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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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

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.

Click here for the PDF version.

Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 37:11-20

In my last post, we begin a new mini-series on Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 37:1-10. In this post, we continue to learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 37:11-20.

11  You have heard what the kings of Ashur have done to all lands — they have completely destroyed them. So how will you be delivered?12  Have the gods of the nations delivered them? No, my ancestors destroyed them — Gozan, Haran, Retzef, and the people of ‘Eden who were in Tel’asar. 13  Where is the king of Hamat? the king of Arpad? the king of the city of S’farvayim, of Hena and ‘Ivah?’”

Verses 11-13 repeat the thrust of the threat we saw in Yesha’yahu 36:18-20. Sancheriv again told Hizkiyahu that he should not trust Adonai. After all, the gods of other nations and cities conquered by Ashur in the past had been unable to help them.

14  Hizkiyahu took the letter from the messengers’ hands and read it. Then Hizkiyahu went up to the house of Adonai and spread it out before Adonai. 15  This is the prayer that Hizkiyahu prayed to Adonai:

Hizkiyahu took this threatening letter to the house of the Adonai and spread it out before Him. That’s always a good thing to do with threatening letters that come your way or bills too big to pay. Just spread them out and say, Adonai, help!” Logically and militarily, Yerushalayim was no match for Ashur. But that didn’t stop Hizkiyahu from calling out to the only One who could save them.

16  “Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el, who dwells above the k’ruvim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.

Hizkiyahu addressed his prayer to Adonai-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el whom he described as enthroned above the k’ruvim. The k’ruvim were among the most powerful of Adonai’s heavenly creatures and are often represented at places close to the divine presence. In particular, this refers to the two k’ruvim whose wings covered the ark of the covenant as it rested in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple. Hizkiyahu appealed to Adonai as the One who made the heavens and the earth – the One who is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth, not just Y’hudah – since Sancheriv had mocked Adonai as a mere local deity.

17  Turn your ear, Adonai, and hear! Open your eyes, Adonai, and see! Hear all the words that Sancheriv sent to taunt the living God. 18  It is true that the kings of Ashur have laid waste all the countries and their lands 19  and have thrown their gods into the fire. For those were nongods, merely the products of people’s hands, wood, and stone; this is why they could destroy them. 20  Now, therefore, Adonai our God, save us from his power— so that all the kingdoms on earth will know that you are Adonai – you only.”

Sancheriv had dared to compare the Adonai to mere idols and suggested that he would defeat Adonai’s people as quickly as he had defeated the gods of the other countries. This is a prayer that produces power because the motivation was not for Hizkiyahu‘s protection but Adonai’s glorification. If Y’hudah should be defeated, then the nations, and in particular Ashur, would believe that Adonai was just like the false gods of all the other nations.

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.’ 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. ~ Isaiah 37:11-22 (CJB)

Adonai responded to Hizkiyahu through His divinely chosen prophet, Yesha’yahu. As Yesha’yahu spoke, he spoke in the name of Adonai.

Daughter 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 Adonai.

In my next post, we continue to unpack this exciting encounter in Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 37:21-38.

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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.

The Joy of the Redeemed ~ Yesha’hayu 35:1-10

In my last post, we explored A Prophecy Against the Nations in Yesha’yahu 34:1-17. In this post, we learn of The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10.

Chapter 35 is a mirror image of chapter 34, where Adonai announced that He would turn the nations into a wilderness. In chapter 35, He proclaimed that He would transform the people of Adonai from a wilderness into a garden. The principle of both chapters is that Adonai’s people should trust Him, not the nations.

1 The desert and the dry land will be glad; the ‘Aravah will rejoice and blossom like the lily.

In Romans 8, Sha’ul tells us that all creation is groaning, waiting for the day of redemption. In other words, even the earth realizes it’s in a fallen state. But when Yeshua comes back, everything will be made right once again.

Recall that the ‘Aravah is the desert area south of the Dead Sea. Scientists tell us that the deserts on our planet are expanding at an alarming rate. Ten thousand square miles of desert are being added in North Africa alone each year. But when the kingdom comes, the desert shall suddenly rejoice and blossom like a lily.

How can this be? It is suggested by some scientists that there will be another shift of the axis. If the earth is made straight again, much of the polar ice caps will melt, adding incredible amounts of water and causing evaporation and the reemergence of a water canopy surrounding the planet. Fossil evidence indicates that the earth at one time was uniformly temperate. Scientists suggest that this could happen again. [1] This is an interesting theory, but I don’t think it is connected to “global warming” per se.

2 It will burst into flower, will rejoice with joy and singing, will be given the glory of the L’vanon, the splendor of Karmel and the Sharon. They will see the glory of Adonai, the splendor of our God.

With the elimination of Edom, regions north of that land are freed from oppression and are restored to fertility and prosperity. L’vanon, Karmel, and Sharon were regions especially lush in vegetation.

3 Strengthen your drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees. 4 Say to the fainthearted, “Be strong and unafraid! Here is your God; He will come with a vengeance; with God’s retribution He will come and save you.”

Adonai will save His people from the godless nations that oppress them. Adonai’s retribution refers to the punishment due to the wicked and the reward due to the righteous.

How are we to strengthen people who feel weak or fearful? We are to tell them Yeshua is coming back. The way to enhance people – whether yourself or others – is to say, “Fear not. Be strong. Yeshua will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped; 6 then the lame man will leap like a deer, and the mute person’s tongue will sing. For in the desert, springs will burst forth, streams of water in the ‘Aravah; 7 the sandy mirage will become a pool, the thirsty ground springs of water. The haunts where jackals lie down will become a marsh filled with reeds and papyrus.

In the Kingdom, the healing ministry that Yeshua began on earth will be gloriously completed. Elsewhere in Yesha’yahu, these physical disabilities (blind, deaf, and lame) are metaphors for spiritual shortcomings (29:18; 42:18-19; 43:8). They have been physically dead to godliness, but in the future, they will come alive. Not only will the lame walk, but they will leap like a deer. Not only will the mute speak, but they will sing for joy. A similar transformation is described with the language of nature. The parched ground will flow with water.

8 A highway will be there, a way, called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not pass over it, but it will be for those whom He guides – fools will not stray along it.

In the Kingdom Age, the Way of Holiness shall be established. Everyone will walk together in love and righteousness as the Prince of Peace reigns. Even the most foolish of us will not miss the cutoff or take a wrong turn on this glorious highway of wholeness and rightness.

9 No lion or other beast of prey will be there, traveling on it. They will not be found there, but the redeemed will go there.

HaSatan will be bound at this time. Thus, we will not even hear a growl from the roaring lion of 1 Kefa 5:8.

10 Those ransomed by Adonai will return and come with singing to Tziyon, on their heads will be everlasting joy. They will acquire gladness and joy, while sorrow and sighing will flee. ~ Isaiah 35:1-10 (CJB)

The road described in verse 8 will be safe, and it will lead to Tziyon, where Adonai makes His presence known to His people.

Somewhere we got the mistaken idea that holiness is joyless. Here, however, we see that, as we cruise down the Way of Holiness, everlasting joy will replace heaviness and gladness will replace sadness.

In my next post, we begin to learn that The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 36.

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

A Prophecy Against the Nations ~ Yesha’yahu 34:1-17

In my last post, we wrapped up A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 33:14-24. In this post, we explore A Prophecy Against the Nations in Yesha’yahu 34:1-17.

In Yesha’yahu 34, we see a picture of the Great Tribulation, specifically the battle of Har-Megiddo.

1 Come close, you nations, and listen! Pay close attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and everything in it; the world, with all it produces.

The first thing I noticed in this verse was the pluralization of the nation. Adonai is not just the God of Israel. He is the Adonai of the whole world, so He calls on all the nations to hear Him when He speaks. That includes all of us.

2 For Adonai is angry at every nation, furious with all their armies; He has completely destroyed them, handed them over to slaughter. (emphasis added.) 3 Their slain will be thrown out; the stench will rise from their corpses; the mountains will flow with their blood.

Revelation 14:20 tells us that, at the battle of Har-Megiddo, the blood will flow as high as a horse’s bridle. Jeremiah 30 calls this the time of Ya’akov’s trouble, for, in the Tribulation, the nation of Isra’el and all the earth will be shaken to its core in preparation for the coming of the King.

4 The whole host of heaven will decompose, the heavens themselves be rolled up like a scroll; all their array will wither away like a withering grape-leaf that falls from a vine or a withered fig from a fig tree.

Adonai’s warring activity has cosmic implications. The ancient nations thought of the stars as representing their gods. This image in Yesha’yahu of the whole panorama of the sky being rolled up like a parchment scroll is unique in the Hebrew Bible. In Revelation 6:14 we read: “The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place.”

5 ‘For my sword has drunk its fill in heaven; now it descends on Edom to judge them, the people I have doomed to destruction.’

Since verses 1-4 are concerned with Adonai’s punishment of the nations, it may be that the description of Edom as a sacrificial victim is simply an example of what will happen to them all. Indeed Edom serves in many cases as Israel’s prototype “enemy.”

6 There is a sword that belongs to Adonai. It is filled with blood, gorged with fat, filled with the blood of lambs and goats, gorged with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Adonai has a sacrifice in Botzrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. 7 The wild oxen will fall with them, the young bulls with the strong, mature ones. Their land will be drunk with blood, and their dust made greasy with fat.

Botzrah is the capital of ancient Edom, present-day Saudi Arabia. Edom is the area where Esau settled. The language of sacrifice is explicit in these verses.

8 For Adonai has a day of vengeance, a year of requital for fighting with Tziyon.

Edom had a reputation for taking advantage of Isra’el whenever Isra’el was weak.

9 Its streams will be changed to tar, its dust to sulfur, its land burning tar 10 that will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. In all generations, it will lie waste; no one will pass through it ever again.

Although often mentioned as a sealant material for boats, boiling tar appears in Old Babylonian texts as a form of punishment. Coupled with the foul smell of burning sulfur, both elements being available in the region of the Dead Sea, they could easily be associated with Adonai’s wrath. This punishment is similar to that He had brought against Sodom and Gomorrah.

For years, Bible scholars wondered how an area could burn forever. Now we know – for if a bomb or some other device ignited the vast oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, they would burn forever. Whether a bomb ignites them or they are ignited supernaturally, they will indeed burn. [1]

11 Horned owl and hawk will possess it, screech owl and raven will live there; he will stretch over it the measuring line of confusion and the plumbline of the empty void.

The symbol for utter destruction here is that birds best known as inhabiting and scavenging desolate places have settled in ruins.

12 Of its nobles, none will be called to be king, and all its princes will be nothing.

Edom’s kingship was ancient, predating that of Isra’el, but Adonai will bring that institution to an end since He is bringing the nation itself to a close.

13 Thorns will overgrow its palaces, nettles, and thistles its fortresses; it will become a lair for jackals, an enclosure for ostriches. 14 Wildcats and hyenas will meet there, and billy-goats call to each other; Lilit [the night monster] will lurk there and find herself a place to rest. 15 There the hoot owl will nest, lay her eggs, hatch and gather her young in its shade. There the vultures will assemble, every one with its mate.

The prophecy is that of a city becoming a wilderness. Not only will the public buildings of the nation be overgrown out of neglect, but wild animals – a number of which were considered unclean – will make their homes among the ruins.

16 Consult the book of Adonai and read it: not one of these will be missing, none will be lacking a mate. For by His own mouth He gave the order, and by His Spirit, He brought them together. 17 It is He who cast the lot for them, His hand measured out their shares. They will possess it forever, and live there through all generations.” ~ Isaiah 34:1-17 (CJB)

The meaning of the book of Adonai is unknown. It may be a reference to a heavenly scroll, but if so, it is hard to know how the hearer could refer to this document. The appeal to a scroll could be a rhetorical device to emphasize the certainty of Edom’s destruction and its transformation into a haunt for wild animals.

In my next post, we explore The Joy of the Redeemed in Yesha’hayu 35:1-10.

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

A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 33:14-24

In my last post, we learned of A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 33:1-13. In this post, we wrap up A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 33:14-24.

14 The sinners in Tziyon are frightened; trembling has seized the ungodly. “Who of us can live with the devouring fire? Who of us can live with eternal burning?”

Having seen Adonai move against the Ashurim, His people quake, fearing they’re next in line for judgment. Who can stand in the presence of such an awesome Adonai? The answer in the following verses are similar to Psalms 15 and 24, thought to be liturgies used by those entering the sacred space of the sanctuary.

15 He whose life is right and whose speech is straight, he who scorns getting rich by extortion, he who shakes his hands free of bribes, stops his ears against talk of bloodshed and shuts his eyes against looking at evil. 16 Such a person will live on the heights, his refuge a fortress among the cliffs, his food, and water in steady supply.

Righteousness –He whose life is rightis described in this verse in relational terms. Adonai will dwell with those who refrain from acts that exploit other people. The righteous person will avoid extortion, bribery, and murder. A Believer who is walking with Adonai in the time of the consuming, devouring fire will be able to stand. The same fire that petrifies those who aren’t Believers will purify those who want to be more like Him.

17 Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will gaze on land stretching into the distance.

The King is none other than Adonai Himself. The picture of the King in His beauty looks to the future after the judgment and the destruction of the enemy when Adonai’s people will be restored.

18 Your mind will meditate on the terror: “Where is the man who did the counting? Where is the man who did the weighing? Where is the man who numbered the towers?”

In this glorious future, no longer will there be emissaries from the oppressive enemy to take the resources of the people of Adonai or those who try to prepare for battle against them.

19 You will not see the intransigent people, that people whose language is so obscure, whose stuttering speech you cannot understand.

The Ashurim tax collectors, some of whom may have come from various parts of the empire, spoke Aramaic, while the majority of Isra’eli spoke only Hebrew. They may also have had strange-sounding accents, which added to the sense of foreign control and oppression for the people of Y’hudah.

20 Look at Tziyon, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Yerushalayim a secure abode, a tent that will not be removed, whose pegs will never be pulled out and whose guy-ropes will not be cut. 21 But there in His splendor, Adonai will be with us, in a place of rivers and broad streams. But no boat with oars will go there; no majestic ship will pass by.

Of Yerushalayim, the most fought-over city in the history of humanity, Adonai says it shall be a quiet habitation, that it shall stand. Despite the current tensions in the Middle East with the Iranians rushing to develop nuclear weapons, perhaps the safest spot on the face of the earth is Yerushalayim, for Adonai guarantees her preservation. To describe Tziyon as a place of rivers and broad streams is to paint a picture of future blessing since Yerushalayim had nothing of the kind.

22 For Adonai is our judge, Adonai is our lawgiver, Adonai is our king. He will save us.

Adonai is our judge, lawgiver, and king, offices that provide internal and external stability and security.

23 For your ropes are hanging loose, not holding the mast, not spreading the sail. Then the plunder shared out is so huge that even the lame get part of the spoil.

The boat imagery may point to those ships in verse 21 that try to assail Tziyon. But rather than taking plunder away, even the lame among the people of Adonai will receive a portion.

24 No inhabitant will say, “I am ill”; the people living there will be forgiven their sin. ~ Isaiah 33:14-24 (CJB)

The change from judgment to salvation for the people of Adonai takes place for one reason: they will be forgiven their iniquity.

When Yeshua returns, when Yerushalayim is quiet, when the river flows through the city, there will be no more sickness. When the Yeshua walked on earth, all that came to Him were healed without exception. Thus, Yeshua’s ministry on earth provided a sneak preview of great coming attractions.

In my next post, we explore A Prophecy Against the Nations in Yesha’hayu 34.

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The Women of Yerushalayim ~ Yesha’yahu 32:9-20

In my last post, we learned of the Coming of a Righteous King in Yesha’yahu 32:1-8. In this post, we examine a prophecy concerning The Women of Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 32:9-20.

9 You women who are so complacent, listen to me! Overconfident women pay attention to my words!

The prophecy now addresses the women in the community of the people of Adonai. They also show pride in human resources rather than in the Adonai. They are complacent and overconfident.

10 In a year and a few days more, you overconfident women will shudder, because the vintage will fail, the harvest will not come.

It appears that the security of these women is in the abundant produce of the land, but Yesha’hayu pointed out that this prosperity is temporary. In the next year, vintage (wine) and harvest (crop production) will fail. Tough economic times are ahead.

11 Tremble, you complacent women! Shudder, you overconfident women! Strip bare, wear sackcloth to cover yourselves.

Yesha’hayu seems to be saying: “You should be wearing sackcloth in brokenness and humility. Instead, you’re dressed for a party.” One of the rituals associated with mourning and supplication is to wear sackcloth (see Genesis 37:34; 1 Kings 20:31-32). Any society whose women begin to lose their moral moorings and begin to flaunt their sensuality is headed for trouble.

12 Beat your breasts in mourning for the pleasant fields and fruitful vines,

In addition to wearing sackcloth, beating one’s chest was also a mourning customs.

13 for the land of my people, producing thorns and briars, for all the happy homes in the joyful city.

The land will produce thorns and briers, useless plants, instead of grains and vines. The idea is similar to the curse against Adam in Genesis 3:18.

14 For the palace will be abandoned, the crowded city deserted, ‘Ofel and fortress wastelands forever, a delight for wild donkeys and a pasture for flocks –

Not only will the fields be desolate and unproductive, but so will the city of Yerushalayim. It will be turned into the haunt of wild animals.Ofel (Citadel) refers to a portion of Yerushalayim where a specific watchtower stood (see Nehemiah 3:26).

Because the Adonai would mercifully and mightily deliver Yerushalayim from destruction at the hand of the Ashurim, this prophecy would see fulfillment when the Jews were carried into captivity to Bavel in 586 BCE. Of course, it would be even more fully and tragically realized in the destruction of Yerushalayim by Rome in 70 CE.

15 till the Spirit is poured out on us from above, and the desert becomes a fertile field, with the fertile field regarded as a forest.

When the Spirit is poured out, everything changes. We see three great outpourings of the Spirit in Scripture: before the end times in Joel 2, at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and in the millennial kingdom as seen here. That is not to say that the Spirit isn’t being poured out daily now.

16 Then justice will dwell in the desert, and righteousness abides in the fertile field. 17 The effect of righteousness will be peace; the result of righteousness, quiet trust forever.

Being right with Adonai and our neighbors will bring peace. Shalom is more than the absence of conflict. It includes personal wholeness and does not depend on outside circumstances.

 18 My people will live in a peaceful place, in secure neighborhoods, and tranquil dwellings.

Living in a peaceful place and feeling secure and tranquil were blessings of Isra’el’s covenant with the Adonai, but the people’s sin had previously brought curses rather than blessings.

19 Just as the forest will surely come down, the city will surely be laid low. 20 Happy are you who sow by all streams, letting oxen and donkeys roam freely. ~ Isaiah 32:9-20 (CJB)

The godly would remain secure even with evidence of Adonai’s judgment all around them.

In my next post, we move to the sixth and final woe in chapters 28-33 in Yesha’hayu 33:1-13 to learn about A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 1.

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Coming of a Righteous King ~ Yesha’yahu 32:1-8

In my last post, we concluded our investigation of a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 30:27-33. In this post, we take a brief respite from the woes, and we will learn of the Coming of a Righteous King in Yesha’yahu 32:1-8.

1 There is coming a king who will reign justly and princes who will rule uprightly.

In light of the dark days they were experiencing, this would have been a message of comfort and hope to Adonai’s people. Scholars are divided over whether the king who will reign righteously is a direct reference to the Messiah or whether it describes a historical king like Hizikiyahu (sees 2 Kings 18-21) or Yoshiyahu (see 2 Kings 21-23). Of course, Yeshua is THE King, and Hizikiyahu and Yoshiyahu were pale anticipations of the Him. The point is that the future will bring just leadership.

2 A man will be like a refuge from the wind, like protection from a storm, like streams of water on arid ground, like a rock cliff shading a weary land.

The benefits the people will experience because of their righteous leaders are described metaphorically. They are protection and provision in difficult circumstances. Ultimately, Yeshua is the hiding place in a weary land.

3 The eyes of those seeing will not be closed; the ears of those hearing will pay close attention. 4 The minds of the impetuous will learn to weigh carefully; the tongues of the stutterers will speak readily and clearly. 5 The mean person will no longer be called generous, or the miserly said to be noble;

These verses form a reversal of the conditions faced by Yesha’yahu in his description of his calling in 6:9-10. What changes Israel’s fortunes is the rise of a righteous king who enforces the law and maintains order.

When Yeshua reigns in righteousness, men will see clearly. As a result, dark will not be called light (Yesha’yahu 5:20). Things will be seen for what they are in truth. That is why the mean or foolish, person will no longer be thought of as generous and noble.

6 for the mean person will speak meanness, his heart planning evil so that he can act godlessly, spreading error concerning Adonai, as he lets the hungry go on starving and deprives the thirsty of drink.

Proverbs make it clear that a fool is someone who rejects Adonai and has a detrimental effect on the community. Here Yesha’yahu claims that folly among the leadership leads to hunger and thirst.

7 The mean person’s means are mean – he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor and needy with lies, even when their cause is just. 8 But the generous person devises generous things, and his generosity will keep him standing. ~ Isaiah 32:1-8 (CJB)

In contrast to the person who will be destroyed by his self-interest and indulgence, the generous person will thrive because of his selflessness. Yeshua would not only perfectly embody this principle but put it into words when He said, “Whoever finds his own life will lose it, but the person who loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 10:39 (CJB)

In my next post, we move on in Yesha’hayu 32 to learn about The Women of Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 32:9-20.

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