Monday, September 14, 2009

Is. 6: Isaiah's Calling

Isaiah 6:9 "He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'"

Isaiah has this vision. He wasn't yet a prophet, but its likely he was a student of the word of God. He knew that seeing God was lethal, and his fear reveals it. He was terrified. It's really a strange scene...seraphs were flying above him, and they were chanting "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Why earth? Anyway, they were loud, and their voices shook the temple, filling it with smoke.

They each had six wings, two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and with two they were flying. Even they had to cover their faces, in spite of being in the throne room of God. There was an altar there, and one of the seraphs took a live coal and touched it to Isaiah's lips after he freaked out. This touching of the coal to the lips served to cleanse Isaiah of guilt and sin, and he could stand before God.

God calls out and asks, "Who will go for us?" I don't know if there were others there, but I don't think so, it was Isaiah's vision. Isaiah volunteers for what he must have known was going to be an extremely unpopular job.

God gives a command to Isaiah in verse 9, a rather cryptic one. Be hearing, but never understanding; be seeing but never perceiving. Why would God want that callousness of heart? Because he needed to discipline them and discipline them good? If Israel turns and is healed, maybe they wouldn't get it, and they would only make these "deathbed confessions" under the threat of devastation. God didn't want that from his people all the time, that's not sincerity. That's not the change of heart God is after. And I don't know how Isaiah himself was going to make people's hearts calloused...maybe he was supposed to play "bad cop." I don't think he had the power God did when he hardened the Pharaoh's heart. So Isaiah had to keep this up until Israel was totally devastated.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is. 5: Judgments

Isaiah 5:4 "What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"

The first 7 verses of chapter 5 are a parable of a vineyard, echoing the previous book, Song of Solomon. Isaiah describes the building and purposeful care that goes into putting together a vineyard. A vineyard full of the choicest of vines that will serve it's planter. He cleared out the stones, put up a hedge of protection, and cut in a winepress. It was a thing of beauty. He then checked for good fruit, but instead got bad.

I think a passage like this can serve to explain that question "If God is so good, why is there sin?" or "If God is so good, why do bad things happen?" See the vineyard. God did everything to give what he cultivated a chance to succeed. The yield was bad fruit. He did everything but live the lives of the people (the choicest vines, mind you).

Because of this bad fruit, why put effort into protecting it, especially when you were bound to keeping a covenant? The people knew what would happen if they forsook the covenant. He will make it a wasteland...sound familiar?

Then we get to woes and judgments. Wealth was no shelter from the coming discipline. Even if you had large homes and vineyards, it would come to nothing.

If you waste a lot of time partying, and being inflamed with wine, you won't take time for real fulfilling things, learning the ways of the LORD, which will ultimately lead to your preservation and sustenance.

Woe to those whose work is sin, and work at sin.

Verse 19 is interesting. If you demand God hurry up and show you his plan, a God who isn't inside the passing of time, that is woeful. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to know what God is doing, but making demands on him from your side of perfection is probably not useful.

Israel's demise will be a beacon to other nations. They won't just ignore Israel, they will come and dance on her ruins. Awesome.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is. 4: The Branch of the LORD

Isaiah 4:5 "Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy."

Continuing on this theme of dirty women, it seems like seven of them (large numbers) will confront one man and demand that he make them legitimate...I suppose to give them children. Seems like not a bad deal if you were a man, except you'd be furthering yourself (and the women) from God, and intensifying God's anger. Bad times.

I think the branch of the LORD is his protection over those who chose to keep the covenant with Him. Can you imagine how hard it must have been while the rest of their society crumbled? You would begin to wonder what the point was. Why bother following God if it doesn't matter? But the message here is that they will be protected. They will survive this trial by fire, this scrubbing clean of the filth that encrusted Israel like dust and hair on a hot dog that fell behind the refrigerator 8 and a half months ago. He'll clean up, and he will bring back that pillar of fire and clouds that he used to lead Israel through the promised land. And he will protect his people again.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Is. 3: Judging Jerusalem

Isaiah 3:8 "Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence."

This was written in a time before Israel was taken into exile, so the prophecies in Isaiah 3 come true just as they were written. Even though Isaiah was used by God during a time where Judah had relatively good kings, the people were still scumbags. There was a long engrained tradition of evil that was marring the nation. And the truth is, Isaiah probably could have seen this coming without divine revelation from God.

Those who were meant to be subservient will be equal and in charge, oppressive. Those who were leaders, who led the army, who guided the nation will be vacated and useless. Their sin is flaunted without any sense of wrong, and the comparison to Sodom is made again. It was a pretty wicked place to live. I assume Isaiah was not very popular in his day. Who wants to hear how awful he is, and as a result how terrible life is going to be?

The women were just as bad as the men. Just because their status in society was second to men, it doesn't mean they were able to hide in their sin. They were pretty lascivious, using their bodies for sin, and to bring others down in sin. But as much as they attempted to pretty themselves up, God was going to strike them bald, and they'd be dressing in sackcloth.

What's worse, their military, blessed by God for a sincere purpose would be rendered useless, and they would be slaughtered on the battlefield.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is. 2: Day of Exaltation

Isaiah 2:11 "The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. "

Couple things.

I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "the last days," but apparently this is going to be among the final things that happens on earth, at the end of time. God will establish this "Mountain." The language here points to this mountain being a person. He will be "chief among mountains," which leads me to believe he will be exalted above men. He will be the final say on things, as all nations will stream to it. Quite a guy. He will be a descendant of Jacob, according to the text. He will also send out the law, he will be the final answer on all things. Additionally, he will usher in peace, as people will beat their swords into plows, spears into pruning hooks, etc. Nations will no longer have to fight each other over land and old scores if they all trust the final judge.

The second section of Isaiah two deals with why God abandoned Israel. They completely deserved it. They broke just about every command they were given, but it seems like it all comes down to pride. They destroyed themselves because they thought they were so smart. They created their own idols, and brought the wrath of God down. Now they have no where to run. Just as there is no place to hide from God's love, there is no place to hide from his anger. Everything they build up in their own arrogance will be destroyed, and God will be magnified.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Is. 1: Israel in Rebellion

Isaiah 1:21 "See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers!"

Isaiah was the prophet in office during the reigns of Judah's Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. 3 out of the four were relatively good men, and wise rulers, Ahaz being the scumbag of the bunch.

Israel has been doing wrong, and Isaiah points it out with very vivid language. I imagine him being very upset, yelling and causing a scene. He compares Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah, the utmost example of depravity and sin. Can you imagine fancying yourself as God almighty's chosen people, His partner in covenant, and then hearing Isaiah say this about you?

God didn't even want anything to do with their supposed acts of righteousness, their sacrifices and their feasts. These events were created with very specific purposes, among those being God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt and from famine. Yet Israel went through the motions, on autopilot, not truly knowing why they were doing what they were doing. God, who was after a person's heart and soul, instead got a burning carcass. And he had plenty of those, and was in need of none (v. 11). Not only was this meaningless to God, it was a giant step was detestable...the worst kind of sin.

God did not want their self-righteous acts, undertaken with the wrong attitude. He wanted true righteousness and devotion from Israel, who prostituted themselves to other gods, violating God's command to serve no other god but Him.

Israel had become that fool described in Proverbs...beaten every time they open their mouth, but they never learn.

Their silver became dross, what was purged from the silver. There was no longer any part of value...they were total rubbish.

So what is Israel to do? Isaiah admonishes them to make themselves clean, to repent and turn whole-heartedly back to the LORD. The deal is that they will be made white as snow. They will be purified from their sins. Where there was crimson, there will be wool.

God makes it pretty clear what will happen either way. If Israel repents, they will be restored to greatness, to righteousness. If not, they will be crushed and beaten. They will burn. Let's see...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SS 8: Let's Make Love

Song of Solomon 8:14 "Come away, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains."

The language here is spicy, like the wine she gives her lover to drink. Although I'm sure it had nothing to do with fruit. If I had to guess, we're talking about the embrace, the act of love. Enjoying it, imbibing in it. Under the apple tree, the same way Solomon's mother Bathsheba conceived him.

Like a seal over his heart, she wants to be his one and only. She wants his devotion, in spite of all the women available to him.

The friends here apparently have a young sister, and she's not yet ready for marriage. She stands in need of the protection. Not like our girl here. Her breasts are fully grown. They are towers. And hey, this is something Solomon definitely noticed. Nothing wrong with that. Solomon's a boob-man. Those two fawns, twins of a gazelle are a thing of beauty.

I don't think verse 14 has anything to do with exploring the countryside. Remember the spice laden mountains? Yeah. They're making love. And I wonder why this subject is taboo in the church. How many sermons on Song of Solomon 8 have you heard? This reflects a God who has created human bodies to be enjoyed be the other's lover. God created and encourages physical enjoyment, physical a part of the whole package, and between two committed people who have one and only one.