Friday, September 30, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 94

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 94

Today's chapter is titled "The Joy Of The Redeemed". The people and the earth itself break into a hallelujah chorus here in Chapter 35. The King has come and is making all things new.

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God." (Isaiah 35:1-2) We have been studying the downfall of all that opposes God and the final battle known as Armageddon. Today's beautiful blossoming of the desert takes place after that, when the Lord reigns over the world and the earth is restored to Eden-like conditions. Even the very ground breaks into bloom at the arrival of the King. The creation rejoices at the approach of the Creator.

In Isaiah's day the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria and the southern kingdom of Judah believed they would fall next. The coalition of nations with which King Hezekiah had so unwisely made an alliance was not able to help them, for Assyria was too powerful against these nations in battle. Meanwhile, the people of Israel were sitting captive in a foreign land, longing for home. It is into these conditions that Isaiah speaks words of comfort, "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.'" (Isaiah 35:3-4) Their chastening will not last forever. Though the Israelites are captive in Assyria, God will bring Assyria down. And though a day is coming when He will discipline Judah with Babylon, Babylon's downfall is foretold as well. So it will be throughout the ages, with God avenging His people, right up to the final earthly battle. Just thinking about the judgment of the Day of the Lord is enough to make knees tremble and hands shake, but that judgment is for the ungodly. The people of God are to take heart in knowing a better day is ahead for them following man's last rebellion. The battle may look fierce but the Lord will be victorious and as He stands at last as King of kings and Lord of lords, all creation shouts praises. 

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like the deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." (Isaiah 35:5-6a) Glory to the name of our God! Sickness and injuries and death will be no more! While He walked the earth, the Lord Jesus did many miracles in which He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. He made the lame walk and brought the dead back to life. Momentous and awe-inspiring as that was, these things were just a little taste of what the kingdom will be like under Christ. They were simply the appetizer, intended to make us want more of Him, The main course is coming and it will satisfy us all the way down to our souls. 

"Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow." (Isaiah 35:6b-7) The wasteland will be an oasis. Every speck of dust on the planet will become useful to man. None of the ground will be too poor or too dry to grow anything. 

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it." (Isaiah 35:8) A major highway will evidently exist for people of the earth to come to Jerusalem and see the Lord on David's throne. According to Revelation 21:1, there will be no more oceans, so it will be possible for a wide highway to stretch all the way around the earth. But more importantly than the specifics of this highway, and whether or not it is intended to be literal or symbolic, the entire purpose of it is so the redeemed can behold the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) When Isaiah tells us the highway is only for those who "walk on that Way", he means it's only for those who have trusted in the Lord for salvation. The final rebellion is over by this time and there are no "unclean" or "wicked fools" to wander onto this highway. Nothing depraved or ungodly exists anymore. Since the word "fool" in the Bible indicates a person who is a reprobate, morally and spiritually bankrupt, Isaiah is telling us this type of spiritual attitude is gone from the world. Only those who trust in the Lord are in His kingdom and to them He has given the right to come into His presence.

There is nothing to fear in the kingdom of Christ. No wicked persons exist in it and the animal kingdom is at peace with man. "No lion will be there nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there." (Isaiah 35:9a) This is the day in which Isaiah's predictions of Chapter 11 come true, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb. The creatures will return to the diet of their Eden days. The lion will eat straw like the ox. The baby lamb can snooze safely with the wolf. There is nothing to fear in Christ's kingdom.

"But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return." (Isaiah 35:9b) Some versions of the Bible translate this verse as the ones the Lord has "ransomed" which comes from the Hebrew goel meaning "kinsman redeemer". The definition of a kinsman redeemer is "A male relative who, according to the various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term goel designates one who delivers or rescues." The Lord Jesus Christ is our kinsman redeemer. We were in trouble because of our fallen condition. We were in danger because we were lost in sin. We were in need because we could not help ourselves. We needed a Deliverer, a Rescuer. And as if all He has done to redeem is was not already enough, He counts it a privilege! The Lord Jesus is proud to be called our Savior! Just as Boaz felt privileged to be Ruth's kinsman redeemer and to make her his, the Lord Jesus Christ is thrilled that those He has redeemed belong to Him forever.

"They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 35:10) The word "overtake" means something that catches up with us and moves on out in front, or something that affects us in an unexpected way. When we live forever in the Lord's kingdom, we will walk on the highway of the redeemed, entering Zion with singing. Gladness and joy will overwhelm us, catching up with us, and even flowing on ahead of us into the presence of the Lord. Sorrow and sighing will be gone forever. Never again will we stand at the bedside of the sick or weep beside a grave. No wonder we will be consumed by overwhelming joy! Even the dust of the ground will break forth in blooming gladness. The animal kingdom will be at peace and bask in the light of the Lord. In that day this verse will find its ultimate fulfillment, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" (Psalm 150:6)

Our worship song today might seem like an odd choice, since it's generally used as a Christmas song, but "Joy To The World" was actually written about the kingdom of Christ on earth. It was written about His second advent, not His first. The author of that song was speaking of the very days we are studying in this morning's passage. Let's listen to the words and think of them in those terms.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 93

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 93

We are in the last portion of Chapter 34 and Isaiah is using the nation of Edom symbolically to represent all who have rebelled against God and who have been cruel to His people. Yesterday we closed with the Lord proclaiming He has a day of vengeance set aside "to uphold Zion's cause". In Isaiah's day it looked as if there might be a permanent end to Zion but the Lord wants the people to know a day is coming when their enemies will not be found. God judged literal Edom when her people rejoiced over the downfall of Jerusalem by allowing the Nabateans to overthrow them and push them out of their territory. And He intends to judge the "Edom" of the end times: the apostate church of the Antichrist and the corrupt world system which will exist at that time.

Isaiah predicted yesterday the desolation of the literal Edom of history and the spiritual Edom of the end times. The beautiful rock-cut city of Petra in southern Jordan was originally Edomite territory, known as Seir in the Bible, in the area where Jacob's brother Esau founded his dynasty. It was overtaken by the Nabateans and the Edomites were pushed further south. The area was later taken into the Roman Empire, during which time the neo-Persian Empire is thought to have invaded it, disrupting economic and building enterprises there and causing its expansion to halt. At least two major earthquakes struck the region before the Arabs conquered it. Today it is uninhabited and is merely a tourist attraction, so we find that what Isaiah said about it has come true. The mountain fortress of Seir, stronghold of Esau the founder of Edom, lies deserted. 

This is what Isaiah had to say about the fate of Edom and its citadels and fortified cities, "The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom, all her princes will vanish away. Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls. Desert creatures will meet with hyenas and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also lie down and find for themselves a place of rest. The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings; there also the falcons will gather, each with its mate." (Isaiah 34:11-15) The animal kingdom was doing fine until man sinned. Animals lived in peace with each other and with man, but sin entered the world and it became a fallen planet, with disease and death entering the picture, with cruelty and neglect and carnivorous appetites rising up. When man fell, he brought the creation down with him, as the curse of sin spread throughout the world like an especially toxic pollutant. Edom's downfall will be the good fortune of the animals. They will inhabit the citadels and mountain fortresses, the palaces and high towers. The Lord will make the desolate cities a safe place for animals to breed and raise their young. Owls will nest where kings once ruled from judgment halls. Hyenas will raise their young where princes once lived in luxury. 

The animals who take over the uninhabited cities of those whom the Lord has judged will be fruitful and multiply. He will provide a mate for each one and will supply their needs. "Look in the scroll of the Lord and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is His mouth that has given the order, and His Spirit will gather them together. He allots their portions; His hand distributes them by measure. They will possess it forever and dwell there from generation to generation." (Isaiah 34:16-17) We learned earlier in the book of Isaiah that the Lord instructed him to write all the words of prophecy in a scroll. Later, when Edom falls, the people will be able to look back at Isaiah's scroll and know that his predictions came from the Lord. And if Isaiah's prophecies against Edom came true, they should be able to determine that all his other prophecies are true as well. Isaiah was speaking the word of the Lord faithfully. 

I love the image of the Lord feeding the animals with His own hand! In a world filled with cruelty and inhumanity, God's eye is on the sparrow. As an animal lover this comforts me, to know that God has seen and will judge every inhumane act, that He loves and cares for all His creatures and is concerned with their welfare. Since the creation of the world, kingdoms have risen and kingdoms have fallen, but when God decides a kingdom is too wicked to be allowed to rise again, He cuts it down and gives it to those creatures who are without sin. Out of all that the Lord created, only man has rebelled against Him, and there is Scriptural evidence to support the ability of animals to be aware of and to acknowledge their Creator, "But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:7-10) 

I've learned a lot about God through my pets. Their trust and confidence in us is the type of trust and confidence we are to have in the Lord. Their unquestioning obedience is a beautiful example of how we are to obey God. Our pets are alert to our every move: they rest when we rest and they follow us when we rise up. This is the alertness we should have for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our eyes should continually be on our Savior, ready to move when He says move, happy to simply rest in His presence when He says to rest. Our pets want to be in our presence every second of every day. They crave our nearness. They flourish in our friendship. They rejoice in our love. They feel safe and secure in our care. As Job said, we can learn a lot from the animals. The relationship of a pet with its owner wonderfully illustrates what the relationship of the believer should be with the Lord. If the animals could read the Bible, I believe they would wholeheartedly agree with the lovely attitude of this passage, "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple." (Psalm 27:4) 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 92

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 92

The prophecy of Chapter 34 now turns to Edom, a literal enemy of Israel which the Lord uses in today's passage as a symbol for all the enemies of Israel.

Edom was founded by Esau, the brother of Jacob. Although the Edomites and Israelites were so closely related, in the Bible we find the people of Edom opposing the people of Israel at almost every turn. Esau and Jacob struggled with each other in their mother's womb and their descendants continued to struggle against each other. When the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, the people of Edom refused to let them cross their territory. They fought against King Solomon, joined a coalition against King Jehoshaphat, and rebelled against King Jehoram. They rejoiced at the fall of Jerusalem and delighted in the destruction of Judah and the captivity of its people. They were later overcome by the Nabateans and forced out of their territory to a location farther south, where they became known as the Idumeans. Herod the Great, who had the infant boys of Bethlehem slaughtered in an attempt to kill the "king of the Jews", was an Idumean. From beginning to end, the nation of Edom was an enemy of Israel and so the Lord uses them as a symbol of all who have trod upon His people.

Yesterday we saw the Lord putting down all rebellion before He reigns as King over the earth. Part of that includes vengeance against the enemies of His people. To persecute the children of God is to rebel against God Himself. He will repay. "My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed. The sword of the Lord is bathed in blood, it is covered with fat---the blood of lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams. For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. And the wild oxen will fall with them, the bull calves and the great bulls. Their land will be drenched with blood, and the dust will be soaked with fat." (Isaiah 34:5-7) In my background study, it appears many scholars believe these animals are symbolic and that it is the people of Edom themselves who are being slaughtered. This makes more sense in the context. Isaiah is not saying that the people of Edom are sacrificing to God but that God is coming to exact vengeance on a people who have hated and opposed Israel. Their slaughter is compared to a sacrifice because it is the result of God's righteous judgment on a wicked nation. It's a sacrifice because it fulfills God's holy justice.

This is happening because, "For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause." (Isaiah 34:8) The Lord must judge the enemies of Zion because the people of Zion are His. He is going to keep the promise made to Abraham and his descendants, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse." (Genesis 12:3a)

"Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again." (Isaiah 34:10) We have to keep in mind that Isaiah is speaking of the judgment of the end times, when the Lord suppresses all rebellion, and that He is using the word "Edom" to represent all those who have hated Him and His people. The Apostle John foretold the day of vengeance and the downfall of the corrupt world system of the end times in Revelation 18, in which he said that the Babylon of the last days would be burned by fire and never again inhabited. Edom in the Old Testament and Babylon in the New Testament are both used to represent rebellion against God, spiritual and moral corruption, pride and deception, and materialism. These things that are in opposition to God will be consumed as thoroughly as a sacrifice upon which God sends down fire from heaven. In the kingdom of Christ these attitudes will not be found.

It's not enjoyable to study the fearful judgment of the God who is a consuming fire, but I think it's important to note that these prophecies were given to the people of Israel to comfort them. The Lord is giving them these words in a time of distress. God wants them to know that He will judge their enemies. Abraham was called a friend of God and the Lord will act against the enemies of His friend. The people are able to take heart in knowing God will fight against those who have fought against them.

David, in a time of distress, called upon God to fight for him, "Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, 'I am your salvation.'" (Psalm 35:1-3) When someone hurts us terribly, without cause, we feel as David felt. We want to say as David said, "Lord, You have seen this: do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in Your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me." (Psalm 35:22-25) The Lord will reassure His people in Isaiah 49 with words similar to those of David, "I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save." (v 25b)

Terrible as the thought of judgment is, the Lord is giving this prophecy to an oppressed and fearful people who need a word of hope. They need to know God has seen their affliction and that it won't go unpunished. He has a day of reckoning in store for the cruel enemy. He is righteous and will not turn a blind eye against sin or simply shake His head and shrug His shoulders at the injustices of this fallen world. As children of God, we have a Father who is responsible for us. This is why He says, "It is Mine to avenge; I will repay." (Deuteronomy 32:35) Like a parent watching over a small and helpless child, it is God's duty to avenge us and repay our enemies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 91

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 91

We begin Chapter 34 this morning and it is about the end times, known as the Day of the Lord or the Great Tribulation. Yesterday we saw the beauty of the King, the One who will make all things new and rule the world in righteousness, but there are events which must take place before that blessed day. Barry G. Webb, in his book The Message Of Isaiah, says of this chapter on judgment, "A king must rule, or he is no king at all, and that means that rebellion must finally be put down. The fact is that God is almost unbelievably patient, but Isaiah is clear that His just anger is a reality to be reckoned with, and we delude ourselves if we think otherwise. Hence the urgent call to listen in verse 1." (pg 142)

In verse 1 the Lord calls out, "Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!" (Isaiah 34:1) The actual Day of the Lord will come suddenly "like a thief in the night", but it doesn't come to a world ignorant of what God has said. He has been warning us for thousands of years that there will be judgment for unrighteousness. We are not unaware that He has set a day to judge the world. We don't know the particular day or the hour, but we have been forewarned of its approach. In addition, and more importantly, we have been provided with a means of escape through Christ Jesus the Lord, the Sacrifice of God, the holy and spotless Lamb who is able to take away the sins of the world. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3)

In Chapter 33 the Lord said His mighty deeds would be known throughout the world, that those who were far away (the Gentiles) and those who were near (the Jews) would hear of them. The faith of the faithful became even stronger when they beheld His powerful works but we found the ungodly trembling in fear. When faced with their sins, the ungodly had only two choices: try to run and hide from the God who sees all things, or repent and serve Him. This next section refers to the time after Christ calls His church after the world, when the Great Tribulation begins, and the world goes through its final birth pangs. Those the Lord is angry with in this passage are those who made the choice to rebel against Him and remain in their sins, but even more specifically I believe this is about the armies who join with the Antichrist against the Lord Jesus in the battle of Armageddon. "The Lord is angry with all nations; His wrath is on all their armies. He will totally destroy them He will give them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will stink; the mountains will be soaked with their blood." (Isaiah 34:2-3) 

There is a day in which Antichrist and his allies will try to take on the Lord Himself, "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:16) At that time the Apostle John said, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose Rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:11-16) 

Verses 2 and 3 of our section today are graphic, but they describe the horrors of war: the final war. John saw something similar and he tells us, "Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and His army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." (Revelation 19:19-21) 

The sword with which the Lord judges the world is His holy and perfect and infallible word. This is the only weapon He brings because it's the only weapon He needs. All our actions and thoughts and attitudes are judged by the word of God and, much as we might like to think we are pretty good folks overall, the Bible says we all have sinned and fallen short. (Romans 3:23) But there is a remedy for our shortfall: Jesus Christ the righteous. The ones we find the Lord fighting against in the final battle are those who have scorned and mocked Him, who in their spirits have spit on Him just as surely as His enemies in Jerusalem spit on Him as He made His way to the cross. They have not only rejected Him but have chosen another in His place: that serpent of old, the father of lies, the one who was a murderer from the beginning. Like any earthly king who intends to establish himself as the supreme ruler, He must end all rebellion before He sets up His kingdom of peace. Jesus Christ will reign as the undisputed King of the whole earth, restoring the earth to Eden-like conditions, and as Isaiah will say in Chapter 35, "Only the redeemed will walk there." 

Because a day of judgment is coming in which the Lord will judge the thoughts and intents of the heart by His holy word, He cries out to the world, "Listen! Listen! Listen before it's too late! I can take away the filthy rags of sin and clothe you with robes of righteousness. I will make something new and beautiful out of your life. I am able to transform you into all that you are meant to be. Then you will walk with Me in white, rejoicing in the joys of the Lord forevermore. In Christ, you don't have to fear a day of judgment but can look forward to His eternal kingdom. You don't have to fearfully cast about you, trying to read the signs of the times, mired down in sin and shame. You can instead eagerly anticipate the day when Christ will call out His bride's name, and forever you will be with Him."

To a world that has accepted Christ, the Scriptures only have words of grace and mercy. But to a world that has rejected Him, the Scriptures tell of a day when, "All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from a the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree." (Isaiah 34:4) But today, while there is still breath in our bodies, the Spirit says, "Come to Jesus and be made whole. There is still time. If you have not made things right with Him, today is the day of salvation. Don't wait another minute. He will give you life, life more abundantly."

Below is a worship song link that I feel goes wonderfully with today's passage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 90

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 90

Yesterday we found the Lord saying, "Now I will arise." Now He is going to do great things. The people of Judah and Jerusalem have cast about for help from everybody but Him up to this point. But as we learned in the study of the kings, King Hezekiah realized he had been wrong and he went up to the temple to pray a very sincere and humble prayer to the Lord. The Lord will now act against enemy Assyria. When He does, the Gentile nations will hear of His power and believe Israel's God is mighty. He said, "You who are far away, hear what I have done." To the citizens of Judah, both those who have remained godly and those who have grown cool toward the Lord, He says, "You who are near, acknowledge My power!"

Because they have caught a glimpse of the character and strength of the living God, those who have drifted far from Him are frightened. "The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless." (Isaiah 33:14a) When I came to the realization that I was a sinner and that there is a holy God who judges sin, I trembled. I spent many sleepless nights in terror, tossing and turning, wrestling with this revelation. When we get a spiritual glimpse of the living God and His holiness, we can't help but see ourselves as we are. His perfection shines a light on our imperfection. His righteousness reveals our unrighteousness. His holiness makes plain our sinfulness. When the Lord rose up to supernaturally deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, the godless understood that He is a power to be reckoned with. They realized that a God like this sees all the way to their hearts and knows their every secret sin, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

When the godless ones witness the Lord's power, they say among themselves, "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" (Isaiah 33:14b) The fire was kept burning twenty-four hours a day on the altar in the temple. This was symbolic of God's constant protection. It indicated His continual presence among them. As the author of Psalm 121 said, "He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (v 3b-4) The fire on the altar that never went out was intended to be a comfort to the people that their God was on the job day and night. Even while the people slept, God was awake and watching over them. A promise like this brings peace to the hearts of the faithful. But there's another side to the coin: a promise like this brings terror to the hearts of the godless. Moses warned the people not to drift away from the living God, "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." (Deuteronomy 4:23-24) The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews who converted to Christ, gave this warning, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29) We talked yesterday about how man's works will be judged by fire. The works we do for the kingdom of Christ will come through safely and we will be rewarded for them; the works we do for the flesh won't make it through and we will not be commended for them. The godless in Zion fear the One who will judge their works because they know their works won't stand up to His scrutiny. So they cry out in distress something like, "Who can contend with this God? Who can stand before Him? Who can live in His presence?"

The answer is found in this next section, "Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil---they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be in the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them." (Isaiah 33:15-16) It's important I make it clear that this is not teaching salvation by works. Keeping the rules of verse 15 is not what saves these people. They are keeping these rules because in their hearts they are already right with God. Their outward behavior reflects what has happened to them on the inside. Good works and honest living are the natural outflow of a close relationship with the Lord. The sins these people refrain from are very likely the sins which the godless ones were committing. By naming them, God proves to everyone that He is able to "judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12b) 

We can be assured that the godly in Zion were saved by faith because they are given this precious promise, "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar." (Isaiah 33:17) Who can dwell with the consuming fire? Who can stand in the presence of the King and happily behold His beauty? The one who is washed in the blood of the holy and spotless Lamb of God, who is saved by faith in Him. The One who established peace between man and God will establish peace on the earth and the whole world will be His: "a land that stretches afar".

No longer will man oppress his fellow man. "In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: 'Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?' You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible." (Isaiah 33:18-19) Israel will be free, never again conquered or taken captive by foreign invaders. 

"Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken." (Isaiah 33:20) This nation, plundered so many times, its people scattered throughout the world, will have no fear of an enemy invader. Her God is in the midst of her, seated on the throne of David, and He is her invincible Protector.

"There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them," (Isaiah 33:21) No war ships will sail these waters. Also, we won't find the self-sufficient attitude of the maritime traders that we found in Isaiah's prophecy against Tyre. The people will depend on the Lord and not on themselves.

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; it is He who will save us." (Isaiah 33:22) If God is on our side, what more do we need? Every citizen of the world will look to Him to provide. Jesus Christ always has been, and always will be, everything we need. He will care for us as a shepherd cares for his flock, which is why the psalmist says, "Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture." (Psalm 100:3) The Lord is responsible for those who are His and He does not take this responsibility lightly. He is obligated to care for us. We are His sheep and He is our Shepherd.

"Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread. Then an abundance of spoils will be divided and even the lame will carry off plunder. No one living in Zion will say, 'I am ill'; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven." (Isaiah 33:23-24) Even though no war ships sail, and people do not depend on maritime enterprises to sustain themselves, there will be plenty for all. The Lord Himself will provide for them. No longer will man live by the world's standards which say, "Get all you can get. Look out for number one. You have to be the strongest, the smartest, and the shrewdest to get ahead. Step on the little people if you have to, because it's all about you. " In the Lord's kingdom, the meek inherit the earth. The righteous reign with Him. No longer will the strong trod upon the weak. No longer will the poor be taken advantage of by the wealthy. Everybody will have all they need and will have no desire to take what belongs to anyone else. 

What a beautiful picture we have of the coming kingdom! No wonder the Lord Jesus instructed the disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come". Everything we have ever wanted will be ours: peace and security and rest for our souls. Thy kingdom come, Lord! Come soon, Lord Jesus. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 89

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 89

This next section of Isaiah is about the futility of man's plans and peace treaties. King Hezekiah joined a coalition of nations to oppose Assyria but the rebellion has been a disaster. In addition, when he sought to make peace with King Sennacherib, Sennacherib exacted an astronomical amount of tribute from Judah and then marched against their nation anyway.

"Look, their brave men cry out in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves." (Isaiah 33:7-9) The Assyrian army leaves nothing but destruction behind it, turning fertile fields into a wasteland and leveling fortified cities. The nations that came together to oppose Assyria and free themselves of oppression are experiencing Sennacherib's wrath. The nations wanted to be left alone in peace but only terror has come.

We hear a lot about "world peace" but no peace conference has ever brought about a lasting peace. No president or king has ever brokered a deal that made all nations at peace with each other. And nobody ever will do this except the King of kings: the righteous and perfect Son of God. 

Just at the point when all human effort has failed, God steps in. When victory comes, the people will know it was His doing, because their alliance with pagan nations has been ineffectual. "'Now will I arise,' says the Lord. 'Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thorn bushes they will be set ablaze.'" (Isaiah 33:10-12) Leaving God out of their lives caused the people to produce nothing of value. The holy God will judge every man's works by fire, according to the Apostle Paul. Paul stated that only the works which are built on the sure foundation of Christ will stand. "It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work." (1 Corinthians 3:13b) We also find fire used in the Bible as a process of refining, "I will refine them like silver and test them like gold." (Zechariah 13:9a) "For You, God, tested us; You refined us like silver." (Psalm 66:10) "Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of My people?'" (Jeremiah 9:7) 

Precious metals are heated so that the impurities rise to the top to be skimmed off. This is the type of refining the Lord is speaking of when He allows the people to experience affliction. This furnace is not intended to destroy them but to allow the impurities to rise to the top, where the Lord can skim them off. He is making something better of them than they were before. When their political alliances fail and their false gods don't answer, they see that their only hope is in the Lord, the One whose help they formerly scorned. 

"You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge My power!" (Isaiah 33:13) The Gentile nations (you who are far away) will hear of the mighty works of the Lord. They will know there is a God in Judah. The people of Judah (you who are near) will acknowledge the power of Almighty God when they see what His hand has done. In the church age, the gospel works in the same way. The Gentiles once were very far away from God, neck-deep in idolatry, performing useless rituals and bowing to gods who couldn't even hear them. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13) Praise God! My ancestry is Gentile and my forebears once babbled senseless prayers to carved blocks of stone, being as far away from the God of Israel as they could possibly be, but through the blood of Christ I am brought near to the Lord. I share in the promises God made to Abraham. I am a child of the God who intends to make one family of the Jews and Gentiles who trust in the name of His Son. "He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:17-18)

The Lord made peace between Jews and Gentiles. This was not done by the strength and ingenuity of man; it was the Lord's doing. In Christ, we are all one big family, a family that loves each other. And it will be the Lord's doing when at last we have world peace, when King Jesus sits on the throne of David. The spotless Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah who rules the world in righteousness. We won't ever turn on the news and hear of wars or rumors of wars, of terrorist attacks, of natural disasters, or of any horrifying stories about man's inhumanity to man. Only the God of peace can bring about a lasting peace among the nations. This is why we long for His kingdom to come! We long for the day when, as Isaiah will say tomorrow, our "eyes will see the King in His beauty". 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 88

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 88

Isaiah has been speaking about the treachery of Assyria. King Hezekiah of Judah had entered into a coalition of nations to rebel against paying tribute to Assyria because a new king, Sennacherib, was on the throne. The nations expected him to be a weak king because his father had treated him as such, giving him nothing but administrative duties, scorning his ability to lead an army. But Sennacherib proved to be an even better general than his father. Realizing he was a sitting duck at Jerusalem with no help from allies coming, Hezekiah sent very valuable articles of silver and gold from both his palace and the temple treasuries to pay the amount of tribute Sennacherib specified. Sennacherib accepted the tribute and the offer to become his vassal again, but he broke his word. Deceit was in his heart when he accepted the valuable items and when he pretended to make peace with Hezekiah.

The book of 2nd Kings leads us to believe it must have been the Lord's will for Hezekiah to rebel against Assyria, for in the passage extolling Hezekiah's faithfulness and virtues, it also mentions, "He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him." (2 Kings 18:7b) This passage is naming all the great things about Hezekiah, so I assume the Lord approved of his decision to make Judah sovereign again, accountable to no one but the Lord. Hezekiah must have known Assyria wouldn't take this lightly but when Sennacherib began attacking the outermost cities of Judah, Hezekiah wavered in his faith. Samaria, the capitol of Israel, had already fallen to the Assyrians, and now they were marching against Judah. Hezekiah didn't appeal to the Lord to fight on Judah's side but instead sent a message to Sennacherib apologizing for his rebellion and asking how much he needed to pay. "The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." (2 Kings 18:14b) To put the amount of tribute into perspective, it amounted to about eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold! No wonder all the people of Judah are outraged when Sennacherib's army marches right up to the gates of Jerusalem! They paid him an exorbitant amount, an amount that was burdensome on a small nation, and he took it and came to destroy them anyway.

But woe is coming on the treacherous nation, as we studied yesterday. In one night the Lord destroyed the army detachment camped near Jerusalem. Sennacherib withdrew to Nineveh, where he would end up betrayed by his own sons, who would assassinate him. The faith of the people of Judah is renewed. "At the uproar of Your army, the peoples flee; when You rise up, the nations scatter. Your plunder, O nations, is harvested by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it." (Isaiah 33:3-4) The nation who plundered Israel and Judah will find itself plundered. Assyria is on the downswing, though its king doesn't know it yet. A nation called Babylon is rising and will swallow Assyria up. 

"The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with His justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:5-6) The unnamed author of Psalm 111 said something similar, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding." (Psalm 111:10a) King Solomon, in his treatise on wisdom, said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) The Lord is promising the people some beautiful things: justice and righteousness, a sure foundation, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. But they cannot have these blessings unless they fear Him. This type of holy fear means reverence for the Lord: that they hold Him in high esteem, that they respect and obey His word, that they view Him with a sense of wonder, and that they direct all their worship to Him. They will be fulfilling what the Lord Jesus said was the first and most important commandment, to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. They will inherit the blessings promised here by seeking "first His kingdom and righteousness" so that "all these things will be given to you as well". (Matthew 6:33) 

The promises in verses 5 and 6 are things the people of Judah can have immediately. This assurance is not for future generations but for the generation living in the times of Isaiah. The Lord promises to be "the sure foundation for your times", if only they will put all their trust in Him. We talked yesterday about how the Lord stood up and fought for Jerusalem because her king and her citizens turned to the Lord, sincerely and humbly, and asked Him to step in. They obtained deliverance because they genuinely called out to the Deliverer. Assyria was unsuccessful in its bid to conquer them and Jerusalem continued to stand strong in that generation. Generations later, the Lord would allow Babylon to conquer the city because idolatry was running rampant, but the generation who lived at the time of Isaiah turned back to the Lord and received His help. 

I am reminded of this beautiful prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2) Habakkuk knew the word of God and all the miracles of old. He knows God is still the same God. He knows that the God who fought for Israel in the past is still just as mighty in battle. Habakkuk predicted the invasion of Babylon and knew that God was righteous in His judgment against idolatry, but at the same time he pleads for mercy, "In wrath remember mercy." So many times the predicaments we find ourselves in are of our own making. Hezekiah's predicament was of his own making, because he trusted in pagan nations instead of the living God. The generation that suffered the Babylonian invasion was in a predicament of their own making, because they were bowing down to idols instead of to the Lord. Yet those who remained godly in the land had the confidence to cry out, "Lord, we know we deserve Your judgment, for we have sinned. We know You are righteous when You judge. But we also know You are merciful. In Your anger, please remember to be merciful." The Lord answered Habakkuk with a promise that the enemy would meet his downfall. The nation that plundered Judah would itself be plundered in time. 

God is not going to allow Babylon to destroy His people or hold them captive forever. Within seventy years after the people of Judah are taken captive to Babylon, Persia will conquer Babylon, and King Cyrus of Persia will set God's people free.

Here in the United States we have fallen quite far from the Lord and from Biblical principles, but God still has His faithful ones. It is our duty as Christians to cry out to Him for mercy. It is our responsibility to plead for our nation. Yes, we have sinned and fallen short. Yes, God would be within His rights if He passed judgment on us. But for the sake of those who belong to His dear Son, we can ask Him to bless this generation. We can ask Him to be the sure foundation for our times. We can ask Him to repeat His great deeds in our day. Why shouldn't we dare to ask great things from a great big God? The godly men and women of the Bible did and were rewarded for their faith. They received blessings because they believed God was merciful and good and would hear their prayers. What have we got to lose? 

Please join with me in this prayer for our country. "Lord, our generation and the generations before us have sinned. We are mortal and weak, failing daily to live perfect lives. But You still have those here who proclaim the name of Christ and are the children of the living God. Please hear our prayer. Please be the sure foundation for our times. Be merciful to our generation. We know of Your deeds of old and we believe everything the Scriptures say about You. You alone are God and nothing is too hard for You. We know that You never change and are still the same God that You always were, fully capable of fighting our battles and performing marvelous wonders. In our times, repeat Your great deeds. Make Your name known to this generation. Revive us, Lord. Pour out Your Spirit in our day. We are not looking to presidents or congressmen or senators for help. We are looking to You, Almighty God, our Father, to renew and revive our nation. We ask these beautiful blessings in the name of the One who gave Himself for us, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 87

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 87

Chapter 33 begins with a denouncement of the behavior of Assyria. When King Hezekiah of Judah first joined with Egypt and the coalition of nations that stopped paying tribute to Assyria, the wrath of Sennacherib came against him. The Judean countryside was shattered by repeated incursions by the Assyrians, so Hezekiah hastened to apologize to the king and send him wealth, both from the palace and from the temple of the Lord. But Sennacherib was not appeased, though he accepted the gift as if he accepted Hezekiah's apology. Instead of withdrawing his troops, a detachment of Assyrian soldiers was sent to stand outside Jerusalem's gates and hurl insults against Judah's king and against her God. The soldiers urged the citizens to go ahead and surrender or else face such a long siege that they will, in the words of Sennacherib's field commander, "Eat their own excrement and drink their own urine." (2 Kings 18:27b)

The people of Judah feel betrayed. Sennacherib accepted Hezekiah's lavish gift and his promises to serve the Assyrian king, but he doesn't withdraw from the land. Instead, he presses the attack even further, right up to Judah's capitol city. Because Sennacherib has dealt falsely with the people, Isaiah pronounces woes upon Assyria. "Woe to you, destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, betrayer, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed." (Isaiah 33:1) 

Assyria is so powerful that she has no concept of being destroyed or betrayed. She doesn't believe it can happen. Her king, Sennacherib, has the same attitude. He probably thinks, "How dare this puny nation think it can defy me? I will punish Judah for conspiring to rebel against me! Hezekiah's gift means nothing to me compared to the insult I suffered when he refused to pay me tribute. I will take the gift but I intend to teach him a lesson." 

As we learned from our study of the kings, when it became apparent that no allies were coming to defend Judah, Hezekiah placed his faith wholeheartedly in the Lord. Hezekiah was generally a godly man, instituting many needed religious reforms in Judah, leading the nation according to God's laws. But in the face of such a powerful army, his faith wavered. Because he trembled in fear at the thought of Assyria and its powerful king, in his mind the enemy became bigger than God. The people likewise, no doubt influenced by his example, looked to surrounding nations for help instead of repenting of their waywardness and appealing to God for help. But when Hezekiah realized his mistake and went to the temple to plead directly with God, God answered. God sent His angel to bring a plague on over 180,000 Assyrian soldiers camped near Jerusalem and they perished during the night. Sennacherib withdrew to Nineveh, probably to regroup and figure out what to do next, and while there two of his own sons assassinated him. This fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that when Sennacherib stopped destroying (withdrawing from Jerusalem) he would be destroyed. This fulfilled the prophecy that the betrayer would himself be betrayed. As the Lord Jesus once put it, a man reaps what he sows. 

The Lord answered Hezekiah because his prayer was genuine. I believe it came from a repentant heart. If Hezekiah had simply gone up to the temple to appeal to the Lord as a last resort, without his heart really being in it, things might have turned out differently. But his prayer was simple and humble and heartfelt. He didn't ask for the Lord's help because he himself is anybody, or because the people of Judah are a part of God's chosen nation. He merely asked the Lord to defend His own name against the taunts of a pagan nation. He asked the Lord to rise up and show Assyria and all the nations that Judah's God fights for her. With Him on their side, who else do they need? Hezekiah says nothing about the reforms he has made or about what an honest king and judge he has been; he just asks the Lord to show His glory. "Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God." (2 Kings 19:15-19)

Encouraged by this display of their king's faith, the people of Judah pray this prayer, "Lord, be gracious to us; we long for You. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. At the uproar of Your army, the peoples flee; when You rise up, the nations scatter." (Isaiah 33:2-3) A revival breaks out when the people see how the Lord has dealt with the Assyrian soldiers. Once too small in their eyes to be any help to them, now the people realize God is greater than anything or anyone who could ever come against them. They respond properly to correction. The Lord allowed the Assyrians to oppress them in order to lead them to repentance. Had Hezekiah and the people not given their hearts fully to God at this time, the Lord very well may have allowed Jerusalem to fall just as He allowed Samaria to fall. But He grants them a reprieve. Over time the people will fall again into idolatry and by then Babylon will have become such a world power that Nebuchadnezzar is able to conquer Jerusalem. But for the time being the people have repented and the Lord has acted on their behalf. Even though God knows all things and He knows the revival of faith is temporary, still He is faithful to the nation. He is faithful to the generation that repents and turns back to Him. For their sake, He is gracious, just as He will be to our own generation if the people of God "will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 86

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 86

Yesterday Isaiah told us of a righteous King and a righteous kingdom. It's typical of Isaiah's preaching style to intersperse the bad news with good news. Today he moves back to the current times and warns the women of Jerusalem of trouble in the immediate future.

"You women who are so complacent, rise up and listen to me; you daughters who feel secure, hear what I have to say!" (Isaiah 32:9) It's easy to be complacent in a nation that is well off. Because Judah has never been conquered, the ladies never expect it to be conquered. They believe everything will continue to go on as it always has.

A lot has been made of "women's intuition" but as a woman I think there really is something to it. Scientists even say that women possess sharper hearing and better peripheral vision, things which give us an advantage over an attack by either man or animal. Because we are smaller in stature and not generally as physically strong as a man, God created us with a built-in alarm system. We pick up on very subtle cues in the body language and expressions of others in order to determine their trustworthiness. But Isaiah is saying that even the women have lost this important alarm system. They are failing to read the signs of the times.

"In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come." (Isaiah 32:10) The success of a mainly agricultural society depends on good harvests. In the Bible the failure of crops is looked at as a judgment for sin, for the success of the crops depends on whether or not the Lord sends the early and the latter rains on the fields. The Lord promised blessings upon the people if they remained faithful to Him, and some of those blessings involved the crops, "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today---to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul---then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied." (Deuteronomy 11:13-15) This is a beautiful promise but its fulfillment depends on the obedience of the people. "Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you." (Deuteronomy 11:16-17) There are many beautiful promises in the Scriptures but we have to be careful to study them in context, as there are usually conditions placed on them. God will be faithful to do His part if we are faithful to Him.

"Tremble, you complacent women; shudder, you daughters who feel secure! Strip off your fine clothes and wrap yourselves in rags. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of My people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers---yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry." (Isaiah 32:11-13) The armies of King Sennacherib of Assyria were never able to breach the walls of Jerusalem but they did manage to turn the Judean countryside into a wasteland. Fields were trampled underneath the hooves of warhorses. Crops were burned. Houses were destroyed. Wherever the Assyrian army went, it left a burning trail of destruction behind it. 

"The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever. the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, til the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes like a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest." (Isaiah 32:14-15) A time of discipline is descending on the nation. First they will be tormented by Assyria, then later conquered by Babylon. They did not keep their part of the bargain, which was to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, but instead turned aside to other gods. The word ad-olam is translated in the NIV and many versions to mean "forever", as if Judah and Jerusalem will be forever abandoned, but we see this is not the case because the Lord goes on to say it is only "til the Spirit is poured out". The troubles that are coming will last a long time. It may feel like the hard times go on forever, but there is a cut-off point. There is the promise of a day when the chastening ends and the precious Spirit of the Lord is poured out on the people. A revival is in the future. During the hard times that feel like they will never end, the people are to cling to this hope.

When we get to Isaiah 35 we will find the vision of a glorious future for the land. The desert will blossom like the rose. Streams of fresh water will burst forth in the desert. A King will reign in Zion and the hearts of the redeemed will rejoice in His presence. I think here at the end of Chapter 32 Isaiah is returning to his prophecy of the righteous kingdom that we studied yesterday. Isaiah knew that the time would come when his people would sit captive in a foreign land, perhaps thinking their descendants would never again see the promised land, fearing their nation had been destroyed forever. But the promise is that the nation of Israel will endure before the Lord, no matter where its people are scattered throughout the world. A King is coming from the line of David and someday He will rule the world forever in justice and righteousness. At that time, the ease and complacency of the people will be because He is in the midst of them, not because they trust in themselves or in false gods.

"The Lord's justice will dwell in the desert, His righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free." (Isaiah 32:16-20) 

Isaiah assures the people that a day is coming when their peace and confidence won't come from fortified cities or political alliances or a well-trained army or useless idols. Their peace and confidence will come from the living God. There will be no fear of an enemy breaking through or of a wild animal attacking their livestock. No drought will kill the crops and no locust will eat them up. Man will be at peace with God, with his fellow man, and with the animal kingdom. This is the day of which it is said, "No longer will there be any curse." (Revelation 22:3a) 

Continuing with the theme of the early and latter rains, the prophet Joel foretold a far-off day of abundant revival. The Spirit of the Lord is likened to the early and latter rains that fall upon sown fields. The people had experienced the early rains, the days when they walked closely with God and had not yet turned from Him to idols. But they will also experience the latter rains, the day when, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." (Joel 2:28-29) This prophecy of the latter rains of the Spirit began to be fulfilled after the ascension of Christ, when the gospel started going out to the world, and the Spirit of the Lord fell on the believers in Christ. The Apostle Peter said, "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people." (Acts 2:17a)

We are living in the last days, in the church age, and have seen the firstfruits of the fulfillment of this prophecy. We have been given a foretaste of what it will be like when we behold our Savior and King face to face, and no curse is on the earth, and we will sin no more, and nothing will ever be between us and our Lord. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 85

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 85

Chapter 32 is titled "The Kingdom Of Righteousness". A righteous kingdom requires a righteous king and Isaiah begins the chapter with this promise, "See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice." (Isaiah 32:1) 

Some commentators have attempted to apply this to King Hezekiah because he was on the throne during this period of Isaiah's ministry, but although Hezekiah was generally a good king, we have learned that his faith failed him at the threat of the Assyrian army. He rebelled for a time against the word of God and sought help from Egypt and her coalition of nations. Some have suggested Hezekiah's descendant Josiah, a godly king and Judah's last good king, is indicated here. But he unwisely went to battle against Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. Necho was crossing Judah's territory with his army in order to fight at Carchemish and Josiah objected to his crossing. Necho tried to reason with him that there was no quarrel between Egypt and Judah and that Josiah was out of God's will in opposing him. This was evidently true because Josiah was mortally wounded in that battle. So although Hezekiah and Josiah were good kings for Judah, and both were a blessing upon the nation, I have to agree with the scholars who believe the king who reigns in righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah and King. No mortal man is able to reign in complete righteousness other than the Son of Man and Son of God.

Sin will reign no more when the King sits on the throne and people will be a blessing to each other. "Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land." (Isaiah 32:2) The Lord has graciously given us a little taste of this in our present lives. We probably all know at least one godly person in whose presence we feel comforted. We have family members and friends who are the first ones we think of when we are troubled, because getting in their presence makes us feel better. When Christ reigns, every person on earth will have these wonderful qualities, for they are the redeemed and they reflect the glory of the Redeemer.

Previously Isaiah has criticized the people for their willful blindness and deafness. They have refused the word of the Lord. But in the kingdom of righteousness this will no longer be the case. "Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear." (Isaiah 32:3-4) 

"No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected." (Isaiah 32:5) In the Scriptures, a fool is not a person of simply poor judgment or a failure to be serious about life. The word "fool" is used for a person who is morally and spiritually corrupt, for one who rejects the truth and has no heart for the things of God. The way of the world is to reward those who make a name for themselves, regardless of their moral character. A person can become famous or wealthy or powerful without also being godly. Not so in the kingdom of righteousness! God looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. The Bible tells us that God is not partial to those who are successful by worldly standards and that He is not influenced by the name a man has made for himself. (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11)

"For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: They practice ungodliness and spread error concerning the Lord; the hungry they leave empty and from the thirsty they withhold water." (Isaiah 32:6) Many false teachers have led people astray over the centuries. Charismatic leaders have "spread error concerning the Lord". They have put on a front of godliness but inside they lack compassion for the needy. They have had it within their power to do good deeds but were intent on getting gain for themselves. 

"Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just." (Isaiah 32:7) The scoundrel is out for himself and will reject the plea of the needy because it is not convenient for him. It does not gain anything material for him to help those who bring a righteous case before him, so he perverts justice. He takes bribes. He rules in unrighteousness. This is a sharp contrast to the One who will reign in absolute perfect righteousness, who cares for the widow and the orphan, who loves the poor and needy, who rewards the godly.

"But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand." (Isaiah 32:8) The carnal mind in the world today has a habit of calling "evil good and good evil". (Isaiah 5:20) The world rewards those who get ahead, no matter what they had to do to get ahead. But in God's eyes, only noble deeds are worthy. Only the noble will stand in His presence. Our words and deeds testify to the condition of our hearts. "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart." (Luke 6:45a)

We live in a world that rewards mankind for the wrong things but this condition will be reversed in the kingdom of righteousness. God cares about what's in our hearts, not what's in our bank accounts. He doesn't care what kind of name we've made for ourselves or how much power we've managed to grasp. What is mankind's wealth or fame or power to the living God? Can anyone or anything compare to Him? He cannot be bribed. He will not make an unjust ruling. He will judge what's in the heart and will not be deceived by man's outward appearance. The Lord says, "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My word." (Isaiah 66:2b) King David, a man who was powerful and wealthy by the world's standards, knew he would not be saved from his sins and mistakes because of who he was but because he was sorrowful and repentant. "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

We can look around us this morning and find a lot of things wrong with the world and its attitudes. But the Lord's kingdom will come and in that day all will be set right. Rewards will be given for godliness, not for shrewd dealing. Honesty and godliness will be honored, not crooked business practices and unrighteous living. We who are in Christ long for the kingdom to come so that at last all things will be as they should be. "In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37) Our King is coming and we take heart in this promise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 84

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 84

We look at Chapter 31 today and Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah and the people not to send to Egypt for help. I think Isaiah must have preached this message for quite some time but Hezekiah entered into the alliance anyway. In the end, Isaiah was proven right, because Egypt never showed up in Judah's hour of need.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord." (Isaiah 31:1) We talked the other day about how it's a human tendency to want to turn to the Lord last, after we have tried everything else. I am not really sure what the cause of this is, but in Judah's case I think their fear of the advancing Assyrian army was greater than their fear of God. They wanted to meet a powerful army with another powerful army (which they did not possess themselves) and turned to Egypt's military might. They had forgotten that all the hosts of heaven were at the Lord's disposal. The prophet Elisha, outnumbered and surrounded, once prayed for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant who was in a panic, and the Lord answered, "The Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17b) Elisha knew God's army was there because he believed it on faith, but the servant needed some extra help. He needed something he could see with his eyes. In the days of King Hezekiah, it was easier for the people to put their faith in something they could see, like the Egyptian army, instead of having the faith of Elisha that God's mighty army was fighting for them.

The Egyptians were not going to be successful against Assyria. They also were not going to be successful against Babylon, who would follow Assyria. "Yet He too is wise and can bring disaster; He does not take back His words. He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out His hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together." (Isaiah 31:2-3) The Lord keeps His promises; "He does not take back His words". But Egypt? They will fail to be any help. They will be defeated in the one major battle they attempted against the Assyrians and will run back to their own nation. They won't be able to make good on their promise to help their allies push back the Assyrian army and relieve them of paying tribute to its king. 

Isaiah wants to make it very clear that he is speaking words received directly from Almighty God. These words are trusted and true. It's one thing to scorn the word of man but it's another thing to dismiss the word of the living God. "This is what the Lord says to me: 'As a lion growls, a great lion over its prey---and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against it, it is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor---so the Lord Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights. Like a bird hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; He will shield it and deliver it, He will 'pass over' it and rescue it.'" (Isaiah 31:4-5) Judah will be cut off from all help, facing Assyrian soldiers. When Jerusalem is delivered her people will know the hand of the Lord did it. The Lord is going to place them in a situation where He is their only help and they will never be able to doubt their help came from Him. 

Have you ever been in a circumstance that you couldn't fix and that no human help could fix? You knew if things turned around it was going to be by the power of the living God? Isn't that a beautiful place to be? I can look back on several times in my life and know it was God alone who delivered me. I was incapable of doing it myself and the problems were too big for even my closest friends to solve. I knew it was going to take a supernatural act of the Lord. I believe He orchestrates our circumstances so that, from time to time, we are reminded that He is God and that all things are possible with Him. The Lord so graciously puts wonderful loving family members and friends into our lives but there will be things they can't help us with, no matter how much they want to. We encounter problems that need help from above. And when we know our deliverance depends on Him alone and He comes through for us, our faith is strengthened like never before. The faith of those who love us is strengthened too. 

The people need to get back to the roots of their faith and trust in the One about whom King David said, "I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalm 18:1-2) Isaiah instructs the people to return to the One who can deliver them from the enemy. "Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against. For in that day every one of you will reject the idols of silver and gold your sinful hands have made." (Isaiah 31:6-7)

"'Assyria will fall by no human sword; a sword, not of mortals, will devour them. They will flee before the sword and their young men will be put to forced labor. Their stronghold will fall because of terror; at the sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic,' declares the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, whose furnace is in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 31:8-9) This seems to be a twofold prophecy. First, the Assyrian soldiers will fall through a plague the Lord sends on them. Jerusalem will not have to fight the battle. The people of Jerusalem will get up in the morning to find the enemy army lying dead. Second, the entire nation of Assyria is going to fall. In a little while, the nation that Jerusalem fears will be conquered.

God describes Himself as a lion in today's passage. A lion that comes out of the forest to snatch its prey has no fear of the shouting of the shepherds or the waving of staffs. He knows he is able to take them all on. The Lord has the people of Judah securely in His hands. The enemy may shout and rage, waving battle swords, but He is able to take them all on. Of us who have placed our faith in our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28) 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 83

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 83

As we conclude Chapter 30 we see Isaiah's vision of a renewed earth with the Lord as its King. In a time when the people fear their enemies, Isaiah promises them that a day is coming when God will judge their enemies.

"See, the name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; His lips are full of wrath, and His tongue is a consuming fire." (Isaiah 30:27) Isaiah is speaking of the day of the Lord in the end times. In the book of Revelation we find the symbolism of a sharp, double-edged sword coming from the Lord's mouth. He will judge by His word. He will judge on the basis of whether His word was accepted or rejected and on whether it was obeyed or disobeyed. 

"His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; He places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray." (Isaiah 30:28) When we put something in a sieve, the smaller useless bits fall through the openings while the larger useful bits remain. It's a method of sifting. I believe this refers to the day when the Lord will separate the wheat from the chaff. John the Baptist spoke of that day, saying that the Lord would separate the wheat from the chaff, gathering the wheat into His barn, but burning the chaff. (Luke 3:17) 

When the righteous see the wicked removed from their presence, they will rejoice in the holy judgment of the Lord. "And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel." (Isaiah 30:29) We discussed earlier in the book of Isaiah that to love the Lord is to love not only His mercy but His judgment. Israel has probably been invaded more than any other nation. Her citizens have been enslaved a number of times. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt over and over. When Israel sees the Lord judging her enemies, she will rejoice in His righteousness. God cannot be holy if He does not judge wickedness. 

"The Lord will cause people to hear His majestic voice and will make them see His arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail." (Isaiah 30:30) The Bible commentator David Guzik says of this verse, "When we understand how God's perfect judgment exalts His justice and His righteousness, we see the glory of the judgment of the Lord." 

It hurts our hearts to think of those who are lost facing the judgment of the Lord, and it should bother us. We need to get the gospel out like never before. We need to pray like never before. We need to be Jesus' hands and feet in a dark world, ministering to our fellow man. I am sure Isaiah, as a man of God, was concerned about the lost, but in this chapter he seems to concentrate more on the fate of those who are active enemies of God's people. He is speaking of the joy one experiences when God passes judgment on one who is wicked and cruel. He is talking about Israel's happiness when all those who have hurt her receive their punishment.

Having gone far into the future to speak of the day of the Lord, Isaiah now backs up to the trouble at hand: Assyria. "The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with His rod He will strike them down. Every stroke the Lord lays on them with His punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as He fights them in battle with the blows of His arm." (Isaiah 30:31-32) You will recall from our study of the kings that, when a detachment of the Assyrian army camped near Jerusalem planning to lay siege to the city, the angel of the Lord smote them in the night, killing them all with a plague. God personally acts on behalf of those who love Him, stepping into history, working things out for His people and for the glory of His name. When Hezekiah realized no help from his allies was coming, he called on the name of the Lord and the Lord rose to Jerusalem's defense. The field commander of Sennacherib's army blasphemed the name of the Lord as he stood outside the gates of Jerusalem and the Lord would not let this pass. He defended the holiness of His name and displayed His great power by annihilating the army that the Assyrian king sent to Jerusalem. I would imagine there was a great deal of singing and rejoicing when the people of the city realized the enemy soldiers lay dead in the field without the people of Judah having to fire a single arrow.

"Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze." (Isaiah 30:33) Topheth was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, outside Jerusalem. It was an abominable place, where children had been sacrificed and burned in the fire to the Canaanite god Molech. It's name is synonymous with hell and destruction, of all things vile and heinous. By the time of Jesus, the words "Ben Hinnom" had merged into the word "gehenna", which the Lord used as a synonym for hell. So Isaiah is saying that the plans of the pagan people of Assyria will come to nothing, that their destruction has long been foretold, that a grave is prepared for their king, and that hell awaits him. 

The prophecy against Babylon earlier in Isaiah had a similar theme. Its king was prideful over his wealth and power but he would be brought down to hell, there to mingle with all the other wicked kings before him. The one who thought he was above God would be brought low. The king who thought he was greater than any king in history would be equal with them in death. In a time when the people of Judah were shaking in fear of Assyria and its king, Isaiah assures them the fate of Assyria and its king is sealed. It has already been determined. It is as good as done. 

Isaiah is calling the people to faith. They need to trust in the promises of the Lord. There's no need to send to Egypt for troops when God is actively working on behalf of His people. Assyria's fate has already been determined and she will never be able to breach Jerusalem's walls. King Sennacherib wrote of his many exploits and battles won, but nowhere will we find an account of him having conquered Jerusalem. It is noticeably absent from his list of defeated cities. He gives no explanation as to why he was unable to overcome that city, since ancient kings rarely had anything to say about failed ventures, but we know what happened from the holy Scriptures. The Lord stepped in. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 82

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 82

For several days we've been in a chapter that deals with the foolishness of Judah looking to Egypt for help. Isaiah (through the Lord) has had some harsh words about this. But he ended yesterday by reminding the people that the Lord longs to be gracious to them. Today Isaiah looks far ahead to a day when the Lord will be able to be as gracious as He wants to be, because the hearts of the people will be firmly fixed on Him. 

"People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you." (Isaiah 30:19) In Isaiah's day, the Lord longed to be gracious to the people and to help them, but they were not seeking Him. They were scorning His help. It's very difficult to help a person who does not want to be helped. Have you ever tried to help someone who didn't want help? It's pretty much impossible, no matter how much we long to be gracious to them. Isaiah was living in a time when idolatry was growing and people were going through the motions of worship at the temple while their hearts were someplace else. The Lord longed to be gracious to them but they were making it pretty much impossible. But even in such troubled times, Isaiah foresees a day when this will no longer be the case. The people will turn back to the one true God and then He will be able to help them the way He wants to help them.

"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them." (Isaiah 30:20) This verse reminds me of Psalm 42 whose author is going through some troubled times. He says, "My tears have been my food day and night." (v 3a) A time of adversity had to come upon the people before they would repent and turn back to the Lord. This is true of many men and women, including myself. I didn't respond properly to blessings just as the ancient tribes of Israel didn't respond properly to blessings. Sometimes blessings make us so comfortable that we forget the One who gave them to us. Or worse yet, we may start to believe we deserve our blessings, feeling entitled to them. If God cannot get our attention any other way, He allows adversity into our lives. That has a tendency to snap us to attention very quickly. 

J. Alec Motyer, one of the foremost commentators on the book of Isaiah, believes the second half of verse 20 should be translated like this, "Your Teacher will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see Him." He says the word could easily be singular (teacher) rather than plural (teachers). I believe he is onto something here because in Isaiah's day the teachers certainly weren't hidden. God's prophets and teachers were publicly crying out for the people to turn to the Lord for help, to get back to their roots, to forsake their idols and call upon the living God. Plus, the singular Teacher better fits the remainder of the chapter, for Isaiah is speaking of the kingdom of the Lord on earth, when the King of David's line sits on the throne, when war and oppression and troubles will be no more. 

Israel's Teacher was not hiding Himself from them. He was daily pleading with them through the prophets but the people had covered their eyes. They were begging the prophets not to prophesy. They were crying out for comfortable messages, messages that made them feel good about themselves, false messages of peace. The Lord had not hidden Himself from the people; the people simply preferred not to see Him. But this will not always be the case. A day is coming when they will seek Him and find Him. And a day is coming when He will literally be present on the earth for all eyes to see.

The Teacher will be their guide in all things. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:21) They will no longer cover their ears to the message of the Lord. Their ears will be open and attentive to His leading. This is the day Isaiah spoke of in Chapter 2, "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." (Isaiah 2:3)

Idols will mean nothing compared to the living God. The people will cast their idols away like the garbage they are. "Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, 'Away with you!'" (Isaiah 30:22) This might seem like a crude comparison but the law said that anything contaminated with blood was unclean and to be discarded. The people will at last see their idols for what they truly are: something vile and unclean, something unwholesome, something impure that was contaminating their lives. When we get a glimpse of our mighty Redeemer, everything else pales in comparison to Him. All the things we once clung to when we lived in sin suddenly appear as they really are: vile and unclean and abominable. In the light of His holiness our sins look especially ugly. Idols that were so pretty on the outside are exposed for the lies they truly are underneath. So it will be with the idols of Judah and Israel. Their idols were carved blocks of wood plated with silver and gold, which looked pretty impressive, but underneath they were still just blocks of wood, unable to hear or help anyone. They were a lie. A lie covered with beautiful silver or gold is still a lie. Satan wraps all his lies in attractive coverings but underneath they are still lies.

The earth will no longer bear the curse of sin or the scars of the fall of man. "He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel." (Isaiah 30:23-24) Man and the animals will enjoy the fruit of their labors. No more will drought kill the crops or locusts swallow them up. There will be plenty for humans and animals to eat: the finest of foods. In Isaiah's day the prophets were foretelling a time of thirst and hunger because of the sins of the people. The capitol city of Israel fell after being besieged for three years by Assyria, during which time they suffered deprivations. They became so hungry they ate the dead, turning to cannibalism to survive. Although Assyria won't be able to follow through on her plans to besiege Jerusalem the same way, Babylon will rise and will become powerful enough to carry out such a plan. People will thirst for water and hunger for food. But Isaiah looks past all this and sees a day when no human or animal will ever suffer from lack of water or food. When Christ reigns from the throne of David, all will be well. The curse of sin will be gone and the earth restored to its original condition.

"In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted." (Isaiah 30:25-26) I believe this passage is speaking of the final battle on earth, the battle of Armageddon, when the Lord will fight victoriously against all enemies and then establish His kingdom on the earth. Verses 25 and 26 appear to match up with a passage from the book of Zechariah, The prophet Zechariah spoke of a day when armies would be gathered to fight against Jerusalem but the Lord Himself would come and fight for His people. "Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by My mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him. On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day---a day known only to the Lord---with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter." (Zechariah 14:3-8)

As always, in the midst of woeful predictions, the Lord gives Isaiah a message of hope for the people. Dark days are ahead for them because of their sins, but all is not lost. God will never break His promise about preserving the nation of Israel. He will never break His promise about preserving the kingly line of Judah. The Savior is coming, who will remake and redeem everyone who trusts in Him. The King is coming, who will remake and redeem the earth. Wars and rumors of wars will persist to the end. Earthquakes and famines will befall the earth. But it's so much easier to keep hanging on when we know things are going to turn out alright, so the Lord bestows upon His people a message of hope. A brighter day is coming. Our God will overcome. Our King will reign forever.