Isaiah: The LORD’s Reprisal.

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. 14         My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.” 15        Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! 16 Therefore the Lord God of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. 17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. 18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. 19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.”

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The writer of this proverb set forth the fundamental principle that self-exaltation, arrogance and conceit precedes one’s destruction, collapse and breaking. Additionally, a haughty spirit, or an exalted view of oneself, comes before personal stumbling and calamity.

The principle set forth in Proverbs 16:18 is personified and exemplified in Isaiah 10:12-19. The Nation of Assyria was a powerful nation who attacked and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. However, instead of recognizing that they were God’s instrument of judgment, they became filled with pride and arrogance.

Isaiah 10:12-19 is God’s oracle that whatever power a nation may possess, it is the LORD who is the source of that power. He not only gives power to a nation, but He also removes power, according to His sovereign purpose and plan. When a nation fails, or forgets, to acknowledge or remember this truth, God will humble that nation.

Consider what Daniel the Prophet prayed in Daniel 2:20-23. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Observe what King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wrote in light of his own humiliation by God. 34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35)

Several of the United States’ founding documents, such as the Mayflower Compact, colonial constitutions and even The Declaration of Independence, acknowledge their existence by and the providence of Almighty God. Sadly, those important truths have been all but forgotten today by the majority of American, and the world’s, citizens.

Again, recalling the words of King Nebuchadnezzar, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Let us never forget this humbling truth.

 Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

  

      

 

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Isaiah: The LORD’s Instruments.

5 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? 10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?” (Isaiah 10:5-11)

There are occasions within the Scriptures in which the LORD uses the ungodly, individuals and nations, to accomplish His will. For example, the LORD used the evil of Joseph’s ten older brothers who sold him into slavery to eventually, some 20 years later, save many lives (Genesis 50:20). The LORD used the betrayal of Judas (Psalm 41:9; 6:64; 13:1-11; 18-20; 23-30) to fulfill Scripture and accomplish salvation through the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ. The LORD also used the Kingdom of Babylon to bring His righteous judgment upon the Nation of Judah (2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Daniel 1; Habakkuk 1-3), and thereafter the Nation of Persia against the Kingdom of Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Isaiah 45:1-7).

Therefore, it should not take the student of Scripture by surprise that repeatedly the Prophet Isaiah has spoken of God using ungodly nations to punish the ungodliness of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C.  Isaiah 10:5-11, immediately following the prophet’s poem in Isaiah 9:8-10:4, describes the Nation of Assyria.

5 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!” The Hebrew word for “woe” can mean “aha,” “alas,” or even “come.” The Assyrians were also known as the people of Asshur. They were located in the northern portion of present day Iraq.

Assyria was a powerful nation in the 8th century B.C. The LORD referred to them as the “rod of my anger.” Rod means a scepter or staff used for smiting. Anger is literally defined as snorting breathing. It symbolizes God’s wrath. Using synonymous parallelism, the LORD also calls them “the staff in their hand is my fury.” The rod or tribes in their possession is the LORD’s anger and indignation.

6 “Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” Isaiah 10:6 clearly indicates that Assyria is God’s instrument to bring about his righteous judgment against Israel.

But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus?” Isaiah 10:7-9 reveals that human ruler have their own reasons for doing what they do. They may not even recognize the LORD who is using them as His instruments. However, they end up doing exactly what the LORD purposed them to do (Ezekiel 38:10).

10 “As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?” Isaiah 10:10-11 explains that the judgment God brought upon 8th century B.C. Israel He will eventually bring upon 7th century B.C. Judah.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “God had commissioned Assyria to chasten Israel as the rod of His anger and the club of His wrath. Because Israel was godless and had angered God with her sin, Assyria would plunder her cities and ruthlessly trample her people. God often uses unlikely instruments to accomplish His purposes in the world (cf. His using Babylon against Judah, which puzzled Habakkuk, Hab. 1:6–17). Isaiah was not claiming that Assyria was godly or that the empire even knew that God was using it to do His bidding. In His sovereignty He directed Assyria to be His tool for vengeance.”

What was true in the 8th century B.C. remains true in the 21st century A.D. The LORD may use the ungodly, and ungodliness, to accomplish His purposes and to do His bidding. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things may not necessarily be good, but God causes all things, both good and bad, to work together for good and for His purpose. This promise of good is directed to those who love God, which are those who are the called.

Let us thank God for the good He causes through all things.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

Isaiah: The LORD is Angry and His Hand is Stretched out Still. Part 4.

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 is a poem by the Prophet Isaiah warning God’s people of the great calamities which the LORD was about to send because of their sin. Israel’s response was to ignore the LORD’s disciplining grace.

Therefore, Isaiah poetically indicated that the LORD would bring about the downfall of His rebellious people. The poem is structured into four stanzas: 9:8-12; 9:13-17; 9:18-21; and 10:1-4. The poem’s theme is refrained four times (9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4). It is “For all His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.”

Today, we examine Isaiah 10:1-4 which says, “Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

Galatians 6:7-8 says, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

The principle of retribution is an important biblical doctrine. People reap what they sow. Or in other words, what goes around comes around. Such is the truth which Isaiah the prophet heralds in Isaiah 10:1-4.

Injustice by Israel’s leaders upon their own people was prevalent in the 8th century B.C. Isaiah 10:1-2 says, “Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!”

God would bring appropriate judgment upon Israel and its leaders. Those who profited from injustice upon their fellow countrymen would now suffer injustice from foreigners. There would be no help for them. God’s justice would not be denied. “What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain.”

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “The corrupt leaders in Israel were perverting the cause of justice and righteousness, in contrast with the Messiah’s justice and righteousness (9:6–7). So Isaiah pronounced woe (see comments on 3:9) on those people. The readers should have realized that this woe would befall them if they followed their leaders’ wicked ways. Israel’s leaders were guilty of six things: They were (a) making unjust laws and (b) issuing oppressive decrees. These actions were repulsive because the Israelites were supposed to care for each other as members of God’s people redeemed from Egyptian slavery by their God. Also they were (c) depriving the poor (dal, “feeble, weak, helpless”) of their rights, (d) taking away justice, (e) hurting widows, and (f) robbing the fatherless. These actions, which involved taking advantage of people who could not defend their rights, violated God’s Law (Ex. 22:22; 23:6; Deut. 15:7–8; 24:17–18; cf. Isa. 1:17). Because of this behavior, the nation would go into captivity (10:3–4). In disaster … from afar (i.e., from Assyria) no one would help them, as they had refused to help those in need. In anger God’s judgment would fall (see comments on 9:12).”

Do you see injustice? Is there anything you can do in order to combat injustice when, and where, you encounter it? Ask the Lord for wisdom in to discern what you can do to help those who have been wronged.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: The LORD is Angry and His Hand is Stretched out Still. Part 3.

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 is a poem by the Prophet Isaiah warning God’s people of the great calamities which the LORD was about to send because of their sin. Israel’s response was to ignore the LORD’s disciplining grace.

Therefore, Isaiah poetically indicated that the LORD would bring about the downfall of His rebellious people. The poem is structured into four stanzas: 9:8-12; 9:13-17; 9:18-21; and 10:1-4. The poem’s theme is refrained four times (9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4). It is “For all His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.”

Today, we examine Isaiah 9:18-21 which says, 18 For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. 19 Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another. 20 They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, 21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”  

The consequences of man’s wickedness are not only from without but also from within. The wickedness of Israel in the 8th century B.C. is likened by the Prophet Isaiah to a fire. Isaiah 9:18 says, “18 For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke.”  Within the nation, Israel’s own wickedness burns like a fire. It consumes everything.

Additionally, the Lord’s wrath is also compared to a fire. Not only was Israel consumed by its own wickedness, but also by the wrath of God against their wickedness. Isaiah 9:19 says, “19 Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire.”

However, rather than repent the people of Israel turn on each other. Isaiah 9:19b-21a says, “no one spares another. 20 They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, 21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”  

Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “The people’s wickedness (cf. v. 17) is pictured as burning them up like a huge fire with a large column of smoke. The judgment would come not only from God (v. 11) and from enemies of the nation (v. 12), but also from within. The nation would destroy itself by its own wicked deeds. People would oppose each other (v. 19), devour each other (v. 20), and even entire tribes will be in conflict (v. 21).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Pride, narcissism, and greed destroy the fiber of society, especially the covenant relationship between the tribes. Before the revelation of this oracle, Manasseh fought Ephraim (Judges 12:1-4), and together they battled Judah during the war with Israel and Syria. Sin is self-destructive: as a fire, it consumes the land; as a person, it eats its own arm. Even this, though, does not exhaust God’s wrath against sin.”  

In what ways is this oracle being fulfilled within nations today? God’s people must continue to be faithful to preach repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Why? “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 26, 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 #30-31 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #30: The Government of the Church.

We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word.

There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.

By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil people are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted
according to their need.

By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.76

761 Tim. 3

Article #31: The Officers of the Church.

We believe that ministers of the Word of God, elders, and deacons ought to be chosen to their offices by a legitimate election of the church, with prayer in the name of the Lord, and in good order, as the Word of God teaches.

So all must be careful not to push themselves forward improperly, but must wait for God’s call, so that they may be assured of their calling and be certain that they are chosen by the Lord.

As for the ministers of the Word, they all have the same power and authority, no matter where they may be, since they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal bishop, and the only head of the church.

Moreover, to keep God’s holy order from being violated or despised, we say that everyone ought, as much as possible, to hold the ministers of the Word and elders of the church in special esteem, because of the work they do, and be at peace with them, without grumbling, quarreling, or fighting.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: The LORD is Angry and His Hand is Stretched out Still. Part 2.

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 is a poem by the Prophet Isaiah warning God’s people of the great calamities which the LORD was about to send because of their sin. Israel’s response was to ignore the LORD’s disciplining grace.

Therefore, Isaiah poetically indicated that the LORD would bring about the downfall of His rebellious people. The poem is structured into four stanzas: 9:8-12; 9:13-17; 9:18-21; and 10:1-4. The poem’s theme is refrained four times (9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4). It is “For all His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.”

Today, we examine Isaiah 9:13-17 which says, 13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. 14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15 the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; 16  for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. 17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

The Scriptures do not shy away from the truth that God is not only the source of blessing but also the ultimate source of trials. Triumphs and trials both come from the LORD: either directly or indirectly.

There are times that trials are God’s means to test His children’s spiritual endurance (James 1:1-8; I Peter 1:1-9). These difficulties are from the providential hand and purpose of God. Consider the following biblical texts.

Exodus 4:10–14 – “10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:13–14 – 13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

Isaiah 45:1–7 – “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things”.

Lamentations 3:37–38 – “37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”

The LORD provided Israel with ample warning concerning their need, and His command, that they repent of their sin and return to the LORD their God. This they refused to do.

Isaiah 9:13 says, 13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts.”  The biblical text does not refute the idea that God’s providential and sovereign will and judgment was behind Syria’s and Philistia’s invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel. It would be the same for the southern kingdom of Judah in 605 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36).

Therefore, Isaiah 9:14-15 says, “14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15 the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail.” From top to bottom, from the elders of the land to the prophets who spoke lies to the people, God judged the entire nation. The symbol of head and tail represents the civil and religious leadership of Israel.

However, God’s judgment is not just reserved for the civil and religious leaders. Isaiah 9:16-17 says, “16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. 17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

Not even the most helpless in Israel’s society were exempt from the LORD’s wrath. Not even the most helpless members of society will escape God’s judgment.

Once again, what was true for Israel centuries ago is true for nations today. God calls everyone to repent of their sin and turn to Him by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Why? It is because “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: The LORD is Angry and His Hand is Stretched out Still.

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 is a poem by the Prophet Isaiah warning God’s people of the great calamities which the LORD was sending because of their sin. Israel’s response was to ignore the LORD’s disciplining wrath and grace.

Therefore, Isaiah poetically indicated that the LORD would bring about the downfall of His rebellious people. The poem is structured into four stanzas: 9:8-12; 9:13-17; 9:18-21; and 10:1-4. The poem’s theme is refrained four times (9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4). It is “For all His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.”

Today we examine Isaiah 9:8-12 which says, The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: 10 “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” 11 But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. 12 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”

Through His prophets, the LORD warned the northern kingdom of Israel that His judgment was coming upon them because of their sin. The LORD has sent His word. His oracle was an impending woe upon the people of Jacob. It was a judgment that would come. It was to be a judgment that the people would eventually understand, but too late.

What was the people’s response? 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “ if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” However, Israel did not humble itself as a nation. Israel did not pray and seek God’s face. Israel did not turn from its wicked ways. Therefore, God did not forgive their sin and subsequently heal their land.

Rather, Israel’s response was arrogance. To the LORD’s destructive judgment upon the land and their cities, the people responded that they would rebuild bigger and better cities. They believed they would, and could, overcome the judgment of God. How foolish.

God would bring destruction upon Israel through the military might of the Syrians and the Philistines. God would use these evil nations to bring upon Israel His righteous judgment. God would purpose evil to exist and use it for His glory. See Habakkuk.

Why would God chose to do this? Isaiah 9:12 provides the answer. “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” The One, true God who delivered Israel from Egypt was now extended to strike His own people.

What was true of Israel is true for nations today. God hates sin and will bring judgment down upon unrepentant sin. He does so upon not only individuals but also nations. May we individually, and nationally, repent and return to the God of our salvation.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

  

 

Isaiah: The Son’s Rule.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, Isaiah 9:6–7 describes this coming king. He would possess unparalleled wisdom, being the “Wonderful Counselor” who would not need advisers or counselors to help guide him. His reign would also be so marked by peace that he would be the “Prince of Peace.” Other kings are known for war, and while this coming king would be a mighty warrior, his rule would establish and maintain permanent peace between God and the king’s loyal subjects. And this king would be more than a mere man. He would be “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”—that is, the Creator Himself incarnate.”

The Messianic prophecy of the incarnate Son of God continues in Isaiah 9:7. Regarding this One who is identified as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, Isaiah goes on to say that, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

The characteristics of the Messiah’s rule and reign are highlighted in Isaiah 9:7. Let’s look at each one in detail.

“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” The word increase means greatness and abundance. The greatness and abundance of the Son’s rule and dominion (government) and of complete safety (peace) will be eternal.  

On the throne of David and over his kingdom.” The Son’s rule and dominion will be centralized on the throne of Israel. This is personified as the throne and kingdom of David ((1 Kings 8:25; Psalm 2:6; 132:11; Jeremiah 3:17, 18; Ezekiel 34:23–26; Luke 1:32, 33; Acts 2:30). The virgin’s Son will be the rightful heir to David’s throne and will inherit the promises of the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12–16; cf. Psalm 89:1–37Matthew 1:1).

 “To establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” The purpose and character of the Son’s rule and dominion will be to form and sustain His eternal kingdom with righteous judgment.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” The passion and strong desire of Yahweh, who commands a vast host of angels, will accomplish this feat.

 Dr. John Walvoord explains, “The Messiah, seated on David’s throne (Luke 1:32–33), will have an eternal rule of peace and justice. His rule will have no end; it will go on forever (cf. Dan. 7:14, 27; Micah 4:7; Luke 1:33; Rev. 11:15). Following the kingdom on earth, He will rule for eternity. He will maintain righteousness (cf. Jer. 23:5), as His rule will conform to God’s holy character and demands.”

One author writes that, “In this fallen world, people long for peace between family members, between coworkers, and between neighbors. Lasting peace is possible, however, only through submission to the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus. When we bow to Him in faith, we are put at peace with our Creator, and we are called to announce His reign so that others may know His peace. Let us seek to tell others about the Prince of Peace this day.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: Four Names.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Today, we continue to examine Isaiah 9:6 which says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Four descriptive and compound titles, or names, are given to the Son. Each describe His inner character.

Wonderful Counselor. In an absolute sense, this name means that the Son will be an outstanding and amazing source of wisdom and counsel.

Mighty God. In an absolute sense, this name means that the Son is also the one, true God of the universe who created it and sustains it, is powerful and strong.

Everlasting Father. In an absolute sense, this means that the Son is the head of His covenant people and will be eternally.

Prince of Peace. In an absolute sense, the Son is the commander and ruler of safeness, soundness and welfare for His people.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Wonderful Counselor. In contrast to Ahaz, this King will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging his office (cf. 2 Sam. 16:231 Kings 3:28). Mighty God. As a powerful warrior, the Messiah will accomplish the military exploits mentioned in Isa. 9:3–5 (cf. 10:21Deut. 10:17Neh. 9:32). Everlasting Father. The Messiah will be a Father to his people eternally. As Davidic King, he will compassionately care for and discipline them (Isa. 40:11; 63:16; 64:8Ps. 68:5–6; 103:13Prov. 3:12). Prince of Peace. The government of Immanuel will procure and perpetuate peace among the nations of the world (Isa. 2:4; 11:6–9Mic. 4:3).”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

  

 

 

Isaiah: A Child is Born; A Son is Given.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Today, we examine Isaiah 9:6 which says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Dr. Don Carson explains that, “The mounting relief and joy in vs 1–5 as the trappings of war are abolished prepare us to meet the deliverer; but instead of some latter-day Gideon (cf. v 4), it is the child (6) already foretold as Immanuel in 7:14; 8:8.”

For to us” within the immediate context this statement refers to Israel. In the ultimate context it refers to all who are children of God by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. This promise is exclusively for those who are in covenant relationship with God.

“A child” specifically refers to a man child. A boy. This is the child prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.

“Is born.” The grammar here in the Hebrew is most interesting because this verb phrase is in the perfect tense. That means it refers to a past completed action which has continuing results. This seems logical to the 21st century believer because the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 is rooted in an 8th century B.C. historical context. However, this was a prophecy yet future by approximately 700 years for those believers. The perfect tense indicates the assurance of this prophecy coming to pass as if it already has. This grammatical style is known as the prophetic perfect.

“To us a son is given.” To covenant believers God gives a son. Once again, the phrase “is given” is in the perfect tense. The same sense applies a previously noted.

“And the government shall be upon his shoulder” refers to the Son’s right to rule and have dominion over His people and all of creation. Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “He will rule over God’s people (cf. Micah 5:2) and the world (Zechariah 14:9). The government will be on His shoulders figuratively refers to the kingly robe to be worn by the Messiah. As King, He will be responsible to govern the nation. In Isaiah’s day Judah’s leaders were incompetent in governing the people. But the Messiah will govern properly.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “These terms elaborate further on Immanuel, the child to be born to the virgin (7:14). The virgin’s child will also be the royal Son of David, with rights to the Davidic throne (9:7; cf. Matt. 1:21Luke 1:31–33; 2:7, 11).In fulfillment of this verse and Psalm 2:9, the Son will rule the nations of the world (Rev. 2:27; 19:15).”

Four descriptive and compound titles, or names, are given to the Son. Each describe His inner character. We will examine each name when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

   

 

 

Isaiah: The Yoke is Broken.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Today, we examine Isaiah 9:4-5 which says, “For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.”

These two verses are filled with images of military instruments of oppression, battle and war. A yoke is an instrument of oppression and burden. A staff may refer to not only a rod, but also an arrow or lance. A rod is a club. The phrase “boot of the trampling warrior” refers to an army on the move. Battle tumult is a riotous, discordant sound that signals chaos and frenzy caused by an approaching army. Garments rolled in blood symbolizes those killed in battle.

All these instruments and images associated with political and military war between nations will cease. The LORD would eventually free national Israel from its bondage to Assyria, Babylon, and every foreign power to follow which would seek to oppress her.

It was passages such as this which would prompt the Jews during the time of Christ to perceive that the Messiah’s deliverance of Israel was purely political and military. They failed to understand the spiritual implications of Messiah’s coming were far greater and more important.

Puritan Matthew Henry writes, “The design of the gospel, and the grace of it, is to break the yoke of sin and Satan, to remove the burden of guilt and corruption, and to free us from the rod of those oppressors, that we might be brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Let us not lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ’s coming was to free sinners from not only the penalty of sin, and the power of sin, but also from the very presence of sin. This is the ultimate victory by our glorious and victorious Savior.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 25, 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 #29 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #29: The Marks of the True Church.

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church—for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”

We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks:

The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.

In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior,
Jesus Christ.

They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works. Though great weakness remains in them,
they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly
to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Isaiah: Joy and Rejoicing, with Gladness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, Isaiah 9:1–7 records the famous prophecy of the coming child who would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This messianic hope arose because the Lord promised to raise up a son of David who would rule forever and because the failures of David’s line made the people hope for someone to restore that line (2 Sam. 7; Amos 9:11–15). Hezekiah was a good king, but he was not the Messiah. However, during his reign God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, telling the king that after the Assyrian invasion of Judah during Hezekiah’s lifetime, a new king would sit on the throne in Jerusalem.”

Since Isaiah 9:2-7 is such a magnificent oracle, we are going to examine each verse in detail. Today, we examine Isaiah 9:3. My hope is that you will truly be blessed by this study.

Isaiah 9:3 says, “You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.”

The personal pronouns in this verse merit attention. The word ”you”, which is singular, refers to the LORD: Yahweh. The word “they”, which is plural,  refers to the Nation of Israel.

Isaiah credits the LORD with the increase of Israel. Yahweh is the source of Israel becoming great again. He will do so by sending the Messiah who will lead the people out of spiritual darkness and into the light of the Gospel.

Yahweh is also responsible for the increase of Israel’s joy. The word increase means to exalt and to make great. What is exalted and made great in Israel is joy. Joy is an inner attitude of gladness and delight. Joy even transcends unfavorable circumstances because the source of joy is the LORD and not one’s circumstances.

Because of the LORD’s work, the people rejoiced before Him in worship. Rejoicing is the behavior which corresponds to the inner attitude of joy. It is the outward expression of gladness and a merry heart.

Isaiah likens Israel’s joy in the promised Messiah to be like the joy during the annual harvest. As the crops are being gathered from the fields, the people are rejoicing for another year of sustaining food from the gracious hand of God.

The light of the Messiah will increase Israel’s joy like the joy at harvest-time.  “Joy” is another emphasis of the prophet Isaiah. Joy is mentioned more than two dozen times in his prophetical book. This joy will be a supernatural work of God much like the nation’s deliverance when Gideon defeated Midian (Judges 7:1–24; Isaiah 10:26).

Do you possess an inner joy from the LORD? Is your inner gladness and contentment displayed by your outward behavior? May it be so today. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Isaiah: Out of Darkness, Light.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)  

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, Isaiah 9:1–7 records the famous prophecy of the coming child who would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah uttered these words during the reign of King Hezekiah, who lived at the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the seventh century BC. Hezekiah was one of the godliest kings during the old covenant period (2 Kings 18:1–7), but he was no King David. Hezekiah inherited the throne of David his forefather and reigned during a period when the Assyrian Empire was the strongest power in the ancient Near East. David, however, was established on the throne of Israel by the Lord, and he took Israel from being a minor player on the world stage to one of great importance (2 Sam. 5; 1 Chron. 18:4). Because of the glories of David’s reign, David became the prototype of the ideal ruler, and the prophets looked forward to the day when a king like David but even better would rule over God’s people once more (Jer. 23:533:14–15Zech. 12:8).”

Since Isaiah 9:2-7 is such a magnificent oracle, we are going to examine each verse, beginning with Isaiah 9:2, individually. My hope is that you will truly be blessed by this study.

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Let’s begin to unpack this verse.

The people. Within the immediate context the people would be both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah in the 8th century B.C. The entire nation was existing and living in darkness. The word darkness refers to a time and condition of terror, ignorance, sadness, confusion and evil.

The coming of the Messiah was and is synonymous with the coming of light to remove the darkness of captivity (42:16; 49:6; 58:8; 60:1, 19–20). However, the condition of the Jewish people walking in darkness politically and culturally in the 8th century B.C. mirrors the spiritual darkness all unredeemed people experience without Christ.

Ephesians 5:8-11 says, for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

I John 1:5-7 says, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Darkness describes the character of the life of the unconverted as void of truth and virtue in intellectual and moral matters (cf. 1 John 1:5–7). The realm of darkness is presided over by the “power of darkness” (Luke 22:53Col. 1:13), who rules those headed for “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:122 Pet. 2:17). Tragically, sinners love the darkness (John 3:19–21). It is that very darkness from which salvation in Christ delivers sinners (see John 8:12Col. 1:131 Pet. 2:9; cf. Ps. 27:1).”

Those in Israel who lived in spiritual darkness now understood a great light would come. This light would be the source of guidance, health, life and prosperity. It would be a great, important and excellent light. The light is the Messiah and His coming symbolizes not only the removal from political captivity of the Jewish nation then, but also, and more importantly, the spiritual captivity of the soul for all time.

Much like Israel during Isaiah’s day, do you recall your life when it was in darkness? How has the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed your life? Take time to thank the LORD for delivering you from darkness and bringing you into the light.

Soli deo Gloria!    

Isaiah: No Gloom in Anguish.

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” (Isaiah 9:1)

 Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “Scripture does not tell us about people and events that are divorced from history. It explains that God has worked out His salvation in space and in time. One of the clearest examples of this is the Bible’s use of prophecy that is set firmly in one historical setting while predicting events in another. Prophecies of the coming Messiah fill the Old Testament, with the book of Isaiah featuring some of the most well-known predictions of the future.

Zebulun and Naphtali were two geographic regions in the northern kingdom of Israel. Both regions were located to the west, northwest of the Sea of Galilee. They were both located west of the Jordan River and contained fertile land suitable for raising crops and for grazing livestock. This remains so today.

These two regions were the first to suffer from the invading forces of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). This marked the beginning of the dark days for the northern kingdom of Israel.

However, the LORD provided a glimmer of hope and confidence for the people of the land. While in the former days of judgment there would be doom and gloom, in the latter days the LORD would transform the land into glory. He would make it the “glorious way of the sea.”

The New Testament amplifies and applies this prophecy of the returning honor of Galilee to the period of Jesus Christ’s first advent. Matthew 4:12-16 says, 12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:15-16 quotes directly from Isaiah 9:1-2. While the initial fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-7 would occur during the incarnation of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, the ultimate fulfillment will take place at His second advent. It will be then that the LORD will expel all foreign invaders from the land.

Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “Galil in Hebrew is a “circle,” or “circuit,” and from it came the name Galilee. North of Naphtali, inhabited by a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles of the bordering Phoenician race (Judges 1:30; 1 Ki 9:11). Besides the recent deportation by Tiglath-pileser, it had been sorely smitten by Ben-hadad of Syria, two hundred years before (1 Kings 15:20). It was after the Assyrian deportation colonized with heathens, by Esar-haddon (2 Kings 17:24). Hence arose the contempt for it on the part of the southern Jews of purer blood (John 1:46; 7:52).”

“The same region which was so darkened once, shall be among the first to receive Messiah’s light (Matthew 4:13, 15, 16). It was in despised Galilee that He first and most publicly exercised His ministry; from it were most of His apostles. Foretold in Deuteronomy 33:18, 19; Acts 2:7; Psalm 68:27, 28, Jerusalem, the theocratic capital, might readily have known Messiah; to compensate less favored Galilee, He ministered mostly there; Galilee’s very debasement made it feel its need of a Saviour, a feeling not known to the self-righteous Jews (Mt 9:13). It was appropriate, too, that He who was both “the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel,” should minister chiefly on the border land of Israel, near the Gentiles.”

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: Testimony and Teaching.

16” Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” (Isaiah 8:16-22)

A much quoted portion of Scripture concerning a nation’s repentance towards God is 2 Chronicles 7:14. 14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It was the LORD’s response to King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 7:1-10) and is part of the broader context of 2 Chronicles 7:11-21.

The doctrine contained in 2 Chronicles 7:11-21 is almost completely unique in and of itself. It features the conditions for God’s forgiveness of a nation’s sin. This includes (1) humility; (2) prayer; (3) longing for God; and (4) repentance.

These four qualities were lacking in the Nation of Judah in the 8th century B.C. during the ministry of Isaiah, the prophet. Instead, the people of Judah were proud, they sought out and worshiped false gods of their own making, and were unrepentant.

Instead of humbly seeking the LORD during time of national difficulty, they became enraged against God and spoke contemptuously of Him. The refused to accept the truth of God’s Word, from God’s spokesperson.

Therefore, Isaiah bound up and sealed the scroll containing the testimony of impending judgment. Why? First, it was to ensure that nothing would be added to, or taken from it. Two, to imply that it related to distant events, and was therefore to be a sealed and not understood testimony (Isaiah 6:9, 10), except in part among God’s disciples.

In a similar vein to Isaiah 8:16-22, Joel 2:12-13 says, “Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting…weeping, and…mourning; and rend your hearts….’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Those who have been gifted with circumcised hearts repent when the Lord, through His prophets and Apostles, calls them to turn from their sin. But the call must go out, for God ordinarily works through the preaching of His Word; thus, Joel calls for deep and thorough repentance in Joel 2:13–17. He grounds this call to repent in God’s revelation of His mercy and willingness to relent over the disasters He has announced (see Ex. 34:6–7Jer. 18:5–8). At the same time, Joel’s call to repentance lacks any hint of presumption. Although God’s people can always be confident that He will forgive them when they turn to Him in heartfelt repentance (2 Chron. 7:14Luke 15:11–32), even the healing that He promises does not always mean that we will escape the earthly consequences that flow from our sin. Joel 2:14 reflects this point, as the prophet leaves it up in the air as to whether God’s forgiveness might include other undeserved blessings.”

May each nation today, and its citizens, take to heart the oracles from two ancient Jewish prophets. The truth they speak continues to resound in our own day and age.

Soli deo Gloria!  

Isaiah: Fear God.

11” For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8:11-15) 

The primary sin by the Nations of Israel and Judah was a refusal to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship the LORD God alone. They preferred, except for a small remnant, to trust, commit, depend and worship objects of their own device and design. In Isaiah 8:11, the LORD instructed Isaiah not to walk in the pattern of life of the people.

There has always been a trend among so-called leaders of either ancient Israel, or the contemporary church, to cater their message and ministry in light of what the people, or congregation, want and desire. Today, it is what is known and referred to as being culturally relevant. It is being like the people and giving the people what they want. It is telling the people what they want to hear and refusing to tell the people what they need to hear. It is framing a philosophy of ministry that will not offend. In others words, it is a philosophy of ministry void of the truth.

Yahweh warned Isaiah not to cater to the people’s whims and wants. He said, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.” The majority of people in Israel and Judah considered the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and others to be the enemy because they preached against alliances with foreign powers and advocated a reliance upon the LORD alone. Isaiah was not to go along with various political conspiracy theories of the time. Neither was he to fear or reverence what they people feared and reverenced or tremble because of what the people might do to him.

Instead, Isaiah was to honor the LORD as holy and to fear and dread Him alone. As the prophet continued to do this, and the nations refused, the LORD would be a sanctuary for those who trusted in Him alone, while at the same time a stone of offense, a rock of stumbling along with being a trap and a snare for those who did not.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Isaiah found encouragement in the Lord as his holy place of protection from his accusers. The NT applies this verse to corporate Israel in her ongoing rejection of Jesus as Messiah (Luke 2:34Rom. 9:32–331 Pet. 2:8). Another prediction anticipated the stumbling of Israel, which included her rejection of her Messiah at his first advent (Luke 20:18Rom. 9:32; cf. Isa. 28:16).”

 It is easy to follow the crowd and capitulate either politically, economically, culturally or spiritually to their whims and ways. The believer in Christ must never do this, even when tempted to do so by many within the church. We must honor the LORD alone as holy and He alone we must fear and dread. We must never fear and dread people.

May we all resolve to follow the LORD’s direction this day.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: For God is With Us.

“Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”

 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

 The Lord spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:1-10)

Interspersed with many Messianic prophecies within the Book of Isaiah are narrative sections, such as Isaiah 6:1-7. Isaiah 8 begins as a first person narrative account between Isaiah and the LORD. We often see pastors, preachers and evangelists use visual aids to help them in the preaching. Isaiah was to use a visual aid to help secure the prophecy contained in Isaiah 8 within in the minds of his audience, the nation and the king of Judah.

The overall theme and truth contained in Isaiah 8 is that God is always with His people. He never deserts those with whom He is in a covenant relationship. Hebrews 13:5-6 says, Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

The LORD instructed Isaiah to take a large tablet, a placard, poster or sign, and in the people’s language informing them of the coming judgment from the LORD through the Nation of Assyria against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Two respected leaders in Judah, Uriah and Zechariah, would verify that what the prophet had written was indeed true (Deuteronomy 18:21-22; Jeremiah 28:1-9).

Isaiah used figures of speech in order to illustrate the coming judgment upon Israel in 722 B.C. The primary one Isaiah used was that of overflowing waters. Because Israel allied with Syria, she would be swept away by the mighty floodwaters from the River, a reference for the Euphrates River, which ran in the center of the Assyrian Empire. The king of Assyria (cf. 7:17) would sweep down upon the Northern Kingdom like a river in flood stage overflowing its banks. Amazingly this “Assyrian floodwater,” would continue on into the land of Judah (701 b.c.). Assyria would cover Judah up to the neck, meaning that Judah would be almost, but not quite, drowned.

What is the LORD’s counsel to His people in the predicted judgment? God would be with them and that this judgment from Assyria was not in their own strength. In fact, the LORD warned the Assyrians that they were only an instrument of the LORD. 9 “Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”

Israel’s sin, and Judah’s as well, was a lack of trust in the LORD. Instead, these two nations chose to trust in political alliances and false gods of their own making. Things have not changed very much since the 8th century B.C.  

The phrase “God is with us” again is the Hebrew word Immanuel. Immanuel guaranteed the eventual triumph of His remnant and covenant people, Israel. What was true for 8th century B.C. Israel and Judah is true for God’s people today. He is with us.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 24, 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 #28 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #28: The Obligations of Church Members.

We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, people ought not to withdraw from it, content to be by themselves, regardless of their status or condition.

But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body. And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.

And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.

Soli deo Gloria!