Sunday, February 19, 2012
Isaiah Chapter 3
- “The Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water, all their heroes and soldiers, judges and prophets, fortune-tellers and elders, army officials and high officials, advisers, skilled craftsmen, and astrologers.”
- Judah had ceased to depend on God. They depended on just about everything BUT God. If they needed wisdom, they turned the astrologers, or the fortune-tellers, or their elders... If they needed help with a war or battle... well, they had many strong soldiers and military leaders... so they depended on them. They had all the food and drink they could want. There was prosperity in the land. They had no need to call upon God... because He had done His job so well in giving them everything they could ever need or want.
- But now... their time of prosperity would be coming to an end. God would be taking back His rightful place as provider of all things. As head over the nation.
- You know how it talks about God being a jealous God? God is jealous after our heart's devotion. He longs for us, to long for Him.
- Exodus 34:14
- It is no coincidence that one of the first commandments was that “you shall have no other gods before Me.”
- He wanted it to be in the forefront of their minds... an important thing to remember...
- And yet... the people had turned their minds and hearts to earthly things. They were worshiping the gifts... rather than the Giver.
- So... God will take the gifts away... so that the people MUST cling... to the Giver of all things.
- And this is not to say that God is an egotistical being who desires all thoughts to be centered on Him, or that anything that fills our hearts or minds outside of God is sin... But God should indeed direct our thoughts and we should allow our hearts to dwell on God...
- When our life becomes centered around earthly or worldly pleasures... we have entered into a place of disobedience and have turned away from God... if only seemingly slightly at first... it is the beginning of the end so to speak.
- Looking at the list of things that Judah was depending on... many of them probably started with national and/or personal pride. Skill in battle, skill in craftsmanship, great leaders, fertile gardens and plains...
- It would be easy for the thought to turn from “how great God is to us...” to “look what we've done! Look what we've accomplished! WE are great!”
- James 4:1-10 says: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But He gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.”
- Keep in mind... this letter wasn't written to the Jews of old... it was written to a new church... A church founded on Christ... not on the old law... and yet they were still struggling with where the line was between following God... and chasing after the world.
- Leviticus 26:1-46
- “I will make boys their leaders, and toddlers their rulers.”
- Judah definitely had their share of young rulers... Joash became king of Judah at age 7... Josiah became king at age 8. Definitely in that boy age range... there were also kings of 12, 16, 18...
- No longer could Judah boast in their elders...
- Lamentations 2
- “People will oppress each other—man against man, neighbor against neighbor. Young people will insult their elders, and vulgar people will sneer at the honorable. In those days a man will say to his brother, “Since you have a coat, you be our leader! Take charge of this heap of ruins!” But he will reply, “No! I can't help. I don't have any extra food or clothes. Don't put me in charge!”
- footnote- “This section describes what happens when a nation loses its leadership.”
- What leaders Judah did have... were contradictory. One would be a good king and lead the people back to God and the worship of the True God... the next would set up idols and sacrifice his own children on the altar... Some would start out good... and end up bad... or like Manasseh... start out REALLY bad and end up pretty good...
- Nobody wanted to take on full responsibility... they were more concerned with their own desires and needs than the nation as a whole... Even when Joash asked the priests to repair the temple... they took the money for themselves and didn't start repairs for like 30 years...
- II Kings 12
- “For Jerusalem will stumble, and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the Lord and refuse to obey Him. They provoke Him to His face. The very look on their faces gives them away. They display their sin like the people of Sodom and don't even try to hide it. They are doomed! They have brought destruction upon themselves.”
- They weren't ashamed of their sin. They were throwing their sin in God's face. They weren't at all repentant. They were refusing to obey God... and not on accident... it was a willing decision to turn away and walk in the path of sin.
- Casting Crowns has a song called “City on the Hill.” The chorus says:
“One by one, they ran away
with their made up minds, to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade, in the city on the hill...”
- The song talks about the people of the city fighting amongst themselves over who was greater... or who had a greater part within the city... And in doing so... they tore themselves apart. And so instead of coming together as one body... they all turned away one by one... and the light faded...
- Judah had turned away... and it was intentional. They looked at God... and they said... nope... we want to do this instead. They still occasionally called on God when things got really rough... but they didn't change their ways. Kings would work reforms... and the people would fall right back into their idol worship as soon as the king was gone... if the king himself didn't fall into it...
- Just as Sodom was destroyed for its sin... so Judah would be destroyed. God doesn't let sin go on forever... especially sin that is purposely displayed in order to provoke His anger...
- However, God is not unjust...
- “Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned! But the wicked are doomed, for they will get exactly what they deserve.”
- Justice means that everyone gets exactly what they deserve... there's no sugar-coated excuses. God withheld His judgment for so long... He warned His people time and time again... but to no avail. Nothing He did worked. So now, the wicked will get their just desserts.
- footnote- “The people would be proud of their sins, parading them out in the open. But sin is self-destructive. In today's world, sinful living often appears glamorous, exciting, and clever. But sin is wrong, regardless of how society perceives it, and, in the long run, sin will make us miserable and destroy us. God tries to protect us by warning us about the harm we will cause ourselves by sinning. Those who are proud of their sins will receive the punishment from God they deserve. Having rejected God's path to life, they had only one alternative—the path to destruction.”
- Deuteronomy 32:9-43
- “Childish leaders oppress my people, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you; they send you down the wrong road.”
- Childish leaders, may refer to the youth of their leaders, but it may also refer to the attitude of the leaders. They were as children. They would follow God until they saw something that their own fleshly desires made more appealing than their walk with God.
- Or perhaps it was that they acted like spoiled children... Jehoram killed all of his brothers as soon as he became king. He was not the greatest of kings... and in II Chronicles 21 it says that “no one was sorry when he died.” That's a terrible epitaph.
- As soon as the priest who had raised him and watched over his walk died, Joash turned to idols and even killed the priest's son.
- Uzziah was good... until he became prideful... He violated the priestly rules... he went in to burn incense himself instead of the priest. So God struck him with leprosy.
- Ahaz sacrificed his sons on the altars of gods. He took all the things out of the temple that could be useful or worth anything... then nailed the doors shut in order to prevent anyone worshiping there.
- Hezekiah was a great king. He followed God. He reopened the temple and purified the people. However... he got a little prideful as well... When ambassadors came from Babylon, he showed them everything... the treasure storehouses, silver, gold, spices... whatever he had. The armory, the royal treasuries. NOTHING was hidden. Because of this, Isaiah prophesied that everything would be carried off to Babylon... including some of Hezekiah's sons... who would become eunuchs who would serve in the palace of the Babylonian king. Hezekiah replied that “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” For the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.” (II Kings 20:12-19) How cold is that? Geesh...
- Manasseh was another who sacrificed his sons to idols. He killed his own people. He practiced witchcraft and all kinds of stuff... but at the end of his life, after having been taken into exile, he returned and repented and worshiped God. Although he didn't destroy all the idols etc. throughout the land... the people still worshiped their idols.
- Throughout Chronicles and Kings, there's a few times that it'll say something like “the prophet ______ came and spoke directly from the Lord, but the king would not listen.” A lot of our major prophets spoke during this time. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Micah.
- Women who ruled... well there was Athaliah... Her son was king... and was killed in battle soon after taking rule. So Athaliah... wonderful woman that she was... killed all of her grandchildren so that she could become queen. Except for Joash who was a baby... his aunt sneaked him away and hid him in the temple for 6 years. Then Joash became king when he was 7.
- And as for misleading... we've already touched on that... at the beginning, it was about every other king or so that was evil... by the end... there were 4 in a row... they were starting to get more and more evil. The evil kings would set up idols and shrines and lead the people away... the good kings would tear down the idols and lead the people back to God. Sometimes. Sometimes they were good kings who... encouraged the people to worship God... but did nothing to promote it... so while the king was good... the people were still worshiping their idols as usual.
- So judgment will come upon the leadership of Judah...
- “The Lord takes His place in court and presents His case against His people! The Lord comes forward to pronounce judgment on the elders and rulers of His people: “You have ruined Israel, my vineyard. Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. How dare you crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” demands the Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies.”
- footnote- “The elders and rulers were responsible to help people, but instead they stole from the poor. Because they were unjust, Isaiah said the leaders would be the first to receive God's judgment. Leaders will be held accountable for how they lead. If you are in a position of leadership, you must lead according to God's just commands. Put the needs of others before your own. Fulfill the purpose God intended. Don't seek your own advantage. Corruption will bring God's wrath, especially if others follow your example.”
- Think about this... these men were entrusted with the welfare of God's people. Instead of helping God's people... they took advantage of them. They used them. They led them into sin and evil.
- We have all be entrusted to an extent with the lives around us... how are we leading them? If the people had refused to worship the idols... would the kings have turned from their wickedness? Maybe not entirely... and maybe the people would have been persecuted for trying... but I think God would have honored the people and smote the king in his heart with that action.
- Even being in a position of servility... we can still lead with our example.
- “The Lord says, “Beautiful Zion is haughty: craning her elegant neck, flirting with her eyes, walking with dainty steps, tinkling her ankle bracelets. So the Lord will send scabs on her head; the Lord will make beautiful Zion bald.” On that day of judgment the Lord will strip away everything that makes her beautiful: ornaments, headbands, crescent necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and veils; scarves, ankle bracelets, sashes, perfumes, and charms; rings, jewels, party clothes, gowns, capes, and purses; mirrors, fine linen garments, head ornaments, and shawls.”
- Every adornment that Judah had would be stripped away. She had played the harlot with other gods... so... God would strip her of everything that allowed her to do so. Hair was considered a great beauty thing... I Corinthians 11 says that it is shameful for a woman to cut her hair...
- Scabs and sores of the head in Levitical law, made you ceremonially unclean and in some cases, it required your head to be shaved.
- Leviticus 13:29-46
- Some of the commentaries I was reading said that in some Arabic cultures, there was a kind of ankle bracelet that was tied around both ankles, so that it restricted the woman's steps to little steps. They were generally outfitted with bells or bangles to draw attention to the fact that they were wearing these things and were therefore more... ladylike I guess. (sounds like torture to me... but okay...)
- So instead of being able to wear things to draw attention to all her beauty, Jerusalem would be stripped of everything pretty... and she would be left bald, and wearing burlap...
- “Instead of smelling of sweet perfume, she will stink. She will wear a rope for a sash, and her elegant hair will fall out. She will wear rough burlap instead of rich robes. Shame will replace her beauty. The men of the city will be killed with the sword, and her warriors will die in battle. The gates of Zion will weep and mourn. The city will be like a ravaged woman, huddled on the ground.”
- There are 21 things that Isaiah lists that God will strip away from Jerusalem. 21 is the number for Divine Completion. God wasn't just going to partly punish Jerusalem and let it go. This was the time for judgment. They had walked away too many times. They had laughed at His second chances... So, God is going to completely strip Jerusalem of anything and everything that makes her think that she's above needing God.
- Instead of walking through town glorying in her ladyship and her beauty... She will be thrown to the ground to sit in her burlap to grieve for her much lower condition. The men of Jerusalem will be killed in battle. All of the warriors that she put so much stock in... will die.
- All that she once was... will be gone... and in its place... will be nothing but shame and reproach. All her pride... crushed into bits. Nothing left... but to cling to God and hope that His Grace and forgiveness still covers all sin and that He will still hear the cry of the one He loves.
- James 4:4-10
- II Samuel 22:26-30