How to Reach Us

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Hello Truth in Grace readers! We wanted to provide another way for you to read our most recent writers. I consider these writers my personal friends and encourage you to continue reading their blogs.

J.L. Pattison has been a close friend since 2008. He is an excellent writer and has his own website. Over the last few years, God has blessed him with the talent to be able to write in a way that really makes the reader think. He has published three books including his latest The Man Who Thought He Could Fly. His fourth book will arrive in 2022. You can buy his books on his website or even here on Amazon. If you have not considered the influence of Christian fiction, I would also recommend reading his latest blogpost here on Truth in Grace.

Manfred or Stuart Brogden has written many book reviews and is also a published author including Captive to the Word of God: A Particular Baptist Perspective on Reformed and Covenant Theology. This can be ordered online at Amazon. Currently, he is also writing a commentary on Isaiah. Several of his latest posts are just a small insight to his exposition of this beautiful book.

Sony Elise has been a close friend since 1999. She works with her brother, Israel Wayne who is a homeschool and apologetics conference speaker. His site is Family Renewal. Sony has her own online book store that I encourage you to support. She is also in demand as a professional editor and was the editor for both of my books. Sony also writes on her blogsite called Southern Gospel World.

As a bi-vocational pastor, my time has become much more limited when it comes to writing. I still enjoy writing and have two books available through Amazon. Heroes of Courage is the first of a series on Biblical characters. My intention is to have the second book out by 2022. From Scam Into Blessing is a short autobiography dealing with my first missions trip to Liberia, West Africa in 2007. In addition, as time permits, I will also write on our church blog where I pastor in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The church also posts our sermons at SermonAudio.

Thank you again for the memories and for walking the road of Truth in Grace and Defending/Contending through the last 13 years.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Mark Escalera – The Desert Pastor

The Gospel of Isaiah

Since this blog is going away, this is a PSA.

My intention is to publish my commentary on Isaiah in a book, paper and digital.

Basic outline for my Gospel in Isaiah book is taken from the HCSB Study Bible, show below. Within each section are several chapters, titled by me as I studied.

I. Rebuke and Promise from YHWH

II. The Promise of Immanuel

III. Judgment on the Nations

IV. Judgment and Promise, Part 1

V. Woes on Unbelieving Israel

VII. Judgment and Promise, Part 2

VIII. Comfort for Spiritual Israel

This book is not a commentary on Isaiah, filled with word studies and detailed exegesis of the text; although it does have a few word studies and some exegesis of the text. It’s not a devotional, full of personal application exhortations; although it does have some personal application and exhortations. This book, the Gospel in Isaiah, is a thematic walk through Isaiah, focusing on the dual vision of God’s punishment and redemption of His earthly, time-bound covenant people and the contrast with the persecution by the world and God’s redemption of His spiritual, eternal covenant people provided by the promised seed, the Lord Jesus. While not every phrase in the Bible is about Jesus, the whole Bible is. May we seek to see Him more clearly.

Plans are for a preacher friend to write a forward and then I will prepare it for publication, keeping the prices as low as possible.

Saying Goodbye

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I will be continuing to write, but on our church blog where I pastor.

J.L. Pattison also writes and has his own website.


This site originally started as Reformation Nation back in late 2007. In early 2008, The Pilgrim revamped the site and renamed it Defending.Contending.

The Lord allowed our site to be used ever since then. We have had many writers and readers. However, many of our writers faded away and I am not able to keep up with trying to correct broken links on many of the articles that were written.

About three or four years ago, I changed the name again to Truth in Grace thinking that this would better reflect my intention for the blog. However, our readership was already in huge decline.

For all who have written and read these articles through the last almost 14 years, we want to say a huge THANK YOU, but also to say good-bye. There are so many great blogs out there and people want regular content that we can no longer provide.

The website will remain active through April 2021 for those who want to copy or read any articles. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Mark Escalera – The Desert Pastor

Christian Libertarians Need to Stop Ignoring the Persuasive Influence of Fiction

Why Fiction Should Be Taken More Seriously Among Christian Libertarians

“There is a time for stories, and there is a time for rational arguments, and the skill we need lies in knowing which to use, and when.” — Os Guinnesse

Image Courtesy of Patrick Fore via Unsplash

I recently came across an article by Mark Tapson who wrote:

“The most compelling science fiction is that in which the core of the story is not the threat of hostile aliens or Death Stars, but the dangers posed by our own humanity.”

And there are few better examples of such compelling science fiction than the old Twilight Zone series where Rod Serling often used fictional threats—like aliens—to shine a penetrating light on real-life threats. Serling even conceded:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

But where are those storytellers like Serling today? Where are those men and women who are cleverly adept at using the vehicle of fiction to share far deeper truths to a much wider audience who would otherwise not be interested in seeking out those truths?

Dare I suggest, they’re all around us?

They’re the lesser-known Christian and libertarian authors whose books we give little regard to, but whom we should familiarize ourselves with because — after all — who better understands “the dangers posed by our own humanity” than Christians and libertarians?


Non-Christian readers who would never read books such as John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, JC Ryle’s Holiness, or John Owens’ Mortification of Sin, have thoroughly enjoyed CS Lewis’ entire Chronicles of Narnia series. Likewise, many professing Christians who would never read a book on practical witchcraft, happily own the entire Harry Potter series.

So, what’s the common denominator? What would persuade an agnostic to read books with religious themes, and what would attract a Christian to read books with occultic themes? The answer is remarkably simple: a compelling story, well told.

Humans love stories. We’re drawn to them — enchanted by them actually — and although non-fiction books are great, there’s something deeply intoxicating about a well-crafted fictional tale.

And when it comes to changing the world around us, it could be argued that fiction has been more successful at influencing readers than most non-fiction.

Image Courtesy of Tom Hermans via Unsplash

The use of storytelling, be it in books, movies, television, art, or music, has long been a catalyst for change in our culture, because, as Francis Schaefer once observed:

“For many, what they see on television is more true than what they see with their eyes in the external world.”

But why is this true?

Nancy Pearcey, in her book Saving Leonardo, attempts to answer this question:

“T.S. Elliot once noted that the serious books we read do not influence us nearly as much as the books we read for fun (or the movies we watch for entertainment). Why? Because when we are relaxing, our guard is down and we engage in the ‘suspension of disbelief’ that allows us to enter imaginatively into the story. As a result, the assumptions of the author or screenwriter may go unnoticed and seep all the more deeply into our consciousness.”

It’s through the age old art of storytelling that authors possess the power to shape the hearts and minds of others, yet today, this medium is most often neglected by Christian libertarians—if not outright ignored.


Consider that two exceedingly popular, best-selling books written in the last hundred years is George Orwell’s 1984 (warning of the evils of communism) and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (often credited as a gateway drug to libertarianism for those who make it through its voluminous pages). And then consider that one of the most widely read and enduring books in the world for over 300 years has been John Bunyan’s beloved Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress which has sold over 200 million copies and has never been out of print since its first publication in 1678.

What do these three books have in common? They’re all works of fiction. And the truth is, as much as we may not want to admit it, they’ve all reached a broader audience than the likes of F.A Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Frédéric Bastiat, or R.C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon, and John MacArthur.

These three novels alone did more to introduce the world to libertarianism and the Christian faith (respectively) than most non-fiction books advocating the same ideals.

Image Courtesy of Sergio Andre via Unsplash

But why are authors who promote libertarianism and the Christian faith — through the conduit of fiction — so often ignored by those who share these same beliefs? Perhaps it’s because the allure of intellectualism is so great that most don’t feel there’s any value in trifling with fiction, even though an appeal to the likes of the aforementioned Orwell, Rand, and Bunyan would prove otherwise.

Conversely, however, our adversaries have not neglected the persuasive power of fiction, art, film, and music — they’ve actually been exploiting these areas to advance their agenda for decades. In fact, hijacking the arts was just one of their many steps designed to bring America to its knees in subjection to a Marxist dystopia.

This article is continued here.

Isaiah 9 – His Hand is Raised to Strike!

Chapter 9 of Isaiah ends with more gloom and doom. It’s no wonder why the prophets of God were hated by ethnic Israel. Much as in our day when the faithful preachers of the Word are despised and those who declare “peace! peace!” where there is no peace are heralded and beloved by the world.

Isaiah 9:18 (HCSB) For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke.

Verse 17 reminded the Hebrews that YHWH’s hand was raised to strike. Verse 18 continues the thought – His hand is ready for judgment because the wickedness of His covenant people is out of control, like a Kaliphornia wild fire. And it does not consume only those – it had spread to other nations. When God’s covenant people disregard His will for them, everyone is affected and everyone suffers. Does not the last 50 years of our history in the USA resemble this?

Isaiah 9:19 (HCSB) The land is scorched by the wrath of the LORD of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother.

One would think the rampaging fires described would scorch the land, but we see here that these fires are symbolic of spiritual rebellion as the scorching is by the hand of God – that hand that was raised up to strike has landed a blow. The wickedness of the people is like fuel for the judgment – it is was has brought His hand down heavy on them. That same strong hand and arm that led them from slavery in Egypt. And those being punished do not have compassion for each other – for they are self-interested; this is the condition of natural man.

Isaiah 9:20 (HCSB) They carve ⌊meat⌋ on the right, but they are ⌊still⌋ hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are ⌊still⌋ not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm.

They have plenty but are not satisfied. The ancient preacher said the eye never tires of seeing something new, the ear never tires of hearing something new. He might have also said that the tongue never tires of tasting something new – for these who had plenty as the world sees it, were not satisfied. And so they ate their own flesh.

This is the same depravity of which Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-24 (HCSB) For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

Isaiah 9:21 (HCSB) Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

A few of the tribes rallied to strengthen each other; they came together to conquer the southern kingdom, Judah. This is not pleasing to YHWH and His is still raised to strike. Unity apart from the authority and compliance with the will of God is continued rebellion against Him. So in our day, when some religious leaders tell us we must develop a social conscience, see the gospel in a new light that the social rebels approve of. This is false unity, opposed to God and is not pleasing – for what has light to do with darkness?

Let each of us examine himself, to test everything in light of Scripture. Let us love one another in the truth of the Word in the power of the Spirit. For this is pleasing to God.

Isaiah 9 – Repent!

The middle portion of Isaiah 9, beginning with verse 8, brings a shift in focus. From the exceedingly good news of Christ as the Son of God to Jesus as Lord who will bring chastisement upon ethnic Israel for their continued rebellion.

Isaiah 9:8-9 (HCSB) The Lord sent a message against Jacob; it came against Israel. All the people— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—will know it.

YHWH brought a message against Jacob and Israel – both the south and northern kingdoms; nobody in the Mosaic Covenant community escapes. Everyone – from a lesser tribe of Israel to the “mixed breed” people – will know this, that the God of Israel brings judgement against His people. At the end of the age, when Christ Jesus comes the second time, bringing judgment to the world, everyone on the planet will know it. Only none of the saints will suffer that judgment, for He will gather the sheep to Himself.

Isaiah 9:9-10 (HCSB) They will say with pride and arrogance: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.”

This short passage reveals the underlying problem that plagued ethnic Israel. They declared, many generations before, that some may trust in horses and chariots but they, the people of Israel, trusted in the name of YHWH! Yet they generally lived in mostly open rebellion against Him, trusting in wealth and seeking approval of pagan nations. They boasted in their ability to rebuild what had been torn down – as if God dwelt in houses made of stone.

Isaiah 9:11-12 (HCSB) The LORD has raised up Rezin’s adversaries against him and stirred up his enemies. Aram from the east and Philistia from the west have consumed Israel with open mouths. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

Rezin was king of Assyria; YHWH raised up adversaries against him, stirring up enemies who also consumed Israel. Many times God had raised up pagan nations to punish national Israel for their rebellion. Sin against the Creator is not a light thing and His anger is not removed by cries of anguish and false tears of contrition; He will mete out His wrath on those who do not repent and embrace the Son.

Isaiah 9:13-16 (HCSB) The people did not turn to Him who struck them; they did not seek the LORD of Hosts. So the LORD cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. The head is the elder, the honored one; the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher. The leaders of the people mislead ⌊them⌋, and those they mislead are swallowed up.

Chastisement of His people is intended to remind them of their promises and His faithfulness; just as discipline in the New Covenant congregation is intended. Yet Jacob and Israel did not repent, did not turn back and seek their God. So their God “cut off Israel’s head and tail” – a picture of complete destruction. We learn that head and tail are leaders who led people astray, and those who were misled were swallowed up. Be careful who you follow, test all things in light of Scripture – else you and I could be swallowed up in the error of our leaders.

Isaiah 9:17 (HCSB) Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over Israel’s young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows, for everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

This last verse is some of the saddest in Scripture. YHWH will not rejoice over the young men nor have compassion on the fatherless and widows amongst His covenant people. Because EVERYONE is a godless evildoer and every mouth speaks folly. Without union with Christ, being born from above and indwelt by the Spirit, we would each and everyone be godless evildoers, speaking folly. For all who are apart from Christ, God’s anger is not removed, His hand is still raised to strike.

Judgment Day is coming. Are you trusting in your stuff or are you trusting in Christ Jesus and His completed work of redemption? What happened to ethnic Israel was for us, that we would not sin as they did (Rom 15:4, 1 Cor 10:11). While ye yet have breath, cry out to God, pleading with Him for mercy and new life in Christ. He is coming again. Not to deal with sin, but to gather those who eagerly await Him.

Isaiah 9 – Peace!

The first part of Isaiah 9 brings us a well-known poem of the birth of Christ. The introduction to this poem and the first few stanzas may be read over without much study, as they are not as clear to our way of thinking.

Isaiah 9:1 (HCSB) Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.

Zebulun and Naphtali were northern tribes that were decimated by the Assyrian invasion; whose king established three provinces in the northern kingdom: Magiddo (Galilee), Du’Ru (the Way of the See), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan). Knowing this makes the opening verse more clear: the northern kingdom was reeling under the heavy boot of Assyria and YHWH was promising a future of victory over them. Was this a temporal victory to reclaim dirt, or was Isaiah revealing something spiritual about the eternal kingdom?

Isaiah 9:2-3 (HCSB) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. ⌊The people⌋ have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.

Here the Spirit reveals what is termed “prophetic perfect”, when that which is future is presented as present, now. Assyria had brought darkness to Israel, just as sin had brought darkness to the whole earth. A light has dawned – John wrote of this:

John 1:1-5 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.

The light that overcomes the darkness is Christ Jesus. The nation that is enlarged is the body of Christ, wherein all who believe are one in Him. In Christ is unending joy that is firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus and not circumstances. This brings rejoicing at harvest time (when the harvest of souls is complete) when the rewards of labor are realized. We can understand while ethnic Israel saw renewed prosperity in the land as the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the references to Christ throughout tell us who are indwelt by the Spirit that something greater than Moses is here!

Isaiah 9:4-5 (HCSB) For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as ⌊You did⌋ on the day of Midian. For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.

This references the victory over the Middianites when God worked through Gideon (Judges 6). But it also speaks of the breaking of the yoke of sin when one is brought to new life in Christ, as He gives victory over sin that cannot be overturned. How do I know this? Because of what comes next.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (HCSB) For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.

While some have said that Hezekiah or Josiah are the one herein prophesied, none but Jesus fulfills all of these superlative descriptions. Not the government of ethnic Israel, but of the whole of creation will be on His shoulders (ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, Jesus announced, Matt 28:18). Who but Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace? As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus is identified as perfect wisdom. Mighty God shows Him to the Son of David. Eternal Father reflects His unity with God the Father and eternal nature as God. And no one brings peace with God to wretched sinners but Jesus. “Come to me, all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest! Peace I give, my peace; not as the world knows it. I have said these things to you so you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart – I have overcome the world!”

This the breaking of the heavy yoke, the giving of the light yoke. This is peace with God that the world can never provide nor understand. If you do not have peace, turn from those who promise peace, peace where there is no peace (politics, wealth, ease) and turn to the One Who, alone, can reconcile wretched sinners to God and bring unsurpassed peace to your soul.

Isaiah 8 – Christ is the Refuge!

The second part of Isaiah 8 presents the only refuge, the only sanctuary that can save those who are otherwise doomed to His wrath. It begins with Isaiah’s preface, calling what follows that which was told him to keep him from going the way of national Israel. Isaiah 8:11 (HCSB) For this is what the LORD said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people:

It should bring great comfort to those who know Christ as king to know He will do what is needed to protect us, even from our own inclinations. That’s what this message is.

Isaiah 8:12-13 (HCSB) Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

So often humans do what seems right to them because they want to prosper, to be safe. So they will team up with people who are naturally their enemies; fearing man more than they trust God. Rather than fear man or what terrifies him, we who call on YHWH as Father should rightly fear Him. He is totally separate from the creation. All that is from this earth will betray and crumble. God is – alone – above all and sovereign over all.

Isaiah 8:14-15 (HCSB) He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured.

YHWH will be a safe have – a sanctuary – but not for the two kingdoms of Israel. It’s Jesus being referenced here, for He was a stumbling stone of offense to the Jews of His day. All who do not see Him as the promised One will fall and be broken, caught in a snare and captured – by Satan. All whom the Father chose will find refuge in Christ. No one else can; they will find Him to be offensive and they will stumble and be crushed under the Chief Cornerstone.

Isaiah 8:16 (HCSB) Bind up the testimony. Seal up the instruction among my disciples.

Note this: “Seal up the instruction AMONG my disciples.” Progressive revelation – Daniel was told to seal the words (Dan 12:4); Isaiah was told to bind up the testimony but keep it among the disciples of God. In Revelation 5 Jesus begins to open the scroll and make it known to all.

Isaiah 8:17 (HCSB) I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him.

The servant of YHWH says he will wait for Him, the Creator and judge of things Who is hiding His face from Jacob (another reference to national Israel). He will make Himself known to those He has called.

Isaiah 8:18-22 (HCSB) Here I am with the children the LORD has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion. When they say to you, “Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people consult their God? ⌊Should they consult⌋ the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.

Jesus quotes the first part of verse 18 in Heb 2:13. Though it appears Isaiah is still speaking and refers to his children (signs and wonders), Christ Jesus is Immanuel, son of a virgin, given by God the Father, for the deliverance of His people and a sign to them!

Isaiah tells the leaders of Israel and Judah Who the real king is, the LORD of hosts who dwells on Mt. Zion; and he goes on to tell them not to continue following the ways of the pagan nations that have consistently infiltrated their community and culture. All who have not Christ will never be filled by things of this world – it can only bring distress, darkness, and affliction.

Turn to Christ while ye yet have breath! He – ALONE – is a refuge from the certain wrath of God that will eternally consume those who are NOT in His Book of Life.

Isaiah 8 – The Assyrians are Coming!

Chapter 8 of Isaiah is easily seen as two parts. The first part builds on the prophesied judgment on national Israel by YHWH’s use of Assyria. He speaks to Isaiah: Isaiah 8:1-2 (HCSB) Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large piece of parchment and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-shalal-hash-baz. I have appointed trustworthy witnesses—Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.” The phrase “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” means “speeding to the plunder, hurrying to the spoil.” That is the message to be proclaimed to national Israel. Assyria will hurry to spoil Israel, they will make speed to plunder that land.

Isaiah 8:3-4 (HCSB) I was then intimate with the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. The LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, for before the boy knows how to call out father or mother, the wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria will be carried off to the king of Assyria.” Does this not remind of Hosea, who was told to take a woman as his wife and she gave birth to children with names that foretold what Jesus said in Matthew 21:43 ” the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and it shall be given to a nation that produces the fruits of it.” Isaiah’s child had the name which was the same as the message of doom to national Israel; a precursor to the kingdom being taken from them by God.

Verses 5 – 8 are YHWH speaking judgment on Israel in colorful word pictures, flowing waters that were meant to fertilize were rejected so God brings judgment with rushing waters, which are identified as the king of Assyria. His exploitation of Israel overflow the banks – it will be total. The flood will overwhelm both north and south kingdoms, with Judah being identified in verse 8 as the one to be ruined. The end of verse 8 calls Judah “Immanuel” – for it was from that land that the promised One would come.

Verse 9 brings a change in tone – as YHWH pronounces doom on those who attack Judah: Isaiah 8:9-10 (HCSB) Band together, peoples, and be broken; pay attention, all you distant lands; prepare for war, and be broken; prepare for war, and be broken. Devise a plan; it will fail. Make a prediction; it will not happen. For God is with us.

The kings of Assyria and the northern kingdom of Israel would band together and be broken – three times, showing completeness. They will plan and prepare and predict their overthrow of Judah, the land called Immanuel, but they will not be able to succeed for YHWH tells His people “God is with us” – Immanuel!

Just as sure as the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent, so that seed would be born as a human in Judah and He would be Immanuel – God with us! This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!

Isaiah 7 – He is coming!

The second part of chapter 7 of Isaiah brings more bad news for national Israel. Last time we saw that YHWH had told Ahaz he would fall if he was not firm in his faith. Like Peter sinking into the waves when took his focus off Christ and fixed his eyes on the storm; he was not firm in his faith. So Ahaz, with disastrous results.

Our passage opens with God speaking to Ahaz. Isaiah 7:10-11 (HCSB) Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz: “Ask for a sign from the LORD your God—from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven.” Ahaz put on false humility: Isaiah 7:12 (HCSB) But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask. I will not test the LORD.” Note this: obedience to what God has commanded does NOT put God to the test; it puts man to the test. The Creator is not pleased with this creature’s attitude. His prophet replies.

Isaiah 7:13 (HCSB) Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you also try the patience of my God?” God’s patience was tried by the creature’s disobedience. By addressing Ahaz by his covenant identity, YHWH is reminding him that he (and the house of David) have been blessed by God unlike any other nation; and now he is rebelling against the One Who has been their provision.

Isaiah 7:14-17 (HCSB) Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. The LORD will bring on you, your people, and the house of your father, such a time as has never been since Ephraim separated from Judah—the king of Assyria ⌊is coming⌋.”

This well-known prophecy, “a virgin will conceive and her son will be named Immanuel – God with us!” is couched in the middle of bad news for national Israel. We see this son will learn obedience (Heb 5:8) and will be poor (eating butter – or sour milk – and honey was a sign of poverty). While He is growing into manhood (we speak of His human nature) both north and south Israel will be destitute – YHWH will send Assyria to punish them for continued disobedience. Rome would rule Israel by the time Jesus walked its streets.

The closing passage on this chapter talks about the judgment that will come on national Israel, using the phrase, “On that day,” four times in announcing bad news.

Isaiah 7:18-19 (HCSB) On that day the LORD will whistle to the fly that is at the farthest streams of the Nile and to the bee that is in the land of Assyria. All of them will come and settle in the steep ravines, in the clefts of the rocks, in all the thornbushes, and in all the water holes.

The Creator is sovereign over all creation – even bugs. He sent flies and bees to swarm over the entire kingdom that had been given to the people He had created.

Isaiah 7:20 (HCSB) On that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave the head, the hair on the legs, and to remove the beard as well.

To be shaved clean was a mark of shame in that day. YHWH sends Assyria to bring shame to national Israel.

Isaiah 7:21-22 (HCSB) On that day a man will raise a young cow and two sheep, and from the abundant milk they give he will eat butter, for every survivor in the land will eat butter and honey.

National Israel will be thrown into poverty; those who survive will have sour milk and honey; hallmarks of lack rather than abundance.

Isaiah 7:23-25 (HCSB) And on that day every place where there were 1,000 vines, worth 1,000 pieces of silver, will become thorns and briers. A man will go there with bow and arrows because the whole land will be thorns and briers. You will not go to all the hills that were once tilled with a hoe, for fear of the thorns and briers. ⌊Those hills⌋ will be places for oxen to graze and for sheep to trample.

On that day, what was once bright and valuable will be as weeds and goat heads. Hunters will find nothing, farmers’ work will yield nothing. Oxen will graze there and sheep will trample everything. The lost sheep of Israel, waiting for their Shepherd.

There is One Shepherd, one sheepfold. The everlasting kingdom is not your country, it’s not of this world. His kingdom is spiritual and will be fulfilled on the new earth when He returns, not to deal with sin but to gather those who eagerly await Him. Are you looking for Him, being faithful with what He’s given you? Are you grumbling because you don’t have enough stuff? Someone more mighty and awesome than the king of Assyria is coming. Do you know Him? Are you ready?

Isaiah 7 – The Fear of Man

Chapter 7 of Isaiah opens with a message to king Ahaz. In Israel at this time, as in most times, there was war and rumors of war. Ahaz’s heart was troubled, for he feared the loss of his power and wealth.

Isaiah 7:1-2 (HCSB) This took place during the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah king of Judah: Rezin king of Aram, along with Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, waged war against Jerusalem, but he could not succeed. When it became known to the house of David that Aram had occupied Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the hearts of his people trembled like trees of a forest shaking in the wind.

The pagan king of Aram and his ally, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel took Ephraim but were unable to conquer Jerusalem. When Ahaz heard that Ephraim had fallen, “the heart of Ahaz and the hearts of his people trembled like trees of a forest shaking in the wind.” What a word picture we have, especially this time of year, when the wind blows and the trees shake, and the leaves fall. In this world, we will have trouble, but fear not – Christ has overcome the world! Our flesh may shake in fear, but we belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken: Hebrews 12:27-29 (HCSB) “This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Beginning in verse 3, YHWH tells Isaiah what to say to Ahaz. Isaiah 7:4-6 (HCSB) Say to him: Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or cowardly because of these two smoldering stubs of firebrands, the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram, and the son of Remaliah. For Aram, along with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has plotted harm against you. They say, ‘Let us go up against Judah, terrorize it, and conquer it for ourselves. Then we can install Tabeel’s son as king in it.’”

God, Who is Lord of all, tells weak-in-knees Ahaz to not fear these raging kings that wage war against him; comparing them to “smoldering stubs of firebrands.” What a contrast with God Himself, Who is a consuming fire! YHWH reveals what was planned – terrorize the southern kingdom, conquer it, and install their stooge as king. If your kingdom is of this world, madmen such as these will come and steal and destroy and you should fear. If your kingdom is in Christ, these madmen may kill the body but they cannot kill the soul – you are secure in Christ Jesus!

Isaiah 7:7-9 (HCSB) This is what the Lord GOD says: It will not happen; it will not occur. The head of Aram is Damascus, the head of Damascus is Rezin (within 65 years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people), the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all.

See what YHWH tells Ahaz – these raging madmen will fail. Judah will not fall. He also reveals that the king of the northern kingdom is connected to the pagan nations, not connected to Him. In the light of this enormous conspiracy against Judah, YHWH tells Ahaz that he will fail if he is not firm in his faith. In other words, trust in God and not in chariots and horses. So it for us – the Lord our God is our strong tower of refuge, the ruler of the kingdom that cannot be shaken.

When your world is shaking, look to Christ!

Isaiah 6 – Holy, Holy, Holy!

This is a familiar scene, filled with awe as Isaiah reveals a scene from heaven, where the glory of God is overwhelming; Isaiah struggles with words to portray what he has seen. The three-times holy reinforces the unbroachable gap between Creator and creature. Holy refers to being set apart from something. Natural man cannot approach God any more than a fish can approach an eagle. The eagle can swoop low and snatch up a fish; so God in Christ was brought low in order to snatch up sinners.

A side note: in verse 1 we read that robe of God filled the temple. The Hebrew word is “seam” – as of the seam of His robe fills the temple. Again, I see this as indicating God is simply beyond our comprehension. We can understand Him in part, but full knowledge of Him is beyond us.

Isaiah 6:4 (HCSB) “The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices.” I think the author of Hebrews was pondering this when the Spirit gave him this: Hebrews 12:25-29 (HCSB) “Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Isaiah was undone, ruined, because he was “a man of unclean lips in a nation of unclean lips.” A Scripture reference to this is Exodus 6:12 & 30, where Moses tries to excuse himself from service to God in speaking to Israel (verse 12) and to Pharaoh (verse 30) because he is a man of uncircumcised lips. The remedy for Moses and the nation of Israel was not for the males to be circumcised in the flesh, but for them all to be circumcised of the heart (Deut 10:16), which would be done by God. The remedy for Isaiah was to have his lips cleansed with fire – both of these point to the regeneration by the Spirit, wherein we are cleansed from sin by the imputed righteousness of God and circumcised without human hands.

Isaiah, called of God, agrees to serve Him – no excuses. Here we read of encouragement to gospel preachers.

Isaiah 6:9-10 (HCSB) “And He replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.”

Contrary to the disciples of Osteen, Hybels, Warren, and the SBC leadership, those who proclaim the gospel of Christ are not to be concerned with the opinions and responses of sinful man; we are to be faithful to the One Who called us.

Isaiah didn’t shrink back but did ask, “for how long, Lord?” Isaiah 6:11-12 (HCSB) “And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate, and the LORD drives the people far away, leaving great emptiness in the land.”

YHWH will drive the people out, leaving the land empty and the house of Israel desolate. So we are to be consistent and faithful in preaching His Word, even if people are driven away and the temporal signs of wealth fall away.

Isaiah 6:13 (HCSB) “Though a tenth will remain in the land, it will be burned again. Like the terebinth or the oak that leaves a stump when felled, the holy seed is the stump.”

A tenth (remnant) will still be in the land, as Paul wrote: Romans 11:5 (HCSB) “In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace.” But though a remnant remains, “the land it will be burned again” – the judgment of God will consume all, as when He returns to judge the nations and make all things new.

Peter agrees: 2 Peter 3:10-13 (HCSB) “But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that ⌊day⌋ the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, ⌊it is clear⌋ what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.”

No matter what goes on in this age, on this earth, our call is be fixed in Christ, focused on Christ, holy in conduct (not like the world!) and godliness (like Christ!) as we wait for and EARNESTLY desire His return.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 (HCSB) “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Isaiah 5 – WOE to those …

The first part of chapter 5 of Isaiah is about a vineyard planted and tended by YHWH which did not produce good fruit. In His parable about a vineyard (Matt 21:33-46), wicked servants stole the fruit and were punished. In this chapter, slothful workers fail to produce good fruit and are punished. In both cases, the thieving and slothful workers are national Israel and God is the owner of the vineyard.

Isaiah 5:1-2 (HCSB) “I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes.”

This is God speaking; the One He loves is the Son Who did the work. In verses 3 & 4 the residents of Jerusalem and Judah are identified as witnesses of what is happening.

Isaiah 5:3-4 (HCSB) “So now, residents of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between Me and My vineyard. What more could I have done for My vineyard than I did? Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes, did it yield worthless grapes?”

In the next two verses the judgment of God is revealed. He will reduce the vineyard to wasteland, just as He cursed the fig tree that did not bear fruit (Matt 21:18-22).

Isaiah 5:5-6 (HCSB) “Now I will tell you what I am about to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned or weeded; thorns and briers will grow up. I will also give orders to the clouds that rain should not fall on it.”

The end of this passage testifies to the power and authority of the One created all things and judges all things. And it reveals who is represented by the vineyard.

Isaiah 5:7 (HCSB) “For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, the plant He delighted in. He looked for justice but saw injustice, for righteousness, but heard cries of wretchedness.”

YHWH owns the vineyard which is the national Israel (north and south kingdoms mentioned). They do injustice and are wretched and judgment will fall on them. This is the nature of the law covenant: temporal blessedness for obedience; judgment and punishment (often at the hands of pagan nations) for disobedience.

Contra is the New Covenant, wherein every branch will abide in the Root and bear good fruit (Matt 21:43). Note this: in Matt 21, Jesus has been telling many things to the leaders of national Israel and to His disciples, telling them of the disobedience of Israel and the judgement to come. This last reference, verse 43, is a critical passage, for we see here that ethnic Israel was a temporary people, just as the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary covenant. These things served their purposes as shadows and types. But in due season, the kingdom was revealed as spiritual and eternal and it was taken from the temporary, temporal “guardian” of ethnic Israel and given to the eternal, spiritual heirs of spiritual Israel.

Verses 8-17 depict the first 2 woes pronounced upon apostate Israel.

Isaiah 5:8 (HCSB) “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room and you alone are left in the land.”

This “woe” must be seen in its context. YHWH had given His covenant people land, tribe by tribe, with a provision for the Levites. In this way, no child of Abraham (according to the flesh) would be homeless. But. Sinful men who accumulated power began to take advantage of the poor. This was a comment charge of God against national Israel. This one comment in verse 8 may be reflective of King Ahab’s taking of Naboth’s land as recorded in 1 Kings 21.

The prophet Isaiah then records: Isaiah 5:9-10 (HCSB) “I heard the LORD of Hosts say: Indeed, many houses will become desolate, grand and lovely ones without inhabitants. For a ten-acre vineyard will yield only six gallons, and 10 bushels of seed will yield only ⌊one⌋ bushel.”

Judgment from God upon those who put their trust in things of this world. Recall how He would not allow Gideon to win the battle with many men, so all would know it was YHWH who had won the day. Recall how the children of Israel declared “some trust in horses and chariots but we trust in the name of our God!” Yet like so many of us, they grew comfortable and, like the farmer in the parable who went to sleep planning to build bigger barns, the Hebrew nation would find out their crops could not be depended upon if the Lord of the harvest did not bring in the produce.

Isaiah 5:11-12 (HCSB) “Woe to those who rise early in the morning in pursuit of beer, who linger into the evening, inflamed by wine. At their feasts they have lyre, harp, tambourine, flute, and wine. They do not perceive the LORD’s actions, and they do not see the work of His hands.”

The second “woe” – revealing another way in which the Hebrews had betray their God. They had grown comfortable living for today, engaging their fleshly senses with all sorts of stimuli. In the midst of so much luxury, they had forgotten Who had made all this possible, they had lost sight of their creator.

Isaiah 5:13-15 (HCSB) “Therefore My people will go into exile because they lack knowledge; her dignitaries are starving, and her masses are parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol enlarges its throat and opens wide its enormous jaws, and down go Zion’s dignitaries, her masses, her crowds, and those who carouse in her! Humanity is brought low, man is humbled, and haughty eyes are humbled.”

Because of their rebellion in seeking security in their stuff, God would send them into exile; the grave would consume many of them – all who sought satisfaction in goods. And we see the same refrain from chapter 2 – man is humbled, humanity is brought low. Pride cannot stand before God.

Isaiah 5:16-17 (HCSB) “But the LORD of Hosts is exalted by His justice, and the holy God is distinguished by righteousness. Lambs will graze as ⌊if in⌋ their own pastures, and strangers will eat ⌊among⌋ the ruins of the rich.”

Contrary to sinful man, who seeks assurance from other men, YHWH is above all and is exalted and glorified by His justice and righteousness! In that day, lambs (perhaps those Hebrews who had not gone the way of the flesh) will graze in peace and strangers – Gentiles – will be satisfied with what has been left behind. God will comfort and provide for His own.

Verses 18-22 reveal the final four “Woes” pronounced upon national Israel, wherein we see why the Lord will bring judgment on His covenant people. Note this: In the law covenant, failure to comply brought punishment. Biblical history of national Israel shows this cycle repeated countless times. In the New Covenant, which is a grace covenant, all the punishment for our rebellion and sinful neglect were laid upon the Lord Jesus. Because we are in Him, all that He has been given is ours and will be realized in the world to come.

While we sojourn in these fleshly tabernacles, let us learn from ethnic Israel’s failures and let us be humbly awed at being brought into spiritual Israel and given true rest by the Son of Man.

Isaiah 5:18-19 (HCSB) Woe to those who drag wickedness with cords of deceit and ⌊pull⌋ sin along with cart ropes, to those who say: “Let Him hurry up and do His work quickly so that we can see it! Let the plan of the Holy One of Israel take place so that we can know it!”

These people mentioned in this woe are wicked, trying to deceive others and drag then along. They are kin to the folks who demanded a sign from Christ Jesus; not believing in God unless He does what they expect and can see with eyes of flesh. Woe on those who demand a sign! It is a wicked and evil generation – whether in the days of the Old Covenant or now. We can see and believe on Him only with spiritual eyes, which He must give us.

Isaiah 5:20 (HCSB) Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Is this not commentary on natural man’s condition in every generation and nation? Natural man cannot help but suppress his knowledge of the truth by his own personal unrighteousness. People in our day call abortion and homosex good and they call law and order evil. They work hard to snuff out the light of truth on every news and social platform, because their deeds are evil and their depraved consciences accuse and excuse them.

Isaiah 5:21 (HCSB) Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight.

Here we see another common affliction of natural man. These people think they can hide their sin (and Jerry Epstein didn’t kill himself!) by their cleverness. From tax cheats to porn addicts to lying politicians – woe!

Isaiah 5:22-23 (HCSB) Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, who are fearless at mixing beer,  who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deprive the innocent of justice.

This fifth and final (for this passage) woe is pronounced on those who live to satisfy their fleshly desires and pervert justice for their own gain.

All of these behaviors in this passage that provoked these woes are common among natural man – and, at times, among the redeemed. Let us who claim Christ see this clearly and repent of what we know to be sin and plead for the grace to walk as children of the light day-by-day.

Isaiah 4 – On That Day!

Chapter 3 ends with a rebuke a rebuke to the women of Jerusalem (verses 16 & 17), and verse 18 begins the judgment that will be poured out, beginning with the phrase “On that day.” Through the end of chapter 3, all the wealth and signs of wealth will be stripped away from them with this result:

Isaiah 3:25-26 (HCSB) “Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. Then her gates will lament and mourn; deserted, she will sit on the ground.”

This judgment on the women continues in what we call chapter 4, beginning with the phrase “On that day;” as seven (symbolizing the complete number of Hebrew women) seek one man to provide for them and take away their disgrace.

Then we read, Isaiah 4:2-6 (HCSB) “On that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of Israel’s survivors. Whoever remains in Zion and whoever is left in Jerusalem will be called holy—all in Jerusalem who are destined to live— when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodguilt from the heart of Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night over the entire site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies. For there will be a canopy over all the glory, and there will be a booth for shade from heat by day, and a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.”

“On that day” promises are fulfilled and Isaiah uses familiar language to communicate to the Hebrew people how glorious it will be when the Lord washes away their filth and cleanses them of the bloodguilt of their wretched hearts. The familiar signs of a cloud of smoke and flame by night hearken back to the wilderness; the booth for shade reminds me of the end of Jonah’s account. Isaiah is pointing the Hebrews forward to the age-to-come, where the survivors of Israel (a remnant, Paul would say) are forgiven and live with YHWH in fellowship.

Isaiah 3 – Judgement Begins Here

In chapter 3, Isaiah brings God’s judgment and charges against His covenant people in national Israel. In the same fashion for His New Covenant people, judgment begins within the household of God.

Note his charges – a common one of abusing the poor and weak within their community. Note His judgment – lack of order and chaos as the community is set up-side down. AS was Israel, so it is in the USA.

Isaiah 3:4-5 (HCSB) “I will make youths their leaders, and the unstable will govern them.” The people will oppress one another, man against man, neighbor against neighbor; the youth will act arrogantly toward the elder, and the worthless toward the honorable.”

Isaiah 3:8-9 (HCSB) “For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the LORD, defying His glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom, they flaunt their sin. They do not conceal it. Woe to them, for they have brought evil on themselves.”

See who is responsible for this judgment? Those who rebelled against YHWH, spoken and acted against Him. They flaunt their sin and brought evil upon themselves.  Whenever you see “gay pride,” ANTIFA riots, or celebration of murdering babies you see those who flaunt their sin and bring evil upon themselves.

Isaiah 3:13-15 (HCSB) “The LORD rises to argue the case and stands to judge the people. The LORD brings ⌊this⌋ charge against the elders and leaders of His people: “You have devastated the vineyard. The plunder from the poor is in your houses. Why do you crush My people and grind the faces of the poor?” ⌊This is⌋ the declaration of the Lord GOD of Hosts.”

Again, we see that there is no escape from God’s view, His judgment. Our charge is to proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and plead with the nation to restore order for the sake of the poor and weak. We must walk as children of the light and be consistent in pointing saint and reprobate to Christ.

What is “God’s Law”?

Helpful hint. When you’re talking about law in the Bible, provide context. Don’t merely say “God’s Law” as if that defines it. Clearly He has given different laws to different people.

Here’s a quick review.

1.) I call this God’s universal law, it’s that which was given to mankind in conjunction with the Fall. This is how Cain knew murder was wrong before God confronted. This is how countless societies that were never given the Mosaic Law knew murder, theft, adultery, etc. were wrong. Some call this “Natural Law” or “Law of the conscience.”

2.) God gave Noah law after the flood abated. Genesis 9:3-6 (HCSB) “Every living creature will be food for you; as ⌊I gave⌋ the green plants, I have given you everything. However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it. I will require the life of every animal and every man for your life and your blood. I will require the life of each man’s brother for a man’s life. Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image.” This is remarkably similar to what the apostles wrote to the Gentile churches in Acts 15; check it out.

3.) God gave Abram law, but we don’t have a concise listing of it. In confirming the land promise to Isaac, God said: Genesis 26:4-5 (HCSB) “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions.”

4.) God gave law to national Israel. In introducing the law a second time, Moses said: Deuteronomy 5:1-3 (ESV) And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

Here, Moses is rehearsing the Decalogue with national Israel. The Decalogue is called the tablets of testimony of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 34:29).

5.) God gave a new law to those in the New Covenant. This covenant is not like Mosaic Covenant (Jer 31:32) and the law is not like the law of the Mosaic Covenant. Hebrews 7:11 says the Mosaic Law was given under the Levitical priesthood; verse 12 says the change of priesthood (going from Old to New Covenant) required a change of law. Verse 18 says the Old covenant was annulled because its law could not perfect anyone. As covenant and law, the Mosaic culture is no longer in force as covenant or law.

The law of Christ is what is written on the hearts of saints. It’s not like the old law, which was carved in stone for people with stone hearts. You can read about it in 1 Cor 9, Rom 10 & 13, Gal 6, James 1 & 2 among other places.

So when you talk about “God’s Law”, please let us know which law of God you mean. Thank you!

Isaiah 2: Warnings and Rebuke

Isaiah chapter 2 is full of warning and rebuke, foretelling of that great and terrible day when Christ returns to judge the nations. National Israel is warned that their long record of rebellion against YHWH and friendship with the world will bring judgment. God has turned His back on them.

Isaiah 2:6 (HCSB) “For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of ⌊divination⌋ from the East and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They are in league with foreigners.”

Here the prophet speaks of YHWH, how has abandoned the house of Jacob. They were in league with foreigners. Verses 7 & 8 describe these foreigners: rich, self-satisfied, idolaters. Verse 9 brings the first of three declarations that man will be brought low on that Day. Isaiah 2:9 (HCSB) “So humanity is brought low, and man is humbled. Do not forgive them!” There will be no forgiveness when the Lord makes His second advent (Heb 9:28).

Those who have not been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:10 (HCSB) “Go into the rocks and hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:11-12 (HCSB) “Human pride will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. For a day belonging to the LORD of Hosts is ⌊coming⌋ against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—it will be humbled” The second time we read of humanity being brought low. For when the Lord of glory returns, ALL will kneel before Him, some in worship and adoration; others in terror beyond human description.

Verses 14-16 describe the symbols and signs of the worldly riches that will crumble on that Day. And then the third time of man’s undoing. Isaiah 2:17-18 (HCSB) “So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness of men will be humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. The idols will vanish completely.”

Those who have been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:19 (HCSB) “People will go into caves in the rocks and holes in the ground, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:21 (HCSB) “They will go into the caves of the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” This verse and verse 10, above, ought to bring to your mind the scene in Revelation 6, when the sixth seal is opened:

Revelation 6:12-17 (HCSB) “Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?””

Carnal man will not willingly surrender to Christ on that Day, for the day of salvation has passed. He will return when the last spiritual stone has been mined from the earth and placed in the celestial city of New Jerusalem.

What is the bottom line? Isaiah 2:22 (HCSB) “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”

There is only One in whom we can find safety on that great and terrible day. Christ Jesus is a strong tower of refuge, and advocate for all who are in Him. If you hear His voice, do not harden your heart, for the day of salvation will not last forever. He is coming back. To judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new.

Hebrews 7: The Promise of an oath

I was reading in Hebrews 7 and my eye settled on this:

Hebrews 7:28 (HCSB) For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, ⌊appoints⌋ a Son, who has been perfected forever.

The “promise of the oath, which came after the law.” What was this? I initially focused on “promise” and thought of Gen 12, the promise that was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But that promise preceded the law by 400 years.

Ah – I was distracted. It was the oath which came after the law, not the promise.

Which oath? Not this one: Hebrews 6:13 (HCSB) “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself.” Nope, same problem.

It is this oath, which comes from Psalms 110:4 Hebrews 7:17 (HCSB) “For it has been testified: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Further emphasized here Hebrews 7:20-21 (HCSB) “None of this ⌊happened⌋ without an oath. For others became priests without an oath, but He became a priest with an oath made by the One who said to Him: The Lord has sworn, and He will not change His mind, You are a priest forever.”

Promise fulfilled by an oath that could not be broken. Hail Jesus, high priest of His people; King of glory; and judge of all flesh.

Introduction to Isaiah and Chapter 1

This is the first in a series that I pray will work all the way through Isaiah, with an eye to seeing Christ where He is truly presented.

Isaiah is a vision given to the son of Amoz. This gives us a clue about the nature of this book – similar to John’s Apocalypse, wherein he was shown a vision and told to write what he saw. So as you read Isaiah, bear in mind that visions tend towards the symbolic, often using common vernacular to paint a word picture of something else. Isaiah brings a four-fold message to the reader: a.) Accusing God’s covenant people of sin, rebelling against the God Who made them; b.) Sinners are instructed to repent and reform; c.) Announcing God’s judgment on people because of their sin; and d.) Revealing the redemption of His people.

Chapter 1. We find out who Isaiah is the extent of his vision. Isaiah 1:1 (HCSB) The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  

Isaiah 1:2-4 (HCSB) Listen, heavens, and pay attention, earth, for the LORD has spoken: “I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s feeding trough, ⌊but⌋ Israel does not know; My people do not understand.” Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs ⌊on Him⌋.

Out of the gate, YHWH brings a charge against Judah. He calls heaven and earth as witnesses, reminding His covenant people that He raised them and they have rebelled, turned their backs to Him; weighed down with sin, full of wickedness.

Isaiah 1:9-11 (HCSB) If the LORD of Hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would resemble Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats.

How often did Israel lament that if YHWH had not acted, they would like Sodom and Gomorrah! Isaiah then addresses Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah and tells them He’s fed up with their hypocritical religion.

Isaiah 1:13-15 (HCSB) Stop bringing useless offerings. ⌊Your⌋ incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies— I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with ⌊them⌋. When you lift up your hands ⌊in prayer⌋, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

When unrepentant sinners do religious rites, they are detestable, burdensome, hated, and YHWH will not pay attention to them.  If your religion is mere formalism, it is detestable to God. If you and I are not repentant and humble, thankful and in awe at being in Christ, we are tiresome to God.

Isaiah 1:16-17 (HCSB) “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.

Israel had a long record of abusing widows and orphans, waiting for their Sabbath to be over so they could cheat people with unbalanced scales. They were called to repent and make good on those they had taken advantage of. Then we read, “Come, let us reason together …” And then:

Isaiah 1:19-20 (HCSB) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  

This is the constant refrain in Scripture is those who do not repent will suffer the wrath of God – for the mouth of YHWH was spoken it (cue Handel!)

In verses 21-23 Israel is judged as guilty – doing all the same things He noted earlier in this chapter. The rulers were corrupt and vile. Yet in verses 24-31 God promises to punish His enemies, remove the dross from Israel, make the remnant righteous, a faithful city.

Isaiah 1:27-28 (HCSB) Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. But both rebels and sinners will be destroyed, and those who abandon the LORD will perish.

Here is the repeating contrast, repentant people redeemed by justice are made righteous. Rebels and sinners will be destroyed.

Be not deceived – God is not mocked, is not ignorant of our sin. Foolish are we if we think we can wink at sin or, hiding it from other humans, thinking He doesn’t see either. Let us agree with God – everything good is from Him; we can add only sin. By His Spirit we are given the will and the ability to do good (Phil 2:13).