156. Oh, for the tranquility of certainty! But, oh, for the escape from pain and anguish.

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Abel’s certainty brought him anguish.

Often, especially in the context of these pages on Isaiah, by reading, praying, meditating and discussing with friends whatever particular subject is current in my mind, I find that my heart and thought life swells to bursting with ever more and ever new concepts of what it is that actually defines Isaiah as a person. What is it that sustained him in his peak of ministry? Considering the fact that he lived 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem, why is the cosmos of his spiritual experience hugely larger than mine, giving him eyes to see further than I do? What makes the horizon of his perspective further away than mine? What exactly defines a prophet and makes his (or her) heart beat in a way that sustains people’s faith and understanding 2,700 years after they had spoken and written stuff on the scrolls? I desperately – and I really mean desperately – want to hear the heartbeat, feel the pulse and look into the whites of the eyes of all the prophets – especially Isaiah – and the rest of the Old Testament Hebrew prophets as portrayed and verbally sketched and modelled in the Hebrew Bible texts and scrolls that are the only evidential source we have of who and what they were.

 

Anguish 15

Jeremiah’s certainty brought him terrible anguish and abuse

With the intensity ever and regularly reaching new levels of critical mass within my being, I find myself closing in and approaching a series of sharp assertions which, although they come out of my mouth in twenty-first century language, and although many of those assertions are statements I have never heard from others, I am filled with the assurance of what I am saying, even though I cannot fully fathom the depths of what I am writing. If anybody invents a time machine in my lifetime I would volunteer to go back to Isaiah’s time and would become the first stalker in history. I would strain myself a lot to pick up the notes of his addresses (if he had any notes prior to writing the scrolls) I would take my iphone and record him in conversation. Blow it! I would pin him to the wall and say “Isaiah, my friend, mentor and pastor tell me what I can do to learn what you have learned, say what you have said, and become what you have become. I profoundly apologise for sounding like a man about to be released from (or received into) a psychiatric unit, but I sometimes get emotional – as I am today – about the intellectual and academic conclusions I have arrived at for today by just reading and pawing over Isaiah’s texts.

 

Here is my punch into the dark for today.

 

Isaiah (and all the other Old Testament prophets) carried serene, heavenly, unshakeable convictions and absolute certainties that were engrafted together in their physical and spiritual DNA with unqualified and fathomless anguish, pain and sorrow.

 

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Jeremiah was called a traitor to his nation, when Yahweh had nobody more loyal.Enter a caption

Does that make sense to you? I heard words that touched on this from Rabbi Abraham Heschel. I see clearly that every prophet of the Hebrew Bible, as well as those of the New Testament – including Christ Himself – have a paradoxical serenity of what is to them a fountain of unqualified certainties. And these cast iron presuppositions and ensuing propositions brood over them feeding and funding them with a sureness of vision and belief that is not just gained philosophically by interaction with others, or academically by much learning at the scholar’s desk. They are clearly not even scientifically acquired or understood from the university laboratory or even from experiences of life learned by practice and tangible familiarity. They are, like creation, or views of the stars, just there and nobody can logically calculate where these imaginings, ideas and envisioned realities come from – apart – of course, from the “elsewhere” of God Himself.

 

It is of course possible that Isaiah knew Amos, Hosea, Joel and others as friends. And it is equally possible that they never met at all. But I do find it astonishing that they were, like all my Apple devices, synchronized. And though all my Apple devices have various bits of data identically, each device has its own intrinsic purpose that is different. So we have those prophets that spoke to the Northern kingdom, and those that spoke to Judah in the big city. But they were in synch with their message and their interpretation of history, their predictions of the future, and they were in synch concerning the contemporary needs of all Hebrews to align themselves with the Torah and the God of the Torah. It is the synchronization that I find astonishing.

 

Anguish 2

The prophet’s call to walk with Yahweh and the Torah brought anguish beyond words.

And yet, paradoxically, these rock solid convictions that the Hebrew prophets were gripped by, convictions which were and still are clearly perceived by all their readers as the foundation behind everything they voiced in their presentations both audible and legible, sweep over us hand in hand with the most profound and traumatic anguish. I am talking of anguish that was justified by the purity of their heart and the passion of what they knew of Yahweh.

 

The mutual claim that carried them all is that they had seen and/or heard Yahweh – the Almighty Everlasting, Ever-living Creator of all things (That is of course infinitely more intense with Jesus – the prophet above all prophets – who was Yahweh incarnate). They each explain, some more than others, that they have had a tangible encounter with Yahweh Himself. To some of them it was even a touchy/feely experience of God, and to others a full blown conversational dialogue and exchange of views. To a few it was what they saw and heard, as if they were walking down the streets of heaven and, “Oops!” they had seemingly “accidentally” had the audacity to overhear a conversation of angelic folks that live there. Whatever the fully detailed encounter was, they all seem to have returned to the normal routines of life where, whatever was imparted to them from their heavenly and divine “meet-up,” whatever was in the atmosphere of God’s glory and/or whatever was imparted by the very touch of Christ that they had absorbed, they came back from meeting God Himself looking at all aspects of life and human existence in a completely different light than before, simply declaring with absolute certainty: “This is what Yahweh says,” or, “This is what I saw.”

 

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The murder of the prophets was commonplace.

Although none of them used the words, “born again,” “new creation,” or “converted,” they had a such a concept of the holiness and the character of God and his attitudes and ways, and were proportionately gifted in their prosaic and poetic language with such pin-pointed accuracy as to what they had received from the Almighty, that Christ Himself quotes these men in order to express Himself. We know, of course that the Spirit of Christ was the One who carried them along as they preached, taught and wrote. The fact that Jesus uses the words of these men to let the masses know what heavenly wisdom is all about, demonstrates the depth of the reality of their heavenly experiences and their divinely imparted courage. From this fact we can only conclude that whatever the prophets said was indeed, truly the Word of God.

 

To be absolutely clear; we miserably err if we ignore the likes of Isaiah and his prophetic ilk.

 

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Many of the prophets were murdered by mob rule

Isaiah and the other prophets are assured, given peace and certitude from the aspect of what God has said or done with them. And yet, they are simultaneously, because of carrying those beliefs, and the emotional burden of God Himself, living in a highly pressured state of agony and pain. With deeply emotive cries, and life endangered tension they each call out to the rest of the Hebrew world – and at times to the whole world: “How is it possible that you folks can live the way you do, while I can see that all around us these injustices, this misuse of power and authority, these abuses of the poor, the elderly and the widowed? How is it possible that the entire population can live and breathe and continue with the status quo that accepts the obscenely rich extracting even more wealth from the agonizingly hard-earned gains of the poor?”

 

These prophets are definitely persons who are living in an uncontrollable and never ending place of torment. One could even use the word torture because of those very certitudes that everything they say oozes with. Such was the responsibility and pain of these prophets, in her book “Pain and Promise” Professor Kathleen O’Connor makes a very convincing argument that Jeremiah was plainly carrying and demonstrating all the symptoms of what we today call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as he preached and taught the certainties he had heard from Yahweh whilst being abused and spitefully used amongst his beloved people. Ms O’Connor is quite an authority on PTSD having treated many soldiers in her career and has spent huge swathes of her career getting to grips with Jeremiah.

 

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Some were happy in their murderous rampage, believing they had dome God a service.

Rejecting what the prophets said was the foundation of rejecting the person of the prophets themselves. Thus, these “God acquaintances” were all murdered and tortured because of the certitudes acquired in His presence, by His touch, through His word and in His Spirit. As Stephen said in the early chapters of Acts, minutes before his martyrdom: “”Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become (Acts 7:52).

 

However, what was even darker than purely rejecting the prophets – the populace were rejecting Yahweh whom Isaiah and the others all claimed had sent them. And in rejecting Him there was a misery of existence here in this life which would precipitate (and still does) a much greater loss after their human life this side of the grave had finished. That state of unbelief and lack of reception of God’s mind has eternal weight and consequence.  As Abraham J Heschel states: “God is raging in the words of the prophets.”

 

anguish 5

The prophets were thought by people to be unpatriotic, ungodly and in league with enemies.

I find it a fact that demands deep thought and agitated meditation. These unique “prophet” fellows, claimed to have met God, seen God, and had been literally touched by God. They all say, some plainly and others more obliquely, that they had experienced glimpses of the heavenly universe. They had grasped something glorious, relevant and real about the moral and spiritual nature of the physical world. They were all plainly gripped by the conceptual repercussions that go beyond what man can normally imagine when one turns their back on the personal purity of heart and life that God calls for. Each of them came back to their workaday lives and wept, cried out and sacrificed themselves because the poor were abused and drained of their money and belongings, the widows were disenfranchised from their homes, the traders had false scales, and the Ten Commandments were as unknown in their Hebrew society as they are today in the west. They must have been horribly tortured as they mixed with people on the streets who thought all these ungodly, and at times inhuman things were the way life was meant to be.

 

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Picture these men! They have seen God. And as a result of God imparting His personal perspective, His feelings and His counsel to them, they do not return to write a systematic Theology. They do not come back to correct people’s concepts of who and what God is. They are not filled with ideas for abstract philosophy and theological debate. They don’t want to discuss J,E,P or D. They do not return from their “job interview” with a tenured salary and a house, a car and six weeks annual holiday. They do not call for weekly services of several hymns, an offering and a thirty-minute sermon. They hit the streets and are filled with explanations and extrapolations of everyday life that terrify them. This is what made Jeremiah and Ezekiel ill. This is what made Isaiah scream with a spiritual top C, “Woe is me for I am dissolved.” Isaiah claimed that the entire nation was sick and full of sores from head to toe and beyond healing. Hosea was walking with God and prophesying the state of his nation and his people, while the public were aware that he was going through a living hell in his domestic life. The agony of needing to pay for the return of his prostitute wife was undoubtedly the scandal of his generation. And all Hosea could answer the people was that they had done to Yahweh what his wife had done to him. To cap it all, his wife had a child whom he had to name, “Not mine.” These men did not hold “church” with appropriate songs and building funds and a three-point sermon every week. They stood on the streets, or confronted kings and religiously hyped priests and Levites. They cried, screamed and pleaded with the world around them saying, “Yahweh says this and that about what you are doing and saying. Stop now or see the whole world around you perish. And if your world won’t perish, the world you leave as a legacy for your children will.”

 

So; Yes! With deep certitude I see that the prophets were people of pain, and anguish beyond what most of us can understand, and from a source many find it hard to comprehend.

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The twelve writing prophets? On the other side perhaps? I wonder which one is which.

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155. The curse of the Solomonic legacy that impacted through to Isaiah’s day and beyond.

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Solomon in his glory

The usual evangelical simplistic perspective on Solomon is painfully inadequate and economic with the whole truth to the point of it being a lie. It is too condensed and overly simplified, being utterly too much of a “Children’s Sunday School Lesson,” to declare King Solomon, son of David, as “the wisest man that ever lived.” It is only a half truth. Or, better still it was the truth for only the early part of Solomon’s reign. Something went terribly wrong in Solomon’s life and it is rarely highlighted. He messed up his own life and in so doing precipitated the ruination of a few million people. His own nation was doomed to a shocking break-up. The future of both people and land was flushed into a dark abyss of sin and chaos – not omitting total anarchy in parts. Having committed such a horrendous series of practical blunders that impacted so many for so long, and hardly ever being given the blame by writers, preachers and Bible students, we see in the light of our privileged rear-view mirror of history that the wisdom that was Solomon’s, as expressed in the scriptures, was catastrophically extremely short-lived.

 

With the passing of years and the gaining of “life skills and experience,” knowledge and wisdom should – logically – increase and become more profound. However, Solomon’s wisdom, like the Prophet Elijah’s hairline, receded and receded until there was nothing but a bald and shiny patch on Solomon’s intellectual pate. His wisdom was clean washed out of all substance.

 

Solomon2

Solomon in his sin

The active source of Solomon’s curse on the nation was hardly original. It was, to be crassly blunt, money, sex and power. Each strand of that humanly indulged trio ran rampant, writhing and pulling on the other two in Solomon’s heart. He had huge mountains of Money that manipulated his sexual appetites and his political power. He adventured with sexual exploitation and opportunity, stirring up the sheer unmitigated lust for even more international political power and earned him obscene amounts of gold and wealth. With his reputation and early possession of power and kudos, he manipulated much of the surrounding world’s wealth and hooked in every beautiful female he ever set his eyes on. All this was constantly and ubiquitously driving the divinely imparted depths of wisdom out into a lost wilderness of purposelessness that seemed to cloud most of his descendants and his people until the prophetic Spirit of the Almighty recovered the essential core of the wisdom that had been his in his youth, and shed it over the head, hearts and minds of those incredibly courageous and death confronting human beings we refer to as the Hebrew prophets. Solomon seriously and quite literally lost the plot of the divine purpose for His covenant people, and the principle of Godliness purely for its own sake. The depth of the abyss and the tangible thickness of the darkness into which he plunged the Hebrew world is

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Solomon in his early reign

difficult to overstate.

 

It has to be added that removing all the prophets and seers from his court was the major sin-preventing-medicine that Solomon believed he could live without. Oh Solomon! Solomon! Solomon! How foolish can you have been in one area while being hailed as so wise in another?

 

Prophets were surely scattered here and there throughout the days of the Judges. Samuel brought a prophetic atmosphere and aspiration to Israel, lifting them from days when “open visions” were rare and almost extinct. He also prophetically brought Saul and David to the throne and their respective reigns. David surrounded himself with Gad, Nathan and other prophetic giants who could look a king in the eye and say, “This is the divinely ordered way of things -– so walk in it – or else.” But after the narrative of David’s life and death we hear absolutely nothing of prophetic characters in Solomon’s court or life. And Solomon desperately needed a prophetic voice to speak into and rebuke his obscenely huge ego that asserted his unfettered and  wild lack of restraint in the areas of money, sex and power that the direct descendant of King David indulged himself in. The only prophetic voices of Solomon’s day were those that told Jeroboam the son of Nebat that he would reap the benefit (if benefit it was) of Solomon’s error.

 

Solomon ground the people of Israel down with his taxes. He had the farming communities of Israel leaving their farms and crops for an entire month of every year of his reign. How stressful and unpopular must that Royal Decree have been!

 

Solomon was also a slave dealer, an arms dealer, and a wealth extractor – especially extorting from his own people their hard-earned crops and the unity of the nation’s family homes – in the midst of the most prosperous era in Israel’s history. He was a political-conviction-compromiser, perpetrating evil and ungodly decisions simply for the sake of indulging himself in money, sex and personal power and authority. He brought curse upon curse upon Israel.

 

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Solomon in the later years of his reign

Solomon cursed the land as well as the people, the purity of their worship of Yahweh and the unity of the tribes of Israel by his conduct and by his foolishness. And before my readers get their Sunday School booklets and curriculum on the desk to prove me wrong, just sit with me whilst I explain myself.

 

We all know of Solomon’s dream and how he asked Yahweh for wisdom to rule and guide the people of Israel that he himself said were as “numerous as the grains of sand on the sea shore.” But we don’t discuss as often the first major problematic practice that resulted (directly? Or indirectly?) in a huge curse of bondage and spiritual decay in Israel. It is listed in 1 Kings 3 in the opening verses: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh.” Pardon me, but if they had shaken hands and just agreed to be throne room acquaintances – I would not have such a huge problem, neither would the people of the Promised Land. I suppose monarchs need to liase and relate to other monarchs. However, it seems that part of the alliance was the commonly enacted politically bonding marriage that was utilized in the era. The other king’s female offspring was an ambassador of her father. Solomon took marital vows with Pharaoh’s daughter. Pharaoh was truly Solomon’s Father-in- law. Pharaoh!

 

Here we have one of the dynastic long lines of many long lines of the firmest, most dominating empire over a couple of millennia or three who knew how to subject people, keep the rule firm and solid and especially how to extract the wealth of the land into the coffers of the Pharaoh – oops! I mean the coffers of the government for the benefit of the people. (Cough! Splutter!) “Solomon my son! Let us have a little walk while I tell you how I keep the Egyptian population under my thumb. It’ll all be for their own good. And I won’t give one of my many daughters to a king that doesn’t rule in the true Egyptian tradition.”

 

This same chapter tells us how he had the famous dream and asked for a divinely inspired wisdom to rule righteously. The scripture ominously inserts how “Solomon loved the Lord [at first]” (Italics and bold font mine).The Amplified Bible’s eye brow raising square brackets means that the enclosed phrase is not actually in the ancient text, but is inserted by the Amplified’s editors because of the known history, and the understood end game of Solomon’s life.

 

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Solomon as seen by other monarchs and the public

Even though we understand that “at first” Solomon was walking with God, we are also told that he worshipped Yahweh in “the high places.” And once again, the Amplified square bracketed inserted act as a running commentary to inform us that Solomon was thus worshipping the Lord in the same manner as the heathens worshipped their hideous idols at the time.

 

Walk with me in this my reader. Solomon isn’t sinning, per se, at this time but the story is on a steadily descending time line.

 

The next step that I believe precipitated Solomon’s deep decline was the appointment of twelve officers to collect taxes, food and even staff for “the king’s business.” Each officer was in charge of a month for which every family in the nation had to provide, food, staff and labour away from their own farms and businesses. Not quite slavery. But clearly, neither was it freedom. Two of these economically extracting officers were Solomon’s own sons-in-law. The huge and mountainous warehouse of food that was taxed for Solomon’s personal benefit is listed in both Kings and chronicles.

 

And what was more of an axe to the root of Hebrew society than we see at first glance is that the division of the nation into twelve tax districts did not even follow the tribal borders. The histories and sentiments, the unity and oneness within each of the twelve tribes was utterly ignored for the Royal indulgence. Manipulation and abuse of the people’s familial roots and togetherness was not a consideration. It seemed to many that the tribe of Judah gained as much from Solomon’s tax regime as the other ten tribes had losses. In the plainest of terms, there was a north-south divide, which had the same geographic parameters as a rich-poor divide, which was tragically over the same acreage as a “have and have-not” divide. Seriously? Solomon the wise? Are we serious?

 

Solomon 5Added to all this kingly indulgence, we are told that Solomon had 40,000 stalls for horses. No! That is not a typo or a misprint on my part. 40,000 stalls for horses for his chariots. Keep those figures in mind as we develop the whole scenario.

 

On top of the labour demanded for each month of his supplies, extracting huge volumes of produce from the people, Solomon raised a levy of 30,000 men to work on the logging and building of his palace and the Temple. 10,000 people were sent to Lebanon each quarter of the year to learn about the labour trade and required skills. So the people were squeezed by taxes and time away from home doing work hardly done or required in Israel apart from the King’s indulgence. (Read 1 Kings 5). Solomon had 70,000 burden bearers, 80,000 hewers of stone.

 

And so! I hope you get the picture. It took Solomon 7 years to build the Temple, and 13 years to build his own Palace. David was deeply loved by all the Hebrew mass, and knowing that David had selected Solomon for the throne and not his older half-brother Adonijah, Solomon was respectfully loved and, dare I say, adulated as a national treasure – at the first especially. Rulers and the great and the good came from all over the known world to gaze and muse on Solomon’s glory, wisdom and wealth. There is no data given in Solomon’s life time that the people were complaining or rebelling, but it is clear that because of what followed in the early days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the national revulsion and grief at Solomon’s wealth being achieved through their own pain and loss was fully and radically understood and felt.

 

1 Kings 4:21 states that Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates down to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt. They all brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. The standard of living of Israel was obviously on a never before known peak. It was that that caused the people to silently submit and “go with the flow” as it were.

 

And there is, believe it or not, more. Upon all the alien, non-Jewish people who were still living in Solomon’s territory, the son of David made a levy – that is: a tax of the strongest and most beautiful and made them slaves in Israel.

 

So it was plainly no wonder at all that he was so obscenely wealthy.

 

“But”, I hear you asking, “Where on earth have you got this thing about a Solomonic curse on the nation that prevailed right through to the exile and the first diaspora of the Jews?”

 

The descent into the abyss of brokenness and idolatary starts once we read to 1 Kings 11. Solomon loved many foreign women. Egyptian princesses, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites all surrendered their most beautiful females to the lascivious designs of Solomon.. Each came from an idolatrous culture with individual gods and religious values and beliefs – many of which were stated in the Torah as an abomination in the eyes of Yahweh. . Each one of Solomon’s paramours clearly clamoured for freedom of religious worship and their own appropriate shrines, temples and priesthoods that would have been demanded by the tenets of each of the idolatrous religions that came as part of the baggage with the political marriages. This included those with religious prostitutes of both genders and the practicing conduct that we in the twenty-first century would refer to as an LGBT community. 700 wives and 300 concubines meant there was a thousand females being religiously and financially indulged by Solomon, in order to keep them all “content” and the daughter’s reports to their fathers keeping Solomon in all their “good-books.”

 

So now, at last, we come to the falling off the sheer cliff . 1 Kings 11:4 tells us that “When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” Solomon started to endorse and practice worship of the Sidonian Ashtoroth, and Milcom of the Ammonites. He built a shrine for the Moabite god Chemosh and Molech the abomination of the Ammonites. “He did so for all of his foreign wives who burned incense and made sacrifices to their gods.” We are talking of sex acts in worship, literal child sacrifice and worship content that is not appropriate to detail here. We are talking of the people of Israel funding idolatrous practices by the Royal decree. We are talking of spiritual, physical and philosophical integration with all things demonic and stated as an abomination to Yahweh.

 

And it seemed that Solomon had not the slightest inconsideration as to what would happen after his demise. Rehoboam his son was hardly prepared to accept the responsibilities of the Torah or kingship. There is literally nothing to even hint to the biblical reader that Solomon attempted to pass on the baton of Kingly rule as David his father had done, or Samuel the prophet had commanded.

 

So Solomon died and what happened?

 

Read Isaiah and see what happened. Solomon, according to scholarship and historical time anchors died circa 931 BC.  Using the same data sources King Uzziah died 740 BC. (that is the year of the events of Isaiah 6). So Isaiah was alive a couple of centuries after Solomon’s death.

 

Isaiah’s pain was solidly grounded on several issues.

 

  1. The idolatry initiated by Solomon had grown to such hideous permeation of society that they had idols and demon worship on the temple grounds. All the pre exilic prophets were astonishingly offended by the idolatry.

 

  1. The political integration and Concorde with other godless nations around them as commenced by Solomon and his politically aware marriages and all under his power and authority had continued without a mighty David-like charismatic character to dominate the conduct of such international relationships. All the kings that surrounded David either fought him to the death, or, like Sidon, simply submitted to the greater character and the greater God. Post Solomon the leading powers of all the political alliances tended to be more powerful and politically assertive than whoever was on the throne in Judah or Israel.

 

  1. The arms dealing came home to roost. It would seem that all the nation states both large and small confronted and mostly defeated the two Hebrew kingdoms in chariot warfare. Who was the king that conducted business circulating chariots to increase his coffers of gold? None other than Solomon. It is like Saddam Hussein’s air force and army combatting the UK and the USA with bombs, bullets and planes purchased from the very enemies he is killing.

 

  1. Nations and their leaders sowing ideas and misconduct and reaping exactly what they have sown – only worse – was all that was happening from Solomon’s days. Slavery – and not only slave trade with other countries, but Hebrew enslaving Hebrew was common place. Well learned from any Solomonic memory or archive.

 

  1. Making political decisions which were primarily for financial or mercenary aggrandizement was the absolute norm – as initiated by Solomon. As repulsed by David.

 

The entire body, both politic and social that, according to Isaiah 1, was sick from head to toe was riddled with psychopathy derived from Solomon’s decision making process two hundred years before Isaiah was born. And to project stuff even further, all these symptoms had deepened, worsened and become more of an integral fact of everyday life when Jeremiah strutted his stuff a century or so after Isaiah.

 

We can preach and teach blaming the King Manasseh’s, the Queen Athaliah’s, the Jehu’s, the Jezebel’s and the Jeroboam the son of Nebat type people. And let’s nail our colours to the mast that every individual is responsible for their own conduct and choices. However, without doubt, Solomon was the firmest deepest, most influential single personality that launched it all into the life blood of Hebrew history.

154. All Yahweh does has a time and a purpose.

Assyria 2Isaiah 28:23–29 

Isaiah, like all prophets delivers God’s counter perspective to the scenarios and environments that he lived amongst. The culture that Judah identified itself with was not the culture the Mosaic law was intended to precipitate. Negative cultures, world-wide, national, tribal or familial – and especially one’s own personal lifestyle and culture – need to be countered with God’s perspective. Prophetic activist types and national apostasies are often twinned in all the above listed groupings time lines and histories. The latter triggers the former.

A true prophet knows what time it is that he is living in. A prophet knows what kind of time it is.  A prophet is a person that can see these things not because of his intellect or academic training (and that is not a remark to suggest that a prophet does not need any intellect or academic training). A prophet says what he hears from God. Yes the prophet is a human being who has his or hers own likes or dislikes whether it be food or people or even politics. The fact that the person is a prophet does not mean everything he ever utters is binding on the rest of the world. For instance, the fact that John the Baptist and Elijah wore Camel skin attire does not mean that his clothes in themselves have any prophetic meaning. What God shares with a prophet is then the burden of the prophet with which he requires integrity, discipline and character to reveal it exactly as given and not to pepper his revelation with his own imagination or preferences. The scriptures claim to be the undiluted word of God is an goal for all prophets to aspire to. One of the staple prayers of prophets is, “Oh Lord! Give me grace to repeat it exactly as you give it to me, and not to interfere with my own thoughts or opinions whilst explaining it.

A genuine prophet holds a prophetic (i.e, a God given) understanding of the mentality and mood of his time. Some see into the church world-wide, some into the church nationally. Some see into the secular world more clearly than they do the Christian world.  God chooses His prophets and/or prophetesses and does nothing without telling at least one of them, sometimes many. A true prophet identifies and knows the trends of a society or group of people by hearing what God says. And God always deals with the roots of any issue.

prophet-isaiahProphets are, at times, able to envisage trends and upcoming events by seeing, hearing, and receiving revelation in a huge number of different ways, and then declaring what God has said or revealed. In this manner, and by divine initiation a prophet may, at times, judge the foundations that exist in any society or even the hearts of national leaders. The words of a divinely inspired prophet, written, spoken or sung, are a veritable rock like force against the godless mentality of the day in which they are present. Referring now to the biblical writing classical prophets, we read how they saw their generation. This understanding enables us to see our own generation more clearly in the same perspective as God sees it. That is why they are important for every generation of believers.

God give us more prophets.

I share this elongated introduction to my thoughts concerning these last few verses of Isaiah 28 for a reason. There is so much prediction of gloom and judgement throughout what Isaiah has been saying thus far it would be easy to sink into depression listening to him.

To be sure the bright sunshine passages of a glorious future are richer in sunshine than the judgement lines are filled with cold and darkness, but they are always brief and fleeting. On top of that it was much easier for Isaiah’s contemporary audience to identify with the lines of judgement and sadness simply because they lived in a time and place where the circumstances and circumstance of their lives matched some of the stuff that Isaiah was shouting about. The glorious wonder of Jerusalem being the centre of the world with all peoples coming to visit and sit at the feet of the King – the Son of David – seemed like a futuristic dream – so far away.

The people were slipping into a deep depression like “Woe to us!” frame of mind. It must have been like seeing and hearing about all the surrounding nations are sinking – and we are one of the sinking vessels. I thought we were God’s chosen – but what is happening to them is happening to us. Israel the Northern kingdom has been dissipated and erased from the planet and here is prophet Isaiah saying that the same is going to happen to us. It’s doom, gloom and an existential void as to the purpose for living. Why should we live? What is life all about?

Then came Isaiah.

There is a couple of principles divulged in these last few verses of Isaiah 28. They aren’t deep or mystical principles of the spiritual life that the unchurched or unsaved man on the street would not understand.

The first principle is significant for all human beings in all relationships in all scenarios and contexts. It’s a principle that is true of best friends, enemies, lovers, newly-weds, work relationships and anywhere else with anybody else. It is a principle that is ever present in life and dealings with people. It’s so easy to grasp we might not even perceive it as a “principle.”

Today two people might laugh and joke with each other. Tomorrow they might differ on an issue and have a debate – or even an argument. Tomorrow the same two people, no matter how close or distant they are with each other might labour together silently in helping somebody, and then after that they might choose not to speak to each other for a while. Life has different moments for different purposes, moments we enjoy and moments we dislike. I might do all I can to teach you how to sing, or run the domestic accounts, and then I might come to a period where having taught you something, I stand back to see how you respond to do the job yourself.  It’s the rhythm of life, the moving lights and shadows of everyday living. It’s the coping of circumstance and scenarios sometimes light and sometimes dark. But Isaiah was wanting to explain how God deals with his people, not just how a human being talks to and deals with other human beings.

The prophet discerns the heaviness and dark horizon of all he has shared, especially in chapters 24 to 27 and how it can be utterly weighing down the populace that have heard him and, by God’s grace, believed him. Have they nothing but bad and terrible news from God? Is there no hope? No brighter day on the way? Has the nation been so wicked that there is no redeeming feature of God’s word at this time? Is God’s plan so dystopian that all of mankind is to be destroyed and done away with?

Isaiah knows his audience well and sets out to explain the answer to this, the heaviest part of their query of life itself. The mighty prophet returns to parabolic explanations. He is fighting against utter despair in the hearts of the people and the horror of the death grip of hopelessness. He seeks to explain how the tone of God’s corrective and living word is hard for this moment, yet will be brighter at some future time.

That is the first principle he wishes to share with them.

The second principle to give them is that they are not just like other nations. Judah is populated by the chosen children of Israel. Judgement is coming, but they no more of Yahweh than anybody on the planet and this knowledge should lead them to repentance. Each person as well as each individual will be judged by Yahweh and treated as an individual in that judgement.

An understanding of the farming procedures and agricultural practiceof Isaiah’s day is almost essential to the right appreciation of some sections of his writings. That statement is actually true for the entire 66 books of the canon. This parable at the tail end of Isaiah 28 is one of those sections, and is a steadying anchor of a lesson that is a brighter and fuller perspective of what the future holds.

23. Give me your ear and listen closely to my voice; listen carefully and pay attention to my words

The opening line of Isaiah’s lesson suggests he is in a small gathering and asking his audience to gather round while he shares some heavenly nugget of truth that is going to lift their spirits. It’s a sort of – “Gather round my friends while I tell you something Yahweh has taught me and whispered in my ear,” moment. Isaiah shares this parable without even attempting an interpretation. He explains it all himself. I believe that is because the meaning is simplistically clear. Its point is self-evident. “I shall just paint this word picture and you will understand what I am focussing on.” Isaiah does not appreciate the sarcastic and negative mockery he has had thrown at him, mockery that is projected upon him because of lack of thought and insight by his audiences of the past. He is to speak of four essentials of difference of relationship that the farmer enjoys with the earth and how he relates to the soil.

24.  Does the man ploughing his field, plough all the time continually? Does he go on working and turning the soil without end?

He is discussing a ploughman farmer of which there must have been countless people of such a position in his audience – not that they lived in Jerusalem. Never! Jerusalem had most of the Jewish elite, royalty, priestly seniors and the like. The poor that lived in Jerusalem were basically there to serve the elite who were in the majority. The ploughmen of Judah are to be likened to Yahweh Himself in the prophet’s plot line. Yes, Yahweh, the Lord Almighty Himself is to be viewed in Isaiah’s intimate sharing, as the farmer and what we think  about the farmer, and how we hear Isaiah’s word sketch of what farmers do, we are to see Yahweh Himself and somehow parallel this “story of everyday country folk” with the Eternal Living God Himself. The prophet is describing the full cycle of the farmers preparation of, and use of the earth, the thoughtfulness behind the sowing of various types of seed in different manner and locations in the field, the reaping of the various seeds in different ways and the final grinding of the harvested seed. Each seed is individual as is the places of sowing and the sites for ploughing.

Verse 24 brings Isaiah’s word picture to the point that the first aspect of the agricultural cycle is to plough and break up the soil. But he (the farmer) will not plough endlessly. The job needs to be completed – that is, the entire field needs thoroughly ploughing before a different activity can be commenced. The prophet hits his audience between the eyes with two rhetorical questions. “Does the man ploughing his field, plough all the time continually? Does he go on working and turning the soil without end?” The fact that they are rhetorical questions and Isaiah does not even attempt to give a clue to answering leaves us with the imaginative picture of his audience shaking their heads or saying. “No! Of course not!” Having established the point that ploughing has to start at some point in time and the job actually has a completion and end, the prophet moves on.

25. Does he not, after making the face of the field flat and smooth, then plant the dill and scatter the cumin? Does he not plant the wheat in rows? The barley in its special place? And other wheat as a border around the field?

 

The farmer is no imbecile. The workers of the earth have a “knowledge” like the London Taxi drivers. To the non-agricultural mind the farmer is perceived as owning a particular style of wisdom. Yes indeed! The farmer perceives and diaries his necessary routine extremely wisely. He is aware of different procedures for different seeds. There are minor seeds and major seeds. Some are in the middle and main part of the field, some are on the edges. Dill, Cumin, wheat and Barley and other seeds. Each one has a different procedure. Wheat is in rows, but others are not. This knowledge is traced back to God Himself. It is a divine wisdom that the farmer follows. Possibly all from Adamic days? What do you think?

26. His God teaches and instructs him and shows him discretion and the right way to do things.

Isaiah draws a lesson from agriculture to show that God has restoration in mind and not simply judgment and destruction. By a series of rhetorical questions Isaiah reminds the people of a practical wisdom that comes from God Himself.  Nobody ploughs merely for the sake of ploughing. The farmer prepares the ground according to the type of seed that is to be planted in various locations in the field according to the needs of each type of seed.

27. A farmer doesn’t use a sledge to thresh dill. He doesn’t use a wagon wheel to crush cumin. He uses a small stick to break open the dill, and with a rod or flail he opens the cumin.

 Now the prophet leaps forward to the harvesting. The same approach is stated when looking at the threshing procedure. The cumin is harvested and made end-user friendly by beating.  Harsher efforts would destroy the cumin. The grains for daily bread are harder and therefor need harsher crushing using boards with stones and the oxen for grinding the wheat.

The point is the self-evident common sense activity of different treatments of processing for different seeds. The farmer has been taught of God how to do such things. How much more does God know of dealing with His own creation? The foolish use of methods is strongly denied as being simply too unreasonable to even think of.  If human farmers are so wise and sensible … how much more is God who gave the farmers the wisdom they utilise? This is the entire point of the parable.

28. The grain is ground to make bread. People do not ruin it by threshing it forever. The farmer separates the wheat from the chaff with his cart, but he does not let his horses crush it.

29. This lesson also comes from Yahweh the All-Powerful of Heaven’s hosts of Armies, who gives wonderful counsel, who is very wise and gives excellent wisdom.

The application of these two lessons, or parables, is that God will carry forward His purposes to their proper end. He is also concerned about purifying, not destroying. God will bring out of the purifying process a righteous remnant. Isaiah wants the scoffers to know that all this calls for praise to God for His wisdom and guidance. See Isaiah 9:6

This parable was necessary for those who were right in the thick of a highly complex situation and could not see the wood for the trees.  They needed assurance that Yahweh would not deal too severely with His recalcitrant children.

The husbandman ploughs only that he may sow. He harrows the ground only that he may produce a level and unclodded surface on which to plant his seeds. And when he sows, he gives to every seed its appropriate place and usage. He scatters the dill and strews the cumin; but the wheat he sets, according to the Oriental fashion, in long rows, and the barley in a place specially marked out for it, so marked as to exclude the borders of the field. And he thus varies his modes of treatment, and adapts them to the several kinds of seeds, because God has given him sagacity and wisdom. Will God, then, who gave the husbandman this sagacity, be less observant of time and measure? Will He crush and waste the precious grain of His threshing floor?

People need to know that God has a mind, a purpose and is moving creation into a concluding process.  God is not inscrutable.

153. The same message to two locations. One falls and the other survives. So; what is the principle?

Isaiah 28:14 – 29

Time Travelling Contextualisation of this moment in Isaiah

isaiah1OK! OK! OK! Here we are in the king’s court in Jerusalem. Stand with me and imagine.  It’s the king of Judah whose name is Ahaz. He is surrounded by the Hebrew princes and aristocracy. There may be a few priests present – but it wouldn’t be many. There may be the odd “prophet” or two, but some of them were prophets in a false way. There were many in the “Schools of the Prophets” who were not prophets at all, in fact they were drunkards.  The only true prophet we are aware of in this context is Isaiah. He definitely had contemporary brothers that carried the prophetic mantel, but for the purpose, place and time where we are, his contemporaneous prophets were not present at this moment. Isaiah wasn’t really welcome in the court of Ahaz. Isaiah was too straight, too direct, and too certain that Yahweh was the only God. There may have been a few false prophets who would have O.K’d the huge pile of Gold and gifts that Ahaz had sent to the king of Assyria asking Tiglath Pileser III to protect himself from being tortured and/or abused by the kings of Israel and Syria, but Ahaz would be sitting on his throne, smugly pharisaic (though the Pharisees were not in existence as a group at that time – that was something like 650 years into the future of Ahaz’s time line). Imagine the picture of you, my dear reader, and myself actually stood in his court in Jerusalem. As we are welcomed as time travellers (No! I haven’t gone nuts. Just bear with me for a few moments.) they have invited me to address them.

You can stand by me while I stand to say something to the court, each member of which are sat there prig and proud that they have been allowed by Yahweh, (or the god’s of Assyria as some of them may have thought) to be still extant while the ten northern tribes of the people of Israel have been scattered around the Middle East to a point where the world has never properly traced them all. It is now known that one or two of the smaller tribes were even scattered as far as India.

So standing before them – and hiding in the security of my imagination – a fact that makes me look and sound ever so courageous and wonderful (Cough! Cough! Splutter! Splutter!) I step forward to make the greatest prophetic address the court of Ahaz had ever heard. Better and more informed than the mighty Isaiah son of Amoz. (Oh! How armchair Christianity can make spiritual giants of us all – NOT! How 2,700 years of retrospection can make us all so certain and sure of a situation!)

So here I go! In this dream scenario, looking directly into the eyes of Ahaz.

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“Oh Ahaz! Ahaz!  Do not be so foolish as to think that Israel has been exiled and become non-existent because they are evil beyond any comprehension – and evil in ways that you are not. Israel has indeed been wiped off the planet like one of your servants wipes the dregs of your supper off your plates of gold …or whatever they are made of, but that does not even hint at the plain fact that you, and your example to your princes and your nation, have proven yourself to be more spiritually and morally depraved than their long list of kings up north. You lot of governmental characters are just as bad. In fact it could be reasoned that you are worse than the Northern monarchs, princes and people.

Your sins are greater because here in Jerusalem, no matter where they are hidden, are the scrolls of the book of Moses. You have the scrolls, the temple, the Land, the Levitical priests, and greater access to the history archives concerning Samuel, David, Solomon and Jehoshaphat. Your capacity of truth is greater than the now lost tribes, which makes your sins – identical though they may be to the now extinct northern kingdom of Israel – weightier and heavier because your culpability and knowledge of the truth was – and still is greater than theirs was. Israel’s sins were full and running over, therefore God has obliterated them as a nation. Previous generations of kings, and forefathers who had broken off from the Davidic line of monarchs had plunged themselves into 200 plus years of a dark age of intrigue, idolatry, twisted morality, coup after coup, and had the dastardly demonic evil mind to have considered Yahweh as on par to the tin pot gods of all the other nations of the Middle East, and the wild inventions of idolatrous nonsense that they revelled in.. It wasn’t a slow dripping tap of godlessness. It was more like a deep volcanic eruption of evil and corruption. The Northern Kingdom was conceived in sin, birthed in spiritual darkness, matured in an idolatrous cess-pit of spiritual filth and moral sewage.

But you, Ahaz, and your people, were divorced and separated by force from your brothers. The Darkness up north allowed the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Amos and others to shine gloriously brightly. You here, have had the likes of Hosea, Jonah and Micah speaking God’s word to bring you back into the garden of the covenant that Yahweh made through Moses. And now, you have that mighty prince of God – Isaiah. Why do you refuse to listen to him? No matter how much you feel safe because of the obscene amount of gold you have paid to Tiglath Pileser the king of Assyria, you are in great danger, and be assured there is a Diocletian sword overhanging you, swinging ever closer and although you might die with the kingdom of Judah intact, rest assured that when you stand before Yahweh in some later day, you will be held accountable for leading your people into deeper darkness from the first day you took office.

From those early days after your father passed away leaving you the sole reigning monarch over this Davidic kingdom, you trembled, feared and shook in terror, turning your back on God. You even insulted Yahweh’s servant Isaiah when he came to tell you not to fear. It was Yahweh’s glorious attempt to woo you into a conscious alert and dynamic faith in His care for you and your people. Pekah and Rezin were not to be allowed to touch you – son of David. No matter how hard Isaiah tried to speak peace into your soul, you refused to listen. Even when the prophet invited you to ask for a sign whether it had been in heaven or on earth – just ask! Yahweh was so eager for you to plant your feet into a life of faith and trust in Him. But you refused.

You did right not to join Pekah and Rezin and fight against Tiglath Pileser. But you committed the greater sin and made a contract of submission to him, worshipping the Assyrian gods, and even removing Yahweh’s altar from the Lord’s temple, and replacing it with a duplicate model of the Assyrian demon worship. Because of this huge betrayal of your heritage, your God, your brothers in Israel, and Yahweh Himself, Tiglath Pileser was given a false reason to annex the people of Aram and then exile them, just as he did with Israel.

Ahaz! Can’t you see that the mad megalomaniac rantings of Tiglath Pileser III and the Assyrian armies would have demolished Aram and Israel anyhow, with or without your gold, your obeisance, and your invite birthed in deep fear and personal self protection? Your scribes have informed us all that “Tiglath-Pileser attacked Israel and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.”  Tiglath Pileser was so proud of these conquests he has written the very same things in his journals. You betrayed Israel no matter what the set agenda was for Tiglath Pileser.

Your freedom to sit here in Jerusalem in false pomposity with your tin pot court, was bought at the expense of the freedom of thousands of others in Aram – and your own brothers and kin in Israel. Shame! Shame! Shame on you!

Oh Judah! Judah! Do not suffer yourselves to even think that you are superior over the ten Northern tribes. Get hold of common sense and maintain a deep consciousness of accountability to God. Listen to everything that Isaiah says and you will not go wrong at all.”

Wow! Now that’s a powerful message if ever I heard one.

However, I really and truly am not living in cloud cuckoo land. I am writing this to show my readers where Isaiah was in all this.

tigilith

Is it possible that one of these kings was Ahaz?

So returning to the absolute raw reality of Isaiah’s situation, we return to his words in Isaiah 28.

Scholars don’t seem to be sure whether or not the first half of Isaiah 28 was actually spoken in a visit to Israel before they were besieged, defeated and exiled. Or whether he spoke as if addressing Israel simply to make his point with Ahaz and the kingdom of Judah. They say this because having explained the sins and symptoms of Israel’s problems, he returns to Jerusalem and Judah’s complications.

14. So listen to the Lord’s message, you who brag, mock and scoff; you leaders who rule this people in Jerusalem.

Yahweh proceeds with a word for the powerful rulers and princes in Jerusalem who had been mocking His word through Isaiah in an arrogant, cynical way.  Proverbs 1:22 states “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?”  Proverbs 9:7 says: Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.” Proverbs was basically constructed by Solomon over 200 years before Ahaz was born, or Hezekiah. Foolishness is so consistent that words of wisdom written 3,000 years before my time, still diagnose fools absolutely correctly.

15. You say, “We have made an agreed covenant with death; we have a secret contractual agreement with Sheol. When terrible punishment, an overwhelming flood, passes by, it won’t hurt us. Our lies will keep us safe and are our refuge, and our falsehood will hide us and be our refuge.”

Oh my! The language is shockingly dreadful. The “covenant with death” made by the elders and royalty of Judah is utterly godless. Their secret agreement with hell is more than likely what Isiah referred to as a “covenant with death.” It was actually a covenant with Egypt for help against the overwhelming scourge of Assyria as portrayed in Isaiah 8:7; and 10:5. They had not only rejected their covenant with Yahweh – that is the very covenant that validated their actual existence on the planet in this life, but were joyfully confident in their human ability and strength, encouraged by those people who depended on occult practices for guidance, of which there were many. However, they were, in reality, making lies their refuge and hiding under fearful falsehoods. All unbelievers since Adam’s day have done exactly the same, making fools of themselves in the eyes of Almighty Yahweh.

16. Because of these things, this is what the Lord God says: “I will lay a stone in the ground in Jerusalem, in Zion – the location of the Temple, a tested stone. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. It will be a precious cornerstone, a firm foundation.  Anyone who trusts in it will never be disappointed or panic, waver or be shaken.”

3678c92b204423a44033bc6ee4f87beaThis is, yet again, where Isaiah’s predictions of hope and faith get juicy and exhilarating. In contrast to their foolish refuge of lies and falsehood, God is laying in Zion a foundation of stone, a precious and priceless stone and a veritable “sure foundation.” God himself is the foundation Stone (see 8:14; 17:10; cf. Gen. 49:24). He was, is and will be present as the foundation for the ongoing future fulfillment of His divine plan and the kingdom to come. When Hezekiah took a stand of faith, he was like a cornerstone who would stand firm (cf. 36:15, 18, 21; 37:15–20). But Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of these words, for He is the Stone the builders rejected (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42) and He is the One on whom the Church is built (Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4–8). Those who believe and trust in God will not have to hurry here and there seeking human help or fleeing from human enemies. Because of their faith in God, they will rest in Him and enjoy His peace.

17. I will use justice as a measuring line and righteousness as the plumb line. The lies you hide behind and take refuge in will be swept away as if by hail. Your hiding places and shelters will be washed away as if in a flood.

 The “measuring line,” is for horizontal measurement. The “plumb line” (mishqaleth in Hebrew) was actually a level used to check vertical. It is not a modern plumb line. It was a piece of string with a stone tied at the bottom. The principle and lesson always remains the same. When a wall is tested by the measuring line and the level is crooked, the wall must be torn down. The lies and schemes of the Jerusalem princes, who planned rebellion against Assyria and trusted in Egypt, will be tested by God’s justice and righteousness. They will find out how fragile their refuge of lies is.

18. Your covenant and treaty with death will be erased and annulled; your contract with death and the grave; will not help you stand or last any length of time.  When terrible punishment comes,  you will be crushed and beaten down by it

 Their “covenant with death” and secret “agreement with the grave” (hell, not the grave; see v. 15) will not stand when the scourge of Assyria overflows their land. All will be swept away and the scoffers will be defeated.

19. Whenever punishment comes, it will take you away. It will come morning after morning; it will defeat you, sweeping through by both day and by night. Those who understand this punishment will be terrified.”

king_ahaz_idol_worship_The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror. The Assyrians will repeatedly pass through the land and will bring dread to those who derided Isaiah’s dispatch of rest and refreshing. This will bring an end to their mocking, for God’s word. This message will prove true. Its fulfillment will terrify them.

20. You will be like the person who tried to sleep on a bed that was too short and with a blanket that was too narrow to wrap around himself.

They disallowed God’s offer of a quiescent place for the fatigued (v. 12). The bed and the blanket they chose for rest and refreshing refer to the lies and falsehood of verse 15. They were under a dark cloud of judgement and were culpable for breaking the treaties they had made. They trusted in Egypt, but Egypt’s help would not be sufficient to protect Judah from Assyria.

21. The Lord will fight. He will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim. He will be angry and rouse himself as he did in the Valley of Gibeon. He will do his work, his strange, peculiar work. He will finish his job, his strange, unusual job.

Yahweh is the same God who gave David victories over the Philistines “at Mount Perazim” (see 2 Sam. 5:17–23; 1 Chron. 14:11–16). These were triumphs that secured David’s control over Jerusalem that was, then, the new national capital. He is the same God who made the sun stand still “in the Valley of Gibeon” so Joshua could have victory over the Amorites (Josh. 10:10–14) and continue the conquest of the Promised Land. Now God will do something “strange.” This will be a completely “alien task”- He will bring judgment on the same people He gave victories to.

22. Now, you must not make fun of these things. Do not mock. You must stop your contemptuousness. If not, the ·ropes, chains and/or bonds around you will become tighter and heavier. The Lord God Almighty – Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies has told me and decreed to me     how the whole earth will be destroyed. The Lord Punishes Fairly

Isaiah pleads with the people not to show themselves to be mockers, scoffers, or scorners (see verse 14) lest their chains become even more constrictive. God has decreed destruction on “the whole land,” or “the whole earth”. The Hebrew may mean either.)  The destruction will come. It was too late to change that. Nevertheless, they could still turn to Yahweh and stop its gathering force.

In similar manner, the destruction of the Great Tribulation will come at the end of this age. It is seen as a fact in Isaiah chapters 24 – 27. That cannot be changed. But believers need to be issuing a last call to repentance, just as Isaiah was with his vision of the gathering holocaust becoming clearer and clearer, and more ominous.

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152. Shameful Orgies of Drunkenness in the corridors of Power in Samaria  

Isaiah 28:7- 13

sam-g-the-hills-of-samariaToo many Christian people shy away from the Old Testament. “Too much judgement for the wicked.” Sadly, it is not palatable for many of today’s believers. Milk is commonly the diet of many Christians who flatly refuse meat – as well as living with the fact that there are too many pastors that love to shovel the milk by the cartload and never progress to solid food. “Too much violence!”  It’s considered as absolutely nasty in its theological ramifications for the easy comfort of the modern church – and western Christianity in particular. Greasy grace is easy to preach. One can have the hallelujah’s shaking the roof and people swinging from the chandeliers when all they hear is grace -grace and even more grace. The call for obedience and holiness becomes an obscene expletive that “upsets the anointing.” Excuse me while I use my “sick-bag” for a moment. The call for integrity, honesty, accountability and serious discipleship leaves some Christians petrified into inaction. Prophets who itemize certain sins and bad lifestyles that get a little bit too near to the bone for many in our complex twenty-first century,  leaves many people turning their back on the Master. It leaves many Christian people having one standard of morality for the office, another standard for the home, one tone of language for the friends in the pub and another pitch of language for the children and the spouse. Too much talk of “moral duty and responsibility” – Agh! I can sense many switching to the next blog or advert on their Google list of finds.”Duty?”Don’t use such foul language at the modern Christian!

 

I cannot help but think that answering the demands of the twenty-first century post-modernism, and the depths of the modern, brilliantly sharp atheism evangelists, reveals that the body of Christ has, in its attempts to be relevant, become perceived as utterly irrelevant, in its desperation to reach the masses, the masses have turned away and left us at the point where even though there are probably more zealous Spirit-filled Christians in the West than there has been for a long time, we are seemingly voiceless, powerless and influence-less. There is clearly “Trouble at ‘Mill”.

 

Oh yes! Some will undoubtedly point to the pockets of positive influence here and there. I read with great enthusiasm the reports of men like Jonathan Conrathe who brings the power of the living Christ wherever he goes in the West or in Africa. He leaves behind him a clear trail of people being saved, healed, delivered and baptised in the Holy Spirit. My eyes water when I read of what Daniel Kolenda is doing with his African Missions whilst following in the footsteps of the mighty Reinhard Bonnke. But there is indeed a general famine of the sort of stuff that punches unbelief, cynicism and scepticism solidly in the solar plexus of the world views and belief systems that run the world and the mass media.

 

Isaiah here steps into the realm of politics and the private lives of politicians. The world screams at the Christians and their leaders teaching us with a straight face and a sincere tone that “a person’s lifestyle and social outlook is absolutely nothing to do with their ability to run the country and make decisions that are motivated by nothing but political opinion.” Yeh! Right! Lobbyists that aim at the weaknesses and financial involvements of people with influence and clout in high places know what they are doing.  In the midst of the lies and corruption of the press that report from personal opinion more than objective factuality, it is often to vilify the press and miss the politicians and senior civil servants that have their investments in the pies over which they make political decisions that add to their wealth and comfort.

 

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Ruins

A generally missed out observation of British Politics of a previous generation is that there was a slowness to make slavery and any dealings in slavery illegal. Many of the wealthy of the day were wealthy people who made their fortunes from slavery or actually had slaves here in the UK. When it was finally realised that the moral argument was like a steam roller running over a peanut the government was forced, by the wealthy, to pay the erstwhile slave owners a certain fixed fee for their “financial losses” in having to free their property – i.e. human beings that they owned as slaves. History tells us that Britain was almost reduced to financial deficits in the practical out-workings of the law to free slaves. The rich got richer. The ex “black-slaves” were rendered jobless and on the street, and the nation was near to economic breakdown and poverty.

 

Are we to believe that the political water level is higher today than in those long past days.

 

Isaiah was in a day of moral, spiritual, social, political and international upheaval. It was an earthquake of fear, violence, nations looking for help here there and everywhere. The two tiny Hebrew states of Judah and Israel were like paper boats trying to survive in the midst of a Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm, however was to be mastered and conquered and overcome by the mighty hand of the God of Israel and Judah.

 

In the days prior to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel (722 B.C), Isaiah, it seems made a rare visit to Samaria. What he encountered sickened him. But we are clearly left with the graphic word picture that what he shockingly describes as the political scene up north in Samaria, was also being enacted in Jerusalem.

Samaria was tragically fallen in morality, spirit and purpose before it was physically dismantled and razed. But this is the same the world over isn’t it? The picture painted by the prophet is very striking. It suggests that Isaiah visited Samaria to see the sight, or that he possibly had met people that had been present at the woeful vision that the prophet paints for the reader.

 

But, what have we here! This isn’t simply megalomaniac power brokers in high places getting drunk on the job. But the prime leaders in dissipation and dissolution are none other than the “religious” ministry people, that is, the men of the cloth, and those that had been accredited with so much mystique and esteem through the ages – the prophets. Reeling, stumbling, staggering and vomiting were those who were acknowledged as prophets. Could this be?

 

Samaria was in a mess.

7. But now those leaders are drunk and reel with wine, stumbling and staggering from drinking too much. The priests and prophets are drunk and stagger with strong drink and filled with wine. They stumble and stagger while the prophets see their own visions and the judges make their verdicts.

 

samb-us_historical_archive_general_view_samaria_525Those who genuinely hold Yahweh as their strength and stay, submitting to the Spirit of God and the divine insights He grants, will supersede the former drunken and dissolute rulers, priests, and prophets. In Isaiah’s day these men were so drunk from wine and beer that they could not see the right from the wrong, or the right from the left, and neither could they see their rights from their privileges. Their so called “prophetic vision” was initiated by their drunken revelry and imagination. We are talking of serious, deep profligacy in the corridors of power. To say errors were made is an incredible understatement (See Amos 4:1; 6:1, 6). Instead of being filled with the Spirit of God, they were filled with wine and other fermented drink (Leviticus 10:9 -10; Numbers 11:24–25, 29; and Ephesians 5:18). It is altogether a sorrowful sketch of Samaria’s “present” highlighted against the glorious vision of their millennial future – a future that all the prophets testified of seeing, yet not having the slightest clue as to when. However, this “Samaritan present” was so dark, it was not to be granted as much as a future that went beyond the horizon of a few more days. It was the last failing days of a society that had degenerated into total anarchy and mobocracy.

8. Every table is covered with vomit. There is not a clean place anywhere.

 

The extreme drunkenness of these Ephraimite elite power brokers, the supposedly genteel aristocrats of society is a portrait of absolutely filth and disgusting chaos, the verbal description of which creates a word picture of horror and downright shamefulness. This illustrates Samaria as in verse 1 of this chapter. They are staggering drunkenly toward destruction. The leaders are sleeping at their drinking tables with the faces and hair soaking in the vomit from their own debauchery.

 

Clearly, the mere thought of their unrestrained drunken celebration was abhorrent to Isaiah, as it was to God Himself.

9. The Lord is trying to teach the people a lesson he is trying to make them understand his message. But the people are like babies too old for breast milk, like those who no longer nurse at their mother’s breast.

 

Writers, preachers and teachers vary in what they see in the Hebrew text of these verses in Isaiah 28. This writer is of the opinion that the leaders of the “The War Party”, that is those who were confident that their political allies would join together with them and defeat Assyria, along with the priests and prophets who were one with them – when they were sober – began here, to mock Isaiah’s message. They want him to know that they are not babies and do not need his advice. They are claiming a more mature understanding of the world situation in their day than Isaiah or Amos could ever claim. They suggest that God’s prophet does not possess their “superior wisdom.” Isaiah’s point is that they are immature and hardly passed the weaning knowledge of their political life. They, in return, mock Isaiah as if talking to a child.

10. So they make fun of the Lord’s prophet and say: “A command here, a command there;

a rule here, a rule there; a little lesson here, a little lesson there.”

 

samc-samaria-from-northThey mock his message as if it were baby talk, repeating syllables, like children reciting their ABC’s. The Hebrew text reads as: “tsau latsau, tsau latsau, qau laqau, qau laqau, ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” They actually contended that Isaiah was treating them as if they were ignorant, uneducated unweaned toddlers. Actually, his message was simple and clear. Many unbelievers today are like them. They do not consider the Bible to be logical, or they say it is “out of date.” We need to witness to the truth of the Scriptures, not only by our words, but by our lives. Being mocked for silly simplistic approaches to life goes along with the territory that the believer takes.We servants cannot escape what our Master entered into.

11. So, the Lord will use strange words, mocking/stammering lips and foreign languages and tongues to speak to these people.

 

Isaiah responds by saying that if they do not learn the lesson by heeding the simple message he is explaining in their own language, God is about to use people of another language to teach them the same lesson he is talking about. The Assyrians, with their Akkadian language, are in the prophet’s view. They will teach the people of the northern kingdom about humility and contrition in a way that will shock and humiliate them all – notwithstanding their premature demise in Assyria’s blood curdling cruelty.

12. God said to them, “Here is a place of rest; let the tired people come and rest. This is the place of peace.” But the people would not listen.

 

God’s message through Isaiah was targeted to bring rest, including security and rejuvenation, to his people. However, they would not. He verbally exhorted, cried and encouraged the people to a place of faith and rest. But they would not.

13. So the words of the Lord will be, “A command here, a command there. A rule here, a rule there. A little lesson here, a little lesson there.”

 

Ancient royal city of Samaria where Philip preached Christ Palestine (looking west) c. 1900

Ancient royal city of Samaria where Philip preached Christ Palestine (looking west) c. 1900

God now uses the same words to mimic the insults of humiliation they had thrown at Isaiah. The word of the Yahweh would continue to be a simple clear message, to be horribly and finally fulfilled by the Assyrians. But the message only hardened the hearts of those who heard the message while wallowing in their drunken obscenity. God would let them continue with their plans, but they were to fail in their purposes and would be defeated, trapped, and captured. Samaria needed a man with an A frame on his shoulders walking the streets. Never had, “Repent for the end is nigh” held such deep importance and relevance to any group of people, notwithstanding Belshazzar at his party in Daniel 5. Singing, getting drunk, and partying while the Meds and Persians were blocking the mote and water systems of Babylon only to kill him and the entire Babylonian culture in a single night. Oh Samaria! Samaria! You were at the cusp of total annihilation, and the man Isaiah – as well as Amos – were the voices to save you all.

 

But it is at this point Isaiah brings the message to Samaria back home to resonate in the corridors of Government in Jerusalem. Isaiah’s insight is profound as we read on.

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Samaria! So is the picture title.

 

151. It’s time to duck and run – Isaiah is looking our way and shouting “Woe to you!”

samaria0Isaiah 28:1-6

There are six “woes” declared between Isaiah 28:1 and 33:1. First: “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim …” (Isaiah 28:1). Secondly: “Woe to Ariel. To Ariel, the city where David dwelt! …” (Isaiah 29:1). Thirdly: “Woe to them that seek deeply in order to hide their counsel from the Lord, whose works are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” (Isaiah 29:15). Fourth: “Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord, that take counsel, but not from me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.” (Isaiah 30:1)  Fifth: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither do they seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1). And finally, sixth: “Woe to those that spoil, and you were not spoiled; and deal treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with you! When you shall cease to spoil, you shall be spoiled; and when you shall make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with you.” (Isaiah 33:1).

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The present day ruin that is Samaria

People beware! When a true prophet, in the Spirit, announces “Woe” on a people, place or thing, watch out! To be dramatic or poetical is simply not an item in their agenda. “Woe,” literally and starkly means exactly that. It means some breath-taking, buttock-clenching horror is about to overwhelm the person, place or thing under discussion. We are not talking of, “Oh! It’s going to be a rainy day!” or “Your household is to be sick!” We are talking of a life changing, possibly culture destroying, or even nation destroying cataclysm. This is anything the reader can think of as a terrible woe, but a further couple of hundred miles further north.

When Isaiah stood up and said (or perhaps just wrote), “Woe to that proud wreath of a crown that is Samaria”, take it from me, it was time for the people of the Northern Kingdom to duck and run.  It meant the absolute end for Samaria.

A true prophetic word of this predictive kind is an historic event waiting to take place. Isaiah talking like this is actually God Himself talking.

The Book of Isaiah, surprisingly, as we enter chapter 28, now goes back to the time before Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and took Samaria (722 B.C). God’s prophetic word to the northern kingdom of Israel was that it had made choices, and taken actions that rendered Israel as a nation, and its population as individuals ripe for judgment.

If we in the 21st century cringe, and wriggle while watching refugees suffer and die while leaving their homes  and struggling with all their might and main to get to safety with their families, the word picture painted by scripture of what was to happen  to Samaria and the nation state of Israel will reduce us to tears and cause us to be contributing to aid funds with huge amounts. What happened to Samaria was shocking in humanitarian terms.

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    Samaria

    Woe to that proud wreath of a crown (Samaria), the pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, to the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which lies at the head of a rich fertile valley of those overcome with wine!

 

A loud prophetic, “Woe!” warns the northern kingdom frighteningly. If the people knew what horrors were on the way to them it would have permanently sobered up anybody ensnared by heavy drinking or alcoholism, drugs or any other addiction common to their day in the eighth century B.C..

The Northern Kingdom is here referred to as “Ephraim” simply because Ephraim was its leading and conceivably its largest tribal clan. The leaders of their society, their government, and all their judicial systems were all drunkards. Isaiah says so. He prophetically sees them indulging themselves in a feast, honouring Samaria as a “wreath,” that is, a victor’s crown. They saw themselves as prospective victors in the face of the probable Assyrian invasion by the emperor Shalmaneser.

They seemed to be imagining themselves safe and secure, (a) because of pacts of allied assistance with Egypt and surrounding smaller nations that would, theoretically, bond together a defeat Assyria in times of war, or when they were subjects of attack. It was mainly the pact with Egypt which gave them grounds for such joy. They, wrongly, could not conceive of Egypt losing if a full frontal head to head clash with Assyria ever came about. Modern and contemporary historians and Egyptologists all seem to unanimously agree that what was actually so clear and definite in today’s retrospection, was not even dreamed of at the time. Ah! Retrospection has such authority and infallibility. Oh, that prospective vision could always me as masterful and joy giving as the retrospective.  As far as a world fighting force was concerned, Egypt had passed their “sell by” date. When that clash finally came about, Egypt were no match for an Assyria that was still on the ascent. Assyria and Egypt met shortly after the fall of Samaria. It was where Egypt simply became yet another notch on the sword handles of the Assyrian soldiers.

Reason (b) for the misplaced and arrogant assurance that the drinking leaders of Samaria were indulging in, was simply the geographic location of their beloved city. It can even be seen today when visiting the ruins of Samaria, that in the days when bows, arrows and makeshift trebuchets were “modern warfare”, the hill upon which Samaria was constructed was, undoubtedly, in a normal battle scenario, next to impregnable.

However, the Assyrians did not indulge in normal warfare and were incredibly resilient, horribly cruel, magnificently creative in their violence, and, when it came to besieging a city, they were fanatically patient.

Why would anybody make themselves drunkenly vulnerable while labouring in the offices of social responsibility, where failure to function could influence matters of life or death for thousands upon thousands of their countrymen? They foolishly could not imagine that Samaria was anything but impregnable, and they stupidly conceived the conviction that their power and position gave them privilege and security, in which false context they felt they could indulge themselves with strong drink and partying. Ah! The tangled web of self-deceit people weave!

Samaria’s “impregnable” position, together with their “impregnable” Egyptian allies was a misbegotten dream. The city that they imaged as a wreath of victory was actually a fading bouquet of death. The long views in all directions from Samaria’s watch-towers would not assist them. The surrounding number of hills, distanced from them enough to watch any would be assailant that probably birthed this language of a wreath, would soon be smothered with Assyrian military tents as they would sit and wait for the inhabitants of Samaria to starve or surrender.

All this Isaiah saw clearly. There was never to be a “Wahoo!” of victory in Samaria. There was, however, definitely to be a catastrophic, cataclysmic “Woe” of annihilation, death and exile.

The non-biblical historic writing entitled, “The Wisdom of Solomon”, confirms that the Jews utilised floral head wreaths for various victories long before Rome or Greece did. And just as victory wreaths placed on the head quickly rot and disappear into dust, “the wreath,” as Isaiah calls Samaria, was fading and disintegrating on the steep hill, at the head of its fertile and prosperous valley that gave a wonderfully clear view of local activity in all directions. The leaders of this Hebrew capital city were “laid low” (Hebrew: Halume: “overcome”) by wine, says the prophet. The pride that precipitated their rampant carousing leaves them unprepared for the judgment that is about to wash them away like a dishwasher wipes a dirty plate clean of food leftovers. Perpetual and ubiquitous inebriating drunkenness, shaken and stirred together with intoxicating pride and arrogance demand God’s most severe judgment, especially in the lives of the decision makers and wealth creators of any society or culture. Check it out with Isaiah 5:11–17.

  1. See! The Lord has at His disposal someone who is strong and powerful. Like a storm of hail and strong destructive wind, like a sudden flood of water pouring over the country, he will throw things (namely Samaria) down to the ground.

samaria-9ruins-of-samariaIronically, the “powerful and strong” one that the Lord will use is the heathen and idolatrous nation of Assyria. The coming of the Assyrian army under the monarchy of Shalmaneser V is compared to the violent destruction of a hailstorm, a flood and a gale force wind. Oh Ephraim! Ephraim! Beware of the repercussions of your actions. You have irresponsibly sown to the wind, you will indeed reap the whirlwind. Future generations are destined to refer to you and your clansmen as “The Lost Tribes of Israel.” Few, if any, would have any idea as to where you were to be ultimately exiled. It is a story to rend many a persons emotions.

  1. That proud crown of a city, the pride of the drunkards of Ephraim (Israel) will be trampled underfoot.
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An Arab wedding in Samaria circa 1908

Ironically, the wreath, the victor’s crown, a symbol of victory, and a symbol utilised by Isaiah to highlight the arrogant pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, “will be trampled underfoot.”  It is not going to be a simple battle where one side winds and the other is defeated. Not at all! There was to be a prolonged siege ending up with Israel, the northern kingdom of the divided hegemony, completely annihilated and destroyed. The hill of the beautiful city was to become a dump at the top of the valley. The population was to be deported and exiled to places that historians are not altogether confident of, and the stone and mortar that constituted the capital city of the northern kingdom was to be reduced to a scrapheap of stone, and a lair for wild animals. Assyria was to fulfill God’s judgment on Samaria to the nth degree. Israel had never experienced such a “woe” in its history.

  1. That fading flower of glorious beauty that is set at the head of the rich fertile valley, will be like the first – ripe fig before the summer harvest—as soon as someone sees it and takes it in his hand, he hastily swallows it.

samaria3-ruins-of-herod-the-greats-place-at-samaria-much-later-than-722-bcSamaria is mildly compared first to a fading flower, and then secondly, here, to a first-ripe fig. As soon as a person sees such a fig, he picks it, pops it into his mouth, and swallows it. Just so, God will not postpone the judgment, and there will be nothing at all left, literally and absolutely of the city of Samaria built and created by King Omri a few generations earlier. This prophecy was fulfilled when Shalmaneser besieged Samaria for three years, where after the city fell in 722 B.C.

  1. At that time and in that day, the Lord All-Powerful, Almighty, of Heaven’s Armies will be like a beautiful crown, like a wonderful crown for the remnant of His people who are left alive and believing;
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Samaria from the minaret of the local mosque

Yet again, in juxtaposition to declarations of the severest and most awful judgement upon sin, Isaiah takes a huge visual quantum leap into the far flung, future, millennial day as a contrast to Israel’s present state and situation. He constantly caps the promises of judgement and horror for rebellion against Yahweh, with the unspeakably glorious perspective of Christ’s reign on earth on David’s throne. We can comfortably, retrospectively see what Isaiah was saying; but did Isaiah know what he meant? (See 1 Peter 2:10-12). In that future day, Yahweh Himself will become a glorious victor’s crown and a beautiful wreath or diadem to the remnant of all Israel, meaning all the tribes descended from Jacob/Israel, and the time when there will be no divided Israel but a healed and renewed hegemony in total harmony both with God and each other. Not that the details of that reign or time are given hear in this passage. It is a description of the stark contrast to the self-exalting pride and “wreaths of fading flowers of Ephraim’s drunkards” as stated in the opening verse of Isaiah 28.

  1. and a spirit of wisdom and of justice to the judges who must decide cases and strength to those who turn the tide of battle at the city gate.

In that millennial day, in all decisions, Yahweh, manifesting Himself as “a Spirit of Justice,” will give His strength to enable all those who will be judges or rulers to do precisely what is right. He will also be the strength of those who take the battle to their own city gates defending the territory from the enemy).

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Sunset in Samaria. How beautiful is that?!?!?!?!?

150. The Death and Resurrection of Israel – Yahweh’s Corporate Son (Isaiah 27: 6-13)

a8The glory of the latter house of Israel will indeed be far greater than the glory of the former.

 

Having told us what the song of the future is, Isaiah now gives us the rationale that will predicate the song just sung. Note that it was Yahweh Himself that spoke the lyrics of the song. Now, Isaiah himself speaks.

6. In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.

 

To say this is a remarkably hopeful future for Israel is a huge and phenomenal understatement. Jacob, the supplanter and deceiver, was changed when he wrestled with the angel and was given the new name of “Israel” in the narrative of Genesis 32:24–28. In the coming days of the millennial kingdom, the nation of Israel that had its origin in the erstwhile deceitful Jacob, will be changed and become as a vine whose every part – root, bud, blossom, and fruit – is beautifully developed in God. Holy, anointed, progressively always looking to the future and walking in the blessing of God. The vine of Israel will be so deeply entrenched by deep roots that growth will be extremely high and voluptuously fruitful. The blossom will be so rich and full that it will bless the whole world. God will undoubtedly and most definitely restore and prosper Israel to a place of global importance, and give them the governmental primary position of leadership in the world. As a result, the whole world – that is every nation and all peoples and ethnic groups – will be blessed by its “fruit.” “Fruit” implies righteousness that will influence all others around the globe. In this way we will have a total and complete fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. As Isaiah chapters 9 and 11 have shown, the physical presence of the greater Seed of Abraham, who is also the greater Son of David, will make this possible.

mill17. Has Yahweh struck her as He struck down those who struck her? Has she been killed as those were killed who killed her?

 

Looking back over Israel’s history, did God ever strike them in the same way He struck down their enemies, as, for example, the way He drowned the entire Egyptian army at the Red Sea? Did He ever slay them the way He slew the 185,000 of Sennacherib’s army? The answer is “No!” No matter how they failed, or how often they turned away from Yahweh and a life of faith, God always left a remnant of His people Israel. He was gracious to them and loved them. He still does. Israel was, Israel now is and Israel always will be.

 

Lannon’s interpretation of the entire passage of Isaiah from chapter 13 through to this point is merely stating that all nations shall face a judgement, not just a judgement in the next life, but a judgement in this time and space world. Nearly all of them will disappear from time as nations. Some shall scrape through. However, although, externally, it seems that Israel and Judah were getting the same sort of treatment as everybody else, there was and is a divine purpose for the entire future of Israel. The fullness of this future will really begin when Jesus Christ returns to earth as King of Israel, on the throne of David. Israel will dominate the global stage from then on.

 

This expectation dominates Isaiah’s horizon here as he discusses the Jewish nation as being God’s own vineyard. This vineyard will be watered and cared for with great divine zeal and care. Yes! He has struck down Israel in a manner that seemed like the others. But God was disciplining Israel for His purpose. Amongst all the corrections and issues that God was dealing with in his handling of the Jews, the main one that is explained in the Old Testament is the cleansing out of the Jewish heart and mind of idolatry. Thus Isaiah asks the question that comprises Isaiah 27:7.

mill28. By warfare and exile you contend with her—with his fierce blast he drives her out, as on a day the east wind blows.

 

God’s judgments on Israel, in the past, were severe, like a blast of “the east wind” from the desert. “By warfare” (“in measure,” AV) translates a Hebrew word used only here and probably means “by chasing away,” or, “by scaring away.” God’s purpose was never to destroy them completely, but to deal with them in a way that would bring them back to Himself. Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser, and later under Sargon, took people of Northern Israel into exile. Then Sennacherib took a section of the people of Judah into exile. These exiles were God’s “fierce blast.”

 

9. By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruitage of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces. No Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing.

 

mill3It is an absolute truth that God had to strive hard and firm with the Jewish nation all the way through their history. God’s love and care for His people includes discipline and suffering. It is a clearly discernible habitual syndrome of the way Yahweh dealt with Israel all the way through the Old Testament real time. There would be unbelief and disobedience. Within this context, pain, suffering and oppression would briefly take root in the nation. Then prophetic characters would arise amongst them, lead the people to repentance and faith, and then blessing, deliverance, freedom and consecration would ensue and be sustained until the next generation of unbelief. It was a genuine roller coaster of spiritual exercise with the Jews.  Isaiah here says that He (Yahweh) will deal with them so that their “guilt will be atoned for,” and their sin taken away. He talks of Jacob, meaning the entire nation in a position of rebellion.  Part of this cleansing and atonement will involve disposing of the false worship, and the Asherah poles (wooden poles with male and female genitalia carved on them, symbols of Asherah worship, which also included both male and female prostitution) and incense altars. Isaiah says that they “will not be left standing.” Hezekiah did do away with false worship (2 Kings 18:4), but it wasn’t taken to heart by the nation of Judah as it should have been. The “altar stones” that are “crushed to pieces” either may be altars for false worship, or may represent the old sacrificial system that will be done away with. Only then could Israel become the pleasant, fruitful vineyard as described in verse 2.

mill410. The fortified city stands desolate, an abandoned settlement, forsaken like the desert; there the calves graze, there they lie down; they strip its branches bare.

 

Some commentators take “the fortified city” to mean Jerusalem, but in this connection it is probably a collective for the cities of this world (As it was in Isaiah 25:2), the strongholds of the enemies of God and His people. Their defences will not save them from the judgment of God. Nothing will be left of them (Revelation 16:19), so, “there the calves graze,” where they were.

 

11. When its twigs are dry, they are broken off and women come and make fires with them. For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favour.

 

mill5In the deserted gentile and secular cities, when branches are stripped bare, women will come and use the twigs for fires. Those left after the judgment are people “without understanding,” having no insight into spiritual truths or into the ways of God. Though God created them, though God formed them with the care of a skilful potter, He will show them “no favour.” They had no understanding of God because they have so dulled their minds and hearts that even His saving grace cannot reach them. It is never that God’s grace isn’t sufficient to reach them. It is always because God’s grace has been wilfully prevented from reaching them by people’s pride and refusal to repent.

12. In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one.

 

“In That day,” the Day of Judgment, restoration will be unfolded and imparted to Israel. God will bring a harvest, threshing the grain from the chaff, a gathering of good wheat. He will gather “from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt” (the Wadi El-Arish at the border of Egypt), that is, from the whole area that was once held by Solomon in the days of his greatness all true Jews. The true people of Israel will be gleaned one by one and restored to the Land. Though God’s intent is to restore the nation of Israel, He will also be concerned about the salvation of each individual, “one by one.” Compare the narratives of Jesus’ parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son in Luke 15.

mill613. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship Yahweh on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

 

“A great trumpet” will be blown. It will call people home to worship – people who are outcasts, homeless, harassed, and perishing in Assyria. It will also cause exiles in Egypt to come and “worship Yahweh on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” Assyria was the place where exiles of Israel were in Isaiah’s day, although Egypt had been the place of their slavery in Moses’ day. These two countries represent all the places in the world where Israel has been scattered and has suffered, and in places, still suffers even to this day. From them will come not only Israel, but others who will worship Yahweh, as projected to our spiritual vision in Isaiah 2:2-3).

 

In all decisions, Yahweh, as “a spirit of justice,” will give His strength to enable all those who will be judges or rulers, to do what is right. He will also be strength for those who take the battle to the enemy’s city gates, and/or those who at their own city gates defend from the enemy.

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