For years now, between bible studies and whenever I have "extra time", I've been reading and blogging my way through the Old Testament chronologically. Following Hosea, I'm back in Isaiah.
I went back to my last Isaiah post, just to re-orient myself. I was a post on Isaiah 24-27 and this from the concluding paragraph of that post: "The terror of the Tribulation and the goodness of the coming Kingdom Age." Those four chapters covered the troubling times of the tribulation and the blessing of our Lord's coming Kingdom Age!
That's a lot of ground to cover, much of it terrifying; but always with the Hope of His Coming in front of it.
Then I read Hosea. Grim little book.
But also with the Hope of His Coming.
In our daily New Testament reading, we're nearing the end of the Gospel of Luke and Jesus is warning them to watch for the signs of His coming and not to be caught unexpectedly:
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing (dissipation), drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.Luke 21:34
God continually speaks of this time to come. Even though only one generation will actually be alive during that season, all generations are told to contemplate it and stay watchful.
Much of the the message is grim, as a warning. But the other part of the message tells the end of the story, which is our hope.
I mention this because it has been a hard season for me. The Isaiah 24-27 post was written on January 1 of this year. Almost 10 months ago. I had become ill the day after Christmas and by January 4, I was in the hospital. From there has been a parade of health-related issues. Some inter-related and some random and unrelated. It's been a whole season. Some caused by my own choices, some not caused by me.
Even my cat became ill recently, and she never has health problems.
And now Tuesday I have a surgery scheduled to remove half of my thyroid.
Of course, my prayer is that it all goes well and brings this season of health and medical issues to a close.
However, Isaiah and Hosea and Luke and all of the rest of the bible doesn't promise that.
It does repeatedly and throughout promise the Hope of His Coming. Me to Him or Him to me, whoever goes first. As long as I know that I know that I know that I am His and He is coming for me.
So I start my day today, tomorrow and Tuesday, and I start back into Isaiah, to see what God has for me next.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim...Isaiah 28:1a
It's interesting. I mentioned above that I just read Luke 21:34, "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing (dissipation), drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly"
Drunkenness is categorized along with "cares of this world" as a thing that would weigh down a heart. Along with dissipation or carousing. Losing yourself to a substance leaves you unable to communicate with God.
And look what else is included in Isaiah 28:1, "the crown of pride."
We know Isaiah means the leaders of Israel (Ephraim) because in later verses he refers to "them." So it's those wearing the crown. However, I really like the image of "the crown of pride" as a warning symbol for those of us inclined to the sin of pride. I know that I am. To want to find value in myself, just myself, apart from God. Wanting that value to, somehow, be superior to those around me...
I'd like to blame Eve and her genetics. She wanted her way over what she knew the Lord wanted for her.
But no, it's my own rebellion. My own desire to feel like I have what I need. Even though, it turns out, apart from Him I have nothing. I am nothing. Ephraim is a great warning about what happens when we wear our crown of pride.
Compare that with verse 5 in which Isaiah promises:
In that day the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people.Isaiah 28:5
There it is again. Hope. For a remnant.
In verse 7, we move from the crown (rulers) to the priest and prophets.
Also drunk with wine and in error. It causes an error in vision and in judgment. Something this group should have clearly and in abundance. But they trade away their duty for strong wine.
Additionally, all tables are filled with filth and vomit. No place is clean.
When you dull your senses, you lose your ability to care about even the most basic health and hygiene. The whole point of the buzz is, often, to help someone not have to feel the things that stress them out. But numbing yourself leaves you numb to everything, not just your cares.
This can be any idol by the way, not just alcohol or drugs.
For me food brings me comfort in troubled times. Or shopping. Or relationships. Or anything that takes your mind off the things you don't want to think about or feel.
And worst of all, the thing lost in their drunken stupor...their ability to teach the message of the Lord...their purpose is washed away with the wine. You must build precept upon precept, line upon line, and that cannot be done when you've intentionally dulled your ability to think.
Verse 11 tells us that the leaders were not listening; but soon they would try to understand what God was saying through the stammering lips of the foreign invader on the way (Assyrians).
We see in verses 14 and 15 that these evil ruler have made a deal with death (Egypt/Assyria) and think they are on the winning team. They think death will pass over them and that their lies and deceptions will protect them. They keep telling the people and themselves that these deals with foreigners for safety will work out.
It seems so unlikely that someone would believe that; but we all do. We see the consequences but use the hope method to believe those consequences won't come to us. I wonder if it's even more pronounced in the modern era because we are trained to think of a 40 hour work week; weekends off. My time. Off hours. We compartmentalize when we need to look and act one way and when we can "do as we please."
And now, by the grace of God, we arrive at the Good News.
Therefore says the Lord God: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.
Also, I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the water will overflow the hiding places.Isaiah 28:17
What a contrast to the current corrupt leadership mentioned above.
He goes on to annul the covenant they made with death and assure them that they will be trampled. They wanted an agreement with Assyria, assuming it would all turn out in their favor...but Assyrian would turn on Israel.
He goes on to describe their daily life in Sheol and it's very unpleasant.
Isaiah assures us that the Lord will rise up and do His work. An "awesome work". And bring to pass His act, "His unusual act." Chastening His own people through defeat. And, eventually, a destruction of the whole earth.
With a surgery coming, and stress at work, and a sick and aging, but beloved cat all crushing in on me in the next few days, I have some choices to make. I have a flood of emotions crushing in and threatening to swamp the boat.
Do I make an alliance with Egypt? With Assyria? With win and sweet oblivion? With my hope in denial, lies, deception, and Sheol?
Or do on fall on the Cornerstone, broken, but with hope in His Resurrection and my rejuvenation in salvation? Do I praise as worthy the only worthy of praise? Do I let the Lord light my life on fire, knowing a have the firm foundation of Christ.
I have decided that the Battle Belongs to the Lord and It is Well with My Soul.
Hallelujah and Amen.
Farming with God
Verses 23-29 encourage us to listen and hear.
And then there comes specific farming advice about cultivating cummin, wheat, barley, and spelt.
And the chapter ends with praise to God as wonderful in guidance and counsel.
I assume this is actual wonderful advice about cultivating those crops; but I also assume there are obvious parallels that reflect what we just talked about above. I'm very curious to read what the commentaries can tell me about this interesting, seeming, aside.
Ryrie interprets it as: just as the farmer uses the proper threshing instruments, God intends to produce righteousness (or His Will) through particular judgements.
The farmer doesn't want to destroy the crops, but he will use whatever method is necessary to get the proper result.