The Prosperity That Brought the Degradation
of King Uzziah in Judah
is considered to be
the most prosperous era in the nation since that of King Solomon. The year that Uzziah died is the year
that the young Isaiah was called to be a Prophet. Sampey describes the condition of the country
and the city. “The
country had enjoyed
an era of agricultural and commercial development under Uzziah. Tribute flowed in from the Ammonites, and the avenue of trade through the Red Sea was open, as in the days
of Solomon. The
was at peace
increased in the hands of the nobility and other landowners. Luxury, with its attendant train of evils, entered Jerusalem. There
was sore need of a prophet
to call the people to repentance and reformation.”
Isaiah Chapter 1, An Explosive Introduction
Only a message from God to His rebellious subjects could start as does the book of Isaiah in chapter 1. The first verse is historical, then….
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (Isaiah 1:1 RSV)
Well, that is harmless enough, but stayed tuned.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD hath spoken…”
It seems that Isaiah to talking to the stars and sky and to the earth itself as he is about to tell the nation to just keep on going as it has been, without listening and seeing!
“Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” (Isaiah 1:2,3 RSV)
We see the pathos of God as His love and care has been rejected, as a rebellious son would reject the care of a father; and of a people that do not know or under- stand the God who has adopted them! Now, we come to the crux of the accusations that God has against the nations.
“Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” (Isaiah 1:4 RSV)
If you are a wife and your husband says that you “are utterly estranged” you have better believe it, or at least listen; and if you are the chosen people of God, the chosen nation from among all the nations of the earth and that God says that you “are utterly estranged” you had best listen!
God is tired of their religious worship and practices, desiring rather to see them doing good.
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:11-18 RSV)
1. As a nation when God tells you that He is no longer interested in the sacrifices you make as part of your religious worship; you are in trouble!
2. As a nation when God says your attendance at worship is no more than the stepping on His holy house, you are in trouble!
3. As a nation when God says your religious activities His soul hates, you know you are in trouble!
4. When God is weary of those religious activities and they become a bur- den to Him, all is lost!
5. You can pray and fix your hands in a certain manner to pray, but God will not listen. He says it is because of the blood on your hands.
Rather than religious attendance and activities, this is what God expects of a nation.
1. Making yourself clean by washing. Remember the previous chapter on baptism and the real meaning of baptism. This is an inward cleansing that comes from repentance and renewed faith!
2. Remove from before God the evil doings, and if they are removed from before God, who sees and knows all, then they are removed from the face of the earth.
3. Stop doing evil and learn to do good.
4. Seek justice and correct oppression.
5. Defend the fatherless and plead for the widows.
It sounds much like the similar admonitions from the Apostle Peter much later on what it will take to live a long life.
“He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:10-12 and Psalm 34:12-16 NJKV)
The Ideal versus the Actual City
Isaiah was a hometown boy, raised and educated in the city of Jerusalem. He loved that city and desired something better for it, say that of the New Jerusalem come down from heaven from God. First, he talks of how the condition of the city has evolved to a lesser state.
“How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.” (Isaiah 1:21-21)
Then starting in chapter 2 we have the introduction of the Perfect, Ideal City. It comes as word which Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1).
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:2-4 RSV)
There you have the Perfect City. It is a city raised high on the highest of all mountains. The weapons will be turned into fishing instruments and the swords into instruments of cultivation. Is that what you see in Jerusalem and Israel today. Hardly! Because it is not the “latter days”, the end times of the “last days”!
Compare the Beginning of Micah. How does the beginning of Micah compare with Isaiah? Recall that Micah though in the northern kingdom of Israel also had a message for Jerusalem. “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Azah, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:1 RSV) Well, it has a similar historical beginning. Let us see if the introduction then is as explosive.
“Hear, you peoples, all of you; hearken, O earth, and all that is in it; and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming forth out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will be cleft, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. All this for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the sin of the house of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country, a place for planting vineyards; and I will pour down her stones into the valley and uncover her foundations. All her images shall be beaten to pieces, all her hires shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste; for from the hire of a harlot she gathered them, and to the hire of a harlot they shall return. For I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentations like the jackals and mourning like the ostriches. For her wound is incurable; and it has come to Judah, it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:2-9 RSV)
Yes, it is as explosive in the introduction of Micah as in Isaiah. Notice that in both cases the cities are called harlots!
Woes on Certain Classes of People in Isaiah
In chapter 5, Isaiah declares the woes of God on certain classes of people. Listen to it sounds like a modern city today.
1. Woe on the land sharks.
2. Woe on drunken revelers
3. Woe on unbelievers.
5. Woe to those who confuse right and wrong.
6. Woe on the conceited politicians.
7. Woe on corrupt, drunken judges.
Hosea, the Contemporary Prophet Marries a Harlot. During
this what Sampey calls “the Golden Age of Prophecy”, God was determined
to make the point of harlotry to Judah and Israel,
so Hosea, a contemporary Prophet
with Isaiah and Micah,
was told to take a wife that was a harlot.
“The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the sons of Joash, king of Israel. When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry for forsaking the LORD.’ So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (Hosea 1:1,2 RSV)
Word got around in the little countries of Judah and Israel, and what the Prophets did and said became household words. We saw in the case of Jonah being swallowed by the whale on the trip across the Mediterranean to Spain, that this word from the sailors traveled back to Nineveh before Jonah got there. Well, as his marriage and children were discussed, God wanted it to count for something.
“And the LORD said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day, I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:4)
It was drastic behavior, these instructions from God for Hosea to follow; but it was a prophecy that was a drastic, he was predicting the end of the nation of Israel, the northern kingdom, and at the same time he was telling the nation and nations that the reason was because of their harlotry. Jezreel was a valley in northern Israel, and was the place that Jehu murder the sons of Ahab in order to become the king of Israel. The end of the kingdom is fulfilled by the Assyrian Captivity.
Gomer bore a daughter next which God told Hosea to call Lo-Ruhamah (which means Not Pitied, as God was no longer going to have pity on the nation of Israel to forgive them. At this point God was still have pity on the southern nation of Judah; and said that he would deliver them this time, yet not by war. And then a third child was born, and God said to name him “Not my people” as the people of Israel were no longer His people and God was not their God.
The Real People of God of the Real Israel
Then we come to see in Hosea 1:10 and with its explanation in Romans 9:25,26 that the real people of God after this rejection of Israel would become a kingdom of Gentiles from across the earth.
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God. Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:10,11 NJKV)
And the quote with explanation preceding the quote is found in Romans 9:24,25.
“Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gen-tiles? As he saith also in Osee (the Greek word for Hosea), I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.” (Romans 9:24,25 KJV)
8-11: Last Prophet of the Assyrian Period, Nahum
Nahum was the last prophet of the Assyrian Period. In fact, it was his mes- sage to predict the destruction of Nineveh, the city-state of the Assyrian Empire. Isaiah, the Prophet of the generation before Nahum, wrote both pre- dictions and history about Assyria. Perhaps the most famous is the record of Isaiah 36. First King Sennacherib of Assyria took the other fortified cities of Judah, then stood outside the gates of Jerusalem.
“Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. Then the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And he stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field.” (Isaiah 36:1,2 NJKV)
Three men from the court of Hezekiah came out to meet the Rabshakeh from Sennacherib. The Rabshakeh told them to give up and asked them what was Hezekiah trusting in to save them. Apparently, Hezekiah had rebelled against Assyria, refusing to pay tribute. Jerusalem was taunted. If you are trusting in Egypt, you are trusting in a spear that will pierce you. If you pledge allegiance to the king of Assyria, I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able to put riders on them. You can’t be trusting in your army as you cannot repel even the least of one of our captains. When the three from the court asked the Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic which they could understand but not the com- mon people on the wall, again they were taunted and instead the Rabshakeh spoke in Hebrew. This time he addressed the people saying to listen to the great king, the king of Assyria; and told them not to be deceived by Hezekiah as he was not able to deliver them.
“Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his on fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.” (Isaiah 36:16,17 NJKV)
He was going to grant them some time in their own city, then later take them to a supposedly good Captivity in Nineveh. Then the representative of Sennacherib began to taunt the God of Judah, and that was a big mistake.
“Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered it land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Indeed, have they delivered Samaria from my hand?” (Isaiah 36:18,19)
These were peoples that had fallen. Then they had the nerve to compare the God of the Universe to the false gods, idols, of other nations. It was true that Assyria had already taken captive the northern kingdom of Israel with the largest city of Samaria. The taunt before the God of Jerusalem continued.
“Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’” (Isaiah 36:20 NJKV)
When the three men from the court of Hezekiah took the message to him, he rent his clothes and went into the temple to pray. After praying, Hezekiah sent representatives to talk to the Prophet of God, Isaiah with the following message.
“It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’” (Isaiah 37:4 NJKV)
Isaiah told the messengers of king Hezekiah not to be afraid of the words from the king of Assyria. The king had blasphemed God. Sennacherib was haughty and determined; and why not, he had destroyed and captured every nation of the known world.
“Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ ‘Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and will you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telasar.” (Isaiah 37:10-12)
One city was southwest of Jerusalem, the others were in Mesopotamia and in Syria. And the word traveled freely in those days in the small world: Hezekiah and his court had heard about all this! Nineveh and Assyria, one and the same, were a terror to the whole world during these times of Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and now Nahum. If you have not seen that previously, you see it in the prayer of Hezekiah to God after this second message from the Assyrian King.
“Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: ‘O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, who has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands–wood and stone. Therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, you alone.” (Isaiah 37:15-20 NJKV)
God answered the prayer of Hezekiah. He answered it through the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah that since he had prayed to God against Sennacherib, this was the answer.
“…this is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him (king Sennacherib): ‘The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head behind your back! Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel. By your servants you have reproached the Lord, and said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots I have come up to the height of the mountains, to the limits of Lebanon; I will cut down its tall cedars and its choice cypress trees; I will enter its farthest height, to it fruitful forest. I have dug and drunk water, and with the soles of my feet I have dried up all the brooks of defense.” (Isaiah 37:22-25 NJKV)
The King would recognize from this that God had been watching was what happening as he had taken captive the cities of the northern kingdom. Now, king Sennacherib is about to learn from the real King God who he has been blaspheming.
“Did you not hear long ago how I made it, from ancient times that I formed it? Now I have brought it to pass that you should be for crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.” (Isaiah 37:26 NJKV)
But you see Sennacherib you were dealing with peoples of little power; with those who were dismayed before you; and they are temporal like the grass of the field. Then God lets Sennacherib know that he knows all about him.
“But I know your dwelling place, you’re going out and your coming in, and your rage against Me. Because your rage against Me and your tumult have come up to My ears, therefore I will put my hook in your nose and My…”
To be continued in PTB 32, the last of top topic 8 on Listening Over Sacrifice.