Prepare The Way For The Coming Of The Lord

Isaiah had been prophesying of Judah’s coming judgment.  History tells us of the kingdoms that ruled over them.  Eventually, the time came for Judah to be disciplined by the Lord who used Judah’s enemies as a rod in His hand to do so.  Discipline is a painful thing but it imparts wisdom.  Fortunately, a time of comfort comes after a time of discipline. 

In Isaiah 40, the Lord tells the prophet to comfort the people of Jerusalem because her time of discipline was over; her time of service was completed, her guilt was paid off, and she received double for all her sins.  Isaiah is never addressed by the Lord after Isaiah chapter 39.  It seems as if someone else may be writing the remainder of the book.

Next, a voice cries out to prepare the way for the Lord.  Matthew 3:3 explains that John the Baptist was the voice in the wilderness who cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.”  John the Baptist did this to prepare the people for the coming of the glory of the Lord. 

This passage is also applicable to the future.  Although Israel’s enemies are causing death and destruction in order to bring forth their end time prophet, their thinking is in error.  What they are doing is really being a rod in the hands of the Lord to turn the hearts of His people to Himself.  God is in complete control of the coming of the ultimate false prophet.  He is also in complete control of the timing of the return of the Lord.  The job of the Lord’s present-day prophets is to prepare the way for the return of the Lord.  This is also the job of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3.

What else should a prophet proclaim?  The same thing as Isaiah 40:6-8:  “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

L'Assomption River in AutumnThis means that human life is short.  Most people are going to eventually die unless the Lord returns first.  Everyone must turn to the Lord and His commandments before it’s too late.  People are like a dandelion flower that has gone to seed or a lighted candle.  All it takes is for the Lord to blow on them and their lives are over.  Sometimes people get the idea that they are invincible but nothing could be further from the truth.  They are similar to the dead leaves that fall off deciduous trees in the fall.  Jesus reminded His disciples, “Every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.”[i]That sounds forceful to me.  I’d rather be gently gathered in my Father’s loving arms.

According to the prophet, at some point in the future, those in Jerusalem will need to get up on the high mountain and declare as loud as possible, “Behold Your God!”  Why?  Because, Isaiah 40:10 says, “…the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.”    

Revelation 19:11-13 describes Him like this:  “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”  He won’t be coming alone.  His armies in heaven will be coming with him on white horses to destroy Israel’s enemies.  When the battle is over, the wedding feast will take place between Jesus and His bride.  He will be a great shepherd and care for His people.

Isaiah 40:12-14 asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has taught Him? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?” Surely this was Jesus’ Father in heaven to whom Jesus prayed regularly.

Today, Jesus’ disciples have the Holy Spirit within them to counsel and instruct them.  They must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit so they won’t be led away by false doctrine.  As you study the Scriptures, please understand that nothing anyone teaches should conflict with the literal meaning of the whole weight of the text.  If the literal text appears to conflict with itself, there could be a cultural issue present that we may not understand or an idiom that has different meaning for us today.  If something is taught in passing without an explanation that pricks your spirit, do not fail to question it.  If something is taught that may be supported by some verses but conflicts with others, question it.  Look at the context of each passage.  Don’t let a teacher lead you astray; raise questions!  Study their responses for yourself.  Do your own research; ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into truth.  You don’t want to be following false doctrine when the Lord returns.

Isaiah 40:17 says the nations of the world are insignificant and worthless to the Lord.  They seek after false gods that are costly and beautiful to behold or inexpensive as a piece of skillfully carved wood.  They worship idols made by mere men.  People should worship the one who created them; people are mere grasshoppers to the One who sits about the circle of the earth.  Don’t allow something to take the position of God in your life.

The leaders of the world think they are so great and prestigious.  They are nothing in God’s eyes.  They think they can hide their evil deeds from both God and men.  They care only about themselves and make empty promises to those around them.  They commit fraud and get away with it.  They abuse the power that the Lord has given to them.  Although the Lord is responsible for planting them in positions of authority, one day He will blow on them when He has finished using them for His purposes.  They will be no more just as any other common man.

Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  We often have these words on the wall or on tables in our homes.  They are there to remind us of where are strength comes from.  What if this verse is really a snapshot of the future?   First Corinthians 15:52-53 says, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  Could this immorality include wings? How else can “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”[ii]  This is just something to consider.


[i]Matthew 15:12.

[ii] 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

 

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Hezekiah’s Impending Death

Around the time that the king of Assyria sent his men to King Hezekiah, Hezekiah was about to die from a boil.  The Lord spoke through Isaiah to tell Hezekiah to set his house in order because he was going to die.  Second Chronicles 32:25 indicates this illness was the result of pride.

At the time, Hezekiah did not have a son that would become heir to the throne.  Many thoughts must have passed through Hezekiah’s mind as he thought about his impending death.  Isaiah 38 describes his petition to the Lord for life.  Second Chronicles 32:26 says he humbled himself before the Lord so that the Lord’s wrath would not come upon him and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  As a result of Hezekiah’s prayer, the Lord turned back time and granted Hezekiah another 15 years to live.

According to Isaiah, the Lord temporarily spared Hezekiah from the pit of corruption (mishachat beliy)—a place of death and decay (Isaiah 38:17).  This is most likely a reference to sheol (Greek is hades) in verse 18 which is often translated as the grave or hell.  Hezekiah says that the grave is a place where one cannot praise or celebrate the Lord. There appears to be an ellipsis here; perhaps he would have added “like you can among the living.”  Hezekiah continued by saying that those that go there can’t hope for the Lord’s truth.  Finally, Hezekiah says what you can do if you alive; you can praise the Lord and make known His truth.

Since Hezekiah has brought up the subject, let’s explore what else the Bible says about sheol.  As mentioned before, the Hebrew word sheol is comparable to the Greek word hades.  Geenna (sometimes spelled Gehenna) is another Greek word that is often translated as hell.  Sheol or hades is primarily a reference to the grave itself but it’s also a reference to hell whereas geenna, which is also translated as hell is a reference to the place of future punishment by fire.  It was originally a reference to Tofet or the valley of the sons of Hinnom.  Trash was continually burning in this place and worms crawled in place where it wasn’t.  It was also a place where human sacrifices to Moloch took place.  All of this is a picture of the future punishment in the lake of fire.  Isaiah 66:24 says that on every new moon and Sabbath everyone will come into the Lord’s presence.  When they leave they will see the bodies of those who rebelled against Him; their worm will never die and their fire will never be quenched.  It sounds like we’ll be able to see into the depths of hell.

As I reflected on this, it reminded me of a story Jesus once told about a beggar named Lazarus.  This story also gives us a picture of what happens after death.  The rich man who had no regard for Lazarus when he was alive was being tormented in flames of sheol (hades).  Between the rich man and Lazarus was a great chasm; Lazarus was on the other side of the chasm “in the bosom of Abraham.”  According to the Power New Testament by William J. Morford, Abraham’s bosom is an idiom which refers to the place of honor at a banquet.  In this story, it refers to Lazarus being next to Abraham who would’ve been eating at the same banquet.  This is similar to John who was reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper.[i]  Since the rich man wanted Lazarus to go back and warn his living relatives of their future, it seems that the punishment of hell (sheol/hades) is only a prelude to the final judgment in geenna.  Either way, the goal is to destroy both body and soul in geenna.[ii]

Now let’s get back to Hezekiah.  After hearing Hezekiah’s plea to avoid death and the grave (sheol), the Lord instructed Isaiah to have someone use figs as a medicinal treatment for the inflamed boil.  Hezekiah asked for a sign that he would be able to go up to the house of the Lord but no answer was given.  It’s commendable for us to note that Hezekiah was interested in worshipping the Lord in the temple.  It shows his heart was facing the right direction yet his pride still remained.

figsOften when we are ill, we wonder if the treatment which the doctor prescribed will work or not.  I do not know if using figs were a common treatment for ailments in Biblical times but there are many herbal remedies that were used in Biblical times and are still used today.  Sometimes I think it would do us some good to go back to these treatments and learn the old ways of doing things considering the fact that pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money and not necessarily to heal people.  If an herbal treatment can’t be patented, the next best thing is to take what the plant has to offer and chemically modify it so it can be patented and sell it.  The problem with this is that there are numerous side effects from such drugs.  In the end, no matter what kind of medication we take, we still have to trust the Lord for healing.

Sometime after Hezekiah’s recovery, Isaiah 39 says Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon came to visit Hezekiah.  He had heard of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery.  Hezekiah was pleased with them and did not realize the danger of showing off his treasures.  He was still full of pride and showed Baladan and his men the silver, gold, spices, precious ointment, his armory, and everything in his dominion.  I’m sure this was quite impressive.  Surely Baladan wanted all of it for himself. 

When Isaiah saw Hezekiah, Isaiah asked who these people were, where they came from, and what had they seen in Hezekiah’s house.  When Hezekiah said they had come from Babylon and seen everything in his house, Isaiah gave Hezekiah a shocking word from the Lord.   Isaiah 39:6-7 says, “Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. 7 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Hezekiah’s response was even more shocking.  He said Isaiah’s word from the Lord was good and “at least there will be peace and truth in my days.” Everything that had taken generations to collect would be stripped from the kingdom.  Hezekiah failed to understand the depth of his actions.

Where was the repentant spirit we had seen previously in Hezekiah?  It seemed to have left when he realized his behavior didn’t affect himself.  This was selfish; this was definitely a fleshly response.

This is what is wrong with us and our leaders today.  No one cares how their behavior will affect the future of others as long as it doesn’t affect them personally.  We need to be repentant, not only for ourselves but for the entire assembly, and for our nation. 

Take some time to reflect on Hezekiah’s last days to see what else you can learn. 

Turn back to God and pray He has mercy on us!


[i] John 13:23.

[ii] Matthew 10:28.