Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Isaiah 19- And the winner is... EGYPT?

This chapter really surprised me.  It begins with a familiar pattern of prophecy indicating the eventual fall of Egypt, cursing her for her Idolatry and witchcraft.  Her greatness, plenty, culture, and leadership will all become as naught.  Certainly, we have seen this prophecy come to pass.  The ancient kingdom and culture of the once mighty Egypt is extinct.   The Egypt of today has certainly been “terrorized” by Israel, their powerful, nuclear-capable neighbor to the Northeast who defeated them soundly in the six-day war. 

But then, in verse 19, there is a very interesting turn in this revelation.  Here is a summary of the final verses:

19 – There will be an “altar to the Lord in the midst of [Egypt]”  -  I would assume this to be a temple.

20-21 – The lord shall be known and worshipped in Egypt.  They will be delivered by a savior.

22 – Egypt will be healed after enduring the Lord’s wrath

23-25 Egypt and Assyria (modern day Turkey) will be in a three-way alliance with Israel.  They will all be blessed together. 

Spiritually,  I think this shows that the Lord does not forget his people, wherever they are (as long as they turn to Him).  Temporally, I think this is a clue for us to look for interesting happenings in that part of the world, especially where the church is allowed to teach and perform its work.  


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Isaiah 18: Yo, Israel!

The first verse of Isaiah 18 sounds a little ominous:

            1 WOE to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:

A look at the footnote on “WOE” gives us a different view:  “HEB hoy (a form of greeting).”  This chapter is a sort of call out to scattered Israel.   And indeed as we read the chapter, Isaiah gives descriptions of the people almost as if to help them recognize who they are:  A once terrible nation, without a land, lost, enslaved, and split up. 

The substance of the message is this:  Look for the ensign upon the mountains and listen for the Lord’s trumpet.   Mountains are a common symbol of the temple, and the trumpet is likely the dispensation of the gospel as mentioned in The Revelationof St. John.   Israel, a temple-going people, still remembers their temple today and the spiritual among them are looking for its return.  Isaiah declares that as a sign they should look for many temples accompanied by the commencement of a gospel dispensation.

Then we get to a wonderful image in verse 7:

In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.

As a gift, the scattered of Israel will be given to the Lord at mount Zion.  Who will give this gift?  Why not those who gathered the lost?  In the hustle of modern life, I do we realize the important charge the Lord has given us to find and gather scattered Israel?  Let us so live to be counted among those in Zion and that are instruments of gathering.



Isaiah 17 - Seeds, Fruit, and opposition

Isaiah uses a few plant metaphors to prophesy about Israel in chapter 17.  First, he talks about a day that will come when Israel will be like a harvested field of corn.  I can imagine in my mind’s eye rows of tall, dead cornstalks with no ears on them.  But… there will be a little bit left in it to be gleaned.

6 Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.

Perhaps this is a prophecy concerning the gathering of scattered Israel, saying that they will be plucked from the “outmost” branches of a decimated tree, just a few at a time.    

The next metaphor that interests me is in verses 10 and 11:

10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:

11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.

Because Israel will forget about God, they will grow plants that are beautiful in appearance, but they will come from strange, or unknown places.   These plants will grow alright and they will appear to flourish, but the harvest will be a disaster. 

If we take plants to be a symbol of doctrines and ideas, and the fruit to be the rewards for following those ideas to their end, I think this little passage has something very interesting to say.   The message is this- the things of God are often not distinguishable from the things of the world until they come to fruition.  This is congruent with the following passages of scripture:

·         The parable of the Wheat and the tares in Matthew 25:24-30 Tares may refer to ryegrass, which looks similar to wheat, but has a definitely inferior fruit.

·         Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits…

·         Alma 32:40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

Going along with this message appears to be the pretext:  It is possible to tell the difference if we remember our Creator and look to him for guidance.  The world, full of false religions, is like a great field full of all sorts of strange plants and weeds which yield miserable fruit.   Here and there, there are good plants and good seeds, but they must be searched for and they come on plants that may not appear to be the most fruitful.  The world can also be viewed as the hiding place of scattered Israel.  They are like berries to be gleaned from a harvested tree- Highly prized and hard to find. 

Finally,  I was touched by the message of the last three verses:

12 Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.

14 And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

This is saying a two things to me:  First, God is acknowledging how it feels for us to face the world, which is a huge, rushing, noisy, overpowering mass of adversaries.  It is daunting and there appears to be much power there.  Second, while the world may take advantage for a day, God will come to our aid.  Notice that this aid comes, metaphorically, in the night time before the morning.  Thus we need to trust in God all the way up to the last minute and not lose faith.