Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Isaiah 22: 12-14

12 Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing,
To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth.
13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness,
Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep,
Eating of meat and drinking of wine:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”
14 But the Lord of hosts revealed Himself to me,
“Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you
Until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts.

Are you like me--Do you screen out more calls than you take? Do you stare at your caller ID, asking why the same "unknown" folks continue to call day after day (and often more frequently)? If "the Lord God of hosts" came up on your display, how would you respond?

When you read prophecy, often knowing how history unfolded and how prophecy was fulfilled, it is so frustrating and sometimes unbelievable to read how people could have mindlessly ignored a message that was specifically given to them. Yet, when you fully take in this "vision" that Isaiah is relating to Jerusalem, and you think about society today--with its emphasis on personal pleasures and self-sufficiency in an environment of selective communication--are we all that far away from the prophet's word? Time for another reality check!

Verse 12 of Chapter 22 sums up the message left to Jerusalem by God: "This is a call to repentance, My people!" There should be deep, inward grieving over the continued display of sinfulness, culminating with a lack of recognition of God as their authority in life. I've spoken here several times about King Hezekiah, who truly tried to reform his country. In the good-king/bad-king kingdom that was Jerusalem in those days, he really was one of the good ones. He modeled for the people not only by restoring God in the places of worship, but by demonstrating active faithfulness to Him through his political decisions in running the country and in his personal response to dealing with those tough situations. He was the one who tore his clothes and sought God in prayer as things around Jerusalem began to disintegrate. But earthly leaders, even with their Godly intentions and actions, cannot sway the mindset of an entire nation, much less change the plans of God.

"...And all this to lament their sins (by which they had brought those judgments upon their land), to enforce their prayers (by which they might hope to avert the judgments that were breaking in), and to dispose themselves to a reformation of their lives by a holy seriousness and a tenderness of heart under the word of God."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

So, we have verse 13, in which we see that not only have the people disregarded the word of their king and their Lord, but they have opted to go full-throttle on the prodigal way.

"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all."
--Luke 17: 26-29

You could add on to Jesus' examples here: It also happened in the days of Hezekiah--they were eating, they were drinking, they were doing everything that made them happy, even with the charioteers of Assyria fixed at their gates. But, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, the sons of Jerusalem would call Babylon home.

"But what do you do? You throw a party!
    Eating and drinking and dancing in the streets!
You barbecue bulls and sheep, and throw a huge feast—
    slabs of meat, kegs of beer. 

'Seize the day! Eat and drink!
    Tomorrow we die!'"

--Verse 13 from The Message

It seems crazy to us when we read how Jerusalem responded. We're watching that movie, and we know the killer is hiding behind the door, but the victim is completely oblivious. Truly, not just oblivious, but frivolously saying, "Whatever.... Not going to happen to me, but if it does, I'm going out with a bang." Does it register yet how ridiculously angry God must have been? Biblical commentator Matthew Henry said, "It is a sin against the remedy." God could save them. God would save them. But rather than admit that there was a problem at their gates--and an even bigger one in their hearts--Jerusalem says, "More sheep ribs, please. Extra sauce!"

"Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things."
--Ecclesiastes 11:9

"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die." (vs. 13) What originated with Isaiah would be passed down over generations. Paul would use this quote in writing the Corinthians, admonishing them as some in the church had misrepresented and confounded the teaching of Jesus' resurrection from the dead:

"If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
--I Corinthians 15: 32-34

To me, this reads so much like Isaiah's situation in his day. If I stand here naked among you, prophesying God's word, what does it profit unless you heed what God is saying through me? If God has not brought His people to this place, building His city, establishing His principles by which to prosper His people, then let's party, 'cause what difference does it make? Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning. Isaiah was saying exactly what Paul said. "For some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." YIKES! Jerusalem didn't get this. 2014 Christians, do we get this??

How personal was this message to Isaiah? He goes so far as to tell us that "the Lord of hosts revealed Himself to me...." (vs. 14) In studying up on these words, this was not a visual revealing but a speaking directly to Isaiah. In other words, Isaiah heard this from God literally in his ear! This apostasy, this sin, that is on full display before the Lord "shall not be forgiven"; "will not be atoned for" (New International Version); "shall not be purged" (King James Version), until.... The 'your' in closing part of the verse is related not to Jerusalem but to Isaiah. Atonement will not be granted until after Isaiah has passed away.

At this, I, being Isaiah, would have thought instantly back to the day of my commissioning as a prophet. God calls Isaiah, and he answers. He is ready to, “Go, and tell this people" (Isa. 6: 9) of whatever God desires him. "Lord, how long?" the prophet asks. (Isa. 6:11)

"Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,

The Lord has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land."

--Isaiah 6: 11 and 12

Isaiah would not live to see the day Jerusalem was carried off by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

"'In your filthiness is lewdness.
Because I would have cleansed you,
Yet you are not clean,
You will not be cleansed from your filthiness again
Until I have spent My wrath on you.'"

--Ezekiel 24:13 (just before Babylon decimated Jerusalem)

And what if Isaiah had not answered the call of the Lord God of hosts? What if he had written off his vision as a spectacle? Just a dream? A misplaced phone call?

Who is calling you today? What message are you hearing?

"It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:31) We'll read what happens to the "prime minister" of Jerusalem at the hands of God. ....'Til next week!

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Next week:  Isaiah 22: 15-18
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).