Monday, December 26, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 174

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 174

We get back into our study of Isaiah today with Chapter 62 and the vision of a glorious future for Zion. The birth of Christ began the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (Genesis 22:18), and the promise comes to full fruition in Isaiah's vision of a day in which nothing ever separates Israel from her God, when the Lord dwells on earth and reigns from David's throne. We can just imagine the joy the prophet experienced at the thought of his people's future. As Bible scholar Barry G. Webb says in his book The Message Of Isaiah, "Zion was profoundly important to Isaiah, not just because he was a patriot, but because he was acutely aware of its strategic significance in God's purposes."

The continuance and the prosperity of Zion were vital to God's plans. Isaiah foretold some dreadful things for the people such as defeat and captivity, but he knew these conditions could not be permanent. Nearly two hundred years before it came to pass, the Lord revealed to him the name of the man called Cyrus who would set the prisoners free. The Lord showed him the long desert road back to Jerusalem that the people would travel and He promised to be with them on the journey. Isaiah caught a glimpse of the Suffering Servant and described the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in Chapter 53. The prophet knew a Redeemer was coming and that He was coming from Zion in her own land. Of course the captives would return! Of course God would keep His promise to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham! Of course God would be true to His word to King David that one of his descendants would reign forever!

It's in this spirit that Isaiah and the Lord cannot keep silent about the beautiful days ahead. The words burst out joyfully and cannot be contained. "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, til her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch." (Isaiah 62:1) The Lord gave Isaiah this vision during the years he preached about a coming captivity, but the Lord wants the people to know their defeat won't be the end of them. We learned earlier in Isaiah that the Babylonians treated the captives shamefully, even the elderly and the sick among them, and the Lord intends for the Babylonians to reap what they have sown. Their wickedness is going to boomerang back on them. And not only on them, but on all who have cruelly mistreated God's covenant people throughout the ages. 

"The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow." (Isaiah 62:2) It was a common practice of conquerors to rename the captives they carried to foreign lands. It stripped the people of their identities, both personal and national. It was a demoralizing act and a demonstration of the power the conqueror held over them. But the Lord also bestows new names on those who surrender to Him, names that recognize their new natures and the fact that they are no longer who they used to be. These are names of honor, names that lift the spirits of those who receive them. For example, the name Jacob meant something like "supplanter" or "deceiver", but the Lord changed his name to Israel, which meant "he who wrestles with God", and it suggests that the one who wrestled gained that which he sought. Jacob wrestled all night with God and said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me." (Genesis 32:26) The one who formerly grasped his brother's heel at birth, signifying that someday he would deceitfully grasp his brother's birthright, grasped the Lord with all his might, refusing to let go, deeply desiring a relationship with his creator, wanting something more than what this world offers. And because God saw what was in his heart, He gave him a new name, one that did not carry with it the shame of being a deceiver. 

"You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hepzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." (Isaiah 62:4-5) Hepzibah means "My delight is in her" and Beaulah means "married". There have been times when other nations have shaken their heads at the downfall of Zion, believing God had forsaken her like a man who divorces his wife, certain that God had deserted her forever. But this is not so. God takes delight in her in the same way that a bridegroom rejoices over the woman he loves. He will be joined with her forever and no one will ever again accuse Him of setting her aside.

"I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth." (Isaiah 62:6-7) As the Apostle Paul would have put it, the people are urged to "pray without ceasing". (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The Lord Jesus would have said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) The message is, "Don't give up! Don't stop asking the Lord to step in. No matter how dire your circumstances appear, and no matter how long it takes for deliverance to come, don't give up."

This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives. Sometimes our circumstances look impossible and it seems like no help is coming. But don't give up. Call on the Lord, give Him no rest, pray without ceasing. 

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