Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Isaiah 1: 5-9

 5 Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick
And the whole heart is faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts and raw wounds,
Not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.
 7 Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire,
Your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.
8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
9 Unless the LORD of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.

I am wondering how many of you are identifying with that cartoon up there? I know some of you have been sick, lately, and will therefore have an understanding of the description that Isaiah presents today, as we continue on in Chapter 1.

In the Amplified Bible, verse 5 opens, "Why should you be stricken and punished any more [since it brings no correction]?" God is saying, I allow for you to suffer the consequences of your actions, but it appears that you are not learning anything much less repenting, as you, Judah, continue in your sinful rebellion. The entire body of Israel is sick, and no one is intervening. Verse 6 continues with the idea that the wounds of the nation lie before everyone--open, oozing, untreated, with pain continuing, though because the body is so ill, it does not seek help.

"Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin."
--Psalm 38:3

The outcome of not being of spiritually sound mind and body is that Judah is going to fall. It will be deserted ("desolate") as strangers (alien nations, like Babylon) take over. Isaiah is already alluding to Judah's pending captivity.
Verse 8 introduces us to a phrase used in the Old Testament and more than once by Isaiah in referring to Jerusalem--"Daughter of Zion." In this particular verse, one could expand that to include all of Judah. I am reminded of the spiritual song by the same title [although I cannot find it anywhere, much less can I confirm that is the title! I do remember singing it with the choir at my former church, however]. It was based on Zephaniah 3:14: "Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!" A Palm Sunday song....

But its use in verse 8 is not in celebrating a joyful procession, but in the picture of something laid waste. What a curiously fun description Isaiah gives: "...Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field...." The watchman's hut we can understand from the words. But why a cucumber field? Digging around in the field of research materials [HA!], I read about how cucumbers were a favorite food of the Israelites. Back in their manna-only wilderness days, Israel reminisced about the cucumbers of Egypt. (Numbers 11:5)

"A 'garden of cucumbers' or more literally a 'place of cucumbers' (miqshah), is mentioned in Isa 1:8.... 'A lodge in a garden of cucumbers' (Isa 1:8) is the rough wooden booth erected by the owner from which he keeps guard over his ripening vegetables. It is commonly raised upon poles and, when abandoned for the season, it falls into decay and presents a dreary spectacle of tottering poles and dead leaves."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

So we see, clearly, a picture of Judah. Once a flourishing garden of delicious, favorite vegetables, now with its earthly guard tower down, trashed in fields being overtaken by neighboring nations. A "dreary spectacle" indeed!

Closing out today with verse 9 and another oft-used phrase by Isaiah--"Lord of hosts." My study Bible explains that this name for God pictures Him, " a mighty warrior, a leader of armies, capable of conquering all of Israel's enemies and providing for her survival." This was not what I had understood the phrase to mean, as I immediately think of the Heavenly hosts, which puts God in the position of caretaker of the angels. But, even in that understanding, I remember that angels are not pretty white beings in the sky, but messengers of God who are also in the position of defending against the armies of the Enemy in unseen spiritual realms. God is the sole Lord of our survival, no matter of which realm we speak.

The Lord left "survivors." This word is translated elsewhere, like in the King James', as 'remnant.' We understand from the entirety of God's Word that there will be a remnant of the now-scattered Israel that will be reunited at the time of the return of Jesus for His earthly reign. The Apostle Paul quotes this verse from Isaiah in Romans 9:29, as he took up the challenge of affirming that even as Gentiles were being saved through Christ, there were yet Jews who followed Christ--essentially what Paul was--who would be restored to the Messiah at the time of His return. Nine verses into Isaiah, and we are already afforded a glimpse of the grace of God and the keeping of His longstanding promise to all of Israel.

If God had not intended to keep "survivors," then, as the prophet continues, "We would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah." Just a refresher, these were the two Canaanite cities--usually said in the same breath!--that were both destroyed when God dive-bombed them with "fire and brimstone" due to their excessive sin. Throughout the Bible and, perhaps even now, these cities represent the judgment of God in our time on Earth. Isaiah called upon Judah and Jerusalem to consider themselves the latest "Sodom and Gomorrah" for their unholy response to God and His direction for their lives.

If not for God's eternal plan, this would be a much shorter book!

How Judah is messing up worship.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 1: 10-15

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).