Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Isaiah 6: 8-10

Isaiah’s Commission

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” 
Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
 Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Last week's passage was so vivid--as I'm sure it was for Isaiah in experience it--that I'm having a difficult time remembering that this was a vision. But, when God sends a vision of Heaven, complete with the Seraphim, you don't choke that up to just another dream. Truly, visions are much more than that, and what happened to Isaiah in his spiritual cleansing almost defies what we can believe. Yet, this is something that we all need to grasp--God, putting a call on our lives, purifying us for His service and sending us out. From my study Bible:

"Isaiah's vision has made him painfully aware of his sin and has broken him, in this way God has prepared him for his cleansing and his commission."

Verse 8, "Then...."  As if having one of God's supreme angels literally touching him with a censor of cleansing and forgiveness wasn't enough, now, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord. "Who will go for Us?" That 'Us' strongly suggests the Trinity were issuing a joint call. And Isaiah, broken, yet--I'm thinking--with the greatest clarity he has ever experienced, says, "Here I am. Send me!"

"Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart."
--"Here I am, Lord" ("I, the Lord, of Sea and Sky"), Daniel L. Schutte, lyrics

I remember being a newbie Christian and also answering the call to serve as a Stephen's Ministry leader (a lay caregiving ministry). We had a formal commissioning ceremony after two weeks of training. They played this song, and the words burned on my heart (in the best way!). It was as close to an Isaiah experience as I have known. My mission to teach and encourage others in their caring for people in difficult situations was not nearly as daunting as the task that was laid before the prophet, however.

Isaiah's call was to speak to the people of Judah--God's chosen, yet seemingly hopelessly lost people. Verse 9 says that Isaiah was not going to give Judah words they could use but, rather, words that would confuse. In my study Bible, I have this explanation for verse 9 starred and underlined: "Isaiah's message was to be God's instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive people. Centuries later, Jesus' parables were to do the same." A wild call, indeed, but Isaiah would be in the best possible company:

"And He said, 'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'"
--Luke 8:10, Jesus speaking

To what extent was Isaiah to influence? Verse 10 is a must-look-at-the-Hebrew-meanings verse! "Render the hearts of this people "insensitive" or "fat," in the King James'. 'Fat' means "to shine, i.e. (by analogy) be (causatively, make) oily or gross." [Strong's] Isaiah would not be making the hearts of the people shine like the stars. No, no.... God's Word would literally slip off their oily hearts. Wow! "[Render] their ears dull or "heavy," in the KJV. Again, heavy as in so full of the wonderful words of life? No. "To be heavy, i.e. in a bad sense (burdensome, severe, dull)." [Strong's] ; "[Render] their eyes dim or "besmeared" (KJV), meaning "smeared over, blinded." [Strong's]

"That, forasmuch as they would not be made better by his ministry, they should be made worse by it; those that were willfully blind should be judicially blinded: “They will not understand or perceive thee, and therefore thou shalt be instrumental to make their heart fat, senseless, and sensual, and so to make their ears yet more heavy, and to shut their eyes the closer; so that, at length, their recovery and repentance will become utterly impossible...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

If God didn't have everything under His control, you might think this was a crazy plan. But, God knew exactly what He was doing, as He even told all of Israel--through their great leader, Moses--that this precise situation would come about in their lives:

"The Lord alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth....
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation....
The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.'"
--Deuteronomy 32: 12-20 (The Song of Moses), excerpts

It's all there, isn't it? Amazing! What is discouraging is that the "perverse generation" is not completely gone. There are still those who listen and look, but do not find or understand. The "fatness" of the world is clearly evident. My church's recent sermon series on Romans brought this to light this past Sunday, as one of our pastors spoke on Romans 8. It's as if we hold up our hand in God's face, denying His presence in deference to our own wants and pleasures:

"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
--Romans 8:5-8

Again, wow, what a calling for Isaiah! People who "would be made worse by" his ministry, to quote Matthew Henry. Going up full force against the flesh. But, with a mighty calling comes a mighty hand. God was abundantly faithful to Isaiah, granting him a long ministry, and providing him with words that though they may not have penetrated the hearts of all Judah in his day certainly were not lost words. Jesus and His disciples referred to Isaiah so many times in their ministries. Questioning the fulfillment of prophecy? Just note Isaiah's words and the happenings in the New Testament. I digress a bit, but this whole chapter is such a great study in and of itself in receiving a call from God and His preparation of His servants for such a calling.

Yet, a question remains....

"Lord, how long?" God's calls are not forever.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 6: 11-13

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, August 22, 2012

Isaiah 6: 4-7

And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.  
Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, 
which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; 
and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

So much is packed into our short passage today. If you really start digging into the point of what is being relayed, you may well find yourself as Isaiah did--amazed yet terrified at the awesomeness of God and full of angst over being in this presence, knowing what he knew about himself.

Verse 4 probably should have been tucked into last week's passage, as it completes the picture we left--the Lord, sitting on His throne, surrounded by the Seraphim, praising His Name and His holiness. As I was struck with creation responding to God's presence a few weeks back, I am struck with the same thought of mighty power here. The heavenly door sockets ("foundations"), as is inferred in some translations, tremble in His presence! Smoke, representing a combination of His holy judgment and His holy wrath, fills the temple.

It is not odd, then, that Isaiah would respond out of fear. But, as we continue to read in verse 5, there is more than tangible fear being expressed here. "Woe is me, for I am undone," reads the King James Version. In Hebrew, 'undone' means not only to be struck dumb to the point of silence, but to fail or perish [Strong's]. He has "unclean lips," referring not only to things said but from where those things come--an unclean heart.

"Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth
And put devious speech far from you."
--Proverbs 4: 23 and 24

Things HAPPEN when you are in the presence of the Lord. For Isaiah, there was an acute awareness--not of his being called to something incredible but of his own sinfulness. He recognized his failures to live by the Lord's way. He might have felt like perishing, to pull out that Hebrew meaning of 'undone' a little further. The prophet recognized that he was undeserving to be in the presence of the one and only, holy God! Peter found himself in a similar situation, encountering Jesus after an uneventful fishing trip that suddenly turned favorable.
"...their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, 'Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!' For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken...."
--Luke 5:6-9 (excerpts)

The view of God in His glory must have been so overwhelming. Yet, when Isaiah came to terms with that, the immediate thought was his unworthiness to have this view. Not only was he unclean, but his people were unclean, and he was living among them. This is how Matthew Henry rephrases and expounds on this: “I dwell in the midst of a people who by their impudent sinnings are pulling down desolating judgments upon the land, which I, who am a sinner too, may justly expect to be involved in.” How could Isaiah have expected to receive such a vision when his whole nation was under judgment by God? The overwhelming view of God against the overwhelming view of his sin against this incredible moment of grace in his glimpse of the heavenlies. [Whew!...Wow, right?!]

It tore Isaiah up, to the point that he needed an intervention. Verses 6 and 7 describe it. One of the Seraphim comes to him.

"Note, God has strong consolations ready for holy mourners. Those that humble themselves in penitential shame and fear shall soon be encouraged and exalted; those that are struck down with the visions of God’s glory shall soon be raised up again with the visits of his grace; he that tears will heal....   Here was one of the seraphim dismissed, for a time, from attending on the throne of God’s glory, to be a messenger of his grace to a good man; and so well pleased was he with the office that he came flying to him."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Not only does the angel come down from Heaven, but he brings a burning coal from its temple altar. Isaiah's "unclean lips" are touched by the hot coal, and he is cleansed of his iniquity, his sins forgiven. (vs. 7) I'm wondering which segment of these verses is more incredible: Being in the presence of God and recognizing His unparalleled holiness in the face of unworthiness, or being in the presence of one of God's most special angels to be personally purified, sin-purged and sanctified for His service.

More important than answering that question is to see that though Isaiah was chosen to receive this vision for God's unique purpose for him, I should not be that far away from Isaiah in witnessing the glory of God from the view in which He has blessed me; recognizing the deepness of my own unworthiness in His presence; pursuing repentance in light of being "undone"; and, seeking the cleansing and receiving the forgiveness made possible through the saving work of "the King, the Lord of hosts." (vs. 5)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me....
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise."
--Psalm 51: 10, 14 and 15

The commissioning.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 6: 8-10

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, August 15, 2012

Isaiah 6: 1-3

Isaiah’s Vision

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death  
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, 
with the train of His robe filling the temple.
2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  
And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Just as we all do not have the same spiritual gifts, we all do not receive the same callings in life. Not everyone can be a prophet. [Praise God!] Even though Isaiah has begun to share the word from God in the first 5 chapters of his book, the prophet now unfolds for us in Chapter 6 how God called him to become a prophet with his receiving of a vision and his commissioning.

"In the year of King Uzziah's death...." King Uzziah reigned in Judah for 52 years, from 813 B.C. to 739 B.C. He was a God-honoring king, and "as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him." (II Chronicles 26: 5b) But, Uzziah did not always honor God, as was evident when his pride on the battlefield filled his heart so that he thought he was worthy enough to burn incense on the altar of incense in the temple (which was the duty of the priest). As he stood with an incense censor in his hand, challenging the priests, leprosy broke out upon him and never left.

"So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, 'He is a leper.' And Jotham his son became king in his place."
--II Chronicles 26:23

Such was the political and spiritual environment of Judah when Isaiah is called in by God to minister. I do like Matthew Henry's perspective on the time:

"From the mortality of great and good men we should take occasion to look up with an eye of faith to the King eternal, immortal. King Uzziah died under a cloud, for he was shut up as a leper till the day of his death. As the lives of princes have their periods, so their glory is often eclipsed; but, as God is everliving, so his glory is everlasting."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah tells us about his vision from God, as verse 1 continues. My study Bible describes this experience as Isaiah having an "inner eye." This was not a dream, but some kind of unconscious-to-reality experience. In Revelation, John would experience something similar, in that a new reality was being revealed in real time. Isaiah begins to describe the heavenly realms, with the Lord on His throne and His garment filling the sanctuary of Heaven to completion.

"Seraphim stood above Him...." There are divisions in the hierarchy of angels, and the Seraphim were very close to God. This is a Hebrew word probably meaning "burning ones." (Reformation Study Bible) Isaiah describes them in verse 2 by noting their six wings and what they do. Like Moses facing the burning bush, these angels were not worthy to look upon the face of the Lord either, so two wings cover their face. Two wings over the feet may represent a position of humility and reverence. Finally, two for flying!

And the Seraphim were definitely not standing still in the presence of the Lord. Isaiah received a glimpse of the heavenly choir, with the Seraphim in worship saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts." [In case you were wondering about the inspiration for the words of that hymn, and many others!] This same song will be referenced in Revelation--the angels, once again, praising the Lord and His holiness. Some commentary suggests one 'Holy' for each person of the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--though others say that the Seraphim focused on holiness in Christ deliberately, and with wonder and joy. How often do we contemplate the true holiness of God?

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see You. I want to see You.
To see You high and lifted up,
Shining in the light of Your glory.
Pour out Your power and love,
As we sing holy, holy, holy."
--Open the Eyes of My Heart, lyrics by Paul Baloche

"The whole earth is full of His glory"--More literally translated, this part of verse 3 says "the fullness of the whole earth is His glory." Back in the days of the wilderness, when the Glory would come before the Israelites in fire and cloud, it would be difficult to imagine glory filling the whole earth. Heaven is not earth, and earth--while a dear creation to God and our means of witnessing His holiness daily--is not Heaven!

What an incredible way to start a ministry! For Isaiah, the earthly picture is so depressing, as the longtime ruler fails to obey God and succumbs to leprosy. Isaiah is called in to offer up chapters of future judgment and a sentence to exile. Yet before this difficult task at hand, God gives him a view of eternity. Can there be anything more inspiring? Anything more encouraging? Fortifying? When we wonder how Isaiah can deliver the word as he does, lasting over the reigns of four kings, maybe we need only look back to this moment.

Isaiah's response to glimpsing Heaven.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 6: 4-7

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, August 8, 2012

Isaiah 5: 26-30

26 He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation,
And will whistle for it from the ends of the earth;
And behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
27 No one in it is weary or stumbles,
None slumbers or sleeps;
Nor is the belt at its waist undone,
Nor its sandal strap broken.
28 Its arrows are sharp and all its bows are bent;
The hoofs of its horses seem like flint and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.
29 Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions;
It growls as it seizes the prey
And carries it off with no one to deliver it.
30 And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea.
If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress;
Even the light is darkened by its clouds.

We conclude Isaiah, Chapter 5, far from the beautiful vineyard that opened this chapter. This reads more like a scene out of "Braveheart" than "A Walk in the Clouds."

Last time, we talked about God's hand being in total control of this situation. The judgment and consequences facing Judah were His doing. He would "lift up a standard,"--a flag, sail or sign [Strong's]--to a "distant nation." A signal flare of sorts was fired to a nation that was not part of Israel--likely, forces from the Assyrian Empire. ("These would be Syria, Assyria, Babylon, etc. The imperial Assyrian army was composed of mercenaries hired from all over the Assyrian Empire."--Reformation Study Bible). Strong's includes one more definition in an explanation of the Hebrew for 'standard'--token. God was handing off Judah as if someone were receiving a token for a high score in an arcade game. Here, catch....

"'Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. 'The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand....'"
--Deuteronomy 28: 47-49
Verse 26 says that God will "whistle" for this armament. This whistle is not a still small voice as Elijah would have heard in recognizing God. Again looking at the Hebrew, the word means "to be shrill, i.e., to whistle or hiss (as a call or in scorn)." [Strong's] More like the tea kettle at high boil kind of whistle! Or a hissing that would have sounded like a bee, as Assyria was noted for its bees. [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] And once the call was issued, the forces would come "with speed swiftly," which certainly emphasizes the point.

Isaiah takes the next several verses to describe the army. Verse 27 describes a group dressed for battle with nothing of strength out of place. Not a one weary, stumbling, or sleepy. The phrasing chosen here reminds me immediately of Psalm 121: "He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (verses 3b and 4) The Lord was lifting up an army with Divine might.

"If God set up his standard, he can incline men’s hearts to enlist themselves under it, though perhaps they know not why or wherefore. When the Lord of hosts is pleased to make a general muster of the forces he has at his command, he has a great army in an instant...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The army of total preparedness has perfect equipment as well. Bows and arrows, groomed and at the ready. Horses with hooves that "seem like flint," (verse 28) meaning of great hardness, so that they would be prepared to ride the miles and withstand the attack to come. Their chariots would kick up the dust, as if a "whirlwind." It is with the reference to chariots that some commentaries I read suggested this entire passage might also refer to other times of judgment and invasion, such as the emergence of the Roman Empire. More on this thought in a moment....

Verse 29 goes figurative, as the invading force takes on the persona of a roaring lion. Isaiah describes the take-over of Judah as if a lion attacking its prey. It begins with a commanding roaring, moves to a satisfying growl, the seize and, finally, the unchallenged escape. Babylon invaded Jerusalem in 586 B.C., destroying the temple and leading a host of Jews back to exile. If only Isaiah's words had sounded to God's people as a roaring lion.

"Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking to them by his prophets, but stopped their ears against their charms, shall be made to hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them and shall not be able to turn a deaf ear to it."
--Matthew Henry

Finishing up with verse 30 out of the King James Version:

"And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof."

The idea of Scripture being applicable in more than one place and time (Assyrian Empire; Roman Empire; End Times) shouldn't surprise us. This is a living, active word! (Hebrews 4:12) Surely, in the exile of Judah and the destruction of the temple, there would be darkness in the heavens. I know what you're thinking, though: This was at God's hand! He could have intervened, done something different. But, as I hope we've learned from the little of Isaiah that we have tackled so far, we are talking about a people that had turned so far away from God that drastic measures were necessary. And, truly, when you read passages in Deuteronomy, like Chapter 28, this was the punishment to fit the disobedience. No surprises here!

It is hard to see this as a "tough love" situation, but, through discipline, God was trying to reach them and bring them back to Himself. This is a way He shows His love for us. And a time was coming in which there would be the greatest showing of His love ever known. Yet, history repeats itself....

"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
--John 1: 4 and 5

The "darkness" did not understand, but led the true Light of the world to the cross. "And if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof."

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured...."
--Luke 23: 44-45a

"...The earth shook and the rocks were split. ...When they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'"
--Matthew 27: 51-54 (excerpts)

THINGS HAPPEN in the presence of God, even as the heavens are darkened and saddened at the will of those who do not see. Might we hear the roaring cry of the prophets, the roaring cry of our Savior--the Lion of Judah [How about that flip on a metaphor!?]--so that we will not continue to walk in darkness, but have the light of life? (John 8:12)

Before that Day of the last roaring?

"'There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.'"
--Luke 21: 25 and 26 (Jesus speaking

How Isaiah became a prophet. Chapter 6 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 6: 1-3

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, August 1, 2012

Isaiah 5: 24 and 25

24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble
And dry grass collapses into the flame,
So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust;
For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people,
And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down.
And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets.
For all this His anger is not spent,
But His hand is still stretched out.

With his use of dramatic imagery continuing, Isaiah speaks of the judgment awaiting Judah at the hand of God.

I thought about taking a picture of our backyard when I read about stubble and dry grass in verse 24. Appropriate in this scorcher of a Central Virginia summer! But the image above fits Isaiah's words better, as he describes what could be seen as tongues of fire "licking up straw" (New International Version) and dry grass practically melting in the flames. It's a fire that spreads like a hot post on Twitter!

"Sinners make themselves as stubble and chaff, combustible matter, proper fuel to the fire of God’s wrath, which then of course devours and consumes them, as the fire devours the stubble, and nobody can hinder it, or cares to hinder it. Chaff is consumed, unhelped and unpitied."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The result is that the once-abundant vineyard that was Judah is facing rot at its core. And without roots, you have no shoots, much less blossoms, much less fruit.
"Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him,
And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity;
Judah also has stumbled with them.
They will go with their flocks and herds
To seek the Lord, but they will not find Him;
He has withdrawn from them....
Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment,
Because he was determined to follow man’s command.
Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim
And like rottenness to the house of Judah."
--Hosea 5: 5, 6, 11 and 12

We read, again, in verse 24, that it is Judah's rejection of the law and despising of the word that brings about this incredible wrath from God. What has happened to the book of the law? Remember, Isaiah is writing of a time of extreme apostasy by the leadership and the people. Not that all who sat on the throne were spiritually lost, but more of them were unrighteous than righteous.

"'Go, inquire of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.'"
--II Kings 22: 13

King Josiah came to power after Isaiah's prophecy and death. He was one of the righteous who served prior to the fall of Jerusalem. God's wrath had been burning against the people, but Josiah hadn't quite figured out what the cause was. (He was 8 when he first took the throne!) In 622 B.C., some 18 years into his leadership, Josiah summoned his scribe to go to the high priest to work through a financial transaction--he wanted the workman repairing the house of the Lord to be paid. In that visit, the high priest uncovered the book of the law to share with the scribe, who shared it with the king. As his scribe read the word, Josiah tore his clothes--a sign that he understood the sacredness of the law and the resulting response from God against His people.

[Our merciful God showed Josiah grace from His wrath in that He told the king he would pass from this life (609 B.C.) before the initiation of captivity at the hands of Babylon (587 B.C., in or about).]

Picking up with verse 25, because of the blatant disregard for God's Word, upon which rests the foundation for the ongoing relationship His people have with the Lord, God is angry and is stretching out His hand against His people. One of the cross-references for this verse is in Exodus, with Aaron, holding up the staff that God gave Moses, and calling for Egypt's waterways to be turned to blood. This same hand that protected and provided for these people under so many circumstances is now to be held up against them. I just find the imagery so compelling.

"Mountains quake because of Him
And the hills dissolve;
Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence,
The world and all the inhabitants in it."
--Nahum 1:5

I hadn't taken in the full meaning of this idea until reading this passage in Nahum. "Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence." Who was bringing that state of calamity upon Judah? God is fully responsible. His presence causes upheaval in our lives. And we can see this in a positive light [His people needed a wake-up call!] or a negative one [Captivity is painful, Lord!], but we need to understand that THINGS HAPPEN in the presence of God! Here, He says, "I'm angry! You will notice my presence!" Judah's road to hard times was being announced through Isaiah. Babylon was merely a tool in the Lord's battle arsenal. Captivity and the loss of their home will cause the nation to "be still and know that I am God."

Again, I note the frustration in the work of the prophet who would not see the times change with his warnings. That progressing work would come in exile, with the prophet Daniel bringing together all of these thoughts in his prayer to God on behalf of His people:

"Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice."
--Daniel 9:11-14

A "distant nation" is coming.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 5: 26-30

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).