The people of Judah have a choice. Who will they look to for help against the Assyrians? The chariots of Egypt - or the hand of God?
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
"Go now, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for a time to come as a witness forever. For they are a rebellious people, faithless children, children who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, 'Do not see'; and to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel" (vs. 8-11).
One danger in our relationship with the Lord is that of slipping into taking Him for granted. I believe this threat is especially possible for those who have spent many years in the faith, or been raised in the Church from an early age. The problem of coasting on "spiritual automatic pilot" is very real, and very perilous.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Honestly, I am not sure what to make of much of the material in Isaiah 28. Some of it seems to be referring to things of which only Isaiah's original audience may have been aware. Amid the confusion, there is one verse, however, which later resonated throughout the New Testament. It became a cornerstone scripture which itself speaks of a "cornerstone."
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Just when it looked like the Bible would be ending prematurely at this point, what with the northern kingdom of Israel wiped out and Sennacherib's Assyrian army threatening to do the exact same to the southern kingdom of Judah, God reveals that He is still in control. Jerusalem slips through the Assyrians' fingers. The nation lives, and Sennacherib dies.
Things certainly look bleak for Judah in II Kings 18. King Hezekiah, a good ruler, refuses to bend his knee to the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Instead, he cleanses the countryside of pagan idols and urges his people to return to the Lord. However, Judah's northern neighbor, Israel, falls to the Assyrians and its Jewish identity is extinguished through a policy of forced relocation and exile. Now the Assyrian army has taken over the fortified cities of Judah and is massing against Jerusalem herself. Who can possibly save her?
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Monday, March 21, 2016
I have never been one to advocate the pursuit of righteousness simply for the blessings that it brings. That sounds too mercenary to me. As Christians, we should do the right thing because God commands it and we agree with Him about what is good. As His children, we want to please Him. However, it should be noted that there are "fringe benefits" that often come from doing the right thing. Psalm 112 celebrates the rewards of righteousness in contrast to the woes of the wicked.
Hosea 12 covers some familiar ground for those who have read Genesis and Exodus. The prophet reviews a few historical highlights from the time of the patriarchs as evidence that God's people have always struggled with sin and rebellion.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
All of us probably know parents who mourn a lost son or daughter. Even if not physically absent, they may be spiritually lost or relationally estranged. The heartbreak in such situations is real. And Hosea tells us that God knows exactly what that feeling is like.
You can tell a lot about the context of a people based on their literature. This is no less true when it comes to a biblical example like Hosea and his audience. Speaking to a farming nation, Hosea uses a number of agricultural analogies to drive his points home.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Hosea 6 picks up right where the last chapter left off. The opening verses are the cry of the Israelites as they seek to return to the Lord their God. And tucked inside of them is an eye-opening revelation, a reference to something yet to come.
"Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." A quote from Hosea? No. Actually those words are David/Bruce Banner's, before he turns into the rampaging Incredible Hulk. However, the same sentiment applies to Hosea 5.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (vs. 6).
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Isaiah has one last oracle of doom to share. This final word is directed against the city of Tyre. Renowned for their trading by ships across the Mediterranean, Tyre and Sidon are also guilty of exploitation, literally "prostituting themselves" in pursuit of profit (vs. 16 and 17). The Lord vows that Tyre will be sacked and its harbor destroyed as a consequence of its sin. Tyre will feel the wrath of God and suffer loss for seventy years before its restoration.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Isaiah is distraught to see the destruction coming to Jerusalem. In spite of the warnings he has laid out, he knows the nation will miss its chance for repentance. Although they are given an opportunity to return to the Lord, the prophet foresees that they will squander it instead of taking it.
Monday, March 7, 2016
While all of the Psalms in the Bible are considered inspired, some are undoubtedly more pivotal and influential than others. Psalm 110 is one of these, making several different appearances in the New Testament, once on the lips of Jesus Himself.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Prophets are often called to do more than just talk and write; sometimes the Lord commands them to take actions which physically enact a spiritual truth or portend a coming event (i.e., Agabus binds himself with Paul's belt, Jonah spends three days in the belly of a fish, etc.) So it is in this brief chapter.
Isaiah's oracles do not extend only to Judah's immediate neighbors; God is interested in even the far-flung nations beyond Egypt. Isaiah 18 is a word directed to Ethiopia, which has apparently sent ambassadors to the Israelites (vs. 1 and 2). Bible scholars believe that this chapter may contain a message about Assyria's impending military failure, which will be clearly orchestrated by the Lord. The prophet tells all the nations to watch and pay attention (vs. 3). God will deliver His people and leave the corpses of their enemies for the birds of prey and scavenging animals (vs. 6). Then, from that same nation referred to in verse 1, gifts and tribute will be sent to Mount Zion as a recognition of God's awesome power (vs. 7).
Isaiah is an equal-opportunity oracle of doom. After issuing prophecies against Assyria, Philistia, and Moab, he turns his attention to the area of Damascus, also known as Aram. Like the others, Isaiah's words to Damascus are hard and gloomy. He foresees that the nation will fall into disrepair and its towns become deserted wastelands. Because of their idolatry, their harvests will fail and the people will suffer grief and pain (vs. 10-11). As with the other nations, God is seen as having the power and authority to do what is right, and to dispense His judgment upon the nations.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star ("Lucifer" in the King James Version), son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the top of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit (vs. 12-15).
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Is there anything that God cannot use? Throughout my ministry, I've come across people who are convinced that they have screwed up so badly in this life that they are beyond redemption. They simply have no faith that they could ever be of value or use to God. But God does not suffer from our lack of imagination and creativity! God is able to use anything as His instrument to accomplish His will.