Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 11, The Lord's Courtroom, Part Two

The Lord has metaphorically called the people of Judah and Jerusalem into His courtroom to hear His charges against them. In our last study session He spoke of the way many of them were oppressing and taking advantage of the poor and needy. He talked about how prideful they were and about how they felt no shame for their sins. He chastised them for putting ungodly, inexperienced leaders in charge instead of the elders "manning up" to speak out for what was right. 

The previous charges mainly involved the men doing wrong things. In today's text the Lord says the women have lost their care and concern for the people around them. As we stated in Friday's study session, historians have often said that women tend to have a civilizing effect on the people around them. For example, when our nation was new and the western territories were being settled and the era of the gold rush was going on, it wasn't until women began moving to the towns that an actual society began to form. Men married the women and settled down and raised families. The women were instrumental in setting up churches and schools so their children could receive religious instruction and educational instruction. The women had a calming effect on the area once known as "the wild west". 

The fact that the women of Judah and Jerusalem have become vain and prideful and hardhearted proves to us just how much the nation has fallen from the principles with which it was founded. It's not that women were created morally superior to men or that we should expect a different standard of living from women, but traditionally it has been women who have been tasked with looking out for the young, for the elderly, and for the infirm. A majority of the women of Hosea's day have begun looking out only for themselves.

"The Lord says, 'The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.'" (Isaiah 3:16) Walking along with "outstretched necks" sounds like another way of saying they are walking along "with their noses in the air". He says they are "haughty" and the synonyms for that word include things such as "vain, snooty, conceited, superior, callous, arrogant, self-important" and so on. No synonym for the word "haughty" is a good thing. 

The Lord's description of the way these women comport themselves suggests they are making a great deal of effort to look sexually alluring. They flirt with their eyes. They sway their hips. They wear charm bracelets on their ankles so people will hear them coming and turn to look at them. I want to point out that I don't think the Lord has anything against a person taking care of themselves with good hygiene and grooming. I don't think there's anything sinful about a person putting themselves together neatly and modestly and respectfully when going out in public. We wear clothing appropriate for work or for church services, for example, and it would actually be disrespectful not to look presentable when going to those places. Being well-groomed is not the type of thing the Bible is condemning when it talks about the way these women have made themselves up. What's happening here is that they've concentrated only on what's on the outside (and in some cases have gone to extremes with that) while completely neglecting what's on the inside. They have no relationship with the Lord and have little concern for their fellow man. They have a superficial beauty on the outside but on the inside their hearts are withered and ugly.

Because they care only about what's on the outside, the Lord is going to allow the outside to look as bad as their hearts look on the inside. "Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald. In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground." (Isaiah 3:17-26)

Defeat and captivity are coming. Enemy armies often shaved the heads of their captives and even branded captives. They took away all their worldly goods and divided the spoils, either for resale or to give as gifts to their family members and friends back home. A soldier, for example, might take a beautiful cloak or fine perfume back to his wife. But the point that is being made here at the end of Chapter 3 is that if the people had cared about the condition of their hearts rather than about their outward appearance, their social status, their financial status, and the state of the economy and the military, the nation would not be on the verge of falling. If their spiritual condition had been right, the Lord would have protected their nation, for that is exactly what He promised prior to giving them the land centuries earlier.

Friday, December 1, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 10, The Lord's Courtroom, Part One

In today's segment of Chapter 3 the Lord metaphorically calls the people into His courtroom to bring charges against them. Not everyone in the nation has turned away from Him, but the majority have or will by the time He allows the nation to fall to the Babylonian army. 

As we concluded Thursday's study we found Him comparing the people's spiritual waywardness to someone who stumbles around drunkenly and aimlessly. He said, "Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying His glorious presence." (Isaiah 3:8) Nothing we do in this life is of any eternal significance except what we do out of love for the Lord. Without a relationship with Him, we stumble through life following our own human inclinations, doing the things the world says matters, following ungodly advice from people who are just as lost and aimless as we are. But when we have a relationship with the Lord, we have His glorious presence with us at all times. We have His guidance, His comfort, His provision, and His strength. This doesn't mean we will never face hardships while we live on the earth, for even the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus faced hardships on this earth, but we won't be facing them alone! In addition, we will avoid many of the hardships that arise as a result of disobedience. The trouble that has already come and will continue to come upon the people of Isaiah's day was a result of their disobedience, as the Lord points out below.

"The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves." (Isaiah 3:9) The disaster is one which they have brought upon themselves with their sin. They are even prideful about their sin! We see this same attitude in the world today, as in: "Nobody has the right to tell me what to do. Nobody has the right to judge me. I'm going to live my life the way I want to live it. I'm going to follow my heart. I'm going to do anything and everything my heart desires and I dare anyone to say anything about it!" The trouble is, the human heart is filled with many wrong desires, as the Lord says in Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Our hearts will deceive us. We won't always know why we are motivated to want certain things and, because those things appeal to our human natures, we will rationalize those things and talk ourselves into them. The only way we can have hearts that desire godly things is if we give our hearts to God and put Him first in our lives and allow Him to direct our paths. David recognized his need for the Lord to constantly set his heart straight, so he prayed to Him: "Create in me a pure heart, O God." (Psalm 51:10a)

Those who have not forsaken the Lord are given a word of reassurance here. "Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds." (Isaiah 3:10) Life isn't always a bed of roses for the righteous but, as we said earlier, those who love the Lord have the comfort of His presence at all times. They also will have the joy of an eternity with Him. The wicked, however, bring many troubles upon themselves with their sinful deeds and (if they do not repent and make God the Lord of their lives) will spend eternity separated from the loving presence of the Lord. "Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done." (Isaiah 3:11) 

In yesterday's study session we talked about how the leadership of the nation had become ineffective. Ungodly, unwise, inexperienced people were in power. Lawlessness was abounding. The young and strong were taking advantage of the elderly and weak. Those who had a great deal of worldly goods were oppressing the poor. The Lord touches on that same theme again now. "Youths oppress My people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path." (Isaiah 3:12) The Lord isn't saying that young adults or women can't be good leaders. I don't believe He's displaying prejudice against youths or females. I believe the point here is that no wise and experienced men are making a stand for the Lord and speaking up for what is right.

Not many godly men are denouncing the sins of the nation. Not many godly men are crying out for the people to repent and turn back to God. This is why young and impetuous men are in charge. This is why women, who in those days did not have much education or life experience outside the home, are telling people what to do. Any men who are encouraging the people to repent are in the minority and are being treated badly---men like Isaiah about whom ancient tradition says was sawn in two during the reign of the evil King Manasseh. Men like Hosea, whose book we just finished, were scoffed at and called madmen. A plot was afoot to murder the prophet Jeremiah, whose book we will study soon. The Lord Jesus referred to the city of Jerusalem as a place where prophets were murdered and where godly messengers were stoned to death. (Matthew 23:37) And speaking of the Lord Jesus, plots were continually being hatched against Him to take His life and take Him out of the picture, though He spoke the very words of God to the people. 

Because so few people are standing up for what is right, and because even the elders have gone astray and are taking advantage of their fellow man, the Lord brings charges against them. "The Lord takes His place in court; He rises to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of His people. 'It is you who have ruined My vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the faces of the poor?' declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty." (Hosea 3:13-15)

This segment is too lengthy to study all of it today, so we will resume this passage during our next study session. Today's text closes with the Lord asking the elders and leaders why they are taking advantage of the poor. He asks them why they are greedy and have unlawfully seized the possessions of others. As Chapter 3 continues on we will find Him pointing out that even the women, who typically have a civilizing effect on any society, have lost their care and concern for those around them and have become obsessed only with what they can have for themselves.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 9, Poor Leadership

As we begin Chapter 3, which is titled in the NIV as "Judgment On Jerusalem And Judah", we learn that part of this judgment involves the Lord allowing poor leaders to rise to positions of power. The Lord is the one who chooses the leaders of every government of every era, according to Daniel 2:21 and Romans 13:1. We may think we are in charge of electing our leaders in democratic nations but everything falls into place according to the Lord's will. He sends good leaders to bless us and He sends poor leaders to correct us. In today's text we find Him orchestrating the rise of poor leaders to power because the people have forsaken Him.

"See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support; all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter." (Isaiah 3:1-3) We learned in our study of the kings that the Babylonian army laid siege to the Jerusalem for some time and that the city finally fell to King Nebuchadnezzar. Whenever a city is under siege, its citizens eventually run out of food and water and other supplies, which is the purpose of siege. Going without the necessities of life can soon make a city's citizens surrender to the enemy army and that saves the enemy army from having to scale the walls and engage in hand-to-hand combat, thus saving many soldiers' lives. It's a more cost-effective method of defeating a city, in manpower and in horses and in chariots and in weapons. Siege doesn't always result in surrender, but even when it doesn't it makes the city's citizens less effective in fighting off an invasion if the enemy army has to engage them in battle.

Not only will supplies be cut off, but good leadership will be cut off as well. "I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them." (Isaiah 3:4) A succession of young and inexperienced men will attempt to lead the government and the army rather than wise and godly elders or battle-hardened warriors or political veterans.

Lawlessness will abound. "People will oppress each other---man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored." (Isaiah 3:5) In their distress, people will turn on each other and lash out at each other. The strong will forcefully take things from the weak. The aged ones will be cast aside when resources become scarce, for the people will reason with themselves that these resources are better spent on the young and strong who have a better chance of surviving and who might be able to do something against their invaders.

Resources will become so scarce that a man who has managed to hold onto anything---even the smallest of valuable items---will appear to his fellow man as a good candidate for leadership. "A man will seize one of his brothers in his father's house, and say, 'You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!' But in that day he will cry out, 'I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people.'" (Isaiah 3:6-7) He will say, "I don't have any answers! I can't keep food on my own table or clothes on my own family member's backs. We are barely keeping body and soul together at my house. How can I advise anyone in the nation what to do when I don't know what to do for my own household?"

"Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying His glorious presence." (Isaiah 3:8) This is the reason for everything to come---everything Isaiah is prophesying about: the majority of the people have defied the Lord. They could have had peace on every side. They could have had peace with God and peace in their hearts. But because they scorned Him in favor of the idols of the heathens and for the idols of this world (money, power, prestige, and so on), He will allow a heathen nation to overcome then. Then, in a foreign nation, they will turn their eyes and their hearts toward God.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 8, The Day Of The Lord, Part Three

We are studying a prophecy in Chapter 2 regarding the time known as "The Day Of The Lord" or "Judgment Day". Yesterday we talked about how the child of God need not fear that day. It is a day of judgment for the wicked, not for those who love the Lord.

We are going to back up a couple of verses because they are so closely connected with the remainder of the chapter. The theme is that, once everything has been said and done, only the Lord will be exalted in the end. The pride of mankind will amount to nothing. The idolatry of mankind will amount to nothing. Only what the Lord has done---and only what man has done for His honor---will last.

"The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear." (Isaiah 2:17-18) When studying the Old Testament we generally see idols represented as actual objects that symbolize the gods of the pagan peoples. But even then, as now, an idol could be anything that a person valued more than the Lord. After all, an idol is something that stands in place of the Lord. An idol can be money, power, prestige, a relationship, worldly possessions, a habit, an addiction, or anything that means more to a person than his or her relationship with the Lord. These are things that will be of no help when they face the God whose love and mercy they considered of little significance during their lifetime. That is why the Bible says "the idols will totally disappear". What use are idols when a person is standing before the judgment seat of the living God?

In the end times, when the various natural disasters described in Revelation strike the earth, and when the military and economic disasters described in Revelation strike the nations of the earth, many who have scorned the Lord will continue to scorn Him but will cower in fear at the prospect of facing Him. "People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19) Even then there will be those who refuse to bow on their knees before Him, attempting instead to conceal their sins from Him. 

"In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols and silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:20-21) In Isaiah's day, many people of his nation of Judah and of the nation of Israel were putting a lot of time and effort and expense into serving the gods of the heathen nations. In our own day, many people all around the world are putting a great deal of energy into serving the gods of the modern age. But none of these gods will be able to help anyone. Can the Lord be bribed with money? Is the Lord impressed by anyone's worldly power or fame? No, a relationship with the Lord is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing of any eternal significance. Without Him, nothing really matters or brings any true satisfaction in this life. Without Him, there is no forgiveness for sins. Without Him, there is no eternal joy and peace after this life on earth is over.

Idols cannot save the people. Their fellow man can't save them either. The nation of Judah enjoyed quite a bit of prosperity during a lot of Isaiah's lifetime, as did the nation of Israel during the lifetime of Hosea whose book we just finished studying. But no national leader is powerful enough to save his people from judgment for their sins. No military or economy is strong enough to protect people from judgment for their sins. Isaiah ends Chapter 2 on this note: "Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" (Isaiah 2:22)

I was born and raised in the United States of America during an era when this nation has been the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth. But if I did not know the Lord, what good would it do me on judgment day to have been a citizen of the United States? What good would it do me if I'd been closely related to one of our presidents? What good would it do me if I'd accumulated wealth or fame? Do those things mean anything at the judgment seat of Almighty God? No, the only thing that will matter on that day is whether we are a child of God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle John said the same thing in one of his epistles and we will close today's study session with his wise advice about valuing the Lord above all else: "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world---the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life---comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 7, The Day Of The Lord, Part Two

Chapter 2 contains a prophecy that is titled in the NIV as "The Day Of The Lord". This term in the Scriptures is usually a reference to the final day of judgment at the end times but Isaiah appears to be using the term in a twofold prophecy. Part of the prophecy, which we studied yesterday, seems to be primarily to do with the soon-to-come fall of Judah. The remaining verses of the prophecy mostly correspond with the ultimate day of judgment in which the Lord will judge all wickedness.

"Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day." (Isaiah 2:10-11) We know that no one can hide from God but it's a common human reaction to want to hide sin or to want to hide from the consequences of sin. You'll recall that Adam and Eve hid from the Lord in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned against Him. When the Lord asked Adam why he hid from Him, Adam stated, "I was afraid." No one had ever sinned before and Adam did not know exactly what to expect; therefore we cannot be certain whether he felt sorry for his sin at that time or was simply terrified of the consequences. The hiding from the Lord that Isaiah speaks of in our text today does not necessarily indicate that people are sorry for their sins but that they are afraid to face the God against whom they have sinned. 

"The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, for all the towering mountains and all the high hills, for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, for every trading ship and every stately vessel. The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear." (Isaiah 2:12-18) Tall cedars and mighty oaks are often used to symbolize powerful human leaders. When the day of the Lord's judgment comes against those who have rejected Him, no president or prime minister or king will be able to save sinners from His wrath; they won't be able to save themselves from His wrath either. No government, no leader, no military, no economy will be a buffer between evildoers and the penalty that is about to fall upon them.

This next segment corresponds to a passage from the book of Revelation. "People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19) "Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?'" (Revelation 6:15-17)

Those who are crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them are those who turned their faces away from the Lord all their lives. From the least to the greatest, all who scorn Him will answer His charges against them. The Bible is not saying that all the people who have ever been wealthy or who have ever held positions of power in the government will face His wrath; it's only those who eschewed the Lord in favor of idols (and idols can be power, wealth, and many other worldly things), who repeatedly rejected Him, and who lived in opposition to His holy laws and commandments. 

Those of us who are the children of the Lord have no reason to dread the day of judgment. The day of judgment is not for us. It's not His children He's going to judge. Believers will appear before His throne for an accounting of our lives but that appearance at His throne has to do with eternal rewards, not with eternal punishment. (You may take a look at the Apostle Paul's discourse on the subject of rewards for believers in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.) The child of God does not need to be looking fearfully ahead toward a day of wrath. We are to be looking ahead in joyful eagerness for the day our Lord and Savior begins to reign over the world in righteousness and peace forever. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 6, The Day Of The Lord, Part One

In Saturday's study we looked at a beautiful prophecy for the future when the Messiah will reign over the world forever from Jerusalem. That portion of Chapter 2 was titled "The Mountain Of The Lord". The next portion of Chapter 2 is titled "The Day Of The Lord", and whenever the day of the Lord is mentioned in the Bible, it signifies a time of judgment. We could accurately refer to it as "The Day Of The Lord's Wrath". Sometimes it indicates a soon-coming time of tribulation, such as the fall of Israel to Assyria or the fall of Judah to Babylon, and other times it indicates the era known as "The Great Tribulation" or "The End Times". The remaining text of Chapter 2 appears to be a combined prophecy: a prophecy regarding the fall of the nation due to the people's abandonment of the Lord and a prophecy regarding the end times. The portion we will study today refers to the soon-coming fall of Judah. 

An eternal kingdom of righteousness and peace is coming, as the Lord foretold in yesterday's text, but that day is not yet. Judgment is going to fall on the nation because of the sins the prophet Isaiah names in verses 6 through 8. He states that the Lord has "abandoned" the people; this is because the people have abandoned Him. This doesn't mean that the Lord is turning His back on the nation and cutting all ties with it but that He's going to take His protective hand off the nation and allow an enemy army to defeat it.

Isaiah says, "You, Lord, have abandoned Your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs. Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled---do not forgive them." (Isaiah 2:6-9)

The Lord commanded the people to have no god except Him but they have adopted many gods from many cultures. Some of the people are mixing these pagan religious rites with their worship of the Lord and some of them have completely rejected the Lord in favor of foreign gods. You'll recall from our study of the kings that human sacrifice even took place in Israel and Judah, with a few of the kings and who knows how many citizens sacrificing their children to that abominable god Molek. Not everyone went that far, of course, but a number of them engaged in the debauchery and sexual immorality of heathen festivals and a number of them took up occult practices such as trying to divine the future or attempting to contact the dead. 

In addition to these sinful spiritual practices, the people were trusting more in their military power and economic power than in the Lord. They had accumulated great wealth, and although wealth obtained by honest hard work is not a sin, prosperity often has a way of causing a person to call upon the Lord less than they would if they were in financial need. Not all of their wealth was gained honestly, for we've already studied some verses regarding the greed and dishonesty taking place in the nation. Wealth will not be enough to save them when the king of Babylon sets his sights on Judah. 

The reference to horses and chariots is likely a reference to Judah's relations with Egypt. The Lord warned them not to go back to Egypt for any reason and He warned them not to accumulate large numbers of horses and chariots. But the finest horses and chariots to be had were in Egypt and the fact that the nation had so many is a clear indication that they went to Egypt time and time again to buy horses and chariots. Egypt was the most idolatrous nation on earth in those days, if the number of gods and goddesses is what we're going by, and it was not spiritually healthy for the people of Judah to associate with the people of Egypt. Another danger in engaging in commerce with them was that by accumulating thousands of horses and chariots they were depending on the strength of their military to fight off invaders instead of depending on the Lord. No amount of horses, chariots, soldiers, or weapons is going to be enough to fend off invaders if the Lord is not on their side---and He is not going to be on their side when their sins reach a tipping point. Conversely, no army would be able to stand against the nation of Judah, regardless of how enormous that army might have been, if the Lord were on Judah's side.

Our text today ends with Isaiah saying to the Lord, "Do not forgive them." I don't believe Isaiah wants to see judgment fall on his nation. I believe Isaiah loves his people and his country. I believe Isaiah wants to see them repenting of their sins and turning back to the Lord and being forgiven for their sins. But in taking an inventory of the people's grievous sins against the Lord, he can't help acknowledging the Lord's right to judge them. I think Isaiah looks at their sins from the Lord's viewpoint and agrees with Him that something must be done, as much as it pains Isaiah's heart to contemplate the tribulations to come. I think Isaiah knows how hard-hearted the people have become and that there is unlikely to be a widescale repentance and revival in the land. Knowing that they will not repent, Isaiah's spirit is in agreement with the Spirit of the Lord, and in saying, "Do not forgive them," what he is saying is, "Do not relent. They will not repent and stop bowing down to false gods. They will not stop disenfranchising the poor and bribing judges to rule in their favor. They will not stop committing crimes against their fellow man. They will not refrain from bloodshed. Since they will not repent, do not relent. Do not change Your mind and withhold judgment."

If the people had repented, of course the Lord would have forgiven them. Isaiah is not asking the Lord to withhold forgiveness if they repent. He knows they will not repent. Forgiveness cannot occur if repentance does not occur. What Isaiah is saying, although it must be breaking his heart, is that the Lord should judge their sins. If the Lord does not judge their sins, there is no hope for the descendants of Jacob or for the nation. The Lord is not going to make a complete end of the people or of the nation and, when their time of captivity in Babylon is up, they will return in a completely different attitude than the attitude they have now. Also, if the Lord did not judge their sins, how would the other nations of the world have viewed Him? If the God of Israel and Judah did not judge His people for transgressing His laws and forsaking Him, would the people of other nations have laughed at Him? Would the people of other nations have concluded He is too weak to avenge His honor? Would the people of other nations have concluded that their gods are stronger than He is? Some of them would decide He doesn't exist at all! His judgment is going to bring about repentance among the survivors of Judah and it is going to prove to the Gentile world that He is real and that He is righteous and holy and that He is powerful enough to do anything He says He can do.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 5, The Mountain Of The Lord

In yesterday's study session we looked at a prophecy about future restoration for Israel. Although the Lord was warning the people of a soon-to-come defeat and captivity, He also foretold better days in the future. We pick up where we left off at the end of Chapter 1 and then look at the first segment of Chapter 2.

"Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness. But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish." (Isaiah 1:27-28) I am sure that some people must have repented at Isaiah's message, though the majority of them did not. And we know that, after Judah's defeat by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and their captivity in Babylon, we never see the people bowing to idols again after a large number of them return to the land of Israel. We know by this that many repented of idolatry but that does not mean everyone acknowledged God as their Lord. At no time did everyone repent and accept Him as Lord, for at no time has everyone of any nation repented and accepted Him as Lord. In every era and in every country there are those who accept Him as Lord and those who reject Him as Lord. This is why the Lord says that the "penitent ones" will be granted righteousness but "rebels and sinners will both be broken" and "those who forsake the Lord will perish".

Those who forsook Him for idols will have nothing to show for their lives. No righteousness can be imputed to them by false gods. No salvation can be granted to them by false gods. The references to oaks and gardens in the following verses are references to the groves in which the people performed pagan religious rites. "You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens you have chosen. You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire." (Isaiah 1:29-31) 

Psalm 115, which is believed to have been composed after the Babylonian captivity by an unnamed author, said this about idols: "Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." (Psalm 115:8) The Lord is saying the same type of thing here in the book of Isaiah; those who trust in futile idols will live lives of futility. They are producing nothing that lasts. Like an idol carved of wood that can be burned in a fire, the works of those who worshiped idols will be destroyed, just as the idolaters will be destroyed. Only the life lived for the Lord produces good fruit of eternal significance.

As we begin Chapter 2 we need to go back and remember that yesterday's passage ended with a prophecy regarding the reign of the Messiah. The Lord foretold a restoration of the nation---both a spiritual and a political restoration. This prophecy has begun to be fulfilled (many captives returned to the land and eventually Israel became a sovereign nation again) but it won't find its complete fulfillment until the Messiah reigns over the earth from Jerusalem. Chapter 2 begins with a vision of the Lord reigning from Jerusalem.

"This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days, the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it." (Isaiah 2:1-2) Jerusalem will be the capitol city of all the earth in those days. The Apostle John spoke of the kingdom of the Messiah and about the way ambassadors from the nations would stream into Jerusalem, saying of the city: "The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it." (Revelation 21:24) Jerusalem will be the seat of righteousness in those days for believing Jews and Gentiles, and the Lord will forever rule over the earth from His throne in the city.

That is when Isaiah's vision of Jerusalem as the shining example of all that is good will come true. "Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.' The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2:3-5)

Isaiah foresees peace on earth. Peace on earth will not come until the Prince of Peace sits on the throne of His forefather David, reigning as the eternal Lord and King over the earth. But what a blessed hope this is! We do not know when our Lord will return to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords but we know that when He does come, this future will be ours: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4) Amen!