Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 8 (2)

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness (Is. 8:11-22)

The firs part of chapter 8 shows us the mighty wrath of God coming over and against His people the Jews for sinning against him. God is sending the mighty Assyrian Empire as his rod to chastize Judah for her sins, and especially for the wicked sin of King Ahaz who decided to trust in Man rather than in God. In this climate of judgment, there is hope for those whose faith in in God, which we shall certainly see.

The passage opens with verse 11 which informs us of God's instruction to Isaiah, that he should not worry about the conspiracies nor call them conspiracies, and that he should not worry like others (v. 12). But rather he should turn to God and Him alone he shall honor and fear, and dread (v. 13). The result of this is that God will be his sanctuary, yet this action would at the same time also be judgment onto the unbelieving houses of Israel, even to Jerusalem the "holy city" (v. 14) resulting in their destruction and fall (v. 15).

From verse 11-13, we can see the secret of truly trusting God and being secure in Him. To do this, we must abide in Christ and not be troubled by the things of this world. Most certainly King Ahaz was conspiring with the Assyrians to eliminate the confederate forces of Syria and Israel, and so factually there is a conspiracy in the making, in fact one among several. The politicians now are no different from then, and in fact conspiracy theories abound in this age and time. While some of them are probably true, what dos God expect of us? Sure, all of these politicians (and pastor-politicians ie Rick Warren) are busy playing politics to control the world and "make it a better place", but what does God expect of us in this?

As we can see, God gave Isaiah, and thus us also, specific instructions. Verse 12 tells us not to call conspiracy what others call conspiracy, not that we live in a state of denial about that fact, but we should be unmoved by it. We should neither fear what the world fears nor be in dread about the future. For our God is a sovereign God, and there is nothing those politicians can do which is outside the sovereign decree of God. As it is written:

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will. (Prov. 21:1)

Even the mighty Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires were forced to serve our God, so why should we fear conspiracies even if they are true. Aren't all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing (Dan. 4:35a), and God does all He wills? Is there anything the governments of this world or the UN can do that God has not ordained it to be? So therefore, God directs us not to fear these things, but if we need to fear something, let us fear God and Him alone.

Verse 13 tells us that we must honor God and Him alone as holy. This tells us that we are sanctify God in our hearts and live our lives accordingly; to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16), giving him the honor and reverence He rightly deserves. We should only fear God and dread His wrath instead of fearing the uncertainties of life and dreading the calamities of this world. And this is God's promise to us: that while destruction and devastation would come about by the outpoouring of God's wrath in judgment, those who trust in Him and fear Him, honoring Him alone as holy would find God to be the sanctuary they need. Even in the midst of chaos and total societal breakdown, or war and famine, God will protect and provide for His people In this therefore, God has provided for those who trust in Him a sanctuary in the midst of Judgment.

Such consolation however has a most definite opposite effect on the unfaithful and unregenerate Jews who trusted not in God but in themselves. To such people, God and His Gospel of salvation will be an offense to them causing them to stumble. Such judgment is on the entire Covenant people encompassing both houses of the Divided Kingdom, and most certinaly included the inhibitants of Jerusalem, the "holy city" (v. 14b). For God will not spare anyone merely because they have the appearance of piety and are outwardly religious, but inside they are full of pride and unbelief, even though they may be in Jerusalem where the templs was. The good news will cause many Jews to stumble, fall and be broken (v. 15); all who do not trust in God by faith for their salvation.

Verse 16 shows that even at this time those who remain faithful to God must continue to stand firm and seal up the teaching or law in their hearts. In other words, they are to continue to abide in Scripture for their comfort and strength. Like Isaiah, we are to hope and wait on God who has in judgment hidden His face from the unfaithful and disobedient (v. 17). Verse 18 brings back to mind the use of Isaiah's two sons in 7:3, 15, 16; 8:1-3 as signs against faithless Israel. Through the prophetic words of judgment, Isaiah proclaims the authoritative Word of God which seals Judah's sins and destruction. Verses 21-22 prophesies the punishment of the wicked, showing their great distress and hunger and their contemptuous speech against both God and king. They will see nothing but death and darkness, thick darkness is their destination, and their final destination is hell.

Verses 19 tells us about the deplorable state of the Jews who desire to seek guidance from other gods, the dead (necromancy) and occultic powers (mediums), instead of their living God. Should they not inquire of their God, yet in their wickedness they know no bounds to their rebellion, asking the dea on behalf of the living rather than the Living God who controls all things. And verse 20 show us our ultimate frame of reference with regards to doctrine and life. For all of such innovations by the Jews, Isaiah sounds forth a clarion call back to God and His commands through the text of Scripture. "To the law and the testimony!", he proclaims. Law here referring to the first five books of Moses; the Torah, while testimony refers to the judges and prophetic utterances, and all of this constitute Scripture or God's Holy Word. If they do not follow the Scriptures, Isaiah proclaimed, it is because they have no dawn, or no light in them. The sufficiency of Scripture here is proclimed by the prophet Isaiah, in that Scripture and only Scripture must dictate our lives, other than that, there is no light and no life in such practices and teachings.

Therefore, in conclusion, let us learn to trust in God once more. Do not be overly concerned about the degeneration of this world but rather live in obedience to God in holiness for Him. The LORD of hosts, Him we must honor as holy. Let Him be our fear, and let Him be our dread, and thus He will be a sanctuary for us. Amen.

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