Thursday, May 31, 2012

Isaiah 10 - A Remnant will Return

LINK: Isaiah 10 

BACKGROUND 

The word "woe" is used 113 times in the Bible, and 20 of those times are in the book of Isaiah! God will judge wicked judges, makers of unjust laws, oppressors of the poor.  Assyria would be part of God's plan to judge the people. 

Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Samaria, and Damascus were all cities that were conquered by Assyria. Assyria pridefully thought they could also defeat Judah, but God had other plans. Assyria was punished by God in 701 B.C.  We will read in Isaiah 37 how 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were killed by the angel of the Lord. 

In spite of the judgement on Israel, a remnant would return to the land and trust in the LORD and not Assyria as they had done in the past (Hosea 5:13; 7:11; 8:9).  These people would live by faith in God rather than human help. 

REFLECTION

We often run to humans for help when our help is from the Lord. I had a sticky and difficult talk this weekend that left me devastated, but my husband was wise enough to insist we go to the Lord for help. He asked God to expose the lie that I was believing in this situation and to reveal His truth for me. God showed up and revealed His truth! I could walk on in faith and freedom from the human threat that I felt would defeat me.

You can too!

APPLICATION 

Will you be part of the remnant that walks by faith rather than in fear of the threats around you?

It may sound obvious but most of us do walk in fear rather than faith, and we do not call on the only one who can help! "To whom will you flee for help?" (Isaiah 10:3). I hope it is to the Lord.

Are you struggling with fear or anxiety or stress or hurt? Create some space in your life to listen to God. Get quietly alone with Him and ask Him to reveal what lies you are believing. When you understand the lie, ask Him to reveal  His truth in the situation. Wait, listen, and RECEIVE the truth He has given you. 

My friend has written an excellent book that can carefully guide you through this process. I heartily recommend it:

A Guide to Listening and Inner Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places

PRAYER

Lord, would You expose the lies and reveal Your truth that addresses that lie.  I ask that You would speak to us and give us the ears to listen and receive Your truth. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Isaiah 8 & 9 - Darkness to Light!

LINK: Isaiah 8 & 9

BACKGROUND 


Isaiah 8 continues the subject of Isaiah 7. Isaiah was to record the name of his son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means "swift to the booty, speedy to the prey." This was apparently cried out by warriors in ancient times as they defeated and plundered their enemies. This would reinforce the prophecy of the breakup of the alliance between Aram and Israel that Isaiah had prophesied about in Isaiah 7:4-17. The Assyrians would hasten to the spoils of Syria and Israel and eventually carry Israel into captivity (2 Kings 15:29). 


The rest of Isaiah 8 uses three contrasts to show Judah that they were making a mistake by trusting in Assyria instead of the Lord:


They chose a . . .


  • flood instead of gently flowing waters (8:5-10)
  • snare instead of a sanctuary (8:11-15)
  • darkness instead of light (8:16-22)

The people turned to demons instead of God in this time (Isaiah 8:19; Deut. 18:10-12) which led them into greater darkness and decline. Yet, into this utter darkness (8:22), a light will dawn (9:2).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


I love Isaiah 9 because it is the dawn after the darkness! It is the promise of the Messiah  (Matthew 4:13-16) who will come from "Galilee of the Gentiles" (9:1). 


Jesus is the light in a dark world (Luke 1:78-79; John 1:9; 8:12)!

But the prophet looked beyond the first coming of Christ to His second coming and the establishing of His righteous kingdom (Isa. 9:3–7). Instead of protecting a small remnant, God would enlarge the nation. Instead of experiencing sorrow, the people would rejoice like reapers after a great harvest, soldiers after a great victory (see Jud. 6–7), or prisoners of war after being released from their yoke of bondage. Of course, some of this occurred when God defeated Assyria and delivered Jerusalem (Isa. 37). But the ultimate fulfillment is still future; all military material will be destroyed (9:5) because the nations will not learn war any more (2:4). 
Isaiah 9:6 declares both the humanity (“A Child is born”) and the deity (“A Son is given”) of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet then leaps ahead to the Kingdom Age when Messiah will reign in righteousness and justice from David’s throne. God had promised David that his dynasty and throne would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16); and this is fulfilled literally in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32–33; Zech. 9:9), who will one day reign from Jerusalem (Isa. 11:1–5; Jer. 23:5–8; 30:8–10). This kingdom is called “the Millennium,” which means “one thousand years.” 
If His name is “Wonderful,” then there will be nothing dull about His reign! As Counselor, He has the wisdom to rule justly; and as the Mighty God, He has the power to execute His wise plans. “Everlasting Father” does not suggest that the Son is also the Father, for each Person in the Godhead is distinct. “Father of Eternity” is a better translation. Among the Jews, the word “father” means “originator” or “source.” For example, Satan is the “father [originator] of lies” (John 8:44, NIV). If you want anything eternal, you must get it from Jesus Christ; He is the “Father of eternity.”

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted. “Be” Commentary Series (36–37). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 describes what will happen to the northern kingdom of Israel when the Assyrians invade. We must remember that Isaiah's primary message is for the southern kingdom of Judah, but he often uses Israel as an object lesson as a way of warning. Judah has sinned, but God has spared them for David's sake (37:35; 1 Kings 11:13; 15:4; 2 Chronicles 21:7). Notice that God says, "In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out" several times (9:12, 17, 21, 10:4) because of their pride and hardness of heart. 


Praise God that His just wrath has been averted because of the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ who died for our sins!  He rose so that we do not have to walk in darkness but in the light of new life, aided by the indwelling Holy Spirit!  


REFLECTION/APPLICATION


Isaiah 9 is part of some key songs in Handel's Messiah. We will be going through Handel's Messiah little by little at the end of YEAR THREE of the Bible Book Club in order to review what we have learned (35 out of the 53 musical movements are Old Testament scriptures!). If you want to jump to it for a Christmas devotional this year, you can find it here or download an electronic document. 

If you do not already have this oratorio, it will be a great addition to your Christmas music. When you finish the Bible Book Club cycle, you will have a much deeper appreciation of the Scripture in this God-inspired oratorio!


As a result of meditating on these verses today, I have been listening to Isaiah 9:2 and 6 in Messiah, and I danced all over the living room (my family is at the library, but they are used to me dancing)!


Here is my favorite version of it at a VERY cheap price:


Handel's Messiah: The Complete Work

Handel's Messiah: The Complete Work


PRAYER

Praise God through Isaiah 9:2-7!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Isaiah 6 & 7 - The Call of Isaiah and Sign of Immanuel

LINK: Isaiah 6 & 7

BACKGROUND


In Isaiah 6, he recalls when God first called him to his ministry. He pronounced many woes upon others, but he first said, "Woe is me" because he knew that he was too sinful to carry on this important work of the Lord. 


We know from our previous reading that Judah was prosperous during Uzziah/Azariah's reign (2 Chronicles 26:1-21), but many hearts were far from the Lord (2 Kings 15:1-4). 


Isaiah's calling came in the year that Uzziah died. Uzziah was one of Judah's greatest kings, but Isaiah had a vision of a more glorious and permanent king who would never leave His throne through death. 


Once Isaiah saw this glorious king, he saw himself in comparison, and he knew that he was an unworthy, sinful man. His confession led to cleansing by the Lord (1 John 1:9) and a commitment to be sent to be a mouthpiece for the Lord to the nation of Judah. Unlike Moses and Jeremiah, he did not dither with God about his shortcomings once he confessed (Exodus 3:11-4:15; Jeremiah 1:4-10). 


Even though Isaiah was ready and willing to be sent, He warned Isaiah that most of the people would not receive his message and they would be taken off to exile. Yet Isaiah went anyway! It is important to note that Isaiah 6:9-10 are quoted SIX times in the New Testament (Matthew 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:25-28; Romans 11:8)!


Isaiah's ministry would continue through the reigns of Jotham (750-732 B.C.), Ahaz (732-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). That is a period of almost 60 years!


Historically, Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 7 occurred in 734 B.C. when Judah was going to be attacked by an alliance of the northern kingdom of Israel and Aram (northeast of Israel). Rezin was Aram's last king and Pekah was Israel's second to last king. King Ahaz and the people of Judah were frightened but Isaiah prophesied that there would be a break up of Israel's alliance with Aram and because of this alliance, Israel would be destroyed, but Judah, though punished, would not be destroyed. 


Isaiah prophesied that Israel (Ephraim) would be shattered; that they would no longer be a people in sixty-five years (669 B.C.), but the Assyrian captivity occurred 12 years later in 722 B.C. During this time, a small portion of Israelites were deported (27,290 according to the annuls of Sargon II/Shalmaneser) and foreigners were brought into Samaria, the capital of Israel.  Sixty-five years later, in 669 B.C., even more foreigners were brought into Samaria by Assyria's King Ashurbanipal (He is called Osnappar in Ezra 4:10.), making the nation of Israel vanish as a people and fulfilling that prophecy. 

Ahaz piously said he did not want a sign that would confirm God's word because that would be "testing" God (Deuteronomy 6:16), but he did not want one because he did not really believe or want to believe Isaiah. He would rather trust in the King of Assyria than the King of all kings! He was testing God by not asking, and the Lord gave Ahaz one anyway.


This sign would be a boy named Immanuel (which means "God with us"). This boy would be:


1) born of a virgin - the Hebrew word is ‘almâh, an unmarried woman of marriageable age. 

2) raised in a time of national turmoil
3) a youth when the two king alliance would be broken

In the historical context of of that moment, within three years (the time for a virgin woman from the house of Ahaz to go through nine months of pregnancy and two or three years for the young boy to know the difference between right and wrong), Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria destroyed Damascus (732 B.C.), putting Rezin to death (2 Kings 16:7-10). The two king alliance was broken. King Pekah was murdered by Hoshea in 731 B.C. 


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


Though this prophecy had fulfillment in the historical context of that moment, it had future fulfillment as quoted in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:31-35 with the birth of Jesus! This is the first of many prophecies about Jesus, the Messiah, in Isaiah. 



From The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 1049

REFLECTION/APPLICATION


In April 2012, one of our friends gave a message called, "Unleashing Your Imagination." You can see the video HERE


God had a call on Isaiah's life, just as He has a call on yours.  


Our friend relayed the pattern for God's call in the lives of many people in Scripture: Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Michaiah. 


This pattern is:


1) Confrontation - being confronted by God, not necessarily in the negative way, but He steps in front of you with His destiny for you


2) Commission


3) Objections


4) Assurance of His presence and help


5) Sign


It is one hour long, but it is well worth the investment!  See if you can identify this pattern in the call of Isaiah. 


As you listen be comforted by the words of Isaiah:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind (both its inclinations and its character) is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock (the Rock of Ages). 
(Isaiah 26:3, Amplified)
PRAYER

Listen to the message linked above, and follow the prayer instructions at the end. It will be a wonderful experience of hearing God!!! It could even be a turning point in your walk with Him. Do not miss out on it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Isaiah 5 – The Song of the Vineyard and Crazy G.R.A.P.E.S.

LINK: Isaiah 5

BACKGROUND


I wish I could hear the tune to this vineyard song. I am sure it was a slow and powerful lament. It is a parable of God’s love for His vineyard (Israel and Judah – although “Israel” is sometimes a synonym for the southern kingdom in other parts of Isaiah and Nehemiah 1:6; 13:3). He planted it in fertile soil, removed stones, and protected it. He even made a winepress in anticipation of the production of good wine, but it was not to be so; only the bad grapes of injustice and unrighteousness were the result!

There are two cases of assonance (similarity in word sounds or “play on words”) in the Hebrew wording of 5:7 that contrast what God expected and what actually happened:
“Justice” (mišpāṭ) was replaced with “bloodshed” (miśpoḥ) 
“Righteousness ((eḏāqâh) was replaced with “distress” (se‘āqâh)
As a result of this, God would allow the vineyard to be destroyed. Isaiah 5:8-30 contain six indictments (“woes”) against the “bad fruit” produced by the nation. The six woes were directed at:
  1.  Materialists (5:8-10)
  2. Drunkards (5:11-12)
  3. Doubters of God (5:18-19)
  4.  Those calling evil good (5:20)
  5. Conceited ones (5:21)
  6.  Drunken bribe-takers (5:22-23)
The consequences of their disobedience would be domination by external powers (5:24-30) and exile (5:13-17) that would involve hunger, thirst, death, humiliation, and desolation.

REFLECTION – Crazy G.R.A.P.E.S.

As I meditated on the “Song of the Vineyard” this morning, I could not help but think of John 15 and the picture of Jesus as the Vine and the Father as the vinedresser. He chose us to bear fruit as we abide in Jesus.

It also made me hearken back to a time many years ago (1981), when I sang a song with my fellow “GRAPES” (God’s Redeemed Actively Pursuing the Example of the Savior) at a Navigator Summer Training Program. I began by singing John 15:4:
Abide in Me, and I in you. 
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself 
unless it abides in the vine, 
so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Then, I blew the whistle, and my G.R.A.P.E.S. and one raisin came down the stairs singing this old Amy Grant song . . .

"Are you a small and lonely grape
Clutching to the vine
Waiting for the day when you’ll become your Savior’s wine?
Don’t give up hope ye heavy laden
You don’t want to be a raisin
There’s a grape, grape joy in Jesus
In the vineyard of the Lord."





The "raisin" is the second in line. All the rest are plump and juicy grapes. 

APPLICATION


Are you a grape or a raisin in the Lord's vineyard?


Are you clinging to the true vine (Jesus)?

Is your life bearing fruit?

Meditate on John 15 today.

PRAYER

Lord, help us bear fruit for You by clinging to the vine. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Isaiah 3 & 4 - Judgment Followed by Hope

LINK: Isaiah 3 & 4


BACKGROUND


Isaiah 3 returns to the courtroom image and elaborates on the more general indictment of Judah in Isaiah 2 by giving examples of specific sins that require judgment. In judgment they could not rely on food, water, soldiers, civil and religious leaders, soothsayers, clever enchanters, wise people, military leaders, or skilled workers. The Lord would rise up foolish and weak leadership instead.


The reason for this destruction is made clear:
For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen,
Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord,
To rebel against His glorious presence. (Isaiah 3:8)
Isaiah 3:13-15 gives two charges against the leaders:

1) They had ruined God’s vineyard (God’s people) by oppressing them.

2) They had taken advantage of the poor by making money at their expense.

Even in the midst of God’s judgment, Isaiah 4 returns to the hope (like Isaiah 2 after Isaiah 1). In spite of severe judgment, divine blessing would eventually come. Some interpreters refer to the “Branch of the LORD” as the believing remnant of Judah. Others interpret this as the future Messiah and cross-reference it with Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8, and John 15:1.

Regardless of your interpretation, the point is that there will come a time when God will cleanse His people (Isaiah 4:4; see Zech 12:10-13:1) and His glorious presence will fill Mount Zion with a cloud of smoke by day and fire by night. Where have you heard this before in our Bible reading journey? In Israel’s Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:21)!

REFLECTION

The distinctive mark of the surviving remnant is holiness. Is that a distinctive mark of my life?

The remnant was fully cleansed. The bloodstains would be cleansed by judgment and fire. John the Baptist said that Jesus would “baptize . . . with fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Jesus is 100% holy and the only means by which we can be cleansed from the filth of our sin. The pursuit of holiness comes by fellowship with God through Jesus Christ on a daily basis as we obey and walk wholeheartedly with Him.

APPLICATION

Are you ready for a recommitment to holiness in your life? Recently, George and I had lunch with a very new believer who was on FIRE in his relationship with God. It was invigorating to be around him. He had just read The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. This was my favorite book when I was this young man’s age (22 years old). It is a foundational book, and I heartily recommend it!

PRAYER

Lord, make us holy, for You are holy. We can only come to holiness through the most Holy Jesus, and it is in His name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Isaiah 2 – "Let us Walk in the Light of the LORD"

LINK: Isaiah 2 
Parallel Passage: Micah 4:1-3

BACKGROUND

Isaiah was the son of Amoz. He was evidently from a distinguished Jewish family. His education is apparent in his wide vocabulary and elegant writing style.

Although Isaiah 1-39 is concerned with God’s message of judgment for both Israel and Judah, Isaiah 2 starts with an affirmation of restoration. The stinging indictment (in the form of a lawsuit) of Isaiah 1 is followed by Isaiah’s prophecy of a time when Jerusalem will have a primary position in the world. Some commentators believe that Revelation 21 depicts the glorious fulfillment of this prophecy in the new Jerusalem. Many commentators believe it is during the Millennium when Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years. It will be a time of peace, when we will be taught God’s laws and will obey them. The key phrase in this passage is “Let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

Following this beautiful picture in the future, Isaiah returns to the reality of their present condition (2:6-11) and the consequences for their idolatry and superstitions (2:12-4:1). The people were following the practices of the Assyrian Empire. “Divination like the Philistines” (2:6) referred to claiming to know and control the future by the power of demons or interpreting omens. The Philistines worshiped Dagon, Ashtoreth, and Baal-Zebub right along with Yahweh. All of these practices were forbidden by God according to Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10, 14.

In our reading in Joel (1:15; 2:1ff), we learned about the “day of the Lord.” Isaiah refers to it here in 2:12. It is a time when God will judge both evil and good and will “rise to shake the earth” (2:19, 21; Revelation 6:15-17.). The arrogant and prideful will be brought to humility and the “LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (2:11, 17).

REFLECTION

God did not abandon His people because He no longer loved them but because they had abandoned Him by their evil practices, pride, and arrogance. This passage accentuates the fact that “the LORD alone will be exalted” (2:11, 17). Therefore, we must trust in Him rather than man who can be fickle, selfish, and unreliable!

APPLICATION

Where do you place your trust these days? Do you place it in your (and/or your spouse’s) employer? Do you place it in your wealth? Do you pay homage to cars, homes, sports stars, celebrities, stock portfolios, etc.?

I originally wrote this in the very uncertain economic times in 2009, but the world economy has really not improved much. In these uncertain times, the only reliable stock we have is in our relationship with God! Make deposits of worship into your spiritual bank account today!

PRAYER

LORD, we exalt You alone. We worship You as the immutable God Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Praise is to You alone. Bring to our heart areas of pride and arrogance. Help us to repent of them. Bring us to trust in You alone and to stop trusting in man and mammon. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Isaiah 1 - Isaiah's Vision

LINK: Isaiah 1

Please read the Introduction to the Prophetical Books if you have not already done so. 

Here is a downloadable document of all the posts:

ISAIAH

BACKGROUND 

Isaiah

Here is where Isaiah fits in our timeline of biblical history: 


2 Chr. 27-32:750-697 (2 Kings 16-20)

                     755-714: HOSEA 1-14 (Northern)

----------------722 ASSYRIAN CAPTIVITY OF ISRAEL (NORTHERN KINGDOM)

2 Chr. 33:      697-640 (2 Kings 21)

                      739-681: ISAIAH 1-66

                      733-701: MICAH 1-7

                      650-620: NAHUM 1-3

As you can see, his prophecies spanned from before the Assyrian captivity of Israel to long afterward. 

Here is another timeline that helps you to see it more visually, but you must scroll down to page 5 in order to see it: 

Timeline for Isaiah 

Isaiah prophesied through the reigns of Uzziah (Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Tradition says that King Manasseh, Hezekiah's successor, had Isaiah sawed in half (Hebrews 11:37), but there is no record of this in Scripture. 

Isaiah's purpose was to call the people of Judah back to their God and to prophesy of a coming Messiah. Remember that Judah is the southern kingdom consisting of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. 

Isaiah's name means "salvation of the Lord" with salvation/deliverance being the key theme of this book. Isaiah 1-39 are words of judgment, but Isaiah 40-66 are words of comfort with the prophecy of a release from captivity, future Redeemer, and coming kingdom. 

Isaiah is a beautiful book containing both poetry and prose. It is obvious that he came from a distinguished Jewish family from the educated, impressive vocabulary. The book is long but well worth it. We will go at a slow and steady pace. If you have never read it, you are in for a real treat. 

Isaiah 1

Isaiah began his prophecy in 739 B.C.; seventeen years before the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians (722 B.C.). So, Isaiah's vision of judgment included both Israel and Judah. The vision is a courtroom scene where God states the charges against his rebellious children (1:2-4) and pronounces the nation guilty (1:5-15). Yet, he gives them an opportunity to repent and be forgiven (1:16-31). 

God's children had broken their covenant with God (Exodus 19-20) through unbelief and idolatry. They were religious, but their hearts were far from God. They were also guilty of murder (1:21), robbery, bribery, and not helping those in need (1:23). Through all of this, God still wanted to "reason" with them which means "to decide a case in court":
"Come now let us reason together,"
Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18)
This is much like Hosea's plea with Israel in Hosea 10:12.  The prophets would plea, but it was not to be. His people would face a fiery judgment. Despite this, Isaiah ends with a promise that Jerusalem would one day be a "city of righteousness and faithful city" with a righteous remnant (1:26-27).

REFLECTION/APPLICATION 

Part of God's judgment on Israel was their religiosity without true devotion. I found this article about contemporary society very thought-provoking: 
But before passing judgment on worshipers in a bygone era, perhaps we should confess the sins of the “worshiping church” today. According to researcher George Barna, 93 percent of the households in the United States contain a Bible and more than 60 percent of the people surveyed claim to be religious; but we would never know this from the way people act. One Protestant church exists for every 550 adults in America, but does all this “religion” make much of a difference in our sinful society? Organized religion hasn’t affected the nation’s crime rate, the divorce rate, or the kind of “entertainment” seen in movies and on TV. 
The average church allocates about 5 percent of its budget for reaching others with the Gospel, but 30 percent for buildings and maintenance. At a time when the poor and the aged are pleading for help, churches in America are spending approximately 3 billion dollars a year on new construction. Where churches have life and growth, such construction may be needed; but too often the building becomes “a millstone instead of a milestone,” to quote Vance Havner. At least 62 percent of the people Barna surveyed said that the church was not relevant to today’s world and is losing its influence on society. It may be that, like the worshipers in the ancient Jewish temple, we are only going through the motions. (See The Frog in the Kettle by George Barna, published by Regal Books.)  
(Wiersbe, W. W., Be Comforted. An Old Testament Study, Is 1:1)
Are you a religious person or one whose heart is close to the Lord? Does your life influence society for God's glory or does society influence you?

PRAYER

Lord, we want our hearts to be completely Yours. Make our devotion to You overflow in light to the world. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2 Kings 21 & 2 Chronicles 33 - Like Father, Like Son?

LINK: 2 Kings 21 & 2 Chronicles 33 (read over the next two days)

BACKGROUND

Manasseh of Judah - 2 Kings 21:1-18, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20

Reigned: 697-642 B.C. for 55 years, vice-regency under his father, Hezekiah, 11 years (697-686 B.C.)

Character: Bad 

Manner of death: Natural 

Hezekiah's godliness did not influence his son, Manasseh, who followed the ways of his grandfather, Ahaz, by rebuilding the high places his father had removed and reintroducing abominable practices that lead Judah into a downward spiral (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3). His most serious sin was sacrificing  his sons (2 Chronicles 33:6). 2 Kings 21 records that Manasseh repented after suffering a humiliating imprisonment by the King of Assyria. He set about reforms, but he allowed the people to sacrifice on the high places as long as they were to the God of Israel. Despite this, he is still considered one of Judah's "bad boys."

Amon of Judah - 2 Kings 21:19-26, 2 Chronicles 33:21-25

Reigned: 642-640 B.C. for 2 years

Character: Bad 

Manner of death: Murdered by servants

Manasseh's son, Amon, did "evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done" and was assassinated by his own officials, but the people killed those officials and put the next GOOD, eight year old king on the throne: Josiah. 

But before we get to Josiah, we are going to read through the prophets during this time: Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum. 

Stay Tuned!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hosea 11-14: God's Love for Israel

LINK: Hosea 11-14 (read over the next four days)

BACKGROUND


Despite the "days of punishment" (9:7), God will keep His promises to Israel and blessings will come when judgment is complete. God must discipline, but because of His endless love, in the day of Israel's "return" (14:1-3), He will ultimately save and restore them:



I will heal their waywardness
...and love them freely,
...for my anger has turned away from them. 
(Hosea 14:4)

This is the fifth and final cycle of judgment followed by salvation found in Hosea. Now that you have finished reading, can you name the previous ones?


God is a God of justice, but these words of Isaiah the prophet say it all about God's heart of love for His people:

The Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)

REFLECTION and APPLICATION



Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; 
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the Lord are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them.
(Hosea 14:9)

Hosea's warning is not just for Israel and Judah, but it is for us as well. He closes with an appeal to listen and learn from Israel's mistakes. The only way we can have success in life is to follow the Lord's way. We can walk or we can stumble, but the choice is completely ours.

Which will it be for you?


PRAYER



Lord, thank You that You long to be gracious to us, love us, and want to see us walk uprightly. We want to be wise and discerning. We want to understand the message of this book and apply it to our lives. Help us to walk in Your ways rather than stumble down the path of life. Help us to make good choices along the way. We ask this in the name of the One who always walked according to Your way in order to be an example for us all. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hosea 10 - Break Up Your Fallow Ground

LINK: Hosea 10

BACKGROUND 


I did not talk about the grapes in Hosea 9:10 because I knew that I would talk about this metaphor in Hosea 10. Israel was planted like a vine in Canaan and God blessed her abundantly, but they did not give glory to the God who had blessed them. Instead, they gave worship and glory to the false gods in the land. Therefore, they would be carried away to Assyria. The calf-idol of Beth Aven (house of wickedness) which is really the town of Bethel (house of God) would also be carried away along with their king. All would be destroyed. 


Israel (Ephraim is another name for Israel) is compared to a cow that loved to thresh (10:11). In treading corn, the heifer was free to eat the corn as she worked because they were unmuzzled according to the Law (Deuteronomy 25:4). Now, Israel, already yoked to sin, would also be yoked to the Assyrian "beast" and forced to do the hard work of plowing. Note that even Judah (the southern kingdom) is included in this judgment. 


Hosea 10:12 includes Hosea's brief plea to come back to covenant loyalty . . .



Sow with a view to righteousness (justice),
Reap in accordance with kindness (unfailing love, loyalty);
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD

Until He comes to rain/shower righteousness on you. 

(He will do the same thing in Isaiah 1:18-20). 

This is really a summation of the cry of all the prophets, but God's people did not respond in obedience. Judgment fell in 722 B.C. and Israel was gone forever. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION


What are you sowing and reaping? It is time to seek the Lord! 


PRAYER


Lord, we want to sow with a view toward righteousness and seek You with all our hearts. Amen. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hosea 9 - Israel Has Not Listened

LINK: Hosea 9 

BACKGROUND 

Remember that Israel is often referred to as Ephraim because it was the most powerful of the ten northern tribes of Israel. 


The chapter speaks of the threshing floor. This was a flat area that was built on a hilltop. The grain would be gathered there, and the harvesters would beat the wheat until the chaff (the dry, scaly protective coating of the seed of grain also called the husk) was separated from the edible grain. The harvesters would stay there overnight to protect the grain, and the prostitutes would visit. Eventually, they started worship and sacrifice to false gods there. 


The "Day of Gibeah" in 9:9 refers to the rape and abuse of the traveler's concubine in Judges 19:14-30. Hosea is revealing the depths of Israel's corruption. The reference to "Gilgal" refers to the abandonment of God for an earthly king (2 Samuel 11:15) and Baal worship by Hosea's time (4:15; 12:11). 

On the outside, Israel seemed to be blessed, attributing their abundant harvest to Baal (2:5).  Up to this point, God had been very patient with Israel. There were repeated warnings and many postponements of Israel's day of reckoning (punishment) and retribution (9:7) for their idolatry. They did not listen to God's prophets.  Their prosperity and peace would become barrenness and bondage because of their deep depravity and sin. They would be taken away into exile. They will not be able to do legitimate worship, and their sacrifices in a foreign land would not be accepted by the Lord. They would not even be able to celebrate the acceptable feast to the Lord either. Assyria would be the new "Egypt" of bondage for them. 

REFLECTION 


It has taken me DAYS to write this post. I finally left my writing desk in frustration, and God said, "Put on your shoes, listen, and walk."  I obeyed, walked, and listened (and vented about my frustration with this post). 


He led me to walk by the house of a friend (doing demolition on their house, Jeremiah 1:10) and to call out to them. They led me on a "demolition tour," and my talk with the wife was the reason God had told me to take that walk. He gave me a timely message for the wife (and for their church and some demolition work to do there, as well). 


I think we are a lot like Israel. We just do not listen. We do not allow God to break into our routine to do something because we think it is odd. I think we would have a lot more fun and less frustration if we did. I left their house and could finish this post with ease. Thanks for breaking in, God. 


So, that is the message that God had for me with this chapter in Hosea, and I just did not get it for a few days. Now I do. 


The prophets spoke and spoke and spoke, but Israel would not listen. 


Will we?



APPLICATION 


Why will you not listen? List your reasons.


Now, let your LIST evaporate into LISTening!


This book will so encourage you to listen and obey:

http://god-guides.com/

PRAYER

Speak Lord, we are listening. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hosea 8 - Reaping What We Sow

LINK: Hosea 8

BACKGROUND


This chapter includes specific illustrations of the nation's rebellion and announces God's impending judgment. The trumpet is a signal of impending battle. Since Israel has broken its covenant with God, this covenant curse will be fulfilled:



The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar,
 from the end of the earth, 
as the eagle swoops down, 
a nation whose language 
you shall not understand.
(Deuteronomy 28:49)

Also, note that in Hosea 8:14, Judah is also included in the indictment. They would all eventually "return to Egypt" (slavery) through the Assyrian (Israel) and Babylonian (Judah) Captivities.


The "sowing and reaping" principle is illustrated in 8:7:

For they sow the wind
And they reap the whirlwind.
(Hosea 8:7)

Israel sowed its seeds in sin and alliance with ungodly nations that gave them false security and would yield a crop of destruction.

This principle is also found in the New Testament:

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.(2 Corinthians 9:6) 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

REFLECTION



Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

APPLICATION


Have you been sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit lately? Spending time with God and listening to His voice is the best way for us to sow to the Spirit!


PRAYER



Lord, help us to be wise sowers. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hosea 6 & 7 - "Let us Press On to Know the Lord"

LINK: Hosea 6 & 7 (Read over the next two days)

BACKGROUND


God's purpose in judgment is that His people would turn from their sin and return to the Lord and be restored. Hosea 5:15 expresses that hope, "In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." 


Hosea 6 explains a surface repentance on the part of Israel. They think God's judgment will only be a few days, not knowing that it will lead to their eventual exile. They were treating God like he was, according to Warren Wiersbe, a "celestial lifeguard who should rescue them from danger but not deliver them from their sins." They are sad about their suffering but not remorseful for their sin.


God is swift to say that He wants their love and devotion (hesed means "loyal love") represented by covenant loyalty and not sacrificial ritual (6:6-7). A key theme in Hosea is Israel's breaking of the covenant they made with God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20).  Israel was "blessed to be a blessing" to all the nations of the world (Genesis 12:2,3; Isaiah 49:6), but they broke the covenant and were not a light for others to see the one true God. The covenant had stipulations. If they obeyed it, there would be special blessings, but if they disobeyed, there were severe penalties (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). They had been unfaithful while God had been very faithful and patient. Soon, they would be carried off to Assyria for their unfaithfulness to the covenant of God.


Hosea describes Israel's true character in a series of similes and metaphors. These all begin with a "like" or "as" in the chapters. Can you spot them? Their loyal love was like morning mist or dew that is gone by mid-morning. Basically, it was temporary and superficial. They were like Adam who turned away from God's blessings and plunged us all into sin and death (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). 


In the middle of all of this, Hosea interjects a solemn warning to the southern kingdom of Judah (6:11a)! There would be an appointed time of judgment for them as well (Stay tuned for 2 Kings 25!). 



The metaphors continue as the nation of Israel is referred to as a dying man, flaming fire, unturned bread, senseless dove, and faulty bow. They are guilty but they do not "cry out" to God "from their hearts" (7:14) or "turn upward (to the Most High)" (7:16) even though he "longs to redeem them" (7:13). 

APPLICATION

Are you sincerely "pressing on to know the Lord" or are you, like Israel, going through the motions without a love for the Lord behind it? Talk to Him about that right now.


Also, if you are caught in some sin, cry out to God from your heart and turn to Him. He really does long to redeem you! Talk to a trusted friend as James instructs us to do:


Therefore, confess your sins to one another, 
and pray for one another so that you may be healed. 
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
(James 5:16) 

PRAYER


Lord, we know that You desire mercy rather than sacrifice. You are our greatest love. You are our gracious Redeemer. Thank You that You have loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). Draw us close to You with true repentance and wholehearted devotion and obedience. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hosea 5 - Judgment

LINK: Hosea 5

BACKGROUND


Hosea speaks to the people, priesthood, and the monarchy; but the leaders are singled out because they have encouraged the people in false worship at the cult sites of Mizpah and Tabor. Mount Tabor was in northern Israel, 12 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Mizpah was either in Gilead or in Benjamite territory. The activity of the priests is explained in hunting imagery as they snare, net (see 7:12; Amos 3:5), and slaughter their prey (the people of Israel). Because of Israel's spiritual adultery and subsequent corruption, God will discipline.  The Hebrew word for discipline is musar which means "severe punishment designed to restore one to proper behavior."


Punishment would come in two ways:


1) withdrawal of aid and blessing (5:6-7, 15a)

2) warfare (5:8-14)

Even ritualistic sacrifice would not save them (5:6) because this would be hypocritical and not from a heart to obey God's covenant. Judah's leaders were like those who "move boundary stones." This was forbidden in the Law and carried a curse (
Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17). It was like theft because it was a way of taking land unlawfully.

There is a reference in 5:13 about Ephraim turning to Assyria. This refers to the northern kingdom turning to Tiglath-Pilesar III of Assyria in order to restore national stability. This is probably referring to King Hoshea's alliance with Assyria (1 Kings 17:3). Judah had also formed an alliance when threatened by Syria and Israel (2 Kings 16). Hosea rightly observed that Assyria did not "heal/cure" them because only God could do that.


In the end, God would be the attacker and destroyer even though he would use foreign armies to accomplish this. A few years later, Ephraim would be conquered by Assyria and carry the people into exile (2 Kings 17). Judah would be overrun by Assyria in 701 B.C. but would be delivered through miraculous means. The prophecy about Judah's fall and exile (5:14) would be fulfilled later through Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 25).


REFLECTION

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
As I read Hosea 5 this morning, I saw God's condemnation of the leaders who led Israel into false worship. The priests were to be the spiritual leaders, but they led them into sin! Spiritual leadership is a BIG responsibility! I want to be the kind of leader that leads others to seek God and obey Him. Are people watching my life and thinking, "Well if Carol does it, it must be OK," when it is really not OK?

Most of us are leaders in one way or another, we may be a Sunday school teacher, a bible study leader, hold a church office, or lead our children. Someone is probably looking at our life. Where are we leading them?


I have mentioned this before, but I had a friend whose mom told her, "You should look up to Carol and model your life after her." The next morning after my friend told me this, her mom was dead from a car accident. It really caused me to question things and say, "If I am someone that others should model their life after, then who am I looking up to and modeling my life after?" With my friend, it was like the "blind leading the blind" because even though I was a believer in Jesus I was not really following His leadership! I had to take a hard cold look at my life and say that I was just living for myself and not following the perfect leader. Within a year, my world spiraled into sin, but God in His infinite mercy showed His love to me (2:23), and I began to really follow Him. My wholehearted desire is to follow Him all the days of my life!


APPLICATION


Evaluate your life in light of those who might be watching you. What would they see from the way you use your time, interact with your family, talk about others, or spend your money? Where are you leading them by your actions?


PRAYER



Lord, I pray that we would all be leaders who lead others to You. I ask this in the name of the best leader who ever walked this earth: Jesus! Amen.