Isaiah 15 -- 21
The prophet Isaiah was guided to turn his thoughts from the glorious, future reign of the King of Peace, to proclaim the judgment of God first upon the Northern Kingdom, saying:The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim. He then included Judah, saying: The glory of Jacob shall be made thin. . . . Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation (Isaiah 17:3-4,10).
The fortress . . . of Ephraim speaks of the powerful ten-tribe kingdom, a symbol of wealth, power, and self-glory in disobedience to the known Word of God. The glory of Jacob was a reminder that the Kingdom of Judah and the Holy City of God would both be destroyed because they became involved in worldly pursuits and eventually neglected, then rejected, the Word of God.
Isaiah foretold that Assyria would ruthlessly destroy the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps just as surprising, he prophesied that Judah would experience national distress: There shall be desolation (17:9). When that happened, all would be destroyed. Devastated by war, the self-sufficient wealthy are seen here desperately snatching up a few of their life's treasures to escape to the border districts only to lose everything there. This lets us see the insecurity of worldly possessions. It was not until Judah lost Jerusalem, with its Temple, its walls, its wealth, and its pleasures, that the hearts of its people turned from their idols to once again serve the Living God. Judah's "tragic" loss was its greatest blessing in disguise.
Nothing hides the will of God from man's view so deceptively as success and financial security. Solomon wisely said: There is a serious evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners to their hurt (Ecclesiastes 5:13). Perhaps this is why our Savior has much to say about wealth that is seldom repeated: Woe to you who are rich (Luke 6:24). With disregard for our Lord's warnings, and deceived by life's prosperity, many Christians continue to ignore the Lord's warning: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth (Matthew 6:19). Wealth can weaken faith, as James pointed out, saying: Has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith (James 2:5). He also said: Do not rich men oppress you (2:6). Wealth often breeds self-sufficiency, replaces dependence on God, and can lead to being entrapped in an endless pursuit of more and more "things." This, in turn, can develop covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), an attitude that destroys the desire to invest in eternal treasures.
Our Lord discourages accumulating material possessions as the end goal in life, saying: Beware of covetousness: for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses (Luke 12:15). Pity the Christians, churches, and denominational headquarters which hoard wealth in banks, stocks, bonds, and other secular investments. But even more serious, they fail to go into all the world (Mark 16:15) and provide Bibles and teach them all things that I have commanded (Matthew 28:20). Without realizing it, they have cheated themselves out of treasures in Heaven. To a rich young man He loved, Jesus pointed out his true lack of devotion to God by saying: Sell whatever you have, and give to the poor . . . come . . . follow Me (Mark 10:21). In marked contrast to this young man is Matthew, who may have been the wealthiest Jew in the Promised Land since he was the chief tax collector. Although Jesus did not ask him to give away his wealth as a test of his love, Matthew voluntarily left his lucrative position to follow Jesus as one of His Apostles.
The Lord is able to speak to each one of us about how He would have us invest in transforming lives and fulfilling His Great Commission. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the Living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).
As the One who will sit on the throne of David (Isaiah 16:5; compare Luke 1:32-33) and as the Savior (Isaiah 19:20; compare Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11).
16:3 bewray means betray; 16:11 my bowels means my whole being; 17:4 be made thin means shall waste away; 17:11 a heap means a failure; 19:8 angle means hooks; 19:13 they that are the stay means the leading men; 21:8 he cried, a lion means a watchman shouted like a lion (compare Rev. 10:3); ward means guard post; 21:11 burden of means prophecy against; 21:14 prevented with their bread him that fled means gave food and water to the fugitives.
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Memory Verse for the Week:
I Thessalonians 4:18