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ISAIAH 30-31

Written by Phyllis. Posted in Articles

    What appears to be a totally unimaginative title for a website article is actually more homage to these wonderful verses than lack of creativity. I have read these scriptures many times both as a cohesive narrative, and as a basket of great verses to pick from, a couple of which I'll introduce in a bit, but rarely have I been as impacted with a couple of verses as I was recently by Isaiah 30-31. Ordinarily I'll read the Bible with my " Holy Hat " on, siding easily with Moses and Samuel, David and Josiah, and the other faith greats,recoiling at the faithlessness and overall knuckleheadedness of the Hebrews! On occasion, aided by the Holy Spirit, I'm sure, I'll read the Bible and be in complte identification with the faithless and knuckleheaded, and in awe of or mourning my spiritual incompatibility with the great spiritual leaders. In the recent case of reading these two verses from Isaiah, the prophet is speaking for God, and I was overwhelmed with the impossibility of what God was demanding of the Israelites!

 

      The days of Isaiah could be considered the beginning of the end for Israel; there is a scant 100 years or so, until Judah suffers the ultimate judgement, captivity in a foreign land and banishment from the Promised Land. The Northern Kingdom, subsequently known as the "10 lost tribes" was taken captive during Isaiah's lifetime, but the greater spiritual disaster of Judah or the Southern Kingdom falling to the Babylonians took place a century beyond his death. So the book of Isaiah is a bit of a last warning, and a prophesying of the salvation of the Messiah. 30 and 31 are more in the "last warning" mode. But the message is so relevant today: "Trust in Me and divorce yourself from the promises and allure of power put forth by the gods and idols of Egypt (the world system)!"

     References to Egypt in the Old Testament were literal to them but symbolic to us and just as relevant. Egypt was a great world power probably at its height in the days right before the Exodus, but still great centuries later. The presence of the Nile river with its fertile delta and provision for irrigation, along with Egypts great gold deposits caused Her to remain prosperous and relatively immune to the impact of drought in the Middle East. The people's total allegiance to and reverence for their Pharaohs allowed for structured and effective governance. And of course, the wonderful Egyptian horses and chariots, the era's equivalent of stealth bombers and cruise middles, so desired that Solomon ignored a direct order of the Lord to NOT go down to Egypt to obtain horses ( a great example of what God is warning about in Isaiah, a little too late for Solomon who found out the hard way!) attracted the wealth of the great and prosperous in neighboring nations. We, of course, don't covet Egyptian horses and chariots, but we have lots of other good stuff to misdirect our faith and trust!

      There is a remnant in the church world; God always has a people that are dedicated to His truth, committed to His ways, and obedient to His voice. We, the remnant, walk by faith and try not to walk by sight. We believed when we read Jesus proclaiming that Jesus' followers would do greater works, that miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are operative today and we're not denying the operation of the Holy Spirit just because there's some chicanery and abuse to be found in the mix; we wanted the treasure so we bought the field! However, the temptation to grow weary in well doing is powerful! Believing for and earnestly praying for people with terminal illnesses is scriptural- we know the tag," if it be Thy will" is a cop out and emasculates the prayer of faith. It's been settled: by 

His stripes we WERE healed. But some aren't, at least not here on earth. When I was reading these verses in Isaiah with such dread and understanding, we had just lost a couple of friends in their early 50's. One was a woman who 2 1/2 years earlier had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a woman of unflagging faith, mother of 5, ages 9-20, and was raising a nephew as well. She homeschooled her children, and fought cancer for 2 1/2 yrs. She and her husband were very active members in a seriously believing church, and they were a well known and loved couple in our city's faith community at large. She is with the Lord and completely healed, but there's a struggling family left behind.

     Our other friend was a popular restauranteer who was kind and softhearted and always struggling financially more than you would think for a higher end restaurant owner. He was 54, got short winded one day, collapsed on the way to the emergency room and died a week later as his heart "event" lead to progressive organ shutdown and death. He was a believer, but not well schooled or strong in the faith, but many who are strong and schooled in faith were interceding for him. Beyond those two difficult deaths, there are all the little difficulties and problems my wife and I have been battling, seemingly unsuccessfully in the faith, for the last 4 years so that when I read these verses I understood their message. Don't lean on Pharaoh or the riches and power of Egypt; trust Me, and Me alone!

    As I'm writing this, the Cleveland  Cavaliers have just survived a threat of being swept in 4 games by Golden State, because they put forth a Herculean effort resulting in the breaking of a couple of Finals' records: points scored in the first half- 86; 3 pointers made in the first half 13; they sunk 24 three pointers in the game, a Finals record; the skill and achievement of these 2 teams this season are mind blowing! As a believer, who Jesus described as being in this world but not of it, we apply our faith, rather than Lebron-Kevin Durant type champion like skill to secure the outcomes we and our fellow believers desire. We've all had seasons in which we don't ever seem to make a difference, (but I can assure you, that impression is probably not accurate, but rather the result of discouragement, one of the great weapons of the enemy), and then we watch a sporting event with great and glamorous human achievement, or witness someone achieving and prospering in life, apparently by their own efforts or smarts, or hear of a great breakthrough in medicine that's having tremendous results and changing countless lives and subtly but surely, our discouragement in the faith and our being moved by these creative milestones in the world can cause us to loosen our ties of trust in God and His Word and His way, and put our attention and hope in human people, institutions and processes. That doesn't mean you quit going to church and burn your Bible, but you may become robotic in religion and looking more to Pharaoh and less to God. An example of this phenomena is recounted in 1 Kings 18 and 19. Elijah, a precursor to the Messiah, a mighty prophet and spiritual father to Israel, was fed up with his people and their double mindedness ; they professed the God of Abraham, but left the Baal option open. Throughout the Old Testament, the battle fought was not against atheism, or total abandonment of God for idols; it was the adultery of attentiveness to all the other popular gods of the moment while confessing the God of Israel; the hedging of bets that angered the Lord. So Elijah set up his sacrifice and challenged the prophets of Baal ( who the queen Jezebel worshipped) to do the same. After demonstrating the power of the Lord God and His willingness to answer Elijah's prayer, he mocked and ultimately killed the 450 prophets of Baal who couldn't get their great god to demonstrate anything. Elijah then challenged the people, asking them " How long will you be of 2 minds?" 1 Kings 18:22. Then he does the rain miracle, focusing his faith on a word from God and feeding it with the sight of one tiny cloud after enduring a long, terrible drought , until his faith and trust brought forth a mighty rain. All this demonstration of God's power and responsiveness caused Satan some serious grief, so he motivated his willing servant, Jezebel, to threaten the life of the prophet. Elijah fled in fear for his life. Now when you read this with your "Holy Hat" on, you tsk tsk and shake your head and wonder at Elijah's lack of faith resulting in his fear of Jezebel! This incident allowed Elijah to become very discouraged at his whole ministry and existence, denying the great things of God he had been part of as discouragement can cause us to do. So after witnessing the mighty miracles of his God, he is still so impressed with the power of the secular powers that he flees from them, forgetting the power of God to protect him. Of course, if you remove your Holy Hat, you'll easily identify with Elijah's faith crisis and resulting discouragement. It's easy to become lax in your active faith in God to provide for you; to heal you; to speak to you and guide you; to protect you. It's easy to seek out and begin to place your trust in ( or become fearful of!) people and institutions that appear so strong and promising. God covets your trust. God is determined to grow your faith. So it's a grievous thing when we abandon our walk for powerless ritualism. We live like the world, we trust in the world, but we go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays, read our Bibles daily, but scheme and plan and walk through the Yellow Pages and surf the Internet to fulfill the desires of our heart! Abraham and Sarah became discouraged waiting for the child of promise and schemed to produce one through the slave woman; it's hard to blame them or Elijah!

     This is God 's lamentation: "For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength. But you would not!" Isaiah 30:15. And His promise: "And the effect of righteousness will be peace [internal and external], and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever."

Isaiah 32:17

    

     We live in tumultuous times that easily distract from the greatness and calm of a faithful Heavenly Father, who promises us a glorious eternity, rewards for service and faithfulness, and promises us protection and material support on this earth, in this, our time. In return, He asks us to trust Him, to believe His written word, AND His spoken, Ramah word to us. We must walk on this earth, work on this earth, and live in this earth, but remain seated with Christ Jesus in heavenly places, not looking to, or putting our trust in the power and gods of Pharaoh, but in the great I Am!

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