Assyria Attacks

“Yet not I but through Christ in me.” – As I ponder these words I realize that if I want to live my life in according to Your will, it comes down to a decision I must take. I must take it with every step, every thought, every action. The onus is on me to make the decision, either to go my own way or stay in the the way of Christ and benefit from the grace that covers me there. It is not enough to know that God has infinite power. It is not enough to say that I have experienced that power in the past. That power is only available if I walk in Jesus’ will. If I choose to follow You, You will release all the power for me to do that and far more than I could dream is possible. You will convict me and remind me of the fact that I am wandering off, but You will never force me to take the right decisions. The motivation to do that is huge though, because it draws me back into the arms of Your love. Not that You ever stop loving me, but when I move away from You, I stop experiencing the joy and power of Your presence and love. Thank you Lord for reminding me of all this today.

Back to Isaiah. We come now to Chapters 36 -39, which are a narrative link between the first half of Isaiah, where Assyria features as the aggressor to the second half which looks forward to Babylon ‘s invasion and the exile. Let’s read this one step at a time and see what Jesus is saying to us.

As the Assyrian forces surround Jerusalem, the “Field Commander” addresses King Hezekaiah, who is Ahaz’s son and the present ruler in Judah, Chapter 36:1-20 deals with what this fellow says and Hezekiah’s response follows in the next chapters. I found this address interesting as an example of how Satan tries to subvert our trust in God, because that is what he is trying to do. The key word is “trust”, repeated several times. If this Field Commander can break Hezekiah’s trust in God then he is going to be able to overcome Judah. So what does he say? Read through the passage and see what he says and how what the he says can relate to what Satan may be saying to you today.

Here is what I saw:

1. Who are you depending on? vs 5, Yes, who are you depending on, that is the question for all of us?

2. Is he depending on Egypt? Well the temptation has been to do that. I suppose today, Egypt represents anyone who appears to have the ability to help us.

3. Then he casts doubt on Hezekiah’s trust in God. The incident he wrongly interprets in vs 7 refers to Hezekaiah’s removing “illegal” places of worship to force the people to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, which was God’s instruction.

4. Then he actually claims he is acting on the Lord’s instruction, v 10.

5. He then addresses the other Israelites who are listening, to try and subvert them so that they will put pressure on Hezekiah to surrender. He first threatens them personally, vs 12 Then he claims the king is deceiving them because he cannot deliver them, vs 14. He then mocks Hezekaiah’s trust in God. vs 15. He tries to offer them another land. vv 16,17. This is a huge attack on God because they were already living in the “Promised Land”, so he is attacking the very plan of God. Finally he mocks Yahweh himself by suggesting Hezekaiah is wasting his time in trusting God, because God is no better than the idols of the other nations. vv 18,19.

So what is all this about? Trust (faith) is the vital link we have with God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith”, Ephes. 2:8. It is the means through which we are saved. It does not stop there, however. Our whole relationship with God is based on our trust in Him. The most important work He is doing in each one of our lives is to help our faith to strengthen. On the other hand if Satan can attack our faith and cause us to doubt, maybe trust God less or trust other things instead of Him, he is weakening the whole of the Church as well as each of us individually.

Now all these things that we read here represent ways that Satan uses to attack our trust in God. That is why it is so useful to read this passage because the best way to fight the enemy is to get to know his methods.

I pondered over this reading and realized how easily I trust in other things than God. When there is a medical crisis, or financial or anything else which threatens me, I find myself immediately starting to think who can help me. This seldom starts with God. Should we not consult medics, use medicines, find financial advice then? Of course not, God is the one who provides them for us. The question is, who are you trusting in? Are you lending your ears to wrong advice? Do you start doubting all sorts of things?

A very interesting passage that caused me to have lots to think about.

Streams in the Desert

I have been meditating on God’s name, His honour and what that means to me.

“Yes My name is all important. From the very beginning I have chosen a people to carry My name, yet time and again they have abused it – that is why I punished them repeatedly. You now carry My name – because you are in Jesus – so part of the heavenly blessing which you have received in Him is that you now have My name. Yet, even as you carry My name as a blessing, it carries a responsibility. You are always representing Me, wherever you go. Whatever you do or say will and does reflect on My name. But don’t let that be onerous – draw near to Me as your Father and walk with Me in step with My Spirit and you will carry My name in honour. Just be aware that every angry word, every time you mutter and complain or say something bad about someone, that has a negative effect on My name. just draw close to Me. Every prayer, every desire you have when you walk close to Me will be fulfilled because they will align with My desire for you.

The 23 chapters of Isaiah, from Ch 12 to 35 carry a number of oracles which basically repeat the same message. God will judge. His own people first and His enemies, which He uses as an instrument of Judgement next. There is the theme of a “Remnant” which occasionally speaks of a king. Then there is the recurrent theme that God will save those who trust in Him. I have decided to jump to ch 35 which is a comforting picture which ends that long section of judgement.

Please read Ch 35 and meditate on what is being said. What exactly is being promised? When will this happen? Has it any relevance for me?

When I was in Israel in 1972, they told me they were busy fulfilling this prophecy. They had laid on huge pipelines, carrying water from Lake Kinneret right through the country. It had transformed this “desert-like” landscape into a green oasis in many places. There was never any mention of the hand of God being in this transformation, however. So, could this be what Isaiah prophesied?

There are some faint shades here of the promises God made to His people when He brought them out of Egypt. Those people were promised a land flowing with milk and honey. Yet, here 300 years later the people were being attacked from all sides and the future looked really grim.

Well, there were certain aspects of this promise which would be fulfilled when God brought His people back from 70 years of exile in Babylon. The redeemed, those saved from the exile, did return with singing to Zion. But what a homecoming. A ruined city and a devastated temple waited for them. Poverty and hardship seemed more prominent than streams in the desert.

Over the years the people have tried several times to recreate this scene on their own, missing the point completely. The problem lay in their inability to trust in Yahweh. They wanted to do it their way and get the glory for themselves. This passage lays the bed for the expectation of the last part of Isaiah. How will God fulfill this prophecy? Will we ever see it it here on earth?

There are certainly aspects of this prophecy which are being fulfilled now. Vs 3, is mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews 12:12. Then there is this picture of a “Way of Holiness”. “The unclean will not journey on it, it will be those who walk in that Way.” This sounds very much like the “Narrow Way” which Jesus used to describe our journey on the way to heaven. The use of the term “The Way” to describe this journey reminds one of the name that the early Christians gave to their new-found faith. These are all pictures relative to this world.

Some others are maybe more symbolic. Like the water gushing forth in the desert. Perhaps this describes our new life in Jesus, but we are also reminded of the streams of living water which Jesus promised, would flow forth from HIm

Ultimately though, we must accept that the full picture still lies in the future. It is the “hope of the Christian”. We can see ourselves as the “redeemed returning with singing unto Zion. Where everlasting joy will crown our heads”.

Underlying all this is the constant reminder that this is only for those who trust in the Lord. Of course from our perspective today, we can see the key role of the One who we have met earlier as the Son and the Stump of Jesse. The King described as carrying the government on His shoulders.

The question I ask myself, as I listen to Jesus is. Do I see this picture unfolding symbolically around me as I continue to follow the Way through the desert? The narrow, difficult Way. The Way that has been made by Jesus. But also a reminder that for my part, I need to strengthen my feeble hands and weak knees for what I may face.

From the Stump, the Messiah.

Quietly I wait on the Lord. In my mind I am like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him and enjoying His presence.

“Yes Ian, I am present here with you – the Creator of the whole universe, the Ruler of the kingdoms of the world, robed in magnificent majesty, yet quietly present here with you in My Spirit. I bring with Me the full warmth of My love to surround you and embrace you – yet at the same time I hold the rod of correction to direct you away from your selfish desires and plans. I shine into this room with the full force of the sun to fill your life with My presence and My joy – enjoy Me, appreciate Me – that is what glorifies Me most.”

We come today to the last two chapters of the “book of Immanuel” Isaiah, Chapters 11 & 12.

Chapter 11 starts with the prophecy in vv1-5, which link the theme of a “remnant, which we have seen developing”, with a specific figure. Here there can be no mistaking this figure. It is the expected Messiah. We see in these verses all the characteristics of Yahweh brought upon a “man”, through the Spirit of the Lord. This links with the other prophecies about Immanuel, “God with Us”, in this section.

In 11:6-9 we see a representation of the prophetic climax behind Yahweh’s intent, which we will only experience after the final “day”, when the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 11:9.

The rest of the section should be seen in three time frames. Firstly, describing a gathering of the Jewish people from where they have been exiled and bringing them back as a sort of second Exodus to The Promised Land. This foresees another gathering or Exodus which is heralded in Chapter 12. When the ministry extends to the whole world, including all the nations, 12:4 c. This too has several time frames. In one sense it started when Messiah arrived in the world , as the “Son” and the “Root”. However it was not completed then, it is still ongoing and will only be complete when “That day” finally arrives”.

Chapter 12 gives a beautiful description of the most important aspects of the salvation which Messiah would bring, to take us to our final destination. See if you can spot them.

  1. We will all praise God for what He has done. That is, He will be recognized for who He is. Isa 12:1,3,5,6. Remember, not recognizing God for who He is, was the underlying sin of the people,
  2. His anger will be turned away. Propitiation, as I described last time, by Jesus.12:1b
  3. His main action is and will be to save us. Notice, it is God who saves us. He is the sole agent. cf vv 2,3.
  4. Our part is to simply trust in Him and in this promised work of salvation. v 2. We demonstrate this trust by our genuine experience and expression of Joy. vv 3,4,5.
  5. Finally this is such a magnificent gift from Yahweh, that our reaction should be to go out and tell all the nations.

I meditate on that. This God, Creator of the universe, Saviour of my soul, present here in this very room with me, through Immanuel’s Spirit. Wanting to have fellowship with me and flowing from that to be an agent, telling all the “nations of the glorious things Yahweh has done.”