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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

Archiv für Religion Education

Be comforted, part 6-7, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

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ISAIAH 28–31

Storm Clouds over Jerusalem
The name “Jerusalem” means “city of peace,” but throughout its history it has been associated more with conflict than with peace. Even today, Jerusalem is a focal point for concern in the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” admonished the psalmist (Ps. 122:6). Why pray for Jerusalem? Why not pray for London or Moscow or Rome? Because when there is true peace in Jerusalem, there will be peace in the whole world (Isa. 52:7; 66:12); so we had better take the psalmist’s words to heart.
Chapters 28–31 record a series of five “woes” (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1) that focus primarily on Jerusalem. A sixth “woe” is found in 33:1, and interspersed with these “woes” of judgment are promises of restoration and glory. Isaiah is attempting to get the rulers of Judah to stop trusting “power politics” and international treaties and start trusting the Lord.
1. The Lord warns Jerusalem (Isa. 28:1–29)

Like all devout Jews, Isaiah loved Jerusalem, the holy city, the city of David, the place of God’s dwelling (Pss. 122 and 137). But Isaiah saw storm clouds gathering over the city and announced that trouble was coming. It was time for the nation to turn to God in repentance.
He began his message announcing God’s judgment on Ephraim (Isa. 28:1–6). Surely their neighbor’s fall would serve as a warning to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. If Assyria conquered Samaria, then Judah was next on the list. The Northern Kingdom was proud of its capital city, Samaria, that sat like a beautiful crown (or wreath) at the head of a fruitful valley. But their arrogance was detestable to God, for they thought their fortress city was impregnable. Samaria reigned in luxury and pleasure and had no fear of her enemies.
The Lord was also appalled by their drunkenness. To the Jews, wine was a gift from God and a source of joy (Jud. 9:13; Ps. 104:15). The Law did not demand total abstinence, but it did warn against drunkenness (Deut. 21:18–21; Prov. 20:1; 23:20–21, 29–35). The Prophet Amos denounced the luxurious indulgences of the people in both Judah and Samaria (Amos 6:1–7), and Isaiah also thundered against such godless living (Isa. 5:11–12, 22).
A government official in Washington, D.C. once quipped, “We have three parties in this city: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the cocktail party.” Indeed, Washington, D.C. ranks high on the list of cities noted for alcohol consumption. Many people don’t realize that alcohol and nicotine, America’s favorite legal narcotics, do far more damage than all the illegal drugs combined. According to Dr. Arnold Washton, alcohol and nicotine kill 450,000 people annually, while illegal drugs kill about 6,000 (Willpower’s Not Enough, Harper & Row, 1989; p. 13). This does not make illegal drugs acceptable, but it does help us put things in perspective. What hope is there for our affluent, pleasure-loving society that gives lip service to religion and ignores the tragic consequences of sin and the judgment that is sure to come?
Samaria was proud of her beauty, but that beauty was fading like a cut flower (28:1, 4) that could never stand before the coming tempest. God was sending a storm across the land, and their proud city would be destroyed by wind, rain, hail, and flood—the Assyrian army! Conquering Samaria would be as easy as plucking a fig from a tree! On that day of judgment, Samaria would learn too late that Jehovah, not Samaria, is the “crown of glory” and “diadem of beauty” (v. 5); and that He is a God of justice (vv. 5–6). The reference here is to God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria, even when the enemy was at the very gates (chaps. 36–37).
Perhaps the people of Judah rejoiced to hear Isaiah announce the fall of their rival kingdom, but their celebration was shortlived; for the prophet then announced that Judah was guilty of the same sins as Samaria and therefore was in danger of judgment (28:5–8). The priests and the prophets, who should have been examples to the people, were staggering drunk around the city and carousing at tables covered with vomit. Their counsel to the people did not come from the Spirit of God but from their own drunken delusions (see Eph. 5:18). They not only swallowed wine but were “swallowed up of wine” (Isa. 28:7). This reminds us of the Japanese proverb: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.”
But pride and drunkenness were not Judah’s only sins; they also mocked God’s prophet and rejected God’s Word (vv. 9–13). Verses 9–10 are the words of the drunken prophets and priests as they ridiculed Isaiah. “He talks to us as though we were little children,” they said. “He keeps saying the same things over and over again and uses the vocabulary of a child. There is certainly no need to take anything he says seriously!”
Society today often takes a similar attitude toward God’s servants and God’s Word. People are so intoxicated by intellectual pride that they laugh at the simple message of the Gospel presented by humble witnesses (1 Cor. 1:18–31). The Prophet Amos was ejected from the king’s chapel because he was a simple farmer and not a member of the religious elite (Amos 7:10–17). Evangelist D.L. Moody was often laughed at because his speech was not polished, but God used him to bring many thousands to the Savior.
What was Isaiah’s answer to this supercritical crowd of religious drunks? “If you will not listen to my simple speech in your own language, God will speak to you with a language you do not understand. He will send the army of Assyria, whose language is foreign to you.” This happened to both Ephraim and Judah. The Assyrians completely destroyed the Southern Kingdom in 722 B.C.; and in 701 B.C., after devastating the land of Judah, they came to the very gates of Jerusalem.
This leads to Isaiah’s third announcement: God offers His people rest (Isa. 7:4; 8:6–8), but they will not obey (hear) His Word (28:12–20). The prophet had given them a plain message that everybody could understand, but they rejected it. Their faith was in their political alliances and not in God (vv. 15, 18). In the days of King Ahaz, they made a secret treaty with Assyria; and in the days of King Hezekiah, they turned to Egypt for help (30:1–5; 31:1). But these “covenants with death and the grave” were destined to fail because God was not in them. The enemy would come like a flood, a storm, and a whip (scourge); and there would be no escape. Ephraim would be destroyed, and Judah would be saved by the skin of her teeth. The bed they had made (their alliances) could not give them rest (see 28:12), and the covering they made (their treaties) would not cover them (see 31:1).
Their only hope was in the tried and true foundation stone (28:16), the “Rock of ages” (26:4; 8:14; 17:10). This is definitely a reference to the Messiah and is so interpreted in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:4–7; Rom. 9:33; Mark 12:10; see Ps. 118:22). If they had faith in Jehovah, they would not be rushing here and there, trying to forge alliances, a practice that only leads to shame and failure (Rom. 10:11). A solid rock is better protection than a flimsy covering of lies!
Isaiah’s final announcement was that their confidence that God would not judge them was a delusion (Isa. 28:21–29). “But God defended His people in the past!” they argued. “What about David’s victory over the Philistines at Mount Perazim [2 Sam. 5:17–21], or Joshua’s victory over the Amorites at Gibeon [Josh. 10]?” But Joshua and David were godly leaders who trusted Jehovah and obeyed His Word. What Isaiah’s scoffing opponents did not realize was that God would do a “strange work”: He would use the enemy to fight against His own people! Just as a farmer has different tasks to perform and must adapt himself to each task, whether plowing or threshing, so God must do the work that is necessary to bring about His eternal purposes. He knows just what tool to use and when to use it.
Jerusalem watched the Northern Kingdom fall to the Assyrians, but this judgment did not bring them to repentance. When we start saying to ourselves, “It can never happen to me!”—it is sure to happen!
2. The Lord humbles Jerusalem (Isa. 29:1–14)

“Ariel” is a code name for Jerusalem and means “lion of God.” The lion was a symbol of Assyria, so the prophet may have been saying, “Assyria is now God’s lion, and Jerusalem is God’s lion in name only.” But the Hebrew word also means “an altar hearth,” where the burnt offerings were sacrificed (Ezek. 43:13–18). “It [Jerusalem] shall be unto me as Ariel [an altar hearth]” (Isa. 29:2). In other words, it would become a place of slaughter.
God was going to humble the proud city. Instead of roaring and frightening the enemy, the lion would only whisper from the dust (v. 4). Instead of their sacrifices being accepted by God (v. 1), the entire city would become an altar; and God would make His people a sacrifice.
When did these things happen? God began to “turn on the heat” in 701 B.C. when Assyria marched triumphantly through Judah and almost took Jerusalem. God defeated Assyria in an instant (37:36), “suddenly” (29:5), like blowing away dust or chaff (v. 6). This discipline should have brought Judah back to the Lord; but after the death of Hezekiah, they returned to their sins. So, in 586 B.C., God sent the Babylonians, who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed it, taking thousands of Jews into captivity. God did His “strange work” and permitted His own people to be slain by the enemy. The city indeed was like an altar hearth, and thousands were sacrificed to the wrath of the enemy.
But Isaiah looked far down the highway of history to the end times when Jerusalem would be attacked by the armies of the world (vv. 7–8; Zech. 14:1–3). This is what prophetic students call “the battle of Armageddon,” though that title is not used in Scripture (Rev. 14:14–20; 16:13–21). When it looks as though the city is about to fall, and the enemy armies are sure of victory, Jesus Christ will return and deliver His people (19:11–21). The enemy victory will vanish.
Why were the people of Jerusalem so ignorant of what was going on? Their hearts were far from God (Isa. 29:13). They went through the outward forms of worship and faithfully kept the annual feasts (v. 1; 1:10ff), but it was not a true worship of God (Matt. 15:1–9). Going to the temple was the popular thing to do, but most of the people did not take their worship seriously. Therefore, God sent a “spiritual blindness” and stupor on His people so that they could not understand their own Law. Such blindness persists today (Rom. 11:8; 2 Cor. 3:13–18). If people will not accept the truth, then they must become more and more blind and accept lies. (See John 9:39–41 and 2 Thes. 2:1–12.)
3. The Lord appeals to Jerusalem (Isa. 29:15–24)

This “woe” exposed the devious political tactics of the rulers of Judah, who thought that God would not hold them accountable for what they were doing. They were trying to turn things upside down, the clay telling the potter what to do. (See 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 18; and Rom. 9:20.) If only people would seek the counsel of the Lord instead of depending on their own wisdom and the fragile promises of men!
In Isaiah 29:17–24, Isaiah asked the people to look ahead and consider what God had planned for them. In their political strategy, they had turned things upside down; but God would one day turn everything around by establishing His glorious kingdom on earth. The devastated land would become a paradise, the disabled would be healed, and the outcasts would be enriched and rejoice in the Lord. There would be no more scoffers or ruthless people practicing injustice in the courts. The founders of the nation, Abraham and Jacob, would see their many descendants all glorifying the Lord.
In light of this glorious future, why should Judah turn to feeble nations like Egypt for help? God is on their side, and they can trust Him! Abraham went to Egypt for help and got into trouble (Gen. 12:10–20), and Isaac started for Egypt but was stopped by God (26:1–6). God cared for Jacob during all of his years of trial, and surely He could care for Jacob’s children. It is tragic when a nation forgets its great spiritual heritage and turns from trusting the Lord to trusting the plans and promises of men.
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin said, “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning …” Isaiah sought that attitude in Jerusalem; but instead, he found only scoffing and unbelief.
4. The Lord rebukes Jerusalem (Isa. 30:1–33)

This fourth “woe” begins with God’s rebuke of the nation’s rebellion (vv. 1–17). Isaiah opened his prophecy with this accusation (1:2, 20, 23), and he ends it on that same note (63:10; 65:2). After all that God had done for His people, they turned away from Him and sought the help of feeble Egypt. Unlike the leaders of old, the rulers of Jerusalem did not seek the will of God: Moses (Num. 27:21), Joshua (Josh. 9:14), David (1 Sam. 30:7–8), and Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:7ff). Egypt was but a shadow, and what could a shadow do against the great Assyrian army?
Isaiah then uttered an oracle (burden) concerning the caravan that was then traveling from Jerusalem to Egypt with treasures to buy protection against Assyria (Isa. 30:6–7). He saw the burdened animals making their way through the difficult and dangerous terrain of the Negev (the south), and he cried, “It is all to no profit! It is useless! The Egyptians will help in vain!” In verse 7, which should be read in a recent translation, Isaiah gives a nickname to Egypt: “Rahab-hem-shebeth,” which means “Rahab the do-nothing.” (Rahab is one of the names for Egypt in the Old Testament.)
It was bad enough that Judah rebelled against God by trusting Egypt instead of trusting Jehovah, and depending on money instead of on God’s power, but they even went so far as to completely reject the Word of God (vv. 8–11). God told Isaiah to make a placard that said, “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the Law of the Lord” (v. 9). He carried this sign as he walked around Jerusalem, and no doubt most of the people laughed at him. The leaders did not want to hear God’s truth; they wanted “pleasant words” from the false prophets, sermons that would not disturb their comfortable way of life. Is the situation much different today? (See Jer. 6:14; 8:11; and 1 Kings 22:1–28.)
Decisions have consequences, and Isaiah told the people what would happen to Judah and Jerusalem because they were trusting in lies: Their wall of protection would suddenly collapse, shattered to pieces like a clay vessel (Isa. 30:12–14). When Assyria invaded the land, Egypt lived up to her nickname and did nothing. It was not till the last minute that God stepped in and rescued His people, and He did it only because of His covenant with David (37:35–36). During Assyria’s invasion of Judah, the Jews were not able to flee on their horses imported from Egypt (30:16–17; Deut. 17:16), and one enemy soldier was able to frighten off a thousand Jews! What humiliation! (See Deut. 32:30.)
Their only hope was to repent, return to the Lord, and by faith rest only in Him (Isa. 30:15; 8:6–7; 26:3; 28:12); but they would not listen and obey.
The prophet then turned from the subject of rebellion to the subject of restoration (30:18–26). “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you,” he told the people; “He rises to show you compassion” (v. 18, NIV). God’s grace is His favor toward those who do not deserve it, and it is only because of His grace that we have any blessings at all. Isaiah described that future day when Israel would be restored to her land to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom. They would be like liberated prisoners of war (v. 19). Instead of scoffing, they would listen to God’s Word and put away their foolish idols. The land would be restored and become prosperous again, and God would bind up the bruises and heal the wounds of His people (v. 26; see 1:5–6). The “great slaughter” of verse 25 is the battle of Armageddon, which will occur just before the return of the Lord to deliver His people and establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:11–21).
His final theme in this “woe” is retribution (Isa. 30:27–33), the announcement that God will defeat the Assyrians. God used Assyria to discipline Judah, but He would not permit the Assyrians to take the city of David. Isaiah used several images to describe God’s judgment of Assyria: a storm of fire and hail, a flood, the sifting of grain (see Amos 9:9), and the harnessing of a horse so that the enemy is led off like a farm animal.
Just as Sheol was prepared for the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:9ff), so Topheth was prepared for the king of Assyria. Topheth was a site outside Jerusalem where the worshipers of Molech sacrificed their children (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6; Jer. 7:31–32; 19:6, 11–14). It was defiled by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), turned into a garbage dump, and named “Gehenna,” which comes from ge-ben-hinnom, meaning “valley of the son of Hinnom.” That was the location of Topheth. “Gehenna” is the New Testament word for “hell.” The funeral pyre for the great king of Assyria would be a garbage dump! How humiliating!
The Jews would rejoice greatly at the defeat of Assyria, not unlike their rejoicing at Passover to commemorate the defeat of Egypt. When the Jews celebrate Passover, they still have “a song in the night” (Matt. 26:30); and the “timbrels and harps” (Isa. 30:32) remind us of the songs of Miriam and the Jewish women at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:20–21).
5. The Lord defends Jerusalem (Isa. 31:1–9)

This fifth “woe” is a brief summary of what Isaiah had already told the people. Indeed, he was teaching them “line upon line, here a little, and there a little” (28:10); and yet they were not getting the message.
Their faith was in men, not in God. They trusted in the legs of horses and the wheels of chariots, not in the hand of the Lord. God warned the Jewish kings not to go to Egypt for horses and chariots (Deut. 17:14–16), but Solomon ignored this warning (1 Kings 10:28–29). Going to Egypt for help had always been a temptation to the Jews (Ex. 13:17; 14:11–12; Num. 11:5, 18; 14:3ff).
Why should the Lord fear the Assyrians? Does a lion fear a flock of sheep and their shepherds? Do the eagles fear as they hover over their young in the nest? God will pounce on Assyria like a lion and swoop down like an eagle, and that will be the end! In one night, the Assyrian army was wiped out (Isa. 37:36).
Think of the money Judah would have saved and the distress they would have avoided had they only rested in the Lord their God and obeyed His will. All their political negotiations were futile and their treaties worthless. They could trust the words of the Egyptians but not the Word of God!
As God’s church today faces enemies and challenges, it is always a temptation to turn to the world or the flesh for help. But our first response must be to examine our hearts to see if there is something we need to confess and make right. Then we must turn to the Lord in faith and obedience and surrender to His will alone. We must trust Him to protect us and fight for us.
A friend of mine kept a card on his office desk that read: Faith Is Living Without Scheming. In one statement, that is what Isaiah was saying to Judah and Jerusalem; and that is what he is saying to us today.


ISAIAH 32–35

Future Shock and Future Glory
In 1919, American writer Lincoln Steffens visited the Soviet Union to see what the Communist revolution was accomplishing; and in a letter to a friend, he wrote, “I have seen the future, and it works.” If he were alive today, he would probably be less optimistic; but in those days, “the Russian experiment” seemed to be dramatically successful.
A university professor posted a sign on his study wall that read, “The future is not what it used to be.” Since the advent of atomic energy, many people wonder if there is any future at all. Albert Einstein said that he never thought about the future because it came soon enough!
In the four chapters that conclude the first section of his prophecy, Isaiah invites us to look at four future events to see what God has planned for His people and His world. These chapters are not human speculation; they are divinely inspired revelation, and they can be trusted.
1. A King will reign (Isa. 32:1–20)

At the beginning of its history, the nation of Israel was a theocracy, with God as King; it was not a monarchy led by human rulers. In the days of Samuel, the people asked for a king; and God gave them Saul (1 Sam. 8; see Deut. 17:14–20). God did not establish a dynasty through Saul because Saul did not come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). It was David who established both the dynasty for Israel’s throne and the ancestry for Israel’s Messiah (2 Sam. 7). Every devout Jew knew that the future Messiah-King would be the Son of David (Matt. 22:41–46).
In Isaiah 32:1, Isaiah writes about “a king”; but in 33:17, he calls him “the king.” By the time you get to verse 22, He is “our king.” It is not enough to say that Jesus Christ is “a King” or even “the King.” We must confess our faith in Him and say with assurance that He is “our King.” Like Nathanael, we must say, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49, NKJV)
In contrast to the evil rulers of Isaiah’s day (Isa. 1:21–23), Messiah will reign in righteousness and justice (32:1, 16; 33:5; see 9:7; 11:1–5). In addition, the King will be like a rock of refuge for the people (8:14; 17:10; 26:4; 28:16) and like a refreshing river in the desert (8:5–8; 33:21; 41:18; 48:18; 66:12). “He who rules over men must be just,” said David, “ruling in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:3–4, NKJV).
Isaiah 32:3–4 describes the wonderful transformations that will occur because of Messiah’s reign. Isaiah ministered to spiritually blind, deaf, and ignorant people (6:9–10; 29:10–12); but in the kingdom, all will see and hear God’s truth as well as understand and obey it. (See 29:18 and 42:7.) This will happen because the nation will have a new heart and enter into a New Covenant with the Lord (Jer. 31:31–34).
The “churl” (Isa. 32:5–8) is the knave or scoundrel who uses his or her position for personal profit and not for the good of the people. In Isaiah’s day, as in our own day, the common people admired “the rich and famous,” even though the character and conduct of these “celebrities” deserved no respect. They had money, fame, and influence; and in the eyes of the populace, that made them important. But in the kingdom, there will be no such deception. “Wealthy cheaters will not be spoken of as generous, outstanding men! Everyone will recognize an evil man when he sees him, and hypocrites will fool no one at all” (vv. 5–6, TLB).
Not only will their character and motives be exposed and judged, but so will their ungodly methods (v. 7). No longer will the poor and helpless be cheated by these liars! Instead of knaves, the leaders who rule with Messiah will be noble people who will plan noble things.
Behind the selfish rulers of Judah, and influencing them for evil, were the “aristocratic women” of Jerusalem, who were complacent and self-confident in a time of grave national crisis (vv. 9–14; see 3:16–26; Amos 4:1–3; 6:1–6). Isaiah warned them that “in little more than a year [NIV],” the land and the cities would be desolate. This took place in 701 B.C. when Sennacherib’s Assyrian army invaded Judah and devastated the land. The Jews confined in Jerusalem were greatly concerned about future harvests, and Isaiah had a word for them (Isa. 37:30–31). But before the siege ended and God delivered Jerusalem, these worldly women in Jerusalem had to sacrifice not only their luxuries, but also their necessities.
In 32:15–20, the prophet returns to his description of the messianic kingdom and emphasizes the restoration of peace and prosperity. None of these changes took place after the deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. or when the remnant returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, so we must assign these prophecies to the future kingdom. Because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there will be peace and plenty because there will be righteousness in the land (Joel 2:28–32; Zech. 12:10; Ezek. 36:26–27). The land will be so productive that the desert will be like a fruitful field and the fruitful field like a forest. The people will fear no enemies, and their work will be rewarded.
Judah could have enjoyed safety, quietness, and assurance had they trusted wholly in the Lord and not turned to Egypt for help (Isa. 30:15–18; 32:17–18). Righteousness is the key word in verse 17, for there can be no true peace without a right relationship with God (Rom. 5:1; James 3:13–17). When sinners trust Christ and receive the gift of righteousness, then they can have peace in their hearts and peace with one another.
2. Jerusalem will be delivered (Isa. 33:1–24)

This is the sixth and final “woe” in this section (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1), and it is directed against Sennacherib because of his treachery against Judah. In unbelief, King Hezekiah had tried to “buy off” the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:13–15); but Sennacherib had broken the agreement and invaded Judah anyway. He was a thief, a traitor, and a tyrant; and God promised to judge him. He had destroyed others, so he would be destroyed. He had dealt treacherously with nations, so they would deal treacherously with him. God is not mocked; sinners reap what they have sown (Gal. 6:7).
Isaiah 33:2 is the prayer of the godly remnant when Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army. Isaiah had promised that God would be gracious to them if they would only trust Him (30:18–19), so a few devout people turned His promise into prayer. God spared Jerusalem for David’s sake (37:35) and because a believing remnant trusted God and prayed. Never underestimate the power of a praying minority.
Assyria was proud of her power and the spoils she had gathered in battle. The Assyrian army swept through the land like devouring locusts, but that would change. The day would come when Judah would strip the dead Assyrian army and Sennacherib would be assassinated in the temple of the god he claimed was stronger than Jehovah (vv. 36–38). The Lord was exalted in the defeat of Assyria (33:5), for no human wisdom or power could have done what He did. We must remember that nations and individuals can have stability in uncertain times only when they trust God and seek His wisdom and glory. King Hezekiah did a foolish thing when he took the temple treasures and tried to bribe Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13–16), but God forgave him and reminded him that “the fear of the Lord is [your] treasure” (Isa. 33:6). Unbelief looks to human resources for help, but faith looks to God.
During the time of the Assyrian invasion, the situation in Judah was grim (vv. 7–9). Judah’s bravest soldiers wept when they saw one city after another fall to the enemy. The official Jewish envoys wept because their negotiations accomplished nothing. The roads were dangerous, the fields and orchards were ruined, and there was no way of escape.
Except for—God! “ ‘Now will I rise,’ saith the Lord, ‘now will I be exalted, now will I lift up Myself’ ” (v. 10). In verses 11–12, Isaiah uses several images to describe God’s judgment on the Assyrians. The Assyrians were “pregnant” with all sorts of plans to conquer Jerusalem; but they would give birth to chaff and straw, and their plans would amount to nothing. Their army was panting to attack, but their hot breath would only become a fire that would destroy them like dead bones or cut bushes. God is long-suffering with His enemies; but when He decides to judge, He does a thorough job.
The account of the amazing deliverance of Jerusalem was told far and wide, and the Gentile nations had to acknowledge the greatness of Jehovah, the God of the Jews. Some scholars believe that Psalm 126 grew out of this experience and may have been written by Hezekiah. “Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord hath done great things for them’ ” (v. 2). We witness to a lost world when we trust Him and let Him have His way. The miracle deliverance of Jerusalem not only brought glory to God among the Gentiles, but it also brought fear and conviction to the Jews (Isa. 33:14–16). God does not deliver us so that we are free to return to our sins. “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4). When Jews in Jerusalem saw 185,000 Assyrian soldiers slain by God in one night, they realized anew that the God of Israel was “a consuming fire” (Isa. 10:17; Heb. 12:29). Were they even safe in Jerusalem?
Isaiah 33:15 describes the kind of person God will accept and bless. (See also Pss. 15 and 24.) By ourselves, we cannot achieve these qualities of character; they come only as we trust Jesus Christ and grow in grace. Many religious people in Jerusalem had hearts far from God because their religion was only a matter of external ceremonies (Isa. 29:13). Isaiah hoped that the miracle deliverance of the city would bring these people to a place of true devotion to the Lord. It is only as we walk with the Lord that we have real security and satisfaction.
In 33:17–24, the prophet lifts his vision to the end times and sees Jerusalem ruled by King Messiah. God’s victory over Assyria was but a “dress rehearsal” for His victory over the whole Gentile world system that will one day assemble to destroy the holy city (Zech. 14:1–9). When our Lord was ministering on earth, the unbelieving Jews said, “There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). But when they see Him and believe, then they will perceive His great beauty (Zech. 12:3–13:1; Ps. 45).
In contrast to the ordeal of the Assyrian siege, the Jews in the messianic kingdom will experience no terror, see no arrogant military officers, and hear no foreign speech (Isa. 33:18–19). Jerusalem will be like a tent that will not be moved (see 54:1–3), pitched by a broad river that will never carry the vessels of invading armies. Jerusalem is one of the few great cities of antiquity that was not built near a river, but that will change during the millennial kingdom (Ezek. 47). Of course, the river symbolizes the peace that the Lord gives to His people (Isa. 48:18; 66:12; Ps. 46:4).
Jerusalem was a ship that almost sank (Isa. 33:23), but the Lord brought it through the storm (Ps. 107:23–32); and the weakest of the Jews was able to take spoils from the dead army. “All the functions of government—judicial, legislative, and executive—will be centered in the Messianic King,” says the note on Isaiah 33:22 in The New Scofield Reference Bible. No wonder His people can say, “He will save us!”
Both sickness and sin will be absent from the city. Messiah will be their Redeemer and Savior, and the nation “shall be forgiven their iniquity” (v. 24). In Isaiah’s day, the Jews were a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity” (1:4), just as lost sinners are today; but when they see Him and trust Him, their sins will be washed away. If you have never heeded the gracious invitation of Isaiah 1:18, do so today!
3. The sinful world will be judged (Isa. 34:1–17)

Israel’s ancient enemy Edom is singled out in verses 5–6, but this divine judgment will come upon the whole world. Edom is only one example of God’s judgment on the Gentile nations because of what they have done to His people Israel. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (v. 8, NIV). In the Day of the Lord, the Gentiles will be repaid for the way they have treated the Jews and exploited their land (Joel 3:1–17). “Zion’s cause” may not get much support among the nations today, but God will come to their defense and make their cause succeed.
Isaiah begins with a military picture of the armies on earth (Isa. 34:2–3) and in heaven (v. 4). The enemy armies on earth will be slaughtered, the land will be drenched with blood, and the bodies of the slain will be left unburied to rot and to smell. This is a vivid description of the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11–21), the humiliating defeat and destruction of the armies of the world that dare to attack the Son of God. The hosts of heaven will also be affected by vast cosmic disturbances (Isa. 34:4; see Matt. 24:29; Joel 2:10, 30–31; 3:15; Rev. 6:13–14). What a day that will be!
In Isaiah 34:5–8, the prophet moves from the battlefield to the temple and sees this worldwide judgment as a great sacrifice that God offers. (See Jer. 46:10; 50:27; Ezek. 39:17–19.) The practice was for the people to kill the sacrifices and offer them to God, but now it is God who offers the wicked as sacrifices. Bozrah was an important city in Edom; the name means “grape-gathering” (see Isa. 63:1–8). God sees His enemies as animals: Rams, goats, lambs, oxen, and bulls are all sacrificed, along with the fat (Lev. 3:9–11). These nations sacrificed the Jews, so God used them for sacrifices.
The picture changes again, and Isaiah compares the Day of the Lord to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 34:9–10; Gen. 18–19). This is a significant comparison because, just before the coming of the Lord, society will be “as it was in the days of Lot” (Luke 17:28). Tar running like streams and sulfur like dust will keep the fires of judgment burning (Gen. 14:10; 19:24). The description in Isaiah 34:10 reminds us of the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8–11; 19:3). We should also remember that the fires of eternal hell, the lake of fire, will never be quenched (Mark 9:43–48).
While Isaiah focused especially on Edom (Isa. 34:5–6), he was using that proud nation as an example of what God would do to all the Gentile nations during the Day of the Lord. When God finishes His work, the land will be a wilderness, occupied only by bramble and thorns, wild beasts, and singular birds (vv. 11–17). God will see to it that each bird will have a mate to reproduce, and no humans will be around to drive them from their nests.
“But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). Why is God waiting? Because God “is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (v. 9, NKJV). How much longer God will wait, nobody knows; so it behooves lost sinners to repent today and trust the Savior.
4. The glorious kingdom will be established (Isa. 35:1–10)

But the wilderness will not remain a wilderness, for the Lord will transform the earth into a Garden of Eden. All of nature eagerly looks for the coming of the Lord (55:12–13; Rom. 8:19; Pss. 96:11–13; 98:7–9), for nature knows that it will be set free from the curse of sin (Gen. 3:17–19) and share the glory of the kingdom. Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon were three of the most fruitful and beautiful places in the land, and yet the desert would become more fruitful and beautiful than the three places put together! There will be no more “parched ground” (Isa. 35:7), because the land will become a garden of glory.
Isaiah uses the promise of the coming kingdom to strengthen those in his day who were weak and afraid (vv. 3–4). In the kingdom, there will be no more blind or deaf, lame or dumb; for all will be made whole to enjoy a glorious new world. (In 32:3–4, the prophet wrote about spiritual deficiencies, but here he is describing physical handicaps.) Our Lord referred to these verses when he sent a word of encouragement to John the Baptist (Luke 7:18–23). The King was on earth and sharing with needy people the blessings of the coming kingdom.
Isaiah 35:8 expresses one of Isaiah’s favorite themes: the highway (11:16; 19:23; 40:3; 62:10). During the Assyrian invasion, the highways were not safe (33:8), but during the Kingdom Age it will be safe to travel. There will be one special highway: “The Way of Holiness.” In ancient cities, there were often special roads that only kings and priests could use; but when Messiah reigns, all of His people will be invited to use this highway. Isaiah pictures God’s redeemed, ransomed, and rejoicing Jewish families going up to the yearly feasts in Jerusalem, to praise their Lord.
When Isaiah spoke and wrote these words, it is likely that the Assyrians had ravaged the land, destroyed the crops, and made the highways unsafe for travel. The people were cooped up in Jerusalem, wondering what would happen next. The remnant was trusting God’s promises and praying for God’s help, and God answered their prayers. If God kept His promises to His people centuries ago and delivered them, will He not keep His promises in the future and establish His glorious kingdom for His chosen people? Of course He will!
The future is your friend when Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord.


ISAIAH 36–39
Except for David and Solomon, no king of Judah is given more attention or commendation in Scripture than Hezekiah. Eleven chapters are devoted to him in 2 Kings 18–20; 2 Chronicles 29–32; and Isaiah 36–39, “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him” (2 Kings 18:5).
He began his reign about 715 B.C., though he may have been coregent with his father as early as 729 B.C. He restored the temple facilities and services of worship, destroyed the idols and the high places (hill shrines where the people falsely worshiped Jehovah), and sought to bring the people back to vital faith in the Lord. He led the people in a nationwide two-week celebration of Passover and invited Jews from the Northern Kingdom to participate. “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to see His God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chron. 31:21).
After the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., Judah had constant problems with Assyria. Hezekiah finally rebelled against Assyria (2 Kings 18:7); and when Sennacherib threatened to attack, Hezekiah tried to bribe him with tribute (vv. 13–16). It was a lapse of faith on Hezekiah’s part that God could not bless. Sennacherib accepted the treasures but broke the treaty (Isa. 33:1) and invaded Judah in 701 B.C. The account of God’s miraculous deliverance of His people is given in chapters 36–37.
Bible students generally agree that Hezekiah’s sickness (Isa. 38) and foolish reception of the envoys (Isa. 39) took place before the Assyrian invasion, possibly between the time Hezekiah sent the tribute and Sennacherib broke the treaty. Then why are these chapters not arranged chronologically?
The prophet arranged the account as a “bridge” between the two parts of his book. Chapters 36 and 37 end the first part of the book with its emphasis on Assyria, and chapters 38 and 39 introduce the second part of the book, with its emphasis on Babylon. Isaiah mentions Babylon earlier in his book (13:1ff; 21:1ff), but this is the first time he clearly predicts Judah’s Captivity in Babylon.
Chapters 36–39 teach us some valuable lessons about faith, prayer, and the dangers of pride. Though the setting today may be different, the problems and temptations are still the same; for Hezekiah’s history is our history, and Hezekiah’s God is our God.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 69–92). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Be comforted, part 8-9, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

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ISAIAH 36–39

God Save the King!
The former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, once told the New York Times, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”
Crises come, whether schedules permit it or not; and sometimes crises seem to pile up. How do we handle them? What life does to us depends on what life finds in us. A crisis does not make a person; it shows what a person is made of.
Hezekiah faced three crises in a short time: an international crisis (the invasion of the Assyrian army), a personal crisis (sickness and near death), and a national crisis (the visit of the Babylonian envoys). He came through the first two victoriously, but the third one tripped him up. Hezekiah was a great and godly man, but he was still a man; and that meant he had all the frailties of human flesh. However, before we find fault with him, we had better examine our own lives to see how successfully we have handled our own tests.
1. The invasion crisis (Isa. 36:1–37:38; 2 Kings 18–19; 2 Chron. 32)

Crises often come when circumstances seem to be at their best. Hezekiah had led the nation in a great reformation, and the people were united in the fear of the Lord. They had put away their idols, restored the temple services, and sought the blessing of their God. But instead of receiving blessing, they found themselves facing battles! “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah” (2 Chron. 32:1, NIV).
Had God turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to all that Hezekiah and his people had done? Of course not! The Assyrian invasion was a part of God’s discipline to teach His people to trust Him alone. Even Hezekiah had at first put his trust in treaties and treasures (2 Kings 18:13–16), only to learn that the enemy will keep the wealth but not keep his word. Judah had negotiated to get help from Egypt, an act of unbelief that Isaiah severely rebuked (Isa. 30:1–7; 31:1–3). God’s great purpose in the life of faith is to build godly character. Hezekiah and his people needed to learn that faith is living without scheming.
The Assyrians had ravaged Judah and were now at Lachish, about thirty miles southwest of Jerusalem. According to 2 Kings 18:17, Sennacherib sent three of his most important officers to arrange for Hezekiah’s surrender of the city: Tartan (“Supreme Commander”), Rabsaris (“Chief Officer”), and Rabshakeh (“Field Commander”). These are military titles, not personal names. The three men were met by three of Judah’s leading officials: Eliakim, Shebna (see Isa. 22:15–25), and Joah (36:3).
The place of their meeting is significant, for it is the very place where Isaiah confronted Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, some thirty years before (7:3). Ahaz had refused to trust the Lord but had instead made a treaty with Assyria (2 Kings 16:5–9), and now the Assyrians were ready to take Jerusalem! Isaiah had warned Ahaz what Assyria would do (Isa. 7:17–25), and his words were now fulfilled.
Reproach (Isa. 36:4–21). The field commander’s speech is one of the most insolent and blasphemous found anywhere in Scripture, for he reproached the God of Israel (37:4, 17, 23–24). He emphasized the “greatness” of the king of Assyria (36:4, 13) because he knew the common people were listening and he wanted to frighten them (vv. 11–12). His speech is a masterful piece of psychological warfare in which he discredits everything that the Jews held dear. The key word is trust, used seven times (vv. 4–7, 9, 15). “In what is your confidence?” asked the field commander. “You can have no confidence, for everything you trust in has failed!”
He began with their strategy. They had turned to Egypt for help, but Egypt was only a broken reed. (Isaiah had said the same thing! See 30:1–7 and 31:1–3.) As for trusting the Lord, that was sure to fail. Hezekiah had incurred the Lord’s displeasure by removing the high places and altars and requiring everybody to worship at Jerusalem. (What did a heathen soldier know about the worship of the true God?) So, according to the field commander, Judah had no help on earth (Egypt) or in heaven (the Lord). They were already defeated!
What about their military resources? Hezekiah had fortified Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:2–8), but the field commander laughed at Judah’s military might. Judah had neither the men, the horses, nor the chariots to attack the Assyrians. Even if Assyria provided the equipment, the Jewish soldiers were too weak to defeat the least of the enemy’s officers. All the chariots and horsemen of Egypt could never defeat Sennacherib’s great army. (Isaiah would agree with him again; see Isa. 30:15–17.)
The field commander’s coup de grace was that everything Assyria had done was according to the will of the Lord (36:10). How could Judah fight against its own God? In one sense, this statement was true; for God is in charge of the nations of the world (10:5–6; Dan. 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21). But no nation can do what it pleases and use God for the excuse, as Sennacherib and his army would soon find out.
According to the field commander, Judah could not trust in its strategy, its military resources, or in its God. Nor could its people trust in their king (Isa. 36:13–20). The king of Assyria was a “great king,” but Hezekiah was a nobody who was deceiving the people. Instead of trusting Hezekiah’s promise of help from the Lord, the people should trust Sennacherib’s promise of a comfortable home in Assyria. The people knew that their farms, orchards, and vineyards had been ruined by the Assyrian army, and that Judah was facing a bleak future. If they stayed in Jerusalem, they might starve to death. Perhaps they should surrender and keep themselves and their families alive.
Hezekiah and Isaiah had told the people to trust the Lord, but the field commander reminded the people that the gods of the other nations had not succeeded in protecting or delivering them. (Hezekiah knew why; see 37:18–19.) Even Samaria was defeated, and they worshiped the same God as Judah. To the field commander, Jehovah was just another god; and Sennacherib did not need to worry about Him.
God summons us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). To those Jews in Jerusalem who were living in unbelief, the field commander’s arguments must have seemed reasonable, and his evidence compelling. But God had promised to deliver His people from the Assyrian army, and His Word would stand.
Repentance (Isa. 36:22–37:20). By the king’s orders, nobody replied to the field commander’s speech. Insolence is best answered with silence. Jerusalem’s deliverance did not depend on negotiating with the enemy but on trusting the Lord.
Hezekiah and his officers humbled themselves before the Lord and sought His face. As the king went into the temple, perhaps he recalled the promise God had given to Solomon after he had dedicated the temple: “If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
Even though the Lord had brought Assyria to chasten Judah (Isa. 7:17–25), He had determined that Jerusalem would not be taken by the enemy (10:5–34). Previous to the invasion, when Hezekiah had been deathly ill, Isaiah had assured him of deliverance (38:4–6). God’s promises are sure, but God’s people must claim them by faith before God can work. So the king sent word to Isaiah, asking him to pray; and the king himself called out to the Lord for help.
In the building up of our faith, the Word of God and prayer go together (Rom. 10:17); and that is why Isaiah sent the king a message from the Lord. His word of encouragement had three points: (1) do not be afraid, (2) the Assyrians will depart, and (3) the “great king” will die in Assyria.
When the three Assyrian officers returned to headquarters, they learned that an Egyptian army was on its way to help defend Hezekiah. Sennacherib did not want to fight a war on two fronts, so he started to put more pressure on Jerusalem to surrender immediately. This threatening message came to Hezekiah in the form of a letter, and he took it to the temple and “spread it before the Lord.”
Hezekiah’s prayer (Isa. 37:15–20) is saturated with biblical theology and is not unlike the prayer of the church in Acts 4:24–31. He affirmed his faith in the one true and living God, and he worshiped Him. Jehovah is “Lord of hosts,” that is, “Lord of the armies” (Ps. 46:7, 11). He is the Creator of all things (96:5) and knows what is going on in His creation. His eyes can see our plight, and His ears can hear our plea (see Ps. 115). King Hezekiah did not want deliverance merely for his people’s sake, but that God alone might be glorified (Isa. 37:20; Ps. 46:10).
Reply (Isa. 37:21–35). God’s response to this prayer was to send King Hezekiah another threefold message of assurance: Jerusalem would not be taken (vv. 22, 31–35); the Assyrians would depart (vv. 23–29); and the Jews would not starve (v. 30).
(1) Jerusalem would be delivered (vv. 22, 31–35). The “daughter of Zion” was still a virgin; she had not been ravaged by the enemy. She could look at the Assyrians and shake her head in scorn, for they could not touch her. God would spare His remnant and plant them once more in the land.
Why did God deliver His people when so many of them were not faithful to Him? First, to glorify His own name (vv. 23, 35), the very thing about which Hezekiah had prayed (v. 20). God defended Jerusalem for His name’s sake, because Sennacherib had reproached the Holy One of Israel. The Assyrians had exalted themselves above men and gods, but they could not exalt themselves above Jehovah God, the Holy One of Israel!
God also saved Jerusalem because of His covenant with David (v. 35; 2 Sam. 7). Jerusalem was the city of David, and God had promised that one of David’s descendants would reign on the throne forever. This was fulfilled ultimately in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32–33), but God did keep David’s lamp burning in Jerusalem as long as He could (1 Kings 11:13, 36).
The Jewish nation had an important mission to fulfill in bringing the Savior into the world; and no human army could thwart the purposes of Almighty God. Even though only a remnant of Jews might remain, God would use His people to accomplish His divine purposes and fulfill His promise to Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:1–3).
(2) The Assyrians would depart (vv. 23–29). God addressed the proud Assyrian king and reminded him of all the boastful words he and his servants had spoken. “I” and “my” occur seven times in this passage. It reminds us of Lucifer’s words in 14:12–17 and our Lord’s parable in Luke 12:13–21. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, NKJV).
Sennacherib boasted of his military might and his great conquests, for no obstacle stood in his way. If he so desired, like a god, he could even dry up the rivers! But the king of Assyria forgot that he was only God’s tool for accomplishing His purposes on the earth, and the tool must not boast against the Maker (Isa. 10:5–19). God would humble Sennacherib and his army by treating them like cattle and leading them away from Jerusalem (37:7, 29).
(3) The people would not starve (v. 30). We do not know the month in which these events occurred, but it may have been past the time for sowing a new crop. Before the people could get the land back to its normal productivity, they would have to eat what grew of itself from previous crops; and that would take faith. They would also need to renovate their farms after all the damage the Assyrians had done. But the same God who delivered them would provide for them. It would be like the years before and after the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:1–24).
Some Bible scholars believe that Psalm 126 was written to commemorate Jerusalem’s deliverance from the Assyrian army. The psalm surely is not referring to the Jews’ deliverance from Babylonian Captivity, because that was not a sudden event that surprised both Jews and Gentiles, nor did the Gentiles praise Jehovah for delivering Israel from Babylon. Psalm 126 fits best with the events described in Isaiah 36 and 37.
The harvest promise in verse 30 parallels Psalm 126:5–6. The seed would certainly be precious in those days! That grain could be used for making bread for the family, but the father must use it for seed; so it is no wonder he weeps. Yet God promised a harvest, and He kept His promise. The people did not starve.
Retaliation (Isa. 37:36–38). The field commander had joked that one Assyrian junior officer was stronger than 2,000 Jewish charioteers (36:8–9), but it took only one of God’s angels to destroy 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! (See Ex. 12:12 and 2 Sam. 24:15–17.) Isaiah had prophesied the destruction of the Assyrian army. God would mow them down like a forest (Isa. 10:33–34), devastate them with a storm (30:27–30), and throw them into the fire like garbage on the city dump (vv. 31–33).
But that was not all. After Sennacherib left Judah, a defeated man, he returned to his capital city of Nineveh. Twenty years later, as a result of a power struggle among his sons, Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (37:7); and it happened in the temple of his god! The field commander had ridiculed the gods of the nations, but Sennacherib’s own god could not protect him.
2. The illness crisis (Isa. 38:1–22; 2 Kings 20:1–11)

Peril (Isa. 38:1). As mentioned before, this event took place before the Assyrian invasion, though the invasion was impending (see v. 6). When the president or prime minister of a country is sick or injured, it affects everything from the stock market to the news coverage. Imagine how the people of Judah reacted when they heard that the king was going to die—and Assyria was on the march! If their godly leader died, who would govern them?
But there was even more involved. Apparently, Hezekiah did not have a son and therefore would have to appoint a near relative to take the throne of David. Would God’s promise to David fail? (2 Sam. 7:16) And why would it fail at a time of national calamity?
Prayer (Isa. 38:2–3). The king did not turn to the wall in a sulking manner, like Ahab (1 Kings 21:4), but in order to have privacy for his praying. It may be too that he was turning his face toward the temple (8:28–30). Some have criticized Hezekiah for weeping and praying, saying that his prayer was selfish; but most of us would have prayed the same way. It is a natural thing for us to want to live and continue serving God. Furthermore, Hezekiah was burdened for the future of the throne and the nation.
Hezekiah did not ask God to spare him because he had been such a faithful servant (Isa. 38:3). That would be a subtle form of bribery. Rather, he asked God to spare him so he could continue to serve and complete the spiritual restoration of the nation. Certainly he was concerned about his own life, as any of us would be; but he also had a burden for his people.
Promise (Isa. 38:4–8). The request was granted quickly, for Isaiah had not gone very far from the sick room when the Lord gave him the answer (2 Kings 20:4). The prophet became the king’s physician and told the attendants what medicine to apply (Isa. 38:21). God can heal by using any means He desires. Isaiah also told the king that his life would be prolonged for fifteen years. The king asked confirmation of the promise (v. 22), and God gave him a sign. The sundial was probably a pillar whose shadow marked the hours on a double set of stairs. In another promise, Isaiah assured the king that the Assyrians would not capture Jerusalem.
Pondering (Isa. 38:9–20). Hezekiah was an author of psalms (v. 20) and supervised a group of scholars who copied the Old Testament Scriptures (Prov. 25:1). In this beautiful meditation, the king tells us how he felt during his experience of illness and recovery. He had some new experiences that made him a better person.
For one thing, God gave him a new appreciation of life (Isa. 38:9–12). We take life for granted till it is about to be taken from us, and then we cling to it as long as we can. Hezekiah pictured death as the end of a journey (vv. 11–12), a tent taken down (v. 12a; and see 2 Cor. 5:1–8), and a weaving cut from the loom (Isa. 38:12b). Life was hanging by a thread!
He also had a new appreciation of prayer (vv. 13–14). Were it not for prayer, Hezekiah could not have made it. At night, the king felt like a frail animal being attacked by a fierce lion; and in the daytime, he felt like a helpless bird. During this time of suffering, Hezekiah examined his own heart and confessed his sins; and God forgave him (v. 17). “Undertake for me” means “Be my surety. Stand with me!”
The king ended with a new appreciation of opportunities for service (vv. 15–20). There was a new humility in his walk, a deeper love for the Lord in his heart, and a new song of praise on his lips. He had a new determination to praise God all the days of his life, for now those days were very important to him. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
There are some students who feel that Hezekiah was wrong in asking God to spare his life. Three years later, his son Manasseh was born (2 Kings 21:1); and he reigned for fifty-five years, the most wicked king in the entire dynasty! Had Hezekiah died without an heir, this would not have happened. But we have no guarantee that any other successor would have been any better; and Manasseh’s grandson was godly King Josiah, who did much to bring the nation back to the Lord. Manasseh did repent after God chastened him, and he ended his years serving the Lord (2 Chron. 33:11–20). It is unwise for us to second guess God or history.
3. The investigation crisis (Isa. 39:1–8)

The news about Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery had spread widely so that even people in Babylon knew about it (2 Chron. 32:23). Hezekiah was a famous man, and other nations would be concerned about him and want to court his favor. The stability of Judah was important to the balance of power in that day. At this time, Babylon was not a great world power; and few people would have thought that Assyria would one day collapse and be replaced by Babylon. Of course, God knew, but Hezekiah did not seek His guidance.
The stated reason for the diplomatic mission was to honor Hezekiah and officially rejoice at his recovery. But the real reason was to obtain information about the financial resources of the nation of Judah. After all, Babylon might need some of that wealth in their future negotiations or battles. It is also likely that Hezekiah was seeking Babylon’s assistance against Assyria.
When Satan cannot defeat us as the “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8–9), he comes as the deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). What Assyria could not do with weapons, Babylon did with gifts. God permitted the enemy to test Hezekiah so that the proud king might learn what was really in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31).
It was certainly a mistake for Hezekiah to show his visitors all his wealth, but pride made him do it. After a time of severe suffering, sometimes it feels so good just to feel good that we get off guard and fail to watch and pray. The king was basking in fame and wealth and apparently neglecting his spiritual life. Hezekiah was safer as a sick man in bed than as a healthy man on the throne. Had he consulted first with Isaiah, the king would have avoided blundering as he did.
The prophet reminded Hezekiah that, as king, he was only the steward of Judah’s wealth and not the owner (Isa. 39:6). Some of that wealth had come from previous kings, and Hezekiah could claim no credit for it. All of us are mere stewards of what God has given to us, and we have no right to boast about anything. “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7, NKJV) “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27, NKJV).
Isaiah 39:7 is Isaiah’s first explicit announcement of the future Babylonian Captivity of Judah. In spite of Hezekiah’s reforms, the nation decayed spiritually during the next century; and in 586 B.C., Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took the people captive. Hezekiah’s sin was not the cause of this judgment, for the sins of rulers, priests, and false prophets mounted up from year to year till God could take it no longer (2 Chron. 36:13–16).
Is Hezekiah’s response in Isaiah 39:8 an expression of relief that he has escaped trouble? If so, it would certainly be heartless on his part to rejoice that future generations would suffer what he should have suffered! His statement is more likely an expression of his humble acceptance of God’s will, and 2 Chronicles 32:26 bears this out. The king did humble himself before God, and God forgave him.
Even the greatest and most godly of the Lord’s servants can become proud and disobey God, so we must pray for Christian leaders that they will stay humble before their Master. But if any of His servants do sin, the Lord is willing to forgive when they sincerely repent and confess to Him (1 John 1:9). “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).


ISAIAH 40–66
The Book of Isaiah can be called “a Bible in miniature.” There are sixty-six chapters in Isaiah and sixty-six books in the Bible. The thirty-nine chapters of the first part of Isaiah may be compared to the Old Testament with its thirty-nine books, and both focus primarily on God’s judgment of sin. The twenty-seven chapters of the second part may be seen to parallel the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and both emphasize the grace of God.
The “New Testament” section of Isaiah opens with the ministry of John the Baptist (40:3–5; Mark 1:1–4) and closes with the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22); and in between, there are many references to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and King. Of course, the chapter divisions in Isaiah are not a part of the original inspired text, but the comparison is still interesting.
In the “New Testament” section of Isaiah, the prophet is particularly addressing a future generation of Jews. In chapters 1–39, his audience was his own generation; and his primary message was that God would defend Jerusalem and defeat the Assyrian invaders. But in chapters 40–66, the prophet looks far ahead and sees Babylon destroying Jerusalem and the Jews going into Captivity. (This happened in 586 B.C.) But he also saw God forgiving His people, delivering them from Captivity, and taking them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and restore the nation.
The primary world figure in Isaiah 1–39 is Sennacherib, king of Assyria; but in chapters 40–66, the world leader is Cyrus, king of Persia. It was Cyrus who defeated the Babylonians, and in 541 B.C. issued the decree that permitted the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the city and the temple (Ezra 1:1–4). When Isaiah wrote these messages, Babylon was not yet a great world power; but the prophet was inspired by God to see the course the international scene would take.
Chapters 40–66 may be divided into three parts, (40–48; 49–57; and 58–66), with the same statement separating the first two sections: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (48:22; 57:21). Chapters 40–48 emphasize the greatness of God the Father in contrast to the vanity of the heathen idols. Chapters 49–57 extol the graciousness of God the Son, the Suffering Servant; and chapters 58–66 describe the glory of God in the future kingdom, and the emphasis is on the work of the Holy Spirit (59:19, 21; 61:1ff; 63:10–11, 14). Thus, there seems to be a trinitarian structure to these chapters.
The heart of Isaiah 40–66 is chapters 49–57, in which Isaiah exalts the Messiah, God’s Suffering Servant; and the heart of chapters 49–57 is 52:13–53:12, the description of the Savior’s substitutionary death for the sins of the world. This is the fourth of the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah; the others are 42:1–7; 49:1–6; and 50:1–11. So at the heart of the “New Testament” section of Isaiah’s book is our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. No wonder Isaiah has been called “the evangelical prophet.”
The Jewish rabbis have called Isaiah 40–66 “The Book of Consolation,” and they are right. Isaiah sought to comfort the Jewish remnant in Babylon, after their difficult years of Captivity, and to assure them that God was with them and would take them safely home. Along with words of consolation, the prophet also revealed the Messiah, God’s Suffering Servant, and described the future regathering of Israel and the kingdom God had promised them. Isaiah saw in Israel’s restoration from Babylon a preview of what God would do for them at the end of the age, after the “Day of the Lord” and the destruction of the world’s last “Babylon” (Rev. 17–19). So as you study Isaiah 40–66, keep in mind that it was originally addressed to a group of discouraged Jewish refugees who faced a long journey home and a difficult task when they got there. Note how often God says to them, “Fear not!” and how frequently He assures them of His pardon and His presence. It is no surprise that God’s people for centuries have turned to these chapters to find assurance and encouragement in the difficult days of life; for in these messages, God says to all of His people, “Be comforted!”


ISAIAH 40–48

How Great Thou Art!
In your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society but upward to the Great Society.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke those words at the University of Michigan on May 22, 1964. Reading them nearly three decades later, I asked myself, “I wonder how the Jewish captives in Babylon would have responded to what the President said?”
A rich society? They were refugees whose land and holy city were in ruins.
A powerful society? Without king or army, they were weak and helpless before the nations around them.
A great society? They had been guilty of great rebellion against God and had suffered great humiliation and chastening. They faced a great challenge but lacked great human resources.
That is why the prophet told them to get their eyes off themselves and look by faith to the great God who loved them and promised to do great things for them. “Be not afraid!” he admonished them. “Behold your God!” (40:9)
Years ago, one of my radio listeners sent me a motto that has often encouraged me: “Look at others, and be distressed. Look at yourself, and be depressed. Look to God, and you’ll be blessed!” This may not be a great piece of literature, but it certainly contains great practical theology. When the outlook is bleak, we need the uplook. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things … for He is strong in power” (v. 26).
When, like Israel of old, you face a difficult task and an impossible tomorrow, do what they did and remind yourself of the greatness of God. In these eight chapters, the prophet describes the greatness of God in three different areas of life.
1. God is greater than our circumstances (Isa. 40:1–31)

The circumstances behind us (Isa. 40:1–11). As the remnant in Babylon looked back, they saw failure and sin; and they needed encouragement. Four voices are heard, each of them with a special message for these needy people.
(1) The voice of pardon (vv. 1–2). The nation had sinned greatly against the Lord, with their idolatry, injustice, immorality, and insensitivity to His messengers (Jer. 7). But they were still His people, and He loved them. Though He would chasten them, He would not forsake them. “Speak tenderly” means “speak to the heart,” and “warfare” means “severe trials.” “Double” does not suggest that God’s chastenings are unfair, for He is merciful even in His punishments (Ezra 9:13). God chastened them in an equivalent measure to what they had done (Jer. 16:18). We should not sin; but if we do, God is waiting to pardon (1 John 1:5–2:2).
(2) The voice of providence (vv. 3–5). The Jews had a rough road ahead of them as they returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, but the Lord would go before them to open the way. The picture here is of an ambassador repairing the roads and removing obstacles, preparing the way for the coming of a king. The image of the highway is frequent in Isaiah’s prophecy (see 11:16). Of course, the ultimate fulfillment here is in the ministry of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus (Matt. 3:1–6). Spiritually speaking, Israel was in the wilderness when Jesus came; but when He came, God’s glory came (John 1:14). The way back may not be easy; but if we are trusting God, it will be easier.
(3) The voice of promise (vv. 6–8). “All flesh is grass!” Assyria was gone, and now Babylon was gone. Like the grass, nations and their leaders fulfill their purposes and then fade away, but the Word of God abides forever (Pss. 37:1–2; 90:1–6; 103:15–18; 1 Peter 1:24–25.) As they began their long journey home, Israel could depend on God’s promises. Perhaps they were especially claiming 2 Chronicles 6:36–39.
(4) The voice of peace (vv. 9–11). Now the nation itself comes out of the valley and climbs the mountaintop to declare God’s victory over the enemy. To “bring good tidings” means “to preach the Good News.” The good news in that day was the defeat of Babylon and the release of the captive Jews (52:7–9). The Good News today is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ and the salvation of all who will trust in Him (61:1–3; Luke 4:18–19). God’s arm is a mighty arm for winning the battle (Isa. 40:10), but it is also a loving arm for carrying His weary lambs (v. 11). “We are coming home!” would certainly be good news to the devastated cities of Judah (1:7; 36:1; 37:26).
The circumstances before us (Isa. 40:12–26). The Jews were few in number, only a remnant, and facing a long and difficult journey. The victories of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia made it look as though the false gods of the Gentiles were stronger than the God of Israel; but Isaiah reminded them of the greatness of Jehovah. When you behold the greatness of God, then you will see everything else in life in its proper perspective.
God is greater than anything on earth (vv. 12–20) or anything in heaven (vv. 21–26). Creation shows His wisdom, power, and immensity. He is greater than the nations and their gods. He founded the earth and sits on the throne of heaven, and nothing is equal to our God, let alone greater than our God. The next time you are tempted to think that the world is bigger than God, remember the “drop of a bucket” (v. 15) and the “grasshoppers” (v. 22; see Num. 13:33). And if you ever feel so small that you wonder if God really cares about you personally, remember that He knows the name of every star (Isa. 40:26) and your name as well! (See John 10:3, 27.) The same God who numbers and names the stars can heal your broken heart (Ps. 147:3–4).
Someone has defined “circumstances” as “those nasty things you see when you get your eyes off of God.” If you look at God through your circumstances, He will seem small and very far away; but if by faith you look at your circumstances through God, He will draw very near and reveal His greatness to you.
The circumstances within us (Isa. 40:27–31). Instead of praising the Lord, the nation was complaining to Him that He acted as though He did not know their situation or have any concern for their problems (v. 27; 49:14). Instead of seeing the open door, the Jews saw only the long road before them; and they complained that they did not have strength for the journey. God was asking them to do the impossible.
But God knows how we feel and what we fear, and He is adequate to meet our every need. We can never obey God in our own strength, but we can always trust Him to provide the strength we need (Phil. 4:13). If we trust ourselves, we will faint and fall; but if we wait on the Lord by faith, we will receive strength for the journey. The word “wait” does not suggest that we sit around and do nothing. It means “to hope,” to look to God for all that we need (Isa. 26:3; 30:15). This involves meditating on His character and His promises, praying, and seeking to glorify Him.
The word “renew” means “to exchange,” as taking off old clothes and putting on new. We exchange our weakness for His power (2 Cor. 12:1–10). As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life. It is much harder to walk in the ordinary pressures of life than to fly like the eagle in a time of crisis.
“I can plod,” said William Carey, the father of modern missions. “That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The greatest heroes of faith are not always those who seem to be soaring; often it is they who are patiently plodding. As we wait on the Lord, He enables us not only to fly higher and run faster, but also to walk longer. Blessed are the plodders, for they eventually arrive at their destination!
2. God is greater than our fears (Isa. 41:1–44:28)

In this section of the book, the Lord seven times says “Fear not!” to His people (41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8); and He says “Fear not!” to us today. As the Jewish remnant faced the challenge of the long journey home and the difficult task of rebuilding, they could think of many causes for fear. But there was one big reason not to be afraid: The Lord was with them and would give them success.
God seeks to calm their fears by assuring them that He is going before them and working on their behalf. The Lord explains a wonderful truth: He has three servants in His employ who will accomplish His will: Cyrus, king of Persia (41:1–7); the nation of Israel (vv. 8–29; 43:1–44:27); and the Messiah (42:1–25).
God’s servant Cyrus (Isa. 41:1–7). God convenes the court and asks the nations to present their case against Him, if they can. At least seventeen times in his prophecy, Isaiah writes about “the islands” (KJV) or “the coastlands” (NIV), referring to the most distant places from the holy land (11:11; 24:15; 41:1, 5; 42:4, 10, 12). “Produce your cause,” He challenges these nations (41:21); “present your case” (NIV).
God is not afraid of the nations because He is greater than the nations (40:12–17); He controls their rise and fall. He announced that He would raise up a ruler named Cyrus, who would do His righteous work on earth by defeating other nations for the sake of His people Israel. Cyrus would be a shepherd (44:28), anointed by God (45:1), a ravenous bird that could not be stopped (46:11). “He treads on rulers as if they were mortar, as if he were a potter treading the clay” (41:25, NIV).
Isaiah called Cyrus by name over a century before he was born (590?–529); and while Isaiah nowhere calls Cyrus “God’s servant,” Cyrus did serve the Lord by fulfilling God’s purposes on earth. God handed the nations over to Cyrus and helped him conquer great kings (45:1–4). The enemy was blown away like chaff and dust because the eternal God was leading the army.
As Cyrus moved across the territory east and north of the holy land (41:25), the nations were afraid and turned to their idols for help. With keen satire, Isaiah describes various workmen helping each other manufacture a god who cannot help them! After all, when the God of heaven is in charge of the conquest, how can men or gods oppose Him?
Cyrus may have thought that he was accomplishing his own plans, but actually he was doing the pleasure of the Lord (44:28). By defeating Babylon, Cyrus made it possible for the Jewish captives to be released and allowed to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Ezra 1:1–4). “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build My city, and he shall let go My captives” (Isa. 45:13).
Sometimes we forget that God can use even unconverted world leaders for the good of His people and the progress of His work. He raised up Pharaoh in Egypt that He might demonstrate His power (Rom. 9:17), and He even used wicked Herod and cowardly Pontius Pilate to accomplish His plan in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:24–28). “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1, NKJV).
God’s servant Israel (Isa. 41:8–29; 43:1–44:28) The prophet presents four pictures to encourage the people. In contrast to the fear experienced by the Gentile nations is the confidence shown by Israel, God’s chosen servant (41:8–13), because God was working on their behalf. In spite of their past rebellion, Israel was not cast away by the Lord. The Jewish captives did not need to fear either Cyrus or Babylon, because Cyrus was working for God, and Babylon would be no more. As you read this paragraph, you sense God’s love for His people and His desire to encourage them to trust Him for the future.
The title “My servant” is an honorable one; it was given to great leaders like Moses (Num. 12:7), David (2 Sam. 3:18), the prophets (Jer. 7:25), and Messiah (Isa. 42:1). But is there any honor in being called a “worm”? (41:14–16) “Servant” defined what they were by God’s grace and calling, but “worm” described what they were in themselves. Imagine a worm getting teeth and threshing mountains into dust like chaff! As the nation marched ahead by faith, every mountain and hill would be made low (40:4); and the Lord would turn mountains into molehills!
From the pictures of a servant and a worm, Isaiah turned to the picture of a desert becoming a garden (41:17–20). The image reminds us of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness and God’s provision for their every need. Water and trees are important possessions in the East, and God will supply both to His people. Certainly Isaiah was also looking beyond the return from Babylon to the future kingdom when “the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the rose” (35:1).
The final picture is that of the courtroom (41:21–29). “Produce your cause!” means “Present your case!” God challenged the idols of the nations to prove that they were really gods. Did any of their predictions come true? What have they predicted about the future? Did they announce that Cyrus would appear on the scene or that Jerusalem would be restored? “No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you,” taunted the Lord (v. 26, NIV). Not only were the idols unable to make any valid predictions, but they were not even able to speak! The judgment of the court was correct: “See, they are all false! Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion” (v. 29, NIV).
The theme of “Israel God’s servant” is continued in Isaiah 43–44 with an emphasis on God the Redeemer of Israel (43:1–7). (Note also v. 14; 44:6, 22–24.) The word translated “redeem” or “Redeemer” is the Hebrew word for “a kinsman redeemer,” a near relative who could free family members and their property from bondage by paying their debts for them. (See Lev. 25:23–28 and the Book of Ruth.) God gave Egypt, Ethiopia (Cush), and Seba to Cyrus as a ransom payment to redeem Israel from Babylon, because Israel was so precious to Him. And He gave His own Son as a ransom for lost sinners (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6).
Israel is God’s servant in the world and also God’s witness to the world (Isa. 43:8–13). This is another courtroom scene where God challenges the idols. “Let them bring in their witnesses!” says the Judge; but, of course, the idols are helpless and speechless. Twice the Lord says to Israel, “You are My witnesses” (vv. 10, 12, NKJV), for it is in the history of Israel that God has revealed Himself to the world. Frederick the Great asked the Marquis D’Argens, “Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of God?” The Marquis replied, “Yes, your majesty, the Jews.”
Along with Israel’s new freedom and new witness, Isaiah writes about Israel’s new “exodus” (vv. 14–28). Just as God led His people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea (Ex. 12–15), so He will lead them out of Babylon and through the terrible wilderness to their home in the holy land. Just as He defeated Pharaoh’s army (14:28; 15:4), so He will defeat Israel’s enemies, and snuff them out “like a wick” (Isa. 43:17, NIV).
When God forgives and restores His people, He wants them to forget the failures of the past, witness for Him in the present, and claim His promises for the future (vv. 18–21). Why should we remember that which God has forgotten? (v. 25) He forgave them, not because they brought Him sacrifices—for they had no altar in Babylon—but purely because of His mercy and grace.
God chose Israel and redeemed them, but He also formed them for Himself (44:1–20). In this chapter, Isaiah contrasts God’s forming of Israel (vv. 1–8) and the Gentiles forming their own gods (vv. 9–20). “I have formed thee” is a special theme in chapters 43–44 (43:1, 7, 21; 44:2, 24). Because God formed them, chose them, and redeemed them, they had nothing to fear. He will pour water on the land and His Spirit on the people (59:21; Ezek. 34:26; Joel 2:28–29; John 7:37–39), and both will prosper to the glory of the Lord. The final fulfillment of this will be in the future Kingdom Age when Messiah reigns.
Isaiah 44:9–20 show the folly of idolatry and should be compared with Psalm 115. Those who defend idols and worship them are just like them: blind and ignorant and nothing. God made people in His own image, and now they are making gods in their own image! Part of the tree becomes a god, and the rest of the tree becomes fuel for the fire. The worshiper is “feeding on ashes” and deriving no benefit at all from the worship experience.
But God formed Israel (Isa. 44:21, 24), forgave His people their sins (v. 22; see 43:25), and is glorified in them (44:23). He speaks to His people and is faithful to keep His Word (v. 26). May we never take for granted the privilege we have of knowing and worshiping the true and living God!
God’s Servant Messiah (Isa. 42). Isaiah 42:1–7 is the first of four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah, referring to God’s Servant, the Messiah. The others are 49:1–6; 50:1–11; and 52:13–53:12. Contrast “Behold, they [the idols] are all vanity” (41:29) with “Behold My Servant” (42:1). Matthew 12:14–21 applies these words to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. He could have destroyed His enemies (the reed and flax), but He was patient and merciful. The Father delights in His Son, (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).
It is through the ministry of the Servant that God will accomplish His great plan of salvation for this world. God chose Him, God upheld Him, and God enabled Him to succeed in His mission. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, one day there will be a glorious kingdom; and God will “bring justice to the nations” (Isa. 42:1, NIV). Jesus Christ is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), and that includes the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6; Acts 13:47–48; Luke 1:79). Isaiah 42:7 refers to the nation’s deliverance from Babylon (29:18; 32:3; 35:5) as well as to the sinner’s deliverance from condemnation (61:1–3; Luke 4:18–19).
The closing section (Isa. 42:10–25) describes a singing nation (vv. 10–12), giving praise to the Lord, and a silent God who breaks that silence to become a shouting conqueror (vv. 13–17). God is long-suffering toward sinners; but when He begins to work, He wastes no time! The “servant” in verses 18–25 is Israel, blind to their own sins and deaf to God’s voice (6:9–10); yet the Lord graciously forgave them and led them out of bondage. Now God says to the Babylonians, “Send them back!” (42:22, NIV)
How sad it is when God disciplines us and we do not understand what He is doing or take it to heart (v. 25). Israel’s Captivity in Babylon cured the nation of their idolatry, but it did not create within them a desire to please God and glorify Him.
3. God is greater than our enemies (Isa. 45:1–48:22)

These chapters deal with the overthrow of Babylon, and one of the major themes is, “I am the Lord, and there is none else” (45:5–6, 14, 18, 21–22; 46:9). Jehovah again reveals Himself as the true and living God in contrast to the dumb and dead idols.
The conqueror described (Isa. 45:1–25). Just as prophets, priests, and kings were anointed for service, so Cyrus was anointed by God to perform his special service for Israel’s sake. In this sense, Cyrus was a “messiah,” an “anointed one.” God called him by name over a century before he was born! Cyrus was the human instrument for the conquest, but it was Jehovah God who gave the victories. Anyone who opposed Cyrus was arguing with God, and that was like the clay commanding the potter or the child ordering the parents (vv. 9–10). God raised up Cyrus to do His specific will (v. 13), and nothing would prevent him from succeeding.
Note the emphasis on salvation. The idols cannot save Babylon (v. 20), but God is the Savior of Israel (vv. 15, 17). He is “a just God and a Savior” (v. 21), and He offers salvation to the whole world (v. 22). It was this verse that brought the light of salvation to Charles Haddon Spurgeon when he was a youth seeking the Lord.
The false gods disgraced (Isa. 46:1–13). Bel was the Babylonian sun god, and Nebo was his son, the god of writing and learning. But both of them together could not stop Cyrus! As the Babylonians fled from the enemy, they had to carry their gods; but their gods went into captivity with the prisoners of war! God assures His people that He will carry them from the womb to the tomb. Verse 4 is the basis for a stanza for the familiar song “How Firm a Foundation” that is usually omitted from our hymnals:

E’en down to old age, all My people shall prove,
My sovereign, eternal unchangeable love;
And then when grey hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.
(Richard Keen)

How comforting it is to know that our God cares for us before we are born (Ps. 139:13–16), when we get old, and each moment in between!
The city destroyed (Isa. 47:1–15). Babylon, the proud queen, is now a humbled slave. “I will continue forever—the eternal queen!” she boasted (v. 7, NIV). But in a moment, the judgment for her sins caught up with her; and she became a widow. Neither her idols nor her occult practices (vv. 12–14) were able to warn her or prepare her for her destruction. But God knew that Babylon would fall, because He planned it ages ago! He called Cyrus, who swooped down on Babylon like a bird of prey. Babylon showed no mercy to the Jews, and God judged them accordingly.
The Jewish remnant delivered (Isa. 48:1–22). The Jews had become comfortable and complacent in their Captivity and did not want to leave. They had followed the counsel of Jeremiah (Jer. 29:4–7) and had houses, gardens, and families; and it would not be easy for them to pack up and go to the holy land. But that was where they belonged and where God had a work for them to do. God told them that they were hypocritical in using His name and identifying with His city but not obeying His will (Isa. 48:1–2). They were stubborn (v. 4) and were not excited about the new things God was doing for them.
Had they obeyed the Lord in the first place, they would have experienced peace and not war (vv. 18–19), but it was not too late. He had put them into the furnace to refine them and prepare them for their future work (v. 10). “Go forth from Babylon; flee from the Chaldeans!” was God’s command (v. 20; see Jer. 50:8; 51:6, 45; Rev. 18:4). God would go before them and prepare the way, and they had nothing to fear.
One would think that the Jews would have been eager to leave their “prison” and return to their land to see God do new and great things for them. They had grown accustomed to the security of bondage and had forgotten the challenges of freedom. The church today can easily grow complacent with its comfort and affluence. God may have to put us into the furnace to remind us that we are here to be servants and not consumers or spectators.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 92–120). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Be comforted, part 10, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

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ISAIAH 49:1–52:12

This Is God’s Servant
A plaque in a friend’s office reads: “The world is full of people who want to serve in an advisory capacity.”
But Jesus Christ did not come with good advice; He came with good news, the Good News that sinners can be forgiven and life can become excitingly new. The Gospel is good news to us, but it was “bad news” to the Son of God; for it meant that He would need to come to earth in human form and die on a cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.
These chapters present God’s Servant, Messiah, in three important relationships: to the Gentile nations (49:1–50:3), to His Father (50:4–11), and to His people Israel (51:1–52:12).
1. The Servant and the Gentiles (Isa. 49:1–50:3)

The Servant addresses the nations that did not know Israel’s God. The Gentiles were “far off,” and only God’s Servant could bring them near (Eph. 2:11–22). Christ confirmed God’s promises to the Jews and also extended God’s grace to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:8–12). In this message, God’s Servant explains His ministry as bringing light in the darkness (Isa. 49:1–7), liberty to the captives (vv. 8–13), and love and hope to the discouraged (49:14–50:3).
Light in the darkness (49:1–7). What right did God’s Servant have to address the Gentile nations with such authority? From before His birth, He was called by God to His ministry (Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15); and God prepared Him like a sharp sword and a polished arrow (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). Messiah came as both a Servant and a Warrior, serving those who trust Him and ultimately judging those who resist Him.
All of God’s servants should be like prepared weapons. “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus,” wrote Robert Murray McCheyne. “A holy minister [servant] is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”
The Jewish nation was called to glorify God and be a light to the Gentiles, but they failed in their mission. This is why Messiah is called “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3: He did the work that Israel was supposed to do. Today, the church is God’s light in this dark world (Acts 13:46–49; Matt. 5:14–16), and like Israel, we seem to be failing in our mission to take the Good News to the ends of the earth. We cannot do the job very effectively when only 5 percent of the average local church budget is devoted to evangelism!
As Jesus Christ ministered on earth, especially to His own people Israel, there were times when His work seemed in vain (Isa. 49:4). The religious leaders opposed Him, the disciples did not always understand Him, and those He helped did not always thank Him. He lived and labored by faith, and God gave Him success.
Our Lord could not minister to the Gentiles until first He ministered to the Jews (vv. 5–6). Read carefully Matthew 10:5–6; 15:24; Luke 24:44–49; Acts 3:25–26; 13:46–47; and Romans 1:16. When our Lord returned to heaven, He left behind a believing remnant of Jews that carried on His work. We must never forget that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The Bible is a Jewish book, the first believers and missionaries were Jews, and the Gentiles would not have heard the Gospel had it not been brought to them by Jews. Messiah was despised by both Jews and Gentiles (Isa. 49:7), but He did God’s work and was glorified (Phil. 2:1–11).
Liberty to the captives (Isa. 49:8–13). Not only is God’s Servant the “new Israel,” but He is also the “new Moses” in setting His people free. Jesus Christ is God’s covenant (42:6), so we can be sure that God will keep His promises. Moses led the nation out of bondage in Egypt, and God will lead His people out of Captivity in Babylon. Joshua led the people into their land so they could claim their inheritance, and God will bring them back to their land “to reassign its desolate inheritances” (49:8, NIV).
How does this apply to the Gentiles? If God had not restored the people, the city, and the temple, He could not have fulfilled His promises concerning the Messiah. Had there been no Bethlehem, where would He have been born? Had there been no Nazareth, where would He have grown up? Had there been no Jerusalem and no temple, where would He have taught, suffered, and died? And He did this for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews.
Verses 10–12 look beyond the deliverance from Babylon in 536 B.C. toward the future glorious kingdom. The Lord will call the Jewish people from the ends of the earth and gather them again in their land (Isa. 14:1–3; 35:6; 40:11; 43:19).
Love and hope to the discouraged (Isa. 49:14–50:3). “The Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones” (49:13, NIV). So sing the people of God as they contemplate their future deliverance, but the people of the Captivity and those left in “the desolate inheritances” are not so happy. Instead of singing, they are complaining: “The Lord has forsaken me. And my Lord has forgotten me” (v. 14, NKJV).
The Lord assures them of His love by comparing Himself to a compassionate mother (vv. 14–23), a courageous warrior (vv. 24–26), and a constant lover (50:1–3).
(1) A compassionate mother (vv. 14–23). The Bible emphasizes the fatherhood of God, but there is also a “motherhood” side to God’s nature that we must not forget. God is compassionate and comforts us as a mother comforts her children (66:13). Isaiah pictures Israel as a nursing child, totally dependent on the Lord who will never forget them or forsake them. The high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and over his heart (Ex. 28:6–9), engraved on jewels; but God has engraved His children’s names on His hands. The word “engraved” means “to cut into,” signifying its permanence. God can never forget Zion or Zion’s children.
Zion seems like a forsaken and barren mother, but she will be so blessed of God that there will be no room for her children! They will be like beautiful bridal ornaments, not decrepit refugees from Captivity. Once again, the prophet looked ahead to the end of the age when the Gentiles will honor Jehovah and Israel, and kings and queens will be baby-sitters for Israel’s children!
(2) A courageous warrior (vv. 24–26). The Babylonians were fierce warriors, but the Lord would snatch Israel from their grasp. In His compassion, He would set the captives free and see to it that Babylon would never afflict them again. The fact that God permitted Babylon to conquer His people did not mean that God was weak or unconcerned. When the right time comes, He will set His people free. “They shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (v. 23).
(3) A constant lover (50:1–3). The image of Israel as the wife of Jehovah is found often in the prophets (54:4–5; 62:1–5; Jer. 2:1–3; 3:1–11; Hosea 2; Ezek. 16). Israel was “married” to Jehovah when they accepted the covenant at Sinai (Ex. 19–20), but they violated that covenant by “playing the harlot” and worshiping idols. But God did not forsake His people even though they had been unfaithful to Him.
The Mosaic permission for divorce is found in Deuteronomy 24:1–4 (see Matt. 19:1–12). The “certificate of divorce” declared that the former marriage was broken and that the woman was free to remarry. But it also prevented the woman from returning to her former husband. God had indeed “divorced” the Northern Kingdom and allowed it to be assimilated by the Assyrians (Jer. 3:8), so she could not return. But He had not “divorced” the Southern Kingdom; He had only permitted His unfaithful wife to suffer chastening at the hands of Babylon. He would forgive her and receive her back again.
The second picture in this paragraph is that of a poor family selling their children into servitude (2 Kings 4:1–7; Neh. 5:1–5). God had not sold His people; by their sins, they had sold themselves. God had called to them many times and tried to turn them back from their wicked ways, but they had refused to listen. Judah did not go into exile because of God’s weakness, but because of their own sinfulness.
How could the people say they were forgotten and forsaken, when the Lord is a compassionate mother, a courageous warrior, and a constant lover? He is faithful to His Word even when we are unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:11–13). He is faithful to chasten when we rebel (Heb. 12:1–11), but He is also faithful to forgive when we repent and confess (1 John 1:9).
The Servant’s message to the Gentiles was one of hope and blessing. He would deal with His people so that they, in turn, could bring God’s blessing to the Gentiles.
2. The Servant and the Lord God (Isa. 50:4–11)

In the first two “Servant Songs” (42:1–7; 49:1–7), you find hints of opposition to Messiah’s ministry; but in this third Song, His suffering is vividly described. When we get to the fourth Song (52:12–53:12), we will be told not only how He suffered, but why His suffering is necessary.
Note that four times in this passage the Servant uses the name “Lord God.” “Jehovah Adonai” can be translated “Sovereign Lord,” and you will find this title nowhere else in the “Servant Songs.” According to Robert B. Girdlestone, the name “Jehovah Adonai” means that “God is the owner of each member of the human family, and that He consequently claims the unrestricted obedience of all” (Synonyms of the Old Testament; Eerdmans, 1951; p. 34). So the emphasis here is on the Servant’s submission to the Lord God in every area of His life and service.
His mind was submitted to the Lord God so that He could learn His Word and His will (50:4). Everything Jesus said and did was taught to Him by His Father (John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:28). He prayed to the Father for guidance (John 11:42; Mark 1:35) and meditated on the Word. What God taught the Servant, the Servant shared with those who needed encouragement and help. The Servant sets a good example here for all who know the importance of a daily “quiet time” with the Lord.
The Servant’s will was also yielded to the Lord God. An “opened ear” is one that hears and obeys the voice of the master. The people to whom Isaiah ministered were neither “willing” nor “obedient” (Isa. 1:19), but the Servant did gladly the will of the Lord God. This was not easy, for it meant yielding His body to wicked men who mocked Him, whipped Him, spat on Him, and then nailed Him to a cross (Matt. 26:67; 27:26, 30).
The Servant did all of this by faith in the Lord God (Isa. 50:7–11). He was determined to do God’s will even if it meant going to a cross (Luke 9:51; John 18:1–11), for He knew that the Lord God would help Him. The Servant was falsely accused, but He knew that God would vindicate Him and eventually put His enemies to shame. Keep in mind that when Jesus Christ was ministering here on earth, He had to live by faith even as we must today. He did not use His divine powers selfishly for Himself but trusted God and depended on the power of the Spirit.
Verses 10–11 are addressed especially to the Jewish remnant, but they have an application to God’s people today. His faithful ones were perplexed at what God was doing, but He assured them that their faith would not go unrewarded. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. often said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light.” But the unbelieving ones who try to eliminate the darkness by lighting their own fires (i.e., following their own schemes) will end up in sorrow and suffering. In obedience to the Lord, you may find yourself in the darkness; but do not panic, for He will bring you the light you need just at the right time.
3. The Servant and Israel (Isa. 51:1–52:12)

This section contains several admonitions: “hearken to Me” (51:1, 4, 7); “awake, awake” (vv. 9, 17; 52:1–6); and “depart, depart” (vv. 7–12). Except for 51:9–16, which is a prayer addressed to the Lord, each of these admonitions is from God to His people in Babylon.
“Hearken to Me” (Isa. 51:1–8). These three admonitions are addressed to the faithful remnant in Israel, the people described in 50:10. In the first admonition (51:1–3), the Lord told them to look back and remember Abraham and Sarah, the progenitors of the Jewish nation (Gen. 12–25). God called them “alone,” but from these two elderly people came a nation as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars of the heaven (13:16; 15:5). The remnant leaving Babylon was small and weak, but God was able to increase them into a mighty nation and also turn their ravaged land into a paradise. “Be comforted!” God said to His people. “The best is yet to come!”
In the second command (Isa. 51:4–6), God told them to look ahead and realize that justice would come to the world and they would be vindicated by the Lord. Note the emphasis on the word “My”: My people, My nation, My justice, My righteousness, My arms, and My salvation. This is the grace of God, doing for His people what they did not deserve and what they could not do for themselves. The “arm of the Lord” is a key concept in Isaiah’s prophecy (30:30; 40:10; 51:5, 9; 52:10; 53:1; 59:16; 62:8; 63:5, 12). Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s righteousness and salvation will last forever. That righteousness will be displayed in a special way when Messiah returns and establishes His kingdom on earth.
The third admonition (51:7–8) focuses on looking within, where we find either fear or faith. Why should the nation fear men when God is on its side? “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid” (12:2). “Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread” (8:13). To have God’s law in your heart means to belong to Him and be saved (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 10:16). The moth and the worm shall destroy the enemy, but God’s salvation will endure. Moths and worms do not do their work conspicuously, but they work efficiently just the same. The seeds of destruction were already in the Babylonian Empire, and the leaders did not know it.
“Awake, awake” (Isa. 51:9–52:6). “Hearken to Me” was spoken to admonish the people, but “awake, awake” is for the arousing of the Lord (51:9–16) and of Jerusalem (vv. 17–23; 52:1–6).
The remnant in Babylon prayed as though God were asleep and needed to be awakened (Pss. 7:6; 44:23; 78:65–72). They wanted God to bare His arm as He did when He defeated Pharaoh and redeemed His people from Egyptian bondage. The return from Babylon was looked upon as another “exodus” (Isa. 43:16–17; 49:9–12), with God wholly in charge and the enemy completely defeated.
God replied to their prayer with words of comfort (51:12–16; see vv. 3 and 19). He reminded them again of the frailty of man (see 40:6–8) and the power of God the Creator (51:13). Why should they be afraid of grass when the God of the universe was on their side? Because they are His people, with whom He has deposited His Word, He will release them, protect them, and provide for them. They had an important task to perform and He would enable them to do it.
In the second “wake-up call,” the prophet speaks to the ruined city of Jerusalem (vv. 17–23) and pictures her as a mother in a drunken stupor with no children to help her. In the Bible, judgment is sometimes pictured as the drinking of a cup of wine (29:9; 63:6; Ps. 75:8; Jer. 25:15–16; Rev. 14:10). Jerusalem’s children had gone into Captivity, but now they would return and give their “mother” new hope and a new beginning. God will take the cup of judgment from the Jews and give it to their enemies. To put your foot on the neck of your enemies was a humiliating declaration of their defeat; but instead of Babylon “walking on” the Jews, the Jews would “walk on” the Babylonians!
The third “wake-up call” (Isa. 52:1–6) is also addressed to Jerusalem and is a command not only to wake up but to dress up! It is not enough for her to put off her stupor; (51:17–23) she must also put on her glorious garments. Babylon the “queen” would fall to the dust in shame (47:1), but Jerusalem would rise up from the dust and be enthroned as a queen! Egypt had enslaved God’s people, Assyria had oppressed them, and Babylon had taken them captive; but now that was ended. Of course, the ultimate fulfillment of this promise will occur when the Messiah returns, delivers Jerusalem from her enemies, and establishes Mt. Zion as the joy of all the earth (61:4–11).
The city of Jerusalem is called “the holy city” eight times in Scripture (Neh. 11:1, 18; Isa. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24; Matt. 4:5; 27:53; Rev. 11:2). It has been “set apart” by God for His exclusive purposes; but when His people refused to obey Him, He ordered it destroyed, first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans.
During the Captivity, God’s name was blasphemed because the enemy taunted the Jews and asked them why their great God did not deliver them (Pss. 115; 137). Paul quoted Isaiah 52:5 in Romans 2:24. But when the remnant is restored, they will know God’s name and seek to honor it.
“Depart, depart” (Isa. 52:7–12). The defeat of Babylon by Cyrus was certainly good news to the Jews because it meant freedom for the captives (40:9; 41:27). The Good News we share today is that Jesus Christ can set the prisoners free (Rom. 10:15). For decades, the remnant had suffered in a foreign country, without an altar or a priesthood; but now they would return to their land, rebuild their temple, and restore their God-given ministry.
It has well been said that “good news is for sharing,” and that is what happens in Jerusalem. The leaders (watchmen) take up the message and sing together to the glory of God (Isa. 44:23). But they not only hear what God has done; they also see it happening! The wilderness will join the song because the desolate cities and “waste places” will be transformed (51:3). The remnant prayed for God’s holy arm to work, and He answered their prayer (v. 9).
Isaiah likes to use repetition: “Comfort ye, comfort ye” (40:1); “awake, awake” (51:9, 17; 52:1); and now, “depart, depart” (52:11). It seems strange that God would have to urge His people to leave a place of captivity, but some of them had grown accustomed to Babylon and were reluctant to leave. The first group, about 50,000 people, left Babylon in 538 B.C. when Cyrus issued his decree. They were under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, and Jeshua the high priest (Ezra 1–2). They carried with them “the vessels of the Lord” (Isa. 52:11), the articles that were needed for the service in the temple. A second group of nearly 1,800 people led by Ezra, left in 458 B.C.
God commanded them to depart because Babylon was a condemned city (Jer. 50:8ff; 51:6, 45). He warned them not to linger but to get out quickly while they had the opportunity (Isa. 48:20). They did not have to flee like criminals, but there was no reason to tarry. He also cautioned them not to take any of Babylon’s uncleanness with them. “Touch no unclean thing” (52:11) would certainly include the whole Babylonian system of idolatry and occult practices that had helped to ruin the Jewish nation (47:11–15). Paul makes the application to believers today in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1.
God had a special word for the priests and Levites who were carrying the vessels of the temple: “Come out from it [Babylon] and be pure” (Isa. 52:11, NIV). This is a good command for all of God’s servants to obey. If we defile ourselves, we will also defile the work of the Lord. How tragic for a holy ministry to be a source of defilement to God’s people!
The prophet added a final word of encouragement: “The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (v. 12; see 58:8). This reminds us of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt when the Lord went before them (Ex. 13:21) and stood between them and the enemy (14:19–20). When God’s people obey God’s will, they can always count on God’s leading and protection.
Isaiah has prepared the way for the “heart” of God’s revelation of the Servant Messiah, the fourth Servant Song (52:13–53:12). We must prepare our hearts, for we are walking on holy ground.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 120–131). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Be comforted, part 11, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Logos gifELEVEN

ISAIAH 52:13–53:12

Climbing Mount Everest
These five matchless stanzas of the fourth Servant poem are the Mt. Everest of messianic prophecy.”
So wrote Old Testament scholar Dr. Kyle M. Yates over fifty years ago, and his words still stand. This passage is at the heart of chapters 49–57, and its message is at the heart of the Gospel. Like Mt. Everest, Isaiah 53 stands out in beauty and grandeur, but only because it reveals Jesus Christ and takes us to Mt. Calvary.
The messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 was held by Jewish rabbis till the twelfth century. After that, Jewish scholars started interpreting the passage as a description of the sufferings of the nation of Israel. But how could Israel die for the sins of Israel? (v. 8) And who declared that Israel was innocent of sin and therefore had suffered unjustly? (v. 9) No, the prophet wrote about an innocent individual, not a guilty nation. He made it crystal clear that this individual died for the sins of the guilty so that the guilty might go free.
The Servant that Isaiah describes is the Messiah; and the New Testament affirms that this Servant-Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God (Matt. 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:27–40; 1 Peter 2:21–24). Isaiah 53 is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament more frequently than any other Old Testament chapter. The index of quotations in the appendix of my Greek New Testament gives at least forty-one different citations, and this may not be all of them.
The fifteen verses that comprise the fourth Servant Song fall into five stanzas of three verses each, and each of these stanzas reveals an important truth about the Servant and what He accomplished for us.
1. Exaltation: the shocking Servant (Isa. 52:13–15)

His people did not admire or desire the Servant (53:2–3); and yet, when it was all over, He shocked and astonished kings! If we take these verses in their chronological order, we see that people were shocked by His appearance (52:14), His exaltation (v. 13), and His message (v. 15). We have here our Lord’s suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension, and the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel.
Startled at the Servant’s appearance (Isa. 52:14). “They shall see My Servant beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know it was a person standing there” (TLB). “So disfigured did He look that He seemed no longer human” (JB). When you consider all that Jesus endured physically between the time of His arrest and His crucifixion, it is no wonder He no longer looked like a man. Not only were His legal rights taken from Him, including the right of a fair trial, but His human rights were taken from Him, so that He was not even treated like a person, let alone a Jewish citizen.
When He was questioned before Annas, Jesus was slapped by an officer (John 18:22). At the hearing before Caiaphas, He was spat upon, slapped, and beaten on the head with fists (Matt. 26:67; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63). Pilate scourged Him (John 19:1; Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15), and his soldiers beat Him (John 19:3). Scourging was so terrible that prisoners were known to die from the ordeal. “I gave My back to the smiters,” said God’s Servant, “and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50:6). And they were doing this to the very Son of God!
The graphic account of His suffering that is given in some sermons is not found in Scripture, except perhaps in Psalm 22. The Gospel writers give us the facts but not the details. Suffice it to say that when the sinners were finished with the Savior, He did not look human; and people were so appalled, they turned their faces away. What was done to Jesus should have been done to Barabbas—and to us.
Startled at the Servant’s exaltation (Isa. 52:13). The Servant suffered and died, but He did not remain dead. He was “exalted and extolled, and [made] very high.” The phrase “deal prudently” means “to be successful in one’s endeavor.” What looked to men like a humiliating defeat was in the eyes of God a great victory (Col. 2:15). “I have glorified Thee on the earth,” He told His Father; “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4).
Jesus was not only raised from the dead, but His body was glorified. He ascended to heaven where He sat at the right hand of the Father. He has all authority (Matt. 28:18) because all things have been put under His feet (Eph. 1:20–23). There is no one in the universe higher than Jesus. What an astonishment to those who esteemed Him the lowest of the low. (See Phil. 2:1–11.)
Startled at the Servant’s message (Isa. 52:15). The people whose mouths dropped open with astonishment at His humiliation and exaltation will shut their mouths in guilt when they hear His proclamation. Paul interprets this as the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentile nations (Rom. 15:20–21). “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (3:19).
Many people have been tortured and killed in an inhumane way, but knowing about their suffering does not touch our conscience, though it might arouse our sympathy. Our Lord’s sufferings and death were different, because they involved everybody in the world. The Gospel message is not “Christ died,” for that is only a fact in history, like “Napoleon died.” The Gospel message is that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:1–4, italics mine). You and I are as guilty of Christ’s death as Annas, Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pilate.
Now we see why people are astonished when they understand the message of the Gospel: This Man whom they condemned has declared that they are condemned unless they turn from sin and trust Him. You cannot rejoice in the Good News of salvation until first you face the bad news of condemnation. Jesus did not suffer and die because He was guilty, but because we were guilty. People are astonished at this fact; it shuts their mouths.
The word translated “sprinkle” in Isaiah 52:15 can be translated “startle,” but most likely it refers to the ceremonial cleansing that was an important part of the Mosaic sacrificial system (Lev. 14:1–7, 16; 16:14–15; Num. 8:7). While the sprinkling of blood, water, and oil did not take away sins, it did make the recipient ceremonially clean and accepted before God. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, we can tell all the nations that forgiveness and redemption are offered free to all who will receive Him (1 Peter 1:1–2).
2. Humiliation: the sorrowing Servant (Isa. 53:1–3)

Isaiah 53 describes the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (vv. 1–4), His death (vv. 5–8) and burial (v. 9), and His resurrection and exaltation (vv. 10–12). The theme that ties the chapter together is that the innocent Servant died in the place of the guilty. When theologians speak about “the vicarious atonement,” that is what they mean. We cannot explain everything about the cross, but this much seems clear: Jesus took the place of guilty sinners and paid the price for their salvation.
There is quite a contrast between “the arm of the Lord,” which speaks of mighty power, and “a root out of a dry ground,” which is an image of humiliation and weakness. When God made the universe, He used His fingers (Ps. 8:3); and when He delivered Israel from Egypt, it was by His strong hand (Ex. 13:3). But to save lost sinners, He had to bare His mighty arm! Yet people still refuse to believe this great demonstration of God’s power (Rom. 1:16; John 12:37–40).
The Servant is God, and yet He becomes human and grows up! The Child is born—that is His humanity; the Son is given—that is His deity (Isa. 9:6). In writing about Israel’s future, Isaiah has already used the image of a tree: Messiah is the Branch of the Lord (4:2); the remnant is like the stumps of trees chopped down (6:13); the proud nations will be hewn down like trees, but out of David’s seemingly dead stump, the “rod of Jesse” will come (10:33–11:1). Because Jesus Christ is God, He is the “root of David”; but because He is man, He is the “offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16).
Israel was not a paradise when Jesus was born; politically and spiritually, it was a wilderness of dry ground. He did not come as a great tree but as a “tender plant.” He was born in poverty in Bethlehem and grew up in a carpenter’s shop in despised Nazareth (John 1:43–46). Because of His words and works, Jesus attracted great crowds; but nothing about His physical appearance made Him different from any other Jewish man. While few people deliberately try to be unattractive, modern society has made a religion out of physical beauty. It is good to remember that Jesus succeeded without it.
Once they understood what He demanded of them, how did most people treat the Servant? The way they treated any other slave: They despised Him, put a cheap price on Him (thirty pieces of silver), and “looked the other way when He went by” (Isa. 53:3, TLB). They were ashamed of Him because He did not represent the things that were important to them, things like wealth (Luke 16:14), social prestige (14:7–14; 15:1–2), reputation (18:9–14), being served by others (22:24–27), and pampering yourself (Matt. 16:21–28). He is rejected today for the same reasons.
3. Expiation: the smitten Servant (Isa. 53:4–6)

This is the heart of the passage, and it presents the heart of the Gospel message: the innocent Servant dying as the sacrifice for sin. This message was at the heart of Israel’s religious system, the innocent animal sacrifice dying for the guilty sinner (Lev. 16).
Jesus bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), but He also identified with the consequences of Adam’s sin when He ministered to needy people. Matthew 8:14–17 applies Isaiah 53:4 to our Lord’s healing ministry and not to His atoning death. Every blessing we have in the Christian life comes because of the cross, but this verse does not teach that there is “healing in the atonement” and that every believer therefore has the “right” to be healed. The prophecy was fulfilled during our Lord’s life, not His death.
The emphasis in verses 4–6 is on the plural pronouns: our griefs and sorrows, our iniquities, our transgressions. We have gone astray, we have turned to our own way. He did not die because of anything He had done but because of what we had done.
He was “wounded,” which means “pierced through.” His hands and feet were pierced by nails (Ps. 22:16; Luke 24:39–40) and His side by a spear (John 19:31–37; Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7). He was crucified, which was not a Jewish form of execution (John 12:32–33; 18:31–32). Capital punishment to the Jews meant stoning (Lev. 24:14; Num. 15:35–36). If they wanted to further humiliate the victim, they could publicly expose the corpse (Deut. 21:22–23), a practice that Peter related to the Crucifixion (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1 Peter 2:24).
On the cross, Jesus Christ was “bruised,” which means “crushed under the weight of a burden.” What was the burden? “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6; see v. 12; 1:4). Sin is indeed a burden that grows heavier the longer we resist God (Ps. 38:4).
He was “chastised” and given many “stripes,” and yet that punishment brought us peace and healing. The only way a lawbreaker can be at peace with the law is to suffer the punishment that the law demands. Jesus kept the Law perfectly, yet He suffered the whipping that belonged to us. Because He took our place, we now have peace with God and cannot be condemned by God’s law (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). The “healing” in Isaiah 53:5 refers to the forgiveness of sins, not the healing of the body (1 Peter 2:24; Ps. 103:3). Sin is not only like a burden, but it is also like a sickness that only God can cure (Isa. 1:4–6; Jer. 30:12; Nahum 3:19).
Sin is serious. The prophet calls it transgression, which means rebellion against God, daring to cross the line that God has drawn (Isa. 53:5, 8). He also calls it iniquity, which refers to the crookedness of our sinful nature (vv. 5–6). In other words, we are sinners by choice and by nature. Like sheep, we are born with a nature that prompts us to go astray; and, like sheep, we foolishly decide to go our own way. By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and by choice, we become children of disobedience (2:2). Under the Law of Moses, the sheep died for the shepherd; but under grace, the Good Shepherd died for the sheep (John 10:1–18).
4. Resignation: the silent Servant (Isa. 53:7–9)

A servant is not permitted to talk back; he or she must submit to the will of the master or mistress. Jesus Christ was silent before those who accused Him as well as those who afflicted Him. He was silent before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:62–63), the chief priests and elders (27:12), Pilate (27:14; John 19:9) and Herod Antipas (Luke 23:9). He did not speak when the soldiers mocked Him and beat Him (1 Peter 2:21–23). This is what impressed the Ethiopian treasurer as he read this passage in Isaiah (Acts 8:26–40).
Isaiah 53:7 speaks of His silence under suffering and verse 8 of His silence when illegally tried and condemned to death. In today’s courts, a person can be found guilty of terrible crimes; but if it can be proved that something in the trial was illegal, the case must be tried again. Everything about His trials was illegal, yet Jesus did not appeal for another trial. “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11)
The Servant is compared to a lamb (Isa. 53:7), which is one of the frequent symbols of the Savior in Scripture. A lamb died for each Jewish household at Passover (Ex. 12:1–13), and the Servant died for His people, the nation of Israel (Isa. 53:8). Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NKJV); and twenty-eight times in the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb.
Since Jesus Christ was crucified with criminals as a criminal, it was logical that His dead body would be left unburied, but God had other plans. The burial of Jesus Christ is as much a part of the Gospel as is His death (1 Cor. 15:1–5), for the burial is proof that He actually died. The Roman authorities would not have released the body to Joseph and Nicodemus if the victim were not dead (John 19:38–42; Mark 15:42–47). A wealthy man like Joseph would never carve out a tomb for himself so near to a place of execution, particularly when his home was miles away. He prepared it for Jesus and had the spices and graveclothes ready for the burial. How wonderfully God fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy!
5. Vindication: the satisfied Servant (Isa. 53:10–12)

The prophet now explains the Cross from God’s point of view. Even though Jesus was crucified by the hands of wicked men, His death was determined beforehand by God (Acts 2:22–23). Jesus was not a martyr, nor was His death an accident. He was God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world.
He did not remain dead! “He shall prolong His days” (Isa. 53:10) means that the Servant was resurrected to live forever. In His resurrection, He triumphed over every enemy and claimed the spoils of victory (Eph. 1:19–23; 4:8). Satan offered Christ a glorious kingdom in return for worship (Matt. 4:8–10), which would have meant bypassing the cross. Jesus was “obedient unto death,” and God “highly exalted Him” (Phil. 2:8–10).
Another part of His “reward” is found in the statement, “He shall see His seed [descendants]” (Isa. 53:10). To die childless was a grief and shame to the Jews, but Jesus gave birth to a spiritual family because of His travail on the cross (v. 11). Isaiah’s statement about his natural family (8:18) is quoted in Hebrews 2:13 and applied to Christ and His spiritual family.
The Servant’s work on the cross brought satisfaction (Isa. 53:11). To begin with, the Servant satisfied the heart of the Father. “I do always those things that please Him [the Father]” (John 8:29). The Heavenly Father did not find enjoyment in seeing His beloved Son suffer, for the Father is not pleased with the death of the wicked, let alone the death of the righteous Son of God. But the Father was pleased that His Son’s obedience accomplished the redemption that He had planned from eternity (1 Peter 1:20). “It is finished” (John 19:30).
The death of the Servant also satisfied the Law of God. The theological term for this is “propitiation” (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). In pagan religions, the word meant “to offer a sacrifice to placate an angry god”; but the Christian meaning is much richer. God is angry at sin because it offends His holiness and violates His holy Law. In His holiness, He must judge sinners; but in His love, He desires to forgive them. God cannot ignore sin or compromise with it, for that would be contrary to His own nature and Law.
How did God solve the problem? The Judge took the place of the criminals and met the just demands of His own holy Law! “He was numbered with the transgressors” and even prayed for them (Isa. 53:12; Luke 22:37; 23:33–34). The Law has been satisfied, and God can now graciously forgive all who will receive His Son.
Grace is love that has paid a price, and sinners are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8–10). Justice can only condemn the wicked and justify the righteous (1 Kings 8:32), but grace justifies the ungodly when they trust Jesus Christ! (Isa. 53:11; Rom. 4:5) To justify means “to declare righteous.” He took our sins that we might receive the gift of His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:17). Justification means that God declares believing sinners righteous in Christ and never again keeps a record of their sins. (See Ps. 32:1–2 and Rom. 4:1–8.)
On the morning of May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered Mt. Everest, the highest mountain peak in the world. Nobody has yet “conquered” Isaiah 53, for there are always new heights to reach. The important thing is to know personally God’s righteous Servant, Jesus Christ, whose conquest of sin is the subject of this chapter. “By His knowledge [i.e., knowing Him personally by faith] shall My righteous Servant justify many” (v. 11).
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV).
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 131–141). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.Logos gif

Be comforted, part 12, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz


ISAIAH 54–59

Promises and Punishments
The Servant obediently finished His work on earth; and today He is at work in heaven, interceding for God’s people (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). But what are the consequences of His sacrifice? What difference does it make that He endured all that suffering? To Israel, it means restoration (Isa. 54:1–17); to the Gentile nations, it means an invitation (55:1–56:8); and to rebellious sinners, it means an accusation (56:9–59:21), a warning from the Lord that they need to repent.
1. Restoration for Israel (Isa. 54:1–17)

The image in this chapter is that of Jehovah, the faithful husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, and restoring her to the place of blessing. Isaiah has used the marriage image before (50:1–3) and will use it again (62:4). Jeremiah also used it (Jer. 3:8), and it is an important theme in both Hosea (chap. 2) and Ezekiel (chaps. 16 and 23). The nation was “married” to Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, but she committed adultery by turning to other gods; and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, the prophets promise that Israel will be restored when Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom.
What kind of a restoration will it be? For one thing, it is a restoration to joy and therefore an occasion for singing (Isa. 54:1a). Isaiah is certainly the prophet of song; he mentions songs and singing more than thirty times in his book. The immediate occasion for this joy is the nation’s deliverance from Captivity, but the ultimate fulfillment is when the Redeemer comes to Zion and the nation is born anew (59:20).
It will also be a restoration to fruitfulness when the nation will increase and need more space (54:1b–3). The nation had been diminished because of the Babylonian invasion, but God would help them multiply again. At the end of this age, only a believing remnant will enter into the kingdom; but the Lord will enlarge the nation abundantly. Israel may feel like a barren woman, unable to have children; but she will increase to the glory of God. God will do for her what He did for Sarah and Abraham (49:18–21; 51:1–3). The tents will need to be enlarged, and the desolate cities will be inhabited again!
Paul quoted Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27 and applied the spiritual principle to the church: Even as God blessed Sarah and the Jewish remnant with children, so He would bless the church, though she is only a small company in the world. Paul was not equating Israel with the church or suggesting that the Old Testament promises to the Jews are now fulfilled in the church. If we claim the Old Testament Jewish prophecies for the church, then we must claim all of them, the judgments as well as the blessings; and most people do not want to do that!
Israel’s restoration to her land will also mean confidence (Isa. 54:4–10). Isaiah gives another one of his “fear not” promises (41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; 51:7; 54:14) and explains why there was no need for the nation to be afraid. To begin with, their sins were forgiven (v. 4). Why should they fear the future when God had wiped out the sins of the past? (43:25; 44:22) Yes, the people had sinned greatly against their God; but He forgave them, and this meant a new beginning (40:1–5). They could forget the shame of their sins as a young nation, as recorded in Judges and 1 Samuel, as well as the reproach of their “widowhood” in the Babylonian Captivity.
Another reason for confidence is the steadfast love of the Lord (54:5–6). Jehovah is their Maker and would not destroy the people He created for His glory. He is their Redeemer and cannot sell them into the hands of the enemy. He is their Husband and will not break His covenant promises. As an unfaithful wife, Israel had forsaken her Husband; but He had not permanently abandoned her. He only gave her opportunity to see what it was like to live in a land where people worshiped false gods. God would call her back and woo her to Himself (Hosea 2:14–23), and she would no longer be “a wife deserted” (Isa. 54:6, NIV). She felt forsaken (49:14), but God did not give her up.
A third reason for confidence is the dependable promise of God (54:7–10). God had to show His anger at their sin; but now the chastening was over, and they were returning to their land. (On God’s anger, see 9:12, 17, and 21.) “With great mercies will I gather thee,” He promised. “With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.”
Whenever we rebel against God and refuse to listen to His warnings, He must chasten us; and He does it in love (Heb. 12:1–11). Our Father cannot permit His children to sin and get away with it. But the purpose of His chastening is to bring us to repentance and enable us to produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). When God “spanks” His erring children, He may hurt them; but He never harms them. It is always for our good and His glory.
God kept His promise concerning the Flood (Gen. 9:11–17), and He will keep His promises to His people Israel. They can depend on His love, His covenant, and His mercy.
Not only will the captives be set free and the nation restored, but also the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt (Isa. 54:11–17). If the language here seems extravagant, keep in mind that the prophet sees both an immediate fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment (Rev. 21:18–21). The remnant rebuilt the temple and the city under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, Ezra the scribe, Nehemiah the wall-builder, and the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah. But the restored Jerusalem was nothing like what Isaiah describes here! For that beautiful city, we must wait till the return of the Lord and the establishing of His kingdom. Then every citizen of Jerusalem will know the Lord (Isa. 54:13), and the city will be free from terror and war (v. 14).
Our Lord quoted the first part of verse 13 in John 6:45. When you read the context, beginning at verse 34, you see that Jesus was speaking about people coming to the Father. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (v. 37, NKJV) does not mean that the Father forces sinners to be saved. People come to Him because they are “taught of God,” and the Spirit draws them through the Word. Personal evangelism won’t be needed in the New Jerusalem, for all the citizens will know the Lord.
2. Invitation to the Gentiles (Isa. 55:1–56:8)

The Servant died not only for the sins of Israel (53:8), but also for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29; 1 John 4:14). Isaiah makes it clear throughout his book that the Gentiles are included in God’s plan. What Isaiah and the other prophets did not know was that believing Jews and Gentiles would one day be united in Jesus Christ in the church (Eph. 3:1–12).
God gives a threefold invitation to the Gentiles: come (Isa. 55:1–5), seek (vv. 6–13), and worship (56:1–8).
Come (Isa. 55:1–5). The invitation is extended to “everyone” and not just to the Jews. Anyone who is thirsting for that which really satisfies (John 4:10–14) is welcome to come. As in Isaiah 25:6, the prophet pictures God’s blessings in terms of a great feast, where God is the host.
In the East, water is a precious ingredient; and an abundance of water is a special blessing (41:17; 44:3). Wine, milk, and bread were staples of their diet. The people were living on substitutes that did not nourish them. They needed “the real thing,” which only the Lord could give. In Scripture, both water and wine are pictures of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37–39; Eph. 5:18). Jesus is the “bread of life” (John 6:32–35), and His living Word is like milk (1 Peter 2:2). Our Lord probably had Isaiah 55:2 in mind when He said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27, NKJV).
People have to work hard to dig wells, care for flocks and herds, plant seed, and tend to the vineyards. But the Lord offered to them free everything they were laboring for. If they listen to His Word, they will be inclined to come; for God draws sinners to Himself through the Word (John 5:24). Note the emphasis on hearing in Isaiah 55:2–3.
“The sure mercies of David” involve God’s covenant with David (2 Sam. 7) in which He promised that a Descendant would reign on David’s throne forever. This, of course, is Jesus Christ (Luke 1:30–33); and the proof that He is God’s King is seen in His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:34–39). Jesus Christ is God’s covenant to the Gentiles (“peoples”), and His promises will stand as long as His Son lives, which is forever.
Isaiah 55:5 indicates that God will use Israel to call the Gentiles to salvation, which was certainly true in the early days of the church (Acts 10:1ff; 11:19ff; 13:1ff) and will be true during the kingdom (Isa. 2:2–4; 45:14; Zech. 8:22). Jerusalem will be the center for worship in the world, and God will be glorified as the nations meet together with Israel to honor the Lord.
Seek (Isa. 55:6–13). When God delivered His people from Babylon and took them safely back to their own land, it was a witness to the other nations. It also gave Israel another opportunity to be a light to the Gentiles (49:6) and bring them to faith in the true and living God. While it was important for Israel to seek the Lord and be wholly devoted to Him, it was also important that they share this invitation with the nations.
What is involved in “seeking the Lord”? For one thing, it means admitting that we are sinners and that we have offended the holy God. It means repenting (55:7), changing one’s mind about sin, and turning away from sin and to the Lord. We must turn to God in faith and believe His promise that in mercy He will abundantly pardon. Repentance and faith go together: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
But no one should delay in doing this! The phrase “while He may be found” suggests that, if we do not take His invitation seriously, the invitation may cease while we are delaying. In the Parable of the Great Supper, God closed the door on those who spurned His invitation (Luke 14:16–24; see Prov. 1:20–33). “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
It is not a mark of wisdom to try to “second guess” God, because His ways and thoughts are far beyond our comprehension (Isa. 55:8–9). We make God after our own image and conclude that He thinks and acts just as we do (Ps. 50:21), and we are wrong! Have you ever tried to explain the grace of God to an unsaved person who thinks that heaven is a “Hall of Fame” for achievers instead of the Father’s house for believers? In this world, you work for what you get; and you are suspicious of anything that is free.
How does God go about calling and saving lost sinners? By the power of His Word (Isa. 55:10–11). God’s Word is seed (Luke 8:11). Just as the rain and snow are never wasted but accomplish His purposes, so His Word never fails. “The Word of our God shall stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). We never know how God will use even a casual word of witness to plant and water the seed in somebody’s heart.
Isaiah 55:12–13 describes both the joy of the exiles on their release from Captivity and the joy of Israel when they share in that “glorious exodus” in the end of the age and return to their land. When the kingdom is established, all of nature will sing to the Lord (32:13; 35:1–2; 44:23; 52:8–9).
Worship (Isa. 56:1–8). The nation had gone into Captivity because she had disobeyed the Law of God, particularly the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). This commandment was a special “sign” between God and the Jews (31:12–18; Neh. 9:13–14); it was never given to the Gentiles. The Jews were rebuked for the careless way they treated the Sabbath during their wilderness wanderings (Ezek. 20:10–26) and when they lived in the land (Jer. 17:19–27). Even after their return to the holy land after the Captivity, the Jews continued to violate the Sabbath (Neh. 13:15–22).
Keep in mind that the Sabbath Day is the seventh day of the week, the day that God sanctified when He completed Creation (Gen. 2:1–3). Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week; and it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To call Sunday “the Sabbath” or “the Christian Sabbath” is to confuse these two important days. The Sabbath was a sign to the Jews and belongs to the Law: You labor for six days, and then you rest. The Lord’s Day speaks of resurrection and belongs to grace. God’s people trust in Christ, and then the works follow.
God never before asked the Gentiles to join the Jews in keeping the Sabbath, but here He does so. He calls the very people He prohibited from entering His covenant nation: foreigners and eunuchs (Deut. 23:1–8). This is another picture of the grace of God (see Acts 8:26ff). The invitation is still, “Ho, everyone! Come!” It applies to sinners today, but it will apply in a special way when Israel enters her kingdom, the temple services are restored, and the Sabbath is once again a part of Jewish worship.
God’s admonition to the remnant to “keep justice and do righteousness” (Isa. 56:1) was not obeyed. When you read Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Malachi, you discover that the Jews soon forgot God’s goodness and returned to their old ways. Taking special time each week to remember the Lord and worship Him helps us to obey His will.
3. Accusation against the sinners (Isa. 56:9–59:21)

The prophet presents in this section a series of indictments against the disobedient in the nation: the leaders (56:9–57:2), the idolaters (57:3–13), the proud and greedy (vv. 14–21), the hypocritical worshipers (58:1–14), and those responsible for injustice in the land (59:1–21). But even in His wrath, God remembers mercy (Hab. 3:2); for along with these indictments, the Lord pleads with people to humble themselves and submit to Him.
The leaders of the nation (Isa. 56:9–57:2). It was the godless conduct of the leaders that caused Judah to fall to Babylon (Lam. 4:13–14). Had the prophets, priests, and rulers turned to God in repentance and faith, He would have intervened on their behalf; but they persisted in their rebellion. With biting sarcasm, Isaiah calls them “blind watchmen” who cannot see the enemy coming, and “sleeping dogs” who could not bark their warning even if they were awake! The leaders were not alert; they loved to sleep, and when they were awake, they loved to eat and drink.
Spiritual leaders are “watchmen” (Ezek. 3:17–21; 33:1–11) who must be awake to the dangers that threaten God’s people. They are “shepherds” who must put the care of the flock ahead of their own desires. When the foreign invaders (“beasts of the field”) come, the shepherds must protect the flock, no matter what the danger might be. See Acts 20:18–38 for the description of a faithful spiritual ministry.
God permitted the unrighteous leaders to live and suffer the terrible consequences of their sins, but the righteous people died before the judgment fell. The godly found rest and peace; the ungodly went into Captivity, and some of them were killed. Rebellious people do not deserve dedicated spiritual leaders. When His people reject His Word and prefer worldly leaders, God may give them exactly what they desire and let them suffer the consequences.
Idolaters (Isa. 57:3–13). During the last days of Judah and Jerusalem, before Babylon came, the land and the city were polluted with idols. King Hezekiah and King Josiah had led the people in destroying the idols and the high places; but as soon as an ungodly king took the throne, the people went right back to their old ways. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah told the people that God would punish them for breaking His Law, but they persisted in the ways of the godless nations around them.
God sees idolatry as adultery and prostitution (v. 3). The people knew it was wrong, but they arrogantly practiced their sensual worship (“inflaming yourselves with idols”) without shame. You would find them everywhere: visiting the shrine prostitutes under the green trees in the groves; offering their children in the fire in the valley; worshiping under the cliffs and by the smooth boulders; sacrificing up in the mountains; and committing fornication behind the doors of their houses. Publicly and privately, the people were devoted to idols and immorality.
But they were also guilty of consorting with pagan leaders and trusting them for protection instead of trusting God (v. 9). To trust a pagan ruler and his army was the same as trusting the false god that they worshiped (see 30:1–7; 31:1–3). They found false strength in their political alliances and refused to admit that these treaties were hopeless (57:10). God would expose their sin and judge it; and when that happened, their collection of idols (“companies” in v. 13, KJV) would not save them.
Anything that we trust other than the Lord becomes our god and therefore is an idol. It may be our training, experience, job, money, friends, or position. One of the best ways to find out whether we have idols in our lives is to ask ourselves, “Where do I instinctively turn when I face a decision or need to solve a problem?” Do we reach for the phone to call a friend? Do we assure ourselves that we can handle the situation ourselves? Or do we turn to God and seek His will and His help?
When the storm starts blowing, the idols will blow away like chaff (v. 13). They are “vanity,” which means “nothingness.” The storm does not make a person; it shows what the person is made of and where his or her faith lies. If we make the Lord our refuge, we have nothing to fear.
The proud and greedy (Isa. 57:14–21). God has a word of encouragement for the faithful remnant: The highway will be built and the obstacles removed, so that the exiles might return to the land and serve the Lord. (On the “highway theme,” see 11:16.) God will dwell with them because they are humble in spirit. (See 66:2; Pss. 34:18; 51:17.) Pride is a sin that God hates (Prov. 6:16–17) and that God resists (1 Peter 5:5–6). God was “enraged” by Israel’s “sinful greed” and repeatedly chastened them for it; but they would not change (Isa. 57:17). How often He had “taken them to court” and proved them guilty, yet they would not submit. But now that was over. The time had come for God to heal them, guide them, and comfort them.
The hypocrites (Isa. 58:1–14). God told Isaiah to shout aloud with a voice like a trumpet and announce the sins of the nation. The people went to the temple, obeyed God’s laws, fasted, and appeared eager to seek the Lord; but their worship was only an outward show. Their hearts were far from God (1:10–15; 29:13; Matt. 15:8–9). When we worship because it is the popular thing to do, not because it is the right thing to do, then our worship becomes hypocritical.
The Jews were commanded to observe only one fast on the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29–31), but they were permitted to fast personally if they wished. They complained that nobody seemed to notice what they were doing. Perhaps they were trying to “buy God’s blessing” by their fasting. Worshiping God involves more than observing an outward ritual; there must be an inward obedience and submission to the Lord (Matt. 6:16–18).
If in my religious duties, I am doing what pleases me, and if doing it does not make me a better person, then I am wasting my time; and my worship is only sin. Fasting and fighting do not go together! Yet how many families walk piously out of church at the close of a Sunday worship service, get in the family car, and proceed to argue with each other all the way home!
True fasting will lead to humility before God and ministry to others. We deprive ourselves so that we might share with others and do so to the glory of God. If we fast in order to get something for ourselves from God, instead of to become better people for the sake of others, then we have missed the meaning of worship. It delights the Lord when we delight in the Lord.
The unjust (Isa. 59:1–21). There was a great deal of injustice in the land, with the rich exploiting the poor and the rulers using their authority only to make themselves rich (see 1:17–23; 3:13–15; 5:8–30). The people lifted their hands to worship God, but their hands were stained with blood (1:15, 21). God could not answer their prayers because their sins hid His face from them.
It was a conflict between truth and lies, just as it is today. Isaiah compared the evil rulers to pregnant women giving birth to sin (59:4; Ps. 7:14; Isa. 33:11), to snakes hatching their eggs, and to spiders weaving their webs (Isa. 59:5–6). What they give birth to will only destroy them (James 1:13–15), and their beautiful webs of lies can never protect them.
When people live on lies, they live in a twilight zone and do not know where they are going (Isa. 59:9–11). When truth falls, it creates a “traffic jam”; and justice and equity (honesty) cannot make progress (vv. 12–15). God is displeased with injustice, and He wonders that none of His people will intercede or intervene (Prov. 24:11–12). So the Lord Himself intervened and brought the Babylonians to destroy Judah and Jerusalem and to teach His people that they cannot despise His Law and get away with it.
God’s judgment on His people was a foreshadowing of that final Day of the Lord when all the nations will be judged. When it is ended, then “the Redeemer shall come to Zion” (Isa. 59:20), and the glorious kingdom will be established. Israel will be not only God’s chosen people but God’s cleansed people, and the glory of the Lord will radiate from Mt. Zion.
The glory of the Lord in the promised kingdom is the theme of the closing chapters of Isaiah. While we are waiting and praying, “Thy kingdom come,” perhaps we should also be interceding and intervening. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13–16), and God expects us to make a difference.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 141–153). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.Logos gif

Be comforted- Part 13, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz, MA,DD.


ISAIAH 60–66

The Kingdom and the Glory
Grace is but glory begun,” said Jonathan Edwards, “and glory is but grace perfected.” Whatever begins with God’s grace will lead to God’s glory (1 Peter 5:10), and that includes the nation of Israel.
Isaiah began his “Book of Consolations” (chaps. 40–66) by promising that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (40:5). Now he concludes by describing that glory for us. In these seven chapters, he uses the word “glory” in one form or another at least twenty-three times. When God’s glory is on the scene, everything becomes new.
1. The dawning of a new day (Isa. 60:1–22)

“Arise and shine!” is God’s “wake-up call” to Jerusalem (v. 14), because a new day is dawning for Israel. This light is not from the sun but from the glory of God shining on the city.
God’s glory had once dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–38), only to depart because of Israel’s sin (1 Sam. 4:21). God’s glory then came into the temple (1 Kings 8:11), but it departed when the nation turned to idols (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22–23). The glory came to Israel in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14), but the nation nailed that glory to a cross. Today, The Babylonian Captivity had been the nation’s darkest hour, but that was not the darkness Isaiah was describing. He was describing the awful darkness that will cover the earth during the Day of the Lord (Amos 5:18), when God punishes the nations of the earth for their sins (Isa. 2:12ff; 13:6ff). But the prophet is also describing the glorious light that will come to Israel when her Messiah returns to reign in Jerusalem. Then “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). Israel’s sons and daughters will come home again (Isa. 60:4, 8–9), and all of them will know the Lord.
It will be the dawning of a new day for the nations of the world as well as for Israel (vv. 3, 10–13). The Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord and to share their wealth (2:2–4; 11:9; 27:13; 56:7; 57:13; 65:25; 66:20). Some people “spiritualize” these promises and apply them to the Gentiles coming to Christ and His church today, but that is not the basic interpretation. Isaiah sees ships and caravans bringing people and wealth to Jerusalem (60:5–7); and the nations that refuse to honor the Lord and His city will be judged (v. 12). Even Israel’s old enemies will submit and help to serve the Lord (vv. 10, 14).
In verses 15–22, the Lord describes some of the joys and wonders of the glorious kingdom. The nation will no longer be forsaken but will be enriched by the Gentiles and nursed like a beloved child (vv. 4, 16; 49:23; 61:6). As in the days of King Solomon (1 Kings 10:21, 27), precious metals will be plentiful. It will be a time of peace and safety. “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler” (Isa. 60:17, NIV).
John used some of the characteristics of the millennial Jerusalem when he described the holy city (Rev. 21–22): The sun never sets; there is no sorrow; the gates never close; etc. But the city Isaiah describes is the capital city of the restored Jewish nation, and Jesus Christ shall sit on the throne of David and judge righteously. The Jewish “remnant” will increase and fill the land (Isa. 60:22; 51:2; 54:3).
2. The beginning of a new life (Isa. 61:1–11)

The Lord speaks (Isa. 61:1–9). Jesus quoted from this passage when He spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth, and He applied this Scripture to Himself (Luke 4:16–21). (Note that Isa. 61:1 names the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.) However, He did not quote, “And the day of vengeance of our God” from verse 2 because that day is yet to come (34:8; 35:4; 63:4).
The background of this passage is the “Year of Jubilee” described in Leviticus 25:7ff. Every seven years, the Jews were to observe a “sabbatical year” and allow the land to rest. After seven sabbaticals, or forty-nine years, they were to celebrate the fiftieth year as the “Year of Jubilee.” During that year, all debts were canceled, all land was returned to the original owners, the slaves were freed, and everybody was given a fresh new beginning. This was the Lord’s way of balancing the economy and keeping the rich from exploiting the poor.
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are living today in a spiritual “Year of Jubilee.” You have been set free from bondage; your spiritual debt to the Lord has been paid; you are living in “the acceptable year of the Lord.” Instead of the ashes of mourning, you have a crown on your head; for He has made you a king (Rev. 1:6). You have been anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and you wear a garment of righteousness (Isa. 61:3, 10).
In her days of rebellion, Israel was like a fading oak and a waterless garden (1:30); but in the kingdom, she will be like a watered garden (58:11) and a tree (oak) of righteousness (61:3). But all of God’s people should be His trees (Ps. 1:1–3), “the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified” (Isa. 61:3).
In their kingdom “Year of Jubilee,” the Jewish people will rebuild, repair, and restore their land; and the Gentiles will shepherd Israel’s flocks and herds and tend to their crops. Instead of being farmers and shepherds, the Jews will be priests and ministers! God will acknowledge them as His firstborn (Ex. 4:22) and give them a double portion of His blessing (Isa. 61:7; Deut. 21:17).
The “everlasting covenant” of Isaiah 61:8 is described in Jeremiah 31:31–37 and includes the blessings of the New Covenant that Jesus Christ instituted by His death (Heb. 10:1–18; Matt. 26:28). Note that Isaiah 61:9 speaks of the Jews’ “descendants.” Those who enter into the millennial kingdom will marry, have families, and enjoy God’s blessings on the earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1–5). They will study God’s Word from generation to generation (Isa. 59:21).
The prophet speaks (Isa. 61:10–11). Isaiah is speaking on behalf of the remnant who are praising God for all He has done. They rejoice that He has cleansed them and clothed them and turned their desert into a fruitful garden (55:10). They have gone from a funeral to a wedding!
3. The bestowing of a new name (Isa. 62:1–12)

God will not hold His peace (Isa. 62:1–5). The “I” in verse 6 indicates that the Lord is the speaker. God promises to keep speaking and working till His purposes for Jerusalem are fulfilled. This is not only for the sake of Zion but also for the sake of the nations of the world. There will be no righteousness and peace on this earth till Jerusalem gets her new name and becomes a crown of glory to the Lord.
As an unfaithful wife, Israel was “forsaken” by the Lord, but not “divorced” (50:1–3). Her trials will all be forgotten when she receives the new name “Hephzibah,” which means “my delight is in her.” God delights in His people and enjoys giving them His best. The old name “Desolate” will be replaced by “Beulah,” which means “married” (see also 54:1). When a bride marries, she receives a new name. In the case of Israel, she is already married to Jehovah; but she will get a new name when she is reconciled to Him.
The watchmen must not hold their peace (Isa. 62:6–12). God gave His people leaders to guide them, but they were not faithful (56:10). Now He gives them faithful watchmen, who constantly remind God of His promises. “Give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (62:7, NIV). What an encouragement to us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 122:6).
God promises that the Jews will never again lose their harvests to the enemy but will enjoy the fruit of their labors in the very courts of His sanctuary. What a privilege! According to Ezekiel 40–48, there will be a millennial temple, and the Jews will worship the Lord there. Having received their Messiah, they will now clearly understand the spiritual meaning of their worship. Today, their minds are veiled (2 Cor. 3:14–18); but then, their eyes will be opened.
Isaiah 62:10 is another reference to “the highway” (11:16; 40:3–5), and there is an urgency about these words. The Lord is about to arrive, and the people must get the road ready! When the work is completed, they must lift a banner to signal they are ready.
“See, your Savior comes!” (62:11, NIV) This is a proclamation that goes to the ends of the earth! And when He comes, He shares more new names: Israel is called “the Holy People” and “the Redeemed of the Lord”; and Jerusalem is called “Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted” (v. 12, NIV).
God will have no rest till He accomplishes His purposes for His people, and the world will have no peace till He succeeds. He asks us to “give Him no rest” (v. 7) but to intercede for Israel and Jerusalem, for the prayers of His people are an important part of the program of God.
4. The announcing of a new victory (Isa. 63:1–64:12)

The prophet looks ahead in 63:1–6 and sees Jesus Christ returning from the battle of Armageddon that climaxes the Day of the Lord (Rev. 19:11–21). Edom is named here as a representative of the nations that have oppressed the Jews. Bozrah was one of its main cities, and its name means “grape gathering.” This is significant since the image here is that of the wine press (Joel 3:13; Rev. 14:17–20). The name “Edom” means “red” and was a nickname for Esau (Gen. 25:30).
The ancient wine press was a large, hollowed rock into which the grapes were put for the people to tread on them. The juice ran out a hole in the rock and was caught in vessels. As the people crushed the grapes, some of the juice would splash on their garments. Our Lord’s garments were dyed with blood as the result of the great victory over His enemies (Rev. 19:13).
When Jesus came to earth the first time, it was to inaugurate “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa. 61:2; Luke 4:19). When He comes the second time, it will be to climax “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 63:4; 61:2). The enemy will be crushed like grapes and forced to drink their own blood from the cup of God’s wrath (51:17; Jer. 25:15–16). These images may not appeal to sophisticated people today, but the Jews in that day fully understood them.
Then the prophet looks back at what God has done for Israel (Isa. 63:7–14). He praises God for His loving-kindness and goodness, for the pity and love bestowed on Israel. God identified with their sufferings (v. 9; Jud. 10:16; Deut. 32:10–12) as He does with His people today (1 Peter 5:7). The Jews asked, “Where is our God who did wonders for His people? Why is He not working on our behalf?”
The prophet looks up and calls on God to bare His arm and display His power (Isa. 63:15–64:12). For Abraham’s sake, for Israel’s sake, because God is their Father, he pleads for a demonstration of power just as God did in the ancient days.
He asks God to “look down” (63:15) and to “come down” (64:1). This is one of the greatest “revival prayers” found in Scripture. Just as God came down in fire at Sinai (Ex. 19:16–19), so let Him come down again and reveal His awesome power to the nations. They trust in dead idols, so let them see what the living God of Israel can do!
Why is God not working wonders? They have sinned (Isa. 64:5–6) and must confess their sins and turn from them. If our righteousness is filthy, what must our sins look like in His sight! According to verse 4, God has planned for His people wonderful things beyond their imagination; but their sins prevent Him from sharing His blessings. (See 1 Cor. 2:9 and Eph. 3:20–21.) Is there any hope? Yes, because God is a forgiving Father and a patient Potter (Jer. 18). He can cleanse us and make us anew if we will let Him have His way.
This prayer (and the believing remnant) ends with a question: Why is God silent? His temple has been destroyed, His glorious land has been ravaged, and His people are in exile. “After all this, O Lord, will You hold Yourself back? Will You keep silent and punish us beyond measure?” (Isa. 64:12, NIV) God’s reply is found in the next two chapters.
5. The blessing of a new creation (Isa. 65:1–25)

“I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom” (65:6). God now replies.
First, He announces that His salvation will go to the Gentiles (v. 1), even though they did not seek the Lord or experience the blessings that He gave to Israel. Paul applies this verse to the Gentiles in Romans 10:19–20. If Israel did not want what God had to offer, then He would give it to others. See Luke 14:16–24 and 21:10 and Acts 28:23–31 for other illustrations of this divine principle.
Then, God describes the sins of His people that kept Him from answering their prayers (Isa. 65:2–7). They resisted His grace and His loving appeals, though He held out His arms to them and spoke to them through His Word (Rom. 10:21). They went their own way (Isa. 53:6) and provoked Him with their evil worship of false gods, getting involved with the occult and demons. They ate food that was unclean and openly worshiped idols in the high places. And yet these rebellious people considered themselves to be better than others! “I am holier than thou!”
God then explains that He had to judge the nation for her sins (65:8–16). He called the Babylonians to be His instrument of punishment to teach His people that they could not sin and get away with it. However, in mercy He preserved a remnant—like a few grapes rescued from the wine press—and that remnant would return to the land and restore the nation. When His people sincerely seek Him (v. 10), then He will bless them (2 Chron. 7:14).
“The Valley of Achor” was the place where Achan was stoned to death because he disobeyed the Lord (Josh. 7). When the Lord restores His estranged wife, Israel, the Valley of Achor will become for them “a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).
In Isaiah 65:11–16, God sees two kind of people in the land: those who forsake the Lord and those who serve the Lord. (“My Servant” has now become “My servants.”) Those who forsake the Lord ignore His temple and worship false gods, such as Fortune and Destiny (in v. 11, “that troop” and “that number”). These disobedient Jews will not live but be destroyed, and those who do survive will not enjoy it. In fact, their very names will be used as curses in the years to come!
God saves the best for the last: His description of “the new heavens and new earth” (the millennial kingdom) in 65:17–66:24.
This is not the same as John’s “new heaven and new earth” (Rev. 21:1ff), because the characteristics Isaiah gives do not fit the eternal state. As far as we know, in the eternal state, people will not get old or die (Isa. 65:20), nor will there be any danger of losing anything to invaders (vv. 21–23).
Jerusalem will be a source of joy, not only to the Lord but to the whole earth. It will be a city of holiness, harmony, and happiness. During the millennial kingdom, people will work, and God will bless their labors. People will pray, and God will answer (v. 24). Nature will be at peace (v. 25) because the curse will be lifted.
6. The birth of the new nation (Isa. 66:1–24)

Of course, the remarkable thing will be the “birth of a nation” as Israel takes center stage on the international scene (vv. 7–9). The return of the Jews to their land will be as swift as the birth of a baby. Israel’s “travail” will be “the Day of the Lord” or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), when God will purify His people and prepare them for the coming of their Messiah. Political Israel was born on May 14, 1948; but “the new Israel” will be “born in a day” when they believe on Jesus Christ. Jerusalem will experience joy, peace, and satisfaction (Isa. 66:10–14). Like a nursing baby, she will find health and peace in the arms of the Lord. “Peace like a river” reminds us of Isaiah’s words to Ahaz (8:5–8) and God’s promises in 41:18 and 48:18.
There will be a new temple (66:1–6; Ezek. 40–48), but the ceremonies of worship can never take the place of a humble heart. God does not live in buildings; He dwells with those who submit to Him. Stephen quoted Isaiah 66:1–2 in his defense before the Jews (Acts 7:48–50), and Paul referred to these words in his address to the Athenian philosophers (17:24).
In Isaiah’s day, were God’s people trembling at His Word? No, they were not. Instead, they were going through the motions of worship without having a heart for God. The people were not sacrificing the animals; they were murdering them! Because their hearts were far from God (Isa. 29:13), their offerings were as unclean things to the Lord. It is the heart of the worshiper that determines the value of the offering.
God’s hand will bring blessing to His servants but “indignation toward His enemies” (66:14); and Isaiah describes that “indignation” in verses 15–18. The Day of the Lord will be a storm of judgment with fire and whirlwinds, and with the sword of God; “And those slain by the Lord shall be many.”
Who will be slain? Those who have disobeyed God’s Law in their eating and their worshiping (vv. 17–18). Instead of worshiping the true and living God, they turned to pagan idols and pagan practices. It is not enough to be “religious”; we must serve Him according to what He says in His Word (8:20).
The book closes with a description of messengers going to the ends of the earth to announce what God has done for Israel (66:19). The result will be a flow of people to Jerusalem (see 60:3–14 and 66:12) to bring offerings to the Lord. In the past, Gentile nations came to Jerusalem to attack and destroy; but in the Kingdom Age, they will come to worship and glorify God.
The book ends on a seeming negative note describing worshipers looking at the desecrated and decayed corpses of the rebels (v. 24). The Valley of Hinnom (Hebrew, ge hinnom = Gehenna in the Greek) is a picture of judgment (30:33); Jesus used it to picture hell (Mark 9:43–48). The people who come to Jerusalem to worship will also go outside the city to this “garbage dump” and be reminded that God is a consuming fire (Jer. 7:32).
Throughout his book, Isaiah has presented us with alternatives: Trust the Lord and live, or rebel against the Lord and die. He has explained the grace and mercy of God and offered His forgiveness. He has also explained the holiness and wrath of God and warned of His judgment. He has promised glory for those who will believe and judgment for those who scoff. He has explained the foolishness of trusting man’s wisdom and the world’s resources.
The prophet calls the professing people of God back to spiritual reality. He warns against hypocrisy and empty worship. He pleads for faith, obedience, a heart that delights in God, and a life that glorifies God.
“ ‘There is no peace,’ saith the Lord, ‘unto the wicked’ ” (Isa. 48:22; 57:21); for in order to have peace, you must have righteousness (32:17). The only way to have righteousness is through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:19–31).
Isaiah’s message has been, “Be comforted by the Lord!” See Isaiah 12:1; 40:1–2; 49:13; 51:3, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 57:18; 61:2; 66:13. But God cannot comfort rebels! If we are sinning against God and comfortable about it, something is radically wrong. That false comfort will lead to false confidence, and that will lead to the chastening hand of God.
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found” (55:6).
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18).
“O Lord, I will praise You; though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me” (12:1, NKJV).
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 153–164). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.Logos gif


No. 5

TOMATO,red power

Reformation Trust

How Should I Live in This World?

© 1983, 1999, 2009 by R. C. Sproul

Previously published as Ethics and the Christian (1983) and as part of Following Christ (1991) by Tyndale House Publishers, and as How Should I Live in This World? by Ligonier Ministries (1999).

Published by Reformation Trust
a division of Ligonier Ministries
400 Technology Park, Lake Mary, FL 32746

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher, Reformation Trust. The only exception is brief quotations in published reviews.

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from The Holy Bible, King James Version.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sproul, R. C. (Robert Charles), 1939–
[Ethics and the Christian]
How should I live in this world? / R. C. Sproul.
p. cm.–(The crucial questions series)
First published as: Ethics and the Christian, 1983. Following Christ. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1991. How should I live in this world? Ligonier Ministries, 1999.
ISBN 978-1-56769-180-1
1. Christian ethics. I. Sproul, R. C. (Robert Charles), 1939– Following Christ. II. Title.
BJ1251.S67 2009









Almost every major discussion of ethics these days begins with an analysis of the chaotic situation of modern culture. Even secular writers and thinkers are calling for some sort of basic agreement on ethical behavior. Humanity’s “margin of error,” they say, is shrinking with each new day. Our survival is at stake.
These “prophets of doom” point out that man’s destructive capability increased from 1945 to 1960 by the same ratio as it did from the primitive weapons of the Stone Age to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The thawing of the Cold War provided little comfort. Numerous nations have nuclear arms now or are close to having them. What, besides ethics, will keep them from using these weapons?
This stark reality is compounded by the profusion of social injustice in many areas, the rise of international terrorism, and the general decline of personal and social values. Who is to say what’s right and wrong? One technical volume, Thomas E. Hill’s Contemporary Ethical Theories, lists more than eighty theories of ethics competing for acceptance in our modern world. It is not just a matter of “doing the right thing” but of figuring out what the right thing is. This proliferation of options generates confusion in our world and, for many, a sense of despair. Will we ever reach a cultural consensus that will stabilize the shifting sands of pluralism?
All this talk of “theories of ethics” may leave you cold. However, ethical decisions enter into every aspect of our lives. No field or career is immune from ethical judgments. In politics, in psychology, and in medicine, ethical decisions are made regularly. Legislative action, economic policy, academic curricula, psychiatric advice—all involve ethical considerations. Every vote cast in the ballot box marks an ethical decision.
On what basis should we make these decisions? That’s where the “ethical theories” come in. The Christian may say, “I simply obey God’s Word.” However, what about those issues where the Bible has no specific “thou shalt”? Can we find ethical principles in Scripture, and in the very nature of God, that will guide us through this difficult terrain? How can we communicate these principles to others? How
Sproul, R. C. (2009). How Should I Live in this World? (Bd. 5, S. iii–ix). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

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