Archive for September, 2008

They looked, but never Looked to Him!

I picked a few good chapters to miss as St. Philip’s goes skipping through Isaiah two chapters at a time! It’s been Isaiah declaring the Lord’s assessment of the enemy nations that surround His people. Not a very pretty evaluation.

But then we come to His own people, Jerusalem of Judah in Isaiah 22. They aren’t measuring up either. This chapter personifies how we can look to every scheme and tactic to deliver us from a problem and yet not look to the very One who put us in that situation to provoke us to repent.

I’m just baffled by the 40-50,000 people who opted to stay in Galveston and other coastal areas while the National Weather Service officials were promising “certain death”. (thankfully, their guarantee for death was inaccurate!)

But, it was somewhat similar in Jerusalem’s day. While Isaiah was tearfully telling them that Babylon would overthrow Jerusalem with arrows and chariots, they instead opted to fortify their homestead and hunker down. No wonder Isaiah said, “I will weep bitterly” when he saw God’s warning being outright ignored.

So instead of preparing Jerusalem for an attack depending on their own plans and schemes, they should have turned their hearts in humble repentance to the Lord. Instead of humbly seeking the Lord, the people of Jerusalem had both

It’s more than the addict who lives in denial!

A good specimen of the scoffer is Shebna. Shebna was a servant of good King Hezekiah, both a steward . . . over the house and a scribe (2 Kings 18:18, Isaiah 37:2). These were both positions of honor and responsibility. Shebna was one of King Hezekiah’s chief assistants.

Isaiah prophesies that the people of Judah and Jerusalem would be carried away into exile, but Shebna didn’t believe it. He built this elaborate tomb to himself in Jerusalem, as if to say, “I will never be carried away in exile. I am so certain that I will die here that I will build my tomb here.”

It is a very interesting description of how the Lord stripped Shebna of his office (especially in the Message translation) and gave it to Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. God will get His work done! The question for me is whether or not I want to be a part of it by faith, or to miss the opportunity due to my unbelief!

So while Shebna’s peg came crashing down, Eliakim was being established.

Interesting that the Lord uses this passage to speak of Himself in Revelation 3:7:

These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.”

Jesus is the one with the keys of Hades and of Death (Revelation 1:8), who has all authority both in heaven and on earth. I want to hang the all of my hopes on my Tent Peg, Jesus Christ (Zechariah 10:4).

And I need not fear what kind of vessel I am that hangs on that peg, for there are many different vessels in the Lord’s house, with many different sizes and purposes. But they all must hang on the same peg! All are equally wrecked if they drop from the peg. The safety isn’t in the size or the quality of the vessel, but in its attachment to the peg.

Judah and Shebna saw the prophecy given to Isaiah all of this come to pass, just as God had said.

Divine Tent Peg, be my surety, my stability and my confidence. May I be like Eliakim, one who can help hold others up because of believing in You and Your word. Keep me from being a Shebna and trusting in my own power. I want to live a life where I can hear from You and believe it and move forth with confidence. Thank You for Your clear and faithful warnings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord Invites ALL to Trust

The Daily Bible in Chronological Order 365 Daily Readings with Devotional Insights to Guide You Through God’s Word published by Harvest House in the New International Version (NIV) has been very helpful in putting Isaiah’s prophecies in their historical context.
For example, here is the history listed for Isaiah 6-12.
Isaiah 2:1-5 The Last Days
2 Kings 15:19-28 In Israel (742-741 BC)
Isaiah 6:1-13 Isaiah’s Mission Told in a Vision
2 Chron. 27:3-6 Jotham’s reign in Judah
Micah (the whole book dedicated to Judah)
1 Chron. 5:23-26 Early Beginnings of Captivity in Israel
2 Kings 15:37 War between Syria, Israel & Judah (In Judah)
Isaiah 7:1 – 12:6 Isaiah’s Prophesies about a Saviour
7:1-2 Ahaz Learns of Alliance
7:3-9 God’s Message to Ahaz
7:10-12 Ahaz Refuses a Sign From God
7:13-15 Isaiah Foretells Savior to be Immanuel
7:16-25 Assyria to Destroy
8:1-10 Syria and Israel to Fall
8:11-18 Isaiah Calls them to Trust God
8:19-22 Others Cannot be Trusted
9:1-7 Savior’s Kingdom Coming
9:8-21 God’s Wrath Against Israel
10:1-4 Anger Against Injustice
10:5-19 Assyria’s Punishment
10:20-23 Remnant to Be Saved
10:24-34 Captivity will be Overcome
11:1-9 Savior’s Lineage from David
11:10-16 Savior to Gather Remnant
12:1-6 Praise for Deliverance
2 Chron. 28:5-8 Judah Defeated by Allies
2 Chron. 28:9-21 Captives’ Release Secured

When you read it in the book itself with its historical notes and easy reading layout…it’s a real joy!
Anyway, today we are looking at Isaiah 7, and hopefully we will write about chapter 8 later on tonight.

The northern nation of Israel (referred to by the dominant tribe of Ephraim) and Syria combined to attack Judah (the southern kingdom). The alliance between these two nations and their ultimately unsuccessful attack on Jerusalem is described in 2 Kings 16.

But the war against Judah took a great toll against the southern kingdom. 2 Chronicles 28:6 documents the damage:

For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers.

2 Chronicles 28:5 says that the Syrian army carried away a great multitude of them as captives. The king of Israel also captured 200,000 men, women and children as captives, but sent them back to Judah at the command of the prophet Oded (2 Chronicles 28:8-15).

Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah, worshipping other gods and even sacrificing his son to Molech (2 Kings 16:1-4). The only good thing Ahaz seemed to do was father Hezekiah, who became a good king of Judah.

And still the Lord invited this evil king to trust in Him to give Judah the victory against the Israel/Syrian alliance. What a mercy of God, that even to such a rebel, He offers His grace and care.

But instead Ahaz prefers to enter into an ungodly alliance with Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and even gave Tiglath-Pileser silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord as a present to win his favor and protection (2 Kings 16:7-9).

If the king of Judah and the people of Judah had put their trust in the Lord, they would have had the peace of God in this conflict, instead of shaking like a leaf in the wind.

Why would Ahaz find it so hard to trust in the Lord instead of looking to a cruel enemy to become allies with him? Perhaps the devastation that had wracked Judah thus far had made Ahaz stop trusting in God. “If God loves me, why am I in this mess at all? Trust Him now, after all He has allowed to happen? Are you crazy?”

Ahaz was unable to see the situation the way the Lord did. Ahaz looked at Israel and Syria and saw a terrible threat. God looked at Israel and Syria and saw two stubs of smoking firebrands. To the Lord, they were all smoke and no fire!

God gives a promise with a warning: If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.

So Ahaz has a challenge. God has promised, now the king of Judah must believe. If he will not believe, it will not affect the outcome of the attack against Jerusalem. God has already decreed that their attack would not succeed. But it would affect the course of Ahaz’s life and reign as king (surely you shall not be established).

As it happened, Ahaz did not believe. He did not put his trust in the Lord. He put his trust in his own scheming and logical methods and allied himself with the king of Assyria.

Jerusalem was spared, and Ahaz no doubt believed he was successful, and his plan worked. But if he would have just trusted in the Lord, Jerusalem would have been spared, and Ahaz would have been blessed.
Even when God invited this wicked king to ask Him for a sign, Ahaz refused, knowing that he would be held accountable for what God spoke. So Ahaz cloaks his rebellion in the words of humility and spirituality. But God saw right through it!

This sounds very spiritual from Ahaz. He almost seems to say what Jesus said in Matthew 4:7:

You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

Though the words are similar, the hearts are far apart. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, because when God fulfilled the sign, he would be “obligated” to believe.

This was not tempting or testing God in wrong way. It is never testing God to do as He says, and if the Lord invites us to test Him, we should.

In Isaiah 7:14 we have one of the most famous prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus the Messiah in the Bible. It also illustrates a principle of prophecy, that prophecy may have both
  • a near fulfillment and
  • a far fulfillment.
The near fulfillment of this prophecy centered around Ahaz, Jerusalem, and the attack from Israel and Syria. For Ahaz, the sign centered around a time span. Simply put, God would give Ahaz a sign that within a few years, both Israel and Syria would be crushed. This was a sign of deliverance to Ahaz.

The far or ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy goes far beyond Ahaz, to announce the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus Christ. We know this passage speaks of Jesus because in Matthew it says regarding Him:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.”

So for us, the ultimate fulfillment is good news giving us abundant life!

But for Ahaz, who had been foolishly trusting in Assyria instead of the Lord, the near fulfillment was bad news. It is as if the Lord is saying, “It will seem to you like trusting in Assyria is a clever move, because the armies of Syria and Israel will be defeated. But the Assyrians will end up defeating you also.”

Captain of my soul, thank You for fighting on my behalf, even when the circumstances of life seem to mount up against me. Immanuel, thank You for Your ever-present company. That You are there in the beginning of the day, throughout the events of the day during my waking hours, as well as when my head hits the pillow at night. Lord, remind me to always attribute every good and perfect gift to You and not to some scheme or strategy that I have implemented. All victories come from You! We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

God is on the Throne

Isaiah 6 is strawberry-jam-pack-full! I’m going to just jot down a variety of notes, without much continuity.

First, the history of King Uzziah and his reign can be read about in 2 Chronicles 26 & 2 Kings 15 (btw: Azariah = Uzziah). He was 16 years when he came to the throne and reigned for 52 years.

Overall, he was a good strong king. But later in life there was a downfall that occurred summarized succinctly in 2 Chronicles 26:16:

But when Uzziah was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.

So Uzziah remained a leper until his death as a result of violating the Lord’s temple. And yet, in the year that he died, Isaiah has a holy vision somewhat parallel to the very sin that caused Uzziah’s downturn.

The train of His robe filled the temple…above it stood seraphim…house was filled with smoke…live coal taken from the altar…iniquity is taken away.

Just something I hadn’t seen before. It is interesting that when God directs you to do something, it leads to blessing (iniquity taken away) while if God has not directed you to it, or has even commanded you NOT to do something that negative consequences occur (leprosy for the rest of your life, even after a long faithful reign).

Another truth I’m struck by is the idea that the Lord often reveals Himself in the time of crisis:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up.

High King of Heaven, I pray you will grant me the kind of eyes Isaiah, that could see You even in the midst of calamity.

Isaiah may have been depressed or discouraged because a great leader of Judah was no longer on the throne. God in heaven now shows Isaiah, “Don’t worry about it, Isaiah. Uzziah may not be on his throne, but I am on My throne.”

Another point is that Isaiah may have been a righteous, godly man by all outward appearance. Yet when he saw the enthroned King, the Lord of hosts, perhaps even King Jesus Himself, he saw how sinful he was in comparison.

But when we see Jesus face to face (and not merely in a vision) we shall be pure even as He is pure!! I guess Isaiah got a little of that from the coal taken from the altar and applied to his lips.

So why the burning coal?

  1. to burn away the sin, especially sins of the mouth
  2. and to put such a heavenly flame of desire in him that he burned with passion to serve God and tell others about Him

O Holy Spirit, let Your fire burn in me. First to purge me of my sin, and secondly to have Your light so shine through me that people will turn to You and give You the glory.

God said, “I will light a fire in you!” That is why a burning coal was used to purify Isaiah. “Jehovah, who is a consuming fire, can only fitly be served by those who are on fire, whether they be angels or men.” (Spurgeon)

I wonder sometimes if I have gone to “the nations” before being “sent”. Notice Isaiah’s prayer “Send me” which meant Isaiah was submitted to the Lord in all his service. He didn’t even say, “Here I am, I will go.” Isaiah would not go at all unless he knew he was sent by the Lord.

Lord of the harvest, I pray that I will be patient, and not run headlong saying, “Here I am, I will go” but rather I will wait for the directive from You Yourself to send me.

Isaiah was a missionary:

  • First, he had a heart that had been in the presence of God.
  • He had a heart that knew its own sinfulness.
  • He had a heart that knew the need among the people, the need for God’s word.
  • He had a heart that had been touched by God’s cleansing fire.
  • And he had a heart that heard God’s heart to reach the nations.

An outline jotted down from a preacher’s sermon:
Woe is me! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Confession of the sinner
Lo, your iniquity is taken away! – – Cleansing from sins
Go and tell! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Commission from the Sovereign

Sovereign King, no matter what crisis we may find ourselves in I pray You would give us eyes to see Your glory and Your sovereignty. But not only to see it, but to be affected by it, cleansed by it, and then to go and tell others about it. Thank You for purging our sins by pouring out the fire of judgment on Your Son, Jesus, for our sake. In His name I pray, Amen.