The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 2:9-17

In my last post, we began to look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22. I decided to switch gears for my blog for this series as I will be taking more of a verse-by-verse format. We only covered verses 6-8. In this post, we continue to look at The Coming Day of the Lord beginning in Yesha’yahu 2:9-17.

Why will God judge His people? We learned in Part 1 it was (and still is) because of their idolatry, covetousness, pride, and exploiting of the poor. Instead of holding to the truth of God’s Word, they were full of sorcerers, not unlike many “religious seekers” today. The growth of Eastern religions in the modern Western world is a phenomenon that is both frightening and challenging. Even nonreligious people are practicing Eastern forms of meditation and relaxation, following techniques that are being taught in university classes and business seminars.

9 A person bows down, a man lowers himself — don’t forgive them! 10 Come into the rock, hide in the dust to escape the terror of Adonai and the glory of his majesty.

In the ancient world, a bright or flaming aura surrounding deity is the norm in depicting the glory of his majesty. It is especially evident in the divine warrior motif where the deity unveils his glory as he fights for his people.

11 The proud looks of man will be humiliated; the arrogance of men will be bowed down; and when that day comes, Adonai alone will be exalted. 12 Yes, Adonai-Tzva’ot has a day in store for all who are proud and lofty, for all who are lifted high to be humiliated; 13 for all cedars of the L’vanon that are high and lifted up, for all the oaks of the Bashan; 14 for all the high mountains, for all the hills that are lifted up; 15 for every high tower, for every fortified wall; 16 for every “Tarshish” ship, for every luxurious vessel. 17 The pride of man will be bowed down, the arrogance of men will be humiliated, and when that day comes, Adonai alone will be exalted.

With the words proud looks of man will be humiliated, Yesha’yahu expressed one of the major themes of his book. Through judgment, God cuts down the sinful pretensions of His people.

The prophets of the Tanakh often spoke of a Coming Day of the Lord (Joel 1:15; Amos 2:1,11,31; 5:18,20; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1). This day is the judgment of sinners, which means the redemption of God’s people. However, God’s people in this verse were the object of His anger since they were rebelling against Him. While the Day of the Lord ultimately points to the final judgment, God’s temporal punishments of His people are often understood to be anticipatory fulfillment of the final judgment. L’vanon and Bashan were well known for their fertile lands and their impressive trees. Thus, they are representative of arrogance built on abundance. God’s judgment is against all kinds of pride.

The cedars of the L’vanon and the oaks of the Bashan were valued for their size, beauty, strength, and durability. They would be used in the building projects (such as gates and palaces) that were the sources of pride for nations and in which they would put their trust. The cedars of L’vanon and oaks of Bashan speak of men that are proud of their abilities. Who or what do we put our trust in? For my wife and I, it is the Lord and ADT Security.

The high mountains could speak of government. Walls and towers speak of military might. Walls of this period were solid and could be made of mud brick, fieldstone or ashlar [large square-cut] stone. While towers and walls were features of fortified cities, there were also many garrison fortresses built along trade routes and borders. In Isra’el both the fortresses and towers were rectangular. Since city walls have not been preserved to their original height, it is difficult to say how high they were. A width of fifteen to twenty feet was common and judging from their massive foundations and the length of ladders used for scaling the walls, a height of thirty to forty feet would not be unusual.

Trade using seagoing vessels was already taking place in the first half of the third millennium BCE. Excavations of a sunken merchant ship (off the coast of Turkey) from the period gives a good idea of the variety of items being shipped. Trading ships of the first millennium were single-masted with a crow’s nest and could feature either one or two banks of oars. A typical length would be about fifty feet, though larger ones are known. [1]

It is not idols, but only Yeshua who will ultimately be exalted. When He comes back to this planet, before He rules and reigns in the Temple, there will be a time of chastening and judging. As a result, people will take all that they once worshiped to the dump to be left to the rats because, at last, all idols will be seen to be meaningless.

In my next post, I will finish with this topic for now as we explore The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 2:18-22.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament

The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 2:6-8

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 2:1-5 to learn about The Mountain of the Lord. In this post, we look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22. You will notice that I have switched gears for my blog for this series as I will be taking more of a verse-by-verse format.

To the prophets, the Day of the Lord was foreshadowed by events in their day. In the Book of Yesha’yahu, Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom [Isra’el] and invasion of Y’hudah, and the Babylonian captivity of Y’hudah both picture the coming Day of the Lord.

6 For you have abandoned your people the house of Ya‘akov. Now they are filled from the east, full of sorcerers, like the P’lishtim [Philistines]; even the children of foreigners are enough for them!

God had removed His presence from His people because they had imbibed of the superstitions of their neighbors to the East (Edom and Mesopotamia) and the west (Philistia). They practiced divination. Divination was the science of being able to interpret the omens and formulate incantations that would be effective in dispelling the powers that threatened them. The Torah forbade such practices (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

Even as people in Yesha’yahu’s day were fascinated by the Babylonian and Syrian cultures with all their magic and mystery, where are people turning today? To Eastern mysticism and spiritism.[1]

7 Their land is full of silver and gold; They have no end of treasures. Their land is full of horses; They have no end of chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; everyone worships the work of his hands, what his own fingers have made.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 prohibited kings from accumulating precious metals and military assets, i.e., horses and chariots. Assyrian chariots were large, carrying four men and being pulled by four horses which represented the cutting edge of military technology. Vast economic resources were required to import the animals, build the chariots and train the horsemen and charioteers (for an indication of the expense see 1 Kings 10:29).

Idols came in a variety of shapes and sizes in the ancient Near East. They were typically carved of wood and overlaid with hammered-out sheets of silver or gold and then clothed in the finest attire. Human in appearance (except those from Egypt, which combined human and animal characteristics), they had distinctive, even formalized, poses, clothing, and hairstyles. Sha’ul reflected this understanding when he referred to the folly when they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals or reptiles! ~ Romans 1:23 (CJB)

As in our culture today, the people of Y’hudah were not only rich, prosperous, and enamored with Eastern thought, but they had idols. Theirs happened to be made of stone and wood, while ours can be flesh and blood or chrome and rubber.

Have you abandoned the God of our fathers and replaced Him with your idols?

In my next post, I will continue to explore The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:9-22.

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

The Mountain of the Lord ~ Yesha’yahu 2:1-5

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 to learn about The Unfaithful City. In this post, we look at The Mountain of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:1-5.

1 This is the word that Yesha’yahu the son of Amotz saw concerning Y’hudah and Yerushalayim:

2 In the acharit-hayamim [the end of days] the mountain of Adonai’s house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the Goyim [Gentiles] will stream there. 3 Many peoples will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Ya‘akov! He will teach us about His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of Adonai from Yerushalayim. 4 He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. Then they will hammer their swords into plow-blades and their spears into pruning-knives; nations will not raise swords at each other, and they will no longer learn war. 5 Descendants of Ya‘akov, come! Let’s live in the light of Adonai! ~ Isaiah 2:1-5 (CJB)

This is one of my favorite passages because of the promise of God revealed by Yesha’yahu. Yesha’yahu looked ahead to the time when God’s righteous kingdom would be established, and the Temple would become the center for the worldwide worship of the Lord. In Yesha’yahu’s day, the Jews were adopting the false gods of the Goyim, but the day would come when the Goyim would abandon their idols and worship the true God of Israel.

Verses 2-4 are virtually identical to that found in Yesha’yahu’s near contemporary, the prophet Mikhah (Micah 4:1-3).

Topographically, Yerushalayim is elevated above its surroundings, so that one always had to climb up to the city. Additionally, the Temple is located on the highest ground in the city, so one goes up to the Temple from other locations in the city. This passage uses these topographical data to proclaim the future political elevation of the city.

The mountain of the Temple is a reference to Tziyon, where the original Temple was built. Tziyon was where God made His presence known especially among His people. Tziyon was not a physically imposing mountain – indeed, the nearby Mount of Olives was considerably taller – but regarding spiritual importance, Tziyon stood above all the other mountains of the world.

The vision anticipates a day when not only Isra’el but all the nations will stream toward this mountain that represents the presence of God on earth. God had promised Avraham that He would bless the nations through his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). Today, the Kehilah is composed of diverse nationalities, personalities, economic backgrounds, and educational abilities will flow together into the Temple. Lord, help us to continue to be a menagerie, a potpourri of all kinds of different people.

We see that the motivation of going up to the Temple is to learn the way of the Lord. So too, we gather at His Kehilah to learn His ways that we might walk in His paths. The nations seeking the Lord will experience a great transformation. They will not exert their energies and resources to destruction (swords…spears), but rather to productive activities (plow-blades…pruning knives).

Pruning knives are the small knives used to remove leaves and new shoots from the grapevines or thorns from date palms before the harvest. (I still have a couple in my toolbox from my days on my grandfather’s date ranches.)

Finally, we see a beautiful invitation in verse 5 to enjoy the light and love of Adonai. But, before that takes place, there will be a time of chastening, as we will see in verse 6.

In my next post, I will explore The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22.

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The Unfaithful City ~ Yesha’yahu 1:18-31

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1: 10-17 to learn that God Has Had Enough. In this post, we continue in Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 to learn about The Unfaithful City.

“18 ‘Come now,’ says Adonai, ‘let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.’

21 ‘How the faithful city [Yerushalayim] has become a whore! Once she was filled with justice, righteousness lodged in her; but now murderers! 22 Your silver is no longer pure; your wine is watered down. 23 Your leaders are rebels, friends of thieves. They all love bribes and run after gifts. They give no justice to orphans; the widow’s complaint doesn’t catch their attention.’ 24 ‘Therefore,’ says the Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot, the Mighty One of Isra’el, ‘I will free myself of my adversaries, I will take vengeance on my enemies. 25 But I will also turn my hand against you! I will cleanse your impurities as with lye and remove all your alloyed base metal. 26 I will restore your judges as at first and your advisers as at the beginning. After that, you will be called the City of Righteousness, Faithful City. 27 Tziyon will be redeemed by justice; and those in her who repent, by righteousness. 28 Rebels and sinners together will be broken, and those who abandon Adonai will be consumed. 29 You will be ashamed of the sacred oaks you desired; you will blush at the gardens you chose; 30 for you will be like an oak whose leaf fades, like a garden without any water. 31 The strong will be like tinder and [the idol’s] maker like a spark; both will burn together, and no one will put them out.’” ~ Isaiah 1:18-31 (CJB)

As we learned in my last post, the people were full of blood and sin, apathy and iniquity – and yet Yeshua might say, “My blood will wash you clean if you’ll just come before Me and admit your need of My work and mercy in your life.”

That’s what we’re to do. “If we acknowledge our sins, then, since He is trustworthy and just, He will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.” ~ 1 John 1:9 (CJB) All He asks from you and me is, to be honest before Him and say, “I know this isn’t right, Father. I need Your mercy. Deal with me. Help me. Change me.”

God’s people were not always corrupt. The formerly faithful city – Yerushalayim – had become corrupt. The worship of false gods, idolatry, is often described as a form of adultery. Dross and watered-down wine are symbols of impurity. The rulers of Y’hudah were corrupt. They sought their financial advantage and neglected the rights and needs of the socially vulnerable (the widow and the orphans).

Many of the worshipers in the Temple participated in these evil practices and thereby encouraged the decay of the nation. The rulers maintained a religious facade to cover up their crimes, and this practice was allowed by them. It seems we may have the same problem now in our denominations these days.

God will not let the guilty escape their punishment. The judgment is not just punitive; it purifies. The people started a faithful city (v. 21), and after their cleansing, they will again be a Faithful City.

The people of God sinned by their idolatry that often took the form of worshiping false gods with foreign rituals. One common form of this false worship involved sacred oaks that were probably connected with the worship of a Canaanite fertility goddess called Asherah, the mother of Ba’al.

What would God do if the people did not repent? He would send a fiery judgment that would purge the dross and burn up those whose rebellion had made them His enemies (vv. 24-31). Yesha’yahu closes this first message with a promise of hope that one day Yerushalayim would become a City of Righteousness, Faithful City.

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 2:1-5 ~ The Mountain of the Lord.

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God Has Had Enough ~ Yesha’yahu 1:10-17

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1:1-9 ~ The Rebellion of God’s People. In this post, we continue in Yesha’yahu 1: 10-17 to learn that God Has Had Enough.

10 Hear what Adonai says, you rulers of S’dom! Listen to God’s Torah, you people of ‘Amora! 11 ‘Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?’ asks Adonai. ‘I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats! 12 Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? 13 Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh [New Moon festival], Shabbat, calling convocations – I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! 14 Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me – I’m tired of putting up with them! 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. 16 Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, 17 learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.’” ~ Isaiah 1:10-17 (CJB)

In these verses, God expressed His revulsion at the religious practices of His people. The disgusting thing about His rebellious people is that they were also a religious people (Isaiah 1:10-15). They attended the Temple services and brought a multitude of sacrifices to the Lord. However, their hearts were far from God, and their worship was hypocritical. In other words, they were too heavenly minded and no earthly good.

Sacrifices alone can never please God. God wants our inward obedience (1 Samuel 15:22), a broken heart (Psalm 51:17), and a godly walk (Micah 6:8).

Though God will not punish the people with total annihilation as He did the cities of S’dom and ‘Amora, it is not as if they did not deserve that fate. Their rulers were like the inhabitants of those depraved cities who denied hospitality to strangers and engaged in perverse sexual acts.

God had commanded His people to offer sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7, but the sacrifices of His people were reprehensible to Him. They were not offered with pure motives of sincere repentance. Rather, they were offered with hands covered with blood.

The Temple was considered a sacred space that was protected by closely monitored, restricted access. Admission to the general public was granted only when a sacrifice needed to be offered and then only to the outer court. Entrance to sacred space for anything but holy purpose would be sacrilegious trespassing. Recall the account of Yeshua cleansing the Temple of the merchants and the money-changers in Matthew 21:12-13.

In the ancient world, incense was valued as an accompaniment to sacrifice. Its sweet scent effectively masked any of the unpleasant odors resulting from the performance of the rituals. It was expensive and commanded in Leviticus 2:1.

Keyed to the use of a lunar calendar, ancient Israel marked the first day of the month with Rosh-Hodesh. It is “new moon” phase festival day every twenty-nine or thirty days. As on the Sabbath, all work was to cease (see Numbers 10:10), and there were sacrifices to be made. What had been designed as a means to praise and honor God, however, was not bringing any pleasure to him.

Why wouldn’t God hear the prayers of His people? Because their sacrifices, times of worship, and even prayers were not acceptable because their hands were covered with blood. That is, they sinned and did not repent but still participated in worship. God did not tolerate such hypocritical behavior.

Sometimes we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered. We go to church regularly. We lift our hands in praise. We tithe. But God says all of that is irrelevant if we’re harboring sin in our life. If we’re compromising, if we’re trying to be righteous through our efforts or energy, if we’re failing to realize our need to come before God in brokenness, God won’t answer our prayers – not because He’s mad at us or because He doesn’t like us anymore, but because He’s saying, “There’s something wrong in your relationship with Me. If I continue to answer your prayers, you will persist in those things, and they’ll destroy you. So you’re not going to sense My presence. You’re not going to have answers to your prayers so that you might seek Me.” [1]

This passage gives a prescription for change – repent. Transformation involves a cessation of evil activities as well as the requirement of good deeds. The good deeds are defined as social justice, particularly resisting oppressors and promoting the interests of the vulnerable (the orphans and the widows).

“The religious observance that God the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world.” ~ James 1:27 (CJB)

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 ~ The Unfaithful City.

Click here for PDF version.

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

The Rebellion of God’s People ~ Yesha’yahu 1:1-9

In my last post, we concluded the background material on the book of Yesha’yahu. In this post, we start to dig into the actual scripture.

“This is the vision of Yesha’yahu, the son of Amotz, which he saw concerning Y’hudah and Yerushalayim during the days of ‘Uziyahu, Yotam, Achaz and Y’chizkiyahu, kings of Y’hudah:

2 ‘Hear, heaven! Listen, earth! For Adonai is speaking. I raised and brought up children, but they rebelled against me. 3 An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master’s stall, but Isra’el does not know, my people do not reflect. 4 Oh, sinful nation, a people weighed down by iniquity, descendants of evildoers, immoral children! They have abandoned Adonai, spurned the Holy One of Isra’el, turned their backs on him! 5 Where should I strike you next, as you persist in rebelling? The whole head is sick, the whole heart diseased. 6 From the sole of the foot to the head there is nothing healthy, only wounds, bruises and festering sores that haven’t been dressed or bandaged or softened up with oil. 7 Your land is desolate; your cities are burned to the ground; foreigners devour your land in your presence; it’s as desolate as if overwhelmed by floods. 8 The daughter of Tziyon is left like a shack in a vineyard, like a shed in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. 9 If Adonai-Tzva’ot had not left us a tiny, tiny remnant, we would have become like S’dom; we would have resembled ‘Amora.” ~ Yesha’yahu 1:1-9 (CJB)

This chapter describes a courtroom scene. God convenes the court and states the charges forcefully. He presents His case and pronounces the nation guilty. The call goes out to the heavens and the earth to hear the charges against God’s people. In Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:19 the heavens and earth are invoked as witnesses to the covenant. It is appropriate here that they are called on to hear the indictment detailing the violation of that covenant.

How did God describe His sinful people? They were rebellious children (vv. 2-4) who did not have as much devotion to God as animals do to their masters! Rebelled carries with it the idea of breaking a contract. At Sinai, Isra’el had entered into a solemn covenant with Adonai (Exodus 19-20), but they had broken the covenant by their unbelief and idolatry. They did not appreciate what God had done for them and were taking their blessings for granted. They had forsaken the Lord, gone backward, and grown corrupt; therefore, they were guilty and deserved judgment.

From the human point of view, the nation was prospering; but from God’s point of view, the nation was like a wretched victim who had been beaten from head to foot and left to die (vv. 5-6). The wounds had become infected, the whole body diseased, and nobody was doing anything to help. In spite of the optimism of Y’hudah’s leaders, the nation was morally and spiritually corrupt, and judgment was inevitable.

In verses 7-9, God pictures Y’hudah as a ravaged battlefield, a desert that had once been a garden. In using this image, Yesha’yahu may have been looking ahead to the invasion of Sancheriv, when Y’hudah was devastated by the Ashur army, and only Yerushalayim was spared (chaps. 36-37). The people would not let God manage the land according to His law, so God turned Y’hudah over to foreigners and permitted His people to suffer.

The devastation of the land was a natural consequence of the invasion. Invading armies often lacked an adequate supply line and therefore expected to live off the land they were invading. What they didn’t use for their purposes they destroyed. Not only were the crops burned, but the trampling of the land often crippled the agricultural cycle for several seasons afterward.

Tziyon is the name for the mountain on which Yerushalayim is situated and represents that special location from which the Lord conquers and reigns. It is therefore also associated with the Davidic covenant and kingship ordained by God. The daughter of Tziyon would then be the city itself. It reminds the reader of the intimate relationship God enjoyed with the people He must judge. A shelter in a vineyard or a shack in a cucumber field were both fragile. Without upkeep they would crumble, providing an illuminating analogy for the desolation of Jerusalem.

In the S’dom and Amora account in Genesis 19 these cities are not destroyed by invading armies, but that is not the nature of the comparison here. The totality of the destruction as God’s judgment is the emphasis of the text. A just God would be expected to bring comparable judgment for comparable crimes. God had been gracious. He did not completely destroy His people. Rather, a remnant would survive the judgment; restoration would follow the cleansing of judgment.

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 1:10-17 ~ God Has Had Enough.

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Introduction to Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to look at some background material on the book of Yesha’yahu. In this post, we continue to look at the man, the kings that were ruling at the time, and his disclosure of the coming of the Messiah.

The Man

The name Yesha’yahu means “salvation of the Lord,” and salvation (deliverance) is the key theme of his book. He wrote concerning five different acts of deliverance that God would perform:

  • the deliverance of Y’hudah [Judah] from Ashur [Assyria] invasion (chaps. 36-37);
  • the deliverance of the nation from Babylonian captivity (chap. 40);
  • the future deliverance of the Jews from worldwide dispersion among the Gentiles (chaps. 11-12);
  • the deliverance of lost sinners from judgment (chap. 53); and,
  • the final deliverance of creation from the bondage of sin when the kingdom is established (chaps. 60; 66:17ff).

Yesha’yahu was married, and his wife was called “the prophetess” (8:3 NASB), either because she was married to a prophet or because she shared the prophetic gift. He fathered two sons whose names have prophetic significance: Sh’ar Yashuv [Shear-jashub] (“a remnant shall return,” 7:3) and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (“the spoil hurries, the prey speeds along,” 8:1-3). The two names speak of the nation’s judgment and restoration, two important themes in Yesha’yahu’s prophecy.

Yesha’yahu was called to his ministry in the year that King ’Uziyahu [Uzziah] died (6:1), which was 739 BCE. Tradition says that M’nasheh [Manasseh], King Y’chizkiyahu’s [Hezekiah] successor, killed Yesha’yahu by having him sawn in half (Messianic Jews 11:37), but there is no record of this in Scripture.

What kind of man was Yesha’yahu the prophet? As you read his prophecy, you will discover that he was a man in touch with God. He saw God’s Son and God’s glory (chap. 6; John 12:41), he heard God’s message, and he sought to bring the nation back to God before it was too late.

Yesha’yahu was a man who loved his nation. The phrase “my people” is used at least twenty-six times in his book. He was a patriot with a true love for his country, pleading with Y’hudah to return to God and warning kings when their foreign policy was contrary to God’s will. Yesha’yahu was certainly a courageous man. Unafraid to denounce kings and priests, and unwavering when public opinion went against him, he boldly declared the Word of God. He was a man skilled in communicating God’s truth. Not content with merely declaring facts, Yesha’yahu clothed those facts in striking language that would catch the attention of a people blind and deaf to spiritual truth (6:9-10).

The Kings of Y’hudah

The nation had divided after the death of Shlomo [Solomon] (1 Kings 12), but the priesthood and the Davidic throne belonged to Y’hudah. The ten northern tribes formed the kingdom of Isra’el (Efrayim), with Shomron as its capital city, and Binyamin and Y’hudah united to form the kingdom of Y’hudah, with Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] as its capital city. Though Yesha’yahu predicted the fall of Isra’el to Ashur (chap. 28), which occurred in 722 BCE, his major focus was on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim (1:1).

‘Uziyahu [Uzziah] is also called ‘Azaryah. At the age of sixteen, he became co-regent with his father, Amatzyahu, and was on the throne for fifty-two years (792-740). When his father was assassinated in 767, ‘Uziyahu became the sole ruler and brought the nation to its greatest days since David and Shlomo (2 Kings 14:17-22; 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-15). He tried to intrude into the priest’s ministry in the temple, and God judged him by smiting him with tzara’at [leprosy]. It was in the year that King ‘Uziyahu died that Yesha’yahu was called to minister.

Yotam [Jotham] was co-regent after his father became infected with tzara’at [leprosy], and his record as a king was a good one (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27). He reigned for twenty years, and it was during his time that the Ashurean Empire began to emerge as a new and threatening power. During the last twelve years of Yotam’s reign, his son Achaz served as co-regent, but Achaz was not one of Y’hudah’s good kings.

Achaz [Ahaz] forged political alliances that eventually brought Y’hudah into bondage to Ashur (2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28). Egypt repeatedly threatened Y’hudah from the south and by Aram [Syria] and Isra’el from the north, and Achaz depended on an alliance with Ashur to protect himself. Yesha’yahu warned Achaz that his alliances with godless Gentiles would not work, and he encouraged the king to put his trust in the Lord (Isaiah 7).

Y’chizkiyahu [Hezekiah] reigned forty-two years and was one of Y’hudah’s greatest kings (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chron. 29-32). He not only strengthened the city of Yerushalayim and the nation of Y’hudah but led the people back to the Lord. He built the famous water system that still exists in Yerushalayim.

The ministry of Yesha’yahu spans over fifty years, from 739 to 686 BCE and it probably extended into the early years of King M’nasheh’s reign. It was a difficult time of international upheaval when first one power and then another threatened Y’hudah. But the greatest dangers were not outside the nation: they were within. In spite of the godly leadership of King Y’chizkiyahu, Y’hudah had no more godly kings. One by one, Y’chizkiyahu’s successors led the nation into political and spiritual decay, ending in captivity in Babylon.

The Messiah

Yesha’yahu is much more than a prophet. He is an evangelist who presents Yeshua the Messiah and the Good News of the Gospel. Yesha’yahu’sServant Song” about Yeshua (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) is quoted or alluded to nearly forty times in the Brit Hadashah.

The prophet wrote about the birth of Yeshua (7:14; 9:6; Matt. 1:18-25); the ministry of Yochanan the Immerser (Isaiah 40:1-6; Matt. 3:1ff); Yeshua’s anointing by the Spirit (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-19); the nation’s rejection of their Messiah (Isaiah 6:9-11; John 12:38ff); Yeshua, the stone to stumble over (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Romans 9:32-33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6); Yeshua’s ministry to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47); the Messiah’s suffering and death (Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Acts 3:13; 8:32-33; 1 Peter 2:21-25); His resurrection (Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34); and His return to reign as King (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1ff; 59:20-21; 63:1-3; Rom. 11:26-27; Rev. 19:13-15). There are many other references in Yesha’yahu to the Messiah, and we will notice them as we study this book.

It is this emphasis on redemption that gives Yesha’yahu a message for the whole world. While it is true he ministered to the little nation of Y’hudah and wrote about nations and empires that for the most part are no longer on the world scene; his focus was on God’s plan of salvation for the whole world. Yesha’yahu saw the greatness of God and the vastness of His plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. Yesha’yahu was a patriot but not a bigot; he saw beyond his nation to the gracious work God would do among the Gentile nations of the world.

As you study Yesha’yahu and discover God’s prophetic plan for the nations of the world, don’t miss his emphasis on the personal message of God’s forgiveness. “Come now,” says Adonai“let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.” ~ Isaiah 1:18 (CJB)

In my next post, I will begin an in-depth, verse-by-verse study of one of my favorite prophets.

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Introduction to Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) ~ Part 1

In my last post, we dug into the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet within the Kehilah in our time. Over the last several months, the small Skype-group I attend on Tuesday afternoons has been using the Lifeguide’s Bible Study on Yesha’yahu. There are only 24 lessons, so you know that we are not covering his entire book. Although somewhat reluctant to continue in the topic of prophecy, I sensed a tug in my spirit to do an in-depth, verse-by-verse study on my own and I will be sharing that with you throughout the next several months or so. Since there is a lot of background material I want to share, I have made the Introduction a two-part series.

Introduction

Sir Winston Churchill was once asked to give the qualifications a person needed to succeed in politics, and he replied: “It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.” [1]

Because God’s prophets were correct all the time, they didn’t have to explain away their mistakes. When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true — that is, the word is not fulfilled — then Adonai did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him.” ~ Deuteronomy 18:22 (CJB) To the law and the testimony, wrote Yesha’yahu, “For they [false prophets] will indeed give you this unenlightened suggestion.” ~ Yesha’yahu 8:20 (CJB). Yesha’yahu was a man who had God’s light, and he was not afraid to let it shine.

Since as Believers we believe that there is only one God, and since we understand that prophecy contains messages from that God, we are often inclined to think that prophecy in the Bible is a unique phenomenon. While we may be justified in thinking that any prophecy outside the Bible is fraudulent, the fact remains that biblical prophecy is part of a long tradition of prophecy in the ancient Near East. Even the Bible makes this fact known to us in the narratives about Bil’am and the prophets of Ba’al sponsored by Ach’av and Izevel.

The writing prophets of Isra’el have been designated as the “classical prophets,” and the earliest of these appear at the beginning of the eighth century. Before that time prophets such as Natan, Eliyahu, Elisha and many others are mentioned in the historical literature, but no collections of their oracles are known. They are referred to as the “pre-classical prophets.” These pre-classical prophets show the most similarity to the prophets known from the ancient world. Their messages are directed to the king and concern public policy or other issues of national significance. In that sense, these prophets serve as official or, more frequently, unofficial advisors to the king.

In contrast, the classical prophets often address the people as they offer their social and spiritual commentary. Though their messages include the pronouncement of blessing or rebuke, it is now directed toward society. As a result, the writing prophets’ express warnings concerning captivity and destruction.

In Isra’el the prophets more often represented a counterculture movement. As such the prophets tended to cluster around periods of great turmoil. During the pre-classical period the prophets Moshe, D’vorah, Sh’mu’el, Eliyahu and Elisha all served during troubled times. During the classical period prophetic activity surrounds three key periods:

  1. the Ashur crisis that brought the fall of the northern kingdom (Isra’el) and the siege of Yerushalayim (760-700 BCE: ’Amos, Hoshea, Mikhah, Yesha’yahu)
  2. the Babylonian crisis that brought the fall of Ashur and the fall of Y’hudah and Yerushalayim (650-580 BCE: Havakuk, Tzfanyah, Nachum, Yirmeyahu, Yechezk’el)
  3. the postexilic period with its Persian rule and identity crisis (530-480 BCE: Hagai, Z’kharyah, Yo’el, ’Ovadyah, Mal’akhi; Dan’iel could be counted among these, although he served during the exile). [2]

Yesha’yahu’s book is the first of the prophets in the English canon and the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew canon. Yesha’yahu is powerful in its poetic imagination, intriguing in its prophetic vision, and complex in its structure. One can never read or study the book without having new insights into the nature of God and our relationship with Him. The authors of the Brit Hadashah read the book of Yesha’yahu concerning the coming of Yeshua and realized that this prophet anticipated the Messiah’s coming with remarkable clarity. For this reason, they quoted Yesha’yahu more than any other Tanakh book.

Circumstances of Writing

The book presents itself as the writing of one man, Yesha’yahu, son of Amotz. The first verse dates his prophetic activity as spanning the reigns of four kings of Y’hudah: Uzziah (783-742 BCE), Ahaz (735-716 BCE), and Hezekiah (716-686 BCE). Not much is known about Yesha’yahu apart from his prophecy.

Yesha’yahu’s authorship of the whole book has been vehemently contested in the modern period. Many scholars have argued that the historical Yesha’yahu could not have written chapters 40-66. For those who believe that God knows the future and can reveal it to His servants, it is not problematic that God through Yesha’yahu predicted the rise of Babylon, its victory against Y’hudah, the exile, and the return. Personally, the Ruach wrote the book, and I’m not hung up on who the scribe was.

Uzziah’s reign was a particularly prosperous time in the history of Y’hudah, but storm clouds were on the horizon. Ashur was on the rise again in the person of Tiglat-Pil’eser III (745-727 BCE). The king Ashur threatened to engulf Aram (Syria) and the northern kingdom of Isra’el. After the death of Tiglat-Pil’eser, his successors, Shalman’eser and Sargon, defeated the northern kingdom in 722 BCE and deported its citizens. This event brought Y’hudah even more under the shadow of that great empire.

Message and Purpose

Yesha’yahu‘s message is relatively simple. First, Yesha’yahu accused God’s people of sin, rebelling against the One who made them and redeemed them. Second, Yesha’yahu instructed these sinners to reform their ways and act obediently. Third, Yesha’yahu announced God’s judgment on the people because of their sin. Finally, God revealed His future restoration of the people, or at least of the faithful remnant that survived the judgment. As part of the restoration of God’s people, Yesha’yahu foresaw both judgment on the nations (chaps. 13-23) and a future turning of the nations to God (2:1-4). The first part of the book (chaps. 1-39) emphasizes sin, the call to repentance, and judgment; the second part (chaps. 40-66) emphasizes the hope of restoration. [3]

In my next post, I will continue with our exploration of additional background information on this fascinating book.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – The Prophets.

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

[3] HCSB Study Bible.