Thursday, April 30, 2015

Babylon’s Coming Judgment

Isaiah 47:1-15

“Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.  Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.  Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.  As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.  Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” (Isaiah 47:1-5)

Babylon was a center of world power from the earliest times, starting with the Tower of Babel.  Under Nebuchadnezzar and later under the Persian Empire, it was the seat of government for one of the world’s largest empires.  After the death of Alexander the Great its influence began to dwindle.  The prophecy here is that they will lose their ability to order others around and will have to begin to support themselves like other people, grinding their own flour and working like everyone else.  It will be openly seen that they are no different than anyone else.  God will not come to them like a human would, respecting them but as God with power over them.  When he finishes, they will know that he is God and will no longer be considered a ruling power over other nations. 

“I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.  And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.” (Isaiah 47:6-7)

Israel had rebelled against God and he was angry with their rebellion.  As a result, he allowed Babylon to have power for a time to teach them to trust him.  In their pride and belief that they could not be overthrown, the Babylonians had no mercy on Israel.  They took every advantage they could, not considering that God still loved Israel and was only trying to get their attention.  They ignored what God had promised to do for Israel.

“Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.” (Isaiah 47:8-9)

Daniel 5 describes the leadership of Babylon’s focus on pleasure, having a great party the same night Babylon was invaded by the Medo-Persian Empire because they were confident they could not be defeated.  Because no one was on watch, the Medes and Persians were able to divert the Euphrates river and use the streambed to get past the defensive walls, catching the army asleep, and taking over the entire Babylonian Empire.  Babylon will again be destroyed during the latter part of the Tribulation, as described in Revelation 17-18.  At that time, they will be the center of the Satanic religion established by the Antichrist. 

“For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.  Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.” (Isaiah 47:10-11)

Trusting in their involvement with the Antichrist, and Satan to protect them, Babylon will again think they have nothing to fear, convinced they exist by their own power and destroying all who worship any other god.  Because of their wickedness and rejection of God, will be unable to prevent or even slow the destruction of the city.  They will be caught unawares Just as they were in Belshazzar’s day.

“Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.  Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.  Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.  Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.” (Isaiah 47:12-15)

When God’s judgment comes, all their religious power and the resultant prosperity will not save them.  They will be destroyed like burning off weeds, and those they have been involved with will make no effort to deliver them.  Revelation 18:7-16 describes people’s response to her Destruction. 

“How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.  Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.  And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.  And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.

The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!” (Revelation 18:7-16)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Burden Of False Religion

Isaiah 45:20-46:13
“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.  Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.  Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:20-22)

God has delivered Israel from other nations and is promising to deliver them in the future.  Those other nations have been totally destroyed because they depended on gods they had made, that had no power.  God had set Israel up as a witness to them of his power, and commands them to tell those other nations about Him.  While he has made a special covenant with Israel, he will do the same for anyone who turns to him.  Whether they realize it or not, he is only God who can help them. 
“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.  Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” (Isaiah 45:23-25)  

God has set things up so that ultimately every living being will acknowledge him as God, and that plan will not be changed.  In that day, they will acknowledge that it is because of God they have any value or goodness, and come to him to make things right.  Those who reject him will recognize how stupid they have been and Israel will trust in God rather than their ability to follow the law to make them righteous.  That is totally different attitude than we see in Israel today, as Paul explains in Romans 10:1-3.  “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”  In that day they will give up their pride and submit themselves to God. 

“Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.  They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.” (Isaiah 46:1-2)

Religion has a tremendous impact on people’s lives.   The expense and effort involved in maintaining their religious facilities and observances have kept entire countries in poverty and turmoil for centuries.  The most elaborate and beautiful temples and churches and the richest and most powerful religious leaders are usually found in the most repressive and poverty stricken nations.  While they promise liberty to their followers, they lead to increasing enslavement, exhausting even their livestock to fulfill the demands of their religion, as can be seen in countries around the world.  Israel had repeatedly gone after those other religions. 

“Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Though they might not realize it, Israel was as dependent on God for their existence as a baby is on his mother.  While they are in the womb, they are dependent for everything, but even after birth they depend on their parents for everything.   God promises to maintain that same relationship until they are old and grey haired, if they will just listen to him. 

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?  They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.  They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.” (Isaiah 46:5-7)
No religion compares with God.   People bring gold and silver, and hire gold or silver smiths to make it into idols that they worship.  They have to carry them from place to place because the idols are unable to even walk around under their own power.  When they talk to him and ask favors, he has no ability to respond to them or to resolve their problems. 

“Remember this, and show yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.  Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11)

Israel needed to remember that they had to do everything for those gods because they were incapable of doing anything for themselves.  If they couldn’t even take care of themselves, how could they do anything for their worshippers?  If they would remember the things God had done in the past, predicting the future and making things happen, even to the causing another country to do what he said, they would realize he was the only God they needed, because he could do anything they needed. 

“Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness: it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” (Isaiah 46:12-13)

Israel had determinedly gone their own way, ignoring God’s commands.   If they would just turn to him he would make them as righteous as they thought they were, and would deliver them form all their troubles,  they would know God’s power and his salvation.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Prophecy Of the Reign Of Cyrus

Isaiah 45:1-19

“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:1-3)

God has said that Cyrus is his shepherd, to do what pleases Him.  He is empowering him to defeat other nations and destroy the power of their governments.  He will cause him to easily conquer large cities with extra wide gates, as if they had no defense, and the defenses of the most powerful will crumble though they seem like a bronze or brass gate with iron bars to hold it shut.  He will take their most valuable treasures sand secrets, so that his people will know who God is.  Two hundred years later, Cyrus would give the order to rebuild Jerusalem, and he and the Persian kings that followed supported and encouraged the worship of God.  Cyrus’s son, Cambyses took the throne name Ahasuerus, and married Ester, making her uncle, Mordecai prime minister.  After his death, Darius I and Artaxerxes supported the rebuilding of Jerusalem, providing materials and sacrifices because they wanted the blessings of God on their reigns.   Ezra 7:23 depicts their attitude.  “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? “

“For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.  I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.  Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.” (Isaiah 45:4-8)

God will bring Cyrus to power, calling him by name specifically for Israel’s benefit, even though the Persians at the time did not know or serve God.  God is the only God, and it is His power that will enable Cyrus to rule such a large empire, so that not only the Persians but all the nations from the east and west will know Him.  He is creator of everything, from the light and darkness to concepts of good and evil.   His ultimate plan is for the world to experience salvation and live righteously.

“Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?  Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?” (Isaiah 45:9-10)

It is foolish for anyone to fight against God.  It is like a piece of broken pottery fighting with other broken pieces, demanding the potter makes something different from it, or claiming he has no hands to make it into anything.  It is like a child who is angry at his parents for letting him be born. 

“Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.  I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.  I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 45:11-13)

God instructs to seek his plans for his children and what he has planned.  He created the world and made mankind.  He made the heavens and directs the planets.  God is timeless, seeing the end from the beginning, and though humanly speaking Cyrus would not come to power for two hundred years, God refers to it as something that has already occurred.  He will do what is right, and God will direct his actions.  As a result, he will cause Jerusalem to be built and will voluntarily free the Israelites from slavery.

“Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.  Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.  They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.” (Isaiah 45:14-16)

The Egyotians, the Ethiopians, and the Sabeans or people from Sheba, in present day Somalia and Yemen would all be part of the Persian Empire.  Esther 1:1 describes the territories Cyrus’ son, Cambyses, also known as Ahasuerus reigned over.  “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)”  Egypt, Sheba and Ethiopia are included.  A study of Esther reveals that all of the provinces heard about God’s power and protection of Israel.  While this prophecy has largely been fulfilled, it will be fulfilled more completely when Christ sets up His Millennial kingdom. 

“But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.  For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.  I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” (Isaiah 45:17-19)

God will save Israel forever.  They will never regret having trusted in God.  He has publically declared his intentions, and he has not sold out or broken his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The things he has stated are true and right, and his word can be depended on. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Foolishness Of Idolatry

Isaiah 44:6-28

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.  And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them show unto them.  Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:6-8)

Today there is a group who quote Judges 17:6 or 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” to prove that a powerful leader is essential for people to follow God.  They ignore the statement in I Samuel 12:12 when he said, “...the LORD your God was your king.”  Here, God states that he is the King of Israel.  The problem wasn’t that they lacked a powerful king, but that they had rejected God’s leadership. 

Here God describes himself, and the Messiah, Christ, as being one God, supporting the statement about the Trinity in I John 5:7.  “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”  Though they are three personages they are only one being.  They are not separate gods, because there are no other Gods besides God.   He is the first God there has ever been and he will be the last.  It is the same thing Jesus said in Revelation 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13, that he was the first, the beginning and the last, the end. 

There is no one who has the power to make things work a certain way or control history like God who created the first humans.  No one else can plan or tell what will come in the future.  Israel has no reason to be afraid of those around them because God has declared his intentions from the very beginning, and has demonstrated his ability to make it happen repeatedly.   

“They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.  Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?  Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.

The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.  The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.

He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.  Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.  He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.” (Isaiah 44:9-17)

While they are beautiful, the making of statues and paintings are a waste of time and ultimately do not benefit people. Those statues carvings and pictures have no life and are incapable of doing anything in themselves.  It is foolish to begin to worship such things and all those involved will ultimately be embarrassed by their involvement. 

The Metal worker melts metal and molds it to shape then hammers and embosses it with fine detail, getting dehydrated from the heat and effort expended.  A carpenter or wood carver uses various cutting tools to shape a piece of wood, carefully measuring shaping to get the proportions and curves just right to resemble a human form.  They carefully select a particular type of wood for their projects, planting other trees to ensure an ongoing supply.  The same wood they burn to heat their houses or cook their food is used to make an idol that he worships as a god, praying for it to deliver him to solve his problems.    

“They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.  And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?  He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:18-20)

It is illogical to worship something a person can make and control.  In order to make it or control the object, the person mas to have more power than the thing they made.  They are simply not thinking things through when they begin to worship it.  How can what they used to cook their food be more powerful than they are.  Their mind has to be blinded to not realize that fact.  They are fooling themselves, thinking such behavior can save them, and have turned aside from the truth to follow a lie. 
“Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.  I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.  Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:21-23)

Israel needs to remember it was God who made then and formed them into a nation.  It is Him who has forgiven their sins and has promised never to forget them or turn his back on them.  Instead of complaining about what they don’t have, they should be rejoicing in what they have recieived, because God has separated them out and protected them.

“Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” (Isaiah 44:24-28)

The God who established the nation of Israel is also the one who created the earth and the entire universe by his own power.  He is the same God who made the threats of the various other powers to destroy Israel meaningless, and that has protected and encouraged Israel so many times.  It is Him who has caused the signs of the prophets to happen so they can know that the messages are from God.  It is His power that will enable the restoration of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.  It is God who announced that Cyrus would command the rebuilding of Jerusalem two hundred years before Cyrus came to power, calling him by name.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

God Pleads With Israel

Isaiah 43:14-44:5

“Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.  I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.

Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.  Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” (Isaiah 43:14-18)

God has promised to restore Israel at the end of time.   The Assyrians were the world power in Isaiah’s day but the Chaldeans were starting to gain power in Babylon and would eventually conquer the Assyrians and take Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar.  Babylon would be conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire, which would in turn be taken over by the Greek Empire.  After the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek empire broke up and Babylon declined in importance but continued as an active city until British Archaeologists relocated some ten thousand people in order to excavate the ancient ruins.  When Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq, he rebuilt the city, and after his death, the United Nations agreed to maintain it. 

Revelation 17 and 18 describe Babylon as the religious center of the Antichrist’s kingdom and as a major trading center of the world.   Because of the city’s role in the promotion of false religion and killing God’s people it will be utterly destroyed near the end of the Tribulation period.  Babylon’s destruction will have serious consequences for the world economy and the shipping industry.  It is God who will cause all this to happen.   

Though it seemed impossible for these things to happen in Isaiah’s day, God has power to do the seemingly impossible.  He is the God who provided a way for Israel to cross the Red Sea on dry land while drowning the Egyptian army with all their horses and chariots.  As a result, Egypt was conquered by the Hyksos and did not regain her independence for about a hundred years.   Israel and Judah should not worry about the power other nations have had in the past. 

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.  This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” (Isaiah 43:19-21)

God will make things completely new at the proper time and they will see what he has done.  There will be rivers in what is now desert and roadways through the wilderness areas.  Because He makes water readily available for the people he has chosen, the desert animals, such as owls and lizards will flourish as well.   The Jews will demonstrate God’s power and glory in that day. 

“But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.  Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.  Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” (Isaiah 43:22-24)

Though God wants to do these things for them, the Israelites have not called out to Him for help.  Instead, they have complained about how hard it is to meet His demands.  They have refused to give the various offerings and God has not forced them to do so.  They haven’t bothered to even give Him a token of an offering of sweet cane or the fat of their sacrifices.  Instead they have done what he has forbidden and claimed to be doing it at his command and have frustrated him with their deliberate disobedience.

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.  Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.  Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.  Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.” (Isaiah 43:25-28)

God has chosen to forgive their sin for his own reasons, not remembering those sins anymore.  He asks them to acknowledge his righteousness and blessings so they can be made right with him.  Unless those who are forgiven repent and change their ways, the forgiveness does not restore their relationship.  their ancestors, and their teachers have consistently gone against God, resulting in his bringing them to a point of degradation and shame. 

“Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:1-5)

If the people of Israel will hear, the same God who made them into a great nation will help them because he loves them.  He will supply water when they are thirsty, and flood the ground that is too dry to grow anything.  He will give his spirit to their children, and his blessing to their descendants, so that they flourish like grass along the edges of a brook or canal.  They will glory in being God’s children like members of a highly respected family glorying in their family’s reputation.    

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

God’s Preservation Of Israel

Isaiah 42:18-43:13

“Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.  Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant?  Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.  The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Isaiah 42:18-21)

The world considers those who believe in God to be na├»ve that they would trust him instead of focusing on traditions and intellectual discoveries.  In I Corinthians 1:21-29, Paul makes the point that the world’s idea of wisdom is totally different than God’s.  “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 

God offers to give real wisdom to those who have been deceived by the world.  they see a lot of things that are not right, but do not obey God’s instructions as to how to resolve the problems.  Even when they listen to God’s word, they don’t take it seriously or reject it as foolish and unworkable.  God will continue to let them see the consequences of not following his Law until they acknowledge it as the only workable solution. 

“But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.  Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?

Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.  Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.” (Isaiah 42:22-25)

Israel had been raided and robbed of everything of value, forced into slavery and fear of death.  They have no one to come to their rescue.  God has given them to their enemies because they refused to obey him.  The entire nation has been destroyed and lost their hope, yet they ignore the reasons for their suffering and continue to do the things that led to it.

“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.  Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Despite their rejection of God and their covenant with him, and the resulting destruction and enslavement, God still loves them.  He will be with them in their deepest trials and difficulties, delivering them when they turn to him.  He chose them over Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sheba and because he loves thm, he will see that there are always a remnant of Jews to carry on their family. 

“Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.  Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.  Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.“ (Isaiah 43:5-9)

Because God has promised to protect and keep them, Israel should have no fear.  He will cause the nations who have carried them away as slaves to allow them to return to their own land, because God has set up Israel to demonstrate his power and love.  All the earth will be able to see how god has worked to preserve them.
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.  Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:10-13)

Israel could look back to their past and see where they had been richly blessed when they followed the Lord fully and did not accept other gods.  His purpose is that they could see that there is no other God, and never will be.  There is no one else who can save   He has repeatedly shown his power and their very existence is a testimony to that power.  There is no god or person who can overcome his power or prevent him from accomplishing his goals.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

God vs gods

Isaiah 41:21-42:17

“Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.  Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.  Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.” (Isaiah 41:21-23)

God challenges the rebellious people to show that they know about the future.  If they can explain what has happened in the past perhaps they can explain what will happen in the future.  Perhaps they can foretell the future without even examining the past.   If they can do that then maybe they can convince God they are gods as well.  See if they can show enough power and understanding to shake up God. 

“Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.  I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay.” (Isaiah 41:24-25)

None of them can produce evidence that they or their gods can do anything of value.   Anyone who chooses them over God is an abomination because they have ignored the truth to make such a choice.  God has selected on who will come from the north and the east to call on the name of the Lord.  He will stir things up and break up their power as thoroughly as a mason mixing mortar or a potter kneading his clay.

“Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that showeth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.  The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.  For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.  Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.” (Isaiah 41:25-29)

There is no one who has been able to tell the future, to advise people or prove he knows what is right except God.  Even among the Jewish prophets, there was no one who could tell God what was going to happen and be believed.  Their advice and recommendations were worthless and their accomplishments meaningless.  The gods they recommended were just a distraction and a lot of hot air. 

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.  He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.  A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.  He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)

If they would look at the one God had chosen and sent, they would find he was completely different.  He would have the spirit and attitude of God.  He will reach out to the Gentiles, bringing justices and fairness to them as well as to the Jews.  He will not be about a big public show or calling a lot of attention to himself.  He won’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses breaking a bruised reed, nor will he try to fix all the world’s problems, trying to quench the spark in the smoldering flax.   He will focus on people’s responsibility for their actions and the truth.   His success is assured, and he will not be discouraged by the slowness with which changes occur.  Ultimately, even those in isolated places will accept responsibility for following his standards.  Ultimately Christ will accomplish god’s purpose, no matter how long it takes.  In essence he will focus on the real problem of the sin attitude, rather than focusing on the various symptomatic sins.

“Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.  I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:5-8)

The creator of the world, the one who gives us all life, has called his chosen in righteousness, giving him as a contract for people, and a source of enlightenment for those who did not have the law.  He will enable those who had no knowledge of the truth to understand it and to deliver those who were bound by sin to be free.  God will not give up his place or authority to other leaders or idols. 

“Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.  Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.  Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.  Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.  The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.” (Isaiah 42:9-13)

The past has passed, and we have to deal with the things of today.  God tells us of hat is coming before it happens so we can be prepared.   His people should praise him in new songs, where ever they might be.  Whether a sailor on a ship, a shepherd herding his sheep in the mountains or living in some important city, people need to give God the glory.  He will upset a lot of people but ultimately will win and defeat his enemies. 

“I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.  I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.  And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.  They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.” (Isaiah 42:14-17)

For centuries, God has limited his interventions, holding himself back.  II Peter 3:9 declares, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  For centuries God has held back, giving mankind the opportunity to choose what is right.  In Romans 2:3-11, Paul warned, “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.”

The day will come when God will no longer hold back.  He will show those who haven’t known how the proper way to live, changing everything upon earth.  They will turn back to the God they have forsaken and those who have substituted other gods for God will be embarrassed for their stupidity.  As Paul said, it will not matter whether they are Jewish or Gentile.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

There is No Reason For Israel To Fear

Isaiah 40:27-41:20

“Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.” (Isaiah 40:27-41:1)

Like many people today, Judah and Israel had reached a point where they no longer believed God cared or took time for individuals.  Isaiah reminds them that God is the creator of the world, and unlike people, he never gets tired or overwhelmed by people’s problems.  He never faces a situation where he doesn’t know how to deal with it.   He is always there to provide strength and encouragement when they are needed.  Even healthy young men experience exhaustion, but God never does. 
If people learn to wait upon him, literally to let him take the lead will have their strength renewed and be able to move forward as effortlessly as an eagle flies.  They will not be tired as a result of their efforts or collapse as a result of a sustained effort, they will not burn out.  Instead of trying to isolate people from God, they need to draw near him and allow him to renew their strength,  relating to him directly and following his rules

“Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.  He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.  Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.” (Isaiah 41:1-4)

It was God who raised up the eastern kings from Assyria, giving them power over so many other nations and states.  It was Him who enabled them to defeat the others as if they were nothing but dust to be swept aside or as a piece of refuse thrown up for a target for an archer, defeating them even without thoroughly investigating the capabilities of some of the countries. 

“The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.  They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.  So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the soldering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.” (Isaiah 41:5-7)

Even the distant islands saw God’s power and tool actions to prevent being taken, uniting and assisting each other and encouraging them.  They saw that God had prepared things and was finishing them like a gold smith might solder the various pieces together once they are finished or a carpenter might Nail the finished product into place. 

“But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.  Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:8-10)

Israel are God’s chosen people, and they have no reason to be afraid of his power.  He will strengthen them and will never cast them away, even when they have rebelled completely.  He will help them even at the worst of times because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

“Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.  Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.  For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:11-13)

Israel’s enemies will ultimately be shamed by their treatment of the Jews, and amazed by his protection and forgiveness.  They will be destroyed, with no residual power.  God will stand at their side encouraging and helping them. 

“Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.  Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.  Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:14-16)

Though Israel is by comparison seems like just and insignificant worm with little to recommend it. God and his Son will make them into a world power defeating and driving away those other world powers like blowing the chaff away from threshed grain.   When that time comes, their focus will be on the Lord and his glory.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.  I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.  I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” (Isaiah 41:17-20)

When things get to a point where there seems to be no hope, God will deliver them, providing whatever is needed, whether water to drink or a bit of shade to protect from the sun, so that Israel may see it is God who protects them, rather than their own efforts or the power of some other group or god.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Encouraging People To Trust God

Isaiah 40:1-26

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Time after time Isaiah has warned Judah and Israel of God’s impending judgment for their sin.  Here he encourages them not to give up when they have sinned.  Though they will be and were punished for their sins, even double what they had done, they will still be pardoned when they turn back and do what is right.  God has not and will not forget them. 

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

God’s prophets have been crying out for Judah and Israel to turn back to God and plan for Messiah’s coming.  If they will turn to God, he will work miracles in their land, so that the valleys are fruitful and the hills and mountains no longer stand in the way.  The obstacles and causes of doubt and confusion will be removed.  The entire earth will see the power and glory of God revealed. 

When Jesus came and walked on the earth, Israel saw a little of the glory of God and his power in the miracles he did, and got a sampling of what they could have received had they turned fully to him.  Because Israel as a whole rejected the opportunity, refusing to turn completely to God, they never got to see this prophecy completely fulfilled.  It will be finally fulfilled during Christ’s millennial reign at the end of time. 

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Commanded to warn the people, Isaiah asked what he needed to tell them.  He was told to remind them of the weakness and frailty of humanity.   Humans dry up and die just the same as the weeds and flowers in the field, and little remains to show they were even there.  God’s word, on the other hand, is eternal and will never change.

“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!  Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:9-11)

The very existence of the temple and of Jerusalem itself was and is a testimony of God’s love for mankind, and willingness to forgive them.  He specifically provided a plan for receiving that forgiveness in the law.   Almost fifteen hundred years after God had promised Abraham the land, they were there to prove his word could be depended on.  Isaiah needed to encourage Judah to put their trust in the Lord, because he would keep his promise, rewarding those who trust him and caring for his people like a shepherd caring for his sheep. 

“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?  Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?  With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:12-14)

Who besides God could measure out how much water there would be on earth or decide exactly how to space the planets to keep them from crashing into each other?  Who else knows exactly how much dust there is on earth or what each mountain and hill weighs?  Who else could decide what was right or after man sinned, implant a conscience in them to make them aware of their guilt, then teach them how to correct their wrong doing?

“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.  And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.  All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.  To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isaiah 40:15-18)

Compared to God, even the powers of empires like the Assyrians or Egypt or Babylon are only a drop in the bucket.  Their impact is like the dust that settles on a scale overnight, when weighing out a hundred pounds of flour.  The difference they make is negligible.   God can pick up all the islands of the earth like they were just a small piece of gravel.  To God the most powerful nations are of little more value than a penny is to most Americans, hardly worth even picking up.    A country like Lebanon would be like a toothpick when one is seeking firewood, and all the animals in it wouldn’t make a single sacrifice.    Knowing how powerful God is, what can we compare him to or what can we make to portray him?  Unfortunately, people still try. 

“The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.  He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.” (Isaiah 40:19-20)

A metal worker may cast a metal statue which a goldsmith then overlays with gold and puts silver chains around it for decoration.   A person who can’t even afford to give a small donation and barely has enough to eat will look for a tree that doesn’t rot and hires somebody to carve it into a statue which he places it in a shrine where it is protected.
“Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?  It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.  Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.  To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:21-25)

Obviously people don’t really understand who God is who make such idols.  He controls the earth’s orbit and the people on earth are no more significant than some grasshopper out in the middle of a field.  He placed the atmosphere so that life could exist on earth and controls the light.  He overthrows kingdoms and makes the rulers look foolish. Keeping some groups from ever becoming a major power, so that little trace is left of them in history.   How can we compare him to some earthly person or animal?

“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Just look around at what is there.  As Romans 1:19-20 says, “…that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  Failure to see God’s power can only be the result of a refusal to look at the evidence. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Babylonian Ambassadors

Isaiah 39:1-8

“At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.” (Isaiah 39:1)

At the time, the Assyrians were the major power in the area and posed a serious threat to Babylon.  Judah’s resistance to the Assyrian threat provided some relief for Babylon.  Merodachbaladan operated on the philosophy, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Learning that Hezekiah had been sick and had recovered, he sent what was effectively a get well soon card and gift.

“And Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.” (Isaiah 39:2)

Excited about his recovery and that Merodachbaladan cared enough to send a letter and present, Hezekiah forgot that while they had a common enemy, they were not friends.  He showed the Babylonian ambassadors everything God had blessed him with and shared how they had been protected from the Assyrians by God.  It never occurred to him that they were in fact potential enemies who would one day turn on Judah and destroy it. 

It was the same mistake the allies made in their dealings with Russia during the Second world War and that I fear we are making in the Middle East today.  Just because Iran and Syria are fighting ISIS only means they do not like ISIS.  It does not mean they like us.   Forgetting that may leave us open to attack. 

“Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.  Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.” (Isaiah 39:3-4)

Isaiah was aware that while other countries hated the Assyrians, they were not Judah’s friends.  He questioned who the ambassadors were and why they had come.  Knowing that Babylon was still a major power, Isaiah questioned what they had seen and what intel they might have obtained.  Believing they were too far away to pose a threat, Hezekiah had shown them everything. 

“Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.  And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (Isaiah 39:5-7)

Isaiah warned him that while they posed no immediate threat, one day the Babylonians would not forget what Hezekiah had shown them.  Like a burglar being shown around a home, they would remember what Judah had and where it was with the intention of returning later to steal it.  When they came, they would take everything, and enslave Hezekiah’s own descendants. 

“Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8)

Like most politicians today, Hezekiah wasn’t worried about the future or what might happen to his progeny.  All he cared was that there would be peace and truth in his day.  Every action we take today will have an impact on future generations.  Far too often, we do not consider the long term effects of our actions, leaving future generations to deal with our mistakes as well as their own problems.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hezekiah Healed

Isaiah 38:1-22

“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live

Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. .” (Isaiah 38:1-3)

Hezekiah had gotten sick and it looked like he was going to die.  Isaiah came and told him that god had said he needed to get everything ready because he was going to die.  Hezekiah wasn’t ready to die and prayed, reminding God how faithfully he had served him and tried to obey him. 

“Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.  And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.

And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.” (Isaiah 38:4-8)

Hezekiah’s prayer produced immediate results.  God directed Isaiah to tell him the he would live an fifteen more years.  As a sign of that he would cause the shadow on the sundial to move a ahead one hour or back one hour, whichever Hezekiah chose.  Since the sun always advances, Hezekiah thought it would be more noticeable if it went backward.   While it is relatively easy to reset a clock for Daylight Savings Time, it takes a lot to reset the suns shadow.   II Kings 20 and II Chronicles 32 give additional details of the story. 

“The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.  Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.  Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.  O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.  For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.  The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.” (Isaiah 38:9-20)

Hezekiah describes the fear and despair he felt when he was told that he was going to die.  Anyone who has experienced being told they have cancer or other fatal diseases can probably identify with the feelings he had.  It just seemed like his service for God meant nothing.  Then God answered his prayer and promised deliverance.  He was going to sing God’s praises with everything he could.  Because he was alive he could do so. 

“For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover.  Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?” (Isaiah 38:21-22)

Isaiah had told them to place a bunch of dried figs over the infection to draw it out and kill the infection and he would recover.  Hezekiah had asked for a sign so he would know the prophecy was from God, as described in Deuteronomy 18:18-22. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

God Destroys Sennacherib

Isaiah 37:28-38

“But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.  Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.” (Isaiah 37:28-29)

A person who knows where you live and your habits knows where you are most vulnerable to attack.    God knows where the Assyrians live and their routines and plans to attack him.  He knows what motivates them and how they respond to various situations.  When he is ready he can use that knowledge to put a hook in their nose and a bridle in their mouth so that they are forced to go where he wants them.  He will force them to go back where they came from.

“And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.  And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.” (Isaiah 37:30-32)

When a prophet made a prophecy, saying it came from God, he was to give a short term sign to prove that it really was from god.  If the sign didn’t happen the prophecy did not come from God and they were not to worry about it.  The proof that the prophecy about Assyria came from God was that despite Rabshakeh’s threats, for the next three years Hezekiah and Judah would not be bothered by the Assyrians, but would be free to work their fields without interference.   They would be able to begin rebuilding what the Assyrians had destroyed. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.  By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.  For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” (Isaiah 37:33-35)

God would see that the Assyrians never attacked Jerusalem or even set themselves in array against it.  God would defend the city, forcing them to return to their own land before they ever started the battle. 

”Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.  So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.” (Isaiah 37:36-37) 

That night, God sent an angel of death into the Assyrian camp and a hundred and eighty five thousand Assyrian soldiers died in their sleep.   The next morning the survivors were horrified to find so many of their fellows were dead.  Not knowing what had killed them and fearing it might infect the rest, Sennacherib and his generals withdrew to Nineveh to regroup without ever setting their forces in array or firing a single arrow, just as Isaiah had prophesied. 

“And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” (Isaiah 37:38)

Sennacherib had mocked God, saying he could not stop him.  While he was worshipping the Assyrian god, Nisroch, two of his own sons murdered him.  To escape retribution by his other children and the military, they fled north into Armenia.  Assyria’s power began to decline and they would eventually be taken over by the Chaldean forces and Nineveh destroyed.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

God’s Answer

Isaiah 36:22-37:29

“Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.  And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.” Isaiah (36:22-37:1)

After hearing Rabshakeh’s threats and warnings to the people and his disparaging comments about both Judah and God, Hezekiah’s representatives reported everything that had been said to the king.  Troubled that the people might fall for it and that the Assyrians believed what had been said, Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer. 

“And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.  And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.  It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.  So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.” (Isaiah 37:2-5)

Hezekiah also sent to the prophet Isaiah to get his input on what God wanted.  They came to Isaiah in a spirit of humility recognizing that Judah would not be able to gain victory by themselves and embarrassed at the blasphemy against God.  They asked him to pray that God would help them, knowing what Rabshakeh had said about him. 

“And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” (Isaiah 37:6-7)

Isaiah told them that God said for them not to worry about what the Assyrians had said.  He would distract them with rumors and threats from other places and they would be forced to withdraw to protect their own land.  The king would be killed in his own land. 

“So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.  And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee.” (Isaiah 37:8-9a)

The Assyrians had taken the major cities in Judah, but when the people of Libnah heard that the Assyrian force had split, sending the main body against Jerusalem, they attacked the Assyrian forces at Lachish.  Rabshakeh was forced to go to the rescue of the king at Lachish.  While there he heard that the Ethiopian king was preparing to invade the Assyrian holdings.  Since Ethiopia had at one time controlled most of northern Africa and had invaded the middle east with an army of over a million men during Asa’s day, two hundred years before, it was considered a serious threat. 

And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.  Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar?  Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?” (Isaiah 37:9b-13)

Before he left, Rabshakeh warned Hezekiah not to think the withdrawal meant they had given up.  They didn’t need to think god could deliver them because none of the gods of the other nations had been able to defeat them.  He said they’d come back and finish what they had started. 

“And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.  Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries.  And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.  Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.” (Isaiah 37:14-20)

When Hezekiah received Rabshakeh’s letter, he took into the temple and showed it to the Lord, acknowledging God as the only true God and creator of heaven and earth.  He reminds him that the claims are a reproach against god himself, and that the Assyrians have done just as Rabshakeh said to the other nations and the gods they worshipped which were in fact only manmade objects.  He asked the Lord to save them, demonstrating that he was truly God, and not just another idol.

“Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” (Isaiah 37:21-22)

God answered Hezekiah with a message through Isaiah.  He described it as being like a rich and powerful suitor trying to force a girl to go along, threatening her or her family if she doesn’t.  Instead of yielding to his demands, the girl spurns him even laughing at his threats, and not taking him seriously.    

“Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.  By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.  I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.

Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.  Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.” (Isaiah 37:23-27)

In making the threats, it is not just Jerusalem than has been insulted by the threats, but God.   Rabshakeh was making the threats on behalf of his king, Sennacherib, convinced they had won all those victories in their own power, and can overcome God the same way.  If Sennacherib had paid attention to history, he would know that his victories had been the result of God punishing those who would not serve him by making them weak and taking away their defenses, not because of Assyria’s power.  As a result they had just shriveled up like grass on a house top dries up at the first sign of a drought because there is no  reserve moisture to draw from.