Lessons From Micaiah
The noted historical figure Mohandas Gandhi [1869-1948], in his inspirational work titled Young India, astutely opined, "Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality." Though clearly never their intent, these words could quite easily provide the foundation for comprehending and appreciating the character of one of the least known, but most courageous, of all the many prophets of the Lord -- Micaiah, son of Imlah. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman [1820-1891], in his famous Memoirs, defined courage as "a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it." Once again, these are words that could easily be spoken of the above mentioned man of God. Similar to his contemporary Elijah, he faced 400 false prophets who had very little regard for him, one of whom even struck him a blow to the head. The wicked king, by his own admission, declared that he could not stand this prophet of God. His message was unpopular, as it foretold of death and devastation for the king and his forces in the upcoming conflict. He was very likely summoned from a prison cell, and was most certainly returned to one, where he was fed only bread and water. From this same wicked king, and his equally evil wife, the prophet Elijah had fled for his life into the wilderness. Yet, Micaiah boldly stood his ground before this hostile assembly and declared God's Truth. Who was this courageous, devoted man of God, and what were the circumstances surrounding this magnificent demonstration of faithfulness and fearlessness? And what valuable lessons can we today learn from this event?
The way to destruction is wide, but the path to life is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14). But, even those who follow hard after God, and have gleaned wisdom from scripture, find this a sad reality; nearly the entire religious, societal, scholastic, political, and philosophical establishment tells us that we are wrong. In some places this stand against the grain can cost believers their lives, or at least their freedom. This is the paradox of living out our faith in God, in this life. All of this reminded me of the account in 2 Chronicles 18 and its parallel account in 1 Kings 22 of Micaiah the prophet. This man knew what it was like to stand alone, and pay for his stand severely.
Micaiah was a man of God, a true prophet in a land where the rest of the prophets had sold out to the pagan enterprises of King Ahab of Israel. All of the king’s prophets were deceived and telling the king only what he wanted to hear. Yet an incident unfolded where Ahab was forced to summon Micaiah one last time and to be irked again by his condemning and negative prophesies concerning him. This incident was of Ahab’s own concocting. He had wooed good king Jehoshaphat of Judah into joining him in battle against the king of Aram (2 Chronicles 18:1-3). But before Jehoshaphat was ready to go and fight, he wanted to seek the Word of the Lord. Ahab brought in his own prophets, all four hundred of them, who in perfect collusion and conformity, told Ahab that Israel would win and succeed in battle. Jehoshaphat wasn’t convinced by these pagan impostors (v. 6), and Ahab was forced to call upon the last man of God in the land, Micaiah.
So Micaiah was summoned before Ahab in the presence of all of the 400 evil prophets. But before Micaiah was to enter before the king, the messenger who was sent to bring him in told him the following in 2 Chronicles 18:12: “Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. So please let your word be like one of them and speak favorably." This messenger knew the kind of man Micaiah was and his track record with the king. He knew Micaiah would likely say something bad about Ahab, and, though his motives are not given, either he didn’t want to see the party stop or Micaiah get hurt, or both. But it is not for the man of God to look out for his own welfare or to concern himself with the happiness of those to whom God has brought judgment. Micaiah responded to the messenger by saying, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak” .
This is the heart-cry of the true follower of Christ. We are not to be concerned with the results of our preaching, only that we preach the Word of God. It doesn’t matter if we stand alone or if we, like Micaiah, are outnumbered 400 to 1. We must be so confident in the authority of the Bible that we choose to cling to it and preach it even in a hostile environment.
Satan may try to convince us that we must be wrong, given that there are so few who stand by our side, but God’s Word renders the only verdict that counts. Others might call us “arrogant” for believing that we know is the truth while they are wrong, but we must stand firm. If we believe God’s Word and obey it, we can expect to be in the minority and to have persecution. Being a spokesperson for the Lord has never been a popularity contest or a glamour job. Just ask Jesus Himself. The crowds left him, and only the twelve stuck with Him (John 6:66-68). But He did the will of Him Who sent Him (John 4:34), and that was the only thing that mattered.
Micaiah told Ahab the truth that Israel would be defeated and that Ahab would be killed in battle. One of the evil prophets struck Micaiah across the cheek for having the audacity to claim that he was being deceived. Ahab also reacted angrily to the prophecy and commanded that Micaiah be thrown into prison with minimal food and water. Yet Micaiah didn’t back down or regret his decision to speak the truth. He wanted the people to remember what he said and to listen, for he was confident that the future events would prove him to have been the true prophet of God.
Ahab tried to thwart the prophecy from God by disguising himself in battle and setting up Jehoshaphat as a target. But God protected Jehoshaphat, while a “random” arrow pierced one of the joints of Ahab’s armor, killing him. God’s Word always comes to pass, even if we try to thwart it. Nothing can change about God’s Word, for it endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).
The call of the Christian will face the same testing. To obey the will of God no matter the cost and no matter the loss, being mindful of the reward and gain to come. May God give us the strength, perseverance, and boldness to go against the grain, even if it requires us, like Micaiah, to stand alone.
Five principles- food for thought:
It is better to be divided by truth than united in error.
It is better to tell the truth that hurts and then heals than to tell a lie that comforts and then kills.
It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.
It is better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude.
It is better to succeed ultimately with the truth than to succeed temporarily with a lie.
Peace Without Compromise
When teaching his disciples, Jesus made a statement that was blunt, honest, and cut through all the intentions of men:
Joh 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
Joh 15:21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
Here the Lord verbalizes a solemn truth, and his own observations during his ministry. Earlier on his approach in dealing with people is given to us in these verses:
Joh 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
Joh 2:24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
Joh 2:25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
An excerpt from the Expositor's bible commentary gives further insight into these passages:
The first visit of Jesus to Jerusalem was not without considerable effect on the popular mind. Many who saw the miracles He did believed that He was a messenger from God. They saw that His miracles were not the clever tricks of an impostor, and they were prepared to listen to His teaching and enroll themselves as members of the kingdom He came to found. Yet our Lord did not encourage them. He saw that they misunderstood Him. He recognized their worldliness of heart and of aim, and did not admit them to the intimacy He had established with the five simple-minded Galileans. The Jerusalem Jews were glad to fall in with one who seemed likely to do honour to their nation, and their belief in Him was the belief men give to a statesman whose policy they approve. The difference between them and those who rejected Christ was not a difference of disposition such as exists between godly and ungodly men, but consisted merely in the circumstance that they were convinced that His miracles were genuine. Had our Lord encouraged these men they would ultimately have been disappointed in Him. It was better that from the first they should be stimulated to reflect on the whole matter by being coldly received by the Lord.
It is always a point that calls for reflection: we have to consider not only whether we have faith in Christ, but whether He has faith in us-not only whether we have committed ourselves to Him, but whether that committal is so genuine that He can build upon and trust it. Can He count upon us for all service, for fidelity in times when much is needed? Thoroughgoing confidence must always be reciprocal. The person you believe in so utterly that you are entirely his, believes in you and trusts himself to you-his reputation, his interests are safe in your keeping. So is it with Christ. Faith cannot be one-sided here any more than elsewhere. He gives Himself to those who give themselves to Him. They who so trust Him that He is sure they will follow Him even when they cannot see where He is going; they who trust Him, not in one or two matters which they see He can manage, but absolutely and in all things,-to these He will give Himself freely, sharing with them His work, His Spirit, His reward.
I've gone through the discourse above to come to this point;
The question has been asked at times, which I'm going to answer here: " Why do you do this, it seems to be a waste of time, and you seem to be getting no financial benefit from it."
When God calls somebody to do something, they are given the free choice to say yes, and obey-or not. He never promises an easy time of getting it done. I don't care what anybody else is teaching on this matter, the word of God and Jesus himself makes it clear that a servant is not given a promise of prosperity and multitudes of people following them. Many years ago, when I knew God called me, and confirmed it by several encounters with people whom I didn't even know, I went through a time of serious evaluation and counting the cost- and then said yes.
Now, in this service to God, I do two things consistently-pray and seek His guidance for every specific decision. Then, to the best of my ability and resources I've got, I go about doing what He's given me to do.
No, I do not link myself with any denominations, organizations, or put myself in a situation where I have to answer to them, or change my approach. Simply because I know God has asked me to not get into a situation where I can be bribed, blackmailed, or forced to do or say something I know is not of God. His word is the final authority in my decision making, without compromise. Right now, I can make the unpopular moral and ethical stands and say what God says in His word about it, and no one can force me to lower my standards or moral integrity in order to stay in line with some denomination or organization that's making their decisions swayed by religious politics and money. The situation of Nicodemus coming to speak with Jesus at night is an example. He was afraid of losing his position, what people thought, and what would happen to him. I'm not, and don't intend to ever get into that position.
I've had all the accusations you can imagine spoken of me, disobedient, rebellious, unwilling to submit to authority, mentally ill, unbalanced, I've heard it all. I've also sat in churches years at a time and listened to error, apostasy, and outright rebellion from the pulpit. So, I took my bible and spent several years studying scripture, especially the life and teachings of Christ, and the epistles of Paul. I've come away freed from the bondage of man's interpretations. I'm no longer willing to receive accusations or attacks from people who don't even know me, don't care anything about me, and only have the desire to throw their stones. They are wasting their time.
I know who I am in Christ, forgiven and saved from my sins, free from every curse of the law, and covered by His blood, standing in His righteousness, and called to be a servant by Him, and answerable to only Him on Judgment day. End of story.
Over the years I've seen and heard some things from these denominations and big ministers that cause me to make sure I never get trapped into having to answer to them. I've heard some of them use scripture to "curse" other's they don't agree with, and twist them to get people to follow them. If I see somebody not willing to stand on the word of God, and becoming apostate-I may call them out about it, and post their error, but then leave them to God. I pray for them, and leave them alone. God will take care of them, in His way, in His time.
I have family members I don't agree with, and have had to do the same with them. People in the body of Christ are at different levels, different places of understanding, and don't always agree. To live at peace sometimes it means separating and going different ways. Paul and Mark went through this, and came back to fellowship later, but sometimes this is the only way to deal with problems between believer's-say "shalom", and separate.
I'm very aware that these posts are read by a lot of people who choose to remain anonymous, that's fine with me. If they don't want to be associated with me, it doesn't matter to me in the least. I am known by God-that's enough. One day, when I see Him face to face, all I hope to hear is "Well done, good and faithful servant."
A Nation Divided
The results of the mid term elections tells an accurate condition of this nation; a divided house and a divided country.
This comes in the midst of the majority of people in the country in a paradox between social upheaval and unrest over race issues, the influx of illegal immigration, rising lawlessness in all areas, while at the same time many who refuse to take their heads out of the sand and remain embedded in apathetic slumber.
We can see ourselves defined in these verses by Isaiah:
Isa 30:9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
Does this not describe the mood of the nation today?
America has now legalized what God has called sin, and essentially told Him he is not welcome in this nation. Abortion, same sex marriage, transgender laws, Satanism is now legal. Pedophilia is being pushed more and more in every form of media. It will become legalized, as well as doing away with the drug laws. In a few years, I believe we will see all of this in mainstream television and movies and depicted as normal. If you hold to any moral standards you will be persecuted and ostracized to the point that the laws will actually be against anyone with any moral or religious convictions against these perversions. It's already going on, and will only get worse.
Isa 30:10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
There's no shortage of pillow prophets today-every form of media has an abundance of them. These are the prosperity preachers who never speak the truth or of the need to repent from sin. The pews and donation buckets would be empty if they did.
Isa 30:11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
This refers to God himself, He is not wanted-"We do not want you in our life, our laws, or society." This is the United States today; from the schools, colleges, the government, and public institutions.
For 3-4 generations there's been a push in schools, and especially colleges to overturn America as a republic, and replace the Constitution with socialism and Marxism. In the Cold War era of the late 50"s and early 60"s, I stood in my parents livingroom and heard Nikita Khrushchev make several predictions:
“We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.”
“We cannot expect the Americans to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving Americans small doses of socialism, until they suddenly awake to find they have communism.”
“You Americans are so gullible. No, you won't accept communism outright, but we'll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you'll finally wake up and find you already have communism. We won't have to fight you. We'll so weaken your economy until you'll fall like overripe fruit into our hands.”
Today I see his predictions becoming a reality. Sadly, I believe from my perspective as a Christian; that God will continue to allow this and it will be one of several aspects that will eventually bring the country to an end. I do not believe there's enough people with the backbone or patriotism to hold off the onslaught that's coming against this country now. Sin has overtaken us. I don't know how much longer things will float along as they are in the U.S., but to me it is clear the balance has tipped over, to the point of no return. It's only a matter of time before severe changes emerge, and the foundations of this country crumble to ruin, as Rome did.
Isaiah didn't have success in trying to warn the people in his day. The Watchmen God has today who have been sounding alarms, warning of judgment to come, and upheaval increasing in this country aren't having great success either. But, we aren't called to worry about success, just be obedient to try to warn them, and let them live with the consequences of their own choices.
Below is a segment of some of Isaiah's prophecies, and the historical account from the Expositor's bible commentary of the siege of Jerusalem during his time. If anyone has an interest in Old Testament history, and the comparisons that can be seen in Isaiah's time and ours in this country today; you may find them very confirming, and insightful.
What happens from this point on, God's people would do well to get their houses in order, get out of debt, get right with God and stay that way, and live in peace as much as possible. Trust God, He is still on the Throne. He will take care of His people, those who are truly His. He has always been, and always will be, faithful.
Excerpt from the Expositor's bible commentary:
POLITICS AND FAITH
ABOUT 720 B.C.
THIS prophecy of Isaiah rises out of circumstances a little more developed than those in which chapter 29 was composed. Sennacherib is still engaged with Babylon, and it seems that it will yet be long before he marches his armies upon Syria. But Isaiah’s warning has at last roused the politicians of Judah from their carelessness. We need not suppose that they believed all that Isaiah predicted about the dire siege which Jerusalem should shortly undergo and her sudden deliverance at the hand of the Lord. Without the two strong religious convictions, in the strength of which, as we have seen, he made the prediction, it was impossible to believe that this siege and deliverance must certainly happen. But the politicians were at least startled into doing something. They did not betake themselves to God, to whom it had been the purpose of Isaiah’s last oration to shut them up. They only flung themselves with more haste into their intrigues with Egypt. But in truth haste and business were all that was in their politics: these were devoid both of intelligence and faith. Where the sole motive of conduct is fear, whether uneasiness or panic, force may be displayed, but neither sagacity nor any moral quality. This was the case with Judah’s Egyptian policy, and Isaiah now spends two chapters in denouncing it. His condemnation is twofold. The negotiations with Egypt, he says, are bad politics and bad religion; but the bad religion is the root and source of the other. Yet while he vents all his scorn on the politics, he uses pity and sweet persuasiveness when he comes to speak of the eternal significance of the religion. The two chapters are also instructive, beyond most others of the Old Testament, in the light they cast on revelation-its scope and methods.
Isaiah begins with the bad politics. In order to understand how bad they were, we must turn for a little to this Egypt, with whom Judah was now seeking an alliance.
In our late campaign on the Upper Nile we heard a great deal of the Mudir of Dongola. His province covers part of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia; and in Meirawi, the village whose name appeared in so many telegrams, we can still discover Meroe, the capital of Ethiopia. Now in Isaiah’s day the king of Ethiopia was what the Mudir of Dongola was at the time of our war, an ambitious person of no small energy; and the ruler of Egypt proper was, what the Khedive was, a person of little influence or resource. Consequently there happened what might have happened a few years ago but for the presence of the British army in Egypt. The Ethiopian came down the Nile, defeated Pharaoh and burned him alive. But he died, and his son died after him; and before their successor could also come down the Nile, the legitimate heir to Pharaoh had regained part of his power. Some years ensued of uncertainty as to who was the real ruler of Egypt.
It was in this time of unsettlement that Judah sought Egypt’s help. The ignorance of the policy was manifest to all who were not blinded by fear of Assyria or party feeling. To Isaiah the Egyptian alliance is a folly and fatality that deserve all his scorn (Isa_30:1-8).
"Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, executing a policy, but it is not from Me; and weaving a web, but not of My spirit, that they may heap sin upon sin; who set themselves on the way to go down to Egypt, and at My mouth they have not inquired, to flee to the refuge of Pharaoh, and to hide themselves in the shadow of Egypt. But the refuge of Pharaoh shall be unto you for shame, and the hiding in the shadow of Egypt for confusion!" How can a broken Egypt help you? "When his princes are at Zoan, and his ambassadors are come to Hanes, they shall all be ashamed of a people that cannot profit them, that are not for help nor for profit, but for shame, and also for reproach."
Then Isaiah pictures the useless caravan which Judah has sent with tribute to Egypt, strings of asses and camels struggling through the desert, "land of trouble and anguish" amid lions and serpents, and all for "a people that shall not profit them" (Isa_30:6).
What tempted Judah to this profitless expenditure of time and money? Egypt had a great reputation, and was a mighty promiser. Her brilliant antiquity had given her a habit of generous promise, and dazzled other nations into trusting her. Indeed, so full were Egyptian politics of bluster and big language, that the Hebrews had a nickname for Egypt. They called her Rahab-Stormy-speech, Blusterer, Braggart. It was the term also for the crocodile, as being a monster, so that there was a picturesqueness as well as moral aptness in the name. Ay, says Isaiah, catching at the old name and putting to it another which describes Egyptian helplessness and inactivity, I call her Rahab Sit-still, Braggart-that-sitteth-still, Stormy-speech Stay-at-home. "Blustering and inactivity, blustering and sitting still," that is her character; "for Egypt helpeth in vain and to no purpose."
Knowing how sometimes the fate of a government is affected by a happy speech or epigram, we can understand the effect of this cry upon the politicians of Jerusalem. But that he might impress it on the popular imagination and memory as well, Isaiah wrote his epigram on a tablet, and put it in a book. We must remind ourselves here of chapter 20, and remember how it tells us that Isaiah had already some years before this endeavoured to impress the popular imagination with the folly of an Egyptian alliance, "walking unfrocked and barefoot three years for a sign and a portent upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia."
So that already Isaiah had appealed from politicians to people on this Egyptian question, just as he appealed thirty years ago from court to market-place on the question of Ephraim and Damascus. (Isa_8:1) It is another instance of that prophetic habit of his, on which we remarked in expounding chapter 8; and we must again emphasise the habit, for chapter 30 here swings round upon it. Whatever be the matter committed to him, Isaiah is not allowed to rest till be brings it home to the popular conscience; and however much he may be able to charge national disaster upon the folly of politicians or the obduracy of a king, it is people whom he holds ultimately responsible. To Isaiah a nation’s politics are not arbitrary; they are not dependent on the will of kings or the management of parties. They are the natural outcome of the nation’s character. What the people are, that will their politics be. If you wish to reform the politics, you must first regenerate the people; and it is no use to inveigh against a senseless policy, like this Egyptian one, unless you go farther and expose the national temper which has made it possible. A people’s own morals have greater influence on their destinies than their despots or legislators. Statesmen are what the state makes them. No Government will attempt a policy for which the nation behind it has not a conscience; and for the greater number of errors committed by their rulers, the blame must be laid on the people’s own want of character or intelligence.
This is what Isaiah now drives home. (Isa_30:9 ff.) He tracks the bad politics to their source in bad religion, the Egyptian policy to its roots in the prevailing tempers of the people. The Egyptian policy was doubly stamped. It was disobedience to the word of God; it was satisfaction with falsehood. The statesmen of Judah shut their ears to God’s spoken word; they allowed themselves to be duped by the Egyptian Pretence. But these, says Isaiah, are precisely the characteristics of the whole Jewish people. "For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the revelation of the Lord." It was these national failings-the want of virtues which are the very substance of a nation: truth and reverence or obedience-that had culminated in the senseless and suicidal alliance with Egypt. Isaiah fastens on their falsehood first: "Which say to the seers, Ye shall not see, and to the prophets, Ye shall not prophesy unto us right things; speak to us smooth things: prophesy deceits." No wonder such a character had been fascinated by "Rahab"! It was a natural nemesis, that a people who desired from their teachers fair speech rather than true vision should be betrayed by the confidence their statesmen placed in the Blusterer, "that blustered and sat still." Truth is what this people first require, and therefore the revelation of the Lord will in the first instance be the revealing of the truth. Men who will strip pretence off the reality of things; men who will call things by their right names, as Isaiah had set himself to do; honest satirists and epigrammatists-these are the bearers of God’s revelation. For it is one of the means of Divine salvation to call things by their right names, and here in God’s revelation also epigrams have their place. So much for truth.
But reverence is truth’s other self, for reverence is simply loyalty to the supremest truth. And it is against the truth that the Jews have chiefly sinned. They have shut their eyes to Egypt’s real character, but that was a small sin beside this: that they turned their backs on the greatest reality of all-God Himself. "Get you out of the way," they said to the prophets, "turn out of the oath; keep quiet in our presence about the Holy One of Israel!" Isaiah’s effort rises to its culmination when he seeks to restore the sense of this reality to his people. His spirit is kindled at the words "the Holy One of Israel," and to the end of chapter 31 leaps up in a series of brilliant and sometimes scorching descriptions of the name, the majesty, and the love of God. Isaiah is not content to have used his power of revelation to unveil the political truth about Egypt. He will make God Himself visible to this people. Passionately does he proceed to enforce upon the Jews what God thinks about their own condition (Isa_30:12-14), then to persuade them to rely upon Him alone, and wait for the working of His reasonable laws (Isa_30:15-18). Rising higher, he purges with pity their eyes to see God’s very presence, their ears to hear His voice, their wounds to feel His touch (Isa_30:19-26). Then he remembers the cloud of invasion on the horizon, and bids them spell, in its uncouth masses, the articulate name of the Lord (Isa_30:27-33). And he closes with another series of figures by which God’s wisdom, and His jealousy and His tenderness are made very bright to them (chapter 31).
These brilliant prophecies may not have been given all at the same time: each is complete in itself. They do not all mention the negotiations with Egypt, but they are all dark with the shadow of Assyria. Isa_30:19-26 almost seem to have been written in a time of actual siege; but Isa_30:27-33 represent Assyria still upon the horizon. In this, however, these passages are fitly strung together: that they equally strain to impress a blind and hardened people with the will, the majesty, and the love of God their Saviour.
I. THE BULGING WALL
Starting from their unwillingness to listen to the voice of the Lord in their Egyptian policy, Isaiah tells the people that if they refused to hear His word for guidance, they must now listen to it for judgment. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel: Because ye look down on this word, and trust in perverseness and crookedness, and lean thereon, therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, bulging out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. "This iniquity," of course, is the embassy to Egypt. But that, as we have seen, is only the people’s own evil character coming to a head; and by the breaking of the wall, we are therefore to suppose that the prophet means the collapse not only of this Egyptian policy, but of the whole estate and substance of the Jewish people. It will not be your enemy that will cause a breach in the nation, but your teeming iniquity shall cause the breach-to wit, this Egyptian folly. Judah will burst her bulwarks from the inside. You may build the strongest form of government round a people, you may buttress it with foreign alliances, but these shall simply prove occasions for the internal wickedness to break forth. Your supposed buttresses will prove real breaches; and of all your social structures there will not be left as much as will make the fragments of a single home, not "a sherd" big enough "to carry fire from the hearth, or to hold water from the cistern."
II. NOT ALLIANCES, BUT RELIANCE
At this point, either Isaiah was stung by the demands of the politicians for an alternative to their restless Egyptian policy which he condemned, or more likely he rose, unaided by external influence, on the prophet’s native instinct to find some purely religious ground on which to base his political advice. The result is one of the grandest of all his oracles. "For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; and ye would not. But ye said, No, for upon horses will we flee; wherefore ye shall flee: and upon the swift will we ride; wherefore swift shall be they that pursue you! One thousand at the rebuke of one-at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a bare pole on the top of a mountain, and as a standard on a hill. And therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He hold aloof that He may have mercy upon you, for a God of judgment is the Lord; blessed are all they that wait for Him." The words of this passage are their own interpretation and enforcement, all but one; and as this one is obscure in its English guise, and the passage really swings from it, we may devote a paragraph to its meaning.
"A God of judgment is the Lord" is an unfortunately ambiguous translation. We must not take judgment here in our familiar sense of the word. It is not a sudden deed of doom, but a long process of law. It means manner, method, design, order, system, the ideas, in short, which we sum up under the word "law." Just as we say of a man, "He is a man of judgment," and mean thereby not that by office he is a doomster, but that by character he is a man of discernment and prudence, so simply does Isaiah say here that "Jehovah is a God of Judgment," and mean thereby not that He is one whose habit is sudden and awful deeds of penalty or salvation, but, on the contrary, that, having laid down His lines according to righteousness and established His laws in wisdom, He remains in His dealings with men consistent with these.
Now it is a great truth that the All-mighty and All-merciful is the All-methodical too; and no religion is complete in its creed or healthy in its influence, which does not insist equally on all these. It was just the want of this third article of faith which perverted the souls of the Jews in Isaiah’s day, which (as we have seen under chapter 1) allowed them to make their worship so mechanical and material-for how could they have been satisfied with mere forms if they had but once conceived of God as having even ordinary intelligence?-and which turned their political life into such a mass of intrigue, conceit, and falsehood, for how could they have dared to suppose that they would get their own way, or have been so sure of their own cleverness, if only they had had a glimpse of the perception, that God, the Ruler of the world, had also His policy regarding them? They believed He was the Mighty, they believed He was the Merciful, but because they forgot that He was the Wise and the Worker by law, their faith in His might too often turned into superstitious terror, their faith in His mercy oscillated between the sleepy satisfaction that He was an indulgent God and the fretful impatience that He was an indifferent one. Therefore Isaiah persisted from first to last in this: that God worked by law; that He had His plan for Judah, as well as these politicians; and, as we shall shortly find him reminding them when intoxicated with their own cleverness "that He also is wise". (Isa_31:2) Here by the same thought he bids them be at peace, and upon the rushing tides of politics, drawing them to that or the other mad venture, to swing by this anchor: that God has His own law and time for everything. No man could bring the charge of fatalism against such a policy of quietness. For it thrilled with intelligent appreciation of the Divine method. When Isaiah said, "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength," he did not ask his restless countrymen to yield sullenly to an infinite force or to bow in stupidity beneath the inscrutable will of an arbitrary despot, but to bring their conduct into harmony with a reasonable and gracious plan, which might be read in the historical events of the time, and was vindicated by the loftiest religious convictions. Isaiah preached no submission to fate, but reverence for an all-wise Ruler, whose method was plain to every clear-sighted observer of the fortunes of the nations of the world, and whose purpose could only be love and peace to His own people.
III. GOD’S TABLE IN THE MIDST OF THE ENEMIES
This patient purpose of God Isaiah now proceeds to describe in its details. Every line of his description has its loveliness, and is to be separately appreciated. There is perhaps no fairer prospect from our prophet’s many windows. It is not argument nor a programme, but a series of rapid glimpses, struck out by language which often wants logical connection, but never fails to make us see.
To begin with, one thing is sure: the continuance of the national existence. Isaiah is true to his original vision-the survival of a remnant. "For a people in Zion-there shall be abiding in Jerusalem." So the brief essential is flashed forth. "Thou shalt surely weep no more; surely He will be gracious unto thee at the voice of thy crying; with His hearing of thee He will answer thee." Thus much of general promise had been already given. Now upon the vagueness of the Lord’s delay Isaiah paints realistic details, only, however, that he may make more vivid the real presence of the Lord. The siege shall surely come, with its sorely concrete privations, but the Lord will be there, equally distinct. "And though the Lord give you the bread of penury and the water of tribuation" (perhaps the technical name for siege rations), "yet shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, but thine eyes shall ever be seeing thy Teacher; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way: walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand or when ye turn to the left." Real, concrete sorrows, these are they that make the heavenly Teacher real! It is linguistically possible, and more in harmony with the rest of the passage, to turn "teachers," as the English version has it, into the singular, and to render it by "Revealer." The word is an active participle, "Moreh," from the same verb as the noun "Torah," which is constantly translated "Law" in our version, but is, in the Prophets at least, more nearly equivalent to "instruction," or to our modern term "revelation" (cf. Isa_30:9). Looking thus to the One Revealer, and hearkening to the One Voice, "the lying and rebellious children" shall at last be restored to that capacity for truth and obedience the loss of which has been their ruin. Devoted to the Holy One of Israel, they shall scatter their idols as loathsome (Isa_30:22). But thereupon a wonder is to happen. As the besieged people, conscious of the One Great Presence in the midst of their encompassed city, cast their idols through the gates and over the walls, a marvellous vision of space and light and fulness of fresh food bursts upon their starved and straitened souls (Isa_30:23). Promise more sympathetic was never uttered to a besieged and famished city. Mark that all down the passage there is no mention of the noise or instruments of battle. The prophet has not spoken of the besiegers, who they may be, how they may come, nor of the fashion of their war, but only of the effects of the siege on those within: confinement, scant and bitter rations. And now he is almost wholly silent about the breaking up of the investing army and the trail of their slaughter. No battle breaks this siege, but a vision of openness and plenty dawns noiselessly over its famine and closeness. It is not vengeance or blood that an exhausted and penitent people thirst after. But as they have been caged in a fortress, narrow, dark, and stony, so they thirst for the sight of the sower, and the drop of the rain on the broken, brown earth, and the juicy corn, and the meadow for their cribbed cattle, and the noise of brooks and waterfalls, and above and about it all fulness of light. "And He shall give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal, and bread, even the increase of the ground, and it shall be juicy and fat; thy cattle shall feed that day in a broad meadow. And the oxen and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savoury provender, winnowed with the shovel and with the fan. And there shall be upon every lofty mountain and upon every lifted hill rivers, streams of water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the hurt of His people and healeth the stroke of their wound." It is one of Isaiah’s fairest visions, and he is very much to be blamed who forces its beauty of nature into an allegory of spiritual things. Here literally God spreads His people a table in the midst of their enemies.
IV. THE NAME OF THE LORD
But Isaiah lays down "the oaten pipe" and lifts again a brazen trumpet to his lips. Between him and that sunny landscape of the future, of whose pastoral details he has so sweetly sung, roll up now the uncouth masses of the Assyrian invasion, not yet fully gathered, far less broken. We are back in the present again, and the whole horizon is clouded.
The passage does not look like one from which comfort or edification can be derived, but it is of extreme interest. The first two verses, for instance, only require a little analysis to open a most instructive glimpse into the prophet’s inner thoughts about the Assyrian progress, and show us how they work towards the expression of its full meaning. "Behold, the Name of Jehovah cometh from afar-burning His anger and awful the uplifting smoke; His lips are full of wrath, and His tongue as fire that devoureth; and His breath is as an overflowing torrent-even unto the neck it reacheth-to shake the nations in a sieve of destruction, and a bridle that leadeth astray on the jaws of the peoples."
"The Name of Jehovah" is the phrase the prophets use when they wish to tell us of the personal presence of God. When we hear a name cried out, we understand immediately that a person is there. So when the prophet calls, "Behold, the Name of Jehovah," in face of the prodigious advance of Assyria, we understand that he has caught some intuition of God’s presence in that uplifting of the nations of the north at the word of the great King and their resistless sweep southward upon Palestine. In that movement God is personally present. The Divine presence Isaiah then describes in curiously mingled metaphor, which proves how gradually it was that he struggled to a knowledge of its purpose there. First of all he describes the advance of Assyria as a thunderstorm, heavy clouds and darting, devouring fire. His imagination pictures a great face of wrath. The thick curtains of cloud as they roll over one another suggest the heavy lips, and the lightnings the fiery tongue. Then the figure passes from heaven to earth. The thunderstorm has burst, and becomes the "mountain torrent" which speedily "reaches the necks" of those who are caught in its bed. But then the prophet’s conscience suggests something more than sudden and sheer force in this invasion, and the "tossing" of the torrent naturally leads him to express this new element in the figure of "a sieve." His thought about the Assyrian flood thus passes from one of simple force and rush to one of judgment and being well kept in hand. He sees its ultimate check at Jerusalem, and so his last figure of it is the figure of "a bridle," or "lasso," such as is thrown upon the jaws of a wild animal when you wish to catch and tame him.
This gradual progress from the sense of sheer wild force, through that of personal wrath, to discipline and sparing is very interesting. Vague and chaotic that disaster rolled up the horizon upon Judah. "It cometh from afar." The politicians fled from it to their refuge behind the Egyptian Pretence. But Isaiah bids them face it. The longer they look, the more will conscience tell them that the unavoidable wrath of God is in it; no blustering Rahab will be able to hide them from the anger of the face that lowers there. But let them look longer still, and the unrelieved features of destruction will change to a hand that sifts and checks, the torrent will become a sieve, and the disaster show itself well held in by the power of their own God.
So wildly and impersonally still do the storms of sorrow and disaster roll up the horizon on men’s eyes, and we fly in vague terror from them to our Egyptian refuges. So still does conscience tell us it is futile to flee from the anger of God, and we crouch hopeless beneath the rush of imaginations of unchecked wrath, blackening the heavens and turning every path of life to a tossing torrent. May it then be granted us to have some prophet at our side to bid us face our disaster once more, and see the discipline and judgment of the Lord, the tossing only of His careful sieve, in the wild and cruel waves! We may not be poets like Isaiah nor able to put the processes of our faith into such splendid metaphors as he, but faith is given us to follow the same course as his thoughts did, and to struggle till she arrives at the consciousness of God in the most uncouth judgments that darken her horizon-the consciousness of God present not only to smite, but to sift, and in the end to spare.
Of the angel who led Israel to the land of promise, God said, "My Name is in him." Our faith is not perfect till we can, like Isaiah, feel the same of the blackest angel, the heaviest disaster, God can send us, and be able to spell it out articulately: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth."
For delivery, says Isaiah, shall come to the people of God in the crisis, as sudden and as startling into song as the delivery from Egypt was. "Ye shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord; to the Rock of Israel."
After this interval of solemn gladness, the storm and fire break out afresh, and rage again through the passage. But their direction is reversed, and whereas they had been shown rolling up the horizon as towards Judah, they are now shown rolling down the horizon in pursuit of the baffled Assyrian. The music of the verses is crashing. "And the Lord shall cause the peal of His voice to be heard, and the lighting down of His arm to be seen in the fury of anger, yea flame of devouring fire-bursting and torrent and hailstones. For from the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be scattered when He shall smite with the rod. And every passage of the rod of fate which the Lord bringeth down upon him shall be with tabrets and harps, and in battles of waving shall he be fought against." The meaning is obscure but palpable. Probably the verse describes the ritual of the sacrifice to Moloch, to which there is no doubt the next verse alludes. To sympathise with the prophet’s figure, we need of course an amount of information about the details of that ritual which we are very far from possessing. But Isaiah’s meaning is evidently this: The destruction of the Assyrian host will be liker a holocaust than a battle, like one of those fatal sacrifices to Moloch which are directed by the solemn waving of a staff, and accompanied by the music, not of war, but of festival. "Battles of waving" is a very obscure phrase, but the word translated "waving" is the technical term for the waving of the victim before the sacrifice to signify its dedication to the deity; "and these ‘battles of waving’ may perhaps have taken place in the fashion in which single victims were thrown from one spear to another till death ensued." At all events, it is evident that Isaiah means to suggest that the Assyrian dispersion is a religious act, a solemn holocaust rather than one of this earth’s ordinary battles, and directed by Jehovah Himself from heaven. This becomes clear enough in the next verse: "For a Topheth hath been set in order beforehand; yea, for Moloch is it arranged; He hath made it deep and broad; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, shall kindle it." So the Assyrian power was in the end to go up in flame.
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No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me,
saith the LORD.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto
The Victory of Our Faith
is born of God overcometh the world: and this is
the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world,
but he that believeth
that Jesus is the
Son of God?
But they that wait
upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
The Whole Armor
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all,
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Am I racist? Read the blog below from my other site-it will fully answer this question.
The Race Issue-posted 3/8/2019- https://www.twosparrowsministry.org/home/the-race-issue
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