17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Having wrapped up his letter
with a series of greetings, Paul now had an after thought. James Dunn speculates that he may have taken the pen from his amanuensis, Tertian, and added these words of warning himself, not because there was any trouble within the Roman church at that time, but because Paul understood the dangers that lurked within every congregation.
He warns the church of two dangers to its peace and unity, two dangers that the modern church knows very well but seems to have no understanding of how to deal with it. The first is to "mark" or keep an eye on those people who cause division within the church. Such divisions could have been caused for a number of reasons such as those he had all ready spoken about, foods, observance of days, and other legalisms. Questions of leadership and doctrine could also cause divisions. This kind of division had to be addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:3-6 "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."
This seems to be the most common cause of divisions in our churches today and it is very difficult to contain. There seems to always be someone within the congregation who is trying to turn others against their pastor or other leaders. Strong godly leadership is needed in such cases along with a biblical form of church discipline. Many of our churches have been reluctant to use proper discipline and have suffered the consequences.
The second danger to the church is from those who "cause offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned." In other words, we should keep an eye on those who live sinful lives or cause others to do the same. They can cause the church itself to have a bad reputation and discourage others from wanting to hear the gospel. Ask anyone on the street why they do not go to church and they will till you that they think it is full of hypocrites. This kind of reputation is not the fault of the hypocrites. It is the fault of the churches for not doing what is necessary to keep the body of Christ pure.
Paul says, "... avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly..." They serve their own interests and not the interests of the local body of believers or of the gospel. Servants of Christ have more important interests than causing divisions and strife within the church. They live lives that are holy and are committed to Christian service. To avoid them, there must be some form of church discipline that will set them out of the fellowship until they repent of their sins.
If we do not follow the teaching of Christ and of Paul on this matter, great damage can be done to the work of Christ. These hypocrites and troublemakers will use good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the innocent. They will lead weaker saints astray. They know how to sound like they are only interested in the good of the church, while they are really only interested in satisfying themselves.
This is an important message. Paul preached it often and we should not neglect to follow it. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9)
Before The Throne:
Are there problems lurking within your church? Pray fervently for God to intervene. Ask Him to give your pastor and the other church leaders the ability to lead in a humble and godly manner but with strength. Ask Him to help your church have a compassionate and biblical method of discipline. Pray also that the troublemakers and hypocrites will be brought into the light of the true gospel and will commit themselves to serving Christ rather than themselves. Thank the Lord for the unity and peace that your church is experiencing.
For Further Study:
** mark. Phil 3:17; 2Thess 3:14-15; ** cause. Acts 15:1-5, 24; 1Cor 1:10-13; 1Cor 3:3; 1Cor 11:18; Gal 1:7-9; Gal 2:4; Phil 3:2-3; Col 2:8; 2Pet 2:1-2; 1John 2:19; 2John 1:7-10; Jude 1:19; ** offences. Matt 18:7; Luke 17:1; ** and. Matt 18:17; 1Cor 5:9-11; 2Thess 3:6, 14; 1Tim 6:3-5; 2Tim 3:5; Titus 3:10; 2John 1:10; 2John 1:11;
** serve. Matt 6:24; John 12:26; Gal 1:10; Phil 2:21; Col 3:24; Jas 1:1; Jude 1:1; Re 1:1; ** but. 1Sam 2:12-17, 29; Isa 56:10-12; Ezek 13:19; Hos 4:8-11; Mic 3:5; Mal 1:10; Matt 24:48-51; Phil 3:19; 1Tim 6:5; 2Pet 2:10-15; Jude 1:12; ** by. 2Chr 18:5, 12-17; Isa 30:10-11; Jer 8:10-11; Jer 23:17; Jer 28:1-9, 15-17; Ezek 13:16; Mic 3:5; Matt 7:15; Matt 24:11, 24; 2Cor 2:17; 2Cor 4:2; 2Cor 11:13-15; Col 2:4; 2Thess 2:10; 1Tim 6:5; 2Tim 2:16-18; 2Tim 3:2-6; Titus 1:10-12; 2Pet 2:3, 18-20; 1John 4:1-3; Jude 1:16; ** the simple. Ps 19:7; Ps 119:130; Prov 8:5; Prov 14:15; Prov 22:3; 2Cor 11:3;
6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. 16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
Paul concluded this epistle
with a list of salutations and greetings for those in the Roman church with whom he had become familiar. Since he had not been to Rome, it is logical to conclude that the persons listed had previously resided in one of the cities where he had established churches and had possibly moved to Rome, some for commercial reasons and others to help propagate the gospel. Nothing is known about the people mentioned except for what Paul tells us here.
Mary seems to have gone beyond what was expected of her to serve the apostle as well as the Roman church. She is mentioned first for a reason and must have made an indelible mark on the ministry.
Andronicus and Junia may have been referred to as "kinsmen" because Paul called all Jews his kinsmen, but since he singles them out, along with Herodion (v.11), for the title, they were probably distant relatives. Paul had been imprisoned several times during his ministry and these were imprisoned with him on at least one of those occasions.
Albert Barnes pointed out that the name of Peter is strangely missing. The Catholic church claims that Peter was in Rome at that time and had established the church there, yet there is no mention of him. Paul knew Peter very well and it would seem that he would have mentioned Peter and his work first. Does this prove that Peter was not in Rome? No, but it does add some weight to the argument that he was not.
"Salute one another with an holy kiss." This was a custom in the East and it remains so among many cultures today. Paul calls it a holy kiss, because it should be one of friendship and respect, but given in such a manner as to avoid the appearance of any impropriety. The expression is meant to emphasize the affection that Christians should feel for one another and the closeness of our fellowship.
This whole passage illustrates the oneness of the body of Christ. Whether we are in Greece or Rome, the inner city in the United States, the jungles of Africa, the streets of Paris or a secret meeting of a house church in China, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." May all of our churches greet one another in fellowship, love and cooperation for the single purpose of bringing glory to God.
Before The Throne:
Pray for oneness in the body of Christ. Ask the Lord to put all of our churches in one accord. Ask Him to increase the level of affections that we have for one another within each church and between our churches. Pray that our focus would be on the kingdom of God and not on just our own congregations. Thank Him for the Spirit of love that exists among His people. Pray that your brothers and sisters in Christ who have moved or gone into the mission fields would know your continued affection for them and that you would be able to communicate with them regularly.
For Further Study:
** who. Matt 27:55; 1Tim 5:10;
** fellow prisoners. 2Cor 11:23; Col 4:10; Phlm 1:23; Rev 1:9; ** who. Gal 2:2, 6; ** were. Rom 8:1; Isa 45:17, 25; John 6:56; John 14:20; John 15:2; 1Cor 1:30; 2Cor 5:17, 21; Gal 1:22; Gal 5:6; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10; 1John 4:13; 1John 5:20;
** my. Phil 4:1; 1John 3:14
** approved. Rom 14:18; Deut 8:2; 1Cor 11:19; 2Cor 2:9; 2Cor 8:22; Phil 2:22; 1Tim 3:10; 1Pet 1:7; * of. 2Ti 4:19;
** labour. Matt 9:38; 1Cor 15:10, 58; 1Cor 16:16; Col 1:29; Col 4:12; 1Thess 1:3; 1Thess 5:12-13; 1Tim 4:10; 1Tim 5:17-18; Heb 6:10-11;
** Rufus. Mr 15:21; ** chosen. Matt 20:16; John 15:16; Eph 1:4; 2Thess 2:13; 2John 1:1; ** his. Matt 12:49-50; Mark 3:35; John 19:27; 1Tim 5:2;
** and. Rom 8:29; Col 1:2; Heb 3:1; 1Pet 1:22-23;
** and all. Rom 1:7; Isa 60:21; Eph 1:1; 1Pet 1:2;
** with. Acts 20:37; 1Cor 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Thess 5:26; 1Pet 5:14;
Helpers in Christ
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
Paul met Aquila and Priscilla on his first visit
to Corinth. Aquila was a Jew who had been living in Rome but left because of a decree by Claudius that commanded all of the Jews to leave the city (Acts 18:2), They were tent makers like Paul and took him into their home. It is probable that Paul led them to Christ at that time. Their relationship would last for the rest of Paul's life.
After that, they sailed to Ephesus with Paul and he left them there as he went on to Jerusalem. It was at Ephesus where Aquila and Priscilla met Apollos and explained the full gospel of Christ to him (Acts 18:26). They appear to have still been in Ephesus when Paul wrote the epistle of 1Corinthians, which would have been only a year or less before he wrote the epistle to the Romans (1Corinthians 16:19). They did not stay in Rome but, according to 2 Timothy 4:19, returned to Ephesus at some later date.
It is not known what event Paul was speaking about in which the couple had risked their own necks for Paul's sake. However, since they traveled with him and he was frequently persecuted, they may have been often in danger simply by taking him into their home.
"...unto whom not only I give thanks,.." Paul used the Greek word εὐχαριστῶ (eucharisto) to say, "I give thanks." This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used in thanking a human. It is otherwise always used to give thanks to God. It clearly demonstrates how strong Paul's sense of indebtedness and love for them was and reflects their connection as brothers and sister in Christ.
Paul was not the only one who thanked the couple for their dedicated service, "but also all the churches of the Gentiles." Through this greeting we can get a small idea of how significant the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla was for the kingdom of God. All of the Gentile churches knew who they were and were thankful for their service. This is a remarkable reputation to have earned in an age when communications were very slow and difficult.
"Likewise," Paul says, "greet the church that is in their house." Some commentators have speculated that the couple had been sent ahead by Paul to begin laying the groundwork for his ministry. Of course, that cannot be determined with any certainty. It is significant, however, that they had a church in their home at Ephesus and now at Rome. There is no record of any building having been set aside or built to be used exclusively for a church until after the third century. The early churches met in homes and were very relational. There were some homes that had set an apartment within them to be used exclusively for church gatherings.
We do not know who Epaenetus was or, for that matter, any of the others who are mentioned in the following verses. However, he seems to have been the first convert in the province of Achaia. The name Achaia "Is used in the New Testament for the whole region of Greece south of Macedonia, including the Peloponnesus, or Morea, and some territory north of the gulf of Corinth." (American Tract Society Bible Dictionary; the Word Bible Study Software)
Ordinary people like a couple of tent makers can be used by God to do wonderful things for His kingdom and the spread of His gospel. It would not be very difficult for any of us to have a church, a Bible study fellowship, or a weekly prayer meeting in our home. Gather your friends and family together on a regular basis to worship and to learn more about our Lord. Gather them to build strong relationships and to make disciples for Christ. The eternal affects of such a ministry cannot be known until Jesus comes and rewards every person for his or her works.
Before The Throne:
Are you a helper in Christ to your pastor, or a burden, or a hindrance? Pray about that. Ask God how you can serve as a helper in Christ. Your pastor probably has many plans for his ministry but no help to get them started. You might be surprised at the blessings you will receive, if you humbly offered your services to his ministry. Praise God for giving you the ability and the opportunity to serve Him.
For Further Study:
** Priscilla. Acts 18:2-17, 26; 1Cor 16:19; 2Tim 4:19; ** my. 1Cor 16:16;
** have. Rom 5:7; John 15:13; Phil 2:30; 1John 3:16; ** laid. Josh 10:24; 2Sam 22:41; Mic 2:3; ** also. Acts 15:41; Acts 16:5; 1Cor 7:17; 1Cor 16:1; 1Thess 2:14; Rev 1:4
** the church. Matt 18:20; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phlm 1:2; ** my. 3John 1:1; ** who. Rom 11:16; 1Cor 16:15; Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4; * Achaia. Rom 15:26; Acts 18:12, 27; 2Cor 1:1; 2Cor 9:2;
Phebe, Our Sister
1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
Phebe was evidently the letter carrier
in this case. She had traveled from Cenchrea, which was "the 'sea-port' of Corinth. Corinth was situated on the middle of the isthmus, and had 'two' harbors, or ports: 'Cenchrea' on the east, about eight or nine miles from the city; and 'Lechaeum' on the west. Cenchrea opened into the AEgean sea, and was the principal port. It was on this 'isthmus,' between these two ports, that the 'Isthmian' games were celebrated, to which the apostle refers so often in his epistles." (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible; theWord Bible Study Software.)
From this it seems to be evident that Paul wrote this epistle while he was at Corinth. He was sending Phebe "our sister" as the messenger. The entire phrase, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister," is typical of the words used by the early church as a kind of certificate of church membership.
Phebe was "a servant," more accurately translated as "a deaconess." Older women, usually widows, who were more mature in their faith were often ordained to minister to the younger women in the church who were kept separated from the men in the Gentile churches. "It is clear from the New Testament that there was an order of women in the church known as 'deaconesses.' Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to 'teach' other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining fair reputation, and suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; compare 1Ti 5:3, 1Ti 5:9-11; Tit 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book iii. say, 'Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women.'” (Barnes, Ibid) The Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, on the other hand, says that it is doubtful that "deaconess" was an official title.
Paul asks the people of Rome to receive Phebe in a manner that could be expected from people who knew the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Generous and loving Christian hospitality should always be offered to His servants, whether male or female, and especially when they are traveling on church business.
"...and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you..." This suggests that she may have come to Rome on personal business in addition to carrying the letter, or she may have had other church business to conduct for Paul. Nevertheless, Paul requested that they help her with whatever she needed.
Phebe had been a "succourer of many," i.e. "a patroness" or "an assistant" to many in the church, including Paul. She had evidently dedicated her life to helping others in the name of her Lord Jesus Christ. Travel in those days was dangerous even for men. It took faith, courage, and dedication for Phebe to make that trip, representing the Apostle Paul and her Lord Jesus. This seems to have been only one example of the service she gave to others.
Before The Throne:
The service that our women give to the church is often overlooked, yet in some churches they do much more than the men. Thank the Lord today for the service that His female saints provide for the body of Christ. Your church may not have an official office of "deaconess", but the word deacon simply means servant, and we have many deaconesses, official or otherwise, in our churches. Ask God to show you how you can honor them and show your appreciation for their service to Him.
For Further Study:
** commend. 2Co 3:1; ** our. Matt 12:50; Mark 10:30; 1Tim 5:2; Jas 2:15; 1Pet 1:22-23; ** a servant. Luke 8:3; 1Tim 5:9-10; ** Cenchrea. Ac 18:18;
** ye receive. Rom 15:7; Matt 10:40-42; Matt 25:40; Phil 2:29; Col 4:10; Phlm 1:12, 17; 2John 1:10; 3Jo 1:5-10; ** as. Eph 5:3; Phil 1:27; 1Tim 2:10; Titus 2:3; ** for. Acts 9:36, 39, 41; Phil 4:14-19; 2Tim 1:18;
Request for Intercession
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; 32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul began the closing of his letter
to the Romans with an urgent request for prayer. It may be, for Paul, the most important part of the letter, first because he believed very strongly in the effectiveness of prayer and, secondly, because he believed that he would be facing an extremely dangerous situation at Jerusalem.
There was a growing movement of rebellion against the Roman authorities that was taking place across the nation of Judaea. Jerusalem would have been the center of the mounting discontent. Jewish nationalism was strong and their religion, traditions and faith, combined with the hatred for their Gentile rulers, would be the mortar that bound the nation together.
When he returned to Jerusalem, Paul might be seen as a traitor. He had abandoned the Jewish faith for this new gospel and he had been a minister to the Gentiles. The Christian church in the city still had many Judaizers who might not accept the admission of Gentiles into the church. They might even look at Paul as an apostate, not as an apostle.
Furthermore, the offering or aid that he was bringing was from the churches of the diaspora who were comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. Would this be seen as an insult to the Jerusalem church or a blessing? Paul had no way of knowing how it would be received.
The danger that he faced was real, and Paul knew very well what the consequences of his journey could be. He was himself a Jewish zealot who persecuted Christians before his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus. He had watched the stoning death of Stephen and had delivered many saints over to the authorities for imprisonment, torture and execution.
With all of this in mind, he begs the church at Rome, through Jesus Christ and for the love of the Spirit, to join together with him in fervent prayer for his safety and successful mission.
"That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea;" The more literal translation would be, "from those who are being disobedient." The words imply a willful and perverse disbelief, a stubborn rejection of the truth. Paul would need to be rescued from the hatred of those unbelievers who looked at him as a traitor and apostate. Only God could protect him, and he needed the assurance of the support of the Roman church through prayer.
The second part of his prayer request is that the church at Jerusalem would accept the gift that he was bringing to them. If they did, it would serve as a bond of love between them and the European Gentile churches. Paul understood the universality of the body of Christ. There is only one body, and every member must do his part to serve the others.
Paul's last request is that he might come to them at Rome and be able to relax, knowing that God's will had been done. He and the church could experience the joy of Christian fellowship together. With that final request he pronounced the benediction that the peace of God should be with them.
Before The Throne:
Prayer for those who are risking their lives for the gospel's sake should always occupy a portion of our quiet time with the Lord. Make it a point to read about the world's missionaries and those who are risking martyrdom for Christ so that you can keep them in your prayers. Pray that our churches would set aside all legalisms and prejudices so that we can stand together as one united body of Christ. Remember to thank the Lord for the day's blessings.
For Further Study:
** for the. 2Cor 4:5, 11; 2Cor 12:10; 1Tim 6:13-14; 2Tim 4:1; ** and for. Ps 143:10; Phil 2:1; ** that. Gen 32:24-29; 2Cor 1:11; Eph 6:19; Col 2:1; Col 4:12; 1Thess 5:25; 2Thess 3:1;
** I may. Acts 21:27-31; Acts 22:24; Acts 23:12-24; Acts 24:1-9; Acts 25:2, 24; 1Thess 2:15; 2Thess 3:2; ** and that. Rom 15:25; 2Cor 8:4; 2Cor 9:1; ** accepted. Ac 21:17-26;
** I may. Rom 1:10-13; Acts 27:1, 41-43; Acts 28:15-16, 30-31; Phil 1:12-14; ** by the. Acts 18:21; 1Cor 4:19; Jas 4:15; ** and many. Prov 25:13; 1Cor 16:18; 2Cor 7:13; 1Thess 3:6-10; 2Tim 1:16; Phlm 1:7, 20;
** the God. Rom 16:20; 1Cor 14:33; 2Cor 5:19-20; 2Cor 13:11; Phil 4:9; 1Thess 5:23; 2Thess 3:16; Heb 13:20; ** be. Rom 16:24; Ruth 2:4; Matt 1:23; Matt 28:20; 2Cor 13:14; 2Tim 4:22;
My Plan Shall Stand
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11; Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. 12 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: 13 I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion Israel my glory.
God constantly reminds us to remember the former things. We are to remember the things that He has done for us, the promises that He has made to us and the things that He has said will happen in the future. We are to remember who He is and are not to compare Him to anything or anyone.
He says that He has declared from ancient times the things that will happen in the future. "My counsel shall stand." The Hebrew "etsah" implies more than mere advice, but a plan that God has put into action. It is a plan that will stand and from which He will not vary. "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." (Psalms 33:11) This is a comforting thought. Nothing in this life happens by accident. It is all according to God's plan. He is in control, working all things together for the good of them who love Him and are the called according to His purpose and to His pleasure.
The ravenous bird that He would call from the east was Cyrus. He was the man who would execute God's plan to bring the Jews back to Jerusalem. God said, "I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." And, we know today that He did it exactly as He said He would.
Therefore, He calls the stouthearted to listen to Him. A stouthearted man was literally a "bullhearted" man in the same sense that we would call someone a "bullheaded" or stubborn person. So, this is a call to those Jews who were still on the wrong track, the people who were still stuck in the idolatry that got them sent into captivity to begin with.
God's plan was to bring His righteousness near, to execute judgment and to do what was right. Judgment is never far off. Although many think that they will escape it without turning to God, they are mistaken. It is true that His salvation would not tarry, but it is also true that His salvation will never come for those who hate Him and continue to rebel against His word.
Salvation would be "placed" by God in Zion for Israel, His church and His glory. Christ had "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father," and the church, which is modern Israel, is called His body and is the glory of the Father.
God's plan is for His Son's followers, spiritual Israel, to be saved from the judgment of His wrath, which will not be delayed. God's plan is for His church and all of His creation to be reconciled to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. He will be our God, and we will be His people forever.
Before The Throne:
Praise God for having a plan for your life. If you do not know what His plan is, pray about it. He will reveal it to you, if you bother to ask. If you know His plan for you, pray that He will help you to faithfully execute it for His pleasure. Ask Him to help you focus on His plan for you, so that everything you do helps to accomplish it. Remember the thing that He has done for you and the things that He has predicted and accomplished. Those memories will give you comfort and courage for the future.
For Further Study:
(v.9) ** the former. Isa 42:9; 65:17; Deu 32:7; Neh. 9:7-37; Psa. 78:1-72; 105:1-106:48; 111:4; Jer 23:7-8; Dan 9:6-15; ** I am God. Isa 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21-22; ** and there is none like. Deu_33:26;
(v.10) ** the end. Isa 41:22-23; 44:7; 45:21; Gen 3:15; 12:2-3; 49:10, 22-26; Num 24:17-24; Deu 4:24-31, 28:15-68; Act 15:18; ** My counsel. Isa 43:13; Psa 33:11; 135:6; Pro 19:21; 21:30; Dan 4:35; Act 3:23; 4:27-28; 5:39; Rom 11:33-34; Eph 1:9-11; Heb 6:17;
(v.11) ** Calling. Isa 13:2-4; 21:7-9; 41:2, 25; 45:1-6; Jer 50:29; 51:20-29; ** the man. Isa 44:28; 45:13; 48:14-15; Ezr 1:2; Psa 76:10; Act 4:28; ** that executeth my counsel. Psa 119:24 ** marg. I have spoken. Isa 14:24-27; 38:15; Num 23:19; Job 23:13; Jer 50:45; Act 5:39; Eph 1:11; 3:11
(v.12) ** Hearken: Isa 28:23; Isa 45:20; Psa 49:1; Pro 1:22-23; 8:1-5; Eph 5:14; Rev 3:17-18; ** ye stouthearted. Isa 48:4; Psa 76:5; Zec 7:11-12; Mal 3:13-15; Act 7:51; ** that. Psa 119:150, 155; Jer 2:5; Eph 2:13;
(v.13) ** bring. Isa 51:5; 61:11; Rom 1:17; 3:21-26; 10:3-15; ** shall not tarry. Psa 14:7; 46:1, 5; Hab 2:3; Heb 10:37; ** salvation. Isa 12:2; 28:16; 61:3; 62:11; Joe 3:17; 1Pe 2:6; ** Israel. Isa 43:7; 44:23; 60:21; 61:3; Jer 33:9; Hag 1:8; Joh 17:10; Eph 1:6; 2Th 1:10, 12;
Be A Man!
5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? 6 They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. 7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. 8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. 9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
To whom will men liken the one and only God who has been so patient and so merciful toward them? To whom will they liken the God who is an infinite Spirit, the omniscient, omnipotent and compassionate Savior of His people?
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." (Romans 1:22-25)
Although our God cannot be compared to any other thing, living or otherwise, men have managed somehow to do it. Our imaginations have given us numerous evil visions of what we think God should look like.
When men think they know what God looks like they fashion images to represent Him. "They lavish gold out of the bag," not caring what the cost is, not concerned about the waste and not understanding what they are doing. They pay good money to hire a goldsmith to create the image and then they fall down and worship it as though it were the true God. See for example the sacrifice of gold that was made in Exodus 32 to create the golden calf, or the expense to which Nebuchadnezzar went in Daniel 3.
We might think that this type of worship has become obsolete or that it only exists in foreign undeveloped countries. However, we need only watch the news about the things that have been sold on ebay, the internet auction site. Pieces of toast that look like Mary, a seashell that looks like the virgin Mary and child, and objects that supposedly resemble the face of Jesus have sold for tens of thousands of dollars each. Doesn't that amount to the same thing that Isaiah is writing about in this passage?
Idols are inanimate objects that have to be carried by men to their place in the temple or wherever they will be displayed and that cannot move from that place. Over the years men have discovered that no matter how hard you pray to them they neither answer nor save you from your troubles.
Witness the following event: "And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made." (1 Kings 18:25-26) Baal failed to answer their prayers.
"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. (Psalms 115:4-9)
Like the psalmist, Isaiah calls the people of Israel and the world to remember this and to trust in God. "Show yourselves to be men," he says! It means to quit being barbaric, childish and ignorant people who cannot defend their faith. Be a man! Paul said a similar thing to the church at Corinth. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
That is our challenge for today. Be strong in your faith, stand fast on what you believe and leave the other things to those who have no understanding and who act like ignorant barbarians. Jesus Christ moves about as He sees fit, answers prayers, and saves His people from eternal condemnation. Why should you trust in anything else?
Before The Throne:
Pray that God would make you stronger in your faith. Pray for the zeal to tell others and the courage to defend the gospel. Ask God to help you find words to overcome the false propaganda that the media likes to put out and to to win people for Christ. Pray for those who still worship idols, perhaps even sillier ones than the ancients worshipped. Ask the Lord to strengthen the resolve of your church's congregation to evangelize the world.
For Further Study:
(v.5) Isa 40:18, 25; Exo 15:11; Psa 86:8; 89:6, 8; 113:5; Jer 10:6, 7, 16; Phi 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3;
(v.6) ** lavish. Isa 40:19, 20; 41:6, 7; 44:12-19; 45:20; Exo 32:2-4; Jdg 17:3, 4; 1Ki 12:28; Jer 10:3, 4, 9, 14; Hos 8:4-6; Hab 2:18-20; Act 17:29; ** they fall: Isa 2:8,; 44:17; Dan 3:5-15;
(v.7) ** they carry him. 1Sa 5:3; Jer 10:5; Dan 3:1; ** one shall cry. Isa 37:38; 45:20; Jdg 10:12-14; 1Ki 18:26, 40; Jer 2:28; Jon 1:5, 14-16;
(v.8 ) **Remember. Isa 44:18-21; Deu 32:29; Psa 115:8; 135:18; Jer 10:8; 1Co 14:20; ** bring. Isa 47:7; Eze 18:28; Hag 1:5, 7; Luk 15:17; Eph 5:14:
(v.9) ** the former. Isa 42:9; 65:17; Deu 32:7; Neh. 9:7-37; Psa. 78:1-72; 105:1-106:48; 111:4; Jer 23:7-8; Dan 9:6-15; ** I am God. Isa 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21-22; ** and there is none like. Deu_33:26;
Bowed Under the Weight
1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast. 2 They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity. 3 Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: 4 And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
Bel was the most celebrated and highest mythical god of Babylon and was sometimes referred to as Bel-Marduk. He was probably the predecessor of the Canaanites' Baal. Nebo was the Chaldean equivalent of Bel. The wide usage of his name in various combinations like Neb-uchadnezzar, Neb-uzaradan, Nab-onad and Nab-onassar demonstrate his importance to that culture.
However, God says that Bel bows down, is forced to crouch, and Nebo was bent over like a hunchback. The burden of protecting those who worshipped them was too much for them. Instead, the statues that represented them were loaded onto wagons, their wood, gold and stones being too heavy for the animals who had to bear them. Perhaps the second verse means that the animals were bowed down together with the gods. The loads of both were too heavy. The gods of the heathen could not deliver the burden but, instead, were themselves carried into captivity.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) Now we see how light His burden is. Unlike the idols who had to be carried by the people on their carriages, God says, "Listen to me. I have carried YOU!"
God's people, or at least the ones who trust in Him, never have any burdens to carry, because He takes them upon His own shoulders. He has carried them from the time they were in the womb until the present, although they may not have realized it; and He says that he will continue to carry them even into their old age.
God's use of the personal pronoun in the fourth verse is very noticeable. "I have made." He has created us and is responsible for our continued existence. Because He has created us and He never does anything in vain, He says, "I will carry." He will carry not only us, but our burdens also. God will not allow us to be stooped over like hunchbacks trying to carry the load that life places on us. Our God is not some inanimate piece of wood or lump of gold. He is alive, powerful and willing to help those who look to Him for help. "I will deliver you" from the sins of this world, from even your own sins, which have condemned you. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)
To all others, God says, "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." (Revelation 13:10) The patience is demonstrated in how we wait on God rather than striking with the sword. Heathen gods are often gods of aggression and war, like Allah whom the Muslims worship. He is a god who advocates kidnapping and beheading of anyone who does not agree with their faith; but our God, Jesus Christ, is the Savior who tells us to love even our enemies.
His burden is light. Try it!
Before The Throne:
Jesus does not want you to carry the burdens of this world. Bring your troubles to Him in prayer and then forget about them. See how much lighter they are. The only burden He has asked you to carry is the gospel message. It does not weigh anything. The smallest child can carry it and distribute it to others. Pray about how you will begin to carry this weightless but infinitely important message, while Jesus carries all of your other burdens. The load will get even lighter, because telling others about the gospel just seems to lift the spirit of the messenger.
For Further Study:
(v.1) **Bel. Isa 21:9; 41:6, 7; Exo; 1Sa 5:3; Jer. 48:1-25; 50:2; 51:44, 47, 52 ; ** a burden. Isa 2:20; Jer 10:5;
(v.2) ** they could. Isa 36:18, 19; 37:12, 19; 44:17; 45:20; ** but. Jdg 18:17, 18, 24; 2Sa 5:21; Jer 43:12, 13; 48:7;
(v.3) ** Hearken. Isa 44:1, 21: 48:1, 17, 18; 51:1, 7; Psa 81:8-13; ** the remnant. Isa 1:9; 10:22; Isa 11:11; Isa 37:4; ** borne. Isa 44:1, 2; 49:1, 2; 63:9; Exo 19:4; Deu 1:31; 32:11, 12; Psa 22:9-10; Psa 71:6; Eze 16:6-16;
(v.4) ** even to your. Isa 41:4; 43:13, 25; Psa 92:14; Psa 102:26, 27; Mal 2:16; 3:6; Rom 11:29; Heb 1:12; 13:8; Jam 1:17; ** even to hoar. Psa 48:14; Psa 71:18;
Every Knee Shall Bow
22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
Since Yahweh is the only God, a just God and a Savior (v.21), it follows that everyone should look to Him for their salvation. So He calls the people from all the ends of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles to look unto Him, because He is the only God and their only hope. Salvation is not universal, but it is universally available to them who would embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
God says that He has sworn by Himself. There is no more powerful oath, no more binding oath that could be taken. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself..." (Hebrews 6:13) Thus the word has gone out of His mouth in perfect righteousness. It is just and fair and cannot be revoked.
God's word always accomplishes that which he intends. In this case, He intends for every knee to bow and every tongue to swear that Jesus Christ is Lord. This applies to those who look unto Him and to those who oppose Him or run from Him. There will be a judgment and every saint and sinner ever born shall bow before Him and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Those who look unto the Lord for their salvation will be able to say that their righteousness and strength is in Him. In fact, Paul has said that they, "...are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:3-4) If Jesus is our life, it stands to reason that He is also our righteousness and strength.
"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:26-30) And no man will be able to boast in the presence of the Lord, for He is not saved by His own works but by the word of God's righteousness.
Those who oppose the Lord will be made ashamed, for all the "seed of Israel shall be justified and shall glory," but not those who oppose our Savior, Jesus. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Romans 2:28-29) This is more fully explained by Paul in Romans 4:9-13, which the reader should take the time to study.
Only Spiritual Israel shall be saved. Those who claim citizenship in God's Kingdom by birth or by works of righteousness will not make the cut. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12)
Look, therefore, only to our Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation and for your righteousness. He never committed a sin yet was made sin for us so that we might be saved. He died for you. Now, you should live for Him.
Before The Throne:
If you have already received Christ as your Savior, pray for those who have not received Him. Jesus said that for them there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Turn to Christ and ask Him to guide your life so that it is a credit to Him. Be a living sacrifice for our Lord so that others might find Him through you. Give thanks for your calling, confessing that there is nothing in you worthy of God's salvation but that you have hidden your life in God with Christ. To Him be the glory. Amen.
For Further Study:
(v.22) ** Look. Num 21:8, 9; 2Ch 20:12; Psa 22:17; Psa 65:5; Mic 7:7; Zec 12:10; Joh 3:13-16; Joh 6:40; Heb 12:2; ** for. Isa 45:21; Joh 10:28-30; Tit 2:13; 2Pe 1:1;
(v.23) ** sworn. Gen 22:15-18; Jer 22:5; 49:13; Amo 6:8; Heb 6:13-18; ** the word. Isa 55:11; Num 23:19; ** That unto. Rom 11:4; 14:10-12; Phi 2:10; ** every tongue. Isa 19:18-21; 44:3-5; 65:16; Gen 31:53; Deu 6:13; 2Ch 15:14, 15; Neh 10:29; Psa 63:11; 132:2;
(v.24) ** in the. Isa 54:17; 61:10; Jer 23:5, 6; 1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:21; 2Pe 1:1; ** strength. 2Co 12:9, 10; Eph 3:16; Phi 4:13; Col 1:11; 2Ti 4:17, 4:18; Zec 10:6, 12; ** even. Isa 55:5; 60:9; Gen 49:10; Mat 11:27, 28; Joh 7:37, Joh 12:32; Eph 6:10; Rev 22:17; ** and all. Isa 41:11; Psa 2:1-12; 21:8, 9; 72:9; 110:2; Luk 13:17; 19:27; Rev 11:18;
(v.25) ** the Lord. Act 13:39; Rom 3:24, 25; 5:1, 18, 19; 8:1, 30, 33-34; 1Co 6:11; 2Co 5:21; ** the seed. Isa 61:9; 65:9, 23; 1Ch 16:13; Psa 22:23; Rom 4:16; 9:6-8; Gal 3:27-29; ** glory. Isa 41:16; Psa 64:10; Jer 9:23, 24; 1Co 1:31; 2Co 10:17; Gal 6:14; Phi 3:3
20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
In light of the fact that God has never done anything in vain nor has He spoken secretly or out of some mysterious cavern in the earth, He calls all of the nations to assemble themselves and to draw near to Him. These are the remnants of the nations, the ones who have survived Cyrus' armies or, in later times, the ones whom God has called out to be His people and saved from the various judgments that He has brought upon the world.
God calls upon His people to draw near to Him and to resist the idolatry of the world around them. Those who set up wooden images to worship have no knowledge of spiritual things. This has been the theme of Isaiah from the beginning. God's people were sent into captivity, because they had no knowledge (5:13); but the Messiah would be one upon whom the Spirit of the LORD would rest, the Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD (11:2). The problem with idolaters is their lack of knowledge and God's people are called to stay away from their false doctrines.
Is corporate worship optional? Then, why does God say "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together?" Is He speaking in vain? He said that He never does that, so we should take His words seriously.
"Tell ye, and bring them near." God is commanding those who would be His witnesses to tell the remnant of the nations about their Savior. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" (Matthew 28:19) Teaching, or "making disciples of," all nations is God's way for us to bring them near to Him.
"Let them take counsel together." There should be a consensus concerning the omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence of our Lord. Counseling together will keep them from straying from Him. God invented peer pressure to be used in a positive way. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
As you see that day approaching, it will become clearer and clearer that God has told us these things from the beginning, that there is no God beside Him, that He is righteous and just, and that He alone can save us.
You cannot properly worship God by yourself without going to church, because to worship is to show love, and to show love is to obey. To obey God you must assemble yourselves together, draw near to one another in love, and counsel together so that not one of His people should be lost.
Before The Throne:
Do you know Christians who do not go to church, because they can "worship better alone" or watch a worship service on TV? Begin to pray for them today. Ask God to begin to convict their hearts and to make them long for Christian fellowship. Pray that He will guide you to invite them to come to your church when the time is right. Pray for your congregation to have a better attendance record and pray for yourself to be faithful with your attendance.
For Further Study:
(v.20) ** yourselves: Isa 41:5, 6, 21; 43:9; ** escaped. Isa 4:2; Jer 25:15-29; 50:28; 51:6-9; Eph 2:12, 16; Rev. 18:3-18; ** they. Isa 42:17, 18; 44:17-20; 46:7; 48:7; 1Ki 18:26-29; Psa 115:8; Jer 2:27, 28; Jer 10:8, 14; 51:17, 18; Hab 2:18-20; Rom 1:21-23;
(v.21) ** Tell ye. Psa 26:7; 71:17, 18; 96:10; Jer 50:2; Joe 3:9-12; ** and bring. Isa 41:1-4; ** who hath declared. Isa 41:22, 23; 43:9; 44:7, 8; 46:9, 10; 48:3, 14; ** and there is. Isa 44:8; ** a just. Isa 43:3, 11; 63:1; Jer 23:5, 6; Zep 3:5, 17; Zec 9:9; Rom 3:25, 26; Tit 2:13, 14;
The Worship Option
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
There have been a variety of polls telling us that ninety percent of the people in America believe in God. However, if we look at our church attendance in, we are forced to believe that the polls have greatly exaggerated the figures. Why do so many people say they believe in God, but never act like it? Perhaps they just don't get it.
When I read today's passage, I get the feeling that God thought the people just didn't get it. How many times does He have to tell us who He is and that He created everything before we will begin to understand? He says that He did not create the earth in vain (Heb. tohu). He created it to be inhabited; He created it for a reason; and he created it so that mankind would know that He alone is God and there is no other!
In our country, everyone professes a belief in God, but they seem to think that He does everything in vain, i.e. without reason or purpose. They believe that He created the universe and then walked away to do something else, having completely forgotten about us. That is why they do not come to church to worship Him. They think that worship is optional, because God doesn't pay much attention to it anyway.
The problem is just the opposite. We are the ones who have not paid attention to what He has done and said. So, in verse 19, He points to the fact that He never spoke to us in secret or out of the dark hidden places of the earth, as many believed their gods had spoken. God has always made His word public. Compare what He said in the following passages:
"For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off." (Deuteronomy 30:11)
"Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words..." (Proverbs 1:20-21)
"Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man." (Proverbs 8:1-4)
"Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing." (John 18:20)
I present those verses to you in order to emphasize that we have no excuse for not knowing who God is or what He has done, is doing and will do in the world around us. He has not hidden His words; He has not abandoned us; and He does pay attention to what we think, say and do.
Worship is, therefore, not optional. God did not tell Jacob, the nation of Israel, to seek Him in vain. It is a matter of life and death, because God alone speaks that which is good and right for mankind. "And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it." (Deuteronomy 32:46-47)
The polls do not reflect an accurate count of how many Christians there are in our nation. If we go by what the word of God says, the number of Christians might be fewer than twenty percent of the population. The statement that they believe in God merely reflects the vanity of the other seventy percent.
Before The Throne:
How seriously do you take your relationship with God? Is it optional? Confess your weaknesses to Him and commit yourself to a serious, consistent and personal relationship with Him. Pray for the many who are convinced that there is a God, but do not take Him seriously. There is hope for them, and your prayers may be what God is waiting for to change the spiritual make-up of our nation.
For Further Study:
(v.18) ** that created. Isa 42:5; Jer 10:12; 51:15; ** he created. Isa 45:12; Gen 1:28; 9:1; Psa 115:16; Eze 36:10-12; ** I am. Isa 45:5, 45:6;
(v.19) ** spoken. Isa 43:9, 43:10; 48:16; Deu 29:29; 30:11-14; Pro 1:21; 8:1-4; Joh 7:26, 28, 37-39; 18:20; Act_2:4-8; ** Seek.; Isa 1:15; 8:19; 55:6, 7; 58:1-3; 1Ch 28:8; 2Ch 15:2; Ezr 8:22; Psa 24:6; Psa 69:13, 32; Pro 15:8; Jer 29:13; Amo 5:4; Mal 3:13, 14; Mat 15:8, 9; Jam_4:3; ** speak righteousness. Isa 63:1; Num 23:19, 20; Deu 32:4; Psa 9:10; 12:6; 19:7-10; 111:7, 8; 119:137, 138; Pro 8:6; 30:5;
Saved and Unashamed
14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. 15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. 16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. 17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
In this passage we find indications that Isaiah is speaking more about the Messiah than of Cyrus as the redeemer of God's people. Cyrus never conquered Egypt, Ethiopia or Sheba, nor did Israel have any power over those nations after their release from Babylon. So, it becomes evident that the prophecy is of the distant future, concerning a time when these nations would come to know the Lord.
The labor, or wealth, of Egypt would be committed to Yahweh, as would the wealth of Ethiopia and Sheba. The people of these nations would "come over" to the worship of the true God and would be His people. The words indicate that it would be a voluntary surrender, but that they would be bound by the chains of faith, bond slaves of the living God.
This passage is referring, therefore, to the evangelism of the world that would result from Cyrus' release of the Jewish captives and from the subsequent birth, death and resurrection of their Messiah. The people whom God has chosen out of those countries and the other nations of the world would fall down before the Son of God and worship, saying, "Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God." The nations of the world would abolish their idolatry would recognize that there is only one God and Savior.
They would recognize that He is a God whose mysterious truths have been hidden, but now revealed to them through the gospel of Christ. They would know the truth, and the truth would set them free. Those who made and worshipped idols would be ashamed and hurt for what they had done. Many would humble themselves and come over to Jesus Christ, to worship and to find their salvation.
Israel shall, therefore, be saved in the LORD; not flesh and blood Israel, but spiritual Israel, the modern church. People from every Gentile nation would become part of spiritual Israel and be saved. Their salvation is eternal. It is not a salvation that would have to be renewed over and over by sacrifice or other works, because it is a salvation that is of the Lord, by the Lord and for the Lord. The people have nothing to do with it. They can neither save themselves nor throw out their salvation after they have received it.
Because their salvation is in Christ and eternal, the people of Israel will never have to be ashamed or confused about their faith. Up until the arrival of Christ, man's faith depended primarily on his own righteousness, which always failed. The Jews were constantly ashamed and wounded by the failure of their self-righteous religious beliefs. When their salvation is in Christ, they will have His righteousness covering their flaws, and they will never be ashamed again.
Thus, Paul was able to proudly proclaim, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)
Join the club. Proclaim the gospel. Experience the power of God to cause idolaters to fall down and worship Him.
Before The Throne:
Pray for the people whom you know that have no knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Pray for the millions of people who have been deceived by the lies of Islam. Pray for the power of God to overtake them and to subdue them in faith. Pray for the ability to play some role in their salvation. Thank the Lord for the fact that you shall never be ashamed of what you believe.
For Further Study:
(v.14) ** The labour. Isa 18:7; 19:23-25; 23:18; 49:23; 60:5-16; Isa 61:5, 6; 66:19, 20; Psa 68:30, 31; Psa 72:10-15; Zec 8:22, 23 ; ** the Sabeans. Job 1:15; Eze 23:42; Joe 3:8; ** men of stature. Isa 10:33; Num 13:32; 2Sa 21:20; Eze 31:3; ** in chains. Isa 14:2, Isa 49:23; Psa 149:6, 8; ** they shall fall. Isa 60:14; 61:5, 9; Exo 11:8; Est 8:17; Act 10:25, 26; Rev 3:9; ** Surely. Isa 45:24; Jer 16:19; Zec 8:20-23; 1Co 8:4-6; 14:25; 1Th 1:9; ** and there. Isa 44:8;
(v.15) ** a God. Isa 8:17; 57:17; Psa 44:24; 77:19; Joh 13:7; Rom 11:33, 34; ** O God. Isa 12:2; 43:3, 11; 46:13; 60:16; Psa 68:26; Mat 1:22, 1:23; Joh 4:22, 42; Act 5:31; 13:23; 2Pe 3:18;
(v.16) ** Isa 41:19; 42:17; 44:9, 11; Psa 97:7; Jer 2:26, 27; 10:14, 15;
(v.17) ** Israel. Isa 26:4; Hos 1:7; Rom 2:28, 29; 8:1; 11:26; 1Co 1:30, 31; 2Co 5:17-21; Phi 3:8, 9; 1Jo 4:15; ** an everlasting. Isa 51:6, 8; 54:8; 60:19; Psa 103:17; Jer 31:3; Joh 5:24; 6:40; 10:28; 2Th 2:13, 14, 16; Heb 5:9; 1Jo 5:11-13; ** ye shall not. Isa 29:22; 49:23; 54:4; Psa 25:3; Joe 2:26, 27; Zep 3:11; Rom 9:33; 10:11; 1Pe 2:6;
Power With God
11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. 12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.
There is a way for a man to have power with God. This passage follows the rebuke that men should not be critical of God. Their criticism is only done through ignorance, so God says, "Ask me of things to come concerning my sons..." God is willing to listen to our questions concerning the things that He is doing or planning to do. He is willing to hear our concerns, because he knows that we do not understand His ways.
His "sons" are all of His people, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12) God has wonderful plans for them and is more than happy to explain them, if we would only ask.
"...and concerning the works of my hands command ye me." The word "command" is quite a strong word to use when speaking of something that we should do to God. However, He is so enamored with His people that he cannot resist their humble and loving appeals for help in understanding Him or His creation.
John Gill wrote, "Faith in prayer has great power with God, a kind of command over him; it holds him to his word; it will not let him go without the blessing; nor let him alone till he has made good his promise; nor give him any rest, day nor night, till he has fulfilled the things to come concerning his sons."
So, we see that man can have power with God, not a militant, hostile power but the power of prayer. It is the power to have a part in what God is doing. We cannot truly command God to do anything, yet He wants us to ask, knowing that He will not refuse our requests.
"Prayer and the divine providence are closely related. They stand in close companionship. They cannot possibly be separated. So closely connected are they that to deny one is to abolish the other. Prayer supposes a providence, while providence is the result of and belongs to prayer. All answers to prayer are but the intervention of the providence of God in the affairs of men." (E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Divine Providence)
God, therefore, declared how He had single-handedly created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them, including man (v.12). The humble prayers of His people commanded Him to answer. "In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz... Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words." (Daniel 10:2-5,12)
In answer to those prayers, God had raised up Cyrus, who would give the order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. He did not do it for any reward and even gave the Jewish people money to take with them (See Ezra 1:7-11).
Cyrus set the captives free, but he was only a type of Christ. This whole passage should not be read without seeing God's design for His Son the Messiah. Through Christ, we have been given real power with God, for we are His sons. We can enter the throne room of His grace without knocking and He will say, "Son, command me concerning the works of my hands and I will gladly answer."
Before The Throne:
Like the son of a king, you command the heart of God. Thank Him for His love. What do you not understand about His ways, His work, His church? Ask Him and he will give you understanding. What problems is life throwing at you? Pray about it like Daniel and God will answer you. Pray in His will and be part of His providential interference in the affairs of the world. Pray with love, humility, gladness and compassion for others. Pray all day long.
For Further Study:
(v.11) ** the Holy One. Isa 43:3,7, 15, 21; 48:17; ** Ask. Jer 33:3; Eze 36:37; Dan 2:18; 9:2,3,24-27; Mar_11:24; ** concerning my sons. Jer 3:19; 31:1,9; Hos 1:10; Rom 9:4-8; 2Co 6:18; Gal 3:26-29; ** concerning the work. Isa 29:23; 43:7; 60:21; Eph_2:10; * command. Gen 32:26; Jdg 16:23; Jos 10:12; Hos12:4;
(v.12) ** made the earth. Isa 45:18; 40:28; 42:5; Gen 1:26,27; Psa 102:25; Heb_11:3; ** my hands. Isa 40:12, 22, 44:24; Jer 27:5; 32:17; Zec 12:1; ** all their host. Gen 2:1; Neh 9:6;
(v.13) ** raised him. Isa 41:2, 25; 46:11; 48:14;15; ** in righteousness: Isa 42:6; Psa 65:5; ** direct. Isa 45:1,2; ** he shall build. Isa 44:28; 52:5; 2Ch 36:22, 23; Ezr 1:3-11; ** let go. Isa 49:25; 52:2, 3; Rom_3:24-26; 1Pe 1:18,19; ** price. Isa 13:17;
9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
It may seem to us Christians that arguing with God would be quite a stupid thing to do, but that is what each of us did before we were born again. Every sin is an argument, rebellious act, or complaint against God, and even Christians struggle with the tendency to sin. So, this message should be applied to all of us.
What kind of person has enough courage to strive with his Creator? Only an ignorant one, and we have all been there. God created us with a single word and can dispose of us with a single thought. Yet, we always think that we can do without Him.
A potsherd is a broken fragment of a piece of pottery. Isaiah's use of the word refers to the frailty of men. We were formed of clay by the Master Potter but we are not whole. Sin has broken us, separated us from God who is our strength, and left us incomplete and frail like a potsherd. Yet, we strive with God.
Isaiah says, "Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth." Let man fight with his fellow man. It is no more right to do so than it is to fight with God, but al least you would have a chance to win.
How can the thing that is made criticize the One who made it or question whether He has any power? It is the sinful nature of man that leads us to do this very thing every day. Every time we complain about our circumstances, our health or our wealth we criticize the One who made us. Paul faced the same problem among the Christians to whom he ministered in Rome. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Romans 9:20-21)
Have you ever questioned your parents about your own conception? Have you ever told them what a poor job they had done, or did you ever think that you could have done it better? The question is ridiculous but, when we are discontented with what God has done in us and for us, we are essentially questioning our Father's ability to conceive us and to raise us in the way that we should go.
Each of us is only a fragment of what God has created us to be. Sin has broken us and left a large empty void in our hearts, an empty space where the Holy Spirit of God belongs. Our discontent comes from the longing to have that space filled again but our ignorance prevents us from accomplishing that.
Only the grace of God can open your eyes to the truth of how much He loves you. The truth will make you whole again, will fill the void in your heart and will set you free from the constant desire to strive with God. All you need to do is to receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. If you have not done it, do it right now. You will soon see a difference in your life and attitude.
Before The Throne:
Confess each and every sin of discontentment. Ask God to forgive you for striving against Him and for desiring something other than He has given you. Thank Him for the grace that reigns in your life. Be ready to serve Him the way He intended you to serve when He created you.
For Further Study:
(v.9) ** unto him: Isa 4:8; Exo 9:16, 17; Job 15:24-26; 40:8, 9; Psa 2:2-9; Pro 21:30; Jer 50:24; 1Co 10:22; ** Shall the clay: Isa 10:15; 29:16; Jer 18:6; Rom 9:20, 9:21;
(v.10) Deu 27:16; Mal 1:6; Heb 12:9;
4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. 8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.
Our God is not a confused person who rambles from one work to another without any apparent purpose. This is an important fact to remember when we are praying, for we want to pray according to His divine will. Throughout the book of Isaiah, God has demonstrated that He has one purpose for everything that He does. His only desire is to glorify Himself in the eyes of His creation.
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6)
In this passage, God tells Cyrus how He had predestinated him to the work of bringing praise and glory to His name. He called Cyrus by name hundreds of years before he was born or was able to know who God was. God had surnamed him, "My shepherd" and "My Anointed." He had done this for Jacob's sake, from whom the Messiah, Son of God, would eventually descend and for Israel His church, which would proclaim the glory of His name to the world.
God had raised Cyrus to wear, or be girded with, the robe of a King and of a great conqueror. Only God could have done this, because there is no other god. God wants the whole world to know, from the east to the west, that there is but one God. Yahweh alone deserves the glory.
God forms the light. John Gill mentions several different ways that this can be understood. God has created the physical light such as that, which radiates from the sun, which He also created. He created the moral light, that understanding that men have of the difference between right and wrong. God also created the "spiritual light, or the light of grace, by which things spiritual and supernatural are known; the light of joy and comfort from Christ, the sun of righteousness; and the light of eternal glory and happiness."
He also forms the darkness, which is the exact opposite of each of those elements of light. God can close man's understanding of moral issues and of spiritual issues. He can keep them from the joy and comfort that only comes from Christ.
God says that He is the creator of peace and of evil. He can subdue the raging anger and hatred of wicked men and bring peace to the earth. His peace reigns in the hearts of men and women whose lives are hidden in Him with Christ. An eternal and far reaching peace will finally bring the uttermost glory and praise to His name.
But God is also the author of evil; not moral evil, not sin, but wars, natural destruction, diseases and other afflictions that can torment mankind. He is the author of judgment and punishment for those who would defy Him. "I, Yahweh, do all these things," He declares.
And so He calls for the heavens and the skies to pour out the righteousness that is found only in the Son of God. "Send the Savior!" Salvation and righteousness will spread across the earth and no one will be able to deny that, "I, Yahweh, have created it!"
Are you living in harmony with God's purpose? Does your life reflect the only thing that is important to God, that men should find salvation and righteousness in His Son whom He sacrificed for their sins? Do you represent the reasons why people everywhere should give praise and glory to the Lord of lords and King of kings?
Before The Throne:
When you pray, ask yourself whether or not you are praying in God's will. Are you asking for things that will help you to serve His only purpose? Ask God to teach you to see things from His perspective, to give you understanding of your role in His plan and to help you structure your own life accordingly. Pray for the holiness and righteousness that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Ask Him to fill you with a fiery zeal for the gospel and the glorification of the name of God. Thank Him for predestinating you "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
For Further Study:
(v.4) ** Jacob. Isa 41:8,9; 43:3,4,14; 44:1; Ex 19:5,6; Jer 50:17-20; Mt 24:22; Mr 13:20; Ro 9:6; 11:7; ** I have even. Isa 44:28; ** though. Ac 17:23; Ga 4:8,9; Eph 2:12; 1Th 4:5;
(v.5) ** the Lord. Isa 44:8; 46:9; De 4:35,39; 32:39; 1Ki 8:60; Joe 2:27; Joh 1:1; Heb 1:8,9; ** I girded thee. Isa 22:21; Ezr 1:2; Job 12:18,21; Ps 18:32,39;
(v.6) Isa 37:20; 1Sa 17:46,47; Ps 46:10; 83:18; 102:15,16; Eze 38:23; 39:21; Mal 1:11;
(v.7) ** form. Ge 1:3-5,17,18; Ps 8:3; 104:20-23; Jer 31:35; 2Co 4:6; Jas 1:17; ** create darkness. Ex 10:21-23; 14:20; Jer 13:16; Eze 32:8; Joe 2:2; Am 4:13; Na 1:8; Jude 1:6,13; ** I make Peace. Isa 10:5,6; Job 2:10; 34:29; Ps 29:11; 75:7; Ec 7:13,14; Jer 18:7-10; Jer 51:20; Eze 14:15-21; Am 3:6; 5:6; Ac 4:28;
(v.8 ) ** Drop down. Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ps 72:3,6; 85:9-12; Eze 34:26; Ho 10:12; 14:5-8; Joe 2:28,29; 3:18; Ac 2:33; Tit 3:3-6; ** let the earth. Isa 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; 61:3,11; 1Co 3:6-9; ** I the Lord. Isa 65:17,18; 66:22; Jer 31:22; Eph 2:10; 4:24;