Posts Tagged 'Isaiah'



Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 3

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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.

Isaiah, 5

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It’s a terrible thing when, at 50, you can’t see as clearly as you did when you were 20. But that’s life. What’s worse than wearing glasses to improve your eyesight is when you lose that eyesight altogether. It is estimated that almost 50,000 Americans go blind every year. One person every eleven minutes moves from a world of light to a world of darkness.

Worse still is living in spiritual darkness, a way of living that has afflicted the majority of people, not just in America, but all over the world. These people are incapable of having any kind of relationship with God and they are unable of seeing themselves and their world with any kind of clarity. Not so with Christians, though.

But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 TLB)

And yet, sometimes Christians feel as though they are spiritually blinded. Sometimes your prayers go unheard. And sometimes those prayers go unanswered. Sin is what causes this. Spiritual problems are never God’s fault, they are ours. God is always listening and always ready to give the best answer possible to every one of our prayers; He is always at the ready to deliver and do whatever He needs in order to make life better for us. But sin—our sin—will stop Him.

What is true of individuals is also true of nations. Isaiah deals with this spiritual blindness in chapters 59 and 60. Let’s look at the prophet’s conclusions.

Sin = Spiritual Darkness, Isaiah 59:1, 2, 8—13

God’s power is not lacking

When God withholds answers to prayer or blessings or when it seems as though God is MIA, we might be tempted to think God cannot answer those prayers or is incapable of do that which we are asking of Him. This isn’t so. God is able; His power is never lacking.

Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you. And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! (Isaiah 59:1 TLB)

In Isaiah’s day, Israel remained in its quagmire of sin and went unsaved not because it was too difficult for God to help them, but because Israel stubbornly refused repent.

Sin separates

But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because of sin he has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore. (Isaiah 59:2 TLB)

The distance between God and man is like the distance between man and an ant. That distance is great, but it is eliminated by faith in Jesus Christ. That profound theological truth is expressed by Gordon Jensen’s very simple song lyrics:

In the very thought of Jesus, His presence may be found,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.
There’s never any distance between my Lord and me,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.

In my hour of struggle, so many times I’ve found,
He’s as close as the mention as His name.
Just to breathe the name of Jesus can turn everything around,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.

But all that is true only as long as your sin has been dealt with and is being dealt with by the both the Lord and you as you live in submission to Him and in obedience to His Word.

Israel’s constant sinful actions had driven a wedge between themselves and God—an impassible chasm had been established by Israel. God’s people had deluded themselves into thinking all they had to do was offer sacrifices and throw God some change from time to time and that would be good enough. It wasn’t nearly good enough for God.

For all people, Christians included, this is a serious thing. Sin always separates man from God. It will always be that way; there are no exceptions. We may try to rationalize our sinful behavior and invent cute slogans to excuse it (“Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.”). God does not condone or excuse your sin; He does not understand why you do it, nor does He buy your excuses. The only thing God knows is that if you are stuck in sin, you can’t get close to Him.

Sin = Spiritual Blindness

No wonder you grope like blind men and stumble along in broad daylight, yes, even at brightest noontime, as though it were the darkest night! No wonder you are like corpses when compared with vigorous young men! (Isaiah 59:10 TLB)

What a horrible picture of the man who is out of favor with God. It’s sad, but the best people in the world; the nicest people you’ll ever meet, if they don’t know Jesus, this how they really are: blind, and as Isaiah said, “like corpses.”

When a nation or an individual becomes spiritually blind, they forfeit the blessings of God they may have been used to. Those blessings include things like: peace, wisdom and knowledge, and ultimately hope evaporates.

The reason a spiritually blind nation has no peace is because they have lost all sense of justice. Note verse 8—

You don’t know what true peace is, nor what it means to be just and good; you continually do wrong and those who follow you won’t experience any peace either. (TLB)

Verse 11 paints a really pathetic picture of how sinful men appear to God:

You roar like hungry bears; you moan with mournful cries like doves. You look for God to keep you, but he doesn’t. He has turned away. (TLB)

In other words, these sinful people complained to God, even prayed, but found no relief. Moffatt observed,

By comparing themselves to the growling of the bear and to the sighing of the dove, the Israelites let it be understood that both the strong and the weak, each in his own way, longed to be righted, but all in vain. No rescue is in sight.

And the reason no rescue was forthcoming was because their hearts were in darkness. They prayed because, to them, it was just the thing to do.

Sin multiplies guilt

For your sins keep piling up before the righteous God and testify against you. Yes, we know what sinners we are. We know our disobedience; we have denied the Lord our God. We know what rebels we are and how unfair we are, for we carefully plan our lies. (Isaiah 59:12, 13 TLB)

Sin multiplies and mocks. This verse reminds us of another in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament:

Fools mock at sin… (Proverbs 14:9 NKJV)

In the end, though, sin mocks the fool because sin testifies against the sinner. Sin is never your friend, no matter how good it may feel at the time. Furthermore, we learn something of the insidious nature of sin here: the latest sin is always larger the previous one.

Israel’s real state is made obvious in these two verses. These people had become complete hypocrites in their “worship,” they were engaged in open apostasy; they didn’t even try to hide their false gods anymore, and they constantly sinned against the truth and against justice. The deeper the people sank into their sin, the greater their guilt became.

Light Dispels Darkness, Isaiah 59:19—60:3

Man may not care about God and he may disregard his fellow man. He may walk all over the truth, grinding it into the ground, but God never stops caring about him.

The redeemer

Then at last they will reverence and glorify the name of God from west to east. For he will come like a flood tide driven by Jehovah’s breath. He will come as a Redeemer to those in Zion who have turned away from sin. (Isaiah 59:19, 20 TLB)

These verses seem like a dramatic turn-about, and they are.  Sort of. God never stops caring for and working out His plan for His people. Though Israel has gone astray and though God has meted out His judgment, He is not finished with them. He has not tossed them away like a soiled hanky. Indeed, God is ready to do battle for them. He is ready come to be Israel’s Redeemer and Restorer.

Verse 19 is a difficult verse to translate, but the sense of what the prophet is trying to convey is one of hope. Though the enemy is all around, God is still there. We have the assurance that at the right time, the Lord will be roused to action.

God’s covenant

“As for me, this is my promise to them,” says the Lord: “My Holy Spirit shall not leave them, and they shall want the good and hate the wrong—they and their children and their children’s children forever.” (Isaiah 59:21 TLB)

Though large swaths of God’s people will leave Him, some will remain faithful, and to those this covenant is made. God’s word and anointing will never fail. Plumtre wrote,

The new covenant is to involve the gift of the Spirit that writes the Law of God inwardly in the heart, as distinct from the Law, which is thought of as outside of the conscience, doing its work as an accuser and judge.

Isaiah’s basis for a hopeful, blessed future has absolutely nothing to do with his faithless people but everything to do with the faithfulness of God and of the power of His living Word at work in every generation.

Light in the darkness

Arise, my people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you. (Isaiah 60:1—3 TLB)

This chapter of Isaiah powerfully illustrates the glorious future of Jerusalem. We as Christians are always tempted to take these verses out of their natural context and apply them to the glory of the church. This glorification of God through His people is His gift to Israel, specifically Zion. For multiplied chapters, the prophet had painted a bleak picture of Israel in misery and sin, but now hope dawns. The triumph of grace will dispel the darkness.

God calls His people to “wake up” or “stand tall” as they radiate His glory for all to see. Once they were in shame, but now all that has changed. The splendor of the eternal God will have been awakened in His people. There is a contrast between the brightness of God’s glory and the gloomy darkness of the surrounding nations. During the Millennial Kingdom, Zion will become the very center of the world; the epicenter of spirituality in the New Order.

All nations will be drawn to the Light that beams out of Jerusalem. This is a vision of the future. As we look at Israel today, it scarcely seems possible that one day in the future, Israel will become the prominent, dominant nation on earth. But it will; it will be culmination of generations upon generations of promises made by the Lord to His people.

it is even more wonderful when the Jews come to Christ. It will be like dead people coming back to life. (Romans 11:15 TLB)

This is how Paul saw the glorious future of His people. The greatest revival in the history of revivals is yet to happen. It will be the literal resurrection of the nation of Israel. What a glorious event that will be.

God always keeps His promises. To the Jew, some of these unfulfilled promises are so old, they have become part of a past long forgotten in the mists of antiquity. But to those faithful few who remember them and long for their fulfillment, and to those of us who take God at His Word, we eagerly await for His glorious return.

Isaiah, 4

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Most of are familiar with these song lyrics:

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway;
And more much more than this,
I did it my way.

Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley got a lot of mileage out that song, and it moved many people who heard it. Trouble is, it’s all wrong! It’s not the anthem of self-made winner, but rather the epitaph of a loser. Nobody wins when they “do it their way.” In the Bible, we read this well-worn verse:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12 NKJV)

Nobody wins without God. The deck, as they say, is stacked against the unbeliever who feels like he has to live life his own way, without regard to God’s way.

The prophetic book of Isaiah is full of teachings that center on God’s way and the losing proposition of trying live your own way. Let’s look at what it’s like living God’s way.

The way of holiness, Isaiah 35:1—10

Chapter 35 of Isaiah describes a time in the future—our future. It will be a time when man’s dominion of the Earth will be over and God’s will have just begun. The time of God’s terrible judgment will be over and the peaceful reign of His Son will be under way. We have no frame of reference for what life will be like during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ because that kind of society has never existed before. There has never been a “utopia” anywhere on Earth, nor will there be until Christ returns.

The Millennium will be marked joy and rejoicing.

Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers. (Isaiah 35:1 TLB)

The prophet has Jerusalem in view, but there is the sense that this rejoicing will take place all over the world and the glory of the Lord will bring about some major physical changes to the Earth. Plants will grow in abundance, for example. The idea is that the Earth, parts of which may be dangerous and hostile to man, will be made habitable and useful. In essence, the curse of Genesis will be lifted and reversed. No wonder men the world over will rejoice!

But not only will the Earth be restored; man’s relationship with his fellow man will be restored:

Encourage those who are afraid. Tell them, “Be strong, fear not, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4 TLB)

No more war or fear of war; God will take care of His people.

God’s way is not only the way of rejoicing and peace, but of miracles:

The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing! Springs will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:6 TLB)

God will heal both people and land during this dispensation. Miracles will be the norm, not the exception. It will be remarkable time for human beings! As wonderful as this may sound, verse 8 is the gem:

And a main road will go through that once-deserted land; it will be named “The Holy Highway.” No evil-hearted men may walk upon it. God will walk there with you; even the most stupid cannot miss the way. (TLB)

This is a stunning verse! From the Greek Old Testament, it reads something like this:

There shall be a clean way and it shall be called a holy way, and there shall by no means pass over there anything unclean, neither shall be there an unclean way. The dispersed ones shall proceed on it, and they shall in no wise be caused to err.

The name of God’s road or highway will be called “the way of holiness” because it will specifically for God’s people to travel on as they travel to God’s Holy City. The Hebrew word for “highway” or “main road” is maslul, suggesting a clearly marked public road.

Remember, we are reading about the future. This age isn’t here yet. In a sense, though, true believers are already walking on “the way holiness.” God has cleansed us from sin and is making us holy day by day as we submit to Him through obedience to the Holy Spirit within us. The “highway of holiness” we journey on is spiritual, marked by separation from the world and its ways.

The way to victory, Isaiah 43:15—21

God’s way is a holy way, both today and in the future—today spiritually; in the future practically. But God’s way is also the only way to victory. God is able to create His holy highway on land for His people to travel on, but He can also create way through the sea!

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. (verse 16 TLB)

God, through the prophet, is reminding his people of what He did in the past, because if He came through for them back then, what can prevent Him from doing it again? Indeed, God’s people have no reason to worry or fret! God working in history to accomplish His will is proof He can do it again. Nothing can stop God

But God not only worked in the past.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! (verses 18, 19 TLB)

The same God who dried up the waters in history for His people, has the power to do the opposite! He can supply water where it is needed; He can make a way for His people where no way exists. He did it during the Exodus, and He will do it again.

Once again, we are reading about a day in the future. This prophecy will become reality—a physical reality one day. But for now, it is a spiritual reality for believers. God, today, does these things for His people. He provides times of refreshing, like waters in the desert. God is able to make a way for His people—He opens doors, provides solutions, shows us the right way to go. We as believers don’t have to wait for the Millennium to enjoy the blessings of the Lord!

The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world. (verses 20, 21 TLB)

This is the word of the Lord to Israel; to His people. If chapter 43 teaches us anything, it’s that God is in no way finished with the nation of Israel. A great many churches think that God has disposed of Israel and replaced it with the Church is His program of prophecy. This “replacement theology” does great damage to God’s honor and integrity. He has made some very specific promises to Israel that have nothing to do with the Church, and if we have learned anything about God, it’s that He always keeps His Word! That very fact should give us as Christians great hope. Though we are not Jews by birth, we are by the Spirit—we have been adopted into Abraham’s family.

The road to restoration, Isaiah 49:7—15 and 62:10—12

Yet they say, “My Lord deserted us; he has forgotten us.”

“Never! Can a mother forget her little child and not have love for her own son? Yet even if that should be, I will not forget you. See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm, and ever before me is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins. (verses 14—16 TLB)

God’s people were despondent, and it is to them these words of encouragement were addressed. At this time in their history, Jerusalem was ruined and God’s people had become objects of scorn and derision. And yet, at the same time, they remained God’s people! In spite of the circumstances, these deflated, discouraged, depressed, and dispersed people were still God’s chosen people; He had not thrown them over; He was not finished with them.

Once again, Isaiah is offering a hopeful word of what it will be like for Israel in the future. When the prophet wrote these words, the people of Jerusalem had been hauled off into captivity; they were taken from their homes and resettled throughout the Babylonian empire. The future not only looked bleak to the captives, it must have looked like they had no future! They, like all people, tended to only see their immediate circumstances. Many had forgotten the eternal promises of the Lord. They took their eyes of the long game. It never pays to be that short sighted! God isn’t! He never forgot His people—then or now.

God’s purpose for the Earth—indeed His purpose for the universe—centers around the nation of Israel. When the people of God finally return to their land, both heaven and Earth will rejoice. Then, things in our material universe, so out of kilter today, will be set aright. God ought to blessing this world through His people, but He can’t. Satan and his demons should be in Hell, but they aren’t. Man should be free to serve the Lord and enjoy His presence all day, any way and every way, but there are forces arrayed against man today making that very difficult. However, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, returns in power and glory, He will restore the people of God to their land and He will arrange the material universe the way the Creator intended it to be.

This thought is carried on and captured vividly in these verses:

Go out! Go out! Prepare the roadway for my people to return! Build the roads, pull out the boulders, raise the flag of Israel. See, the Lord has sent his messengers to every land and said, “Tell my people, I, the Lord your God, am coming to save you and will bring you many gifts.” And they shall be called “The Holy People” and “The Lord’s Redeemed,” and Jerusalem shall be called “The Land of Desire” and “The City God Has Blessed.” (Isaiah 62:10—12 TLB)

This paragraph is all about the future. Today, if you watch the news, it seems as though the whole world is pointing their guns at Israel, a tiny speck of nation. Those unfamiliar with Biblical prophecy wonder why. Why does it seem like everybody is against Israel? The fact is, Jerusalem can never experience true and lasting peace because her Messiah isn’t there. At the moment, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God, waiting for the day His Father tells Him it’s time to go back to rule Israel in righteousness. Heaven and Earth, all of creation, is waiting for that day.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect his children. For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay—the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command—will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy. For we know that even the things of nature, like animals and plants, suffer in sickness and death as they await this great event. (Romans 8:18—22 TLB)

The restoration of Israel is the key part of God’s plan for His universe, and also the key ingredient in His great plan of salvation. And part of that great plan involves the salvation of national Israel. Today, Israel is not a redeemed nation, but when Christ returns and reveals His salvation to them, that nation will be transformed, just as the Earth will be. Then, and only then, will God’s people be called a “holy people.” The exact opposite is true today. What a marvelous day that will be.

Isaiah, 3

 

BeFunky_Gravity-2.jpg

 Isaiah 25, 26

 

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with this old song:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,
Nobody knows my sorrow.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

Trouble, tragedy, and sorrow; these are things life is made of.  Nobody is exempt from trouble, tragedy, and sorrow.  Sometimes these “bad times” are the result of natural disasters—hurricanes and storms and the like.  Other times “bad times” are the result of “man’s inhumanity to man.”  And other times, we get ourselves into trouble through our own negligent behavior.  Our minds wander over to Job and what he went through, apparently through no fault of his own.  And even though we don’t like to think about, sometimes the “bad times” are a direct result of the Lord’s heavy hand of discipline upon us.

And have you quite forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his child? He said, “My son, don’t be angry when the Lord punishes you. Don’t be discouraged when he has to show you where you are wrong.  For when he punishes you, it proves that he loves you. When he whips you, it proves you are really his child.”  (Hebrews 12:5, 6  TLB)

As Christians, we know that we are living here on a temporary basis; our real, permanent home is in Heaven.  No matter what’s going on around us or to us, good or bad, we ought to be living in daily expectation that Jesus Christ could return at any moment.  The Second Coming should never be an “abstract idea” to us.  It should be what it is:  a reality; something that will happen at some time.  That expectation should be a comfort to us; it should give us hope.

As we glance at chapters 25 and 26 of Isaiah’s big book of prophecy, we are really reading “songs of the redeemed.”  These chapters are not always very easy to understand because we are reading two kinds of literature:  psalms (or songs) of thanksgiving and eschatological prophecy.   But there are unifying ideas within these two very different kinds of literature that make the effort in studying well worthwhile.

Rehearse God’s awesome deeds, Isaiah 25:1—5

This first song deals with God’s deliverance.  It’s a song of sheer delight and wonder.

God is faithful, verse 1

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God; you do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them, just as you said!

This verse speaks of a kind of “divine fidelity.”  Our God is a covenant-making God; He makes promises to those He created, and He never breaks those promises.  His promises are always based in His will.  Part of those “wonderful things” Isaiah was praising God about were marvelous acts of deliverance.  But the thing that impressed Isaiah was that God always came through for His people no matter what was going on.

Isaiah remembers the past; he recalls what God has done.  It’s almost as though as he sings his praise to God, he is reminding God of what He did.  Of course, God doesn’t need to be reminded of anything, but it’s very important for us to never forget what God has done, not only for us, but for all of His people.  And it’s important to repeat those things over and over again as we pray and as we worship Him.  This is something you’ll notice if you read the Psalms, too.  The idea of bringing up past answers to prayer, past miracles, past deliverances, and so on is very important.

God is ever faithful; His faithfulness is historical fact.  If God was faithful in the past, then we can depend on Him to be faithful now and on into the future.

Glorifying God for defeating the enemy, verse 2

You turn mighty cities into heaps of ruins. The strongest forts are turned to rubble. Beautiful palaces in distant lands disappear and will never be rebuilt.  (TLB)

With this verse, we are getting a little more specific. Isaiah is recounting a specific deliverance.  Yet, it’s also a general statement; under God’s power, earth’s strongholds cannot stand for long.  Heights become heaps, ramparts become ruins, and palaces become permanent ash heaps.  Isaiah is referring to a real historic city that once existed—a city that stood in opposition to Israel and God.  God took care of that city by leveling it.  Yes, it happened historically, but it’s also a precedent.  No matter what (or even who) stands in opposition to God and God’s people, it cannot prevail.  Missionary Hudson Taylor observed:

Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail.  All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them.

Honor God, verses 3—5

This group of verses is really powerful and reveals just how glorious our God is.  Even “strong nations” and “ruthless nations” will eventually turn and honor Him in obedience to Him.  Now, this isn’t something that’s happened yet; it’s future event; it will happen.  What Isaiah is writing here is prophetic—a worldwide conversion will take place.  Man will turn to God during the Millennial reign of Christ.  The greatest religious revival in the history of the world will take place when the dark night of sin and the Tribulation comes to an end.  There will be boundless joy during the kingdom age.

While this whole paragraph is largely prophetic, there are present-day applications.  Here and now, God is the refuge for the poor.

But to the poor, O Lord, you are a refuge from the storm…  (verse 4a  TLB)

God cares for those who can’t care for themselves.  He does this through His Church, and sometimes He does this in miraculous ways.  The point is, God doesn’t favor the wealthy or the powerful.

Praise God of His Salvation, Isaiah 25:6—12

An eternal banquet, verses 6—8

Here is something we can either all relate to or are desperate for:  an abundance of food.  This is another thing that will happen on the “redeemed earth.”

Here on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Lord Almighty will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world—a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef.  (Isaiah 25:6  TLB)

During the Millennium, the earth will produce an abundance of good food; there will be more than enough for everybody and then some.  The source of this wonderful blessing will be Mount Zion—the throne room of Christ.  In this group of verses, we see God’s future for the faithful:

(1)  No hunger or thirst, verse 6;

(2)  No ignorance, verse 7  (see 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:15);

(3)  No death or sorrow, verse 8a  (see 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55);

(4)  Freedom from sin, verse 8b

That final sentence of verse 8 clinches it:

The Lord has spoken—he will surely do it!  (TLB)

This all sounds glorious and it will come to pass.  But first, God’s people would experience a horrible judgment at the hand of God.  How bad will it be for Jerusalem?  The prophecy in Ezekiel gives us an idea:

The Lord God says, “This illustrates what will happen to Jerusalem, for she has turned away from my laws and has been even more wicked than the nations surrounding her.” Therefore the Lord God says: “I, even I, am against you and will punish you publicly while all the nations watch. Because of the terrible sins you have committed, I will punish you more terribly than I have ever done before or ever will again. Fathers will eat their own sons, and sons will eat their fathers; and those who survive will be scattered into all the world.  (Ezekiel 5:5-10  TLB)

Here’s why it was so important for the people of Israel to continually recall God’s past deeds.  That includes modern Christians, by the way.  We may not be under God’s awful judgment, but real life can certainly feel like an awful judgment sometimes.  When problems cloud our view of God, remembering what He’s done can keep us spiritually sane.

Eternal salvation, verses 9—12

The hand of the Lord brings judgment as well as mercy.  God’s judgment won’t last forever; one day the Lord will restore Israel and grant them salvation.

For the Lord’s good hand will rest upon Jerusalem, and Moab will be crushed as straw beneath his feet and left to rot.  (Isaiah 25:10  TLB)

When Christ returns, He will be Israel’s true King and the nation will be restored and its people will finally see their Messiah.  It’s a day in future; a day long awaited and longed for by both Jews and Christians.

Christ has brought salvation to the world, now.  Nobody has to wait for the Second Coming.

For God says, “Your cry came to me at a favorable time, when the doors of welcome were wide open. I helped you on a day when salvation was being offered.” Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today he is ready to save you.  (2 Corinthians 6:2  TLB)

A.W. Tozer had this to say regarding our salvation:

Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God.  Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions, rather than actions.  The right of determination must always remain with God.

Trust in God’s Strength, Isaiah 26:1—4

Listen to them singing! In that day the whole land of Judah will sing this song:  “Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of his salvation!”  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Here, Isaiah sees God’s people singing a song that they can’t sing yet.  It’s a song of strength, not in material blessings, but in salvation.  Geoffrey Grogan, the late Principal Emeritus of Glasgow Bible College, had this to say about this group of verses:

The way chapter 24—27 are punctuated with songs of praise affects this whole section of the prophecy, for even the threats of judgment are seen in the perspective of thanksgiving that God is bringing his own purposes to fruition and that human arrogance and tyranny will not prevail in the end.

Talk about the right perspective!  And that’s the kind of perspective all believers should have in their relationship with God.  Seeing God in all and over all isn’t always easy.  It’s easier to take our eyes off the long game and see only a warped image of God in the midst of our troubles.   In spite of God’s present judgment, God’s purpose for His people cannot be stopped by any enemy, supernatural or otherwise.  What was true in Isaiah’s day, is no different today.

Open the gates to everyone, for all may enter in who love the Lord.  (Isaiah 26:2  TLB)

That’s an interesting verse, made more so by these comments from John Calvin.

Since no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is open to all.  There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief.

The strength of the believer lies, not weapons, or knowledge, or associations, but in God Himself, and this something a lot of Christians don’t understand.  And that’s a shame, because we are losing out on something very special when we don’t lean on God’s strength:

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!  (Isaiah 26:3  TLB)

It’s sad that so many of us who truly love the Lord don’t trust as much as we should.  The Apocryphal book of 1 Macabees has something to say about this issue:

…[W]hen they saw the host coming to meet them, said unto Judas, How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong, seeing we are ready to faint with fasting all this day?

Unto whom Judas answered, It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company:  For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from heaven.  (1 Macabees 3:17—19)


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