Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Understanding Isaiah ..."

Day #41:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - February 7th

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 29 - 33 ...

Isaiah's long book of prophecy spans more than fifty years, during which Isaiah prophesied to the people of Judah.  The twelve tribes of Israel had long before been divided into two separate nations, ruled by two separate kings.  Israel, the northern kingdom, was by far the larger of the two, but Judah was ruled by the descendants of Judah and King David, from whom God had promised the Messiah, the Savior would come.

In order to understand Isaiah's prophecies, you need to understand that God was using Isaiah to speak to the people in his day, but also about a FUTURE day.  These prophesies are intertwined so that one verse may be speaking about Isaiah's present and the next may be speaking about what will take place when Jesus returns.  With that in mind, you begin to see certain themes being repeated throughout Isaiah's prophecies.

One of those themes is Jerusalem.  Chapter 29 begins with a warning for Jerusalem.  Isaiah uses the word "Ariel" to refer to Jerusalem.  The word is an unfamiliar one that may be repeated at the end of verse 2: "altar hearth."  Or it may mean, "lion of God."  Either way, it points to God's judgment upon Jerusalem.  Hard days are coming for Judah and Jerusalem ... then and now.  God says, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men" (29:13). The Babylonians would come and destroy the temple and take the people into captivity more than a century later.

God would bring the people back to the land promised to the descendants of Abraham and the temple would be rebuilt, but after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Jerusalem would once again be destroyed by the Romans.  But there is an even greater time of tribulation coming on Jerusalem in the future - perhaps the near future.  The nations will be gathered against the city of God.  Then, "suddenly, in an instant, the LORD Almighty will come" (29:5-6).  "The LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights. ... the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; He will shield it and deliver it" (31:4-5).

Throughout his prophecies, Isaiah refers to this future time when the "Holy One of Israel" (30:11-12) will confront those who have rejected Him and move them to repent and to receive Jesus as Lord.  The nations will be destroyed and the people of Israel will "once more ... rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel" (29:19).

Chapter 32 speaks of "a king who will reign in righteousness" (32:1).  God promises, "My people will live in peaceful dwelling-places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (32:18).  "Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved. ... No one living in Zion will say, 'I am ill'; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven" (33:20, 24).  The prophet Zechariah speaks of this time in Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1.  In a future time, when the nations are gathered against Jerusalem, Jesus will come to her aid and stand on Mount Zion.  The armies of the nations will be destroyed and Jerusalem will become the location for Jesus' reign in His millennial kingdom.  God has said it; it must be so.

As you and I read Isaiah today, the words point us to our Sovereign God who is guiding the affairs of the nations toward the conclusion that God Himself has determined.  Those who reject Him, who despise the truth that He alone is God, who mock Him by worshiping other gods, will face His wrath.  But those who trust in the Savior, who worship the Holy One of Israel through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, will one day reign with Jesus in the city of David, Jerusalem ... praising and glorifying the one true God ... forever!!

"O LORD our God, when we hear the prophecies of judgment and wrath written so long ago, it reminds us that You are holy and just.  We thank You, Father, that You are also compassionate and merciful and that as Isaiah predicted later, You provided a Savior who took our sins upon Him and through whom we who believe are healed ... forgiven!  Give us grace and strength to proclaim Your truth to our world as we await the fulfillment of all Your promises when Jesus returns to reign over the nations in Jerusalem.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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