July 29 Isaiah 59-63
July 30 Isaiah 64-66
July 31 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33
August 1 Nahum 1-3
August 2 Zephaniah 1-3
August 3 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35
Since the dawn of time, man has dealt unjustly with man and with God. Our sin nature gets in our way and lack of repentance blocks God's ears. Paul reminds his listeners of this when he quotes Isaiah 59:1-2 in Romans 3. We see it in our world today. Not only is our nation imploding because of our sins, but the whole world seems to be imploding as well. When we read the paper or listen to the news, it's usually gloomy – especially in the Middle East. But one tiny nation is the focus of God's everlasting covenant, and one city is the ultimate “winner” of God's promises. That nation, of course, is Israel, and the city is Jerusalem.
Isaiah reminds us this week that God will righteously avenge His covenant with Israel. In “the day of the Lord”, Israel will be radiant and will be honored by all. Any who choose not to honor Israel will be punished. This is a part of the covenant God made with Abraham:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your
father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen 12:1-3 (ESV)
It doesn't seem that God has kept His promise! But He has. Throughout our readings we see the Southern Kingdom intentionally turning from God. They worshiped other gods and did things that God called abominations. He destroyed them and allowed them to go into captivity, but through it all He remembered His promise that the line of succession to the Messiah would be through David's seed. Isaiah reminds us of this in chapter 61:1-3 when he outlines Jesus' future ministry:
- Bring good news to the poor,
- Bring liberty to captives of sin – that's all of us,
- Proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)
Can you imagine sitting in the synagogue and hearing a man tell you that He is the Messiah? If we heard that today, we'd call Him crazy. Unfortunately, some people who heard Jesus quote Isaiah this way felt that he was lying and blaspheming God. This ultimately led to Jesus' execution – which fulfilled other prophecies in Isaiah. Our God is amazing! Who could imagine predictions hundreds of years old would be so visibly fulfilled?
Remember that these prophecies are two-fold: the amazing news that the Messiah will come, and the foretelling of the final battle for earth and Jesus return, which is the climax of the day of the Lord. When Jesus came to earth the first time, He read only of Isaiah 61:1-3. He didn't speak of vengeance because that happens at His second coming (Isaiah 63:4).
Isaiah tells us of future blessings – salvation to the Gentiles (65:1). God's promises were first to the Jews, but they rejected Him. God opened up His arms to everyone!
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “ ‘Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:23-28 (ESV)
It's hard to believe that Jerusalem will someday be a source of joy and harmony to the world. For over a thousand years, Israel did not exist. But then, on May 14, 1948, political Israel was born
“Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the Lord; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” Isaiah 66:7-11 (ESV)
We won't see the promised peace in Jerusalem until the day of the Lord. Instead of conflict, the peoples of the world will come to Jerusalem to bring offerings to the Lord (50:3-14 and 66:12). What a marvelous time it will be – peace on the earth!
There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 57:21 (ESV)
In order to have peace, you must have righteousness.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17 (ESV)
The only way to have righteousness is through faith in Christ Jesus.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:21-22 (ESV)
In our other readings, we saw the end of an evil king (Manasseh, Amon) and the reign of a good king (Josiah). I found Josiah's story very moving. He was not aware of all that God required until the Law was read to him. Josiah was immediately convicted and repented. He repaired the temple and destroyed all the idols. Josiah's repentance was true repentance. He turned away from his sin and sought God's will. But that didn't stop God from punishing! God promised Josiah that he would not see the punishment God would mete out, and Josiah was killed. This reminds me that my sins, while forgiven, still have consequences.
This wee's readings were about vengeance – and comfort. We see the results of sin as God allows captivity for His people. We see comfort in Isaiah's prophecies of the future Messiah and his descriptions of the New Heaven and the eventual peace of Jerusalem. We've learned that true peace comes from righteousness available through faith in Christ Jesus. What a wonderful set of promises! We see that love does win – but that love also demands obedience, faith and trust in the only Way to heaven – Jesus Christ.
What insights did you find in our readings this week? Which parts of the readings comforted you? Disturbed you? Made you think? Made you seek God in prayer? Let us all know! Leave a comment or send an email. We're all in this together, and the more dialogue we have about God's Word, the stronger our faith becomes. See you next week.