the crown installer

April 2015 (2)

Isaiah 23:5-11

5 When news gets to Egypt, they will be in anguish at the news of Tyre. 6 Cross over to Tarshish! Wail, coast inhabitants! 7 Is this your proud one — her origin from the days of long ago? Her feet brought her to live far away as an alien. 8 Who has planned this against Tyre, the crown installer whose merchants were princes, her traders — honored ones of the land? 9 Yahveh of armies has planned it: to tarnish the pride of all glory, to humble all the honored ones of the land. 10 Cross over your land like the Nile, daughter of Tarshish; there is no longer a barrier. 11 He has stretched his hand out over the sea; he has made kingdoms shake. Yahveh has given order concerning Canaan to destroy her fortresses.

the crown installer

Why would Egypt and all the honored ones of the land be afraid and humbled by Tyre’s downfall? Part of it is that Tyre had accomplished so much. She had grown to control so much of the trade in the biblical lands that she was known as the installer of crowns – deciding who rules where. So, the news of her destruction by the Babylonians has all the others kings worried. Of course, they are worried about Babylon too. They should be worried about the invisible hand that is moving the armies of Babylon. That invisible hand does not belong to Nebuchadnezzar. It belongs to Yahveh.

In my weaker moments, I see all the famous, powerful people being brought down, and I begin to worry about whether I will stand or not. In a sense, I find myself like the leaders of those other lands, watching the powerful Tyre getting the boot. It’s only reasonable to start thinking “Am I next?”

All life, all success, and all accomplishment is empty unless it is aligned with the purposes of God. Even the great superpowers of Isaiah’s day were helpless to prevent their destruction if God willed it. Since that it true, it makes sense to seek to fulfill the purpose of God with my life. Seeking to simply obey the commands of Christ can bring stability when the dominoes all around me are falling.

LORD, we choose not to look to the powers of the land for our stability, because they cannot withstand your will. We look to you. We seek to follow your words as our foundation, because only that can withstand the storm.

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losing

April 2015 (1)

Isaiah 23:1-4

1 The oracle of Tyre: Wail, ships of Tarshish, because the house is so torn down that no one can enter. It is announced to them from the land of Cyprus. 2 Be still, coastal inhabitants, merchant of Sidon, who travels over sea, they supplied you. 3 And over much water came the seed of Shihor, the harvest of the Nile its produce, and she brought merchandise to nations. 4 Be ashamed, Sidon, because the sea, the fortress of the sea said, saying, “I was not in labor, and I have not given birth, and I have neither reared young men, nor brought up young women.”

losing

Isaiah predicts the destruction of Tyre by telling the nations around her to mourn for her loss. Tarshish will lose its supplier of merchandise. Sidon (who built Tyre, and considered it a daughter) will be childless. In both cases, the LORD calls on these nations to consider the reality of the loss they will suffer because someone they have counted on for support has been taken out of the way. God’s message to them is that he, the God of armies has done this. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies were simply his tool. He is the reason for their suffering.

Many people today are not comfortable with this message. The fact of God bringing about suffering and death is something they would reject. To them, God is only the author of the good things in life. But the prophets speak of a God who orchestrates all the details of our life, the winning and the losing.

We should welcome the times of blessing and achievement the LORD brings upon us. But we should also listen carefully to the message he wants to give us in the losing.

LORD, we surrender to your sovereign will. May we see you hand in all that happens, and trust you no matter what the day brings.

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you can be replaced

March 2015  (31)

Isaiah 22:20-25

20 And this will happen: On that day I will call to my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will dress him in your tunic, and I will bind your sash firmly about him, and I will put your authority into his hand, and he will be like a father to the citizen of Jerusalem and to the family of Judah. 22 And I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder, and he will open and no one else shut; and he will shut and no one else open. 23 And I will drive him in — a peg into a secure place, and he will become like a glorious throne to the house of his father. 24 And they will hang all of the importance of his father’s house on him, the offspring and the offshoot, all of the small vessels, from the vessels of the bowls to all of the vessels of the jars. 25 “On that day – a declaration of Yahveh of armies — the peg that was driven in will move away into a secure place, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load on her will be taken off — because Yahveh has spoken.”

you can be replaced

When I was a boy I saw a sign that said “Look alive – you can be replaced by a button.” Shebna was learning that he was not so important that he was irreplaceable. He would be replaced by someone who not only could do his job as steward, but could also be a father to the citizens and family of Judah. In other words, Eliakim would be more spiritually qualified than Shebna had been. Today, we pause to reflect on our own qualifications for leadership and ministry. If we are not too full of ourselves, we know that somewhere there are those who have skills to do what we do better than we are doing it. Maturity entails recognizing this, and trusting the LORD to make up the difference. A mature leader does not worry about being the best. A mature leader is more concerned about being real. That authenticity factor was what made the difference between Shebna — on his way out – and Eliakim who would replace him.

LORD, give us mature hearts that beat with authentic concern for others, and authentic relationships with you.

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control freak

March 2015  (30)

Isaiah 22:12-19

12 And the Lord, Yahveh of armies, called on that day for weeping and mourning, and for baldness and sackcloth girding. 13 But see! Joy and gladness, the killing of an ox and the slaughtering of a sheep, the eating of meat and the drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 14 And it was revealed to my ears by Yahveh of armies: “This sin will absolutely not be atoned for you until you die!” says the Lord, Yahveh of armies. 15 The Lord, Yahveh of armies, says this: “Go! Go to this steward, to Shebna, who rules over the house: 16 ‘What are you doing here, and who is here with you, that you have cut a grave cutting here for yourself, carving his tomb on the height, a dwelling place for him in the rock? 17 See! Yahveh, about to throw something at you for real, man! And he is about to catch you with a firm grip; 18 he will wind a winding tightly around you like a ball, to a land broad of sides. There you will die, and there you will see the chariots of your splendor, a disgrace to your master’s house! 19 And I will push you from your office, and he will throw you down from your position.

control freak

Shebna was a control freak. He had to have everything covered. He was steward over Hezekiah’s household, and apparently ran the palace with skill and had made a reputation for himself. He probably had lobbied for an alliance with Egypt and Assyria, figuring that such an alliance would maintain stability throughout his lifetime. As a way of showing his confidence in the future of his master’s reign, he ordered a tomb for himself, expecting to die with honor at a good old age in Jerusalem. The LORD was watching. He sent word by Isaiah the prophet that Shebna would never use that tomb. The control freak would die in exile in a foreign land. He would be surrounded by chariots of splendor, but not his master’s chariots which he had maintained. He would be thrown down, and lose that office which meant everything to him.

LORD, we surrender our sovereignty and control to you, and seek only the stability of your grace.

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what you see

March 2015  (29)

Isaiah 22:5-11

5 Because the Lord Yahveh of armies has a day of commotion and crushing and confusion in a valley of vision, a tearing down of a wall and a cry for help to the mountain. 6 And Elam lifted up a quiver, with a man’s chariot cavalry. And Kir uncovered a shield. 7 And this happened: the choicest of your valleys were chariot filled and the cavalry confidently stood at the gate. 8 And he uncovered the covering of Judah. And you looked, on that day, to the weapon of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches in the walls of the city of David were many, and you gathered the waters of the lower pool. 10 And you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you tore down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 And you made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the old pool, but you did not consult its maker, and you did not recognize its creator from a distance.

what you see

The spiritual condition of Jerusalem is revealed by what Isaiah says that they see. The day of commotion and crushing and confusion has come upon them, and all they see is the threat of foreign invasion. They do not see the power and wisdom of the God. They frantically seek to shore up and protect the city using the motes and barriers they could quickly construct. But they did not even see the LORD who had covenanted to be their God and protector.

God’s people are expected to see more than just the materials that are physically present, which we can use for our benefit and protection. We should see beyond those things to our creator who has promised to protect us in times of crisis.

LORD, open our eyes, so that we can see you, and trust in you when the world threatens us.

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the inevitable

March 2015  (28)

Isaiah 22:1-4

1 A valley of vision oracle: Why have you gone up, all of you, to the roofs, 2 full of noises, chaotic city, jubilant town? Your slain did not die by sword, nor your dead from battle. 3 All of your rulers have run away together without a bow; all of your found ones were captured. They were captured together; they had run far away. 4 Therefore I said, “Look away from me, let me be bitter in the weeping; you must not quickly seek to comfort me for the destruction of the daughter of my people.”

the inevitable

The inhabitants of Jerusalem saw its destruction coming, and instead of repenting, they merely posited themselves for the new foreign dominion. They refused to mourn the devastation and loss of life. They had resigned themselves to what they considered inevitable. They did not even organize a battle to defend themselves. The rulers were captured while trying to escape their own deaths. They had given up any faith in God, and were merely trying to save their own skins. In a time of crisis, when their people needed them to show courage and leadership, they just gave up.

It is much too easy to take this approach when crisis hits our society, our family, or our church. But the LORD puts us in leadership for just such times. When it comes time to make a stand, we need to be there to do it.

LORD, forgive us for running away from problems in the past. Give us the courage to lead in the crises we face today.

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daily news from the front

March 2015  (27)

Isaiah 21:11-17

11 The oracle about Dumah: He calls to me from Seir, “Watchman, what are the night’s results? Watchman, what happened last night?” 12 A watchman says, “Morning comes, and also night. If you want to ask, ask; keep coming back. 13 An oracle in Arabia: You will spend the night in the thicket in a desert-plateau,[1] with caravans of Dedanites. 14 Upon encountering a thirsty one, bring water. Residents of the land of Tema came to meet a fugitive with his bread. 15 Because they have fled from swords, from drawn sword and bent bow, and from fierce battle. 16 Because the Lord said this to me: “In yet a year, like years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end. 17 And the remainder of the bow tally of the warriors of the sons of Kedar will be few” because Yahveh, the God of Israel, has spoken.

daily news from the front

The watchman would be the person to go to for news of the front. He would occasionally meet a soldier who had deserted the battle, and get news of how the war was going. The citizens would ask the watchman of the city, and he would keep them informed. The LORD encouraged this, because it was a constant reminder of his promise to end Babylonian domination within the year.

I am reflecting as I write this on the past year. A major transition in my life has occurred. Within one year I broke free from a four year period of – well, like an exile. I thank the LORD for that period of my life, but I am so grateful it is coming to an end. My word from the LORD today is to keep my ear out for daily news from the front, and expect God to keep his promise to me, as he did to the Israelites.

LORD, we trust you to keep your promises. We will wait expectantly for news of the changes you are making. We will keep asking.


[1] The Hebrew for “in a desert-plateau” is the same as for “concerning Arabia.”

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a watchman in position

March 2015  (26)

Isaiah 21:6-10

6 Because the Lord said this to me: “Go, set a watchman in position. He must make known what he sees. 7 And he will see a rider, a pair of horsemen, a rider of a donkey, a of a camel, and he must listen alertly, paying attention, paying much attention.” 8 And the lion called, “Lord, I stand on a watchtower constantly by day, and I stand at my post all of the night, 9 and I watch this! A man’s chariot is coming, a pair of horsemen on it!” and he replied and said, “It has fallen! Babylon has fallen! And all the statues of her gods — smashed on the ground!” 10 My subjugated people and the son of my threshing floor, I will make known to you what I have heard from Yahveh of armies, the God of Israel.

a watchman in position

The watchman Isaiah set in position was himself. He saw by virtue of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Yahveh of armies was in the process of bringing down Babylon. He saw a chariot coming to announce the downfall of the empire. He had the chance to proclaim to God’s subjugated people a hope of rescue and revival because pagan Babylon would be defeated and replaced. He saw history before it happened. That is one of the things God’s word does for his people. It gives us hope because it enables us to see what is going to happen next, and after that. The word cannot believe for us. We still have to put our faith in the word for it to give us hope. Otherwise, it is to us just words on a page. But what God says will come to pass. The LORD of armies still changes the world we live in. Will our generation be able to proclaim to this world what God is doing? — Only if we have watchmen in position, watching his revelation, paying close attention to what he has revealed.

LORD, post us to our watching positions. Enable us to see what is coming next, and proclaim that to a senseless and dull generation.

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last feast

March 2015  (25)

Isaiah 21:1-5

1 The oracle of seaside desert: Like storm winds passing over in the Negev, coming from a desert, from a dreadful land. 2 A hard revelation is told to me; the treacherous deals treacherously, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, Elam; lay siege, Media! I am putting an end to all of her comfort. 3 For this reason my insides are filled with agony; pangs have seized me, like pangs of a woman giving birth. I am bent because of what I have heard, I am distraught because of what I have seen. 4 My heart staggers; fear terrifies me; the last chance to get what I want has disturbed me. 5 Set out the table in order! Spread out the rugs. Eat! drink! Rise up, commanders; smear a shield with oil!

last feast

Isaiah describes the famous feast of Belshazzar, the events of which are recorded in Daniel 5. At the height of its opulence and pride, Babylon is struck down by the Medes and Persians. Isaiah saw it beforehand. He predicted a terrible night, which would begin with feasting, and would end with a call to prepare for battle. The commanders would leave the table and rush out to oil their shields. But oiling the shields was something that had to be done beforehand. The commanders have been caught unprepared for the battle that would end in the defeat of the empire.

Perhaps you are going from feast to feast right now. Do not think that your current comfort is evidence that the LORD approves of your life. Babylon went a long time going from table to table, never thinking that their time of comfort would come to an end. But on that fateful night, the LORD said enough is enough. He put an end to all her comfort. The attack came quickly and decisively, and before dawn, the great Babylonian empire was no more.

LORD, may our lives be lived for you, and your kingdom, not merely for our own enjoyment. Give us the wisdom to trust and serve Christ so that we have no fear of his coming judgment.

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embarrassed by false hope

March 2015  (24)

Isaiah 20:1-6

1 The year the commander-in-chief came to Ashdod, after Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and he took it, 2 during that time, Yahveh had spoken by the hand of Isaiah son of Amoz, saying, “Go and take off the sackcloth from your loins, and remove each sandal from your feet,” and he had done so, walking naked and barefoot. 3 Then Yahveh said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years — a sign and a warning against Egypt and Cush, 4 in the same way the king of Assyria will lead the captive of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot, and bare of buttocks — the shame of Egypt. 5 And they will be distressed, and they will be embarrassed because of Cush, their hope, and because of Egypt, their pride. 6 And an inhabitant of the coastland will say this on that day: ‘Look! This, our hope, to whom we escaped for help, to be delivered from the face of the king of Assyria, and how will we escape now?'”

embarrassed by false hope

It would have been embarrassing to see the great prophet walking around naked and barefoot for three years. The people probably thought that he had finally lost it – that he had gone utterly mad. All this time they were thinking that God was going to rescue them from the Assyrian threat by means of Egypt and Cush. Then God tells them that it is this false hope that they should be ashamed of.

LORD, forgive us for putting our hope in flesh. It is hard to see your invisible hand, and it is easy to grasp at some other form of rescue, and assume that you are in it. May we put our hope in you alone.

LORD, may we who are being tempted to put our hope in the wrong place be reminded of your power and faithfulness.

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