broken yokes

February 2015 (27)

Isaiah 10:24-27

24 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahveh of armies: “My people who live on Zion, you must not be afraid of Assyria. It beats you with the rod, and it lifts up its staff against you in the way of Egypt. 25 My wrath will come to an end for still a little, a trifle, and my anger is directed to their destruction. 26 And Yahveh of armies is going to swing a whip against him, as when Midian was defeated at the rock of Oreb; and his staff over the sea, and he will lift him up in the way of Egypt. 27 And in that day his burden will be taken off your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.

broken yokes

The king of Assyria had grown fat on all the excess he was receiving as tribute from those nations he had under his yoke. But the LORD promised his people that those days are numbered. Soon, that yoke would be broken, and God’s people would be free from that foreign tyrant.

Another Tyrant has God’s people in his control today, and he grows fat from all the kingdoms of the world under his yoke. The LORD’s message is to him as well. The days of Satan’s tyranny are coming to an end. The yoke he has on us is breaking. King Jesus is taking back the planet which belongs to him. He will break the yoke of the usurper.

LORD Jesus, we choose to take your yoke upon us, because your yoke is easy, and your burden is light. Show us how to stop allowing the usurper to grow fat through our tribute.

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a remnant of sand

February 2015 (26)

Isaiah 10:20-23

20 And this will happen: on that day, the remnant of Israel and the survivor of the house of Jacob will not continue to lean on its attacker but will lean on Yahveh, the holy one of Israel, in truth. 21   A remnant will return– the remnant of Jacob–to a mighty God. 22 Because though your people Israel was like the sand of the sea, a mere remnant of it will return. A time of annihilation is planned, a time of overflowing righteousness. 23 Because the Lord Yahveh of armies is about to make a complete destruction and a planned end in the midst of all the land.

a remnant of sand

Growing up in Suwannee county, Florida, I know all about sand. No matter where you go – in the field or on the road, at home or at church, a fine layer of sand accompanies you. The floor mats on your car or truck tell the tale of where you have been. A remnant – a thin layer of sand — returns with you.

The LORD had promised Abraham and Jacob that the nation coming from them would be as numerous as the sand of the sea.[1] Now, he is reversing the promise. That nation that he had blessed, he will now curse for its rebellion. The nation that he prospered, he will now whittle down to a small remnant, who will once again learn to lean on him instead of the superpowers around them.

Such is the case with every nation or family who turns its back on the Yahveh of armies. The LORD will continue to hold on to those who are his, but they will be like a small remnant of sand. All other traces of the LORD and his greatness and glory will disappear from those who have rejected him.

LORD, forgive us for leaning on the wrong king. Restore your glory to our land.

[1] Genesis 22:17; 32:12.

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bragging ax

February 2015 (25)

Isaiah 10:12-19

12 And this will happen: when the Lord has finished all his work against the mountain of Zion and Jerusalem, “I will punish the fruit of the king of Assyria’s proud heart and the pride of his high eyes. 13 Because he says, “I have accomplished this by the strength of my hand and by my wisdom, because I have understanding, and I have removed boundaries from peoples, and I have plundered their treasuries, and like a bull I have brought down those sitting on thrones. 14 And my hand has found, like a nest, the wealth of the peoples, and like the gathering of forsaken eggs, I myself have gathered all the land. And I encountered no fluttering wing or open mouth or tweet.” 15 Does the ax boast against the one who chops with it, or the saw magnify itself against one who moves it this way and that, like a rod waving even the one who lifts it up; like a staff lifting up him who is not wood? 16 For this reason, the Lord, Yahveh of armies, will send leanness among his bulky warriors, and under his glory a burning — like fire burning — will burn. 17 And the light of Israel will become like a fire, and his holy one like a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorn and brier in one day. 18 And he will destroy the glory of his forest and orchard soul and flesh, and it will be like the wasting away of an invalid. 19 And the surviving tree of his forest will be a small number, and a boy can record them.

bragging ax

Assyria was the superpower of Isaiah’s day, and nothing could stop it from assimilating the nations around it, including Israel. But Assyria was only a tool in the hand of Yahveh of armies. Once his work against Israel is finished, the LORD will punish that bragging ax. A fire will burn against that mighty land, and suddenly their trees will be depleted.

Such is the foolishness of being proud of what God is doing through me. My spiritual gifts are tools in the hands of the Lord. His Holy Spirit gave them to me, so he gets the credit for what they do. In the end, it is not the tools that matter, but the one really wielding them. His plan determines who is great, and how long they stay that way. So, perhaps we should be careful about seeking advice from those who appear to be successful in life or ministry. For Assyria, their success was purely incidental to God’s larger plan, and it had nothing to do with their strategies or morality. In fact, God revealed through Isaiah that Assyria’s success without humility led to their judgment and eventual defeat.

If we want to be permanently successful, we will have to learn what God wants to do, and do it faithfully.

LORD, show us your purpose, and allow us the honor of being involved in it.

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kingdoms of the idol

February 2015 (24)

Isaiah 10:5-11

5 Oy! Assyria, the rod of my anger, and that staff in their hand is my wrath! 6 I am sending him against a secular nation, and I am commanding him to fight against the people of my wrath, to capture spoil and to carry off plunder, and to make him a trampling place, like clay on streets. 7 But he does not think so, and his heart does not plan this. Because in his heart he wants to destroy and to cut off not a few nations. 8 Because he says, “Are not my commanders a gathering of kings? 9 Is not Calno like Carchemish was? Is not Hamath like Arpad was? Is not Samaria like Damascus was? 10 Just like my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idol and their images were greater than those from Jerusalem and Samaria– 11 should I not do to Jerusalem and its worthless idols what I have done to Samaria and her carved idols?”

kingdoms of the idol

The Assyrian Reich was a plan to conquer the nations by means of assimilation. The king planned to first overwhelm each nation with a display of superior war strength. Then, he would take any survivors of the war away from their homeland, effectively severing their connection to their religious life. He would replace the defeated king with one of his own commanders, and repopulate the land with exiles from other defeated lands. The silly idols of the defeated nation would be shown to be useless against his superior strength. This plan was amazingly successful, so Assyria was assured that Jerusalem could be taken with the same tactics.

Now, Isaiah steps back from his ranting against Judah for its unfaithfulness, and he asks them to take a good look at what this king of Assyria is doing. He says that Assyria has been able to do this, not because of his superior strength or wisdom, but because all the nations he has overcome were essentially unprotected secular nations. They had idols which they used for show, but they had no true spiritual power.

Then, Isaiah gets back on point. The people expect him to say that the king of Assyria is going to be set straight if he attacks Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is not the home of some silly statue claiming to be a god, but the creator God himself, Yahveh. But Isaiah refuses to give them that comfort. Instead, he has the Assyrian king saying “should I not do to Jerusalem and its worthless idols what I have done to Samaria and her carved idols?” The pagan king sees no difference.

Real godliness looks different that the kingdoms of the idol. If we struggle with the same sinful lifestyles of those around us who do not know Christ, if we look and act like a secular people, perhaps it is because we are. Jesus said that his followers would be different. They would be salt and light. They would taste and look different than the kingdoms of the idol.

LORD, give us a genuine authentic faith in Jesus Christ. We confess a deep-seated kinship with the kingdoms of the idol all around us. We stand condemned by the words of your prophet. Forgive us for wanting to be like the world you rescued us from. Make us into a people who are gladly and distinctly yours.

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unjust justice

February 2015 (23)

Isaiah 10:1-4

1 Oy! Those who decree troublesome decrees, and writers of harmful writings, 2 to keep weak people away from taking legal action, and to steal the justice from the poor of my people, to make widows their spoil; also they plunder orphans. 3 And what will you do on punishment day, and at destruction time? It is coming from a distance! To whom will you run for help, and where will you leave your wealth, 4 so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? In all of this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is still stretched out.

unjust justice

Isaiah had a corrupt congress to deal with. Wealthy crooks were using the legal system to keep the weak from taking legal action against their oppressors, and using it to line their own pockets at the same time. What could the prophet say about this system of unjust justice? He said that the Yahveh of armies was sending his judgment from a distance. These wealthy lawmakers who abused their power would find themselves as powerless prisoners of an invading force, or corpses. They were supposed to have been people the weak and powerless could go to for help. Since they were not, they will not find anyone to help them when destruction time comes. The invaders would not be stopped by words on a page.

LORD, make us people of integrity, and guide us by just laws, which protect the weak from the strong.

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cannibals in the ranks

February 2015 (22)

Isaiah 9:18-21

18 Because wickedness burned like fire; it consumed brier and thorn. And it kindled the thickets of the forest, and they swirled upward, making a column of smoke. 19 The land was burned because of the wrath of Yahveh of armies, and the people became like fire fuel. A man does not have compassion toward his brother. 20 They ate to the right but were still hungry and ate to the left but they were not satisfied. Each one devoured the flesh of his arm, 21 Manasseh Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; together they attacked Judah. In all of this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is still stretched out.

cannibals in the ranks

Some of the destruction that was to come upon the holy land – predicted by Isaiah – was self destruction. He predicted that the people would turn on each other, and devour each other. The compassion expected of one brother to another was lost. Already, Israel had split from Judah. Now, Isaiah said it was going to be like a person who is so hungry he takes a bite out of his own arm.

Churches experience this kind of cannibalism in the ranks as well. Conflicts and differing opinions about purpose and programs often get out of hand, and we turn on each other. Such a thing is a sign of spiritual sickness. It is not normal. If we find ourselves doing that, we need to repent, and get help.

LORD, forgive us for devouring each other. Teach us how to love and care for each other as your people. Then, maybe the lost will believe us when we say that you are love.

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on being a “Christian”

February 2015 (21)

Isaiah 9:13-17

13 But the people still did not turn to the one who struck him, and they did not seek Yahveh of armies. 14 So Yahveh cut off head and tail from Israel, palm branch and reed took one day. 15 The “honorable” elder is the head, the “prophet” teaching lies is the tail. 16 And the leaders of this people were misleading, and those who were being led were being confused. 17 For this reason, the Lord did not enjoy its young men, and he did not take pity on its orphans and widows, because everyone was godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks foolishness. In all of this his anger did not turn away, and still his hand is still stretched out.

on being a “Christian”

Isaiah looked all around his people and he saw hypocrisy. The elders who were supposed to be the honorable ones were acting like fools. The prophets were prophesying lies. The leaders were misleading and those being led were just confused. Yet they were all convinced that God could never judge them because they called themselves by his name.

One of our biggest problems today with the Christian community is that so few of us are acting Christian. We talk the talk, but our walk betrays us. Normal morality, honesty and integrity seems to be in short supply. Not much has changed since Isaiah said these things.

So, if you are a “Christian” and you keep telling yourself and others that God would never bring disaster and distress upon us because of his name’s sake, take this warning. That is the very kind of thing that the “prophets” were saying in Isaiah’s day. They are wrong, and so are you. God is faithful to his promises. He promises not to pull back his hand.

LORD, restore us to yourself, before you hand of judgment comes upon the whole land.

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rebuilding and replanting

February 2015 (20)

Isaiah 9:8-12

8 The Lord has sent out a word against Jacob, and it fell on Israel. 9 And all of the people knew it, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria in pride and arrogance of heart, saying, 10 “bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild using dressed stone; sycamore-fig trees were felled, but we will replant cedars.” 11 So Yahveh strengthened the adversaries of Rezin against him, and he provoked his enemies—12 Aram from east and Philistine from west– and they devoured Israel with the whole mouth. He has not turned away his anger in all of this, and his hand is still stretched out.

rebuilding and replanting

Isaiah calls his God Yahveh of armies. His powerful work is seen in devastated lands, engulfed in the terror of warfare, and left destroyed after the battles are done. But Isaiah looks at his own people and sees them stubbornly refusing to accept God’s message to them, a message he sent them by means of invading armies! He wants them to look at these invading pagans as a sign of God’s judgment, and turn from their paganism, idolatry and injustice. Instead, they just pick up the pieces when each battle is over, rebuild, replant, repeat.

So, God, who is always faithful to himself, picks up the same attitude. Isaiah speaks of the devastation that is going to come upon the holy land in four sections, and he concludes each section with a picture of God’s hand, still stretched out in judgment, because the people are not getting the message.[1]

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is still Yahveh of armies. He wants to show us his love and grace, and bring us to the light, the way he did Galilee. But his hand can still stretch out in judgment, if that is what it will take for his own people to listen. Even though he does so with tears in his eyes, our God can still send the armies.

LORD, before we decide to rebuild again, help us to listen to find out whether the disaster was a message from you.

[1] 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4.

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Galilee in the future

February 2015 (19)

Isaiah 9:1-7[1]

1 Because there is no gloom for that one people worried about. Like the time he ignored the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee, so full of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; light has shined on those who lived in a land of darkness. 3 You had made the nation numerous; but you had not made its joy great. They will rejoice in your presence like joy at the harvest, like they rejoice when they divide plunder. 4 Because you have shattered the yoke of its burden and the stick of its shoulder, the rod of its oppressor, like you did the day of Midian. 5 Because every boot, shaking as it marches and each garment is rolled in blood. And it will be for burning–fire fuel. 6 Because a child has been born for us; a son has been given to us. And the dominion will be on his shoulder, and he has been named: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There is no end to the increase of his dominion and to the peace he brings to the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of Yahveh of armies will do this.

Galilee in the future

If you had asked the average citizen of Judah in Isaiah’s day about the north country, Galilee beyond the Jordon river, their assessment would have been that it was a write-off. Isaiah had just talked about how paganism and idolatry had turned out the light in the holy land, and Galilee was considered the darkest of the dark. There was no hope for Galilee in the future. But, now Isaiah says that it is in this gloomy land of darkness that the light is going to shine first. What? Galilee… are you kidding?

If you are one of those people who thinks that you are the least likely to get religious or do something spiritual, watch out. The LORD has his eye on you. He wants to show the world his grace by shining on the least likely candidates. Like Galilee, which the respectable people had written off as hopeless, the LORD wants to bring his hope to you. He has a destiny for you, and it is not the one you think you have.

LORD, we surrender to the light of Jesus Christ. Take us out of our darkness, and help us to shine so that others will know your grace.

[1] Isaiah 9:1-21 in the English Bible is 8:23-9:20 in the Hebrew Bible.

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no dawn in them

February 2015 (18)

Isaiah 8:18-22

18 See me and the children whom Yahveh has given to me, like signs and omens in Israel from Yahveh of armies, the one who dwells on the mountain of Zion. 19 Now if they tell you, “Consult the ghosts and the spirits, those who tweet and those who mutter. Should not a people consult its gods, the dead on behalf of the living, 20 for teaching and for witness?” They say things like this to show that there is no dawn in them. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly worried and hungry; when they are hungry, they will be infuriated and will curse their king and their gods. They will turn their faces upward, 22 or look to the land. But they will see suffering and darkness, the gloominess of affliction! And the land will be thrust into darkness!

no dawn in them

The advisers would tell Judah that it was time to consult the crystal balls and the Ouija boards. They would suggest that the spirit world has answers that would guide the nation in the dark times of the coming Assyrian invasion. But Isaiah warned Judah that advice like this comes from people already overcome by the darkness themselves. There is no answer from the dead. The dead are dead. When people claim they are reaching another world of light, what they are really doing is communicating with the demonic world of darkness.

No, in times of distress and disaster, we need to seek God and the light of his revealed word. We need the objective truth of his word, because it alone is a sure foundation for making the right decisions, to get us out of the darkness we are in. The solution to the consequences of rebellion cannot be found in more rebellion. We need to turn back to God, not to the unclean spirits, masquerading either as the gods, or our ancestors.

LORD, we repent of seeking light where there is only darkness. Show us how to follow your Holy Spirit inspired, written word.

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