|<< Isa 53|
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Isaiah 54-58 ..... Listen
What about the future of Israel? (Isaiah 54)
1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
9 For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.
17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
We saw the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53 (see notes). Now we transition from suffering to the result of that suffering - deliverance for Israel. In verse 3 we see the Messiah's work with Gentiles and verse 5 identifies the work of the Messiah at his return; he'll rule the whole earth. Verses 7-8 speak of the fall of Jerusalem and Israel, but promise a restoration where Jerusalem will be the center of authority. When the millennium (after the tribulation) arrives, Jerusalem will be completely restored, never to fall again. No enemy will be able to prevail against Israel. In verse 9, Isaiah compares the strength of this promise with that of the covenant God made with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:11, see notes). The Messianic kingdom is clearly seen in this passage, the main emphasis being God's protection of Israel. Even though enemies may contemplate coming against the inhabitants, they will not succeed (verses 14-17). This apparently foretells the growing number of unregenerate people during the millennium who will unite with Satan at the end of the 1,000 years and go to war (although a very short war) against the Messiah (Revelation 20:7-9, see notes). They'll be destroyed, along with Satan, once and for all.
Incidentally, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27 (see notes) in his allegory employing Jerusalem - the analogy highlighting the future glory of Jerusalem as it becomes the governmental seat over all the earth.
Now for an appeal to the Gentiles (Isaiah 55)
1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
We see here in verses 1-2 that eternal life cannot be bought; it may only be received as a gift. In Acts 13:34 (see notes) Paul quotes a portion of verse 3, "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." He does so before his Jewish audience as supporting evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore, the "everlasting covenant" of verse 3 certainly must be a reference to the Davidic Covenant (see article entitled, "The Davidic Covenant").
Here, Isaiah prophesies regarding the appeal that will be made by the Messiah to the Gentiles for salvation. The millennium (and thereafter) will not be inhabited by only Jewish people, but by all the righteous coming out of the tribulation, Jew or Gentile. This invitation is made clear in verses 5-6 where the invitation for salvation is extended to all nations.
One can't help but notice the string of oft-quoted one-liners which have been adopted from this chapter:
Isaiah offers hope to Gentiles (Isaiah 56:1-8)
1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
3 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
God, through Isaiah's prophecy, has expressed his disappointment in the Jews for their disobedience and idolatrous practices. One obvious indicator of Israel's disobedience was their disregard for the Sabbath (mentioned in verses 2, 4 and 6). In the preceding chapters, God has promised Israel restoration during the millennium under the worldwide rule of the Messiah. In addition to Jews, here we find the extra benefit of the Messiah's rule during the millennium - blessings upon Gentiles (non Jews) as well. In this passage Gentiles are referred to as strangers (in relationship to Israel). Observe the stipulations of verse 7, "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." This is the verse that Jesus quotes in the temple when he overthrows the money tables in Matthew 21:13/Mark 11:17/Luke 19:46 (see notes).
In verses 3-8, special attention is given to the inclusion of those who were previously "cut off" from Israel i.e. eunuchs, as seen in Deuteronomy 23:1-2 (see notes). This mention is apparently designed to show the extent to which all will be accepted during the millennium, including Gentiles, eunuchs...everyone.
What about those baaaaad Jewish leaders? (Isaiah 56:9-12)
9 All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.
12 Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.
Isaiah's prophecy takes up the issue of the wicked leadership in Israel. These leaders were immediately responsible for the nation's fall to the Assyrians and will in the future (to this prophecy) to the Babylonians. The Gentile armies (Assyrian and Babylonian) are referred to as beasts in this passage while the leaders of Israel/Judah have the distinction of being referred to as lazy, gluttonous watchdogs. It's a pretty vivid description - dogs that never bark, always sleep, but are always ready to eat. He also compares them to incompetent shepherds.
More about those spiritually-lacking Jewish leaders (Isaiah 57)
1 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
3 But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.
4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,
5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?
6 Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?
7 Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.
8 Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.
9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
10 Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.
11 And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?
12 I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.
13 When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
14 And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.
15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
19 I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Then Isaiah takes off in chapter 57 on the wicked practices of those Judean leaders. Idolatry is a primary component in this passage - a futile practice unable to deliver them from destruction. Notice the reference to idolatry in verse 8, "Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it." Throughout the Old Testament, idolatry is compared to cohabiting with a harlot. Most references to harlotry in the Old Testament actually refer to the spiritual failing of Israel in going after strange gods instead of their own husband, Jehovah. In fact, the analogy is further enhanced by the fact that the idolatry of pagan cultures often included sexual acts which were quite contradictory to the Law of Moses, as alluded to in this passage. An appeal is made to them in the latter verses of chapter 57 to turn to God along with a promise of destruction if they do not...and history tells us that they declined the offer. In verses 14-21, God encourages the repentant and humble, and warns the wicked. The chapter concludes with bad news for anyone who rejects God in verse 21, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
Does fasting make you right before God? (Isaiah 58)
1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Israel's leadership has been addressed as being corrupt, leading to their fall to the Assyrians (Northern tribes in 721 B.C.) and later to the Babylonians (Jerusalem in 586 B.C.). However, some of the people had gone through the motions of seeking God, but in vain. Why in vain? It was not from their hearts. It's like any other polytheistic culture hedging their bets by showing reverence to several perceived deities; in their minds God was not their sole deliverer. That's why verses 1-3 seem to show a contrite group of people in Israel, yet to no avail. Isaiah goes on to show these people in the remainder of the chapter that their fasting is not from their hearts. They are fasting with incorrect motivations.
In verses 5-7 Isaiah explains the missing component of their fasts - sincerity. He does so by listing several action items which a person close to God would find automatic, but these action items were absent with this rebellious crowd. In other words, simply skipping a few meals carries no (fasting) weight with God. Correct attitudes and motivations must accompany an effective fast.
From Isaiah's list in verses 5-7, we derive that the following visual actions might indicate sincerity as one fasts:
Let's face it: Without these, you're not fasting to the Lord; you're just skippin' meals!
Since fasting is mentioned in the New Testament approximately 31 times in 26 different verses (see below), these guidelines given to the Jews for fasting certainly should benefit those of us who feel compelled to engage in fasting. In other words, unless you fast for the right reason and with the correct attitude before God, you may as well go ahead and have a big steak instead. Isaiah shows them that their lack of obedience to the entire counsel of the Mosaic law identifies their willingness to make personal sacrifices in fasting futile. Likewise, fasting can only benefit a Believer who is obedient to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in his life.
Here are the references to fasting found in the New Testament:
It is difficult from these passages to pull together a comprehensive doctrine on fasting, but it is obvious that the concept has not been invalidated under grace. It would appear that fasting is akin to importunity/persistence. It adds a level of sincerity and urgency to our petitions before God. Incidentally, God knows how sincere we are, but fasting may very well be the key that helps us realize how importantly we regard our own petition. In other words, fasting demonstrates an intensity in prayer that may not be demonstrated any other way.