I think that as Christians we often times forget that while we certainly do live on earth, this is not all there is. There is a salvation that will last forever, and we hear about that in Isaiah 51.
Isa 51:4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
Isa 51:5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
Isa 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
In this passage, we are receiving a little bit of prophecy about Jesus. Salvation is going to come out from heaven and from God. That salvation will be forever. It is not as if heaven is going to be a vacation where you have to come back to our earthly reality eventually; it is going to be a relocation forever.
I was reading an interesting argument a little while ago from CS Lewis. He was pointing out that it is interesting that we are always surprised by how fast time seems to go by. However, he wonders why we are surprised. All we know is the relationship of past, present and future, so 35 years ought to feel like 35 years. We ought to be used to the element of time, but somehow it continually surprises us. Perhaps that indicates that our souls were created for a timeless existence. If we weren’t actually designed to be confined by the limits of time, time very well might surprise us then because we are out of the element that we were designed for.
I don’t think we always live like we believe this eternal salvation. It is kind of off somewhere in the distant future that doesn’t really matter too much. However, the fact that the matter is that it does matter, and Lewis made a solid point. Maybe we are surprised by time because we are not designed for it. In fact, we are all going to live eternally, but we need the salvation mentioned earlier in the passage if we want to spend that eternity with God.
I know that we have a simple question at the end of Isaiah 50, but I thought it was pretty interesting, so I want to delve into that a little bit.
Isa 50:10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
I think that the word order is a little bit complicated in this case, but basically, this is pretty straightforward. Is there anyone who is walking in the darkness? Let him or her trust in God.
It isn’t rocket science. Having this walk and relationship with God will put you into the light, and I think the imagery is quite clear. When you are in the light, you can clearly see what is around you, but when you’re in the dark, there isn’t really an awful lot you are able to observe. Sure, you might be able to see a few inches or make out some faint shapes, but you do not have all the benefits of being in the light.
However, why does that really matter?
When you’re in the light, you have some sense of orientation. You might not be able to see the end of your journey, but you can be pretty sure that you are not walking in circles. You have the ability to move in a particular direction and know that you are moving in that direction. In the dark, you might be moving in one direction, but there is no real sense of direction because you have no reference around you.
I think that is one thing that really stands out about the Christian worldview. It actually sets you in a particular direction. Other worldviews kind of drop you in the middle of reality and tell you that you are floating around aimlessly. Christianity tells us what our purpose is. I think that’s important to remember as we are trying to figure out what worldview actually explains reality most accurately.
Isaiah 49 is interesting because when I started reading the chapter, I wasn’t quite sure if the subject was Isaiah himself or Jesus Christ. However, as you move farther in the chapter, you run into this verse which I think puts this beyond doubt.
Isa 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
I think that this is really a great mission statement that essentially sums up why Jesus came to earth. In modern times, if you run a business, you probably have a mission statement outlines what your company is about. I would nominate this for Jesus’.
First, it affirms that He would be Jewish. Obviously, that ended up being historically accurate. It might not be mind-blowing, but I think it is worth pointing out.
Second, Jesus was going to restore Israel. Just like all of us, the people of Israel were sinners. They needed to be restored, but Jesus was also brought to be a light for the Gentiles as well. That’s important about the mission of Jesus. He came for the Jewish people and for the Gentiles, and He did that to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
That is a large misconception that I feel like we come across. Some people don’t think that Jesus came for them. You hear it all the time. “God could never forgive me after all that I’ve done.” That is simply not true.
God is a God of forgiveness, and we all have the ability to come to Him and find that. He sent Jesus Christ to the world to provide that for us.
I am absolutely loving all of the ways that God describes Himself throughout the book of Isaiah, and chapter 48 is no different.
Isa 48:12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
Isa 48:13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
We haven’t talked a lot about the eternality of God, but it is both incredibly simple and incredibly complex. By simple, I mean that God existed forever. He will continue existing forever. There is nothing overly complicated about that. It might seem hard to believe, but it is at least not confusing.
The complex part comes when you begin to combine that characteristic of eternality with something like omniscience. It is hard to understand from a human perspective. Let’s go into a little thought experiment.
I have been conscious during my entire time on earth except of course when I was sleeping. However, during the entire time of my existence, I have been observing the world around me, and I have taken in quite a bit of information. I don’t remember all of that information though. I could be omniscient in theory about my past; I have been observing it all, and the information was in my mind at one point. I am not omniscient though about my past. This didn’t even say anything about my future which is an entire mystery.
God has been around for much longer than I have been. I can’t remember things that happened five years ago, but God can remember everything from eternity past. That is pretty hard to fathom. What kind of mind can do something like that?
There are people who claim that they can see the future. However, those claims never really seem to hold water. They undoubtedly have gaps in that knowledge that I highly doubt is there anyway. The claim we get here from God is that He also has unlimited knowledge of the future. That is a pretty bold claim, but we do have some evidence that this is true. Consider the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in the person of Jesus Christ.
God was there in the beginning, and He will be there in the end. It is just kind of mind blowing to think about someone who has perfect knowledge of all of history when our finite minds can hardly remember what happened yesterday. How much greater is the mind of God?
Isaiah 47 tells us about the judgment that is coming to Babylon. Obviously, they were a nation that suffered from many vices, but one stood out to me at least as I was reading this chapter.
Isa 47:8 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:
Isa 47:9 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.
Isa 47:10 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.
Isa 47:11 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.
Their pride is what did them in. I am not a Hebrew scholar, but it is interesting that Babylon is saying in their heart, “I am.” It is interesting that this is what God told Moses from out of the burning bush. This is where my limited (and essentially nonexistent) Hebrew knowledge comes into play. The Hebrew words are different in Isaiah 47 then they are in Exodus 3. I don’t know the nuances of the language well enough to know if these claims were effectively identical, but if they were, imagine the arrogance. These people are using a title for God to essentially describe themselves.
Even if they aren’t functionally identical, the passage still makes it clear that pride was the problem here. They trusted in their wickedness. They figured that they were untouchable and unaccountable. Nobody could see them, and they made themselves wise in their own minds.
That never works out well.
The obvious lesson for all of us is that we don’t want to become Babylon. We don’t want to become so absorbed in ourselves that we begin to think we are God. Unfortunately, society promotes that kind of humanism today. Nobody can tell you what to do after all; you are your own authority.
That is not the Christian worldview. We are all accountable to God, and that is incredibly important. We cannot fall into this trap of pride.
God has spent a lot of the book of Isaiah demonstrating how He is different than all of the other gods created by human hands, and chapter 46 is another step in that direction.
Isa 46:5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
Isa 46:6 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.
Isa 46:7 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.
Isa 46:8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
I think this is a very important point. There is a reason that there were not giant God statues in the tabernacle. There are reasons that even though we might have statues of Jesus, we don’t worship the statue. God is more than the statue, but in the case of these other idols, that statue was what they had.
They commissioned that the statue would be built out of gold and silver, and then they carried it around until they found the right spot to put it down. Then, the people would worship it. That was the entire experience.
God is so much greater than that. It isn’t like we can pick up God, move Him into our church, put Him down and worship Him. If we limit our worship of God to only the worship of a statue of God (which would be really interesting because I don’t know how you represent the Trinity in the statue), we are missing out on a large part of what makes God God. We are trying to use human means to represent His power, glory and majesty. That simply can’t be done anywhere near adequately.
I think that it is important to remember the difference here. Other people were worshiping such limited gods. The God of the Bible was and is so much greater.
I don’t know how many of you are KJV readers like I am, but if you are, you might have had a little bit of confusion as you read Isaiah 45:7.
Isa 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
Isa 45:6 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.
Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
I don’t know about you, but for those of us who operate with a free will solution to the problem of evil, this doesn’t seem to fit into the picture. God allowed humans to have free will, and because of that free will, humans did fall, and evil entered into the world. It wasn’t created by God, but in order to have the choice of a loving relationship with God, He allowed humans to have free will which allowed them to use that privilege to commit evil.
I guess I have a predicament then. The verse seems to indicate that God created evil, but in my admittedly brief and oversimplified answer to the problem of evil presented above (I would be happy to expand if necessary), God did not create evil.
Can we reconcile this? I think we can.
First, notice the context. Verses six and seven seem to be referring to nature, and then it seems in verse seven we suddenly make a jump to morality. Keep that in mind.
Second, we seem to be talking about a dichotomy of light and darkness, but I would not argue that peace and evil are the same kind of a dichotomy. Again, it seems like an awkward jump that doesn’t fit the context if we are talking about moral evil.
I think that we ought to straighten these issues out. First, I think that we ought to consider the Hebrew word here that is being translated is evil. The word is “rah” and the definition of that word is:
From H7489; bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: – adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil ([-favouredness], man, thing), + exceedingly, X great, grief (-vous), harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief, (-vous), misery, naught (-ty), noisome, + not please, sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. [Including feminine ra’ah; as adjective or noun.]
Obviously, there are a wide variety of translations that could be used here, and in practice, the Bible handles this word many different ways. According to CARM, “rah” is used 663 times in the KJV. 431 times it is translated as “evil,” but the remaining 232 times it is used in a variety of other ways that it can be used. That website affirms, and I agree, that it is hardly necessary for this word to be translated as necessarily evil.
I think that it would also be wise for us to look at the word for peace that is used. I emphasized that the dichotomy between light and dark seems to be paralleled, but peace and evil don’t fit the bill.
This is one of the most popular Hebrew words in popular culture, and it is “shalom.”
From H7999; safe, that is, (figuratively) well, happy, friendly; also (abstractly) welfare, that is, health, prosperity, peace: – X do, familiar, X fare, favour, + friend, X greet, (good) health, (X perfect, such as be at) peace (-able, -ably), prosper (-ity, -ous), rest, safe (-ly), salute, welfare, (X all is, be) well, X wholly.
By looking at the list of definitions, I think the contrast should not be made between morally good and morally evil. It doesn’t seem that “shalom” can carry that kind of meaning. It seems that the translation of peace is actually pretty close to a good representation of what this word means on average if you will.
However, we are still stuck with the issue of “rah” and its definition. If it doesn’t seem appropriate to the structure of the verse to interpret it is morally evil, and if it ought to be the opposite of peace, maybe a better translation of that is affliction or calamity. Those seem to be good opposites for peace if I had to choose from the list above.
Now, that is certainly consistent with the character of the God of the Bible. Think about the people of Egypt. God certainly brought affliction or calamity on them. How about the people of Israel when they began to worship a variety of idols? God often times brought trouble on to them.
Note that none of this implies that God created moral evil. You might think that I am trying to dodge the issue, but I think this is what we need to do more of. All of our Bibles are translations unless of course you are talented enough to read in the original languages. In these situations, I would advise that you grab a concordance and do a little study. For me, it made this verse make a lot more sense, and it does not pose a threat to Christian theology.
Isaiah 44 is a good description of the irony of idol worship. It is interesting to be someone who understands that he or she created the idol but still feels the need to worship it.
Isa 44:9 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.
Isa 44:10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
I think that this is an interesting statement given the criticism of the Bible today. For some people, religion is nothing more than a human construction that we use to control other people. Isaiah, as he is quoting the word from God, is indirectly criticizing that behavior. Wouldn’t it be ironic to be criticizing people who create religions out of nothing while simultaneously promoting something that you know was created out of nothing?
In my mind, that adds some credibility to the statement of Isaiah. Of course, it doesn’t mean that God is real, but it obviously implies that he sincerely believed that the God that he worshiped was something different than all of these others that he is criticizing.
However, this goes even deeper in the case of Isaiah. He was also claiming to speak for God. It went to another level. The first part established that the God that he worshiped was something different than gods made by the hands of others, but now we have something even more definitive. It provides positive evidence in regards to his God. This is a God that he can actually listen to. Not only is He real, but He is also willing to interact with humans. Again, Isaiah is making a bold claim here, and the only thing I can really assume from that is that he sincerely believed he had these experiences.
I think this is powerful testimony. If Isaiah was not speaking of what he truly and sincerely believed, then we can only conclude that he was a hypocrite. He was criticizing people creating religions based on nothing, and it would have been obviously hypocritical to be simultaneously doing that himself.
You could have said that he did it for power. Speaking for God would certainly give your message a little bit more weight if your listeners believed in that God. However, I don’t think you can make that argument here. As you read Isaiah, it is obvious that some of the things he said would not have made him very popular. Tradition holds that he died as a martyr under the reign of King Manasseh. Even if the tradition isn’t true, some of his messages make it clear that he wasn’t really out to win a popularity contest and is actually quite critical.
It doesn’t really follow the Isaiah was in it for power, and I think that you are left with the option that he sincerely believed in the God of the Bible, and he believed that he was simultaneously passing on a message from that God. Now we need to decide what to do with that. Was he simply deluded? Was it wishful thinking? Was it a power grab? Or is it possible that it really did happen to him?
In Isaiah 43, we are observing a conversation between God and the people of Israel. Most of these things seem to apply specifically to the people of Israel and the promises that were given throughout the generations, but there is a passage right in the middle where God is defining some of His own characteristics. I think this helps us learn quite a bit about who God is.
Isa 43:10 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.
Isa 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
Isa 43:12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
Isa 43:13 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?
First, it is interesting that we get a strong statement of monotheism. There was no god before God, and there were none that were created after. This would have come into direct conflict with many of the world religions at the time. For example, when you look at Egyptian deities, there were parents and children who were all part of their pantheon. There were generations of these supreme beings. Judaism, and by extension Christianity, is distinctly different. There is one God who exists as an eternal Trinity. It is not as if God the Father was around first, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit followed after. They are the Trinity.
Verse 11 also stands out because of the emphasis on savior. I immediately want to jump on this and say that it is a Messianic prophecy, and I suppose that it could be. However, I think that it is more consistent with the chapter to interpret this as God being the savior of the people of Israel many times throughout their history. For example, He saved them from Egypt. I think that from our perspective, God certainly did provide a Savior, and I am not denying that whatsoever. However, I think we need to be careful with jumping to conclusions even if they are true in the way.
Verse 12 compliments verse 10 very well. God points out that there were no foreign gods that the Israelites were worshiping when they saw these saving acts. How could you attribute it to anyone else? Who else could have done the saving? After all, if God is truly the only God as we talked about at the beginning, and there are no other options.
God is the one and only God, and He was the God of Israel, and He is still the God of the universe today. Doesn’t this kind of stand out to you? God told us who He is, and that ought to cause us to reflect.
I have heard it said before that the God of the Bible is arrogant, and as I was reading Isaiah 42, I came across a verse that I assume proponents of this position could use to demonstrate why it is obvious that God has some kind of inflated ego.
Isa 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
Basically, God is reminding everyone yet again that He is greater than any kind of idol. In fact, we should not give glory to anyone else. Why can’t God share? Sure, God might be the top priority in our lives, but can’t we only give Him 75% and distribute the other 25% as we see fit? He is still on top, so why can’t He just be happy with that? Why is he so arrogant to believe that He deserves all of it?
I think it is important to realize just to we are talking about here. A few verses earlier, Isaiah introduces God’s speech in the following way.
Isa 42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:
We are talking about the infinite Creator of the universe. We are talking about the one being in the universe who is able to speak matter and energy into existence. We are talking about the omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect ruler of all of creation.
How could anyone possibly compare to Him?
There is an interesting distinction to be made here if we try to compare God to anything else in the universe. Let’s say we try to compare God to a human being. Human beings are pretty impressive creatures, but there is no way to compare finite, weak and morally imperfect creatures to God. If we had to decide between those two where we ought to put our praise, we should choose the greater one. That makes sense. You praise what is most impressive.
Now, say you want to give a human one unit of praise. After all, there are some people who are pretty impressive here on earth. However, God is infinitely greater than even that human. Now, what happens mathematically when something goes to infinity? Everything else goes to zero because in comparison to infinity; it is not anything.
I think this similar concept applies to God. In comparison to whatever praise you might think a human or anything else for that matter deserves, God is infinitely more, and in comparison, the praise left over for the human goes to zero.
God doesn’t demand praise unjustly is my point. He deserves all the praise because of who He is. It is not arrogant to claim to be and establish your position as exactly who you are.