Man of Sorrows – Isaiah 53 – part 2

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man-of-sorrowsThe prophet continues to point the way to a future Messiah in chapter 53 by telling us that He will sprout up “like a tender shoot” that has “taken root out of dry ground (vs 2).  This is poetic language used to describe what has already been declared by Isaiah in other sections of his writings.

“And there shall come forth a Shoot out of the stock of Jesse [David’s father], and a Branch out of his roots shall grow and 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 of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord” – Isaiah 11:1-2

The prophet has been sending this message to Israel for quite some time now.  There will be a Savior born who will come and destroy the enemies of God, yet this Savior will not come the first time as a warrior – but as a “tender shoot”.  Isaiah is telling them that the Messiah will come as a baby – born right out of the “dry ground” – which is Israel.  It is language like this which probably played a hand in the Israelites missing the significance of this prophecy.  The LAST thing they pictured themselves as is “dry ground”!  Their religious eyes were lying to them and convincing them that they were honoring God by their works.  They were deceived. The Messiah would not be coming as a Conquering King the first time around.  He would not ride in like the cavalry and save them as they imagined.  Instead He will come in the least expected manner and save them internally first.

Next, the prophet calls Him a “Man of Sorrows” and “familiar with suffering” (vs 3).  The reason Isaiah refers to the Messiah as a “man of Sorrows” is NOT because He possessed any sorrow – but because we did!  This man would literally take our sorrows upon His own back and carried them (vs 4).  He was familiar with suffering because He would literally take up (or bear) our sufferings (vs 4).

Sorrowmakob“grief, anguish, pain, affliction, sorrow”

Sufferingscholily“grief, disease, sickness”

 Despite how obvious that the meaning of the original Hebrew for “sufferings” is “sicknesses” – there are unfortunately millions of ill-informed Christians who do not believe this refers to physical healing.  This, despite the fact that Matthew quotes Isaiah in his gospel and inserts the Greek word nosos which means “sickness, disease” as proof that Jesus was the awaited Messiah as He went about healing all the sick (Matt 8:16-17).

My friends, Jesus is the Messiah the prophet was speaking about.  He was born as a baby (tender shoot) and grew up within the Israelite people (dry ground).  He would take our sorrows, afflictions, sicknesses, grief, pain upon Himself when He went to the cross.  Three days later He would rise from the dead – forever defeating death and all that He carried to the grave!  You and I no longer are forced to be subjected to whatever happens in life.  We are no longer under the curse of pain, affliction, anguish, disease, sickness, grief.  You and I are free because of Jesus!

Believe that… and live!

Be fruitful & multiply,

PK

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Isaiah 53 – part 1

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Isaiah 53.1Throughout the past few chapters, Isaiah has been speaking prophetically about the coming Messiah – who would rise to Israel’s aid and destroy her enemies at the end of the age.  This was a glimpse into the future that most Jewish people throughout history have clung to in times of desperation.  The hope that one day the Messiah will come and correct the injustices done to God’s people was constantly before them – spurring them on.  Yet, what many (most) of the Israelites failed to understand was exactly “how” the Messiah would do these things.  While most accurately interpreted Isaiahs prophecies as the Messiah coming in power and might – they missed the alternate description of this same Messiah coming as a suffering servant, as described in chapters 52-53.

The end of Isaiah 52 and the whole of 53 could easily be described as the heart of the OT for Christians.  While meant to offer hope and perspective for God’s people, it has instead been the source of controversy for generations.  Somehow this vital imagery of the Messiah as a servant went unnoticed by the Jewish leaders throughout the inter-testimonial period (between Malachi and Matthew) and right up through Jesus day.  There are a myriad of reasons for this – but the main one is the seemingly incompatible drawing of the Messiah as both conquering King and suffering Servant.  The Messiah coming as a victorious executor of God’s wrath is understandable – but to be punished and suffer at the hands of men is a shocking insult to God Himself.

Ironically – it is this “shock” which Isaiah explicitly speaks of at the end of chapter 52.  In vs 13 he presents the coming Messiah as one that “many were appalled at” due to His “appearance being so disfigured beyond that of any man”.  In hindsight we can easily contribute this to the beatings inflicted upon Jesus as documented in the Gospels – yet for 1000 years people did not have the luxury of hindsight which we have today.

The word appalled is the Hebrew word “shamem” and it means to be “numb with shock; or amazed”.  Isaiah is prophetically seeing the act the Messiah being so abused that His outward appearance would no longer resemble that of a normal man (vs 14). He would suffer so brutally that even the most hardhearted men would shudder in shock at such mistreatment.  He would become so disfigured by the treatment of His enemies that men would be stricken with amazement and shock at what they saw.

Verse 15 then explains why this must happen: “so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him”.  Sprinkle is the Hebrew “nazah” and it refers to the sprinkling of blood upon the altar for the cleansing of sin as described throughout Leviticus.  The actual picture is the cultural act of a host sprinkling his guests with perfume water out of a silver sprinkler when they arrive for a feast at his home.  The word is purposefully used because Isaiah is attributing this disfigurement of the Messiah as a powerful act.  Many nations will be blessed with salvation due to the willing suffering of this coming Messiah/Servant.  As well, Kings will stand in jaw-dropping amazement when they fully understand what has happened.

Paul later quotes this very same passage in Romans 15:21 when speaking of his calling to share this good news to the entire world.

 

Be fruitful & multiply,

PK

Understanding the Prophets

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Understanding the ProphetsThe prophetic book of Isaiah is divided up into 3 main sections of prophetic visions:  Chapters 1-35 are one section and chapters 40-66 are a second group of visions.  In the middle (as a sort of interlude) we are retold the history of the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, king of Assyria; the account of the Lord defeating Assyria and protecting Judah; the sickness and recovery of King Hezekiah; along with his many mistakes.  This is a rehashing of the account previously recorded in 2 Kings 18-20.

While reading through the first section of Isaiah’s prophecies, you may have found it difficult to follow what Isaiah is saying.  While it is clear that he is speaking as a mouthpiece of God, delivering a message of warning to Israel, it is many times a bit challenging to determine if the vision refers to past or future events.  It is this challenge which has led many to superimpose interpretations upon the Biblical text which either stretch the original meaning or simply do not make sense at all.

To assist – here are 10 basic rules to follow when reading/interpreting prophecy:

1.      Understand that God isn’t trying to hide Truth from us.

2.      The language of the Bible is not mystical – apply the same meanings as you normally would in everyday conversation.

3.      Do not change the literal meaning of words to make them more “spiritual”.

4.      Do not search for “hidden meanings” behind the text.

5.      Understand that prophecy can be understood as it appears – simply a record beforehand of things to happen sometime after it was spoken.  History in advance!

6.      Prophecy does not have to be fulfilled before it can be understood (as some teach).  The meaning of Scripture is clear.

7.      Do not change the obvious meaning of Scripture unless other Scripture interprets it that way.

8.      Assume the literal meaning is the only meaning unless a double meaning is clearly stated. Sometimes prophecy does have a double reference – but other times a future event is written as if it happened immediately, yet thousands of years have in fact gone by between events.

9.      Recognize that the main role of a prophet is to instruct God’s people in righteousness.  Although the visions many times foretell future events, the main point is to rebuke, instruct, correct, edify, and exhort God’s people.  If the interpretation doesn’t follow that guideline then it isn’t correct.

10.  Most importantly, understand that the prophet’s vision was given during a REAL time in history.  Knowing the manners, customs, idioms, and expressions of that time/culture will go far in assisting you with understanding the meanings of the words of prophecy.

Prophecy is a vital part of Scripture that should be studied and interpreted by any follower of Jesus.  The foretelling of future events can be a powerful tool in not only introducing someone to Jesus – but also maturing believers as well.  The main purpose of the OT prophetic writings was to warn God’s people of impending judgment, exhorting them to repent of their current behavior, and instructing them in how to return to a life of obedience.

It is a ploy of Satan to twist this section and make it appear confusing to the average Christian in an attempt to discourage the deep study of Scripture.  Instead, if you approach this section of Scripture in the light we have discussed you will come to appreciate the beauty of the words of prophecy, the urgency of the Prophet, and the power of the prophetic visions they saw.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

10 Visions of Isaiah

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Isaiahs BurdensOne of the difficult parts when it comes to understanding the writings of the Prophets is their habit of speaking in two different times… their present and the future.  Many times they will interchange their visions – vacillating between events that will happen in just a few years to those that have yet to happen in our future.  Many books and teachings have been composed which seek to bring clarity and interpretation to these writings… an act still ongoing to this day.

Isaiah is relaying 10 visions he has seen regarding the future of 10 major cities of his day.  He records these through chapters 13-23 of his book… noting much calamity and destruction – some of which is almost too much for him to bear (Isaiah 21:2-4). Those 10 cities are:

     1. Babylon (ch. 13 & 21)

     2. Canaan (ch. 14)

     3. Moab (ch. 15-16)

     4. Damascus (ch. 17)

     5. Ethiopia (ch. 18 & 20)

     6. Egypt (ch. 19-20)

     7. Dumah (ch. 21)

     8. Arabia (ch. 21)

     9. Jerusalem (ch. 22)

     10. Tyre (ch. 23)

To get a good idea of the destruction Isaiah is seeing – lets look for a moment at his vision for Jerusalem as recorded in Isaiah 22.

Jerusalem is the city known as the “Valley of Vision” (vs 1).  Isaiah reveals that the citizens of Jerusalem are starting to panic due to reports of a coming invasion by a massive army.  This army is headed up by the Assyrians, and this situation is fully recorded for us in 2 Chron 32 et al.   Isaiah notes that they are gathering on their housetops (vs 1).  In Jerusalem the houses have flat roofs and the family would gather there in important times (much like we gather in the streets today).   On the housetops one could see with a better view… and witness the commotion of the massive army on their doorstep.

So great was the fear of the people of Jerusalem that they were cowering.  Their leaders were captured and destruction was imminent (vs 3).  Isaiah also sees the cities of Elam and Kir involved int he battle against Jerusalem (vs 6).  These are both cities in Persia/Medes and speak of them working with the Assyrians.  (200 years later the Persian/Medes would break from Assyrian control).  The valleys surrounding Jerusalem were “full of chariots” (vs 7) – truly a hopeless situation.

Isaiah next speaks of the efforts by the Jews to protect themselves – from weighing their military (vs 8), to securing the city water supply (vs 9-11), to tearing down houses to use the material to reinforce the walls (vs 10).  Yet, they failed to turn to the Lord for His protection through fasting and prayer (vs 11-12).  Instead, the people of Jerusalem held parties and indulged in pleasure, viewing their lives as over (vs 13).  The Lord has Isaiah specifically call out the Treasurer of Jerusalem – Shebna – who was building a tomb for himself among the rocky heights (as the rich people do).  Isaiah tells him that he will not be buried in that fancy tomb – but instead will die in a foreign land due to being taken into captivity (vs 15-19).  In his place, God will set Eliakim as ruler in Jerusalem (This was fulfilled in 2 Chr 36:4).

As in many of the visions seen by Isaiah – these predictions would come to pass only a few short years later.  God had sent the Prophets to His people to warn them – to turn back to Him in repentance.  Unfortunately, as we have seen, most of the time they ignored the warnings and looked tot heir own defense.  As you read through these prophetic declarations of doom – join me in determining to heed from histories examples, humble ourselves before the Lord, and place Him first in our lives!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Isaiah 1

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prophet-isaiah“The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah (the southern kingdom) and Jerusalem (its capital) in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”. – Isaiah 1:1

Today, we enter the section of Scripture known as The Nebiim (The Prophets).  More specifically, we start the Major Prophets.  Isaiah is the first of these – and they are the Prophets who wrote longer oracles.  In essence, they are “major” because they were long winded!

What is a Prophet?

nabi – not just one who foretells future events, but mainly a preacher of righteousness for his day.  His job was to warn  people to live the way God had instructed them according to The Law.  Many times these warnings were coupled with visions of future events which would come upon the people if they refused to heed the warning.

seer – A seeing person; one who perceives mentally the purpose of God.  The root of this word in Hebrew is “charah” and it means “to glow warm; blaze up in anger or zeal; burn; wax hot; be incensed; be wroth.”

chozeh – A beholder; one who has visions or supernatural revelations.

So, as you can see, a Prophet had several definitions and several functions.  A basic way to understand the Prophet was that they were people who saw visions of future events that would make them angry, and in the heat of that holy anger they were moved by the Holy Spirit to declare to Israel their sins and urge them to repent.

There were many Prophets throughout the Bible, Isaiah being one of them.  Not only is it important to hear what he says, but it is also vital to understand to whom he is saying these things.  What was going on historically when he was prophesying?

We learn much from the very first verse of Isaiah’s book.  We are told that he is giving his oracles of doom during the reign of 4 kings of Judah.  If you remember our reading through the history books – after Solomon dies the kingdom of Israel divides north to south.  Judah is the smaller southern portion – with Jerusalem as its capital.  So Isaiah is speaking mainly to those people.  The whole time of these 4 kings reigns covered 113 years.  Since Isaiah started his ministry in the same year King Uzziah dies – it is assumed he spends around 70 years warning the people of Judah about future events.

The kingdom of Israel had been strong under David/Solomon – but for the past 250 years it was weakened by internal conflicts and war.  While Isaiah is speaking mainly to the southern portion  (Judah), we know from history that the northern kingdom (Israel) would be overrun by Tiglath-pilesar III of Assyria in the year 720 BC.  This was while Hezekiah was king of Judah – and Isaiah is in full warning mode.  One would think that this glaring example to their north, along with Isaiah’s message, would prompt them back to God in repentance… but that is not the case.  Only 150 years later Judah is eventually invaded by Babylon and Jerusalem is destroyed.  (You can re-fresh your memory of these events in 2 Kings 15-20; 2 Chr. 26-32).

As we read through the prophetic words of Isaiah, place yourself in the shoes of the average Judahite.  How would you have reacted to Isaiah’s rants? Would you have listened or ignored him as a crazy old man?  Is it possible we are missing the same type of warnings today?

Be fruitful & multiply,

PK