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He has withdrawn from them....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).