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.

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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.

mill8

 

149. The Climactic Point of history that all of Time is working towards                           Isaiah 27:2 – 5               

A Song for the far side of Judgement of the World.  (Isaiah 27:2–5)   

wandering monk at sunriseGod’s prophetic judgements against the various nations, spoken in chapters 13-23, have conveyed a real sense of an entire world ripening for divine judgement. This is definitely not Old Testament ideas that have been nullified by New Testament teaching, as I have heard from some folk. Christian grace forbids me to launch out in a tirade against the stupidity of such an idea. A reading of the Thessalonian letters and parts of John’s Apocalypse, as, in particular, chapter 14:15-19) will allow us to see how apostolic understanding embraces wholly this aspect of the writings of the prophets.  The horrors of chapter 24 follow the judgements on the universe of the Middle East making a quantum leap into the divine judgements of “the world.” Chapter 24 is all about how these universal judgements will affect all stratas of society indiscriminately, in all nations, the world over (24:2).

 

The earth is said to be “defiled” in the most invasive manner. This rationale is the extrapolated conclusion because, “they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant” (24:5).  Daniel 7:25 and the entire context of that verse clearly reveals that the agenda of the Antichrist will include changing the times and the law. Isaiah declares a horror filled prophetic word when he tells us, “few men are left” (24:6). Jesus spoke of these days in Mark 13:20 when he told the twelve that global catastrophes would depopulate the earth to the extent that unless the Father had shortened those days, no flesh at all would be saved. However, for the elect’s sake, those who will be in faith when those times arrive will be saved through it all; and that will be because He will shorten the days. These days will be monstrously depressing and oppressive. There will not be even a crumb of any happiness or joy in those horrible days.  “The pachad, the pachath and the pach” (Hebrew for, the fear, the pit and the trap) will fall on the world in these days as told us in so alliterative manner in 24:17-18. The whole scene of warning, and the neglect of the masses to the divine call is delivered in terminology so reminiscent of the days and times of Noah and the deluge. The whole comparison of the parallel lines of scripture shows vividly how it will be a shocking worldwide catastrophe that will jolt survivors into silence, and some to heart failure, illness and/or death.

a2After the complete planetary harvest of judgement, only a gleaning of population, animal life and vegetation will remain.  Only a small fragment of what was previously the world’s densest level of population would be left alive. In the midst of this remnant of humanity, there will be an even smaller godly remnant which will “sing extolling the glory of Yahweh” (24:14).

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As Yahweh gathers the kings of the earth as per Psalm 2:2, so He metes out punishment on the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, as in Isaiah 24:21 and in Revelation 12:7-8.

 

Only at the Second Advent of Christ to the earth will justice and deep and lasting peace be ushered in at the commencement of the Millennium – that is, Christ’s thousand year reign on earth. Refusal to perceive such Bible passages in their historical – grammatical thrust has pushed many, to the error of “Replacement Theology,” seeing the fulfilment of Israel’s prophecies in terms of the Church, the Body of Christ. However, it is Israel, not the Church, which is clearly shown to pass through this time of its great trouble as seen in Jeremiah 30:7.

 

On the far side of this world wide catastrophe and judgement, Israel emerges from deep suffering to millennial glory as sketched in Isaiah 25 and 27 especially. Mount Zion becomes central to God’s purposes on earth (Isaiah 25:6-12), and Israel’s fruitfulness will extend to the whole world in that day (Isaiah 27:6).

a32. In that day there will be a fruitful vineyard – Sing about this fruitful vineyard:

The Hebrew is sharp, to the point and simple abrupt exclamations. An English equivalent would be a dramatic, “In that day! A fruitful Vineyard! Sing of it!

The scene that rises from the closure of the predicted cauldron of judgement is that of a party and a song. It is all about singing when the shaking of the olive tree is over (Isaiah 24:13). Israel, yet again, are seen to have gone through deep and profound loss and hardship, only to emerge on the far side of the sorrow singing tunes of deliverance. Tears are just for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).  One of Job’s friends told that suffering saint that, “It is God who gives melodies in the night.” Isaiah sees the brightness of this new day and new age so clearly, he even tell us the libretto of the joyful yet dramatic song they will chant.  In the darkest of nights filled with terror and tribulation, the desires within the souls of Israel will be set alight with a spiritual song – a hymn of praise if you will (Isaiah 26:9).

“That day” looks ahead to what God will do in the distant future. This is a second song of a vineyard. “Fruitful” (“red wine,” AV) is translated as “pleasant” in Isaiah 32:12 and in Amos 5:11. In Isaiah 5 it was a dismal dirge of a barren vineyard set for destruction. A sinful vineyard that had turned its back on Yahweh. Now this newer and later song is about a vineyard of beauty and delight. (Some Hebrew manuscripts actually have “chamar,” that is “wine that is foaming as it ferments.” It produces a good harvest of sweet grapes, in contrast to the putrid grapes of the vineyard that was sung about in chapter 5. The transformation is dramatic and stark.

This psalm is to indicate the climax of time in the existence of the earth and humanity. Time itself, along with God’s purpose, will not role on forever, but will indeed close with an incredible crisis and climax. It is to be noted that God alone is – quite literally – guarding and protecting the vineyard, i.e. Israel, against any enemy action against the apple of His eye, no matter who, and no matter what.

a43. I, Yahweh, watch over it as its keeper; I water it regularly and continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.

The kindness of God to His vineyard is fully detailed. Yahweh is the guardian of the vineyard that is the nation state and people of Israel. His care, provision, and protection are continual, perpetual and deeply effectual. His faithful love has waited for the time when Israel would put their trust in Him. I am told that in the Middle Eastern vineyards, as harvest time approaches, the guardian and watchman over the crop of grapes plays a key and vital roll and has to stay sharply alert. He continually waters the vines. That is more than necessary I conclude. It makes the point that “He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”

a54. I am not angry against it at all. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle and a warlike fashion; I would set them all on fire immediately.

In contrast to the “vineyard of Israel” in chapter 5, God now has no anger or resentment at all against this renewed, sanctified and dedicated “vineyard if Israel” in Isaiah 27. God states categorically “I harbour no resentment against my own.” If briars and thorns appear He will root them out and burn them.  The “briers and thorns” referred to are metaphors – types if you will – of all enemies of God’s people. This suggests that there will always be those who would harm Israel. It informs us that Yahweh will set Himself to purify His people on this future day.

5. Or else let them come to me for refuge and protection; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.”

The “briers and thorns” referred to in verse 4 refer mostly to those who are heathen.  However, heathens in this day to come, just as heathens in this day and age, are candidates for entrance into the kingdom of God. All is not hopeless for the “briars and thorns” referred to in the previous verse, who will be against God. God invites them to come to Him “for refuge,” as a stronghold, or place of refuge. He wants all adversaries to repent and “make peace” with Him. The way of salvation is always open, even to those who seem like unpleasant, irritating briars and thorns. We can come to God as a loving Father and He will nurture us

Verse 5 is the closing lines of this song of deliverance

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148. The Fall of the Mighty Leviathan Monster (Isaiah 27:1)

  1. In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his well-tempered, fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the fleeing, gliding serpent, Leviathan the winding, coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)

 

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Definitely NOT a random image of Leviathan. Read Job 41.

Talking about God’s displeasure is not common at all these days. I have actually seen some people in some churches shake their heads whenever the subject of final judgement is brought up. How sad is that! Some  people see God as a nice, jolly, “Father Christmas” type figure, and read only the scriptures about the, “nice,” “soft” and loving Father in Heaven, and in so doing ignore and/or write off huge swathes of scripture. “God is Love,” they say, as if there is no room for any other attribute in the infinite character of the Almighty.

 

Ah well! I might lose some of my thousand a week readers here, but something has to be said.

 

I agree one thousand per cent that “God is love.” It’s a biblical and apostolic statement. No problem! But I tell you what else: God dislikes some things about peoples’ attitudes and lifestyles.  In fact, the God-breathed scripture tells us that, actually, He hates some actions and motives. And, to tell it as it really is – hold on to your seat belts – God truly gets angry with some repetitive evil and damaging activities on the planet that He says are actually an “abomination.”

 

There! I’ve said it!

 

The scary old-fashioned phrase concerning these abominable things are those activities and mind-sets that bring hate, death and curses among man-kind. Evil is a diversion from God’s purposes. God’s response to these “abominations” are revealed by certain turns of phrase in the Hebrew and the Greek (Ah! Yes! It’s in the New Testament too!). The old King James translation refers to it as, “The wrath of God.” If we don’t have a shiver down our back bone when we read this phrase, I promise you, we don’t understand the truth, or the concept, or the weight of what we are discussing. This is not just a few lines from a “Systematic Theology” book, or just another tenet to our list of beliefs, this is an insight into God’s love and character that should facilitate us to see His love through clearer eyes.

 

Contemporary widespread revelation concerning the love and grace of God and the believer’s identity in Christ has made discussion concerning God’s anger almost a non-entity – a subject that seems to negate other stuff that is commonly taught in the church today. There is no truth that negates any other truth. God’s anger and God’s love are two facts concerning the one divine character of Yahweh – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These thoughts concerning judgement, or even eternal damnation, seem to have paled into insignificance in recent times. It is generally perceived as a most “inconvenient” teaching of the scripture, reduced by many as a metaphorical symbolic series of statements that have nothing but allegorical significance. Ah! If only!

 

The emphasis on grace, acceptance through Christ, and the believer’s authority in Him has even driven some to the extreme nonsense of what is known as “Universalism.” “God’s acceptance is so total and full in Christ,” these people shout, “How is it then conceivable that God could condemn anybody – especially those without faith – into hell?”

 

How insipid and unbiblical can a Bible reading believer get? It is this writer’s conviction that Universalism has raised its ugly head again in our generation simply because of a neglect of the Old Testament and a general lack of reading the whole arc of biblical truth in the complete canon of scripture. A straight forward, logical study through any bible concordance will clearly demonstrate that there are many more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, wrath and judgement of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. And this is NOT just because the Old Testament is more voluminous than the New. Jesus talked of the wrath of God in John 3:36. Paul talked of the wrath of God (Romans 1:18. Romans 2:6-11. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 for a simple starter). John, the “Apostle of love,” wrote the book of Revelation concerning the judgement of all judgements, the eternal fire and loss of the unsaved.

 

i2701

Nothing contrary here to God’s own description of Leviathan in Job 41.

So many Christians seem to withdraw into an apologetic type tone when the subject of God’s anger and judgement is raised. It is as if they wish it wasn’t there in the book. I have talked to some who seemed to me to be Christian believers yet consider it a blot on God’s character for Him to be angry – or even blasphemous for me to have said so. It would seem that they consider God’s wrath to be a huge wart on the face of Almighty Yahweh. I can only discern it as a fact that some cannot imagine being wrathful without being out of control, and therefore deny that God could have such an emotion. They ignore the fact that the New Testament exhorts us to be like Christ Himself when it says, “Be angry and sin not.”  Jesus was angry when he upturned the business tables in the Temple. And – have you ever read Matthew 23? There is no way that, “Gentle Jesus Meek and mild,” could talk lovingly and kindly what is written in that chapter. The seven “woes” that Christ Himself uttered over the Pharisees were flaming swords of terrifying divine judgement.

 

I have even discussed the issue of God’s wrath with some Christians who have told me that they feel unworthy and incapable of negotiating even the concept of God’s anger in their minds. God does not conceal the facts – and whatever is revealed to is in scripture needs confronting and acceptance. The entire canon of scripture requires our application.

 

So! What does the Bible actually say?  We cannot but make the obvious observation that Yahweh is not at all ashamed to make it known that, “Vengeance and fury belong to Him.” See Romans 12:19. He is blatantly unashamed to declare in the book, “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.” (Deuteronomy 32:39-41). Wow! Who says that God should speak to us more directly. Is it possible to be more direct that that? Allegory? Metaphor? Poetry with mystical meanings? I think not. This is God Himself speaking plainly.

 

Because God is pure, clean and spotless, He hates all sin because it detracts from man’s purpose and destiny. Because He hates all sin, His pleasure and purpose is to save completely those who believe and pursue Christ, and judge the severity of sin that is not dealt with by the unbeliever (Psalm 7:11).  We need to get a firm grasp of the biblical idea that God’s anger is indeed as much a divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, mercy and love. It cannot be anything else. “In Him there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning.” There would be a character defect in God Himself if “wrath” were absent from His being! His response to sin must be as pure and holy as His love towards people. Indifference to sin is a moral blemish. It is part of man’s sin to be as indifferent against God’s take on our existence.

 

I think it was Spurgeon in one of his sermons that cried, “How could He who is the Sum of all that is excellent look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom 11:22) toward it?”

 

There cannot possibly be any perfection of attribute and characteristic within God’s Person that is less perfect than another. As Pink succinctly says, “The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness.” God’s wrath against sin is the unending righteous motivation of His judgement against wilfully lost mankind. Sin is a wilful living of life in a manner that is contrary to the desire and plan of God for mankind – whether it be external actions or inner thought and motivation. One psalmist sai, “If I cherish sin in my heart, God will not hear me.”  If that one liner doesn’t shake us concerning our worldview and lifestyle, there are some claims of our Christianity that must be rendered questionable.

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Romans 1:18). This statement proves that it is part of the gospel message.  Again, the revealing of God’s wrath is something He does not hide from. Psalm 95:11 says: “Unto whom I swore in My wrath.”

 

The bold and radical statement of Isaiah 27:1 (our verse for today) needs to be seen in the light of all we have said above.

 

is2701dIsaiah 27 is the conclusion of a complete section that starts at Isaiah 24:1. It is a section that encapsulates the entire metanarrative of the consummation of earth’s history as declared by Isaiah and other prophets. It comprises the horrors of the last judgement, and the divine wrath as demonstrated in this world and in the time line of this life, that is – as far as judgement can go in this existence. The divine judgement will not be complete until the Christians stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and the unsaved  of all generations stand before the Great White Throne. And then Isaiah predicts the power and the glory of the Messianic millennial reign, formulating a graphic word picture of our planet that we simply have never yet seen. Here we are talking of Isaiah’s breath-taking vision of the earthly reign of Yahweh, consolidated by John’s vision in the book of Revelation. The curse will be removed off animals and the physical world in general, as well as much of the invisible world becoming visible. For the resurrected, the mortal putting on immortality begins here in earnest.

 

Two forces have been, are, and will be until the end of time, running contra to each other concurrently. The devil working against God; the people of God conflicting with the devil and the kingdom of darkness; and the war between all things of divine origin and purpose and all things demonic. As much as many people would relish the thought of a middle section that is referring to those who are neither Godly, nor anti-God, the bible clearly affirms that there is no such class of humanity. Every single person who has ever lived is in one of two criteria: Saved or unsaved. In the light or in darkness. In Christ or lost eternally.There is no third category.

 

First of all there was the universal judgement described in the horror filled text of Isaiah 24. Then followed a joyful song of laudation for that judgement in chapter 25. There then follows a Hymn praising God for His infinite farsightedness and the works He had performed on behalf of the righteous in response to their faith. Now – here in chapter 27, we have a look at both sides of the scenario. After the overthrow of the worldly powers, Isaiah explains how Zion, amazingly referring to both the physical city of Zion as well as the heavenly simultaneously, the temporal as well as the eternal, are blessed with the physical presence of Christ. It is a revelation of a truth that needs pondering, praying over and meditating on. Oh! Isaiah! Isaiah! I cry out to God to see as you saw, to know as you knew, to perceive exactly what you grasped.

 

My own take on this seminal verse of scripture is expressed in my own paraphrase, as in:

 

In that coming day, far in the future, in the days of the earthly reign of Messiah, Yahweh will punish the foul unclean demonic ruling spirit of the power of the air that dominates and rules the controlling nations and empires of this present world, with His sword.  His well-tempered, fierce, great and powerful sword will castigate and destroy (a) Leviathan the fleeing, gliding serpent of Assyria, (b)Leviathan the winding, coiling serpent of Babylon, and He will also slay (c) Egypt, the same dragon monster of the sea.

 

Yes indeed! Judgement, violent and absolutely final, for Leviathan. Leviathan? Who is this? Where does he – or it- come into the picture?

 

This single first verse talks of the divine judgement and destruction of a nasty sounding creature referred to as “Leviathan.” He is referred to as in three different manifestations or areas. “Leviathan!” What a juicy and expressive title. “Leviathan” is a term interpreted by some as a species of sea creature or river monster, as, for instance, the whale. What utter nonsense! In Psalm 104:26, the NIV has it as, “There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.”  The NET Bible however translates the same Hebrew text as, “The ships travel there, and over here swims the whale you made to play in it” (Bold italics are mine of course). Fascinatingly interesting? No! Fascinatingly ignorant more like.  Does it have any value or credibility in proper translational principles? No comment! The Douay Rheims version goes further, rendering the same statement as, “There the ships shall go. This sea dragon which thou hast formed to play therein.” Where the “whale” and “sea-dragon” comes from all depends on how one researches the word. But neither the NET nor the Douay Rheims version is consistent at all. I say that because the word is repeated a couple of times more in the Old Testament. This writer has failed to find any other translation that ventures to interpret Leviathan as a creature that we know of. The NET bible, having translated it as a “whale” in the Psalm 104, leaves the word well enough alone in Job and simply refers it to an anglicized transliteration of “Leviathan.” Douay-Rheims does the same. Why can’t these translators be consistent?

 

My own logic and biblical reading rubbishes any thought of a whale as the phrases that immediately following in Isaiah 27:1 refer to a coiling and gliding serpent. So, how could a “whale” even enter into the discussion?

 

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Daniel also received divinely given visions and insights into his contemporary and future empires, seeing them as aberrations of beasts and monster like animals.

 

In the NLT Job 3:8 says, “Let those who are experts at cursing–whose cursing could rouse Leviathan–curse that day.” And by the logistics of that verse, the whale doesn’t fit the definition of Leviathan at all. Men cursing and rousing whales has never been a choice of mankind.  How on earth can a whale be roused? Leviathan is also mentioned in Psalm 74:14. In the NIV this verse reads as, “It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.” How could it be that a whale, with a plurality of “heads,” (true to the Hebrew text) feed the creatures of the desert, and not those of the sea? One also wonders whether the dragons, as mentioned in Psalm 74:13, are equivalent to the Leviathan of verse 14.

 

Why do I sound so cocksure and confident about this “Leviathan” creature? Simply because I have read Job 41. Although it seems to have been ignored by a lot of translators, it clearly describes what Leviathan is. Read it for yourself and see.

 

It is this writers opinion that Leviathan was a truly incredibly sized, and awesomely built fire breathing dragon of Job’s day, that spoke fear into all who ever encountered it. Allow me to verify my thoughts. I shall refer to Leviathan as a “he:

 

  • Remember Job is commonly believed to have been written in a time before the flood, explained in the story of Noah, took place, in the early chapters of Genesis. From Job 41 we learn that Leviathan was as follows:

 

  • The language of verse one suggests that he spent some of his time in the sea, and that people have attempted to catch him there. Tying down his tongue was perceived as a helpful strategy for safety, but was impossible to effect. (Job 41:1)
  • Leviathan had a nose by which he could be conceived as being caught with a cord through its nostrils. It also has a jaw that could be imagined as being hooked in order to catch (41:2). The question, put by God Himself seems rhetorical. The sense and meaning of the questions seems to be constantly asking Job if he could do things that were absolutely humanly impossible, but were, obvious to Job, a simple matter for Yahweh to govern. As if God was saying something like, “Can you stoke the fires that comprise the sun?”
  • Job 41: 3 – 6 seem deeply sarcastic in its six questions. One cannot but see that God Himself – for it is God who is speaking in this description of Leviathan – sees it as inconceivable that any man, or group of men could render Leviathan vulnerable or submissive. Leviathan would never ever be in need of mercy (3a). The concept of any human being enslaving Leviathan is ridiculous (4). The thought of giving an enslaved Leviathan (if it were at all possible to catch him) as a pet to one’s daughters was laughable (5a).
  • There was obviously some sort of impenetrable skin that Leviathan was clothed with, especially around his head. Harpoons and fishing spears are mentioned, hinting that he lived in the sea (41:7).
  • His incredible strength and hardiness is obliquely stated in 41:8 when God says, “If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!”
  • God says that it is impossible for anybody to subdue Leviathan and that one would be overpowered at the very sight of him (41:9).
  • The Almighty then states that this breath-taking creature was virtually so large, so strong, so wild and so impenetrable as to any physical weakness that there was nobody and nothing on earth that could in any way rouse his anger. (41:10a). The point that God’s logic was making was that this huge sentient being, this monster named Leviathan was the most awesomely wild and hugely powerful beast of the whole of creation, so huge and fearsome that nothing physical in the cosmos could match him or even arouse his anger, apart from the fact that Leviathan was meekly and weakly submissive to God Himself. Thus, the last phrase of 41:10, “Who then is able to stand against me?” and the whole context of verse 11.
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    Leviathan also had these shield like plates on his back.

    God refers to Leviathan’s grace of movement and strength of limb (41:12) and the fact that it not only has a tough impenetrable covering of skin, but a second coat of armour (41:13) – namely a layer of scales shaped as military shields (41:15). Or is God referring to a spinal line of defensive plates as suggested by paleontological opinion of the Stegosaurus (41:15). The point being, as far as my readers and I are concerned, that this Leviathan was like nothing that is alive on the planet in this day and age, and frighteningly unique in Job’s day.

There were probably no specimens of Leviathan alive in Isaiah’s day.

  • The fearsomeness of Leviathan is enlarged even further as God asks – again, rhetorically – of Job, concerning attempts to prize Leviathan’s mouth open with greatfear of the mouth that was ringed with sharp and dangerous looking sets of teeth (41:14), the bad rationale that would cause anybody to attempt close up contact with the beast.
  • There is no aspect of physical weakness in Leviathan (41:15-16). His scales are jagged and provide foolproof protection both above and beneath him (41:30). Those scales are air tight and water tight, closed so tightly that nothing known to man could penetrate between them.
  • Then we have the revelations of verses 18 -21. Leviathan breaths out flashes of light when he snorts. What is that light? It is flames of fire pouring from his mouth. There are sparks, flames and smoke that all come shooting out. Leviathan’s breath sets coals ablaze. It’s all there in black and white.
  • Leviathan’s neck is particularized as a major centre of his strength. It suggest to me that his neck was either incredibly long, or remarkably sturdy. In stating that dismay goes before him, my inner eye sees a greatly prolonged neck that is long enough for the head to confront people long before his feet are seen.(Job 41:22).
  • His skin and scales are such that even where the skin folds they are immovable for air and water (41:23).
  • The verses in the latter 10-11 verses of Job 41, complete the picture f Leviathan’s strength and appearance. He had a check as hard as a lower millstone (v24). He has a tail that he thrashes when he rises, and is terrifying to man (v25). Those that have ever got near enough to Leviathan to strike him with sword, spear, poisoned dart and/or javelin, have discovered that all three weapons have absolutely no impact or effect on him (v26). When he is struck with iron, whether it be by sword or girder, it bends as it strikes Leviathan, as if he is unaware that he has been struck, and wooden beams also split and crack and break up like rotten wood (41:27).  Arrows don’t move him, and sling shots are like dust in the wind (v28). Being struck with a machete club Leviathan considers as a piece of straw. War cries and the rattling of multifarious battle lances humour him (v29). One cannot attack him from beneath without the fear of death for being beneath him. His undersides are like jagged pottery that drag on the floor like a threshing sledge. (v30). He leaves snail like slime behind him and by the heat of the fire within him when he steps into the sea or deep water it starts steam arising as if from a boiling kettle or cauldron that leaves a glistening silver wake behind him (v 31-32). He leaves strands of matter behind him that makes people think the water has white hair.

 

i2701-cIt is, therefore, no wonder at all that God says to Job, “Nothing on earth is its equal – a creature without fear.  It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud” (Job 41:33-34). We have the quote from Psalm 74 to add, which refers to Leviathan’s “heads,” and then the description of Isaiah 27:1 and we have a picture.

 

We conclude that whatever Leviathan is (or was) – it was clearly a monster like, dragon like, multi headed giant creature which moved by “gliding” and “coiling.” It is portrayed by the combination of its usages in the Old Testament as a huge, frightening creature that was to be greatly respected and kept clear of. I am persuaded that it is the safest route to simply anglicize the Hebrew word and leave it as “Leviathan.” It is clearly an “aka” of the devil, and/or the powers of hell in general, as far as Isaiah was concerned. I am saying that Leviathan (twice) and the dragon of the sea, in Isaiah 27:1, are the same creature. And the creature Leviathan is likened to the power that ruled over Assyria, Babylon and  Egypt, in the same manner Daniel talked of beasts and bears  when referring to the rose of Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

 

So! What does all this verbosity mean in the context of Isaiah 27:1, where commentators are split whether it is the last thought of the context of Isaiah 26, or the opening statement of the thoughts contained in chapter 27? Nobody, it seems, wants to suggest that Isaiah 26 and 27 should actually be one whole chapter – which is my opinion. For me, this first verse of 27 stands alone as both the conclusion of chapter 26 and the hinge to the contents of chapter 27.

 

Meditating over Isaiah’s use of “Leviathan,” when referred to as the “gliding serpent,” it seems to me to point towards Assyria on the Tigris River. The phrase “the coiling serpent,” suggest to me Babylon on the Euphrates. The word translated as “dragon” or “monster” of the sea is the same Hebrew word that Ezekiel used in a later generation when referring to Egypt, as in Ezekiel 29:3, and 32:2. These three nations were the chief enemies of Israel in Isaiah’s day, and together they are representative of all the enemies who are against God and His people.

 

Isaiah saw a day coming when God would punish the megalomaniac power of Assyria, Babylon and Egypt “with His sword.” The destruction of these powers will be total, complete and absolute never to rise again on this earth in the manner in which they did in the time Isaiah lived. The repetition of the creature, three times, emphasizes the supernatural character of the punishment. Their chastisement is a foretaste of the complete punishment to come on all ungodly nations during the Great Tribulation at the end of this age.

 

I believe Leviathan to have been a true fire breathing creature of Job’s day, and that his usage in Isaiah 27:1 is a parable from a factual creature, of how the spirit world ran the three empires of which the whole of the middle eastern world was terrified, and set for judgement.

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147. If Prophecy is a series of Concepts Divinely Revealed to man by the Holy Spirit – How on earth dare we limit its Perspective and Viewpoint and Source?

Isaiah 26:12–26:21

I2612.000000000000000000I am still in the process of learning that by reading and reading the Bible, my mind becomes more and more released from what Professors and Doctors of Divinity say, and am led into new trails of thought, hearing more and more of my own thoughts, from deep prayer and meditation, speaking for themselves. Let me make it clear that I do not mean that I have stopped reading other books. Neither do I in any way mean that my thoughts are therefore automatically superior to any thoughts of academics or professorial types in the world of Bible teachers. Not at all – and never! Also, I do not in any way mean to discredit the professors and Doctors who have spent their lives studying the academic issues raised by the scrolls and manuscripts of the Bible. We need academics to do the work of apologists among the sceptics in particular. And, I think I need to add yet another rider that states categorically that my comment above does not mean that I do not check out my thoughts and insights with others. The “called out ones” of the church (Every believing Christian is a “called out” one. The Greek word for church – Ecclesia means exactly that, i.e. “Called out”) need to inter-act and exchange views constantly in order to guide each-others character and growth. I promise all my readers that I am neither a “Lone Ranger” of a Christian, nor some half-baked novice trying to strain at a philosophical gnat while swallowing a doctrinal camel. All I mean to say is that by years of reading, I have discovered what I consider flaws in the, so called, biblical doctrinal dusty corners of some of the long held “teachings and accepted traditions.”

 

No historical literary volume has as many ancient copies as the Jewish Bible and the New Testament scrolls, whether they be full books or fragments. These many thousands of documents and fragments (yes! I said “many thousands” that is not a typo) have always been open to scrutiny by believers and skeptics alike. It’s ease of access and its validation and verification after microscopic research of its textual, documentative and consistent content is both loved and hated by many, depending on which side of the line of faith they stand. To abuse the bard’s classic line: To believe? Or not to believe? That is the question.”

 

My own approach to scripture over the last forty plus years has been just to read the Bible over and over again. It is my lover and my most intimate friend. To read it fast; and then to read it slow. To read a whole Testament in a huge holiday binge; and then to read each book individually several times. I also read it while meditating on a verse for minutes, and sometimes days before I conclude any impacting thoughts. I read it on the train, in bed, on the loo and on the beach. It keeps me awake, sometimes, during the night, and motivates me during the day. I spend my life asking God for guidance as I plough through it. Since the day of my conversion on the 21st April 1968 I have persistently, consistently and naggingly pleaded with God to give me an experience of truth that exceeds my knowledge. I desperately have sought my physical self to be subject to my soul, and my soul to be a slave to the life in my spirit. I besiege the Bible and its content with my body, soul and spirit – my entire being – in order to lay hold of Christ. Yes! I read the odd commentary or quotes from the famous as well as the infamous. I read background material and devotional stuff also. For Isaiah, for instance, I read through Calvin, Leupold, Motyer, Oswalt, Edward J Young, and John L McKay. I like O. Palmer Robertson’s, “The Christ of the Prophets.” I do not believe all that I read. However, I do believe that the more I just peruse and paw through the scripture for no other reason than its own worth and value, the more I find myself rejecting what some writers say about the Bible. I do this because of the rationale and reasoning that has built my world-view and paradigm that I have arrived at from my continuous attention to my personal life of bible reading.

 

Concerning Isaiah: I believe I was somewhat intimidated in the first couple of decades as a Christian by the overqualified authors that suggest there were several Isaiah’s within the 66 chapters, and some of them were even suggested to be adding their lines post-New Testament. Not that I would ever have conceded that these “teachings” intimidated me in the slightest. The shadows cast over the Bible, especially by the so called “Higher Critics” were, to me, shocking – and what was worse, the Higher Critical perspective is still happily assimilated by other evangelical thinkers who seem to always include their own weak and timid response to the Higher Critic’s mantra.

 

There was a time, believe it or not, when many modernists stated that Isaiah just could NOT have any credibility at all since it claimed to be written 700 years before Christ. The reason for its invalid claims, of course, was because the Higher Critics of the time just refuted any thoughts of “the nonsense” of the miraculous. The rationale went like this: “We do not believe in the miraculous. If the statements concerning the virgin birth in Isaiah chapters 7 and 9, and the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Christ in Isaiah 53, as well as other striking statements that are confirmed by the New Testament were in any way true, that would constitute the most incredible series of miraculous substantiations of all the New Testament gives us. And as the thoughts of miraculous prophecy is “sheer nonsense,” it adds up to the conclusion that Isaiah was written by several people, the majority of which lived after the death of Christ.”  This kind of stuff was like a cancer to the pathetic apologists of the days in which this kind of stuff was written. But then – the Qumran scrolls were discovered in the late 1940’s and complete copies of Isaiah were among them. After exposing them to the very finest of scientific research processes, it has been unanimously stated by the scientific world that the carbon 14 examinations have proved that these documents were written circa 200 BC. I have, however, never yet read any explanation of any Higher Critic to this fact. Perhaps it is because the carbon 14 dating of these scrolls has led to their conversion. Who knows? I believe, most absolutely, that there is no fakery in Isaiah’s character or writings whatsoever.

 

On another off-shoot of this Higher Critic tom-foolery, that old “divine,” Cheyne claimed that, in his day, it was becoming “more certain” that the present form of the prophetic Scriptures was due to a literary class of editors that he referred to as the Sopherim, Scribes, or Scripturists, whose principal function was collecting and supplementing the scattered records of prophetic revelation held and treasured for centuries by Jewish believers. I hereby declare Cheyne’s forcefully presented ideas to be sheer tosh, no matter how historical his books may be. His idea of the work done by his imaginary Sopherim editors is utterly baseless and without any evidence whatsoever. The known writings of inspired prophets were and have been guarded by the Jews as by a wall of fire. History suggests that the integrity of the Old Testament was safer than Fort Knox. And all classes, whatever their practical unfaithfulness to biblical truth, stood in awe of the Jewish scriptures then, just as much as they do until this day. I simply cannot imagine Jesus quoting stuff and the writers of the New Testament using Isaiah’s name if there was even the slightest chance that it was not Isaiah that wrote it. Of course, most Higher Critics also indulge their unbelief in the concept that “poor old Jesus did not know whether or not the man Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name, because he was as ignorant as the rest of humanity.”  I shall restrain my language and sentiments concerning that kind of fairy tail thinking.  
My personal greatest offence concerning western scholarship and its dealings with the Bible is their insulting, general, non-consultation of Jewish expertise, thought and scholarship, mingled together with their subjective unbelief and approach to hermeneutics and exposition. The Jews treasure their Bible preciously, and always have done. The book of Jeremiah, for instance, was treasured and received as inspired, less than seventy years after it was originally written, according to Daniel’s testimony. Daniel took Jeremiah at face value. If Jeremiah predicted a seven decade exile to Babylon, and the 70 years were fulfilled, Daniel accepted it as fact and responded accordingly. The Pentateuch, also, was considered as scripture immediately after Moses’ death. Read what God said about it in Joshua 1. And yet, Higher Criticism is seemingly convinced of various additions and changes to the whole.

 

If anybody had suggested to add or subtract even a little to any of these writings, there is no conceivable way under heaven where I could accept that the Jewish leaders would have allowed some nameless person to amend what had hitherto been considered a sacred book. Even the thought of some sympathizer, or “disciple” of Isaiah changing lines here and there, whether a close confidante of the prophet, or merely an admirer from a future generation, is so unthinkable as to be laughable. And yet, so called, “serious scholars,” claim that the “original writings” have been added to, simply because of different phraseology, or concepts mentioned that modern scholarship does not believe was prevalent in Isaiah’s time. The reasoning is so debatable, arguable, and at times laughable, and yet received by most commentaries as the absolute truth.

 

Added to all this, my convictions concerning the supernatural nature of prophecy renders my mind to a state of incredulity. “How is it possible that Isaiah knew of Cyrus?” the Higher Critics ask. Eh?? The very nature of prophecy tells me that Isaiah could have, by the Spirit of God, mentioned anybody’s name of the future. Enoch, alive before the flood, predicted the Second Advent of Christ (see Jude 14 and 15). On issues like this I reject the overall approach and underlying presuppositions of what is known as Higher Criticism.

 

If one was to read my study notes, hear my sermons, and think on my responses to theological issues in the 1970’s, and then were to do the same of my material in the last ten years or so, one would note such an incredible difference of it all, even in the superficialities of the neatness of my handwriting that one may consider that there is a “60’s Lannon,” and then there is a separate, “Millennial Lannon.” Two different characters! In fact, to take the principle even further, even since the new Millennium year onwards, my time in Nigeria changed my language and doctrinal emphasis radically. So, from a future perspective of examining my life, it may suggest to some future researcher that there were three men that went by the name of Lannon. There will be Lannon “O” documents (“O” for Original). Then there will be “P” documents, (“P” for prophetic, as under the prophetic tuition of TB Joshua) and then presently there are the “M” documents (“M” standing for my more meditative days, as of now). If this sounds ridiculous, I rather think that is because it is exactly that: ridiculous. The more I read Isaiah, the more I am totally convinced the same person wrote the whole. The substance and subject flow of Isaiah runs smoothly and in a steady gradient as one ploughs through the chapters.  It is my opinion that the New Testament itself verifies what I am saying.

 

Isaiah 26 is an integral part of the flow that I refer to. Having seen the future of all the surrounding nations that were, in Isaiah’s day, occupying land promised to Abraham, Isaiah lifts his prophetic eyes to the far flung future and the end of days just prior to and into Messiah’s reign on the earth. Isaiah 24 tells us how the days of a great and terrible tribulation will see the deaths of the majority of the world’s population. Of the survivors there will be a remnant of believers, mostly Jews. The majority of the survivors will be anti-God, anti-Semitic and anti-anything that even whiffs of godliness and righteousness. The believing survivors will see the advent of Messiah and His earthly kingdom centred in Jerusalem, and they will be singing the song, and rejoicing in the joy that Isaiah 26 here expresses.

 

The song in the first eleven verses of the chapter is a lyric of joy in God’s salvation, and the exultation in God’s righteousness for the perfect judgement He will have, at that future point in time, performed over the planet. They rejoice not at all in the fact that the evil of men has slain so many billions of humanity, but because of the manifest righteousness and perfection of God in His response to the evil. The book of Revelation indicates that the wrath of God, at this point of time, is poured out on the planet in the midst of the great tribulation. In the combined works of God’s wrath poured out, the rise of the anti-Christ and the hatred and confusion precipitated by him, will wreak so much terror and horror as to bring all of humanities issues to a climax.

 

Carrying on from our last paper, we arrive at Isaiah 26:12:             

12. Yahweh, you will establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

The Hymn of chapter 26 presses forward with a line that directly addresses Yahweh and outlines the existential present blessings that are the result of commitment to following Yahweh with faith, hope and love. Isaiah is glancing over Israel’s history. The godly remnant in Judah confesses what God has done for them. They are in “shalom shalom” or, as it says in most English translations, “perfect peace” (as in Isaiah 26:3).  A person requires, first of all peace with God, which must be followed by the internal peace of God. This is as far as the east is from the west when compared to the judgment on the wicked that has been extended to the evil and godless hordes of the world. God will, as He has done and does in the present, appoint peace and inner tranquility for His people. That peace stands guard over the heart of faith. Whatever the righteous have attempted and enacted and achieved, they see the truth that it is Almighty Yahweh that has achieved it and established it through them. Yahweh has done everything for them. His salvation is wholly His work, there is no human contribution to its flow, apart from the repentant heart that receives it.

13. O Yahweh, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.

 

“Other lords” would include Pharaoh, various Philistine overlords and the various rulers who subjugated Israel during the time of the judges, as well as other nations who, in Isaiah’s past, have at times subjugated Israel and Judah to themselves and their false deities. Isaiah is studying and making a total reflective meditation over Israel’s history. Those who walk in the righteousness of God, honour Him alone. God is the Lord of history. History is truly His story. He has been faithful and has facilitated His grace in their hearts, so that His people keep His name in perpetual remembrance as their only true Leader.

14. They are now dead, they live no more; they are departed spirits, shades that do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.

Those former lords that were human, considered themselves gods, but they were indeed merely mortal men—and “they live no more.”  Isaiah persists with his backward look on those human lordships that had, at various times and in diverse ways, ruled over the Hebrew people. These “lords” may have loomed large like some eerie shadow over the prosperity and family life of Israel, but they went the way of the rich and the poor, the hero and the coward. “You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.” They are “departed spirits” in Sheol, the place of the dead, and they shall not rise, or be resurrected, with the righteous, who will rule and reign with Christ during the Millennium. God visited judgment on them, “brought them to ruin,” and caused memory of them to fade. It is self-evidently implied in this statement that the wicked have absolutely no future at all to look forward to. Who honors the name and memory of the pharaoh of the Exodus? Scholars disagree and choose to argue and debate about the identity of even that particular pharaoh. Whoever and whatever – he is forgotten about.

15. You have enlarged the nation, O Yahweh; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land.

In all these memories of backsliding and being ruled over by Israel’s various enemies, there is one blessing that cannot be forgotten: The Jews greatly increased in number in the midst of all the moral and spiritual decline. It is for His glory that God has “enlarged the nation.” Isaiah could be remembering the greater expanse that was all subject to David and Solomon. He may also have been chewing over the increase in territorial possession that came about in King Uzziah’s day, even though it was far less than that land that existed under David’s heel.

 

But then again, I believe Isaiah is looking to the millennial gains of the state of Israel during Christ’s reign. He is standing in the vision of the future reign of Messiah, and lyricizing what people will be sing in that future day. The will know and sing how Yahweh has expanded the nation. In that day it will be said that He has extended the borders of the land s and nations that submit to Christ right to the ends of the earth. That is, He will have enlarged it not because of who the Israelites are, but because of who He is. Yes indeed! There was some expansion of Judah’s territory in Isaiah’s lifetime. But Isaiah looks ahead to something greater in the Millennial Kingdom. Then they will truly recognize God’s glory.  This verse has an analogy in Isaiah 9:2-4: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For you shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.”

16. Yahweh, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.

Prayers shouted, whispered – or even written are meaningless without faith and repentance. The Psalmist affirmed that if he regarded, or meditated and treasured evil, then Yahweh would not hear his prayer.  Isaiah “reminds” God of how the Israelites sought God in times of trouble. They could hardly whisper, but as they did give a murmur of prayer, God “disciplined them” and brought them back to himself. This repeatedly occurred during the time of the judges. It also occurred in an abortive revolt of 712 to 711 B.C. To cut to the chase: Israel had an incredible destiny – and still has – but the fact that they were so far away from moving towards that destiny caused them to shamefacedly whisper their prayer rather than shout it out loud to Yahweh.

17. As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O LORD.

 

Now, in Isaiah’s own time, he and his people have endured suffering in the LORD’s presence. Because of His judgments, they have cried out like a woman in the pangs of birth. The high calling of Israel was embedded within the life and development of Israel,but hitherto they had given nothing but wind.

 

Isaiah is saying that in contrast to the huge and high heavenly hopes of Israel in the earth, next to nothing has transpired throughout the nation’s history. They have produced nothing tangible in Isaiah’s perspective.

 

Verses 17 and 18 are the lowest thoughts and the saddest memory recollections in the entire song of Isaiah 26.

18. We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we only gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world.

 

When a child is born the pain turns to joy. But in the suffering of this people there has been no birth, no good results—only wind, only pain. There has been no deliverance, no salvation in the land, and the world’s rulers, the Assyrians, have not fallen. God would deal with the Assyrians in due time (Isaiah 10:12), but that time had not yet come.

 

Then, there is a sudden inspirational moment of revelation that is amazing, far reaching and truly astounding with verse 19. Isaiah’s prophetic sight raises from the lowest to the highest, from the darkest to the lightest, from what is most earthly to what is actually heavenly, from what is death to what is resurrection life. This is revelation at its purest and most sublime. As Leupold says: “It makes a zenith point of all eschatological hope and faith. And this is 700BC Isaiah, not New Testament Paul, or even John the revelator. We can only jaw droppingly be amazed as Isaiah writes.

19. But your dead body shall live, together with my dead body. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the light of the morning; the earth will cast out and give birth to the dead.

 

It is as if Yahweh had put something within the beings of the dead that were “His.” A seed planted within them. An investment made in them. An ownership ticket attached to them. The dead are the dead – in our eyes. They are left their cadavers behind them and died. The good, the bad and the ugly – no matter what took them, or how they died. But there is the human point of view, and there is the divine point of view. There are those among the dead that are His.  Isaiah is self-evidently inferring, of course, that there are those in the grave that are not his, as well as those that are. And His dead will rise again, and not just their spirits. Their bodies shall rise again with their spirits rehoused. God has an abiding interest and possession in his people that had died. That was true in Isaiah’s day, just as it is true today. Though they were dead, buried, and to a great degree, forgotten, those that died in faith were – and still are – His dead.

 

Yes! Indeed! Isaiah sees the resurrection of the righteous.

 

But that is not all!

 

The “your” and the “my” tells us that there is somebody else’s dead body as well as Isaiah’s dead body. But hold on! There are some scholars who are convinced that it is God who is speaking, stating that His dead body shall live and come to life again. This is heavenly stuff! We have, in contrast to the wicked who are brought “down to the dust” (Isaiah 26:5), the dead who belong to Yahweh (“your dead”) will live.

 

Plainly, to God’s people, death does not mean the end. Isaiah expects his dead body to rise with them. Or is he saying in Christ’s words that we shall rise with His resurrection?

 

Some apply this to the restoration of national Israel, as in Ezekiel 36 and 37, but the language is too individualistic here. There will be a call for God’s people to “wake up and shout for joy.” Like David in Psalm 23:6, they already had a hope of dwelling in the house of Yahweh eternally. Like Asaph in Psalm 73:24, they expected God to guide them in this life with His counsel and afterward take them into the glory of heaven. Like Solomon, those that fear and worship the LORD expected the path of life to lead to the place above in order to avoid Sheol beneath (that is, hell). But Isaiah’s prophecy adds another hope that is the hope of resurrection. See Daniel 12:2. “Dew” is symbolic of God’s blessing and favor. The Authorised Version has “dew of herbs.” In 2 Kings 4:39 “herbs” refers to the Malva Rotundifolia, commonly referred to as the Mallow, a plant sensitive to light. However, it is better translated here as “lights” (NASB margin), meaning a fullness of light that comes when the morning sun appears above the horizon. It speaks of a fullness of life here when the graves in the earth break open and the dead rise. We are talking of seriously bright and glorious expectation. Isaiah is at his most exciting with stuff like this. Read this verse with the following:

Job 19:26 says:                       And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, (ESV)

Ps. 16:10 says:                        For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. (NLT)

Dan. 12:2 says:                       Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. (NLT)

John 5:28–29 says:                 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  

1 Cor. 15:50–53 says:            I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Phil. 3:21 says:                       He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (NLT)

1 Thess. 4:16–17) says:          For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

 

Who says the Bible is not clear?

20. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.

 

The prophet continues with his vision of the very end of times, and sees the horror and terror that there will be right up to the moment that Messiah comes bringing his “resurrected righteous” with Him. Yes, that day is coming! The gates will be open in that glad millennial day, as seen in verse 2. But now the call is for God’s people to go into their rooms and shut the door “for a little while,” until the judgment “has passed by,” literally “passes over.” Significantly it is the same word used of the Passover in Exod. 12:12, 23.  Perhaps to see the great tribulation as a passing over of the angel of death around the world is a sound perspective to adopt. That context gives a solid meaning as to why God’s people should stay locked in their rooms, as were the Children of Israel in that last night in Egypt. There are a small number of expositors who align Isaiah 26:20 with Matthew 6:6, where Jesus instructs His listeners how to pray “in secret.” Here it clearly seems to indicate that God’s people will escape the terrible wrath and judgment of God which will not last long, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:9),

21. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.

The reason for God’s people shutting the doors to their rooms, and thus closing themselves in with Yahweh Himself, is that God will come “to punish the people of the earth for their sins,” for all their crookedness and wrongdoing. A type of this ultimate sentence on the entire unsaved world is the biblical record of the judgment on the Assyrians.  “The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.” Prophetic insights don’t get any stranger than this. Planet Earth will cooperate by disclosing the blood and the bodies of the slain. I have no suggestion, at this moment, how the geography of the planet will accomplish such a thing. But be assured, nothing will be hidden from God, and on the grounds of the exact Hebraic text, it is self-evident that all survivors will see the result of this disclosure.