Sunday, December 3, 2023
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Sunday, November 26, 2023
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.