November 29, 2015
Scripture and Comments, November 29-December 5
Is. 12, Acts 10:1-34
Is. 13, Heb 5
This chapter continues the message of the Branch begun in chapter 11. It is a hymn of praise and faith sung in the Day of the Branch by those who have been saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. The wells of salvation symbolise all of God’s wondrous acts in the ministry of Redemption. Here they refer to God bringing the Jews back to Jerusalem and bestowing His mercies upon them again. But, in their broadest, and most complete form they are the ministry and Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the completion of Redemption when He returns to restore the earth and creation to its original perfection, with His people dwelling in it with Him.
The 13th chapter of Isaiah foretells the destruction of Babylon by devastating military conquest. Even her women and children will be mercilessly murdered by the cruel sword of the conquering army. Babylon was famous for its wealth. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers provided abundant water, and that meant an abundance of food, waterways for shipping and trade, and the accumulation of wealth. That wealth enabled Babylon to became a mighty empire, ruling most of the Middle East, including Israel and Judea, both of which fell to her advancing armies. The Old Testament makes it very clear that God raised up the Babylonians and allowed them to conquer the Jews as punishment for sins. But He would not let the Babylonians go unpunished. Their conquest and oppression of others was still wrong, and they would suffer for it terribly.
November 30, Feast of St. Andrew
Andrew, with his brother, Peter, left a prosperous fishing business to follow Christ. Both died by crucifixion in the service of Christ. It is commonly believed Andrew went into Asia, and ministered around the area now known as Istanbul, Turkey. There he was executed on an X shaped cross, which has become known as the St. Andrew’s cross.
Andrew is not one of the more noted Apostles. He did not write a Gospel or epistles, and we have no written accounts of his ministry. Many today remember him for bringing his brother, Peter to Christ (Jn. 1:41) and many sermons and tracts about “witnessing” cite him as an example of someone who may not be able to do great things for Christ, but whose witness may bring someone into the fold who will do great things. But Andrew did far more than just bring Peter to Christ. His responsibilities as an Apostle required him to help establish the New Testament Church, deal with controversies, and ensure that bishops, pastors, and congregations preached and followed the pure Gospel, which was entrusted to the Apostles by Christ. He, along with John and Paul, established a strong Christian influence in Asia Minor, from whence missionaries went west into Europe, further east into Asia, and north into Russia. Andrew, then, was an effective missionary himself, and a great influence on other missionaries.
Collect for St. Andrew’s Day
Almighty God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle St. Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Is. 14. Acts 11:1-18
Is. 15, Heb. 7
Jacob (1) refers to Israel, the northern kingdom, which has seceded from the rest of the Hebrew people, and even joined with Gentile invaders in war against Judah and Jerusalem. She will soon be overcome by Assyria, and many of her people will be taken as captives and slaves into other countries. But God will not forget her. One day He will return a remnant of her people to Israel, and the conquerors will become their servants (2).
Verses 3-23 look beyond Assyria to the Babylonians, who will defeat Assyria in battle and take her empire from her. But, Babylon, too, will fall, and her fall will be due to the direct intervention of God, who works all things according to the counsel of His own will. Lucifer (11,12) refers first to the king of Babylon. Like pharaohs and other ancient kings, the Babylonian kings considered themselves gods. Thus, the Babylonians, conquering Israel and Judah assume that they have also conquered the God of Israel and Judah, as though they personally ascended into Heaven, deposed God, and exalted their own thrones above His (13, 14). They certainly believe destroying God’s Temple on the mount of the congregation, or Zion, in Jerusalem is tantamount to dethroning God and taking His place as gods of Israel and Judah. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar will soon learn differently, but they are two hundred years in the future from the time Isaiah writes these words. Just as the Branch is ultimately fulfilled in Christ, The ultimate Lucifer is Satan, the real power behind all enemies of God.
Verses 24-28 return to the doom of Assyria, and all nations that array themselves against Israel (26). Palestina (29-32) is Philistia, or the land of the Philistines, who have been enemies of Israel from ancient times. Their doom is foretold in these verses.
The Lord now turns to other nations around Judah and Israel. Moab is on the east shore of the Dead Sea. It is noted for not allowing Israel to pass through its territory on her journey to Canaan. Ar is its capital, Kir is its strongest fortress. Other Moabite cities are named as places to be destroyed by the invading Assyrians.
Is. 16, Acts 11:19-30
Is. 17, Heb. 8
Chapter 16 continues the “burden of Moab.” It begins with an invitation to join with the Jews against the invaders, promising God’s mercy and protection if the people accept the invitation (3-5). But Moab will not join. “Therefore shall Moab howl” as in inconsolable misery and sorrow because of her conquest. When Moab sees her people falling and her cities destroyed, she will pray to her idols in their altars (high places). But idols made of wood and stone have no power to deliver from the invaders (12). Moab will fall in three years from the time Isaiah speaks this word.
Damascus, capital of Syria, is north east of the Sea of Galilee, directly in the path of the Assyrian army’s invasion of the eastern bank of the Jordan. It was allied with Israel against Jerusalem when Isaiah first began to preach. God’s word to it: it shall be a ruinous heap. Ephraim refers to the northern kingdom of Israel (3). Also addressed as Jacob and the children of Israel, its destruction is foretold, “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy salvation (10). Yet, God will not forget mercy. He will leave a remnant of Israel, like the few grapes left in a vineyard after the harvest (6). And there will come a day when Israel’s people will return to God (7).
Is. 18, Acts 12
Is. 19, Heb. 9
The location of the Ethiopia in this chapter is unknown, for Ethiopians occupied parts of Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Africa. The bulrushes of verse 2 lead some to think it is Egypt, while the rivers of Ethiopia and the land whose rivers have spoiled lead others to believe it is north or east of upper Mesopotamia. Its king, seeing the rising power of Assyria, sends messengers to his own cities, and to neighbouring kings, to form an alliance of armies capable of destroying Assyria. Verses 3-7 cause some to believe Ethiopia is Persia, the ancient land of the Medes. If this is so, the present brought to the Lord in verse 7 is the release of the Jews from captivity in 536 B.C., and the gifts from Cyrus of Persia for rebuilding the Temple and city of Jerusalem.
Egypt will also fall to foreign invaders. Often choosing sides on the basis of self-interest instead of principle, Egypt formed, and broke several alliances with Judah and Israel. In fairness, it must be added that Judah and Israel did the same to Egypt. Assyria took Egypt in 671 B.C. Babylon conquered it soon after taking Jerusalem.
As in other nations, the idols, people claiming to communicate with the dead (familiar spirits), and practitioners of magic and occultism, which are the foundations of Egyptian religion, will be unable to deliver Egypt from the wrath of God.
Is. 20, 21, Acts 13:1-13
Is. 22, Heb. 10
This short chapter of 6 verses is another prophecy against Egypt and Ethiopia. Tartan is an Assyrian general who leads an army into Philistine territory, and takes Ashdod, one of the Philistines greatest cities. In those days, captives were stripped of all clothing and possessions before either being slaughtered or enslaved, thus, Isaiah’s actions are symbolic of Egypt and Ethiopia’s captivity. Isaiah probably went to Egypt for this, where slaves were seldom given clothing.
The desert of the sea (1) probably refers to Media and Persia, also known as Elam (2). The desert of the sea, then, refers to their lands, on the shores of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. The chariots (7-9) are empires rising and fighting, ending with the news, “Babylon is fallen” (9). That terrible enemy of the people of God, which caused so much sorrow to so many nations, will not stand forever. God will destroy it as it has destroyed others. Dumah (11-12) is Edom. Arabia (13-15) is the area east of Edom.
The valley of vision (1-14) is the area around Jerusalem, which is surrounded by hills. It will be filled with the chariots of the Babylonian army. The people of Jerusalem will gather on housetops to watch the siege of their city in horror (1). Though Jewish soldiers have not fallen in battle, they, like the rulers and people, are unable to escape. Being bound by the archers (3), pictures the Babylonian archers as ropes that tie the Jews to Jerusalem. They will shoot down anyone who tries to escape. Elam and Kir (6) are conquered territories, who now supply armies to fight for the Babylonians. Jerusalem will tear down houses to use the material to strengthen the city wall (10), and will make a moat around the city for added protection (11), but they will not stop the invaders.
God calls the people to repent with weeping and sackcloth (12), which would include fasting and prayer. Instead the people have a siege party. Their motto becomes, “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” (13). God assures them them that they will surely die (14).
Shebna is the king’s treasurer. He does not seem to believe Jerusalem will fall. Probably counting on Egypt to defeat all of Jerusalem’s enemies, he believes he will live to a ripe old age, and has even purchased a tomb (16). God tells him he will be taken to Babylon in captivity (17- 19).
Eliakim is called a nail on which a bag or an object hangs. In this case, he supports the king. But he will be cut of, and the king will collapse (21-25). The collapse of the king symbolises the collapse of the kingdom.
Is. 23, Acts 13:14-52
Is. 24, Heb. 11
“Howl” (1) means uncontrollable sobbing. Tyre and Zidon (Sidon in the New Testament) are Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast. Tarshish, best known as the home town of the Apostle Paul, is on the southern coast of what will become Asia Minor. Why should they howl? Because God has purposed their destruction (23). This is the theme of chapter 23.
Isaiah 24 contains the dual themes of wrath and mercy. The first 15 verses are about God's wrath on the Jews, from which we can easily draw parallels about all humanity. Truly all have sinned and are by nature children of wrath as much as the Jews of Isaiah's time. And while God is just if He makes the earth desolate and its people to live in sorrow, yet He delights to have mercy and to give His grace and peace to those who seek Him. And even in the midst of the fires, that is, the wars and pestilence and destruction that comes upon the earth, there are people who still seek and glorify God (24:15). Verses 16 and following continue to tell of the sorrows of the ungodly.