Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday, August 1: Isaiah 54-56 by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 54-56

I found this commentary on Isaiah 54 very interesting. Here are some key points: (emphasis in bold is mine)

We have here Isaiah’s glimpse at the promises of the “new” covenant. He does not provide the details of Jeremiah 31 or Ezekiel 36, but he complements what is there. The passages on the new covenant promised: a restoration to the land for Israel and to the pure worship ad spiritual service as priests, conversion of Israel to faith in the Messiah, the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh so that the Law was in their hearts, the end of war and oppression in the land and in the world, and the reign of the Messiah in righteousness. Beginning with the restoration from exile, some of this was fulfilled, but not all; with the coming of Christ, some more was fulfilled, but not all; with the sending of the Spirit, some of that promise was fulfilled, but not all. Only with the second coming will all these things be completely fulfilled. Isaiah 54 lays out some of the promised blessings, but does not say when they will be fulfilled in part or completely.
But this chapter is also immediately practical—for ancient Israel as well as for us today. We shall see that the prophet lays out the plans that God has for His holy people in this world; but the clues in the chapter, and the related contexts of the time, let us know that attaining these promises to the full called for spiritual service—which is why the chapter ends with the reminder that this is the heritage of the righteous servants of the LORD.
What an amazing reminder than the Bible is a living text. It reveals God's promises for the future and the promises that have already been fulfilled and the promise of those still yet to come.

The call is for these people to “sing” and to “sing aloud”, because of the restoration from exile. The commands to sing are metonymies of effect, showing the result or effect of the cause—God will restore them (cause), and they will sing (effect). Calling people to sing before the answer to prayer or before divine intervention is a significant call for faith.
How hard it is to sing before we see. Sometimes it is SOOOOO hard to see what God is doing as we wait for answers to our prayers. Why is that sick person not healed? Why is that godly and financially secure couple still waiting for children when some teens are getting pregnant so easily? Why is there so many sins so widely accepted by society? The questions go on and on.... However, we just need to trust in Him who has it all worked out.

God is speaking to the nation as a whole; His anger was against sin, so that the exile would purge the rebels and draw contrition and faith from the remnant. Now the restoration would show that the judgment time had passed, that there would be a new beginning. 
The announcement is similar to the Noachian Covenant; it is as if once again the LORD was hanging up His battle bow in the sky.143 So the simile is made with the “waters of Noah” (metonymy of effect since water was what God used to judge the world). So here too the LORD seals His promise with an oath, just as He did in the days of Noah. 
Verse 10 gives the nature of the promise. God’s loyal love and God’s covenant of peace will remain with His people “though the mountains depart and the hills be removed.” It is an eternal covenant that will outlast the hills; it is based on the LORD God, whose character it is to show mercy. This “covenant of peace” is a reference to what Jeremiah will call the new covenant.
God keeps his promises. He answers in His time but His promises are kept. We don't always see it turn out the way WE would like on this side of Heaven but we can have confidence in knowing that God's promises will outlast the hills and his mercy will endure.

The commentary concludes with this:
In direct correlation to the message of this chapter I would include Peter’s epistle in which he reminds us that we are an elect nation, a holy priesthood, living stones built on the foundation stone, a people that has obtained mercy and will not be put to shame; and that we are to show forth our praise of Him as we live in righteousness before all people who will see our good works and glorify the Father (1 Peter 2:5-10). So the message for us today is the same as the message for the returning exiles in Isaiah 54. God has begun a new work in Christ and called us as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation displaying the mercy and righteousness of God. Great promises of the blessings of peace, safety, prosperity and victory are held out to those who obediently walk in God’s perfect will for their lives. 
But this does not nullify the fulfillment of these verses at the end of this age and the dawn of the messianic age. God will regather His people, and He will build His holy city, and He will make his servants into spiritual servants. What the people of God do in the meantime will find its glorious culmination at the time of the coming of the Messiah.
I found this commentary on the first part of Isaiah 55. Here are some key points: (emphasis in bold is mine)
Let's look at Chapter 55:1–3 and ask three questions:
  1. Who are invited?
  2. What are they offered?
  3. What are they told to do in order to get it?

1. Who Are invited?

The answer is, two kinds of people. The first kind is described in verse 1: "Ho every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price."
The Thirsty and Broke
The first kind of person that God invites to come to him is thirsty people who can't pay for what they need. Two things: thirsty, and can't pay.
The Self-Sufficient
But there is a second kind of person whom God invites....He's not like the other guy—burnt out, at the end of his rope. He is still spending and still working, dreaming, chasing, searching, experimenting—different job, different city, different car, different house, different wife, new computer, new boat, new books, new bike, new grill, new season tickets, new diet, new looks—there's still a lot of looking around left in this person. But still no pot at the end of the rainbow. No fountain of youth. And every triumph peters out. The applause fades. The boat is boring. The style passes. Everything new gets old and the options get fewer and fewer.
When you are honest, you know there is a canyon of need and longing on the inside no matter how self-sufficient you look on the outside. And God knows even better than you. He has you in mind when he says, "Why do you spend your money for bread which is no-bread, and labor for dreams that do not satisfy?
So two kinds of people are invited by the Lord: the thirsty who are broke and cannot pay; and the thirsty who think they can pay and work their way to satisfaction.
I think everybody in this room would have to admit to being in one of those two groups if we were honest with ourselves.
We are all thirsty and broke and/or self sufficient and in need of a Saviour to satisfy us in what we are searching for.
2. What Are We Offered?
The answer is given in three steps:
  1. the benefits are pictured for us in verse 1, 
  2. the quality and quantity of these benefits are mentioned in verse 2,
  3. and the reality behind the pictures is described in verse 3.
We are offered the things we need to be satisfied, we don't always accept.

3. What Are We Told to Do to Get These Benefits?

There are 12 imperatives in these three verses. The most pleasant, most inviting, 12 commandments you will ever hear. I'll point them out as we read it together.
1) Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters [#1]; and he who has no money, come [#2], buy [#3] and eat [#4]! Come [#5], buy wine and milk [#6] without money and without price. 2) Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me [#7] and eat what is good [#8], and delight yourselves in fatness [#9]. 3) Incline your ear [#10], and come to me [#11]; hear [#12] that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
When you ponder these 12 commandments for a moment, they fall into a natural pattern. First there are three commands to listen carefully to what God is saying (one in verse 2 and two in verse 3). So I urge you, as we close, take heed how you hear. Are you leaning into God's Word? God pleads this morning: don't let the advertisements for the world drown out this invitation to heaven!
Then all the rest of the God's bidding fall into four steps:
  1. Come, 
  2. buy, 
  3. eat, 
  4. enjoy. 
And this is what the Bible means by faith.
I think sometimes our human mind just cannot fully comprehend God's mercies and provisions and we become broke and thirsty in the process. We desire to be self sufficient and try and fill up our brokenness with things that do not fulfill us even if the world says it will. We can sometimes struggle in our faith because we want answers immediately because our faith is weak. John Piper concludes his sermon with this:

Everybody in this room is somewhere in these four steps. And I call you to take another one this morning.
  1. If you are distant from God, you need to come, draw near. 
  2. If you have drawn near in recent days or just this morning, but hold back from any transaction analyzing and appraising, you need to buy. I admit it is a strange transaction: there is no price and you are spiritually bankrupt. But you must take this water and milk and wine, and count it yours just as much as if you had bought it, for there is one who has bought it. 
  3. If you have made the transaction and hold the water and milk and wine in your hand, you need to eat. God is not a thing to be studied. He is a person to be experienced. He is food and life and joy for the soul. 
  4. Finally, if you have eaten, delight yourself in the Lord. And say with the psalmist, "Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore."

Finally, Isaiah 56. I found this commentary: (emphasis in bold is mine)

Chapter Contents

A charge to keep the Divine precepts. (1,2) Blessings promised. (3-8) Reproof to the careless watchmen, the teachers and rulers of the Jews. (9-12)

Commentary on Isaiah 56:1,2

The Lord tells us what are his expectations of duty from us. Be honest and just in all dealings. Also strictly observe the sabbath day. To have the blessing of God upon employments all the week, make conscience of keeping the sabbath holy. Have nothing to do with sin. Blessed is the man that keeps his hand from all things displeasing to God and hurtful to his own soul. Those who, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, will be found walking in ways of holy obedience.

Commentary on Isaiah 56:3-8

Unbelief often suggests things to discourage believers, against which God has expressly guarded. Spiritual blessings are unspeakably better than having sons and daughters; for children are a care, and may prove a grief and shame, but the blessings we partake of in God's house, are comforts which cannot be made bitter. Those who love the Lord truly, will serve him faithfully, and then his commandments are not grievous. Three things are promised. Assistance: I will not only bid them welcome, but incline them to come. Acceptance, and comfort: though they came mourning to the house of prayer, they shall go away rejoicing. They shall find ease by casting their cares and burdens upon God. Many a sorrowful spirit has been made joyful in the house of prayer. The Gentiles shall be one body with the Jews, that, as Christ says, John 10:16, there may be one fold and one Shepherd. Thanks be to God that none are separated from him except by willful sin and unbelief; and if we come to him, we shall be accepted through the sacrifice of our great High Priest.

Commentary on Isaiah 56:9-12

Desolating judgments are called for; and this severe rebuke of the rulers and teachers of the Jewish church, is applicable to other ages and places. It is bad with a people when their shepherds slumber, and are eager after the world. Let us pray the Great Shepherd to send us pastors after his own heart, who will feed us with knowledge, that we may rejoice in his holy name, and that believers may be daily added to the church.

All things are possible through faith and love and obedience. We are accepted by God regardless of what we have done because of Jesus. We need to be careful of those who stray from God's will especially in leaders and teachers in the church. Not all pastors are fully walking in the truth.  May we be able to discern what is true and follow in obedience to experience a fulfillment that is lasting.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Isaiah 57-59

1 comment:

Tammy Reimer said...

It can be difficult to wait for God's timing! But we need to trust Him and that His promises will be fulfilled.

55:6 Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.

God isn't planning to turn away from us, but we can distance ourselves from Him or put a barrier of sin between us, at which point turning to him becomes more difficult. Or He may come to judge the earth before we decide to turn to Him. If we haven't done so, we must turn to Him before it's too late. If we already have, we must be careful not to become complacent about sin and purposefully cultivate close relationship with our Saviour.