Holy, Holy, Holy.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

What do the seraphim angels of Isaiah 6:2 do before the throne of God above? They never cease giving Him praise. The statement “and one called to another and said,” indicates an active and continuous activity by the seraphim before the LORD. The verbs “called” and “said” respectively refer to not only a shout and a proclamation but also a command that is antiphonally and continuously exchanged between the seraphim.

What do the seraphim continuously shout, proclaim and command between each other and before the LORD? Two statements. These are two proclamations of biblical truth.

The first statement is, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” The word “holy” (qados) means sacred, set apart from sin, commanding respect and awesomeness. It is the only attribute of God that is elevated by repetition to the third degree. The LORD is never said to be love, love, love, or just, just, just. He is, however, called holy, holy, holy. The seraphim’s song is called the Ttrisagion meaning “three times holy.” This is done for emphasis.

Notice also the state of being verb “is.” This means that the LORD not only behaves in a holy, holy, holy manner but is also holy, holy, and holy by nature and being. The repetition may also indicate an evidence of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The phrase “LORD of hosts” is also employed by the seraphim. As previously noted, the noun LORD in all capital letters refers the reader to the most personal name for God: the Hebrew name Yahweh. It identifies the LORD as the self-existent God of the universe. In other words “I Am that I Am” (Exodus 3; John 6; 8:58; 9; 10; 11; 14; 15).  It is He alone who is the LORD of hosts. The word “hosts” is a military term. It is the Prophet Isaiah’s frequent name for God; he used it at least sixty-five times. “Lord of the armies” is what it means.

The second statement is, “the whole earth is full of his glory!” The word “whole” means completely, total and all. The entire earth, or created universe, is abundantly filled with the LORD’s splendor, honor and the manifestation of His glorious presence (Psalm 19).

John Calvin writes, “Now, when we are informed that the angels are employed in uttering the glory of God, let us know that their example is set before us for imitation; for the most holy service that we can render to Him is to be employed in praising His name. When He associates us with angels, it is in order that while we sojourn on earth, we may resemble and be joined to the inhabitants of heaven. That the harmony between us and the angels may be in every respect complete. We must take care not only that the praises of God may be sounded by our tongues, but likewise that all the actions of our life may correspond to our professions. This will only be done if the chief aim of our actions be the glory of God.”

May we all today be in harmony with the seraphim angels in giving God all the praise and honor He deserves; not only in our speech but also in our thoughts and actions.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

The Seraphim.

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Isaiah 6:2).

Who, or what, are the seraphim? Grammatically we know that there are more than one seraphim because the word is in the plural form. Beyond that we know that they are angelic beings mentioned only twice in the Bible, both occurring in the same chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:2, 6). Even though the word seraphim is plural in number, it is impossible to say how many Isaiah seraphim actually saw.

The word seraphim can be translated as fiery serpent or burning ones. Today’s text describes each seraphim as having six wings: two shielded the face, two covered the feet, and the remaining pair enabled the seraphim to fly.

One commentary explains that, “the most that can be said from the available evidence is that they were exalted spiritual entities who were occupied constantly in the praise and worship of God. Most probably the seraphim were an order of celestial beings comparable in nature to the cherubim (Ezekiel 1; 10; Revelation 4) and engaged in a somewhat similar form of service around the divine throne.”

It is interesting to note that the seraphim actively and continuously stood respectfully before the Lord. As we will see later in the text, they do so in worship and praise by acknowledging the holiness of Yahweh. 

As another commentator explains, “When we consider the topic of angels, we face an interesting paradox. Clearly, angels have played an important role in the history of God’s people. Scripture, in fact, uses the Greek word for “angel” (angelos) more often than it uses the Greek word for “sin” (hamartia). At the same time, the Word of God tells us very little specifically about the angels. Evidently, the Lord wants us to know that His angels are key players in the outworking of His purposes, but He has also determined not to tell us all that we might want to know about the angels. We must therefore be content with what He has revealed, trusting that it gives us everything we need to know about the angels on this side of glory.”

 “One of the most extensive descriptions of angels in the Bible is found in Isaiah 6:1–7, which gives us information about the seraphim. These seraphim worship the Lord continually in heaven, shielding their faces with two of their six wings. Even the angels cannot bear to look directly on the glory of God, which frequently manifests itself as blinding rays of light (Matt. 17:1–3Acts 9:1–9Rev. 1:16). Angels are supernatural beings, but they remain creatures who are in a distinct class from their Creator. They cannot enjoy a direct view of God’s majesty. Isaiah 6:1–7 tells us that the seraphim focus their praise on the Lord in His holiness, naming Him as holy in threefold repetition. That is instructive for us. If the angels exalt the Lord God Almighty as holy, surely we cannot afford to do anything less.”

Four wings pertain to worship and two refer to service. Perhaps an illustration that prior to service, and more important than service as important as serving the Lord is, worship is more important. Worship must precede service.

 John Calvin writes that, “Having declared that God appeared to him (Isaiah) full of majesty and of glory, he adds that God was attended by angels whom the Prophet calls seraphim on account of their fervor. Though the etymology of this word is well known, yet various reasons are adduced. Some think that they are called seraphim because they burn with the love of God. Others, because they are swift like fire. Others, because they are bright. However they may be, this description holds out to us, as in sunbeams, the brightness of God’s infinite majesty that we may learn by it to behold and adore His wonderful and overwhelming glory.”

 Soli deo Gloria!   

 

 

Isaiah’s Vision of the LORD.

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)

Understanding the subject of holiness brings us to an understanding of who God is. As we begin studying Isaiah 6:1-7, we initially see that God is eternally sovereign. This is in contrast to Judah’s King Uzziah who ruled for 52 years, certainly a lengthy reign for any human monarch, but which pales in comparison to the Lord’s rule and reign.

The text begins by saying, “In the year that King Uzziah died.” The year was 739 B.C. Uzziah’s death was ultimately caused by leprosy. While leprosy was a common skin disease in the ancient world and which was perceived as highly contagious, Uzziah’s condition was a direct judgment from the Lord. 2 Chronicles 26:16 states, “But when he (Uzziah) became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Uzziah attempted to usurp the role of the priest, which is forbidden in the Leviticus code (law). See Numbers 13:10; 18:7. Proverbs 16:18 indicates that pride precipitates a fall, and it did in his case. Even the king could not live above God’s law”

 Following the death of a king who had such a lengthy and prosperous rule must have prompted the Prophet Isaiah perhaps to seek the Lord for guidance with respect to the then current, and future, well-being of the Nation of Judah. The prophet encountered much more than he could have anticipated.

I saw the Lord.” Isaiah personally perceived, observed and was attentive to the Lord. The English rendering “Lord” is in reference to the Hebrew title Adonai, which means Master and sovereign One. It is a title for God’s sovereign deity focusing on His authority and majesty as ruler of the universe.

The question is asked, “How could Isaiah see God, who is Spirit (John 4:24)? How could God be seen in a visible shape? John Calvin comments that, “We ought to be aware that when God exhibited Himself to the view of the Fathers, He never appeared such as He actually is but such as the capacity of men could receive. God comes down to them in such a manner as to cause some kind of mirror to reflect the rays to His glory. There was, therefore, exhibited to Isaiah such a form as enabled him, according to his capacity, to perceive the inconceivable majesty of God; and thus he attributes to God a throne, a robe and a bodily appearance.”

 Who exactly was the Lord that Isaiah saw? The principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture is very applicable here because John 12:39-41 says, 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” Isaiah saw the pre-incarnate glory of Jesus Christ, who as the second person of the Godhead is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

Isaiah then mentions three things about the Lord who he saw. The Lord was “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

First, what does “sitting upon a throne” mean? The word “sitting” is an active participle and it means dwelling and abiding. It figuratively refers to God’s royal dignity, authority, and power. He is sovereignly in control.

Second, what does “high and lifted up” mean? Other similar words include lofty and exalted. Judah’s King Uzziah may have occupied a lofty position as king, but there is no one more highly exalted than the Lord. In other words, the LORD is worthy of all praise.

Third, what does “and the train of his robe filled the temple” mean? Unlike King Uzziah who died an unhealthy and segregated death because of his diseased body, the Lord is eternally healthy, valued, satisfying and strong. The robe is an extension of His personhood. God’s person appears in the temple, which is where He said that He would meet His people (I Kings 8) so they would know that everything they have is from the Lord (James 1:17). There is no place within the temple which He is not present.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Three things struck Isaiah about God: He was seated on a throne, He was high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. In the most holy place of the temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory was evident between the cherubim on the atonement cover over the Ark of the Covenant. Therefore some Israelites may have erroneously thought that God was fairly small. However, Solomon, in his dedicatory prayer for the new temple, had stated that no temple could contain God and that in fact even the heavens could not contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). Therefore Isaiah did not see God on the Ark of the Covenant, but on a throne. Almost 150 years later Ezekiel had a similar experience. He envisioned God being borne along on a great chariot throne by living creatures called cherubim (Ezek. 1). To Isaiah, the throne emphasized that the Lord is indeed the true King of Israel.”

Not only would Isaiah would see the Lord, but also he could hear something about the Lord. That is what we will consider when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: The Song of Judgment. Part Two.

26” He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! 27 None is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a waistband is loose, not a sandal strap broken; 28 their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind. 29 Their roaring is like a lion, like young lions they roar; they growl and seize their prey; they carry it off, and none can rescue. 30 They will growl over it on that day, like the growling of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.” (Isaiah 5:26-30)

The Prophet Isaiah ministered for the LORD, and on behalf of the LORD’s people, from 739-686 B.C. The LORD prepared His people for His eventual judgment upon them, which would come prophetically, and later historically, in 605 B.C. This judgment was because of Judah’s unrepentant sin against the LORD and against each other. God’s judgment would come through the secondary means of the 8th century conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyria in 722 B.C. and the 7th century B.C. conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian Empire.

Dr. James N. Anderson, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. writes, “The Reformed or Calvinistic doctrines of providence and predestination are often charged with being fatalistic. Yet this characterization trades on some deep confusions. Calvinism does indeed affirm that all events in creation are foreordained by God. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (3.1). Nevertheless, the Confession immediately adds that this divine fore-ordination does not render meaningless the wills of God’s creatures. On the contrary, God normally works out His eternal purposes though secondary causes such as human agents and natural processes. Biblical examples of God directing human actions to His own ends include the story of Joseph (Gen. 45:5–8; 50:20), the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel (Isa. 10:5–11), and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:27–28).”

God’s use of the Babylonians against the Jewish people is another example of His use of secondary causes to accomplish His will. God not only determined the final outcome of events in Judah’s and Jerusalem’s destruction, but also the means to those ends.

The poetic description of the Babylonian invaders is striking and terrifying. They are a force with which to be reckoned. There will be no escape for God’s rebellious people from God’s righteous judgment.

Even as Isaiah prophesied this judgment, the Prophet Habakkuk recoiled against it. He could not fathom how a holy God could use an unholy nation, such as Babylon, to punish Judah (Habakkuk 1:1-2:1). Ultimately, Habakkuk submitted to the LORD’s righteous sovereignty and providence (Habakkuk 3:1-19).

Another theologian explains it this way: The fallen world is a hard place to live. And yet, God’s sovereignty mitigates that world. Though the bad things that happen are in accord with His sovereign will, He continues to love His creation. The beauties, satisfactions, and pleasures of life are the deeper signs of God’s sovereignty.”

God would preserve a remnant from Judah who would obediently follow Him. The Book of Daniel is a testimony to this truth.

The LORD still retains a believing remnant in this fallen world. It is the church. May each of us who has received Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD be a fervent and vocal witness to those who are lost and who face a certain judgment from God.

Soli deo Gloria!                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Song of Judgment. Part One.

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 5:24-25)

The Prophet Isaiah concluded his song of woe by announcing the LORD’s impending decision to bring a mighty army against the Nation of Judah. The purpose of this was to conquer the people of Israel and to leave the land in desolation, darkness and distress because of the people’s sin.

Secondly, because Judah rejected the Law of the LORD and despised the word from the Holy One of Israel, God’s anger was kindled against His people. Metaphorically, the LORD stretched out His hand against His people and struck them with judgment. Widespread death and destruction ensued.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Isaiah had already mentioned a number of the judgments to come on the people because of their sins (vv. 13–17). Now he spoke again of the consequences of disobeying the covenant stipulations. These people Isaiah had been writing about would be burned like straw and dry grass and their flowers blown away like dust. This was because they had deliberately disobeyed God’s Word. Because of the Lord’s anger many would die in the streets of Jerusalem. His raised hand (cf. 14:27) suggests His executing punishment; the mountains shaking from an earthquake speaks of His awesome presence (cf. Ex. 19:18; 1 Kings 19:11; Jer. 4:24; Hab. 3:10).”

Let us never presume that the LORD’s judgment is only rooted in the past. His response upon those who have rejected Him and His Word will still be as swift and sure today. Therefore, repent while you have the opportunity.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #6.

22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” (Isaiah 5:22-23)

The LORD’s first woe against the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. was materialism. The second woe was directed towards drunkenness and devotion to pleasure while concurrently the people neglected the LORD’s work of judgment and redemption. The third woe was against those who ridicule and mock the LORD and His people; especially His prophet, Isaiah. The fourth woe concerned the reversal of morality. The fifth woe concerned those who were wise in their own opinion and not deriving wisdom from the LORD and His Word.

The sixth and final woe addresses injustice within the Nation of Judah’s court system. Unjust sentences were being handed down by drunk and bribed judges.

Isaiah does not identify the judges as heroes of justice but rather as heroes of drinking wine. To be a hero was to be strong and mighty. It was to be a champion. However, the strong and mighty champions of justice were instead drunks. They were consistently inebriated and intoxicated.

A similar statement is found in the latter portion of vs. 22. “Valiant men in mixing strong drink.” The word “valiant” means to be strong and efficient. The irony is that these judges were only strong and efficient in producing intoxicating beverages.

Not only were these judges personal behavior reprehensible, the professional ethics were even worse. They acquitted the guilty for a bribe. To acquit means to declare someone innocent of a crime. However, the acquittal was not upon the basis of irrefutable evidence but rather because the judge accepted a bribe. There was consistent quid pro quo rendering the judicial system a farce.

Additionally, because of financial favors being given for favorable judicial rulings, the innocent were denied justice. Justice was being turned aside.

John Calvin comments that, “We live that we may yield worship and obedience to God, and that we may render assistance to our neighbors. When men act so as not to maintain their strength, but to destroy it by trying how much food and wine the can bear, most certainly they are worse than beasts. He (Isaiah) also censures a corruption which at that time abounded in judgment-seats and points out the reason why there is not room or justice in these places. Namely, they (judges) are under the influence of gifts. For covetousness blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts all regard to what is good and just, even among those who would otherwise be disposed to follow what is right (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19).”

 Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Rather than being heroes and good government authorities, many leaders were known for their heavy drinking. They were ready to be bribed, not caring for the people they were ruling. They were more concerned for their own pleasure than for the rights of the innocent. Therefore they (those leaders) would be judged.”

Take time today to pray for those government leaders who seek to lead with integrity. Pray also for those who do not (Romans 13:1-7; I Timothy 2:1-3).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 21, 2020.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will reproduce devotional articles taken from The Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561, owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of Reformed Theology during the time of the Spanish inquisition in the Lowlands. Guido de Brès, its primary author, was pleading for understanding and toleration from King Philip II of Spain who was determined to root out all Protestant factions in his jurisdiction. Hence, this confession takes pains to point out the continuity of Reformed Theology with that of the ancient Christian creeds.

The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation “Confessio Belgica.” “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession’s chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.

During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Brès prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.

Along with The Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, The Belgic Confession comprise what is collectively referred to as the Thee Forms of Unity. Article #25 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #25: The Fulfillment of the Law.

We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ended with the coming of Christ, and that all foreshadowings have come to an end, so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians.

Yet the truth and substance of these things remain for us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have been fulfilled. Nevertheless, we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God, according to the will of God.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #5.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21)

The LORD’s first woe against the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. was materialism. The second woe was directed towards drunkenness and devotion to pleasure while concurrently the people neglected the LORD’s work of judgment and redemption. The third woe was against those who ridiculed and mocked the LORD and His people; especially His prophet, Isaiah. The fourth woe concerned the reversal of morality.

The fifth woe concerned those who were wise in their own opinion and not deriving wisdom from the LORD and His Word. The LORD will bring judgment upon those who are presently and actively seeking for wisdom within themselves.

Wisdom, or to be wise, (Heb. Ha’Kam) means to be skillful, clever, experienced or shrewd. While it can mean to possess the knowledge of a craftsman in some technical work (Exodus 35:10, 25; 36:1, 2, 4, 8; Isaiah 3:3; Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:8), it is also a capacity for understanding and discernment (Proverbs 10:8).

A synonym is the word shrewd (ne’bo nim). It means to have understanding, perception and discernment.

As one theologian explains, “The word “wisdom,” with reference to human beings, is used in a variety of different ways in the OT. The word is often used as virtually synonymous with the term “knowledge,” but in its general and secular uses it commonly indicates applied knowledge, skill, or even cunning. Wisdom could be defined as either “superior mental capacity” or “superior skill.” Thus, wisdom is used to describe both the cunning of King Solomon (1 Kings 2:1–6) and the skill of the craftsman Bezalel (Exodus 35:33). But it was also used to describe mental capacities and skills that had a moral component—the capacity to understand and to do good.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “There is a section of the Old Testament known as the Wisdom Literature — the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Wisdom Literature makes a startling affirmation: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10Prov. 9:10). For the Jews, wisdom meant a practical understanding of how to live a life that is pleasing to God. The pursuit of godliness was a central concern of the writers of the Wisdom Literature. They affirmed that the necessary condition for anyone to have true wisdom is a fear of the Lord.”

The woe contained in today’s text is not a condemnation against wisdom or shrewdness, but rather the pursuit of wisdom void of a prior pursuit of God. It is a wisdom which is man-centered and not God-centered.

Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge from God through His Word. People may possess knowledge and not have wisdom, but they cannot have wisdom without knowledge. The knowledge people must have to truly have wisdom is a knowledge of God which He has given of Himself. This knowledge of, and from, God is not only found in creation but also in God’s Word (Psalm 19).

Proverbs 1:1–7 says, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Dr. Sproul concludes by saying, “We want to be rich, successful, and comfortable, but we do not long for wisdom. Thus, we do not read the Scriptures, the supreme textbook of wisdom. This is foolishness. Let us pursue the knowledge of God through the Word of God, for in that way we will find wisdom to live lives that please Him.”

May we today pursue the knowledge and wisdom which is from God and not that which is found within ourselves.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #4.

20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

The LORD’s first woe against the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. was materialism. The second woe was directed towards drunkenness and devotion to pleasure while concurrently the people neglected the LORD’s work of judgment and redemption. The third woe was against those who ridiculed and mock the LORD and His people; especially His prophet, Isaiah.

The fourth woe concerns the reversal of morality. It is when a culture calls good evil and evil good. It is when moral darkness is preferred than moral light. It is when bitter is called sweet and sweet is called bitter. It is when people pride themselves in their wisdom and shrewdness and reject God’s wisdom. It is when all moral and biblical distinctions are reversed resulting in confusion and chaos.

The Apostle spoke of this in Romans 1:18-32. It is for such things that the wrath of God is coming.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

John Calvin writes, “The Lord particularly reproves the insolence of those who endeavor to overthrow all distinction between good and evil.”

 There is only one remedy for a culture spiraling ever downward in a morass of immorality: repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nothing else will correct a culture which has become morally corrupt.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #3.

18 “Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19 who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!” (Isaiah 5:18-19)

The LORD’s first woe against the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. was materialism. The second woe was directed towards drunkenness and devotion to pleasure while concurrently the people neglected the LORD’s work of judgment and redemption. The third woe was against those who ridicule and mock the LORD and His people; especially His prophet, Isaiah. The LORD is against the peoples’ obstinate perseverance in sin, as if they wished to provoke God’s divine judgments.”

As I write this blog, it is Saturday, April 4. The world is caught up in the midst of a widespread pandemic. A mandatory quarantine is in effect requiring people to remain, and work, within the confines of their homes for at least the rest of this month. With the exception of essential services, such as those who work in the food industry, many people find themselves either unemployed or experiencing a new normal. In the state of Indiana, where I live, the state government has even cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Turbulent times to be sure.

It is during such times that you would think a return to acknowledging, and calling upon the sovereign God of the universe in prayer, would be welcome and even encouraged. However, when one such Christian businessman, Mike Lindell of My Pillow, did so recently from the White House Rose Garden the mainstream, liberal media severely derided and criticized him.

Lindell announced Monday, March 30, that he hoped to have his company producing 50,000 medical face masks a day to distribute around the country by the end of the week. “This isn’t a political thing,” Lindell said Tuesday, March 31. “We’ve gotta get back to God and pray. … I’m so thankful everybody from all walks of life and all sides of the political aisle did get behind it against this, this evil media that’s out there. … I don’t even know why they do that. I can’t explain it. I don’t know Jim Acosta. I’ve never met him before.” Acosta, a CNN reporter, suggested Lindell’s appearance during the press conference was a shameless act of self-promotion for his business.

Ridiculing God, and His people, is not new. What is done in our contemporary culture was done in Israel in the 8th century B.C. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The unbelieving people of Judah consistently mocked the LORD who created them and provided for them. They lived in shameless rebellion against the LORD and then taunted Him, and His prophets, regarding when His so-called judgment was going to occur.

Today’s text says, ““Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes.” Within the context, the people were consistently seizing and drawing out iniquity, falsehood and sin in their lives. Like drawing water from a well, or dragging a cart with ropes, they did not cease from this ceaseless activity of wickedness.

If that were not enough, they then challenged God by saying, ““Let him (God) be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!”

Dr. John MacArthur writes, The taunting unbelievers said, “Where is the judgment of which you have spoken, Isaiah? Bring it on. We will believe it when we see it.” This challenge for God to hasten his judgment represented their disbelief that the Holy One of Israel would judge the people.”

God did bring judgement upon the Nation of Judah (2 Chronicles 36; Daniel 1). He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7-8). Not then, in the 8th century B.C., and not now in the 21st century A.D.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #2.

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! 12 “They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands. 13 Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst. 14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her. 15 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low. 16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. 17 Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.”

The LORD’s first woe against the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. was materialism. The second woe was directed towards drunkenness and devotion to pleasure while concurrently the people neglected the LORD’s work of judgment and redemption.

The people’s desire for strong alcoholic drink from early in the morning until late at night prompted condemnation from Isaiah. The people were more concerned with partying and being entertained than having regard for the LORD’s work. The judgment from God would be hunger and thirst. Since this is what the people lived for, God would remove the idol of their appetites.

However, the appetite of Sheol, or the place of the dead, would continue to be large and be enlarged. From the nobility to the commoner, all the rebellious and unrepentant would feel its pain. The prideful sinner would be humbled.

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “This term (Sheol) in this context pictures death as a great monster with wide-open jaws, ready to receive its victims. Such was to be the fate of those who perish in the captivity God will send to punish the people’s sinfulness.”

The only one who would be exalted, even in judgment, would be the LORD. It is because the LORD shows Himself holy in His righteous justice.

The only ones who would inhabit the land would be lambs and nomadic herdsman. They alone would eat among the ruins of the rich.

The striking parallel between Judah in the 8th century B.C. and America in the 21st century A.D. is huge. Even in the midst of a pandemic, there are those who cannot face the possibility of no parties. So, they engage in at risk behavior and become infected with the corona-virus.

It is time for people to repent or face the judgment from the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: A Song of Woe: Woe #1.

Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” (Isaiah 5:8-10)

The prophets of God had a twofold message from God to the people of God. The prophet’s message from the LORD was called an oracle. An oracle was a divine revelation communicated through God’s spokesperson (prophet, priest, or king), usually pronouncing blessing, instruction, or judgment.

An oracle of blessing would be prefaced by the word “blessed.” However, an oracle of judgment would be preceded by the word “woe.” In the Song of Isaiah the Prophet, which is contained in Isaiah 5, Isaiah issued a series of six woes upon the Nation of Judah in general, and the Jewish people in particular. The reasons for the woes was Israel’s bad fruit of unrighteousness, previously referred to in Isaiah 5:1-7. The first woe is contained in vs. 8-10.

The LORD pronounced judgment upon Israel because of their greedy real estate owners and their crass materialism. The vocabulary indicates that these owners were violently attacking dwelling place after dwelling place and pasture and pasture in their desire for more.

Dr. Roy Zuck explains that, “Selling houses permanently in a walled city was allowed under the Law, but selling houses in unwalled cities and fields was allowed only until the Year of Jubilee when the houses would revert back to their former owners. Because God had given the people the land they were not to get rich at others’ expense.”

Due to this materialism, the houses and lands, which were so coveted, would become desolate. No one would inhabit them. This would be God’s judgment upon them.

Dr. John Walvoord comments that, “As noted in the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 28:20–24), their crops would fail. Normally a large vineyard would produce many gallons of wine, but here the amount would be a mere six gallons (a bath). And six bushels (a homer) of seed would normally yield scores of bushels of grain, but ironically the grain would be only one-half a bushel (an ephah), just 1/12 the amount of seed sown!

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “God judged the greedy rich by reducing the productivity of their land to a small fraction of what it would have been normally. Such amounts, (as listed by Isaiah) indicate famine conditions.”

Proverbs 30:7-9 says, Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

I Timothy 6:6-11 says, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Perhaps the LORD has allowed this recent pandemic to remove the sin of materialism from our own souls. It is worth considering.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Song of Isaiah the Prophet.

“Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah 5:1-7)

Of the many characteristics of the Prophet Isaiah, one thing that might not come to mind when thinking about the prophet is that he was a musician and a composer. Isaiah 5 contains the prophet’s love song on behalf of the LORD toward His people, Israel.

John Calvin explains that, “Isaiah composed this song that he might present to the people a clearer view of their wickedness. Undoubtedly, he handled this subject with magnificent and harmonious language for the highest skill is commonly exercised in the composition of poems.

Who are the subjects of this love song? First of all, there is the beloved. This is the LORD. He is the One who possesses a vineyard. The word vineyard is a metaphor symbolizing God’s people (Isaiah 27; Ezekiel 15; John 15:1-7). In the immediate context, the vineyard is Israel.

What does the text say about the vineyard, aside from being the object of the LORD’s love and affection? To begin with, the vineyard was located on a fertile hill. The LORD dug this ground, removed the stones and planted the vineyard with choice vines. The LORD also built a watchtower in its midst in order to be on the alert for any predators who might seek to damage or destroy the vineyard or steal its grapes. The LORD also constructed a wine vat fully expecting the grapes would yield fine juice, which when fermented would become excellent wine.

However, the vineyard did not produce fine grapes for wine, but rather wild grapes. The phrase “wild grapes” means sour, hard, stinking, rotten and worthless grapes.

As Isaiah composes this song, he speaks on behalf of the LORD. The prophet asks a series of rhetorical questions in vs. 3-4. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes” The answers are obvious. The LORD did everything He could in order to ensure the fruitfulness of His vineyard.

What will the LORD do in response to the vineyard producing rotten and unusable grapes? The answers are found in vs. 5-6. “? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”

 The significance of the vineyard metaphor is finally clarified in vs. 7. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” The sour and rotten grapes of Israel is not justice and righteousness but rather bloodshed and the cry of injustice.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The vineyard in this song is identified as Israel and Judah. As elsewhere in Isaiah, “Israel” is sometimes a synonym for the Southern Kingdom (Neh. 1:6; 13:3). Delighting in His people, God wanted good fruit, that is, justice and righteousness (cf. comments on Isa. 1:21). Instead He saw only bloodshed (cf. 1:15) and heard cries of distress. Because of its “bad grapes” (injustice) most people would be killed or taken into captivity. Isaiah used two interesting cases of assonance (similarity in word sounds) to stress the contrast between what God expected in His people and what happened to them. “Justice” (mišpāṭ) was replaced with “bloodshed” (miśpoḥ), and instead of “righteousness” (ṣeḏāqâh) there was “distress” (se‘āqâh).”

Calvin comments that, “Isaiah does not illustrate every part of this metaphor; nor was it necessary. It was enough to point out what was its object. The whole nation was the vineyard, the individual men were the plants. Thus, he (Yahweh) accuses the whole body of the nation, and then every individual, so that no man could escape the universal condemnation. The same doctrine ought to be inculcated on us at the present day. Christ affirms that he is the vine (John 15:1) and that having been engrafted into this vine, we are place under the care of the Father.”

Let each of us examine the fruitfulness of our spiritual lives (Galatians 5:16-23) to see if each of us who are in Christ are yielding, and being, good fruit.

As one commentator explains, “We are not counted as righteous before the Lord because of our service to Him. Nevertheless, if we are not fruitful in serving Him, then we do not abide in His choice vine—the Lord Jesus Christ—whose work alone can save us. By the Spirit, we must continue to abide in Christ and bear fruit unto the Lord’s glory in the form of love for God and neighbor.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 20, 2020.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will reproduce devotional articles taken from The Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561, owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of Reformed Theology during the time of the Spanish inquisition in the Lowlands. Guido de Brès, its primary author, was pleading for understanding and toleration from King Philip II of Spain who was determined to root out all Protestant factions in his jurisdiction. Hence, this confession takes pains to point out the continuity of Reformed Theology with that of the ancient Christian creeds.

The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation “Confessio Belgica.” “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession’s chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.

During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Brès prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.

Along with The Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, The Belgic Confession comprise what is collectively referred to as the Thee Forms of Unity. Article #24 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #24: The Sanctification of Sinners.

We believe that this true faith, produced in us by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates us and makes us new creatures,58 causing us to live a new life59 and freeing us from the slavery of sin.

Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”60 which moves people to do by themselves the works that God has commanded in the Word.

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by God’s grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification—for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works.

Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place. So then, we do good works, but not for merit—for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not God to us, since God “is at work in [us], enabling [us] both to will and to work for his good pleasure”61 —thus keeping in mind what is written:“ When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.’“62 Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works—but it is by grace that God crowns these gifts. Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh
and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work. So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.

582 Cor. 5:17
59Rom. 6:4
60Gal. 5:6
61Phil. 2:13
62Luke 17:10

Soli deo Gloria!