THE MINOR PROPHETS

 

Bibliography

 

 

English Standard Version Bible

 

Douglas Stuart  Word Biblical Commentary Volume 31    Hosea-Jonah

 

Ralph L. Smith   Word Biblical Commentary Volume 32    Micah-Malachi

 

Samuel J. Schultz  The Old Testament Speaks   

 

January 22, 2018

 

 

Today we begin our study of the Minor Prophets.  There are 12 in all in the Hebrew canon and Christians have carried them over into our Bible.    They are not minor as far as their messages are concerned.  A better translation of the word ‘minor’ could be ‘shorter’.   They are shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.  But each has a major message to his audience.  The writings range from around 900 BC to 400 BC.  They are not in chronological order, so it is important that we understand the times of the writings and thereby the context of the messages.  Some of the minor prophets were contemporary with the major prophets and some with each other.  The prophetic messages are consistent among all the prophets, major and minor, and it is important for us to understand their messages because they are completely relevant to the situation the church and we believers face in today’s world.

 

The story of the Bible is one of creation originally followed by the fall.  Adam and Eve were placed in a garden with instructions to care for it and to guard it.  The garden was a temple where Adam could have direct access to God.  Adam failed in his duty to guard the garden and keep it safe.  The two had to be removed from the garden and we now live with the consequences of that fall.  The Bible does not end there, however.  God was ready with plan two.

 

“God’s answer to all of this was a rescue operation, in the form of a holy people who would listen to his voice, learn to praise him correctly, and draw all the nations to right order through the splendor of their way of life. After creation, the Fall, and the consequences of the Fall as described in chapters 1 through 11, chapter 12 of Genesis introduces us to Abraham, the father of Israel, the father of faith. This new Adam figure is the progenitor of a priestly and a kingly people. He and his descendants, from Isaac and Jacob, to David and Solomon, through Isaiah and Ezekiel, would attempt, through the disciplines of Torah, Temple, prophetic speech, kingly rule, and sacred covenant, to restore a properly ordered humanity. The coming together of the priestly and kingly offices is perhaps nowhere better expressed than in the exuberant dance of King David, wearing the ephod of a priest, before the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of the Law. But the priests of Israel tended to fall into corruption and run after false gods, and the kings of Israel, time and again, betrayed their office. Even the greatest king, David, was an adulterer and murderer. Much of this dissolution is summed up in Ezekiel’s devastating vision, recounted in the tenth chapter of his prophetic book, of the Shekinah, the glory, of Yahweh leaving his Temple and moving toward the east. But the enduring hope of Israel is expressed in that same prophet’s prediction that one day the glory of the Lord would return to his Temple, and on that day water would flow forth from the side of the building for the renewal of creation.” 

(Evangelizing the Nones)

 

 

Below is a brief Old Testament timeline and especially the timeline of Israel. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will begin our study of the national and religious context of the minor prophets with the kingship of David. The Jewish nation lived from the Exodus until the time of monarch without a king.  God was the king and his prophets guided the people.  The people wanted a king of their own like the other nations so Samuel anointed Saul, the Benjaminite as king.  Unfortunately Saul did not turn out to be the kind of king they had hoped for, so God instructed Samuel to anoint David as king in his place.  Saul reigned forty years from 1050 BC to 1010BC.  

 

 

2 Samuel 7:8-16 Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.  And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.  And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel.  And I will give you rest from all your enemies.  Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.  When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.’”  In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

 

David was initially king over Judah alone, the southern kingdom, but after Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines, and a civil war in which the leaders of Israel were assassinated David became king of Judah and all Israel.    

 

2 Samuel 5:1-5  Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.  In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel.  And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”  So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.  David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.  At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

 

David began his reign in Hebron, but after 7 years he conquered the Jebusites  who lived in Jerusalem, and established Jerusalem as his capital city.  He reigned forty years from 1010 BC to 970 BC.  He found favor with the Lord and the land grew very rich.  It was located on the trade routes between Africa and the Middle East.  The surrounding nations honored him and Hiram, king of Tyre, built him a palace to live in.  David conquered all the surrounding countries, Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek and Syria.  David became a powerful king and Israel’s territory ultimately extended from the Euphrates to the Sinai desert.  (This region is now known as the Levant.  The last administration in our country called ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant.)   Its geography placed it on the trade routes between Africa and the middle east .  Because of David’s faithfulness to God the nation became very wealthy as well.  David reigned forty years from 1010 BC to 970 BC.

 

David was succeeded by his son Solomon, and Solomon reigned from 970 BC to 

930 BC.  Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt.  They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life (1 Kings 4:21). This was the pinnacle of Israel’s power.  

 

1 Kings 4:29-32 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.  He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.

 

1 Kings 10:23-25 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.  Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.   

 

2 Chronicles 9:3-4, 9, 10-11, 13-14  And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.

 

She said: Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

 

Moreover, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones.  And the king made from the algum wood supports for the house of the LORD and for the king's house, lyres also and harps for the singers. There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah.

 

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, besides that which the explorers and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the land brought gold and silver to Solomon.

 

 

 David had made preparations for a Temple to be built in Jerusalem, and Solomon built the Temple (1 Kings 5-7).  The temple was to be a representation of the Garden of Eden and the people were encouraged to return to the original state of Adam, a people who loved and worshiped God.  The Temple became the center of worship for all Israel, and continued to be, except for a brief 70 year period after the Babylonian invasion, until it was destroyed by Titus of Rome in 70 AD.   The Ark was placed in the holy of holies in the Temple.  The Israelites considered Jerusalem to be an indestructible city because the Temple and the Ark of the Lord were there.

 

Solomon ruled well for the first 20 years of his reign.  The nation prospered and became very wealthy.  The nation remained faithful to YHWH and the Temple services ran continually..  The original form of worship and sacrifice as taught in Exodus and Leviticus was finally reinstated after a long lapse.  There was peace in the land from all Israel’s enemies for all of Solomon’s reign.

 

Unfortunately Solomon turned from the Lord in his last 20 years.  He got involved with many foreign women and soon allowed their gods to infiltrate Israel.

 

1 Kings 11:1-8 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,  from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.”  Solomon clung to these in love.  He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.  For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.  And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

 

 

The Lord Raises Adversaries

 

1 Kings 11:9-13 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice  and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded.  Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.  Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”

 

Once Solomon was weakened by his profligate ways, several foci of insurrection developed.  The Bible tells us that it was God himself who raised up the adversaries (1 Kings 11:14-43).  Even Jeroboam, his chief military officer, was told secretly by a prophet that when Solomon died he would become the ruler of the Northern Kingdom, and only Judah and Benjamin would remain in the hands Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.  

 

Solomon reigned from 970 BC-930 BC and he died.  His son, Rehoboam reigned in his stead. (930 BC-916 BC).  Rehoboam turned out to be a foolish young man and the people of the ten Northern Kingdom tribes rejected him as their king.  They proclaimed Jeroboam to be their king and they built Shechem, a city in the hill country of Ephraim, to be their capital city.  Jeroboam rejected the God of Israel and built an altar in Bethel where he made two calves of gold and instituted sacrifices to the pagan gods in the land.  The second golden calf was placed in Dan, the northern limit of the kingdom.        

 

1 Kings 12:12-20   So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.”  And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him,  he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”  So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

 

And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents.  But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah.  Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones.  And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.  So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.  And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.

 

 

 

For the next 200 years, 930 BC to 722 BC, the two kingdoms lived next to each other, but never reunited.  They fought each other and had to fight off  invasions by surrounding nations.  The land of Syria was lost to them and the Sinai peninsula and Negev was lost.  The northern kingdom owned most of the remaining territory and Judah became a small nation state around Jerusalem and extending southward to the Sinai desert.  Judah tended to remain faithful to YHWH for the most part because the Temple was in Jerusalem.  The northern kingdom paid a little lip service to YHWH, but remained mainly a pagan country with many idols and false gods.  Early on a number of Israelites who wanted to remain faithful to YHWH moved into Judah and settled there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kingdom Divided

 

 

The Northern Kingdom never had a king that worshiped Jehovah.  Jeroboam  was Davids commander-in-chief, but when he was selected to be king of the Northern Kingdom he repudiated YHWH and immediately set up golden calves for his people to worship.  Better known northern kings were Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jeroboam II, Pekah and Hosea.  Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him.  He held that record until his son, Ahab, began to reign, and he beat his father’s record of evil doing.  Jehu killed Ahab and Jezebel and all their sons and daughters and all the household of Omri, and became king of Israel.  There was a fairly rapid succession of kings after Jehu leading up to the fall of the Northern Kingdom to an Assyrian invasion on 722BC that destroyed the Northern Kingdom.  The ten tribes of Israel were taken to Assyria as slaves and scattered throughout the middle east and even into India.  They are the ten lost tribes.  He repopulated the land with peoples from many lands (2 kings 17:24-34).  These people became known as Samaritans in New Testament times. 

 

As the division was happening in Israel, Assyria was growing into a world power.  In 733-732 BC Tiglath-Pilezer III invaded and conquered Syria.  He sent raiding parties into Israel and collected tribute from her.  Finally in 722 BC he invaded and conquered the Northern Kingdom.  

 

 

In 701 BC Sennacherib, his successor, invaded Judah.  Hezekiah was king and Isaiah was the prophet at that time.  Both were faithful to YHWH, and they prayed for deliverance.   The Lord answered by sending an angel into the Assyrian camp that killed 185,000 of the troops.  Sennacherib departs and went home and lived at Nineveh (2 Kings 19:35-36).  You can see on the map that Judah never became a part of the Assyrian empire that reached from the Persian Gulf to Egypt. 

  

By 615 BC the Assyrian kingdom was in decline and was conquered by the resurgent kingdom of Babylonia when Nebuchadnezzar II defeated Pharaoh Neco, who had come up from Egypt to assist the Assyrians, in the battle at Carchemish in 605 BC.  Nebuchadnezzar was now to become the most powerful ruler in the world.  He immediately turned his eyes on Egypt and in going there assaulted Judah. 

 

Judah, for the most part, remained faithful to YHWH.  The Temple worship in Jerusalem continued the whole time.  Some of the good kings in Judah, ones that drove out the pagan gods and restored true worship of YHWH, were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, Josiah, etc.   Several were evil and the temple fell into disrepair.  But none were as evil as Manasseh, who reigned for 52 years.  Judah was never able to recover from his evil reign, even with the reforms of Josiah.  Judah was doomed to fall to the Babylonian invasion in 586 BC. 

 

Josiah became king of Judah after Manasseh.  He brought about a total revival in the land.  The Torah was rediscovered in the neglected Temple and was read to all the people.  True worship and the Passover was started again.  Unfortunately Josiah died in battle with Pharaoh Neco when he tried to stop Egypt from going to the rescue of the Assyrians. 

 

2 Kings 23:24-27 Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.  Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

 Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.  And the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

 

In 586 BC Jerusalem fell to the Babylonia invasion and the people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon for the next 70 years.  Jeremiah was the prophet in Israel when it fell and Ezekiel was the prophet in Babylon to the exiles.  Daniel was in the Babylonian court while all this was happening. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Babylonian kingdom fell to the Persians in 539 BC.  Cyrus was the king of Persia.  The LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make this proclamation. 

 

Ezra 1:2-4 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.  And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

 

Many of the exiles returned.  Jerusalem was restored, the walls were rebuilt, the Temple was reconstructed and it remained intact until the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Bible covers the history of Israel until about 400 BC.  The Minor Prophets also will cover the period until 400 BC.  There will be a four hundred year period without canonical literature until the coming of the promised Messiah at round 4 BC.

 

All of this—and I am but touching on highlights—is the necessary background for understanding the role and times of the minor prophets.  It is important to see how interactive God has been through this historical period.  He spoke to the kings of both kingdoms directly and through his prophets.  He blessed the nations when they were faithful in worship and obedience, and brought disaster when his ways were rejected.  As we study the minor prophet we should realize that God is as interested in us as he was in Israel in Biblical times.  He is still looking for everyone who will seek after him, worship him, love him and follow his teachings.   With the coming of Jesus he has defined a new kingdom, and we are invited to join him in it.

 

Next week we will begin the study of Hosea

HOSEA

 

 

Hosea, son of Beeri, was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom between 750 – 722 BC.  He lived in a time of rapid religious and moral decline, and political collapse.  In 722 BC the Northern Kingdom was invaded by Assyria, and the people were carried off as slaves and scattered throughout the mid-east, never to return again to the land.  They became the ten lost tribes.  His message was one of warning of their impending fate unless they repented and changed their ways.  There are significant parallels with our country today.

 

Last week we looked at the timeline of Israel from David to the fall of both Israel and Judah.  Hosea appears near the end of the Northern Kingdom, around 760 BC and will be ministering to both the northern Kingdom and to Judah until the fall of the Northern kingdom to the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC.

 

We know very little about Hosea outside of what we read in the book with his name.  He was the son of Beeri.  There is a town in the territory of Benjamin near Bethel called Beeroth.  It is possible that this was Hosea’s hometown.  It is near the border of Judah and the northern Kingdom.  Hosea would have access to both nations from this location.  We know almost nothing more about him or where he ministered.  He was ignored initially and resented later.  A small group of Northerners who remained faithful toYHWH probably appreciated his message.  

 

His message was an affirmation of the Mosaic covenant.  He did not have any other esoteric prophetic message.  Both nations knew, or should have known, the terms of the covenant.  The covenant contained blessings based on obedience to the covenant and curses for disobedience.  These are codified best in Deuteronomy 27-30.

 

27:1-3 Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.  And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster.  And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you. 

 

28:1-14 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.  Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

 “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.  The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.  And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.  And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.  The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.  And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

 

 

 

28:15-37 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.  Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field.  Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.  Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.

 “The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.  The LORD will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.  The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.  And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron.  The LORD will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.

 “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.  And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.  The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed.  The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you.  You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit.  Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat any of it. Your donkey shall be seized before your face, but shall not be restored to you. Your sheep shall be given to your enemies, but there shall be no one to help you.  Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.  A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,  so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.  The LORD will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.

 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone.  And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away. 

 

28:45-50 “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you.  They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever.  Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,  therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.  The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young.

 

28:58-65 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God, then the LORD will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.  And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.  Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the LORD will bring upon you, until you are destroyed.  Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God.  And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

 “And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.  And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the LORD will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 

 

 

 

 

30:11-20 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,  I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,  loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

 

I am spending all this time on God’s Covenant with Israel, because the same rules apply to all peoples and ought to be appropriated by our country now as they were at our founding.

 

 

Historical setting   

Hosea’s commission was to bring very bad news to the Northern Kingdom.  Jeroboam II was the king (793BC-753BC).  The Jehu dynasty began in 842 BC when Ahab and all the members of the Omri clan were killed by Jehu, who then became king of Israel.  Unfortunately the Jehu family did not return to the Lord.  Soon Jeroboam II will be killed (953 BC), and the Jehu dynasty will come to an end.  It was the longest dynasty in the Northern Kingdom.  There will be no other.  There will be a series of six kings of the North, all of whom die by assassination.  Hosea will be pastor and prophet to all of them.  He was greeted with complacency at first, but when Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria appeared in 745 BC in his conquest of Syria, the complacency turned to desperation domestically and in foreign affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hos. 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 

 

Uzziah was King in Judah when Hosea began his ministry.  We know that Isaiah was prophet at that time as well, as we read in Isaiah 6: In the year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.  Hosea’s ministry continued into the reign of Hezekiah.   Hezekiah was King of Judah when Assyria invaded again under Sennacherib on 702 BC.   Isaiah was the prophet to Judah and Hosea was primarily speaking to the Northern Kingdom.

 

 

Hos. 1:2-3 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 

 

Many teach that God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute.  That is probably a wrong interpretation.  To take a wife of whoredom probably means to marry a woman of the Northern Kingdom, the apostate Israel.  God’s relationship to his people in the OT is one of husband and wife.  In the NT the church is being prepared to be the bride of Christ.  Here prostitution is scandalous unfaithfulness to God’s covenant.  Prostitution is Hosea’s most common metaphor for covenant infidelity.

 

 

Hos. 1:4-5  And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.  And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

 

The name Jezreel means ‘God sows’.  In this case God sows judgment, not blessing.

 Jezreel is also a place name of a valley between the Samaria highlands and the Galilee highlands where Jehu slaughtered the family of Ahab and the Omni dynasty in 842 BC, 100 years earlier.  The Jezreel valley is also the valley of Megiddo where Israel was finally defeated by the Assyrian army.  It is also the valley in prophesy known to us as Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).

 

Hos. 1:6-9  She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy [Lo-ruhama], for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.  But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”   When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son.  And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People [Lo-ammi], for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

 

The fate of Israel is set.  There will be no more chance for redemption.  The course in inexorably headed to 722 BC.  The nation will be no more.

 

Interestingly  verse 7 addresses Judah in the middle of this judgment of Israel.  Judah will be spared.  Assyria will not conquer Judah.  But Judah’s salvation will not come through her military prowess, but entirely by the intervention of God.  We discussed this last week.  As a reminder, this is how it happened.  (See 2 Kings 18:13-19:37)

 

2 Kings 19:35-37 And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

 

Hos. 1:10-11  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”  And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 

 

The might God of all creation is also a ‘softie’.  He must bring judgment because he is a righteous and just God, but he cannot forget the people of his covenant.  Therefore, Hosea follows his message of judgment with this gentle and loving message from God, that the people will be restored and Israel and Judah will be reunited and returned to the Promised Land.  Today we know that this will happen in the new kingdom under the Messiah, Jesus, the Christ.

 

Some  teach that God is finished with the Jews and the church is the new Israel.  Hosea, Isaiah, Ezekiel and many other prophets refute this, as does Paul in 

Romans 9

 

 Interestingly, President Trump affirmed this when he said the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, and Vice President Pence, in his message to the Knesset last week, affirmed the American expectation of the physical restoration of Israel in the Holy Land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hosea’s Poem  

 

Hos. 2:1-15 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.” 

“Plead with your mother, plead—

for she is not my wife,

and I am not her husband—

that she put away her whoring from her face,

and her adultery from between her breasts; 

lest I strip her naked

and make her as in the day she was born,

and make her like a wilderness,

and make her like a parched land,

and kill her with thirst. 

Upon her children also I will have no mercy,

because they are children of whoredom. 

For their mother has played the whore;

she who conceived them has acted shamefully.

For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,

who give me my bread and my water,

my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ 

Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,

and I will build a wall against her,

so that she cannot find her paths. 

She shall pursue her lovers

but not overtake them,

and she shall seek them

but shall not find them.

Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband,

for it was better for me then than now.’ 

And she did not know

that it was I who gave her

the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and who lavished on her silver and gold,

which they used for Baal. 

Therefore I will take back

my grain in its time,

and my wine in its season,

and I will take away my wool and my flax,

which were to cover her nakedness. 

Now I will uncover her lewdness

in the sight of her lovers,

and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 

And I will put an end to all her mirth,

her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,

and all her appointed feasts. 

And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,

of which she said,

‘These are my wages,

which my lovers have given me.’

I will make them a forest,

and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 

And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals

when she burned offerings to them

and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,

and went after her lovers

and forgot me, declares the LORD. 

 

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,

and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her. 

And there I will give her her vineyards

and make the Valley of Achor* a door of hope.

And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,

as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 

*Valley of tears, trouble

 

Hos. 2:16-20 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’  For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.  And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. 

 

Hos. 2:21-23  “And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, 

I will answer the heavens,

and they shall answer the earth, 

and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and they shall answer Jezreel, 

and I will sow her for myself in the land.

And I will have mercy on No Mercy,

and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;

and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Theses on Sex        

First Things, February 2018, Hans Boersma

J. I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College

 

  1. Sex is searching for God

Sexual union is a symbol or a sacrament of union with Christ.  Ephesians 5:32

 

2.  God invents sex

God said to Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply.  Genesis 1:28

He invented weddings.  Our relationship with God is as bride and bridegroom.  Human love is patterned by God’s love for us.

 

3.  Sex is not God

Sex should not be our god.  It should not be ultimate in our lives.  It is an important aspect of human life, but our union with Christ is the ultimate relationship goal of life.  Self denial is an important element of the Christian life.

 

4.  God is chastity

The way we treat sex says a great deal about how we think about God.  Jesus says only the pure in heart can see God.  Matthew 5:8

 

5.  Sex is temporary

Sex and marriage are institutions for this life only.  Jesus aid those raised from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Luke 20:35  Marriage is sacramental, and sacraments are a means to a greater end, that is an eternal union with Christ.  

 

6.  Disordered desire makes for disordered sex

Problems related to sex are primarily problems of the mind.    It is our disordered desires that lead us astray.  Erotic pictures misdirect our minds from our relationship with Christ.

 

7.  Fallen bodies make for fallen sex

Our equality is disordered because of the fall.  Today’s gender issues, homosexuality, pornography, etc are distortions brought about because our minds are distorted.  Our fallen bodies will be sown into the ground after death, and we will be raised with new spiritual bodies. 1 Cor. 15:42-2-44

 

8.  Sex leads to kids

The primary purpose of sex is to make children.  This is obvious in nature.  Animals do not appear to have disordered sex.  It is a disorder of man, made in the image of God, but distorted by the fall.  Sex as an expression of love bears fruit, and the fruit is our children.  Children are a blessing throughout the Bible, and the Psalmist says it is a joy to have a quiver full of them (Psalm 127:5), or like olive shots around your table (Psalm 28:3).

HOSEA 3:1-6:11         Israel is Taken Court February 5, 2018

 

 

Last week we saw that God asked Hosea to marry a women of whoredom.  She probably was not a prostitute, but was a citizen of the Northern Kingdom that the Lord declared to be an adulterous nation.  We discussed the extensive use of marriage, husband and wife, suitor and bride throughout the whole Bible.  We  suggested that our disordered sexuality is a product of our disordered minds brought about by the fall.  God had planned a perfect union of Adam and Eve in a holy temple called the Garden of Eden.  

 

When that plan failed he went to plan two, to create a holy nation through a righteous man named Abraham.  It was a difficult task with many ups and downs, but worked out fairly well through the reign of David in the Promised Land.  This land was to be the new temple.  It was a good idea for a while, but finally fell apart during the reign of Solomon.  The prime cause of the failure of the nation was Solomon’s sexual appetite.  This is very interesting in light of the sexualization of our nation today.  

 

Today’s lesson begins with Hosea redeeming a wayward woman.  She could be Gomer, but we do not have documentation of that.  Hosea is a living, physical parable, much like Ezekiel did when he lay mute and on his left side in his house in Babylon by the Chebar canal for 390 days, as a sign of the punishment Judah will be experiencing soon.

 

After this brief interlude, Hosea begins to explain God’s legal case against the land.  We will see accusations in the court room.  There will be witnesses and there will be a judge.  At the end sentence will be pronounced.

 

Hos. 3:1-5 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”  So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 

And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 

Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

We do not hear of Gomer again.  This probably is another woman, and one who is definitely an outwardly immoral person.  Her adultery is real.  Hosea is a type of God in that he is asked to love a wayward woman even as God continues to love his wayward children.  The woman must remain chaste all the while she is with Homer even as all her physical means of support are taken away.  In the end she shall return and seek the Lord.  Note the use of ‘love’ four times in the first verse.  It includes divine love, agape, parental love, storge, general human or brotherly love, philos, and ‘eros’, romantic love.  The adulteress has distorted the four loves, and instead loves her adultery and Baal worship (raisin cakes) (Jeremiah 44:15-19).  Her love is selfish, self-indulgent and pleasure oriented.

God’s love is noble, unselfish, long-suffering, generous, and protective.  There will be a day when God’s wayward people will return to him under the rule of David their king.  This David will be Jesus, the Messiah.

 

 

God’s Legal Case against his Chosen People

 

 

The accusation against the land

 

Hos. 4:1-3 Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel,

for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,

and no knowledge of God in the land; 

there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;

they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. 

Therefore the land mourns,

and all who dwell in it languish,

and also the beasts of the field

and the birds of the heavens,

and even the fish of the sea are taken away. 

 

Israel is taken to court and God registers his complaint.  Israel’s sin not only affects the people, but affects the land as well.  Each section will contain an accusation, evidence to support the accusation, and a judgment.

 

Jeremiah 9:23-26 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

 

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—  Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

 

    

 

 

The accusation against  the priesthood

 

Hos. 4:4-9 Yet let no one contend,

and let none accuse,

for with you is my contention, O priest. 

You shall stumble by day;

the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;

and I will destroy your mother. 

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;

because you have rejected knowledge,

I reject you from being a priest to me.

And since you have forgotten the law of your God,

I also will forget your children. 

 

  The more they increased,

the more they sinned against me;

I will change their glory into shame. 

They feed on the sin of my people;

they are greedy for their iniquity. 

And it shall be like people, like priest;

I will punish them for their ways

and repay them for their deeds. 

 

The people have gone astray, but the priesthood bears much of the responsibility.  The priests are singled out for special punishment.  This is repeated for the leadership of the church in the New Testament: Luke 12:48,  Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much they will demand more.

 

Deut. 32:15-18 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked;

you grew fat, stout, and sleek;

then he forsook God who made him

and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.

They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;

with abominations they provoked him to anger.

 

They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,

to gods they had never known,

to new gods that had come recently,

whom your fathers had never dreaded.

You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,

and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

(See Leviticus 4:1-12)

 

 

 

 

 

The accusation against the false cult

 

Hos. 4:10-14 They shall eat, but not be satisfied;

they shall play the whore, but not multiply,

because they have forsaken the LORD

to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine,

which take away the understanding. 

My people inquire of a piece of wood,

and their walking staff gives them oracles.

For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,

and they have left their God to play the whore. 

They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains

and burn offerings on the hills,

under oak, poplar, and terebinth,

because their shade is good.

Therefore your daughters play the whore,

and your brides commit adultery. 

I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,

nor your brides when they commit adultery;

for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes

and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,

and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. 

 

Hunger and infertility are listed among the punishments in Deuteronomy 28:17-18.  Israel finds God’s strict morality oppressive, and prefers the moral freedom provided by the pagan cults.  Many of the cults practiced ritualistic prostitution in the places of worship, including male prostitutes (1 Kings 14:22-24).  In light of this, it is interesting to watch the rise of homosexuality  and the aggressive demand of approval for multiple genders in our land today.

 

The fall of the false cult                             

 

Hos. 4:15-19  Though you play the whore, O Israel,

let not Judah become guilty.

Enter not into Gilgal,

nor go up to Beth-aven,

and swear not, “As the LORD lives.” 

Like a stubborn heifer,

Israel is stubborn;

can the LORD now feed them

like a lamb in a broad pasture? 

 

  Ephraim is joined to idols;

leave him alone. 

When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring;

their rulers dearly love shame. 

A wind has wrapped them in its wings,

and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices. 

 

Beth-aven is a derogatory nickname for Bethel, which means the house of God (See Genesis 28:10-22).

 

1  Kings 12:25-33 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.

 

God’s covenant people are called to court and found in violation of the Covenant.  They are sentenced to destruction.  The sentence is based on the stipulations of blessings and curses we read last week in Deuteronomy 28-33.  The people had drifted so far away from knowledge of the Covenant they no longer knew God at all.

 

Summons to Israel’s leadership

 

Hos. 5:1-2 Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel!

Give ear, O house of the king!

For the judgment is for you;

for you have been a snare at Mizpah

and a net spread upon Tabor. 

 

And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter,

but I will discipline all of them. 

 

The priests, the people themselves, and the King are all being told that judgment is on the way.  There is no escape, whether in the city or in the country.

The nation’s government and religion were established by God to protect and benefit the people, but instead, they have preyed upon the people, and the leadership is corrupting the people.

 

Evidence against Israel

 

Hos. 5:3-4  I know Ephraim,

and Israel is not hidden from me;

for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore;

Israel is defiled. 

Their deeds do not permit them

to return to their God.

For the spirit of whoredom is within them,

and they know not the LORD. 

 

 The spirit of whoredom is the orientation of the people,not the actions of individuals.  It is this orientation that keeps the people from knowing God.  How foolish the nation is to think that somehow what it does could escape YHWH’s attention.

 

Judgment against Israel and Ephraim

 

Hos. 5:5-7 The pride of Israel testifies to his face;

Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt;

Judah also shall stumble with them. 

With their flocks and herds they shall go

to seek the LORD,

but they will not find him;

he has withdrawn from them. 

They have dealt faithlessly with the LORD;

for they have borne alien children.

Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields. 

 

To seek the Lord with flocks and herds means to bring sacrifices to God.  But he will not acknowledge such sacrifices.  This is a  perennial issue.  Samuel reprimanded Saul for the same thing.

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23 And Samuel said,

“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

 

For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,

he has also rejected you from being king.”

The watchman sounds the alarm

 

Hos. 5:8-11  Blow the horn in Gibeah,

the trumpet in Ramah.

Sound the alarm at Beth-aven;

we follow you, O Benjamin! 

Ephraim shall become a desolation

in the day of punishment;

among the tribes of Israel

I make known what is sure. 

The princes of Judah have become

like those who move the landmark;

upon them I will pour out

my wrath like water. 

Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment,

because he was determined to go after filth. 

 

Interestingly, after Samuel met with Saul for the last time, Saul went to Gibeah and Samuel to Ramah.  They never saw each other again.

 

1 Samuel 15:35 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul.  And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

 

The message alarm is to be sounded throughout the land.  The end is near.  Even Judah is warned by Hosea, even though he is a prophet to Israel.

 

God will harm Ephraim and Judah

 

Hos. 5:12-15 But I am like a moth to Ephraim,

and like dry rot to the house of Judah. 

When Ephraim saw his sickness,

and Judah his wound,

then Ephraim went to Assyria,

and sent to the great king.

But he is not able to cure you

or heal your wound. 

For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,

and like a young lion to the house of Judah.

I, even I, will tear and go away;

I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 

I will return again to my place,

until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,

and in their distress earnestly seek me. 

 

The northern Kingdom went through a series of kings after Jeroboam II died.  Zechariah reigned 6 months.  Shallum assassinated him and reigned one month.  Menahem killed Shallum and reigned for 10 years.  Assyria sent envoys to Israel during his reign and Menahem confiscated the wealth of all the rich men in the country to pay off the king of Assyria to keep him from invading.  Apparently he died a natural death and his son Pekahiah ascended to the throne.  He only lasted 2 years before he was assassinated by the son of his commander-in-chief named Pekah.  Pekah reigned 20 years, 752 BC - 732 BC.  In 10 more years the country would no longer exist.

 

He decided to invade Judah in an alliance with Rezin, the king of Syria, to try to force Ahaz, king of Judah to join their alliance against Assyria.  Ahaz called to Assyria to protect Judah from Rezin and Pekah.  This led to Assyrian conquest of Syria and Assyrian invasion and conquest of much territory in Israel.  This history is found in 

2 Kings 15-16.

 

 

Eight Theses on Sex        

First Things, February 2018, Hans Boersma

J. I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College

 

  1. Sex is searching for God

Sexual union is a symbol or a sacrament of union with Christ.  Ephesians 5:32

 

2.  God invents sex

God said to Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply.  Genesis 1:28

He invented weddings.  Our relationship with God is as bride and bridegroom.  Human love is patterned by God’s love for us.

 

3.  Sex is not God

Sex should not be our god.  It should not be ultimate in our lives.  It is an important aspect of human life, but our union with Christ is the ultimate relationship goal of life.  Self denial is an important element of the Christian life.

 

4.  God is chastity

The way we treat sex says a great deal about how we think about God.  Jesus says only the pure in heart can see God.  Matthew 5:8

 

5.  Sex is temporary

Sex and marriage are institutions for this life only.  Jesus aid those raised from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Luke 20:35  Marriage is sacramental, and sacraments are a means to a greater end, that is an eternal union with Christ.  

 

6.  Disordered desire makes for disordered sex

Problems related to sex are primarily problems of the mind.    It is our disordered desires that lead us astray.  Erotic pictures misdirect our minds from our relationship with Christ.

 

7.  Fallen bodies make for fallen sex

Our equality is disordered because of the fall.  Today’s gender issues, homosexuality, pornography, etc are distortions brought about because our minds are distorted.  Our fallen bodies will be sown into the ground after death, and we will be raised with new spiritual bodies. 1 Cor. 15:42-2-44

 

8.  Sex leads to kids

The primary purpose of sex is to make children.  This is obvious in nature.  Animals do not appear to have disordered sex.  It is a disorder of man, made in the image of God, but distorted by the fall.  Sex as an expression of love bears fruit, and the fruit is our children.  Children are a blessing throughout the Bible, and the Psalmist says it is a joy to have a quiver full of them (Psalm 127:5), or like olive shots around your table (Psalm 28:3).

 

 

 

Our study ends here today.  We could go further, but it is 10 o'clock on Saturday night and it is time for bed.

Hosea 6:1-8:14              The Trial Continues February 12, 2018

 

 

We are still in the courtroom.  The people of Israel thought they could please God with their ritualistic and formal religion, regardless of the condition of their hearts.  They could pay some lip-service to YHWH, but their real love was the Baals.  We find this same attitude in Judah in the time of Jeremiah.

 

Jeremiah 44:15-19 Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.  But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.  For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster.  But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”  And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands' approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”

 

But they could not fool YHWH, so they are sitting in the courtroom now before the righteous judge.  The case is being presented and judgment is still to come.

 

Restoration promised

 

Hos. 6:1-3  “Come, let us return to the LORD;

for he has torn us, that he may heal us;

he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 

  After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up,

that we may live before him. 

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;

his going out is sure as the dawn;

he will come to us as the showers,

as the spring rains that water the earth.”

 

There are some faithful orthodox believers in the courtroom.  They hear the words of Hosea and are responding to him in faith.  In every age God has a faithful remnant.  Remember Elijah complaint that he was the only faithful believer left in the land.

 

1 kings 19:13-18 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts.  For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”  And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.  And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.  And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.  And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.  Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 

The disloyalty of Ephraim and Judah

 

Hos. 6:4-10  What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?

What shall I do with you, O Judah?

Your love is like a morning cloud,

like the dew that goes early away. 

Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;

I have slain them by the words of my mouth,

and my judgment goes forth as the light. 

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 

  But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;

there they dealt faithlessly with me. 

Gilead is a city of evildoers,

tracked with blood. 

As robbers lie in wait for a man,

so the priests band together;

they murder on the way to Shechem;

they commit villainy. 

In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;

Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled. 

 

There is no continuing loyalty in Israel or in Judah.  Their faithfulness is like the morning fog.  The draw away from YHWH is too great, but the consequences are very severe.

 

Here is a good memory verse for us.  It is repeated throughout the Bible.

 

Hosea 6:6   For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

 

Jesus quotes it to the Pharisees in Matthew 9:12-13.

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Gilead is in the Transjordan, in the area of East Manasseh.  It includes the Golan Heights of today.   We know it from Jeremiah 8:22 when he asks;

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of the daughter of my people

not been restored?

Shechem was a major religious and political center.  This may refer to the robbing and murder of pilgrims on the roads to Shechem.  We hear of a similar attack on the road to Jericho in the story of the Good Samaritan.  These are examples of what is happening throughout the land.

 

 

Restoration is promised to Judah

 

Hos. 6:11 For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed,

when I restore the fortunes of my people. 

 

This seems to be a parenthetical note, but also a word of grace.

 

The indictment of Israel continues

 

Crime is widespread  

 

Hos. 7:1-2 When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed,

and the evil deeds of Samaria;

for they deal falsely;

the thief breaks in,

and the bandits raid outside. 

But they do not consider

that I remember all their evil.

Now their deeds surround them;

they are before my face. 

 

The political situation in Israel is falling apart. Jeroboam II was the king 

of the last stable dynasty.  Now king after king is being murdered, as we noted last week.  The time is around 740-730 BC.  The kingdom will be no more on 722 BC.  The rule of law is faltering, and as a consequence crime is on the rise.  When God’s law is rejected, men become a law into themselves.   Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

 

We see this in our own country today.  Biblical law is ignored.  Even the Constitution has become malleable.

 

 

 

There is corruption in the government

 

Hos. 7:3-7 By their evil they make the king glad,

and the princes by their treachery. 

They are all adulterers;

they are like a heated oven

whose baker ceases to stir the fire,

from the kneading of the dough

until it is leavened. 

On the day of four king, the princes

became sick with the heat of wine;

he stretched out his hand with mockers. 

For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue;

all night their anger smolders;

in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. 

All of them are hot as an oven,

and they devour their rulers.

All their kings have fallen,

and none of them calls upon me. 

 

The regicide is confirmedThe royalty has lost its authority because of its own corruption.  I suspect the ovens were like our beehive ovens.  The kings came to power by the heat of treachery and violent usurpation.

 

Israel’s diplomacy is in disarray

 

Hos. 7:8-12 Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples;

Ephraim is a cake not turned. 

Strangers devour his strength,

and he knows it not;

gray hairs are sprinkled upon him,

and he knows it not. 

The pride of Israel testifies to his face;

yet they do not return to the LORD their God,

nor seek him, for all this. 

 

  Ephraim is like a dove,

silly and without sense,

calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. 

As they go, I will spread over them my net;

I will bring them down like birds of the heavens;

I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. 

 

The last king will be Hoshea (732-723).  He does not know how weak he is.  He is flailing around looking for help.  He first appeals to Assyria, but the Assyrians come and take over much of his territory.  Also they demand payment of tribute.  He turns to Egypt, but the Egyptians only mock him.  He fails to turn to YHWH who would have been most willing and able to help, if there was repentance and revival in the leaders and the land.

 

Punishment is inevitable

 

Hos. 7:13-16 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!

Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!

I would redeem them,

but they speak lies against me. 

They do not cry to me from the heart,

but they wail upon their beds;

for grain and wine they gash themselves;

they rebel against me. 

Although I trained and strengthened their arms,

yet they devise evil against me. 

They return, but not upward;

they are like a treacherous bow;

their princes shall fall by the sword

because of the insolence of their tongue.

This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

 

God would like to redeem them.  Jesus is our redeemer.  The only road to salvation is through God’s redemption, in the OT and NT.

Unfortunately the people have so completely forgotten YHWH that they are unable to turn back to him.  The children, for many generations, have not been taught the Torah, so they do not know who the true God is.  God has said, My spirit will not always strive with man. 

 

Hebrews 10:26-13—31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”  And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

 

Israel rejects her God

 

Hos. 8:1-3 Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over

    the house of the LORD,

because they have transgressed my covenant

and rebelled against my law. 

To me they cry,

My God, we—Israel—know you. 

Israel has spurned the good;

the enemy shall pursue him.

 

Assyria is the active agent in Israel’s demise, but God is the true destroyer.  Assyria is only a tool in his hand by which he carries out his judgment.  God does not need miraculous means to carry out his will.  He uses ordinary forces of nature including politics.

 

God rejects their Golden Calves

 

Hos. 8:4-8 They made kings, but not through me.

They set  princes, but I knew it not.

With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction. 

I have spurned your calf, O Samaria.

My anger burns against them

How long will they be incapable of innocence? 

For it is from Israel;

a craftsman made it;

it is not God.

The calf of Samaria

shall be broken to pieces.

 

  For they sow the wind,

and they shall reap the whirlwind.

The standing grain has no heads;

it shall yield no flour;

if it were to yield,

strangers would devour it. 

Israel is swallowed up;

already they are among the nations

as a useless vessel. 

 

Jeroboam I created two golden calves for the people in his new kingdom to worship.  He wanted to keep his citizens from going to Jerusalem to worship, lest they turn from him (1 Kings 12:25-33).

 

Here we find two more memory verses for our benefit. 

 

Hos. 8:4 With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction.

 

Hos. 8:7 For they sow the wind,

and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Israel seeks allies in the wrong places

 

Hos. 8:9-10 For they have gone up to Assyria,

a wild donkey wandering alone;

Ephraim has hired lovers. 

Though they hire allies among the nations,

I will soon gather them up.

And the king and princes shall soon writhe

because of the tribute. 

 

Israel is going to all the wrong places for help.  The curses of Deuteronomy 28:20 are descending on her.

“The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.

 

Israel has forgotten her Maker

 

Hos. 8:11-14 Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning,

they have become to him altars for sinning. 

Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands,

they would be regarded as a strange thing. 

As for my sacrificial offerings,

they sacrifice meat and eat it,

but the LORD does not accept them.

Now he will remember their iniquity

and punish their sins;

they shall return to Egypt. 

For Israel has forgotten his Maker

and built palaces,

and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;

so I will send a fire upon his cities,

and it shall devour her strongholds

 

There was only one altar where proper sacrifices could be offered to YHWH.  That altar was at the Temple in Jerusalem.  All other places for sacrifice were forbidden and useless.  Each pagan god did have its altars and systems of sacrifice, but they were all only an insult to the true God.  Israel built many fortified cities in an attempt to find political and military security, but they were vulnerable to attack and defeat if God did not protect them.

 

Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

    the watchman stays awake in vain.

Hosea 9:1-11:12     The End of Israel is Near February 26, 2018

 

Hosea has been ministering to the Northern Kingdom for about 30 years.  He 

has demonstrated his message through his marriage to Gomer and through the names of their children, Jezreel, Lo-ruhama (No Mercy) and Lo-ammi (Not My People).  He has preached in words and prophesied in verse.  His message has been primarily to Israel, but he has sent warnings to Judah as well. 

 

The people have ignored him for the most part.  The leadership, kings and priests, have continued in their evil ways.  Idol worship has not been curtailed and the worship of YHWH has been contaminated by the wicked culture around them.

 

Today we are about 10 years from the final fall of the nation.  Assyria has made forays into the land.  It now controls Syria.  Many Israeli towns have been occupied.  The king, Hosea, had been paying tribute to Assyria, but now has suddenly turned to Egypt for an ally.  Egypt just laughs at him.  The tribute payments are impoverishing a once wealthy land.

 

After Jeroboam II the political leadership falls apart dramatically. His son Zechariah takes over, but is assassinated after 6 months.   Shalom, the assassin, reigns one month and is killed by Menahem.  He will reign 10 months, but will continually do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  He exacts the wealth of the wealthy to pay a thousand talents of silver to Tiglth-pileser III, king of Assyria.  Menahem died a natural death and his son Pekahiah reigned in his place.  He reigned 2 years until Pekah with a band of fifty men carried out a coup that killed the king, and Pekah took over as king.  He reigned for 20 years during which Assyria captured many towns and occupied considerable land in Israel.   Hoshea conspired against Pekah, killed him and ruled in his stead.  He is the last king of Israel (732-722BC), and is ruling during the time of today’s study. He and al is people have repudiated YHWH.  Now they are headed for destruction with no way of escape.  722 BC is the end date.

 

Hos. 8:4 With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction.

Hos. 8:7 For they sow the wind,

and they shall reap the whirlwind.

 

God will not recognize their Annual Festivals

 

Hos. 9:1-4  Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples;

for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.

You have loved a prostitute’s wages

on all threshing floors. 

Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them,

and the new wine shall fail them. 

They shall not remain in the land of the LORD,

but Ephraim shall return to Egypt,

and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria.

 

They shall not pour drink offerings of wine to the LORD,

and their sacrifices shall not please him.

It shall be like mourners’ bread to them;

all who eat of it shall be defiled;

for their bread shall be for their hunger only;

it shall not come to the house of the LORD.

  

The people will not remain in the land of the Lord.  They have been living in the Promised Land.  They had property rights as determined by the Lord, but YHWH retained title to the land.  The continued occupation of the land was contingent on faithful adherence to the Covenant.  However, in the end their land was God’s land, and he is about to expel the undesirable tenants (Deut. 31:29; 32:15-22).

 

Israel will soon go into captivity were she cannot celebrate her festivals

 

Hos. 9:5-6   What will you do on the day of the appointed festival,

and on the day of the feast of the LORD? 

For behold, they are going away from destruction;

but Egypt shall gather them;

Memphis shall bury them.

Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver;

thorns shall be in their tents.

 

The setting is the time of the fall festival, the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths.  The people are to make temporary shelters to live in as they celebrate the harvest with its produce and wine (Lev. 23:33-43).  The Israelites would celebrate it a month later than the proper date celebrated in Judah.  But the days of such celebrations are coming to an end.  These celebrations will cease when they are taken into exile.

 

The End is Near

 

 Hos. 9:7-9 The days of punishment have come;

the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it.

The prophet is a fool;

the man of the spirit is mad,

because of your great iniquity and great hatred. 

The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God;

yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways,

and hatred in the house of his God. 

They have deeply corrupted themselves

as in the days of Gibeah:

he will remember their iniquity;

he will punish their sins.

The people ignore Hosea and call him a fool.  They say he is mad.  The people hate him because he represents the true God.  We see similar hatred in our country today between the major political parties.  (See Luke 21:12-19)

 

The event in Gibeah found in the book of Judges 19-21, is one of the most gruesome stories in the Bible.  The entire tribe of Benjamin was almost destroyed as a consequence of the event.  This happened more than 300 years earlier.  God does not forget our deeds.  No bad deed goes unpunished.  It can be forgiven, but not unpunished.   

 

Hos. 9:10-11 Like grapes in the wilderness,

I found Israel.

Like the first fruit on the fig tree

in its first season,

I saw your fathers.

But they came to Baal-peor

and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,

and became detestable like the thing they loved. 

Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—

no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!   

 

In Num. 22-24 the prophet Balaam is asked to bring God’s curse on the Israelites.  He, after three tries, is unable to do it.  Therefore, he comes up with a plan to let them bring the curse of God on themselves.  Numbers 31:16 Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.

 

Num. 25:1-5 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.  So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.  And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.”  And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.” 

 

 

Hos. 9:12-15  Even if they bring up children,

I will bereave them till none is left.

Woe to them when I depart from them! 

Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow;

but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. 

Give them, O LORD—

what will you give?

Give them a miscarrying womb

and dry breasts. 

Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them.

Gilgal was an ancient cult center, just across the Jordan from Baal-peor.  Later it was the place Saul was anointed king of Israel.  It represents Israel’s idolatry and sexual immorality on the whole.

 

Hos. 9:15-17 Because of the wickedness of their deeds

I will drive them out of my house.

I will love them no more;

all their princes are rebels. 

  Ephraim is stricken;

their root is dried up;

they shall bear no fruit.

Even though they give birth,

I will put their beloved children to death. 

My God will reject them

because they have not listened to him;

they shall be wanderers among the nations.

 

The nation is dying and the people are blind to it.  The leaders are intimately involved in helping the nation to sin.  Their stubbornness makes it impossible for YHWH to influence them for good.  The land will be overthrown and the people scattered among the nations.

 

Hos. 10:1-2  Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.

The more his fruit increased,

the more altars he built;

as his country improved,

he improved his pillars. 

Their heart is false;

now they must bear their guilt.

The LORD will break down their altars

and destroy their pillars.

 

Israel had been a very wealthy land, probably due to its place in the trade routes, but really because it was blessed by God from the beginning.  Its wealth is being whittled away slowly because of its idolatry.  The people do not understand that their wealth is a blessing of YHWH and not the work of their hands.

 

Deut. 8:17-20 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

 

 

Hos. 10:3-6  For now they will say:

“We have no king,

for we do not fear the LORD;

and a king—what could he do for us?” 

They utter mere words;

with empty oaths they make covenants;

so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds

in the furrows of the field. 

The inhabitants of Samaria tremble

for the calf of Beth-aven.

Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests—

those who rejoiced over it and over its glory—

for it has departed from them. 

The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria

as tribute to the great king.

Ephraim shall be put to shame,

and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.

 

It is interesting how some people in the USA say President Trump is not their president.  Lindsey Vonn is a prime example.  She says she will not even go to the White House with the Olympic athletes.  She is living without a king and is living in anarchy.

 

The Golden Calf in Bethel will be carried away to Assyria.  That is a lot of gold.

 

 

Hos. 10:7-8  Samaria’s king shall perish

like a twig on the face of the waters. 

The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel,

shall be destroyed.

Thorn and thistle shall grow up

on their altars,

and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us,

and to the hills, Fall on us.

 

Luke 23:28-30 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 

 

Rev. 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

 

 

Hos. 10:9-10 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel;

there they have continued.

Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 

When I please, I will discipline them,

and nations shall be gathered against them

when they are bound up for their double iniquity. 

 

‘Gibeah’ is a paradigm of the depth to which Israel is capable of sinking morally.  The moral decline is directly related to the religious decline in the nation.  The moral decline is the immediate cause of the disaster heading their way.

 

God will determine the timing of the end.  Even so today, no one knows the day of Christ’s return, and we are warned to be morally and religiously prepared for his coming again.

 

Hos. 10:11-12  Ephraim was a trained calf

that loved to thresh,

and I spared her fair neck;

but I will put Ephraim to the yoke;

Judah must plow;

Jacob must harrow for himself. 

Sow for yourselves righteousness;

reap steadfast love;

break up your fallow ground,

for it is the time to seek the LORD,

that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

 

God’s gentle heart remembers the dos past and then reminds the people that he has called them to righteousness and love.

 

Hos. 10:13-15  You have plowed iniquity;

you have reaped injustice;

you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Because you have trusted in your own way

and in the multitude of your warriors, 

therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people,

and all your fortresses shall be destroyed,

as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle;

mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 

Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel,because of your great evil.  

At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off. 

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  

The nation is about to reap the whirlwind (8:7).

 

Galatians 6:7-10 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

 

Hos. 11:1-4  When Israel was a child, I loved him,

and out of Egypt I called my son. 

The more they were called,

the more they went away;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals

and burning offerings to idols. 

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;

I took them up by their arms,

but they did not know that I healed them. 

with the bands of love,

and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,

and I bent down to them and fed them. 

 

We see here the pathos of a loving father seeing his children going astray.

 

Hos. 11:5-7 They shall not return to the land of Egypt,

but Assyria shall be their king,

because they have refused to return to me. 

The sword shall rage against their cities,

consume the bars of their gates,

and devour them because of their own counsels. 

My people are bent on turning away from me,

and though they call out to the Most High,

he shall not raise them up at all.

 

The Israelites were in Egypt for 400 years.  Much of that time was spent as slaves.  They were freed buy their gracious God, but they refuse to recognize his beneficence.  Now they will be going back into slavery, this time in Assyria.

 

 

 

Hos. 11:8-9  How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?

How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils within me;

my compassion grows warm and tender. 

I will not execute my burning anger;

I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and not a man,

the Holy One in your midst,

and I will not come in wrath. 

 

God’s grace and love struggles in his heart with his righteousness and justice.

 

Hos. 11:10-12  They shall go after the LORD;

they will roar like a lion;

when he roars,

his children shall come trembling from the west; 

they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,

and like doves from the land of Assyria,

and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD. 

Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,

and the house of Israel with deceit,

but Judah still walks with God

and is faithful to the Holy One. 

 

Judgment must be exercised, but love never leaves God, and in time he will restore his wandering family.  At this point Judah is still on the right path, although just barely.  

 

Is it possible that God will find a way to reprieve man in the Christian era as well.  Hell looms ahead for those who have rejected Christ.  What about those who have never heard?  What about those who have heard, but never took Jesus message seriously?  What about those who took the message seriously and responded in faith, but then lost their faith somewhere along the road? 

 

 

Hos. 12:1  Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long;

they multiply falsehood and violence;

they make a covenant with Assyria,

and oil is carried to Egypt. 

 

The east wind is Assyria at this time.  Hosea is flailing around looking for diplomatic support from Assyria and Egypt, both at the same time.  He should be looking to renew his covenant with God instead.

 

 

Hos. 12:2-7  The LORD has an indictment against Judah

and will punish Jacob according to his ways;

he will repay him according to his deeds. 

In the womb he took his brother by the heel,

and in his manhood he strove with God. 

He strove with the angel and prevailed;

he wept and sought his favor.

He met God at Bethel,

and there God spoke with us— 

the LORD, the God of hosts,

the LORD is his memorial name: 

“So you, by the help of your God, return,

hold fast to love and justice,

and wait continually for your God.” 

  A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,

he loves to oppress. 

 

This is the sum total of Yahweh’s indictment against all Israel, Judah and the Northern Kingdom.  Their father, Jacob, knew YHWH intimately.  Now the children have wandered away.  False balances have replaced love and justice.

 

Hos. 12:8 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;

I have found wealth for myself;

in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” 

 

Deut. 8:11-20 11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hos. 12:9-14 I am the LORD your God

from the land of Egypt;

I will again make you dwell in tents,

as in the days of the appointed feast. 

 

  I spoke to the prophets;

it was I who multiplied visions,

and through the prophets gave parables. 

If there is iniquity in Gilead,

they shall surely come to nothing:

in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls;

their altars also are like stone heaps

on the furrows of the field. 

Jacob fled to the land of Aram;

there Israel served for a wife,

and for a wife he guarded sheep. 

By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt,

and by a prophet he was guarded. 

Ephraim has given bitter provocation;

so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him

and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

 

The lawsuit continues.  Justice requires repayment.

 

 

Judgment for idolatry.

 

Hos. 13:1-3 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;

he was exalted in Israel,

but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. 

And now they sin more and more,

and make for themselves metal images,

idols skillfully made of their silver,

all of them the work of craftsmen.

It is said of them,

“Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” 

Therefore they shall be like the morning mist

or like the dew that goes early away,

like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor

or like smoke from a window. 

 

Num 22:1-6 Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.  And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.  And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many.  Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel.  And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.”  So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt.  They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me.  Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me.  Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

 

 

Judgment will be harsh

 

Hos. 13:4-8  But I am the LORD your God

from the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

and besides me there is no savior

It was I who knew you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought; 

but when they had grazed, they became full,

they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

therefore they forgot me. 

So I am to them like a lion;

like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 

I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs;

I will tear open their breast,

and there I will devour them like a lion,

as a wild beast would rip them open.

 

 

YHWH is the true king of Israel

 

Hos. 13:9-13  He destroys you, O Israel,

for you are against me, against your helper. 

Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?

Where are all your rulers—

those of whom you said,

“Give me a king and princes”? 

I gave you a king in my anger,

and I took him away in my wrath. 

 

  The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;

his sin is kept in store. 

The pangs of childbirth come for him,

but he is an unwise son,

for at the right time he does not present himself

at the opening of the womb. 

 

 

 

 

Hos. 13:14  Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?

Shall I redeem them from Death?

O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your sting?

Compassion is hidden from my eyes. 

 

Drought and war is descending on the land

 

Hos. 13:15-16  Though he may flourish among his brothers,

the east wind, the wind of the LORD, shall come,

rising from the wilderness,

and his fountain shall dry up;

his spring shall be parched;

it shall strip his treasury

of every precious thing. 

Samaria shall bear her guilt,

because she has rebelled against her God;

they shall fall by the sword;

their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,

and their pregnant women ripped open. 

 

 

A plea for repentance

 

Hos. 14:1-2  Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 

Take with you words

and return to the LORD;

say to him,

“Take away all iniquity;

accept what is good,

and we will pay with bulls

the vows of our lips. 

 

Assyria cannot save, but only enslave

 

Hos. 14:3 Assyria shall not save us;

we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.” 

 

God’s love never ceases

 

Hos. 14:4 -7 I will heal their apostasy;

I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them. 

I will be like the dew to Israel;

he shall blossom like the lily;

he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; 

his shoots shall spread out;

his beauty shall be alike the olive,

and his fragrance like Lebanon. 

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;

they shall flourish like the grain;

they shall blossom like the vine;

their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 

 

Hos. 14:8-9 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

from me comes your fruit. 

 

  Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

whoever is discerning, let him know them;

for the ways of the LORD are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them. 

 

Hosea 12-14            Hosea’s Final Words March 5 2018

 

Hosea has been ministering to the Northern Kingdom for about 30 years.  He 

has demonstrated his message through his marriage to Gomer and through the names of their children, Jezreel, Lo-ruhama (No Mercy) and Lo-ammi (Not My People).  He has preached in words and prophesied in verse.  His message has been primarily to Israel, but he has sent warnings to Judah as well. 

 

The people have ignored him for the most part.  The leadership, kings and priests, have continued in their evil ways.  Idol worship has not been curtailed and the worship of YHWH has been contaminated by the wicked culture around them.  Originally Hosea’s message was a call to repentance and a return to YHWH, the true God.  Now his message is one of doom.  There is no longer a possibility restoration.  The die is cast and the nation will be wiped off the face of the earth.  The people will be taken into slavery in Assyria and then scattered throughout the Middle East.  They will be the ten lost tribes.

 

The nation is rapidly falling apart.  The dynasty of Jehu has come to an end when the son of Jeroboam II, Zechariah, is assassinated after 6 months as king.   Shalom, the assassin, reigns one month and is killed by Menahem.  He will reign 10 months, but will continually do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  He exacts the wealth of the wealthy to pay a thousand talents of silver to Tiglth-pileser III, king of Assyria.  Menahem died a natural death and his son Pekahiah reigned in his place.  He reigned 2 years until Pekah with a band of fifty men carried out a coup that killed the king, and Pekah took over as king.  He reigned for 20 years during which Assyria captured many towns and occupied considerable land in Israel.   Hoshea conspired against Pekah, killed him and ruled in his stead.  He is the last king of Israel (732-722BC), and is ruling during the time of today’s study. He and all his people have repudiated YHWH.  Now they are headed for destruction with no way of escape.  722 BC is the end date.

 

Today we are within 10 years of the final fall of the nation.  Assyria has made forays into the land.  It now controls Syria, once part of the Northern Kingdom.  Many Israeli towns have been occupied.  The king, Hoshea, had been paying tribute to Assyria, but now has deceitfully turned to Egypt for an ally.  Egypt just laughs at him.  The tribute payments are impoverishing a once wealthy land and more wealth is sent to Egypt.

 

Today we see the conflict in God’s soul between his righteousness and justice, and his love for his chosen people and his grace.  We see into the heart of God.  His resolution of the conflict that reaches to all peoples on the earth is found in the Messiah, his birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus bears the weight of the sins of the whole world, as he becomes the blood sacrifice for our sins.  Hebrews tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22).  Through Hosea God tells his people that although they must suffer the loss of all things, He will restore them to their land in the end times.

Hos. 12:1 Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long;

they multiply falsehood and violence;

they make a covenant with Assyria,

and oil is carried to Egypt. 

 

The east wind is Assyria at this time.  Hoshea is flailing around looking for diplomatic support from Assyria and Egypt, both at the same time.  He should be looking to renew his covenant with God instead.

 

Hos. 12:2-7  The LORD has an indictment against Judah

and will punish Jacob according to his ways;

he will repay him according to his deeds. 

In the womb he took his brother by the heel,

and in his manhood he strove with God. 

He strove with the angel and prevailed;

he wept and sought his favor.

He met God at Bethel,

and there God spoke with us— 

the LORD, the God of hosts,

the LORD is his memorial name: 

“So you, by the help of your God, return,

hold fast to love and justice,

and wait continually for your God.” 

  A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,

he loves to oppress. 

 

This is the sum total of Yahweh’s indictment against all Israel, Judah and the Northern Kingdom.  Their father, Jacob, knew YHWH intimately.  Now the children have wandered away.  False balances have replaced love and justice.

 

Hos. 12:8 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;

I have found wealth for myself;

in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” 

 

Deut. 8:11-20 11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

 

 

Hos. 12:9-14 I am the LORD your God

from the land of Egypt;

I will again make you dwell in tents,

as in the days of the appointed feast. 

 

  I spoke to the prophets;

it was I who multiplied visions,

and through the prophets gave parables. 

If there is iniquity in Gilead,

they shall surely come to nothing:

in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls;

their altars also are like stone heaps

on the furrows of the field. 

Jacob fled to the land of Aram;

there Israel served for a wife,

and for a wife he guarded sheep. 

By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt,

and by a prophet he was guarded. 

Ephraim has given bitter provocation;

so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him

and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

 

The lawsuit continues.  Justice requires repayment.  Unfortunately the punishment will fit the crime.

 

Judgment for idolatry.

 

Hos. 13:1-3 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;

he was exalted in Israel,

but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. 

And now they sin more and more,

and make for themselves metal images,

idols skillfully made of their silver,

all of them the work of craftsmen.

It is said of them,

“Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” 

Therefore they shall be like the morning mist

or like the dew that goes early away,

like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor

or like smoke from a window. 

 

Num 22:1-6 Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.  And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.  And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many.  Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel.  And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.”  So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt.  They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me.  Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me.  Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

 

 

Judgment will be harsh

 

Hos. 13:4-8  But I am the LORD your God

from the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

and besides me there is no savior

It was I who knew you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought; 

but when they had grazed, they became full,

they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

therefore they forgot me. 

So I am to them like a lion;

like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 

I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs;

I will tear open their breast,

and there I will devour them like a lion,

as a wild beast would rip them open.

 

YHWH is the true king of Israel

 

Hos. 13:9-13  He destroys you, O Israel,

for you are against me, against your helper. 

Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?

Where are all your rulers—

those of whom you said,

“Give me a king and princes”? 

I gave you a king in my anger,

and I took him away in my wrath. 

 

  The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;

his sin is kept in store. 

The pangs of childbirth come for him,

but he is an unwise son,

for at the right time he does not present himself

at the opening of the womb. 

 

Hos. 13:14  Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?

Shall I redeem them from Death?

O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your sting?

Compassion is hidden from my eyes. 

 

Drought and war is descending on the land

 

Hos. 13:15-16  Though he may flourish among his brothers,

the east wind, the wind of the LORD, shall come,

rising from the wilderness,

and his fountain shall dry up;

his spring shall be parched;

it shall strip his treasury

of every precious thing. 

Samaria shall bear her guilt,

because she has rebelled against her God;

they shall fall by the sword;

their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,

and their pregnant women ripped open. 

 

 

A plea for repentance

 

Hos. 14:1-2  Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 

Take with you words

and return to the LORD;

say to him,

“Take away all iniquity;

accept what is good,

and we will pay with bulls

the vows of our lips. 

 

Assyria cannot save, but only enslave

 

Hos. 14:3 Assyria shall not save us;

we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.” 

 

God’s love never ceases

 

Hos. 14:4 -7 I will heal their apostasy;

I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them. 

I will be like the dew to Israel;

he shall blossom like the lily;

he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; 

his shoots shall spread out;

his beauty shall be alike the olive,

and his fragrance like Lebanon. 

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;

they shall flourish like the grain;

they shall blossom like the vine;

their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 

 

Hos. 14:8-9 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

from me comes your fruit. 

 

  Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

whoever is discerning, let him know them;

for the ways of the LORD are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them. 

AMOS

1200px-Kingdoms_of_the_Levant_Map_830.png

 

Today we begin the study of the prophet Amos.  His fuller name was probably Amasiah (2 Chron17:16).  Amos immediately preceded Hosea as a prophet to the Northern Kingdom.   We probably should have studied him first.  Hosea’s message was to a nation on an irreversible road to destruction.  Hosea is with the people when the final invasion of Assyria takes place in 722 BC.  He tried to warn the people, and especially the leadership of the nation that their doom was ahead if they did not quickly return to the Lord, but they would not listen.

 

Amos was a prophet ahead of Hosea and he had a similar message, but the final fall was not as imminent.  Amos was a shepherd, not a learned priest or member of the upper society, but he had eyes to see the geopolitical situation developing around him, and was called by God to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He however, lived in the Southern Kingdom, just outside of Bethlehem and just 6 miles south of Jerusalem.   He was a shepherd as we see in the opening verse of the prophecy.  The word used for shepherd signifies a breeder of livestock.  He also probably owned orchards of figs as we note in 7:14.  We could consider him a middle class Jew, living a comfortable life, until God spoke to him and called him.  He was up on the political issues of the day, and was well instructed in the teaching of the Torah.  His heart was sensitive to the call of God.

 

His prophecies are given between 790-750 BC at a time when both Israel and Judah are at heights of prosperity and peace.  He may or may not have known Hosea.  Hosea’s ministry started around 10 years after Amos, around 740 BC.  He must have heard Amos’s teaching as he was growing up.  By 722 BC, Israel will be destroyed by the rising political power of Assyria, in part for not heeding the words of the prophets such as Amos and Hosea.  (See 2 Kings 14-15, and 2 Chron 26-27 for the historic context)   In Amos’s day there was still time for the nation to repent and return to the true worship of YHWH, and avoid the Assyrian invasion.   

 

Amos’s day was one of affluence.  Mammon ruled.  The rich lived ostentations lives.  The women lived for excitement and leisure.  The rulers set the example for the people and did not deny themselves any bodily pleasure.  But there was also great poverty.  The poor were very poor and the well-to-do did not pay them any heed.  They were shamelessly exploited and were defenseless.  But the people were still very religious.  They offered mouth worship to Jehovah, but they also worshipped the Baals.  Jeroboam I had set up shrines to Baal in Bethel and Dan, and these permitted sexual indulgence to flourish and public standards of morality to reach a low ebb.  Amos had a real challenge to reach this self indulgent society.

 

Time-wise we could consider these words as given to us as a nation in the 1950-2000 AD range.  This was the era of Billy Graham.  Could he have been our Amos?  Who might be our Hosea today?  Can we as a nation respond to the Word of God any longer, or we past that point?  ‘The Glory of God on Cape Cod’ is praying faithfully for revival here on the Cape that could spread to the rest of the land.

1:1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

 

We know pretty precisely the years of Amos’s ministry.  Uzziah was king of Judah from 792-740 BC.  He was also known as Azariah.  Jeroboam II ruled Israel from 793 to 753 BC.  There was peace in the region for most of this time, and both Israel and Judah became quite wealthy due the peace and to their location on the trade routes between Africa and the Mid-east.  Assyria was growing in power, but had not considered invading the Levant and Egypt yet.  Unfortunately we do not know the date of the earthquake.  Incidentally Isaiah began his ministry to the Southern Kingdom the year Uzziah died, 940 BC.

 

 

Judgment on Israel's Neighbors

 

All nations fall under God’s judgment.  They may be without special revelation, but are not without moral responsibility; they may be without direct knowledge of the God of the Bible, but they are not without accountability to God; they may not have the written Law and the stone tablets as do the Jews and we Christians, but they are not without the law written in their consciences.

 

1:2 And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion

and utters his voice from Jerusalem;

the pastures of the shepherds mourn,

and the top of Carmel withers.”

 

Amos realizes his message is from God, and God is not pleased.  He likens himself to a roaring lion, able to tear the nation into pieces.  Aslan is also a lion, one who gives up his life for his people.

 

1:3-5 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Damascus,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have threshed Gilead

with threshing sledges of iron.

 

 So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.

 

I will break the gate-bar of Damascus,

and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,

and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;

and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,”

says the LORD.

Damascus is Syria.  Gilead is on the Golan Heights, part of Syria today.  It had been part of Israel, but was invaded by Syria, which itself was part of Israel under Solomon.  God appointed Hazael through Elijah to be king in Syria (1 Kings 19:15-16).  But he becomes a thorn in Israel’s side, and there was war between them continually (1 Kings 20, 2 Kings 13).  The Valley of Aven was the Valley of Wickedness, a center of sun worship in Syria, and probably a popular retreat for the people.

 

 

1:6-8 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Gaza,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they carried into exile a whole people

to deliver them up to Edom.

 

 So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza,

and it shall devour her strongholds.

 

 I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,

and him who holds the scepter from Ashkelon;

I will turn my hand against Ekron,

and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,”

says the Lord GOD.

 

Gaza is east of Judah, along the Mediterranean coast.  It was the land of the Philistines.  Ashdod was its capital city, and Ekron was one of the cities where the Philistines took the Ark when they captured it from the Israelites (1 Sam. 5 10-12).   Gaza was a center for slave trade and human trafficking.

We know Gaza today as the Gaza strip, and a major stronghold of the Palestinians.

 

 

1:9-10 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Tyre,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they delivered up a whole people to Edom,

and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

So I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre,

and it shall devour her strongholds.”

 

Tyre was an ancient Phoenician city and it was a major trading center.  The people were Canaanites.  They were a very proud people and considered themselves ‘perfect in beauty’ (Ezekiel 27:3).   Ezekiel commits three chapters, 26-28, prophesying against Tyre.

The capital City was built on an Island in the Mediterranean and was considered invulnerable.  It was also a center for the slave trade.  It was defeated by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.  He built a causeway through the sea to reach its walls, and thus was able to attack and conquer it.   It is the fourth largest city in Lebanon today.

1:11-12 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Edom,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because he pursued his brother with the sword

and cast off all pity,

and his anger tore perpetually,

and he kept his wrath forever.

So I will send a fire upon Teman,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.”

 

Edom was the land of the descendants of Esau.  There was constant conflict between Israel and Edom, that is between the two brothers Jacob and Esau.  (The Mid-east wars now are battles between Jews/Christians and Muslims, that is the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.)

Both Gaza and Tyre supplied Edom with Israelite slaves.  The ancient city, Petra, is in Edom.

 

2 Kings 8:20 -23 20 In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own.  Then Joram passed over to Zair with all his chariots and rose by night, and he and his chariot commanders struck the Edomites who had surrounded him, but his army fled home.  So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time. 

 

 Psalm 137:7 7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem,

how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,

down to its foundations!”

 

1:13-15 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of the Ammonites,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead,

that they might enlarge their border.

 

So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah,

and it shall devour her strongholds,

with shouting on the day of battle,

with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind;

and their king shall go into exile,

he and his princes together,” says the LORD.

 

The Ammonites are the children of Lot by his younger daughter.

Genesis 19:36-38 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.  The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab.  He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi.  He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

The Ammonites were continually thorns in the side of Israel.  The complaint here is because of the cruel and vicious invasion of Gilead, with the hope of enlarging their territory.  Gilead was good farmland everyone seemed to want.  Many medicinals were produced there, possibly from aloe. Jeremiah speaks of the ‘balm in Gilead’ (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11).

 

2:1-3 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Moab,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because he burned to lime

the bones of the king of Edom.

 

So I will send a fire upon Moab,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth,

and Moab shall die amid uproar,

amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;

I will cut off the ruler from its midst,

and will kill all its princes with him,”

says the LORD.

 

God likens his judgment to fire.  It is not necessarily physical fire, but it is all consuming like fire.  It usually means warfare, occupation and destruction.  

 

Moab was the son through Lot’s first daughter.  Moab was across the Dead Sea to the east of Judah, north of Edom and south of Ammon.  The Moabites tempted Israel with sexual sin when they were about to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 25).  Elimelech’s family went to Moab during a famine in Israel.  One of his sons married a Moabite woman, Ruth, who later returned to Judah with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and became a part of the Messianic line.  Later David sent his parents to Moab to protect them from King Saul.  Chemosh was the god of the Moabites, and Molech was the abomination of Ammon.  There was continuing war between Moab and Israel, sometimes one side winning and sometimes the other.

 

Judgment on Judah

 

2:4-5 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Judah,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have rejected the law of the LORD,

and have not kept his statutes,

but their lies have led them astray,

those after which their fathers walked.

So I will send a fire upon Judah,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.”

 

 Judah’s end is still about 140 years away.  But it will come if Judah does not repent and forsake her evil ways.  But she is engaging in the practices Israel is being judged for.  She is following the path of all nations that become overly rich.   Worship is in form only, and not from the heart.  The wealthy are neglecting the poor.  They are living a lie and like it so.

Jeremiah describes their condition in Jeremiah 6:10-18.

 

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear

Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen;

behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;

they take no pleasure in it.

 

Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;

I am weary of holding it in.

 

“Pour it out upon the children in the street,

and upon the gatherings of young men, also;

both husband and wife shall be taken, the elderly and the very aged.

 

Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together,

for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,”

declares the LORD.

 

“For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.

 

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.

 

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;

at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”

says the LORD.

 

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

 

I set watchmen over you, saying,

‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’

But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

Therefore hear, O nations, 

and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.

Amos 7:1 - 9:15 Fall and Restoration March 26, 2018

 

Last week we noted two ways God deals with his chosen people.  First he pours out blessings on them.  That includes wealth and security.  This condition continues as long as they are faithful to God in their worship, walk in paths of righteousness, and deal justly with each other and with the needy in their communities.  However, the wealth entices them away from God.  Worship becomes rote and often turns to other gods.  Righteousness is replaced by greed and self-righteousness, and redefinition of right and wrong.  The poor are neglected and are used only to enrich the rich.  

 

This causes God to use his other way of dealing with the people.   He sends famine, drought, agricultural disaster, pestilence and war.  He destroys the wealth that has turned his people away from him with the hope that they will return to the true source of life and prosperity.

 

God affirms his own credentials as the creator to whom they are accountable.  He is the one who forms the mountains and creates the wind.  He is the one who made Pleiades and Orion.  He is the LORD, the God of hosts.  The people should beware his power and should ‘prepare to meet your God’.  Amos pleads with the people to ‘seek the Lord and live’.  The alternative is total destruction of the land and its people.  But Amos concludes that the people will not listen to God or to him as God’s messenger.  They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. 

 

This week we complete our study of Amos.

 

Warning Visions

 

Amos now describes four visions.  With the first two he pleads with God to relent.  ‘’How can Jacob stand?  He is so small.”  This happens in the Bible.  God determines to do something, but a man talks him out of it.  The most well known is Moses’ argument with God when God decides to destroy all the Israelites that came out of Egypt because of their sins.  He wanted to start a new nation through Moses.  

 

Exodus 32:7-14 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.  They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them.  They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”  And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

 

 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”  And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

 

Other examples of God’s response to human appeal are found in Gen 18:22-32; Num 14:11-20; Josh 7:6-13; 2 Kgs 22:19-20; Jonah 3:10; Joel 2:13-14.

 

7:1-3 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings.  When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord GOD, please forgive!

How can Jacob stand?

He is so small!”

 

The LORD relented concerning this:  “It shall not be,” said the LORD.

 

7:4-6 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.  Then I said,

“O Lord GOD, please cease!

How can Jacob stand?

He is so small!”

 

The LORD relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

 

Here we see not only God’s heart, but the heart of Amos as well.  He pleads with God on behalf of the people he has been sent to.  They are not even people of his own country, although they are Israelites and so of the same tribe.  Amos uses the name Jacob for Israel here, suggesting that he sees the northern rebels are of one with Judah.  They both have the same father.

 

The Third Vision

 

7:7-9 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.  And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

 

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line

in the midst of my people Israel;

I will never again pass by them;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,

and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,

and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

 

The word for plumb line and the word for moaning are nearly similar in spelling in Hebrew.  This word may mean either.  A plumb line is an accurate measure, and God’s justice is perfect.  The consequence for rejecting God’s justice ends up badly and results in moaning.

 

Also the house of Jehu will come to an end soon.  Jeroboam must still be alive when this is prophesied.  He dies in 753 BC, 30 years before the final fall of the nation.  His son Zachariah assumes the throne, but he is assassinated within 6 months and the royal line of Jehu comes to an end.

 

Amos Accused of Treason

 

7:10-11 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.  The land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos has said,

“‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel must go into exile

away from his land.’”

 

Bethel was the site of one of the two Golden Calves Jeroboam I placed in the land to keep his people from going to Jerusalem to worship.   The pagan worship of the Calf was therefore the government approved religion.  Amaziah was the chief priest in Bethel and therefore accountable to the king.  Prophets were held in high regard by all people in that day, but Amaziah finally grew tired of Amos’s preaching.  He accuses Amos of treason.

 

7:12-13 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

 

Amaziah tells Amos to go back where he came from and to get out of Israel.

 

7:14-17 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

 

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,

and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the LORD:

“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,

and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

 

Amos responds.  He was not a professional prophet.  I am sure there were a lot of false prophets profiting from the gullibility of the people in that day, not unlike many televangelists in our country today.  Amos was not one of them.  He got his commission from God quite unexpectedly.  He was pursuing the life of a successful middle class farmer in Judah when God called him.  I am sure the world was turned upside-down for him.  Treason is a serious charge.  However, Amos was not intimidated, but instead he delivered a scathing reply to Amaziah.  I think he expects Amaziah to be alive still when the end comes.  And he affirms the coming of the end.

 

The Fourth Vision

 

8:1-3 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit.  And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.”  Then the LORD said to me,

 

“The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them.

 

The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”

declares the Lord GOD.

“So many dead bodies!”

“They are thrown everywhere!”

“Silence!”

 

The Hebrew word for ‘summer fruit’ sounds very similar to the word for ‘end’.  This is a similar play on words to the use of ‘plumb line’.  Amos tells the people that they are playing with fire in their failure to repent and return to YHWH.  Their present course will end in ‘moaning’ and finally termination.

 

The Coming Day of Bitter Mourning

 

8:4-6 Hear this, you who trample on the needy

and bring the poor of the land to an end,

saying, “When will the new moon be over,

that we may sell grain?

And the Sabbath,

that we may offer wheat for sale,

that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great

and deal deceitfully with false balances,

that we may buy the poor for silver

and the needy for a pair of sandals

and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

 

 There is progressive economic disparity in the land.  The monied class is very rich and the poor are exploited, sometimes leading to abject poverty.  This is completely against the teachings of the Torah, where the poor need to be cared for, whether Israelite of foreigner.

 

Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

 

 

Deuteronomy 15:7-10 If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.  Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.  You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.  For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

 

Leviticus 19:9-10, 15 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God…“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 

 

8:7-8 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Shall not the land tremble on this account,

and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

 

God has a good memory so the warning, prepare to meet you God, is a serious one.  Fortunately he has a good forgetter as well as we see in the Psalms.

 

Psalm 103:8-19 The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

 

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

 

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

 

 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children,

to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

 

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

 

8:8-14 “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD,

“I will make the sun go down at noon

and darken the earth in broad daylight.

 

I will turn your feasts into mourning

and all your songs into lamentation;

I will bring sackcloth on every waist

and baldness on every head;

I will make it like the mourning for an only son

and the end of it like a bitter day.

 

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,

“when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the LORD.

 

They shall wander from sea to sea,

and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,

but they shall not find it.

 

“In that day the lovely virgins and the young men

shall faint for thirst.

 

Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,

and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’

and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’

they shall fall, and never rise again.”

 

Do you think such famine for hearing the Word of God will rise again in our country?

 

The Destruction of Israel

 

9:1-4 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:

“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,

and shatter them on the heads of all the people;

and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;

not one of them shall flee away;

not one of them shall escape.

 

“If they dig into Sheol,

from there shall my hand take them;

if they climb up to heaven,

from there I will bring them down.

 

If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,

from there I will search them out and take them;

and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,

there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.

 

And if they go into captivity before their enemies,

there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;

and I will fix my eyes upon them

for evil and not for good.”

 

There is no place to hide.  See Isaiah 2:19; Luke 23:30-31; Revelation 6:15-17.

 

9:5-6 The Lord GOD of hosts,

he who touches the earth and it melts,

and all who dwell in it mourn,

and all of it rises like the Nile,

and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;

 

who builds his upper chambers in the heavens

and founds his vault upon the earth;

who calls for the waters of the sea

and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—

the LORD is his name.

 

Once again God restates his credentials.

 

9:7-10 “Are you not like the Cushites to me,

O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.

“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,

and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?

 

Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,

and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,

except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD.

“For behold, I will command,

and shake the house of Israel among all the nations

as one shakes with a sieve,

but no pebble shall fall to the earth.

 

All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,

who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

 

The Restoration of Israel

 

9:11-15 “In that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen

and repair its breaches,

and raise up its ruins

and rebuild it as in the days of old,

that they may possess the remnant of Edom

and all the nations who are called by my name,”

declares the LORD who does this.

 

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

 

I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

 

I will plant them on their land,

and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the LORD your God.

As we have said before, God’s tender heart overrules his hatred of sin.  Punishment must be exacted because justice demands it.  He cannot deny his righteousness and justice.  

 

So, how can God resolve this dilemma?  There is only one way.  It will be effective for his chosen people, and it will be effective for all people who yearn for righteousness and justice.  God himself will come down to live among the men who were made in his image, to suffer with them and ultimately to die for them.  He will bear the burden of justice satisfied.  The driving force for this is his infinite love for his creation.  Now we have the assurance that whosoever believes in Him, the Son of God, will be made a new man and he will have everlasting life.  His sins are atoned for.  His sins are separated from him as the East is from the West.  This route is available for the Chosen People of Israel and it is available for all mankind and it is available for us.

MICAH

April 9, 2018

 

Today we begin the study of the book of the prophet Micah.  In the first verse of his prophesy we learn four facts about him.  

 

1. He states his name is Micah, which means, ‘who is like Yahweh?’  It is a short version of Micayah found in Jeremiah 26:18 and 1 Kings 22:13.   

 

2. He comes from the town of Moresheth.  Moresheth is located on the road descending to the southwest from Jerusalem to the main north-south commercial route along the Mediterranean coast in Gaza.  It was along this route that Phillip met the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8.

 

Acts 8:26-28 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.  And he rose and went.  And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

 

Today it is the village Tel el Judeideh, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, on the road to Lachish.

 

3. He ministered during the reign of three kings in Judah, the Southern Kingdom, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  The dates of their reigns are well established to be a period of 55 years from 742 BC to 687 BC.  King Uzziah preceded these kings and died of leprosy in 740 BC (2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  Isaiah received his commission to minister to the southern kingdom the year Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1-9).  Therefore Micah and Isaiah were prophets to the Israelites at the same time.  Isaiah wrote a longer book , but their messages were the same.  He was contemporary with Amos and Hosea as well.

 

4. His ministry was to all Israel, both Southern and Northern Kingdoms.  Samaria was the capital city of Israel and Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah.  His words were directed primarily to Judah.  Israel was no more, after 721 BC.  She did not heed her prophets from God.  But Micah’s words are directed to all peoples in every age because they tell the consequences of the judgment of God for those who fail to keep his word.  Micah also affirms God’s message of hope for all peoples who hear the word and believe.

 

We do not know just how he was called, but we read that the word of the Lord ‘came’ to him in this time period.  The call of Isaiah was very dramatic 

(Isaiah 6:1-13).  Was Micah called in a similar manner?  We read that the Word of the Lord ‘came’ to Micah.  This is not a passive word, but active.  It could read ‘came in power’.  It was a word that he ‘saw’.  Micah was a man who had the gift of seeing.  He could see hidden things the common man could not see.  It is said Moses saw the burning bush while others just sat around eating berries.  God reveals himself to those with eyes to see.

 

1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

 

Verbum Domini - the word of YHWH

 

You can read how God revealed himself to Jeremiah (ch. 1) and Ezekiel 

(ch. 1-2) in their books.  Can you think of others in the Bible who had life changing encounters with God?

 

The Coming Destruction

 

1:2-3 Hear, you peoples, all of you;

pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,

and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you,

the Lord from his holy temple.

For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,

and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.

 

We read that Micah ‘saw’ matters concerning Jerusalem and Samaria.  Now he asks the people to ‘hear’ what he has to say.  There are those who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not.  

God told Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9-10:

 

“Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

 

Micah begins his ministry with the words of God, the God of all Israel who resides in the Jerusalem temple.  The true dwelling place of God is in heaven, of course, but he has established a residence in the tabernacle and later in the Holy of Holies in the temple.  We read in Ezekiel 10 how God departs the temple about 150 years after this time just before Jerusalem falls to the Babylonian invasion.

 

1:4-5 And the mountains will melt under him,

and the valleys will split open,

like wax before the fire,

like waters poured down a steep place.

All this is for the transgression of Jacob

and for the sins of the house of Israel.

What is the transgression of Jacob?

Is it not Samaria?

And what is the high place of Judah?

Is it not Jerusalem?

 

When God comes down to tread upon the high places of the earth the consequences are dramatic.  We have just studied the fall of the northern kingdom by the Assyrian invasion.  We remember too the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Judgment is coming on Judah as well, although not yet the total destruction of the Babylonian invasion.  Ahaz was a king of Judah that did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the king of Israel.

We understand that Samaria was set up as a pagan city by Jeroboam I, but what are the high places of Judah?  As we read (2 Chronicles 28 1-27) we find that King Ahaz sacrificed his own children to Molech, set up pagan altars throughout the land, and sealed the doors to the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

1:6-7 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,

a place for planting vineyards,

and I will pour down her stones into the valley

and uncover her foundations.

All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,

all her wages shall be burned with fire,

and all her idols I will lay waste,

for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,

and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

 

The destruction of the Northern Kingdom is imminent.  Therefore this prophesy will soon come to pass.  Then the people will be assured that Micah is a true prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22).  

 

Temple prostitution apparently was a profitable enterprise. 
The pagan temples prospered for a while, but their prosperity was fleeting.  It is interesting that the prostitutes in California are in court demanding legal recognition and an end to laws against prostitution.

 

1:8-9 For this I will lament and wail;

I will go stripped and naked;

I will make lamentation like the jackals,

and mourning like the ostriches.

For her wound is incurable,

and it has come to Judah;

it has reached to the gate of my people,

to Jerusalem.

 

Micah takes his commission seriously.  He sees that God is going to judge his people and that the people are not responding to his message.  He weeps for them.  Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet (Jeremiah 8:18-9:3).  Here we see Micah weeping and wailing.  We know that Jesus wept.  We can find this among all the true prophets of God in the Bible and even to God’s messengers in this day.   think of the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight L. Moody,  Charles Finney, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.  Are we capable of weeping for our society today?  Do we take these ancient words sufficiently seriously?

 

1:10-16 Tell it not in Gath;

weep not at all;

in Beth-le-aphrah

roll yourselves in the dust.

Pass on your way,

inhabitants of Shaphir,

in nakedness and shame;

the inhabitants of Zaanan

do not come out;

the lamentation of Beth-ezel

shall take away from you its standing place.

For the inhabitants of Maroth

wait anxiously for good,

because disaster has come down from the LORD

to the gate of Jerusalem.

 

Harness the steeds to the chariots,

inhabitants of Lachish;

it was the beginning of sin

to the daughter of Zion,

for in you were found

the transgressions of Israel.

 

Therefore you shall give parting gifts

to Moresheth-gath;

the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing

to the kings of Israel.

 

I will again bring a conqueror to you,

inhabitants of Mareshah;

the glory of Israel

shall come to Adullam.

 

 

Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair,

for the children of your delight;

make yourselves as bald as the eagle,

for they shall go from you into exile.

 

This is a lament over the fate of Judah.  It is a series of puns on the names of twelves cities.  An invader will be coming, and it will be the Assyrians.  They are the ones who carried off the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC.  They returned in 701 BC to conquered 46 walled cities in Judah.  These cities were on the path of the Assyrian invasion from Gaza to Jerusalem, as they were returning from conquering Egypt.  Jerusalem was spared through God’s direct intervention when 185 thousand soldiers of the invading army were killed overnight (2 Kings 19:35-37; 2 Chronicles 32:20-23).

 

Woe to the Oppressors

 

2:1-5  Woe to those who devise wickedness

and work evil on their beds!

When the morning dawns, they perform it,

because it is in the power of their hand.

They covet fields and seize them,

 

and houses, and take them away;

they oppress a man and his house,

a man and his inheritance.

 

Therefore thus says the LORD:

behold, against this family I am devising disaster,

from which you cannot remove your necks,

and you shall not walk haughtily,

for it will be a time of disaster.

In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you

and moan bitterly,

and say, “We are utterly ruined;

he changes the portion of my people;

how he removes it from me!

To an apostate he allots our fields.”

 

Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot

in the assembly of the LORD.

 

Here we see a reversal of fortune for the evil doers.  As the country grew very wealthy through trade and because wars had ceased for a season, the rich grew exceedingly greedy.  They had sufficient economic, political and judicial power that they could prey on the poor and take from them the little they had.  Land was the primary source of wealth for all the people, so taking their land would totally impoverish them.  Also, the Torah sought to preserve the land of all the people with the laws of the Sabbath year and of the Year of Jubilee.  We discussed this at our last meeting.  Now the wealthy will experience what they had imposed on the poor.  This will be God’s doing, and he will be using the Assyrians as his tool.  They and their wealth will come to nothing.  

 

Psalm 37:10-13  In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;

though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

But the meek shall inherit the land

and delight themselves in abundant peace.

 

The wicked plots against the righteous

and gnashes his teeth at him,

but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

for he sees that his day is coming.

 

The land was originally distributed to the Israelites by lot. 

 

Joshua 18:9-10 Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD.  And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.

 

Micah sees a day when the land will return to the rightful owners.  

 

Review the story of Ahab’s coveting the vineyard of Naboth in 1 Kings 21, for a picture of how the powerful could treat the vulnerable.

 

 

 

 

2:6-11 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—

“one should not preach of such things;

disgrace will not overtake us.”

 

Should this be said, O house of Jacob?

Has the LORD grown impatient?

Are these his deeds?

Do not my words do good

to him who walks uprightly?

 

But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;

you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly

with no thought of war.

 

The women of my people you drive out

from their delightful houses;

from their young children you take away

my splendor forever.

 

Arise and go,

for this is no place to rest,

because of uncleanness that destroys

with a grievous destruction.

 

If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,

saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”

he would be the preacher for this people!

 

The people tell Micah to quit his preaching.  They did the same to Amos as you recall.  Remember Amos and Micah were contemporaries.  The people considered themselves special because they were children of Abraham.  God would not allow harm to come to them.  But God blesses those who will walk uprightly.  But the people are now trusting their riches rather than God.  Their wealth will fail them and they will find no rest because uncleanness destroys with a grievous destruction.  Micah mockingly tells them that they would be happy with a prophet who will tell them lies and revel in strong drink.

 

 

Amos 7:12-16 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

 

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

 

They ignored Jeremiah in his day.  They called him a wind-bag.

Jeremiah 5:12-13   For the house of Israel and the house of Judah

have been utterly treacherous to me,

declares the LORD.

 They have spoken falsely of the LORD

and have said, ‘He will do nothing;

no disaster will come upon us,

nor shall we see sword or famine.

 

The prophets will become wind;

the word is not in them.

Thus shall it be done to them!’”

 

2:12-13 I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;

I will gather the remnant of Israel;

I will set them together

like sheep in a fold,

like a flock in its pasture,

a noisy multitude of men.

He who opens the breach goes up before them;

they break through and pass the gate,

going out by it.

Their king passes on before them,

the LORD at their head.

 

 As harsh as the judgment will be, God again shows his true heart.  He promises a time of restoration to come.  The people will be restored to their God and to their land.  We know that this will come through Jesus who preaches of a new kingdom in which he is the head.

Micah 2-4 Rulers and Prophets Denounced April 23, 2018

 

Last week we noted that Micah’s ministry overlapped the ministries of Amos and Hosea.  He prophesied serious consequences to the northern Kingdom unless they changed their ways significantly.  His message was fully consistent with the teachings of Amos and Hosea.  The kingdom had grown rich and fat.  The rulers and the upper class did not need God because they were able to take very good care of themselves.  They became greedy and covetous, and exploited the poor, taking from them the little they had.  They were able to meet their religious obligations by worshipping the golden calves and the Baals.  They found sexual freedom in the practices of the pagan gods, probably very similar to our country today.  YHWH’s rules did not apply in the Northern Kingdom, except for a faithful few.  The people were unable to return to the Lord, and the entire nation fell in 721 BC.

 

Micah’s ministry to the Southern Kingdom overlapped with Isaiah.  The conditions in Judah were not much better than in Israel.  Uzziah was a good king in Judah, but at the end of his reign he fell away from YHWH.  He was made a leper for taking upon himself the role specifically assigned to the priesthood.  When he died Jotham, his son, became king.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he did not remove all the pagan practices his father permitted.  In today’s language it is called syncretism.  He reigned 16 years and died a young man of 41.  His son, Ahaz, ascended to the throne and he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, his God.  He spread pagan worship throughout the land, and even sacrificed his own son to Molech.  He sealed the doors of the Temple so the people could not worship there.  This is the condition both Micah and Isaiah find in Judah.  (See 2 Kings 15-16).

 

We finished our study last week with a word of hope and redemption.  The day will come when God draws his profligate children back to him.  A high price will have been paid.  They Northern Kingdom will have to be destroyed and the people surviving the assault by Assyria will be scattered through the mid-east and beyond.  God says, I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel…Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.

 

 

Unfortunately in today’s study the words of warning and judgment resume.  Judgment is directed at the heads of the land and the rulers; the political class.

 

3:1-4  And I said:

Hear, you heads of Jacob

and rulers of the house of Israel!

Is it not for you to know justice?—

you who hate the good and love the evil,

who tear the skin from off my people

and their flesh from off their bones,

who eat the flesh of my people,

and flay their skin from off them,

and break their bones in pieces

and chop them up like meat in a pot,

like flesh in a cauldron.

 

Then they (the heads and the rulers) will cry to the LORD,

but he will not answer them;

he will hide his face from them at that time,

because they have made their deeds evil.

 

We read last time how Ahab and Jezebel murdered Naboth to take his vineyard land (1 Kings 21).  Here we see how the rich and the powerful treat the poor and the vulnerable.  Micah tells the leaders to hear the word of the Lord.  God is voicing his indictment of their practices.  Every nation has a ruling class, and God holds them more accountable than the ordinary people.  

 

Luke 12:48  Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

 

 David recognized it in his day. 

 

Psalm 9:15-20 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;

in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.

The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;

the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

 

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! 

Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

 

Psalm 37:8-10 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

For the evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;

though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

 

James found it to be a problem in the church in his day.

 

James 5:1-6 5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have laid up treasure in the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on the earth in luxury and gin self-indulgence.  You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the righteous person.  He does not resist you.

 

Only God can transform the evil heart of man.

 

Psalm 37:1-6  Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass

and wither like the green herb.

 

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;

 

trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

and your justice as the noonday.

 

We find this same judgment of the wealthy in our country today, and almost everyone living in the USA today is wealthy.  God expects righteousness and generosity to rule in his kingdom.

 

3:5-7    Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets

who lead my people astray,

who cry “Peace”

when they have something to eat,

but declare war against him

who puts nothing into their mouths.

 

Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,

and darkness to you, without divination.

 

The sun shall go down on the prophets,

and the day shall be black over them;

the seers shall be disgraced,

and the diviners put to shame;

they shall all cover their lips,

for there is no answer from God.

 

Micah, Amos and Hosea were not the only prophets in town.  As in every age there are false prophets, and the people are eager to hear them and follow them.  Who do you think are false prophets in our country today?  Jeremiah  was constantly opposed by the false prophets in his day, who denied the obvious and inevitable invasion by Babylon.  

 

Jeremiah 6: 13-15 “For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest,

everyone deals falsely.

 

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

 

No, they were not at all ashamed;

they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;

at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”

 

Jeremiah 14:13-18    Then I said: “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’”   And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them.  They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.  Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

 

“You shall say to them this word:

‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,

and let them not cease,

for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.

 

If I go out into the field,

behold, those pierced by the sword!

And if I enter the city,

behold, the diseases of famine!

For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land

and have no knowledge.’”

 

3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power,

with the Spirit of the LORD,

and with justice and might,

to declare to Jacob his transgression

and to Israel his sin.

 

Micah is sure of his calling and therefore can speak with authority.  The Spirit of God was just as active in the Old Testament as in the New Testament.  Micah knew that a nation could be strong only if righteousness prevailed.  Military power and financial strength will ultimately fail if justice does not rule.

 

We should evaluate the prophets of our day in this light.  Are they filled and driven by the Spirit, or are they not?  Is their message consistent with the overall revelation found in the Bible?  Can a secular prophet ever offer good advise or teaching?  Can a secular scientist do good science if he rejects the creator?  Can they draw the people closer to God? 

 

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.  For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

 

3:9-12 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob

and rulers of the house of Israel,

who detest justice

and make crooked all that is straight,

who build Zion with blood

and Jerusalem with iniquity.

Its heads give judgment for a bribe;

its priests teach for a price;

its prophets practice divination for money;

yet they lean on the LORD and say,

“Is not the LORD in the midst of us?

No disaster shall come upon us.”

Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

 

These words of Micah were remembered 100 year later in Jeremiah’s day.  We will read this story from Jeremiah 26:1-24.

 

 

The Mountain of the Lord

 

4:1-5 It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

and many nations shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

 

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore;

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk

each in the name of its god,

but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God

forever and ever.

 

This is a salvation oracle.  Although God cannot tolerate sin in his people, and punishment will be severe, God will not entirely reject his people.  There will be a future restoration of his chosen people.  Many other people will be added to the chosen race as well.  Many nations will say: 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

A day will come when wars will cease and God’s chosen people will be restored.  Will that happen before the Christ returns or do we have to wait until the second coming?

 

The Lord Shall Rescue Zion

 

4:6-8     In that day, declares the LORD,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away

and those whom I have afflicted;

and the lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion

from this time forth and forevermore.

 

And you, O tower of the flock,

hill of the daughter of Zion,

to you shall it come,

the former dominion shall come,

kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.

 

A day will come when Israel is restored.  God’s punishment has made the nation lame and afflicted, but she will be restored to full strength.  We are familiar with Isaiah’s promise of that day:

 

Isaiah 40:1-5    Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

       Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD's hand

double for all her sins.

 

A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

 

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

 

4:9-13   Now why do you cry aloud?

Is there no king in you?

Has your counselor perished,

that pain seized you like a woman in labor?

 

Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,

like a woman in labor,

for now you shall go out from the city

and dwell in the open country;

you shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued;

there the LORD will redeem you

from the hand of your enemies.

 

Now many nations

are assembled against you,

saying, “Let her be defiled,

and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”

But they do not know

the thoughts of the LORD;

they do not understand his plan,

that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

Arise and thresh,

O daughter of Zion,

for I will make your horn iron,

and I will make your hoofs bronze;

you shall beat in pieces many peoples;

and shall devote their gain to the LORD,

their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

 

5:1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us;

with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.

 

The current situation in Jerusalem is not good.  The Assyrians are on the march and are approaching the gates of Jerusalem.  Many cities have already been captures and the people are fleeing to Jerusalem for safety.  There is much pain and the situation in the city is dire as Sennacherib surrounds the city.  Hezekiah proved to be the right king for the time.  See 2 Chronicles 32:1-23.  God miraculously delivered the city  this time.  100 years later the city will fall to the Babylonian invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, because the people did not learn their lesson this time.

 

The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

 

5:2-4 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

 

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has given birth;

then the rest of his brothers shall return

to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,

in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth.

Hezekiah was a good king who faithfully served the Lord.  The nation prosper under him.  Isaiah was his closest prophet during the time of the Assyrian invasion, and his advise was always sound.  However, there is another ruler to come.  He will come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown.  He will be the ultimate king of Israel and of the whole world.

 

5:5-6 And he shall be their peace.

When the Assyrian comes into our land

and treads in our palaces,

then we will raise against him seven shepherds

and eight princes of men;

they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,

and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;

and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian

when he comes into our land

and treads within our border.

 

The Assyrians did not understand who the God of Israel was.  They shouted mocking words of him from before the walls of Jerusalem.   See Jeremiah 32:12-15 and 2 Kings 18:13-19:37.  They did not know that they were playing into the hands of the very God they mocked.  But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD;

they do not understand his plan that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

The Assyrian army was destroyed by the angel of the Lord in one night.  185 thousand men died overnight.   Jerusalem was spared.  Sennacherib went home to Nineveh in disgrace and was soon assassinated by his sons.  

 

2 Kings 19:35-37  And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.  Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat.  And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

 

A Remnant Shall Be Delivered

 

5:7-9 Then the remnant of Jacob shall be

in the midst of many peoples

like dew from the LORD,

like showers on the grass,

which delay not for a man

nor wait for the children of man.

And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,

in the midst of many peoples,

like a lion among the beasts of the forest,

like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,

which, when it goes through, treads down

and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.

Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,

and all your enemies shall be cut off.

 

Israel has been scattered among most of the nations in the world.  But she is there to be a blessing (dew) to the nations.  Our experience tells us that the nations do not see Israel as a blessing, but as a thorn in their sides.  History is replete with nations that would like to exterminate the Jews.  Anti-semitism is fairly aggressively on the rise again today.  But the Jews also represent judgment (lions) on the world.  Can you think how Judaism as blessing and judgment is possible?

 

5:10-15 And in that day, declares the LORD,

I will cut off your horses from among you

and will destroy your chariots;

and I will cut off the cities of your land

and throw down all your strongholds;

and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,

and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes;

and I will cut off your carved images

and your pillars from among you,

and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands;

and I will root out your Asherah images from among you

and destroy your cities.

And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance

on the nations that did not obey.

God has already decreed judgment on Israel.  Now he is describing the terms of his judgment on all the nations that refuse to acknowledge and worship him.

Micah 6:1 - 7:20  God Takes Israel to Court  April 30, 2018

 

 

Micah ministered during the reign of three kings in Judah, the Southern Kingdom, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  The dates of their reigns are well established to be a period of 55 years from 742 BC to 687 BC.  King Uzziah preceded these kings and died of leprosy in 740 BC (2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  Isaiah received his commission as prophet to the southern kingdom the year Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1-9).  Therefore Micah and Isaiah were prophets to the Israelites at the same time.  Isaiah wrote a longer book , but their messages were the same.  They both were contemporary with Amos and Hosea as well.

 

His ministry was to all Israel, both Southern and Northern Kingdoms.  Samaria was the capital city of Israel and Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah.  His words were directed primarily to Judah.  Israel was no more after 721 BC.  She did not heed her prophets from God.  

 

But Micah’s words are directed to all peoples in every age because they tell the consequences of the judgment of God for those who fail to keep his word.  Micah also affirms God’s message of hope for all peoples who hear the word and believe.

 

We do not know just how he was called, but we read that the word of the Lord (Verbum Domini) came to him in this time period.  The call of Isaiah was very dramatic, (Isaiah 6:1-13).  Was Micah called in a similar manner?  We read that the Word of the Lord ‘came’ to Micah.  This is not a passive word, but active.  It could read ‘came in power’.  It was a word that he ‘saw’.  Micah was a man who had the gift of seeing.  He could see hidden things the common man could not see. 

 

Micah’s ministry overlapped the ministries of Amos and Hosea.  He prophesied serious consequences to the northern Kingdom unless they changed their ways significantly.  His message was fully consistent with the teachings of Amos and Hosea.  The kingdom had grown rich and fat.  The rulers and the upper class did not need God because they were able to take very good care of themselves.  They became greedy and covetous, and exploited the poor, taking from them the little they had.  They were able to meet their religious obligations by worshipping the golden calves and the Baals.  They found sexual freedom in the practices of the pagan gods, probably very similar to our country today.  Yahweh’s rules did not apply in the Northern Kingdom, except for a faithful few.  The people were spiritually unable to return to the Lord under the ministries of Amos, Hosea and Micah.   The entire Northern Kingdom fell before the invasion of the Assyrians in 722-721 BC.  The 10 tribes were so scattered that we call them the lost tribes today. 

 

Micah’s ministry to the Southern Kingdom overlapped with Isaiah.  The conditions in Judah were not much better than in Israel.  But fortunately Jerusalem was spared the Assyrian invasion because she had a good and faithful king, Hezekiah, on the throne.

 

We finished our study last week with a word of hope and redemption.  The day will come when God draws his profligate children back to him.  God says, I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel…Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.  This day will be when the Messiah comes to establish his eternal kingdom on earth.

 

This week God takes Israel to court.  Israel is the defendant.  God is the plaintiff and is his own attorney.  The mountains and the hills are the jury.  A formal case is laid out before the court.  Verdict will follow and just punishment will be carried out.

 

6:1-2  Hear what the LORD says:

Arise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.

Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD,

and you enduring foundations of the earth,

for the LORD has an indictment against his people,

and he will contend with Israel.

 

This is a covenant lawsuit.  The rulebook is the Torah.  The true meaning of the Torah is noted in Amos 5:24, But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, and Hosea 6:6,  For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  

 

God wants justice and righteousness, love and true knowledge of himself to characterize his people.

 

The hills and the mountains are called as witnesses because they have been around for a long time and have seen God’s works and Israel’s failures from the beginning of time.

 

6:3-5 “O my people, what have I done to you?

How have I wearied you? Answer me!

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt

and redeemed you from the house of slavery,

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.

 

O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,

and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”

 

This is one of the great passages in the Old Testament.  The plaintiff knows the defendant intimately and does not want justice to prevail.  That would mean the end of both kingdoms.  He reaches out to the defendant with love and gracious words.  He recounts their move from Egypt to the Promised Land, and his mighty acts on their behalf.  He also recounts their shortcomings on both sides of the Jordan River.

 

But even grace can get weary.   Isaiah asks Ahaz in 7:13, “Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?”  Later God speaks:

 

Isaiah 43:22-24 22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;

but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,

or honored me with your sacrifices.

I have not burdened you with offerings,

or wearied you with frankincense.

You have not bought me sweet cane with money,

or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.

But you have burdened me with your sins;

you have wearied me with your iniquities.

 

Malachi 2:17  You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?”  By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.”  Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 

 

What Does the Lord Require?

 

6:6-7 “With what shall I come before the LORD,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

 

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

 

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

 

6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

 

This section represents one of the two basic ideas about religion.  How can man approach God?  One answer is with sacrifices and good works.  The other answer is that God has little interest in some external gifts or sacrifices, but he desires a humble believer who loves to serve God and practice justice toward his fellowman.

 

Isaiah 1:11-20  11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the LORD;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of well-fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

 

 

When you come to appear before me,

who has required of you

this trampling of my courts?

 

Bring no more vain offerings;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

 

Your new moons and your appointed feasts

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

 

When you spread out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

 

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow's cause.

 

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

 

If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

It seems to me that believing in Jesus is insufficient for salvation.  Nowhere in the Old Testament is belief the sole criterion for salvation?  In these passages and throughout the Torah all belief must be accompanied by good works.  Good works affirms the validity of the belief.  Here we see that good works and sacrifices are rejected because they are not accompanied by faith - that is love of God and a righteous walk. 

 

Romans 6:6-10 He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.  For God shows no partiality.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10   For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

James 2:14, 18-24 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

 

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe—and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

 

 

Norman Snaith:  To say that God requires ultimately nothing that man can bring does not mean that men ought not to worship Him.  Worship is necessary for man, because it is the outward expression of true humility before God, of that humble trust which is essential.  It is when worship ceases to be this that it is a hindrance and not a help.  So long as it is the outcome of true and humble conscious devotion to God, it can and does strengthen those bonds which bind God and man together through Christ.  Worship is also necessary because a man should be full of praise and thankfulness to God; but as soon as the aim of hymns and songs and music generally becomes aesthetic, it is the time to beware.”

 

 

Destruction of the Wicked

 

6:9-16 The voice of the LORD cries to the city—

and it is sound wisdom to fear your name:

“Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!

 

Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?

 

Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales

and with a bag of deceitful weights?

 

Your rich men are full of violence;

your inhabitants speak lies,

and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.

 

Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow,

making you desolate because of your sins.

You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not preserve,

and what you preserve I will give to the sword.

 

You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.

 

For you have kept the statutes of Omri,

and all the works of the house of Ahab;

and you have walked in their counsels,

that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”

 

Israel is in the dock.  The jury agrees with the prosecuting attorney.  Now the judge declares judgment on the defendant.  Instead of justice, loyalty and humble fellowship with God, the land is full of wickedness.    Omni assassinated Zimri and seized the throne of Israel (1 Kings 16).  He continued to lead the nation in evil.  His son Ahab, with Jezebel his wife, are notorious to this day for the evil in their reign.  Now the nation will reap the consequences.

 

A Lament over a Decadent Society

 

7:1-6 Woe is me! For I have become

as when the summer fruit has been gathered,

as when the grapes have been gleaned:

there is no cluster to eat,

no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.

 

The godly has perished from the earth,

and there is no one upright among mankind;

they all lie in wait for blood,

and each hunts the other with a net.

 

Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;

the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,

and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;

thus they weave it together.

The best of them is like a brier,

the most upright of them a thorn hedge.

The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;

now their confusion is at hand.

 

Put no trust in a neighbor;

have no confidence in a friend;

guard the doors of your mouth

from her who lies in your arms;

for the son treats the father with contempt,

the daughter rises up against her mother,

the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

 

 

Micah laments over his people.  He knows what lies ahead and the people have no clue.  They cannot comprehend his messages.  This is like our nation today.  The teaching of the Bible is foolishness, but just incase someone should respond to it, it is taken out of the public square and out of the schools.  With the Bible out of sight, one can do what ever one pleases, and what one pleases tends toward evil and not good.  Huxley embraced Darwin’s evolutionary theory because it freed him from his responsibility to God.

 

 

7:7-10 But as for me, I will look to the LORD;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.

 

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the LORD will be a light to me.

 

I will bear the indignation of the LORD

because I have sinned against him,

until he pleads my cause

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall look upon his vindication.

Then my enemy will see,

and shame will cover her who said to me,

“Where is the LORD your God?”

My eyes will look upon her;

now she will be trampled down

like the mire of the streets.

 

Micah affirms his faith in Yahweh.  Joshua made a similar confession when the Israelites were established in the Promised Land.  

 

 Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

 

This section also reads like a psalm of trust and faith in Yahweh.  He is their faithful God, who forgives their sins and vindicates his faithful followers.  There is no shame in being a true believer.  The shame will be on the side of the unbelievers. 

 

Wait for the God of Salvation

 

7:11-13 A day for the building of your walls!

In that day the boundary shall be far extended.

In that day they will come to you,

from Assyria and the cities of Egypt,

and from Egypt to the River,

from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

But the earth will be desolate

because of its inhabitants,

for the fruit of their deeds.

 

Judgment is coming on the nation, but there will be a day when Jerusalem is restored and will have to be greatly enlarged to contain all the returning people of God.

 

 

7:14-17 Shepherd your people with your staff,

the flock of your inheritance,

who dwell alone in a forest

in the midst of a garden land;

let them graze in Bashan and Gilead

as in the days of old.

As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,

I will show them marvelous things.

The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;

they shall lay their hands on their mouths;

their ears shall be deaf;

they shall lick the dust like a serpent,

like the crawling things of the earth;

they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;

they shall turn in dread to the LORD our God,

and they shall be in fear of you.

 

Now Micah prays to God to shepherd his people and bring them back to the Promised Land.  Let the world see your deliverance once again, as they saw when you rescued Israel from Egypt.

 

God's Steadfast Love and Compassion

 

7:18-20 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

 

You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

 

The Book of Micah ends with this hymn praising Yahweh for his forgiveness and devotion and faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham so long ago.  This is also a play on Micah’s name which means “who is like Yahweh”.  God will forgive the sins of his people because of his great love for them, and the sins will be cast into the depths of the sea.  John’s Gospel claims that “the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Thus Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Jacob.

NAHUM

 

 

Two whole books of the Bible are directed to Nineveh as the capital of the world wide kingdom of Assyria.  The first is Jonah, written more than a hundred years before Nahum.  Jonah went to Assyria with a message of pending doom for the city if it doesn’t repent its sinfulness.  Surprisingly , even to Jonah, the city, and therefore the nation, does repent and God spares the nation.

 

Jonah 3:6-9 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,  but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God.  Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

 

Now Nahum address the nation once again.  The revival under Jonah is long past and the nation has returned to its evil former ways.  Nahum does not go to the city with a second warning, but he speaks God’s words of judgment on the city and nation.  Assyria was the dominant nation in the world then.   It invaded Egypt around 740 BC and by 663 BC its rule extended 800  miles down the Nile River to Thebes.

 

In 722-721 BC during one of its forays into Egypt  under Tiglath-Pileser, it invaded and conquered Israel destroying the Northern Kingdom.  In 701 BC, Sennacherib, now King of Assyria, intending to defeat Judah, approached the walls and gates of Jerusalem, but God miraculously intervened and Jerusalem was spared.  It did become a vassal state, however.  Hezekiah, the good king, was gone and his very evil son, Manasseh reigned in his stead. 

 

 

 

Nahum is writing his Oracle concerning Nineveh around 660-650 BC, as a message of encouragement to the vassal kingdom of Judah (and to much of the known world).  Assyria is soon to fall because she has repudiated Jonah’s message and has assaulted God’s own people, the Israelites.  

 

There is unrest in Assyria at the time.   The Medes and the Scythians are pressing the kingdom from the north and west.  The older brother of Ashurbanipal, the king, created a force of Elamites and Persians that would finally become the Kingdom of Babylon that would conquer the venerable kingdom of Assyria in 605 BC.  It is this downfall that Nahum forecasts in his vision.

 

Nahum is writing his vision to remind all God’s people that God is not only the God of Israel, but is Lord over all nations and all history.  God is good and just, but he will not justify the guilty.  He is jealous over his own nation, but is wrathful toward his enemies who reject his rule.  “What nation can withstand the God who overcame the primordial chaos?”

 

 

Assyria was a kingdom of northern Mesopotamia that became the centre of one of the great empires of the ancient Middle East. It was located in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey.  Centered on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran), the Assyrians came to rule powerful empires at several times. Making up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.[6]

Assyria was a dependency of Babylonia and later of the Mitanni kingdom during most of the 2nd millennium BC. It emerged as an independent state in the 14th century BC, and in the subsequent period it became a major power in Mesopotamia, Armenia, and sometimes in northern Syria. Assyrian power declined after the death of Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1208 BC. It was restored briefly in the 11th century BC by Tiglath-pileser I, but during the following period both Assyria and its rivals were preoccupied with the incursions of the seminomadic Aramaeans. The Assyrian kings began a new period of expansion in the 9th century BC, and from the mid-8th to the late 7th century BC, a series of strong Assyrian kings—among them Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon—united most of the Middle East, from Egypt to the Persian Gulf, under Assyrian rule. The last great Assyrian ruler was Ashurbanipal, but his last years and the period following his death, in 627 BC, are obscure. The state was finally destroyed by a Chaldean-Median coalition in 612–609 BC. Famous for their cruelty and fighting prowess, the Assyrians were also monumental builders, as shown by archaeological sites at Nineveh, Ashur, and Nimrūd.

 

 

Centered on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran), the Assyrians came to rule powerful empires at several times. Making up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.[6]

 

Assyria foundered under outside invasions by the Medes, Babylonians and Scythians, and internal dissent over several years.  The Battle of Nineveh, 612 BC, was a turning point.  Ashur-uballit II would fight on for several more years. His ultimate fate is not known or recorded - he may have been killed at the fall of Harran in 608 BC, in a failed attempt to recapture it the following year, or at Carchemish in 605 BC (where the last major Assyrian resistance appears to have ended); or simply disappeared into obscurity.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 1:1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

 

We do not know very much about Nahum.  He comes from the town of Elkosh, but archeologist have yet to find where the town might have been.  This is his only writing that we know of.

 

An oracle is a divine communication or prophesy delivered by a spokesman of a god, in this case Yahweh.  The message comes to Nahum via a vision, and specifically a vision of the fate of Nineveh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Psalm of Praise for Yahweh

 

1:2-8 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;  Jealous - Joshua 24:19

the LORD is avenging and wrathful;

the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries          Vengeance = judgment

and keeps wrath for his enemies.

 

 

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,

and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.

His way is in whirlwind and storm, 

and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

struggle between God and powers of chaos

He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;

he dries up all the rivers;

Bashan and Carmel wither;

the bloom of Lebanon withers.

The mountains quake before him;

the hills melt;

the earth heaves before him,

the world and all who dwell in it.

 

Who can stand before his indignation?

Who can endure the heat of his anger?

His wrath is poured out like fire,

and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

 

The LORD is good,

a stronghold in the day of trouble;

he knows those who take refuge in him.

But with an overflowing flood a flood opened the way into Assyria

he will make a complete end of the adversaries,

and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

 

This section is in the form of a hymn that describes Yahweh.  He is a God not to be taken lightly.  He can display great wrath, wrath against sin.  He is the creator God who has all the forces of the universe in his hands.  The evil forces often known as chaos (the sea) have no ultimate powers over him.   But he is also a good God and a source of refuge for those who acknowledge him.

 

This Psalm ends with two rhetorical questions, because the answers are obvious, 

Who can stand before his indignation?

Who can endure the heat of his anger?

 

A Judgment Oracle against Assyria

 

1:9-11 What do you plot against the LORD?

He will make a complete end;

trouble will not rise up a second time.

For they are like entangled thorns,

like drunkards as they drink;

they are consumed like stubble fully dried.

 

From you came one

who plotted evil against the LORD,

a worthless counselor.

 

This seems to be directed to the ruler of Assyria.  At this time it is probably Sennacherib who will soon be assaulting Jerusalem.  Review 2 Kings 18-19.  He will die at the hands of his sons when he returns to Nineveh.

 

A Salvation Oracle for Judah

 

1:12-14 Thus says the LORD,

“Though they are at full strength and many,

they will be cut down and pass away.

Though I have afflicted you,

I will afflict you no more.

And now I will break his yoke from off you

and will burst your bonds apart.”

 

The LORD has given commandment about you:

“No more shall your name be perpetuated;

from the house of your gods I will cut off

the carved image and the metal image.

I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

 

The immediate fulfillment of the oracle is found in 2 Kings 18-19, but the final fulfillment will be in 605 BC at the Battle of Carchemish.

 

2 Kings 18:13, 32-34, In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them…

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD…

Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.  And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat.  And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

 

1:15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him

who brings good news,

who publishes peace!

Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows,

for never again shall the worthless pass through you;

he is utterly cut off.

 

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet of him who brings good news,

who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

who publishes salvation,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

 

The good news, Gospel, is that Yahweh will vindicate his people that suffered under Assyria and restore the glory of Jacob.  This process is not complete yet, but is in process through the Messiah and his church.

The Battle of Nineveh

 

2:1-13 The scatterer has come up against you.

Man the ramparts;

watch the road;

dress for battle;

collect all your strength.

 

For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob

as the majesty of Israel,

for plunderers have plundered them

and ruined their branches.

 

The shield of his mighty men is red;

his soldiers are clothed in scarlet.

The chariots come with flashing metal

on the day he musters them;

the cypress spears are brandished.

 

The chariots race madly through the streets;

they rush to and fro through the squares;

they gleam like torches;

they dart like lightning.

 

He remembers his officers;

they stumble as they go,

they hasten to the wall;

the siege tower is set up.

 

The river gates are opened;

the palace melts away;

its mistress is stripped; she is carried off,

her slave girls lamenting,

moaning like doves

and beating their breasts.

 

Nineveh is like a pool

whose waters run away.

“Halt! Halt!” they cry,

but none turns back.

 

Plunder the silver,

plunder the gold!

There is no end of the treasure

or of the wealth of all precious things.

 

Desolate! Desolation and ruin!

Hearts melt and knees tremble;

anguish is in all loins;

all faces grow pale!

 

Where is the lions' den,

the feeding place of the young lions,

where the lion and lioness went,

where his cubs were, with none to disturb?

 

The lion tore enough for his cubs

and strangled prey for his lionesses;

he filled his caves with prey

and his dens with torn flesh.

 

Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.

 

 

 

This is a most dramatic battle account in poetry.  The battle is still to come, but this is how it will happen.  Nineveh is built on the east bank of the Tigris River and the tributary river, Husur, runs through the city.  A Greek account of the fall of Nineveh says that a sudden rise in the Hussar River caused a collapse of the walls that allowed the invading armies of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians to enter the city and take it down.  (See 1:8)

 

Yahweh is personally going after Nineveh.  She has no hope of avoiding her destruction.  God, as usual, uses normal forces to carry out his plans, floods and armies of the nations.  Only on rare occasion does he use miraculous means.

 

Woe to Nineveh

 

3:1-7  Woe to the bloody city,

all full of lies and plunder—

no end to the prey!

The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,

galloping horse and bounding chariot!

 

Horsemen charging,

flashing sword and glittering spear,

hosts of slain,

heaps of corpses,

dead bodies without end—

they stumble over the bodies!

 

And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,

graceful and of deadly charms,

who betrays nations with her whorings,

and peoples with her charms.

 

Behold, I am against you,

declares the LORD of hosts,

and will lift up your skirts over your face;

and I will make nations look at your nakedness

and kingdoms at your shame.

 

I will throw filth at you

and treat you with contempt

and make you a spectacle.

 

And all who look at you will shrink from you and say,

“Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?”

Where shall I seek comforters for you?

This is a picture very much like the siege and defeat of Constantinople by Islam in 1453.  The city had been invulnerable from its first days.  When Islam appeared around 600 AD it tried many times to conquer the city, but were unable to do so after 800 years of trying.  Mohammed himself tried to take the city.  Finally Mehmet Chelebi, Sultan and Emperor of the Ottoman Empire, set about to conquer Constantinople.  He offered the city truce if it would surrender to his rule.  The Christians refused and in 1541 the siege began.  It took two full years and the loss of unmeasurable lives to conquer the city-state, but on May 29, 1453 the city fell.  The rape of the city as described by Roger Crowley in his book ‘1453’, sounded very similar to the conquest scene in Nahum.

 

The Analogy of Thebes

 

3:8-13 Are you better than Thebes

that sat by the Nile,

with water around her,

her rampart a sea,

and water her wall?

 

Cush was her strength;

Egypt too, and that without limit;

Put and the Libyans were her helpers.

 

Yet she became an exile;

she went into captivity;

her infants were dashed in pieces

at the head of every street;

for her honored men lots were cast,

and all her great men were bound in chains.

 

You also will be drunken;

you will go into hiding;

you will seek a refuge from the enemy.

All your fortresses are like fig trees

with first-ripe figs—

if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater.

Behold, your troops

are women in your midst.

 

The gates of your land

are wide open to your enemies;

fire has devoured your bars.

 

The siege and defeat of Thebes by the Assyrians sounds very much like the judgment that will fall on Nineveh in the days ahead.  The Assyrians  were famous for their cruelty and fighting prowess.  They will eventually pay the price.

 

 

Thebes

 

The Ancient Egyptians originally knew Thebes as Wo'se or Wase. A wase was was the scepter of the pharaohs, a long staff with an animal's head and a forked base. From the end of the New Kingdom, Thebes was known in Egyptian as Niwt-'Imn, the "City of Amun". Amun was the chief of the Theban Triad of gods whose other members were Mut and Khonsu. This name of Thebes appears in the Bible as the "Nōʼ ʼĀmôn" (נא אמון) of the Book of Nahum and also as the "No" (נא) mentioned in Ezekiel and Jeremiah.

 

Thebes is the Latinized form of the Greek Thebai, the hellenized form of the Demotic Egyptian Ta-pe, from earlier Ta Opet. This was the local name not for the city itself but for the Karnak temple complex on the northern east bank of the city. As early as Homer's Iliad, the Greeks distinguished the Egyptian Thebes as Thebes of the Hundred Gates (Θῆβαι ἑκατόμπυλοι, Thēbai hekatómpyloi) or Hundred-Gated Thebes, as opposed to the "Thebes of the Seven Gates" (Θῆβαι ἑπτάπυλοι, Thēbai heptapyloi) in Boeotia, Greece.

 

In the interpretatio graeca, Amun was rendered as Zeus Ammon. The name was therefore translated into Greek as Diospolis, "City of Zeus". To distinguish it from the numerous other cities by this name, it was known as the Great Diospolis (Διόσπολις Μεγάλη, Dióspolis Megálē; Latin: Diospolis Magna). The Greek names came into wider use after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, when the country came to be ruled by the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty.

 

Thebes was located along the banks of the Nile River in the middle part of Upper Egypt about 800 km from the Delta. It was built largely on the alluvial plains of the Nile Valley which follows a great bend of the Nile. As a natural consequence, the city was laid in a northeast-southwest axis parallel to the contemporary river channel. Thebes had an area of 93 km2 (36 sq mi) which included parts of the Theban Hills in the west that culminates at the sacred 420-meter (1,378-foot) al-Qurn. In the east lies the mountainous Eastern Desert with its wadis draining into the valley. Significant of these wadis is Wadi Hammamat near Thebes. It was used as an overland trade route going to the Red Sea coast.

 

According to George Modelski, Thebes had about 40,000 inhabitants in 2000 BC (compared to 60,000 in Memphis, the largest city of the world at the time). By 1800 BC, the population of Memphis was down to about 30,000, making Thebes the largest city in Egypt at the time.  Historian Ian Morris estimated that by 1500 BC, Thebes may have grown to be the largest city in the world, with a population of about 75,000, a position which it held until about 900 BC, when it was surpassed by Nimrud in Assyria.

 

The archaeological remains of Thebes offer a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height. The Greek poet Homer extolled the wealth of Thebes in the Iliad, Book 9 (c. 8th Century BC): "... in Egyptian Thebes the heaps of precious ingots gleam, the hundred-gated Thebes."

 

In 667 BC, attacked by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's army, Taharqa abandoned Lower Egypt and fled to Thebes. After his death three years later his nephew (or cousin) Tantamani seized Thebes, invaded Lower Egypt and laid siege to Memphis, but abandoned his attempts to conquer the country in 663 BC and retreated southwards. The Assyrians pursued him and took Thebes, whose name was added to a long list of cities plundered and destroyed by the Assyrians, as Ashurbanipal wrote:

 

"This city, the whole of it, I conquered it with the help of Ashur and Ishtar. Silver, gold, precious stones, all the wealth of the palace, rich cloth, precious linen, great horses, supervising men and women, two obelisks of splendid electrum, weighing 2,500 talents, the doors of temples I tore from their bases and carried them off to Assyria. With this weighty booty I left Thebes. Against  Egypt and Kush I have lifted my spear and shown my power. With full hands I have returned to Nineveh, in good health."

 

Thebes never regained its former political significance, but it remained an important religious centre. Assyrians installed Psamtik I (664-610 BC), who ascended to Thebes in 656 BC and brought about the adoption of his own daughter, Nitocris I, as heiress to God's Wife of Amun there. In 525 BC, Persian Cambyses II invaded Egypt and became pharaoh, subordinating the kingdom as a satrapy to the greater Achaemenid Empire.

 

Nineveh Unable to Withstand the Assault

 

3:14-17 Draw water for the siege;

strengthen your forts;

go into the clay;

tread the mortar;

take hold of the brick mold!

 

There will the fire devour you;

the sword will cut you off.

It will devour you like the locust.

Multiply yourselves like the locust;

multiply like the grasshopper!

 

You increased your merchants

more than the stars of the heavens.

The locust spreads its wings and flies away.

 

Your princes are like grasshoppers,

your scribes like clouds of locusts

settling on the fences

in a day of cold—

when the sun rises, they fly away;

no one knows where they are.

 

All the efforts of the Ninevites will come to naught.  Their defenses will fail.  The end has come.  The city will fall on 612 BC, and the remaining army will be defeated at the Battle of Carchemish,  just north of the Euphrates river, in northeastern Syria today.

 

All Nations Will Rejoice over the Defeat of Assyria

 

3:18-19 Your shepherds are asleep,

O king of Assyria;

your nobles slumber.

 

Your people are scattered on the mountains

with none to gather them.

 

There is no easing your hurt;

your wound is grievous.

All who hear the news about you

clap their hands over you.

For upon whom has not come

your unceasing evil?

 

None will mourn the fall of Assyria.  This marks the end of the nation.  Babylon will become the next world empire, followed by Greece and then Rome.  We are still the remnant of the Roman Empire, which became the Christian Empire of western civilization.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    ZEPHANIAH                   May 14, 2018

 

 

God has been silent for the past 75, or so, years.  The last prophets of the earlier time were Isaiah and Micah.  Hezekiah was the king of Judah.  Responding to the prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah, God spare the city of Jerusalem from the Assyrian invasion (2 Chronicles 32:20-21).  Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was conquered by the Assyrians in 722-721 BC.  Micah and Isaiah continued their ministries in Judah, the Southern Kingdom for another 30 years.  Hezekiah died in 687 BC, and his son, Manasseh ascended to the throne and reigned for 55 years, until 642 BC.

 

Manasseh was an evil king, he was the worst to ever rule in Judah.  He was every bit as evil as Ahab in Israel.  He grew up in the royal palace with a Godly father.  He was born after the dramatic rescue of Jerusalem by God from the Assyrians.  The land was at peace, Pax Assyriaca, and except for having to pay yearly tribute to Assyria, the economy was booming.  We might say he grew up as a rich kid.

When he came of age he repudiated all his father had done.  

 

2 Chronicles 33:1-10   Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem.  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.  For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.  And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.”  And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.  And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers.  He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.  And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.  Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.  The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.

 

 

2 Kings 21:16-17 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh and all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

 

 

Although the good King Josiah restored the reading of the Law and temple worship In Judah, the nation could not recover from the evil Manasseh spread throughout the land.  There was a period of revival under Josiah, but after his death the people resumed the practices Manasseh created.  The Babylonian invasion and the destruction of Jerusalem was the ultimately caused by Manasseh’s sin.

 

2 Kings 23:26-27  Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.  And the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

 

2 Kings 24:3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon.

 

The next prophet was Nahum, whom we studied last week.  His prophecy was primarily directed to Assyria.  Therefore, Zephaniah is the next prophet to directly address Judah, after a 75-year dark period when the voice of God was not heard.  

 

1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

 

Zephaniah can mean “God hides”.  God had been hiding, but now he comes to life again.  Manasseh has died.  His son Amon was murdered after reigning two years, and Josiah is the present king of Judah (640-609 BC).  Assyria is still the world great power, but as we noted last week, Nahum prophesied the Assyrian fall that started with the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, and then the collapse of the Syrian army at the battle of Carchemish in 609 BC.  Zephaniah must have delivered this prophesy before the reforms under Josiah that began in 621 BC, when most of the idol worship establish by Manasseh was stopped and the pagan temples and worship centers were destroyed.  He makes reference to Nineveh that was destroyed in 612 BC.  The Assyrians were cruel oppressors.  Judah was steeped in idolatry.  God is not very pleased with the situation as we will hear.

 

The Coming Judgment on Judah

 

1:2-3 “I will utterly sweep away everything

from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.

“I will sweep away man and beast;

I will sweep away the birds of the heavens

and the fish of the sea,

and the rubble with the wicked.

I will cut off mankind

from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.

 

This sounds very much like God’s judgment before the flood.

 

Genesis 6:5-8 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

 

This passage sounds like poetic hyperbole.  In fact it must be, because not all life was swept away then.  Could the flood story be similar?  Could the flood have been a regional event, with other animals and peoples surviving in distant places?

 

1:4-6 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah

and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;

and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal

and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,

those who bow down on the roofs

to the host of the heavens,

those who bow down and swear to the LORD

and yet swear by Milcom,

those who have turned back from following the LORD,

who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him”.

 

Judah was unable to capitalize on Josiah’s reforms.  The evil Manasseh left behind could not be erased, even though Josiah tried.  The people have returned to their old ways.   Here we see three groups of people:

 

  1. The worshippers of the hosts of heaven and their priests - Astral Worship
  2. Those who worship both the Baals and Yahweh - syncretistic religion
  3. The people who have become fully secularized  - like much of our society today.

 

I am including the story of Josiah’s reforms because the story is so significant, and it is one we should consider as people all over our country are praying for revival.

 

Josiah's Reforms

 

23:1-3 Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him.  And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great.  And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD.  And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book.  And all the people joined in the covenant.

 

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel.  And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens.  And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.  And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah.   And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city.  However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brothers.  And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.   And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the chariots of the sun with fire.  And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.   And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.   And he broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the bones of men.

 

 Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah.   And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things.  When he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.”  And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria.  And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel.  And he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

 

Josiah Restores the Passover

 

 And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”  For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.  But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.

 

 Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.  Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

 

 Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.  And the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

 

The Day of the Lord Is Near

 

1:7 Be silent before the Lord GOD!

For the day of the LORD is near;

the LORD has prepared a sacrifice

and consecrated his guests.

 

1:8-10 And on the day of the LORD's sacrifice—

“I will punish the officials and the king's sons

and all who array themselves in foreign attire.

On that day I will punish

everyone who leaps over the threshold,

and those who fill their master's house

with violence and fraud.

 

“On that day,” declares the LORD,

“a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,

a wail from the Second Quarter,

a loud crash from the hills.

 

1:11-13 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!

For all the traders are no more;

all who weigh out silver are cut off.

 

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the men

who are complacent,

those who say in their hearts,

‘The LORD will not do good,

nor will he do ill.’

 

Their goods shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.”

 

 

1:14-16 The great day of the LORD is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;

the mighty man cries aloud there.

 

A day of wrath is that day,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

1:17-18 I will bring distress on mankind,

so that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the LORD;

their blood shall be poured out like dust,

and their flesh like dung.

 

Neither their silver nor their gold

shall be able to deliver them

on the day of the wrath of the LORD.

In the fire of his jealousy,

all the earth shall be consumed;

for a full and sudden end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

 

This section sounds like a sermon preached on a Sabbath or feast day.  It was probably repeated throughout the city of Jerusalem and throughout the countryside.  It describes the ‘Day of the Lord’.   

 

Zephaniah tells the people to be silent as they contemplate the Day.  Free your mind and thoughts of all else and concentrate on the words God has given him to say.  The Day of Yahweh will reach every dark corner of the earth, and the hidden recesses of men’s minds and hearts.  At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the men

who are complacent,

those who say in their hearts,

‘The LORD will not do good,

nor will he do ill.’

 

We do not hear sermons like this one very often.  Jonathan Edwards could well have preached this, and his ministry brought about the first great awakening in our country.

 

In our naiveté we think of the coming Day of the Lord to be a day of rejoicing, but that day will also include the judgment seat of Revelation 20. 

 

Matthew 25:37-40 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 

But there will be many other responses as well. 

Some will argue that they did all things they were supposed to do.

 

Matthew 25:41-46 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying,  Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

 

 

 

Some kept doing all the usual things of life.

 

Matthew 24:37-39 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

 

Then there are those who thought the Day of the Lord would never happen.

 

Matthew 25:11-13 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

 

Jeremiah 7:25-26 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.  Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.

 

2:1-3  Gather together, yes, gather,

O shameless nation,

before the decree takes effect

—before the day passes away like chaff—

before there comes upon you

the burning anger of the LORD,

before there comes upon you

the day of the anger of the LORD.

 

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,

who do his just commands;

seek righteousness; seek humility;

perhaps you may be hidden

on the day of the anger of the LORD.

 

 

Judgment on Judah's Enemies

 

 

Oracle against Philistia

The Philistines were continuous aggressors against Judah

 

2:4-7 For Gaza shall be deserted,

and Ashkelon shall become a desolation;

Ashdod's people shall be driven out at noon,

and Ekron shall be uprooted.

 

Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast,

you nation of the Cherethites!

The word of the LORD is against you,

 

O Canaan, land of the Philistines;

and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left.

 

And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures,

with meadows for shepherds

and folds for flocks.

The seacoast shall become the possession

of the remnant of the house of Judah,

on which they shall graze,

and in the houses of Ashkelon

they shall lie down at evening.

For the LORD their God will be mindful of them

and restore their fortunes.

 

 

Oracle against Moab and Ammon

Moab and Ammon were the incestuous sons of Lot.

 

2:8-11 “I have heard the taunts of Moab

and the revilings of the Ammonites,

how they have taunted my people

and made boasts against their territory.

 

Therefore, as I live,” declares the LORD of hosts,

the God of Israel,

“Moab shall become like Sodom,

and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,

a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,

and a waste forever.

 

The remnant of my people shall plunder them,

and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”

This shall be their lot in return for their pride,

because they taunted and boasted

against the people of the LORD of hosts.

The LORD will be awesome against them;

for he will famish all the gods of the earth,

and to him shall bow down,

each in its place,

all the lands of the nations.

 

Oracle against Ethiopia

Ethiopians Pharaohs ruled Egypt during the 25th dynasty (ca. 716-663 BC).

 

You also, O Cushites,

shall be slain by my sword.

 

 

Oracle against Assyria

Nineveh will fall within 10 years

 

2:13-15 And he will stretch out his hand against the north

and destroy Assyria,

and he will make Nineveh a desolation,

a dry waste like the desert.

 

Herds shall lie down in her midst,

all kinds of beasts;

even the owl and the hedgehog

shall lodge in her capitals;

a voice shall hoot in the window;

devastation will be on the threshold;

for her cedar work will be laid bare.

 

This is the exultant city

that lived securely,

that said in her heart,

“I am, and there is no one else.”

What a desolation she has become,

a lair for wild beasts!

Everyone who passes by her

hisses and shakes his fist.

 

Isaiah describes Babylon’s pride in similar terms.

 

Isaiah 47:10 You felt secure in your wickedness;

you said, “No one sees me”;

your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,

and you said in your heart,

“I am, and there is no one besides me.”

 

Judgment on Jerusalem and the Nations

 

3:1-5 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,

the oppressing city!

She listens to no voice;

she accepts no correction.

She does not trust in the LORD;

she does not draw near to her God.

 

Her officials within her

are roaring lions;

her judges are evening wolves

that leave nothing till the morning.

 

Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men;

her priests profane what is holy;

they do violence to the law.

 

The LORD within her is righteous;

he does no injustice;

every morning he shows forth his justice;

each dawn he does not fail;

but the unjust knows no shame.

 

 

 

God has pronounced judgment on Assyria and Nineveh.  Judah and Jerusalem are no better.  The people of Jerusalem are obstinate, impure and violent.  The leaders are faithless.  They oppress the vulnerable.  Both prophet and priest are treacherous men, and the judges are no better.   Judgment is pending.

 

3:6-8

“I have cut off nations;

their battlements are in ruins;

I have laid waste their streets

so that no one walks in them;

their cities have been made desolate,

without a man, without an inhabitant.

 

I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;

you will accept correction.

Then your dwelling would not be cut off

according to all that I have appointed against you.’

But all the more they were eager

to make all their deeds corrupt.

 

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD,

“for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.

For my decision is to gather nations,

to assemble kingdoms,

to pour out upon them my indignation,

all my burning anger;

for in the fire of my jealousy

all the earth shall be consumed.

 

The Conversion of the Nations

 

3:9-13 “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples

to a pure speech,

that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD

and serve him with one accord.

 

From beyond the rivers of Cush

my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones,

shall bring my offering.

 

“On that day you shall not be put to shame

because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;

for then I will remove from your midst

your proudly exultant ones,

and you shall no longer be haughty

in my holy mountain.

 

But I will leave in your midst

a people humble and lowly.

They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD,

those who are left in Israel;

they shall do no injustice

and speak no lies,

nor shall there be found in their mouth

a deceitful tongue.

For they shall graze and lie down,

and none shall make them afraid.”

 

God’s judgments are harsh, but they have a redemptive purpose.  They are never arbitrary or spiteful.  A pruning will take place in the pending wars.  In Judah and in the nations a faithful remant will survive who will restore righteousness to the nations.  We see this in church history.  All the Christian nations have periods of piety and righteousness follow by times of dissolution.  Usually there will be period of restoration to follow.  The Lord preserved his own people through the horrors of Soviet and Nazi rule, who could rise again when the evil passed.  This has certainly been the story of Israel as we follow it through the Bible and through history. 

 

 The last section of this prophecy is a psalm to be sung that promises final restoration for God’s wandering people.  All nations will see what God has done and will rejoice along with all the people that will be part of the new Israel.

Israel's Joy and Restoration

 

3:14-20 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;

he has cleared away your enemies.

 

The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil.

 

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

“Fear not, O Zion;

let not your hands grow weak.

 

The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

 

I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,

so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

 

Behold, at that time I will deal

with all your oppressors.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

 

At that time I will bring you in,

at the time when I gather you together;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes,” says the LORD.

 

HABAKKUK

 

We do not know much about the prophet Habakkuk.  His name does not appear anywhere else in the scriptures.  He is mentioned in an apocryphal book ‘Bell and the Dragon’.  It does not appear to be a Hebrew name, although there is a Hebrew word that sounds a bit like it meaning ‘embrace’.  It may well be an Akkadian word for a garden plant.  The Gilgamesh Epic comes from Akkadia.  After the Assyrians carried the Northern Kingdom away in 721 BC, they repopulated Israel with foreigners.  These, along with repopulated foreigners after the Babylonian conquest, became known as the  Samaritans in the New Testament.  Habukkuk’s grand parents may have been one of these foreigners.  He must have learned the Torah and become a believer with the Jews because his book demonstrates a good knowledge of Jewish history, and a deep trust in the God of the Jews, Yahweh.

 

He is a prophet contemporary with Jeremiah.  Nahum and Zephaniah were prophets at that time as well.  The Assyrian invasion was almost 100 years earlier.  A new political power is on the rise, Babylon.  Soon Assyria will collapse and Babylon will rule the known world.  All the true prophets recognize the danger facing Israel.

 

Unfortunately Israel has descended into paganism again.  Manasseh brought about the moral and spiritual downfall of the nation of Judah.  After Manasseh, Josiah became king of Judah.  Under his rule the Torah was rediscovered in the back rooms of the Temple in Jerusalem.  When he read the books his heart was turned fully to the Lord, and he brought about a great revival in the land.  Unfortunately he died in a brief battle against Egypt, and veery quickly the people returned to their pagan ways.  Now the die is cast, and Judah will be invaded and conquered by the rising Babylon kingdom.  Habakkuk sees what is about to happen and his book is primarily a dialog between Habakkuk and Yahweh about the condition of Judah and the impending doom.

 

To understand the condition of Judah we need to look briefly into the book of Jeremiah.  Here we see how far the people and the leadership have fallen away from Yahweh.

 

Jeremiah 2:5-8 Thus says the LORD:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me

that they went far from me,

and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

 

They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD

who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

who led us in the wilderness,

in a land of deserts and pits,

in a land of drought and deep darkness,

in a land that none passes through,

where no man dwells?’

 

And I brought you into a plentiful land

to enjoy its fruits and its good things.

But when you came in, you defiled my land

and made my heritage an abomination.

 

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’

Those who handle the law did not know me;

the shepherds transgressed against me;

the prophets prophesied by Baal

and went after things that do not profit.

 

Jeremiah 2:12-13 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

be shocked, be utterly desolate,

declares the LORD,

for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water.

 

 

Jeremiah 3:1-3 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,

look and take note!

Search her squares to see

if you can find a man,

one who does justice

and seeks truth,

that I may pardon her.

 

Though they say, “As the LORD lives,”

yet they swear falsely.

 

O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?

You have struck them down,

but they felt no anguish;

you have consumed them,

but they refused to take correction.

They have made their faces harder than rock;

they have refused to repent.

 

Jeremiah 5:30-31 30 An appalling and horrible thing

has happened in the land:

the prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule at their direction;

my people love to have it so,

but what will you do when the end comes?

 

Jeremiah 6:13-15  “For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest,

everyone deals falsely.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.

  Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

No, they were not at all ashamed;

they did not know how to blush.

 

 

1:1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

 

An oracle can be an utterance by a priest or authoritative person of a divine communication.  Or it can be a divine revelation directly.  How did Habakkuk see an oracle?  He may have experienced an theophany.  However, I think what he saw was his observation of the nation of Judah with his interpreting of current events outside of Israel.  He could see what was going on in the country the same way Jeremiah saw.  This seeing needed illumination by God, himself.  This is how we can see (understand) the scriptures.  The teachings are hidden from us until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.

 

On the world scene Assyria was beginning to decay as a nation.  There is intrigue in the palace.  Sythians and other nations to the north are challenging its borders.  The new rising power of Babylon will soon attack and capture Nineveh.  Habakkuk can surmise that Babylon will be the next nation to invade Israel and Egypt.

 

 

Habakkuk’s First Complaint

 

1:2-4 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,

and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

and you will not save?

 

Why do you make me see iniquity,

and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.

So the law is paralyzed,

and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

so justice goes forth perverted.

 

Habakkuk sees a sinful and decadent society.  Crime and violence are growing.  The Law is disregarded.  The DOJ is corrupt to the core.  The faithful few are opposed by the general populous.   He asks God why he is not addressing this situation.

 

 

The Lord's Answer

 

1:5-11 “Look among the nations, and see;

wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

that you would not believe if told.

 

For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,

that bitter and hasty nation,

who march through the breadth of the earth,

to seize dwellings not their own.

They are dreaded and fearsome;

their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.

Their horses are swifter than leopards,

more fierce than the evening wolves;

their horsemen press proudly on.

Their horsemen come from afar;

they fly like an eagle swift to devour.

 

They all come for violence,

all their faces forward.

They gather captives like sand.

At kings they scoff,

and at rulers they laugh.

They laugh at every fortress,

for they pile up earth and take it.

 

Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,

guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

 

God answers Habakkuk with a prophesy of an attack by a foreign nation rather than a word of comfort.  Habakkuk sees the problem.  God is going to address it with violence and destruction, not with grace.  A dreadful and fearsome nation will soon descend on Judah.  Jerusalem will not be able to withstand the assault.  There will be a scorched earth policy.  It will be a godless nation who's only god is its great strength.  I have attached a description of the Assyrian type of warfare below.  This sounds as severe if not more so.

 

Jeremiah keeps trying to warn the people of what was soon to happen.  However, there were prophets in Judah that preached a totally different message.  The people had to decide whom to believe.  This is God’s take on the issue.

 

Jeremiah 14:13-16 Then I said: “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’”  And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them.  They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.  Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

 

Jeremiah 15:1-4 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!  And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD:

“‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence,

and those who are for the sword, to the sword;

those who are for famine, to famine,

and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’

I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, declares the LORD: the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.  And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.

 

Jeremiah 16:10-13 10 “And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity?  What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’  then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law,  and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.  Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next the prophet Hananiah confronts Jeremiah.  This takes place around 609 BC.  The  Babylonians had made a brief incursion into Judah and carried off some of the temple treasures and about 10,000 people.  Daniel was among the young men of royal lineage that were taken to Babylon.  

 

Jeremiah 28:1-4 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying,  “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.  Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD's house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.  I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the LORD, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

 

Jeremiah 28:15-17  And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.’”

In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

 

 

Habakkuk's Second Complaint

 

1:12-17 Are you not from everlasting,

O LORD my God, my Holy One?

We shall not die.

 

O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment,

and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil

and cannot look at wrong,

why do you idly look at traitors

and remain silent when the wicked swallows up

the man more righteous than he?

 

You make mankind like the fish of the sea,

like crawling things that have no ruler.

He brings all of them up with a hook;

he drags them out with his net;

he gathers them in his dragnet;

so he rejoices and is glad.

 

Therefore he sacrifices to his net

and makes offerings to his dragnet;

for by them he lives in luxury,

and his food is rich.

 

Is he then to keep on emptying his net

and mercilessly killing nations forever?

 

In his first complaint Habakkuk acknowledged the faults of his people.  They were certainly in opposition to God in their lives and thoughts.  Now he questions God himself.  How can a good and just, an immortal and holy God allow his people to stray so far?  How can God remain silent at a time like this?  And how can God use a nation far more pagan and evil than Israel to punish his chosen people?  His people will be dragged out of the sea like fish in a net.

 

2:1  I will take my stand at my watchpost

and station myself on the tower,

and look out to see what he will say to me,

and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

 

Habakkuk will climb up on a watch tower, a place of solitude, while he awaits God’s response.  Ezekiel was made a watchman for the exiles in Babylon.

 

Ezekiel 3:16-18 And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.  Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

 

Yahweh’s Second Response

 

The Righteous Shall Live by His Faith

 

2:2-5 And the LORD answered me:

“Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so he may run who reads it.

 

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it;

it will surely come; it will not delay.

 

 

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith.

 

 

“Moreover, wine is a traitor,

an arrogant man who is never at rest.

His greed is as wide as Sheol;

like death he has never enough.

He gathers for himself all nations

and collects as his own all peoples.”

 

 

This is the most important passage in Habakkuk.  God tells Habakkuk to write down his response.  He wants it to be plain so everyone who can read can see it.  The Apostle Paul quotes it in Romans 1 and Galatians 3.  It formed the foundation of Martin Luther’s theology in the Reformation.  From here we get the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ.

 

Hebrews 10:37-39  For, “Yet a little while,

and the coming one will come and will not delay;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

 

 However, Habakkuk needs to wait patiently for God’s timing.  We cannot rush God into action.  His timing is and will be perfect.  Jesus told this to his disciples when they asked when he would return to set up his kingdom (Matthew 24).

 

Woe to the Chaldeans

 

The first woe

 

2:6-8 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—

for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!”

 

Will not your debtors suddenly arise,

and those awake who will make you tremble?

Then you will be spoil for them.

Because you have plundered many nations,

all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,

for the blood of man and violence to the earth,

to cities and all who dwell in them.

 

The second woe

 

2:9-11 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,

to set his nest on high,

to be safe from the reach of harm!

You have devised shame for your house

by cutting off many peoples;

you have forfeited your life.

For the stone will cry out from the wall,

and the beam from the woodwork respond.

 

The third woe

 

2:12-14 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood

and founds a city on iniquity!

Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts

that peoples labor merely for fire,

and nations weary themselves for nothing?

 

For the earth will be filled

with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

 

The fourth woe

 

2:15-17 “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—

you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,

in order to gaze at their nakedness!

 

You will have your fill of shame instead of glory.

Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision!

The cup in the LORD's right hand

will come around to you,

and utter shame will come upon your glory!

 

The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,

as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them,

for the blood of man and violence to the earth,

to cities and all who dwell in them.

 

The fifth woe

 

2:18-20 “What profit is an idol

when its maker has shaped it,

a metal image, a teacher of lies?

For its maker trusts in his own creation

when he makes speechless idols!

 

Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;

to a silent stone, Arise!

Can this teach?

Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,

and there is no breath at all in it.

 

But the LORD is in his holy temple;

let all the earth keep silence before him.”

 

Habakkuk's Prayer

 

3:1-19 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.

 

A Petition 

O LORD, I have heard the report of you,

and your work, O LORD, do I fear.

In the midst of the years revive it;

in the midst of the years make it known;

in wrath remember mercy.

 

A Theophany

God came from Teman,

and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah

His splendor covered the heavens,

and the earth was full of his praise.

His brightness was like the light;

rays flashed from his hand;

and there he veiled his power.

 

Before him went pestilence,

and plague followed at his heels.

 

He stood and measured the earth;

he looked and shook the nations;

then the eternal mountains were scattered;

the everlasting hills sank low.

His were the everlasting ways.

 

The Battle

I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;

the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD?

Was your anger against the rivers,

or your indignation against the sea,

when you rode on your horses,

on your chariot of salvation?

You stripped the sheath from your bow,

calling for many arrows. Selah

You split the earth with rivers.

The mountains saw you and writhed;

the raging waters swept on;

the deep gave forth its voice;

it lifted its hands on high.

 

The sun and moon stood still in their place

at the light of your arrows as they sped,

at the flash of your glittering spear.

You marched through the earth in fury;

you threshed the nations in anger.

 

You went out for the salvation of your people,

for the salvation of your anointed.

You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,

laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah

 

You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,

who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,

rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.

You trampled the sea with your horses,

the surging of mighty waters.

 

The Response of Faith

I hear, and my body trembles;

my lips quiver at the sound;

rottenness enters into my bones;

my legs tremble beneath me.

 

Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble

to come upon people who invade us.

 

Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

 

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

 

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Bel and the Dragon

 

1:31-40 They threw Daniel into the lions' den, and he was there for six days.

 

There were seven lions in the den, and every day they had been given two human bodies and two sheep; but these were not given to them now, so that they might devour Daniel. 

 

Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea. He had boiled pottage and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers.

 

But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, "Take the dinner which you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions' den." 

Habakkuk said, "Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den." 

Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head, and lifted him by his hair and set him down in Babylon, right over the den, with the rushing sound of the wind itself. 

 

Then Habakkuk shouted, "Daniel, Daniel! Take the dinner which God has sent you."

 

And Daniel said, "Thou hast remembered me, O God, and hast not forsaken those who love thee." 

So Daniel arose and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place. 

On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel.

 

 

Sythians

 

And by 7th century BC, the emergent Scythians audaciously went into war with the sole superpower of the Mesopotamian region – Assyria. Now while Assyrian sources mostly keep mum about some of the presumed Scythian victories over them, it is known that one particular Assyrian monarch Esarhaddon was so desperate to secure peace with these Eurasian nomads that he even offered his daughter in marriage to the Scythian king Partatua. This however didn’t stop the Scythians from ravaging the coastal parts of Middle East, until they reached Palestine and even the borders of Ancient Egypt. Consequently they were bribed with rich tributes by the pharaoh – and on their returning route, some remnants of the Scythian army allied with a Median force to finally lay siege to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 BC, thus paving the way for the downfall of the superpower. As for the effect on the populace of the Middle East, a biblical prophet summed up the baleful nature of the ferocious ‘horse lords’ from north

They are always courageous, and their quivers are like open grave. They will eat your harvest and bread, they will eat your sons and daughters, they will eat your sheep and oxen, they will eat your grapes and figs.

 

 

 

Military Innovations

 

The Hittites had learned to forge iron in the 18th century B.C. As Assyrians had at times been vassals to the Hittites, they learned to make iron tools themselves. The great Assyrian armies of the Neo-Assyrian empire used iron weapons, giving them a great advantage over their enemies. They also used metal to cover the wheels of their formidable chariots, starting with bronze but moving later to iron.

Assyrians were not the first to use chariots in warfare, but they used both light and heavy chariots to break up their enemies’ infantry. The chariots had blades on the hub of their wheels, which effectively mowed down enemy infantry.

The Assyrians were the first to have a permanent corps of engineers in their army who would make siege engines, ladders and battering rams for attacking cities. This corps included miners and sappers to go under the walls if they couldn’t knock them down.

Besides charioteers, the Assyrians employed mounted cavalry in battle that carried both bows and arrows and lances. They were also the first to use camels for carrying heavy loads. Camels can carry far more weight than donkeys and didn’t need as much watering.

They were as adept at siege warfare as they were on the battlefield. The Assyrians employed psychological warfare in the form of sheer terror. If a city didn’t surrender, they would impale captives on poles before the gates of the city, torturing and killing them in plain sight of the city’s defenders. The Assyrians had found that many cities would simply surrender if the people were terrified. They also used mass deportations to keep conquered enemies from developing resistance to Assyrian rule.

From their continual warfare, the Assyrians captured riches upon riches. They demanded tribute from each conquered city, which was paid in precious metals, gems, silk, ivory and slaves. With this wealth, the Assyrians built grand palaces of stone in Ashur and Nineveh. They also demanded contingents of military men from each conquered city and region, which would then be incorporated into the Assyrian army. The Assyrians were rightly feared as the most bloodthirsty, cruel empire of the time.

OBADIAH

 

The war is over.  Jerusalem is in ruins and most of the remaining people are in captivity in Babylon.  Ezekiel will be their prophet there.  Jeremiah was given the opportunity to sit in Nebuchadnezzar’s court or to remain in Jerusalem with the few leftovers of the war.  Jeremiah decided to remain in Jerusalem.  Unfortunately the remaining stragglers decided to move to Egypt, much against Jeremiah’s warnings not to do so.  Jeremiah went with them, and they all died in Egypt.  Jeremiah died there with them.

 

Obadiah was a contemporary of Jeremiah, along with Zephaniah and Habakkuk.  He probably stayed behind in Jerusalem with Jeremiah.  We do not know this for sure, but it is a reasonable speculation.  He is writing a very few years after the fall of Jerusalem.  Babylon was the main aggressor against Judah, but their neighbor to the south, Edom, assisted the Babylonians in the battle against Judah, and they captured Judean territory and turned over the Jews that fled to Edom to escape the Babylonian war machine.

 

This action has deep historic roots.  The Edomites are the children of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother.  The two families have been at war from the beginning.  A brief truce was achieved when Jacob returned to Israel from Harran, but it was short lived.  Esau had ample reason to hate Jacob because of the way Jacob deceived him out of his birthright.   The Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through their land during the wilderness journey from Egypt.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had anti-Edomite prophesies.  Next week we will see that God has strong words about Esau.   Obadiah prophesies the downfall of Edom

 

Obadiah means “Servant of God” or “Worshipper of God”.  We do not know much more about Obadiah or the time of his ministry.  Many scholars place him in the time of the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.  That would make him contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and similar words are found in both prophets’ writings.

 

Edom was located just to the south of the Dead Sea and southern Judah.  The nation was rooted in Esau, Jacob’s brother, and there has been continual animosity between the two tribes.  I would suggest that the conflict between Islam and Judeo-Christian cultures has its roots back to the days of Jacob and Esau, and even earlier, between Ishmael and Isaac.

 

 

As noted last time, God does not reserve his oversight only of his chosen people, but over all peoples of the world.  Edom vengefully assisted Nebuchadnezzar in the destruction of Jerusalem.  

 

 Psalm 137:7-9

 

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem,

how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,

down to its foundations!”

 

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,

blessed shall he be who repays you

with what you have done to us!

 

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones

and dashes them against the rock!

 

Prophecy Against Edom

 

Ezekiel 25:12-14

 

 “Thus says the Lord GOD: Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them, therefore thus says the Lord GOD, I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast.  And I will make it desolate; from Teman even to Dedan they shall fall by the sword. 14 And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord GOD.

 

 

Judgment on Edom

 

Jeremiah 49:7-21.

 

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

“Is wisdom no more in Teman?

Has counsel perished from the prudent?

Has their wisdom vanished?

 

 

Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,

O inhabitants of Dedan!

For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,

the time when I punish him.

 

If grape gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

If thieves came by night,

would they not destroy only enough for themselves?

 

But I have stripped Esau bare;

I have uncovered his hiding places,

and he is not able to conceal himself.

His children are destroyed, and his brothers,

and his neighbors; and he is no more.

Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;

and let your widows trust in me.”

 

For thus says the LORD: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink.  For I have sworn by myself, declares the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.”

 

I have heard a message from the LORD,

and an envoy has been sent among the nations:

“Gather yourselves together and come against her,

and rise up for battle!

 

For behold, I will make you small among the nations,

despised among mankind.

 

The horror you inspire has deceived you,

and the pride of your heart,

you who live in the clefts of the rock,

who hold the height of the hill.

Though you make your nest as high as the eagle's,

I will bring you down from there,

declares the LORD.

 

 

“Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters.  As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says the LORD, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her.  Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her.  And I will appoint over her whomever I choose.  For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me?  Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away.  Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate.  At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea.  Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.”

 

 

Although Nebuchadnezzar was used by God in the destruction of Israel, he paid the price of touching God’s chosen people by being destroyed himself by the Medes and the Persians.  Even so, as Edom carried out God’s judgment on Israel, Edom will now be under God’s judgment, and soon fall to the invasion of the Nabataens.

 

Ezekiel 35:1-15 In this chapter we find expressed toward the Edomites, symbolized in Mount Seir, that same spirit of bitter condemnation that inspired the entire prophecy of Obadiah and the last several verses of Psalm 137.

The material here expands on ideas found in a seminal form in Ezekiel 25:12-14. Edom has assisted and cheered on the Babylonians in their wanton destruction of the temple (cf. 1 Esdras 4:45). Ezekiel is our witness that the Edomites hoped to annex territory left open by the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (verse 10), but they will not do so, he tells us, because God has other plans for that land. Those plans of God form the substance of the next chapter.

The Edomites in the Bible comprised what we may call . . . well, a special case. Israel did not like them very much. Indeed, the Lord had to command Israel not to despise the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7), a thing they were prompted to do, perhaps, on the excuse that the Lord Himself was said to hate Esau, the father of the Edomites (Malachi 1:2; Romans 9:13). Truth to tell, the Edomites were not easy to love. They had obstructed Israel’s path from Egypt during the days of Moses (Numbers 20:21). They were known to be without pity (Amos 1:11) and engaged in international slave trade (1:6,9). For Ezekiel, as for Obadiah, however, the major sin was their attempt to exploit Babylon’s destruction of Judah.

Ezekiel 36:1-15 As the previous oracle was addressed to Mount Seir in Edom, so this one (verses 1-15) is addressed to the mountains of Israel. It condemns all the nations that have set themselves against God’s people, but special attention is given, once again, to the Edomites (verse 5).

In verse 8 Ezekiel begins a series of several prophecies of the Israelites’ return to their homes. Whereas in Chapter 6 he had infallibly foretold to these same mountains the many sufferings that have since ensued, he now tells them, again infallibly, of the joys that lie ahead.

And why should God perform these mercies, in view of the fact that Israel has deserved all that it has suffered (verses 16-20)? Because of His own gracious election (verses 21-38). God will pour out all these new blessings on His people in order to testify to the gratuity and steadfastness of His choice. God will be faithful, even though Israel has not been faithful.

The most famous lines of this section are in verses 26-28, repetitious of 11:19-20 and reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:31-34. God will restore Israel, not because of the merits of Israel, but to vindicate His covenant fidelity. The gift of cleansing and a new heart is entirely God’s, but it will not be given except in the context of repentance (verse 31). Daily Reflections, by Patrick Henry Reardon

Ezekiel 11:19-21

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

 

The New Covenant

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

 

 

1 The vision of Obadiah.

 

Edom Will Be Humbled

 

Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom:

We have heard a report from the LORD,

and a messenger has been sent among the nations:

“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”

 

2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations;

you shall be utterly despised.

 

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,

you who live in the clefts of the rock,

in your lofty dwelling,

who say in your heart,

“Who will bring me down to the ground?”

 

4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,

though your nest is set among the stars,

from there I will bring you down,

declares the LORD.

 

5 If thieves came to you,

if plunderers came by night—

how you have been destroyed!—

would they not steal only enough for themselves?

If grape gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

 

6 How Esau has been pillaged,

his treasures sought out!

 

7 All your allies have driven you to your border;

those at peace with you have deceived you;

they have prevailed against you;

those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—

you have no understanding.

 

8 Will I not on that day, declares the LORD,

destroy the wise men out of Edom,

and understanding out of Mount Esau?

9 And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,

so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.

 

 

Edom's Violence Against Jacob

 

10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,

shame shall cover you,

and you shall be cut off forever.

 

11 On the day that you stood aloof,

on the day that strangers carried off his wealth

and foreigners entered his gates

and cast lots for Jerusalem,

you were like one of them.

 

12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother

in the day of his misfortune;

do not rejoice over the people of Judah

in the day of their ruin;

do not boast

in the day of distress.

 

13 Do not enter the gate of my people

in the day of their calamity;

do not gloat over his disaster

in the day of his calamity;

do not loot his wealth

in the day of his calamity.

 

14 Do not stand at the crossroads

to cut off his fugitives;

do not hand over his survivors

in the day of distress.

 

The Day of the Lord Is Near

 

15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;

your deeds shall return on your own head.

 

16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,

so all the nations shall drink continually;

they shall drink and swallow,

and shall be as though they had never been.

 

17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape,

and it shall be holy,

and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.

 

18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire,

and the house of Joseph a flame,

and the house of Esau stubble;

they shall burn them and consume them,

and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,

for the LORD has spoken.

 

 

The Kingdom of the Lord

 

19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,

and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines;

they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,

and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.

 

20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel

shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,

and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad

shall possess the cities of the Negeb.

 

21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion

to rule Mount Esau,

and the kingdom shall be the LORD's. 

 

  

HAGGAI

 

Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the post-exilic prophets.  Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC.  Two-thirds of the population died in the assault on Jerusalem.  A third died in battle, a third died of starvation and pestilence as it was cooped up in the city for a year and a half with the Babylonian forces surrounding the city.  Finally the walls were breached and the remaining one-third were marched 500 miles to Babylon where they served as slaves to Nebuchadnezzar.  God told Jeremiah the captivity would last 70 years to  allow the land to lay fallow for the Sabbaths ignored for 490 years.

 

2 Chronicles 36:20-21

 

 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

 

 

The Proclamation of Cyrus

 

2 Chronicles 36:22-26

 

 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”

 

This happened in 538 BC.  Many of the exiles returned to Jerusalem with the intent of restoring the Temple of God.  We read in Nehemiah that they found considerable opposition to their plans by the transplanted inhabitants of the land, and so they busied themselves building home for themselves.  The Temple could wait.

 

In 520 BC the Lord sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to Jerusalem to tell the people it was about time they begin work on the Temple (Haggai), and to provide a vision of the ultimate glory of Jerusalem as God’s holy city (Zechariah).  Here we pick up the prophecy of Haggai.

 

 

 

The Command to Rebuild the Temple

 

1:1-6 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”  Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet,  “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?  Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.  You have sown much, and harvested little.  You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill.  You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm.  And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

 

There is a price paid for taking God’s commands lightly.  

 

1:7-11 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.  Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.  You looked for much, and behold, it came to little.  And when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why? declares the LORD of hosts.  Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.  Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.  And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

 

Mother nature herself helps deliver God’s punishments on his faithless people.

 

Suddenly The People Begin to Obey the Lord

 

1:12-15 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him.  And the people feared the LORD.  Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD's message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.”  And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people.  And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

 

Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, king of Israel at the time of captivity.  Nebuchadnezzar took pity on him and seated him in the royal palace for life.  He was king in the line of David, so Zerubbabel is in the royal line leading to Jesus.  His name may mean ‘seed of Babylon’ or ‘shoot from Babylon’.  He was made governor of Israel, and he was a faithful leader.  He is a model of the coming Messiah, as we see at the end of this prophesy.  Joshua was the high priest who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and he was also a model of the Messiah, who would also be a priest (See Zechariah 3).

 

With such faithful leadership and the encouragement of the prophet Haggai, the people enthusiastically begin the rebuilding of the Temple in earnest. With such a dramatic response some theologians such as Jerome, postulated that Haggai may have been an angel masquerading in a human body.  We know this could only happen under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Coming Glory of the Temple

 

2:1-5 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory?  How do you see it now?  Is it not as nothing in your eyes?  Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest.  Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD.  Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt.  My Spirit remains in your midst.   Fear not. 

 

Probably there were not many returning exiles that did remember the original Temple.  This is 66 years after the war and captivity.  To see the Temple with adult eyes they would have had to be at least 12 year old.  Not many in that day and age could withstand a 500 mile journey along the edge of the Arabian desert.  But there may have been some that did.

 

The task of rebuilding was formidable.  Hardly one stone stood on another.  And the stones were heavy.  Three times Haggai encourages them to ‘be strong’.  This is not unlike the works any of us undertake for the Lord.  But God promises his Spirit will be in their midst.

 

 2:6-9 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.  And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.  The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts.  And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”

 

God determines the longevity of rulers and of nations.  There have been many upheavals throughout history,  We seem to be living through several of them.

The rise and fall of Communism in the Soviet union.

The First and Second world wars with Germany, and then Germany and Japan.

The coming Muslin invasion of the West.

The dissolution of the United States as ‘E Pluribus Unum’.

 

It looks like the Lord is shaking all the nations today.  Interestingly God’s goal is to bring the treasures of the nations to his house, understood here as the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

Isaiah 2:1-4

 

The Mountain of the Lord

 

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

 

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be lifted up above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

 

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

 

 

The Future Glory of Israel

 

Isaiah 60:1-3

 

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the LORD will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

 

And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

 

Isaiah 60:20-22

 

Your sun shall no more go down,

nor your moon withdraw itself;

for the LORD will be your everlasting light,

and your days of mourning shall be ended.

 

Your people shall all be righteous;

they shall possess the land forever,

the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,

that I might be glorified.

 

The least one shall become a clan,

and the smallest one a mighty nation;

I am the LORD;

in its time I will hasten it.

 

Blessings for a Defiled People

 

2:10-19 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet,  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’”  The priests answered and said, “No.”  Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?”  The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.”  Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands.  And what they offer there is unclean.  Now then, consider from this day onward.  Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD, how did you fare?  When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten.  When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty.  I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD.  Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month.  Since the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid, consider:  Is the seed yet in the barn?  Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

 

The people are not pure.  They are like the rest of us.  Some get discouraged.  Some are not fully committed to the task.  Some doubt that God will bless their efforts.  Haggai warns them not to let their discouragement rub off on their fellow workers.  Holiness is not transferable.  We should strive for holiness before God.  Impurity, however, is transferable and can spread through the whole community like wildfire.  It impoverishes everyone.  It holds back God’s generosity.

 

 

Zerubbabel Chosen as a Signet

 

2:20-23 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms.  I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders.  And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.  On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”

 

Here God greatly honors his faithful servant, Zerubbabel.  He will be like a signet ring.  He is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.  There will be a huge time gap of about 500 years, but the true Messiah will appear and initiate the New Jerusalem.

 

The Temple was finished in four years, in 516 BC.  It was 70 years after the fall of Jerusalem.  It will stand for 586 more years until it is destroyed by Titus and the Romans.  But by that time a new kingdom will have been initiated that will require no Temple, because God will be filling the kingdom with himself.

MALACHI June 11, 2018

 

 

Today we finish our study of the minor prophets of the Old Testament.  They are minor in length, not in importance.  We have skipped two of the prophets.  Jonah was one.  Almost everyone is familiar with him.  He was a prophet to Assyria, and not Israel, but he brought a message from the God of Israel.  The people responded to the message, but sometime later they returned to their evil way, and in 721 BC they attacked the Northern Kingdom and carried away the 10 northern tribes.  In retribution God destroyed the kingdom in 705 BC.

 

The second prophet was Joel.  His words are universal for all time.  The theologians cannot firmly identify the time of his ministry.  He may have preceded the other Minor Prophets.  He issues this call to repentance and gives these words of reassurance.

 

Joel 1:1-4 Hear this, you elders;

Give ear, all inhabitants of the land!

Has such a thing happened in your days?

Or in the days of your fathers?

 

Tell your children of it,

and let your children tell their children,

and their children to another generation.

 

What the cutting locust left,

the swarming locust has eaten.

What the swarming locust left,

the hopping locust has eaten,

and what the hopping locust left,

the destroying locust has eaten.

 

1:13-15 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;

wail, O ministers of the altar.

Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my God!

Because grain offering and drink offering

are withheld from the house of your God.

 

Consecrate a fast;

call a solemn assembly.

Gather the elders

and all the inhabitants of the land

to the house of the LORD your God,

and cry out to the LORD.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near,

and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

 

2:1-2 Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness!

 

2:12-13 Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

 

Return to the LORD your God,

for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;

and he relents over disaster.

 

2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions.

 

3:14 Multitudes, multitudes,

in the valley of decision!

For the day of the LORD is near

in the valley of decision.

 

3:17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,

who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain.

And Jerusalem shall be holy,

and strangers shall never again pass through it.

 

 

 

 

Today we finish our study with the Book of Malachi.   This is the last book in the Old Testament and Malachi is most likely the last of the prophets.  He may have been contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah, but he probably came later.  The revivals under Haggai (520 BC) and possibly Nehemiah (444 BC) are passed and the people are back to their old ways.  Once again they must be called to account.  But God in his grace promises a bright future for those who will return to him.  This book describes six disputations between God and the people.

 

 

1. A dispute about God’s love

2. A dispute about God’s honor and fear

3. A dispute about faithlessness 

4. A dispute about God’s justice

5. A dispute about repentance

6. A dispute about speaking against God

 

 

1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

 

We have looked at the word ‘oracle’ in the past.  It is used only three times in the Old Testament.  It can mean a word from a person of importance or a revelation from a deity.  Malachi is assigned to bring forth this word.

 

Jewish tradition says that Malachi lived a blameless life even in childhood.  His name means ‘Angel”.  He was fair to look upon.  Whatever things he uttered in prophecy were repeated in the same day by an angel of God who appeared.

 

The title Malachi means ‘my messenger’.  Angels were always messengers from God.  

 

 

 

The Lord's Love for Israel

 

1:2-5 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”  If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’”  Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

 

This first dispute questions God’s love for his people.  But the people do not respond to him with love.  God’s love is a covenantal love.  It means God has chosen Israel to be his people.  He has not chosen Esau.  In choosing the family of Jacob he has laid out stipulations of conduct by the people.  They have repudiated the conditions.  The people rebuilt the Temple and now awaited God’s promised blessing, as we learned last week in Haggai.  The blessing has not come.  There is famine, poverty, oppression, unfaithfulness to marriage vow and to covenant vows.  Moral and spiritual laxity, pride, indifference, permissiveness, and skepticism were widespread.  God could not bless such a people.

 

 

 

They Present Polluted Offerings

 

1:6-14 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’  By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised.  When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.  And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.  Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.  For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.  But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised.  But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD.  Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

 

The second dispute is that the people do not honor God as God.  They offer polluted sacrifices.  They weary of going to the Temple services.  they have lost their evangelistic spirit that should be proclaiming to all the world the glory of Yahweh.  They are sure God will forgive all, it is his job.  They go to church, but reluctantly.  They make their offerings, but with their left overs.  They are happy with ‘cheap grace’.

 

 

 

 

The Lord Rebukes the Priests

 

2:1-9 “And now, O priests, this command is for you.  If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.  Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.  So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts.  My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.  For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.  But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts,  and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

 

The priesthood has become rote.  The priests get paid to run the Temple, but they have lost enthusiasm for the glory of God.  They do what they have to do, but without regard for the spiritual lives of the people.  The people recognize this, and they have drifted away from true faith and true worship.  The primary role of the priest was to ‘guard,’ ‘treasure’, ‘conserve and keep’ the knowledge of God before the people.  This should be done by teaching and by example.

 

 

 

 

Judah Profaned the Covenant

 

2:10-16 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?  Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.  May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!

 

And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand.  But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.  Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.  “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

 

The next dispute is about the faithlessness of the people. They have a form of godliness, but there is nor reality to it.  Marital vows have become meaningless.  The true purpose of marriage and family, the raising of godly offspring, has been lost.  For us it is our very low birthrate, supplemented by our high abortion rate.  It is sad that Ireland voted last week against the church and approved abortion for the first time.  Each child should be seen as a child of God and raised to fear him and worship him.   We take Christian education lightly, and pay the price with children who leave the church and the faith under the atheistic and materialistic worldview of public education.

 

 

The Messenger of the Lord

 

2:17-3:5 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 

  “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

 

 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

 

In this dispute about God’s justice the people ask where it could be.  Yet they say everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord.  God’s response to the people is that a messenger is coming that is not Malachi.  The new messenger will come to prepare the way for the promised Messiah.  But his coming will not be gentle.  He will come with refining fire.  The end result will be good, but the price will be high.

 

 We as a nation have fallen so far spiritually that we cannot any longer determine what is good and what is evil.  Time Magazine asked last year ‘Is Truth Dead?’  Years earlier it asked ‘Is God Dead?’  Without God, we have no common criteria by which to judge Truth.  There is no way to even judge ‘Fake News’.  But there is trouble in River City.  Our suicide rate is up 30% from the 1990’s.  Without truth and without God life can quickly become meaningless.  What kind of purification process will we have to go through to be restored as a Christian nation?

 

 

Robbing God

 

3:6-12 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’  Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.  Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

 

This is a dispute about repentance.  God does not need our tithes or any of our resources.  The failure to bring in the tithes was a reflection of the spiritual condition of the people.  God wants their hearts, not their things.  But the bringing of the tithe does reflect the condition of the heart.

Speaking against God

 

3:13-15 “Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’  You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?  And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”

 

The final dispute is their speaking against God.  It appears to the people that the arrogant and the evildoers seem to prosper.  David complained about this in the Psalms.  See Psalm 10 and 37.  Shouldn’t God be doing something about this?  What is the benefit for being faithful to Yahweh?

 

The Book of Remembrance

 

3:16-18 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.  “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.  Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

 

There always was and still is a faithful remnant of God’s people.  God had to remind Elijah he wasn’t alone.  Elisha’s servant had to be shown the surrounding chariots of fire.  David questioned the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73.  But when he went into the sanctuary of God he discerned their end.  Now, in Malachi’s day, there is a faithful remnant that is joined in fellowship and remembered by the Lord.

 

The Great Day of the Lord

 

4:1-6 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

 

 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

 

 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

 

Our study ends with this glorious promise of our God who will bring all things to a spectacular conclusion with a new heaven and a new earth mediated by the long expected Messiah.  In the meantime do not lose heart, but remember the teachings of the Torah and for us the New Testament as well.

ISAIAH


The Vision of Isaiah, Son of Amos

Concerning Judah and Jerusalem

in the days of 

Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah

Kings of Judah


Bibliography


Holy Bible, English Standard Version


Watts, John D. W.   Isaiah 1-33

Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 24     Word Books 1985


Motyer, J. Alec  The Prophecy of Isaiah, An Introduction and Commentary

Intervarsity Press  1993


Schultz, Samuel J.   The Old Testament Speaks

Harper and Brothers 1960




Today we begin the study of the Book of Isaiah.  Isaiah is probably the most well known of the Old Testament prophets.  It is quoted 20 times in the New Testament.  Only the Psalms are quoted more.  Handel chose verses from Isaiah when he wrote the Messiah.  It is a book of Good News, the Gospel in the Old Testament.   But it also contains hard news for anyone whom rejects the God of Israel, Yahweh.


We know the year of the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, 740 BC.  It is reasonable to consider he was around 30 years old at the time, much like Ezekiel.  He was contemporary with Amos and Hosea.  He very likely knew them both.  His ministry included all Israelites, both Judah and Israel. Theirs was primarily to the Northern Kingdom, Israel.    I have attached a section of notes from our study of Amos last spring, to set the political and cultural climate of the day.



We know pretty precisely the years of Amos’s ministry.  Uzziah was king of Judah from 792-740 BC.  He was also known as Azariah.  Jeroboam II ruled Israel from 793 to 753 BC.  There was peace in the region for most of this time, and both Israel and Judah became quite wealthy due the peace, and to their location on the trade routes between Africa and the Mid-east.  Assyria was growing in power, but had not considered invading the Levant and Egypt yet. 


Amos’s prophecies were given between 790-750 BC, at a time when both Israel and Judah are at heights of prosperity and peace.  He may or may not have known Hosea.  Hosea’s ministry started around 10 years after Amos, around 740 BC.  He must have heard Amos’s teaching as he was growing up.  By 722 BC, Israel will be destroyed by the rising political power of Assyria, in part for not heeding the words of the prophets such as Amos and Hosea.  (See 2 Kings 14-15, and 2 Chronicles 26-27 for the historic context)   In Amos’s day there was still time for the nation to repent and return to the true worship of YHWH, and avoid the Assyrian invasion.   


Amos’s day was one of affluence.  Mammon ruled.  The rich lived ostentatious lives.  The women lived for excitement and leisure.  The rulers set the example for the people and did not deny themselves any bodily pleasure.  But there was also great poverty.  The poor were very poor and the wealthy did not pay them any heed.  They were shamelessly exploited and were defenseless.  But the people were still very religious.  They offered mouth worship to Jehovah, but they also worshipped the Baals.  Jeroboam I had set up shrines to Baal in Bethel and Dan, and these permitted sexual indulgence to flourish and public standards of morality to reach low ebb.  Amos had a real challenge to reach this self-indulgent society.  Judean society was just like Israel’s, so Isaiah faced a similar uphill battle.


The Book of Isaiah covers more than two hundred years of Judah’s history.  We think Isaiah lived into Manasseh’s reign, probably until 680 BC.  Manasseh executed him.  Tradition says he crawled into a hollow trunk of a tree to hide from Manasseh’s forces, in which he was sawn in two (Hebrews 11:37).  


There are two schools of though about the authorship of the book.  Many contend that Isaiah wrote the entire book with prophetic insight.  This is a historic position and also a Jewish position.  Modern scholarship, however, suggests it has three or more authors, with Isaiah playing a key role in the first half of the book.  This would explain the reference to subsequent historic events, such as the rise of Cyrus that occurred about 200 years after Isaiah died.  Either way it is accepted as canonical by Jews and Christians.  An almost complete copy of the book was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and is on display in a museum in Jerusalem.




1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amos, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.


The history of this period is found in 2 Kings 15-19.  This should be familiar to us from our study of the Minor Prophets last spring.


This book is the ‘vision of Isaiah’.  It is actually the vision of God presented through Isaiah.  The Israelites have been God’s chosen people from the days of Abraham.  But we know that they were very prone to wander away from their Father.  Isaiah addresses both Israel and Judah here.  Israel has been in rebellion since the days of Solomon.  God’s grace toward them is wearing thin.  Judah has done a little bit better, in that she vacillated between serving God and serving the attractive idols of the day.  We do not know the timing of the first five chapters.  There is a definitive day for chapter 6, 740 BC.  From here on we can follow the calendar for the next 250 years.


Uzziah, also know as Azariah, reigned from 792 - 740 BC.  He was a godly king, but because of a sin (2 Chronicles 26:16-23) he developed leprosy that was with him until his death.   Jeroboam II reigned in Israel at that time (793-753 BC).  This was an extended period of peace and both Judah and Israel prospered under their reigns.  Jotham (750-731 BC) followed his father Uzziah and he was a godly king as well.  However, he allowed the pagan gods to remain in Judah, as did his father.  This is called syncretism, and it does not bode well for the nation.  Today we would call it diversity and multiculturalism.  When Jotham died his son Ahaz (735-715 BC) reigned in his stead.  “He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God”.  He sacrificed his son on a pagan altar, and he encouraged pagan worship throughout the land.  The peace of Uzziah and Jeroboam was broken and Syria and Israel invaded Judah.  Instead of calling on Yahweh for protection, Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, to come to his aid.  This brought the newest rising world power into the Levant.  Ahaz paid Tiglath-pilezer off with the gold in the Temple and in the royal treasury.  And he built an Assyrian pagan altar in the Temple in place of God’s altar.  


The Assyrians came with power.  They conquered Damascus and killed the king, Rezin.  Then they turned on Israel and besieged Samaria for three years.  Finally the Northern Kingdom, Israel, fell in 722 BC, and Assyria scattered the ten tribes into oblivion.  They became the Ten Lost Tribes.  He replaced the Israelites with people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sephavaim.  The progeny of the transplants became the Samaritans of Jesus day.


Judah might have fallen as well, except Ahaz died and his son Hezekiah (729-686 BC) reigned in his stead.  Hezekiah was a godly king and he brought about revival in the land.  Isaiah was his spiritual counselor.  “He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.   For he held fast to the Lord.  He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.  And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:5-7).   The Assyrians tried to conquer Jerusalem, but, as you will recall, 185,000 soldiers of the Assyrian army that surrounded Jerusalem died in the night and Sennacharib, the current king of Assyria, returned to Nineveh with his tail between his legs.


With this historic background we can begin our study of Isaiah.

The Wickedness of Judah


 

1:2-4 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;

for the LORD has spoken:

“Children have I reared and brought up,

but they have rebelled against me.


The ox knows its owner,

and the donkey its master's crib

but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.”


Ah, sinful nation,

a people laden with iniquity,

offspring of evildoers,

children who deal corruptly!

They have forsaken the LORD,

they have despised the Holy One of Israel,

they are utterly estranged.


God calls on the heavens and the earth to be his witnesses in his judgment of his children, Israel.  His children have forsaken him.  The consequences are severe.  This is a typical Old Testament court scene with plaintiff (God), and defendant (Israel), and witnesses (the earth and the heavens).  Interestingly, God is both plaintiff and judge.


1:5-7 Why will you still be struck down?

Why will you continue to rebel?

The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.


From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

but bruises and sores

and raw wounds;

they are not pressed out or bound up

or softened with oil.


1:7-10 Your country lies desolate;

your cities are burned with fire;

in your very presence

foreigners devour your land;

it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.


  And the daughter of Zion is left

like a booth in a vineyard,

like a lodge in a cucumber field,

like a besieged city.


If the LORD of hosts

had not left us a few survivors,

we should have been like Sodom,

and become like Gomorrah.


  Hear the word of the LORD,

you rulers of Sodom!

Give ear to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!


The plaintiff asks Israel why she continues to rebel.  Devastation has descended on the land because of war. Yet the people do not recognize what is happening, and the rulers, probably Ahaz and Jeroboam, refused to turn to the Lord.


The half-century of peace is now past.  There is war between Judah and Israel and Syria, and Edom is invading from the South.  Soon Assyria will devastate both nations, and Syria as well.


 1:11-17 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the LORD;


I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of well-fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.


“When you come to appear before me,

who has required of you

this trampling of my courts?


Bring no more vain offerings;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.


Your new moons and your appointed feasts

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.



When you spread out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.


Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow's cause.


God is not fooled by religious practices that are not accompanied with good works.  This reinforces the teaching of James 2:14-26.  Faith without works is dead.



1:18-20 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”




The Unfaithful City


1:21-23 How the faithful city

has become a whore,

she who was full of justice!


Righteousness lodged in her,

but now murderers.

Your silver has become dross,

your best wine mixed with water.

Your princes are rebels

and companions of thieves.


Everyone loves a bribe

and runs after gifts.

They do not bring justice to the fatherless,

and the widow's cause does not come to them.


1:24-27 Therefore the Lord declares,

the LORD of hosts,

the Mighty One of Israel:

“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies

and avenge myself on my foes.


I will turn my hand against you

and will smelt away your dross as with lye

and remove all your alloy.

And I will restore your judges as at the first,

and your counselors as at the beginning.


Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,

the faithful city.”

Zion shall be redeemed by justice,

and those in her who repent, by righteousness.


God is going to take matters into his own hands.  He will purify his people with fire.  Once all the alloy is burned away he will restore righteous judges and counselors.  The rebellious and proud will be burned away, but God always has a righteous remnant.  These will remain and be the foundation of the new society.  Remember when Elijah complained to God that all have turned away from you and I, even only I, am left, and they seek my life.  And God showed him 7000 Israelites who had not bowed their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Jesus tells us that “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:14)



1:28-31 But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,

and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.


For they shall be ashamed of the oaks

that you desired;

and you shall blush for the gardens

that you have chosen.


For you shall be like an oak

whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water.


And the strong shall become tinder,

and his work a spark,

and both of them shall burn together,

with none to quench them.


The oaks and gardens here could refer to the fancy houses of the rich and famous.  Alternatively they could refer to the places of pagan worship.  Either way, they are destined for destruction so that the land may once again be purified.  


Today our country is divided between those who remain faithful to God and love Jesus, and the bicoastal elite who are faring quite well, but have no room for God.  The first are the deplorables that cling to their guns and Bibles.  The latter are the ones who have taken prayer and Bible reading out of our schools, and would like to repress the role of the faith in the founding and greatness of our country.  In many instances the church itself is complicit in the suppression of the faith because we have become ‘rich’ and self-sufficient, able to handle our lives ourselves without God’s intervention.  Therefore our witness is weakened and our neighbors do not hear the gospel through us.


When God Wants To Drill A Man


When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous


 


Isaiah 2:1-5:30       The Mountain of the Lord September 17, 2018


Last week Isaiah presented his first vision.  It was not a pretty one.  The lands of Israel and Judah were being invaded and the invaders were causing much destruction.  The reason for the invasion was the spiritual falling away of the people.  The countries had enjoyed 50 years of peace under Uzziah and Jotham in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel.  The peace increased the prosperity of the people and the nations.  The pace was broken when Ahaz began to reign.  He encouraged worship of the local Baals and even placed an altar to Baal in the very Temple of Yahweh.  Soon war broke out between Judah and Syria and Israel.  Ahaz called to Assyria, the latest rising world power, to help him.  Assyria came, but with no benevolent intent.  She conquered Syria, then laid siege to Samaria and after 3 years conquered Israel.  She now turned her forces on Judah, the one she was asked to assist. 

Your country lies desolate;

your cities are burned with fire;

in your very presence

foreigners devour your land;

it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

 

 Isaiah attributes this disaster to the rebellion of the people against God.  They deserted Yahweh, their God, to go after a multitude of pagan gods.   The physical causes of the downfall of the nations can be found in secular history, but the true causes lie in the spiritual realm.


“Children have I reared and brought up,

but they have rebelled against me.

The ox knows its owner,

and the donkey its master's crib,

but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.”


Ah, sinful nation,

a people laden with iniquity,

offspring of evildoers,

children who deal corruptly!

They have forsaken the LORD,

they have despised the Holy One of Israel,

they are utterly estranged.


This week we will get little glimpse into the type of city and nation that pleases Yahweh.  Such a nation will be a blessing for the whole world.  This is a hint of what the heavenly city will look like.  It is a picture of a city that God imagined Abraham would create when he called him out of Iraq (Ur of Chaldea) and set him up in Israel (East of Bethel) (Genesis 11-12).  Unfortunately sin intervened and we are still awaiting the New Heaven and the New Earth.

2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.


The first chapter begins with The vision of Isaiah. Now we begin with The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.  A word that is ‘seen’ sounds very much like a vision.  In any case the revelation is from outside of Isaiah, not his own construction.



2:2-5 It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be lifted up above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.


He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore.


O house of Jacob,

come, let us walk

in the light of the LORD.


This is a picture of a city that would please God.  Also it reflects God’s expectation for the Jews to be a proselytizing people who should be spreading the glory of Yahweh to all the world.  This has not happened to any extent until Jesus dispatched the church to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19-20).


We get an expanded view of the city in Isaiah 61-62.










The Day of the Lord


2:6-15 For you have rejected your people,

the house of Jacob,

because they are full of things from the east

and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,

and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver and gold,

and there is no end to their treasures;

their land is filled with horses,

and there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols;

they bow down to the work of their hands,

to what their own fingers have made.


So man is humbled,

and each one is brought low—

do not forgive them!

Enter into the rock

and hide in the dust

from before the terror of the LORD,

and from the splendor of his majesty.

  The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,

and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,

and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.


2:12-19 For the LORD of hosts has a day

against all that is proud and lofty,

against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;

  against all the cedars of Lebanon,

lofty and lifted up;

and against all the oaks of Bashan;

against all the lofty mountains,

and against all the uplifted hills;

  against every high tower,

and against every fortified wall;

  against all the ships of Tarshish,

and against all the beautiful craft.

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,

and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,

and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.


And the idols shall utterly pass away.

And people shall enter the caves of the rocks

and the holes of the ground,

from before the terror of the LORD,

and from the splendor of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.


2:20-21 In that day mankind will cast away

their idols of silver and their idols of gold,

which they made for themselves to worship,

to the moles and to the bats,

  to enter the caverns of the rocks

and the clefts of the cliffs,

from before the terror of the LORD,

and from the splendor of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.


Stop regarding man

in whose nostrils is breath,

for of what account is he?


Unfortunately the City of God did not appear in Israel.  I contend that the New Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is the beginnings of that city, but there is a lot of debris still on the road, just like there was in Israel and Judah.  


Here we read of ‘the day of the Lord’.  It is not a pretty day.  It will be filled with terror.  As Christians we await the return of the Lord.  It will be the ultimate ‘day of the Lord”.  It may not be as sanguine as we make it out to be.  Everything hidden will be revealed and judged.


Pride and ambition are the downfall of man.  This was the downfall of Lucifer as well (Isaiah 14:12-22).  The idols that men create are expressions of pride and ambition.  An idol is a god we can manage because it has no life of its own.  That is why nations rage against the Bible and against the Jews, because both represent the true God.  Deep inside mankind knows that the idols are unreal, and therefore he does not fret much about them.



Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem


3:1-3  For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts

is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah

support and supply,

all support of bread,

and all support of water;

  the mighty man and the soldier,

the judge and the prophet,

the diviner and the elder,

the captain of fifty

and the man of rank,

the counselor and the skillful magician

and the expert in charms.


3:4-5 And I will make boys their princes,

and infants shall rule over them.

  And the people will oppress one another,

every one his fellow

and every one his neighbor;

the youth will be insolent to the elder,

and the despised to the honorable.


3:6-7 For a man will take hold of his brother

in the house of his father, saying:

“You have a cloak;

you shall be our leader,

and this heap of ruins

shall be under your rule”;

in that day he will speak out, saying:

“I will not be a healer;

in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;

you shall not make me

leader of the people.”


3:8-9 For Jerusalem has stumbled,

and Judah has fallen,

because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD,

defying his glorious presence.


  For the look on their faces bears witness against them;

they proclaim their sin like Sodom;

they do not hide it.


Woe to them!


For they have brought evil on themselves.


God has taken away wise rulers and leaders and replaced them with children and women.

The speech and deeds of the people are against God.  It is revealed in their faces as well as they actions.  I think this characterizes the liberal establishment in our country today.  God is not acknowledged and it is obvious on their faces.




3:10-15 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,

for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.


  Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,

for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.


  My people—infants are their oppressors,

and women rule over them.


O my people, your guides mislead you

and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.


  The LORD has taken his place to contend;

he stands to judge peoples.


  The LORD will enter into judgment

with the elders and princes of his people:

“It is you who have devoured the vineyard,

the spoil of the poor is in your houses.

  What do you mean by crushing my people,

by grinding the face of the poor?”

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.


God has taken away wise rulers and leaders and replaced them with children and women.

There seems to be a paucity of wise leadership in either of our main political parties.  “All society is held together by invisible bonds - common concerns that have a moral base.  When these disappear the body politic disintegrates”.  (Watt)  God does not need war to bring judgment on a society.  He can do it as well from internal causes.  Most world powers collapse from the inside first.  War just cleans up the mess.


3:16-17 The LORD said:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty

and walk with outstretched necks,

glancing wantonly with their eyes,

mincing along as they go,

tinkling with their feet,

therefore the Lord will strike with a scab

the heads of the daughters of Zion,

and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.


3:18-24 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents;  the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves;  the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets;  the signet rings and nose rings;  the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags;  the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.

  Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;

and instead of a belt, a rope;

and instead of well-set hair, baldness;

and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;

and branding instead of beauty.


3:25-26 Your men shall fall by the sword

and your mighty men in battle.

And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.


4:1 And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”


The moral tone of a nation is established by the women of the nation.  If they are guided by modesty and Godly principles, the men will follow.  If they are loose and wanton, the men gladly acquiesce.  When women are honored and respected the nation prospers.  It they are allowed their role as mother and home keeper the population grows and the land is strengthened.  Men brought up by ungodly mothers are more likely to fail in battle.



The Branch of the Lord Glorified


4:2-6 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.  And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.  Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.  There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.


War destroys a nation, both in material terms and in population.  God uses war to cleanse a nation, but the wars can be devastating.  When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem two-thirds of the people died from battle, pestilence and starvation.  One-third were enslaved in Babylon.  The nation of Israel was reconstituted by the captive third 70 years later.


Once God has cleanse a nation, he reconstitutes the nation under his own terms.  Although the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple did not create the true holy city, the worship of pagan gods ceased for good.  The restored nation has been monotheistic nation to this day.


God is the protector and guide of the new Jerusalem.  He will guide it with his cloud through the day, and he will shine his light upon by night.  There will be a cover from the heat of the noontime sun and from storm and rain.



A Requiem for the Vineyard of the Lord


5:1-7  Let me sing for my beloved

my love song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.


  He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

and he looked for it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.


And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem

and men of Judah,

judge between me and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard,

that I have not done in it?

When I looked for it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?


  And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and briers and thorns shall grow up;

I will also command the clouds

that they rain no rain upon it.


  For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

and he looked for justice,

but behold, bloodshed;

for righteousness,

but behold, an outcry!


This is a poem, and a sad poem.  God carefully planted and tended his vineyard, Israel.  But the vineyard turned against him.    With no repentance, God takes down its protecting walls and allows briers and thorns to take over the land.


God looked for fine wine, and only found bloodshed and injustice.

There are those who want to take down the walls of our nation and to import MS-13 and drugs.  But this might well be all God’s doing.




Woe to the Wicked


5:8-12 Woe to those who join house to house,

who add field to field,

until there is no more room,

and you are made to dwell alone

in the midst of the land.


The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing:

“Surely many houses shall be desolate,

large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.

For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,

and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”


Woe to those who rise early in the morning,

that they may run after strong drink,

who tarry late into the evening

as wine inflames them!

They have lyre and harp,

tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,

but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD,

or see the work of his hands.


5:13-15 Therefore my people go into exile

for lack of knowledge;

their honored men go hungry,

and their multitude is parched with thirst.


  Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite

and opened its mouth beyond measure,

and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,

her revelers and he who exults in her.


  Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,

and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.


 5:16-17 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice,

and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.  

Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture,

and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.


5:18-19 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,

who draw sin as with cart ropes,

who say: “Let him be quick,

let him speed his work

that we may see it;

let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,

and let it come, that we may know it!”


5:20 Woe to those who call evil good

and good evil,

who put darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!


5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

and shrewd in their own sight!


5:22-23 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,

and valiant men in mixing strong drink,

who acquit the guilty for a bribe,

and deprive the innocent of his right!


5:24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,

and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,

so their root will be as rottenness,

and their blossom go up like dust;

for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,

and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.


5:25 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,

and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,

and the mountains quaked;

and their corpses were as refuse

in the midst of the streets.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

God pronounces a series of woes against the nations of Judah and Israel.  They are all predicated on the evils in the society and in the individual citizens.


5:26-30 He will raise a signal for nations far away,

and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;

and behold, quickly, speedily they come!


None is weary, none stumbles,

none slumbers or sleeps,

not a waistband is loose,

not a sandal strap broken;


their arrows are sharp,

all their bows bent,

their horses' hoofs seem like flint,

and their wheels like the whirlwind.


Their roaring is like a lion,

like young lions they roar;

they growl and seize their prey;

they carry it off, and none can rescue.


They will growl over it on that day,

like the growling of the sea.

And if one looks to the land,

behold, darkness and distress;

and the light is darkened by its clouds.


Assyria is on the march.  No one can stop its advance.  Israel and Judah are in its path.

Nations rise and fall at the will of God and for his purposes.  We need to realize this for our nation and for our day today.

Isaiah 6-8       Isaiah's Vision of the Lord       September 24, 2018


Today’s study begins with a familiar vision that is also an incredible event.  We also find a known event that fixes the time of the Book of Isaiah.  Isaiah finds himself in a heavenly theophany.  It changes him as a person completely.  It happened in the year King Uzziah died.  Although the precise year is difficult to determine, it is between 742 and 736 BC.  We know Uzziah reigned about 50 years, from 792-740 BC.  There were about 6-8 years of co-regency with his son Jotham.  He remained loyal to Yahweh throughout his reign, and the land enjoyed a long period of peace.  This led to great prosperity for both Judah and Israel.  His son, Jotham, followed him and the peace continued until 735 BC, when Ahaz his son became king.  Ahaz reigned for 20 years, from 735-715 BC. His reign was devastating for Judah.  Israel and Syria invaded the land.  Edomites invaded from the south and captured territory.  Ahaz called to Assyria for help (2 Kings 16:7) and Tiglath-pileser came with the invading force we read about last week.  Worship of pagan gods was encouraged by Ahaz and he even set up an altar to an Assyrian god in the Temple.  By the time Ahaz died land was left broken and impoverished.


Chapters 7-8 could be designated the era of Ahaz.  This will be next week’s study.


6:1-7 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.


  And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”


 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”


 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”


Isaiah suddenly finds himself in the throne room of God. Was he transported to heaven, or did God come down with his throne into the Temple in Jerusalem?  





There are several Theophanies in the Old and New Testaments. 

 A very dramatic Theophany is seen in Ezekiel 1:4-2:1.

 

 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.  And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness,  but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus:  their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went.  As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.  And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.   As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.


 Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them.  As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl.  And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.  When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went.  And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around.  And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose.  Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.  When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.


 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads.  And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body.  And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army.  When they stood still, they let down their wings.  And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.


 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.  And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.  Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.


Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.


 And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”


Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in one of the first deportations under Nebuchadnezzar in 596 BC.   He was in his mid-twenties  at the time.  It seems that God was protecting him for his future ministry.  The bulk of captives arrived in Babylon in 586 BC.  Ezekiel had to wait until he was 30 years old before he could be commissioned.  His commission was very dramatic.


People are confused by the apparatus Ezekiel saw.  However if we see it as four drones working together to transport a platform that held the throne of God, the confusion can be eliminated.


Joshua, the high priest in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles, was taken to heaven for an audience with God and the heavenly council.  Zerubbabel was the governor of Jerusalem at the time (Zechariah 4:6-10).  The two worked together in the restoration of Jerusalem.  The two demonstrate the kingly and priestly aspects of the Messiah.


Zechariah 3:3-7 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.


 And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua,  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.


We could mention God’s several encounters with Abraham and Moses.  An angel of the Lord visited Gideon.  Jeremiah and God had innumerable conversations.  Paul’s life was changed when Jesus appeared to him.  In the Book of Revelation John is continually traveling between earth and heaven.  In all of these encounters God is revealed as being outside our world system and accompanied with otherworldly beings.  The threefold sanctus praises God for the relation of his being.  His holiness is opposite to physical nature here on earth.  Yet his presence fills all of nature.


I saw a quote yesterday  from Douglas Adams in his book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  “The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created.  This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move”.



Isaiah's Commission from the Lord


6:8 -9 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”   And he said, “Go, and say to this people:


“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”


God wants to get his message out.  He needs a voice.  Isaiah volunteers to be that voice after his deep encounter with God.  Ezekiel and Jeremiah were sent out with specific messages from God for his people.  Unfortunately in this case the message is not redemptive.

The Bible speaks continually about hearing-seeing-understanding-knowing.  The book is written so that these senses are engaged by one who searches the scriptures. But now God is closing the minds of the people as judgment for not heeding his words delivered by earlier prophets and the available scriptures.  There comes a time when God’s word can no longer reach to the hearts of the people, or the heart of an individual, or the heart of a nation.  This can happen spontaneously, but may happen at God’s direction.  


Some people talk about wanting to be saved, but not yet.  They will turn to God when they are ready.  That is not always an available option.  A hardening can develop that does not allow an individual or a nation to truly repent, and without repentance there is no life.




6:11-13 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said:

“Until cities lie waste

without inhabitant,

and houses without people,

and the land is a desolate waste,

and the LORD removes people far away,

and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

And though a tenth remain in it,

it will be burned again,

like a terebinth or an oak,

whose stump remains

when it is felled.”

The holy seed is its stump.


Isaiah is dumbfounded by this message.  How can this be, for God’s chosen people?  What is to become of the royal seed, the seed of the Messiah?  Will anyone be left?  Will anyone truly repent? 


We know the answer because we see history in retrospect.   The Northern kingdom fell in 721 BC.  Assyria set siege to Samaria for three years and the nation finally fell.  The Ten Lost Tribes were deported and scattered through the northern Middle East.  Judah itself will fall in 586 BC.  Two-thirds of the people will die of war, starvation   and disease.  The remaining thirds will be taken captive to Babylon for 70 years.  A smattering of these slaves will return to Jerusalem under Cyrus and begin to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Yahweh.  The royal seed will be found among these.

Isaiah 7-8              The Era of King Ahaz                          October 1, 2018


7:1-2 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.


Judah and Israel have just experienced 50 years of peace under Uzziah and Jeroboam.  Their usual fighting had stopped and the surrounding neighbors were not as belligerent as usual.  Assyria was a growing power and was soon to dominate the much of the Middle East, but she was busy consolidating her power to the North.   You would think everyone would be happy with the situation, but two forces are at work on Judah.  Ahaz has repudiated the God of his fathers and is pursuing the gods of the surrounding nations.  And in mankind is a continual thirst for power that drives certain men to seek it ruthlessly.  Our congress is a living example of this.  One party is willing to destroy our great nation in its attempt to gain and maintain power.


In Ahaz’s case, Israel and Aram (Syria) formed an alliance to invade Judah and install a puppet king of their choosing.   Assyria was rising in power and had already made small incursions into the Levant. It was repulsed by Uzziah (Azriyau of Yaudi) and Menahem king of Israel, noted in the Assyrian Chronicles, around 742 BC.  Now Israel and Aram wanted Judah to join them in resisting Assyria, but Ahaz was not interested.  Therefore they decided to invade Judah and install the puppet king.  Ahaz decided to ally himself with Assyria instead (2 Kings 16:7).  Tiglath-pilezer III (745-727) was the ruler of Assyria. God approves of the decision. 


(In Jeremiah’s day God told the people through Jeremiah the they should submit to Babylonian rule without resistance.  They did resist and countless lives were lost unnecessarily.)



7:3-7And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field.  And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.  Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying,  “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,”  thus says the Lord GOD:

“‘It shall not stand,

and it shall not come to pass.



7:8-9 For the head of Syria is Damascus,

and the head of Damascus is Rezin.

And within sixty-five years

Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.

And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,

and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.

If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.’”


Isaiah meets with Ahaz.  There is war all around him, and he is contributing to the distress in Judah with his idolatry, but God has his own plans for Judah, and Isaiah tells Ahaz to stay calm, do not be afraid.  Isaiah’s son’s name, Shear-jashub, means ‘A Remnant shall Return.  This may be good advise to the church today.  We need not fear because God is firmly in control in our land and in the world.


Isaiah speaks of the role of faith in Ahaz’z life.  If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.’”  There is risk in putting one’s faith in Yahweh.  One has to believe in God’s faithfulness and his ability to do what he promises.  We have to believe he truly answers pray, even when he answer is a bit obscure at times.  We will see that Ahaz struggles with this whole concept in the next section.


The situation in Israel preceded the kingship of Ahaz.  Jeroboam died in 753 BC.  His son Zechariah was murdered and replaced by a usurper, Menahem.  He ruled for 10 years and was succeeded by Pekahiah for 2 years .  He was murdered by Pekah (739-732 BC) who became king during Ahaz’s reign.  Pekah talked Rezin of Aram (Syria) into going to war against Israel.  The Philistines joined their league, and the Edomites, with help from Rezin, invaded from the South.  Their plans came to an end when Assyria invaded and conquered Syria and killed Rezin, the king (732 BC).  Tiglath-pilezer invaded Gaza of the Philistines, and then turned on Samaria.  He died in 727 and Shalmaneser V finished the destruction of Israel.  After 3 years siege Samaria fell (722 BC) and Israel was no more to this day.


The stories of these wars are found in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.  Here we see God intervening directly in the wars to achieve his intentions for both Israel and Judah.



The Sign of Immanuel


7:10-17 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”  But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”  And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.  The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”


I believe the Lord spoke here through Isaiah.  Ahaz is told to ask for a sign from the Lord. Often in scripture signs are either offered or requested.  Remember Gideon and his fleece.  Samuel offered Saul a series of signs that gave him a new heart (1 Samuel 10:1-10).  The disciples cast lots to find a replacement for Judas.  Ahaz turns down the offer.  God tells  Ahaz that Assyria is on the way, and it will be a painful time  for the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, but it will be devastating for Judah as well.


Now the addressee changes.  God now address the whole house of David.  The house of David resides in Ahaz, but God sees beyond Ahaz to the Messiah who will be born of a virgin.  This is certainly one of the  most well known verses, although most people probably do not know just where it is found.  Is this a confirming sign to Ahaz, or is it a future prophecy only?  


There is long history of questions about this verse.  Does the word translated ‘virgin’ mean only a young woman?  The LXX uses the term ‘virgo’.  Other Greek translations use ‘young woman’.  The Hebrew can mean either.   A second question is to whom does the word refer?  The traditional answer for us, of course, is the Virgin Mary.  Could there have been a marriageable young queen or consort of the king?  Could it be Abia (2 Kings 18:2) who would become the mother of Hezekiah?  Would the name ‘Emmanuel’ be chosen in Ahaz’s pagan household?  His mother could have named him, and all Israeli mothers hope they will be the mother of  the Messiah.  There is no verb in the name so it could be saying : ’May God be with us’ or ‘For God is with us’.  This may be God’s way of saying that the royal line will continue no matter what happens to Judah, and the Messiah will assuredly come.  Matthew quotes this verse in 1:23 exactly as it is found in Isaiah, Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means God with us).




7:18-19 In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.  And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.


7:20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.



7:21-22 In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep,  and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey.


7:23-25 In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns.  With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns.  And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.


The Assyrian invasion is forecast and described.  The source of this event is Yahweh and is God’s plan for Israel and Aram.  Both Hosea and Amos had warned Israel of this 15-20 years earlier.  Now it is confirmed to Ahaz.  The mention of Egypt tells us that this war is between the competing world powers and Israel is almost incidental.  The Pharaoh is the Ethiopian Pharaoh Pi (730-716 BC) who founded the 25th dynasty of Egypt.  He fought with Assyria on Palestinian soil around 720 BC.  We don’t know why he is called a fly.   Assyria’s mountains were famous for their bees and honey.  The bee keepers could call them  from the hives and back to the hives by whistling.



The Coming Assyrian Invasion


8:1-4 Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’  And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”

And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;  for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”


Uriah was the high priest.  Yahweh is light.

Zechariah may be Ahaz’s father-in-law.  Yahweh remembers.

Jeberekiah means May Yahweh Bless.

The prophetess is Isaiah’s wife.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz; means’Hurry, Plunder’ and ‘Swift, Hastening’.    

Syria and Israel will be overthrown by Assyria before the boy even learns to speak.


8:5-8 The LORD spoke to me again:  “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah,  therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory.  And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”


8:9-10 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;

give ear, all you far countries;

strap on your armor and be shattered;

strap on your armor and be shattered.

Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;

speak a word, but it will not stand,

for God is with us.


Assyria will not stop with Syria and Israel, but it will overflow into Judah itself.  This is God’s plan for his people who turned down the gentle waters of Shiloah.  God’s blessings were not appreciated, so now Judah will be overwhelmed with God’s wrath.  The waters of Shiloh are from the spring of Sihon hat flow through an aqueduct from the East into the city.  Assyria was supposed to be an ally, but she turned against Ahaz and Judah in the end.  In the end, only God will preserve the city of Jerusalem.



Fear God, Wait for the Lord


8:11-15 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:  “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.  But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.  Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And many shall stumble on it.  They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”


Yahweh is the solution to the tragedy coming upon them.  But most will not turn to him.  He will be to them a ‘Rock of Offense’, just as Jesus was in his day and is today.



8:16-22 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.  I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.  Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.  And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?  To the teaching and to the testimony!  If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.   They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into thick darkness.



The times are dark.  God’s face is hidden.  Yet, Isaiah will place all his faith and confidence in him.  Those who rebel will not realize the need to repent, and others will grow in anger and become outraged.  The darkness will not be redemptive for those who refuse to repent.


How close are we to this fate in our land today? 

Isaiah 7-8              The Era of King Ahaz                          October 15, 2018


7:1-2 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.


Judah and Israel have just experienced 50 years of peace under Uzziah and Jeroboam.  Their usual fighting had stopped and the surrounding neighbors were not as belligerent as usual.  Assyria was a growing power and was soon to dominate the much of the Middle East, but she was busy consolidating her power to the North.   You would think everyone would be happy with the situation, but two forces are at work on Judah.  Ahaz has repudiated the God of his fathers and is pursuing the gods of the surrounding nations.  And in mankind is a continual thirst for power that drives certain men to seek it ruthlessly.  Our congress is a living example of this.  One party is willing to destroy our great nation in its attempt to gain and maintain power.


In Ahaz’s case, Israel and Aram (Syria) formed an alliance to invade Judah and install a puppet king of their choosing.   Assyria was rising in power and had already made small incursions into the Levant. It was repulsed by Uzziah (Azriyau of Yaudi) and Menahem king of Israel, noted in the Assyrian Chronicles, around 742 BC.  Now Israel and Aram wanted Judah to join them in resisting Assyria, but Ahaz was not interested.  Therefore they decided to invade Judah and install the puppet king.  Ahaz decided to ally himself with Assyria instead (2 Kings 16:7).  Tiglath-pilezer III (745-727) was the ruler of Assyria. God approves of the decision. 


(In Jeremiah’s day God told the people through Jeremiah the they should submit to Babylonian rule without resistance.  They did resist and countless lives were lost unnecessarily.)



7:3-7And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field.  And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.  Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying,  “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,”  thus says the Lord GOD:

“‘It shall not stand,

and it shall not come to pass.



7:8-9 For the head of Syria is Damascus,

and the head of Damascus is Rezin.

And within sixty-five years

Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.

And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,

and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.

If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.’”


Isaiah meets with Ahaz.  There is war all around him, and he is contributing to the distress in Judah with his idolatry, but God has his own plans for Judah, and Isaiah tells Ahaz to stay calm, do not be afraid.  Isaiah’s son’s name, Shear-jashub, means ‘A Remnant shall Return.  This may be good advise to the church today.  We need not fear because God is firmly in control in our land and in the world.


Isaiah speaks of the role of faith in Ahaz’z life.  If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.’”  There is risk in putting one’s faith in Yahweh.  One has to believe in God’s faithfulness and his ability to do what he promises.  We have to believe he truly answers pray, even when he answer is a bit obscure at times.  We will see that Ahaz struggles with this whole concept in the next section.


The situation in Israel preceded the kingship of Ahaz.  Jeroboam died in 753 BC.  His son Zechariah was murdered and replaced by a usurper, Menahem.  He ruled for 10 years and was succeeded by Pekahiah for 2 years .  He was murdered by Pekah (739-732 BC) who became king during Ahaz’s reign.  Pekah talked Rezin of Aram (Syria) into going to war against Israel.  They wanted Judah to join them in an alliance against Assyria.  When Judah refused to join them they went to war against Judah with plans to replace Ahaz with a puppet king of their own choosing.  The Philistines joined their league, and the Edomites, with help from Rezin, invaded Judah from the South.  Their plans came to an end when Assyria invaded and conquered Syria and killed Rezin, the king (732 BC).  Tiglath-pilezer invaded Gaza of the Philistines, and then turned on Samaria.  He died in 727 and Shalmaneser V finished the destruction of Israel.  After 3 years siege Samaria fell (722 BC) and Israel was no more to this day.


The stories of these wars are found in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.  Here we see God intervening directly in the wars to achieve his intentions for both Israel and Judah.



The Sign of Immanuel


7:10-17 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”  But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”  And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.  The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”


I believe the Lord spoke here through Isaiah.  Ahaz is told to ask for a sign from the Lord.  Often in scripture signs are either offered or requested.  Remember Gideon and his fleece.  Samuel offered Saul a series of signs that gave him a new heart (1 Samuel 10:1-10).  The disciples cast lots to find a replacement for Judas.  Ahaz turns down the offer.  God tells  Ahaz that Assyria is on the way, and it will be a destructive  for the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, but it will be devastating for Judah as well.


Now the addressee changes.  God now address the whole house of David.  The house of David resides in Ahaz, but God sees beyond Ahaz to the Messiah who will be born of a virgin.  This is certainly one of the  most well known verses, although most people probably do not know just where it is found.  Is this a confirming sign to Ahaz, or is it a future prophecy only?  


There is long history of questions about this verse.  Does the word translated ‘virgin’ mean only a young woman?  The LXX uses the term ‘virgo’.  Other Greek translations use ‘young woman’.  The Hebrew can mean either.   A second question is to whom does the word refer?  The traditional answer for us, of course, is the Virgin Mary.  Could there have been a marriageable young queen or consort of the king?  Could it be Abia (2 Kings 18:2) who would become the mother of Hezekiah?  Would the name ‘Emmanuel’ be chosen in Ahaz’s pagan household?  His mother could have named him, and all Israeli mothers hope they will be the mother of  the Messiah.  There is no verb in the name so it could be saying : ’May God be with us’ or ‘For God is with us’.  This may be God’s way of saying that the royal line will continue no matter what happens to Judah, and the Messiah will assuredly come.  Matthew quotes this verse in 1:23 exactly as it is found in Isaiah, Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means God with us).




7:18-19 In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.  And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.


7:20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.



7:21-22 In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep,  and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey.


7:23-25 In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns.  With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns.  And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.


The Assyrian invasion is forecast and described.  The source of this event is Yahweh and is God’s plan for Israel and Aram.  Both Hosea and Amos had warned Israel of this 15-20 years earlier.  Now it is confirmed to Ahaz.  The mention of Egypt tells us that this war is between the competing world powers and Israel is almost incidental.  The Pharaoh is the Ethiopian Pharaoh Pi (730-716 BC) who founded the 25th dynasty of Egypt.  He fought with Assyria on Palestinian soil around 720 BC.  We don’t know why he is called a fly.   Assyria’s mountains were famous for their bees and honey.  The bee keepers could call them  from the hives and back to the hives by whistling.



The Coming Assyrian Invasion


8:1-4 Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’  And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”

And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;  for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”


Uriah was the high priest.  Yahweh is light.

Zechariah may be Ahaz’s father-in-law.  Yahweh remembers.

Jeberekiah means May Yahweh Bless.

The prophetess is Isaiah’s wife.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz; means’Hurry, Plunder’ and ‘Swift, Hastening’.    

Syria and Israel will be overthrown by Assyria before the boy even learns to speak.


8:5-8 The LORD spoke to me again:  “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah,  therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory.  And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”


8:9-10 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;

give ear, all you far countries;

strap on your armor and be shattered;

strap on your armor and be shattered.

Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;

speak a word, but it will not stand,

for God is with us.


Assyria will not stop with Syria and Israel, but it will overflow into Judah itself.  This is God’s plan for his people who turned down the gentle waters of Shiloah.  God’s blessings were not appreciated, so now Judah will be overwhelmed with God’s wrath.  The waters of Shiloh are from the spring of Sihon hat flow through an aqueduct from the East into the city.  Assyria was supposed to be an ally, but she turned against Ahaz and Judah in the end.  In the end, only God will preserve the city of Jerusalem.


Fear God, Wait for the Lord


8:11-15 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:  “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.  But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.  Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And many shall stumble on it.  They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”


Yahweh is the solution to the tragedy coming upon them.  But most will not turn to him.  He will be to them a ‘Rock of Offense’, just as Jesus was in his day and is today.



8:16-22 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.  I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.  Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.  And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?  To the teaching and to the testimony!  If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.   They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into thick darkness.



The times are dark.  God’s face is hidden.  Yet, Isaiah will place all his faith and confidence in him.  Those who rebel will not realize the need to repent, and others will grow in anger and become outraged.  The darkness will not be redemptive for those who refuse to repent.


How close are we to this fate in our land today?

Isaiah 9:1-10:34 For to Us a Child Is Born October 22, 2018



Last week we looked at the reign of Ahaz in Judah.  His life did not please God, but God still used him to achieve his purposes for Judah and Jerusalem, the holy city.  Jerusalem would have fallen to the onslaught of Assyria if it had not been spared by God.


This week we see the continuation of God’s plan to fully destroy Israel.  Israel did not or could not see that the Assyrian invasion was God’s attempt to turn the nation to himself.  Instead the response of the people is described in last week’s lesson:  And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into thick darkness.  God saw this response from the beginning of Isaiah and explains the reasons for his rejection of Israel: 


Isaiah 2:6-8 For you have rejected your people,

the house of Jacob,

because they are full of things from the east

and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,

and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.


Their land is filled with silver and gold,

and there is no end to their treasures;

their land is filled with horses,

and there is no end to their chariots.


Their land is filled with idols;

they bow down to the work of their hands,

to what their own fingers have made.


By 722 BC Israel will be destroyed and the people sent to foreign lands as slaves.  The land will be repopulated with foreigners.


Additionally, when Aram and Israel are dealt with, and Judah partially spared, then God will turn his anger against Assyria.  He used Assyria as his tool to deal with Israel, but now God’s judgment turns on her because of her idolatry and viciousness in war.  She will be conquered by Babylon in 605 BC, a little more than 100 years hence.


But our lesson opens with a most familiar promise of God to Judah that we celebrate every Christmas.  Another child will be born who will be ruler of the whole world. 




9:1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.


After all the gloom and pain of the Assyrian invasion has sunk into the hearts of God’s people and in the midst of all the destruction of the Assyrian invasion, suddenly this unexpected bright light appears.  God has not totally abandoned his people after all.  The promised Messiah will appear and will restore the Promised Land to its original boundaries and beyond.


9:2-6 The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.


You have multiplied the nation;

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.


For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.


For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

and every garment rolled in blood

will be burned as fuel for the fire.


9:6-7 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.


There could not be a more distressing time for the people of God.  Their wealth's gone, their homes are destroyed, thousands have died in the wars, and they are thirsty and hungry and cold.  But suddenly comes this reminder of God’s promise to David.


2 Samuel 7:12-14  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 


They are reminded of God’s miraculous victory of Gideon over the Midianites, when with 300 men he put the whole Midianite army to flight (Judges 7).  If God could to it then, he can restore us now.


Judgment on Arrogance and Oppression


9:8-10 The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,

and it will fall on Israel;

and all the people will know,

Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,

who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:

“The bricks have fallen,

but we will build with dressed stones;

the sycamores have been cut down,

but we will put cedars in their place.”


The Israelites are defiant in the face of the enemy.  If God does this to them they will rebuild more elegantly.  They do not realize what is happening is God’s decree.  There will be no more restoration.


9:11-12 But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,

and stirs up his enemies.

The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west

devour Israel with open mouth.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.


First God sends Syria and the Philistines against Israel.  But there is more to come.  Assyria is on the march.



9:13-16 The people did not turn to him who struck them,

nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.

So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,

palm branch and reed in one day—

the elder and honored man is the head,

and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;

for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,

and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.


The Israelites did not seek the true God, Yahweh, when war broke out.  So God took away the leadership from the land, both political and spiritual, and the new leaders continue to lead the people astray.


9:17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,

and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;

for everyone is godless and an evildoer,

and every mouth speaks folly.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

For wickedness burns like a fire;

it consumes briers and thorns;

it kindles the thickets of the forest,

and they roll upward in a column of smoke.


In spite of the suffering the Lord shows no compassion for the people.  Everyone is godless and speaks folly.  Wickedness consumes the nation.


9:19 -21Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts

the land is scorched,

and the people are like fuel for the fire;

no one spares another.

They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,

and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;

each devours the flesh of his own arm,

Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;

together they are against Judah.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.


The people turn on each other in an orgy of self destruction.  The to sons of Joseph are mentioned specifically.    The fabric of society succumbs to chaotic violence. 

 Is this developing in our own country?


10:1-2  Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,

and the writers who keep writing oppression,

to turn aside the needy from justice

and to rob the poor of my people of their right,

that widows may be their spoil,

and that they may make the fatherless their prey!


There is no justice for the poor and the fatherless.  Even the widows are robbed and left on their own.


10:3-4 What will you do on the day of punishment,

in the ruin that will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help,

and where will you leave your wealth?

Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners

or fall among the slain.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.


A day of punishment is coming that will be worse than what the people have endured so far.    Many of the people will die and those that don’t die will become prisoners and slaves of the Assyrians.


Judgment on Arrogant Assyria


10:5 Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger;

the staff in their hands is my fury!


Assyria was the tool God used to bring judgment on his people, Israel.  


10:6 Against a godless nation I send him,

and against the people of my wrath I command him,

to take spoil and seize plunder,

and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.


Israel was once the chosen people of God.  But now it is a ‘godless nation’.


10:7-8 But he does not so intend,

and his heart does not so think;

but it is in his heart to destroy,

and to cut off nations not a few;

for he says:

“Are not my commanders all kings?

Is not Calno like Carchemish?

Is not Hamath like Arpad?

Is not Samaria like Damascus?



But Assyria does not realize it was a tool in God’s hands.  It thinks the conquests are due to its own power.  Assyria does not understand that it is the God of the Bible that makes nations rise and fall.


10:10 -11 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,

whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols

as I have done to Samaria and her images?”


The arrogance of Sennacherib, king of Assyria is recorded in scripture during the assault of Jerusalem in 701 BC.  Read 2 Kings 18-19.  In the following verses God proclaims judgment on the arrogance of Assyria.


10:12-14 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.  For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,

and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;

I remove the boundaries of peoples,

and plunder their treasures;

like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.

My hand has found like a nest

the wealth of the peoples;

and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,

so I have gathered all the earth;

and there was none that moved a wing

or opened the mouth or chirped.”


10:15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,

or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,

or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!


10:16-19 Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts

will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,

and under his glory a burning will be kindled,

like the burning of fire.

The light of Israel will become a fire,

and his Holy One a flame,

and it will burn and devour

his thorns and briers in one day.

The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land

the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,

and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.

The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few

that a child can write them down.

God warned Israel through Moses of this danger: 

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.  You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)This applies to all nations and all men.



A Remnant of Israel Will Return


10:20-23 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.  Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.  For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.


Israel as a country is gone.   The people are scattered throughout many nations north of Assyria.  They have become the 10 lost tribes.  We do not know where most of them are today.  Traces of them can be found in Russia and the Orient.  But someday they will be found and will return to the Holy Land.  This is the teaching of Zionism that is very popular among some evangelical churches today.


10:24 -27 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did.  For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.  And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb.  And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt.  And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”


The Lord of Hosts, the warrior God, will protect Zion, his holy city, and will preserve Judah who bears the royal seed.  Assyria will not conquer Jerusalem as it has conquered so many other cities  and states.  Gods fury over his chosen people will come to an end and will be turned on Assyria.  Assyria will fall like Midian did, and the king will meet his death like the king of Midian, Oreb, did.


10:28 -32 He has come to Aiath;

he has passed through Migron;

at Michmash he stores his baggage;

they have crossed over the pass;

at Geba they lodge for the night;

Ramah trembles;

Gibeah of Saul has fled.

Cry aloud, O daughter of Gallim!

Give attention, O Laishah!

O poor Anathoth!

Madmenah is in flight;

the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.

This very day he will halt at Nob;

he will shake his fist

at the mount of the daughter of Zion,

the hill of Jerusalem.


God scouts out the land.  This is a poetic story of God marching through the land of Judah as he restores it to himself and for his chosen people.  His journey ends at Nob, a temple city just outside Jerusalem.  David and his men went there when they were fleeing Saul,  (1 Samuel 22:6-23).  Nob sits on a ridge east and north-east of Jerusalem which includes the Mount of Olives.  From here he can look across the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem itself and the Golden Gate of the Temple.


10:33-34 Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts

will lop the boughs with terrifying power;

the great in height will be hewn down,

and the lofty will be brought low.

He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe,

and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.


God is the great forester.  He manages the planting of the earth.  He causes countries and kingdoms to rise, and causes them to fall.  He decided which trees to fell and which to prune.  He allows some to become great and mighty and he decides when they should be felled.  Sometimes he decrees total destruction like burned off underbrush (10:17-19).  Judah is reduced to a stump, but a shoot will spring up from the root of Jesse and a branch will bear fruit.  The fruit will be peace and prosperity to the primeval forest and will be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.  That will be next week’s lesson.

Isaiah 11-14 The Righteous Reign of the Branch     October 29, 2018


Last week we saw that God was so angry with Israel that he was going to destroy it.  There was no longer any opportunity to repent.  Israel was invaded by her neighboring countries  and then completely destroyed by Assyria.  God took no pity on her, not even on the fatherless and the widows.  We read: “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”


But God eventually gives in and Isaiah prophesies a remnant of Jacob will turn to the mighty God.  They will return to a reconstituted Israel that contains both Judah and Israel, as in David’s day.  A second child is born who will rule the new Israel and will rule all nations as the promised Messiah.  “O the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne David an over is kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”


Meanwhile when God is finished using Assyria as a tool of his wrath, Assyria will also be punished for its arrogance in thinking what she accomplished was by her own strength, and not by the hand of God.  “Her fruitful land will be destroyed, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes way”.


The last vision we saw was of God walking through the length of Judah as powerful forester who will strike down trees, that is nations, with an axe.  Assyria was his axe at this time in history.  This week we will see that although Judah was struck down to a stump by the Assyrian invasion, she was not uprooted.  A stump remained and from that stump will come a shoot.


11:1-5  There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.


And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.


Judah has been reduced to a stump.  Only Jerusalem remains intact.  But the royal seed is spared in the city and from there a branch will grow and bear fruit.  The Messianic seed is protected and will continue to the day of Jesus.



11:6-9 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.


The new kingdom will be like the Garden of Eden where righteousness and peace reign.  We understand this to be the New Heaven and the New Earth of Revelation.  Some post-millennialists will argue that this will happen before Christ’s return as the message of the church reaches all nations.  

Review Isaiah 2:1-5 and 9:1-7, and Habakkuk 2:14.


11:10-12 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.


 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

 

  He will raise a signal for the nations

and will assemble the banished of Israel,

and gather the dispersed of Judah

from the four corners of the earth.


The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,

and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;

Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,

and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.

But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,

and together they shall plunder the people of the east.

They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,

and the Ammonites shall obey them.

And the LORD will utterly destroy

the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,

and will wave his hand over the River

with his scorching breath,

and strike it into seven channels,

and he will lead people across in sandals.

And there will be a highway from Assyria

for the remnant that remains of his people,

as there was for Israel

when they came up from the land of Egypt.



The Lord Is My Strength and My Song


12:1-6  You will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,

for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away,

that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.”


 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 

 And you will say in that day:


“Give thanks to the LORD,

call upon his name,

make known his deeds among the peoples,

proclaim that his name is exalted.


“Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;

let this be made known in all the earth.

Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,

for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”


Isaiah inserts this beautiful song of praise in the middle of this prophesy.









The Judgment of Babylon


13:1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.


This is the first time Babylon appears in the Vision of Isaiah.  Babylon means ‘The Gate of God’.  It is not the Babylon that invaded Judah in 586 BC.  That was the Neo-Babylonian empire.  Babylon is an ancient city and has been powerful many times through history.  It is considered the site of the Tower of Babel where men gathered to challenge God in Genesis 11.  God intervened by confusing they language and dispersing them over the face of all the earth.  In the eighteenth century Babylon was the capital city of Hammurabi who established his code of ethics that governed the world for centuries.


Hammurabi (also known as Khammurabi  and Ammurapi, reigned 1792-1750 BCE) was the sixth king of the Amorite First Dynasty of Babylon, assumed the throne from his father, Sin-Muballit, and expanded the kingdom to conquer all of ancient Mesopotamia. The kingdom of Babylon comprised only the cities of Babylon, Kish, Sippar, and Borsippa when Hammurabi came to the throne but, through a succession of military campaigns, careful alliances made and broken when necessary, and political maneuvers, he held the entire region under Babylonian control by 1750 BCE.


According to his own inscriptions, letters and administrative documents from his reign, he sought to improve the lives of those who lived under his rule. He is best known in the modern day for his law code which, although not the earliest code of laws, came to serve as a model for other cultures and is thought to have influenced the laws set down by Hebrew scribes, including those from the biblical Book of Exodus.

Joshua J. Mark 

published on 16 April 2018



The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia, dated back to about 1754 BC (Middle Chronology). It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code. A partial copy exists on a 2.25 metre (7.5 ft) stone stele. It consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis)[1] as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free, man or woman.[2]


Nearly half of the code deals with matters of contract, establishing the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon for example. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity, and reproductive behaviour. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.[3] A few provisions address issues related to military service.


The code was discovered by modern archaeologists in 1901, and its editio princeps translation published in 1902 by Jean-Vincent Scheil. This nearly complete example of the code is carved into a basalt stele in the shape of a huge index finger,[4] 2.25 m (7.4 ft) tall. The code is inscribed in the Akkadian language, using cuneiform script carved into the stele.


It is currently on display in the Louvre, with replicas in numerous institutions, including the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, the Clendening History of Medicine Library & Museum at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the library of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the Pergamon Museum of Berlin, the Arts Faculty of the University of Leuven in Belgium, the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, and the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania, and Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.




Babylon was always a thorn in the side of the Assyrians.  Tiglath-Pileser III had himself crowned the King of Babylon around the same time he was invading the Levant.  But a powerful Chaldean prince, Merodach-Baladan, seized power over Babylon.  He was repelled but returned a number of times in war with Assyria over the city.  We hear of him in 

Isaiah 39.  Sennacherib was unable to conquer Jerusalem and returned home to Nineveh where he was murdered by his sons.  Merodach-Baladan used this unrest to regain Babylon. He sent envoys  to Hezekiah, probably to scout out the city of Jerusalem, under the guise of sending Hezekiah well wishes after he's recent illness (Isaiah 39).  It is this Babylon that this prophesy addresses.


13:2-12 On a bare hill raise a signal;

cry aloud to them;

wave the hand for them to enter

the gates of the nobles.


I myself have commanded my consecrated ones,

and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger,

my proudly exulting ones.


The sound of a tumult is on the mountains

as of a great multitude!

The sound of an uproar of kingdoms,

of nations gathering together!

The LORD of hosts is mustering

a host for battle.


They come from a distant land,

from the end of the heavens,

the LORD and the weapons of his indignation,

to destroy the whole land.


Wail, for the day of the LORD is near;

as destruction from the Almighty it will come!

Therefore all hands will be feeble,

and every human heart will melt.


They will be dismayed:

pangs and agony will seize them;

they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.

They will look aghast at one another;

their faces will be aflame.


Behold, the day of the LORD comes,

cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,

to make the land a desolation

and to destroy its sinners from it.


For the stars of the heavens and their constellations

will not give their light;

the sun will be dark at its rising,

and the moon will not shed its light.

I will punish the world for its evil,

and the wicked for their iniquity;

I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,

and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.


I will make people more rare than fine gold,

and mankind than the gold of Ophir.


Assyria will again be God’s tool for carrying out this prophesy.  In 700 BC Sennacherib will campaign against Babylon and place his son Assurnadin-sumi on the throne.  A punitive campaign will be carried out against the Chaldeans.  Merodach-Baladan will escape once more, but we do not hear of him again.  We will hear of a further judgment on a later Babylon in chapters 46 and 47.


13:13- 16 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,

and the earth will be shaken out of its place,

at the wrath of the LORD of hosts

in the day of his fierce anger.

And like a hunted gazelle,

or like sheep with none to gather them,

each will turn to his own people,

and each will flee to his own land.


Whoever is found will be thrust through,

and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.

Their infants will be dashed in pieces

before their eyes;

their houses will be plundered

and their wives ravished.



13:17-18 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,

who have no regard for silver

and do not delight in gold.

Their bows will slaughter the young men;

they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;

their eyes will not pity children.


13:19- 22 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,

will be like Sodom and Gomorrah

when God overthrew them.


It will never be inhabited

or lived in for all generations;

no Arab will pitch his tent there;

no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.

But wild animals will lie down there,

and their houses will be full of howling creatures;

there ostriches will dwell,

and there wild goats will dance.

Hyenas will cry in its towers,

and jackals in the pleasant palaces;

its time is close at hand

and its days will not be prolonged.




The Restoration of Jacob


14:1-2 For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob.   And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD's land as male and female slaves.  They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them.


God cannot remain angry forever.   As angry as he was earlier, he now events of his anger and will draw his scattered peoples back to the Holy Land.  The ones turning will only be a remnant, but they will return and will repossess their land.  This repeats, and therefore reinforces the promises in chapter 11.






Israel's Remnant Taunts Babylon


14:3 When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:


14:4-11“How the oppressor has ceased,

the insolent fury ceased!

The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked,

the scepter of rulers,

  that struck the peoples in wrath

with unceasing blows,

that ruled the nations in anger

with unrelenting persecution.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet;

they break forth into singing.

The cypresses rejoice at you,

the cedars of Lebanon, saying,

‘Since you were laid low,

no woodcutter comes up against us.’

Sheol beneath is stirred up

to meet you when you come;

it rouses the shades to greet you,

all who were leaders of the earth;

it raises from their thrones

all who were kings of the nations.

  All of them will answer

and say to you:

‘You too have become as weak as we!

You have become like us!’

  Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,

the sound of your harps;

maggots are laid as a bed beneath you,

and worms are your covers.



Babylon has not been an element in Biblical history  to the point.  Egypt and Assyria have been the heat oppressors.  Yet this taunt against Babylon is sung.  Could this be by the Israelites that were displaced from Israel and settled in the Mid-east?  The Neo-Babylon kingdom will be a great oppressor, but that will be more that a century later.





14:12-21 “How you are fallen from heaven,

O Day Star, son of Dawn!

How you are cut down to the ground,

you who laid the nations low!

  You said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven;

above the stars of God

I will set my throne on high;

I will sit on the mount of assembly

in the far reaches of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.’

But you are brought down to Sheol,

to the far reaches of the pit.

  Those who see you will stare at you

and ponder over you:

‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,

who shook kingdoms,

  who made the world like a desert

and overthrew its cities,

who did not let his prisoners go home?’

All the kings of the nations lie in glory,

each in his own tomb;

but you are cast out, away from your grave,

like a loathed branch,

clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,

who go down to the stones of the pit,

like a dead body trampled underfoot.

  You will not be joined with them in burial,

because you have destroyed your land,

you have slain your people.

“May the offspring of evildoers

nevermore be named!

Prepare slaughter for his sons

because of the guilt of their fathers,

lest they rise and possess the earth,

and fill the face of the world with cities.”


This is a familiar section from Isaiah for all of us.  We understand it to refer to Satan, and indeed it does.  However, it can refer to a king of Babylon as well.  Remember Babylon means ‘The Gate of God’.  Here mankind planned to assault God and free himself from God.  The city had become a city of many gods.  Bel was a major god there, and the rulers would show subjection to this god by ‘seizing the hands of Bel’ in the crowning ceremony.  Marduk was a second major god of the city.  Therefore, I think Babylon demonstrates a power center for Satan in the world.   Saddam Hussein was planning to restore Babylon to its former glory and he even minted gold coins with the picture of Nebuchadnezzar on one side and his one face on the obverse.


14:22-23 “I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the LORD.  “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of hosts.


Fortunately God has the last word.



An Oracle Concerning Assyria



14:24 -27 The LORD of hosts has sworn:

“As I have planned,

so shall it be,

and as I have purposed,

so shall it stand,

  that I will break the Assyrian in my land,

and on my mountains trample him underfoot;

and his yoke shall depart from them,

and his burden from their shoulder.”

This is the purpose that is purposed

concerning the whole earth,

and this is the hand that is stretched out

over all the nations.

For the LORD of hosts has purposed,

and who will annul it?

His hand is stretched out,

and who will turn it back?


This completes the judgment on Assyria that started in chapter 10.



An Oracle Concerning Philistine



14:28-32 In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle:


Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you,

that the rod that struck you is broken,

for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder,

and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.

  And the firstborn of the poor will graze,

and the needy lie down in safety;

but I will kill your root with famine,

and your remnant it will slay.


Wail, O gate; cry out, O city;

melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you!

For smoke comes out of the north,

and there is no straggler in his ranks.


What will one answer the messengers of the nation?

“The LORD has founded Zion,

and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”


The Philistines were always a thorn in Israel’s side.  God often used them o punish his disobedient people.  However she will pay a price for her treatment of Israel.  Assyria will again be God’s tool for carrying out his judgment. 


Isaiah 15-18 Judgments on Moab, Damascus and Cush November 5, 2018


Assyria is conquering the small countries of the Levant one at a time.  She has conquered Syria and Israel.  She was fighting a separate battle for the control of Babylon, but this was a different arena.  She conquered the Philistines in last week’s lesson.  This week we will look at Moab, Damascus and Cush.


Moab lies east and northeast of the Dead Sea.  The nation was founded by one of Lot’s sons, conceived by Lot’s firstborn daughter (Genesis19:34-38).  It was mostly  a thorn in the side of Israel.  They would not let Israel pass through their territory in the Exodus.  They hired Balaam, the prophet, to curse the Israelites, and when that did not work they enticed the Israelite men with their women and turned them away from Yahweh to following their pagan gods (Numbers 25:1-18).  Israel and Moab fought often but there were times of peace between the nations.  Naomi’s family moved to Moab during famine in Israel, and both of her sons married Moabite women.  One of the women was Ruth, who married Boaz and became David’s great-grandmother.  Therefore she is in the Messianic line.  At another time David sent his family to Moab for safety when Saul was trying to kill him.


However, God treats them harshly in today’s reading.  They should never have gone after strange gods, because it was Yahweh who rescued their fore-father from the destruction of Gomorrah.  Moab paid tribute to Tiglath-Pilezer III to avoid Assyrian invasion, but during this time Moab was invaded by nomadic desert tribes rather than Assyria.


An Oracle Concerning Moab


15:1-4 An oracle concerning Moab.

Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone;

because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone.


He has gone up to the temple, and to Dibon,

to the high places to weep;

over Nebo and over Medeba

Moab wails.

On every head is baldness;

every beard is shorn;

in the streets they wear sackcloth;

on the housetops and in the squares

everyone wails and melts in tears.


Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;

their voice is heard as far as Jahaz;

therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud;

his soul trembles.


As the Moabites flee they looked to Judah to take in the survivors and asylum seekers.


15:5-6 My heart cries out for Moab;

her fugitives flee to Zoar,

to Eglath-shelishiyah.

For at the ascent of Luhith

they go up weeping;

on the road to Horonaim

they raise a cry of destruction;

the waters of Nimrim

are a desolation;

the grass is withered, the vegetation fails,

the greenery is no more.


Even God’s heart cries out for Moab.



15:7-9 Therefore the abundance they have gained

and what they have laid up

they carry away

over the Brook of the Willows.

For a cry has gone

around the land of Moab;

her wailing reaches to Eglaim;

her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.

For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;

for I will bring upon Dibon even more,

a lion for those of Moab who escape,

for the remnant of the land.


Could the lion be Assyria?


16:1-5  Send the lamb to the ruler of the land,

from Sela, by way of the desert,

to the mount of the daughter of Zion.

Like fleeing birds,

like a scattered nest,

so are the daughters of Moab

at the fords of the Arnon.


“Give counsel;

grant justice;

make your shade like night

at the height of noon;

shelter the outcasts;

do not reveal the fugitive;

let the outcasts of Moab

sojourn among you;

be a shelter to them

from the destroyer.

When the oppressor is no more,

and destruction has ceased,

and he who tramples underfoot has vanished from the land,

then a throne will be established in steadfast love,

and on it will sit in faithfulness

in the tent of David

one who judges and seeks justice

and is swift to do righteousness.”


Moab’s rulers appeal to Jerusalem to receive the refugees.  A symbolic lamb is sent with the request.  The rulers ask for advice from Hezekiah who is now King of Judah.  Peace may come to Moab if she accept Judean rule and thereby Judah’s God.



16:6-8 We have heard of the pride of Moab—

how proud he is!—

of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;

in his idle boasting he is not right.

  Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,

let everyone wail.

Mourn, utterly stricken,

for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.

  For the fields of Heshbon languish,

and the vine of Sibmah;

the lords of the nations

have struck down its branches,

which reached to Jazer

and strayed to the desert;

its shoots spread abroad

and passed over the sea.


This is a song taunting Moab for its pride.  It is probably being sung by the Israelites, but it may be a song of the Bedouin tribesmen to celebrate their victory over Moab.






16:9-12 Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer

for the vine of Sibmah;

I drench you with my tears,

O Heshbon and Elealeh;

for over your summer fruit and your harvest

the shout has ceased.


And joy and gladness are taken away 

from the fruitful field,

and in the vineyards no songs are sung,

no cheers are raised;

no treader treads out wine in the presses;

I have put an end to the shouting.


Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab,

and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth.

And when Moab presents himself, when he wearies himself on the high place, when he comes to his sanctuary to pray, he will not prevail.


God weeps for his wayward people.  But they go to their false gods for help, and no help comes.  The nation will be reduced to few and the feeble.


16:13-14 This is the word that the LORD spoke concerning Moab in the past.  But now the LORD has spoken, saying, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.”


An Oracle Concerning Damascus


17:1-3 An oracle concerning Damascus.

Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city

and will become a heap of ruins.

The cities of Aroer are deserted;

they will be for flocks,

which will lie down, and none will make them afraid.

The fortress will disappear from Ephraim,

and the kingdom from Damascus;

and the remnant of Syria will be

like the glory of the children of Israel,

declares the LORD of hosts.


Damascus was, and still is, the capital city of Syria.  Syria has fallen, but it took time to bring down the fortress of Damascus.  ‘The glory of the children of Israel,” is a mocking picture of fallen Israel and defeated Samaria.  As Israel has become, so will Damascus be.

17:4-6 And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low,

and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.

And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain

and his arm harvests the ears,

and as when one gleans the ears of grain

in the Valley of Rephaim.

Gleanings will be left in it,

as when an olive tree is beaten—

two or three berries

in the top of the highest bough,

four or five

on the branches of a fruit tree,

declares the LORD God of Israel.


Although this section is about Damascus, here God speaks his judgment on Israel.  The land will be reduced to ruin and all the crops will be gone.


17:7-8 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.  He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.


The proper response would be to return to the true God.  Idolatry needs to be ended if God is to prosper his people.  However, the people do not return to Yahweh and the consequences are described below.  


Do you think God will have any input in our upcoming election?


 17:9-11    In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation

and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;

therefore, though you plant pleasant plants

and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,

though you make them grow on the day that you plant them,

and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,

yet the harvest will flee away

in a day of grief and incurable pain.


17:12-14 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;

they thunder like the thundering of the sea!

Ah, the roar of nations;

they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!

The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,

but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,

chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind

and whirling dust before the storm.

At evening time, behold, terror!

Before morning, they are no more!

This is the portion of those who loot us,

and the lot of those who plunder us.


When God is forgotten, then the sounds in the night are terrifying.  Morning brings relief because the light eases their imaginations.  If they had only trusted in Yahweh their fears would have subsided, because he watches over his own.  David said, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’   To fear God is to have comfort in every situation.


An Oracle Concerning Cush


18:1-3  Ah, land of whirring wings

that is beyond the rivers of Cush,

  which sends ambassadors by the sea,

in vessels of papyrus on the waters!

Go, you swift messengers,

to a nation tall and smooth,

to a people feared near and far,

a nation mighty and conquering,

whose land the rivers divide.

  All you inhabitants of the world,

you who dwell on the earth,

when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!

When a trumpet is blown, hear!


Cush is the land of Ethiopia or Nubia.  It had conquered lower Egypt in 715 BC, and ruled the land as the 25th dynasty.  She was looking for allies to help her gain control of the Nile Delta.  Apparently they even reached out to Jerusalem for help.  There seemed to be a peace between Ethiopia and Assyria at the time, so the messengers could well have gone to Assyria as well.



18:4-6 For thus the LORD said to me:

“I will quietly look from my dwelling

like clear heat in sunshine,

like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

For before the harvest, when the blossom is over,

and the flower becomes a ripening grape,

he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks,

and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.

They shall all of them be left

to the birds of prey of the mountains

and to the beasts of the earth.

And the birds of prey will summer on them,

and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.


To whom was God speaking ?  I think it was Isaiah who is writing down this material.  Scholars think it was Shebna, Hezekiah’s Prime Minister, who was active directing the foreign  affairs for Jerusalem and for Hezekiah.  We will hear of him in chapters 22, 36 and 37.


18:7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts

from a people tall and smooth,

from a people feared near and far,

a nation mighty and conquering,

whose land the rivers divide,

to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.


Ahaz had accepted the fact that God was governing Assyria, and he agreed to become a vassal state.  This was Isaiah’s recommendation to Ahaz and he followed it.  therefore there was a degree of peace between Judah and Assyria when Sargon, now king os Assyria, went to Egypt to assist the Ethiopians gain control of all of Egypt.  Therefore tribute was sent to Jerusalem by the Assyrians  and possible by the Ethiopians as well.  Yahweh is quietly watching over these developments sitting on his porch basking in the sunshine. 

Isaiah 19-24       Assyria, Judah and Egypt November 26, 2018



We have only three weeks left for this fall session.  I would like to finish this first book of Isaiah that ends with chapter 39.  Therefore we will skip some of the chapters in-between.  They are fascinating reading, and you should read through them, but I will limit our discussions to certain sections.  The entire section from chapters 13 - 39 deals with the geopolitical events of the day.  Assyrian invades Egypt and by 650 BC will occupy the entire country for a short time.  This section deals with the period between 720 and 701 BC.    Hezekiah joins Ashdod and Aram in an unsuccessful rebellion against Assyria, encouraged by the Ethiopian Pharaoh ruling Egypt.   Because of that Judah loses 46 fortified cities in the land.  Only Jerusalem remains a safe harbor.   Jerusalem resubmits to Assyrian hegemony and pays tribute to the king.  The Assyrian kings are Sargon II (721-705 BC) and Sennacherib (705-681 BC).  As we read through these chapters we see that God is intimately involved in all the activities of the various kings and nations.  Much of this story is told in poetic terms, even as lines for various actors to read.  It is delivered in the vernacular so it can be presented and understood by the ordinary people of the day.


(I will place the skipped passages in very small print.)



An Oracle Concerning Egypt


19:1-8  An oracle concerning Egypt.

Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud

and comes to Egypt;

and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,

and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.


And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,

and they will fight, each against another

and each against his neighbor,

city against city, kingdom against kingdom;

  and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,

and I will confound their counsel;

and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,

and the mediums and the necromancers;

and I will give over the Egyptians

into the hand of a hard master,

and a fierce king will rule over them,

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

And the waters of the sea will be dried up,

and the river will be dry and parched,

and its canals will become foul,

and the branches of Egypt's Nile will diminish and dry up,

reeds and rushes will rot away.


There will be bare places by the Nile,

on the brink of the Nile,

and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,

will be driven away, and will be no more.

The fishermen will mourn and lament,

all who cast a hook in the Nile;

and they will languish

who spread nets on the water.


19:9-15 The workers in combed flax will be in despair,

and the weavers of white cotton.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,

and all who work for pay will be grieved.


The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;

the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.


How can you say to Pharaoh,

“I am a son of the wise,

a son of ancient kings”?


Where then are your wise men?

Let them tell you

that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.


The princes of Zoan have become fools,

and the princes of Memphis are deluded;

those who are the cornerstones of her tribes

have made Egypt stagger.


The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,

and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,

as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.

And there will be nothing for Egypt

that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.




Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed


19:16-25 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them.  And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians.  Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.


In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.


In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.  It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt.  When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.  And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.  And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.


In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.


In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”



A Sign Against Egypt and Cush


20:1-6 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it—  at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.


Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush,  so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.  Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast.  And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria!  And we, how shall we escape?’”



Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon


We will resume the study here today.  “Babylon plays an important role throughout the Bible.  It is the site of man’s attempt to challenge God’s rule with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).  It is a thorn in the side of Assyria during this current period.  100 years later the Neo-Babylonian kingdom will level Jerusalem and destroy God’s Temple there (2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  Finally, in Revelation Babylon represents the city of man that will fall in single hour in God’s final judgment of the earth (Revelation 18:1-10).


21:1-5 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.

As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,

it comes from the wilderness,

from a terrible land.


A stern vision is told to me;

the traitor betrays,

and the destroyer destroys.

Go up, O Elam;

lay siege, O Media;

all the sighing she has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;

pangs have seized me,

like the pangs of a woman in labor;

I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;


I am dismayed so that I cannot see.

  My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;

the twilight I longed for

has been turned for me into trembling.

They prepare the table,

they spread the rugs,

they eat, they drink.


Arise, O princes;

oil the shield!


The ‘wilderness of the sea’ is a reference to Babylon.  Geographically it is locate near the delta of the Euphrates at the head of the Persian Gulf.  This passage calls for the Medes and Elamites to attack Assyria and drive her out of Babylon.


21:6-10 For thus the Lord said to me:

“Go, set a watchman;

let him announce what he sees.


When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,

riders on donkeys, riders on camels,

let him listen diligently,

very diligently.”


Then he who saw cried out:

“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,

continually by day,

and at my post I am stationed

whole nights.

  And behold, here come riders,

horsemen in pairs!”


 And he answered,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;

and all the carved images of her gods

he has shattered to the ground.”


O my threshed and winnowed one,

what I have heard from the LORD of hosts,

the God of Israel, I announce to you.


God is intimately involved in this war and witnesses the fall of Babylon.  The ubiquitous Merodach-Baladan is the Persian king who drove the Assyrians out of Babylon with the help of the Elamites.  He ruled there from 720-710 BC.  This was a sign to other nations that Assyria was vulnerable, and may have been the reason for the revolt by Ashdod and Judah.  That was a bad read as both Judah and the Philistines paid a high price for their rebellion.


21:11-12 The oracle concerning Dumah.


One is calling to me from Seir,

“Watchman, what time of the night?

Watchman, what time of the night?”

The watchman says:

“Morning comes, and also the night.

If you will inquire, inquire;

come back again.”


The people are frightened and wondering what is happening, but there is no answer from the night watchman.





21:13-15 The oracle concerning Arabia.


In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,

O caravans of Dedanites.

To the thirsty bring water;

meet the fugitive with bread,

O inhabitants of the land of Tema.

  For they have fled from the swords,

from the drawn sword,

from the bent bow,

and from the press of battle.


21:16-17 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.  And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”


The refugees from Judah and Ashdod flee southeast into the Arabian Desert, but even there they will find little relief.


An Oracle Concerning Jerusalem


22:1-4 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.


What do you mean that you have gone up,

all of you, to the housetops,

you who are full of shoutings,

tumultuous city, exultant town?

Your slain are not slain with the sword

or dead in battle.

All your leaders have fled together;

without the bow they were captured.

All of you who were found were captured,

though they had fled far away.

Therefore I said:

“Look away from me;

let me weep bitter tears;

do not labor to comfort me

concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”


The war descends on Jerusalem itself.  She will soon be surrounded by Assyrian troops.  The people are torn between rejoicing in their safety and dreading the consequences of defeat.




22:5-7 For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day

of tumult and trampling and confusion

in the valley of vision,

a battering down of walls

and a shouting to the mountains.


And Elam bore the quiver

with chariots and horsemen,

and Kir uncovered the shield.

Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,

and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.


Elam was successful against Assyria for a time, but Jerusalem does not have the manpower or armament to withstand Assyrian.


22:8-11 He has taken away the covering of Judah.

In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest,  and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many.  You collected the waters of the lower pool,  and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool.  But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.


Hezekiah did what he could to strengthen the walls of Jerusalem.  He built an amazing underground water tunnel for the city so it could withstand the impending siege.  The tunnel and waterway are still functioning today.  You might like to Google Hezekiah’s tunnel and find a video of it and of the remarkable engineering feat it was.  However, to this point in time Hezekiah did all the usual things required for war, but he neglected to call on God for help.  Isaiah will come to the rescue later in this story.


22:12-13 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts

called for weeping and mourning,

for baldness and wearing sackcloth;

  and behold, joy and gladness,

killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,

eating flesh and drinking wine.

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”


22:14 The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:

“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”

says the Lord GOD of hosts.


The people do not know that this is God’s war with the intent of calling them back to the faith.  Instead they fiddle with Nero as Rome burn.

22:15-25 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock?  Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man.  He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land.  There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house.  I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station.  In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand.  And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David.  He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.  And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.  And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.  In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”


Sheba was Hezekiah’s commander in chief.  He was watching out for himself and not for the country.  He is destined for very severe judgment and death, and he will be replaced by a man of God’s choosing.



An Oracle Concerning Tyre and Sidon


23:1 The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail, O ships of Tarshish,

for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor!

From the land of Cyprus

it is revealed to them.


2 Be still, O inhabitants of the coast;

the merchants of Sidon, who cross the sea, have filled you.

3 And on many waters

your revenue was the grain of Shihor,

the harvest of the Nile;

you were the merchant of the nations.


4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken,

the stronghold of the sea, saying:

“I have neither labored nor given birth,

I have neither reared young men

nor brought up young women.”


5 When the report comes to Egypt,

they will be in anguish over the report about Tyre.

6 Cross over to Tarshish;

wail, O inhabitants of the coast!

7 Is this your exultant city

whose origin is from days of old,

whose feet carried her

to settle far away?

8 Who has purposed this

against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,

whose merchants were princes,

whose traders were the honored of the earth?

9 The LORD of hosts has purposed it,

to defile the pompous pride of all glory,

to dishonor all the honored of the earth.


10 Cross over your land like the Nile,

O daughter of Tarshish;

there is no restraint anymore.

11 He has stretched out his hand over the sea;

he has shaken the kingdoms;

the LORD has given command concerning Canaan

to destroy its strongholds.

12 And he said:

“You will no more exult,

O oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon;

arise, cross over to Cyprus,

even there you will have no rest.”


13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans! This is the people that was not; Assyria destined it for wild beasts. They erected their siege towers, they stripped her palaces bare, they made her a ruin.


14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your stronghold is laid waste.

15 In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, like the days of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute:

16 “Take a harp;

go about the city,

O forgotten prostitute!

Make sweet melody;

sing many songs,

that you may be remembered.”


17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18 Her merchandise and her wages will be holy to the LORD. It will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who dwell before the LORD.


Judgment on the Whole Earth


24:1-5  Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate,

and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.


And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;

as with the slave, so with his master;

as with the maid, so with her mistress;

as with the buyer, so with the seller;

as with the lender, so with the borrower;

as with the creditor, so with the debtor.


The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;

for the LORD has spoken this word.

The earth mourns and withers;

the world languishes and withers;

the highest people of the earth languish.

The earth lies defiled

under its inhabitants;

for they have transgressed the laws,

violated the statutes,

broken the everlasting covenant.

The earth, to the people of that day, meant the lands of Palestine-Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt primarily.  The continents beyond the sea were not in their understanding yet.  The devastation is mostly due to the aggressive invasion by Assyria.  Cities, crops and animals are destroyed leaving the population impoverished.  The land, the world, and civilization can be considered synonymous.  Every class of people is affected.  This has the sound of the days of the flood.


24:6-12 Therefore a curse devours the earth,

and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;

therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,

and few men are left.


  The wine mourns,

the vine languishes,

all the merry-hearted sigh.

The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,

the noise of the jubilant has ceased,

the mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No more do they drink wine with singing;

strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.

The wasted city is broken down;

every house is shut up so that none can enter.


  There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;

all joy has grown dark;

the gladness of the earth is banished.

  Desolation is left in the city;

the gates are battered into ruins.


The curse is the result of a broken covenant.  Blood has polluted the land.  The joy of civilized living is gone.  The feasts and partying, along with the joys of wine are over.  The city walls are broken down and no one is safe anymore.

(See Deuteronomy 11:26-28, 28:15-68)


24:13-16 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations,

as when an olive tree is beaten,

as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;

over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD;

in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.

From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,

of glory to the Righteous One.


God’s plan was for bountiful harvests and joyous feasts.  (Deuteronomy 11:1-15; 28:1-14)

But I say, “I waste away,

I waste away. Woe is me!

For the traitors have betrayed,

with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”


Everything has gone awry.  Assyria has wiped the land clean.  Not much is left standing.  The crops and orchards are destroyed.  The people that are left are wasting away.  But Yahweh is the prime cause of all the devastation.   Assyria is only his instrument for carrying it out.


24:17-20 Terror and the pit and the snare

are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!

He who flees at the sound of the terror

shall fall into the pit,

and he who climbs out of the pit

shall be caught in the snare.

For the windows of heaven are opened,

and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth is utterly broken,

the earth is split apart,

the earth is violently shaken.

The earth staggers like a drunken man;

it sways like a hut;

its transgression lies heavy upon it,

and it falls, and will not rise again.


24:21-23 On that day the LORD will punish

the host of heaven, in heaven,

and the kings of the earth, on the earth.

They will be gathered together

as prisoners in a pit;

they will be shut up in a prison,

and after many days they will be punished.


Then the moon will be confounded

and the sun ashamed,

for the LORD of hosts reigns

on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,

and his glory will be before his elders.



God determines the history of the nations, but also of groups and of individuals.  He has brought judgment on all the civilized nations in Assyria’s path.  Babylon has fallen and will fall again.  Syria with Damascus, Israel with Samaria, Phoenicia/Philistia, Tyre, much of Judah, the entire Levant and finally Egypt fall under the yoke of Assyria.  This is a world-changing event.  Judah will never again have the power it had under David and Solomon.  The era of world kingdoms has begun, with Neo-Babylon, Greece and Rome to follow.  However, in all of this turmoil God will guard his city, Jerusalem, and his Temple for another hundred years and beyond.  We are eagerly awaiting the New Jerusalem promised by the Messiah.

Isaiah 19-24       Assyria, Judah and Egypt November 26, 2018



We have only three weeks left for this fall session.  I would like to finish this first book of Isaiah that ends with chapter 39.  Therefore we will skip some of the chapters in-between.  They are fascinating reading, and you should read through them, but I will limit our discussions to certain sections.  The entire section from chapters 13 - 39 deals with the geopolitical events of the day.  Assyrian invades Egypt and by 650 BC will occupy the entire country for a short time.  This section deals with the period between 720 and 701 BC.    Hezekiah joins Ashdod and Aram in an unsuccessful rebellion against Assyria, encouraged by the Ethiopian Pharaoh ruling Egypt.   Because of that Judah loses 46 fortified cities in the land.  Only Jerusalem remains a safe harbor.   Jerusalem resubmits to Assyrian hegemony and pays tribute to the king.  The Assyrian kings are Sargon II (721-705 BC) and Sennacherib (705-681 BC).  As we read through these chapters we see that God is intimately involved in all the activities of the various kings and nations.  Much of this story is told in poetic terms, even as lines for various actors to read.  It is delivered in the vernacular so it can be presented and understood by the ordinary people of the day.


(I will place the skipped passages in very small print.)



An Oracle Concerning Egypt


19:1-8  An oracle concerning Egypt.

Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud

and comes to Egypt;

and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,

and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.


And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,

and they will fight, each against another

and each against his neighbor,

city against city, kingdom against kingdom;

  and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,

and I will confound their counsel;

and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,

and the mediums and the necromancers;

and I will give over the Egyptians

into the hand of a hard master,

and a fierce king will rule over them,

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

And the waters of the sea will be dried up,

and the river will be dry and parched,

and its canals will become foul,

and the branches of Egypt's Nile will diminish and dry up,

reeds and rushes will rot away.


There will be bare places by the Nile,

on the brink of the Nile,

and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,

will be driven away, and will be no more.

The fishermen will mourn and lament,

all who cast a hook in the Nile;

and they will languish

who spread nets on the water.


19:9-15 The workers in combed flax will be in despair,

and the weavers of white cotton.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,

and all who work for pay will be grieved.


The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;

the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.


How can you say to Pharaoh,

“I am a son of the wise,

a son of ancient kings”?


Where then are your wise men?

Let them tell you

that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.


The princes of Zoan have become fools,

and the princes of Memphis are deluded;

those who are the cornerstones of her tribes

have made Egypt stagger.


The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,

and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,

as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.

And there will be nothing for Egypt

that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.




Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed


19:16-25 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them.  And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians.  Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.


In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.


In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.  It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt.  When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.  And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.  And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.


In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.


In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”



A Sign Against Egypt and Cush


20:1-6 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it—  at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.


Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush,  so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.  Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast.  And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria!  And we, how shall we escape?’”



Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon


We will resume the study here today.  “Babylon plays an important role throughout the Bible.  It is the site of man’s attempt to challenge God’s rule with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).  It is a thorn in the side of Assyria during this current period.  100 years later the Neo-Babylonian kingdom will level Jerusalem and destroy God’s Temple there (2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  Finally, in Revelation Babylon represents the city of man that will fall in single hour in God’s final judgment of the earth (Revelation 18:1-10).


21:1-5 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.

As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,

it comes from the wilderness,

from a terrible land.


A stern vision is told to me;

the traitor betrays,

and the destroyer destroys.

Go up, O Elam;

lay siege, O Media;

all the sighing she has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;

pangs have seized me,

like the pangs of a woman in labor;

I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;


I am dismayed so that I cannot see.

  My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;

the twilight I longed for

has been turned for me into trembling.

They prepare the table,

they spread the rugs,

they eat, they drink.


Arise, O princes;

oil the shield!


The ‘wilderness of the sea’ is a reference to Babylon.  Geographically it is locate near the delta of the Euphrates at the head of the Persian Gulf.  This passage calls for the Medes and Elamites to attack Assyria and drive her out of Babylon.


21:6-10 For thus the Lord said to me:

“Go, set a watchman;

let him announce what he sees.


When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,

riders on donkeys, riders on camels,

let him listen diligently,

very diligently.”


Then he who saw cried out:

“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,

continually by day,

and at my post I am stationed

whole nights.

  And behold, here come riders,

horsemen in pairs!”


 And he answered,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;

and all the carved images of her gods

he has shattered to the ground.”


O my threshed and winnowed one,

what I have heard from the LORD of hosts,

the God of Israel, I announce to you.


God is intimately involved in this war and witnesses the fall of Babylon.  The ubiquitous Merodach-Baladan is the Persian king who drove the Assyrians out of Babylon with the help of the Elamites.  He ruled there from 720-710 BC.  This was a sign to other nations that Assyria was vulnerable, and may have been the reason for the revolt by Ashdod and Judah.  That was a bad read as both Judah and the Philistines paid a high price for their rebellion.


21:11-12 The oracle concerning Dumah.


One is calling to me from Seir,

“Watchman, what time of the night?

Watchman, what time of the night?”

The watchman says:

“Morning comes, and also the night.

If you will inquire, inquire;

come back again.”


The people are frightened and wondering what is happening, but there is no answer from the night watchman.





21:13-15 The oracle concerning Arabia.


In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,

O caravans of Dedanites.

To the thirsty bring water;

meet the fugitive with bread,

O inhabitants of the land of Tema.

  For they have fled from the swords,

from the drawn sword,

from the bent bow,

and from the press of battle.


21:16-17 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.  And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”


The refugees from Judah and Ashdod flee southeast into the Arabian Desert, but even there they will find little relief.


An Oracle Concerning Jerusalem


22:1-4 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.


What do you mean that you have gone up,

all of you, to the housetops,

you who are full of shoutings,

tumultuous city, exultant town?

Your slain are not slain with the sword

or dead in battle.

All your leaders have fled together;

without the bow they were captured.

All of you who were found were captured,

though they had fled far away.

Therefore I said:

“Look away from me;

let me weep bitter tears;

do not labor to comfort me

concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”


The war descends on Jerusalem itself.  She will soon be surrounded by Assyrian troops.  The people are torn between rejoicing in their safety and dreading the consequences of defeat.




22:5-7 For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day

of tumult and trampling and confusion

in the valley of vision,

a battering down of walls

and a shouting to the mountains.


And Elam bore the quiver

with chariots and horsemen,

and Kir uncovered the shield.

Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,

and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.


Elam was successful against Assyria for a time, but Jerusalem does not have the manpower or armament to withstand Assyrian.


22:8-11 He has taken away the covering of Judah.

In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest,  and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many.  You collected the waters of the lower pool,  and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool.  But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.


Hezekiah did what he could to strengthen the walls of Jerusalem.  He built an amazing underground water tunnel for the city so it could withstand the impending siege.  The tunnel and waterway are still functioning today.  You might like to Google Hezekiah’s tunnel and find a video of it and of the remarkable engineering feat it was.  However, to this point in time Hezekiah did all the usual things required for war, but he neglected to call on God for help.  Isaiah will come to the rescue later in this story.


22:12-13 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts

called for weeping and mourning,

for baldness and wearing sackcloth;

  and behold, joy and gladness,

killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,

eating flesh and drinking wine.

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”


22:14 The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:

“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”

says the Lord GOD of hosts.


The people do not know that this is God’s war with the intent of calling them back to the faith.  Instead they fiddle with Nero as Rome burn.

22:15-25 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock?  Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man.  He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land.  There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house.  I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station.  In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand.  And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David.  He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.  And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.  And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.  In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”


Sheba was Hezekiah’s commander in chief.  He was watching out for himself and not for the country.  He is destined for very severe judgment and death, and he will be replaced by a man of God’s choosing.



An Oracle Concerning Tyre and Sidon


23:1 The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail, O ships of Tarshish,

for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor!

From the land of Cyprus

it is revealed to them.


2 Be still, O inhabitants of the coast;

the merchants of Sidon, who cross the sea, have filled you.

3 And on many waters

your revenue was the grain of Shihor,

the harvest of the Nile;

you were the merchant of the nations.


4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken,

the stronghold of the sea, saying:

“I have neither labored nor given birth,

I have neither reared young men

nor brought up young women.”


5 When the report comes to Egypt,

they will be in anguish over the report about Tyre.

6 Cross over to Tarshish;

wail, O inhabitants of the coast!

7 Is this your exultant city

whose origin is from days of old,

whose feet carried her

to settle far away?

8 Who has purposed this

against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,

whose merchants were princes,

whose traders were the honored of the earth?

9 The LORD of hosts has purposed it,

to defile the pompous pride of all glory,

to dishonor all the honored of the earth.


10 Cross over your land like the Nile,

O daughter of Tarshish;

there is no restraint anymore.

11 He has stretched out his hand over the sea;

he has shaken the kingdoms;

the LORD has given command concerning Canaan

to destroy its strongholds.

12 And he said:

“You will no more exult,

O oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon;

arise, cross over to Cyprus,

even there you will have no rest.”


13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans! This is the people that was not; Assyria destined it for wild beasts. They erected their siege towers, they stripped her palaces bare, they made her a ruin.


14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your stronghold is laid waste.

15 In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, like the days of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute:

16 “Take a harp;

go about the city,

O forgotten prostitute!

Make sweet melody;

sing many songs,

that you may be remembered.”


17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18 Her merchandise and her wages will be holy to the LORD. It will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who dwell before the LORD.


Judgment on the Whole Earth


24:1-5  Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate,

and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.


And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;

as with the slave, so with his master;

as with the maid, so with her mistress;

as with the buyer, so with the seller;

as with the lender, so with the borrower;

as with the creditor, so with the debtor.


The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;

for the LORD has spoken this word.

The earth mourns and withers;

the world languishes and withers;

the highest people of the earth languish.

The earth lies defiled

under its inhabitants;

for they have transgressed the laws,

violated the statutes,

broken the everlasting covenant.

The earth, to the people of that day, meant the lands of Palestine-Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt primarily.  The continents beyond the sea were not in their understanding yet.  The devastation is mostly due to the aggressive invasion by Assyria.  Cities, crops and animals are destroyed leaving the population impoverished.  The land, the world, and civilization can be considered synonymous.  Every class of people is affected.  This has the sound of the days of the flood.


24:6-12 Therefore a curse devours the earth,

and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;

therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,

and few men are left.


  The wine mourns,

the vine languishes,

all the merry-hearted sigh.

The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,

the noise of the jubilant has ceased,

the mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No more do they drink wine with singing;

strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.

The wasted city is broken down;

every house is shut up so that none can enter.


  There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;

all joy has grown dark;

the gladness of the earth is banished.

  Desolation is left in the city;

the gates are battered into ruins.


The curse is the result of a broken covenant.  Blood has polluted the land.  The joy of civilized living is gone.  The feasts and partying, along with the joys of wine are over.  The city walls are broken down and no one is safe anymore.

(See Deuteronomy 11:26-28, 28:15-68)


24:13-16 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations,

as when an olive tree is beaten,

as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;

over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD;

in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.

From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,

of glory to the Righteous One.


God’s plan was for bountiful harvests and joyous feasts.  (Deuteronomy 11:1-15; 28:1-14)

But I say, “I waste away,

I waste away. Woe is me!

For the traitors have betrayed,

with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”


Everything has gone awry.  Assyria has wiped the land clean.  Not much is left standing.  The crops and orchards are destroyed.  The people that are left are wasting away.  But Yahweh is the prime cause of all the devastation.   Assyria is only his instrument for carrying it out.


24:17-20 Terror and the pit and the snare

are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!

He who flees at the sound of the terror

shall fall into the pit,

and he who climbs out of the pit

shall be caught in the snare.

For the windows of heaven are opened,

and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth is utterly broken,

the earth is split apart,

the earth is violently shaken.

The earth staggers like a drunken man;

it sways like a hut;

its transgression lies heavy upon it,

and it falls, and will not rise again.


24:21-23 On that day the LORD will punish

the host of heaven, in heaven,

and the kings of the earth, on the earth.

They will be gathered together

as prisoners in a pit;

they will be shut up in a prison,

and after many days they will be punished.


Then the moon will be confounded

and the sun ashamed,

for the LORD of hosts reigns

on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,

and his glory will be before his elders.



God determines the history of the nations, but also of groups and of individuals.  He has brought judgment on all the civilized nations in Assyria’s path.  Babylon has fallen and will fall again.  Syria with Damascus, Israel with Samaria, Phoenicia/Philistia, Tyre, much of Judah, the entire Levant and finally Egypt fall under the yoke of Assyria.  This is a world-changing event.  Judah will never again have the power it had under David and Solomon.  The era of world kingdoms has begun, with Neo-Babylon, Greece and Rome to follow.  However, in all of this turmoil God will guard his city, Jerusalem, and his Temple for another hundred years and beyond.  We are eagerly awaiting the New Jerusalem promised by the Messiah.