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Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Devotional Journal 26

See the identical post at Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Journal 26 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 8:1-8   Link to LXE

Overview of the Action

In Isaiah 8:1-8, the prophet finishes foretelling what the Lord began in chapter 7–the humbling and captivity of Israel/Samaria. He speaks also of assault upon Judah (Isaiah 8:8). The remainder of the chapter establishes the sovereignty of God. There, Isaiah speaks of Israel, Judah, and Gentiles, almost in the same breath. The only escape from the Lord’s judgment on each of these is to turn from idolatry and deception to the living Lord. The prophet presents the salvation of the Lord as the best option, because “God is with us,” (Isaiah 7:14).

Historical Perspective

Israel had divided into northern and southern kingdoms right after King Solomon died. By this point in their history, both kingdoms had lost the grandeur of the united kingdom under David. The northern kingdom, known as Israel, included Samaria. Israel/Samaria united with their former enemies, the Syrians. Together, they attacked Judah, but did not prevail (2 Kings 16:5).

During the portion of Isaiah recorded in chapters 7-8, King Achaz (Ahaz) ruled Judah in the south. 2 Kings 16:6-9 records how Ahaz approached Assyria to form an alliance with it to protect Judah from the attacks of the Israel/Syria alliance. Assyria, a more powerful kingdom further to the east than Syria, overwhelmed Israel and Syria. They carried Israel into captivity, from which the tribes of the northern kingdom never returned. This occurred mid-point in Isaiah’s long life of prophecy, just as he had spoken it to King Ahaz.

King Ahaz relied upon the Assyrians because he did not trust the Lord (Isaiah 7:12-13). While King Ahaz was cozying up to Assyria, he and his nation of Judah embraced the Assyrian pagan gods and customs. He imported these into Judah, destroying portions of the temple compound in exchange (2 Kings 16:10-18).

The Lord in his disciplinary displeasure allows Assyria to later invade Judah, but only as far as its “neck” (Isaiah 8:8). The Lord fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of Assyrian attack during the time of King Hezekiah, who reigned just after Ahaz.

After Assyria failed to overwhelm Judah, Babylonia, a kingdom to the southeast of Assyria, destroys the latter. Eventually, Babylonia also deals the final blow to Judah and carries them off to their 70 year captivity. After that, the even larger kingdom of Persia, yet further to the east, defeats Babylonia. The Persian king is Cyrus, who sends Ezra and his remnant back to Israel.

SUMMARY: This portion of Scripture presents a picture of a food chain: Syria eats Israel; Assyria eats Syria; Babylonia eats Assyria; and Persia eats Babylonia. But whenever God’s tiny people trust in him, he spares and delivers them from all their enemies.

Details of the Action

  • ISAIAH 8:1-4Isaiah prophesies the rapid, near-at-hand spoiling of the unholy alliance of Israel/Samaria and Syria (Damascus) by the king of Assyria. Application: The people of the northern kingdom of Israel were once God’s people. By turning to willfully persistent, unrepented idolatry, they rejected their identity as his people. When God’s people align themselves with evil, there is an even greater evil power ready to conquer them. Safety lies with God alone. (Did America learn this in its last election?)
  • ISAIAH 8:5-8This new sub-section prophesies the devastation of Judah for similar idolatry and deception (Isaiah 2). One of the comprehension difficulties for our ears is Isaiah’s frequent use of pronouns, rather than more specific identifiers. In particular, when Isaiah writes, “this people” in verse 5: a) does he refer to Israel of the previous sub-section, or b) Judah, as clearly he does in verse 8? (All things considered, I prefer the former.) But either way, Judah will also be inundated by the Assyrian army.
    • Notes: Isaiah’s writing shows great sophistication (at least to one as simple as I am).
      • First, in 8:6, the “water of Siloam” (LXE, Septuagint in English) bears messianic symbolism. Its name means “sent.” In the New Testament, John narrates that Jesus healed a man’s blindness by anointing his eyes with dirt and his own spittle, then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes completely (John 9:6). Notice, in John 9:4, Jesus refers to himself as “sent” by God. That is, Jesus is God’s sent-one, the Messiah. Isaiah 9:4 supports the symbolism of the “water of Siloam” by its mention of the “waters of salvation.” The Messiah is Israel’s salvation. An eager reader can also explore the many other references to water in John’s gospel, as for example, his discussion with the woman at the well in John 4:4-15.
      • Second, the closing phrase of Isaiah 6:8 is “God with us” in the Septuagint and O Immanuel in the Masoretic. This is also Messianic. In Matthew 1:23, an angel of the Lord prophesied to Joseph in a dream that the son to be born of his virgin wife (Isaiah 7:14) would be called “Immanuel (which means, God with us).” NET notes point out that God was with Judah even in their judgment by him.

Application: The Lord Disciplines Evangelicals

The evangelical church in America is experiencing a disciplining from the Lord at this particular moment, I believe.

  • Many evangelicals opened themselves to the deception of the enemy when they embraced a man whose faulty character was clear to them from the beginning. The character of that man has not changed. Nevertheless, many in the church believed the false prophets who told them this man would be elected a second time. They consider him to be the chosen of the Lord. Many persist in this false belief, expecting a miraculous turn-around in this person’s political fortunes. Their blind adulation borders on idolatry.

This man’s electoral loss ultimately led to violence in the nation’s Capitol. I see the loss, subsequent violence, and current state of confusion as a form of discipline upon evangelicals, which the Lord has allowed. I pray that the deception will be lifted, and these will fully trust in the Lord, rather than placing their trust in a mere man, whose “breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22, NKJ). Many are also guilty of hating their perceived enemies, that is, their fellow Americans of an opposite political persuasion, rather than loving them, as the Lord commanded. A significant portion of these perceived enemies are actually sincere, believing, and faithful Christians, just as they themselves are.

  • On the other side, there are those Christians of an opposite political persuasion. Many of these have become overly concerned and passionate that the man of poor character be politically defeated. Their hope of this merely earthly outcome also borders on idolatry, because they have placed their trust in temporary, carnal solutions, rather than in the eternal Lord.
  • Prayer of Confession and Repentance: Lord, I confess my sin to you. Reveal to me the depth and breadth of my sinful ways. I ask that you forgive me. I pray that you free my spirit of all deception and blindness. Deliver me from the unholy weight of worry and fear that deception brings with it. Help me to love you with a pure and whole heart. Restore my vision to a single eye, one that is focused on Christ. I love you Lord, if ever so imperfectly. Bless your people on both sides of this political equation. Help us to truly love one another, even those of a different political persuasion. In your name, O Jesus, Immanuel. Thank-you, Lord. Amen

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–11

And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. (Isaiah 4:3 LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Does this verse ring any Christian bells?

Even though Malachi was written some 300 years after Isaiah, Isaiah 4:3 and Malachi 3:16-18 appear to have much in common.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (ESV)

The phrase “those who feared the LORD,” means those who respected, took seriously, honored, and were cautious not to disobey the precepts of the Lord. Proverbs 3:7 uses this phrase as one of the sources for the meaning I gave, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil,” (ESV). The portion, “turn away from evil,” also captures the latter portion of Isaiah 4:3, “they shall be called holy.” A better known verse using the word “fear” is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” (ESV). But listen to the Septuagint for the same verse, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the <1> beginning {summit} of wisdom, and the counsel of saints is understanding: for to know the law is the character of a sound mind,” (LXE). I love when Scripture interlocks with Scripture: “the counsel of saints” in Proverbs dovetails so nicely with Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel,” (LXE). One is reminded that the same author (God) wrote all four of these verses.

Although it might seem like a small point (but our God is a God of detail), the Septuagint translation notes for Proverbs 9:10, detail that the phrase, “beginning of wisdom,” is written literally as the “summit” of wisdom. This corresponds with Septuagint Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.” Looking up the Greek lexicon (dictionary) definition of “exalt,” we read, “to lift up, raise high,” (Gingrich), i.e., to the summit.

Combining and paraphrasing these five verses, Isaiah 4:2 and 4:3, Malachi 3:16, Proverbs 3:7 and 9:10, we arrive at the following understanding:

In that day, God shall shine gloriously among the remnant who fears the Lord and obeys his commands. They will excel in the good counsel of God and turn away from evil. God will take notice, and having written their names in his book, they shall be called holy.

What is this book in which God writes? What is this book with names of people who have been appointed for life? And, why will these people be called “holy?”

First, what book?

Perhaps the fullest description of “written to life,” in the Bible is Revelation 20:12-15–

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12 ESV)

But this is a stretch, isn’t it, to go from Isaiah 4:3 to Revelation 20? The Septuagint phrase, “appointed to life” is literally, “written for life,” as the footnote states, “οἱ γραφέντες εἰς ζωὴν ἐν Ιερουσαλημ (Isa 4:3 LXT).” 

But then, how do we go from “in Jerusalem” to the lake of fire at the final Great White Throne judgment? By faith is the only way. Consider these verses–

Galatians 4:25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (ESV)

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (ESV)

 Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (ESV)

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… [The omitted verses describe the physical appearance of the new Jerusalem]… 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:2-27 ESV)

Clearly, if one accepts the presupposition (by faith) that Isaiah is a messianic prophet of enormous proportions, then the texts bind together very well. Notice that verse 27 in Revelation 21 speaks of the holiness of the residents of the new Jerusalem, “nothing unclean… nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.” Compare this with the Septuagint text of Isaiah 4:3, “…the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, (LXE).

But is Isaiah a messianic prophet of enormous proportions? According to several websites, Isaiah is the second most frequently cited book by New Testament authors. Psalms is the most often cited. All the Isaianic quotations found in the New Testament are referenced in the book Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Archer and Chirichigno. (1) Since the New Testament is predominantly about Christ, it seems fair to suggest that Isaiah is quoted so frequently due to his messianic relevance.

Nevertheless, there are also Old Testament references to God’s Book. Perhaps the earliest reference is Exodus 32:31-32–

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin– but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written,” (ESV).

Other verses include: Psalm 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written with the righteous,” (LXE); Daniel 12:1, and Malachi 3:16 (see above).

What can be said about the holiness of those who are “appointed to life in Jerusalem?” The answer to this question lies in the subsequent verses of this blessed passage. We will consider these in a later post, Lord willing.

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1 Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983, 92-134. One site with an easy graphic is: http://www.biblecharts.org/thebible/thetenoldtestamentbooksmostcitedinthenewtestament.pdf. A site that lists the number of direct quotations is: https://conservapedia.com/Most_quoted_books_in_the_Bible.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–10

 

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

Considering the NET version as a stand-alone verse, a reader might be drawn to surmise that Isaiah speaks about a time when many people had moved away from Israel, and those who remained were blessed with wonderful, prize-winning agriculture. “At that time,” is a general marker, not too specific, not particularly definite, not especially memorable. “Crops given by the Lord,” would be difficult to interpret in a metaphorical sense. As previously stated, the Lord seems to have blessed the agriculture. “Produce of the land,” is a concrete-literal term, similar to crops, not easily interpreted metaphorically.

I wonder how many biblical readers consider the NET Bible to be a paraphrase? My guess would be not too many, possibly because it provides a multitude of marginal notes: translation, historical, text critical, and subject. However, consider the NIV translation below. This is a translation of the same verse based predominantly upon the same Hebrew text.

NIV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

Most readers will be able to notice tremendous differences. Even though the Hebrew underlying each is identical or very similar (1), the translators chose to proceed in quite different directions. First, while the NET opens with, “At that time,” the NIV opens with, “In that day.” The phrase “in that day” was discussed in some detail in the prior journal entry, Journal 9. Briefly, there are a fairly large number of verses that use this phrase both within Isaiah, other parts of the Old Testament, and the gospels. These other verses lead a reader to draw the conclusion that texts with this phrase indicate a specific period of time after the advent of Christ. NET Bible includes a small, marginal note that states that the KJV uses this phrase.

For purposes of comparison, I’m including below the ESV, which is fairly new (2007, 2011) and tends toward a formally literal translation of the original text. Its translation is based on the RSV, in which the first word, Revised, refers to a revision of the KJV, which is itself a mostly literal translation written in beautiful English. As stated in its preface, “The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983).” So here we have three translations, all based upon the same Hebrew text. (1) The NIV claims to be “dynamically equivalent.” That is, they attempt to capture the literal, original meaning but stated in a way perhaps more palatable to the modern ear. The ESV claims to be “essentially literal.” The NET Bible’s preface states, “The philosophy of the NET Bible translators was to be interpretive when such an interpretation represents the best thinking of recent scholarship.” Here then is the ESV of the same verse.

ESV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Readers can readily see that the NIV and the ESV are essentially the same.

 

SIDEBAR

Please, readers, understand that I am one small voice. No one, least of all myself, would claim that my voice is in any way authoritative. Each of these Bibles is a very fine Bible. I personally have a great interest in discovering Christ in the Old Testament. As a young Christian, I was extremely jealous of the two disciples whom Jesus sought out on the road to Emmaus. My fervent prayer was the the Lord would show me what he showed them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27 ESV). Over the years, as I’ve continued studying with the language and biblical tools I have available to me on my own dining room table and in my computer, I am blessed to report that to a large extent the Lord has granted my heart’s desire.

So, my “hermeneutical presupposition” is that the Bible connects with itself in a multitude of ways. Further, many texts are polyfunctional. My predisposition is to favor translations that bring out Christ. Other Christians may have other dispositions, and that is fine. However, I strongly feel that in sending each and every Christian believer the Holy Spirit to indwell her or him, the Lord has given each and every Christian the privilege of deciding for themselves what the Word of God is saying. That is, although the work of scholars is extremely valuable, useful, produced at high cost, and not to be ignored, one of the most valuable gifts of God to each and every Christian through Christ and the Holy Spirit, is to give each one a personal relationship with Himself through his Holy Word.

Second, after the opening phrase, “In that day,” which many readers will associate with Christ,  the second major difference between the NET understanding of this verse and both the NIV and ESV understanding is the next phrase, “the Branch of the LORD,” (NIV). The ESV does not capitalize the word Branch. The NET translates the same Hebrew text as, “the crops given by the LORD.” They also include a very long, detailed translator’s note explaining why they translate this way and not as the other major English versions, which they list, “KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT, and others.” Their main argument is that Isaiah 4:2 displays no “contextual indicators” that a “human ruler is in view.” But is this so?

First, Isaiah has 66 chapters. Chapter 4 is near the beginning. In later chapters, Isaiah most definitely speaks of a future ruler using similar botanical imagery, “A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud will sprout from his roots,” (Isaiah 11:1 NET). In its notes for this verse, NET readily admits that the prophecy refers to a future David-like king. Again, in 27:6, “In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit,” (ESV). I chose the ESV translation here for its use of “fruit” rather than the “produce” NET uses. “Fruit,” of course, is a New Testament metaphor used frequently throughout its pages with reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in believers. Why does the New Testament choose to translate the same Greek word that the Septuagint uses, similar to its Hebrew equivalent, as “fruit” rather than “produce?” Could it be that the writers of the New Testament are picking up this metaphor from the Old Testament? (Hint: yes). Examples of agricultural metaphors in Isaiah are abundant. A well-known verse is 53:2, “He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him,” (NET). The translation note for this verse states, “… it probably refers to the Lord.” For other agricultural references see Isaiah 27:12; 37:31,32; 53:2; 45:8, 49:6; and 61:3. Isaiah is largely about the Messiah and the restoration he brings to Israel. Surely, this topic must be introduced somewhere, and chapter 4 is still very near the beginning of the book, meaning that Isaiah still has plenty of space and time to begin being more fully developed.

Second, 2 Samuel 23:5, an early book of history, states the following, “My dynasty is approved by God, for he has made a perpetual covenant with me, arranged in all its particulars and secured. He always delivers me, and brings all I desire to fruition,” (NET). The last word, “fruition,” is a slightly different form of the identical Hebrew word that is found in Isaiah 4:2. So, in fact, a book earlier in Scripture than Isaiah uses this same word base in a metaphorical sense, as spoken by a ruler.

Third, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says this about Isaiah 4:2:

The first writer to take up the thought of 2 Sam 23:5 and use the root smh as a noun to designate the Messiah is Isaiah (Isa 4:2). Many deny that Isaiah is referring to the Messiah when he speaks of “the Branch or Shoot of Yahweh” because it is paralleled by the expression “the fruit of the earth.” Therefore, Isa 4:2 is simply a reference to the agricultural prosperity of the land. But this view fails to notice that both of these expressions are elsewhere messianic. It also neglects to account for the unusual limitation of this fruitfulness “in that day”; the fruitfulness is for the survivors of Israel. Furthermore, they overlook the progressive nature of revelation, for certainly 2Sam 23:5 and perhaps Psa 132:17 are controlling ideas when we come to the eighth century B.C. Thus the “Sprout of Yahweh” (or as clarified by the cognate studies, “the son of Yahweh”) is an obvious reference to the divine nature of the semah [note: this is a transliteration of the Hebrew word under discussion, Strong’s 6780 and TWOT 1928a]. Yet his human nature is also in view, for he is “the Offspring or Fruit of the Earth.”

Fourth and finally, NET notes defend their choice of “crops” and “produce” with the following, “A reference to the Lord restoring crops would make excellent sense in Isa 4… ” But does it? So far in Isaiah we have seen the Lord’s great anger that continues to rage in chapter upon chapter. These pages describe a nearly total bringing down, stripping away, and deathly destruction. Remember Isaiah 1:9? “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah,” (ESV). While lovely, honorable crops and produce are desirable, does that match the heavy weight of the destruction in the immediately prior context? Further, we determined that God is not angry with physical hills, mountains, cedars, and oaks, but rather with his people. When God states, “”It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses,”” (Isaiah 3:14 ESV) his main concern is not with grapes, but with people. When serving as a counter weight to the extensive punishment of the people whom God chastises, crops and produce, no matter how wonderful they might be, do NOT suit the context.

As regards agricultural metaphor and context, the verses immediately following the section containing 4:2, verses 5:1-7, use an extended agricultural metaphor of a vineyard to represent the entire nation of Israel. Verse 7 explains what the entire passage means, “Indeed Israel is the vineyard of the LORD who commands armies, the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight. He waited for justice, but look what he got– disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got– cries for help!” (NET).

Now, in view of all of the above, which fits the context of Isaiah best and makes more sense?

This?

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

OR… This?

ESV In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Where do we go from here?

Because it consumes so much time, energy, and perhaps is a distraction, my intention is not to compare the Septuagint with the NET and ESV at every step of the way. It happened here because Isaiah 4:2 is such a rich and important verse. It is also the first instance in which the Masoretic text and the Greek text diverge significantly. And even beyond that , it is the first passage in which the editors of NET took a major turn away from traditional English versions, which also follow a more or less identical Hebrew text. As seen, these other versions interpret the verse messianically, which NET goes to great lengths to avoid doing. In most instances, my chosen text for this walk-through journal is and will be the Septuagint, with comparisons here and there to the Masoretic, mostly through the ESV.

As a postscript, it turns out that the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word “sprout,” or “springs forth,” (Stong’s 6780, TWOT 1928a) is common for that particular word. The Septuagint writes, “shall shine.” This is found in Luke 1:78, which, according to TWOT, has strong overtones of Isaiah 4:2.

Lord willing, we will continue to verse 3 next time.

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1 By reading the prefaces of each (I have a printed copy of the 1973, 78, 83 edition), I discovered that the Biblia Hebraica is the primary document from which each of the translators worked.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–6

[continuing from previous post]

The prophecy continues in its judgmental strain. Using the Septuagint as the main text, Isaiah 3:1 identifies that Judea and Jerusalem are still the subject. Whereas the bulk of chapter two describes God’s judgment with images of lowering, bringing down, humbling, Chapter 3 describes the same judgment with images of taking away, stripping, impoverishing.

Verses 1-3 in the Septuagint, and even in the ESV, read like poetry with well-balanced rhythmical lines:

Behold now, the Lord

the Lord of hosts

will take away from Jerusalem

and from Judea

the mighty man

and the mighty woman,

the strength of bread,

and the strength of water,

the great and mighty man,

the warrior and the judge,

and the prophet, and the cousellor,

and the elder, the captan of fifty also,

and the honourable counsellor,

and the wise artificer,

and the intelligent hearer (LXE, Brenton).

Verses 4-7 describe a topsy-turvy, backwards, upside-down, chaotic condition, one that breaks all the norms and rules. Youths will be the princes, rather than the elders; mockers shall have dominion, not the wise, helpful, and steadfast. In verse 5, the people shall fall: man upon man, every man upon his neighbour. The child shall insult the elder man, and the base [shall do likewise] to the honourable. [Reflection: Does this sound anything at all like our country today?] Verses 6 and 7 describe the lack of leadership, when men desperately grab at anyone and beg to be in subjection, but the situation is so bad that no one wants to take on that role.

In verses 8-12 God comments upon and interprets the situation. Verse 8 reads, “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judea has fallen…” A footnote in the LXE for “ruined” refines the meaning as “forsaken, or, let go.” This is the same Greek (LXX) word we saw in Isaiah 2:6, where Brenton translates it as, “forsaken.” Thayer’s lexicon includes the definitions, “to leave, not to uphold, to let sink.” He cites Deuteronomy 31:6 and its quotation in Hebrews 13:5, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” This had been Moses’s words to Joshua before he died. While Moses’s words to Joshua were fulfilled, here we have the opposite. The conditions God describes are what happens when he forsakes his people, abandons them, loosens the cords that bind, allowing them to perish when left on their own. It is as though they have lost their moorings, as a boat that loses its anchor in a safe harbor is carried by wind and wave out to sea, where it is overwhelmed, capsizes, and sinks. How tragic for anyone, let alone for the “people of God.”

Why has God done this? What could his people possibly have done that was so bad that he treated them this way? Verses 8-12 begin to answer these questions.

Interestingly, the very first item that God mentions in his explanation of why he has “ruined” (forsaken) Jerusalem and allowed Judea to fall is, “Their tongues have spoken with iniquity, disobedient as they are towards the Lord.” Comment: God does not consider “their tongues” to be a personality quirk that he should tolerate because their actions are good. Rather, their “words” (NET) and “speech” (ESV) are the very first item God considers. Their actions follow their tongues; those too display disobedience. No surprises here. Actions proceed from what is in the heart (Matthew 15:19, Luke 6:45), and the tongue reveals what the heart contains (Matthew 12:34, 15:18).

Verse 9 in modern language would read, I know you’re guilty by the look on your face. The depth of their depravity in God’s eyes is revealed by the phrase, “… like the people of Sodom they openly boast of their sin,” (NET).

The Septuagint text reads differently in verse 10 than the Masoretic. While the Masoretic (ESV and NET, for example) bring in “the righteous” in verse 10, the Septuagint more consistently sticks with the faults of God’s wayward people. It reads, “Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works.” When a people condemn and imprison or otherwise hinder or gag a just person, this stands against them in God’s court of law. For example, the fact that the Israelite people in their latter days crucified the just Lord of glory, this fact stands against them in God’s eyes. Jesus also condemns their actions, “… the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation,” (Luke 11:47-51 ESV). Verse 11 declares that the current evil is happening to them as a turnaround of their own deeds. Basically, the verse states, What goes around comes around.

Verse 12 describes in greater detail the nature of the evil Jerusalem and Judea are reaping as a result of their silencing the just person among them, “Oppressors treat my people cruelly; creditors rule over them, (NET). The Septuagint contains an interesting statement, also in verse 12, “O my people, they that pronounce you blessed lead you astray, and pervert the path of your feet.” Comment: This is a very sad situation, when the leaders of the people are those who take financial advantage of them, while at the same time calling them, “blessed.” Clearly, God’s people have been deceived; they are being led astray and the paths they walk are crooked (verse 12). The fact that they don’t realize this is happening to them does not prevent God from punishing them. God’s allowing this to happen to them is itself the punishment, the result of their having rejected and silenced the true voice of God’s just person among them (verse 10). Today’s evangelical church in America needs to become aware and pray against deception, because, personally, I strongly feel that this is happening to them, as well.

Verses 13 and 14a declare that the Lord is about to bring his specific charges against them (“enter into judgment,” verses 13, 14, LXX). What are the specific charges God brings? NET clearly spells out their crime, “…”It is you who have ruined the vineyard! You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor,” (3:14). The Septuagint calls it, “my vineyard,”–God’s own vineyard–rather than “the vineyard.” This is better, because it allows the reader to interpret the phrase more metaphorically and indicates whose vineyard, which particular vineyard they have “set…on fire,” (LXX). “But why have ye set my vineyard on fire,” (verse 14, LXX). By using the phrase, “my vineyard,” God’s word makes clear that he means people, people he cares about. God is not talking about grapes they have destroyed with flames, but people, his people. Verses 14b and 15 make this clear, “… why is the spoil of the poor in your houses? 15 Why do ye wrong my people, and shame the face of the poor?” This is the most specific sin Isaiah has mentioned in this entire section, which began in verse 8. And what is it? It is the crime of robbing the poor. Comment: God is definitely angry. His anger is revealed by his having abandoned Jerusalem and Judea to reap the harvest of what they have sowed. And what have they sowed? They have robbed the poor and made their own homes comfortable with what they have taken. Forgive me, please, but I can’t help but ask, Why does the Scripture here make no mention of Marxism or socialism or even worse, communism? When certain of our own political candidates wish to shift the burden of taxation away from poor and the by-no-means-rich middle class to the wealthiest few percent, why is there such protest? I don’t find that kind of protest representing God or his word. God-is-concerned-about-the-poor. Isaiah 3:14-15 declares this.

Because verse 16 opens a new section of God’s complaint against Jerusalem and Judea, and because there is still quite a bit of text between this point and the next reprieve, which begins in Isaiah 4:2, we will stop here. And, Lord willing, we will continue.

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–5

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NOTE: My presupposition in all my reading of Scripture is that the main point is always Jesus the King. The King first, then the kingdom. There is no kingdom of God apart from the King. The King preexists before the kingdom. The kingdom exists to honor the King. Israel is not the focus of prophecy–Christ is the focus. Prophecy is not about Israel; prophecy is about Jesus Christ. Christ the King himself is infinitely larger and grander than all his kingdom. The kingdom is glorified in its current form as the body of Christ in its union with Christ, as the branches to the vine. Apart from Christ, there would be no kingdom. Words cannot describe the great love with which Christ loves his body, his people, his kingdom, for whom he died.

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This material will require two posts–this one and at least one other.

Isaiah 2:5-4:1 describes the judgment of God against his people in Jerusalem and Judea. Verse 5 is transitional from the prior, much shorter section, describing God’s glory in Zion in the last days. Looking back, verse 5 indicates a call to repentance, so that the house of Jacob will be able to participate in the glory just shown. Looking forward, the same verse indicates an invitation to walk with the prophet and see what the Lord’s light will reveal. It’s interesting to think that all the judgment on display in chapters 2:6-4:1 is what God’s light reveals. That is, we usually think of God’s light revealing the good things of the Lord, including his Law, but here we see the Lord’s light revealing the sin and God’s punishment upon the sinners.

Verse 6 was covered in some detail in two prior posts: Journal 3 and Journal 4. Whereas God’s purpose was to have a holy people set aside to worship him in holiness and shine his light to the world, “his people” had disobeyed. They intermarried with nonbelievers, practiced their divinations, and bore children to these unconsecrated marital alliances. The result was that their nation, after 500 years, was indistinguishable from what it had been before their arrival. Therefore, the Lord “has forsaken his people the house of Israel,” (LXX, Brenton’s translation).

Chapters two and three continue with extensive descriptions of the people and behaviors God, through Isaiah, condemns, alongside descriptions of what he intends to do. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is reminiscent of the type of poetry these chapters of Isaiah use. Specifically, Isaiah writes lists of items, as though in a catalogue.

The first portion (vss. 7-8) calls out the silver, gold, horses, chariots, and man-made idols filling their land. In verse 9, it’s not clear if the first clause is a description of people worshiping the idols or a description of what will happen to them as God punishes. One arrives at the conclusion of non-clarity by examining the text itself and also how various translations handle it. The NET follows the first possibility and the NIV the second. Interestingly, NETS and Brenton, which both follow the Septuagint, leave the uncertainty in place. This allows the reader the opportunity to think through both possibilities and arrive at her own conclusion. What is agreed upon is that Isaiah includes all people, regardless of their wealth and social standing.

Revelation 6:15-17 reproduces Isaiah 2:10 and its immediate context, vss. 8-11. I believe that in both locations the imagery is poetically symbolic of the spiritual truth being conveyed.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Isaiah 2:8-11 (LXX, Brenton) And the land is filled with abominations, even the works of their hands; and they have worshipped the works which their fingers made. 9 And the mean man bowed down, and the great man was humbled: and I will not pardon them. 10 Now therefore enter ye into the rocks and hide yourselves in the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

Placing this portion of Isaiah within the context of Revelation 6 causes one to marvel again at the fact that the Lord is speaking to “his people the house of Israel” in Isaiah.

Verses 12-21 repeat and expand, using different imagery, the concepts of verses 7-11. This section very much sounds like pages out of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (I searched Google and found that indeed Whitman did use Isaiah as a model.) One theme word difficult to miss is “high.” The word “high” occurs 7 times in verses 11 through 15. Verse 11 states the real truth that, “the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Following are phrases with the word “high.”

  • 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high
  • 12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one… that is high and towering
  • 13 upon every cedar of Libanus, of them that are high and towering,
  • 14 and upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill,
  • 15 and upon every high tower, and upon every high wall,

Verse 12 opens with a literal statement that closes with the abstract descriptor “high and towering.” Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon every one that is high and towering, and they shall be brought down; (LXX, Brenton). The literal, easily understood “proud and haughty” describes what is intended by “high and towering.” Common sense tells us that the remainder of the list is poetically symbolic. We must ask ourselves, is the Lord really resentful of the cedars that grow in Lebanon and the mighty oaks (an extremely useful and strong hardwood) that grow in Bashan? Do the heights of the mountains and hills really bother him that much? How could he in fairness to his people hold them responsible and accountable for the physical attributes of the geography surrounding them? Although one can debate concerning God’s minding the height of the towers and walls used in warfare against their enemies, common sense I believe weighs upon the reader to realize that God is poetically describing in a variety of ways the pride and haughtiness of the people who call themselves by his name. He also condemns their placing their trust in these items rather than in himself.

Other imagery that needs to be noted before moving on is that found in verse 16, “and upon every ship of the sea, and upon every display of fine ships.” Chapter 18 of Revelation, in describing the fall of Babylon, uses this same imagery in an expanded way in verses 11-19. Revelation 18:17-18 reads, “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” (ESV). The entire chapter of Revelation 18 is written in a style very similar to that of chapters 2 and 3 of Isaiah.

Verse 17 sums up this section with a literal statement that gives the interpretation of what precedes it, “And every man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall fall: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Verse 17 is repetitious of verse 11, both stating in literal terms the poetic meaning of the images sandwiched between (an inclusio.)

Then, verses 18-21 repeat verse 10 in expanded fashion. This is also an inclusio. This term means a section that is bracketed on both sides by similar material, like a sandwich made with two slices of bread.

18 And they shall hide all idols made with hands, 19 having carried them into the caves, and into the clefts of the rocks, and into the caverns of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth.
20 For in that day a man shall cast forth his silver and gold abominations, which they made in order to worship vanities and bats; 21 to enter into the caverns of the solid rock, and into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:18-21 LXE)

This section is, of course, reminiscent again of Revelation 6:15-17 (See these verses quoted above). Realizing this, the reader cannot help but wonder what time frame these “last days” (Isaiah: 2:10) refers to. Clearly, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587-86 BC, which was future to Isaiah’s writing. It was also destroyed in 70 AD. Pinning an exact time frame for “the last days” here and in Revelation 6 is exceedingly complex and beyond the scope of my understanding.

There is still quite a bit of text between this point and the next reprieve, which begins in Isaiah 4:2. Lord willing, we will continue.

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–4

Devotional: Isaiah 2:6 LXX (LXE, Brenton) (1) For he has forsaken his people the house of Israel, because their land is filled as at the beginning with divinations, as the land of the Philistines, and many strange children were born to them. (2, 3)

What is startling about this verse is the phrase, “as at the beginning.” The land of Israel, formerly known as Canaan, was in God’s eyes, according to Scripture, formerly a land of unholiness, just as the Israelites themselves were unholy while they were in Egypt. God’s command to Joshua had been to engage the Canaanites in war and to utterly defeat them. He was giving the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham. It was to be a land of holiness for a holy people, whom God had chosen for this purpose (see Deuteronomy 12f., and Joshua 24). He wanted them to live their lives in reflection of his own holy nature, so that the world around them could see and know the difference.

Isaiah tells the people in 2:6 that God has forsaken them, because just as “at the beginning,” the land was filled with false religion and children of careless intermarriage with those who did not worship God (Philistines). What is strikingly sad is that after nearly 500 years, God found no difference between the character of the nation inhabiting the land then, which was Israel, and the way it was before their arrival.

Such a statement has tremendous application today. How would I feel if the summation of the legacy of my life was that I made no difference? Everything at the end of my life was just as it was at the beginning, before I was born? What about our churches? Some churches have been in particular neighborhoods for fifty years or more. Have they made a difference? Or, are things just as they were “at the beginning,” before the church ever arrived?

God will have his way. Christ introduced a holiness among men that cannot be polluted, diluted, or destroyed. Only as I adhere to Christ, as a branch to its vine, will I ever make a difference. I pray we all do.

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1 For those who may be interested, my personal preference for an English translation of the Septuagint in most cases is Lancelot Brenton. Other translations are available. One is the translation by Moisés Silva in the NETS Bible (New English Translation of the Septuagint), available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/. He writes in the introduction, “To the Reader,” about Brenton’s translation, which he thinks highly of, and his own. Having compared verse 6 with the original Greek text of Rahlf’s, the NETS translation, the English translation in The Orthodox Study Bible (Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), and Brenton’s translation (Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, available in an online version at https://ebible.org/eng-Brenton/ISA02.htm), I find that I prefer Brenton’s translation: 1) it is accurate to Rahlf’s text, which Silva states is adequate for the vast majority of verses, and 2) it is the most pleasing of the three to my English ear. 

2 English translations based upon the Masoretic (Hebrew) text differ for this verse. For example, the ESV has, “For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.” The difference is that where the ESV has the phrase, “full of things from the east,” the Septuagint has, “filled as at the beginning.” The BDB Hebrew lexicon available to me (Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew-Aramaic and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Abridged BDB-Gesenius Lexicon) (Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997), BibleWorks, v.9) gives three meanings for the Hebrew of this word: 1) front, 2) east, and 3) aforetime, or formerly. My speculation is that the translators of the Hebrew text into the Greek Septuagint, some three centuries BC, or BCE, chose meaning three.

3 I really prefer to do my devotions, where possible, from the English Septuagint. It’s often provides much more “spiritual meat” than the Masoretic, which in comparison tends toward “dry neutrality.” The phrases in quotations are both my own.

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–3

Isaiah 2:6 reads, “You, LORD, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.” (NIV)

The word “abandoned” in 2:6 is a different verb than the “left behind” verb of Isaiah 1:9. It means to let go of something, to “loose” it. So, for instance, if someone were holding the hand of a drowning person, or of a person hanging over a cliff, and “abandoned” them, the verb would indicate a letting go of their hand. Another example would be if an army were to withdraw from an area being threatened by an enemy force, leaving the inhabitants behind to fend for themselves, it would be “abandoning” them.

Interestingly, in comparison with the Septuagint Greek of Isaiah, Hebrews 13:5, originally written in Greek, uses both the verb “abandon” from Isaiah 2:6 and the word “left behind” of 1:9–

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (ESV, unless otherwise noted, all quotations will be from the ESV).

The first verb is the one found in Isaiah 2:6, explained above. The next verb in Hebrews 13:5, “nor forsake you,” is the Greek verb found in LXX 1:9. This meaning is more subtle. It indicates the part that is left behind after something else has been chosen. For when the Lord says, “I will never forsake you,” it means he will never choose others but not you. Think of the foolish maidens who weren’t present with their lamps lit when the bridegroom came. The bridegroom selected the one wise maiden who had her lamp lit and was eagerly waiting for him. The bridegroom chose her and “left behind,” or forsook the others (Mat 25:1-13). Hebrews tells us that the Lord says that will never happen to his followers. He will never let go of them (“leave you”) and never depart to live without them (“forsake you”). οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ οὐδ᾽ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω, Heb 13:5, Nestle).

How blessed is this reassurance given in the New Testament. But not so in Isaiah 2:6 and forward through 4:1. There God is very angry with his people and has indeed abandoned them. How can this even be?

Going back to Hebrews 13:5, we find that when the writer says, “For he has said… ” the quotation is actually from the Old Testament, not from our Lord in the New. In Joshua 1:5, the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah) is speaking directly to Joshua just after Moses dies. He’s reassuring Joshua that he would always be with him, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua remained faithful to the Lord for his whole life, dying in faith. And, God kept all his promises to the people when he brought them out of Egypt.

But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, (Joshua 23:15).

There is a tough knot in the core of Christendom. Paul dealt with it in Romans. That is a belief that certain people feel they can claim the promises of God as an absolute guarantee that God can never, never break. “He said so, therefore… ” “If he doesn’t do what he promised, then he’s not God. Therefore, he needs to bless Israel.” Or, “I’m born again; therefore, God has no choice but to take me to heaven when I die.”

But nowhere in Scripture does it ever say that God rewards overt, willful, persistent disobedience (rebellion, changing of allegiance). In fact, Scripture everywhere claims the opposite. Joshua 23:15 begins with, “But… ” and continues with, “So the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.” That’s clear as day. And Isaiah is warning in 2:6-4:1 that what Joshua foretold in chapter 23 is about to happen unless the people repent.

“But, but, but…if God requires my faithfulness, isn’t that works? I’ve been taught, Once saved, always saved.” And, “I can never lose my salvation. Trusting in my faithfulness to God means not trusting in the completed work of Jesus Christ. His grace is sufficient to cover all my sin, even my unfaithfulness.” Show me a Scripture that says that.

Everywhere, but everywhere, the Bible teaches allegiance to God as a continuing prerequisite to his salvation. “But, but…” To say that we have no responsibility and no choice regarding that allegiance is to deny Scripture. God does not drag us into heaven against our will. The whole book of Hebrews is a warning against forsaking Jesus Christ. Chapter 11 is an exhortation to faithfulness. Christians so often quote the latter portion of 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and leave off (Yes! our verb) the first portion, which is a warning against loving money instead of trusting in Christ, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have… ”

Christians often say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb 13:8). We need also to quote Malachi 3:6, “‘For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.'” If God does not change but is always the same, then the God who spoke Isaiah 2:6 hasn’t changed or gone away. Christ’s death on the cross doesn’t make that God of Isaiah disappear. So how do we reconcile these two extremes? A God of grace who always keeps his promise to bless and a God of wrath who punishes the wicked?

What needs to be reconciled? Grace and human responsibility. God’s indelible promises and his enduring wrath against his wicked people.

In answering these seeming contradictions, it seems impossible to escape the concept of the faithful remnant. First, the Bible everywhere teaches that people are saved by means of faith, that is, their belief in, hope on, obedience to, and allegiance toward God. “By grace you are saved through faith…” (Heb 2:8). But second, on the other hand,–although we haven’t gotten there yet, we will get to the rest of Isaiah 2:6-4:1–but in that passage God describes his aversion and repugnance to the wicked ways of his people. Isaiah 2:6 says that he has already “abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob.” So on one hand, Isaiah 2:2-4 speaks of their final blessing, and on the other hand God abandons and punishes. What gives?

Reading all the way through Malachi 3 reveals the solution:

16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Mal 3:16-18 ESV)

These verses explain in a nutshell the concept of the faithful remnant. These are the ones whom God saves throughout the Old Testament and in the New Testament through Christ. Paul also explains the distinction between the two groups in Romans 9 and 11. Read those chapters with Isaiah in mind. God’s grace always forgives those who repent and believe (trust in, rely on, obey, and show allegiance toward) him. The rebellious (traitors), no matter their lineage, he rejects.

So, is this faithfulness of the remnant a matter of their own virtue, a matter of works righteousness? No. Paul explains, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Rom 11:5-6). It’s faith, but it’s a faith born of grace.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Nevertheless, we are the ones who must live out our lives. God does not live our lives for us. Down here on the ground, faith looks like a struggle. It looks like a struggle because it is a struggle. And living out our faith looks like choice, because without contradicting grace, it is a choice. It’s a gift and a choice at one and the same time. Faith is a choice that God’s grace allows and helps us to make. Those who perish do not make that choice, even when given plenty of opportunity. The lesson, as Paul teaches in Romans 11, is to accept the blessing of salvation with humility and thanksgiving, not taking it for granted, living in holy fear, lest the fate of abandoned Israel become our own. And we are to pray for Israel, that God’s grace would awaken and arouse them to living faith.

But this is what Isaiah is about: these two groups and God’s actions and promises for each. There is blessing for the one, and destruction for the other. Lord willing, we will continue.

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–2

RECAP: As mentioned previously, God in Isaiah addresses two groups of people. He is pleased with one group and blesses them. The other group receives his condemnation. Unless the reader understands that God constantly and abruptly switches back and forth between these two groups, she might form the opinion that God is “schizophrenic,”–now he is happy; now he is angry. The groups are usually not labeled per se. Most often, everyone is referred to as “they.” So how does the reader know when God has left off addressing one group and switches to the other? The answer lies in the content. Someone who knows God well might say, “God would never speak to his loved ones using words like these.”

The two groups, though usually not labeled, are labeled in Chapter 1. Verse 2 introduces the rebellious children. Verse 9 introduces the “few survivors,” (LXX seed) the Lord “left,” (LXX left surviving, Thayer Def. 2), that is, spared. He spared a remnant. The concept of remnant derives from a root meaning “forsake, abandon.” Most often, biblically, the word is not used in a good way. Israel “forsakes” or “abandons” God’s law. But when judgment comes, and God sweeps away the wicked, it is good to be part of the leftovers, the small group not taken, the ones left behind. The image of a seamstress cutting a pattern works well. The scraps left over after the usable portion has been removed are “left.” Seamstresses actually call this leftover portion the “remnant.”

Isaiah’s whole concept of a “remnant” spills over into Romans 9:6, “… For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” and 9:27, “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved.'” Understanding the concept that Isaiah flips between addressing two distinct groups of people is critical. Unless the reader grasps this and learns to identify the two groups, she might get whiplash. God in Isaiah 1:25-27 addresses the remnant, who will be cleansed by the removal of greater Israel, whose judgment is described in verses 28-31.

Chapter 2 opens, “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem,” (ESV, unless otherwise noted). Judah and Jerusalem formed the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Judah is the tribe that birthed Jesus, according to his flesh. Jerusalem was the center of Israel’s worship, location of the temple of God. Isaiah’s prophecies span four Judean kings (1:1), and the timing is just over 100 years before the Babylonian captivity. God sent Isaiah to call his people to repentance (1:16-20).

Verses 2-4 are positive words prophesying goodness and blessing. These are addressed to the remnant, the “seed,” (1:9). In verse 2, the words “mountain,” “mountains,” and “hills,” are symbolic. Isaiah is not speaking of literal elevations of literal landscape features, nor of a cataclysmic, literal lifting up (a seismic earthquake?) of a massive amount of earth and rock, even though it is true that Jerusalem was built on a high hill. The “mountain of the Lord” represents the dwelling place of God, the figurative seat of his power (see also Isaiah 30:29, Micah 4:1-2, and Zechariah 8:3). The hills in this verse represent other, smaller powers. “Zion” is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7 and is a name for the City of David, the capital of that great king. David in turn becomes a New Testament type (a model New Testament writers claim from the Old Testament) of the Great King, Jesus Christ. Taken together, the words of verse 2 speak of the physical location of the center of the Lord’s kingdom, where he is to be worshiped.

Still in verse 2, what time period do “the latter days” refer to? The Septuagint (Old Greek translation) calls these “the last days.” We find this phrase again in Acts 2:17, 2 Timothy 3:1, Hebrews 1:2, and elsewhere in the New Testament. Hebrews 1:1-2 declares, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Based upon its New Testament usage, the “last days,” or “latter days,” refer to a time future to Isaiah, a time of Messiah’s reign, that is, after the resurrection and ascension. Yet, the question still remains, “latter days” of what? Taken as a whole, verses 2-3 speak of a time of restoration and righteousness in God’s kingdom, a time when his center of worship will be a beacon of light to the whole world.

Verse 4 is extremely well known among Christians. “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” It speaks of the peaceful, enlightened reign of the Lord, Christians would say of Messiah. Whether this age of spiritual peace and prosperity refers to the current church age in its entire extent, or to a still future reign, cannot be known. In either event, God’s intention, as expressed by Isaiah, is to bless his worship by many peoples, not just the Israelites.

Verse 5 transitions from Group 1, the blessed, to Group 2, the judged. It can be read with the previous section, or the following. It’s as though God is saying to his own people, the house of Jacob (paraphrasing), Look, I just showed you the future of my kingdom and my worship. Now won’t you come and be part of this? Verse 5, “And now, O house of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Could the Apostle John have been thinking of this when he wrote in John 1:4-5, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,”? See also John 12:35-36 and Luke 1:79.

Verses 2:6-4:1 address in an unbroken stream the group God chastises (to be continued).

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