Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Israel to be Restored

Isaiah 30:1-33

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.  For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.  They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.” (Isaiah 30:1-5)

In II Kings 17:4, we find that after making a treaty with the Assyrians,  the Israelites under Hoshea tried to make a treaty with the Egyptians instead of putting their trust in God, angering him.  To the Egyptians, any effort to take Israel’s side risked stirring up the Assyrians against themselves, risking being taken themselves.  Israel had already been defeated and could offer little help in such a war, and Egypt’s ambassadors were not willing to take the chance. 

“The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.  For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.” (Isaiah 30:6-7)

Africa south of Egypt was a land of turmoil at the time, with Ethiopia and other empires pressing to take over the region.  Egypt would be better off to concentrate on maintaining their trade with the nations south of them.  To engage in conflict with the Assyrians to the east and north would leave their southern flank exposed to attack from southern empires looking for an opportunity to expand.  Free trade with Israel could not offset the risk, and did not offer nearly the possibility for profit. 

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isaiah 30:8-11)

Isaiah was to record these events in a book to provide evidence of Israel’s rebellion in the future.  It would and does show that God repeatedly warned them of what was coming by his prophets.  They reached a point where they would literally attack God’s prophet for telling what God had said, even demanding they change the prophecies to support the leadership, even to point of trying to outlaw the worship of God. 

“Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.  And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.” (Isaiah 30:12-14)

Because they had rejected God’s word and direction, trusting leaders that took advantage of them instead.  Their sin of unbelief would be like a weak point in their defenses, leaning under the assault and collapsing suddenly.  When the collapse occurred, it would take down the entire system, like smashing apiece of pottery.  There wouldn’t even be a piece left big enough to use to scoop up some coals from the fire or dip water out of a mud hole. 

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidenceshall be your strength: and ye would not.  But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.  One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.” (Isaiah 30:15-17)

God has decreed that Israel’s salvation will depend on their returning to his teaching and trusting him, which they had refused to do, choosing to depend on someone else.  Where he had promised that if they would trust him one man would defeat a hundred, he warns them that one of their enemies will defeat ten thousand if they don’t trust him.  The survivors will be a warning on the hillside of what happens for not trusting God. 

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.  For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.” (Isaiah 30:18-19)

God Loves them and will wait as long as it takes for them turn back to him so he can show his love for them.  When they return they will no longer have reason for sorrow,  When they call out he will be there to answer their cry. 

“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20-21)

Though God was allowing them to learn the consequences of their actions, he was still sending teachers to show them what he wanted.  When they began to listen they would learn the teachers were advising them of the best way to go, and warning them if they got out of the path. 

“Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.  Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.  The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.  And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.  Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” (Isaiah 30:22-26)

When they finally listen to God, they will dispose of their idols as if they were a used sanitary napkin, as quickly as possible.  When they do, God will fulfill his promise to see that it rains at the proper times for their crops, and that the crops will be productive.  There will be an abundance of feed for their livestock and ample streams of water for them to drink in the day when the Lord destroys the forces of the Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon.  From that time forward there will be no darkness, and Israel will be fully restored.

”Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.” (Isaiah 30:27-28)

While God is waiting for Israel to return, he is also angry at the rebellion of Israel as well as the other nations.  He is going to sift out an judge all the nations, and the wickedness will be open, as if they were forced to do what they do.   
“Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.  And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.  For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.  And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.  For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” (Isaiah 30:29-33)

When that time comes, Israel will have a song of praise to sing, like someone coming into the temple to worship.  God will show his mighty power, destroying with fire, and wind and hailstones as Revelation warns.  He will defeat the world powers so that everywhere people are able to put down their weapons will be a place of rejoicing.  Tophet, the place in the Valley of Hinnom where they had sacrificed their children to Molech will be burned up completely.  II Kings 23:10 describes Josiah destroying Tophet, so the prophecy here may well be a reference to the destruction of the Antichrist’s religious capitl in Babylon as described in Revelation 18.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Warning To Ariel

Isaiah 29:1-24

“Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.  Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.  And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.  And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (Isaiah 29:1-4)

Ariel, “the lion of God” is a symbolic name for Jerusalem.  It was the place David had chosen as capital, the site of the temple and center of the Jewish religion.  Even when they had turned completely away from God, they continued to offer at least some of the annual sacrifices, but merely continuing the rituals was not satisfying God.  He will cause their enemies to besiege and defeat them until they are like somebody who has been captured, lying in the dust, answering their captors with their face in the dirt, barely able to make themselves heard. 

“Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.  Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.  It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion. ” (Isaiah 29:5-8)

About a hundred seventy five years later, Ezekiel would prophesy about the nations of the earth attacking Israel, in Ezekiel 38:14-17.  Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?  And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.  Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?”  

Matthew 24 and several passages in Revelation give additional details about the attack.   Revelation 11:13 tells about the earthquake at that time.  “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.”    Jerusalem’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, and again by the Romans in 70 AD only provide a minor hint of the threat but do not fulfill the prophecy. 

“Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.  For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.  And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.” (Isaiah 29:9-12)

God sent a number of prophets including Isaiah, but the Jews refused to listen, and Isaiah says they are like a bunch of drunks staggering around, unwilling or unable to comprehend the warnings the prophets have given.   Because they are not interested or willing to learn, god has given it to them like a sealed book.  Some of them aren’t willing to break the seals and others say they don’t know how to read. 

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isaiah 29:13-14)

A person who is interested in knowing what God says would break the seals if given the opportunity and a person who couldn’t read can find someone to teach him if he wants to know.   That they don’t bother makes it clear that their pretensions of interest in what God says and their ritual behaviors are meaningless.  They are more concerned with what other people think than with what God wants.  As a result, God will act in a way that will get their attention and make their traditions and ideas seem foolish. 

“Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?  Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:15-16)

God’s judgment will be on those who try to hide what they are doing from God and convince themselves he doesn’t see what they are doing.  their efforts to change the rules and make everything will turn out like a lump of potters clay, trying to resist the potter’s actions to shape it.   The clay has no power to make itself and cannot take credit for what is produced nor can it refuse because the potter doesn’t know what he is doing.    It is equally ridiculous for people to decide God messed up and made them wrong or doesn’t know what he is doing.  Their rebellion will not make a significant difference. 

“Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?  And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.  The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.” (Isaiah 29:17-21)

When the Lord returns, the deserts of Lebanon will be turned into rich farmland and the present day farmland will form a rich forest.  The deaf and blind will be cured of their ailments, and those who have been ignored and downtrodden will experience the blessing promised by Jesus in Matthew 5, rejoicing that he has been made king.  The wicked and rebellious will be destroyed, along with those who have spent their time making regulations in order to get control of other people, deliberately trying to entrap those who warn others of danger.   

“Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.  But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.  They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” (Isaiah 29:22-24)

In that day, the children of Israel will no longer be ashamed of being Jews or afraid of being attacked.  As they see how god blesses, they will sanctify his name and learn to respect and trust him.  They will finally understand what the has tried to teach them for thousands of years.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Warning Judah

Isaiah 28:14-29

“Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.  Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.  Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” (Isaiah 28:14-17)

Isaiah has just warned the drunkards of Ephraim what is going to happen to Israel.  Now he switches his focus to the leaders of Jerusalem.  They scorned the idea of trusting God to save them as being naive and had hired the Assyrian army to protect them.  The Assyrians were extremely harsh in their dealings with other people, often killing indiscriminately to cause terror among other people.   Ahaz and the leaders of Judah were counting on their agreement to protect them when the Assyrians invaded Syria and Israel.  They were depending on the Assyrian promises even though as it would turn out those promises were lies to collect the money Judah offered to pay for their protection.  In reality, they were making a deal with the devil, though they didn’t realize it.  

While the prophecy would be fulfilled almost immediately, it foreshadows what Israel will do during the Tribulation, making a treaty with the King of the North.  Halfway through the Tribulation, the Antichrist will break the treaty, turning on Israel, according to Daniel 9:27.  “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Instead of the lies of the Assyrian kings, or of the Antichrist and Satan, God promised to place a king, Jesus Christ among them in the future.  He would be a solid rock of truth.  He would be a proven source of truth, offering real worth, and mot just empty promises.  Those who believed in God’s promises would not be rushed into making alliances elsewhere for protection, but could wait for him to fulfill his promise.  He will also send judgment with a definite line of demarcation to identify what is right of not, using a precise measurement like a builder laying out a foundation or wall.  He will rule with a rod of iron, permitting no deviation. 
“And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.  From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.  For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” (Isaiah 28:18-29)

The treaty with Assyria and later the treaty with the King of the North would be annulled or set aside, and the agreement with Satan would turn out meaningless.  The Assyrians would invade Judah and ransack it, breaking their treaty, and the antichrist would do the same when he came to power.   Even from the time the treaty was made it would present ongoing problems and conflicts. Just trying to abide by its terms would be as frustrating as trying to sleep in a bed that is to short and cover oneself with a blanket that isn’t big enough to cover him completely.

“For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.” (Isaiah 28:21)

Though we know few of the details, we know that at Perazim, God gave David a mighty victory over the Philistines, as described in II Samuel 5:20.  At Gibeon, the Amorite kings united in an attack on Israel and God fought for them.  Joshua 10:10-14 describes what happened.  “And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.  And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.

Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.   And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.  And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.”

When the Lord fights for Israel at the End of the Tribulation it will be like what happened at Perazim or at Gibeon, with God utterly destroying their enemies.  When He gets done things will seem strange , totally different than anything we have experienced since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. 

“Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.  Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.” (Isaiah 28:22-23)

The leaders of Judah are warned that to view these promises as just a fairy tale or delusional hope will only cause them to be more strongly entangled with the world and less able to escape.  God has planned a destruction that will consume the whole earth,  and Isaiah advises the leaders to listen to his warning.   
“Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?  When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?  For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” (Isaiah 28:24-26)

When a farmer plows his ground, he isn’t doing it just for something to do, but with a apecific plan of planting that field.  He puts in many hours loosening the soil and breaking up clods to increase the chances of the seed growing.  Once the ground is prepared to his satisfaction, he scatters the seed, of whatever sort of crop he wants.  He does this because God has taught him it is the most productive way.  In the Same way God prepares his fields for the harvest at the end of time.

“For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.  Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.  This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” (Isaiah 28:27-29)

The approach used in doing a job varies according to the material being used and what you are trying to accomplish.  While a hard grain may require a hard surface and heavy weights to remove the outer shell, separating grapes from their skins and seeds requires a different approach.  The tools used to thresh wheat would lose all the grape juice, wasting all one’s effort.  God teaches us to make these changes, and he is very wise and successful in whatever he does.  We can expect him to use the tools and techniques that will best accomplish his purpose.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Drunk On Their Own Prestige

Isaiah 28:1-13

“Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!  Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.” (Isaiah 28:1-4)

When Judah and Israel separated, Israel established their capital in the land of the tribe of Ephraim.  Much like Washington, DC, Samaria became a place where political figures congregated, living off the earnings of the rest of the people and setting themselves up as more important.  God said their glory and power were like a fading flower, and that the nation was in serious decline.  It was like a bunch of drunks were running the country, with no thought about the results of what they were doing. 

God had placed a strong country in position that would destroy their pride, coming like a sudden storm or a wave of flood waters, with no concern for who Israel’s leaders were.  The rich city of Samaria would disappear like a wild strawberry, a tasty morsel, not even big enough to save for later.   Just a short time after Isaiah made this prophecy, the Assyrians destroyed Israel and relocated the people, and most of them have yet to return to Israel. 

“In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” (Isaiah 28:5-6)

When the Lord returns and establishes his earthly kingdom with Jerusalem as his capital, at the end of the tribulation, He will receive the respect and glory of all the nations.  He will lift up and strengthen the remnant of the Jews, encouraging them and ruling with a rod of iron.  There will be no crime or fear at that time. 

“But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.  For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.” (Isaiah 28:7-8)

Israel and her leaders had gotten drunk on the heady wine of wealth and power and had run off the right way like a drunk running off the road.  The prophets and priests who were supposed to keep them out of trouble were just as drunk as the others, and couldn’t see the road themselves or make logical decisions.   It was like they were so drunk they didn’t even bother to leave the table before they puked any more, no longer even bothering to hide their wickedness. 
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.  To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.  But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:9-13)

When people become alcoholics, they usually reach a point where they think they are smarter than everyone else and it becomes almost impossible to teach them anything.  It is a lot easier to teach them before they start to drink.  In the same way it is far easier and more profitable to teach those who have not gotten addicted to the wine of power or wealth. 

A small child’s food has to be cut into pieces small enough to keep him from choking on them.  Later as he grows he learns how to bite off pieces or cut it up himself, but no matter how old he gets, he still has to eat it in pieces small enough he can swallow them.   A mistake many teachers make is not taking the time to break things down into bite sized pieces for the people they are trying to teach or giving their students the opportunity to break it down themselves if they are able.  Until they can chew and swallow one precept or idea, they are not ready for the next one.  The main reason so many American schools are failing is that they are so busy trying to get a complete education down their students throats they don’t take time to let him completely understand one point before giving him another one.  Eventually the students begin to choke.   

The majority of choking cases involving and adult are the result of drinking too much.  As a result they put too much in their mouth at once or try to breathe while swallowing and end up choking.  God’s approach was to teach a little, one precept or one line at a time until they could understand it before moving to the next one.   Because they were drunk on their power and wealth, Israel wound up choking even on those precepts, falling backward or otherwise hurting themselves as a result. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God’s Vineyard

Isaiah 27:1-13

“In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1)

Job 41 describes the creature called Leviathan.  Many so called scholars have said that it is either a whale or a hippopotamus, but Isaiah makes it very clear is some kind of a reptile, whether a sea snake, or sea going lizard.   The vast number of sea dwelling dinosaur remains that have been discovered clearly indicates this was probably what was referred to.

The prophecy here is not about the dinosaurs, however, but refers to the destruction of  Satan himself. Revelation 20:2-2 declares, “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”  Later, when the thousand years are finished Satan himself will be cast into the lake fire, which is the second death, according to Revelation 20:10.  “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  

“In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine.  I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.  Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.  Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.” (Isaiah 27:2-5)

In that day, the Lord will care for Israel like a vintner keeping his vineyard, making sure it is watered and protected from frost, insects and hungry animals.  He will not be angry with Israel anymore, but will systematically remove any rebellious or wicked people who, like weeds or thorn bushes might interfere with the grape vines.    Those who will turn to him will find peace and blessing.

“He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.  Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?” (Isaiah 27:6-7)

Like a vineyard keeper starting new vines by burying certain branches and keeping that spot wet until the branch begins to put out roots, God will cause the Jews to put out new roots and begin to grow, eventually producing more fruit.  He has never just rooted them out like a bunch of weeds like he has done with some of the peoples who have tried to destroy them. 

“In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.  By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.” (Isaiah 27:8-9)

Like the vineyard keeper, God will carefully consider how best to prune the Jews, even protecting them from a wind that might chill or injure the vines.  When he gets done. The Nation of Israel will no longer live in rebellion against God.  In that day the altars will be ground up chalk and they will no longer go out to worship trees and idols, but will come directly to the father himself.   John refers to this in Revelation 21:22, saying, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

“Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof.  When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour.” (Isaiah 27:10-11)

Before the day when God reclaims Israel there will be a time when her fortresses are forsaken and the land is just a wilderness, used for pasture for livestock.  People will come and gather the branches of dead fruit trees for firewood because the people of Israel have not learned to follow God.  He will not show mercy of favor until they change their attitude toward him.    From the time Israel was destroyed in 70 AD, until 1948, Palestine was occupied by other groups and the cities were deserted.  Even Jerusalem became just a ruin, and was eventually taken over by the Turks. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isaiah 27:12)

As we’ve already seen, God will cause an earthquake which will redirect the rivers, changing the Gulf of Suez, and the courses of the stream known today as Wadi El Arish and the Nile River, providing easy access for the Jews who were displaced into Africa to return to Israel.  He will then cause those Jews to individually return to Israel, not out of nationalism, but as a result of desire to serve God.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)

Revelation 11:15 describes the sounding of that trumpet.  “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”  When that happens, the Mount of Olives will split and the Gulf of Aqaba will open up to the Dead Sea, making Jerusalem a seaport.  At the same time the Euphrates will be diverted providing easy access for those Jews who were carried away by the Assyrians to return, as well as those who had fled to Egypt.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Song of Rejoicing

Isaiah 26:1-21

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.” (Isaiah 26:1-2)

In the day when the Lord restores Israel and destroys her enemies, they will have a time of rejoicing and singing, celebrating the fact that God has made their city strong.  This is a sample of what they will be singing.  Their faith in God will be their defense, and he will grant access to those who do righteously. Revelation 21:24-27 describes this aspect of the New Jerusalem.  “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.  And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.  And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.Isa 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust.  The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.” (Isaiah 26:3-6)

A person who is focused on what God has promised and believes he will keep his word will not live in fear of day to day events because he knows what the ultimate end will be, and what will happen to him.  His life will be pretty stable.  Knowing that, his people need to learn to put their faith in him for the long term, rather than focusing on the immediate future.  He has everlasting power and will overthrow those who reign is such pride today, completely wiping them out so that their glory is just another pile of dust that those they despised will walk on.

“The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.  Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.  With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:7-9)

Those who live a proper and fair life live an open and honest life and God judges their lifestyle.  Those who wish to please him seek his approval.  Their desire is to bring honor to his name and cause people to remember him.  Their desire is for a closer relationship with him, knowing that when he is in charge, other people will do what is right. 

“Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.  LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.” (Isaiah 26:10-11)

Contrary to what many believe, no amount of favor or support will cause a wicked person to change.  In fact he will become more aggressive when surrounded by those who good, expecting them to let him get by with it, with no concern for God, even when he lifts his hand in judgment.  They will only take notice after they have lost everything they thought made them better than others.  Their own greed and jealousy will destroy them. 

“LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.  O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.  They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.” (Isaiah 26:12-14)

It is God who produces peace and it is God who enables us to accomplish the things we do.  Other people try to control us, but they all die and will not rise again.  It is god who killed them and caused them to be forgotten.  He is the only one whose power lasts, or can save anyone. 

“Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.  LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.  Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD.  We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.” (Isaiah 26:15-18)

It is god who has caused the Jewish people to be scattered throughout the entire world. chastening them for their disobedience, and it will be God who makes them strong again.  They have been like rebellious children, calling out to god when they get into serious trouble, but ignoring him the rest of the time.  Like a woman giving birth, they will finally realize things are going to go as God planned regardless what they do. 

“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.  Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.  For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isaiah 26:19-21)

At the same time God rebuilds Israel and makes it once again his land, he will resurrect those who believe in him. As Revelation tells us, those who serve the Lord will live and reign with him, rejoicing in their freedom.  Before that happens there will be the Tribulation period, the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” during which Israel will be forced to flee to the mountains for safety, according to Matthew 24:15-21.  “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.  And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!  But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Assurance of Future Victory

Isaiah 25:1-12

“O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.  For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.” (Isaiah23:1-2)

Judah was threatened from every side, by the Alliance between Syria and Israel, by the Egyptians, by the Ethiopians, and by the Assyrians.  At the same time Isaiah could look back and see how other groups that had threatened then had been destroyed, and believe that the prophecies against these countries would be fulfilled as well.   Heavily fortified cities such as Jericho had been miraculously destroyed by God’s power.   God’s word and promises had been proven repeatedly to be true and dependable.

The prophecies against cities like Tyre, Damascus, and Nineveh could be depended on.  Even Heavily fortified cities surrounded by the sea would not be able to escape God’s judgment.  Many would be destroyed even before they could complete the new palaces they designed.   Isaiah could look back at how often God had intervened to protect Israel and Judah in the past and even how he was giving the victory in that day, and glorify God for his wonderful power and protection.

“Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.  For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.” (Isaiah 25:3-4)

Morally strong people will glorify God, respecting him as God and avoiding offending him.  Cruel, wicked people will hate and fear him because they resent his interference in their actions.  He protects the people the poor, the weak and the needy from the powerful just when the powerful think they can do whatever they please. 

“Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.  And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.  And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” (Isaiah 25:5-7)

As easily as a cloud brings relief from the sun in a desert, God stills the threats of those who don’t know him against his people.   He can tear down the strongest and most terrible army like the wind snapping of a tree branch.  God will make the people in Israel to celebrate and enjoy the very best and most nutritious of everything.  Also he will destroy the ones who have deceived the world there, taking the Antichrist and the false prophet and casting them into the Lake of Fire and imprisoning Satan for a thousand years so they can no longer keep people from knowing the truth.   

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.  And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.  And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.  And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.” (Isaiah 25:8-12)

In I Corinthians 15:51-57, Paul makes it very clear that this passage refers to the Second Coming of Christ, quoting from it.  “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 21:2-4 gives additional details about that time.  “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Judging The Whole Earth

Isaiah 24:1-23

“Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.  And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.  The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.  The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.” (Isaiah 24:1-4)

God created the earth, and he designed it to work in a certain fashion.  He is capable of reaching in and changing things to make things turn out differently.  He can take away the entire population or a single group or break up a group and scatter them throughout the earth.     Under human Government, some groups get preferential treatment, and others are victimized. 

God will turn our political systems upside down, making it so everyone is treated equally.  He will depopulate the world and take away everything people have had.  Those who have lived above the others will suffer just like everyone else, and ultimately the very world itself will be destroyed, as described in II Peter 3:10-13.  ”But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.   Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” (Isaiah 24:5-6)

Environmentalists are constantly worried about how mankind is polluting the world, and rightfully so.   Unfortunately their approach is doomed to failure because it ignores the cause of the pollution.   When he designed the world, God established principles or laws by which it was to function.  Some of those laws are what we call the laws of science.  Others are laws governing health, while others govern human social interaction.  Mankind has d deliberately ignored God’s laws, trying to make things work the way they want instead of the way he planned.  The result has been and continues to be constant degrading of the entire earth’s condition.   It will lead to God’s destroying the earth and making a new one.   Only a few will survive process. 

“The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.  The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.  They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.  The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.  There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.  In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.” (Isaiah 24:7-12)

As a result of God’s curse for ignoring his plan, it becomes increasingly difficult to produce the food we once enjoyed.  Historically many people have turned to alcohol to avoid facing their problems, but as time goes forward they will be unable to obtain it, and they will not be able to enjoy what they get.  Other people have turned to different religions.  In that day the many religions will be consolidated, with one major religious center, encouraging people to worship their leaders and government rather than God himself.   Ultimately that religious center will be totally destroyed.   

“When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.  They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.   Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.  From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.” (Isaiah 24:13-16a)

In that day, the surviving Jews will come together like the few scattered grapes left from the main harvest.  They will turn back to God, worshipping him wherever they are.  They come because they have heard of his power and seen the evidence.

But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.  Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.   And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.  The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.  The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. “ (Isaiah 24:16b-20)

Before that happens, there will be a period of extreme suffering.  While there have been numerous periods of struggle for Israel, the seven year Tribulation period will be extreme, affecting the entire earth.  The government of that day will gain power through deceit, turning on the very ones who supported it once it is in power.  Anarchy, crime, disease and starvation will run rampant and survival will be difficult.  Major earthquakes and other natural disasters will become common, literally leaving the earth as disoriented and disheveled as a drunk after long bender, literally falling down and unable to recover.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.  And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.  Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” (Isaiah 24:21-23)

In that day, The Lord will destroy the armies of the earth.   The political and religious leaders, called Antichrist and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire and the rest will be held in hell until they are judged, much like a criminal being detained until his trial.  A thousand years later all those who have followed them will be tried and cast into the lake of fire with them.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Burden Of Tyre

Isaiah 23:1-18

“The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.” (Isaiah 23:1)

The ancient Zidonian city of Tyre, located in present day Lebanon became the hub of the Phoenician trading Empire, controlling coastal areas and islands in southern Europe, northern Africa and the middle east.  Their empire stretched all the way to southern Spain, known at the time as Tarshish.  Chittim, known today as Cyprus was another Phoenician territory. 

“Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.  And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations.  Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.  As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.” (Isaiah 23:2-5)

Many of their territories were dependent on trade with the Phoenicians for survival.  Its collapse would be severe blow to all their colonies.  They had worshipped a god of the sea as their primary God, despite their closeness and alliances with Israel in David and Solomon’s days, even helping build the Temple.  They should be ashamed for their decision not to worship god instead, learning that the sea did not care about people and was a hostile environment for humans.  Tyre’s destruction would be as much a shock as the destruction of Egypt. 

“Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle.  Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.  Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?” (Isaiah 23:6-8)

Tarshish, or Spain was one of the few Phoenicians areas that was not dependent on trade to survive.  The destruction of Tyre and collapse of the Phoenician Empire would force many of the island colonies to flee to Spain to survive.   Tyre had been founded about the same time as many other ancient civilizations, shortly after God confounded the languages at the tower of Babel, around 3000 BC.   Over the centuries, their traders had become influential even among other cultures. 

“The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.  Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.  He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.  And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.” (Isaiah 23:9-12)

God had decided to destroy the pride of the Phoenician Empire.  Instead of being highly respected, they would incur the contempt of other cultures.  Their colonies would be destroyed, and many of the people of Tyre would flee to Cyprus for safety.  Unfortunately, Cyprus would be constant target for other world powers and they would find no peace there. 

“Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.
Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.  Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.” (Isaiah 23:13-16)

The Assyrians developed a huge empire.   It was taken over by the Chaldeans about 634 BC,  and Nebuchadnezzar came to power about 605 BC.  About the same time he conquered Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar started a thirteen year siege of Tyre.  Although he was never able to conquer it, the population moved to an island just off shore for added security, fearing another siege.
“And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.  And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.” (Isaiah 23:17-18)

The Medo-Persian Empire took Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, and Darius the Mede became king, seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem.  When he died, the Persian Empire took control and Tyre was allowed to resume trading, regaining some of their former power and prestige.    In 332 BC Alexander the Great would use the ruins on the mainland to build a causeway for a seven month siege of the island, executing or selling over thirty thousand people as slaves.

The stronger and more self-sufficient Phoenician colonies became quite powerful in their own right.  For a time Carthage rivaled Rome, even sending Hannibal to invade from the North while their navy attacked from the sea.   Tarshish ruled all of Spain and Portugal, part of France and the British isles for a time.  An alliance between Tarshish and Carthage allowed Hannibal to bring his elephants across the straits of Gibraltar and invade northern Italy.  Rome took possession of Tyre in 64 BC.  Their defeat of Carthage gave them control of part of northern Africa.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jerusalem’s Future

Isaiah 22:1-25

“The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” (Isaiah 22:1)

Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Both Jotham and Ahaz encouraged the people to worship idols and as we have seen, Ahaz placed his faith in the Assyrians rather than God.  The people turned to idolatry and were looking for visions rather than turning to God.  Isaiah asks why they have gone to the housetop to seek a vision instead of coming to him.

“Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.  All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.” (Isaiah 22:2-3)

Ahaz had hired the Assyrians to protect Judah from the Alliance between Israel and Syria, but the Assyrians took advantage to rob and spoil Judah instead.  Later, in Hezekiah’s day the Assyrians invaded and threatened Jerusalem causing panic.  Some of the rulers fled  and the people were unable to escape because of the Assyrian bowmen stationed to cut off their escape.  Many who had fled to Jerusalem for safety were trapped there. 

“Therefore said I, Look away from me: I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.  For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.” (Isaiah 22:4-5)

Isaiah was grieved at what was happening in Judah.  There was no use trying to comfort him as he saw what was happening to his homeland.  It seemed almost like God had forsaken them and the whole land was crying out for relief.  Like many other of Isaiah’s prophecies, this one goes far beyond the immediate time. 

“And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.  And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.  And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.” (Isaiah 22:6-8)

While the Assyrians never conquered Judah, the Babylonians would.  They began to regain strength after God destroyed the Assyrian army.   Elam was the area along the border of present day Iraq and Iran, and was part of the Babylonian and Persians empires.  Kir is mentioned four times in the Bible, and seems to refer to several cities.  In this case it seems to refer to one of the Persian cities.
In Hezekiah’s day the Babylonians would send ambassadors to Hezekiah.  After they saw his treasures they reported back to the Babylonians and as Isaiah warned them they would come back to conquer Judah once they defeated the Assyrians.  

 “Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.  And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.  Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.” (Isaiah 22:9-11)

The Jews had become aware of weakness in Jerusalem’s defenses.  Hezekiah built a tunnel or conduit to carry water into the pool with ditches to carry it to other locations.  Unfortunately the people had been focused on human defenses rather than on trusting God.  They even tore down some of the houses and used the material to reinforce the walls in an effort to protect themselves from the Assyrians.  II Chronicles 32:1-5 describes some of the precautions took. 

“And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.  And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Isaiah 22:12-14)

Hezekiah was one of Judah’s greatest and most godly kings, and unlike the people, he stayed focused on trusting God.  While he reigned, Judah served God, but immediately after his death they turned back to their idolatry.  When the Assyrians invaded, under Sennacherib, they had largely given up hope.  Their lack of faith in God would not be forgiven as long as they lived.   

“Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say, What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?  Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.  He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house.   And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.  And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.  And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.  And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.  In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 22:15-25)

Distracted by a threat from Ethiopia, the Assyrians had to break off their initial attack.  When they returned Shebna, the scribe, Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah and others met with the assyrian general in an attempt to negotiate peace.   He refused, claiming God couldn’t save them from him nd they returned to Hezekiah quite upset.  Hezekiah’s son Mannasseh was only twelve when his father died and Eliakim would serve as regent until he grew up.  Though Jerusalem would survive another hundred years, it would eventually be destroyed and their best efforts could not save it. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Judgment on Various Countries.

Isaiah 20:1-21:17

“In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it; At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.” (Isaiah 20:1-2)

About 727 BC Assyrians invaded Israel under Tiglathpileser, at the request of Judah.    Sargon came to power and under his general, Tartan, Assyrian forces conquered the Philistine region around Ashdod.  When that happened, God commanded Isaiah to put away the sackcloth and shoes he had been wearing and go around naked as a sign warning what was to come for Egypt and Ethiopia.    Shalmaneser became king and conquered Israel in 721 BC.   Hoshea, King of Israel made a deal with Egypt to help him break away from Assyria, according to II Kings 1:1-4

“And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.  And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.  And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?” (Isaiah 20:3-6)

The Assyrian conquest of Egypt and what we now call Upper Egypt, which was then known as Ethiopia would dash all hope of Egypt being able to come to their aid as the Egyptian and Ethiopian captives were carried away with nothing.   

“The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.  A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.  Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.  My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.” (Isaiah 21:1-4)

Elam and Media were both in present day Iran and Iraq.  While much of the area is well waters and lush, there are also some huge deserts known as salt deserts.  They appear like dried ocean or sea beds.  One of them has recorded the hottest surface temperatures on earth, at 159° F.  There are no known living things in that dessert, and it is a terrible land, with less than 1.2 inches of rainfall annually.   In addition, a great deal of the area of Iraq is desert, even along the coast of the Persian Gulf.   The Medes were associated with Babylon in the overthrow of Assyria, later joining the Persians in conquering the Babylonian Empire, with their capitol at Babylon.     

“Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.  For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed: And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights: And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.” (Isaiah 21:5-10)

Isaiah is warned to keep a watch on what is going on with those peoples because they are treacherous and not to be trusted.   The destruction of Babylon at the time of the Lord’s return is described in Revelation 18.  During the Tribulation, they will be some of Israel’s worst opponents, closely allied with the Antichrist.   It is a warning to Israel of what is coming. 

“The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?  The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.” (Isaiah 21:11-12)

Dumah was a city in south eastern Judah, near the Edomite border.  Seir was the Edomite capitol.  The Edomites are portrayed as asking Judah about what the future will hold and What God is doing.   As descendants of Abraham and Isaac, they still have a vested interest in what happens to Israel. 

“The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.  The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.  For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.” (Isaiah 21:13-15)

Tema and Dedan were cities in western Arabia near the Gulf of Aqaba occupied by the Edomites, but closely allied with the Arabs and descendants of Ishmael.     Edom was long held as Jewish territory and helped the Jews, but when they got the chance, they broke away and turned on the Jews.   

“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail: And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 21:16-17)

Kedar was one of Ishmael’s sons and represents many Arab peoples.  Within a year of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Arab people’s power would be broken.  As we see from history Assyria gained control of northern Arabia about the time they conquered Israel

Friday, March 13, 2015

Egypt In The Last Days

Isaiah 19:1-25

“The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.  And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.  And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.” (Isaiah 19:1-3)

When Abraham went to Egypt near the middle of the Old Kingdom, around 2250 BC, it appears the Egyptians still had an awareness of God, if not actually worshipping him, as we see in Genesis 12.   Two hundred years later, When the Jews moved to Egypt during the first intermediate period, the Pharaoh in Joseph’s day still had some knowledge of the Lord but the next one turned completely away.  About three hundred or three hundred fifty years after the Exodus, during Egypt’s New Kingdom, Amenhotep IV(1353-1335 BC) became Pharaoh.  His queen, Nefertiti, was not of royal blood and probably not Egyptian.  He changed his name to Akhenaten and tried to convert the Egyptians to a religion very similar to that of the Jews, if not actually to worship God.  After his death, every effort was made to obliterate all records of his reign. 

About three hundred years later, Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter and established regular communications.  There was constant contact, sometimes a allies and others as enemies until Nebuchadnezzar conquered both Judah and Egypt about 600-550 BC, more than a hundred years after this prophecy.   

“And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.  And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.  And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.

The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.  The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.  Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.  And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish.” (Isaiah 19:4-10)

Like the other prophecies thus far in Isaiah, the main prophecy is for the time of the Lord’s return rather than the immediate future.  While there have been droughts and Egypt has been ruled by various other Empires, there has never been a time that I have found when the Nile was relocated or they couldn’t catch fish and irrigate some of their crops.  As we saw in Isaiah 11:11-12:6, however, when the Lord returns there will be a huge earthquake that will change the course of the Nile, breaking it into smaller streams, and destroying much of the swamp land and irrigation as well as the fishing industry.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned that any who opposed Nebuchadnezzar would be destroyed completely.  Egypt heeded that warning, yielding easily to the Babylonian.   As a result under Babylon they did not have much trouble.  About 525BC the fought and were defeated by the Persians under Cambyses.  When Alexander the Great died, and his kingdom was split, Egypt became the head of the southern kingdom and continued until Cleopatra was executed by the Roman Empire shortly before the birth of Christ for her attempt to rebel against Rome, at the urging of Egyptian leaders.   Egypt has never recovered her former power since that time.

“Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?  Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.  The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.  The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” (Isaiah 19:11-14)

Egypt’s collapse and downfall was instigated by priests and royal family members hoping to restore Egypt to her former glory.  Cleopatra’s advisors foolishly misled the people into believing that the Romans were into really interested in control of Egypt and that by gaining Marc Anthony’s support they would be easily driven back and would not bother to try again.  They simply ignored what Rome had done to other countries which opposed them.  Even that is only a partial fulfillment of the prophecy.    The complete fulfillment will not come until the Lord returns, when Egypt’s leaders will initially encourage them to support the Antichrist’s forces against Israel, tricking them into believing he will be victorious.

“Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.  In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.  And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.” (Isaiah 19:15-17)

When the Lord sets up his Millennial Kingdom, ruling with a rod of iron, Egypt will be terrified of offending God because they see what God has promised for them.   Even today, Egypt and the countries around Israel live with a fear of what Israel may do to them, just as Israel fears them. 
“In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.  In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.  And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.  And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.  And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them.” (Isaiah 19:18-22)

When the Lord sets up his kingdom, Egypt will turn to God and to Israel, even adopting the language and religion, as Amenhotep tried to do thousands of years before.    God will smite and weaken Egypt, but he will restore them, answering their prayers when they turn to him.

“In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.  In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:  Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25)

As we saw in Isaiah 11:11-12:6 the earthquake when the Lord returns will reroute the Euphrates and Nile rivers and apparently fill in the Gulf of Suez while opening a channel between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  As a result a highway will be established that after the battle of Armageddon, will allow easy travel between Egypt and Assyria, passing through Israel.  Egypt, Israel and Assyria will form a strong alliance dedicated to worshipping God.