Friday, August 12, 2016

Reading Through Isaiah #3 (Chapters 23-35)

51wW9fXkBCL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week we continue working through the prophecies of Isaiah, accompanied by Isaiah, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Terry R. Briley. In this section Isaiah widens his focus from the ancient nations to how God will judge and redeem the entire world. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapters 23-27 are bracketed by God's judgment on Tyre and Babylon as examples of how God will judge those who oppress his people both economically and politically. God allows this to purify his people and even to bring the oppressors to faith in Him. The section reminds God's oppressed people that He even has the ability to restore life from the dead

God’s people are again faced with a challenge in the way they live. Are they going to ally themselves with the system of prostitution by which so much of the world operates, or are they going to live by faith and keep themselves separate from the nations doomed for destruction? “The nations may prostitute themselves in the pursuit of [wealth], but the people of God must not. They are to seek God and his righteousness, and in so doing they will eventually inherit all things.” Isaiah 23, 232

The second consequence of God’s judgment in Isaiah’s hymn of praise: the confirmation of several vital qualities of God’s nature. First, they demonstrate his perfect faithfulness toward his people, in that he has promised to protect those who are faithful to him (cf. Deut 28:7). Second, they show his compassion toward the weak. The wicked tend to oppress the downtrodden, but God serves as a refuge for the poor and the needy in his distress. Third, they reveal his omniscience in carrying out things planned long ago. Isaiah 25, 240

The purpose of these painful actions is to purify his people from that which jeopardizes their relationship with him. A central threat to that relationship is idolatry, which makes it important that no evidence of these sinful ways is left standing. Atonement does not consist in merely offering a sacrifice. In this case the removal of [Jacob’s] sin involves the judgment of exile and the complete removal of every vestige of idolatry. Isaiah 27, 251

In chapters 28-30 Isaiah focuses on the foolishness of the plan of the leaders to appeal to Egypt for help against the Assyrians rather than repenting and trusting in God. After all, the reason they are in danger is that they have rebelled against God. It will be necessary to bring the Assyrians upon them so that they learn to trust God alone, but they will refuse to turn to Him. Their hardness of heart and lack of understanding of God's purpose brings on God's discipline and it will last until a remnant repents and trusts God to heal them. This is always the point of God's discipline.

In one sense God’s acts of judgment are neither strange nor alien because they are true to his holy and righteous nature. They are distressing when they must be directed against his covenant people, however, because of the special relationship he has with them and the special purpose they have in bringing salvation to the nations. These judgments are ultimately redemptive, however, as they purify a remnant through whom he can continue his work. Isaiah 28, 21–22

Foolish thinking by religious people inevitably manifests itself in their worship. When God’s people act as if Yahweh can be manipulated by hypocritical acts of worship, they insult him by equating him with the petty gods of paganism...To utter pious words in worship with no intention of responding accordingly with one’s life exposes a worship motivated either by superstitious fear or a desire to manipulate. Isaiah 29, 29

When present circumstances run counter to the will of God, the proper response of God’s people is to long for and to cry out for God’s intervention...The goal of these cries is that God will not only deliver and thus vindicate his people before the nations, but that he will vindicate himself. These verses contain a promise that God will accomplish that goal. Isaiah 30-27-33, 42

The next section of Isaiah will turn to God's promised blessing, but God must first remove both the internal and external oppressors of the nation. He will remove Babylon and Assyria to bother Israel no more, but the more serious oppressors are the leaders of Israel who oppress the poor and needy and enrich themselves at the expense of others. The purpose of the outside oppressor is to remove the basis of Israel's own pride and self-sufficiency so that they will return to complete trust and reliance on God. Then God Himself will come and be their king.

When one of God’s primary barometer’s of his people’s spiritual condition is their treatment of the weak, the neglect of the hungry and the thirsty and the corruption of justice for the needy cries out for God’s God promises a future in which a person stands by noble plans and noble deeds. Who but the Messiah is adequate to bring about this transformation? Isaiah 32.3-8, 50–51

God’s character and ability ensure that he will prevail. But who will share in the spoils of his victory? It will be those who value not only the salvation God has to offer, but also his wisdom and knowledge...By stripping away all bases of human pride, God either uncovers or creates a faithful remnant of individuals like Isaiah, those whose clearer vision of God leads them to faith and humility. Isaiah 33.6, 56–57

In 33:22 he presents God, not as the one who empowers the king, but as the one who resumes the role of king in the eyes of his people...Only the King of kings can win these battles and share his victory with the inhabitants of Zion, his covenant people. Isaiah 33.22-24, 61–62

Chapters 34-35 end the first major section of the book with a description of God's salvation for Israel from Assyria and the restoration of their land. The terms in the description of this salvation are cosmic (Edom often represents all the Gentile nations) and thus expand to be a paradigm for the way God intervenes in history to judge and destroy the oppressors of God's people and renew the lives and lands of His suffering people. Those who reject God's mercy and oppose His plan to set the world right must be removed before the faithful can enjoy the renewed earth.

Sinners either receive the gracious atonement provided by God or they experience God’s judgment themselves. For those who rebel like the Edomites in opposing God’s redemptive purpose, there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins. Instead, they will become a sacrifice. Isaiah 34, 66

The glory and splendor that have been lost will return because they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. The land, in other words, will reflect the nature of God. The outward condition of the land of promise might serve as a measure of the health of the covenant relationship, but God’s fundamental concern is for the relationship itself. Isaiah 35, 70

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