Posts Tagged 'Isaiah'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 6

Good morning, folks!  Thanks for stopping by today to study the Bible with me.  Lord knows, we need it, don’t we?  In a world falling apart,  God’s Word will hold us together.  We will be looking a some of the prophets today.  Their writings make up a large chunk of the Old Testament, so it’s important to know what they wrote about.  May the Lord bless you as we look to His Word.


Video Sermon: 22 November

Good morning, and welcome to my place and the video sermon for today, is the first in a new Advent-themed series, Jesus In Prophecy. In Isaiah 42, we read about Jesus, the Servant. To watch it, just click HERE

As always, our prayer is that the Word will minister to you and meet your needs as we study His Word together.

Be’s of the Bible, Part 6


There are many “be’s” in the Bible. When the Lord uses a “be,” it’s important to pay attention to what He’s saying. As God uses “be” in the Bible, He’s never making a suggestion; He’s issuing a command. We’re looking at a number of the “Be’s in Scripture,” and so far, here are the ones we’ve covered:

• Be Holy (because God is holy), 1 Peter 1:15, 16
• Be Perfect (or be mature), 2 Corinthians 13:11
• Be Still (and let God work), Psalm 46:10
• Be Sober (and be alert, keeping your eyes open), 1 Peter 5:8
• Be Faithful (no matter what), Revelation 2:10

Our sixth “Be” is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah –

Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house. (Isaiah 52:11 TNIV)

A verse like that demands some context because it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind it or what prompted it. So let’s consider some context, both historical and spiritually.

Context: Historical and spiritual

There is an old saying that goes like this:

God helps those who help themselves.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t Winston Churchill who coined that phrase, although he probably did say it. It was Benjamin Franklin and, as far as the phrase goes, it’s partly true and partly false. A lot of people over on the Reformed side of the church get incensed when they hear somebody say, “God helps those who help themselves.” As far as Reformers are concerned, God instigates everything in the lives of people; people don’t do anything to merit the movement of God’s hand. They’re not altogether wrong about that. In terms of salvation, man does absolutely nothing to earn it or get it. Sinful man doesn’t wake up and decide today is the day to get saved. Salvation isn’t a matter of sinful man seeking God. It’s God going to the endth degree to draw sinful man to himself. And even when a sinful person appears to respond to God’s drawing power, it’s really God working in that person’s heart and soul, enabling him to respond.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 TNIV)

So, we nod in the direction of the Reformers. They’re right when they that “God helps those who help themselves” is wrong when it comes to salvation. But after salvation, all bets are off. On that, the other side of the church is right. Once a person is saved, many – though admittedly not all – of God’s promises and blessings hinge on His people doing something to merit them. It’s hard to get by a verse like this –

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7, 8 TNIV)

Make no mistake about it: God is always ready to give to His people exactly what they need and what He has promised to them. But God wants His people to – at the very least – ask and stretch out their hands to receive. Christians who are so doubtful or apathetic receive nothing from the Lord directly and their Christian experience is disappointing and frustrating.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 TNIV)

The words and phrases “fight” and “take hold” are not passive phrases! And living the Christian life is not supposed to be a passive existence. This is something a great many Christians don’t understand; they live passively, expecting God to do everything for them. Now, sometimes God in His sovereignty answers prayers and meets needs before we ask. But as a general rule, Christians are meant to ask, seek, or do something to receive what God has promised.

It’s always been this way, by the way; it’s the pattern revealed to us from the early pages of the Old Testament. God made an amazing covenant with Abraham, but Abraham had to step out in faith and start walking. When God delivered His people out of Egypt, He required of them to “rise up, and go forth,” and to make a perilous journey across a trackless desert. When God wanted to deliver His people from Babylon, only those who were willing to work for it, left all they had, faced peril and uncertainty, make a long and dangerous journey, received their deliverance.

And that spiritual context brings us to the historical context behind Isaiah 52, the book and chapter in which our sixth “be” is found.

The nation of Israel began as a promise God made to Abraham. In the course of time, Abraham’s descendants, Jacob’s family, went down to Egypt – as a family, not as a nation – around 1876 BC. But, they didn’t stay just a family for long. Settling in the land of Goshen, Jacob’s family grew and grew and overflowed the borders of Goshen. They grew into a nation that posed a threat to their hosts, the Egyptians, and in response, the Egyptians enslaved them. In 1446 BC, the Lord gloriously freed Jacob’s descendants, now known as Hebrews. In 722 BC, the Assyrians took ten of the twelve tribes of Israel captive to Assyria (2 Kings 17:1 – 6) and in 586 BC, the remaining two tribes were taken captive by the Babylonians, successors to the Assyrians. For a variety of reasons but mostly because of the idolatry, God used the Assyrians and later the Babylonians to judge His people . God gave them the Promised Land, and He took it away from them. This judgment shouldn’t have come as a surprise to either the northern Kingdom of Israel or the southern Kingdom of Judah because for centuries the Lord had sent His messengers, the prophets, to warn them to “shape up” of they’d be forced to “ship out,” either to Assyria or Babylon.

Isaiah was just such a messenger. In chapter 52, Isaiah is addressing exiles living in Babylon.  Jerusalem had been devastated and most its inhabitants had been deported to Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar steam-rolled into Judah, he would eventually take the majority of the inhabitants of the southern kingdom. Just how many? The prophet Jeremiah helps us out with that –

This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews; in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all. (Jeremiah 52:28 – 30 TNIV)

But not all were taken. Isaiah lived before these events took place, but He wrote to his fellows in Babylon prophetic words of encouragement, encouraging them to remain faithful to their faith even while surrounded by heathens and pagans and false gods of every sort. The temptation must have been intense, especially given the fact that many of these Jews were already discouraged and frustrating, thinking God had abandoned them.

God’s message

The call.

Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. (Isaiah 52:1, 2 TNIV)

It was not a good time for these Jews living in exile. Conditions weren’t the greatest and the pall of hopelessness had settled over these exiles. What they needed to know was that all was not lost. They did have a future – Jerusalem had a future, even as it lay in ruins at the moment. Blessing would come the city and it would be glorious once again.

When will this happen? Well, it sort of happened when many of the Hebrews returned from exile under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. But it won’t fully come to pass until Jesus Christ returns, at which time He will restore not only Jerusalem, but the whole physical universe, which right now is “groaning” under the weight of man’s sin. When our Lord returns He will redeem our bodies and all creation will be redeemed and set right.

The condition.

For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. “And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, “declares the Lord. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (Isaiah 52:3 – 5 TNIV)

This is the Lord, not Isaiah, talking about Israel’s history. This really is quite a stunning soliloquy when you read the phrases and think about what God is saying. These were God’s people taken captive and kept in exile – God’s possession – and since He received nothing from those who took His people, He will give nothing in return. God will take from the enemy what belongs to Him: His people and Jerusalem.

Of course, God is talking about His people in exile; He’s trying to encourage them; to buck them up. Just because they are in exile didn’t mean He’d given up on them or given them away. They were still His holy possession. And that ownership of His people – the Jews – continues down to this very day. In a sense, they are still in exile. And they will be until the Lord returns.

The promise.

For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed. ” Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” (Isaiah 52:3, 6 TNIV)

Again, God owes no nation anything. It is true that He used Assyria and Babylon as His instruments of judgment, but He is sovereign – He is over all nations whether they know it or not. The Babylonian exiles brought no glory to Him from those nations, therefore when His purpose was fulfilled, He would take them back, giving nothing in return. It’s His right to do that.

The messengers.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. (Isaiah 52:7, 8 TNIV)

Here is God’s estimation and characterization of true evangelists. God hadn’t forgotten His people and even in Babylon in exile, He still sent prophets to encourage them.

And that gets us to our sixth “be.”

Things would get better for these exiles. In the short term, they would be permitted to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild it. But the final fulfillment – the final restoration – of Jerusalem won’t happen until the Lord returns.

But God’s stern warning to these exiles echoes down through history because it is just as relevant to believers today as it was to those Jews back then. Think about it: They were surrounded by pagans; Babylonian society was prosperous and enticing; many of these Jews eventually settled in among the heathens, even intermarrying with them. To those exiles, and to God’s exiles today comes the word –

Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house. (Isaiah 52:11 TNIV)

It is the responsibility of all believers, but especially those in positions of leadership within the Body of Christ, to avoid all impurity – to not even touch things the Lord considers unclean. “Be pure” is an admonition that sounds almost old fashioned. The notion of “purity” has become passé or even maudlin. But God demands it of His people. God wants His people pure and the easiest way to be pure is to simply avoid impurity. Don’t go near things that are impure. You may want to, and the shiny objects of impurity may get your attention from time to time, but if you want to be obedient to the Lord and if you want to blessed by Him and have His promises come to pass in your life, you won’t go near impurity.

Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 3


Isaiah 53 is famous because in it we read of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah. This verse in particular is among the most famous Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

However, the prophecy of the Suffering Servant really begins back at 52:13 –

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. (NIV)

This whole section has been referred to as the “holy of holies” of Isaiah. And Polycarp wrote of it as the “golden passional of the Old Testament.” However you like to refer these verses, they are profound in their meaning and life-changing when they are understood. The previous so-called “servant songs” in Isaiah all described the prophetic ministry of the Servant of the Lord, but in this one, He is portrayed as Priest, who suffers vicariously for the sins of others. This Servant is the sin-bearing martyr and while the other “servants songs” could refer to the nation of Israel, a faithful remnant, or the Messiah Himself, this one is clearly the Messiah, an individual sufferer.

The Suffering Servant passage is really only five paragraphs long, with each paragraph containing three verses.

The Servant Exalted, 52:13 – 15

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. (NIV)

This is God speaking, introducing His Servant, using terms ascribed to divinity – raised, lifted up, highly exalted – coupled with terms that can only be used in describing a man – his appearance marred by suffering. At the very beginning of this song, then, we have a Servant who is both divine and human.

The task of this divine-human Servant is to fulfill the purposes of God. He will do this “wisely” or “prudently” or with “understanding,” depending on which translation of the Bible you are reading. This great Suffering Servant will have an exalted nature with the destiny of a Martyr, but with great insight that will enable Him to deal wisely and effectively with the greatest problem of man: human hatred and sin.

And even though the Servant will suffer beyond normal human endurance, His shed blood will cause “kings” to marvel in silent awe as they see what they were never told or taught. The idea is that the Servant’s task will be to give the people an entirely new life, something kings can’t conceive of.

The Servant Despised, Isaiah 53:1 – 3

But, oh, how few believe it! Who will listen? To whom will God reveal his saving power? In God’s eyes he was like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. But in our eyes there was no attractiveness at all, nothing to make us want him. We despised him and rejected him—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care.  (TLB)

Jews consider this prophecy to be all about Israel – and they’re not necessarily wrong, but they’ve cast their nation on the wrong side. To them, Israel is the suffering servant, but what we’re reading about here is future Israel (“in our eyes”) when the people finally recognize and acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. These verses are the thoughts they will have at that time. So profound will be their realization of the truth that, they say, “who would have believed it?”

It’s heartening to know that in the future, at long last national Israel will understand the truth. But, at the same time, there is an application of these verses for today. It’s not just Israel to whom God reveals the truth of Jesus; He reveals it also to repentant and penitent sinners. These verses could well constitute the awakened conscience of a saved man, for when he sees the truth, he just can’t believe why it took so long for him to believe.
Some day, the godly remnant of Israel will regret their rejection of Jesus, and that day they will turn to Him as their Messiah and Savior.

The Servant Wounded, Isaiah 53:4 – 6

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! (TLB)

This paragraph is so powerful and moving, Handel based one of his more significant songs on it in his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus entered into our sorrows and afflictions; He experienced what we experience and He healed those who came to Him in faith. There are some who teach that healing is part of the atonement. Whether it is or isn’t is a debate for another day. It must be noted, though, that while Jesus healed all kinds of sickness and diseases, He died for our sins, not for our illnesses.

That evening several demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus; and when he spoke a single word, all the demons fled; and all the sick were healed. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, “He took our sicknesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16, 17 TLB)

This lone paragraph in Isaiah teaches the great doctrine of substitution. Israel of Christ’s day believed He deserved to die. He was accused of and condemned for blasphemy. He was considered punished by God because He deserved it. And yet, Jesus died, not for Himself, but for others and this wonderful prophecy is an absolute promise that one day Israel will see the truth.

And what pity he felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 TLB)

But they choose to live this way; sinners, believing that they are free – that they are forging their own destiny – yet they aren’t free at all. They are lost. God provided salvation for all the lost sheep through His infinite grace: Christ died for our sins. Paul expressed Isaiah’s thoughts his own way like this –

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! (2 Corinthians 5:21 TLB)

And Peter put it this way –

He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours! Like sheep you wandered away from God, but now you have returned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls who keeps you safe from all attacks. (1 Peter 2:24, 25 TLB)

Of this doctrine, Alistair Begg notes,

Jesus did not come to live as an example of how to die as a martyr, but as a substitute, taking the place that we deserve in order that we might enjoy what we don’t deserve.

The Servant Cut Off, Isaiah 53:7 – 9

Twice in verse 7, the prophet tells his readers that Jesus never once protested. He was not an unwilling victim, forced to go to the cross. He was a voluntary sacrifice; He allowed Himself to be hurt, humiliated, and manhandled. He never offered a word in His defense before Pilate. He only spoke up in front of the Sanhedrin when silence would have been a renunciation of His deity. Before Herod, Jesus said nothing.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (Isaiah 53:7 NIV)

In other words, the “judgment” of the human courts (Roman and Jewish) was the instrument of “oppression,” as far as Jesus was concerned. And nobody cared! This is truly an astonishing thought. “Who of his generation protested?” The answer is nobody! The “close pals” of Jesus – His apostles – were either scared witless, or busy denying that they even knew Him at all.

The odd phrase, “cut off,” deserves a quick look. It suggests something beyond a violent, premature death – is strongly implies the just and certain judgment of God. So in the handling of our Lord, we see the terrible oppression of man and the justice of God. In a single verse, we see both the thoughtlessness of man and the plan of God converging upon one perfect Man. He was condemned by His own people, yet He bore the punishment for their guilt and sin.  Simply astonishing!

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9 NIV)

This is a curious verse and a little hard to understand. Man assigned the Servant’s grave, not among those of the saints or with due reverence and honor, but they treated Him like the wicked guys He was crucified between. Dishonor and humiliation chased our Lord even to His final resting place. That phrase, “with the rich in his death” refers to one Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and compassionate man if ever there was one. It’s an enigmatic, powerful verse, and Ross Price’s summary of it is particularly noteworthy:

He was an innocent man. Humanity vented its spleen in vicious treatment of God’s Holy One. But when selfish evil tries to masquerade as justice it prepares its own unmasking.

The Servant Satisfied, Isaiah 53:10 – 12

Decent, right thinking, unredeemed men see the treatment and death of Jesus Christ as a tragedy. In their ignorance, they see the Servant of Isaiah as a visionary, a martyr, a man ahead of His time, an unfortunate victim of circumstances who suffered and died for His ideals. But, none of that is true.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10 NIV)

The Dead Sea Scroll translates verse 10 like this:

But Yahweh was pleased to crush him and he pierced him.

Clearly, God was in back of every movement against His Son by allowing it to happen as it did. Yet, Moffat’s translation varies slightly and captures the barest hint of a positive outcome:

But the Eternal chose to vindicate his servant, rescuing his life from anguish; he let him propser to the full, in a posterity with life prolonged.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ taken together constitute the greatest victory in the history of the world.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11 NIV)

Jesus didn’t waste His time on the Cross! He, looking back, will be completely satisfied. Are you satisfied with what Jesus did for you? He did all He could for you. Nothing was left undone in His work for you.
And so this wonderful prophecy closes the way it began, on a positive note.

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