The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 1 ~Yesha’yahu 49:8-14

In my last post, we learned about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7. In this post, we begin to learn about The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 49:8-14.

Unfortunately, I have had to break the topic into two separate posts to maintain a readable length.

8 Here is what Adonai says: “At the time when I choose, I will answer you; on the day of salvation, I will help you. I have preserved you, and I have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land and distribute again its ruined inheritances to their owners,

The covenant is a reference to the covenant made with Avraham in Genesis 12:2-3. Adonai will restore His people to the land He gave them and which they forfeited.

Sha’ul quotes this verse saying to the Corinthians: “As God’s fellow-workers, we also urge you not to receive His grace and then do nothing with it. For He says, ‘At the acceptable time I heard you; in the day of salvation I helped you.’” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (CJB)

to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ to those in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’ They will feed along the paths, and all the high hills will be their pastures.

In His first sermon, Yeshua declared that His mission was, among other things, to preach deliverance to the captives, here prisoners (see Luke 4:18). Yeshua not only talked about doing this but accomplished it when He healed those who were bound by HaSatan (see Matthew 8:16) and, ultimately freed all of humanity from the stranglehold of sin through His death on the Cross.

 10 They will be neither hungry nor thirsty; neither scorching wind nor sun will strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them and guide them to springs of water.

What a great promise! The people of God have been in desperate straits, but Adonai will deliver them.

11 I will turn all My mountains into a road; My highways will be raised up. 12 There they come, some from far away, some from the north, some from the west, and some from the land of Sinim.”

The prophecy again uses language drawn from the Exodus and wilderness wandering traditions. Sinim is typically associated with modern Aswan in Egypt.

13 Sing, heaven! Rejoice, earth! Break out in song, you mountains! For Adonai is comforting his people, having mercy on his own who have suffered.

Yesha’yahu began with a prophecy calling on heavens and earth to serve as witnesses to testify that Adonai’s people deserved their punishment; now they rejoice in their restoration. The land is commanded to break into song at the prospect of the coming Messiah.

14 “But Tziyon says, ‘Adonai has abandoned me, Adonai has forgotten me.’

Tziyon, personified as a woman, represents Yerushalayim. She complained or lamented that Adonai had abandoned her. The verses that follow suggest that what she missed was her children or the inhabitants of Yerushalayim. Their absence in exile led her to suggest that Adonai had forgotten her.

In my next post, we will continue to learn about The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 49:15-26.

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The Servant of the Lord ~ Yesha’yahu 49:1-7

In my last post, we examined Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22. In this post, we learn about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7.

Chapter 49 is a Messianic prophecy. It portrays the Prince of Peace, Yeshua HaMashiach.

1Coastlands, listen to Me; listen, you peoples far away: Adonai called Me from the womb; before I was born, He had spoken My name.

Coastlands is the same word translated islands in Yesha’yahu 41:1. It refers to the distant places of the earth. The Servant (see 49:3 below) spoke here and addressed all the peoples of the earth. He began by recounting His calling that started even before He was born.

In Psalm 22:9, another Messianic prophecy, we read that Yeshua had confidence in the Father even as an infant. Here, Yesha’yahu reiterates that, even as an infant, Yeshua knew the Father called him.

2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword while hiding Me in the shadow of His hand; He has made Me like a sharpened arrow while concealing Me in His quiver.

The sword imagery is also used for the prophet’s word and Adonai’s Word in the Brit Hadashah. Since the sword was an offensive weapon, the implication is that the word is in some sense aggressive. One of the Hebrew words for the mouth (peh) also signified the term edge, as in “edge of the sword.” Thus, there may be a play on words in this verse.

The Servant was made to be a weapon in the arsenal of Adonai; the warrior to wage war against the chaos of the world. Indeed, His spoken Word was, like His written Word. See, the Word of Adonai is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword – it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart.” ~ Hebrews 4:12 (CJB)

3 He said to Me, “You are My servant, Isra’el, through whom I will show my glory.”

The Servant is identified as Isra’el. However, the Brit Hadasah authors recognized a second and more profound identification of the Servant as they associated these texts with Yeshua (see Matthew 8:17; 12:17-21; John 12:38; Acts 8:30-35).

4 But I said, “I have toiled in vain, spent My strength for nothing, futility.” Yet My cause is with Adonai; My reward is with My God.

Did Yeshua think He labored in vain? Humanly, He would have had a reason. He was betrayed by one of His disciples. And there was only one at the Cross. Indeed, our Lord must have struggled with the whispers of HaSatan, saying, “You failed. The masses have rejected You and even Your disciples have forsaken You.” [1]

5 So now Adonai says – I formed You in the womb to be His servant, to bring Ya‘akov back to Him, to have Isra’el gathered to Him so that I will be honored in the sight of Adonai, My God having become My strength –

In verse 3, the Servant identified himself as Isra’el; here, the Servant speaks as if He is the agent of Isra’el’s restoration. This seeming inconsistency is resolved once it is realized that it is the remnant, and ultimately the remnant of one – Yeshua – who functions in this way.

6 He has said, “It is not enough that you are merely My servant to raise up the tribes of Ya‘akov and restore the offspring of Isra’el. I will also make You a light to the nations, so My salvation can spread to the ends of the earth.”

As a nation, Isra’el’s original mission was to be a light to the rest of the world. But she turned inward. Not wanting to be polluted by the heathen, she lost compassion and vision for them. The nation of Isra’el failed. But the true Isra’el -Yeshua HaMashiach – never lost sight of His calling. He lived His life as the Light of the entire world and died to save all humanity.

7 Here is what Adonai, the Redeemer of Isra’el, His Holy One, says to the One despised, whom the nations detest, to the servant of tyrants: “When kings see You, they will stand up; princes too will prostrate themselves, because of Adonai, who is faithful, the Holy One of Isra’el, who has chosen You.” ~ Isaiah 49:1-7 (CJB)

Although Yeshua was despised and rejected in His First Coming, when He comes again, every knee will bow – in heaven, on earth, and under the earth – and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai – to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:10-11 (CJB)

In my next post, we learn about The Restoration of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 49:8-26.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

Isra’el Freed ~ Yesha’yahu 48:12-22

In my last post, we examined Stubborn Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 48:1-11. In this post, we examine Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22.

12 Listen to Me, Ya‘akov; Isra’el, whom I have called: I am He who is first; I am also the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth; My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summoned them, at once, they rose into being.

The One who created heaven and earth would surely have the means to deliver His people.

14 All of you, assemble and listen: which of you has foretold what is coming? Adonai’s friend will do his will against Bavel, using his arm against the Kasdim.15 It is I who have spoken, I have summoned him, I have brought him, and he will succeed.

The immediate reference to Adonai’s friend would have been to Koresh, King of Persia. But the ultimate fulfillment would be found in Yeshua.

16 Come close to Me and listen to this: since the beginning, I have not spoken in secret, since the time things began to be, I have been there, and now Adonai Elohim has sent Me and his Spirit.”

Verse 16 is one of the great proof texts of the Trinity. Yesha’yahu concluded this section by affirming that Adonai was the One who had brought Him to the people. Who was the One who was sent? Yeshua. Therefore, here we see God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son.

17 Thus says Adonai, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el: I am Adonai, your God, who teaches you for your own good, who guides you on the path you should take. 18 If only you would heed My mitzvot! Then your peace would flow on like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Isra’el’s past judgment was the result of their refusal to follow Adonai.

19 Your descendants would be numerous as the sand, your offspring countless as its grains. Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from my presence.”

Yesha’yahu had earlier announced that Isra’el’s population would be reduced to a remnant. The allusion to sand goes back to the patriarchal promise that Avraham would have numerous descendants. It was Isra’el’s sin that led to a reduction of the population.

From the days in the Garden of Eden until the present, HaSatan’s greatest lie has been that Adonai is out to condemn and restrict humankind. Here, we see the truth – that He teaches us so that we may profit, prosper, and do well.

The chapter ends with a divine directive to leave Bavel, the nation that was the source of Y’hudah’s oppression. The assumption is that the people should do this after the work of Adonai’s messiah, in this case, Koresh.

20 Get out of Bavel! Flee the Kasdim! With shouts of joy announce it, proclaim it! Send the news out to the ends of the earth! Say, “Adonai has redeemed his servant, Ya‘akov.” 21 They weren’t thirsty when He led them through the deserts; He made water flow from the rock for them – He split the rock, and out gushed the water.

Before Koresh ever decreed that the Jews could return to their land, Adonai paved the way. And just as He miraculously provided for His people during their Exodus from Egypt, so He would provide for them in their return from Bavel.

22 But there is no peace, says Adonai, for the wicked. ~ Isaiah 48:12-22 (CJB)

Wow, how many times have we quoted that last verse without realizing it is scriptural?

Though Adonai will bring salvation to His people, He will not back down from His judgment on the wicked. Chapter 48 ends with an absence of peace for the wicked. Chapter 49, however, will prophesy of the coming of the Prince of Peace to the world.

In my next post, we learn about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7.

Click here for the PDF version.

Stubborn Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 48:1-11

In my last post, we examined The Fall of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 47:1-15. In this post, we explore Stubborn Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 48:1-11.

Whereas chapter 47 dealt with Adonai’s judgment against Bavel, chapter 48 deals with Adonai’s grace toward Isra’el.

1 Listen to this, house of Ya‘akov, called by the name of Isra’el, who have come from the spring of Y’hudah, who swear by the name of Adonai and invoke the God of Isra’el! – it is not sincerely or justifiably

Yesha’yahu addressed those connected to Adonai by their genealogical descent from the patriarchs. Avraham was the father of Isra’el, the first Jew. He had a son named Yitz’chak (Isaac 0, who had a son named Ya‘akov (Jacob). Ya‘akov had twelve sons who became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Isra’el. Ya‘akov’s name, which means heel snatcher or supplanter, was appropriate because he was one who lived by his wits – conning and tricking people. But one night, seeing no way out of his circumstances, he wrestled all night with the angel of Adonai, saying, I won’t let you go unless you bless me. Genesis ~ 32:26 (CJB)

In the morning, the man said, From now on, you will no longer be called Ya‘akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed. ~ Genesis 32:28 (CJB)

2 that they call themselves people of the holy city or rely on the God of Isra’el – Adonai-Tzva’ot is His name: 3 I announced things that happened at the beginning, long ago; they issued from My mouth, I proclaimed them. Then suddenly, I acted, and they occurred.

The past events refer to the judgment of Adonai on His people. He announced what would happen to sinful Y’huda through Yesha’yahu, Yermiyahu, Yechzk’el (Ezekiel), and other prophets. He proclaimed what He would do and then acted on His words.

4 Because I knew that you were stubborn, your neck an iron sinew, your forehead bronze,

Nothing can get through a bronze forehead. An iron neck is stiff and cannot turn around. This imagery shows the refusal of Adonai’s people to hear Him or to repent.

5 I announced it to you long ago; before it occurred, I proclaimed it to you; so that you could not say, ‘My idol did it; my carved image, my statue, gave the order for it.’ 6 You have heard and seen all this, so why won’t you admit it? Now I am announcing new things to you, secret things you have not known,

Up to this point, Adonai has been announcing judgment, but soon He will announce new things – a message of grace after the judgment. Why had Adonai kept the news of eventual restoration hidden? The new items include Adonai’s use of Koresh to deliver His people that we will examine in the next post.

7 created now, not long ago; before today, you did not hear them: so you can’t say, ‘I already know about them.’ 8 No, you haven’t heard, and you haven’t known; these things have not reached your ears before. For I knew how treacherous you were – you were called a rebel from the womb.

Adonai’s people had been so seduced by idolatry that Adonai said, “I’m speaking prophetically so that when events unfold, you won’t think they happened according to your idols’ predictions.”

9 Yet for the sake of My own reputation, I am deferring My anger; for the sake of My praise, I am patient with you, so as not to cut you off.

Adonai will not completely destroy His people. A remnant will survive the judgment.

10 “Look, I have refined you, but not [as severely] as silver; [rather] I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Silver in the ancient world was refined by a process in which it was melted to rid it of base components. Silversmiths, as well as goldsmiths, used blowpipes to ventilate their furnaces and cast their products with the aid of soapstone or clay molds. The image of refining is often used in the Bible to refer to removing sin from a person or a community, in this case, through affliction.

11 For my sake, I will do it, for My own sake. I will not let [My reputation] be tarnished; I will not yield My glory to anyone else. ~ Isaiah 48:1-11 (CJB)

Sometimes we wonder why we face one affliction after another. Could it be it’s because we’re not learning our lesson? Could it be that we’re so stubborn that Adonai has to take us through the fire of affliction continually? Has He been speaking to you about some issue? Is there something He has told you need to be changed but about which you persistently say, “Maybe later, Lord”? We all go through fiery trials, and many are mandated. But, as we watch the people of Isra’el, we see that other tests are the result of our stubbornness concerning lessons Adonai wants to teach.

In my next post, we examine Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22.

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The Fall of Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 47:1-15

In my last post, we learned of the Gods of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 46:1-13. In this post, we examine The Fall of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 47:1-15.

Yesha’yahu 47 deals with the destruction of Bavel which, at this time, was a power just coming into prominence. Approximately 150 years after this prophecy was penned, Bavel would fall by the hand of Koresh, leader of the Medes and Persians.

1 “Come down, and sit in the dust, you virgin daughter of Bavel! Sit on the ground, not on a throne, daughter of the Kasdim! No longer are you to be called dainty and delicate.

The biblical writers often depicted cities as feminine in nature. The term virgin daughter was addressed to a community that faced disaster. In the ancient Near East, no one was considered a more helpless victim of war than the unmarried girl. Defeat often meant the loss of an intended husband as well as the loss of virginity at the hands of the marauding victors. [1]

To sit in the dust, just like sitting on the ground, was a sign of subservience and humiliation. Bavel, the mighty nation that achieved special status among the other countries of the world (pampered and spoiled), will be put in a position of shame. Up to this point in Yesha’yahu, only Adonai’s people have been called daughter by Adonai.

Being grafted into the Olive Tree, it’s a little easier to see how us guys can be considered as the Bride of Messiah.

2 Take the millstones, and grind meal; take off your veil, strip off your skirt, uncover your legs, wade through the streams.

Grinding meal (grain) at the flour mill was one of the most menial of tasks, often done by slave girls in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. In most ancient Near Eastern cultures, a married woman was partially veiled in public, and this was the mark of her marital status. Slaves or concubines could not afford to veil, and in any case, they did not have the legal right to be veiled. Bridges were virtually nonexistent in the ancient world, so streams and rivers were waded across at fords. A slave had to cross a stream on foot, in contrast to a rich person who was carried over in a carriage or a chair carried by servants. [2]

3 Your private parts will be exposed; yes, your shame will be seen. I am going to take vengeance, and no one will stand in My way.”

Bavel, personified as a young woman, will do her lowly chores – in contrast to her former exalted status – and then will strip to cross a stream. As she does so, her shame will be exposed. How humiliating! Adonai says she will indeed be defeated and humiliated.

4 Our Redeemer! Adonai-Tzva’ot is his name, the Holy One of Isra’el! 5 “Sit there speechless, go into darkness, you daughter of the Kasdim! For you will no longer be called the mistress of kingdoms.

Daughter of the Kasdim (Chaldeans) is a reference to the personified city of Bavel. Bavel had achieved dominance among the nations of the world, but its former glory will be turned to oblivion.

6 I was angry with My people, I desecrated My own possession and gave them over to you. But you showed them no mercy; you made your yoke very heavy, even upon the aged. 7 You said, ‘I will be mistress forever’ so you didn’t consider these things or think about the consequences.

Adonai has used Bavel as the tool of His anger against Y’hudah. Bavel’s yoke is an image of their political domination over Y’hudah. Because of her continued practice of idolatry, Y’hudah was carried into captivity for seventy years by the Bavlim. The Bavlim showed no mercy, even to the elderly. But Bavel overplayed its hand and sought its glory, not realizing that its pride would lead to retribution.

I think this lesson is an essential Word for us. The sorry tendency of humanity is to ask that mercy be shown to ourselves but judgment shown to others. Why? Because the sins of others always look so much worse than our sins. After all, we know the reason, the background, the excuses for our sin – but think no one else has any right to sin. Never overplay your hand.

8 Now hear this, you lover of luxuries, lolling at ease and saying to yourself, ‘I am important, and no one else! I will never be a widow or know the loss of children.’

The use of I am would have immediately struck a chord for this Israeli audience. There was no claim too arrogant for these kings to make for themselves. Only the one true God can claim I am!

9 But both will come over you in an instant, in a single day loss of children and widowhood; they will utterly overwhelm you, despite your many occult practices and powerful spells to prevent it.”

As so many kingdoms before and after her, Bavel thought herself invincible. In a single night, she fell to the invasion of Koresh and was thus rendered both widowed and childless due to loss of king and loss of life.

10 You were at ease in your wickedness, you thought, “No one sees me.” Your “wisdom” and “knowledge” perverted you, as you thought to yourself, “I am important, and no one else.” 11 Disaster will befall you, and you won’t know how to charm it away; calamity will come upon you, and you won’t be able to turn it aside; ruin will overcome you, suddenly, before you know it.

The Bavlim thought they were on top of every situation, that no one saw them. The atheist still holds this view. Atheists claim not to see Adonai – but the reason is that they don’t find Adonai any more than a thief finds a police officer.

12 So for now, keep on with your powerful spells and your many occult practices; from childhood, you have been working at them; maybe they will do you some good, maybe you will inspire terror! 13 You are worn out with all your consultations – so let the astrologers and stargazers, the monthly horoscope-makers, come forward now and save you from the things that will come upon you!

Bavlim culture was known for its infatuation with sorceries and spells, which represented a way to manipulate the gods. In particular, Bavel was known for attempts to determine the future by consulting the stars. Indeed, even after Bavel disappeared as an empire, the term Kasdim was used to designate astrologers.

Idols, crystals, tarot cards, and astrology will all be worthless in the day of judgment.

14 Look, they will be like straw! The fire will consume them. They will not save even themselves from the power of the flame. It will not be coals for warming oneself, not a fire to sit beside! 15 So much for your [wizards], with whom you have worked all your life! Each will wander off in his own direction, and nobody will save you. ~ Isaiah 47:1-15 (CJB)

The fortune-tellers and wizards who had freely plied their trade in Bavel would flee at her fall.

In my next post, we examine Stubborn Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 48:1-11.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 45:14-25

In my last post, we explored Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 454:1-13. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 45:14-25.

14 Here is what Adonai says: “The earnings of Egypt, the commerce of Ethiopia, and men of stature from S’va will come over to you and become yours; they will come in chains and follow you. They will prostrate themselves before you; they will pray to you: ‘Surely God is with you; there is no other, other gods are nothing.’”

A significant canal was built in the Red Sea (I couldn’t resist) by the Persians during the reign of Darius I that linked the Nile cultures of Egypt and Ethiopia with Arabia (S’va). This facilitated the flow of shipping between the two continents. This verse anticipates a time when these foreign nations will recognize that Adonai is the one true God.

15 Truly, you are a God who hides Himself, God of Isra’el, Savior! 16 The idol-makers will be ashamed, disgraced, all of them; they will go dishonored together.

Shame and disgrace comes on those who trust in idols because their confidence is misplaced.

17 But Isra’el, saved by Adonai with an everlasting salvation, you will never, ever, be ashamed or disgraced.

Adonai, who raised up Cyrus as a deliverer for Isra’el, now reiterates His promise to her that she would be saved. As Sha’ul would make clear in Romans 11, Adonai is not through with Isra’el. She has a key role to play in the ages to come.

18 For thus says Adonai, who created the heavens, God, who shaped and made the earth, who established and created it not to be chaos, but formed it to be lived in: “I am Adonai; there is no other.

As we say earlier, created here in Hebrew is bara. While some of us can create things out of raw material, only Adonai can create something out of nothing.

19 I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the descendants of Ya‘akov, ‘It is in vain that you will seek Me.’ I, Adonai, speak rightly; I say what is true.

While Adonai hid Himself in the sense that He is far above creation (v. 15), He pursues a relationship and makes Himself known to His creatures. Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7 (CJB)

Anyone who believes who asks, seeks, or knocks will indeed get the very best. It might not be what you think is best, but it is what your Father knows to be best. If I don’t ask, I’ll never know if I really did get the best. If I do ask, however, I will receive Adonai’s best. That is why it’s never vain to seek Adonai.

20 Assemble, come and gather together, you refugees from the nations! Those carrying their wooden idols are ignorant, they pray to a god that cannot save.21 Let them stand and present their case! Indeed, let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, announced it in times gone by? Wasn’t it I, Adonai? There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

The challenge to speak up and present your case indicates that this passage has a legal background. The issue involves the gods’ ability to reveal the future. And as we know, only Adonai can reveal the future through His prophets and written Word.

22 Look to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other.23 In the name of Myself I have sworn, from My mouth has rightly gone out, a word that will not return – that to Me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear 24 about Me that only in Adonai are justice and strength.” All who rage against Him will come to Him ashamed, 25 but all the descendants of Isra’el will find justice and glory in Adonai. ~ Isaiah 45:14-25 (CJB)

Every knee will bow and every tongue will swear, Adonai declares. Sha’ul attributes this to Yeshua in Philippians 2:10-11.

In my next post, we learn of the Gods of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 46:1-13.

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Worthless Idols ~ Yesha’yahu 44:6-23

In my last post, we explored Isra’el the Chosen in Yesha’yahu 44:1-5. In this post, we explore Worthless Idols in Yesha’yahu 44:6-23.

6 Thus says Adonai, Isra’el’s King and Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva’ot: “I am the first, and I am the last; besides Me, there is no God.

A long argument against idols begins with an assertion of the uniqueness of Adonai. In Revelation 1:8, we hear Yeshua declaring that He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.

7 Who is like Me? Let him speak out! Let him show Me clearly what has been happening since I set up the eternal people; let him foretell future signs and events.

Only Adonai can foretell the future, something that He does through His prophets.

8 Don’t be frightened, don’t be afraid. Didn’t I tell you this long ago? I foretold it, and you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? There is no other Rock – I know of none.”

The invocation of witnesses places this passage in a courtroom setting. These witnesses will bear testimony to the fact that only Adonai is a Rock – a place of protection and stability – not the false gods of the nations. As proof of His deity and supremacy, Adonai does what no other god dares to prophesy the future. And yet even this didn’t keep His people from being seduced by idols.

9 All idol-makers amount to nothing; their precious productions profit no one; and their witnesses, to their own shame, neither see nor understand. 10 Who would fashion a god or cast an image that profits no one anything? 11 All involved will be ashamed, but more than anyone else, the people who made them. Let them all be assembled, let them stand up; let them fear and be shamed together.

Verses 12-20 describe the construction and worship of an idol. Ancient texts describing the making and care of idols confirm such a process. Pagan Near Eastern religious leaders probably did not believe that an idol was the actual god, but they did believe that the god made its power and presence known in the physical object. Thus, the idol was a strong representation of the deity. Laypeople, on the other hand, likely made a stronger association between idols and the deities, taking the graven wood or metal to be a true deity. In any case, Yesha’yahu’s argument was one that reduced all idolatry to its absurd foundation.

12 A blacksmith makes a tool over burning coals; with his strong arm, he shapes it with hammers. But when he gets hungry, his strength fails; if he doesn’t drink water, he grows tired. 13 A carpenter takes his measurements, sketches the shape with a stylus, planes the wood, checks it with calipers, and carves it into the shape of a man; and, since it is honored like a man, of course, it has to live in a house.

Some ancient idols were made from metal and others from wood. The description of their manufacture emphasizes that these were human creations.

14 He goes to chop down cedars; he takes an evergreen and an oak; he especially tends one tree in the forest, plants a pine for the rain to nourish.

Yesha’yahu went back in this verse to the beginning of the process of constructing an idol – the planting and cultivation of a tree.

15 In time, when it’s ready for use as fuel, he takes some of it to keep himself warm and burns some more to bake bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, carves it into an idol and falls down before it. 16 So half of it he burns in the fire; with that half, he roasts meat and eats his fill; he warms himself; says, “It feels so good, getting warm while watching the flames!” 17 With the rest of the log he fashions a god, a carved image, then falls down before it; he worships it and prays to it. “Save me,” he says, “for you are my god!” 18 Such people know nothing, understand nothing. Their eyes are sealed shut so that they can’t see; their hearts too, so they can’t understand.

These verses express the ultimate absurdity of idolatry. The same wood used to construct an idol was also used for kindling a fire to keep warm and to cook food. Yesha’yahu was aware that ancient Near Eastern people utilized rituals that intended to turn the wooden idol into an object of worship.

19 Not one thinks to himself or has the knowledge or the discernment to say, “I burned half of it in the fire, baked bread on its coals, roasted meat and ate it. Should I now make the rest an abomination? Should I prostrate myself to a tree trunk?” 20 He is relying on ashes! A deceived heart has led him astray; so that now he won’t save himself, just won’t say, “This thing in my hand is a fraud!”

This thing in my hand is a fraud is a reference to an idol that represented a false god and was nothing at all. Not only is there stupidity in idolatry, but there is a tragedy, as well, because of its inability to deliver. Idols can’t deliver you, but they can and will dehumanize you.

3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. 4 Their idols are mere silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths, but they can’t speak; they have eyes, but they can’t see; 6 they have ears, but they can’t hear; they have noses, but they can’t smell; 7 they have hands, but they can’t feel; they have feet, but they can’t walk; with their throats they can’t make a sound. 8 The people who make them will become like them, along with everyone who trusts in them. ~ Psalm 115:3-8 (CJB)

A person becomes like that which he worships. When we worship the Lord, we become more like Him (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). Conversely, if we worship an idol, we’ll become like that idol.

21 “Keep these matters in mind, Ya‘akov, for you, Isra’el, are My servant. I formed you; you are My own servant; Isra’el, don’t forget Me.

Isra’el will benefit from remembering the lesson about the absurdity of idolatry since that will keep Adonai’s people from practicing false worship. Adonai formed His people; they did not create their god as the idolaters did. Isra’el was the servant of Adonai. Even to these people who are trapped by idols, even to these people struggling with sin, the Lord says, “I have not forgotten you.”

22 Like a thick cloud, I wipe away your offenses; like a cloud, your sins. Come back to Me, for I have redeemed you.” 23 Sing, you heavens, for Adonai has done it! Shout, you depths of the earth! Mountains, break out into song, along with every tree in the forest! For Adonai has redeemed Ya‘akov; He glorifies Himself in Isra’el. ~ Isaiah 44:6-23 (CJB)

That’s the good news of the Gospel. This is what makes evangelism so exciting. We can go to people and proclaim the good news that their sins are forgiven, that Adonai neither records nor remembers their sin.

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 44:24-28.

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Isra’el the Chosen ~ Yesha’yahu 44:1-5

In my last post, we explored Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in 43:14-28. In this post, we explore Isra’el the Chosen in 44:1-5.

1 “Now listen, Ya‘akov my servant, Isra’el whom I have chosen:

Again, Ya‘akov or Isra’el is explicitly identified as Adonai’s servant. Adonai had chosen Isra’el from among the nations to be His special people (Deuteronomy 7:7-11).

2 Thus says Adonai, who made you, formed you in the womb, and will help you: ‘Don’t be afraid, Ya‘akov my servant, Yeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, My blessing on your offspring.

The phrase formed you in the womb evokes the metaphor of Adonai as the mother who gave birth to Isra’el. Yeshurun was an endearing name for Isra’el (see Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26). The meaning of the name is somewhat obscure, but some think it is derived from a Hebrew root meaning “upright or virtuous.” The results are growth, in this case, among the descendants of the people of Adonai.

The outpouring of His Spirit was previewed on the Day of Shavuot (Pentecost), but it was not entirely fulfilled for Joel 2 speaks of signs in the sky, of the moon turning to blood, and various symbols associated with the Tribulation period. Adonai promises that He will pour His Spirit upon our offspring. We all need His Spirit to be poured upon us, our family, and our country.

4 They will spring up among the grass like willows on the riverbanks. 5 One will say, “I belong to Adonai.’’ Another will be called by the name of Ya‘akov. Yet another will write that he belongs to Adonai and adopt the surname Isra’el.’” ~ Isaiah 44:1-5 (CJB)

They in verse 4 refers to the offspring. Writing on one’s hand signified intimacy, though some believe it refers to a slave mark showing ownership. In either case, the idea is that people will want to identify and align themselves with Adonai.

In that day, when Isra’el experiences revival in the Tribulation period, when the Spirit is poured out upon Isra’el, no longer will her people be agnostic as eighty percent of the Jewish nation is today. They’ll call themselves Adonai’s. They’ll remember their heritage and roots and take upon themselves the name of Adonai.

In my next post, we learn of Worthless Idols in 44:6-23.

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Isra’el’s Only Savior ~ Yesha’yahu 43:1-13

In my last post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25. In this post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

1 But now this is what Adonai says, He who created you, Ya‘akov, He who formed you, Isra’el: “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I am calling you by your name; you are Mine.

One of the things I’ve learned in my walk with Adonai is that names are important to Him. Calling a person by his or her name indicates a high level of familiarity. I was named after my uncle, who died before my mother was born. She wanted to honor his struggle with life. I’ve since learned that my name, Donald, means world ruler and overcomer. Although I have held several top management level positions in my previous career, I have never aspired to be a world ruler. But I have taken the overcomer attribute to heart.

Adonai gave Isra’el its name when He changed the name of the patriarch Ya’akov to Isra’el (see Genesis 32:28). The intention of this prophecy is expressed clearly at the start don’t be afraid. Adonai informed His people about their coming deliverance to keep them from caving into fear.

2 When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be scorched – the flame will not burn you.

The waters can be naturally dangerous, just like the fire mentioned in the second half of the verse. However, the waters can stand for the forces of chaos and evil (see Daniel 7:1-9) or personal duress (see Psalm 69:1-3). The promise that Adonai will be with His people is a covenant formula that indicates the close relationship between Adonai and His people.

3 For I am Adonai, your God, the Holy One of Isra’el, your Savior – I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and S’va for you. 4 Because I regard you as valued and honored, and because I love you. For you, I will give people, nations in exchange for your life.

The Persians successfully invaded Egypt and gained control of Cush (Ethiopia) during the reign of Cyrus’s successor, Cambyses. S’va’s location is disputed. [1] Adonai is willing to give much more than these three countries in place of His people.

5 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I will bring your descendants from the east, and I will gather you from the west; 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Don’t hold them back! Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth,

Adonai will gather His people from all over the world. As we know in our lifetime, He is fulfilling that promise since the establishment of the modern state if Isra’el in 1948.

7 everyone who bears My name, whom I created for My glory – I formed him, yes, I made him.’”

The impending exile would not result in the eradication of Adonai’s special people. After all, He created them. They will preserve their distinct identity and not be merged into foreign populations.

8 Bring forward the people who are blind but have eyes, also the deaf who have ears.

Being blind and deaf is a reference is to spiritual insensitivity.

9 All the nations are gathered together, and the peoples are assembled. Who among them can proclaim this and reveal what happened in the past? Let them bring their witnesses to justify themselves, so that others, on hearing, can say, “That’s true.”

The challenge to find someone among the nations who could tell the significance of past events is another sarcastic comment on the mute, powerless idols of the nations.

10 “You are my witnesses,” says Adonai, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you can know and trust me and understand that I am He – no god was produced before me, nor will any be after Me. 11 I, yes I, am Adonai; besides Me, there is no deliverer.

I’m glad our Father keeps it very simple for people like me who can get confused so easily. There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved! ~ Acts 4:12 (CJB)

12 I have declared, saved, and proclaimed – not some alien god among you. Therefore, you are My witnesses,” says Adonai. “I am God.

Adonai called to the assembled nations to be a witness. He also called on His people, whom He identified as His servant, to be His witnesses. The calling of witnesses associates this passage with the courtroom. Not only is Adonai better than the foreign gods, but those gods do not exist at all. The nations were silent when asked to witness to their gods’ work in their lives. Adonai’s people functioned as Adonai’s witness to the fact that He had saved them in the past.

If you don’t see Adonai, don’t hear from Adonai, don’t know Adonai, could it be because there’s a strange god in your life? Is it because there is some other passion or priority that is keeping you from seeing the true Adonai? Other gods, other preferences will obscure your vision of the true and living Adonai. They will cloud your spiritual perception very definitely.

13 Since days began, I have been He. No one can deliver from My hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” ~ Isaiah 43:1-13 (CJB)

Adonai makes it clear that He is the One we should follow.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in Yesha’yahu 43:14-28.

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

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.