:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 10:20-34

Isaiah Chapter 10:20-34

vs. 20

- “In that day the remnant left in Israel, the survivors in the house of Jacob, will no longer depend on allies who seek to destroy them. But they will faithfully trust the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.”

- In what day? In the day that God strikes down Assyria. Assyria will serve its purpose and will receive its punishment. In the day that God consumes Assyria's glory and the people that survive are so few in number that a child could count them. (v. 12-19)

- In the day when the enemy is defeated and Israel's punishment for her sin is complete... then the remnant that is left in Israel, will learn to depend on God. They will have run after strong nations long enough. They will have been taken advantage of enough times. They will finally look to the Lord to save them.

- You know... I have a cousin who is living a crazy life right now. She's living life the way she thinks it's fun to live it. She's chasing after all the typical things in this world that are thought to bring pleasure or happiness.

- Her story reminds me of Israel's relationship with God.

- A month or two ago, my mom sat her down and had a very hard talk with her about where her life was going. She was basically warned that if she didn't stop, God was going to punish her, because her actions are those of one who spits in the face of God in contempt.

- She was repentant for a week or two... and then went right back to what she had been doing before... with a vengeance.

- Recently, she's started to become very ill. The doctors aren't sure what's wrong and the medication that should be helping... isn't. If she continues her downward descent... I believe that she will very soon find herself on the verge of death... But regardless of all this... she's still wanting to live life her own way. Still determined that nobody's going to tell her what to do. No matter the cost.

- Israel lived their national life much the same way. Prophets would come with a warning for them to turn from their sin. The people would act contrite for a few days, months, maybe even years... maybe even start to make an outward change... but before you know it... they're wallowing in their sin again... sometimes deeper than before. Sometimes with a renewed intent TO sin.

- Punishment would come. The people would repent... and sometimes for a few generations, they would live righteously before God... But then, you would yet again find the springing up of sin in the life of a nation.

- We are now at a point in Israel's ongoing cycle that God says “Enough!” His anger has burned long enough. They have been given enough chances. It is time for disciplinary action. It is time to end the wishy washy heart cycle of the nation. God brings His righteous judgment down on them, leaving only a faithful remnant to survive. Much like the flood of Noah's day, the wickedness of the hardened heart is done away with.

- God sees into the heart and knows that they have no intention of ever allowing Him to soften their hearts. But the remnant! Those left whose hearts are willing!

- Romans 1:28-2:16

vs. 21-26

- “A remnant will return, yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. But though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant of them will return. The Lord has rightly decided to destroy His people. Yes, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, has already decided to destroy the entire land.”

- My mind automatically goes to the founding of Israel as a nation in 1948.

- I found this article online and I really want to include it. There's some pretty heavy stuff here, but WOW what stuff. :)

- A few points to check out on this... just as a side note- Ezekiel 36-40 talks about the restoration of Israel.

- God brought the people back to the nation. And He not only brought them back... He brought them back exactly when He said He would... down to the hour.

- footnote- “Those who remained faithful to God despite the horrors of the invasion are called the remnant. The key to being a part of the remnant was faith. Being a descendant of Abraham, living in the Promised Land, having trusted God at one time—none of these were good enough. Are you relying on your Christian heritage, your participation in church, or a past experience to qualify you for belonging to God's family? The key to being a true Christian is faith in the mighty God.”

- So to precursor this event...

- “So this is what the Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, says: “O my people in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they oppress you with rod and club as the Egyptians did long ago. In a little while my anger against you will end, and then my anger will rise up to destroy them.” The Lord of Heaven's Armies will lash them with His whip, as He did when Gideon triumphed over the Midianites at the rock of Oreb, or when the Lord's staff was raised to drown the Egyptian army in the sea.”

- I Timothy 5:24-25

- In other words, in speaking to the faithful, do not be afraid when the oppressors come... for although judgment must fall on the nation, there WILL be a restoration... there WILL be a renewal of the heart... God WILL remain faithful to His promises.

- Many places in the New Testament speak about not giving up in times of tribulation or persecution. Rather, we are told to rejoice that we are being persecuted for the sake of the name of Christ.

- Israel was being punished for their disobedience... and this brings the question, “well what about the faithful? If they were faithful, why were they being punished along with all the rest?”

- I think sometimes persecution comes as a way of testing. Sometimes it may not be a punishment so much as other people's response to who we are in Christ. Sometimes, we just happen to get grouped in with the people or groups around us. For instance, ALL of the Israelites ended up in bondage in Egypt. Not just the unfaithful... In war, all are impacted... not just soldiers. And unfortunately, we are all in a battle... a spiritual one, but a battle nonetheless.

- II Thessalonians 2:3-7 says this: “We proudly tell God's other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show His justice and to make you worthy of His Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In His justice He will pay back those who persecute you. And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven...”

- Luke 8:4-18
- Judges 2:16-3:11
- Ezekiel 21:1-17

- James 1:2-8 says: “...When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

- Our lives are a journey to perfection in Christ. Perfection is never reached until we come into our heavenly bodies in a sinless state after death. The more like Christ we become however, the more perfect we are. (Still imperfect... but better than we were...) Christ sometimes uses testing to perfect us. Consider it as the sculptor shaving off the rough edges of the masterpiece. Testing or Trials into our lives a way of getting rid of the things that bind us to this world or to sin.

vs. 27-34

- When the Lord avenges His people and ends their time of punishment, it will be a complete salvation.

- “In that day the Lord will end the bondage of His people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. Look, the Assyrians are now at Aiath. They are passing through Migron and are storing their equipment at Micmash. They are crossing the pass and are camping at Geba. Fear strikes the town of Ramah. All the people of Gibeah, the hometown of Saul, are running for their lives.”

- Basically this passage is telling the people that the Assyrians are drawing ever closer. The cities mentioned are on the path to Jerusalem. They're getting closer and closer. Geba is the city on the other side of the mountain pass. They had made it past the natural boundary and defense system. They were going to be coming to the main city quickly.

- I find it a little odd that the city that they're going for, and the city that's running is the city of Saul. The first thing that God is taking out of Israel's life is the starting point of their dependance upon man instead of on God as King and Leader.

- “Scream in terror, you people of Gallim! Shout out a warning to Laishah. Oh, poor Anathoth! There go the people of Madmenah, all fleeing. The citizens of Gebim are trying to hide. The enemy stops at Nob for the rest of that day. He shakes his fist at beautiful Mount Zion, the mountain of Jerusalem.”

- No place to hide... They are all running from the wrath of God... and the enemy who's chasing them down... stops to take a break. They're not worried about catching them. They know they are the superior force. Indeed... he stops to shake his fist at Jerusalem, the city of God. He is threatening the people of God and in my mind, he's going after them with a vengeance. To shake your fist at something generally denotes anger... I don't see him leaving many survivors with that attitude.

- So here's Israel. The enemy is bearing down upon them quickly. The end is near. Where is their help? Where is their God? Has He forsaken them in this time of danger and distress? Will He not rescue them out of the hand of the enemy?

- “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down. He will cut down the forest trees with an ax. Lebanon will fall to the Mighty One.”

- Lebanon was known for its mighty trees. They were strong cedars. They were used for a little bit of everything.

- As strong as Assyria is... or thinks it is... God will cut down the tree. And not just one... It says “trees”. The whole forest is going down.

- footnote- “Assyria would be like a tree cut down at the height of its power, never to rise again...”

- And indeed they were...

- II Kings 19 includes the story of the Assyrian invasion. Because king Hezekiah went to God first with the issue of the Assyrian attack, God Himself went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 soldiers. When the rest of the Assyrians woke up the next morning, it was to find the dead bodies of their comrades strewn about them. They broke camp and went home.

- If you read through the story in II Kings, I see Hezekiah calling out to God the first time he hears of the oncoming Assyrians. Then when the Assyrian king sends word and says “Don't let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them?...”

- Instead of getting scared and running away, or giving up... Hezekiah goes to the Temple to lay out the message before the Lord. “O Lord, God of Israel, You are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib's words of defiance against the living God. It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that You alone, O Lord, are God.”

- Hezekiah didn't go to God and whine and complain. He went and sought the character of God. He recognized the lies beneath Sennacherib's challenge. True, the other gods might not have protected the other nations... but they weren't THE ALMIGHTY GOD! They were just man made images with no ability to help the people who bowed down before them. Hezekiah knew the character and power of HIS God. The TRUE God. He knew if God chose to do so, that He would save the nation, because God's character is always faithful.

- Had Hezekiah's response been one of fear, or one of apathy, or defeat... I don't think God would have responded in the same way. He might have allowed the Assyrians to attack and conquer. However, because Hezekiah turned to God in an impossible looking circumstance, despite how things looked on the outside, God was faithful and came through completely.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 10:12-19

Isaiah Chapter 10:12-19
vs. 12
- “After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish His purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will turn against the king of Assyria and punish Him—for He is proud and arrogant.”

- I thought a lot about this verse. In some ways it seems a little cold of God to use the king of Assyria for His own purposes and then turn around and destroy them for their actions...

- However... that wasn't really God's motive or intention.

- I found a commentary that I think made a good point.

- “In this verse we see -

(1) That God will accomplish all the purposes of which he designs to make wicked people the instruments. "Their" schemes shall be successful just so far as they may contribute to "his" plans, and no further.

(2) When that is done, they are completely in "his" power, and under his control. He can stay their goings when he pleases, and subdue them to his will.

(3) The fact that they have been made to further the plans of God, and to execute his designs, will not free them from deserved punishment. They meant not so; and they will be dealt with according to "their" intentions, and not according to God's design to overrule them. "Their" plans were wicked; and if God brings good out of them, it is contrary to "their" intention; and hence, they are not to be screened from punishment because he brings good out of their plans, contrary to their designs.

(4) Wicked people "are in fact" often thus punished. Nothing is more common on earth; and all the woes of hell will be an illustration of the principle. Out of all evil God shall educe good; and even from the punishment of the damned themselves, he will take occasion to illustrate his own perfections, and, in that display of his just character, promote the happiness of holy beings.” (from “Barnes Notes on the Bible”)

- Now, God may have used Assyria for the discipline of Israel, but it wasn't just because He had it out for Assyria.

- When we read the story of Jonah, we see Jonah being sent directly to the capital of Assyria. Precisely so the Word of God could be given to the people to bring about their repentance. And it did! And for about 40 years or so, the nation was a God-fearing nation. However, eventually... they followed the example of Israel and left God for idols and other things.

- God didn't stop there. Isaiah is not the only prophet to speak of Assyria. He's not the only one who prophesied that if they didn't turn their hearts back to God that they would be destroyed. To the contrary, for over a century prophets spoke of the destruction of Assyria. Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah all mention something about the fall of Assyria.

- Do you think word didn't travel? I mean some of these prophets were crazy! They did all kinds of things... you think word didn't get back to the Assyrians that the crazy prophets in Israel and Judah were prophesying their demise?

- How many times did God send somebody to them to plead for their repentance... that we DON'T know about? Jonah went. They repented. Apparently their hearts weren't too hard then. So what changed? What changed in their world to make them unresponsive to the call of God?

- Verse 12 here says that God is punishing the king of Assyria because of his pride and arrogance.

- Proverbs 16:18; 29:23
- Obadiah 1:2-16
- Psalm 10
- II Kings 19:20-34

vs. 13-14

- “He boasts, “By my own powerful arm I have done this. With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it. I have broken down the defenses of nations and carried off their treasures. I have knocked down their kinds like a bull. I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.”

- The king of Assyria... and the people of Assyria, turned away from God. They decided they were better off on their own. They were stronger than God.

- In Jeremiah, God said this about the people of Judah, and I think it relates well. “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Have you no respect for me? Why don't you tremble in my presence? I, the Lord, define the ocean's sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me. They do not say from the heart, 'Let us live in awe of the Lord our God, for He gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.' Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things.” (5:21-25)

- Psalm 14; 74

- The people were still living as if God didn't have any power in their lives. They were living as if THEY were the powerful ones. And to that... God said “Should I not punish them for this?... Should I not avenge myself against such a nation?” (Jeremiah 5:28)

- Assyria, HAD BEEN, a repentant nation... but now, God will judge them for their hardened hearts. He will use their evil hearts and their own ambition to fulfill His own plans for disciplining His people.

- You know that scripture that says that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

- All things or everything... means the bad things too. One of the commentaries on verse 12 said that “God designs to correct His people for their hypocrisy, and bring them nearer to Him.” (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary)

- God was doing this for the ultimate good of His people. Without the punishment, they would continue to grow farther and farther from Him.

- So God used an evil thing... Assyria's ambition and pride... to punish His people for their disobedience, in order to bring them closer to Him.

- Proverbs 8:13
- Leviticus 26:14-46

vs. 15-19

- “But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it? Can a wooden cane walk by itself?”

- What is the creation without the Creator? We were created for a purpose... and we, the created... are not greater than the Creator who commands us.

- In Job, chapters 38-41, God challenges Job by listing out all the things that He has done in creation or in nature... and basically says “Who are you compared to me?”

- Now, the great thing about this... is that we, through Christ, have access to God's power. That's not to say that we control God... but we have His power moving in and through us at all times if we have faith in Christ.

- But Assyria was looking to their own power. They were boasting of the little power they had in comparison to God's... and feeling pretty good about it!

- “Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, will send a plague among Assyria's proud troops, and a flaming fire will consume its glory. The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night. The Lord will consume Assyria's glory like a fire consumes a forest in a fruitful land; it will waste away like sick people in a plague. Of all that glorious forest, only a few trees will survive—so few that a child could count them!”

- And why is He doing all this? Because they were prideful and boasting in their own power and significance.

- Who are we compared to God? We have no right to boast in our own achievements and accomplishments. For all we have comes from Him. Even Assyria, living as evilly as they were... their power was given to them from God.

- I want to add here the story of Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 3, we see the three Hebrews thrown into the furnace. When they walk out unscathed, the king makes this exclamation. “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue His servants who trusted in Him. They defied the king's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

- He promoted the three to higher positions. He then sent out a message to “the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world.” Doesn't say just his country, or nation. But rather, the WORLD. This experience with God made an impact in this man's heart.

- The message said this: “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are His signs, how powerful His wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”

- Here is this pagan king... worshiping the One True God... as the God that He is.

- But in the verses following, we see a dream. Daniel gives the interpretation of the dream to the king. And it's not pretty... but at the end, Daniel pleads with the king to please stop sinning and do what is right. Because otherwise, his reign of prosperity is over.

- God was warning the king... and asking for a heart change. He had been impacted by what he had seen and experienced... but he hadn't done anything with it other than look it. He hadn't allowed it to change him.

- The king however... did not do as he was warned.

- A year later (yep, God gave him a WHOLE year to turn from his sin.) He was walking along his roof, looking over his city. And he got prideful. “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”

- And while he was still speaking... God spoke. He removed Nebuchadnezzar from the throne. He basically lost his mind and went to live in the fields with the cows. Eating grass and living like an animal.

- For seven years, he lived insane and outside of society. After the time had passed, God brought his mind back to him. And the first thing he did? He praised and worshiped God. “His rule is everlasting, and His kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He does as He pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop Him or say to Him, 'What do You mean by doing these things?'”

- And he ended his section by saying this: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All His acts are just and true, and He is able to humble the proud.”

- After all that, here stands the king in humility, worshiping God because ALL His acts are just and true... even making the KING live in the wild as an animal for 7 years... Even that... was a just act. Why? Because this was the way that God chose to bring the king to his knees. His pride was in the way. He couldn't get over himself. He had no room for God in his life. So God humbled him, so that God could have relationship with the man. So that his life would be more full than he could have ever imagined. Even being king of a massive nation...

- In repentance... came restoration.
- God simply wants honor where honor is due. When we step up and take His place on the throne... it doesn't sit so well with Him. We, the unworthy, are taking the place of the More Than Worthy... and claiming to be better fit for it than Himself!

- Psalm 73
- Jeremiah 13:15-27
- Mark 7:14-23

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 10:1-11

vs. 1-4

- “What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe? You will stumble along as prisoners or lie among the dead. But even then the Lord's anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.”

- These verses are a continuation of the previous chapter.

- The wickedness of the people started with the leaders. Some of those leaders were the judges... the guys who made the laws and executed their judgment according to the law.

- These judges had become a corrupt faction. They were solely concerned with themselves. They were going so far as to condemn the widows and orphans, those who were most in need of help, to extreme poverty.

- In Exodus 22:22-24, the people had been given an edict about widows and orphans: “You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.”

- From the beginning of the law, the people had been given very specific directions about widows and orphans... I mean... the fact that God said He'd kill them if they exploited the weaker members of society... that's pretty cut and dried...

- I Timothy 5:1-16
- James 1:19-27
- Proverbs 23:10-11

- These judges had ceased to care for their fellow man. They were using their position to take advantage of other people.

- We are all in positions that allow us to help or harm the people around us, whether we are judges or bosses, or teachers, or parents, or garbage men.

- Now, not all of us may come into contact with specifically widows and orphans, but we do come into contact with broken people. People who... whether materially, emotionally, or spiritually... NEED something from us. They need our support, our help, our comfort... our faith.

- What happens when we turn away from them? Or use their pain or weakness to our advantage? Oh maybe we don't steal their money, maybe we don't take their possessions... but... maybe we use them when WE need emotional support... and then in turn... refuse to give honest support when they need it.

- I have a friend with whom I had that kind of relationship. Any time something was going wrong in our lives, we would run to the other for support... and totally drain them dry... And as soon as we felt secure enough in ourselves to move on or at least live life without breaking down... we would stop talking to each other, or at least stop being true friends... we'd fight, we'd argue, we'd verbally beat up on each other... tear each other apart... and then when we needed that emotional support... we'd be right back there... draining them dry... but never really forming a relationship out of it. It was more like having an acquaintance that you occasionally poured your heart out to about specific situations... but never REALLY got to know them. We knew the hard parts of the others' life... but we didn't know the rest.

- When I realized one day that I didn't even know if they had siblings... or how many they had... that was a turning point in my way of thinking... I didn't know basic details of their life... but I knew all their relationship issues... How messed up is that? Usually that's the LAST thing you talk about...

- Using someone like that, just hurts both parties. It makes you both vulnerable, without the security of having anything to fall back on. And it creates anger instead of compassion.

- So again... you may not be taking material things from those around you... it might be something emotional.

- Any time you take advantage of someone else, you are going against God's command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

- Romans 13:8-10
- James 2:1-13

- These judges were doing the same thing... they weren't loving their neighbor... they were looking at the things their neighbor had and trying to figure out how to get it away from him. They were taking bribes... convicting the innocent and freeing the guilty. They were only making judgments according to what THEY themselves would get out of the verdict.

- Do we judge people like that? You bet.

- How about cliches in school... remember those? Oh yeah... the preppy kids, the cheerleaders, the jocks, the nerds, the music/theater geeks... not much has changed over the last 50 years... oh sure, they have some new titles... emo, goth, skater... cliches are still cliches.

- How about using someone to gain entry into the cliche? Using them to gain popularity... and then leaving them along the roadside... ever been there?

- We do the same thing in our workplaces... you know you do... there's cliches there, just like there was in middle school... You have the workaholics, the slackers, the brown-nosers, and the ones that will do ANYTHING to get ahead...

- How do you treat the people around you? Do you use them for a purpose and then leave them to sort out the pieces of their wrecked and broken life? Do you leave them wondering “what just happened?” Do you find yourself looking for ways to gain something for yourself... no matter the cost to others? Does your heart harden when you think about the pain in eyes of another because of YOUR actions?

- What kind of consequences will there be for your actions? Considering that God was ready to kill these people off because of their abuse of others...

- Jeremiah 17:5-13
- Habakkuk 2:4-20
- Ezekiel 22
- I Peter 3:8-12
- II Peter 2

vs. 5-11

- “What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger. I use it as a club to express my anger. I am sending Assyria against a godless nation, against a people with whom I am angry. Assyria will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool; his mind does not work that way. His plan is simply to destroy, to cut down nation after nation. He will say, 'Each of my princes will soon be a king. We destroyed Calno just as we did Carchemish. Hamath fell before us as Arpad did. And we destroyed Samaria just as we did Damascus. Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom whose gods were greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria. So we will defeat Jerusalem and her gods, just as we destroyed Samaria with hers.'”

- (Before we get into this... I just have to say... these verses SCREAM arrogance and pride...)

- Assyria was one of the many nations that fought against Israel. It was an incredibly strong nation... that at one point... actually repented and followed God.

- Do you remember the story of Jonah? Well... Nineveh... was the capitol of Assyria. God sent Jonah to the capitol to preach repentance. The city did indeed repent and God prospered them. Later, they started to turn back to their old sinful ways. God's prophets often prophesied the destruction of Assyria if they did not repent... but Assyria turned their hearts away.

- However, here, this nation was used of God. Eventually, because of their sin, they were going to be destroyed... but God can use many things... even vessels that don't know they're being used of God...

- Because of their sin, Assyria had started to devour their neighboring nations... they had become power hungry. They were destructive... and many of their nation's practices are said to have been nothing short of barbaric. They were cocky. They thought that nothing could be higher than they.

- Isaiah here says that they were talking about how weak the gods were. All these places had their own gods that they worshiped. The gods were reflected in the people of the nation. So if the nation was strong... so were the gods... So here stands Assyria, thinking that they are the best thing since sliced bread... thinking that their gods... are most DEFINITELY the strongest right now... and they're getting ready to go up against the ALMIGHT GOD!? Oh boy...

- God knew their hearts. They weren't listening to Him anymore. They had turned away. And they had set their sights on defeating Israel. And while God could have stopped them... Israel was deserving of their punishment. The consequences for sin eventually find you out... no matter what you do...

- So God didn't stop Assyria. He allowed them to take Israel captive. Eventually, tough love is the only option. When God blessed Israel... and they still turned away... time and time again... obviously... blessings weren't working. They were using God... but not loving Him.

- And while God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel... their actions did not go unpunished. They themselves were later destroyed... to a massive extent. Nineveh never rose again... you can barely tell there was ever anything on the site at all... There are mounds of dirt... but no foundations of anything... The people were scattered... and the nation completely crumbled. Leaving no trace of its existence behind...

- Whereas Israel has risen from the ashes... because they eventually repented... and God still honors His covenant. Assyria, on the other hand, threw away the only chance they had... all because of their pride and arrogance.

- II Thessalonians 1:3-10
- Ezekiel 34
- Hebrews 12:5-13

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 9:8-21
vs. 8-10
- “The Lord has spoken out against Jacob; His judgment has fallen upon Israel. And the people of Israel and Samaria, who spoke with such pride and arrogance, will soon know it. They said, “We will replace the broken bricks of our ruins with finished stone, and replant the felled sycamore-fig trees with cedars.”
- The people of Israel were putting themselves and their own wisdom above that of God. The cities that had been ruined because of their sin, they were going to rebuild... better than before... better than when God was with them. The sycamore-fig trees that had been cut down and destroyed... were going to be replaced with cedar trees.
- I was reading through some commentaries ( on this verse. Basically, it was talking about the history of the bricks and trees.
- The bricks were made of clay and straw, and eventually, being exposed to constant sun, they would just crumble and deteriorate. So the buildings had to be frequently fixed and/or replaced.

- Finished stone on the other hand would last longer. And would probably look nicer...
- The sycamore-fig trees were incredibly intriguing to me. They are a short tree that sounds like it's a little bushy. The wood is a kind of spongy. The Egyptians used the wood for the mummy coffins because of it's antiseptic properties. The fruit (get this... :) grows in bunches like grapes straight off of the TRUNK. Not the branches... the TRUNK. (
- These trees were not looked upon as valuable, but they were very useful. David appointed a special person over the head of all the care of the sycamore-fig trees just as he did over the olive trees.
- Sycamore trees also have HUGE root systems. It sends out roots in every direction and DEEP. When Jesus in Luke 17:6 that if you had faith you could tell the mulberry or sycamore (depending on your translation) to be uprooted and moved to the sea... it was not an easy feat.
- These trees were planted along side of the roads. Their leaves were huge and offered great places for shade and rest.
- The cedar trees on the other hand, were nice smelling, strong, and a wood that was straight. No knots in it. It was a wood that was held to be very precious. They were used in the building of the temple. In I Kings 10:27 it says that Solomon made the cedar trees to be as numerous as the Sycamore-fig trees. So apparently it was a sign of wealth or prestige of some sort. (The cedar is often used to portray Christianity in that it is strong and durable etc. However, unless it's being used to explain the second covenant... I don't think that's what it was in this particular passage. Here I think it is simply being looked upon as being a valuable wood.) (
- okay now... what has this got to do with anything else?
- We talk about Christ being the cornerstone of our faith. The building that was built on Christ, wasn't good enough for the people of Israel. This could also be related back to the two covenants. The first covenant was made to lead to the next one. It was built to give the outline so that when Christ came to fulfill the covenant and put into action the second one... it would be time to replace the bricks so to speak. However, Israel wasn't waiting for that. They weren't satisfied with waiting on the promise. They wanted their better house NOW.
- Now, the sycamore tree really got me going... If we look at the fruit as Christ, then things get REALLY interesting.
- This was a tree that was used and useful... but not looked at as anything valuable necessarily.

- Isaiah 53 says this “My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins. But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth....” (vs. 2-7)
- Jesus as the Sycamore tree... unloved. Used, abused, but not counted as valuable.

- Now, I said we were going to look at Jesus as the fruit... Before the Sycamore fruit could be picked, it had to be pierced with a sharp object or fingernail 3 or 4 days before picking. Otherwise, it wouldn't be edible.
- Now, also looking at the roots of the tree... deep strong roots, and the fact that the fruit grew directly from the trunk of this tree...
- God is our foundation. His roots run deep. He is our shelter.
- Christ is God's Son. He grew directly out from the trunk of the tree. He was a direct descendant. There was no branch in between them.
- In order for Christ's sacrifice to be finalized so that it would be for the good of all men, he had to die. He was pierced in the side and laid in a tomb... for 3 DAYS. Without His death and resurrection, we would have no hope. The fruit of all His labors would have been in vain without His death.
- Israel was tossing aside this tree of provision... their protection... for one that looked nicer and was held in higher esteem.
- Do we do the same thing? Do we toss God aside for something better looking? Something more valuable? All these things are temporary! And yet... we still find ourselves looking at those temporary things and thinking of them more highly than the things of God...
- How many times do we get caught up in our search or desire for something more? Like... money, or power, or love, or well... anything? Maybe we want a better house, or a better car. Maybe we simply just want something we can't have. Or don't have the resources to have right now.

- Are we throwing away our place of refuge (eternal) in order to gain more material (temporary) things?
- Proverbs 16:18
- I Samuel 2:3; 15:22-23
vs. 11-21
- “But the Lord will bring Rezin's enemies against Israel and stir up all their foes. The Syrians from the east and the Philistines from the west will bare their fangs and devour Israel.”
- In chapter 7 we first heard about King Rezin of Syria. Not much was said. Rezin joined forces with Israel to go up against Judah and failed. They laid siege to the city, but couldn't defeat King Ahaz of Judah.
- So now, apparently, Rezin's enemies, the Syrians and the Philistines were going to attack his new allies, Israel. (and I know Rezin was supposed to be the king of Syria and then it says his enemies were the Syrians... I'm not sure why. Sometimes it says that Rezin was king of Aram... so I don't know if there were two factions of Syria at this point, or what the deal was... sorry if that's confusing.)
- So now, because Israel made a pact with Rezin, now they were going to be in the hot seat so to speak. They had joined forces to make themselves stronger... and in the process... they made some enemies...
- “But even then the Lord's anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike. For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent. They will not seek the Lord of Heaven's Armies. Therefore, in a single day the Lord will destroy both the head and the tail, the noble palm branch and the lowly reed. The leaders of Israel are the head, and the lying prophets are the tail.”
- Even though the enemy nations were getting ready to attack... and would indeed attack... it wasn't enough. God wanted them removed from the land. He wanted them gone. They were polluting the land with their idol worship and their sins.
- Ezekiel 5:5-6:14
- “For the leaders of the people have misled them. They have led them down the path of destruction. That is why the Lord takes no pleasure in the young men and shows no mercy even to the widows and orphans. For they are all wicked hypocrites, and they all speak foolishness. But even then the Lord's anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.”
- Because these people were all evil... God would punish them all. Even the widows and orphans were hypocrites. So even though their status in life normally would have caused their to be pity felt on their behalf... now, because they are all lying hypocrites, God will strike. His anger WILL be satisfied.
- Psalm 94
- Ezekiel 22:23-31
- “This wickedness is like a brush fire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. The land will be blackened by the fury of the Lord of Heaven's Armies.”
- The wickedness had spread so far and so vast that the only way to get rid of it was to also send judgment far and vast.
- Widespread wickedness calls for widespread judgment.
- Now, this place would blaze, not with the fire of wickedness, but with the purging fire of judgment and God's holy wrath.
- Proverbs 12:1-3
- Romans 1:18-2:16
- “The land will be blackened by the fury of the Lord of Heaven's Armies. The people will be fuel for the fire, and no one will spare even his own brother. They will attack their neighbor on the right but will still be hungry. They will devour their neighbor on the left but will not be satisfied. In the end they will even eat their own children.”
- Hosea 10:13-15
- Jeremiah 4; 5; 6
- When Israel and Judah fell... both times, both separately, they fell after a very long siege. 2 or 3 years apiece. I can imagine how high tensions ran at those times. Even before that... When God is absent... morals are absent. When morals are absent... there is no reason to want to do the right thing. Therefore, if you see something you want, take it. If you see something that makes you angry, act the way you feel... There's no guidelines if God is not present in a life. That life can choose to do whatever they want... and without God guiding their hearts... there's no reason to do good.
- Can you imagine the chaos? I can. Because it would be the way it is today. Random robberies over petty things. Murders over little meaningless arguments. Selfish acts built on selfish feelings and extreme emotions.
- Even to take things from your children or yourself... Some translations read that they would eat their own children, some read that they would eat their own arm. The idea is that they are willing to devour anything in their path if they think it will profit themselves. Even their own body.
- How about drugs? Alcohol abuse? The damage that is done to your own body just for a few moments of pleasure? A few moments that make you forget about life? Or a way to rebel against what others tell you is bad? That's a sin against your own body. It's a destroying of yourself... for what? *sigh* Not much of anything...
- (Also... perhaps because of the siege, quite literally people could have eaten their children... there are some references to such things... although I'm not sure if the time line lines up. There's references to women eating their children in a time of great drought. So I may be getting them a little confused and muddled together, but the Lamentations verse below also talks about women eating their children during a siege.)
- Lamentations 4
- One of the commentaries I was reading on these verses made the comment that “sin carries this (God's wrath) within itself as its own self-punishment.” (
- “Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, Ephraim will feed on Manasseh, and both will devour Judah. But even then the Lord's anger will not be satisfied. His first is still poised to strike.”
- Manasseh and Ephraim were the sons of Joseph... two tribes from one... As close as brothers. The brother tribes would fight against and devour each other... only joining together for one common enemy... another brother...
- And even still... God's hand will still be poised to strike.
- As I sit and write this... my heart is heavy. Right now, someone very near and dear to me is throwing their life away... *sigh* Our prayer has become that God would do whatever it takes to bring her back.
- The harsh truth of her situation, and the situation with Israel and Judah... is that God WILL do whatever it takes to bring His people back into holy communion with Him. And if that means showing a little tough love... then that's what He'll do. Sometimes love... is shown simply through discipline.
- The judgment that came upon Judah and Israel came because God had tried everything else to win their hearts... and nothing worked. So the last available option... was punishment. And hopefully through their punishment and discipline for their sin... the people will again turn to the God who gave His all for them.