Tag Archives: Judah

You Meant it for Evil, But God meant it for good

The title is a bit misleading, for it is a quote from Joseph to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. [Genesis 50:20] The brothers were afraid that after their identity had been revealed to Joseph that he would pay them back for all the evil they had done to him. But they forgot the God Joseph served. Even though Joseph was thrown into prisons and falsely accused of things, he rose above the trials and tribulation. God was at work in Joseph’s life – he recognized the handiwork of Jehovah. Now by this point you are trying to figure out what does all of this have to do with the book of Isaiah and our chapters 16-20 for this week? Well, here is the point, Jehovah again was going to bring/allow what we consider evil to happen to Judah. While the devastation and destruction were well overdue and well deserving, God would not allow the pagan rulers and armies to wipe out Judah – there would be a remnant. Our reading for this week highlights the “oracles of God” against – Philista, Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Assyria, and Ethiopia. An oracle is defined as a “burden” or judgment against. God would use each of the aforementioned nations to punish and discipline Judah [already happened to Israel] in an attempt to bring Judah back to a right relationship with Him. While Israel [northern kingdom] had played the harlot and chased after Baal and the other pagan gods; they also received their due discipline. In fact the Assyrians were allowed to “carry off” the 10 tribes and scatter them to the  four winds of the earth. Only Judah remains; but Judah did not pay attention to the wrath of God on their northern brothers and fell subject to the punishment of God some 150 years later.  The pride of the conquering nations, which had been empowered by God for judgment cause their downfall. A great lesson here, while it may appear that we win over our enemies; caution must be exercised so we will not think that it was done in our human power. A lesson each of the conquering kingdoms had to learn the hard way. While God allowed the armies to inflict great turmoil and punishment, He would restrain them from “going too far.”

I am not going to try to recapture the information or judgment of God on each of the nations previously listed, for they by and large are very similar. The oracle is two-fold for each – Isaiah recounts what success each will have on Judah, but then brings the prophetic downfall of each.  The whole point that God is attempting is using enough trials/tribulations and bondage to foreigners to cause Judah to return. It is interesting that Judah like Israel, brought into the whole Baal worship thing in order to have bountiful crops, herds and families. From an agrarian perspective one can see what all this was so important at the time. But their failure [short memory] to remember how God had cared for them as a people during the wilderness wanderings and invasion/conquest of Canaan led to their idolatry. It seems too often when mankind ventures into a “comfortable state” that we become rebellious and agnostic towards God.

It is very difficult for a believer much less an unbeliever to see that the “tough love” of God was just that, out of love for Judah. Even as the Loving Father had to let the Prodigal son leave and go on his own, so he could come to his senses during the fall from the lofty perch of dad’s money, so God will often let us rebel, and fall into grave trouble to the point of destruction in-order for us to wake up to reality of really who is in control. Sometimes I think Christians are like Israel/Judah, we know God will take care of us – experientially, yet we seem bored with Him and search out more “sensual pleasing gods. While no trial seems enjoyable or even beneficial, we must say as Joseph said, the problems, trials and crisis seem to be for evil, but God means it for our own good. Oh that we would be responsive to the gentle chiding of God, rather than endure the painful punishment of “tough love!”

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Finding Hope in the Horror

This week our focal passage is Isaiah 6-10. When we look at these chapters, one cannot help but get a sense of terror and judgment. However, even in the justice of God on the idolatrous people Judah, there is still the future hope of restoration. God uses whatever means to correct and restore His people back to himself. Hebrews 12 tells us of the discipline of the Lord. In fact without discipline for wrong doing and habitual sin, we are not children of His. I look at it this way, there are times I would like to correct kids I see in WalMart acting up; but they aren’t my kids. even though I am perturbed by their actions, I have not obligation or responsibility to correct. However, when it comes to the children of God and believers, God will correct and discipline His own.  Isaiah is talking to Judah, the fall of Israel in the North has yet to happen. Assyria will be the instrument that God uses to punish the Northern Kingdom; yet the message of discipline and restoration is given to Judah. I know when I saw my sisters get punished for something, I took notice; the effect of them getting whipped made me take notice.  In history we know that Assyria and Samaria are taken siege and captive in 722 BC. There was the thought and attempt to continue down into Judah, but God was done with His discipline. Judah thinking that they escaped punishment, continues in idolatry and immorality. The Fall of Jerusalem, Zion happens with King Nebuchadnezzar around 587 BC, with three deportations to Babylon. SO looking at the advanced warning Judah got, one would think that they would wake up and straighten up – Nope!

Isaiah begins prophesying during King Uzziah’s reign, but the death of the King drove Isaiah to the Temple – at this time of crisis, as with most national tragedies, people flock to the church for answers. Chapter 6 has been used by so many pastors to develop the true spirit of worship. It is interesting that Isaiah probably had been to the Temple many times, but this time he sees the LORD, and the glory of the LORD. He also sees himself and his condition as a sinner.  The message here is that the world maybe tossed into chaos, but the LORD God stills reigns and is not moved! Out of this holy encounter, Isaiah is commissioned to be the mouth piece for God to bring an unfavorable message to Judah.  The prophetic message in chapter 7 is often clouded by the single verse 14, the promise of a son. The prophecy has been attributed to Jesus, in fact this is one of the characteristics of Isaiah, that makes understanding difficult; is Isaiah talking to the situation then, or for the future Messiah of Israel. This promise of a “sign” often overshadowed the war and tribulation that is coming to Judah because of their wickedness and unwillingness to repent and return to Yahweh.

In chapter 8 we are given a very descriptive account of what is going to happen to Israel [Northern Kingdom], yet within the pronounced judgment, we still get the hope of a “remnant” people through all of the devastation. The mercy of God is so entrenched within His punishment. God is holy, He is just and righteous, but He is also long-suffering. Instead of complete annihilation, God shows His great love for humanity. When thinking about how terrible the punishment will be for the children of God, the chosen nation; we must always understand that regardless of our position in Christ, He does not tolerate unrighteousness and immorality. God is a jealous God – the greatest sin of Israel was the blatant idolatry and rejection of the God that loved them and delivered them. The struggle with Israel/Judah was they felt they were exempt from the fierce anger of the LORD because of the high standing as His people. This should bring to American believers a wake-up call; for we often think that God is our God, yet it is the opposite, we are His people. No one is exempt from the righteous anger of the Lord. So we cannot boast of our elevated position as His children. He will deal with His children.

In chapter 9 and 10 there is the planned use of Assyria as God’s instrument of dealing with Israel/Judah. However, there is a limit to what God would allow Assyrian conquerors to do. In chapter 10, the pride of the Assyrian kings would be their downfall. When the instrument elevated itself above the user [God]; enough was enough. See 10:15-19.  Even with the prophetic destruction of Samaria and Israel, God still has the hope of a returning remnant. Sin will be dealt with, but God has not cast all humanity aside. He will inflict punishment to the point of bringing His people back. Oh that we would learn early under the slight nudges of discipline to return to the Lord!

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