Sunday, February 26, 2012
Isaiah Chapter 4
- “In that day so few men will be left that seven women will fight for each man, saying, “Let us all marry you! We will provide our own food and clothing. Only let us take your name so we won't be mocked as old maids.”
- This is a continuation of the previous chapter. (I really should have put it in with chapter 3.) In the day that Jerusalem is humbled, and her warriors and soldiers are killed, then will there be a shortage of men. So, many women will throw themselves at one man begging to marry him.
- According to Hebrew tradition, a woman who was not married or who was childless, was considered as disgraced. Think of Hannah when she went to the temple to beg for a child. Or Sarah in her old age, still without a child. Or Rachel when she finally had a child as well as her sister. When Rachel gave birth to Joseph, she said “God has removed by disgrace.” (Genesis 30:22-24)
- In that day, following this destruction of men, the women weren't going to wait around on the perfect man... they're latching on to the first available warm body they can find. The KJV says that they will “take hold of one man.” As in... grab him and hold onto him until he responds to their request.
- In Exodus 21, the people were given laws regarding slaves. “If a man who has married a slave wife takes another wife for himself, he must not neglect the rights of the first wife to food, clothing, and sexual intimacy. If he fails in any of these three obligations, she may leave as a free woman without making any payments.”
- So the lowest of wives... the slave wife, was still to be given her basic needs. These women in Isaiah, are so desperate for a husband, that they are giving up their natural, assumed rights in order to gain the husband. They are willing to feed and clothe themselves, as long as they are free from the disgrace of being single.
- To be so desperate to be aligned with something that you're willing to give up your basic rights. Woooooooooooo! Is there ever a sermon there...
- A family friend came over last night and he was just sitting and telling stories about hanging out with his friends... and I noticed a trend... Just about every story he had about some scrape that they got themselves into started with, “Hey buddy! Let's go do _______!” “Nah, I don't know if that's a good idea...” “Oh come on! Chicken!” “So then we went and did _____________.” And generally it ended badly... lol Or at least with some truck or 4-wheeler or something having a few more dents than previously...
- So we started kinda laughing at him about his giving in so easily to peer pressure...
- Ah the need to belong. Now, my friend isn't so desperate to belong as apparently these women are... but the idea is the same.
- We as humans have a desire to be a part of something. We have within us a longing to be given a part. Meaning within a society. We want to be praised for doing things well. We want to see a reason to be accepted. We need to feel that we are part of a living organism that is growing and moving because we are a part of it.
- We have this need to be loved and accepted that just... consumes us if it's not met. We change our dress, we change our hair, we change the way we talk... We would change our very chemical make-up if it would mean that it would impress certain people in our life, or if it would mean that we would fit more of what someone else wanted in us.
- My cousin has changed her hair color... who knows how many times. She has random piercings... She went and got a tattoo a few months ago... She wears the clothes that she thinks are most in style. She even went and bought a little dog because some celebrity was carrying around a dog in her purse and she thought it was the greatest idea ever.
- So this week... she got her tongue pierced... because she thought it would make her that much more cool... except that she thinks it's infected... (way to go...) and her tongue's so swollen that she's speaking with a lovely lisp on everything... it makes her sound like she's trying to imitate her 4-year-old sister.
- In order to be accepted... we will go to all kinds of lengths... even ones that are possibly detrimental to our health or life.
- If the society in which we are seeking acceptance asks it of us... we will do all kinds of crazy stuff.
- So what does Christ say about all this? What does this mean within a Christian society?
- Does Christ ask us to change ourselves to fit into His society?
- Isaiah 55 says: “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it's all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.... Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously.”
- He didn't say “are the Jews thirsty?” or “are the rich thirsty?” or “are the good people thirsty?” He said “ANYONE.”
- When Christ gave the invitation to join His family, He didn't put conditions on it. You don't have to be good to come. You don't have to be pretty. You don't have to have money. You can be the lowest of the lowest scum of humanity, and Christ will welcome you in with open arms. You don't have to change anything to initially come to Him.
- Now, once you come, He'll start to change some things.
- Have you ever read “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte? There's one part when Catherine and Heathcliff are kids. They are wild children. No parents around. They do whatever they like. Generally causing all kinds of mischief. So this time, they ran to the Linton's house to peek in their windows and see how the neighbors lived. They'd been running through the moors. Catherine had lost her shoes in the moor, they were most likely covered in mud etc... And then Catherine gets her ankle bit by the guard dog.
- The Linton's take her in and clean her up and keep her for a month or more until her ankle is completely healed. When she comes back... that wild child is nearly gone. She comes back prim and proper. Dressed in nice clothes and concerned about how she looks. Gone is the girl who liked nothing better than to run through the swampy grass with her friend. Arrived is young lady... with combed and curled hair and shoes on her feet...
- Her environment was so different with the Linton's that she changed during her short stay with them. They were more refined. So she started to become refined herself.
- God does the same thing with us. When He takes us in, He doesn't let us in the door and then go... “hmmm... okay yeah, THIS... just isn't working for me... first, you're going to bathe and put on these new clothes, don't get them dirty... ever... Next you're going to cut your hair. Then we have GOT to work on your speech... you'll never make it in this world with that grammar... and we really need to sit down and talk about proper public etiquette. Everything about you is atrocious... we have to change it... NOW.”
- Christ takes us as we are... and then lets the influence of His Spirit and the godly people around us start to work a change in our hearts. Sure, we become a new creation at the moment that we walk across that threshold and say “Yes” to all that Christ has for us... But that's a new heart... not a new body.
- Our outside appearance and our old habits have to gradually change. I've met new Christians who haven't yet been convicted about their language... they still slip up every now and again without thinking about it... because it's not something that God has worked out in their life yet. Or new Christians who haven't been convicted about their smoking habits, or their drinking habits...
- However, I've also met new Christians who were so ready for God to move, that when they got saved, they literally dropped everything... language, drinking, drugs... but then other struggles came up... just like they do with all of us.
- Just because we've been at this for a while, doesn't mean we're done. We're not perfect. There's always something else in our lives that God can chisel at to make us into a creation that more resembles Him.
- But being good to start with, or looking good on the outside, does absolutely nothing to sway His opinion of us when we come. Because He doesn't look at that... He looks at the heart.
- In I Chronicles 28:9, David told Solomon, “And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find Him. But if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.”
- I John 2:15-3:24
- So in summation... (cause I feel like I'm going to get off topic here in a minute or two...)
- If we ever feel ourselves in a place of desperation so much that we are willing to throw away all of our basic needs... including our salvation, for the sake of fitting in to the societal norms, or a certain set of people... something is wrong...
- And secondly, God accepts us as we are... and then starts to show us how to make changes in our lives to make our lives a reflection of His. So we should never feel like we have to somehow manage to achieve perfection on our own in order to come to the place of initial salvation.
- Thirdly, as for being so desperate to align ourselves with Christ... what are you willing to give up? All Christ asks us to give up is our bondage to another ruler... The ruler of this world... All we have to do is surrender and change our alliance. Christ will take care of the rest. Instead of asking us to give up our rights, He's asking us to come to GAIN heir ship rights with Him. To give up our slave rights... and become a citizen, free from bondage.
- Will it be an easy road? No. Not necessarily... but is it worth it? OOOOOOOOOOh yeah...
- “But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel. All who remain in Zion will be a holy people—those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem ad are recorded among the living. The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment. Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.”
- Understanding that Isaiah is oftentimes a three-fold prophesy, (for his time, for the time of Christ, and for the future post-advent.) this section has been giving me problems. So we'll see what comes out of it...
- In Zechariah 3:8 it says that “Soon I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” In 6:12-13, it says, “Tell him, “This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where He is and build the Temple of the Lord. Yes, He will build the Temple of the Lord. Then He will receive royal honor and will rule as king from His throne. He will also serve as priest from His throne, and there will be perfect harmony between His two roles.”
- Who else would be named a king and a priest but Christ? In no other person in the bible are those two things combined... except maybe Melchizedek. Who was said to be a type of Christ.
- So in that day... what day? The day following the humbling of Jerusalem. The day when all that they looked to for their help is taken away and only God is left to them... In THAT day, Christ will grow up to be beautiful and glorious.
- This could mean the time that Christ came. The Jews were under Roman rule and oppression. They were beaten down. There was no hope. And THEN Christ comes to grow up amongst them. The fruit of the land... Christ... will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel.
- Now, when it talks about branching out to build the Temple of the Lord... He is branching out to the Gentiles to build the CHURCH. He brought the gospel and He died to save the world. He is building a CHURCH founded on His sacrifice... and it's not just for the Jews. He's branching out to the other nations as well.
- In Luke 4, Jesus stands up to speak in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth. He reads a messianic prophecy from Isaiah and then says that this scripture is fulfilled today.
- The people start to talk... they've been hearing all these stories about the works that Jesus has started to do in other towns... but then comes the question... “Isn't this Joseph's son?”
- And Jesus... in some ways I think makes a statement that is a match to tinder... But it proves His intentions for the gentiles.
- “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: 'Physician, heal yourself'—meaning, 'Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.' But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
- Wow... harsh words... But it was Israel's unbelief that led to the gospel being spread to the Gentiles.
- In Romans 11:28-32, it says: “Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people He loves because He chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For god's gifts and His call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against Him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are rebels, and God's mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God's mercy. For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so He could have mercy on everyone.”
- So, the gospel of Christ is going outward.
- verse 3 really bugged me. I was looking at previous times that Jerusalem had been destroyed and I stumbled upon this excerpt I think from a book... It's called “The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan” by Ellen G. White. (Who was a 7th Day Adventist writer... but I'm purely looking at the historical content... I'm not encouraging a wide-spread study of her writings... this particular article or excerpt explains a purpose... and I see nothing theologically out of place in this particular part.) http://christianbookshelf.org/white/the_great_controversy_between_christ_and_satan_/1_the_destruction_of_jerusalem.htm
- It talks about Christ coming and prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem... And how it came to pass about 40 years later...
- “For nearly forty years after the doom of Jerusalem had been pronounced by Christ Himself, the Lord delayed His judgments upon the city and the nation. Wonderful was the long-suffering of God toward the rejecters of His gospel and the murderers of His Son. The parable of the unfruitful tree represented God's dealings with the Jewish nation. The command had gone forth, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"(37) but divine mercy had spared it yet a little longer. There were still many among the Jews who were ignorant of the character and the work of Christ. And the children had not enjoyed the opportunities or received the light which their parents had spurned. Through the preaching of the apostles and their associates, God would cause light to shine upon them; they would be permitted to see how prophecy had been fulfilled, not only in the birth and life of Christ, but in His death and resurrection. The children were not condemned for the sins of the parents; but when, with a knowledge of all the light given to their parents, the children rejected the additional light granted to themselves, they became partakers of the parents' sins, and filled up the measure of their iniquity.
The long-suffering of God toward Jerusalem only confirmed the Jews in their stubborn impenitence. In their hatred and cruelty toward the disciples of Jesus, they rejected the last offer of mercy. Then God withdrew His protection from them, and removed His restraining power from Satan and his angels, and the nation was left to the control of the leader she had chosen. Her children had spurned the grace of Christ, which would have enabled them to subdue their evil impulses, and now these became the conquerors. Satan aroused the fiercest and most debased passions of the soul. Men did not reason; they were beyond reason,—controlled by impulse and blind rage. They became satanic in their cruelty. In the family and in the nation, among the highest and the lowest classes alike, there was suspicion, envy, hatred, strife, rebellion, murder. There was no safety anywhere. Friends and kindred betrayed one another. Parents slew their children and children their parents. The rulers of the people had no power to rule themselves. Uncontrolled passions made them tyrants. The Jews had accepted false testimony to condemn the innocent Son of God. Now false accusations made their own lives uncertain. By their actions they had long been saying, "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us."(38) Now their desire was granted. The fear of God no longer disturbed them. Satan was at the head of the nation, and the highest civil and religious authorities were under his sway.
The leaders of the opposing factions at times united to plunder and torture their wretched victims, and again they fell upon each others forces, and slaughtered without mercy. Even the sanctity of the temple could not restrain their horrible ferocity. The worshipers were stricken down before the altar, and the sanctuary was polluted with the bodies of the slain. Yet in their blind and blasphemous presumption the instigators of this hellish work publicly declared that they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, for it was God's own city. To establish their power more firmly, they bribed false prophets to proclaim, even while Roman legions were besieging the temple, that the people were to wait for deliverance from God. To the last, multitudes held fast to the belief that the Most High would interpose for the defeat of their adversaries. But Israel had spurned the divine protection, and now she had no defense. Unhappy Jerusalem! rent by internal dissensions, the blood of her children slain by one another's hands crimsoning her streets, while alien armies beat down her fortifications and slew her men of war!
All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. The Jews experienced the truth of His words of warning, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."(39)
Signs and wonders appeared, foreboding disaster and doom. In the midst of the night an unnatural light shone over the temple and the altar. Upon the clouds at sunset were pictured chariots and men of war gathering for battle. The priests ministering by night in the sanctuary were terrified by mysterious sounds; the earth trembled, and a multitude of voices were heard crying, "Let us depart hence." The great eastern gate, which was so heavy that it could hardly be shut by a score of men, and which was secured by immense bars of iron fastened deep in the pavement of solid stone, opened at midnight, without visible agency.(40)
For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring the woes that were to come upon the city. By day and by night he chanted the wild dirge, "A voice from the east! a voice from the west! a voice from the four winds! a voice against Jerusalem and against the temple! a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides! a voice against the whole people!" This strange being was imprisoned and scourged, but no complaint escaped his lips. To insult and abuse he answered only, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" "woe, woe to the inhabitants thereof!" His warning cry ceased not until he was slain in the siege he had foretold.
Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given His disciples warning, and all who believed His words watched for the promised sign. "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies," said Jesus, "then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out."(41)”
- And that's the part that got me... NOT ONE CHRISTIAN PERISHED. Which brings us to verse 3.
- “All who remain in Zion will be a holy people—those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living. And the Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment. THEN the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there.”
- Bloodstains... not only of the blood of battle and war and conflict amongst themselves and with other peoples... but the blood that was on their own hands... HIS. The rejection of His Son. The rejection of His sacrifice so laid out for them... He would cleanse Jerusalem of its guilt... with judgment.
- Now... Fire...
- Fire can either be destructive... or it can purify. Depending on what you're burning.
- If Christ is burning as John the Baptist spoke in Luke 3... “Someone is coming Who is greater than I am—so much greater that I'm not even worthy to be His slave and untie the straps of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with His winnowing fork. Then He will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into His barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
- Two kinds of fire. The Holy Spirit and fire... the purifying kind... and the never-ending fire that will burn the useless chaff up.
- In the case of the destruction of Jerusalem above... the fire that came was destructive. It burned out the chaff. Those who had rejected God... were sent out of the city or killed within it. They were purged from the city that God desires as His dwelling place.
- Josephus writes the following about the destruction of the temple.
- “Titus (according to Josephus) intended at first to save that magnificent work of architecture, as a trophy of victory, and perhaps from some superstitious fear; and when the flames threatened to reach the Holy of Holies he forced his way through flame and smoke, over the dead and dying, to arrest the fire.  But the destruction was determined by a higher decree. His own soldiers, roused to madness by the stubborn resistance, and greedy of the golden treasures, could not be restrained from the work of destruction. At first the halls around the temple were set on fire. Then a firebrand was hurled through the golden gate. When the flames arose the Jews raised a hideous yell and tried to put out the fire; while others, clinging with a last convulsive grasp to their Messianic hopes, rested in the declaration of a false prophet, that God in the midst of the conflagration of the Temple would give a signal for the deliverance of his people. The legions vied with each other in feeding the flames, and made the unhappy people feel the full force of their unchained rage. Soon the whole prodigious structure was in a blaze and illuminated the skies. It was burned on the tenth of August, a.d.70, the same day of the year on which, according to tradition, the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. "No one," says Josephus, "can conceive a louder, more terrible shriek than arose from all sides during the burning of the temple. The shout of victory and the jubilee of the legions sounded through the wailings of the people, now surrounded with fire and sword, upon the mountain, and throughout the city. The echo from all the mountains around, even to Peraea (?), increased the deafening roar. Yet the misery itself was more terrible than this disorder. The hill on which the temple stood was seething hot, and seemed enveloped to its base in one sheet of flame. The blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number than those that slew them. The ground was nowhere visible. All was covered with corpses; over these heaps the soldiers pursued the fugitives."
- So whether Isaiah meant physical or figurative fire... both came down upon Jerusalem that day...
- And while no Christians were killed that day, in that siege... I must remind you of the afflictions soon laid upon their shoulders under the Roman rule of such emperors as Nero... The destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied by Christ... and so was the fact that His followers would be met with persecution... which could be looked at as the fire of purification...
- In the case of our own lives, fire is used to purify. In Sunday School this morning, a lady had an analogy of these times... She was talking about times that what you put in your mind and body come out into the open. She said, if you have an orange, and you squeeze it... orange juice comes out. If you have a rotten orange... rotten juice comes out. So when the pilot comes over the intercom and says “emergency in progress, we're probably not going to make it...” That's a time of God squeezing on you... so what's going to come out?
- When those trials by fire come... are you going to burn up? Or are you going to be made stronger? In Chapter 1 we talked about the silver refiner... Are you dross? Or are you Silver? Are you letting God use His fire to purify? Or are you turning from Him because you can't stand the discomfort of the heat?
- Oh man... that's a hard question... If you choose to turn away from the heat... you'll burn up as the chaff... If you choose to face the heat and go with God... then you'll come out of the fire as a better piece of silver to work with... an easier piece to mold into a work of art...
- Micah 4:6-5:1
- Luke 21:8-24
- “The Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.”
- Now this automatically takes me back to the exodus from Egypt. “The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.” -Exodus 13:21-22
- This was a time of protection and provision that only could have come from the hand of God. Psalm 105:39-41 says, “The Lord spread a cloud above them as a covering and gave them a great fire to light the darkness. They asked for meat, and He sent them quail; He satisfied their hunger with manna—bread from heaven. He split open a rock, and water gushed out to form a river through the dry wasteland.”
- He provided all of their needs. When it talks about being covered with the cloud, I mean think about it... if indeed it was a covering... the desert is a hot place... how many elderly people and babies did they have with them? How about the animals? In my mind it makes perfect sense that they were covered with a cloud of protection... because otherwise... they would have been burnt to a crisp and suffering from heat stroke...
- If we take Isaiah literally... it was a protection from the heat and a hiding place from storms and rain... A physical protection from the elements.
- This cloud was representative of the presence of God. He was VISIBLY with the children of Israel. In Numbers 9:15-23, it talks about the building of the tabernacle... It says that on the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. And the cloud or the fire, stayed right with the tabernacle. When the cloud started to move, the people would break camp and follow it. When it settled, they stopped and set up camp. Whether it meant staying in one place for a night, 3 days, a month, a year... they followed God exclusively. You think God wasn't trying to instill that lesson in His people? Man...
- Now... looking at these verses. On one hand... I think about the New Jerusalem. Christ's second coming and heaven as being this protected, untouched place. Safe and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. (Since fire is typically representative of the Spirit.)
- And thinking about the Spirit, I thought about us as being indwelt with the Spirit of God. God protecting us... providing for us... both physically and spiritually. The fire of God dwelling within us as a beacon to show us the way we are to go, as well as to show others the way to God. Our shelter through the storms of life, our comfort in sorrows.