Stubborn Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 48:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for PDF version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

Gods of Bavel ~ Yesha’yahu 46:1-13

In my last post, we explored Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 45:14-25. In this post, we learn of the Gods of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 46:1-13.

A contrast is drawn in this chapter between the idols that had to be carried and Adonai who carried the burdens of His people.

1 Bel bows down, N’vo stoops low; their idols are borne by animals, beasts of burden. The loads you yourselves were carrying are now burdening tired animals.

Bel was not a proper name in Bavel but was the Akkadian equivalent of Ba’al (lord). N’vo was the god of Borsippa, a city near Bavel. He was the god of wisdom and the patron deity of scribes and the son of Marduk. These gods, or more precisely, the idols that represented them, had to be carried on carts to move from one place to another. They were a heavy burden for the animals that carried them.

2 They stoop and bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.

When one ancient Near Eastern power defeated another, they would carry off the idols of the conquered nation.

3 “Listen to me, house of Ya‘akov, all who remain of the house of Isra’el: I have borne you from birth, carried you since the womb. 4 Till your old age, I will be the same – I will carry you until your hair is white. I have made you, and I will bear you; yes, I will carry and save you.

The remnant were those Israeli who would survive the coming judgment. Adonai had carried or sustained His people from their birth. Rather than using beasts of burden to carry His people, Adonai carries them Himself all the days of their lives. That’s our promise as well.

5 To whom will you liken Me and equate me? With whom will you compare me, as if we were similar?”

Throughout history, people have tried to liken Adonai to various beings. The Greeks said, “If I were Adonai, I’d live on Mount Olympus, be all-powerful, and seduce pretty maidens.” So that’s what their gods did all day long: throw thunderbolts and chase women. In other cultures, people said, “If I were Adonai, I’d soar through the sky,” so they made their idols like eagles. People make gods out of what they think it would be fun to be. But the problem is, those gods become burdens. If your god is a pleasure, you will be burdened with lust. If your god is money, you’ll be in bondage to greed. If your god is your intellect, you’ll be weighed down by pride.

6 They squander the gold from their bags and weigh silver on a scale; they hire a goldsmith to make a god, before which they fall down and worship! 7 It is borne on shoulders and carried, then set in its place; and there it stands. From its place it does not move. If one cries to it, it cannot answer or save anyone from his troubles.

The images of deities in Mesopotamia were fed, dressed, and even washed daily. Food sacrifices were brought to the god daily (and no doubt eaten by the temple technicians). Other attendants were required to dress and undress the statue, and still, others were employed to wash the statue and transport it in times of celebration. [1]

Idols are worthless in the day of trial and tragedy. Not so the true and living Adonai.
8 Remember this, and stand firm. Keep it in mind, you rebels. 9 “Remember things that happened at the beginning, long ago — that I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

To remember means to draw strength by contemplating Adonai’s past acts of power. Throughout Scripture, Adonai calls Believers to remember the work He has already done on their behalf (see Deuteronomy 5:15, 1 Chronicles 16:11-2, and 2 Timothy 2:8). Seeing Adonai’s hand in the past encourages us to seek His face in the present.

10 At the beginning I announce the end, proclaim in advance things not yet done, and I say that My plan will hold, I will do everything I please to do.

The gods of the ancient Near East were not capable of controlling the destiny of the world without help. In Mesopotamia, there existed the “tablets of destiny,” texts which contained the futures of all things (including the gods) in the universe. Whoever controlled these tablets controlled fate. Occasionally these tablets came into the “wrong hands,” and chaos ensued. Some gods, including Enki, wore sorcerer’s hats, showing that they could control and predict the future, but only by way of spells and incantations. Conversely, Adonai managed all things without resort to superficial means of tablets or spells. [2]

11 I call a bird of prey from the east, the man I intended, from a distant country. I have spoken and will bring it about; I have made a plan, and I will fulfill it.

Koresh, the King of Persia, was the bird of prey. The Persian ensign was an eagle.

 12 Listen to Me, you stubborn people, so far from righteousness: 13 I am bringing my justice nearer, it is not far away; My salvation will not be delayed, I will place My salvation in Tziyon for Isra’el My glory. ~ Isaiah 46:1-13 (CJB)

My salvation will not be delayed. He said the same thing concerning the vision He gave to Habakkuk, another of His prophets. For the vision is meant for its appointed time; it speaks of the end, and it does not lie. It may take a while, but wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3 (CJB)

Who or what do you put your trust in? Adonai or your own created idol?

The Lord’s timing is perfect. As seen in the next chapter, His delivery of His people was nearer than they could have imagined.

In my next post, we examine The Fall of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 47:1-15.

Click here for PDF version.

 

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

[2] Ibid.

Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 45:1-13

In my last post, we explored Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 44:24-28. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 45:1-13.

We continue to explore Adonai’s sovereignty over His creation and the future He asserts. Verses 1-8 were written at least 140 years before it was fulfilled. Recall from our last study that Koresh is Cyrus King of Persia, who was one of the greatest conquerors in world history. We will be learning quite a bit about him in this post. Adonai speaks to Koresh and announces how He intends to use Him as His agent. The passage divinely commissions Koresh. There is no reason to believe that Koresh was conscious of His role as Adonai’s agent of redemption any more than Ashur or Bavel were aware that they were used as the tool of Adonai’s anger.

1 Thus says Adonai to Koresh, His anointed, whose right hand He has grasped so that He subdues nations before Him and strips kings of their robes, so that doors open in front of him, and no gates are barred:

Adonai called Koresh His anointed. Here the use is metaphorical of Adonai’s invisible commissioning of this earthly king to function as a royal deliverer of His people. In the ancient Near East, when a god grasped the right hand of someone, it indicated special favor, commissioning, guidance, and divine endowment with skill.

2 “I will go ahead of you, leveling the hills, shattering the bronze gates, smashing the iron bars.

Adonai will cause the strong defenses of enemy cities to fall before Koresh. He will level the uneven places to speed his attack.

3 I will give you treasures hoarded in the dark, secret riches hidden away so that you will know that I, Adonai, calling you by your name, am the God of Isra’el.

As Koresh defeated nations, their wealth would come into his possession. These treasures were hidden away from the world and thus are associated with darkness and considered secret.

4 It is for the sake of Ya‘akov, My servant, yes, for Isra’el My elect, that I call you by your name and give you a title, although you don’t know me.

Adonai’s actions toward Koresh have nothing to do with Adonai’s love for Koresh or the Persians. He will use them on behalf of His people whom He calls His servant. The fact that Adonai named Koresh and called him shows that the Persian king was under His control. The fact that Adonai could forename Koresh through Yesha’yahu also shows Adonai’s ability to read the future.

5 I am Adonai; there is no other; besides Me, there is no God. I am arming you, although you don’t know Me, 6 so that those from the east and those from the west will know that there is none besides Me – I am Adonai; there is no other. 7 I form light, I create [1] darkness; I make well-being, I create woe; I, Adonai, do all these things.

No one should ascribe these great acts of redemption to any other god than Adonai. His lordship is not just over Isra’el but the entire world (from the east to the west). He is in control not only of the good things but also of the difficult things that occur in history.
8 “Heavens above, rain down justice; let the clouds pour it down. Let the earth open, so that salvation springs up, and justice sprouts with it. I, Adonai, have created it.”

The woe prophecy in verses 9-13 responds to those who would argue with Adonai for using a pagan king like Koresh to accomplish His purposes.

9 Woe to anyone who argues with his maker, like potsherds lying on the ground! Does the clay ask the potter, “What are you doing?” or, “What’s this you’re making, that has no hands?”

Human beings are the potsherds, and Adonai is the potter. This image reminds humans of their proper place in relationship to Adonai. There may be an allusion here to Genesis 2:7 where Adonai took the dust of the ground and formed Adam. Ancient Near Eastern myths describe human beings as the product of clay. Where the biblical and ancient Near Eastern accounts differ profoundly is in the second element that forms humans. In Scripture, Adonai used His breath, indicating a high view of humanity. In Mesopotamian accounts, the second element was the blood of a demon god, expressing a lower view of human life.

10 Woe to him who asks a father, “Of what are you the father?” or who asks a woman, “To what are you giving birth?”

The second metaphor of Adonai as a parent (father or mother) and His human creation as the child also expresses an unbalanced power relationship. A baby does not question his birth any more than a pot questions its creation. So why should Isra’el or we question God’s plan?

11 Thus says Adonai, the Holy One of Isra’el, his Maker: “You ask for signs concerning My children? You give orders concerning the work of my hands? 12 I am the one who made the earth! I created human beings on it! I – my hands – stretched out the heavens, and directed all their number. 13 I am stirring up Koresh to righteousness; I am smoothing out all his paths. He will rebuild my city; and he will free my exiles, taking neither ransom nor bribe,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. ~ Isaiah 45:1-13 (CJB)

What is Adonai commissioning you to accomplish in your life?

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 45:14-23.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] In this verse create in Hebrew is bara. That attribute is only possessed by Adonai Himself. It means to create something out of nothing.

Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 44:24-28

In my last post, we explored Worthless Idols in Yesha’yahu 44:6-23. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in 44:24-28.

In these verses, Adonai’s sovereignty over His creation and the future is asserted. Adonai affirmed His prophets over against those prophets who deceived.

24 Here is what Adonai says, your Redeemer, He who formed you in the womb: “I am Adonai, who makes all things, who stretched out the heavens all alone, who spread out the earth all by myself.

The fact that the Bible portrays Adonai as having no equal means that all divine activity is carried out by Him. This contrasts with many of the traditions of the ancient Near East, where various deities were involved with different aspects of creation. Stretching out the heavens and spreading the earth demonstrates Adonai’s control over the cosmos. He puts it up like a Bedouin erects a tent.

25 I frustrate false prophets and their omens, I make fools of diviners, I drive back the sages and make their wisdom look silly.

Adonai confuses and destroys those who claim to reveal the future. Such people are condemned and contrasted with true prophets who received revelation from Adonai. Diviners manipulated or observed such things as sheep livers, cloud formations, and the stars to determine the future.

26 I confirm My servants’ prophecies and make My messengers’ plans succeed. I say of Yerushalayim: ‘She will be lived in,’ of the cities of Y’hudah, ‘They will be rebuilt; I will restore their ruins.’

In contrast to the false prophets are Adonai’smessengers with the message that Yerushalayim will be rebuilt and re-inhabited.

27 I say to the deep sea, ‘Dry up! I will make your streams run dry.’

Adonai’s ability to restore Yerushalayim is affirmed by reference to His control of nature, specifically that He can make bodies of water go dry. Since water is often a symbol of the forces of chaos, perhaps the meaning of this verse is that Adonai will subdue those chaotic forces that held Judah captive.

The following prophecy concerning Koresh (Cyrus), which continues in all of chapter 45 is one of the most astounding in all the Tanakh. It predicts that a man named Koresh would come on the scene, saying that Yerushalayim would be built and the foundations of the Temple would be laid. At this time, Yerushalayim was already built, and the Temple was standing tall, so what relevance could this have to anything, the people must have wondered. But 200 years later, a man named Koresh did indeed appear on the scene as king of the Persian empire. And it would be this Koresh who would give the order for the Jews to rebuild the city and temple the Bavlim had destroyed.

28 I say of Koresh, ‘He is my shepherd, he will do everything I want. He will say of Yerushalayim, “You will be rebuilt,” and of the Temple, “Your foundation will be laid.”’”  ~ Isaiah 44:24-28 (CJB)

Koresh was born about 590 BCE in the modern Iranian province of Fars. Virtually nothing is known of him until he came to the throne of Persia in 559 BCE, except for a few legends concerning his childhood written down by Herodotus, the Greek historian. [1] Yesha’yahu whose ministry spanned four kings whose reigns stretched from 742 to 686 BCE, named a ruler who was not yet born.

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 45:1-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

Worthless Idols ~ Yesha’yahu 44:6-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy ~ Yesha’yahu 43:14-28

In my last post, we learned about Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13. In this post, we explore Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in 43:14-28.

14 Here is what Adonai, your redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el, says: “For your sake, I have sent [an army] to Bavel and knocked down the fleeing Kasdim, all of them; their songs of triumph are now lamentations.

This passage is describing the defeat and capture of Bavel by Cyrus. Though not found in other sources, apparently the Kasdim (Chaldeans) unsuccessfully attempted to escape the conquest by traveling in their ships by sailing on the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf.

Kasdim was an Aramaic-speaking tribe of Bavel that rose up in the seventh century BCE to lead the charge against Ashur. The Kasdim tribe’s home base was at the point where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers emptied into what is today called the Persian Gulf. With access to the Persian Gulf, Bavel took pride in her naval capabilities. And yet it would be the Euphrates itself that would provide the Medes and Persians a way into her heavily walled city. [1] Who says Adonai does work all things for the good of His plan?

15 I am Adonai, your Holy One, the Creator of Isra’el, your King.” 16 Here is what Adonai says, who made a way in the sea, a path through the raging waves; 17 who led out chariot and horse, the army in its strength they lay down, never to rise again, snuffed out and quenched like a wick:

Adonai called on His people to remember their great deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

18 “Stop dwelling on past events and brooding over times gone by; 19 I am doing something new; it’s springing up can’t you see it? I am making a road in the desert, rivers in the wasteland.

The Exodus poetically described in verses 16-17 is defined as past events, the things of old. But Adonai turns the hearers’ attention to something new, a new Exodus. This time Adonai will create not a way in the sea, but a way in the wastelands. This future deliverance is pictured as a reversal of nature, with rivers in the desert.

20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; because I put water in the desert, rivers in the wasteland, for my chosen people to drink, 21 the people I formed for myself so that they would proclaim my praise.

Because of the new provision of water in the wasteland, the animals that live there will be pleased. In the same way, Adonai’s people who have been oppressed by the Bavlim will find new freedom.

22 But you haven’t called on Me, Ya‘akov; because you have grown weary of Me, Isra’el. 23 You have not brought Me sheep for your burnt offerings; you have not honored Me with your sacrifices. I didn’t burden you by requiring grain offerings or weary you by demanding frankincense. 24 You have not spent money to buy Me sweet cane or filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened Me with your sins and wearied Me with your crimes.

The fat parts of the animal were also to be included in the sacrifice. Neither fat nor blood was to be eaten. Blood was drained and then sprinkled on the altar. The fat was always burned on the altar as part of the essentials of sacrifice.

25 I, yes I, am the one who blots out your offenses for My own sake; I will not remember your sins.

The people sinned, but Adonai forgave. The idea of removal of sin is communicated by the action of sweeping as well as the mental act of forgetting. To remember something is to act on it, and to forget is to hold back from acting.

26 Remind Me when we’re in court together tell your side, make the case that you are right. 27 Your first father sinned, and your spokesmen rebelled against Me. 28 Therefore I repudiated the officials of the sanctuary, delivered Ya‘akov to the curse of destruction, and subjected Isra’el to scorn. ~ Isaiah 43:14-28 (CJB)

Once again, a court setting is introduced. Adonai challenged His people to argue their case against Him. The reference to Isra’el’s first father is likely Ya‘akov, whose name was changed to Isra’el. Ya‘akov was well known for his foolish and sinful ways (Hosea 12:1-6).

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el the Chosen in 44:1-5.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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

The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

In my last post, we began our exploration of The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 42:10-17. In this post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

Chapter 42 ends with a prophecy that explains why Adonai’s people will experience judgment before they receive the deliverance described in the previous song. In this passage, Yesha’yahu is no longer talking about Adonai’s servant, Yeshua, but His servant, the nation Isra’el.

18 Listen, you deaf! Look, you blind!— so that you will see! 19 Who is as blind as my servant, or as deaf as the messenger I send? Who is as blind as the one I rewarded, as blind as the servant of Adonai?” 20 You see much but don’t pay attention; you open your ears, but you don’t listen.

Isra’el has been given so much, but she’s not seeing. She’s not hearing. Thus, she is indicted for being a people who are blind and deaf.

21 Adonai was pleased, for His righteousness’ sake, to make the Torah great and glorious.

The people’s inability to see and hear Adonai’s instruction was not a failure on Adonai’s part. He magnified His guidance and made it glorious. Only the most spiritually insensitive could miss it. Adonai had even sent the prophets – men like Yesha’yahu and others to make His instruction clearer, but still, they did not obey.

22 But this is a people pillaged and plundered, all trapped in holes and sequestered in prisons. They are there to be plundered, with no one to rescue them; there to be pillaged, and no one says, “Return them!”

When prisons were far off or not available, holes were often used to hold prisoners for a temporary period. Prisons were primarily for detention of individuals awaiting trial or political prisoners, both in Isra’el and Bavel.

23 Which of you will listen to this? Who will hear and give heed in the times to come? 24 Who gave Ya‘akov to be pillaged, Isra’el to the plunderers? Didn’t Adonai, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they refused to walk, He whose Torah they did not obey? 25 This is why He poured on him His blazing anger as well as the fury of battle – it wrapped him in flames, yet he learned nothing; it burned him, yet he did not take it to heart. ~ Isaiah 42:18-25 (CJB)

Like Isra’el, what will Adonai have to do to finally get us to see that we need to obey His Word? If you’re at a place where you’re wondering why you’re in bondage or why things aren’t working out for you, could it be that there is a point of disobedience or stubbornness in your life? As He did with Isra’el, Adonai loves you enough to allow the fire of His chastening to come upon you so that you might return to Him.

We need to be listening to Adonai speaking to us through His Word and the Ruach so that we can trust and obey.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

Click here for the PDF version.