Kefa Goes Fishing Again

In my last post, we learned that Kefa accompanied Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration. In this post, we see that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again.

24 When they came to K’far-Nachum (Capernaum), the collectors of the half-shekel came to Kefa and said, “Doesn’t your rabbi pay the Temple tax?”

The Temple tax goes back to the time of the Exodus when the Israeli’s were levied the tax to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle and was carried over when the Temple was built.

13 Everyone subject to the census is to pay as an offering to Adonai half a shekel [one-fifth of an ounce of silver] – by the standard of the sanctuary shekel (a shekel equals twenty gerahs). 14 Everyone over twenty years of age who is subject to the census is to give this offering to Adonai –15 the rich is not to give more or the poor less than the half-shekel when giving Adonai’s offering to atone for your lives. 16 You are to take the atonement money from the people of Isra’el and use it for the service in the tent of meeting so that it will be a reminder of the people of Isra’el before Adonai to atone for your lives.” ~ Exodus 30:13-16 (CJB)

The tax was equivalent to one or two days’ wages for an average worker.

25 “Of course He does,” said Kefa. When he arrived home, Yeshua spoke first. “Shim’ on, what’s your opinion? The kings of the earth – from whom do they collect duties and taxes? From their sons or from others?”

Like a good prophet, Yeshua responds to Kefa before Kefa even brings up the matter (see 1 Sam 9:20; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32).

Remember, when Kefa was on the mountain, the voice of the Father interrupted him. Here in the house, he’s interrupted by the Son.

26 “From others,” he answered. “Then,” said Yeshua, “The sons are exempt.

In tax contexts, exempt means typically “free from obligation” concerning tax. Since a royal family did not tax itself, Yeshua’s point is that the Son of God should not be taxed for the upkeep of His Father’s house.

Because Yeshua’s disciples were children of the true King, they were also exempt from the obligation to support the Temple. This had enormous implications for Jewish Believers. If Temple taxes were no longer obligatory, sacrifices and other offerings were also now optional.

27 But to avoid offending them – go to the lake, throw out a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them for me and for you.” ~ Matthew 17:24-27 (CJB)

Based on solidarity with the rest of the Jewish community, however, Yeshua pays the tax. If some of Matthew’s [1] Messianic readers were looking for an excuse to avoid paying the tax on their own day, this text would encourage them to pay it instead.

Through divine knowledge, Yeshua knew that a nearby fish had swallowed an amount of money that was sufficient to pay the tax. He also exercised authority over nature, ensuring that the fish would take the bait Kefa offered.

Yeshua commanded Kefa to throw out a line. Jon Courson has an interesting take on this command.

The command in itself would have been most curious because professional fishermen like Kefa didn’t use a hook and line. That was rookie equipment. It would be like Jose Canseco [2] using a batting tee. Real fishermen used nets and boats. But Kefa humbly obeyed. And I can see him walking along the shore, carrying his little pole and tackle box, as his colleagues looked at each other and whispered, “What’s he doing?”[3]

It is the only miracle using one fish. Yeshua had multiplied the fish for Kefa (see Luke 5:1-11), and He would repeat that miracle (see John 21:1ff). But in this case, He used only one fish. When we consider the complexity of this miracle, it amazes us. First, someone had to lose a coin in the water. Then, a fish had to take that coin in its mouth and retain it. That same fish then had to bite on Kefa’s hook – with an impediment in its mouth – and be caught. You cannot naturally explain all of this. It is too complicated for an accident and too impossible for human management.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua about forgiveness.

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[1] Matthew’s account is the only one presented in the Gospels.

[2] For those who may not know, Jose was an MLB outfielder and designated hitter from 1985-2001 playing most of his career with the Oakland A’s. He admitted using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids) and wrote a tell-all book in 2005.

[3] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

Kefa Goes Up the Mountain

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Rebukes Yeshua. In this post, we see that Kefa accompanies Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration.

The Mount of the Transfiguration

This story has always fascinated me. It is told in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. As we explore this passage, put yourself on the mountain with Yeshua, Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan. This passage includes so many allusions to God, revealing his glory to Moshe on Mount Sinai that most ancient Jewish readers would undoubtedly have caught them.

Chronologically, this occurs within a week of Kefa rebuking Yeshua. 1 Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya’akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately.

The reference to six days draws a parallel between Yeshua’s Transfiguration and God’s revelation of Himself to Moshe in Exodus 24:13-18. As we learn below, other parallels include the reference to a cloud, a brilliant light, a mountain, and the separation of a small number of men from the larger group. Moshe’s face shone brilliantly after he met with God, so Yeshua’s Transfiguration serves to identify Him as the new Moshe.

Scripture records three times when Yeshua took these same three and ministered to them in very unique ways. Interestingly, each of those occasions dealt with death.

The first time we have learned that Yeshua singled out Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan, He took them into the house of a man whose daughter had died. Yeshua brought the young girl back to life, and Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan saw that He was victorious over death (see Luke 8:49-55).

The second occasion is our passage today.

The third occasion is when Yeshua takes them into the Garden of Gethsemane. As He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done,” Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan would understand that He was submitted to death.

2 As they watched, He began to change form – His face shone like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light.

These three Jewish fishermen were given a glimpse of the glory of the coming King and His kingdom.

3 Then they looked and saw Moshe and Eliyahu speaking with Him.

Jewish people understood Scripture as denying that Eliyahu had ever died; God himself had buried Moshe. Jewish people expected the return of both Eliyahu and Moshe at the end of the age (Deut.18:15-18; Mal. 4:5). Both of them heard from God at Mount Sinai.

This scene informs us that those who experience death (Moshe) have a cognitive understanding and an ability to communicate. Together, they symbolize all those who make up God’s kingdom – those who will be raptured and not see death (like Eliyahu) and those who will die and go to be with the Lord (like Moshe). Moreover, Moshe represented the Law, and Eliyahu represented the Prophets. Together they represented the complete Tanakh. Along with the talmidim, they represent both the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah centered on Yeshua.

4 Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Lord. I’ll put up three shelters if you want – one for You, one for Moshe, and one for Eliyahu.”

Isra’el had dwelt in shelters in the wilderness while the presence and glory of God was among them. Jews commemorated this annually by building shelters (sukkahs), so Kefa would know how to build one. But once again, Kefa has to control is impetuous behavior.

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

The cloud of glory also overshadowed the mountain in Exodus 24:15 and the Tabernacle in 40:34.

As Jon Courson’s says, Kefa, I’m going to interrupt you once again,” said God the Father from the cloud over the mountain. “You want to build three booths, but you can’t put the Law and the Prophets on the same plane as My Son.” [1]

Listen to Him! because He is the “prophet like Moshe” (Deut. 18:15-19, Acts 3:22-23), whom you have just seen.

6 When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. 7 But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” He said, “Don’t be afraid.”8 So they opened their eyes, looked up, and saw only Yeshua by Himself.

The talmidim fear and falling on their faces were characteristic of people in the Tanakh and later Jewish tradition when they experienced revelations of God. When Yeshua touched them and told them not to be afraid, the three disciples looked and saw no one but him. Why? Because Yeshua isn’t merely one among many faithful servants of God. He is superior to them all. The ministries of Moshe and Eliyahu ultimately pointed toward Yeshua. In fact, all of Scripture has Him as its focus.

9 As they came down the mountain, Yeshua ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” ~ Matthew 17:1-9 (CJB)

The Transfiguration confirmed Yeshua’s “coming in his kingdom” (Matt.16:28) to these three talmidim. Still, without the more public confirmation which followed His resurrection, the testimony would have been of little value in proving Yeshua’s identity. It would have raised more questions than it answered. Hence Yeshua advised closed mouth for the time being. Given Kefa’s personality, that must have been extremely hard to do. But wait until we get to Acts 2. For us, our job is to proclaim His resurrection and love from in the highways and byways. When is the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he is asked by Yeshua to go fishing again.

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[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

Rejoice with Yerushalayim ~ Yesha’yahu 66:7-14

In my last post, we learned about The Humble and Contrite Spirit in Yesha’yahu 66:1-6. In this post, we continue to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Rejoice with Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 66:7-14.

7 Before going into labor, she gave birth; before her pains came, she delivered a male child.

The fate of the wicked will not spoil the rejoicing of those who enter Yeshua’s kingdom. Isra’el’s restoration in the Kingdom Age will be accomplished so quickly it will be like a woman delivering her baby before going into labor.

8 Whoever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Is a country born in one day? Is a nation brought forth all at once? For as soon as Tziyon went into labor, she brought forth her children.

Tziyon (Yerushalayim) has been described as Isra’el’s mother before. Here the return to Y’hudah after the exile is described as Tziyon giving birth painlessly to many children.

9 “Would I let the baby breakthrough and not be born?” asks Adonai. “Would I, who cause the birth, shut the womb?” asks your God.

In previous passages, God is imagined to be the husband of Tziyon. That idea might also be operative here, but He is pictured as the doctor who delivered Tziyon’s babies. Isra’el’s rebirth is inevitable because God never begins what he doesn’t finish.

10 Rejoice with Yerushalayim! Be glad with her, all you who love her! Rejoice, rejoice with her, all of you who mourned for her; 11 so that you nurse and are satisfied by her comforting breast, drinking deeply and delighting in the overflow of her glory.

Yerushalayim, the mother of the returned exiles, will not only give them birth but will nurse them and give them life.

12 For Adonai says, “I will spread shalom over her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried in her arm and cuddled in her lap.

Yerushalayim will be a place of abundant peace (like a river) and overflowing wealth (like a flood). Adonai, the mother, will care for and play with her children, the returned inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

13 Like someYerushalayim, you will be comforted.”one comforted by his mother, I will comfort you; in 

Likening Himself to a mother, Adonai says, “I’m going to bounce you upon My knee.” He identifies Himself not only as a strong Father but as a tender, nourishing Mother.

14 Your heart will rejoice at the sight; your bodies will flourish like newly sprouted grass. It will be known that the hand of Adonai is with His servants, but with His enemies, His fury. ~ Isaiah 66:7-14 (CJB)

Adonai’s people will flourish, but his enemies will receive His fury.

In my next post, we conclude our study of Yesha’yahu, learning about Final Judgment and Glory of Adonai in Yesha’yahu 66:15-25.

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The New Heavens and A New Earth ~ Yesha’yahu 65:17-25

In my last post, we explored Adonai’s Judgement and Salvation in Yesha’yahu 65:1-16. In this post, we learn about The New Heavens and A New Earth in Yesha’yahu 65:17-25.

17 “For, look! I create New Heavens and a New Earth; past things will not be remembered; they will no more come to mind.

The Hebrew word translated create is bara and means to create from nothing. When we read in Genesis 1:1 that Adonai created the heavens and the earth, the term used is also bara. In other words, Adonai did not use preexisting materials to create the universe. He simply spoke the word, and it became. I must admit that when I first learned the definition of bara, I was stunned. We all know that Adonai gave us the ability to create things. But we don’t have the power to create something out of nothing. We need existing materials to create.

The use of bara here in Yesha’yahu means that Adonai is going to create something entirely new. It won’t be a matter of merely remodeling the earth and the heavens, for, in 2 Kefa, we read that this earth and heavens will be done away with entirely. However, the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief.” On that Day, the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up. ~ 2 Peter 3:10 (CJB)

18 So be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for look! I am making Yerushalayim a joy, and her people a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Yerushalayim and take joy in My people. The sound of weeping will no longer be heard in it, no longer the sound of crying.

What a message of hope for the people of Yerushalayim today, where there is so much weeping and crying seemingly without a solution or an end. But in the day of the New Heaven and the New Earth, weeping and wailing will be replaced by joy and rejoicing.

20 No more will babies die in infancy; no more will an old man die short of his days – he who dies at a hundred will be thought young, and at less than a hundred thought cursed. 21 They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

The future blessing of Yerushalayim includes long life for its inhabitants. Infant mortality rates will disappear, and older people will survive even longer. If someone dies at age 100, it will be considered tragic because he was just a youth compared to others. A further blessing will come in the form of shelter and agricultural abundance.

As we have seen in earlier posts in the Book of Revelation, some believe that in the Kingdom Age, there will be health, peace, and rightness to such a degree that most people will live through the Millennium. We who are Believers won’t have physical bodies at that time. We’ll be ruling and reigning with Yeshua in the Millennial Kingdom. But we’ll have already been caught up to heaven and will have received our glorified bodies. Therefore, this doesn’t apply to us, but rather to those who come to the Lord during the Tribulation.

22 They will not build, and others live there; they will not plant, and others eat; for the days of My people will be like the days of a tree, and My chosen will themselves enjoy the use of what they make.

Jon Courson’s opines:

“In the kingdom age, the houses and vineyards people build and plant will be for their own blessing. This solves the problem of the corruption of capitalism. Communism and Socialism came to answer the corruption of capitalism—only for man to discover that they were even more corrupt systems. In the Kingdom, however, there will be a perfect blend of capitalism and communism in the best sense of the word.” [1]


23 They will not toil in vain or raise children to be destroyed, for they are the seed blessed by Adonai; and their offspring with them.

In the past, the labor of Adonai’s people had been enjoyed by others as He allowed foreign nations to take them over. Their children had been born to disaster since the enemy would either kill them or deport them. But this will change in Adonai’s New Heaven and New Earth. The blessing of work and childbearing was first troubled at the time of the fall into sin. The language of this verse suggests a reversal of these curses in Genesis 3:16-19.

24 Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.

The presence of the Lord will be so real in the Kingdom Age that there will be no need for fasting, praying through, or pleading with Adonaifor before we even call, He’ll answer.

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion eats straw like an ox (but the serpent – its food will be dust). They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on My holy mountain,” says Adonai. ~ Isaiah 65:17-25 (CJB)

In the Kingdom, harmony will replace ferocity, and humility will be the order of the day.

In my next post, we begin to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about The Humble and Contrite Spirit in Yesha’yahu 66:1-6.

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

Adonai’s Judgement and Salvation ~ Yesha’yahu 65:1-16

In my last post, we concluded the examination of The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 64:1-12. In this post, explore Adonai’s Judgement and Salvation in Yesha’yahu 65:1-16.

1 “I made Myself accessible to those who didn’t ask for Me; I let Myself be found by those who didn’t seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am! Here I am!’ to a nation not called by My name.

Sha’ul quotes this verse in Romans 10:20 as a reference to Gentiles. Because the Jews were not interested in Him, Adonai sovereignly reached out to those who were not seeking Him at all. Aren’t you glad He did?

2 I spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who live in a way that is not good, who follow their own inclinations;

In the previous and the following verses, Adonai responded to the people’s prayer uttered by Yesha’yahu in Chapter 64. Adonai first described His total openness and accessibility to the people. Even more, He sought them out, though they should be the ones who were seeking Him. Adonai would spread out His hands in welcome to people who had passed by Him.

3 a people who provoke Me to My face all the time, sacrificing in gardens and burning incense on bricks.

Gardens in the ancient Near East were often parks of fruit and shade trees, arboretums serving as outdoor shrines or providing comfortable surroundings for sacred enclosures. Sacred trees played a significant role in the popular religion of the day. Most incense altars were made of limestone. These were standard features in the high places where illegitimate worship took place. [1]

4 They sit among the graves and spend the night in caverns; they eat pig meat, and their pots hold soup made from disgusting things.

Many individuals who practiced necromancy (contacting the spirits of the dead in the ancient Near East spent the night in the graveyards, waiting for communication from the dead. Assyrian wisdom literature calls the pig unholy, unfit for the temple, and an abomination to the gods. The attitude toward the pig in Israel is apparent here in Yesha’yahu, showing close connection to worship of the dead. It is very possible then that sacrificing a pig was synonymous with sacrificing to demons or the dead. [2] As we know from Leviticus 11:7, Adonai had declared that pigs were unclean food and were not to be eaten. Even today in Isra’el, anyone who raises pigs has to keep them on one-foot platforms, so they do not touch the land.

5 They say, ‘Keep your distance, don’t come near me, because I am holier than You.’ These are smoke in My nose, a fire that burns all day!

Ironically, these sinful people claimed to be holy, which Adonai considered extremely irritating.

6 See, it is written before Me; I will not be silent until I repay them; I will repay them to the full, 7 your own crimes and those of your ancestors together,” says Adonai. “They offered incense on the mountains and insulted Me on the hills. First, I will measure out their wages and then repay them in full.”

Adonai accused His people of reproaching Him on the mountains and hills. False worship in such places was condemned in the Tanakh (see Duet. 12:2 as an example).

I will measure out their wages and then repay them in full. Our actions are determined by our thinking. If you want to experience spiritual victory, you need to be kingdom-minded. You need to adopt Adonai’s thinking about the issues of life. As Rabbi Sha’ul writes, we must be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). By tending to the soil of our minds and sowing our thoughts with the Word of Adonai, we will make it possible to bear good fruit in what we say and in what we do.

8 Here is what Adonai says: “As when juice is found in a cluster of grapes, and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is still some good in it,’ so I will do likewise for the sake of My servants, and not destroy them all.

Using the analogy of a bunch of grapes, Adonai announced that He would not destroy the good grapes out of the bunch but would use them to make new wine. The analogy presents the idea that Adonai will preserve a faithful remnant of His people after the judgment. Remember the issue of Avraham questioning the Adonai if He found 5 faithful believers in Sodom? Just as there are good grapes in bad clusters, so there are good people in a nation that wasn’t doing very well at all. Spiritually, Isra’el was rotten. But there were individuals who loved the Adonai. It was because of them that He didn’t destroy the entire cluster.

9 I will bring forth descendants from Ya’akov, heirs of My mountains from Y’hudah; My chosen ones will possess them, and My servants will live there. 10 The Sharon will be a pasture for flocks, the Akhor Valley, a place for cattle to rest, for My people who have sought Me.

Sharon was a coastal plain verging on the Judean hill country in the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. The valley was known for its beauty, desolation, and pastureland. It was about thirty-two miles in length and was, on average, eleven miles in width. The Valley of Akhor was probably located on Judah’s northern border and is identified with the modern El Buqe’ah, a small plain in the northern Judean wilderness in the vicinity of Jericho. [3] Even during judgment, though, Adonai promised to spare His righteous remnant, those who were faithful to Him amid the perverse generations.

11 “But as for you who abandon Adonai, who forget my holy mountain, who prepare a table for Gad, a god of luck, and fill bowls of mixed wine for Meni, a god of destiny – 12 I will destine you to the sword, you will all bow down to be slaughtered; because when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did what was evil from My point of view and chose what did not please Me.”

Gad (fortune) and Meni (destiny) are personified as objects of false worship. While Adonai had good things in store for the faithful remnant, those among His people who continued to worship false deities would meet a horrible end.

In the following verses, God continues the distinction between those who followed Him and were His servants and those who rejected Him. The former will enjoy life; the latter will suffer.

13 Therefore this is what Adonai Elohim says: “My servants will eat, while you go hungry; My servants will drink, while you go thirsty. My servants will rejoice, while you will be ashamed. 14 Yes, My servants will sing for joy from their hearts, but you will cry out from the pain in your heart and howl from an anguished spirit. 15 My chosen will use your name as a curse – ‘May Adonai Elohim strike you dead!’ But to His servants, He will give another name.

Those who forsook the Adonai and chased after other gods would be slain, and God’s servants would be called by another name. What would that name be? It was in Antioch that believers were called Christians for the first time (Acts 11:26). It is a name we who know Him should wear with great humility and responsibility. Adonai helps us to live up to it by behaving like Yeshua, by showing the love and grace He showed.

16 Thus someone on earth who blesses himself will bless himself by the God of truth, and someone on earth who swears an oath will swear by the God of truth; for past troubles will be forgotten, hidden from My eyes. ~ Isaiah 65:1-16 (CJB)

Regardless of the hardships, one may face in life by following the Adonai; the result is worth it: for past troubles will be forgotten, hidden from My eyes.

In my next post, we learn about The New Heavens and A New Earth in Yesha’yahu 65:17-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 64:1-12

In my last post, we began to learn about The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 63:1-19. In this post, we conclude the examination of The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 64:1-12. Our passage is a prayer to Adonai for deliverance.

1 We wish You would tear open heaven and come down, so the mountains would shake at Your presence! 2 It would be like fire kindling the brush, and the fire then makes the water boil. Then Your enemies would know Your name; the nations would tremble before You!

Because God’s people were either heading for or in exile when they read the book of Yesha’yahu, they cried out for Him to tear open heaven like a piece of cloth and come down to rescue them. They asked the Lord to act as He had acted before. They wanted mountains to quake at His presence (see 64:1) just as the mountains quaked when He performed His awesome works in the past (see 64:3).

This is one of the keys for God’s people even today. We need to remember how God has come through in our past circumstances so that we can have faith to call on him in our time of need.

3 When You did tremendous things that we were not expecting, we wished that You would come down so that the mountains would shake at your presence! 4 No one has ever heard, no ear perceived, no eye seen, any God but You. You work for him who waits for You.

Adonai was distinct from other gods in the ancient Near East in many ways. Most fundamentally, Adonai was transcendent, meaning that He was not subject to or locked within the material universe. This is in stark contrast to the gods of Mesopotamia, who inhabited the material world. He was an only God, unlike the gods of other nations, who shared in a multiplicity of power. The specific issue in this verse is the willingness of God to act on behalf of His faithful followers. The key here is that which motivates Adonai to action. He does not have to be bribed or coerced into action. The prophet’s request was based on God’s actions in the past.

If you’re living for your job, your bank account, your possessions, or even your family, you’ll miss out on the life God has for you both now and eternally. But if like Yesha’yahu and Sha’ul, you set your heart on heaven, you’ll have abundant life on earth thrown in! If, like Yesha’yahu, we would just say, “Lord, we are looking and waiting for that which You have in store for us in heaven,” you’ll not only end up there, but you’ll enjoy life as well.

5 You favored those who were glad to do justice, those who remembered You in Your ways. When You were angry, we kept sinning; but if we keep Your ancient ways, we will be saved. 6 All of us are like someone unclean, all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags; we wither, all of us, like leaves, and our misdeeds blow us away like the wind. 7 No one calls on Your name or bestirs himself to take hold of You, for You have hidden Your face from us and caused our misdeeds to destroy us.

The people acknowledged the reason for God’s apparent lack of intervention to prevent His land from being destroyed: You were angry; we kept sinning. No amount of worship and prayers for deliverance will help if we continue to live by our agenda and for our own glory. Therefore, the people had to say, All of us are like someone unclean, all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags. As the old saying goes, confession is good for the soul.

8 But now, Adonai, You are our Father; we are the clay, You are our Potter, and we are all the work of Your hands.

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) and Sha’ul would both use the analogy of clay to illustrate the sovereignty of God. God is the Master Potter. He can make us whatever He wishes. How can we trust He will do what’s best? By looking at His hands as He shapes us and at His feet as He turns the wheel; for therein we see the scars of the nails that pierced them when He died for us.

9 Do not be so very angry, Adonai! Don’t remember crime forever. Look, please, we are all Your people. 10 Your holy cities have become a desert, Tziyon a desert, Yerushalayim a ruin. 11 Our holy, beautiful house, where our ancestors used to praise You, has been burned to the ground; all we cherished has been ruined. 12 Adonai, after all this, will You still hold back? Will You still stay silent and punish us past endurance? ~ Isaiah 64:2-12 (CJB)

Yesha’yahu foresaw the time when the Babylonians would destroy the city of Yerushalayim and burn the Temple in 586 BCE. Yesha’yahu appealed to God to turn things around and restore the city and its Temple.

God’s people would indeed return to their homeland, but they would find the wall, the city, and, above all, the Temple significantly in need of repair (see the story in Ezra and Nehemiah). God would answer this prayer of His people and provide both the means and the will to rebuild that which was lost. Isn’t that always the way of our God?

In my next post, we continue to explore Adonai’s Judgement and Salvation in Yesha’yahu 65:1-16.

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The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 63:1-19

In my last post, we examined Tziyon’s Restoration in Yesha’hayu 62:1-12. In this post, we learn about The Lord’s Day of Vengeance in Yesha’yahu 63:1-19.

Before the restoration of the kingdom, as seen in chapters 61 and 62 takes place, there must first come tribulation as seen here in chapter 63.

1 Who is this, coming from Edom, from Botzrah with clothing stained crimson, so magnificently dressed, so stately in his great strength? “It is I, who speak victoriously, I, well able to save.”

The verse opens with a question from the watchman, and God responds. The vengeance God will wreak on His enemies at Yeshua’s second coming is terrifying. Edom serves as an example of what will happen to the nations that reject Yeshua (Botzrah was one of its capital cities). The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, which means the Israelites were their brothers. Nevertheless, the Edomites were exceptionally cruel to the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to the promised land (see Num 20:14-21).

2 Why is your apparel red, your clothes like someone treading a winepress? 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the peoples, not one was with me. So I trod them in my anger, trampled them in my fury; so their lifeblood spurted out on my clothing, and I have stained all my garments;

God responded to the watchman’s second question by describing His work of anger against the foes (identified in v. 6). He described His judgment as trampling the enemy underfoot as a winemaker tramples on grapes. Yeshua comes with glory and brightness, mighty to save. This speaks of His Second Coming. Revelation 19:11-13 describes this event very vividly. As seen there, as well as in the passage before us, blood will be on His garments. The question is, will you allow it to be His that was shed in love for you – or will it be yours as a result of His judgment upon you for your failure to accept the work He did on the Cross to set you free?

4 for the day of vengeance that was in My heart and My year of redemption have come. 5 I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was appalled that no one upheld Me. Therefore, My own arm brought Me salvation, and My own fury upheld Me. 6 In my anger, I trod down the peoples, made them drunk with My fury, then poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

Finally, the object of God’s warring anger is explicitly identified as the peoples who have failed to trust and obey. The description of the peoples as drunk with God’s wrath invokes the metaphor of the cup of God’s anger.

7 I will recall the grace of Adonai and the praises of Adonai, because of all that Adonai has granted us and His great goodness toward the house of Isra’el, which He bestowed on them in keeping with his mercy, in keeping with the greatness of His grace. 8 For He said, “They are indeed My people, children who are not disloyal.” So, He became their Savior. 9 In all their troubles, He was troubled; then the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and pity, He redeemed them. He had lifted them up and carried them throughout the days of old. 10 However, they rebelled, they grieved His Holy Spirit; so, He became their enemy and Himself fought against them.

Yesha’yahu looked to the distant past of Israel’s history and remembered God’s grace and compassion. These verses speak in general terms of God’s praiseworthy acts and Israel’s suffering. The Angel of His Presence saved them, most notably in the Exodus under Moshe. But since that was true, the exiles in Babylon might ask, “Why are we in this mess in Babylon?” Yesha’yahu answers on God’s behalf: they rebelled, they grieved His Holy Spirit. Therefore, God fought against them.

11 But then His people remembered the days of old, the days of Moshe: “Where is He who brought them up from the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit right there among them,12 who caused His glorious arm to go at Moshe’s right hand? He divided the water ahead of them, to make Himself an eternal name; 13 He led them through the deep like a sure-footed horse through the desert; 14 like cattle going down into a valley the Spirit of Adonai had them rest. This is how you led your people, to make yourself a glorious name.”

Even in this sizeable prophetic picture of judgment, Yesha’yahu remembers the mercies, the goodness, the kindness of God. If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for, be grateful that you’re not destroyed – for that’s what we all deserve.

Yesha’yahu remembers how God had shown mercy to his people in the past when he delivered them from the Egyptians and brought them to the promised land. He put His Holy Spirit right there among them, divided the water, and gave them rest. The faithful ones knew their history. He had done it before; he would do it again.

15 Look down from heaven, and see from Your holy, glorious dwelling. Where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds, Your inner concern and compassion? Don’t hold back, 16 for You are our Father. Even if Avraham were not to know us, and Isra’el were not to acknowledge us, You, Adonai, are our Father, Our Redeemer of Old is Your name. 17 Adonai, why do You let us wander from Your ways and harden our hearts so that we do not fear You? Return, for the sake of Your servants, the tribes who are Your possession. 18 Your holy people held Your sanctuary such a short time before our adversaries trampled it down. 19 For so long we have been like those You never ruled, like those who were not called by Your name! ~ Isaiah 63:1-19 (CJB)

The people asked for this deliverance even though they had to admit with embarrassment that they were so sinful that their ancestors Avraham and Isra’el (Yaakov, not the nation) would not acknowledge them. That is quite a statement considering what a deceiver Yaakov was until God straightened out his act. God’s people had gotten so bad that they had hardened their hearts, as Pharaoh had hardened his. No matter how many times God urged them through His prophets to repent, they pressed on in their idolatry.

In my next post, we continue to explore The Lord’s Day of Vengeance ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 64.

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Tziyon’s Restoration ~ Yesha’yahu 62:1-12

In my last post, we learned about God’s Announcement of Good News in Yesha’hayu 61:1-11. In this post, we examine Tziyon’s Restoration in Yesha’hayu 62:1-12. In this post, we will see more Hebrew words (with English translations) than we usually do.

The theme of the transformation of God’s people continues in this chapter. Pastor Tony Evans opines that: “This chapter is one of the crown jewels of prophecy in terms of the glorious future awaiting Isra’el when Jesus Christ returns and establishes his kingdom.” [1]

1 For Tziyon’s sake, I will not be silent; for Yerushalayim’s sake, I will not rest until her vindication shines out brightly and her salvation like a blazing torch.

The first-person speaker (I) is either the Yeshua or the prophet Yesha’hayu. He will speak until Yerushalayim’s spiritual transformation is complete. Since the entire prophecy has as yet to be fulfilled entirely, I tend to think it represents Yeshua.

2 The nations will see your vindication and all kings your glory. Then you will be called by a new name which Adonai himself will pronounce. 3 You will be a glorious crown in the hand of Adonai, a royal diadem held by your God. 4 You will no longer be spoken of as ‘Azuvah [Abandoned] or your land be spoken of as ‘Sh’mamah [Desolate]; rather, you will be called Heftzi-Vah [My-Delight-Is-In-Her] and your land Be’ulah [Married]. For Adonai delights in you, and your land will be married – 5 as a young man marries a young woman, your sons will marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, your God will rejoice over you.

Names and their meaning often related to a person’s character or reputation. Name changes were not uncommon. For instance, Naomi (“pleasant”) changed her name to Mara (“bitter”) when her fortunes turned bad (Ru 1:20). Isra’el’s new divinely given name indicates a change of condition for the people of God ( see vv. 4,12).

Isra’el’s names are changed from ones that indicated her loneliness (Deserted and Desolate) to those that show the intimate relationship (My Delight is in Her and Married). The metaphor of God married to His people as a husband is to his bride communicates the intimacy and exclusivity of the relationship. As a bride can have only one husband, so Isra’el can have only one God.

6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Yerushalayim; they will never fall silent, neither by day nor by night. You who call on Adonai, give yourselves no rest; 7 and give Him no rest till He restores Yerushalayim and makes it a praise on earth.

The watchmen on the walls were those who kept an eye out to alert the inhabitants of the city about news or danger. The leaders of God’s people are compared to watchmen whose responsibilities included the encouragement of the people’s relationship with God. Yesha’hayu urged them to keep after God to maintain His efforts at restoring Yerushalayim until it was indeed the city of our God, His holy mountain. ~ Psalm 48:1 (CJB)

8 Adonai has sworn by His right hand and by His mighty arm: “Never again will I give your grain to your enemies as food; nor will strangers drink your wine, for which you worked so hard; 9 but those who harvest the grain will eat it with praises to Adonai; those who gathered the wine will drink it in the courtyards of my sanctuary.”

Attacking armies would steal the crops of people they conquered. God had allowed a succession of foreign powers to invade His people because of their sin (Assyria, Babylon, and Roman, most notably). Still, their plundering will be brought to an end.

10 Go on through, go on through the gates, clear the way for the people! Build up a highway, build it up! Clear away the stones! Raise a banner for the peoples!

A highway is a frequent image in Yesha’hayu for the removal of barriers between God and His people (see 11:16; 19:23; 33:8; 35:8; 40:3; 49:11). Banners in ancient Isra’el were used for marking tribes. They appear to have been used most often in military contexts, either to rally troops together or to identify regiments of troops.

11 Adonai has proclaimed to the end of the earth, “Say to the daughter of Tziyon, ‘Here, your Salvation is coming! Here, His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him.'” 12 They will call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of Adonai. You will be called D’rushah [Sought-After], ‘Ir Lo Ne’ezvah [City-No-Longer-Abandoned]. [2] ~ Isaiah 62:1-12 (CJB)

The Lord will answer the prayers of His people, in this case, for Yerushalayim and all of Isra’el to be restored and thrive in the kingdom age. Because this is true, the Lord can make this announcement: Say to the daughter of Tziyon, ‘Here, your Salvation is coming! Here, His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him. The new names God gave to his people (vv. 4-5) are not enough. He has a few more: D’rushah [Sought-After], ‘Ir Lo Ne’ezvah [City-No-Longer-Abandoned]. Those are names that guarantee a glorious future.

In my next post, we will explore The Lord’s Day of Vengeance in Yesha’yahu 63.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Tony Evans Bible Commentary, The: Advancing God’s Kingdom Agenda.

[2] I thought it might be more convenient to provide a modern English translation for the entire verse. They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD, and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted. ~ Isaiah 62:12 (NIV)

God’s Announcement of Good News ~ Yesha’hayu 61:1-11

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 60:13-22. In this post, we learn of God’s Announcement of Good News in Yesha’hayu 61:1-11.

1 The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; 2 to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

Many of us are probably familiar with the opening verses of Yesha’hayu 61. Let me set the stage by looking at the Gospel of Luke.

16 Now when he went to Natzeret, where he had been brought up, on Shabbat, he went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, 17, and he was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha’yahu. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me because he has anointed me to announce Good News to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned and renewed sight for the blind, to release those who have been crushed, 19 to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.” 20 After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, he sat down; and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He started to speak to them: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled! ~ Luke 4:16-21 (CJB)

When Yeshua read the appointed passage from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Natzeret and proclaimed, Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled the people knew He was claiming to be the Messiah. His earthly ministry did fulfill this messianic prophecy – at least part of it. He came to announce Good News, to heal, and to proclaim freedom. He came to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai. But that’s where Yeshua stopped when he read from Isaiah in Luke. At His first advent, He brought salvation. At His second advent, He will bring proclaim…the day of vengeance of our God. God’s judgment awaits His second coming when He will crush His enemies and restore Isra’el to the ultimate place of glory.

3 yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by Adonai, in which he takes pride.

Following the vengeance of the Tribulation, God will comfort. He will give beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning, the cloak of praise for the heavy spirit. This speaks of the Millennium to be sure, but also of our present situation. You see, a garment is something you can put on and take off. That is the way praise is. You can decide to slip it on or cast it off. It is a decision we make every day. When your spirit gets heavy, start praising and worshiping. Speak praise out loud. Sing songs of praise. Worship the Lord. The cloak of praise or the heavy spirit? It’s our choice.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins, restore sites long destroyed; they will renew the ruined cities, destroyed many generations ago.

Recall from my first post in this series (way back when) that Yesha’yahu wrote this prophecy sometime between 745-686 BCE. The Babylonians devastated Yerushalayim and its surrounding towns and villages in 587 BCE. This prophecy looks to the future when the cities will be restored and rebuilt.

5 Strangers will stand and feed your flocks, foreigners plow your land and tend your vines; 6, but you will be called cohanim of Adonai, spoken of as ministers to our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and revel in their riches.

Isra’el will go from being despised among the nations to becoming the head of the nations – a rebuilt and glorious land that will be fitting as the place from which the Messiah will rule. As the Gentiles enrich and serve Isra’el, God’s people will finally be what they were always meant to be – a nation in which all of the people will be called cohanim of Adonai, ministering His grace to all the world. Therefore, they are spoken of as ministers to our God.

In the Millennium, when Yeshua comes back, the Jews again will be ministers of God. God is not through with Isra’el. The prophecies of the Bible will not make sense to you unless you see clearly that the Lord still has a beautiful work to do with her. In Romans 9-11, we see God’s plan and heart for His people, the nation of Isra’el.

7 Because of your shame, which was doubled, and because they cried, “They deserve disgrace,” therefore, in their land, what they own will be doubled, and joy forever will be theirs. 8 “For I, Adonai, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offerings. So, I will be faithful to reward them and make an eternal covenant with them.”

In other words, the Jews would experience twice as much joy and blessing upon returning to their land as the confusion and shame they felt when they left it as they were carried into captivity.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations, their offspring among the peoples; all who see them will acknowledge that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

In the Avrahamic covenant, God promised that Avraham‘s descendants would enjoy a great blessing, which pointed to happiness and prosperity. As Believers, we live under the new covenant. Still, one-day, Isra’el will also rule when Yeshua comes to rule on the throne of David in His millennial kingdom, and Isra’el receives Him as their Messiah. In that day, all people will acknowledge that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

10 I am so joyful in Adonai! My soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in salvation, dressed me with a robe of triumph, like a bridegroom wearing a festive turban, like a bride adorned with her jewels. 11 For just as the earth brings forth its plants or a garden makes its plants spring up, so Adonai, God, will cause victory and glory to spring up before all nations. ~ Isaiah 61:1-11 (CJB)

This is the song of the ransomed and redeemed. The Jews sang it upon their return from Bavel. It is sung by Believers, covered with the robe of Yeshua’s righteousness. And it will be sung in the kingdom age -all to the glory of God.

Yesha’yahu used the theme of clothing to describe his take on God’s salvation and righteousness. These were not just any clothes but the clothes of a bride. This image implies the metaphor of God as the husband of His people.

In my next post, we will explore Tziyon’s Restoration in Yesha’yahu 62.

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Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 60:1-12

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of Sin, Confession & Redemption ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 59:12-21. In this post, we begin to examine the Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 60:1-12.

Yesha’yahu 59 closed with the promise of a coming Redeemer. Chapter 60 begins with a presentation of the Redeemer. So confident was Yesha’yahu that Messiah would come, he writes in the present tense as if it had already happened.

1 “Arise, shine [Yerushalayim], for your light has come, the glory of Adonai has risen over you.

Through Adonai’s redeeming power and His eternal covenant of blessing on Isra’el, the nation will experience everlasting joy and blessing as the world capital and centerpiece of Yeshua’s reign in His millennial kingdom. Isra’el will be a light to the nations because the glory of Adonai will shine both in her and from her to the corners of the earth.

2 For although darkness covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples; on you, Adonai will rise; over you will be seen His glory.

In Yesha’yahu 59:9, the righteous among Adonai’s people expressed their desire for light, though they lived in darkness. Now Adonai announces the arrival of the light, whose source is the glory of Adonai. Darkness still covers the earth (a reference to pervasive sin), but Adonai’s hovering glory will illuminate the way for His people. How has light penetrated the darkness? Through the action of the divine warrior, Yeshua, we saw in my last post in this series.

3 Nations will go toward your light and kings toward your shining splendor.

Though the light comes to Adonai’s people, the nations will share in it by coming to light. In the millennium, entire nations and their kings will be drawn to Isra’el to learn the truth about Adonai and His salvation. The nations will respond favorably to Adonai is a fulfillment of the promise to Avraham that he would be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:3).

4 Raise your eyes and look around: they are all assembling and coming to you; your sons are coming from far off; your daughters being carried on their nurses’ hips.

Among the arriving nations will be the dispersed of Isra’el (your sonsyour daughters), who will also return to Tziyon. This is a common theme in Yesha’yahu, which pictures Isra’el’s sons and daughters coming from far of (see also 49:22; 60:9). Although many Jews have returned to Isra’el from many countries in recent times, many do not yet believe in Yeshua as their Messiah.

5 Then you will see and be radiant; your heart will throb and swell with delight; for the riches of the seas will be brought to you, the wealth of nations will come to you.

This golden age will also be marked by the wealth of nations coming into Isra’el.

6 Caravans of camels will cover your land, young camels from Midyan and ‘Eifah, all of them coming from Sh’va, bringing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of Adonai.

Camels were freight carriers for merchants; thus, those who had many camels were considered wealthy. Midyan was a nomadic Arabian tribe that had had dealings with Isra’el from the time of Moshe. Eifah is mentioned only two other times in Scripture (Gen 25:4; 1 Chron 1:33) and is associated with Midyan, possibly a clan of that tribe.

The kingdom of Sh’va was a great trading center in southwestern Arabia that exported precious stones, gold, and incense. It had a very advanced urban civilization in the first millennium BCE (see 2 Chronicles 9:1). [1]

Moreover, the people coming to Tziyon are proclaiming the praises of Adonai.

7 All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered for you, the rams of N’vayot will be at your service; they will come up and be received on My altar, as I glorify My glorious house.

Kedar was a nomadic Arabian tribe. The N’vayot were a nomadic tribe and may have been a precursor to the Nabataeans, an Arabian tribe known in Hellenistic and Roman times. [2]  N’vayot is elsewhere as the firstborn of Ishmael and brother of Kedar, showing a relationship between these two nomadic tribes (see Gen 25:13; 36:3; 1Ch 1:29).

8 “Who are these, flying along like clouds, like doves to their dovecotes? [3]

A cloud travels through the sky unobstructed by mountains or ravines. Doves fly above such obstacles to their homes. The implied answer to this rhetorical question is “Adonai’s people.” Many Bible teachers see in this verse how Isra’el will return home. The Jews going back to their land, gathered from all parts of the world, will fly like doves – perhaps a reference to the airplane.

9 The coastlands are putting their hope in Me, with the ‘Tarshish’ ships in the lead, to bring your children from far away, and with them their silver and gold, for the sake of Adonai your Adonai, the Holy One of Isra’el, who glorifies you.

The ships of Tarshish were large, heavy vessels built for long voyages with high tonnage. Tarshish was thought to have been a Phoenician colony in Spain. [4] In Exodus, when the Jews were freed from bondage in Egypt, the Egyptians gave the Jews valuable items (Exodus 12:36). So, when the Jews come back the second time, they’ll also bring silver and gold with them.

10 Foreigners will rebuild your walls; their kings will be at your service, for in My anger, I struck you, but in My mercy, I pity you.

In the past, foreign nations and their kings had exploited Isra’el, but the future will see them serve Adonai’s people. One thinks of Nehemiah, who received the permission of the Persian king Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls of Yerushalayim. This reversal of fortunes is due to Adonai, who had expressed His anger toward His people by allowing foreign nations to defeat and oppress them, but now in His favor and mercy, He will enable them to rebuild.

11 Your gates will always be open; they will not be shut by day or by night, so that people can bring you the wealth of nations, with their kings led in procession.

Open gates indicated that a city felt secure. When an enemy threatened, all the people in the surrounding villages sought refuge behind the city walls, and the gates were locked down. But the gates will also be open because the wealth of the nations is flowing into Yerushalayim.

12 For the nation or kingdom that won’t serve, you will perish; yes, those nations will be utterly destroyed. ~ Isaiah 60:1-12 (CJB)

We know from Revelation 20:7-9 that HaSatan will deceive and lead Gentile nations in a brief rebellion at the end of the millennial age, but this uprising will be immediately crushed, and the rebels utterly destroyed.

In my next post, we will begin to explore the Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 60:13-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dovecotes are structures built to house doves or pigeons according to Wikipedia.

[4] Op. cit.