Archives for posts with tag: Isaiah

We are in Day 50 of our quick expedition through the NLT Chronological Bible.  Today we see that the end approaches quickly as Jesus enters Jerusalem in what followers of Jesus have come to call The Triumphal Entry.

Just before the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus has an encounter with a wealthy, devout Jew.  This man comes to Jesus and, no doubt impressed with Jesus’ miracles and teaching, asks him what he needs to do to be saved.  Jesus’ answer is startling, both to the wealthy man and to the readers of the gospel:

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:21–22, NLT)

Now, understand that Jesus is not saying that every person must sell all they have before they can come and follow Jesus.  He knew that this man had one thing that was all important, that was preventing him from the path to eternal life.  Jesus says he must give up that thing.

The point is not money per se, although the desire for wealth often comes between us and following Jesus.  The point that Jesus is making is that, if we are to follow him, nothing can come between us and Jesus.  If there is anything that is more important, that thing must go.  This is a difficult lesson for all of us, because we are all prone to idolatry.

Then comes the Triumphal Entry. Jesus comes as the King of the Jews…on a young donkey.  The powers that be in Jerusalem have no conception that he is coming, nor that he is the King of the Jews, they will clash this very week, and the powers that be in Jerusalem will think on Friday that another threat to the throne has been destroyed…but Sunday is coming.

Here is an amazing thing.  John tells  us: “Despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.” (John 12:37, NLT) Jesus has raised three people from the dead, he has healed a man who was blind since birth, he has made the lame walk and the deaf hear, and yet most of the people still do not believe.  John connects this lack of belief directly to the prophecy of Isaiah: “This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: “Lord, who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?” (John 12:38, NLT)

Here is the thing, though.  Should we judge the Jewish people at the time of Christ who did not believe in him?  Aren’t we much like they are?  Our hearts are just as hard.  We have the witness of the whole Bible, we can read about Jesus’ miracles whenever we want to, and yet we still have to be dragged to faith, because we want to pursue things that God has created rather than God himself.

 

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We are on Day 33 of listening through the NLT Chronological Bible as we would listen to a novel.  Today we finish Isaiah, go back to the historical books for a couple of lousy kings, and begin the book of Jeremiah.

The last section of Isaiah swings between promises of God’s goodness in the future and warnings about God’s inevitable judgment of sin.  It’s as if, as Judah marches swiftly down the slippery slope of their own desires, God is still giving them a chance to repent and return to him.

  • Warning. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. (Isaiah 59:2, NLT)
  • Promise. “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22, NLT)

Will the nation of Judah listen to Isaiah?  Will they return to the Lord and turn away from their sin?

The next two kings of Israel do not give us much hope.  King Manasseh takes over from the good King Hezekiah and he is wicked, very, very wicked.  But the people refused to listen, and Manasseh led them to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land. (2 Kings 21:9, NLT) The remarkable thing about Manasseh is that he is captured by the Assyrians and humbled greatly.  It’s during this humility that he turns back to the Lord and undoes everything that he did to turn the nation to pagan gods.  His story ends up hopeful as we see God’s forgiveness and grace in action in his life.

Would the same could be said of his son, King Amon.  Amon lasts two years in Judah and they are not good years: He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Manasseh, had done. (2 Kings 21:20, NLT) It’s here that we see the value of reading the Bible chronologically because the sister passage over in 2 Chronicles adds this information: But unlike his father [Manasseh], he did not humble himself before the Lord. Instead, Amon sinned even more. (2 Chronicles 33:23, NLT)

As we take up the book of Jeremiah, we find that, unlike Isaiah who switches between possible judgment and passages of God’s grace, Jeremiah is unrelenting warnings of coming judgment. This is what the Lord says: “What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves. (Jeremiah 2:5, NLT) Jeremiah makes for some painful reading.

What we see revealed here about God’s character is that he will put up with a lot, indeed more than we expect he will, but he will not allow sin to run rampant forever.  He will take action against sin and this will be painful for his people.  This is for their own good.

 

Yesterday we left the kingdom of Judah in a very perilous condition.  Assyria–the unconquered superpower of the day–had invaded Judah and destroyed many cities.  They had just finishing destroying the crucial city of Lachish (in which archaeologists estimate that 50,000 people were tortured and killed by the Assyrians), now they were at the very gates of Jerusalem.  The narrative here is contained in three books of the Bible: 2 Chronicles, 2 Kings, and Isaiah. Assyria was dismissive of the God of the Israelites:

And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult.” (2 Chronicles 32:16, NLT) and “These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands.” (2 Chronicles 32:19, NLT)

Jerusalem is caged up, an existential threat sitting right outside of its gates.  King Hezekiah does the only thing that he can do, he goes to the Lord in prayer. What happens?

That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere.” (2 Kings 19:35, NLT)

This is a reversal of fortune and deliverance that is comparable to the deliverance at the Exodus and the book of Esther.  Yahweh is not like the other gods that Assyria has faced.  He is real.  He is God.  His will prevails over kings and armies and nations.

Meanwhile, Isaiah the prophet is writing and writing.  We begin the second part of Isaiah today and discover why Isaiah is referred to as “the evangelical prophet.”  Nowhere else in the Old Testament do we have as clear and repeated references to a coming Deliverer as in the second half of Isaiah.  There are four songs about this Deliverer/Servant which reveal the character of God in some of the most sublime verses in all of the Scriptures:

  • Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)
  • But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1, NLT)
  • And now the Lord speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength. He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:5–6, NLT)

Remember that we are still 680 years away from the advent of Christ.  God will do what he says.  His timing is not our timing, his mills grind slowly, but when the fullness of time comes, Israel and all of the nations will be introduced to the Great Deliverer, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God.

I’m on Day 31 of my trip through the NLT Chronological Bible reading it as I would a novel.  Today we are in the years 730 BC to 680 BC.  The prophets Micah and Isaiah are active and Judah under King Hezekiah receives very unwelcome visitors.

I had a couple of takeaways from the portion of Isaiah that I read listened to today:

  1. Yahweh is God of ALL the Nations. In today’s reading we see God addressing prophecies to many nations: Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, and Tyre, in addition to Israel and Judah.  Yahweh is God of all the nations and he acts as if he is in control of events even in nations that do not know him, nor care about him.
  2. We begin to see that Judah appears as if it will follow in the steps of Israel. Idolatry in Judah raises its ugly head and the reader begins to be concerned that Judah has not learned from the object lesson of what happened to her sister kingdom, Israel at all. “Though you are such wicked rebels, my people, come and return to the Lord.” (Isaiah 31:6, NLT)

Micah, who lives during the time that Israel is carried into exile in Assyria is a prophet to both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. We read the same message in Micah that we see in Isaiah: Israel’s leaders are not faithful to Yahweh, the people are oppressed by the wealthy, the people are being drawn into idolatry, and judgment is coming.

The startling thing that we find in both Isaiah and Micah is that God repeatedly stops in the middle of warnings and prophecies about coming judgment to remind the people that he has not and will not abandon them:

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” (Isaiah 35:10, NLT)

Meanwhile, Assyria–superpower of the day–invades Judah and even threatens the capital city of Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah is in deep, deep trouble, indeed it appears as if his goose is cooked.  What will become of Judah?  We won’t find out until tomorrow.  However, the prophet Isaiah has been busy.  Here is what he prophesies about this great superpower, Assyria:

What sorrow awaits you Assyrians, who have destroyed others but have never been destroyed yourselves. You betray others, but you have never been betrayed. When you are done destroying, you will be destroyed. When you are done betraying, you will be betrayed. (Isaiah 33:1, NLT)

God acts as if he is more powerful than the most powerful country of the day.  Is he?  We will soon find out.

I’m into Day 27 of my reading through the NLT Chronological Bible quickly, as I would read a novel.  Today I’m into the books of Hosea, parts of Isaiah, and we meet a very wicked king.

Hosea is perhaps the saddest book in the entire Bible.  It was written right around 722 BC and it begins with a living allegory expressing God’s love for Israel despite of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. God tells Hosea to marry a woman who is unfaithful and while Hosea is faithful to her, she is unfaithful to Hosea, but all through her unfaithfulness, Hosea still loves his wife, as God loves Israel through her unfaithfulness.

The rest of the book of Hosea consists of the charges God brings against Israel for her unfaithfulness interspersed with restatements of God’s love for Israel.  What makes this book so sad is that at virtually the same time it is written, or shortly thereafter, Assyria invades Israel for the last time, destroys the capital city and carries off the people to other parts of the Assyrian Empire.  The people of Israel are lost to history.

At nearly the same time, the prophet Isaiah is directing prophecies towards the northern kingdom of Israel. Needless to say, the people didn’t heed Isaiah’s words any more than they did Hosea’s.  The end result:

The Lord finally swept them away from his presence, just as all his prophets had warned. So Israel was exiled from their land to Assyria, where they remain to this day.” (2 Kings 17:23, NLT)

Meanwhile, in Judah, King Ahaz reigns.  King Ahaz has several setbacks on the military battlefield and decides that he will follow the gods of Syria instead of Yahweh.  The description of what he does reads as an undoing of everything that God commanded the Israelites to do when they first made the Tabernacle back in the book of Exodus.  He destroys all of the temple objects and commands the people to worship Syrian gods:

The king took the various articles from the Temple of God and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s Temple so that no one could worship there, and he set up altars to pagan gods in every corner of Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 28:24, NLT)

The author of Chronicles summarizes Ahaz’s reign: “The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 28:19, NLT)

What will become of the nation of Judah?  Will they follow Israel into exile and be lost to history?  We will find out tomorrow.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4, Mounce NT)

Rarely do we see anyone use the three words rejected, chosen, and precious in the same sentence to describe the same person, so we had best pay attention to Peter’s words here, because they are important. Peter is alluding to Is. 28.16:

Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.” (Isaiah 28:16, HCSB)

Jesus was rejected by men, just like Isaiah himself had prophesied:  He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, (Is 53.3a), but in God’s eyes, he was chosen and precious, the very opposite of being rejected. What mankind hated and despised, God loved and esteemed, and This Man became God’s way for us to become chosen by God and precious, for when we follow Jesus by faith, that is what we become. Peter will put it like this:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)

No one who waits for You will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced.” (Psalm 25:3, HCSB)

The word translated “wait” here is an interesting word in the Hebrew.  The Passion Translation explains:

The Hebrew word most commonly translated as wait (wait upon the Lord) is qavah, which also means to tie together by twisting, or entwine, or wrap tightly. This is a beautiful concept of waiting upon God, not as something passive, but entwining our hearts with him and his purposes.”

The Passion Translation translates the first part of Ps. 25.3 as: For how could anyone be disgraced When they’ve entwined their hearts with you?

We think of waiting as something passive; the Hebrew concept of waiting, especially when it came to the Lord seems to be something more active.  We wrap ourselves tightly around God and his purposes and then when he moves, we move also, in a seamless, unified manner.  His heart is our heart and his ways our ways, His purposes our purposes, and His will our will.  This puts Isaiah 40.31 into new perspective:

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)