Where Are They?

Isaiah 33: 18-19. “Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver: where is he that counted the tower? Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive: of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.”

Isaiah 33:18-19(NIV)

18 In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
    “Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
    Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
19 You will see those arrogant people no more,
    people whose speech is obscure,
    whose language is strange and incomprehensible

The Jews in Judea, when Messiah comes, will think about the horrors they have just come through in the Great Tribulation. The change will be so sudden that they will look around and wonder what has happened to the officials who persecuted them. They will be gone, never to return, and the Jews will at last be free to return to their homeland in peace and safety.

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The Righteous

Isaiah 33:15-17. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil:  He shall dwell on high: his places of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him: his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.”

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These verses answer the question in yesterday’s passage:  “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?  Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”

The answer is clear.  Those who escape will be those who walk, or behave, righteously. After making that statement, Isaiah goes on to be quite specific about exactly what that righteousness looks like.

  1. Speaking uprightly–being honest, being respectful
  2. Despising the oppression of the poor, taking advantage of their need
  3. Refusing to accept bribes
  4. Refusing to listen to talk of murder and bloodshed
  5.  Refusing to observe that which is evil

Those who live in such a manner will have a fortress of rock, which is probably a reference to Petra, where Israel will flee for safety during the final years of the Tribulation.  There, food and water will be plentiful.

The last generation alive on this earth when Messiah comes will see Him with their own eyes. They will see Him in all his power, His glory, His beauty–the beauty of holiness.

They will be permitted to look at any part of their land, even if it is far away, and see that it is finally free of their enemies.

 

Who Will Escape?

Isaiah 33:13-14. “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge My might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”

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People everywhere are commanded to hear and acknowledge God’s acts and power. The passage goes on to name the classes of people to be punished by God:  Sinners in Zion, who are afraid; hypocrites who are surprised with fear of everlasting fire.

Then the question:  Who is going to be able to escape the wrath of God?   The time of reckoning  draws near, and all who have held themselves as above reproach, above sin and its results, above God Himself, will realize that there is no escape for them.

The next few verses will tell us who will escape, though. God always leaves the door of hope open.

 

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Apple of Your Eye

Proverbs 7: 1-2.”My son, keep my words
    and store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
    guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.”

There is an interesting history behind this term, “the apple of your eye.”  My research indicates that in the original Hebrew, the term was actually “the dark center” of the eye, or the pupil.  There is much more about how it has become the expression we use today.

The important thing is that we are to keep God’s Word safely guarded in our minds and hearts; that we are to protect it, and study it, and love it.  When we do,  we will have life. We will find the pleasure and the beauty of life that God intended us to find.

The opposite is also true.  When we  fill up our eyes with things that are contrary to His Word, and those things become the center of our desires and of far more importance than His Word, then  the life of joy in the Lord can flicker and die.

In Psalm 13, a retrospective written by David when he was older about a time when he was young, we see him in utter despair. He is running away from Saul, who wants to kill him. David cries out to God, saying things like, “How long will You forget about me?  How long will You hide your face from me?”

The truth is that God had not forgotten David; nor had He turned His face away.  David had lost sight of God, however.  God was no longer the apple of David’s eye, and when he continues in that Psalm to pray and seek God, then in the last two verses he begins to rejoice again in God’s salvation; he even finds he can once again sing unto the Lord.

When I skip my Bible-reading, or skim over it just to get it done, there is a nearly tangible reduction of joy and peace in my heart.  It doesn’t take long for me to find a moment to pray, seeking forgiveness, and get back on track.

I need God’s Word, just as I need food and water.  Without it, other things can easily become the apple of my eye.

In those things, though, there is very little joy or life.  You’d think I’d have this all figured out and never have a problem staying in the Word, right?  I’m 70, after all, and by now I should know better.

I DO know better.  I just don’t always DO what I KNOW.

Lord, help me to keep Your Word as the apple of my eye.

 

It’s Not Helpful!

I’ve been having a rather lengthy  Facebook conversation with some former students of mine, including one of my sons.  I guess it’s not surprising that it has taken  the form of a blog post in my head, so here it is.

Believers, Christians, often experience awful, horrible, heartbreaking events. Babies die, husbands or wives leave, life-threatening illnesses occur,  violent crime takes away our feelings of safety, value, and belief in God Himself. Severe persecution in some parts of the world  threatens believers every single day, and there is no escape from it.

These hurting people often cry out, “Why?  Why are these things happening?  Where is God?  Why is He allowing this?”  Some will get answers from well-meaning people, but those answers only serve to increase their sense of helplessness and abandonment.

One of those answers, which has become ubiquitous  lately, is,”Well, everything happens for a reason.”  And that is supposed to heal the wounds, soothe the heartache, and remove the grief.

It’s a vague, formless answer that carries very little power to help. In fact, it can create even more hurt because the suffering ones can’t find that elusive reason, and they just don’t understand. It has a sort of  New Age kharmic feel about it, because it is non-specific and indicates a vague faith in. . . . well, I’m really not sure. No person, no god, no ultimate arbiter of life events is mentioned.  Just that somewhere out there sits something or someone who orchestrates terrible events in our lives for some non-specified reason.

It makes no sense to me.

So, why DO bad things happen?

For me, the answer is both simple and complex.  My worldview is biblical.  I believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is holy, just, and sovereign; He is loving, merciful, and gracious. He cannot look on evil, so He provided the only possible perfect sacrifice to cleanse sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, born of a pure, virgin girl who was in the line of King David.  Jesus was the One Whose blood could cleanse sin, and Whose resurrection could provide victory over sin and death. You can read all about Him in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Why did God do all that?  So that we could find salvation and spend eternity with Him, because He loves us.  All of us.

Why doesn’t He, then, protect us from terrible events?

Because it’s not His job to do so. He never said He would.  What He did promise is that He would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us (Psalm 23).  He promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb, 13:5). He promised to be with us to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:20).He never promised to prevent harm; He did promise to help us endure it.

Bad things happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world (Genesis 1-3). Satan is real. Evil is real. Jesus said that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust ( Matt: 5:45).

To accuse God of bringing evil into our lives is to believe the exact opposite of His true character. To demand that God should have prevented whatever happened is to demand that He conform to our wishes.

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for his faith. Near the end of his life, knowing he was facing a painful and horrifying death, he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  He did not complain about all the beatings, the stoning, the shipwreck, the snakebite, the imprisonment.  He accepted it as the price for his preaching the gospel wherever God sent him, and he rejoiced always because he knew God was always with him (Phil 4:4-5).

I know this is longer than my normal posts.  Just one more thing, and I’m done.

Instead of asking “Why,” we would do much better to ask for the what and the how. 

What can I learn from what has happened?  How can I begin to heal, or if necessary, to forgive, and move on from here? How can I use this to learn and grow, and to help someone else who is hurting?  How can I be a channel of blessing, showing the love of God to those around me in spite of the trouble that has beset me?

After all, no one suffered more unjustly than Jesus did.  He was the perfect Man, Who never sinned. Yet God allowed Him “to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Please don’t accuse and blame God for the work of Satan.  Put the blame squarely where it belongs.  Satan’s whole purpose is to destroy all that God loves.  Evil does exist, and it finds all of us to one degree or another.  No one is immune.  God’s job is NOT to prevent all believers from ever suffering harm and evil. It is not His fault that we suffer.

“Everything happens for a reason”  is not helpful. It just makes the sufferer feel more confused, and removes permission for that person to grieve. Instead of saying that, tell the person how sorry your are for his pain, and find some way to be helpful, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

 

Antichrist Judged

Isaiah 33: 10-12. ” Now will I rise, saith the Lord: now will I be exalted: now will I life up Myself. Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble; your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burning of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.”

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The time will come when God has had enough of the arrogance and rebellion of Antichrist and his followers. When He rises and takes His proper position of authority, Antichrist and his armies will be like chaff that blows away in the wind when grain is threshed. They will be devoured by their own breath, burned like thorns that have been gathered when fields are cleared for plowing.

Antichrist will have no power to withstand the  power of the Lord God of Israel, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord God of Hosts.

We too often forget Who He is. Sovereign, holy, omnipotent God. No one has more authority than He; no one can stand against Him when He unleashes his judgment on them for their rebellion against Him.

Antichrist Overstepping

Isaiah 33:7-9. “Behold, their valiant  ones shall cry without; the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.  The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man. The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.”

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There will be no point at all in trying to make peace with Antichrist once he sets out to destroy Israel. He will have spent three and a half years lulling Israel into a sense of safety and trust, and then he will turn on them so ferociously that the earth itself will mourn and languish under his assault.

Antichrist will enter Jerusalem to make it his capital, and anyone who stands in his way will suffer for it. He will establish a reign of terror such as no one has ever seen before, or will see again. All efforts at appeasement will be spurned, for his only aim is the final and total annihilation of Israel.

This is the Time of Jacob’s Trouble;  but judgment is coming for Antichrist and his armies.