Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Isaiah 12: 1-3

Thanksgiving Expressed

1 Then you will say on that day,
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord;
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.

For all of the changes I have made in the blog schedule since we started Isaiah, I have to say that I'm thrilled to have two blogs of Thanksgiving wrapped around Easter Week! Not something I could have planned, I'm tellin' ya....

Isaiah Chapter 12 is a response of thanksgiving to God's restoring the remnant of Israel into His people, gathering them from the "four corners of the Earth" (11:12), across the "highway" (11:16) He created from the land and water to Zion. "Then you will say on that day, 'I will give thanks to You, O Lord....'" (12:1) For thousands of years, God's chosen people have been, once again, wandering in a wilderness. Separated and scattered across the nations. Ruled over by opposing factions. Unable to return home. Not that He had ever left them completely, nor would His promises to them ever be reneged. But, He was angry.

"For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning."

--Psalm 30: 5

Now, in that time of perfect peace, God's anger is "turned away" and He comforts His own. In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes, "even the turning away of his anger is a comfort to them." Think about that. We are quick to see the restoration of blessings as a sign of God's comfort. When we turn away from our sins--those things that make God angry with us--are we comforted by the simple, amazing truth that God's anger toward us is turned away? His favor is for a lifetime, and He waits patiently for us to turn toward Him in all things.

Such is the case with His people, Israel. Who has delivered them as He promised? God! More specifically, in verse 2, the "Lord God," or in the King James Version, "Lord Jehovah," meaning Israel's God. 

"God, furthermore, said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you." This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.'"
--Exodus 3:15

The God who delivered them out of Egypt is the one and the same who delivers them into eternity. There is no more fear as to who is in control of their lives. He has again become their "strength and song." If that phrase sounds familiar, it directly echoes the song of thanksgiving from Moses and the Israelites following the redemption of their lives from the slavery of Pharaoh and the destruction of his armies in the Red Sea.

"'The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;

This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him.'"
--Exodus 15:2

Though the Lord was their strength in that victorious moment and the song of their lives, it wouldn't be long before those same Israelites would lose that melody and wallow in their own ways and desires. This would be--and is--the circuitous pattern taken by sinful man. Even when we acknowledge the Source of salvation, we do not turn to Him. So, it's no wonder that God is confused, frustrated and angered. 

What a perspective God gave the Apostle Paul! Jewish to his Pharisaical core, Paul received the mission to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles. Yet, he passionately tried to reach his brethren throughout his ministry. No doubt, he probably continues to pray from the heavenly realms for true salvation to come to the Israelites. "...My heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.... For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness of everyone who believes." (Romans 10: 1 and 4)

This is what the world needs to understand about salvation. It's not just deliverance out of bondage, or deliverance from enemies or persecution, or deliverance from the Law or deliverance from ________. The salvation of God is a saving TO! A saving to God Himself, forever. Salvation, as Paul said, is available today for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ! This is the Easter message: Christ died that we might be delivered to eternal life, united with our God, forever. What all of Israel and the rest of the world will not understand until the Day, God continues to make known through his disciples today:

"'Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,

Awesome in praises, working wonders?....
In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation....'"

--Exodus 15: 11 and 13 
As God's people recognize their Savior, they will "joyously draw water from the springs of salvation." (vs 3) Knowing with full trust and reverent fear that Israel's God has saved them would certainly elicit joyful praise. It is the ultimate homecoming, after all. How much more sweet to know those springs of salvation now, that we might draw from the living water of our Savior in those times we we fear losing our strength and our song?

"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."'"
--John 7: 37 and 38

"Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! 
 Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! 
 Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia! 
 Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
 King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia! 
 Everlasting life is this, Alleluia! 
 Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia! 
 Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!"
--Christ the Lord is Risen Today, lyrics by Charles Wesley  

The inhabitants of Zion shout for joy.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 12: 4-6

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, March 20, 2013

Isaiah 11: 14-16

14 But [with united forces Ephraim and Judah] will swoop down 
upon the shoulders of the Philistines’ [land sloping] toward the west; 
together they will strip the people on the east [the Arabs]. 
They will lay their hands upon Edom and Moab, 
and the Ammonites will obey them.
15 And the Lord will utterly destroy (doom and dry up) 
the tongue of the Egyptian sea [the west fork of the Red Sea]; 
and with His [mighty] scorching wind He will wave His hand 
over the river [Nile] and will smite it into seven channels 
and will cause men to cross over dry-shod.
16 And there shall be a highway from Assyria 
for the remnant left of His people, 
as there was for Israel when they came up out of the land of Egypt.

I pulled our text from this last passage of Isaiah 11 from the Amplified Bible because I appreciated the clarity, at least initially. In the NASB, verse 14 begins, "They will swoop down...." We need a flashback to last week's post regardless, but at least the Amplified tells you who the "They" is.

Recall that Isaiah is writing of the time of perfect peace, when Christ returns for His people and restores once and for all the broken relationship between Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Now, the combined nation is fortified and standing tall, ready to deal with its enemies. 

"...and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms."
--Ezekiel 37: 22
A mere two chapters ago (Isaiah 9:12), Isaiah spoke of Israel's fall with "...the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west; and they devour Israel with gaping jaws." There's a 180 in progress with this new prophecy, as God's people "swoop down" and "strip" their old foes, as well as the nations of Edom, Moab and Ammon. The more literal translation of the second part of verse 14 is that "Edom and Moab will be the outstretching of their hand." (from my study Bible)

Edom--Edom was the nation named for and lived in by Esau. After Jacob secured his brother's birthright in the red ('edom' means red) stew incident as well as his father Isaac's blessing, Jacob "wrestled with God" and received the new name, Israel. Esau gained a happy reunion with his brother and some possessions, but not the blessing of God. He left his brother and retreated to this land which then took the name Edom and whose people became the Edomites. It was not a land or a people blessed by God either, as the book of the prophet Obadiah speaks.

"'Then the house of Jacob will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a flame;
But the house of Esau will be as stubble.
And they will set them on fire and consume them,
So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,'
For the Lord has spoken."
--Obadiah 1: 18

Moab--Commonly remembered as the country of origin for Orpah and Ruth, from the Book of Ruth. Ruth would leave Moab with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to start a new life in Judah (where she would meet and marry Boaz, father of Obed, father of Jesse--yes, that Jesse, as in "the stem of Jesse"--father of David). Moab bordered Edom.

Ammon--The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot (husband to a pillar of salt) who settled in territory north of Moab and directly east of Gad (Northern Kingdom). There are quite a few battle stories involving the Ammonites in the Old Testament, and they were particularly hostile to both Israel and Judah, often attacking through alliances with the kingdoms' enemies. ( For Isaiah to prophesy that the Ammonites would obey the kingdoms is truly a change of events.

God's actions in verse 15 are clear--"utterly destroy" and "smite" two areas with the intent to change them over completely. What's confusing is to what areas are being referred. There is no Egyptian Sea. But, Egypt has seas on two sides, the Mediterranean to the North and the Red to the East. The Hebrew for 'sea' can translate into either of these places or the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea, or even the Nile or Euphrates rivers! As you can see above, the Amplified Bible chose the "west fork of the Red Sea" for its descriptor. It's not completely clear to me, but both the Mediterranean and the Red are in the same general vicinity, which is good enough for now. Even more curious is the river in question. It's "the Nile" in the Amplified while the NASB suggests it is the Euphrates. The cross-referenced verse is in Revelation:  

"The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east....."
--Revelation 16:12

Although knowing the specifics would fill in some gaps, the overall concept of the message remains key--God is turning these mighty waters into a "highway" of land on which people will travel by foot ("dry-shod," meaning in sandals). A turnpike will be created, from Egypt to Assyria, for the purpose of allowing the safe return of the remnant of God's people. (vs. 16) Isaiah evokes images of the past as he compares the road home with the one created from the parting of--perhaps--the same Red Sea, by Moses, as a means of escape from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. (Exodus 14: 26-29) That should have been a timeless image of provision, peace, hope and grace for both Judah and Israel.
"Note, When God’s time has come for the bringing of nations, or particular persons, home to himself, divine grace will be victorious over all opposition. At the presence of the Lord the sea shall flee and Jordan be driven back; and those who set their faces heavenward will find there are not such difficulties in the way as they thought there were, for there is a highway thither...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

And with that welcome comes a cry of Thanksgiving. Chapter 12 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 12: 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, March 13, 2013

Isaiah 11: 11-13

 The Restored Remnant

11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.

After prophesying the time of eternal peace, Isaiah then says that this is the time when the remnant of God's people will be restored. In reading the beginning of verse 11, you see "...the Lord will again recover the second time...." This would imply that there was a first time, which there was with the exodus from Egypt under Moses' guidance. This second restoration will not fully come with Judah's freedom from exile in Babylon. Isaiah is speaking of a time still to come.

We know that God has plans to preserve His people. We have read in Isaiah how He will prepare "the remnant of Israel and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped...." (Isaiah 10: 20) Here, in the second part of verse 11, we learn some of the places from where the remnant shall come: "...from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea." Let's look at where these places are. (Facts are drawn from The Encyclopedia of the Bible.)

Assyria--In our short study of Isaiah so far, you probably guessed that God's people would be coming from Assyria. We know that the 10 tribes of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) were brought into exile here. It makes sense that some would make their return from where these families had been planted.

Egypt--It might not make sense that the place of original exile would become a place of new refuge for the Israelites, but.... I don't usually preview verses before we get to study them, but, it helps to look at Isaiah 19: "In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria." (Isaiah 19: 23-24a) The scattering and blending of God's people among the nations would clearly be seen in the relationships between these countries. Egypt may also be translated "Lower Egypt."

Pathros--Because Pathros is considered "Upper Egypt," "roughly the Nile Valley between Cairo and Aswan."

Cush--Also known as Ethiopia, which is located south and east of the Egypts, right along the Red Sea.

Elam--"Elam is the Biblical designation of a people and a country in the southern area of the Iranian plateau in the Zagros mountains east and northeast of the valley of the Tigris. It is approximately equivalent to the present Iranian province of Khuzistan." This would be quite a bit east and then south, into the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

Shinar--Shinar is another word for Babylonia, so, again, no surprises here. This is the land to which the exiles from Judah would go, as Daniel tells us in his book (Daniel 1:2).

Hamath--This was a city in Syria, north of Damascus. Assyria's Tiglath-Pileser and Sargon II would invade Hamath as part of their conquests. After Israel was destroyed, some exiles were relocated to Hamath. 

Islands of the sea--An alternate translation might be 'coastlands.' The Amplified Bible uses, "from the countries bordering on the [Mediterranean] Sea." The scattering of God's people was quite wide. Verse 12 will label the wideness as "the four corners of the earth."

Continuing now with Isaiah, verse 12, "He will lift up a standard...." We spoke of this last week, that standard or "ensign"--the root of Jesse--being Jesus Christ. God will bring His "banished" and "dispersed" people together in assembly under the reign of His chosen One, the Prince of Peace.

“I will strengthen the house of Judah,
And I will save the house of Joseph,
And I will bring them back,
Because I have had compassion on them;
And they will be as though I had not rejected them,
For I am the Lord their God and I will answer them."

--Zechariah 10:6

And in this time of peace, under the Prince's reign, a miracle:  "Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim." (vs. 13) The long-time divided Northern (Ephraim) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms would be reunited. It was only two chapters ago, Isaiah 9, that we read of these Kingdoms devouring one another. God did not intervene:

"Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
And together they are against Judah.

In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out."

--Isaiah 9: 21

But, "it will happen on that day" (vs. 11) that God will have compassion on His people and restore them to Himself. He had always planned on having His people return to Him. The Word of God in its entirety is the story of God's love for His people, and His plan to keep His people with Him always. Circumstances and time remain in His hand.

Ending on a personal note today.... I can't help but read this passage and think about the recent schism that divided my former church into two "kingdoms." Both are moving forward, re-forming and re-establishing themselves. It's hard not to look back over the time of struggle and see bits of "jealousy" and "harassment" even as both sides claim Christ as their "standard." I still grieve the loss of the outcome of this split, even as I have been moving forward. God is grieved when His people "divorce," if you will. Yet, there is certainly a history of God scattering His people with intent and purpose.

Prayerful that His Church will know restoration, now and in the days to come.... 

How the Lord will move "on that day".... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 11: 14-16

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).