48:9-11) 

It is to the praise of His name that the Lord extends mercy to us. We don't deserve it and we haven't earned it. It's His nature to offer us redemption, just as it's our nature to go astray. He's simply being who He is, and His purpose is to conform us into the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29) This conforming, more often than not, takes place in the furnace of affliction, for we are stubborn. Like silver purified in the fire, God was about to thrust His people into a foreign land of spiritual darkness so they would repent and turn back to Him. This is how He sometimes has to deal with us as well, thrusting us into unpleasant circumstances to gain the attention we have denied Him, to bring about repentance and restoration. As we continue on in Chapter 48 the Lord describes for us the desperate spiritual condition of His people, which is the same desperate condition facing the whole human race. The Lord is bringing the charges of sin against mankind so that humans cannot avoid coming face to face with their sins and failures. What is to be done? What is the answer? As Bible scholar Barry G. Webb says, "With this issue hanging heavily in the air, the scene is set for the Servant of the Lord to take center stage again in Chapter 49." (from The Message Of Isaiah, pg 192) 

I'd like to thank everyone who has been so faithful to this study on the book of Isaiah. It's the longest book of the Bible and we've been deep into it for many months, but I promise you the best is yet to come. Just when things look most hopeless, when the people have been judged stubborn and sinful, when the conqueror is outside the gates and it appears as if the destruction of their nation might be permanent, the Lord presents His righteous Servant. After concluding that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, the Lord bestows upon us a Savior. After announcing that there are no redeeming qualities in our character, the Lord provides us with a Redeemer. Isaiah has toiled over this book for so long because the people (and us, thousands of years later) needed that much time to come to the realization that there's nothing we can do to save ourselves and there is no one but the Lord who can save us. There is no other God. There is nowhere to turn for help but to Him. After coming face to face with our sins and failures, after acknowledging to ourselves that God is right to judge us, we find in Him something we don't deserve and never expected: a pardon instead of prison. He offers us a way out, a new life, a better future, a place at His table! We who are so unworthy that all our righteous acts hang on us like filthy rags are offered a robe of righteousness in Christ, a crown of victory, and the unmerited privilege of calling Almighty God our Father. We could not pay a price high enough to buy back our souls, so the righteous Servant of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid it for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment