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).