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!


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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).