Tag Archives: prophecy

Isaiah 1: When It’s All About Me (But Really…It’s Not)

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My husband and another man at our church took our Sunday School class through lessons on the prophets last year. It was (mostly) chronological which I found extremely helpful in placing their prophecies at the correct times in history. Knowing the context opens up our understanding of  the text. For example I learned that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry ran from 739 BC – 681 BC and through four kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). In addition to this, I know that in 722 BC King Shalmanesar V of Assyria attacked Israel and dispersed them into various regions in his kingdom, while also importing other cultures into the northern kingdom (Israel). He mostly speaks to Judah, but still addresses Israel in his prophecies. Interestingly Isaiah was a well educated aristocrat and had access to the king and the royal court. Having this knowledge makes me more aware of certain nuances in the text and provides more meaning behind some of his message.

Now when I read the Bible for my own personal benefit (as in, I’m not reading it to teach to someone else), I like to research the background and then take a long, slow stroll through the text. Sometimes I’ll double back and walk the same path several more times just to make sure I didn’t read it too quickly or miss something. I will underline in different colors (with my new Bible because it is an illustrated Bible), and each color has a purpose (teal for mankind, purple for God, blue for commands, and so on). I will also circle words that are repetitive (Holy One of Israel, Lord of Hosts, a series of I’s and you’s), and I watch for patterns of thought that might meander throughout the entire chapter (burden, sin, evil, fire). I even write main themes for verses and draw pictures if I have a really vivid image in my mind after reading the text (fire). This is how I search the Scriptures. This is how I observe and sift through the details. I’ve been reading Isaiah 1 for a week now if that gives you a clue (and I’m not sure I’m done reading it yet).

Last week, I wrote about the expectant heart when searching the Scriptures. It is approaching the Word with a certain expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak through it and being unwilling to turn back until you have gained a fresh insight. It is bold, and it might border on foolish, but it’s what I do. Sometimes the insights are tiny, and sometimes they are enormous. I’ll take what I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This week as I’ve read through Isaiah 1, I’ve listened for the heart of God for the people of Judah. I’ve listened for Isaiah’s heart as he prophecies to God’s wayward people. And I can’t lie – I heard something for my own heart. No, I don’t mean God audibly spoke to me out of the pages of my new, beautiful, teal Bible. I mean the Spirit provided me with a spiritual perspective that spans the ages. It’s utterly amazing to me that God can use a message written specifically for one group of people at one specific point in history and also speak it into the hearts of His people throughout all time. His Word has life and breath, and it breathes into my life today. Thanks be to God for His Word.

However this Word can break my heart with its raw emotion and dramatic (sometimes gut-wrenching) word pictures. At least that’s where I found myself this week. (taken from ESV)

My people don’t recognize my care for them. (v. 3)

They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. (v. 4)

Then I got to verses 10-15:

10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
    Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

There’s an awful lot of you‘s and your‘s in those verses. It actually disgusted me (and apparently it disgusted God too). How do we get so turned around, thinking that even worship is about us? Of all the things that should always and only be about God, worship is at the top of the list. And yet, Isaiah writes that God is repulsed by the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the gifts, offerings, celebrations, special days, meetings, festivals, and prayers. What makes you think I want this? Well, didn’t you tell us in Your law to do these things? You’ve missed the point of the Law then… 

When have I missed the true intent of God’s commands? When have I made even worship about me? When have I done something for God that was more like a burden than a blessing? That wasn’t actually for Him at all? Stop bringing Me your meaningless giftsI want no more of your fake worship

Yikes. That’s bad news. That’s a heart check right there.

Lord, forgive me when I make my life all about me, myself, and I. Reorient my perspective so that my focus is on You. Help me to learn from these moments so that I don’t also find myself in exile (like Israel and eventually Judah).

 

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Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 3)

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Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Something you must know about the prophets is that many times their prophecies are not placed in chronological order. In addition to this, it is highly unlikely that each oracle they preach came one right after the other. You can expect that they would have had both long and short periods of time in between each prophecy.

So we have no idea when this next passage occurs, but we know it happens! Hosea 3:1 says, The Lord said to me,

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (NIV)

Hosea had made a marriage covenant/vow with Gomer. Gomer had broken her vows and had gone after other lovers, had been an adulteress. Yet God tells His prophet, go get her back! How many times must we forgive, Lord? 70 times 7. How many times must I go back for my unfaithful wife, Lord? Again and again and again.

God is telling Hosea, as many times as she leaves, you go back to get her, because that’s what I would do. Israel had forsaken the covenant with their Husband. They had broken their vows, yet the Lord still loved them.

When one of my sheep wanders from the fold, I leave the 99 to go and get her. Because SHE’S MINE. And I LOVE Her.

Oh and by the way, Hosea, it’s going to cost you, just like it cost me. Hosea 3:2-3

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.”

Gomer has wandered so far that Hosea now has to purchase her for a price! Remember 30 shekels was the price for a slave! The price he pays is debated but here are the notes I found on the amounts.

My ESV footnote says, “A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; a lethech was about 3 bushels or 110 liters.” The NIV footnote says a homer and a lethek together possibly weighed 430 pounds. A homer was valued at 50 shekels of silver according to Lev 27:16.

Regardless of whether or not this was a low or high price, the point is Hosea had to purchase back his wayward wife, Gomer. She’s been redeemed. Bought back.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary says to redeem meant: 1) To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage. 2) To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor. 3) To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

Gomer would hopefully know her worth after being redeemed from her life of sin. We have no idea if she stayed with Hosea because after chapter 3, her name is not mentioned again. But Hosea would send a clear message to his bride – I have purchased you at a great price. You are mine.

He wanted her to be sealed as his bride forever. She would be sealed up, marked as Hosea’s bride, and secured from danger. To seal also has the connotation of being closed, fulfilled, complete.

Do you remember what Gomer’s name meant? COMPLETE.

Did she finally find her worth in God? Could she truly be called complete?

To be sealed meant having your heart imprinted by the One you belong to. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it.

Jesus secured our redemption. (Eph 1:7-8) He purchased us with His blood. (1 Pet 1:18-19) He redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). And He set His seal over our hearts, the Holy Spirit, as a promise of what is to come! (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13-14)

To Him be the glory forever!

Hosea finishes God’s message in v. 4-5

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.

God again reveals the parallel between Hosea’s marriage and God’s marriage to His people because God would do the same to Israel that Hosea had done to Gomer. Just like Gomer who was in “captivity” to her sinful lifestyle and selling her body to her “lovers”, God would send away His people in captivity to a foreign nation.

Verse 4 is simply referring yet again to the exile when they will be without their king, without their way of false worship, and without their false idols. They would leave their promised land and be captives in Assyria. YET the Lord would bring them back. In fact He uses the phrase they shall return and seek the Lord.

The word for return in the Hebrew is Shuwb (shoob) and meant to turn back. Hosea uses this word 21 times throughout his prophecy! He uses it not only of Israel but of the Lord, turning back to Israel or away from His wrath.

In fact in Hosea 14:1-2a, 3a-4 he says,

1 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…

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…”

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.

I love the picture God gives us here of what to do. Return or turn back. In other words: Repent! And when you turn back, take with you words. Repentance involves admitting and agreeing with God about your sins and then turning from them.

He wanted His people to admit their sins, be specific about what they’d done. Tell God, we know Assyria can’t save us, those idols can’t save us, only You, God, can save us.

Then God tells them, I will heal your abandonment of me. I will love you voluntarily. I will not execute my fierce anger against you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be healed from your inclination to wander? This sin in us is a disease that we need to be healed from! It’s a thorn in our flesh. We are in desperate need of treatment to remove the disease, to have the thorn removed. God is going to heal our apostasy, our inclination to sin against Him.

Did God heal Gomer’s unfaithful heart? I don’t know.

Not only will He heal, but He’s also going to love us with an everlasting, unconditional love. His anger will be turned away from us. And it will be placed on His Son. (Rom 5:9 we are saved from God’s wrath through Him!)

I hear the old hymn:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Jesus, the holy God, became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (so that our apostasy would be healed) 2 Cor 5:21.

Jesus came in flesh so that sin could be condemned in the flesh (Rom 8:3).

The thorns found their place on Christ as well, piercing His head in the twisted crown.

Praise God He is coming!

Finally, Hosea mentions David again in this last verse of chapter 3. The children of God would return, seek the Lord, and David their king. They would come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness.

Jeremiah 23:5 tells us,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

That’s my Jesus. He is the Righteous Branch in David’s family tree. Do you see why the people in Jesus’ time would have been so zealous for a king? They had experienced the trial of exile, knowing it had been their turning away from the Lord that had put them there.

They wanted to be a nation that sought the Lord, that feared Him. This is why we see the rise of the Pharisees and all those religious leaders. They truly wanted to know God’s laws so that they never ended up in exile again. But they missed their Messiah. They missed the Righteous Branch.

Even those who knew Jesus and followed Him didn’t understand the kind of King He came to be. He would reign as king and deal wisely. He would execute justice and righteousness in the land. But He did so much more!

He saved them from their spiritual disease, not just their Roman oppressors. He took away their sin problem, not just their political, economic, and social problems! And He brought down the barrier wall, dividing the Jew and Gentile. Thanks be to God, we can be called Children of the Living God.

You must know today that God Loves You and says You are worth His pursuit!

Here are the words from Come Thou Fount:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
mount of God’s redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
hither by Thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for Thy courts above.

 

To view the video, click here.