Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Isaiah 3: 6-8

6 When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying,
“You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler,
And these ruins will be under your charge,”
7 He will protest on that day, saying,
“I will not be your healer,
For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
You should not appoint me ruler of the people.”
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen,
Because their speech and their actions are against the LORD,
To rebel against His glorious presence.

The description of the madness in Jerusalem becomes clearer through the capturing--or creation--of this dialogue here by Isaiah, as we continue reading in Chapter 3. Last week, we saw how all of the relational institutions of the city had collapsed. Lack of leadership left no one in charge and revealed the depths of the city's devastation, as no one wanted to be in charge.
Look at the dialogue in verse 6: "You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler...." Brings to mind my favorite phrase from Latin I: Vestis virum reddit. (Clothes make the man). If you had the dress, you could address the needs of the nation. You were qualified to be in authority over "these ruins." Matthew Henry, in his commentary, notes the manner by which those were sought to come to power--"When a man lays hold...." There was some violence involved! You can almost see a man grabbing his brother's cloak and forcefully shaking him into accepting his plight.

Yet, "he will protest," because "there is neither bread nor cloak." (vs. 7)
"In a collapsing society, someone who has as little as a decent suit of clothes will seem prosperous enough to be made a ruler. But when the people try to draft such a person, he will reply that his wealth is only an illusion; he has no better answers than they have."
--Reformation Study Bible

Deceptions run rampant.

The one who responds that he cannot lead, because he does not have, also says that he will not be a healer (vs. 7), or, more literally, he will not be a binder of wounds. I'm not sure I disagree, given what we've read of Judah and Jerusalem's condition. Who can put a bandage on all of the wounds? Israel [Ephraim], as we discovered in Hosea, sought outside help.

"When Ephraim saw his sickness,
And Judah his wound,
Then Ephraim went to Assyria
And sent to King Jareb.
But he is unable to heal you,
Or to cure you of your wound."
--Hosea 5:15

The wounds plaguing God's people were not wounds that could be healed through people in positions of earthly power. There would be no solace or understanding coming from the "capricious children" God would place in charge over His people. "For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen...." (vs. 8) God chose to let His people suffer the consequences of their choices, and their wounds would remain for a time--a long time.

Once again, Matthew Henry makes this incredible tie between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament salvation. There would be One who would come as leader and healer, to bind up our wounds, to be our ruler. In peace and humility.

"We may allude to this to show how desperate the case of fallen man was when our Lord Jesus was pleased to become our brother, and, though he was not courted, offered himself to be our ruler and Saviour, and to take this ruin under his hand."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Continuing with Isaiah 3:8, the reason for the stumbling and falling of God's people is due to "their speech and their actions." These two have always gone hand in hand, and they both stem from the attitude of the heart. What is the attitude? "Against the Lord," says verse 8. With that in the heart of the people--the wellspring of their lives--how could anything but a troublesome tongue and sinful actions follow? The later leader of the Jerusalem Church, James would leave his mark in the Word with his words on the dangers of the tongue:

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless."
--James 1: 25 and 26

Worthless religion in Jerusalem! Does one get away with such deception? Not when you're the people of God. This was an overt rebellion "against His glorious presence," as verse 8 concludes, or, in other translations, "against the eyes of His glory." Isaiah builds this picture of a people approaching God's face and, basically, spitting into it with their unbridled tongues and unholy regard. Attention-arousing behavior!

"The eyes of his glory--This is a Hebrew expression to denote 'his glorious eyes.' The eye quickly expresses anger or indignation. We perceive these passions in the flashing of the eye sooner than in any other part of the countenance. Hence, to 'provoke the eyes,' is an expression signifying simply to excite to anger, or to excite him to punish them. Lowth proposes to render this 'to provoke the cloud of his glory'--referring to the Shekinah or cloud that rested over the ark in the temple."
--Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Pretty powerful picture. God takes in so much. But He shows patience and mercy so many times when He could clearly show something else. But, as a Father, there comes a point when enough is enough. The Father had been provoked to respond. Judah and Jerusalem had brought God to that place, and He will rue their state in next week's verses.

"O My people!" God says.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 3:9-12

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).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Isaiah 3: 1-5

Isaiah 3

God Will Remove the Leaders
 1 For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread
And the whole supply of water;
2 The mighty man and the warrior,
The judge and the prophet,
The diviner and the elder,
3 The captain of fifty and the honorable man,
The counselor and the expert artisan,
And the skillful enchanter.
4 And I will make mere lads their princes,
And capricious children will rule over them,
5 And the people will be oppressed,
Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;
The youth will storm against the elder
And the inferior against the honorable.

If you thought to question why God would issue the command to "Stop regarding man....," (Isaiah 2:22), He explains in Chapter 3 of Isaiah. Using the title "Lord God of hosts"--which breaks down into 'Lord,' or Adonai, and 'God of hosts,' which is a title of a mighty warrior--God reclaims His position as THE One in charge by deposing of all other purported leaders.

"Both supply and support" reads verse 1. The two-pronged deposition involves removing the physical, bodily sustenance of the people (bread and water) as well as their intellectual, emotional, spiritual, you-name-it sustenance--all of which is God-provided! Instead of 'support,' other translations use 'staff,' which means everything from a literal walking-stick to any type of support. [Strong's] Instead of "leaning on the everlasting arms," Judah and Jerusalem leaned on everything but.

Verses 2 and 3 list the supporting roles that had superseded God's. As I read through this list, I can't help but draw parallels to what we do in our society today. We relish the life of the rich, famous celebrity. We seek wisdom and knowledge from tarot cards, horoscopes and 1-900-Psychics. Successful people are attractive. "Shrinks" fix our problems. We can easily make our own list. How far are we from looking like Judah and Jerusalem today? Who receives the Oscar for best-supporting role in getting our lives together?

Just as "the idols will completely vanish" (Isa. 2:18), so, too, will God remove the supply and support. The judgment described here will have a double fulfillment. The end-times will bring the ultimate destruction of these supports. But Judah would see a more immediate fulfillment, after Isaiah's prophecy, in its captivity to Babylon. The cross-reference for verse 2's "mighty man and the warrior" is in II Kings 24:
"And Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to the city [Jerusalem], while his servants were besieging it. Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign.... Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land."
--II Kings 24: 11, 12 and 14
Besides removing those in power, God also has the authority to place people in the capacity to rule. Here, though, His choices will not be for the edification of the current system of government, as He will place "mere lads" and "capricious children" to rule. (vs. 4) We must explore the word capricious, because it has as much depth of meaning through our Romance languages as it does in Hebrew. Literally translated, "Caprious children will rule" means "arbitrary power will rule." Strong's says the word means "caprice (as a fit coming on), i.e. vexation." Think of a frustrated, erratically behaving child having a tantrum. Or, think about this image from the breaking down of the roots in the Italian word capriccio: "capo=head + riccio=hedgehog, suggesting a convulsive shudder in which the hair stood on end like a hedgehog's spines." [World English Dictionary]

Sounds a big "flabby" to me! (See last week's post)

Finally, verse 5, can we be surprised by this given the type of leadership to come: "And the people will be oppressed...."? Again, looking at some Hebrew, the word for oppressed comes from a Hebrew root meaning "to drive (an animal, a workman, a debtor, an army)." [Strong's] The people will drive themselves to ruin.

God had a plan when He created the human being. He didn't just want to create another living thing. He created something special, unique, relational. And when man was alone without others like him, God created woman to join him--relationally. "Be fruitful and multiply" was God's encouragement of human relationships. We would be in relationship with God, but we would also have the relationships of others in support. 

But the sin in the Garden has forever damaged the quality of earthly relationships. As God told Cain, "you must master it." (Genesis 4:7) The crux of our relationship problems is not with the people but with the SIN that the people bring into a relationship! Can we stop the oppressiveness? God sent His Son so that our relationship with Him could be forever changed with our belief. It is only through that relationship and our leaning on the staff of His Word that we can work on loving our neighbors as ourselves.

"The Lord is my shepherd....He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.... Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.... Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. "
--Excerpts from Psalm 23 (emphasis mine)

Who's in charge?.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 3: 6-8

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).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Isaiah 2: 19-22

19 Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the LORD
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!!

Praise be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the One through whom we work out our salvation with fear and trembling! He is risen, indeed, that we might worship and serve Him in humility. And as much as that first Easter Sunday resurrection morning was a glorious day, there will be another Day in which we will all see and acknowledge His glory! But, this will not be a glorious day for all....

We conclude Isaiah, Chapter 2, today, with a preview of the Day of the Lord, in which the prophet uses the term "terror of the Lord" to describe the destruction of the Day in tandem with "splendor of His majesty" that which believers in Him would expect from the King in His coming.

Two posts ago, I referenced Revelation 6, which parallels verse 19 and 21 of our text today as well as Isaiah 2:10:

"Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
--Revelation 6: 15-17

Those who have been in denial of the Lord will become fully aware of Him in the events of a Day like no other. They will try to hide themselves from His presence. Hide their sins from His judgment. But, there will be no mercy shown in this time.

Verse 19 holds the first of two references I'll mention to texts in Genesis, the beginnings of creation. "Men will go into holes of the ground." More literally translated, men will go into holes of the dust. This would be the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 3's predicament for unsaved man: "'For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'" (Genesis 3:19b) Though saved man will be dust for a time, their resurrected souls will be given new bodies for a new heaven and a new earth to come, following the Day.

Verse 20 brings more creation to the forefront: moles and bats! It will take the bringing about of the Day of the Lord for the final dispensation of idols (see last week's post). Why moles and bats? It's not clear from my study resources if mole is a literal mole or a rat or a mole-rat. It may be a weasel! The Hebrew word refers to a burrowing animal, and the idea of unsaved man burrowing itself into the ground, the depths of a rock, a place of darkness is the image I'm taking away from all this. Also, Leviticus 11 puts both moles and rats on unclean lists: mole being a "swarming" animal and bats being lumped in with "birds." The Day may well bring for some the realization that their idols are truly unclean.

"The darkest holes, where the moles and the bats lodge, are the fittest places for idols, that have eyes and see not; and God can force men to cast their own idols there."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

A powerful ending in verse 22: "Stop regarding man...." I like how the Amplified Bible issues the command: "Cease to trust in [weak, frail, and dying] man, whose breath is in his nostrils [for so short a time]; in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth?" The word for cease in the Hebrew means "to be flabby." Do you love that?! Think of the wavering, jiggling, back and forth. Reminds me of James in his exhortation to stay steady on God:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
--James 1: 5-7 (emphases mine)

The flabby wisdom of fleeting, vaporous men! This is what Judah followed. Although Jerusalem's ultimate issue is their having turned from God, the close-behind issue is that they put their trust in the things of man.

"Thus says the LORD,
'Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.'"
--Jeremiah 17:5

Note in verse 22 the second reference to Genesis, as we look back upon the creation of man.

"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
--Genesis 2:7

God formed man from dust and not only gave the first man life through breath, but continues to give life to all men by giving them breath. The curse of the fall of man would not only return him to the ground but his sin would drive away the basic fundamental to, "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." (Psalm 100:3a) Why should man be esteemed?

"Put not your trust in man, nor make even the greatest and mightiest of men your confidence; cease to do so. Let not your eye be to the power of man, for it is finite and limited, derived and depending; it is not from him that your judgment proceeds. Let not him be your fear, let not him be your hope; but look up to the power of God, to which all the powers of men are subject and subordinate; dread his wrath, secure his favour, take him for your help, and let your hope be in the Lord your God."
--Matthew Henry

Chapter 3: "God will remove the leaders".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 3: 1-5

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).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Isaiah 2: 13-18

13 And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
15 Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
16 Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
17 The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
18 But the idols will completely vanish.

In poetic fashion, Isaiah expounds on the coming "day of reckoning." (vs 12) Last week, we read that it will come up "against everyone who is proud and lofty." It will not only come up against the people but against how His people have used His creation--it all falls under His judgment.


Verse 13: "the cedars of Lebanon...the oaks of Bashan"

  • I recall looking at the cedars in studying Hosea. In Hosea 14:5, the prophet foretells the time of Israel's ultimate redemption, in which "...he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon." Amos 4:1 spoke of the cows of Bashan--a derogatory name given to Israel for its unholy behavior--in a richly fertile and prosperous land. The image is of mighty, unshakable, towering trees, "lofty and lifted up," not as God-created pillars of His making but as reflections of the status-consciousness of man with ill-seeded expectations.

Verse 14: "lofty mountains...hills that are lifted up"
  • Contrast with this familiar memory verse from the Psalms: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121: 1 and 2, King James Version)

Verse 15: "every high tower...every fortified wall"
  • "You are my strong tower, shelter over me." Jerusalem did not sing as Kutless, but regarded the building of its own magnificent towers as something worthy of praise. "Did Jerusalem glory in the mountains that were round about it, as its impregnable fortifications, or in its walls and bulwarks? These should be levelled and laid low in the day of the Lord." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible)
  • An interesting find in looking at the Hebrew for the term "fortified wall." In addition to speaking of being of inaccessible height, the word comes from a root meaning "to clip off" as in "to gather grapes." This brings to mind a scene from the Day of the Lord, as revealed to John: 
"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.' So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God."
--Revelation 14: 17-19

Verse 16: "all the ships of Tarshish...the beautiful craft"
  • Tarshish was located in southern Spain--all the way west across the Mediterranean Sea. There was lively and successful trade between all of Israel and points west. As a side note, do you remember a prophet who tried to go to Tarshish? Jonah, in his humanly efforts to escape his calling east to Nineveh, hopped a boat in the polar opposite direction to Tarshish. His disobedience cost him--reformed him, but cost him. Without the allegory, Judah should have known its own disobedience.
  • In the King James', "beautiful craft" is translated "all the pleasant pictures." I had taken craft to mean another word for boat. How does this connect with pictures? It's open to interpretation. Matthew Henry postulates what some suggest, that 'pictures' refers to actual artwork that became coveted by its owner as a valuable possession. T. Lewis, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, offers this explanation: "'Pictures' stands for a slightly different word (but from the same root) in Isaiah...'imagery'...'watchtowers'. The prophet probably alludes to carved figures (of gods in animal or human shapes) on the prows of vessels.

That in which man places his pride--his idols (vs. 18)--will be humbled and abased, because God is in control over all things at all times. In His Day, He will be solely exalted, and all idols shall cease to be. Again, the Hebrew word for "vanish" in the NASB paints a much richer picture. It means a "whole burnt sacrifice, perfect, entire"--Strong's also uses the word holocaust.

In this Holy Week, we remember and reflect upon the act and ministry of One who knew no idols. He wept over this city that knew idols yet did not know Him. He came to give us salvation and understanding, to fulfill all the words of the law and the prophets, yet as a humble servant and not a lofty king. He came as the Word, and it is through Him that we make our pride vanish.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.... So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
--Philippians 2: 3, 12 and 13

"And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols."
--I John 5: 20 and 21

Closing out Chapter 2.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 2: 19-22

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).