Isaiah 23: Easy come, Easy go

Tyre is another city in Isaiah that is judged and chastised for not following the Lord. Tyre was a seaport and many populations depended on the trade and commerce there for their income.

Tyre was a very old city that caused many to prosper but the city as a whole did not honor or glorify God for these rich blessings. Instead, this chapter paints a picture of a city that is self-satisfied and confident in its prosperous status.

Tyre was to experience a downfall of its commerce and success as so many of the nations spent their efforts fighting and warring around it. As we have read in previous chapters, God has been communicating through the prophet Isaiah that countless nations would be punished for their godlessness and idolatry.

God says that Tyre will be laid to waste for seventy years. During this time, the sinners that had once prospered will lament its state. However, after the seventy years has passed, God will once more set up this coastal city to prosper. But this time, the profit from the commerce will not be stored away by the people in control but will rather be used to the benefit of the people that love and serve God:

“Her gain and her pay will be set apart for the LORD; it will not be treasured nor laid up, for her gain will be for those who dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for fine clothing.” Isaiah 23:18

The book of Isaiah is wondrous and despite the repeated instances of cataloguing sinful nations and their punishments, there are still good lessons for us today. God allowed Tyre’s prosperity and wealth. Even when the city did not recognize the source of wealth, God allowed it. But things came to a point where God would no longer allow it and instead punished the city before turning its use to His own.

Our success, when ill-gotten or not properly put in context as blessing can continue for years, decades, lifetimes. But God knows those that give Him honor and thanks and glory. And when we have humble hearts that are grateful to Almighty God for every bite of food we take and for every raindrop that does not land on our heads, He knows it.

Please join me tonight in offering thanks for our innumerable blessings.

“The LORD of hosts has purposed it, To bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, To bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.” Isaiah 23:9

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Speaking Evil

Tonight we will have a brief study on speaking of one another, particularly fellow believers.

It is common for there to be disagreements between people, even and especially among close friends and family. Sometimes when we are particularly frustrated it can feel rewarding and vindicating to “vent” to another person about your bad situation. This could be beneficial in some way I suppose, but it is far better to keep silent and do good and speak good of others, even those that we feel have done us wrong. Is this not what Jesus did? Asking for forgiveness of his persecutors as he hung on the cross was a selfless and forgiving act.

When we are sure someone has done us wrong, and we are angry at the offense, it is natural to want to retaliate. We want to retaliate in action, words or attitude towards the source of our offense. But the Bible says that this if not the way. Because when we do that, we are acting as judge. But in the book of James, we are explicitly told not to do this and why:

“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” James 4:11-12

So tonight I urge you to forgive those that you feel have wronged you and to keep silent about the loud and angry words that emanate from your heart. These things will come and they will go. Have the strength and the peace to rise above the situation and show the other party how best to behave in these situations.

Isaiah 22: Party, Tomb and Peg

Building towards the glory of Isaiah 25, we find ourselves again in the midst of continued judgment on sinful nations. Tonight we find judgments against them city of Jerusalem and on Shebna, a man.

Verses 1-14 comprise the proclamation against Jerusalem and at first make reference to Jerusalem as the Valley of Vision. This name sarcastically suggests that Jerusalem was blinded by its revelry and sin. This pursuit of pleasure and idols over God and righteousness left them exposed to outside attackers. Indeed, God subjected them to this fate as punishment for their sin. The valley is overran worth chariots and conquerers.

Verses 12-14 in this passage are particularly telling. They reveal that God was and is in control and had been providing protection from these invaders. But He removed His protection and nothing the inhabitants of the city did prevented the invasion. Ironically, the evil citizens of Jerusalem ignorantly feasted and drank as their punishment and death approached:

“And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts Called for weeping and for mourning, For baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, Slaying oxen and killing sheep, Eating meat and drinking wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts, “Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, Even to your death,” says the Lord GOD of hosts.” Isaiah 22:12-14

Verses 15-25 tell us about Shebna and his judgment. He was a steward, responsible for the caring of the king and His house. Shebna had arrogantly thought very highly of himself, so much so that he carved a tomb for himself out of rock high up. This one act most likely represented Shebna’s overall character, which must have been ungodly and self-seeking. For this, God would throw Shebna down from his high position and replace him with another named Eliakim. And Eliakim would be established as one powerful and strong (a peg in a secure place).

What can we learn from these two punishments? After having read Isaiah for 22 chapters now we are familiar with the themes of punishment and redemption. The punishment is easy enough to see, but the clues we are given about the sins can help us be more steadfast in our walk with God.

First, the people in Jerusalem were drinking and feasting as their punishment approached. Surely you can recognize how you might find yourself in this position if you have not already. The pleasures of sin can and do blind us to the reality of its consequences. While we delay doing the right thing, our punishment slowly approaches.

Second, Shebna, although performing the role of accountant or house manager, thought of himself so much that he equated his final resting place to be that of a king, highly visible and prestigious. This one public act betrayed his innermost thoughts about himself, revealing a selfish nature that made him think of himself as greater than his authorities and leaders. This mindset led him into sin, where God noticed that Shebna was not deserving of the blessings God had given Him and took his position away. Looking at Shebna, we wonder whether there are any telling signs in our lives that our hearts are not right? Are we fully preparing our hearts to serve God every day, as servants? This we should be, and act as, not as those that think they are owed something.

God has given us life, food, clothing, shelter and salvation. What else could we need? This humble attitude of praise and thanksgiving ought to rule our hearts.

Isaiah 21: Proclamations of Punishment

This chapter talks about the fall of three nations: Babylon, Edom and Arabia. This continues the theme in Isaiah of nations being punished for their godlessness.

Verses 1-10 describe the fall of Babylon. This is not the first instance of Isaiah prophesying about the ill fate of Babylon (Isaiah 13 addressed it as well). These ten verses describe the fear of a watchman as he witnesses enemies coming to Babylon to overtake and overthrow it. The donkeys and camels mentioned in verse seven are thought to represent the Medes and the Persians, who would overthrow Babylon. Babylon’s idols would not do it any good and would be broken to the ground. Also, the mention in verse ten of a threshing floor imparts the idea of God as the thresher, separating the valuable wheat (the faithful remnant of Israel) from the worthless chaff and straw (idolatrous and hypocritical nations like Babylon).

The two verses (11, 12) that address Dumah, or Edom, concern themselves with the role of the prophet and the admonition the prophet gives for people to return to God. The people look to the watchman, or the prophet, of what is coming on the road as the watchman or in the future as the prophet. The watchman/prophet tells the people that the morning comes, but the night also. The night represents a grim future so the prophecy is for the people to return to God before it is too late.

Verses 13-17 close out the chapter and describe more negative consequences for ungodly people. Despite their might, the Arabians would be forced to flee to the forest where there would be hunger and thirst. They would be running in fear for their life, from the threat of drawn swords. God using nations against nations to carry out the consequences of sin is a recurring theme.

By now these themes of punishment in Isaiah are familiar but they are not tiresome. God’s authority and power over the fate of nations was beyond question. Indeed, He allowed times of idolatry and sin to exist for some time, but He ultimately exacted judgment and penalty on those that ignored or denied Him.

Today in our personal lives, God has given us that free will that allows us to choose sin or righteousness daily. We may choose either, but just like these nations of old, we will pay for our transgressions, sooner or later.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

Flesh/Spirit

Tonight we will take a look at some very powerful phrases in Romans chapter 8. Tonight, I urge you to look inside yourself as we review what it means to walk in the spirit.

It really boils down to the things that occupy your thinking mind. What worries you? What concerns you? Do you dwell on how to arrive at that pleasure you seek? Physical pleasure or otherwise. Do you seek how you can improve your situation? Ok, we all do that, but in what context do you do it? Do you take steps to improve yourself for good? Do you pursue things that will only benefit you?

Once we can answer these sorts of questions honestly, we will eventually realize that it boils down even further to what is most important to us. I work, but what do I really work for? I love, but what is the subject of my love?

In Romans, Paul the apostle puts it beautifully:

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:5-11

Jesus was and is the ultimate example for walking in the spirit. He lived for others and to do the will of God. Walking in the Spirit means abstaining from seeking physical and earthly pleasures. It means seeking life as God would have us to seek it.

““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39

So, loving God means obeying Him. Obeying God means doing what He commands. Doing what He commands means loving others, abstaining from sin and fleshly temptations, and proactively helping others. This all leads to walking in the spirit. Please be aware, everyone fails at this, and some of us fail every day, maybe every hour. But the important thing is to keep trying. Keep trying to get better. Read your Bible. Immerse yourself in God’s Word. I promise you will never regret it.

Where do you walk?

Make no mistake, God’s Word teaches that salvation requires baptism.

Mark 16:16

I Peter 3:21

Acts 8:34-39

Isaiah 20: Ashamed before God

This brief chapter gives us two lessons:

1) Do not put anything in the place of God

2) Go to God for help in times of need

As a prophet, Isaiah wore sackcloth, the attire of one in mourning. Isaiah was mourning the fact that God’s people the Israelites, and many others besides were openly disobeying God. When God tells Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot in verse 2, it is to signify that the Egyptians and the Ethiopians would be led away and stripped of their glory by the Assyrian king.

It is very interesting how God not only spoke prophecy through Isaiah in words, but also through this action, which seems like a sort of performance theater. Isaiah would have certainly gotten much attention as a prophet dressed in sackcloth. As one perpetually in mourning, speaking as the oracle of God, he was probably much maligned and mostly ignored. But to then go naked as a way to express the failures of these nations, Isaiah most likely garnered even more attention.

Through Isaiah, God’s message is clear to us, even if it may have not been clear to the people at the time: do not trust in other people, nations, ideas or things as an answer to problems. The people in these nations would ultimately come to know that they could not trust Assyria and they should have put their trust in the Lord their God.

“And the inhabitant of this territory will say in that day, ‘Surely such is our expectation, wherever we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?’ ” Isaiah 20:6

“For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.” Psalms 71:5

““Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:7

Isaiah 19: Transformation

In this chapter, we continue learning about God’s judgment on unholy nations. Egypt is the focus of chapter 19. At once a nation great in wealth, trade, population and culture, God’s judgment on Egypt shows us that He would rather Egypt be a godly nation than an idolatrous one and by the end, He makes it so.

The Lord calls out those things that are precious to Egypt and how they will be brought down/destroyed:

– Idols will falter

– Mediums and sorcerers will be ruled over fiercely

– Fighting among brothers and neighbors

– Industry will be broken

– Water sources dry up and turn foul

– “Wise” counselors will give foolish counsel

– Princes will become fools

– The courage of Egypt will fail

In verse 14, we see specifically how the Lord causes Egypt’s downfall and makes the likely comparison of Egypt to an errant drunkard: “The LORD has mingled a perverse spirit in her midst; And they have caused Egypt to err in all her work, As a drunken man staggers in his vomit.” Isaiah 19:14

Starting in verse 18, the tone turns from the downfall of Egypt to Egypt turning to the Lord. Egypt will end up crying to the Lord because of oppression. Through Christ, Egypt and all nations will be saved and Egypt itself will turn into a blessing: “whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”” Isaiah 19:25

What can we learn from this judgment on Egypt? There are some common themes:

– Idols are worthless

– God controls earthly blessings

– God controls wisdom

Besides this, though and perhaps more meaningful for us today is the fact that God transforms. Throughout these 25 verses, God indicts, then blesses Egypt. When we are in our sin, then accept Christ as our Savior, the same happens to us. We are transformed in the waters of baptism into a new creation, equipped to serve God.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” II Corinthians 5:17

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:13

God bless you tonight. It is my desire that you earnestly seek and obey God. This is the greatest pursuit that life has to offer.