Jesus Tackles All the Principles of the Prophets (Matt 23+) 4

The Rainbow Scaffold in Matthew, part 4

(Purple)

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How he was for Jacob is how he is for us. His plans and intentions back then have not changed.

Time words in Scripture reflect this over-arching character of God’s function in time, showing his purpose and plans.

The WHEN of verse 15 reminds us of God’s great plan that will be carried out.

From the beginning to the end, God’s intended outcome will come about.

  • Daniel spoke of it (past),
  • it is yet to be seen (future),
  • Christ prophecies that God intended to have things this way.

Things will not go well for God’s people, and that has always been part of God’s plan.

But WHY did God intend for suffering–for tribulation–on his people? This is the GREAT MESSAGE of my book That Darn Tree (Coming Soon!). In Matthew we can see it laid out in purple. It’s a part of the plan.

 


(Orange) GOD

Thankfully, Covenant-keeping God will keep it in restraint; those days “will be cut short.”

We see this same end in Revelation 6, when the NUMBER of those slain for Christ is COMPLETE (Architect, green).

The books are being written (Dan 7:10, Rev 20:12); the deeds the nations commit against God’s people are being logged, until the number of those who they’ve hurt is complete. The weight will be full.

(Orange) PRO vs CON

Note that it is God’s people who will be assaulted by the nations. Because they are his people. It’s not random. Covenant-keepers are assaulted by the Covenant-haters. Those who refuse to bend, who refuse to Kiss the Son, who refuse to hide under his wings (see v. 37 above), hate Orange. They hate God and all that he stands for.

Of course, as “children of hell” (v. 15) they have the priorities and affections of hell. So they assault that which God values. Being the Church makes us the target. We are the beloved Bride. We are the breakable, where Yahweh is unbreakable. They hate him, so they assault that which he loves with an unbreakable love.

There are ways out of the assault:

  • Denial of Christ is a sure means to no longer be a target to God-haters.
  • A lukewarm approach to Covenant is also a way to no longer be a target.
  • Following false-messiahs whose ideas tickle your ears is another way to avoid being a target for Covenant.

But a quick-out is not what we are after. He says many times, “they will persecute you.”

Christ called his people to love their enemies, to bless those who curse them, to turn the other cheek, to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Because from their midst will come the last believers. Another number that must be fulfilled. History shows that a suffering Church quickly reaps a harvest of new believers.

And you, what do you think about suffering for the name of Christ? Is it worth it? Is he worth it?

How does the Covenant filter you? All or Nothing. Are you in?

(Purple)

This world will sort us. These events of the last days will prove who is the Church. Christ’s comments to the Churches in Revelation also show this–what you do proves if you are his.

As natural as vultures gathering at a corpse–and as natural as watching said vultures repulses humans–people naturally shift into their camps.

Revelation 22:11 puts it this way: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” We are what we are. Except…

…while there is today, we can change. Down is Up and Up is Down-light blue. Repent and you shall be saved. God’s plan allows us time to decide. But time is short. Nature and the fig tree tells us this.

(Light Green)–click on–


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Jesus Tackles All the Principles of the Prophets (Matt 23+) 3

The Rainbow Scaffold in Matthew, part 3

(Orange) GOD

The amazing SIMILE of the HEN deserves its own posting. (Link Will Be Here). Despite of the way Israel unfaithfully treated both Yahweh and his prophets, Yahweh remains open and willing to keep his side of the Covenant–for the sake of the remnant. He is waiting with open-arms for the prodigal to return. Christ here bemoans their ignorant refusal to come, their refusal to go DOWN in repentance and humility that they may be brought up as Adopted Children of God. Yet God is no-matter-what faithful to his Covenant. Orange shows God in this act of faithful love. The prodigal he waits for WILL return. And the ones who will never come have the kindness of his forbearance.

Christ’s grief at the stiff-necked rejection, though he knew all but the remnant would be that way, is framed with Brown and Yellow.

(Brown)

Suffering forces a divide. We either come to God with expectant, hopeful, and humble hearts, or we shake our fist at him and curse him. The desolation of the House of Israel came because they had rejected Yahweh. Verse 38 is a warning that WOE will follow any failed test, any failure to measure up.

(Yellow)

Yellow shows that ultimately their response to his prophets was a sorting mechanism. Verse 39 declares that everyone knows there is a right way and a wrong way. “(Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father).”

They will call upon him, in the end. He is still calling out for those who will turn and repent, before it’s too late.

God’s tests sort people into ultimately two camps. Romans 1 reminds us that it is common knowledge.

(Purple) –click on–


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Jesus Tackles All the Principles of the Prophets (Matt 23+) 2

The Rainbow Scaffold in Matthew, part 2

(Green)

Christ notes the weights and measures he, as Judge, will compare them to: Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.

The scribes and Pharisees would weigh out the exact amount they owed to God. Christ points out how useless that exact measurement was compared to the weight of their sin.

Throughout Scripture, God uses math terms to show that he is measuring and weighing our deeds, comparing them to a standard. Knowing that “average” is not good enough is crucial for salvation. You have to match his requirements. Exactly.

The only way to meet his requirements is by going DOWN, and Christ will lift you up. Listening to Christ we can find how to clean the inside of the cup. By kissing the Son, by being found in him, we can gain a different category.

Appearances do not cut it (v.28). God is using his own standards, which will result in failure and condemnation.

In verse 32, the word “measure” refers to a scale God is using to weigh out the punishment the “fathers” had earned, and if the scribes and Pharisees did not repent that measure would be theirs as well.

Because they were sentenced to hell, “therefore” (v.34) God sent them prophets, to warn them.

Below, in verse 2 we see hints of that greater Temple Christ was going to build, the City not built with human hands. Ezekiel’s Temple, which was made up of the faithful who had been measured and approved.

You are being measured and tested. Do you know how to measure up? Do you know what God is looking for?

(Orange) CON

God’s Covenant is a Separation Filter. The requirements of the Covenant will push people into a camp, reflecting their essential character.

Are you drawn to the Covenant-keeping God, or are you repulsed by him and his people?

In verses 34-35, Christ points out that truth-speaking prophets and wise men have been sent, and will be sent.

Note, Christ states he himself will send the prophets, and that his prophets will be equal both to Abel, the first prophet, and to all those who were mistreated in the Old Testament. He is declaring his divinity here! (Character of God, blue)

Those who carry a Covenant message present onlookers with a choice.

Will you bend to the words they carry? Will you show them respect and love? Or will you hurt them?

How we treat the Church of Christ reflects who we are. In this case, those who come are broken men who have been required to carry a message. Old Testament prophets always claimed a feeling of unsuitability to the task, yet they obeyed.

How do you treat those who carry the Covenant message? Christ has chosen his Church, faulty as it is, to carry something precious. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor 4:7-9). Ambassadors of the King, while not the king, are to be treated as the representative of that King.

Look below at verse 37. We hear echoes of the story two chapters earlier (Matt 21:33-41), where the prophets and the son himself are killed by those tending the vineyard.


(Orange) GOD–next verses–

 


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Jesus Tackles All the Principles of the Prophets (Matt 23+) 1

The Rainbow Scaffold in Matthew, part 1

I love it when all the Principles of the Prophets, or the whole Rainbow Scaffold, is found in one passage.

(If you are unaware of my ongoing Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Video series, click here for an overview).


Here, in Matthew, just before the events of Passion Week, Christ has a final word. He lays it all out.

The Lord begins this section with WOES upon the scribes and the Pharisees. Starting here, he tags each of the Rainbow Strand principles. The OT Woes against Israel and the nations around at the time were saturated in these same ideas: beware, Judgment Day is nigh. The measures God uses to weigh and test the heart are laid out by Christ here in Matthew.

Christ is saying what had been said all along.

 (Light Blue)

Jesus begins this passage by supporting both Scripture and the teaching of it. But he criticizes the methods of the scribes and Pharisees. They burdened the people with “hard to bear” weight of obedience without understanding the heart of the law.

For the Pharisees, deeds made you right before God.

The Lord Jesus counters this idea here and in the following two chapters. He teaches rather that your actions and intentions reveal whether or not you love God. They do not in themselves make you right with God. True good deeds are proof of the presence of something else: love.

The Pharisees attempted to be justified by their deeds, but the opposite resulted: a righteousness contest they would automatically fail. Proverbs 16:18 says simply: “Pride comes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction” (Up is Down, light blue) .

Christ begins this diatribe with an attack on pride, commending humility before God.

Many verses in Scripture repeat this idea: by going DOWN, in humility and repentance, we will find grace in the sight of God.

For the scribes and Pharisees, their pride was the great thing they needed to repent of. Because Up is Down. By going up in self-exaltation, they ended up brought low. The next verses Christ calls them out as “whitewashed tombs,” “hypocrites,” “serpents, brood of vipers.”

Imagine you are a God-fearing scribe or Pharisee and Christ says this to you. Imagine he is saying this to you today. How do you see his words? Are you angry, denying that he has a right to say this to you? “Who are you, Jesus of Nazareth, to insult my godliness? I’m as good as the next guy. God will have to forgive my sins. What does he expect, anyway?”

Or do you find in his words an ECHO of the Prophets? Do you look inside yourself and hunt down your hypocrisy and your dead-bones? Do his words bring you to your knees in fear and trembling?

What does your attitude say about you? Before God are you full of pride and self-confidence or full of humility and repentance?

 (Red)

The world values something different than humility. Light was the first thing God spoke into being. “Let there be light,” (Gen 1:1-3).

John 1 shows that the WORD and TRUTH was also LIGHT. And when Paul was chastised and called to repentance on the road to Emmaus, he was struck blind to show he was missing the light of truth. True wisdom aligns itself with God’s revelation, including truth of Christ.

On the other hand, the World’s Wisdom  broadcasts what is contrary to God and his principles.

Christ says the scribes and Pharisees are blind. They are blind leading the blind, “blind guides.”

And yet he offers them hope. He gives instruction for how to come to the light: “Clean the inside of the cup,” (light blue again!).

For if they go UP in pride, continuing on that path, they will go DOWN, proving they are “a child of hell” (v.15). Up is Down but Down is Up.

For “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov 3:34, Gk).”

 (Green) (click to read on)

 


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Use the Rainbow, Please!

In the name of one thing, they hang a banner declaring the character of God, his BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, PATIENT LOVE.

The problem with society’s use of the Rainbow today is the ironic REAL DECLARATION they unknowingly make.

If you fly the flag, you preach the Bible to all God’s faithful people. You are reminding us to pray for you, and hope for you, and to hope for us all.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Gen 9:12-13

The Rainbow is a Promise that He Will Be Patient with Us.

Even when society becomes as those in the days of Noah, as Christ warned, where “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” Gen 6:5–even then, God will be patient. As Saint Peter said:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2 Peter 3:9

With every use of these beautiful colors, the LGBT community is reminding the rest of us that God is patient and loving, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. You say nothing else.

Patience Means Waiting for Change.

Use the flag, dear friends, declare your hatred of him-whom-you-do-not-know, because it makes us love you even more. It makes us care even more to tell you what the Rainbow really means for you. 

He’s giving you a chance. 

He’s giving you time.

But don’t waste your time, don’t waste this chance.

The Rainbow Belongs to the Covenant Community

It belongs to those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It always has. It’s his Rainbow we will see for eternity, around the Throne in Heaven. 

You have rightly taken it, for in it, the beautiful sovereign God has given his people another reminder. A banner of hope. He will not yet sweep his punishment on this world. Not until the last preChristian repents, as Peter shows. Your flag is a modern-day miracle for us. From God. To remind us.

Use the Flag

Use the flag. And know, you declare with those lovely colors “GOD IS PATIENT WITH ME. GOD GIVES ME LIFE. GOD IS GIVING ME TIME TO REPENT.”

Use the flag. But with each flutter, remember your moments are ticking down. You are mortal and have the wonderfully long but painfully short life to figure this Rainbow out.

The first half of the Rainbow promise was that God would not flood the earth again. Peter continues with the second half of the Rainbow promise:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation. 2 Peter 3:10-15

What Kind of People Ought We to Be?

We all have these desires waging war in us to do this thing or that. These desires all feel natural. But natural does not by nature mean good. 

One sin is not worse than any other. What matters is that we see it as sin. Jesus loved sinners, but not the sin. He called sin sin, and even turned away those who had eager hearts but were not willing to let go of the smallest of sins.

“Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

Look at the things on this list. Nobody is exempt:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor IDOLATERS, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the GREEDY, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6

We are all greedy, holding on to our “PRECIOUS” like Gollum. We are all idolaters, worshipping ourselves narcissistically rather than worshipping God. None of us qualify to enter the Kingdom of God unless we call sin sin and look to the cross of Christ as our only escape from that dreadful day.

You May Hate Me for What I Say.

You may do all sorts of things against me because the beautiful Rainbow flag you use speaks to me of God’s great promises for the world.

But you won’t stop the direction my mind goes when I see the flag. It is etched into my soul. The Rainbow is God’s signature on a contract. God is patient, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

Thank you for reminding me!

(video) Big Questions 2: What Has God Written on the Wall?

This world is filled with Big Questions.

People who know their God can understand the Big Questions, like Daniel could read the Writing on the Wall: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.” God wrote two books. Both books give the same message, both together answer all of the Big Questions of life.

–Video 2 in the Writing on the Wall (Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin) series, unlocking the Big Questions

–How can we know God? If the Bible is a self-revelation of God to man, what does he say about himself through the Bible? Why do some people hate the God of the Bible, and others adore him?

We will investigate in this video series thematic lines running through the Bible. We will learn to highlight the amazing continuity of these 10 ideas God is conveying to us. Since the goal of reading the Bible is knowing God and since this is why he gave us a book, knowing who he is and his purpose and plan for the world is foundational.

This second video introduces the Big Questions in light of God’s 10 strand “rainbow-scaffold” of self-revelation in the Bible.

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(Video) Big Questions 1: How Can I Know God?

 

This world is filled with Big Questions.

About God. About our Future. About Suffering and Grief and Disaster. About Religion and Morality. About Love and Hate. These Big Questions assault us from every angle, and never leave us alone. Like Belshazzar who saw the confusing writing on the wall, these Questions need an answer, and we want a reliable and true and undebatable answers.

–Video 1 in the Writing on the Wall (Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin) series–

How can I know God? Why is he hiding? Why do we need the Bible? Why is there suffering in this world? This video introduces the Big Questions and how to find the answers to them.

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Separation Filters: Isaiah 9

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


The first verses of Chapter 9 parallel last three verses of Chapter 8.

There is the remnant again! And the remnant, those who know their God, goes through the same dark anguish common to all of humanity. All mankind fell into a state of sin and misery. We were all of the same lump of clay (Rom 9). We all live in a broken world. Yet the anguish results in a different set of deeds.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” it says (v1).

Then there are some cryptic words about Galilee:

“He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (v1).

There is a group of people in this world whose hearts leap with the name of Galilee.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…”(Luke 1:26).

People who know Jesus see him already here in verse one.

What happens to this group of people as they are in the darkness? They have the dawn.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (v2).

This group of people does not curse God. The light shines in their hearts because God has “shone his face” on them, as is prayed for in the Aaronic blessing. As a result of God’s face shining upon them, sorrow turns to joy and the speeding spoils takes a completely different turn.

“You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil”(v3).

Upharsin + Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Here, both concepts are tied together in the dawn of God’s shining face. In the Immanuel, darkness brings light, for very soon we hear the words:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”(v6).

In the Nativity story we see this dawning.

Zechariah’s prophecy after the birth of John makes this connection:

“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

And Simeon said when he held the Babe in the temple,

“my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:31-32).

Isaiah speaks of the Immanuel, God-with-us, who is born. This one whose birth earns him David’s throne forever, the promised one who is born (earthly) and given (divine). And if that is not clear enough, he declares the name of the one who is born:

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6).

Isaiah, who urgently called people away from idolatry and to worship the living and true God, would not have accidentally called a born-man “God.” Rather, through Isaiah’s amazing prophecy, God intentionally made this truth of a coming God-man known to those who listened to Isaiah.

But as we saw earlier, the truth of Immanuel would become a sanctuary or a stone of offense (8:14-15). Immanuel’s nature would sift people in to two camps.


“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy,
and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:11)


In Isaiah 7-9 we clearly see God using suffering as a separation filter, sorting people into his sheep and the goats. We see the fists lifted in defiance and the faces hung in despair. People are given a choice to trust or not. They are culpable for their choices, and they choose exactly what they want. But we see, too, that only if God shines his face on people will they see the great light.

Thus we see that a suffering world is the venue to sort people, both by their deeds and by their God-given faith.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 8

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


Maher-shalal-has-baz. Isaiah’s son, born as the first proof of God’s being with Israel, is named “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.”

What kind of name is this? What kind of hope is here? The proof Ahaz got is this: the one you trust will betray you. This happened in the lifetime of Ahaz.

God had offered his presence as proof, and had promised consistent covenant provision if Israel would choose to trust his Character. As Christ had promised “living water” to those who came to him, here God refers to his faithful covenant-keeping acts as “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.”

Yet in the face of suffering, Israel is being sifted. The test proves their mettle:

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently…therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River” (vv6-7).

Two waters: peace or war. They refused peace, so war will come. And it comes from the hand of God: “the Lord is bringing up against them” (v7) this consequence. God is like a parent who consistently disciplines his children to teach them the wise and prudent way to go.

So does this prove God is a dictator and a monster? Why doesn’t he just let them be the way they want to be?

If you notice, he does let King Ahaz, and all Israel, “choose this day whom [they] will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Interestingly, or purposefully, the meaning of Maher-shalal-has-baz is equivalent to the third part of the warning Belshazzar himself heard at his blasphemous feast.


Mene: You have been measured.

Mene: You have been measured.

Tekel: You have been weighed.

Upharsin: You will be divided.


The Upharsin judgment of losing one’s home, life or kingdom is the ultimate consequence God may decree upon any man or king.

“The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” sounds like the tension that makes our hearts race in a suspense or horror film.

Loss of everything is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it.

“The spoil of Samaria will be carried away by Assyria” (v4) because their time is up, because they trusted Assyria instead of trusting in God’s promise. Man will betray them.

This example is for us. Israel’s remnant lived through these difficult times to prove its faithfulness. They went through this for us: so we would weigh our own lives in comparison.

The remnant clings to hope that the three names give. Even though the spoil speeds and the prey hastens, the remnant will return and God will be with us.

Yet remains the second fulfillment of the prophecy. There has been great debate as to the definition of “virgin” in the Immanuel prophecy. As is often the case, God uses one word to pivot two-prophecies in one. Only when we see this scene from a New Testament perspective can we understand it in fulness.

In Chapter eight, the Messiah is presented as one who will also be born, along with Isaiah’s son. “God with us” yet of a technical “virgin.” Maher-shalal-hash-baz comes up wanting.

King Ahaz has made a decision the remnant does not agree with. He trusts in “horses and chariots” but they trust “in the Name of the LORD” (Ps 20:7; Is 31:1). Those who believe in Immanuel are themselves called Immanuel (v8). Even as the destruction comes, God will keep his promise. The enemy nations will be broken and shattered.

They will “take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (v9-10).

Those who know their God know this: though the nations rage, God will never break his covenant with true Israel.

It is time for the great sorting.

“Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (vv12-13).

This is the call to return to the covenant. The first and second commandment.

And after the call to return comes the sifting. Two groups will respond to this call:

“And he will become a sanctuary,”

(Rock of Ages, cleft for me)

the first response is juxtaposed against the second response:

“and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap. And a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (vv14-15).

Either you hold firmly to the covenant promise of “God with us whatever happens,” or you will trip and fall and be broken. The very promise of the Messiah is a separation filter. Sheep from goats.

But people will be what they will be. Some will be blind to the word of God. Isaiah says,

“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (v17).

Obviously God was not hiding his face from Isaiah. The remnant alone, whose choosing proves their loyalty, can see the face of God. The Who of God is known by his people, and “whatever happens” his people will keep believing in his Character. To others, God is unseen and unknown.

“Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples,” God says (v16).

In Chapter 6, this is the very call God put on Isaiah’s life;

“Go, and say to this people:
Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy
and blind their eyes.”

The absence of seeing God’s face or hearing his word is equated as being in the darkness. Instead of seeking God’s voice, Israel seeks messages from mediums and necromancers. Isaiah begs them to look “to the teaching and to the testimony!” (v20). But then he says

“If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn”(v20).

The dawn has not lit them from inside. They cannot because they have no light. And the lack of light in itself sorts them into certain types of deeds:

“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (v21-22).

They have no hope in the promises of God, because they do not know God. The suffering has sorted and sifted them. It has proven the fact that they were not true Israel in the first place. The suffering will cause them to shake their fist at God, to “speak contemptuously against…their God.” To hate him.

And we look upon this story and we ask ourselves, which group am I in? How do I respond to difficulty? Do I cling to the hope given that “the remnant shall be saved”? Or do I conclude that since I suffer, therefore there is no God?


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 7

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


King Ahaz has an amazing opportunity. He meets with Isaiah not only to hear the direct word from God, but also to respond. As Joshua had commanded the people, “choose this day whom you will serve,” Ahaz is given hope and a choice. Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub comes with him to the meeting, his very name that of hope: “a remnant shall return.”

Isaiah presents to Ahaz an opportunity to prove his mettle. Pleasure and peace or war.

“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two…” (v4).

We hear echoes of Moses and Joshua speaking to trembling Israel.

“Do not be dismayed or discouraged for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God recognizes the enemies are fearsome:

“two smoldering stumps of firebrands…fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah…. Syria has devised evil against you” (v4).

In spite of this God presents Ahaz with a great opportunity to throw in his hope onto God’s side.  This is his only opportunity for success.

“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (v9).

Then King Ahaz is given the option of choosing proof. Like with Gideon, God condescends to strengthen the faith of Ahaz with a sign of God’s presence.

“Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v10).

How many of us would love such an opportunity for divine proof? Yet Ahaz declines.

So God gives a promise that will come about in double-time:

“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v14).

The child will be named “God with us.” Can you hear Handel’s version of this playing in your head?

The immediate fulfillment of this proof happens in the next chapter, but with a twist. God tells all the signs of sorrow and suffering that will come upon Israel, with Sheer-jashub standing right there. To the hope of the remnant is added the hope of God with us.

What will Ahaz do? His decision is our decision. His choice pushes us to look inwardly. What would I have done? What do I do in my desperate times?

Ahaz is being sifted, shaken, stirred. How does he come out in the face of suffering? Ahaz chooses to put his faith in Assyria. This nation promises to help Israel against Rezin and Syria, but Israel has not considered the dear cost.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9