Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 28:14-29

In my last post, we explore a series of Woes, beginning with Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 28:1-13. In this post, we move on to Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 28:14-29.

The prophecy now shifts its focus from the northern kingdom to the southern.

14 So listen to the word of Adonai, you scoffers, composing taunts for this people in Yerushalayim:

Scoffers were those who did not fear Adonai and who made fun of those who did (see Proverbs 1:22; 9:7-8,12; 13:1).

15 Because you said, “We made a covenant with death, we made a contract with Sh’ol. When the raging flood passes through, it will not touch us. For we have made lies our refuge and hid ourselves in falsehoods”-

The rulers of Y’hudah had entered a dangerous agreement. The agreement is said to be with death and Sh’ol. Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the underworld. Yesha’yahu probably referred to treaties with foreign nations to try to keep Ashur from defeating them.

16 therefore here is what Adonai Elohim says: “Look, I am laying in Tziyon a tested stone, a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation-stone; he who trusts will not rush here and there.

But it was not foreign alliances that made Y’hudah strong. It was their relationship with Adonai. He was the One who had built the cornerstone and foundation. Kefa declares that this verse speaks of Yeshua: For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” ~ 1 Kefa 2:6 (NIV)

There’s a great temptation for us to want some quick fix, some program, some plan to see us through, to help us out. “Lord,” we cry, “show us the way.” And Yeshua answers, “It’s not something I give to you. It’s Me. I Am the Way.”

17 I will make justice the plumb line and righteousness the plumb-bob; hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, water will overflow the hiding place,

Adonai’s standards are justice and righteousness – fair treatment of fellow citizens and trusting obedience. Both were lacking in Y’hudah.

18 your covenant with death will be annulled, and your contract with Sh’ol will not stand. When the raging flood passes through, you will be trampled down by it.

The dark pact with death and Sh’ol is doomed to failure.

19 As often as it passes through, it will take you, for it will pass through every morning, day after day, night after night; understanding the message will be sheer terror.” 20 For, [as the saying goes,] “The bed is too short for a person to stretch, and the blanket too narrow [to protect him from cold] even if he crams himself in.”

The arrangements that Y’hudah had made to protect itself against Ashur were inadequate, like a bed that was too short. The same is still valid. If you’re making finances, friends, or philosophy your rest and security, you’re going to be short-sheeted because it won’t be as secure as you think. “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28 (CJB). That’s why I became a Believer. All other beds are too short.

21 For Adonai will arise, as at Mount P’ratzim, and storm with rage, as in the Giv‘on Valley; so He can do His deed, His strange deed, and perform His task, His alien task.

Mount P’ratzim, known as Ba’al P’ratzim in 2 Samuel 5:18-20, commands the heights above the Valley of Refa’im (Joshua 15:8). Although its exact location is unknown, the text suggests that it is just northwest of Beitlechem, near Yerushalayim. At P’ratzim, Adonai gave David a great victory over the Philistines. At the Valley of Gi’von, Adonai used hailstones to allow Y’hoshua to defeat the southern coalition of Kena’ani city-states (Joshua 10:11). Though this prophecy and many of Yesha’yahu’s others describe Adonai’s violent judgment against the nations, here it is called strange and alien. It was not the typical, ordinary, hoped-for mode of relationship, particularly with His covenant people.

22 Therefore, now, stop your scoffing, or your bonds will be further tightened; for I have heard from Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot that destruction is decreed for the whole land.

Though Adonai’s judgment against the scoffing leaders of Y’hudah is absolute, their future behavior will determine whether it becomes even worse (your bonds will be further tightened).

 

In verses 23-29, Yesha’yahu drew an analogy between a farmer’s task and Adonai’s treatment of Y’hudah. Good results come from different actions and different methods applied at different times. The same thing is true spiritually. We must handle situations with different people carefully – not depending on programs or formulas, but accurately discerning what Adonai would have for us in the tilling of the soil, in the planting of the seed, and in the gathering of the harvest He promised is sure to come. The passage has the feel of a parable.

23 Listen and hear my voice; pay attention, and hear what I say: 24 Does a farmer sowing keep plowing forever? Does he never stop breaking up and harrowing his land? 25 No – when he finishes leveling it, he scatters his dill-seed, sows his cumin, puts wheat in rows, barley where it belongs, and plants buckwheat around the edges; 26 because his Adonai has taught him this, has given him instruction.

Two sowing strategies are employed here. Dill-seed and cumin were broadcast by hand. This was done in the freshly plowed furrows after the first rains. Wheat, barley, and buckwheat had to be handled more carefully to avoid mixing the seed. The farmer does not just keep plowing; he also sows seed. He places the various seeds in their separate places. This order comes from Adonai Himself.

27 Dill must not be threshed with a sledge or cartwheels driven over cumin; rather, dill one beats with a stick and cumin with a flail.

Each plant has its proper treatment. The analogy may point to the fact that Adonai exercises His judgment against sinners in a way that is appropriate to their specific situation.

28 When crushing grain for bread, one doesn’t thresh it forever; one drives the horse and cartwheels over it but doesn’t crush it to powder. 29 This too comes from Adonai-Tzva’ot — his counsel is wonderful, his wisdom great. ~ Isaiah 28:14-29 (CJB)

No bread can be made if the farmer performs only one of his tasks. Therefore, it is necessary to bring the harvested grain to the threshing floor, where it can be crushed and further by running a threshing-sled over it. The cartwheels mentioned here was a typical wooden device with two or more rows of wheels affixed. Once the grain had been separated from the stalks, it had to be winnowed, sieved and then given to the women to be crushed on grinding stones to make the fine flour used for baking.

In my next post, we explore the Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 29:1-12.

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Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 28:1-13

In my last post, we completed exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 in Yesha’yahu 27:1-13. In this post, we move on to more woes over the next six chapters starting with Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 28:1-13.

As mentioned above this is the first woe in chapters 28-33 (29:1,15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1). The effect of the prophecy is to announce, in this case, the northern kingdom of Isra’el (called by the name of its major tribe Efrayim), is as good as dead. Efrayim‘s in trouble. Once a beautiful flower, now in Yesha’yahu’s day, they were fading fast. They were proud and pompous no doubt due in part to the fact that they were overcome with wine.

1 Woe to the haughty crown of Efrayim’s drunks, to the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley belonging to people overcome by wine!

The haughty crown of Efrayim may be a reference to it’s capital city Samaria, which sat atop a large hill overlooking the area.

Garland worn by revelers is usually a sign of joy and happiness. In this instance, however, it is a fading flower as the party turns sour and drunkenness presages the destruction of the city of Samaria by the Ashurim in 722 BCE.

2 Adonai has someone strong and powerful. He comes like a hailstorm, a destructive tempest, like a flood of water, rushing, overwhelming; with his hand, he hurls them to the ground.

Someone seems to be a theophany. A theophany is a visible manifestation of Adonai to humankind. To indicate the power of Adonai, this encounter generally includes such things as smoke and fire, mighty winds and storms, and earthquakes.

3 The haughty crown of Efrayim’s drunks is trampled underfoot; 4 and the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley, is like the first ripe fig of summer— whoever sees it picks and eats it.

Appealing again to the images of a haughty crown and fading flower from verse 1, Yesha’yahu describes the devastating punishment coming on Efrayim. He adds the picture of the first ripe fig ready to be plucked and devoured.

An Ashurim invasion was imminent. It was ominous. Were Adonai’s people praying? Doubtful. Instead, they were partying.

5 On that day, Adonai-Tzva’ot will be a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of His people. 6 He will also be a spirit of justice for whoever sits as a judge, and a source of strength for those repelling enemy attacks at the gate.

Recall that on that day implies a later time. While the glorious crown of Efrayim will be trampled underfoot, Adonai Himself will become a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of His people. Inspired by Adonai, judges will again be just, and soldiers will still have the strength to defend their city.

While verses 1-6 criticize the nobility for their drunken behavior, the following section focuses on the priests and prophets.

7 But there are others reeling from wine, staggering about because of strong liquor; cohen and prophet reel from strong liquor, they are confused by wine. Led astray by strong liquor, they err in their visions and stumble when judging. 8 All tables are covered with vomit and feces; not a single place is clean.

The cohen and prophet were crucial to the spiritual leadership of the nation, but here they had clouded their thought with drinks. They had drunk so much alcohol that their tables are covered with vomit and feces. I must confess that is the first time that I have spotted feces mentioned in Scripture. Most English translations use filthiness. However, according to Strong’s, the Hebrew word can also be translated as dung. So, there’s that.

9 Can no one be taught anything? Can no one understand the message? Must one teach barely weaned toddlers, babies just taken from the breast, 10 so that [one has to use nursery rhymes]? — Tzav la-tzav, tzav la-tzav, kav la-kav, kav la-kav z‘eir sham, z‘eir sham [Precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line, a little here, a little there].

These decadent leaders were acting as if they were teaching babies and not adults. The content of their teaching was mocked. What they said was repetitive and meaningless.

In 2 Timothy 4:3, we read that in the last days, Believers will have itching ears, wanting to hear new doctrine. As a safeguard against strange doctrine that will lead us into error, we must study the Word line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little, there a little, we must learn the Word for ourselves.

11 So with stammering lips, in a foreign accent, [Adonai] will speak to this people.

During this indictment against people who were no longer interested in learning the Word, Adonai said, “I’m going to speak to them through a people of stammering lips and a foreign tongue.” Who would these people be? The Ashurim. If Isra’el wouldn’t learn in the Word, she’d learn in war.

In the Book of Acts 2:4-6, we see an intriguing parallel to this verse. In Yesha’yahu’s day, Adonai used foreigners to speak to His people. On Shavuot (Pentecost), He would use His people to speak to foreigners.

12 He once told this people, “It’s time to rest, the exhausted can rest, now you can relax”- but they wouldn’t listen. 13 So now the word of Adonai for them comes “precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line, a little here, a little there,” so that when they walk, they stumble backward, and are broken, trapped and captured! ~ Isaiah 28:1-13 (CJB)

In my next post, we conclude the Woe of Efrayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 28:14-29.

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The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 ~ Yesha’yahu 27:1-13

In my last post, we continued exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 5 in Yesha’yahu 26:11-21. In this post, we conclude our series on The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 in Yesha’yahu 27:1-13.

1 On that day, Adonai, with his great, strong, relentless sword, will punish Livyatan the fleeing serpent, the twisting serpent Livyatan; he will slay the sea monster.

Several other passages in the Tanakh mention Livyatan, but most of them, like Psalm 74:14 and Job 41:1-34, speak in terms of God’s creative act that established control over watery chaos (personified by the sea serpent). Livyatan was a sea monster, representing chaos and evil in this verse. According to Revelation 13:1, this is a reference to the antichrist.

In verses 2-6, pleasant vineyard is a metaphor for God’s people. The poem has many contrasts with the vineyard song of 5:1-7. There the vineyard image is used to emphasize God’s judgment on sin; here, the vineyard image describes the restoration of His people after judgment.

2 On that day, a pleasant vineyard – sing about it! 3 “I, Adonai, guard it. Moment by moment, I water it. So that no harm will come to it, I guard it night and day. 4 I have no anger in me. If it gives me briars and thorns, then, as in war, I will trample it down and burn it up at once; 5 unless it takes hold of my strength, in order to make peace with me, yes, to make peace with me.”

In these verses, the briars and thorns seem to represent rebellion against God – the type of behavior that led to a judgment in the first place. The briars and thorns have two possible courses of action: they can experience the devastating punishment of God, or they can make peace with Him.

Many of us have the mistaken idea that God is really, really angry. All of the anger He rightly feels toward humanity, however, was poured out on Yeshua at Calvary. If we will just embrace and receive that, we can be at peace with God.

6 The time is coming when Ya‘akov will take root; Isra’el will bud and flower, and fill the whole world with a harvest.

Yesha’yahu saw a prosperous future for God’s people, one that would bring prosperity to the whole world (Genesis 12:1-3). We’re seeing this prophecy fulfilled even today, for Isra’el is the world’s third largest exporter of fruit and the fourth largest exporter of flowers. [1]

7 [Adonai] will not strike Isra’el, as He did others who struck Isra’el; He will not kill them, as He did the others.

Adonai indeed will judge all His people, but He will not annihilate them as He will do with those whom He uses to punish them.

8 Your controversy with her is fully resolved by sending her [into exile]. He removes her with a rough gust of wind on a day when it’s blowing from the east.

Rather than annihilating His people, God will scatter them. The image of a rough gust of wind evokes the picture of chaff being blown away.

Verses 9-12 speak of the future restoration of Isra’el – when God gathers His people from their dispersion throughout the world.

9 So the iniquity of Ya‘akov is atoned for by this, and removing his sin produces this result: He chops up all the altar stones like chalk – sacred poles and sun-pillars stand no more.

Limestone is crushed to produce stones like chalk that can be used for mortar, as a liming agent in cesspools and to seal stone walls with a type of “whitewash.”Sacred poles refer to Asherah poles.

10 For the fortified city is alone, abandoned and deserted, like the desert. Calves graze and lie down there, stripping its branches bare. 11 When its harvest dries up, it is broken off; women come and set it on fire. For this is a people without understanding. Therefore, he who made them will not pity them, he who formed them will show them no mercy.

The fortified city, like the city of chaos and the lofty city, represents arrogant human evil. In the aftermath of God’s judgment, this city will become grazing land.

12 On that day, Adonai will beat out the grain between the Euphrates River and the Vadi of Egypt; and you will be gathered, one by one, people of Isra’el!

The Euphrates River and the Vadi of Egypt were the far northern and southern boundaries of the promised land. It appears that modern Isra’el has more territory to settle. The image of threshing grain is an image of refining judgment since the process separated the wheat from the chaff. But the aftermath of the punishment will bring a regathering of God’s dispersed people.

13 On that day a great shofar will sound. Those lost in the land of Ashur will come, also those scattered through the land of Egypt; and they will worship Adonai on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim. ~ Isaiah 27:1-13 (CJB)

Perhaps because of their use for signaling in battle, the blast of a great shofar became a familiar image used in eschatological and apocalyptic literature as a signal for the end time (see Zechariah 9:14 and Revelation 8:6-12). Here it awakens the exiles to the moment when they will return from Ashurim exile and from the places in Egypt where they have fled for refuge.

In my next post, we will begin another series of Woes in Yesha’hayu 28.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 5 ~ Yesha’yahu 26:11-21

In my last post, we continued exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 26:1-10. In this post, we move on to The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 5 in Yesha’yahu 26:11-21.

11 Adonai, You raised Your hand, but they still didn’t see. Yet with shame, they will see Your zeal for the people. Yes, fire will destroy your enemies.

Adonai’s upraised hand is an image of the imminent judgment against the wicked. Even though people seem to be blind to the grace and goodness of Adonai, Yesha’yahu prophesies that they’ll see. People will see His grace and goodness through their life as we continue to praise Him even while navigating trials and difficulties. The way Adonai strengthens you blesses you and stabilizes you can’t be denied.

12 Adonai, you will grant us peace; because all we have done, You have done for us.

Contrary to the fate of the wicked, Adonai’s righteous people will experience peace, not destruction. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact nature of the prophet’s reference to Adonai’s work, it certainly includes the punishment of the wicked.

When Yeshua declared, It is finished, (John 19:30) we are assured of peace as Believers and paid for it on the Execution Stake at Calvary.

13 Adonai our God, other lords besides you have ruled us, but only You do we invoke by name.

The faithful acknowledge that other lords have ruled over them. For the Isra’eli that would include the Ashurim and eventually the Bavelim and others. For ourselves, that would consist of our elected officials. However, for the faithful, there is only one true ruler – Adonai Himself.

14 The dead will not live again; the ghosts will not rise again; for You punished and destroyed them, wiped out all memory of them.

A contrast exists between this statement and verse 19. In this verse, the wicked dead stay dead. Adonai’s judgment will not be reversed. What separates Yeshua from all other gods? All other gods are dead. The uniqueness of Yeshua is based upon the fact that He’s alive. He verified His deity by His Resurrection. He proved His claims by coming out of the grave.

15 You enlarged the nation, Adonai, You enlarged the nation; and thus You glorified Yourself; You extended all the frontiers of the country.

In contrast to the wicked whom He punishes, Adonai blesses the righteous. In this verse, His blessing takes the form of an expanded land, evoking the memory that Adonai promised Avraham his descendants would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2).

16 Adonai, when they were troubled, they sought You. When you chastened them, they poured out a silent prayer. 17 As a pregnant woman about to give birth cries out and writhes in her labor pains, so we have been at your presence, Adonai – 18 we have been pregnant and been in pain. But we, as it were, have given birth to wind; we have not brought salvation to the land, and those inhabiting the world have not come to life.

Turning from the future back to the present, Adonai’s people experienced suffering similar to the excruciating pain of a woman in labor. A pregnant woman goes through that pain with a positive result at the end – a baby.

It’s when we’re hurting that we most often find ourselves praying. We tend to avoid pain at any price. In reality, our Father usually allows us to go through painful situations because it is in those times that we cry out to Him. Prayerlessness is often the result of painlessness. If we never have pain, we will be hampered in our ability to pray.

However, Adonai’s people went through the pain and simply passed gas (gave birth to wind). There was no deliverance, no victory over enemies.

19 Your dead will live, my corpse will rise; awake, and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew is like the morning dew, and the earth will bring the ghosts to life.

Only in Daniel 12:2 does the Tanakh refer to bodily resurrection. In contrast to the wicked who die and stay dead (v. 14), Adonai’s people will live again. Virtually all scholars say this is a reference to what took place in Matthew 27 when, following the death of Yeshua on the execution stake, graves were opened, and many people in Jerusalem who had previously died were resurrected. It is a beautiful, prophetic picture of what will one day happen to all believers.

The morning dew is an image of freshness and renewal.

20 Come, my people, enter your rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourselves for a little while until the wrath is past. 21 For see! Adonai emerges from His place to punish those on earth for their sin. Then the earth will reveal the blood shed on it and no longer conceal its slain. ~ Isaiah 26:11-21 (CJB)

The call to hide during the judgment is reminiscent of the first Passover when Adonai’s people stayed in their homes while Adonai took the lives of the Egyptian firstborn (Exodus 12).

In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 in Yesha’yahu 27.

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The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 4 ~ Yesha’yahu 26:1-10

In my last post, we continued exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 25:1-12. In this post, we move on to The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 26:1-10.

In chapter 26, we come to the second of a trilogy of chapters that speak of the coming kingdom. Our passage is a song to be sung in the Age of the Kingdom, celebrating God’s grace.

1 On that day this song will be sung in the land of Y’hudah: “We have a strong city! He has built walls and ramparts for our safety.

The strong city contrasts with the city of chaos we have looked at previously. The city of chaos represented human evil and has walls that crumble, but the strong city with its walls and ramparts is defined by salvation.

2 Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, a nation that keeps faith!

The righteous nation includes faithful Isra’eli but might also suggest other peoples as well, since the defining characteristic of the nation is that it remains committed to God and His law. Could that possibly include the United States of America?

3 “A person whose desire rests on You, You preserve in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in Adonai forever, because in Yah Adonai is a Rock of Ages.”

Trust is the defining trait of those who depend on Yah Adonai (literally God the Lord), not on other nations. The image of the everlasting Rock of Ages points to God’s persistent protection of His people. The rock is one in which the faithful can find shelter (see Exodus 33:22). Prudential Life Insurance promises a piece of the rock, but Yeshua promises something infinitely better: peace from the Rock of Ages.

5 For he has humbled those in high places, leveling the lofty city, leveling it to the ground, laying it in the dust.

The lofty city, like the city of chaos, represents the proud who do not humble themselves before God. Though it is called lofty, God can defeat this city in spite of its pretensions.

6 It is trampled underfoot by the feet of the poor, by the footsteps of the needy.

Thanks to God’s intervention, the humble poor and needy will trample on the arrogant.

7 The way of the righteous is level; Righteous One, you smooth the path for the righteous.

The image of the path is drawn from wisdom literature (Proverbs 1-9) and stands for the course of a person’s life. A level or smooth path is a life with few problems (Hebrews 12:13).

Following the way of Your judgments, we put our hope in You. The desire of all our soul is to remember You and Your name. My soul desires You at night, my spirit in me seeks You at dawn; for when your judgments are here on earth, the people in the world learn what righteousness is.

Yesha’yahu speaks on behalf of himself and the righteous as he expressed a longing for God and specifically for God’s coming judgment on the wicked. But even in the context of passionate desire for God, they did not demand His actions but expressed confidence.

America spends over one billion dollars a year on sleeping aids. And yet there is a better way. That is, in the evening hours when you wake up or can’t fall asleep, you have an excellent opportunity to spend time with the Lord. If you worship and express your heart to Him in those late-night or early morning hours, you’ll be amazed at how rich and unique it can be. [1]

10 Even if pity is shown to the wicked, he still doesn’t learn what righteousness is. In a land of uprightness, he will still act wrongly and fail to see the majesty of Adonai. ~ Isaiah 26:1-10 (CJB)

Even though God’s grace is extended to the wicked, they will continue in frivolity. God is very much justified in pouring out wrath in the Tribulation period. For thousands of years, God has been so gracious to humanity -blessing those who curse His name, providing for those who deny His existence, loving people who couldn’t care less about Him.

In my next post, we will continue to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 5 in Yesha’yahu 26:11-21.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 3 ~Yesha’yahu 25:1-12

In my last post, we continued exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 24:13-23. In this post, we move on to The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 25:1-12.

1 Adonai, you are my God. I exalt you; I praise your name. For you have accomplished marvels, [fulfilled] ancient plans faithfully and truly.

Yesha’yahu is the first-person speaker (I) who praises God for His plan that includes judgment. His judgment is an example of perfect faithfulness because His covenant promised that punishment would follow rebellion.

2 For you have made a city a heap of stones, turned a fortified city into rubble, made the foreigners’ fortress a city that will never be rebuilt.

The city described in this and the following verses is the same as the city of chaos of Yesha’yahu 24:10. It is not a specific place but a city that represents human evil.

3 Therefore mighty peoples glorify you; the city of ruthless nations fears you.

Because of God’s judgment of sin, even nations who are violent will fear Him. Those who survive the Tribulation will, at last, realize Yeshua is Lord, and they’ll be saved. Here, they burst forth into praise because praise is the language of the kingdom.

I wonder when Iran, Russia, and China will be able to fulfill this prophecy?

4 For you have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, shelter from the storm, shade from the heat – for the blast from the ruthless was like a storm that could destroy a wall. 5 Like desert heat, you subdue the foreigners’ uproar; like heat subdued by a cloud’s shadow, the song of the ruthless dies away.

The poor and the needy are the antitheses of the powerful and proud inhabitants of the city that God has judged. God is their protection, not city walls or weapons. God’s protection of the humble poor is illustrated by the image of refuge from the rain and a shade from the heat. Violent people are the rain and the heat from which God protects the vulnerable.

6 On this mountain, Adonai-Tzva’ot will make for all peoples a feast of rich food and superb wines, delicious, rich food and superb, elegant wines.

Feasting follows victory, and the prepares a beautiful feast for His people. The mountain refers to the mountain of God’s presence Tziyon (Yerushalayim).

7 On this mountain He will destroy the veil which covers the face of all peoples, the veil enshrouding all the nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever. Adonai Elohim will wipe away the tears from every face, and He will remove from all the earth the disgrace His people suffer. For Adonai has spoken.

In the Tanakh, death is occasionally personified (see Hosea13:14). Here it is Adonai Elohim who swallows death, and the setting is political (nations) not agricultural. It is “the ruthless,” devouring empire that threatens destruction to the countries who are being destroyed so that the death masks are removed from those who have been so close to extinction.

9 On that day they will say, “See! This is our God! We waited for him to save us. This is Adonai; we put our hope in him. We are full of joy, so glad he saved us!”

As we have learned in previous posts, on that day refers to a future date. Save us indicates rescue from powerful, evil enemies.

10 For on this mountain the hand of Adonai will rest. But Mo’av will be trampled down where they are, like straw trampled into a pile of manure.

The mountain is where God will make His presence known – Tziyon. Up to this point, the nations have been referred to generically. Now Mo’av (modern-day Jordan), a small country east of the Dead Sea, becomes the subject of the prophecy. Mo’av is a prime example of the sinful pride of the nations.

11 They will spread out their hands in Mo’av, like a swimmer using his hands to tread water; but their pride will be humbled and sunk, no matter how clever the strokes of their hands.

Continuing the image from the previous verse, Yesha’yahu described Mo’av is just treading water.

12 Your high, fortified walls He will level, strike to the ground, lay in the dust. ~ Isaiah 25:1-12 (CJB)

As Sha’ul says, now we see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), but when we see Yeshua face to face, we’ll say, “We have waited for Him – and here He is. This is our God!” How I look forward to moving into the kingdom and into eternity! How our hearts crave eternity. Don’t give up, dear saints. Don’t live for this planet. Keep your hearts and minds on things above. We’re almost there! Come, Lord Yeshua!!

In my next post, we will continue to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Pat 4 in Yesha’yahu 26.

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The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 24:13-23

In my last post, we began to learn about The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 24:1-12. In this post, we continue exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 24:13-23.

13 Around the earth, among the peoples, it will be as when beating an olive tree, as when gleaning the grapes at the end of the harvest.

A harvested olive tree or a grapevine after the harvest had only a few olives or grapes. So, the cities of the nations will have just a few people left when God’s judgment falls.

14 They lift their voices, singing for joy, shouting from the west to honor Adonai. 15 So in the east, honor Adonai; in the coastlands, honor the name of Adonai, the God of Isra’el. 16 From the farthest part of the earth, we have heard them sing, “Glory to the Righteous One!” But, I say, I’m wasting away, I am wasting away! Woe to me! Traitors betray! Oh, how the traitors betray and betray!

As seen throughout Scripture, even in judgment, God shows mercy, for here, a remnant is saved who will praise Him both for His mercy and His majesty. The remnant celebrated the downfall of the wicked described in the previous verses.

Yesha’yahu (the first-person speaker in verse 16b) does not join the chorus of celebration. Perhaps he was horrified by the destruction or, more likely, by the depth of the transgression of the nations.

17 Terror, pit, and trap are upon you, you who are living on earth. 18 He who flees at the sound of terror will fall into the pit. He who climbs up out of the pit will be caught in the trap. For the windows above have been opened, and the earth’s foundations shake.

The words terror, pit, and trap play on the similarity of sound of three words in Hebrew. They stand for the judgment that God has prepared for the sinful inhabitants of the earth. The open windows of the sky imply rain and suggest a devastating flood. The shaking foundations would be experienced as earthquakes.

So all-encompassing is this judgment that there is nowhere to hide.

19 The earth cracks and breaks open, the earth crumbles to pieces, the earth trembles and totters. 20 The earth staggers to and fro like a drunk, sways back and forth like a watchman’s shelter; its transgression weighs heavy upon it; it will fall and not rise again.

As you may have observed, a drunk cannot think or stand straight. This judgment is connected to rebellion against God by virtually all people on earth. Revelation 8 says even mountains will be cast into the sea.

21 When that day comes, Adonai will punish the armies of the high heaven on high and the kings of the earth here on earth.

The phrase when that day comes points to a future but unspecified time. God’s judgment is extensive. It covers not only the earth but also the host of heaven, a phrase that either indicates the stars or fallen angels.

22 They will be assembled like prisoners in a dungeon and shut up in prison to be punished many years.

Verses 21 and 22 refer to the rulers in high places – demonic spirits. As the Tribulation comes to an end, HaSatan and his demons will be cast into a pit for a thousand years. Then, following the thousand-year period of peace and prosperity when Yeshua reigns from Yerushalayim, God will loose HaSatan and his demons — giving them one last chance to deceive the people.

23 Then the moon will be confused and the sun ashamed, for Adonai-Tzva’ot will rule on Mount Tziyon and in Yerushalayim, with his glory manifest to the rulers of his people. ~ Isaiah 24:13-23 (CJB)

Even the moon and sun will pale in comparison with the brilliant light emanating from God as He exercises His sovereign rule from the temple.

In my next post, we will continue to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Pat 3 in Yesha’yahu 25:1-12.

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The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 24:1-12

In my last post, we completed our examination of A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-18. In this post, we begin to learn about The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 24:1-13.

Chapters 24 thru 27 deal with the time known as the Day of the Lord. It speaks of a time when the Lord will intervene in history in a way that will be obvious to all the world. Presently, the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways. That is, the kingdom of God – righteousness, peace, and joy – is within us (see Romans 14:17; Luke 17:21). But there’s coming a time when God will intervene physically. When His people are taken up, God’s wrath will come down, and for seven years, this world will experience the judgment of God.

Since this topic covers four chapters in Yesha’hayu, there will be multiple parts of this topic. Let’s begin our journey through Yesha’yahu’s revelation of that future time.

1 Look! Adonai is stripping and destroying the land, turning it upside down and scattering its inhabitants — 2 cohen and commoner, slave and master, maid and mistress, buyer and seller, lender and borrower, creditor and debtor.

The list of pairs of opposites in verse 2 is a striking way of saying that all human inhabitants of the earth will be judged without regard for social standing.

When we read Revelation 6 through 19 (see my series on the End Times), we realize this world is going to experience events of such magnitude that it will seem as if the world is turned upside down. Spiritually, the world has already been turned upside down by Believers, so on fire for the Lord that the whole world was impacted (Acts 17:6).

The Tribulation period will be a great equalizer. No one will care who lives in the most prominent house or who has the fanciest car when fifty-pound hailstones fall from heaven. In that day, when God’s judgment falls on this planet, everyone will be equally distressed. Even the rich and mighty will ask the rocks to fall upon them and kill them (Revelation 6:15, 16). Concerning these times, Yeshua said, “Stay alert, always praying that you will have the strength to escape all the things that will happen and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.” ~ Luke 21:36 (CJB)

3 The land will be completely stripped, completely plundered, for Adonai has spoken this word. 4 The land fades and withers, the world wilts and withers, the exalted of the land languish. 5 The land lies defiled under its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the teachings, changed the law, and broken the everlasting covenant.

The cause of this horrific judgment is human sin. The people have broken the covenant between God and Isra’el (Exodus 19-24). The reference to the everlasting covenant reminds the reader of the Noahic covenant between God and all the inhabitants of the earth (Genesis 9:16).

6 Therefore a curse is devouring the land, and its inhabitants are punished for their guilt. It is why those living there waste away, and the people left are few.

The covenant called for a curse if the law was broken. Revelation 16:8-9 tells us that, in the Tribulation, there will be a burning that ignites this planet. But when the scorching of the sun falls upon men, rather than repenting and humbling themselves before God, they’ll curse His name. The remnant theme is seen here in the fact that a few will survive.

7 The new wine fails, the vines wilt, all the reveler’s sigh, 8 the happy sound of tambourines ceases, the shouts of merrymakers are stilled, the joy of the lyre ends. 9 They no longer sing as they drink their wine; strong liquor tastes bitter to those drinking it.

God’s judgment brings joyful singing and drinking alcoholic beverages to an end. Both of these involved celebrations. Wine and beer were the two main types of alcoholic drinks in the ancient Near East.

10 The city of chaos is shattered; every house closed up; no one can enter.

The city of chaos is not a specific city. It represents evil men and women who are subject to God’s judgment.

11 In the streets they are crying over the wine; all joy has faded, cheer has left the land.

Wine production will decline, so the people will cry for wine but go unsatisfied. Wine is associated with joy and celebration; the judgment of God will bring such festivities to an end. Wine also blunts pain. This may be another reason the people will cry out for wine – because of the suffering that God’s judgment will produce.

12 In the city, only desolation, its gates are battered beyond repair. ~ Isaiah 24:1-12 (CJB)

Joy will have no place in the Tribulation period. At the beginning of the Tribulation, Revelation 6 tells us one-fourth of the world will be wiped out by war. Revelation 9 tells us one-third of those who remain will be wiped out by scorpions.

Why would a God of love do this? Because year after decade after generation, this God of love has been speaking to mankind – extending grace, love, and compassion. But humankind has, by and large, rejected it all. So God, in His wisdom, will pour out His wrath to shake up the world. Some who would not respond to grace and love will turn to the Lord in that day. But most will die in their sin.

In my next post, we will continue to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Pat 2 in Yesha’yahu 24:13-23.

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A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 23:11-18

In my last post, we began to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah: A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b in Yesha’yahu 23:1-10. In this post, we complete our examination of A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-18.

11 He has stretched out his hand against the sea, he has shaken kingdoms; Adonai has ordered that Kena‘an’s fortresses be destroyed.

The Hebrew text here actually reads Kena‘an. The choice to translate Phoenicia helps the reader stay focused on Tzor’s destruction. However, that destruction is (1) based on the Kena‘ani culture of the Phoenicians that is condemned by Adonai and (2) exemplified here by Adonai’s stretching out his hand over the sea to demonstrate that this friendly resource of the Phoenician traders will not save them.

12 He has said, “Exult no more, oppressed virgin daughter of Tzidon. Arise, cross to Kittim; even there you will find no rest.”

Tzidon is compared to a rape victim, who must leave to seek refuge in Kittim (Cyprus).

13 Look at the land of the Kasdim! This was the people who did not exist when Ashur destined it for desert creatures. They erected their siege towers and tore down her palaces, so that it has been made a ruin.

An analogy is drawn between the fall of the Kasdim (Chaldeans) and the fall of Tzor. Since the verse goes on to imply the fall of Bavel at the hands of the Ashurim, it probably refers to the first of these, not the second in which Bavel was victorious.

Ashurim reliefs from the palace at Nineveh and the annals of several kings depict a number of different types of siege engines. One of the most common was the siege tower, which was rolled up as close as possible to a city’s walls. From its heights archers could target enemy soldiers, and assault bridges could be extended onto the ramparts. At the base of the tower, protected from the rain of stones, hot oil and arrows, engineers and sappers could work to undermine the walls or employ battering rams. [1]

14 Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because your fortress is destroyed. 15 When that day comes, Tzor will be forgotten for seventy years, the lifetime of a king. After seventy years, its fate will be the same as that of the prostitute in this song:

Interestingly, 70 years is cited as the length of the exile and punishment of the people of God (Jeremiah 25:12; Daniel 9:2; Zecheriah 1:12). There have been some attempts to identify such a time period (from the death of Sennacherib to the time of Nebuchadnezzar), but this cannot be done with certainty.

16 “Take a lyre, walk the city, you poor, forgotten whore! Play sweetly, sing all your songs, so that they will remember you!”

The prostitute’s song in verse 15c and 16 may have been popular in ancient Isra’el. It speaks of an old prostitute forgotten by men who tried to attract attention by singing songs. The revived Tzor is like this prostitute. The image of the prostitute suggests Tzor itself, since it was a trading city.

17 After seventy years are over Adonai will remember Tzor. She will receive her wages again and prostitute herself to all the world’s kingdoms on the face of the earth. 18 But her merchandise and profits will be dedicated to Adonai; they will not be stored up or hoarded, because her profits will be for those living in Adonai’s presence, so that they can eat their fill and wear fine clothing. ~ Isaiah 23:11-18 (CJB)

Yesha’yahu prophesied that this proud, pompous city would be pushed into the sea and carried into captivity. Yet the time would come when her merchandise would be used to give honor to the Lord. In writing of the coming kingdom, the psalmist declared that Tzor would bring riches to the Lord (Psalm 45:12). This speaks to me of the incredible grace and mercy of our Father – always ready to give people another chance to come to Him.

In my next post, we will begin to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth in Yesha’yahu 24.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10

In my last post, we began to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah, A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10. Unfortunately, I got caught up going down a rabbit trail, and we didn’t get beyond verse 1. In this post, we will explore the full passage.

In the twenty-third chapter of Yesha’yahu, we come to the final judgment pronounced on the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah. Here, judgment is declared on the Phoenician city of Tzor (Tyre), in present-day Lebanon not far from the northern border of Isra’el on the Mediterranean Sea. So capable a seafaring people were the people of Tzor that there has been speculation that they reached the shores of North America. [1] And, because they used their navy for commerce as well as for conquest, they grew very wealthy.

1 A prophecy about Tzor: Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because the harbor is destroyed! On returning from Kittim, they discover they cannot enter it.

Even the people inhabiting Kittim, or the present-day island of Cypress, would hear about the judgment coming down on the city of Tzor.

Tzor was the southernmost major city of Phoenicia. It was a wealthy city, due to its development and control of sea trade. As an island city (with overflow population living on the mainland) its major port was easily protected. Tzor had established a trading colony on Tarshish. The ships of Tarshish were particularly impressive since they traveled so far between Tzor and Iberia. The destruction of Tzor prophetically described in this prophecy is difficult to pin down from the description made here. In the latter part of the eighth century and the early seventh century BCE, the Assyrians tried to take Tzor several times. However, the prophecy may also look forward to Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Tzor (including a thirteen-year siege) in the sixth century and perhaps even to the final destruction of Tzor by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. Cyprus was a large island about 75 miles west of Tzor and would have been the last port of call before reaching Tzor. [2]

2 Silence, you who live on the coast, you who have been enriched by the merchants of Tzidon crossing the sea.

Tzidon was another important Phoenician trade port north of Tzor. Its mention indicates that, though the prophecy was directed explicitly toward Tzor (the city closest to Yerushalayim), the whole of Phoenicia was under judgment. The silence following the defeat of Tzor would be a marked contrast to the bustle of commerce that once characterized her.

3 By the great water, the grain of Shichor, the harvest of the Nile, brought you profits. She was marketplace for the nations.

Phoenician merchants transported items from throughout the Mediterranean. The grain from Shichor represents the fruitful harvests of Egypt, shipped up the Nile and on to the coast. Standing out from the coast approximately six hundred yards from the mainland, the island city of Tzor and its harbor were secure from anything but a sustained siege. The waters were also deep enough to allow for heavily laden ships to approach and offload their cargoes. Dedicated to commercial activity, Tzor was supplied with food and other essentials. Ships from Tzor established colonies, including some on Cyprus and the North African city of Carthage, around the Mediterranean to draw on the resources of these areas, especially metals, and to funnel goods back and forth between the eastern and western Mediterranean. [3]

4 Shame, Tzidon, for the sea speaks; the fortress of the sea says, “I no longer have labor pains or bear children, yet I have raised neither boys nor girls.”

The sea here is personified to lament for its barrenness in the loss of Tzidon.

5 When the report reaches Egypt, they will be in anguish at the fate of Tzor.

Egypt will also lament because it had lost an important trading partner.

6 Cross over to Tarshish! Howl, you who live on the coast!

Because of the destruction of the Phoenician coastland, its inhabitants will have to disperse, some perhaps going as far as the trading colony Tarshish.

7 Is this your boisterous city, whose feet long ago in antiquity carried her off to found distant colonies?

The boisterous city is Tzor, the ancient city that established Tarshish as a colony. After it is destroyed, its inhabitants will flee to Tarshish.

8 Who planned this against Tzor, the city that once bestowed crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are honored throughout the earth? 9 Adonai-Tzva’ot planned it to break the pride of all the arrogant, to humiliate all those who are honored everywhere on earth.

Tzor’s wealth had brought her enormous power and prestige. In answer to the question of verse 8, the prophecy proclaims that the One who planned the fall of the magnificent city of Tzor was none other than Adonai-Tzva’ot. Thus, this prophecy continues the teaching that God is sovereign over all nations.

10 People of Tarshish! Nothing restricts you now. You can flow freely over your land just like the Nile River. ~ Yesha’yahu 23:2-10 (CJB)

Now Tarshish will overflow with all the refugees from the destroyed cities of the Phoenician coastland.

In my next post, we continue to explore A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tzor) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] HCSB Study Bible

[3] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament