Wednesday, 1 October 2014

(275) October 2: Isaiah 24-25 & Ephesians 4

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what these oracles warn us against.

To ponder:
We jump now from God’s judgment upon the nations in Isaiah’s day, to the final judgement they are a paradigm of. Just as God promised various lands would be laid waste, now he promises the whole world will be devastated and plundered, with all its inhabitants scattered, irrespective of their status in life (24v1-3). 24v4-6 reflect Genesis 3v17-19: The earth is pictured as drying up and unfruitful under God’s curse because its inhabitants have defiled it (tainted its purity) by their sin. The allusion to Genesis 3 suggests the “eternal covenant” is that God implicitly made with all humanity through Adam and Eve (often called the covenant of works): If they obeyed him they would enjoy life on the earth. Although framed in the language of the Mosaic covenant, the laws humanity have broken are therefore the principles that reflect God’s character and the order of creation, that are written in human consciences and later developed in the Mosaic law with reference to Israel (see Rom 1v18-32). Because of God’s judgement, all joy and revelry is banished from the earth, which is portrayed a city whose houses are desolate. Indeed, almost all the earth’s inhabitants are not there because they have been “burned up” - presumably referring to God’s burning anger, leaving the world like an olive tree after being beaten so that its fruit falls – barren, but with just a few pieces remaining (24v6-13). It is those who remain throughout the earth who shout for joy, praising God’s majesty and excellence (24v14-16). They are the remnant from every nation, tribe and people who will forever worship God (Rev 7v9-14).
            In witnessing this vision Isaiah expresses terror that metaphorically causes him to wither up himself. Surely we should feel something of this too. Inescapable punishment awaits humanity in their treachery, as the very creation implodes with images of flood and earthquake, never to rise again as the world it was. And this is all because it is so weighed down by the guilt of human rebellion (24v16-20). There is theological truth here that humanity are so closely linked to the creation they were created to rule, that their guilt means its destruction. In the day of this judgement, we are also told God will punish angelic beings in heaven (demons) as well as the rulers of the earth. They will all be imprisoned for a long time, which Christ taught would entail them being thrown everlastingly into hell (Matt 25v41). Then God will reign in Zion and before its leaders (elders) so gloriously that the brilliance of the sun and moon are put to shame. As we have been told this creation will have fallen, this must picture the new Jerusalem in the new creation that will supersede this one (Rev 21v22-27). There is both warning and encouragement here.
            Chapter 25 praises God for his justice in faithfully destroying the city and stronghold as symbols of power, just as he planned long before. This could refer to the destruction of the nations Isaiah has already noted, or the final judgement just mentioned. Perhaps the ambiguous language includes both. The point is that such destruction was always God’s plan. And it is good: First, because whether witnessing it (eg. in the destruction of Assyria and Babylon) or contemplating it (the final judgement) strong and ruthless peoples and nations will come to honour God, no doubt because they come to fear him. Second, it is good because it means refuge and safety for the poor and needy, whether in being rescued from tyrannical rulers when God judges them in this life, or rescued from hardship generally when through faith they are separated from all evil in the life to come. In the light of God’s judgement then, the roar of the ruthless is powerless, like a storm hitting a wall or heat disappearing when cloud comes (25v4-5). It seems the life to come is in mind, as Isaiah then speaks of how on Mount Zion God will prepare a banquet of food and wine for those from all peoples, destroying the shroud (burial sheet) of death, and wiping away the tears of suffering (see Lk 14v15-24, Rev 7v14-17). He will also remove the disgrace of his people. In context this probably refers to them being vindicated for their trust in God after having been mocked and despised. So we read that in that day they will joyfully declare the LORD is their God, and that they trusted him and he saved them (25v6-9). Yet whereas God’s hand will rest in blessing on Zion, he will trample on Moab – who as Israel’s historic enemy are probably representative of her enemies in general. The picture is again of humbled pride, as despite their cleverness, the Moabites metaphorically swim in manure with their fortress cities laid low (25v10-12)! As throughout the book, we see God’s judgement is ultimately on pride, just as it was when Adam and Eve sought to be like God. So we must humble ourselves before him, acknowledging our sin and need, and trusting him for salvation and help.
Praying it home:       
Praise God that his justice brings people to repentance and will deliver them from oppression. Pray that you would always be humble before him.

Thinking further:
None today.

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