The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

In my last post, we began our exploration of The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 42:10-17. In this post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

Chapter 42 ends with a prophecy that explains why Adonai’s people will experience judgment before they receive the deliverance described in the previous song. In this passage, Yesha’yahu is no longer talking about Adonai’s servant, Yeshua, but His servant, the nation Isra’el.

18 Listen, you deaf! Look, you blind!— so that you will see! 19 Who is as blind as my servant, or as deaf as the messenger I send? Who is as blind as the one I rewarded, as blind as the servant of Adonai?” 20 You see much but don’t pay attention; you open your ears, but you don’t listen.

Isra’el has been given so much, but she’s not seeing. She’s not hearing. Thus, she is indicted for being a people who are blind and deaf.

21 Adonai was pleased, for His righteousness’ sake, to make the Torah great and glorious.

The people’s inability to see and hear Adonai’s instruction was not a failure on Adonai’s part. He magnified His guidance and made it glorious. Only the most spiritually insensitive could miss it. Adonai had even sent the prophets – men like Yesha’yahu and others to make His instruction clearer, but still, they did not obey.

22 But this is a people pillaged and plundered, all trapped in holes and sequestered in prisons. They are there to be plundered, with no one to rescue them; there to be pillaged, and no one says, “Return them!”

When prisons were far off or not available, holes were often used to hold prisoners for a temporary period. Prisons were primarily for detention of individuals awaiting trial or political prisoners, both in Isra’el and Bavel.

23 Which of you will listen to this? Who will hear and give heed in the times to come? 24 Who gave Ya‘akov to be pillaged, Isra’el to the plunderers? Didn’t Adonai, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they refused to walk, He whose Torah they did not obey? 25 This is why He poured on him His blazing anger as well as the fury of battle – it wrapped him in flames, yet he learned nothing; it burned him, yet he did not take it to heart. ~ Isaiah 42:18-25 (CJB)

Like Isra’el, what will Adonai have to do to finally get us to see that we need to obey His Word? If you’re at a place where you’re wondering why you’re in bondage or why things aren’t working out for you, could it be that there is a point of disobedience or stubbornness in your life? As He did with Isra’el, Adonai loves you enough to allow the fire of His chastening to come upon you so that you might return to Him.

We need to be listening to Adonai speaking to us through His Word and the Ruach so that we can trust and obey.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:16-29

In my last post, we began to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

In our last post, we stopped at verse 15 which said: “I will make you into a threshing-sledge, new, with sharp, pointed teeth, to thresh the mountains and crush them to dust, to reduce the hills to chaff.” ~ Isaiah 41:15 (CJB)

16 As you fan them, the wind will carry them off, and the whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in Adonai; you will glory in the Holy One of Isra’el.

The process of winnowing was usually carried out on hilltops, where the wind carried away the chaff and allowed the grain to fall to the ground. The grain was tossed into the air with wooden shovels or fans.

17 “The poor and needy look for water in vain; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Adonai, will answer them. I, the God of Isra’el, will not leave them. 18 I will open up rivers on the barren hills and wells down in the broad valleys. I will turn the desert into a lake and dry ground into springs.

The phrase the poor and the needy here refers to Adonai’s down-and-out people whom He has punished. But Adonai will restore them, turning their dry land into a watery paradise.

In our travels through Isra’el in 2000, this is precisely what we see – a reclaiming of the desert. Adonai has undoubtedly given the Isra’el the ability to make a little water go a long way, for areas that were once dry and scorched are now beautiful and blossoming.

19 I will plant the desert with cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees; In the ‘Aravah, I will put cypresses together with elm trees and larches.20 Then the people will see and know, together observe and understand that the hand of Adonai has done this, that the Holy One of Isra’el created it.

When the Zionists began to move back to Isra’el, the land seemed to be either desert or swamp. So they immediately initiated a tree-planting program. They planted eucalyptus in the wetlands, which effectively drained the water. They planted pine trees in the rocky, desert areas, whose roots would break up the rocks and produce soil. In the last 100 years, over two-hundred-fifty million trees have been planted in Isra’el.

21 “Present your case,” says Adonai, “Produce your arguments,” says Ya‘akov’s king.

As in verse 1, Adonai used legal language as He challenged the nations and their idols. Ya‘akov’s king is none other than Adonai Himself.

22 Bring out those idols! Have them foretell the future for us, tell us about past events, so that we can reflect on them and understand their consequences. Or tell us about events yet to come, 23 state what will happen in the future, so that we can know you are gods. At least, do something, either good or bad – anything, to make us awestruck and fearful! 24 You can’t! – because you are less than nothing. Whoever chooses you is an abomination!

The idols were ignorant of the future, demonstrating that they were not gods. Indeed, they were nothing.

25 “I roused someone from the north, and he has come from the rising sun; he will call on my name. He will trample on rulers as if they were mud, like a potter treading clay.”

He is King Cyrus of Persia. He is said to be from the east (come from the rising sun) because his homeland was geographically east of Isra’el. On the other hand, he could, at the same time, be from the north because that was the direction from which he attacked Bavel.

This prophecy is one of the most amazing in all of the Bible as we will learn in Chapter 45.

26 Who said this at the start, so we could know, or foretold it, so we could say, “He’s right”? In fact, no one said it; no one foretold it – the fact is, nobody hears what you say. 27 I am the first to declare it to Tziyon, to send Yerushalayim a messenger with good news.

While the idols were ignorant because they did not exist except as wood or stone, Adonai knew the future. Indeed He knew about this from the beginning. The coming of Cyrus was good news to Yerushalayim because his defeat of Bavel would mean that the exiles could come home.

28 But when I look around, there is no one – not a single one can give counsel, who, when I ask, can give an answer. 29 Look at them all! What they do is nothing! Their idols are so much wind and waste. ~ Isaiah 41:16-29 (CJB)

In other words, idols are capable of producing nothing more than hot air. Even that could only be attained by burning them.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29. In this post, we begin to examine The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

Several songs in the latter half of Yesha’yahu focus on the Servant of the Lord (see also 50:4-6; 52:13-53:12). The identity of the Servant is much debated, and most modern commentaries give full lists of options. The context of these verses points in the first instance to Isra’el or Y’hudah filling the role of the Servant. After all, 41:8-9 addresses the nation as the Servant. In answer to the objection that this song’s description of the Servant is much too positive to refer to the nation as a whole, it can be conceded that Yesha’yahu spoke of the remnant that would emerge from the purifying fires of judgment. However, even the postexilic survivors did not live up to the hope expressed in these verses. So what or who is the Servant? Let’s see if we can answer that from our text today.

1 “Here is My Servant, whom I support, My chosen one, in whom I take pleasure. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the Goyim.

This is one of the most beautiful prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah. When Yeshua was baptized, the words were thundered from heaven; This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17). The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) anointed Him at that time, empowering Him for ministry, to accomplish great things for the glory of Adonai. We receive power when the Ruach comes upon us.

Such anointing in the Tanakh granted the recipient the ability to perform a divinely given task, in this case, to bring justice to the Goyim (that’s most of us folks). Adonai commissioned Isara’el with this task beginning with the promises to Avraham that included their being a blessing to the Goyim (see Gen 12:1-3), but it is Yeshua who will perform His Father’s will fit perfectly in this regard. Yeshua’s work of justice included bringing judgment on sinners.

2 He will not cry or shout; no one will hear His voice in the streets.

This speaks of Yeshua’s humility and gentleness. Rather than being loud and obnoxious, rather than drawing attention to Himself, Yeshua was so ordinary in the eyes of men that Judas had to identify Him to the Roman soldiers (see Matthew 26:48).

3 He will not snap off a broken reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. He will bring forth justice according to truth;

The Servant’s work of bringing justice to the world is also characterized by compassion. Like Adonai who would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous people could be found there, so the Servant will not crush anyone, provided there is even a glimmer of hope in them.

4 He will not weaken or be crushed until He has established justice on the earth, and the coastlands wait for His Torah.”

The coastlands refer to the distant nations, so it is a way of identification of all the Goyim. The whole earth will heed Adonai’s instruction, bringing justice to the world.

5 Thus says God, Adonai, who created the heavens and spread them out, who stretched out the earth and all that grows from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it:

Adonai is not a part of creation; He is its Creator. He is also not a human being, but the One who created human beings. He gave them breath, starting with Adam.

6 “I, Adonai, called you righteously, I took hold of you by the hand, I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people, to be a light for the Goyim,

Adonai had entered into a covenant with Avraham on behalf not only of future Israel but also of the Goyim. But history shows Isra’el’s miserable failure. Again, Adonai’s purposes were fulfilled in the good news of Yeshua. As the light for the Goyim, Yeshua would indeed be the light for the Goyim.

7 so that you can open blind eyes, free the prisoners from confinement, those living in darkness from the dungeon.

Yeshua came to liberate. He came to deliver humanity from the prison of our sin. Therefore, our sins are forgiven totally for all those who confess and believe that He is the Son of God. In the Word, He has given us all the answers to life practically. We get to know the Creator of the universe personally as we study and meditate on His Word and talk with Him in prayer.

8 I am Adonai; that is My name. I yield My glory to no one else, nor My praise to any idol. 9 See how the former predictions come true, and now new things do I declare – before they sprout I tell you about them.” ~ Isaiah 42:1-9 (CJB)

When Yeshua came on the scene, He was able to do what He taught us we should do. “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:16 (CJB) Without exception, every time Yeshua did a miracle, the people glorified Adonai.

It’s so crucial that, as Yeshua begins to increasingly use us in serving Him, we don’t fall into the subtle temptation of touching the glory, of building a name for yourself. It will wipe us out. Perhaps the fastest way we can undo what Adonai desires to do in your life is to start taking credit for it. Give Him all the glory!

In my next post, we continue our examination of The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 42:10-17.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:16-29

In my last post, we began to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

In our last post, we stopped at verse 15 which said: “I will make you into a threshing-sledge, new, with sharp, pointed teeth, to thresh the mountains and crush them to dust, to reduce the hills to chaff.” ~ Isaiah 41:15 (CJB)

16 As you fan them, the wind will carry them off, and the whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in Adonai; you will glory in the Holy One of Isra’el.

The process of winnowing was usually carried out on hilltops, where the wind carried away the chaff and allowed the grain to fall to the ground. The grain was tossed into the air with wooden shovels or fans.

17 “The poor and needy look for water in vain; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Adonai, will answer them. I, the God of Isra’el, will not leave them. 18 I will open up rivers on the barren hills and wells down in the broad valleys. I will turn the desert into a lake and dry ground into springs.

The phrase the poor and the needy here refers to Adonai’s down-and-out people whom He has punished. But Adonai will restore them, turning their dry land into a watery paradise.

In our travels through Isra’el in 2000, this is precisely what we see – a reclaiming of the desert. Adonai has undoubtedly given the Isra’el the ability to make a little water go a long way, for areas that were once dry and scorched are now beautiful and blossoming.

19 I will plant the desert with cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees; In the ‘Aravah, I will put cypresses together with elm trees and larches.20 Then the people will see and know, together observe and understand that the hand of Adonai has done this, that the Holy One of Isra’el created it.

When the Zionists began to move back to Isra’el, the land seemed to be either desert or swamp. So they immediately initiated a tree-planting program. They planted eucalyptus in the wetlands, which effectively drained the water. They planted pine trees in the rocky, desert areas, whose roots would break up the rocks and produce soil. In the last 100 years, over two-hundred-fifty million trees have been planted in Isra’el.

21 “Present your case,” says Adonai, “Produce your arguments,” says Ya‘akov’s king.

As in verse 1, Adonai used legal language as He challenged the nations and their idols. Ya‘akov’s king is none other than Adonai Himself.

22 Bring out those idols! Have them foretell the future for us, tell us about past events, so that we can reflect on them and understand their consequences. Or tell us about events yet to come, 23 state what will happen in the future, so that we can know you are gods. At least, do something, either good or bad – anything, to make us awestruck and fearful! 24 You can’t! – because you are less than nothing. Whoever chooses you is an abomination!

The idols were ignorant of the future, demonstrating that they were not gods. Indeed, they were nothing.

25 “I roused someone from the north, and he has come from the rising sun; he will call on my name. He will trample on rulers as if they were mud, like a potter treading clay.”

He is King Cyrus of Persia. He is said to be from the east (come from the rising sun) because his homeland was geographically east of Isra’el. On the other hand, he could, at the same time, be from the north because that was the direction from which he attacked Bavel.

This prophecy is one of the most amazing in all of the Bible as we will learn in Chapter 45.

26 Who said this at the start, so we could know, or foretold it, so we could say, “He’s right”? In fact, no one said it; no one foretold it – the fact is, nobody hears what you say. 27 I am the first to declare it to Tziyon, to send Yerushalayim a messenger with good news.

While the idols were ignorant because they did not exist except as wood or stone, Adonai knew the future. Indeed He knew about this from the beginning. The coming of Cyrus was good news to Yerushalayim because his defeat of Bavel would mean that the exiles could come home.

28 But when I look around, there is no one – not a single one can give counsel, who, when I ask, can give an answer. 29 Look at them all! What they do is nothing! Their idols are so much wind and waste. ~ Isaiah 41:16-29 (CJB)

In other words, idols are capable of producing nothing more than hot air. Even that could only be attained by burning them.

In my next post, we begin to explore The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:1-15

In my last post, we completed our exploration of Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 40:27-31. In this post, we begin to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15.

1 “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; Let us come near together for judgment.

Here in chapter 41, it is as if we are looking in on a courtroom scene as Adonai calls worshipers of other gods to state their case. The coastlands refer to far-off lands and thus represent all the nations of the world. The prophets often used the language of the courtroom. Here Adonai will try the nations and their idols. The nations were to keep silence as Adonai presented evidence in support of His case.

2 “Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before Him, And made Him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to His sword, as driven stubble to His bow?

The one from the east who subdues kings is a reference to Cyrus, King of Persia (see Isaiah 45:1), whom Adonai used to defeat Bavel in 539 BCE. This brought the exile of Y’hudah to an end.

3 Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet? 

The conquests of Cyrus were quick, and he remained safe until he had extended Bavel’s boundaries.

4 Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? ‘ I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ “

Though Cyrus was the human agent behind these predicted events, Adonai took credit because Cyrus succeeded because of His sovereign control. In verses 2-4, Jon Courson believes that the reference is not Cyrus but Yeshua as He is the only true Righteous One, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. [1]

Personally, I don’t have a problem thinking it could easily refer to both at the same time.

5 The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; they drew near and came.

The nations are coming before the throne of Adonai.

6 Everyone helped his neighbor, And said to his brother, “Be of good courage!”

The heathen nations are saying to one another be of good courage as they stand in the presence of Adonai.

7 So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; he who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.

In this verse, the craftsman is the one who prepares the mold and creates the cast figurine. The goldsmith attaches the plating and inlay. Then the hammer is used to smooth out and shine the overlay. The last step is difficult to translate because it is full of technical terms, but it appears to refer to the fitting of the peg into the hole in the wooden base. [2]

8 “But you, Isra’el, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham, My friend.

While the nations felt the wrath of Adonai at the hands of His agent Cyrus, Adonai again would make Isra’el His friend. By calling Isra’el the descendant of Avraham, Adonai called to mind the promise to the patriarch that his descendants would be a great nation (Genesis 12:2). Based on this ancient covenantal promise, Adonai acted to restore His people Isra’el.

9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:

Adonai’s punishment of Y’hudah led to exile in 586 BCE when many of its leading citizens were taken to Bavel and from there scattered throughout the empire. The restoration involved bringing them back from the ends of the earth.

10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Adonai’s statement I am with you is a concise way of describing the covenant relationship between Him and His people. Adonai’s right hand is often associated with His military might, thus His ability to protect His people. The only courage the heathen could draw was from each other. Isra’el’s comfort, on the other hand, came from Adonai Himself.

11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish. 12 You shall seek them and not find them – those who contended with you. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing.

All those who strive against Isra’el shall perish. In the End Times, countries who wage war against Isra’el are on the wrong team because, according to Matthew 25, treatment of the Jewish nation during the Tribulation will determine what nations move into the Millennium following the Tribulation period.

13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ 14 “Fear not, you worm Jacob, You men of Isra’el! I will help you,” says the LORD And your Redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el.

Once again, the inability of the nations to contend with Isra’el was because of divine protection and intimacy (I…will hold your right hand). Isra’el did not have the strength or ability to protect itself, but Adonai would sustain them.

15 “Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, And make the hills like chaff. ~ Isaiah 41:1-15 (NKJV)

The threshing sledge was a heavy wooden sledge with stone or iron teeth. It was used to separate the grain from the chaff before the winnowing process. The metaphor emphasizes how thoroughly and violently Isra’el would defeat the nations.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

[2] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 40:27-31

In my last post, we continued to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26. In this post, we continue to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 40:27-31.

27 Why do you complain, Ya‘akov; why do you say, Isra’el, “My way is hidden from Adonai, my rights are ignored by my God”?

When Y’hudah experienced Adonai’s punishment, Isaiah anticipated that the people would ask why Adonai had abandoned them. The following verses summarize the answer given in the first part of the chapter. Adonai wanted to deliver His people, and He was entirely able to do so.

28 Haven’t you known, haven’t you heard that the everlasting God, Adonai, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not grow tired or weary? His understanding cannot be fathomed.

Adonaidoes not grow tired or weary.  In the ancient world, the gods were viewed as having human weaknesses and often were inattentive or merely unaware of events that were taking place. One result of this was that the pantheon of gods were constantly outwitting or tricking each other. The gods were not indefatigable. They were in constant need of food, drink, and shelter. Humans were created to do the hard labor the gods preferred not to do. [1]

Adonai had the power and wisdom to bring about Y’hudah’s deliverance.

29 He invigorates the exhausted; he gives strength to the powerless. 30 Young men may grow tired and weary; even the fittest may stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength, they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running they won’t grow weary, when they are walking they won’t get tired. ~ Isaiah 40:27-31 (CJB)

Adonai not only had strength, but He distributed that strength to His people. The criterion for receiving Adonai’s power was not youth but trust. Those who trusted Adonai would have an unlimited source of strength.

Although I generally used the Complete Jewish Bible for my blog, I learned and memorized verse 31 in the New King James Version: Those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

I have been fascinated by Bald Eagles for most of my life. As an American, I am proud that Ben Franklin did not get his way when the Founding Fathers chose the Bald Eagle over Turkey as our national bird. There is just something majestic about the Bald Eagle that lifts my spirit to the heavenlies.


A portion of my eagle collection

I have numerous framed pictures, so many I no longer have wall space to display them. I love eagles! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing eagles around our house when we lived in Florida and on our trip last year to Alaska.

Isaiah 49:31 Tapestry

My favorite is this tapestry that hangs over our bed. You may be asking yourself why? Well, verse 31 got me interested, and in the early 1980’s I attended a conference at USC hosting an Episcopal Renewal weekend where I heard the Reverand Terry Fullam deliver his talk on eagles based on Proverbs 30:18-19. Three things are too wonderful for me, four beyond my knowledge — 19 the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the open sea, and the way of a man with a girl.

He used the way of an eagle in the sky to describe how we, as Believers in Yeshua, should live out or walk by soaring like an eagle.

Here is the link. It is a tad bit over an hour in length, but I highly recommend it to you.

In my next post, we learn of The Helper of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 41.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

 

Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 40:12-26

In my last post, we began to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part1 in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11. In this post, we continue to explore Comfort for Adonai’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26.

The series of rhetorical questions that follow in these verses have one intention – to demonstrate the uniqueness of the One True God. This assured Adonai’s people that God not only wanted to deliver them, but He was able to do so.

12 Who has counted the handfuls of water in the sea, measured off the sky with a ruler, gauged how much dust there is on the earth, weighed the mountains on scales, or the hills in a balance?

Adonai is in control and knows everything about His creation, both heavens, and earth. Unlike the gods of the surrounding nations that were identified with aspects of nature (Ba’al was the god of storm, thunder, and lightning), Yeshua is not only a gentle Shepherd but also the powerful Creator. The picture here is one of Him pouring the water of the oceans of the world out of His hand. Three-quarters of our world is water. There is so much water on this planet that if it were flattened out, the entire earth would be under 1.5 miles of water. And yet the Lord measures all of that water with His hand. Adonai holds the heavens with His hand. The fact that it would take millions of light-years to cross our galaxy alone means that Adonai’s ruler is humongous. Thirty thousand cubic tons of cosmic dust fall to our planet each year. And the Lord measures it all. [1]

13 Who has measured the Spirit of Adonai? Who has been His counselor, instructing Him? 14 Whom did He consult, to gain understanding? Who taught Him how to judge, taught Him what He needed to know, showed Him how to discern?

Who counsels this One who measures the seas with His palm, who holds the heavens in His hand, who weighs mountains? Do you ever try to counsel the Lord in your prayer – advising Him about what should happen, how He should work, or what He should do? The best way to pray is to cast our cares upon Him and to share our burdens with Him, but then to say, “Lord, Your will be done because You know best.”

Adonai does not need a teacher. He is inherently wise and advises others (see Job 38:1-42:5).

15 The nations are like a drop in a bucket; they count like a grain of dust on the scales. The islands weigh as little as specks of dust.

The dust of the earth was used to express shame, smallness, and insignificance in the Tanakh. In this passage, the dust of the nations makes no significant difference in the scales.

16 The L’vanon would not suffice for fuel or its animals be enough for burnt offerings.

The Isra’eli considered that the land with magnificent forests and most varied animal life was L’vanon. In addition to supplying lumber for the temple of Shlomo, the cedars of L’vanon provided barges for Egypt and ships for Tzor.

17 Before Him, all the nations are like nothing. He regards them as less than nothing.

Bavel must have seemed invulnerable once Y’hudah suffered defeat by the Bavelim and her leaders were carted off into exile; but no human power, not even Bavel, could compare with Adonai. The message is that Adonai could and would deliver Y’hudah from captivity in Bavel.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God? By what standard will you evaluate Him? 19 An image made by a craftsman, which a goldsmith overlays with gold, for which he then casts silver chains?

Images in the ancient Near East were either cast or carved. Here, the reference is clearly to cast images. These would have been anywhere from four to ten inches high. Thousands of idols throughout the Near East have been uncovered by archaeologists. [2]

20 A man too poor to afford an offering chooses a piece of wood that won’t rot, then seeks out a skilled artisan to prepare an image that won’t fall over.21 Don’t you know? Don’t you hear? Haven’t you been told from the start? Don’t you understand how the earth is set up? 22 He who sits above the circle of the earth – for whom its inhabitants appear like grasshoppers – stretches out the heavens like a curtain, spreads them out like a tent to live in.

The picture of the universe described here is the prevailing view of the cosmos in the ancient Near East. The sky was a dome that arched over the disk of the earth, which sat on top of an ancient ocean. Under the sea was the netherworld, virtually a mirror image of the space above the earth. Thus, the entire universe was an enormous sphere, cut in the center by the earth. Nevertheless, here it is the earth itself that is described as circular. [3]

23 He reduces princes to nothing, the rulers of the earth to emptiness.

Adonai warns us not to put too much stock in leaders and judges. Don’t build your life hoping you’ll find a politician, judge, or Supreme Court nominee who is perfect and flawless. It won’t happen.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely their stem taken root in the ground, when He blows on them, they dry up, and the whirlwind carries them off like straw.

Recapping the previous verses, Adonai is not only superior to the gods of the nations; He is far above the rulers of the countries as well. He is the ultimate ruler. His throne is not on earth, but above the circle of the earth. Those gods are no match for Adonai.

25 “With whom, then, will you compare Me? With whom am I equal?” asks the Holy One. 26 Turn your eyes to the heavens! See who created these things! He brings out the army of them in sequence, summoning each by name. Through His great might and His massive strength, not one of them, is missing. ~ Isaiah 40:12-26 (CJB)

Nothing compares to Adonai. The religions of the ancient Near East believed the stars were gods. Y’hudah’s doctrine asserted that Adonai created the stars. The fact that He knew them by name indicates that they were His creation and they were protected by His power.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 40:27-31.

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[1] Statistics taken from Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

[2] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[3] Ibid.

Comfort for God’s People ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 40:1-11

In my last post, we learned about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8. In this post, we begin to explore Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.

In chapters 1 through 39, we’ve seen Adonai as sovereign sitting on the throne. In chapters 40 through 66, however, we see Adonai as Savior, hanging on the Execution Stake. In chapters 1 through 39, we saw the law of Adonai pointedly proclaimed. The first section dealt with the judgment from Adonai. The second deals with the joy of Adonai.

1 “Comfort and keep comforting my people,” says your God.

Though the hearer of Adonai’s words are not here specified, it is best to see these words as being directed to the prophet Yesha’yahu, who was commanded to bring words of comfort rather than judgment to Adonai’s people. The words address the prophet as if he were living in the time of the future exile of Y’hudah to Bavel. Adonai anticipated the questions that His people would have as they experienced His judgment.

Many people call this section the Gospel according to Yesha’yahu. It begins with these words, which, in a sense, introduce the Gospel story because we hear Yochanan the Immerser, in introducing Yeshua, quote this particular chapter. After thirty-nine chapters of Adonai convicting His people, He now begins to comfort them.

2 “Tell Yerushalayim to take heart; proclaim to her that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off, that she has received at the hand of Adonai double for all her sins.”

How was Yesha’yahu to comfort Adonai’s people? First, he was to tell the nation that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off. How are we to comfort others? By telling people that troubles are coming to an end, that life is short, that life goes fast, that Yeshua is coming back.

3 A voice cries out: “Clear a road through the desert for Adonai! Level a highway in the ‘Aravah for our God! 4 Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill lowered, the bumpy places made level and the crags become a plain.

Messengers (A voice cries out) were well known in the ancient Near Eastern world. They played an essential role as the bearers of political and civic news to the inhabitants of a city. Virtually every town had a messenger who announced important news to the inhabitants. Foreign invaders often sent a herald to a town to discuss terms with those remaining in the city.

The roads of the ancient Near East were for the most part unpaved. Although unpaved, those intended for wheeled transport had to be staked out, leveled and consistently maintained. However, very few texts describe the construction and maintenance of these roads. Roads for heavy transport were somewhat rare and were primarily along the trade routes. [1]

This is the essence of ministry for you and me as well. We are not to draw attention to ourselves, but rather we are to prepare the way for Yeshua. We can be like Yochanan. We can share Yeshua, preparing a way for Him.

5 Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed; all humankind together will see it, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”

Sin had broken the fellowship between Adonai and His people, but Yesha’yahu looked beyond their punishment to the return of the glory of Adonai.

6 A voice says, “Proclaim!” And I answer, “What should I proclaim?” “All humanity is merely grass, all its kindness like wildflowers: 7 the grass dries up, the flower fades, when a wind from Adonai blows on it. Surely the people are grass! 8 The grass dries up, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand forever.”

The awareness of fleeting human mortality is not exclusive to ancient Isra’el. The concept of forever in the ancient Near East connotated continuous and permanent time rather than endless time. In contrast to the withering grass and fading flower, the Word of our God stands forever. His promise that He will never leave you, that He is going to finish the work He began in you, that He’s coming back for you will never change.

9 You who bring good news to Tziyon, get yourself up on a high mountain; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim, cry out at the top of your voice! Don’t be afraid to shout out loud! Say to the cities of Y’hudah, “Here is your God!

If you want a life of purpose and substance, do the work of an evangelist. Lift up your voice and tell people to behold the One who created them, who loves them, who has a plan and a purpose for them. Say to those around you, “Here is your God!

10 Here comes Adonai Elohim with power, and His arm will rule for Him. Look! His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him.11 He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs with his arm, carrying them against his chest, gently leading the mother sheep.” ~ Isaiah 40:1-11 (CJB)

In Scripture and throughout the ancient Near East, the shepherd was a familiar image for a ruler. Y’hudah had been subject to weak and evil shepherds or kings, but the nation would once again have a strong and compassionate shepherd. This speaks, of course, of Yeshua, our Shepherd. I’m so glad it is the weakest of us that He carries closest to His heart and that it is those of us who are bogged down with cares or concerns that He gently leads.

In my next post, we continue to learn about Comfort for God’s People ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Envoys from Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 39:1-8

In my last post, we learned about Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22. In this post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8.

1 M’rodakh-Bal’adan the son of Bal’adan, king of Bavel, heard that Hizkiyahu had been ill and had recovered, so he sent a letter and a gift to him.

Following the destruction of Ashur, Bavel emerges as the new world power. This is an important transition because it will be Bavel who will ultimately carry the Jews into captivity. M’rodakh-Bal’adan was king of Bavel, at this time a province of the Ashurim Empire. In 703 BCE, Sancheriv, to whom M’rodakh-Bal’adan had been a constant irritant looking for opportunities to revolt, removed him. Even after his removal from Bavel, M’rodakh-Bal’adan went to Elam and continued to plot against Ashur until his death. The letters and a gift that he sent to Hizkiyahu were part of a strategy to get Hizkiyahu to join with him in a rebellious alliance.

2 Hizkiyahu was pleased with the gifts and showed the messengers all of the building where he kept his treasures, including the silver, gold, spices and precious oils; also all of the building where he kept his armor; and everything in his treasury — there was nothing in his palace or in his entire domain that Hizkiyahu did not show them.

Hizkiyahu responded positively to M’rodakh-Bal’adan, showing him the wealth of his kingdom as well as the strength of his armaments. What in the world was Hizkiyahu thinking? Even I know that was a pretty dumb thing to do. Let’s read on and learn just how tragic it proved to be.

3 Then Yesha‘yahu the prophet came to King Hizkiyahu and asked him, “What did these men say? Where did they come from?” Hizkiyahu answered, “They came to me from a distant country, Bavel.” 4 Yesha‘yahu asked, “What have they seen in your palace?” “They have seen everything in my palace,” said Hizkiyahu. “There isn’t a thing among my treasures that I haven’t shown them.”

In Luke 2:19,51, when Miryam, mother of Yeshua, was given revelation and insight, she treasured those things in her heart. If Adonai gives you treasured revelation, you don’t need to spout it out to everyone immediately. If Adonai gives you insight and glorious truths, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to treasure them in your heart.

5 Yesha‘yahu said to Hizkiyahu, “Hear what Adonai-Tzva’ot says: 6 ‘The day will come when everything in your palace, along with everything your ancestors stored up until today, will be carried off to Bavel. Nothing will be left,’ says Adonai. 7 ‘They will carry off some of your descendants, your own offspring; and they will be made eunuchs serving in the palace of the king of Bavel.”

Adonai through the prophet Yesah’yahu expressed his great displeasure with Hizkiyahu. The king’s actions demonstrated that he was trusting foreign nations like Bavel for his protection rather than Adonai. Adonai’s punishment would take away the wealth that Hizkiyahu had been showing off to M’rodakh-Bal’adan. Another part of the punishment was that some of the king’s descendants would be taken away and would become eunuchs in Bavel. Bavelim records indicate that a number of the Bavelim king’s advisers were eunuchs.

8 Hizkiyahu said to Yesha‘yahu, “The word of Adonai which you have just told me is good”; because he thought, “At least peace and truth will continue during my lifetime.” ~ Isaiah 39:1-8 (CJB)

The announced punishment implied that it would happen in a future generation. Hizkiyahu’s selfish relief does not speak well for him. The reference likely refers to the turbulent end of the Davidic dynasty in Y’hudah and specifically to the events surrounding the exile and removal of the last king, Tzidkiyahu (see 2 Kings 25:7).

In my next post, we begin to learn about Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.

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Hizkiyahu’s Poem ~ Yesha’hayu 38:9-22

In my last post, we learned of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8. In this post, we examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.

9 After Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah had been ill and had recovered, he wrote the following:

The introduction to Hizkiyahu’s poem states that it was written after he had been sick and had recovered. In this respect, the poem is like the thanksgiving songs in Psalms. In the first part of this poem, Hizkiyahu spoke as if he were going to die, but from the second half of the poem, it is clear that it was written after he was healed.

10 “I once said: ‘In the prime of life I am going off to the gates of Sh’ol. I am being deprived of living out the full span of my life.’

Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the ancient concept of an underworld.

11 “I said, ‘I will never again see Yah, Yah in the land of the living; I will look on human beings no more or be with those who live in this world.

Hizkiyahu does not view Yah (a name of God) as an afterlife experience. The land of the living refers to this world and leaves open the question about Hizkiyahu’s belief in the afterlife.

12 My home is uprooted and taken away from me like a shepherd’s tent. Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom. Between day and night, you could finish me off. 13 I try to be strong like a lion till morning, but still, my illness breaks all my bones – between day and night you could finish me off.

This verse has several metaphors. The shepherd frequently moved from place to place and therefore could break camp quickly. The weaver working on a horizontal loom had the threads and material stretched on bars between stakes. When it had to be moved, the bars could be pulled off the stakes and rolled up. When the weaver finished a piece of cloth, the threads connecting the material to the loom had to be cut. The weaving of Hizkiyahu’s life had been completed, and he was now to be cut loose from the land of the living.

14 I make little chattering sounds like a swallow; I moan aloud like a dove, My eyes are weary with looking upward. Adonai, I am overwhelmed; guarantee my life!’

Hizkiyahu moans sound like the chirping of a bird.

15 “What is there that I can say? He has spoken to me and acted! I will go humbly all my years, remembering how bitter I was. 16 Adonai, by these things people live; in all these is the life of my spirit. You’re restoring my health and giving me life –

God had spoken, and King Hizkiyahu had been delivered from premature death.

In the fifteen additional years, he was given, Hizkiyahu made two terrible mistakes. In addition to providing the Bavelim reason to attack Y’hudah (see 39:5-8), he fathered a son named Manasseh – the worst king in Y’hudah‘s history. It was Manasseh who finally brought down the judgment of God upon Y’hudah.

I believe Hizkiyahu’s story is recorded to show us that there is both a perfect and permissible will of God. Therefore, the best way to pray is to pray as Yeshua did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, let not my will but yours be done.” ~ Luke 22:42 (CJB)

17 though instead of peace, I felt very bitter. You desired my life and preserved it from the nothingness pit; for you threw all my sins behind your back.

Hizkiyahu‘s bitterness refers back to his mournful reaction to news of his impending death. This bitterness is what led him to seek God in prayer and ultimately to God’s relenting from His death sentence. The king referred to the grave as the nothingness pit. After all, in the grave, the body rots and turns to dust.

18 “Sh’ol cannot thank you; death cannot praise you; those descending to the pit cannot hope for your truth.

Here Sh’ol and death are personified. The implication, as made clear by the phrase those descending to the pit, is that the dead can no longer have hope or praise God.

19 The living, the living – they can thank you, as I do today; fathers will make their children know about your faithfulness.

Adonai benefits from keeping His saints alive. The living can praise Him, and they can share that praise with the following generations.

20 Adonai is ready to save me; hence, we will make our stringed instruments sound all the days of our life in the house of Adonai.”

Hizkiyahu sang this song of deliverance after being given fifteen additional years to live on earth. We have been given not fifteen years, but all of eternity – not to live on earth, but eternal life with Yeshua heaven. How much more significant, then, should our song of deliverance be!

21 Then Yesha‘yahu said, “Have them take a fig-plaster and apply it to the inflammation, and he will recover.” 22 Hizkiyahu asked, “What sign will there be that I will be able to go up to the house of Adonai?” ~ Isaiah 38:9-22 (CJB)

These last two verses are an appendix that fills in some facts from earlier in the story. Apparently, Hizkiyahu had a skin disease, perhaps a boil that was causing his body temperature to rise dangerously. Here, we see that, while God performed the miracle of moving the clock backward, He also used a common medicinal substance of the day to heal Hizkiyahu. Medicine doesn’t heal. Miracles don’t heal. Our immune systems don’t heal. It is God who heals. And He can use medicine, miracles, our bodies, or a combination of all three to do His will.

In my next post, we learn about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39.

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