Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Isaiah 9: 4-7

For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,
The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.
For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

This is going to be an interesting post. I say that because even though it contains one of the most oft-quoted passages of Scripture for this upcoming season, I find myself reading it with new eyes. I've spent enough time with the prophets, thinking about their call and how they carried it out, that I'm starting to see this more from the point-of-view of the prophecy's first audience. That's good for my understanding, but, knowing how Judah and the nation of Israel have yet to come around to the true knowledge of the passage makes reading this not nearly as exciting as it should have been, perhaps.

Last week's passage left off with a time of celebration and thanksgiving, with God being the One celebrated and thanks being given to Him for what He had done. Celebrate "as men rejoice when they divide the spoil." (vs. 3) The next verse picks up with similar thoughts, as the people will celebrate as conquerors because God has broken the yoke of their oppression. (vs. 4) God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and He would do it again in breaking the yoke of the nation's ties to foreign nations. They would not be in alliance with them nor would they be held in captivity by them. More figuratively, God would also break the yoke of the Law, once and for all, in the manifestation of His Son as King upon this earth. The invitation for yoke-breakage is available now:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
--Jesus speaking in Matthew 11: 28-30 

Before we leave verse 4, just a note on the reference to the "battle at Midian." This is the story of Gideon's victory over the Midianites, as mediated by God. (You can read this wonderful account of God's hand and provision in Judges 7.) Such a trust Gideon had built up through God's working in him. God also helped him to understand that the battle truly does belong to the Lord, and success comes through Him and not the power of the people alone. Judah needed to hear that message again in light of its kings and its kings' ways.

"If God makes former deliverances his patterns in working for us, we ought to make them our encouragements to hope in him and to seek to him."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Love Matthew Henry! Feel like you don't see God at work? Sometimes, it's just a matter of looking to the past and remembering. This is advice passed down through the generations back to Abraham. How many times does God tell people in His Word to remember?

Verse 5 continues on the theme of battle, speaking of a time of no war, as the boots and cloaks of warfare will be burned. According to the Reformation Study Bible, "The debris left from battle can be removed and burned when the fighting stops." "Every boot," the passage says will be available for burning. A time of ultimate peace was coming, and it would come through the sign that Isaiah revealed in Chapter 7.

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."
--Isaiah 7:14
As we go through these phrases, try to put yourselves in the shoes of the first hearers. What were their impressions of this prophecy? Not trying to be cynical. Just remembering what it was like not to know the Truth.

"A child is born...a son will be given"--Isaiah revealed the sign of the Lord, that a newborn son would usher in an era of unknown and lasting peace. From Chapter 7, we know his name is Immanuel, which means God with us. Every name in Hebrew is significant. But were the people thinking literally or that this was just the announcement of another birth of a son, born under very unusual [unexplainable] circumstances?

"Government will rest on His shoulders"--With the addition of this phrase, it now suggests that Isaiah is announcing the arrival of another king. Good news or same-old/same-old? Later, in verse 7, he says that this king will be "on the throne of David." Would that create a flurry of activity as present-day family members were sought for clues and details? Despite his shortcomings, David was still an honored name as far as kings went. "Justice and righteousness" would be established and upheld. (vs. 7) The longing for a good and proper king would be fulfilled. I can see how anyone in the nation of Israel at that time would be anxious for restoration of government. But, did anyone understand that this King's kingdom was not known of this world?

"Wonderful Counselor"--This phrase denotes a thoughtful wisdom. All kings should possess this quality, and smart Judeans should have questioned King Ahaz's counsel, especially in conspiring with nations that would ultimately defeat and haul away the homeland. Did anyone suspect that the King to come would truly display signs and wonders, not to mention the wisdom of the ages?

"Mighty God"--Strength! This king would not be a wimp. But, Judah would not understand that it was literally God who would be--and should have always been--its King. Had they only embraced His power and might in seeking Him sooner.... Would this king be a mighty warrior, like a Gideon or David or Joshua, or would they understand that He would come with the might to save them for all eternity?

"Eternal Father"--Looking at the line of kings, they were fathers, but many not great fathers. What would an "eternal" father have looked like to them? Did they understand that God the Father had been their Father from the beginning of time and was providing them an eternal salvation? Maybe so, yet this eternal salvation would come not through their own efforts or merit or history, but through the giving of His Son, the child born?

"The Jewish nation, and particularly the house of David, were preserved many a time from imminent ruin only because that blessing was in them. What greater security therefore could be given to the church of God then that it should be preserved, and be the special care of the divine Providence, than this, that God had so great a mercy in reserve for it?"
 --Matthew Henry

"Prince of Peace"--King and Prince? A champion of peace? In a nation that to this very day continues to be warring, could Israel accept the arrival of a Prince of Peace?
"As a King, he preserves the peace, commands peace, nay, he creates peace, in his kingdom. He is our peace, and it is his peace that both keeps the hearts of his people and rules in them. He is not only a peaceable prince, and his reign peaceable, but he is the author and giver of all good, all that peace which is the present and future bliss of his subjects."
--Matthew Henry

This was a kingdom that would have no end to its increase or its peace. (vs. 7) Unheard of, right? So many things desired. So much to put one's hope toward. But, what is Isaiah really saying? When? Who? Really?! Given the political climate and worldview of the day, it strikes me, not surprisingly, that people missed it. Even with the heritage, the covenants, the promises, the teachings.... They were still looking to fill holes on the outside instead of those in the inside. What do you think?

But, if you do believe, you know that hearing these words of prophecy throughout this Advent season is a source of great comfort, encouragement, hope and joy!

"'...Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'"
--Luke 2: 10-14

"God's anger with Israel's arrogance." 'Til next Wednesday.... 

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 9: 8-12

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).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Isaiah 9:1-3

Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace

1 But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; 
in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun 
and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, 
by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
3 You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Chapter 8 left us with a picture of "distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish." (8:22) Thankfully, Isaiah's words continued directly into Chapter 9--and the news is brighter, literally!

To get through verse 1, we need to address some place names. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the territories--part of the 12 tribal lands of Israel--on the border of Galilee (see map below), and those areas among the first to be invaded by Tiglath-pileser of Assyria.

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria."
--II Kings 15:29
As God would bring this warring nation to Judah, He first brought it to destroy Israel. The nation would not be a nation as it knew itself after its captivity. The people would be scattered. Times were truly dark. But what Isaiah's message says is that the gloom of this situation would not last; that God would, again, "make it glorious." The ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy has yet to be seen, as it will come with Christ's second coming. The foreshadowing of that fulfillment came with His first Advent.

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
--Matthew 4: 12-17

One of the great blessings of studying Isaiah is seeing the direct relationship and fulfillment of so many of his prophecies--both in Old Testament and New Testament times. Matthew records the very Scripture we read today out of Isaiah 9, and Jesus lived out these recorded words in his ministry. This "great light" would be the Messiah, "the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." (John 1:9) The word of prophecy should have been a word of hope to a people in the darkness of captivity.

"In the worst of times God’s people have a nevertheless to comfort themselves with, something to allay and balance their troubles; they are persecuted, but not forsaken, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. And it is matter of comfort to us, when things are at the darkest, that he who forms the light and creates the darkness has appointed to both their bounds and set the one over against the other...."
 --Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
"You shall multiply the nation," says verse 3. This would have had significant meaning to Israel, as God was reaffirming the covenant that He made with Abraham: "...Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." (Genesis 22:17) For a scattered people to not only see itself again as a nation but as a nation blessed by God should have been a comfort. There was hope for the exiled children, that this "seed" would "possess the gate of their enemies."

"We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own."
--We Gather Together, lyrics by Adrianus Valerius
There is an interesting section of verse 3. This is how it reads in the King James Version: "Thou has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy...." (emphasis mine) At first, this would seem a little odd, especially in the context of what the rest of the passage is saying. If there's no more gloom, wouldn't joy be on the rise? It would be if it were the proper kind of joy.

"Yet it follows, Thou hast not increased the joy—the carnal joy and mirth, and those things that are commonly the matter and occasion thereof. But, notwithstanding that, they joy before thee; there is a great deal of serious spiritual joy among them, joy in the presence of God, with an eye to him."
--Matthew Henry

Isaiah does make comparisons to earthly gladness associated with this joy. It will be like the celebration over the gathering of the harvest or sharing the spoil of a victorious battle. The celebration will not be over the goodness of that gathered or gained, but, rather, in the One who enables the gathering and the victory; the One who brings forth and is true goodness! 

"Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
--Bringing in the Sheaves, lyrics by Knowles Shaw

In this season of Thanksgiving, let us remember that while we have much to be thankful for, we celebrate not that which we have, but give all glory, laud and honor to the One who has given beyond measure, by His grace unto us. And we shall come to Him, rejoicing!

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
--Psalm 100, King James Version

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
"For a child will be born to us".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 9: 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, November 14, 2012

Isaiah 8: 19-22


19 When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists 
who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God?  
Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?
20 To the law and to the testimony! 
If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.
21 They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, 
and it will turn out that when they are hungry, 
they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward.  
22 Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.

Closing out Chapter 8 of Isaiah with another strong message through the prophet that gives us pause for today. Doing some "ghost-busting" (vs. 19)....
Before Israel became a divided kingdom, its first king, King Saul, had banished mediums and spiritists in obeying the law of God--since He would turn His face away from those nations who allowed consultations through them. Yet, when faced with a pending battle with the Philistines and having heard no word from God on how to handle the battle, the king takes matters into his own hands, going undercover into Philistine-controlled land and consulting--you guessed it--a medium for aid! To heap more problems upon himself, he assures the medium, "as the Lord lives," (I Sam. 28: 10) that she will not be in trouble, even as he asks her to call up the spirit of Samuel. What's really incredible is that God allows Samuel to been seen and heard, only for Samuel to give the king the message that his disobedience will cost him.

[Contrast this, again, to King Ahaz's situation, with God pulling out all the stops in endowing wisdom--prophet's words, validation of success, offer and presentation of a sign (of the Messiah, no less!)--yet no belief!! Is it any wonder God is frustrated with His human creation and their pursuance of their own will?]

As Scripture shows us time and time again, God's Word is ever-consistent. Should Isaiah or any other authority in Judah consult with mediums and spiritists? Should they consult with the dead in the hopes of attaining help? (vs. 19) Judah's King Manasseh, who came to rule after Isaiah's ministry, showed no regard for him [as tradition holds he had Isaiah sawn in two inside a hollow log] nor his bringing God's Word to light.

"He [Manasseh] made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger.... ...Manasseh seduced them [Judah] to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel."
--II Kings 21:6 and 9

So, when there is trouble, who ya gonna call? "To the law and to the testimony!" (vs. 20) Last week, we read God's word to Isaiah to "bind up the testimony [or teaching], seal the law among my disciples." (8:16) We are not advised to go to the [spiritually or otherwise] dead for guidance. We should seek out the living--those who live and walk in the Light, the light of God's teaching! Isaiah would carry that Light through his ministry to those would listen, to those who "had ears to hear," as the New Testament would say. The remnant of believers. Because, those who did not follow the testimony, "have no dawn." (vs. 20) There is no light that rises in them, no dayspring. [Hebrew definitions from Strong's]

"O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel."

--Lyrics from "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

"Those will never be drawn to consult wizards that know how to make a good use of their Bibles."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

For Judah, the consequences that follow God's judgment are again outlined in these last verses, with an Assyrian invasion leaving their once-rich land in a state of depravity, resulting in hard times and famine (vs. 21). Instead of looking to their own disobedience, they will blame their king; they will blame "their" God. But, in the end, the darkness is in and of themselves, and "they will be driven away into darkness" (vs. 22) as exile in Babylon will offer them no relief.

Go beyond the historical facts, though, won't you? This "hunger" and "darkness" refer as much to one's current spiritual state and future spiritual welfare as it does to what Isaiah's prophecy means to Judah's immediate future of the day. Without a relationship with the Lord, one will walk through life hungering, because something is missing in the heart (often referred to as "a God-shaped hole"). Until we recognize that only One can fill what is missing, we will be missing out on the abundant life that He has given to us. Indeed, there is no rest.

"Those that go away from God go out of the way of all good. They shall be very uneasy to themselves, by their discontent and impatience under their trouble. A good man may be in want, but then he quiets himself, and strives to make himself easy; but these people when they shall be hungry shall fret themselves, and when they have nothing to feed on their vexation shall prey upon their own spirits; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment."
--Matthew Henry

Out-of-control anxiety leads to frustration, anger, blaming, lawlessness. [Read the Book of James and see how trouble can build up and over out of a conflicted heart.]

Not only do we face dark times in our lives, but the darkest time is yet to come. Isaiah's prophecy will apply to the coming Day of the Lord.

"Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,
For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?
It will be darkness and not light...."
--Amos 5:18

For the Jews, the Pharisees, notably, the Lord's return meant salvation was coming. But, as Jesus tried to teach them through a parable, salvation had already come! Yet, they had not believed. They had not listened and heard and understood the words of the prophets. Cross-reference searches on today's passages led me to Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus (not the one Jesus raised from the dead). Please click on that link and read this story. I felt as though it was one I had never read. It is as much a story for the Judah of Isaiah's day as it is a story for this minute!

The opportunity to know God through a relationship with His Son, the Messiah who has come and will come again, and through God's Word in the Bible is here right now. May we take Isaiah's words to heart--to know, accept and live "the law and the testimony"--lest we continue to "live" in the dark and die to the dark.

"But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’

But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"
--Luke 16: 25-31

"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'"
--John 8:12

"Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace"--O Happy Day! Starting Chapter 9.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 9:1-3

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, November 7, 2012

Isaiah 8: 13-18


13 “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
14 “Then He shall become a sanctuary;
But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,
And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 “Many will stumble over them,
Then they will fall and be broken;
They will even be snared and caught.”
16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
17 And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; 
I will even look eagerly for Him. 18 Behold, I and the children 
whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel 
from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.

Not sure who first coined "God-incidence" for coincidence, but it's a concept that I fully believe. In other words, nothing happens by accident! Everything that occurs in our lives happens for a reason and is under the control of Almighty God. I cannot turn to this study week in and week out without seeing His presence and His Word having an impact on something happening in my world.

I'm sidetracking a little bit, now, but I've been so moved by the group Bible study that I'm in that has focused on the ministry of Paul. We just finished reading Acts 27 about one of his shipwrecks. Before he was even put on the boat (as a prisoner on his way to Rome), Paul was visited by the presence of Jesus and assured that he would preach in Rome. It was that utter confidence in the words of His Savior that spoke through him in his journey, even as his ship with 276 passengers faced utter demolition by storms. O, to have the discernment and the confidence of walking through trials with the assurance of Jesus and God's Word for us!

Really, I think this is what was happening with Isaiah in Chapter 8, as God is reassuring the prophet of his calling, despite the incredible obstacles he would face in trying to get the Word out to Judah. God was basically saying, You will be disappointed! You will feel like a failure! The people will come up against you. But, I will be your sanctuary (8:14), even though those around you will not see the Truth. There are many across the United States who are disappointed this morning, feeling that their votes have failed them. God's Word may well be for those today. I will be your sanctuary! But, see what else Isaiah said before you claim that verse today, OK? Here we go....

Last week's passage ended with God saying, "And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it." (8:12) This week's passage begins with an answer to what Isaiah should fear: "It is the Lord of hosts...." (8:13) Who is holy? There is only One--the Lord of hosts. Not kings. Certainly not idols. Not culture or whatever arguments the people would bring against him. If Isaiah kept God holy--sanctified and set apart from everything else worldly--then he would remain strong in the Truth and in his presentation of such, no matter what else was said against him.

Verse 14 comes with that all-important word 'Then'! What comes first? Honoring the Lord of hosts as holy above all. "Then, He shall become a sanctuary." (8:14, emphasis mine) This is why I put the caution on claiming this verse outright. You cannot claim the sanctuary--the refuge, protection and security of the Lord--if you do not honor the holiness of God! Down the line, there is nothing Judah would have wanted more than to claim sanctuary, especially in an invasion from an established ally [Assyria]. How Isaiah's words here could have spoken to them if the nation had accepted God as holy! But we know they did not--not before the time of the prophets nor after the time of the Messiah.

The rest of verse 14 and then verse 15 both address not only Judah but the state of the entire nation of Israel--the 12 tribes! They did not believe in the holy nature of God and His plan, nor would they recognize God in the flesh, as their Messiah walked amongst them. Many passages in the New Testament refer to the words Isaiah received regarding the "stone" and the "rock." [Not surprisingly, the Amplified Bible capitalizes both of those words in the Isaiah passage.]

"For this is contained in Scripture:
'Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.'
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
'The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,'
and, 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense';
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."
--I Peter 2: 6-8 (from which Peter pulled Scripture in Isaiah and Ephesians)

God's Word had not changed for Israel, nor had His warnings and exhortations to the people to repent and believe. There was given the opportunity for refuge and provision, but accepting God as holy above all proved too great a cost in the lives of the people. So....

"...He would be a terror to them, as he would be a support and stay to those that trusted in him. Instead of profiting by the word of God, they should be offended at it; and the providences of God, instead of leading them to him, would drive them from him. What was a savour of life unto life to others would be a savour of death unto death to them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Not all would be lost! Isaiah took heart in what he heard next from God: "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." (8:16, emphasis mine) There would be some who would believe and who would accept the Word of God, the teachings through Isaiah. "They had the responsibility of maintaining written records of his [Isaiah's] prophecies so that they could become public after the prophesied Assyrian invasion," says my study Bible. But, more importantly, they would move forward the Truth that God's chosen people would receive the fulfillment of His promises. Yes, a remnant would be saved!

Verses 17 and 18 close with Isaiah speaking: "And I will wait for the Lord...." Isaiah and his own children, and the children of Israel whom God would save. There are many references in the Bible to waiting for or on the Lord--numerous enough that one has to take the concept seriously as an overriding principle of life. We simply do not wait in our society--not for God's timing and not for anyone. Not unusual, then, to see all of the recorded Biblical references to words and phrases like 'perseverance', 'hold fast', 'be still', etc. To whom or what are we running? In whom or what is our hope?? Isaiah knew his hope was in the Lord and that deliverance--eternal deliverance--would come through Him, in His time! Puts a new spin on the now-colloquial phrase, "Wait for it...."

Why is waiting for the Lord a challenge for Judah? Catch the next part of verse 17: "the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob." The day was coming when God was going to completely turn His back upon Judah. We must keep reminding ourselves that even though Isaiah is being encouraged, the consequences of Judah's sinfulness had already been decided in its invasion by the Assyrians and its exile to Babylon. What does this kind of "turning His back" look like?

"Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, 'Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?'"
--Deuteronomy 31:17

What happens when we do not wait on the Lord and go our own way? What happens when we do not accept the supreme Lordship of God as holy? How did Judah not understand? How do we not understand? It only takes a look around the world today to wonder if we aren't continuing to ask these very same questions, reaching the very same answers.

"What has it cost you
What have you won
The sins of the fathers
Are the sins of the sons
It was always within you
It will always continue
But it shouldn't surprise you at all
You know...."
--from Surprises, lyrics by Billy Joel

Now, we don't want to end on a downer, so don't miss the hope! Don't miss the point! "I will even look eagerly for Him." (8:17, emphasis mine) We are not only called to wait, not only called to follow God even in times of rampant disobedience without repentance, but we are to wait eagerly. The Amplified Bible uses the phrasing, "I will look for and hope in Him." The Message paraphrase puts it as such: "...while I wait and hope for him. I stand my ground and hope...." The process of waiting is not a twiddling of thumbs as time marches onward. We are all called to see God in all things, seeking His hope and standing on His Word. Back to Jeremiah 29 to close today:

"'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the Lord, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'"
--Jeremiah 29: 12-14 (emphasis mine)

The end of Chapter 8: "To the law and to the testimony!".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 8: 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).