ISAIAH 28:1 – 30:33 and HEBREWS 5:1–14
The attention of the prophet is now upon Ephraim, the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom. The Words that come forth is a strong rebuke against a nation that has totally perverted the purposes of God. It is here where the cup of iniquity has become ripe against a portion of the Lord’s beloved Israel that can all be traced to the sins of Solomon. In Solomon’s latter years he allowed his heart to become defiled with other gods due to the taking on of many foreign wives. This paved the way for the sins later seen in his son Rehoboam who became the 1st king of Judah of the divided kingdom. The harsh counsel he gave prompted Jeroboam to separate and take 10 of the tribes’ north into Samaria. Jeroboam then instituted his own altars at Bethel instead of coming annually to Jerusalem for fear of losing the grip upon his kingdom. He then hired priests that were base and not of the Levites to perform the priestly functions. In other words, they totally redefined church.
The fruits of this abomination are now pronounced in the judgements given in the first 8 verses. Though we do see God’s ultimate intention of restoring Israel in the end there is the outpouring of significant woes due to their abominable sins. Their priests and prophets have no ability to discern or guide the people. The entire reign of the kings of the northern territories was corrupt with the likes of Ahab and Jezebel. It is sobering and scary to consider how a godly king (Jehoshaphat) could link with the evilest of the northern kings. The link resulted in a marriage which opened a significant door to the enemy which nearly destroyed the royal lineage of Judah (2 Kings 11). I bring this up to remind of the dangers that exist in the church today. Has a portion of the modern church been redefined along the lines of what was seen in the northern kingdom? Is there compromise and alliances in today’s modern churches that parallel what Jehoshaphat made with Ahab? To me it is very clear to see; Jehoshaphat was a good king and yet on several occasions made such alliances. Once again it speaks of the need for a true priest to come on the scene to help direct and temper the kingly rule. We thank the Lord for priests like Jehoiada and his wife who intervened and spared the royal line. We thank the Lord for priests like Phineas who intervened during the devious prophetic ministry of Balaam who tempered the anger and wrath of God (Num 25). Make no mistake; the time is at hand for priests like Ezra and Joshua to emerge to help take forward true royal rule. Let’s be reminded and learn from these extreme judgements so that we avoid alliances that may jeopardize the work of the church and our personal lives.
In verse 9-13 we see keys to growth in our spiritual walk. It is God’s intention for us to grow in His knowledge. How is this realized? It is a progressive growth in much the same way a baby is fed and grown in the natural. There is a dependency that a child has in being fed and nurtured. There comes a time when a weaning takes place so that growth can be achieved on one’s own. This requires a choice and determination in order to know such growth. Spiritually, many do not make this transition but rather choose to be spoon fed in their Christian walk. It is easier to remain dependent and stay within the nest or our comfort zone. This runs contrary to the laws of nature. A young bird comes to the point where the mother provokes her out of the nest so that the bird can learn to fly. The animal kingdom demonstrates how the young come to the place of learning how to survive on its own. It is true in our lives as well but why is it such a problem in the kingdom of God? Isaiah makes clear that the instruction and knowledge of God is imparted one step at a time; precept upon precept in a gradual growth process. In verse 11 he speaks of stammering lips which refers to the future gift of speaking in other tongues which will be given at Pentecost (Acts 2). As believers today we can help accelerate our growth in God by speaking in other tongues. This gift edifies and builds up the believer. It allows for the Holy Spirit to have a freedom in teaching and guiding His host further in the things of God. If we continue in this growth process, we can enter the benefits of God’s Rest as seen in verse 12. It is here where a believer comes to know the enabling power of God that will carry him or her into greater heights in God. These truths mirror beautifully with Paul’s letter to the Hebrews in chapter 4. Isaiah is speaking of that great refreshing that will come to the church at Pentecost. Is it not amazing the prophetic range in which Isaiah is prophesying? It would be good to read Isa 28 alongside Hebrews 4.
Though the sins of Israel are extreme the Lord makes clear that their covenant with death can be disannulled (vs 18). The key is understanding verses 16-17. The promise and truths concerning Zion are expressed in these two verses. The Lord is the chief Cornerstone and foundation of the church. Everything measured to Christ will stand and flourish. This is the standard that God is calling us to live by both as individuals and as a church. This is provided that we are a people who pursue and seek to live according to the standards of Zion. Remember earlier in Isa 2 where we looked at the mountain of the Lord? It speaks of the Law going forth out of Zion. The Law of God is located in the Ark of God which is placed within the Holy of Holies of Moses Tabernacle. This is why we must never settle for compromise. Every work will be tested; the plummet will be applied to our lives and our churches to see how we measure up. The abominable practices seen in Samaria can be countered by the upholding of Zion’s standards. This is why the vision of Zion is so significant. It is not only the dwelling place that the Lord has chosen but it represents the standard that we should live by. This chapter is presenting extreme contrasts; having the sins of Samaria on one hand and the standards of God as seen in Zion on the other. We are called to Zion and there should be no settling for anything less.
So far we have seen God’s intent in wanting His people to grow one step at a time (precept upon precept) as well as uphold the standards of Zion seeing that the plumb line will be applied to our lives. There is one other area that Isaiah seeks to address that will help us in this endeavour and it centers on our calling and purpose. It is God that gives wisdom and instruction to a farmer to know how to perform his craft (vs 23-29). He not only gives wisdom and instruction in these areas He also gives the pleasure and joy in performing these tasks. This is a promise where I feel the Lord is placing an increased emphasis upon today. It is His desire for us to come into that place of discovery as to who we are and what we are called to do. He is our creator and He has made us with a plan in mind. He gives the resources to do our earthly task and the pleasure in being able to do it. One of the greatest tactics of the enemy is to try and define who we are by worldly criterion. This results in frustration and emptiness and it takes us off course in being able to come into that place of discovery. This chapter in Isaiah covers considerable ground in helping today’s believer to gain perspective and instruct in how one can hit the mark for their life. Let’s look to the Holy Spirit as He further breathes upon these passages and make them applicable for today.
In the previous chapter it was Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel that came under the judgments of God for its many sins. Now it is the city of Jerusalem as denoted by Ariel that God is addressing through the prophet. There were sacrifices that were offered in Ariel but it must always be remembered that obedience is better than sacrifices (1 Sam 15:22). The name Ariel means “lion of God” which refers to Judah. It also has the meaning “hearing”. It is not enough to sacrifice unto the Lord but there needs to be a hearing and doing what God is saying.
In verse 3 Isaiah speaks of the Assyrian assault that will soon come upon them followed by the Babylonians which will result in their captivity. They will experience a loss of strength and spirit as the Assyrians close in upon them. God will miraculously deliver Judah from the Assyrians under King Hezekiah but will later succumb in totality to the Babylonians. The Lord then quickly moves to the judgements that will come upon those who afflict Jerusalem. It will be God who will raise up these enemies to judge His own but the time will come when He answers them for their wickedness.
In verses 7-8 we have another dual application. This scenario will be similar to what happens to the Assyrians when they move against Judah. They will go to sleep one night with full power and authority over Judah only to awaken in the morning as dead corpses. This will be similar to what will take place at the time of the Lord’s return (Zech 14:12). Here again we come to appreciate the comprehensive scope of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. He is not just prophesying about a specific time frame or event but also prophesying concerning multiple nations, including his own. The Lord does not give this kind of anointing or gift to any person. Isaiah was a trusted vessel who had proven himself faithful to bear such a message. Such a prophet must have a working understanding of life and people in order to speak with great accuracy and authority. He seems to have a message that covers all of the bases.
Isaiah’s insights and clarity as a prophet is in stark contrast to Israel itself as seen in verses 9-12. Sure, Israel had other prophets but they were given over to slumber as are the people as a whole. The books were closed and the resulting blindness not only affected them in Isaiah’s day but still remains to this day. This is true of Israel but it also can be said concerning much of the church. When you compare the nation of Israel then and the state of the world today you see sobering similarities. The mocking of the things of God accompanied by prevalent sin is putting us on a collision course with the Living God.
Amo 4:12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
Jesus quotes verse 13 in the Gospels (Math 15:8-9). There was no longer a fear of God or reverence for His name. The relationship was ritualistic with a more going through the motions kind of relationship to God. Sadly, this casual and indifferent relationship remains a constant in much of our Christianity. We need the anointing of the Fear of the Lord to move upon the saints once again. The eventual fruit of serving the Lord on a casual basis will lead one down a road of wrong choices and errors in judgement. God looks at the heart of man and will eventually answer him accordingly. This is why we need to give our hearts to the Lord; to open wide our hearts and allow Him to address the hidden areas so that there is a purity that connects with God and His ways. The “little foxes” and uncircumcised areas of the heart will one day be our undoing if we do not present our hearts in its fullness before Him (vs 15-16).
The Lord is clear in the judgements that will come forth but He is equally clear in His promise of Restoration. This is the Hope that the captives will carry in their season in Babylon. Though things are barren and lifeless there is the promise that there will be an awakening onto fruitfulness (vs 17-19). This will include the resurrecting of the Word and increase of joy upon the people. This did take place at the time of the Restoration era under Ezra, Nehemiah and the restorers and will apply at the time of the 2nd coming. The enemies that have come against Israel will be judged and removed followed by a promise of great restoration and joy. Can we see the parallels that Isaiah is able to draw between the Israel of the Old Testament and the Israel of today? As we see the nations and the majority of the world turning against Israel in these last days let us learn to rest in what God’s Word says. There will be restoration and the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham back in Genesis concerning Israel. At the same time, we need to fully understand the significant judgements that will yet come upon Jerusalem in the lead-up to the 2nd coming. This will be especially seen in the midst of the 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period. The last place to be at that time will be in Jerusalem. Still, in the end they will look upon the hands whom they have pierced and will be restored again to their king. Let us watch events closely in this hour and understand what God’s Word says concerning Israel and the church.
This is an indictment against Israel of old but also for us today concerning whom we take counsel and advice from. It is important as to whom we go to for spiritual advice. It is also important to take note of who our spiritual covering is over our lives and our respective churches. How many examples do we see in the scriptures where leaders have sought the help of men instead of God? Remember King Asa who after 35 years of a very successful rule began to seek man in his later years instead of God? Are we capable of doing the same thing today? The truth concerning the respective coverings dates back to the garden in Genesis 3. Immediately after Adam sinned he sought to cover his transgression by way of fig leaves (Gen 3:7). This was man-made and did nothing to atone for his transgression. Later in the same chapter God placed His covering of animal skins over Adam which was figurative of Christ who represented the true and acceptable covering. As we approach the last days it is vitally important to consider whom we are aligned with and to ensure that we are under God’s protective covering. The words of Zephaniah keep resonating over and over; “seek meekness and righteousness” which represents acceptable coverings that God is calling us to be under.
In this case Hezekiah and Judah looked to the covering of Egypt to protect them from the Assyrian onslaught. This effort is what caused Rabshakeh (Sennacherib’s mouthpiece) to mock and disdain Judah. The Assyrians were an unstoppable force and there was no recourse in the natural for anyone who sought to withstand them. God allowed this humiliation to escalate for the purpose of being able to show Himself strong on their behalf. We will see later that Israel failed to learn this lesson as they will again seek after the help of Egypt at the time of the Babylonian siege. Hezekiah was a righteous king but he had to learn a valuable lesson the hard way. Whom do we seek after in our time of need (vs 3-7)?
In verses 8-9 there is the sobering reminder of Israel’s refusal to hear and uphold God’s law. This did not have to be the case; if only they would have heard and responded to the prophets. There comes a time when God will make an eternal mark, even if we do later come into a place of forgiveness. The sin of David was forgiven but it is also recorded and known. We have so many examples and lessons to draw from through the years of Biblical history. May God help us to pay good heed and learn from them.
The primary problem with Israel was the condition of their heart. They opted for easier teachings and doctrines based on the uncircumcised areas of their heart. Our hearts must be kept tender and sensitive to the things of God. Israel chose instead to give ear to perverseness and oppression as opposed to hearing the Word of the Lord. The Lord was exhorting them to be patient, to be still and in a posture of seeking Him for direction and guidance. This is the danger of restlessness in the spirit. If we are constantly in motion and fail to make time to be still in God’s presence, we will fall short in our ability to enter into His Rest.
In verse 16 Israel spoke of fleeing on their horses and being swift in their business and so they did. This is a danger today in our fast paced way of life. We can be engaged in many noble pursuits but never come to the place of knowing His Rest and being able to hear His voice. The blessings of being in this posture of waiting are seen in verse 18. The Lord will be gracious; he will pour forth His mercy while exalting His own. He will vindicate and judge righteously their cause. We see some of the beautiful truths concerning Zion as it will be a place where teachers will share that which is on God’s heart to the people. This is the place the church needs to enter into today. On one hand you have Israel striving and restless in their various pursuits; they are trusting in Egypt instead of their God. In contrast to this the Lord is calling his people to a place of waiting and seeking his voice and guidance. Let’s be sure to make a modern day application to these two extremes because they are relevant. The Rest of God is for today and it is a season that is coming upon the church. Do we sense it? Are we learning to be still, learning to find time to worship and be at His feet? If we seek the Lord in this way, we will experience the fruits of this well-known verse:
Isa 30:21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
I fear sometimes that we may be involved in some sort of Christian work or ministry and by all accounts be doing the will of God. There can be tangible fruit that is showcased as evidence and yet the question is asked, is this really God’s will? It is only from a position of Rest, not restlessness where God’s true intent can be discerned. Just because one may be always at work doing something for God does not automatically imply that it is the will of God. We need to be still, and hear that voice speaking through the midst of busyness to help ensure we are on course. This chapter began by referring to a false covering that is not of the Spirit of God. Israel sought the covering of Egypt as a protection against the Assyrians. The chapter proceeds to then speak of another covering that not only plagued Israel of old but applies to the church today. It is the covering of restlessness where busyness can serve as a cover-up in allowing the Lord to speak that which is upon his heart. There can be a real difference between doing things for God and doing the will of God. The distinction can only be known by entering into a position of Rest. We will see later where King Hezekiah learns this lesson as he seeks out the prophet Isaiah concerning what to do against the Assyrians. It will be from a position of rest where Israel will come to know its great victory. May the Lord help for us to personalize these truths.
Paul is now going to demonstrate that Christ is greater than Aaron, the high priest. How can we best define a true priest? First, he is one who knows God, His ways and His heart and thus makes them known unto man. This is clearly seen in the example of Moses when He had a revelation of many facets of His character (Exo 34:6). Secondly, a true priest is one who identifies with a people, their needs and their sins bringing them to God on their behalf. There must be the fulfilment of the first aspect of a priest before the 2nd one can be realized. It is a process and it takes time in being the manner of vessel who can know God in such an intimate way. This is why there are few true priests in the church today. The cry of Moses needs to grip each of our hearts where he longed to be shown His Glory and His ways (Exo 33:13, 18). This is one of the reasons why Moses is depicted as one of the two Witnesses that will again come to the earth in the last days. This is the definition of a true priest so with this in mind let’s apply this to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord did not just step into this earth and become the compassionate priest that enabled Him to intercede for all of mankind. He had to endure a process that prepared Him while enlarging His capacities to function as a true priest. The majority of His earthly existence is hidden from view as expressed in Isa 49:2. This process is required for the true priesthood of our day but the question is whether one will pay the price or not. We do not like fiery trials or discomfort yet these are prerequisites to the priesthood of believers. We are called to be kings and priests; it is a process in which we can be made into such vessels.
The call to the ministry (5-fold) is not something that can be presumed, it is an office that is God given. Each of us has a call, each of us has the opportunity to become kings and priests but the office of a minister is different and can only be given by God. There is considerable presumption in the body of Christ today; this is especially seen in the prophetic realm. We are called to seek after prophecy but not all are called to be prophets. In verses 5-6 we see the humility of Christ in that He did not presume Himself into the position of high priest but received this office from His Father (Psa 110:4). He was the beloved Son after the order of Melchizedec. We see the formation of Christ’s calling to be a high priest in verses 7-9. As stated earlier he had to endure a process. He even had to suffer so that He could learn obedience to the will of His Father, especially as He drew nearer to the Cross. These years of preparation were no doubt filled with many tears and sorrows. We do not read or know about these 18 years but suffice it to say they were years of polishing and qualifying for His ministry as the great High Priest. We can glean a similar example through the life of Joseph. He was being prepared for a certain day and hour but the lead up to that time was filled with great suffering and uncertainty. What was the key in Joseph’s ability to endure those years? It was the blessings of the known Word at that time.
Psa 105:19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.
The key in our ability to endure and overcome is also found in God’s Word. It has the means to cleanse and prepare us for the work and ministry that God has placed before us. Paul again returns to the theme of Melchizedec in verses 10-11 but is frustrated due to their being dull in hearing and understanding these significant truths. He will pick up the theme of Melchizedec again a bit later on. He admonishes them in verses 12-14 as yet being spiritual babes in the things of God. They had no ability to chew on and digest “meat” that would strengthen them and aid them in their discernment and walk. He is seeking to demonstrate that Christ, whom they rejected is actually a greater high priest than Aaron whom they currently recognized. Christ represented a greater covenant. Aaron and the priesthood that came forth were recognized by genealogy while Christ’s originated from the Father. Aaron’s ministry ceased at death while Christ represents an everlasting priesthood. Those who came forth from Aaron could not become kings while Christ represents both kings and priests that the church is called to in the new Covenant. King David was an exception due to his life being such a vivid sign and type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the weaknesses seen today is in the area of solid teaching. This is what helps to bring a church into maturity. Programs, seminars etc have their place but never as a substitute for the teaching of good doctrine. It is sad in seeing how the Word of God is becoming minimized in much of today’s Christianity. We tend to settle more for supernatural experiences as opposed to good Biblical exegesis. These trends better change and change quickly otherwise the church will be ill-equipped to meet the demands of what is coming.