Monthly Archives: June 2014
I feel like we sometimes try to treat God like one of our elementary school substitute teachers. We try to get away with whatever we can figuring that no one will notice. Isaiah 29 damages the error of that kind of thinking.
Isa 29:15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Isa 29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
I think it is kind of funny. We think that we can hide something from someone who is omnipresent and omniscient. If God is everywhere, then He sees everything we do because He is everywhere. If God is omniscient, then He knows everything, and there would be no way that we could do something that He would not know about.
That is kind of how sin works I think. It makes us about what we intellectually know about God. We know that God has these characteristics, but we somehow think that they don’t apply. Somehow, we believe that we can do something in the dark and God just won’t see it.
I think we are guilty of this on some level, but I think that it is something that we can also work on improving. Obviously, I think that we are always working towards finding less sin in our lives, but this particular application is about those secret sins that we commit with full knowledge and think we can get away with.
In Isaiah 28, we get to hear about how far the people of Israel have fallen. Morally, the leaders have gone downhill, and they are simply not doing their job of leading people in worship and dedication to God.
Isa 28:14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
Isa 28:15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Isa 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Isa 28:17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
Isa 28:18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
I am again feeling layers of meaning here. There could be the literal sense. Israel has made agreements and treaties with enemy nations, but because they were not centered on the teaching of God and specifically the prophesied cornerstone Jesus Christ, these agreements are going to fall apart and Israel will be overrun. You can see this with the Roman Empire for example. The people of Israel abandoned the very cornerstone of what made them special, and God was telling them that they are going to be literally overrun.
I think there also can be a bigger picture of salvation here that is a bit more figurative. In essence, we have all signed a contract with death. Because of our sin nature, we have signed a contract that leads to destruction. However, God has given us this cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and through Him, we can tear apart that contract. Yes, we still might get knocked down as it says that the end of verse 18, but Christianity never promised earthly power. The important part in that situation is that we no longer have that contract with death.
These prophetic chapters are fascinating because I feel like the brilliance of them is how they do have these multiple layers of meaning.
We get to meet leviathan again in Isaiah 27, and I think this is an interesting passage that has probably sparked quite a bit of debate among Bible scholars.
Isa 27:1 In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
There isn’t much to go on here, but we know that God is going to deal with leviathan. On one hand, it seems hard to think that leviathan is any type of whale or crocodile here. Why would any type of animal be so bad that it would get this kind of designation? Is not like the Bible points out that God is going to go punish mosquitoes specifically even though they might be among the most annoying creatures on earth. It seems like this is something more than that.
We do have a prophecy about serpent that is going to be crushed, and the context could perhaps be a similar parallel.
Gen 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan did literally take on the form of a serpent. However, as we all know, Genesis 3:15 is not referring to just an animal. This is the first prophecy as far as I know that points towards Jesus. Jesus is going to crush Satan. Yes, the passage is speaking literally because that also happens between natural serpents and humans, but the words could be taken to be referring to not only literal snakes but also to Satan and Jesus.
In the same way, perhaps leviathan was/is a real creature. After all, Job talks about catching one with a hook. That seems to point toward some kind of creature since it would seem odd to use that imagery about a demon or Satan. Maybe this is a similar thing to what we saw in Genesis.
Certainly, leviathan seems like something that is much more than an average animal just like the serpent in the Garden was. It seems like a decent parallel for how we are supposed to understand this creature. There can be layers of meaning.
Isaiah 26 is the kind of chapter where after you read it, you can see some immediate connections to our modern-day lives. I want to point out one of those for you today.
Isa 26:10 Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
Isa 26:11 LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.
This is interesting. It is almost like the concept behind natural theology. God will be revealed to these people, but they will not learn about Him. With natural theology, attributes of God are shown throughout nature, but some people do not recognize Him.
It makes sense when you think about it. The creation ought to be able to tell you something about the creator. It can tell you everything, but it can tell you something. By reading this article, you know something about me. You certainly don’t know everything about me, but this writing does reflect who I am on some level. It is the same way with God and nature. We can’t learn everything from nature, but we can learn some.
I think this is what Isaiah is talking about. The wicked people will recognize that they get some good things in their lives. There is favor shown to them, and they recognize it, but they do not learn the source of it. Even though the favor is a reflection of the graciousness of God, they do not recognize God as the originator of that.
What does it mean for those of us who recognize the graciousness of God? For one thing, I think that we need to be grateful. It is one thing to recognize or acknowledge, and it is quite another thing to be thankful and grateful. For another thing, I think we need to continue expanding our minds. Let me explain what I mean by that. We definitely need to recognize what God does in our lives, but I think that if we could see everything that God does, we would be blown away. He is actively involved in the world in no way that we cannot entirely comprehend. Therefore, I think that beyond recognizing all that we can, we also need to be working to become even more aware and sensitive to the work of God.
In Isaiah 25, we get a very interesting description of what God has done.
Isa 25:3 Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.
Isa 25:4 For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.
I thought this is interesting because at the beginning of verse four, we hear all about the strength of God. We know that, and we know that He is omnipotent. That is one of the basic characteristics of God.
However, then He is described as a refuge and a shelter. Those are more defensive mechanisms if you will. It is not as if God is the storm that is visibly powerful and intimidating. Rather, He is the shelter. He is able to remain despite the storm. Shelters don’t stop the storm, but they are able to outlast them.
We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t take all the evil out of our lives. He doesn’t promise that He will do that. Rather, He promises to be a shelter, and this is not the only passage that uses this type of language.
God promises to be our strength and to help us work through the storm. The storm is not more powerful than Him, so it is not as if the walls are going to cave in or anything like that. When we rely on Him as our strength, we will not fall. We will be able to outlast the storm, and we will ultimately be victorious. God will see us go.
I think that we can sometimes think that maybe the bad things we do are so bad. Maybe it isn’t always what we should have done, but we can justify it by saying that it didn’t hurt anyone or something like that. Isaiah 24 provides us with a different picture.
Isa 24:5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
Isa 24:6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.
We do a pretty good job messing things up, and while this is definitely a future prophecy of a largely desolated earth, it shows a consequence of that will come as a result of our rebellion against God. We are not the only ones who have been affected by the fall of humanity. Because of that, we also do things that hurt other people, and we do things that hurt the earth.
I think the application is rather obvious on this one. We are never going to be perfect because we do live in a fallen world and are fallen people. However, that doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands and let it all go. We talked about that recently in regards to the people of Jerusalem.
We still need to work on this, and even though we do understand that this prophecy will happen, this doesn’t mean that we ought to aim to desolate the earth. That would contradict the way that God has told us to live our lives. However, I think that in our ultimately sinful world, we are seeing the logical conclusion of our actions. We ought to live our lives for Christ in the world that is increasingly becoming more desolate.
Although it is not the most well-known prophecy regarding Tyre, Isaiah 23 makes a claim about the fate of the city.
Isa 23:15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.
Isa 23:16 Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.
Isa 23:17 And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.
Isa 23:18 And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.
It is interesting. Tyre was prophesied to be commercially wiped off the map for all intents and purposes for 70 years. It doesn’t say the city would be destroyed, but it would pretty much be forgotten. That is a pretty measurable prophecy. We can tell if it happened or not because there is a number attached to it.
That being said, it is not necessarily a deal breaker if it hasn’t happened yet. There are prophecies in the Bible that have not been fulfilled yet. In theory, this could be one of those, but I don’t think it is.
Most secular historians will tell you that Jerusalem was taken over in 587 BC. Tyre would have been silenced shortly after that. There are now a few other things that we know.
From verse 18, we can gather that when commercial activity begins again in 70 years, they will do something that is called a God. Specifically, they will provide wood for the rebuilding of the Temple.
Ezr 3:7 They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.
They hired people from Tyre to deliver wood at some point during the construction process. They probably did not deliver it right away. After all, you would not use the wood in the foundation, and you wouldn’t want it just sitting around for years while you wait for the foundation to be in place.
We know that King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, and we know that he died around 530 BC. We also know that after he died, there was a little bit of a gap before King Darius ordered that the Temple to continue being constructed from Ezra 6. King Darius reigned from 522 BC to 486 BC. That fits perfectly into the 70 year prediction. He would have been in the right position at the right time to order the people to continue finishing the Temple.
Tyre would then be resuming the commercial activity of providing wood just as was predicted.
It is remarkable how well the prophecies work out with what we know from history.
Isaiah 22 prophesied a pessimistic future for the city of Jerusalem. At the time Isaiah was writing, Judah was still in command of its capital, but that wasn’t going to be forever.
Isa 22:8 He has taken away the covering of Judah. In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest,
Isa 22:9 and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool,
Isa 22:10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.
Isa 22:11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
Isa 22:12 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
Isa 22:13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Isa 22:14 The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,” says the Lord GOD of hosts.
I could talk about the fulfillment of prophecy, and as we all know, Jerusalem was eventually lost. They were eventually overrun, and again I would ask you to consider the potential of supernatural intervention in the writing of Isaiah.
However, since I have been writing about that for a while, why don’t we take a little bit of a different angle? This is not a happy time. There are problems, and the people ought to be upset. That’s basically what verse 12 is talking about. There are bad times coming.
However, rather than repent and get back to a right relationship with God, they decide to have a party. Why don’t we have all the fun that we can because all is lost anyway?
That is a fatalistic worldview, and it certainly limits what God can do. I feel like people do that nowadays as well. I have messed up my life this far, so why bother trying to turn it around? I am definitely too far gone.
You know what? The forgiveness of God is greater than whatever you might have done. I know that sounds ridiculous, but Jesus died to give us that forgiveness. If you’re reading this post right now, there is no way that you are too far gone for the forgiveness of Jesus to reach you.
In Isaiah 21, we see another prophecy that involves the downfall of Babylon. At the point of writing, Babylon was in a precarious position. Babylon was technically under Assyrian rule around this time in history, but they were beginning to get their kingdom back together. They had been great, but then they were overrun. At this point in history, they were on the rise again.
It was in this environment that Isaiah made a bold prediction.
Isa 21:7 And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
Isa 21:8 And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
Isa 21:9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
This is interesting. Again, like I have been coming back to throughout this book, it would not have seemed likely that Babylon would fall. After all, even though the Babylonian Empire had fallen for some time, the city itself was still intact, and it was still an important part of Mesopotamia for the Assyrian Empire.
In some sense then, it had never fully fallen. It remained prominent, but you have Isaiah talking about Babylon actually falling. That must have been hard for the people to believe. After all, even if foreign invaders had not taken down the city, what would possibly take it down entirely?
As we all know, Babylon does not exist anymore. It is a little bit hard to tell exactly when it went off the map, but we had the very least know that Alexander the Great conquered it, died there, and it fell into ruin sometime after that.
Again, it is interesting that this prophecy came hundreds of years before its fulfillment. I don’t know of any other way to predict this accurately other than through supernatural assistance.
Again, it is important to remember the time that Isaiah was written. Traditionally, it was written in the eighth century BC. As we enter chapter 20, we hear about the people of Egypt and Ethiopia being invaded and led away in slavery. This must have been a ridiculous prophecy at the time since Egypt had traditionally been one of the most dominant empires of the ancient world.
Isa 20:3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;
Isa 20:4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
Isa 20:5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.
Isa 20:6 And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?
That is exactly what happened. Near the middle of the seventh century BC, Esarhaddon was the King of Assyria, and he expanded the empire to include both Egypt and Ethiopia. This prophecy was approximately 50 years ahead of its time, and that is pretty remarkable to say the least.
I find these prophetic passages to be fascinating. We live in a time where you end up with a lot of people making a lot of predictions about a variety of things. I generally laugh at them. We can certainly predict what might happen, but we all do that with the understanding that we very well might be wrong. No one can predict everything correctly.
I take that last sentence back. Isaiah was able to. His predictions were eventually fulfilled. Even ones like this that must have seemed ridiculous were fulfilled. Humans don’t normally do that. People are not able to have this kind of accuracy as a general rule. Is it possible that the best explanation would be a supernatural one?
Unless you have a presuppositional bias that the supernatural is not possible, doesn’t it at least make sense to consider that perhaps Isaiah had some kind of supernatural experience? Maybe he didn’t, but it at least deserves to be in the conversation, and I think that when you look at the evidence, there is no natural way that Isaiah would have had this remarkable accuracy.