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Monday, October 27, 2014

Isaiah 11, Part 4: Recovering the Remnant

Isaiah 11, Part 4: Recovering the Remnant

The Lord restores the nation of Israel, bringing back from dispersion, the Israelites scattered by war and exile.

Isaiah 11:11-12 (ESV) In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah described the recovering of the remnant as "a second time". When was the first time?

Isaiah 11:16 (ESV) There will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

Pursued by their captors, Israel found themselves with their backs against the sea, facing an Egyptian army six hundred chariots strong. The people despaired their situation, and they cried with regret for attempting to break free of their enslavement. A cloud fell between them and their enemy, dropping darkness on the Egyptian army yet lighting up the night for Israel. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong wind, allowing the people to easily escape. When the Egyptians attempted to follow, a tremendous storm of fire and cloud threw them in a panic, their chariots bogged down in the sand, and the wind reversed, overwhelming the Egyptians in the flood.

Exodus 14:28-29 (ESV) The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Isaiah says the LORD will perform a similar miracle in recovering the remnant of Israelites scattered throughout the world, from Assyria to Egypt, from Mesopotamia to far western regions beyond the sea. Civil strife will end, the nation of Israel will command all of the land once known as Canaan; the sea between Israel and Egypt, and the great river between Assyria and Israel will be easily crossed.

It is important to remember that this hope-filled promise of recovery and restoration comes immediately after the scathing rebuke of Israel's leaders in Chapter 10. The LORD used the Assyrian army to punish and humble the Israelites, but promises them glorious restoration to his favor.

What do you think?

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Isaiah 11, Part 3: The Signal

Isaiah 11, Part 3: The Signal

The LORD will make "the root of Jesse", the divinely Righteous Judge of the world, to stand as a signal.

Isaiah 11:10 (ESV) In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

The first instance of "signal" is found in the Book of Numbers:

Numbers 21:8-9 (ESV) The LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

"Pole" is the same word as "signal".

David composed a psalm which referred to a banner, using the same word as "signal":

Psalm 60:4 (ESV) You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow.

Isaiah used the same word earlier in reference to the Syrian and Assyrian armies:

Isaiah 5:26 (ESV) He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come!

All instances of "signal" refer to the raising of something high, attracting the attention of many, communicating an important message of urgency.

Isaiah describes the LORD's Righteous Judge as being a signal for the people of many nations, calling them to himself as a Source of help and rest.

Isaiah refers to two different groups of people: people closely associated together ("peoples"), and people who are outsiders or foreigners ("nations").

The Righteous Judge will be lifted up as the highest representative of a specific group of people, most likely those associated with the tribe of Jesse. The Judge will be recognized as belonging to the people of Israel. However, even foreign nations will be drawn to the Judge, seeking something regarded as worthy of pursuit: glorious rest.

A reference that uses "rest" with all three meanings of consolation, matrimony, and an abode is found in the Book of Ruth, where Naomi prays for her widowed daughters-in-law:

Ruth 1:9 (ESV) "The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!" Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

"Rest" implied the security and peace of a loving, capable husband who could provide the women an abundant life.

What do you think?

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Isaiah 11, Part 2: Fearing the LORD

Isaiah 11, Part 2: Fearing the LORD

Isaiah referred to fear of the LORD as something admirable.

Isaiah 11:3 (ESV) His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

The root word of "fear of the LORD" is a word meaning an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat (The New Oxford American Dictionary). "Fear" comes from an Old English word meaning calamity or danger.

Adam feared punishment after disobeying God's command regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:10). Jacob feared the loss of his wives after tricking Laban (Genesis 31:31). The Israelites feared pain and injury from serpents, scorpions and desert (Deuteronomy 8:15).

Rather than describing someone running away from something fearful, Isaiah described God's Righteous Judge as having delight in fearing the LORD.

Things pleasant or desirable easily become associated with their smell. A farmer regards the smell of a growing field as a reminder of profit and security (Genesis 27:27). Perfume or incense will awaken a desire for worship or love (Exodus 30:38). A warrior's horse smells a battle and paws the ground in eagerness (Job 39:25).

That which is frightening about God is what the Righteous Judge would regard as a sweet aroma. This Judge would regard every reminder of God's dangerous ability to bring calamity or danger as something delightful.

Isaiah speaks as though the poor and meek of the earth would benefit from the decisions of a Judge Who could punish and kill wicked people with perfect righteousness and equity.

"Forensic" refers to the scientific investigation of crime.

So, how can something that causes fear be a good thing? How does God's potential for calamity and danger be connected to experiencing something right, pleasant or prosperous?

People who are poor or meek will experience true righteousness and equity only if those who steal or oppress them are punished or destroyed.

People who are dangling, weak or thin, whether in body or mind, are easily oppressed. People who are forced to listen, or forced to watch and obey, easily become brow-beaten or depressed in posture and conduct. Gentleness or humility may be a positive character quality, but it could also be a result of bullying or subservience.

Without strength in themselves, poor or meek people will find rescue only in Someone perfectly right and good Who is capable of enforcing righteousness and equity.

A Judge who is powerful and sovereign, and acts out of righteousness and equity, may indeed be something delightful...especially for those who are poor or meek.

What do you think?

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Isaiah 11, Part 1: The LORD's Righteous Judge

Isaiah 11, Part 1: The LORD's Righteous Judge

Previously, in Chapter 10...

Isaiah declares God's judgement against the iniquitous leaders of Israel who oppressed the needy and poor. A powerful enemy, Assyria, would be used by God as a rod of anger against godless Israel.

But Assyria herself would be punished for their arrogance when the king boasts of his unlimited power and lofty scorn for the God of Israel. Assyria's invasion would be suddenly halted before the gates of Jerusalem with a wasting sickness that would decimate the army.

Only a remnant of Israel would survive the destruction of war, yet the people would return in faith to the LORD.

Now, in Chapter 11...

Isaiah describes One Who would judge the world with the power and righteousness of God. This Righteous Judge will stand above all earthly governments and powers, ushering in a time of extraordinary peace and joy. The scattered remnant of the nation of Israel will return from all corners of the world to the land given them by God after their exodus from Egypt.

The LORD will empower a Righteous Judge.

Isaiah 11:1-2,4,10 (ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him...with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked...In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples — of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

"A shoot from the stump of Jesse" describes the earthly lineage of the Lord's Righteous Judge.

"Jesse" refers to the father of Israel's celebrated warrior-king David (1 Samuel 16). Isaiah compares Jesse to a tree, fallen in old age but sprouting new growth from its roots.

Who was Jesse? What preeminence made this man a reference point for a divine, Righteous Judge who would oversee a time of earthly peace like no other?

Jesse appears to have been a simple farmer with eight sons, living in Bethlehem, David being the youngest and least significant in his father's eyes. Even after David had gained a reputation for valor and leadership his father regarded him but lightly (1 Samuel 16:18-19). David's identity remained that of "the son of Jesse". Those jealous of David's popularity used the label as a reminder of his simple, rural bloodline (1 Samuel 22:7-8).

However, David seemed to take pride in his humble background, seeing it as a testimony to the power of God's grace:

1 Chronicles 28:4 (ESV) The LORD God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel.

In the minds of all Israel David would be "the son of Jesse". Isaiah's reference to a descendent of Jesse would cause any Israelite to immediately think of David and God's promise to provide a Ruler forever from the tribe of Judah and the family of Jesse.

Has a descendent of Jesse appeared to fulfill Isaiah's promise?

At the time of Isaiah, Jesse had been dead for over 200 years. Over that time Jesse's descendants never achieved anything near the peaceful utopia described by Isaiah.

Isaiah 11:6-10 (ESV) The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

None of Jesse's descendents fit Isaiah's description of the Righteous Judge...except one.

Acts 13:22-23 (ESV) [God] raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, "I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will." Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

Jesus was a direct descendent of David the son of Jesse, and the New Testament is the story of how faith in Jesus brings a person spiritual perfection now, and physical perfection in the future.

Luke 1:31-33 (ESV) You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Acts 13:38-39 (ESV) Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Jesus claimed to be empowered by the Spirit of the LORD:

Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 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.

Ephesians 1:3 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

Colossians 1:13-20 (ESV) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Will Jesus be Judge of all earth? Isaiah described the Judge as one who would render a righteous verdict in favor of the poor and meek, and destroying the wicked on the earth forever.

While ministering on earth Jesus did not regard himself as a judge:

John 8:15 (ESV) You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

But Jesus did expect a day in which he would judge the world:

John 5:21-23, 25-29 (ESV) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him...an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man...an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

John 5:30 (ESV) I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Romans 2:16 (ESV) God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.

Revelation 19:11 (ESV) I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

What do you think?

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