Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Isaiah 2: 6-9

6 For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob,
Because they are filled with influences from the east,
And they are soothsayers like the Philistines,
And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.
7 Their land has also been filled with silver and gold
And there is no end to their treasures;
Their land has also been filled with horses
And there is no end to their chariots.
8 Their land has also been filled with idols;
They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.
9 So the common man has been humbled
And the man of importance has been abased,
But do not forgive them.

The beginning of our passage today reads as though we are back in Chapter 1 of Isaiah. This is God's case against Jerusalem, and the prophet uses a favorite writing technique of mine--parallel phrasing--to emphatically get the word out.

God has abandoned His people because they are "filled with" all the wrong things:

  • Influences from the east (vs 6)
  • Silver and gold (vs 7)
  • Horses (vs 7)
  • Idols (vs 8)

Let's explore each category a bit more, because there are other details here.

Eastern influences came into Jerusalem in the form of various superstitions and cultural belief systems from places to the east of the city. That Jerusalem was considered to be "soothsayers like the Philistines" indicates that the city was also besieged from the west. The Philistines were known for their journeys into sorcery and other forms of divination. The King James Version uses 'replenished' instead of "filled with influences" which strikes an ugly note, as God's people should have been filled with His Spirit and power rather than replenished by evil influences. How appropriate that the Hebrew for soothsayer means "to cover; cloud over; to act covertly." [Strong's]

"Their country was peopled with Syrians and Chaldeans, Moabites and Ammonites, and other eastern nations, and with them they admitted the fashions and customs of those nations, and pleased themselves in the children of strangers, were fond of them, preferred their country before their own, and thought the more they conformed to them the more polite and refined they were; thus did they profane their crown and their covenant."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The infiltration of these ideas did not only help recalibrate the spiritual and intellectual thinking of the people, but also the business/political environment of Jerusalem. "They strike bargains with the children of foreigners." The city sought out practical relationships and formed alliances with pagan nations in the hopes of maintaining, if not increasing, its status and wealth.

This dovetails with verse 7, which highlights the massive treasures held by Judah. It wasn't enough to merely have silver and gold, but the people actively sought to possess treasures. Again, bringing up my Beth Moore study of James, she mentions a Latin phrase of Ovid's indicative of the time in which James spoke to the Jerusalem church. "Amor sceleratus habendi"--This means "the accursed love of getting." You might want to consider it possessed with possessing!

"You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you."
--James 5: 5 and 6

Thankfulness for the blessings of God?! They didn't recognize God's goodness in the days following the visible presence of Jesus Christ, and neither did the Jerusalem of Isaiah's day. [Do I even have to mention today's world?] Indeed, the corrupt kings who served during Isaiah's ministry offered up their precious gifts to alien nations, seeking their protection.

 "So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, 'I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.' Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria."
--II Kings 16:7 and 8

Verse 7 continues with references to horses and chariots. The accumulation of such items suggests having at hand tools of war. Israel had built up strongholds (walls and towers) as a means of protecting itself from invaders. Judah was taking its possessive ways into its security systems, too. God had made it clear early on that those in charge were not to amass such items but to rely fully and completely upon Him for their safety.

"Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, 'You shall never again return that way.' He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself."
--Deuteronomy 17: 16 and 17 (italics mine
to illustrate that earlier point one more time)

Verse 8--a biggie--the land was filled with idols. God certainly disliked that His people were working so hard to live and act self-sufficiently, trying to keep up with their neighbors. But, top that with the creation of idols, and it's like a straight slap to the face. Not that one sin is greater than another, but--and I've said this before--that "You shall have no other gods before me" is the first Commandment speaks to what is primary on the heart of God. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." The workmanship is ALL His!

"Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them."
--Psalm 115: 4-8

What is left of the relationship between God and His people at this point? Who still acknowledges the presence of the Lord? Verse 9 says both "the common man" and the "man of importance" have fallen to the base of idols.

Is it any wonder the end of our passage today says: "But do not forgive them." There were so many times of past grace. What now?

"What a shame it is that great men think the service of the true God below them and will not stoop to it, and yet will humble themselves to bow down to an idol!"
--Matthew Henry

A bringing about of ultimate humility.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 2: 10-12

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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