ISAIAH 58:1– 60:22 and HEBREWS 13:1–25
We can see part of the problem with Israel in the first few verses. They did not see their problem; they had a sense that things were fine. There is the cry of the Lord for the people to be shown their transgressions. I suppose we can state a modern day example by examining the effects of the hyper-grace message. This teaching fails in getting to the root issues in people’s lives. The Spirit of the Lord is crying out today for a people to have an awareness of their sin and transgression. If we seek the Law of the Lord at His mouth, we can be assured that God will get our attention. Sadly, many teach the Law as no longer being relevant in lieu of the new dispensation of grace. The doctrine of Isaiah’s day as well as ours needs to be a doctrine that majors on the truth. When the law is taught properly there is liberty; when the Truth of God’s Word is taught properly there is freedom.
In verses 3-5 we learn some important truths regarding fasting. It comes down to motive; are we fasting to manipulate something from God? Another false motive for fasting is to cover guilt of some hidden sin thinking that our religious zeal and discipline will cover us. There is no denying the importance of fasting in one’s walk with God. There are seasons where the Lord may require the denying of the flesh in some area of our life for the purpose of a greater focus upon Him. Perhaps John the Baptist summed it up best when he said of Jesus; “He must increase, I must decrease”. So then, what is the fast that the Lord requires? He requires a fast that breaks the chains of wickedness and where people turn to righteousness. The Lord goes on to say that a true fast is for the purpose of meeting the need in someone else’s life, to deny self in lieu of another. Once again when undertaking a season of fasting we must examine our motive. When we are praying and fasting on behalf of another or on behalf of a nation we are placing our own needs on the altar so that the needs of others can be met. The Lord rewards those who are disciplined in the area of true fasting and prayer.
The blessings of serving the Lord with this kind of heart are seen in verses 8-9. These verses can be read alongside Jer 33:3-6. These verses speak of health and cure that serves as the portion that God has for His people. In addition, there are the blessings of calling upon the Lord in righteousness. These promises came to Jeremiah while he was in prison for a 2nd time. These promises are costly but well worth the price. I think the verses referred to in Jeremiah help to give a greater perspective to Isaiah’s prophesy. The Lord will allow the light of those who seek Him in this manner to rise in the midst of obscurity. This will be especially true in times of darkness and turbulence which is soon to come to the earth. Isaiah will pick up on this theme in chapter 60. There are then beautiful promises given to God’s people that radiate in times of darkness and judgement. He will give guidance when all others are wandering, He will satisfy the longing soul which reflects one of the promises from the Feast of Tabernacles, and he will provide food in the time of drought. This might not sound like much today when food is in such ample supply but think what it would be like if grocery shelves were cleared out without any restocking. God can preserve His own in the midst of darkness and obscurity. There are a few other added blessings like being a well-watered garden which speaks of the fruits of the Lord in abundance.
There is the wonderful thought of Restoration that is conveyed in verse 12. One of the feasts of the last days is that of Restoration; a feast where the Lord reconciles people and things that have been broken apart. The ultimate act of restoration was when Jesus died upon the Cross. That act paved the way for healing and restoration to be realized in homes and in one’s relationship with God. There also has to be a Restoration of Truth that comes back into the church. There are great promises given by the Lord in verse 14 however it is conditional in fulfilling the requirements of verse 13. Some of these include: Keeping the Sabbath Holy and for the Lord, to delight in the Sabbath by being joyful in His presence. The people of God are to speak respectfully of their ministers seeing that they have a call as ministers upon their lives. We are to honor the Lord at all times as well as seeking to walk in His ways and not ours. God is providing the opportunity for us and them to be more than conquerors but it is predicated on serving Him with a clean and upright heart, making sure that our motives are not self-seeking.
The Lord speaks to Israel and makes clear that He is well able to save them and well able to hear their cry but due to their sin they have become distanced. The greatest wall of separation between God and man is sin. If we maintain sin and do not allow God to deal with issues it will affect our ability to become intimate with Him. It will prevent us from hearing His voice while being led into the ways of His righteousness. If we do not separate from sin our heart has the potential of becoming fertile ground for the enemy’s tactics. This is what happened to Judas at the time of the last supper (John 13:2). He walked with the Lord, heard His teachings but yet remained a thief due to his covetous heart. Satan was then able to plant within the heart of Judas the seeds of betrayal. This goes back to the opening verses in Isa 58 where the Lord was pleading for someone to declare Israel’s iniquity and transgressions.
The prophet goes on to declare on behalf of the Lord about 10 different indictments of Israel in verses 3-8.
These sins can be summarized below:
1) They were guilty of shedding innocent blood
2) They were liars
3) Spoke of doing wickedness on a continual basis
4) Did not seek after true justice
5) No love for the Truth
6) They put their trust in idols
7) They did not cease in doing evil
8) Committed acts of violence
9) They were wasters and destroyers of things that were good
10) They did not know the way of peace nor could they show the way of peace
We may note that several items mentioned above are violations of some of the qualifications for ruling and reigning upon Mt. Zion (Isa 15, 24).
The Israelites come to understand the reasons why they are wandering in darkness while justice is proving to be elusive. Their sins have separated them from God and they know it (vs 9). We find in verse 10 a most sobering warning and caution for us. Israel had no ability to hear from the Lord; He was silent and not responding to their pleas. This was true when the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. Imagine the horror of once knowing the way and walking with God only to then come to a place where you become spiritually blind. What would be evidence of such a dilemma today? Is it possible that some of the excesses of conferences and conventions may in fact be an indicator that people are searching? Is it possible that people who are excessively dependent upon receiving prophetic words have lost the ability in hearing from God on their own? In verses 11-13 Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, further identifies the reasons why they have become separated from the Lord. If one has known the Lord, they will come to the place of recognizing that the anointing has been lost. There is no longer the intimacy of communion that was once had with the Lord. Saul was one who knew God but lost the anointing due to his disobedience. He then took issue with David who had the anointing and the heart for God and for Zion. This will be seen in the church of the last days as well. Those who have the vision of Zion and seek to dwell in that holy hill will be opposed by those who choose not to pay the price. Their lack of commitment will be exposed by those who seek to go on. This was the challenge that Moses came to know when challenged on the message of holiness. There were leaders in his ranks (Dathan, Korah and Abihu) who compromised and took the position that all men were holy; they were not.
In verse 15 we see the fruits of when Truth is diminished or redefined. When the truth of God’s Word becomes redefined it will ensure that justice will not be done. Now, more than ever the people of God must come to the place of loving and embracing Truth. It must begin with us in acknowledging the Truth of who we are. It is the Word of God that can cut to the chase if we allow it to do its work.
The Lord may be patient for a time in the midst of man’s iniquity but there comes the time when He puts on the breastplate of righteousness in addition to the garments of vengeance. The Lord gives us the opportunity here and now to be clothed with His righteousness and spiritual garments. There will come a time when each of us will give an account before His throne. How much better it is to take advantage and seek after Him now.
Zep 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.
In verse 19 the Lord gives the promise as to how He will defend against the enemy when he rises up like an unstoppable flood against His people. Those who seek to uphold and magnify God’s Law and Standard will be in a position to stop the enemy in his tracks. This is what both Ezra and Nehemiah were able to do. The enemy had free reign throughout the broken down city of Jerusalem until God appointed the Restorers of the breech to begin the rebuilding work. They were opposed in the work but God stood by them because they refortified the walls based on God’s precepts (See Nehemiah 3). This is the only remedy against the wiles of the enemy. If we compromise or do church in the arena of redefined truth the enemy will still prevail. It is the adhering to and upholding of the Law of God that effectively brings repair to the breech. In verses 20-21 there is the promise of the Lord making a covenant whereby his Spirit and Word will never depart from both His natural and spiritual seed. This is the hope and promise to Israel that will come in to place at the time of the 2nd coming.
The glory of the Lord that shall arise has several applications. It speaks of the Lord’s return when Israel shall be restored to the Lord. It is also inclusive of the worldwide church and what it can look forward to in the last days. There have been powerful demonstrations of the glory of the Lord throughout scripture. The glory that came upon Solomon’s temple was so strong that the priests could not even stand. There is the promise of the soon coming glory upon the latter day house that shall exceed anything that was formerly seen (Hag 2:7-9). The Glory of the Lord is one of the characteristics of the Feast of Tabernacles which is but yet another blessing to look forward to. In verse 2 we see the exact opposite as God’s glory is contrasted with gross darkness. Perhaps the Old Testament example of Egypt pursuing Israel at the Red Sea is an example of what is referred to here. Egypt represented darkness and it was at a time when their cup of iniquity was at its ripeness. You then had Israel covered by the glory cloud which separated them from Egypt (Exo 14:19-20). In the last days there will be great glory and revival that may well be simultaneous with the gross darkness and evil that will be seen upon the earth. We need to press into God now and seek His mercies that we may be prepared for that which is before us. The parable of the 10 virgins is a significant key in understanding this truth. The wise were prepared, they paid a price (Math 25:9). The foolish were indifferent and not in tune with what the Lord was speaking, they were not vigilant nor watchful. It is time to dig ditches (2 Kings 3:18) and be like the ant who prepared during the summer before the winter season arrived (Pro 6:6).
One of the blessings of the demonstration of God’s glory is the witness it will provide to men. In the midst of darkness, the light shines and it will be one of the means to help bring in an end time harvest to the Lord. One of the characteristics that will be seen in this revival to come is the unity that will exist amongst churches and leaders. The Outpouring of the Spirit of God crosses over denominations and barriers that tend to segregate the body of Christ. This was seen during the charismatic movement in the 60’s and 70’s. There is a beautiful truth that is expressed in verses 6-7 regarding the flocks of Kedar. This speaks of a blessing to Ishmael which seems to infer an outpouring of God’s Spirit to the Moslem nations. The revered prophet of Islam can trace his lineage to the 2nd son of Kedar. This gives strong indication that in the last days there will be many of Islam who will come to know Jesus.
There are other nations that shall come from afar to Jerusalem during the time of the millennium. In reading through these verses I am reminded of the sojourn of the Queen of Sheba in the early days of King Solomon’s reign. In verse 10 several of the nations that were once enemies to Israel will be involved in the rebuilding of their walls. God moved in judgement against these nations in times past but many will find favor with God during this period in the millennium. In verses 11-17 the Lord then moves to the time of the New Heavens and New Earth where the gates will be continually opened. This is also referenced in Rev 21:25. What a wonderful hope and promise that God is bringing to Israel; it is a promise to future heathen nations as well. This is the heart and extent of God’s heart in His desire to restore. This is another picture of what was accomplished at the Cross; the forgiveness of sin and the ability to restore man and elements of the world to the uttermost (Heb 7:25).
In verse 18 there is the promise of no more violence that will be heard in the streets. This is a far cry from what we see today in the world where lawlessness abounds everywhere. What is seen today is but a tip of the iceberg if the Bible’s description is any indicator. The people of God long for peace and tranquillity but it’s proving to be more elusive in the midst of today’s politically charged climate. What a day of rejoicing it will be when all violence, strife and unrest are removed. It is understandable that the surrounding walls would be called Salvation and Praise.
In verses 19-22 the prophet moves between the time of the Millennium and the New Heaven and the New Earth. In verse 19 the New City is spoken of seeing that it will be the light of the Lord that will enlighten the city. Oh the glory! During the millennial reign of Christ there will be righteousness that will prevail with mourning and sorrow being removed. There will also be a new strength that will come upon the people of God where a little one shall become like a thousand. There is suffering and hardships that are all too real in this life but how miniscule they seem in light of what is God is preparing. I guess this is what Paul meant when he wrote the following:
2Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
This chapter opens with the exhortation to continue in brotherly love. The key word in this verse is the word continue. It suggests the need in having an onward vision; something to continually press forward into. The familiar verse from Pro 29:18 speaks of having a forward or progressive vision. If this is not part of our nature, we can tend to dwell carelessly. David came to a point of where he momentarily lost vision and purpose which resulted in being careless in the matter of Bathsheba. The Bible also makes clear that we are to continue in His Word (John 8:31). Most Christians can cite this verse from memory (you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free) but few know the preceding verses which must be implemented. It is the “continuing” in His Word that will result in true liberty.
In verse 2 there is the exhortation to be hospitable in our Christian service. If this is our attitude we will be ready if there happens to be angelic visitations that we do not know about. One never knows when you may be entertaining an angelic guest. We can trust the Lord to give discernment in being sure to not engage (spiritual visitors) those who are not of God. Our ability to discern will be contingent of our feeding and continuing in the Word of God (Isa 7:15). Paul instructs the brethren to pray for and remember those who are in bonds. The Christian community is suffering in many places around the world today; are we touched with their suffering? Do we find ourselves interceding on their behalf? It may help to try and put yourself in their position and think what it would be like. It may help us to be more sensitive to their need.
It is God who instituted marriage and it is honorable to those who live in accordance to its covenant. God will severely judge those involved in adultery or who break the marriage covenant through divorce. This is one of the major plagues in both the world and the church and sadly the church is dividing based on the respective doctrinal positons taken. In verse 6 we are not to fear man and to always be mindful that it is God who is in control. The subject of respect for authority in the church is addressed in verse 7. The ministry is given of God therefore in honouring and serving leadership we are in fact honouring God’s appointed leader. The basis of our Christian faith is that we know that Jesus is eternal; the same yesterday, today and forever. We serve a living God who has conquered the grave and because of this we have the hope and joy of eternal life.
Paul puts emphasis on not being swayed by all the different teachings and doctrines that exist in the church (vs 9). God wants stability in His people and one can come into such stability by studying, embracing and applying the Truth. In the last day’s man will respond and make decisions based on what is in his heart. If our heart has not been wholly given to God, it will be drawn and turned aside down a contrary stream. There is an interesting truth in verses 12-13 that speaks of Christ who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem. What does this mean? For us it speaks of time when we too may be outside the camp. There may be times when the church may ostracize you because of a stand you take for righteousness. As mentioned above the church in the last days is going to separate and it will be over doctrinal issues where much of this distinction will come to pass.
In verse 17 Paul reminds again of the need to submit to rulers who have spiritual oversight over one’s life. It is good to practice loyalty to those who are over us because it will help to foster loyalty to your future leadership. In other words, loyalty breeds loyalty. Paul asked for prayer that he would have a good conscience in his service to the Lord. It speaks of the humility that helped to characterize the life of the Apostle Paul. It is a fitting prayer that he requests of his audience after the depth and scope of truth that was conveyed in this letter. It is because of Paul’s awareness of who he was in light of God’s grace that enabled him to be vested with such treasure of insight. The ability to take Old Testament types and patterns and apply them to New Covenant reality is no small feat; it can only be done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirt through a vessel who was wholly submitted to God. The Apostle Paul was a man born out of time and he sets the standard of the manner of men and women that we need to be.