September 15, 2011
Isaiah 19:1-21:17; Galatians 2:1-16;
Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 23:13-14
Have you ever had a dream and at some point in the dream you realize that you are naked in front of other people? When I was a kid I had a dream like this. In the dream I was in my front yard with the group of kids in my neighborhood with whom I played kick the can and kick ball. In the midst of the game, I look down and realize that I don't have any clothes on. What a humiliating dream! Today Isaiah is required by God to put himself in a humiliating situation for three years in front of the people of Judah in order to paint a picture of God's plans for Egypt and Ethiopia. Oh the problems with being a prophet of God!
Verses 1-17 deal with the Lord confusing the plans of the Egyptians as they pray to their worthless idols for wisdom. God is not pleased with their desire to consult mediums, spirits, and psychics for advice. God will send a fierce king against them and a spirit of foolishness to the counselors of Zoan to make bad suggestions as punishment for their idolatry.
Interestingly, God shows us that although He intends to judge Egypt, ultimately, God loves Egypt and will turn the Egyptians to the Lord one day in the future. In verse 20 God declares that He will send a savior to the Egyptians who will save them. The Lord is going to make Himself personally known to these people. God intends to strike Egypt in a way that will heal them and he will listen to their pleas. Does this surprise you? Do you see God's intention to reach out to all the people on the earth through Christ? Isaiah is predicting a savior who will even turn the hearts of Israel's great oppressor Egypt. This is God's story. He redeems the irredeemable.
Chapter 20 brings us to Isaiah's humiliation of nakedness. Some commentaries state that Isaiah actually had his buttocks exposed. Others claim that he merely had his outer garment off, which would have been humiliating, but either way, Isaiah was required to be a physical example of a spiritual reality. He was a walking representation of what Egypt and Ethiopia would experience at the hands of the Assyrians. They would be naked and humiliated by Assyria.
Here we have the prediction that the ancient empire of Babylon will be defeated by the Medes and the Persians. Isaiah gives birth to a scene of destruction and mayhem. We will see Mystery Babylon mentioned in the future in the book of Revelation. False religion and idolatry will be on the earth until Christ finally returns and puts an end to all evil.
Isaiah's final predictions are against Edom and Arabia. Both groups are blood relatives of the Jews. The people of Edom are the descendants of Esau. That was Jacob's brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. Edom represents those who never truly follow God. These are people of the flesh. In this prophecy, the dawn of the morning brings darkness for some. This is the idea that Christ's presence brings light for some and darkness and judgment for those who reject God.
When speaking of Arabia, Isaiah is dealing with the Ishmaelites. Remember that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. They never got along. The Arabians are the descendants of Ishmael. The nation of Israel descends from Isaac. The sons of Ishmael are judged for unbelief. We see in Scripture that the dark night of sin is always followed by the bright morning brought on by the Son of Righteousness (Jesus Christ).
It is very good to get Paul's perspective on his early ministry. We see today that after fourteen years of preaching to the Gentiles Paul returns to Jerusalem to let the Church leaders in Jerusalem know about his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul apparently receives their blessings on his ministry and they do not require his Gentile companion, Titus, to get circumcised.
Paul is having to deal with the Judaizers in Jerusalem, who are trying to impose many of the Mosaic laws and traditions on new followers of Christ. Following the Law is not Good News. Paul is adamant that Christians are free through the grace of Christ not to follow the Jewish rules and regulations.
Paul clarifies that he has been called to preach to the Gentiles, just as Peter was called to preach to the Jews. Peter, James and John are described as the pillars of the Church and they personally recognize that Paul and Barnabas are their co-workers in Christ. This is a very important endorsement that the Galatians should be glad to know. Peter, James, and John stipulate that Paul should strive to help the poor in his ministry, but they do not put other mandatory behaviors on him.
Paul demonstrates his authority as an apostle by giving an example of having to correct the Apostle Peter about his change in stance on eating with Gentiles. Originally Peter was willing to eat with Gentile Christians, but succumbed to pressure from some Jewish followers and stopped. This caused other Christians to follow Peter's hypocrisy. Paul publicly rebukes Peter for this behavior and his bending to legalism.
Paul is fighting to get people to understand that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, alone. We are not saved by following rules. As he states, "For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law." Gal. 2:16
Are you trying to follow a bunch of rules to please Christ? Have you remembered to trust Jesus and help the poor? This is what the pillars of the church required of Paul. Make your faith in Christ a relationship, not a religion.
Here is a psalm of one who is facing snarling enemies. The psalmist sings of God's strength in the face of these enemies. God is our refuge and strength. Can you sing this? Is this YOUR truth?
Don't fail to correct your children. This is good advice. They are much easier to live with if you learn to do this early and often.
What did you learn today?