Sunday, July 31, 2016

"God's plans for Jerusalem …"

Day #214

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 29 - 33 ...

God’s relationship with the Jews as a people and His promises to them concerning Jerusalem and His plans for the future dominate Isaiah’s prophecy.  The prophets spoke often of the city of Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.  John writes in his Revelation of the nations gathered against Jerusalem just prior to the return of Jesus Christ.  God will be vindicated when the nations of the earth are defeated by Jesus and His mighty army of angels from heaven.  If all of this sounds like foolishness, remember that the Bible speaks of angels and the spiritual realm many times.  Jesus Christ will literally reign over all the earth from Jerusalem!  But first, God’s judgment will come on the nations.

For more than fifty years God used Isaiah to speak to a remnant of people whom He had chosen from the nation of Judah.  While God had chosen Abraham and his son, Isaac, and his son, Jacob, and through him, Israel, to be His special people, only a small number were chosen by God to be His children for eternity through faith in the coming Savior.  These heard the words of the prophets and lived with hope while those around them cried out to a God they didn’t know.  So it is today.  People claim to believe in God but do not know who He is.  I remind people often that the God who reveals Himself in the Bible is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He promised that the Savior would come from this line, through Jacob’s son, Judah.  It would be the coming One, the Messiah, who would finally establish His throne in Jerusalem.

The people in Isaiah’s day heard the words of Isaiah and looked for this coming ruler who would bring victory to His people.  They could not have understood that He would come first as the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53, who would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross.  Yet all of this is written for you and me today so that we may live by faith in a world that continues to reject the truth of the prophets, the apostles and of Jesus Himself, the One the prophets pointed to.  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 prophecies are intertwined so that one verse may be speaking about Isaiah's present or the near future 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, as we have seen, 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.  Judgment would come, but God’s promises would stand.  It is so important to remember that God’s promises are for the remnant, for those chosen by God to be His forever.  Nothing can stop God from keeping His promises!

God would bring a remnant of these people back to the land promised to the descendants of Abraham and the temple would be rebuilt, and then after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Jerusalem would once again be destroyed by the Romans.  This city still exists today amidst the turmoil of the nations that surround her, and God says there is an even greater time of tribulation coming on Jerusalem in the future - perhaps the near future. Isaiah writes that 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).  God will do what God says He will do!  His Name will be exalted through these people and through this city!!

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).  “They will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel” (29:23).  God will keep His promises!!

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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