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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A portion of my eagle collection

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

Isaiah 49:31 Tapestry

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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

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

[3] Ibid.

Envoys from Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 39:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

Hizkiyahu’s Poem ~ Yesha’hayu 38:9-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hizkiyahu moans sound like the chirping of a bird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

Hizkiyahu’s Illness ~ Yesha’hayu 38:1-8

In my last post, we concluded our mini-series of Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 in Yesha’hayu 37:30-38. In this post, we learn of Hizkiyahu’s Illness in Yesha’yahu 38:1-8.

This post is deliberately short as I did not want to break up Hizikiyahu’s Poem beginning in verse 9.

1 Around this time Hizkiyahu became ill to the point of death. Yesha‘yahu the prophet, the son of Amotz, came and said to him, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not live.’” 2 Hizkiyahu turned his face toward the wall and prayed to Adonai: 3 “I plead with you, Adonai, remember now how I have lived before you truly and wholeheartedly, and how I have done what you see as good.” And he cried bitter tears. 4 Then the word of Adonai came to Yesha‘yahu: 5 “Go and tell Hizkiyahu that this is what Adonai, the God of David, your ancestor, says: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; therefore I will add fifteen years to your life.

Adonai heard the prayer of Hizkiyahu and increased his lifespan by 15 years. Hizkiyahu was the descendant of David, who had been promised a son on the throne in Yerushalayim forever. Hizkiyahu may not have had an heir at this time (his heir, Manasseh, was 12 years old when Hizkiyahu died; see 2 Kings 21:1). This meant that if he died before the fifteen-year extension, the Davidic dynasty would come to an end.

6 Also, I will rescue you and this city from the power of the king of Ashur; I will defend this city.

The reference to the deliverance of the city from the king of Ashur may indicate that this episode took place during the Ashurim threat described in chapters 36-37.

7 The sign for you from Adonai that Adonai will do what he said is 8 that I will cause the shadow of the sundial, which has started going down on the sundial of Achaz, to go backward ten intervals.’” So, the sun went back ten intervals of the distance it had already gone down.” ~ Isaiah 38:1-8 (CJB)

Hizkiyahu’s sign brings to mind the sign offered to his father Achaz in chapter 7. While Achaz was not interested in receiving a sign, probably because he had other plans in mind, Hizkiyahu did not try to refuse the sign. Their contrasting responses reveal the difference between Achaz, who trusted in other nations, and Hizkiyahu, who believed in Adonai.

The return of the sun’s shadow on the sundial indicated a lengthening of the day that would be comparable to Adonai’s lengthening of the life of Hizkiyahu. The parallel account in 2 Kings 20:9-11 indicates that Hizkiyahu was allowed to choose whether the shadow would go forward or back. Hizkiyahu chose the latter since he considered that the more difficult feat.

In my next post, we begin to examine Hizkiyahu’s Poem in Yesha’yahu 38:9-22.

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Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:21-29

In my last post, we continued t learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10. In this post, we continue in our mini-series of Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 37:21-29.

21 Then Yesha‘yahu, the son of Amotz, sent this message to Hizkiyahu: “Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘You prayed to me against Sancheriv king of Ashur.’

Adonai responded to Hizkiyahu through His divinely chosen prophet Yesha‘yahu. Yesha‘yahu spoke in the name of Adonai. I don’t know about you, but I’ve only experienced one-time in my walk with Yeshua when I spoke out in a situation a message that I believed was from the Lord and it was very unsettling for me, although it was well-received with the person I shared it.

22 Here is Adonai’s answer concerning him: “‘The virgin daughter of Tziyon despises you; she laughs you to scorn. The daughter of Yerushalayim shakes her head at you.

As we have seen earlier, daughter of Tziyon is a personification of Tziyon, the holiest location in Y’hudah. This reminds the reader of the intimate relationship Adonai enjoyed with His people. The response was addressed to none other than Sancheriv, so the use of this title for Adonai’s people shows from the start how important they were to Him.

23 Whom have you taunted and insulted? Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes? The Holy One of Isra’el!

Sancheriv was accustomed to serving powerless gods who could neither see, hear, nor speak (Psalm 135:15-17). Here, however, he had come up against the Holy One of Isra’el, the Creator rather than the created. His taunts and insults were nothing more than idol threats.

24 “‘Through your servants you taunted Adonai. You said, “With my many chariots I have ascended the mountain heights even in the far reaches of the L’vanon. I cut down its tall cedars and its best cypress trees. I reached its remotest heights and its best forests. 25 I dug [wells] and drank the water. The soles of my [soldiers’] feet dried up all the rivers of Egypt.”

L’vanon’s cedar forests were well known throughout the ancient Near East. Sancheriv had boasted that he was able to travel to Egypt. These are allusions to the Ashurim’s self-proclaimed capability to overcome any physical obstacle in their path of conquest.

26 “‘Haven’t you heard? Long ago I made it; in antiquity I produced it; and now I am making it happen: you are turning fortified cities into heaps of ruins, 27 while their inhabitants, shorn of power, are disheartened and ashamed, weak as grass, frail as plants, like grass on the rooftops or grain scorched by the east wind.

Now Adonai revealed to Sancheriv the true nature of things. Sancheriv had boasted of his achievements, but Adonai announced that he had done nothing without divine design. Sancheriv’s victories had come about only because Adonai had willed it.

28 “‘But I know when you sit when you leave when you enter — and when you rage against me.

In language reminiscent of Psalm 139, Adonai asserted His extensive knowledge of the Ashurim king. All the while the Ashurim thought it was their might and ingenuity that enabled them to devour any nation at will, they were only able to do so by Adonai’s permission (see Isaiah 10:5-6).

29 And because of your rage against me, because of your pride that has reached my ears, I am putting my hook in your nose and my bridle on your lips; and I will make you return by the way on which you came.

It was Ashurim practice to put a hook in the nose or the mouth of captives as they carried them into exile. Adonai told Sancheriv that he would be subjected to this brutal and degrading treatment. [1]

In my next post, we conclude our mini-series in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 37:1-38.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 ~Yesha’hayu 37:1-10

In my last post, we completed the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22. In this post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10.

1 On hearing it, King Hizkiyahu tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and entered the house of Adonai.

It was the report from Hizkiyahu’s officials (see Yesha’yahu 36:22). Hizkiyahu assumed a posture of mourning when he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth. He did not turn to a foreign nation like Egypt for help, but he turned to Adonai.

When things are looking bad, the best place for us to be is in the house of the Adonai with the people of Adonai. The enemy will do everything possible to discourage us from coming to the house of the Adonai. But Hizkiyahu knew that was exactly where he needed to be.

2 He sent Elyakim, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and the leading cohanim, covered with sackcloth, to Yesha‘yahu the prophet, the son of Amotz. 3 They said to him, “This is what Hizkiyahu says: ‘Today is a day of trouble, rebuke, and disgrace. Children are ready to be born, but there is no strength to bring them to birth. 4 Maybe Adonai your God will hear the words of Rav-Shakeh, whom his master the king of Ashur has sent to taunt the living God, and will rebuke the message which Adonai your God has heard. So pray for the remnant that is left.’”

Hizkiyahu sent a message to Yesha’yahu, saying, Rav-Shakeh has been troubling us, threatening us, and blaspheming Adonai. The time has come to stand -but we have no strength.” Do you ever feel that way? You know it’s a time to be strong, to stand up, to stand fast – and yet you feel drained? Let’s see how Yesha’yahu handled it on behalf of Hizkiyahu.

Hizkiyahu then sent two of his delegation to elicit prayers on behalf of the nation from the prophet Yesha’yahu. One of the primary roles of a prophet was to provide intercessory prayer. The first mention of a prophet in the Bible links the office with prayer (Genesis 20:7). Most of the prophets, beginning with Moshe (Exodus 33) and Sh’mu’el (1 Samuel 12:23), demonstrated the critical role of prayer in their work.

5 When King Hizkiyahu’s servants came to Yesha‘yahu, 6 he said to them, “Tell your master that this is what Adonai says: ‘Don’t be afraid of the words you heard the servants of the king of Ashur use to insult me.

Yesha’yahu assured King Hizkiyahu through his men that Adonai would remedy the threat presented by the Ashurim army. Adonai took the Ashurim challenge personally. The king had shown trust in the Adonai by approaching Yesha’yahu, His servant, to pray.

Of Yeshua, Yesha’yahu would prophesy, Adonai Elohim has given Me the ability to speak as a man well taught, so that I, with My words, know how to sustain the weary. Each morning He awakens My ear to hear like those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4 (CJB). Do we have a sure word for the fearful people around us? We will if we wake morning by morning to wait on the Adonai. Start your day in prayer.

7 I will put a spirit in him that will make him hear a rumor and return to his own land; then I will cause him to die by the sword in his own land.’”

Adonai would send a spirit of deception to Rav-Shakeh so he would hear and believe a falsehood that would cause him to retreat. The fact that Adonai would send such a spirit evokes the memory of the evil spirit Adonai sent to torment Sha’ul (1 Samuel 16:14) and the deceiving spirit Adonai used to deceive King Achav (1 Kings 22:22).

8 Rav-Shakeh returned and, having heard that the king of Ashur had left Lakhish, found him making war with Livnah.

When Rav-Shakeh had traveled to Yerushalayim, the Ashurim king and his army were at Lakhish, but when Rav-Shakeh returned, the king was at Livnah, a town about eight miles northeast of Lakhish. Sennacheriv had completed the capture of Lakhish and had moved on to the next city on what seemed to be an unstoppable march toward Yerushalayim.

9 Then he heard it said that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia was on his way to fight him. On hearing this, the king of Ashur sent messengers to Hizkiyahu, after ordering them,

Tirhakah, at this point in history (701 BCE) may have been the crown prince of Egypt. He became pharaoh of all Egypt in 690 BCE and ruled until 664 BCE. [1]

10 “This is what you are to say to Hizkiyahu king of Y’hudah: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, “Yerushalayim will not be handed over to the power of the king of Ashur.”Isaiah 37:1-10 (CJB)

The rumor of Tirhakah’s advance on his rear flank caused Sennacheriv to retreat from his march on Yerushalayim, but before he left, he sent a message to warn Hizkiyahu that his departure was only temporary.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 37:11-20.

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[1] HCSB Study Bible.

The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 36:11-22

In my last post, we learned The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 36:1-10. In this post, we complete the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22.

11 Elyakim, Shevnah, and Yo’ach said to Rav-Shakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic since we understand it; don’t speak to us in Hebrew while the people on the wall are listening.” 12 But Rav-Shakeh answered, “Did my master send me to deliver my message just to your master and yourselves? Didn’t he send me to address the men sitting on the wall, who, like you, are going to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”

When the people of Yerushalayim began to sit on the wall in order to listen to the conversation taking place between Sancheriv’s and Hizkiyahu’s negotiators, Hizkiyahu’s men asked that they be spoken to in Aramaic lest the Jewish populace become demoralized. However, it served Rav-Shakeh’s propagandistic purpose to have the people hear and be frightened by the coming Ashurim army, so he refused this request. He reminded them of the consequences of a long siege. They would run out of water and have to drink their urine; they would run out of food and have to eat their excrement.

13 Then Rav-Shakeh stood up and, speaking loudly in Hebrew, said: “Hear what the great king, the king of Ashur, says!  (emphasis added.)

As exemplified by Rav-Shakeh, a big mouth is often indicative of a wicked heart. When someone has to speak loudly to make himself heard, there’s usually something amiss in his heart. [The exemption is those of us who are very hard of hearing and may not even know we are talking loudly.]

14 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hizkiyahu deceive you, because he won’t be able to save you. 15 And don’t let Hizkiyahu make you trust in Adonai by saying, “Adonai will surely save us; this city will not be given over to the king of Ashur.”

Again Rav-Shakeh mocked the idea of trusting in Adonai to rescue Y’hudah from Ashur. But as the previous chapters have asserted many times, trusting Adonai is precisely what the people of Y’hudah should do in this situation.

16 Don’t listen to Hizkiyahu.’ For this is what the king says: ‘Make peace with me, surrender to me. Then every one of you can eat from his vine and fig tree and drink the water in his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land with grain and wine, a land with bread and vineyards.

Ashur’s imperialistic policy called for the deportation of a subjugated people. Rav-Shakeh presented his ultimatum for surrender. For the time being, the Y’hudahim would stay in their land, but after a while, they would be deported to another area. Such a policy was put into place in 722 BCE when the Ashurim conquered the northern kingdom and deported the vast majority of the native population and then brought in foreigners to live there. This policy was intended to break the connection between a people and the god of their land.

18 Beware of Hizkiyahu; he is only deluding you when he says, “Adonai will save us.” Has any god of any nation ever saved his land from the power of the king of Ashur?

Rav-Shakeh does just what HaSatan does to us. First, he plants a question in the ears of the people of Yerushalayim concerning their king. HaSatan attempts to deceive us at every turn. Rav-Shakeh argued that the Adonai could not save Y’hudah any more than the gods of other nations and cities that had been defeated by Ashur.

19 Where are the gods of Hamat and Arpad? Where are the gods of S’farvayim? Did they save Shomron from my power? 20 Where is the god of any of these countries that has saved its country from my power, so that Adonai might be able to save Yerushalayim from my power?’”

Rav-Shakeh specifically mentioned the defeat of three cities whose gods were unable to rescue their inhabitants. Arpad and Hamat were cities in northern Syria known to have been defeated by Ashur at an earlier time. The exact identification of S’farvayim is unknown.

21 But they kept still and didn’t answer him so much as a word, for the king’s order was, “Don’t answer him.” 22 Then Elyakim the son of Hilkiyahu, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and Yo’ach the son of Asaf, the foreign minister went to Hizkiyahu with their clothes torn and reported to him what Rav-Shakeh had said. ~ Isaiah 36:11-22 (CJB)

Hizkiyahu did not give his officials authority to negotiate with Ashur. They reported the proceedings to the king. Their clothes that were torn were a common sign of mourning, showing their deep distress.

In my next post, we learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold in Yesha’yahu 37.

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Sukkot 5780 ~ The Ultimate Sukkah

We continue to interrupt our series on Yesha’yahu once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2019, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Sunday, October 13th.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Yesha’yahu.

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Yom Kippur – 5780 ~ The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take another break from the series on Yesha’yahu to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur. This a lengthy post and I would encourage you to download the PDF version.

In 2019, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on October 8th. The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to Adonai. What does “atonement mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for the wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is essential in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later. The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of Adonai. He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history. Adonai planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing? Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness? No. In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to Adonai, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat). (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony. According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats. The lot for the sacrifice said for the Lord, and the lot for the scapegoat said, the scapegoat.  The people considered it a good omen if the lot for the Lord came up in the Priests right hand. Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the Temple. The sash on the Temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that Adonai had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned. This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the Temple which foreshadowed its doom. (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.) For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the “shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other candles.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.” Fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.
Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that Adonai would give His Son for us. What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own. But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve. Sacrifice has always been central to the history of Adonai’s gracious dealings with men. Over and over again, that picture is presented to us. Over and over again we see the blood. Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one. And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, Adonai lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by Adonai. In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).

“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).

“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).

“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today without realizing that they contain Adonai’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4). The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting Adonai to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26). What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished! By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18). We need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again. Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with. The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of Adonai. What a different message the bread and wine of Communion! No longer is fresh blood required. Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v. 12).

It is enough.
Redemption’s work is done.
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of Adonai’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake. Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He explained His death regarding His “bloodshed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43). Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13). Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into Adonai’s presence. He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused on the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8). “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings” (Hebrews 5:8). Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience to Adam’s disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love. No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10). This does not mean that Adonai loves us because Yeshua died for us. Rather, Yeshua died for us because Adonai loves us. Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement. After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25) Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with,  Adonai can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption. He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Yeshua’s death was Adonai’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to Adonai under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) “in him… become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats.
Yeshua is our perfect atonement. He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will consider the last of the Fall Feasts by examining Sukkot.