Isaiah: The LORD’s Encouragement to the Godly.

The seventh major division in the Book of Isaiah contains the theme of The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

What is the Servant of Yahweh’s encouragement to the godly? It is centered in the truth that He alone is the chosen seed of Yahweh.

In Isaiah 51:1-2, the LORD reminded His chosen people that they were descendants of the Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. God’s chosen people have a rich heritage of faith (Romans 4; Hebrews 11:8-19).

Isaiah 51:3-8 refers to the future Millennial Kingdom. It will be at this time that God promises to destroy all of His enemies and will rule over all the nations.

Isaiah 51:9-11 is a prayer by God’s people. The prayer is for God to do all which He has promised to do.

God’s response to His people’s prayer is His personal assurance that He will always protect them (Isaiah 51:12-16).

God’s people are given two divine wake-up calls. The first has to do with the LORD’s wrath (51:17-23). The cup of God’s wrath will be transferred from Jerusalem and given to the enemies of Jerusalem. The second has to do with the LORD’s power (52:1-6, 11-12). God’s people will be clothed with God’s strength and He will deliver them from Babylon. Therefore, God’s people were to shout the glorious news of God’s deliverance (52:7-10).

The eternal truth emanating from Isaiah 51-52:12 is that just as God would rebuild Israel in the 7th century B.C., He is in the same sense currently rebuilding His people whose sin was destroying them. He is creating a profitable and fruitful people from what was once a barren, spiritual desert (I Peter 2:1-5).

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: The LORD’s Comfort and Deliverance.

The seventh major division in the Book of Isaiah contains the theme of The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

What comfort and deliverance does the Servant of Yahweh provide for God’s people? Isaiah 49:14-26 and 50:1-3, 10-11 provides the answer.

To begin with, God’s people have a complaint (49:14). They believe that in the midst of persecution and suffering that God has forsaken and forgotten them. Have you ever felt this way? Many believers have.

It is during such times as this that God graciously and gently reminds His people that He never will leave or forsake them (50:1-3; Hebrews 13:1-6). Rather, it is often His people who forsake and forget Him.

However, in spite of the believer’s faithlessness to God, God in His faithfulness reassures His people that He still loves them (49:15-26). His love is stronger than that of a nursing mother and her infant (49:15). His care and comfort are compared to an engraving on the palms of His hands (49:16). His promises are that He will destroy the believer’s enemies (49:17-18), He will gather His people and bless them (49:19-21), and He will provide for them (49:22-26).

What is the believer’s responsibility in the midst of all these promises from the LORD? Believers are to fear and obey the LORD and not look to themselves (50:10-11).

May we ever continually depend upon the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: The Call and Mission of the Servant of Yahweh.

The Book of Isaiah contains eight major divisions. Thus far, we have examined the first six. These include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35); and a Historical Interlude, featuring Isaiah and King Hezekiah (36-39); V. The Glorious Kingdom of God (40-48).

The seventh division is The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

Isaiah highlights the unique relationship between Yahweh and His Servant in 49:1-13 and 50:4-9. Isaiah previously identified the Servant as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and as a child born and given (Isaiah 9:1-7).

Isiah 49 begins with the Servant speaking of Himself in the first person regarding His call and mission. The Servant recalls that Yahweh commissioned Him for His work prior to His physical birth (49:1) and that He would be a mighty weapon for Yahweh (49:2). See Isaiah 50:4-9.

Isaiah then records the words of Yahweh to the Servant (49:3, 5-13). The Servant would display Yahweh’s glory (49:3). The Servant would also redeem Israel (49:5) and be a light to the nations (49:6). Following the rejection of the Servant, He will then be honored by all nations (49:7). Following His suffering, the Servant will usher in the Millennium (49:8-13).

The prophet then reveals the words of the Servant to Yahweh. While His labor seems to be for nothing, the Servant trusts in Yahweh (49:4). The Servant acknowledges that Yahweh has given Him perfect wisdom in order to comfort those in need (50:4). Therefore, the Servant will obediently do Yahweh’s will even when He suffers for it (50:5-7). Yahweh will totally vindicate the Servant (50:8-9).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Attributes of God.

Isaiah 45-48 forms a comprehensive whole in its treatment of not only God’s sovereignty in choosing to use the Persian King Cyrus, but also His attributes.

The Prophet Isaiah begins examining God’s righteous anger by describing the sins of Babylon. These include merciless cruelty, materialism, and pride (47:6-7, 8, 10).

It is because of these sins that God brings shame upon Babylon (47:1-4). The suffering the LORD brings upon them includes crushing their idols (46:1-2), crushing their military power (47:5), and brining about this destruction in a single day (47:9, 11–15; Daniel 5).

However, God is the God of salvation. The deliverance from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence is universally offered to all (45:22-25). It is effectually given to God’s people (48:20-22).

The LORD is also faithful. He is faithful in His care (46:3-4), but also in His correction (48:16-17).

God is unique. There is no idol, however expensive, that can ever equal Him (46:5-9).

The LORD is omnipotent. He created all things (48:13). He used Cyrus to rebuild the Jewish Temple (46:11-13; 48:1-15). The LORD does what He desires to do (46:10).

The LORD is eternal (48:12), gracious (48:1-11), and is grieved by our sin (48:18-19).

Let all of us worship the LORD today not only in the truth of who He is, but also with a full heart of love and devotion for all that He is.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 31, 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 #37 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #37: The Last Judgment.

Finally we believe, according to God’s Word, that when the time appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead.

He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it. Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge—men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.

They will be summoned there “with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet.”81 For all those who died before that time will be raised from the earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in which they lived.

And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” from perishable to imperishable.82 Then the books (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world,83 whether good or evil.

Indeed, all people will give account of all the idle words they have spoken,84 which the world regards as only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of all people will be publicly uncovered in the sight of all.

Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful
to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished.

They will then receive the fruits of their labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented them in this world.

The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal—but only to be tormented in “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”85

In contrast, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. The Son of God will profess their names86 before God his Father and the holy and elect angels; all tears will be wiped from their eyes;87 and their cause—at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers—will be acknowledged as the cause of the Son of God. And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

811 Thess. 4:16
821 Cor. 15:51-53
83Rev. 20:12
84Matt. 12:36
85Matt. 25:41
86Matt. 10:32
87Rev. 7:17

Soli deo Gloria!    

Isaiah: I Am the LORD.

“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.” (Isaiah 45:5-7)

Isaiah prophesies an oracle from God that Cyrus the Great, founder of the mighty Persian Empire, would function as His chosen servant. God use of Cyrus would have a three-fold purpose. First, the LORD used the Persians to crush the Babylonians, Egyptians, Ethiopians and other Gentile nations (45:1-3). Second, the LORD also used Cyrus to be a blessing for Israel (45:4-13).  Third, the LORD wanted all to know, Jews and Gentiles, that He is the only God and Savior (45:14-21).

Isaiah 45:1-4 says, “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.”

The prophet instructs us that the LORD may choose to use anyone to accomplish His purposes, even pagan emperors like Cyrus. It is especially interesting that the LORD identifies Judah’s deliverer, from Babylon, by name and many years ahead of the events recorded in Daniel 5. This means that God is not only sovereign but also has the ability to predict and to control future events.

Isaiah 45 is also significant because it strongly affirms the doctrine of God, also known as Theology Proper. All the doctrines, or teachings, found in Scripture have as their basis the doctrine that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). However, it must be noted that biblical monotheism is different from the monotheism of religions such as Judaism and Islam. This is because Christian monotheism is Trinitarian Monotheism. The doctrine of the Trinity is grounded in the truth that there is but one eternal God who has created our universe and that He subsists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20).

Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, Isaiah 45:5 firmly insists that the God revealed in Scripture is the only God. Note that when we speak of biblical monotheism, we are not speaking of deity in some generic sense. We are not talking about a vague concept of God that we arrive at via philosophical speculation, even though philosophy assists us in studying the doctrine of God. Instead, biblical monotheism proclaims that the only God is the One who redeemed Israel from Egyptian slavery and delivered His law through Moses. In Isaiah 45:5, two different Hebrew words for God appear. First, we have the word Elohim, which is often used as a generic term for deity and is translated in our text as “God.” Isaiah 45:5 also features the specific covenant name of the God of Israel—Yahweh—which is rendered in English as “LORD.” Thus, we could paraphrase today’s passage as “I, the LORD of Israel, am the only deity.”

The LORD’s existence as the only, true God is not dependent upon the recognition of His creation. As one author has written, “Yahweh is the only God regardless of whether we acknowledge Him as such.” 

Dr. Sproul concludes by saying that, “It is not enough to believe in a generic God or to affirm any form of monotheism other than the monotheism of Scripture. There are many monotheists who will die in their sin because they believe in God but not in the true God, the covenant Lord of Israel. Salvation is only in His name, so when we proclaim the existence of God and defend it against detractors, let us be insistent that we are proclaiming that the one God is the God revealed in Scripture.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Isaiah: The One, True God.

“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:1-6).

Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts instead of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 95). See 1 Chronicles 16:26; Galatians 4:8-9; Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19. The very first commandment strongly condemns the sin of idolatry.

Religious idolatry is seen in the two other major monotheistic religions: Islam and Judaism. Muslims, worship the Allah of the Qur’an. Modern Judaism worships a unitary deity defined more by rabbinic tradition than by the Old Testament Scriptures. Both Islam and contemporary Judaism are guilty of idolatry because they do not worship the triune God of Scripture.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “God demands absolute allegiance from His people, as we have seen in our look at the first commandment. Beside Him there is no god, so it is foolish to trust in other deities who cannot save (Isa. 43:1144:6). To refuse to worship Him but to worship another is idolatry, a grave sin condemned throughout Scripture (Lev. 19:1–4Ps. 31:696:5; Ezek. 6; 1 Cor. 10:1–22Rev. 21:8). “

 “Throughout biblical history, the idolatry that most of the prophets railed against was the serving of pagan deities, beings that people worshipped specifically as gods. Often, those who worshipped these pagan gods built graven images of them, and they constructed altars at high places—sites where these deities were worshipped— within the land of Israel (2 Kings 17:1–23Isa. 44:9–20). Today, we see such crass idolatry within Hinduism, tribal religions, and cultures where professedly Christian churches merely paper over the people’s animistic and polytheistic traditions.”

 Isaiah 43-44 addresses the subject of the veracity of the One, True God of the Scriptures in contrast to the foolishness of man, made idols.  Isaiah describes the God of the Bible as the One, True God of grace and mercy (43:1-28; 44:1–8, 21–28).

Solely on the basis of His grace and mercy, God protects His people (43:1-2, 14-17), prefers His people (43:3-4), gathers His people (43:5–9), enables His people to be His witnesses (43:10–13; 44:6–8), prepares an eternal home for His people (43:18–21),  fills them with His Spirit (44:1–5), forgives their sin (44:21–24), and will rebuild their Temple (44:25–28). The LORD does all this even when His people grieve Him by their sin (43:22–28).

The faithful work of God is contrasted with the uselessness of man-made idols. Idols are worthless (44:9–10), they are the objects of God’s wrath (44:11), are the result of man’s labor (44:12–17) and are wicked for idols blind man to God’s truth (44:18–20).

Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “Anything that we love more than God Himself should be considered an idol. Jesus makes that point implicitly in Matthew 10:37–39, when He rejects any who love their family members more than Him. The Apostle Paul identifies some individuals whose god was “their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Their appetites were so consuming that the Apostle viewed them as worshipping their stomachs. Every fallen culture has its idols, and we must be particularly sensitive to what the world is calling us to worship in place of the one true God. Neither sex nor power nor fame nor anything else deserves primacy in our lives, for none of these things is transcendent—none is the Lord and Creator of all.”

 What are idols in your life? Take the time today to do an extensive heart and soul evaluation. Ask the LORD to keep you from the sin of idolatry by making you aware of anything you may love, which is equal to, or greater than, your love for the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: God’s Chosen People and God’s Chosen Servant.

Isaiah 41-42 form a cohesive whole regarding the themes of God’s chosen people and God’s chosen Servant. Isaiah introduces the person known as the Servant of the LORD. All these themes are framed within the grand doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

Isaiah introduces the theme of the sovereignty of God by revealing God’s work through a Persian king (41:1–7, 25–29): Some two centuries before this Persian king is born, Isaiah predicts his victories, even calling him by name: Cyrus. (See also 44:28; 45:1). It is the LORD Himself who directs Cyrus’ victories. He also gives the king his strength so that no one is able to within the assault by the Persians.

However, even in the midst of misery, God remembers mercy. He both consoles and corrects Israel, His chosen people (41:8–24). God reminds Israel that He chose them because of Abraham, the friend of God. On the basis of His grace, the LORD will protect and uphold His people by His divine providence and provision. However, because of Israel’s sin of refusing to listen to the LORD or His prophets (42:18-21), God will permit them to be robbed, enslaved and imprisoned (42:22-25).

In the midst of this oracle, Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah (42:1–9). The Messiah will be filled with the Holy Spirit, He will not quarrel, shout, crush the weak, but fulfill truth and righteousness. He will also act with gentleness, bring justice to all, and usher a kingdom of righteousness. God the Father guaranteed all that the Messiah would accomplish.

Creation’s response to God’s revelation is to praise Him (42:10-12) for not only defeating His enemies (42:13-15), but also delivering His people (42:16-17).

10Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12        Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands. 13 The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes” (Isaiah 42:10-13).

The ministry of the Servant of the LORD is simple — to call the people of God to repentance so that the whole world would see Yahweh’s salvation. Today, the Servant of the LORD, Jesus Christ, continues to call God’s people to repent and trust in the promises of God through Christ alone, not only at conversion but throughout their lives.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Isaiah: God’s Presence and the Believer’s Restoration.

The Book of Isaiah contains eight major divisions. Thus far, we have examined the first five. These include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles Against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35); and V. A Historical Interlude, featuring Isaiah and King Hezekiah (36-39).

The sixth major division of Isaiah features the theme of the Glorious Kingdom of God (40-48). The Prophet Isaiah heralds words of comfort and deliverance to God’s people.

The overall outline is as follows. A. The Proclamation of God’s Presence and Israel’s Restoration (ch. 40); B. The LORD’s Sovereign Power Over History (ch. 41); C. The People and Witnesses to the LORD’s Redemption (ch. 42:1-13); D. The Restoration of Israel (ch. 42:14-44:23); E. The LORD’s Use of Cyrus (ch. 44:24-45:25); F. The Fall of Babylon and Her False Gods (ch. 46-47); and G. A Call to Escape the LORD’s Judgment on Babylon (ch. 48).

Isaiah 40, addresses the theme of God’s sovereign presence and Israel’s restoration. The chapter describes eight attributes of God.

First, God is a God of mercy (40:1-2). He not comforts His people, but He also forgives them of their sin.

Second, God is glorious (40:3-5). It is within these verses that the ministry of John the Baptist is prophesied. John’s ministry will be one of calling the people to repentance and to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Third, God is eternal (40:6-9). God’s word stands forever, unlike people, and his people are called to proclaim the message of the Lord’s coming.

Fourth, God is gentle (40:11).  God will treat His people like a gentle shepherd.

Fifth, God is omnipotent (40:10, 12, 26). He is sovereign over all creation.

Sixth, God is omniscient (40:13–14). He is all-knowing. He understands all things and needs no one to counsel or advise him.

Seventh, God is sovereign (40:15–17, 21–24). Isaiah says that all nations are as a drop in the bucket, as dust on the scales to the LORD (40:15–17). Additionally, the LORD is enthroned above the circle of the earth (40:21–22): He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. Finally, the LORD rules over all people (40:23–24).

Eight, God is unique (40:18–20, 25). He is incomparable.

Israel’s problem in the 8th century B.C. is much the world’s problem today. Humanity has forgotten God’s wonderful attributes and has concluded that God either does not know them or does not care about them (40:27-28).

God’s promise to Israel then, and the church today, is that if people ask in earnest prayer, God will renew their strength (40:29-31).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols writes that, “Isaiah 40 may very well be one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible. From the first words—“Comfort, comfort my people”—to the last words of mounting up with wings like an eagle, this chapter is sheer poetry. If I were British, I would simply say, “Brilliant. No obstacle, however formidable, will ever prevail against Him (the LORD). We must see this in our day. The nations rage. The false gods and idols of our age present themselves. We know all too well our own limitations and weaknesses. Our temptation may be to place our confidence in the wrong place. We may rather foolishly put our confidence in ourselves. We might look to the state, to politics as the solution. That temptation has always seemed to be alluring to American Christians in particular. In the face of such temptations, we must put our confidence in God.”

Read and meditate upon the character of God presented in Isaiah 40. Your strength will be renewed.

Soli deo Gloria!   

  

 

 

Isaiah: Hezekiah’s Pride.

24 “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26 But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:24–26).  

Isaiah 39 is a brief, and concluding, historical narrative which began in Isaiah 36. Today’s text picks up shortly after King Hezekiah’s illness and healing (Isaiah 38; 2 Kings 20:1-11). It concerns a visit from Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon (Isaiah 39:1; 2 Kings 20:12-21).  

Apparently the Babylonian king heard that Hezekiah had been ill and had recovered. He then sent envoys to Jerusalem not only with letters but also a present for Hezekiah. We may presume that the letters and present were expressions of well-being on Hezekiah’s behalf by King Baladan.

Isaiah 39:2 says, “Hezekiah was pleased, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and his whole armory and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.”  

Why did King Hezekiah do this? We cannot be absolutely sure. Perhaps he was trying to impress the Babylonian envoys. 2 Chronicles 32:25 indicates that Hezekiah was a very proud king. He may also have been trying to establish an alliance with Babylon against the Assyrians.

2 Chronicles 32:27-31 is a parallel passage to Isaiah 39. 2 Chronicles 32:31 says, “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”

The LORD was not pleased. He saw the pride within the heart of the king. Isaiah then came to Hezekiah. 3Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.”

Hezekiah sinned against the LORD by displaying his wealth before the Babylonian visitors. The king’s sin of pride would be further compounded by his son, Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-15).

Isaiah 39:5-7 is God’s pronouncement of judgment upon Hezekiah and the nation of Judah. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 24:1-16; 2 Chronicles 33:1-11; Daniel 1:1-6).

Isaiah 39:8 provides us with Hezekiah’s response. Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”

Dr. John MacArthur comments that Hezekiah’s statement was, “A surprising response to the negative prophecy of vv. 5–7! It perhaps acknowledged Isaiah as God’s faithful messenger. Hezekiah perhaps reacted selfishly, or perhaps he looked for a bright spot to lighten the gloomy fate of his descendants.”

Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  

Pastor Robert Rayburn writes, “To put pride to death is lifelong work of the most difficult kind. We get no help from our culture. Pride is a topic of little interest to modern psychology or the self-help industry, and self-congratulation has become an accepted art form in the era of the “touchdown dance.” Nowadays, low self-esteem is likely to be thought a far more serious problem than pride. But the godly have always known that true goodness requires the killing of their pride, and they learned soon enough that there was no gentle way to go about it. It had to be hacked to death. One good man after another has instructed himself in these or similar words: “Talk not about myself”; “Desire to be unknown”; and “Lord, Deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself.” 

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: Hezekiah’s Healing.

Isaiah 36-39 provides a historical interlude involving the Prophet Isaiah and the Judean King, Hezekiah. These four chapters also comprise the fifth major division in the Book of Isaiah. The previous four divisions include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles Against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35).

Chapters 36-39 are divided as follows: A. King Hezekiah is Delivered from King Sennacherib (36-37); B. King Hezekiah is Delivered from Illness (38); and C. King Hezekiah’s Self-Confidence Leads to the Future Exile of Judah (39). The four chapters duplicate almost verbatim 2 Kings 18:13–20:19 (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:1–23). 

Chapters 36-37 contain a narrative concerning the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army under the command of King Sennacherib (701 B.C.). The chapters also describe the LORD’s glorious deliverance of His holy city.

Chapters 38 shares the story of King Hezekiah’s illness unto death. The narrative is also found in 2 Kings 20:1-11 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Isaiah 38:1 says, “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” There is no mistaking the tenor and tone of this passage. Hezekiah was going to die.

What does Hezekiah do in this situation? What would we do if, for example, a doctor told us we were dying of cancer? Ultimately, we would cry out to the LORD in prayer: for healing from the disease or for strength while battling the disease.

Hezekiah does this very thing. He was as human as we are. In desperation, he cries out to the LORD. Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord: “Remember now, O Lord, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:2-3).

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Hezekiah reminded the Lord in prayer of his piety and devotion to God. He did not specifically ask to be healed. Hezekiah wept because: 1) he thought his death would give Sennacherib cause for boasting; or 2) his son Manasseh was too young to become king. Hezekiah based his implied request for an extension of his life on an undivided desire to please the Lord.”  

It was then that the LORD instructed Isaiah to go to Hezekiah with an oracle from the LORD. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city” (Isaiah 38:4-6).

The LORD not only heard Hezekiah’s prayer, but chose to give the king 15 more years of life on earth. Does this automatically mean that God will do the same for us when we become sick unto death? Not at all. What was God’s will for Hezekiah, or for others, may not be His will for you or me. We must pray according to the LORD’s sovereign will (I John 5:13-15).

2 Kings 20:8-10 indicates that Hezekiah requested a sign to confirm the LORD’s promise. The LORD provided Hezekiah a sovereign sign assuring the king that this extension of his life would come to pass. Isaiah 38:7–8 says, This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.” (See Isaiah 38:22).   

Hezekiah then wrote a journal account of this series of events. He indicated that he was depressed and felt betrayed by God and broken by his circumstances (38:9-16).

He then wrote about God delivering him from death. He wrote that God healed him and forgave his sins (38:17-18). In return for God’s graciousness, Hezekiah would write songs of God’s faithfulness and sing them daily (38:19-20).

The method of God’s healing involved Isaiah instructing the king’s servants to make an ointment of figs to spread over Hezekiah’s boils so that he would recover (38:21).

Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, “God’s granting fifteen more years of life to Hezekiah does not mean He changes His mind like we do. Instead, such accounts show us that the Lord has a real relationship with His people in time and responds to our prayers and actions. Hezekiah did not know how God would answer His prayer for healing, but the Lord did. Similarly, God knows how He will answer our prayers even before we offer them, but that must not keep us from interceding for ourselves and others.

Soli deo Gloria!      

 

 

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 30, 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 #36 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #36: The Civil Government.

We believe that because of the depravity of the human race, our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. God wants the world to be governed by laws and policies so that human lawlessness may be restrained and that everything may be conducted in good order among human beings. For that purpose God has placed the sword in the hands of the government, to punish evil people and protect the good.

 

[RCA only* And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.]

 

[CRC only** And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship. They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them. They should do it in order that the Word of God may have free course; the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress; and every anti-Christian power may be resisted.]

 

Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives in honor and respect,
and obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and decency.

 

[RCA only*** And on this matter we reject the Anabaptists, anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has established among human beings.]

 

* The Reformed Church in America retains the original full text, choosing to recognize that the confession was written within a historical context which may not accurately describe the situation that pertains today.
**Synod 1958 of the Christian Reformed Church replaced the aforementioned paragraph with the following three paragraphs (in brackets).
***The RCA retains this final paragraph of the original Article 36, choosing to recognize that the confession was written within a historical context which may not accurately describe the situation that pertains today. Synod 1985 of the CRC directed that this paragraph be taken from the body of the text and placed in a footnote.

Soli deo Gloria!