Saturday, November 29, 2014

Seeking Words of Hope

Scriptural Reading: Isaiah 52:1-2, 7-12
Devotional Reading: Psalm 42:5-11

During the Thanksgiving holiday season 2014 I enjoyed the fellowship with family and friends. We thanked God for His blessings given us in the past, the ones we are currently receiving, and the ones in the future. Yet when studying the meditations of King David in Psalm 42, I feel as if we have not dedicated enough of our hearts to God. We are not as devoted as we should be. David had been forced out of his kingdom, but he thought it most important to be in fellowship with God who would solve all problems. He longed to be with the living water. Ps. 42:1-2, 5 demonstrates his longing as he writes, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ...Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (NKJV) David complained of a dejected spirit and inability to fellowship with God as he had in the past, yet his thoughts of God comforted him. He found that God was everywhere with a listening ear and would never leave him and could be praised from anywhere. Yes, he was determined that in the midst of all his ups and downs he would praise the LORD.

This quarter of study is entitled “Sustaining Hope”. We are in Unit III – “”Visions of Grandeur” of the three units of the quarter. This is the last of a five-lesson study. The first four lessons were from the book of Ezekiel. The prophet gave the Israelites hope while in Babylonian captivity and ministered to them the visions given him by God. The visions studied were of the temple restoration, altar restoration, living water, and restoration of the land boundaries for the 12 tribes to include foreigners. Today’s lesion is from the book of Isaiah. This prophet gives a vision of a God who reigns above and is a help and shield – giving the faithful hope and reason to rejoice. His vision is shared by David in the Psalms.

In order to get a better understanding of the opening words of verse 1 of Isaiah chapter 52, it is necessary to go to the preceding chapter. There were three calls for the Israelites in captivity to listen in Is 51:1, 4, and 7). God sought to encourage them to remember how He had taken care of them since Abraham, would give them instructions for deliverance, and told them not to fear.

There were also three calls to awake. Two of the calls are located in chap 51 at verses 9 and 17. The third call is located in the opening words of our lesson. The first call (vs. 9) is simply a prayer to God to put on His strength for deliverance. We know that He that keeps Israel never slumber nor sleeps, but by praying that He awake in His strength we simply mean that He would appear to watch over us to do what is best for us. All we have to do is call on the LORD and HE will deliver us from our Egypt and Pharaoh, drying up our sea so we can cross over. The second call (vs. 17) is a call for the Israelites to come out of their drunken-like stupor. They were in the stupor of despair because of their captivity and had no hope or care. Pay attention! See that the day of your deliverance draws near and recover your senses.

The third prophetic call to awake is for Zion to wake from its sleep of captivity and is seen in Is 52:1-2 stating, “Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive.” (NKJV) We now see God’s people are stirred up to strengthen themselves for their own deliverance. They had sought God to awake in His strength for their deliverance. (Is 51:9) But they had to provide their strength also. God required that they wake up from their stupor (Is 51:17) in the land of their captivity and be ready for a complete deliverance. Jerusalem is a holy city. They would not be allowed to take the uncircumcised and unclean within the city. Idolatry and strange wives would not be acceptable. The heathen shall not enter the sanctuary as long as the Israelites remain faithful to God. God’s people had been stripped naked while they were in captivity. They shall now be attired in a beautiful garment of joy. They are no longer in mourning as when they were dead in captivity. They will be alive within the holy city wearing their beautiful garment of joy. Zion was to prepare for liberty by shaking off the dust of the oppressors and rising up, freeing itself from the chains of servitude around its neck holding it back, return home and sit on its throne.

The words in Is 52:7 were quoted by Paul in Romans 10:15 in announcing the good news Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Romans, or “salvation” from sin. Verse 7 was the inspiration for Handel’s Messiah. The good news for Isaiah’s prophecy was the return from exile, or “salvation” from Israel’s enemies. A proclamation is declared by Isaiah at verses 7-9 of ch 52, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” (NKJV) How beautiful are the mountains that surround Jerusalem and the messengers who travel upon them to bring the good news. The good news is fourfold. First, the war is over. As God returned to Zion, He has allowed the captives to return also. There is peace in Jerusalem again. Second, the messenger brought good tidings. He did not bring any bad news or darkness. The dark clouds had passed and the light had come. Third, the messenger proclaimed salvation from the enemies. They were able to return home from years of servitude. Finally the messenger proclaimed “Your God reigns!” This was an undeniable fact. It showed the power of God’s reign over the power of the enemy. The watchmen sit on top of the city walls or elevated towers. Of course they would see from afar off the messengers or returning captives en route to the city. Theirs would be shouts of praise and joy as they lift their voices together. They would know that the LORD had fought the battle and reestablished Zion. Every eye had been a witness to His wondrous work. At the time referred to in the verses, Jerusalem was lying in waste. This call is for the ruins of Jerusalem to burst into songs of praise to express its joy. The people were comforted and Jerusalem was to be rebuilt.

God had come to deliver His people from captivity in the sight of all nations. His instructions to the Israelites were revealed by Isaiah at chapter 52, verses 10-12, “The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you will carry the articles of the LORD’s house. But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (NKJV) All the nations will marvel as the Almighty God chooses to bare His holy arm for the just cause of redeeming His people from bondage. They will see that He has the power to get things done. God commands His children to depart. Many of them who had gone into captivity were now deceased. This was a new generation that had never seen Jerusalem. They knew of it only by what they had heard. They would have to leave everything they ever knew behind, including the graves of their parents and the older generation. Some had homesteads, positions, formed improper connections under God, and various other reasons for being reluctant in taking the long journey to the land of their forefathers. It took a strong command from God and strong motives to get some of the exiled Jews to leave Babylon. They were to separate themselves from the idolatrous nation and purify themselves. When they had been carried into captivity King Nebuchadnezzar had looted the temple in Jerusalem. These sacred vessels had been used as common vessels in Babylon. (2Ch 36:18; Dan 5:2-5) These vessels King Cyrus commanded to be restored once the exiles return to their own land. (Ezra 1:7-11) Only the Levites and the priests were to touch these sacred vessels. (Num 1:50; Num 4:15) They were required to be holy and pure. Finally, since God would deliver His children they did not have to hurry as they did when they left Egypt, in a rapid flight. They had time to prepare to go out and become fit vessels to do so. When they left Babylon they left at a deliberate time and date. They were not hurried. Further, God protected them by leading them through the desert between Babylon and Jerusalem. He also protected them as their rearguard and picked up the stragglers. This was a great reminder of the exodus from Egypt and Wilderness wanderings. God would go before and behind them. This was a great assurance.

Written by Deborah Davis

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