Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday, July 22: Isaiah 32-35 by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 32-35

I found this commentary helpful: (emphasis in bold is mine)

Isaiah frankly confronted Jerusalem’s leaders for flirting with an Egyptian alliance (cf. 28.14-22). The prophet then chided the leaders of the day for not hastening to the LORD’s invitation for deliverance from Assyria (chs 29-30). In chs 32-35 Isaiah presented the LORD as the true King of His people. Isaiah hoped to convince Judah that while Ahaz had led them to trust in any but God (cf. ch 7ff.), only as they relied upon the LORD, their true King (chs 32-33), and resisted an alliance with a nation that would soon be destroyed (ch 34), would they enjoy righteousness and justice in the land (ch 35).
Isaiah elicited Judah’s trust in the LORD by presenting His regal plan (chs 32-33):
  1. A Messianic figure would arrive, who will reign in righteousness (32.1-8). Isaiah predicted the edifying results of Messiah’s reign: “Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The reckless mind will gain knowledge, and the stammering tongue will speak clearly and fluently (vv. 3-4). 
  2. His reign would accord with the pouring out of the Spirit, when humiliation will be exchanged for quiet confidence (32.9-20)
  3. Judah (and everyone!) was helpless without Messiah’s help (33.1-16). It may be that Isaiah’s words here were prompted by Sennacherib’s initial invasion toward Jerusalem, when Hezekiah gave the Assyrian king all the silver in the LORD’s temple (cf. 2 Kgs 18.13-18). In that time of great distress Isaiah could have prayed in earnest: “LORD, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning, and our salvation in time of trouble. The peoples flee at the thunderous noise; the nations scatter when You rise in Your majesty” (33.2-3). Now the LORD would indeed rise up and exalt Himself over the Assyrian king. The people dwelling in Jerusalem were thus exhorted to reform their lives in righteousness that they may dwell there and not be destroyed by the LORD—even if they escaped Sennacherib’s advance! (vv. 14-16)
  4. Messiah would one day rule over a city characterized by peace (33.17-24). The people of the city would not wander because the LORD would be Judge, lawgiver, King, and savior (v. 22)
Isaiah prophesied that Messiah’s coming would be consistent with judgment on the nations, and Edom (ch 34). The prophet called out: “The LORD is angry with all the nations—furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter…All the heavenly bodies will dissolve. The skies will roll up like a scroll, and their stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree” (vv. 2, 4). Edom would be set apart as a representative target of God’s wrath, “for its hostility against Zion” (v. 8; cf. Gen 25; Num 20). The Spirit of God would gather wild animals in the place where Edomites once appoint their king (vv. 8-17). However, the ransomed of the LORD would return to Zion (ch 35). Isaiah prophesied that gladness, joy, splendor, strength, sight, singing, and rain come upon that which was parched, mute, blind, weak, destroyed, weeping, and mourning—because “God’s retribution is coming; He will save you” (v. 4).
Isaiah’s sermon to the people of Jerusalem—perhaps surrounded by the Assyrian king—provided the initial setting for multiple Messianic prophecies, a springboard for the storyline of Scripture. Many in Jesus’ day, however, misunderstood some of the specifics of Isaiah’s oracles. They wondered if Jesus was in fact the Messiah, because while He had accomplished some of the things Isaiah prophesied, Israel was still subject to Roman rule; wouldn’t Messiah execute judgment on the nations, as well as heal the blind, mute, and lame?  This was the question on the mind of John the Baptist, the prisoner. Matthew records that early in Jesus’ ministry, John had already been imprisoned for confronting Herod (cf. Mt 4.12; 14.1-12). Thus, while the Gentiles in the northern region of Galilee were enjoying the inauguration of Messiah’s rule—as evidenced by the fact that the blind were made to see, the lame were made to walk, those with skin disease were healed, the deaf were able to hear, the dead were raised, and the poor were told the good news—the great John the Baptist was held captive by Israel’s enemy. “Isn’t the Messiah to come with blessing, and vengeance?” he thought. John’s paradigm, like that of many in his day, was highly influenced by Isaiah’s prophecy: “Say to the faint-hearted: ‘Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God; vengeance is coming. God’s retribution is coming; He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy…” (Is 35.4-6a). When John thus sent messengers to Jesus to ask if He was in fact the Messiah, Jesus spoke not only of the miraculous blessings that He had bestowed on the needy, but also affirmed John’s place in the redemptive-historical plan of God. By emphasizing that John was in fact the forerunner, Jesus affirmed that He was in fact the Messiah.
On the whole, it may be best to understand Messiah’s first coming as the fulfillment of some of Isaiah’s prophecies (i.e., great blessings), the rest of which will be accomplished in the second (i.e., overthrow of those who oppose the people of God; cf. Rev 18ff). If this is true, then we stand in the already-not-yet phase of history, enjoying the knowledge of Messiah, the presence of the Spirit, the community of the church, and the mission of kingdom expansion, while yet awaiting the time when Jesus will return as the King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev 19.11-16). 

We, like Judah, long for a quick and easy fix of all problems and easy answers to our prayers. We want our prayers to be answered instantly and in the precise way we desire. We want fast justice and revenge and punishment on things and people that we feel are unfair. Just as the Israelites (and even John!) doubted the Messiah because His vision for redemption was not earthly but in Heaven we also tend to doubt and take things into our own hands when things don't go quite as we expect them to.

Yesterday, we were doing errands in the part of the city where we bid on our first house. We drove past it and it brought up many old memories. Conrad and I were a few months away from being married in 1996 and a house popped up on the market and it was priced at $19 900. (Unbelievable in today's market!) It was a tiny house, just one bedroom and just around 600 square feet. It would have essentially been just like an apartment (like the one we had planned on living in for the first years of our marriage) and yet by buying this house instead we would be home owners and our mortgage would likely be less than what our rent payment would be. We prayed about the house and decided that if our offer (as is) was accepted then we would buy the house. We submitted an offer for $18, 500 (Hard to believe!) and when the bank appraisal came back, the house was appraised at $18, 000. Our agent at the time just expected that we would throw in another $500 and then just buy it anyway. However, we decided to walk away. To us, the bank appraisal coming back lower was just our sign that God didn't want us to buy that house. Our agent kept pushing us to buy it because it was so much better than renting because this would be an investment and building for our future. We walked away. We relied on God even though it would have been very easy to go and do our own thing. That house was for sale for a LONG time. I would drive past it occasionally (Conrad worked in the area) and sometimes second guessed our decision to walk away especially when a few months later we decided to move to a new apartment and ended up paying almost twice as much as what our mortgage payment would have been and we didn't even have a yard.

Unlike Judah, we didn't even have to wait very long to learn that God had a different plan in mind for us. About two months after our wedding, it became very clear why we didn't get to buy that house. I was pregnant. If we had bought that house we would have been stuck in a tiny house (that was difficult to sell!) with a baby on the way (and 2 more within a few years). We were so thankful that we had not gone along with our own plan to buy that house regardless of what obstacles were in our way. God led us to another house about a year after we had put in the offer to buy the little house and this house was more than we could have imagined and allowed us to use it as a stepping stone for the house we now have. It always seems to work out when we trust God....funny how that works :) It may not always be what we expect. It may not always be in our timing. It may not even make sense on this side of Heaven. We just need to trust in the One who has it all worked out.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Micah 2-4


Nathan Reimer said...

Isaiah 32:5
No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

This verse, at the beginning of our reading today, caught my attention and made me think of all the political talk that's gone on in the US lately. We listen to "experts" that come across as highly educated and full of wisdom, both from the candidates running and the media that covers them, but really don't know a lot. They want no part of God in their personal lives, and talk and act like they're wiser for this. How wrong they are, and how sorry they will one day be, God should be first in all our lives. Sorry for today's rant, but we've seen enough of a world that's trying to save itself, but really needs God's help.

Tammy Reimer said...

Thanks for sharing that story Pamela!

I loved the ending to our passage today - one day the redeemed will walk on the Highway of Holiness (as my NLT version says). That's us! One day, we will walk on the Highway of Holiness. We have been ransomed by Jesus and we will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. All sorrow and mourning will be gone. And we will be filled with joy and gladness. What an amazing picture! What an amazing promise! Can you see it? We are in the already-not-yet phase of history, but thanks be to God, we know the ending, and more importantly, we know the Victor!