Oct. 24. Israel to be Restored to Peace and Abundance

Is. 54:1-55:13; 64:1-12

Israel was likened to a young childless woman estranged from her husband. It was considered to be disgraceful for a woman to be childless. However, the estranged Israel would be reunited with her merciful Husband, God and she would become the mother of many children. As Israel had been the bride of God, the new kingdom, the church would be the bride of Christ. The many who would obey the commands of the new covenant would become children of that bride. Like the promise made by God to Noah that the earth would not be destroyed by water again, He promised that His kindness and covenant of peace would not depart from them.

It is God’s desire and purpose that all should come to Him. Salvation is free for the taking. However, it is not forced upon anyone. We must turn from wickedness and seek Him while we are living. After death, it will be too late. It is not for us to understand all that is involved in His plan nor to try to change it. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah’s message was two-fold. He concluded his thoughts of Israel’s return to Jerusalem by reflecting upon the joy that would be expressed as the land would be restored. There also would be joy in the hearts of those being freed from their sins.

When people suffer from the consequences of sin, there are two types who are sorry—the ones sorry that they got caught and the ones who are suffering a truly penitent godly sorrow. Isaiah described the separation that the exiles in Babylon felt as God had turned away from them. In penitence, they called for God to come down and renew His relationship with them as the Potter molding them as clay. They lamented over the condition of their destroyed homeland and the ruins of God’s temple and pled for His peaceful restraint.

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Oct. 23. Jerusalem’s Redemption; Suffering Redeemer

Is. 51:1-53:12

Isaiah continued to encourage the Israelites regarding their upcoming release from exile. He reminded them of their origin from Abraham and the many ways that God had helped them through their struggles in the past. Likewise, He would be with them in the future if they would abide with Him. Through His mercy, God would remove the cup of His fury from Judah and pass it to those who had oppressed them. As they would be released by Cyrus from the grasp of Babylonian captivity, sinners can be released by Christ from the bondage of their sins.

The prophet exhorted the captives to prepare for their departure from slavery to the freedom of being back home in Zion/Jerusalem. God’s name had been blasphemed and disrespected because other people assumed that He was unable to save His children from captivity. His name is likewise disrespected today by non-Christians when people claiming to be Christians, do evil deeds and live like the rest of the world. Freedom for the exiles would let the world know, “That I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.’”

It would be a joyful and happy occasion when the news of their deliverance would be proclaimed. Their departure would be orderly and without the confusion of haste that had occurred when they left Egypt hundreds of years earlier. One’s deliverance from the bondage of sin is also a joyful and happy experience.

When man, whom God had created, first sinned in the Garden of Eden, God revealed His plan to eventually redeem us from the consequences of our sins.

The prophet, Isaiah was very graphic in describing the appearance and sacrifice of the Savior of Israel AND the Gentiles. Instead of coming on a great white horse as one might imagine, the Messiah would appear as a Servant in humble surroundings and be rejected by His own people. One also might expect Him to have a regal and flamboyant demeanor. However, there would be no beauty in Him and He would be a man of sorrows and grief because of our sins.

Deserved or undeserved, punishment is not pleasant—especially if it is undeserved. Obviously, undeserved death would be even more tragic. The Servant would be, “bruised for our iniquities…And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Even through all of the unjust treatment that He would endure, He would not try to defend Himself.

At the end of His earthly life, the Servant; the Messiah; the King of kings; the Lord of lords; the Savior of mankind would not die the death of royalty. Instead, He would be, “numbered with the transgressors…”

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Oct. 22. Prayer for Deliverance and Restoration

Ps. 79:1-80:19

The dates and eras of many of the psalms are unknown. However, there was a period of prolific writing among the prophets during the periods leading up to, during and immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the children of Jacob/Israel.

These psalms appear to have been written during the captivity. The psalmist lamented over the condition of God’s holy temple, the city and His people. They had been slain to the extent that there were insufficient survivors remaining to bury them. God’s name was being dishonored because the nations perceived that He had been unable to protect His people. The writer appealed to the Lord to take vengeance against those nations who did not know Him. In repentance, he prayed for the merciful forgiveness of their past sins and for Israel’s salvation.

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!” The psalmist’s lament regarding Israel seemed to be referring to the northern kingdom, Israel since the tribes that he mentioned had occupied that area. He likened them to a vine that God had transplanted from Egypt to a land that had been cleansed of many nations. The vine had flourished and covered the land. However, the Lord had broken it down and allowed it to be devoured by wild beasts. It is easy when times are difficult to be like the psalmist in asking God, “Why?” He stated that if God would restore them, they would remain faithful to Him.

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Oct. 21. Israel’s new Freedom Prophesied; Future Servant

Is. 48:1-50:11

Isaiah reviewed with Israel the events that would lead up to their release from captivity. Those things were related beforehand in order that they would know that it was from God and not from their reliance upon any power from idol gods. God would allow their delivery for His own name’s sake in order to remove previous defamation of His name. (Non-believers had stated that Israel’s God was unable to prevail against their gods.) Israel was reminded that it was through their disobedience that they would be placed in the position of being delivered from their captivity. However, the same God who had led, fed, watered and protected His people through the desert to the Promised Land would provide for their needs during the return to their home in Jerusalem/Judah.

The Lord turned Isaiah’s attention to thoughts of the Savior and to the salvation of Israel; also, “you peoples from afar” (Gentiles) who would hear the Savior’s words. God, in His mercy stated that it was not enough that only the house of Jacob would be restored and preserved. “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” There would be many obstacles in the path of the Savior. He would be despised by men and abhorred by the nation. Israel had been His servant for hundreds of years. The Gentiles would become a new servant. With Gentiles included in God’s plan, the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that all nations of the earth would be blessed through their seed would then be fulfilled.

Isaiah addressed the concerns of the exiles who felt that they had been forgotten. A mother may possibly forget her child. God will never forget His

children. The prophet reminded them of the great promises that the Lord had made to them. Their destroyers would go away. They would become so mighty that their land would be too small to contain them. Israel would become a great nation under God’s protection. “All flesh shall know That I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Divorce is final separation. Israel was asked about the existence of a divorce certificate from God. Obviously, there was none. Neither had He sold them to a creditor to repay a debt. It was only their sins that had caused their separation from God. His withdrawal from His “wife, Israel” was only temporary. The Messiah would come to redeem Israel and reunite them with their “husband” God. Christ, the submissive Servant would not resist the beatings, insults and shame that would be heaped upon Him. Instead, He would “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk. 9:51)

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Oct. 20. Defeat of Babylon’s Gods

Is. 46:1-47:15

Bel and Nebo were prominent gods of Babylon. They had been seen by the Babylonians as victors over the Assyrian gods. However, Isaiah pictured them as being carried into captivity on the backs of beasts and cattle. Instead of being carried by the people, God stated that it was He, the incomparable One, who had carried them from the womb and would continue to carry them from bondage. One of the most striking differences between God and idols was His ability to declare the end from the beginning; whereas idols are lifeless, burdensome and useless pieces of metal or wood.

Proud Babylon was facing humility. They would no longer be called “The Lady of Kingdoms.” Instead, they would sit in the dust and it would be necessary for them, instead of their slaves to work with their hands for their sustenance. The once proud city would be like an elegant lady brought down into slavery. To the victor go the spoils and the authority of command. Babylon had been unmerciful in their treatment of the exiled Judeans. In their pride, they had stated in their heart, “I am, and there is no one else besides me.” That statement can only be uttered by the Lord. The prophet declared that they must pay the price for their pride and arrogance. Their gods and sorcerers would be unable to prevent their impending doom. The allies in whom they had depended would desert them.

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Oct. 19. Foolishness of Idolatry; Cyrus to Free Israel

Is. 44:1-45:25

Isaiah foretold that after a period of punishment, God would free His people. Temple servants of various gods were branded with the name of their god. He used the expression of, “I am the Lord’s” to indicate Israel’s ownership by God. They were indeed God’s servants even while being disobedient.

The Lord is King of Israel; his Redeemer; the Lord of hosts; the First and the Last. Isaiah pointed out the folly and futility of worshipping idols. A blacksmith may make a molten image or a craftsman may carve a wooden god, but they are useless. The god’s maker may become hungry and tired, but his god cannot relieve his discomfort. After falling down to worship the idol, nothing happens because it cannot see or hear the pleas of its worshipper.

Only God can predict the future and see His prediction fulfilled. Many years before Cyrus’ birth, Isaiah had prophesied that Cyrus would divert the river and capture Babylon by traveling on the dry riverbed. God’s people would be freed to return to rebuild Jerusalem and His temple.

Isaiah continued his prophecy regarding the release of the Israelites from their Babylonian captors. He had predicted earlier that Babylon would be punished for the evil that they had done against Judah/Israel. God had chosen Cyrus and had raised him up to lead the Persians in His purpose to set His people free. The prophet outlined God’s plan for Cyrus that would make the Lord known to the Persian king and how He would use him for His purpose. Ultimately, Cyrus would know that God is, “A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.” Jews and Gentiles alike would be able to experience salvation through the blood of Christ under His New Covenant that would come hundreds of years later.

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Oct. 18. Messianic Prophesies

Is. 42:1-43:28

Isaiah is often referred to as the Messianic prophet because of the many times that he wrote regarding the Christ who would come to suffer and die to save spiritual Israel—His church. Gentiles would also be included in the new kingdom. The prophet spoke numerous times regarding God’s Servant. At times, collective Israel is His servant and at other times, the Savior is the subject of his message. Instead of carved images, the Messiah would bring forth justice and mercy to Israel. (The word Messiah is rarely used in the Scriptures. However, it is a Hebrew term defined as the Anointed One. The same word in the Greek language is Christ.) In humility and tenderness, the Messiah would do for Israel what they had been too blind and deaf to do for themselves.

Israel had turned their backs upon God and had refused to obey Him. In His anger, He used other nations to render justice in punishment of them. The prophet could foresee a time when God’s mercy would allow the Israelites to come from all directions of the earth to be restored. They had dishonored Him in many ways, even from very early times, but with their repentance and obedience, He would blot out and forget their sins.

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Oct. 17. Comfort for God’s People

Is. 40:1-41:29

The previous writings of Isaiah contained prophecies of judgment, doom, disaster and captivity in a foreign land for God’s people. Even the same consequences would befall those nations who would be inflicting God’s punishment. However, brighter days began to be predicted for the future of Israel/Judah. Much was prophesied regarding the coming Savior and His kingdom.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” The prophet could visualize the end of their physical captivity. He could also see the end of spiritual captivity from sin as the voice in the wilderness cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord…” Many years later, John the baptist was the one who prepared the way of the Lord.

In contrast to the temporary nature of man, God’s word will last forever. When man turns to God, he reaps the reward that has been promised to him. God’s gentle care for man was compared to the care that a shepherd has for his sheep. However, nothing can be adequately compared with the greatness and power of our God, the creator of all things.

The prophet asked a redundant question regarding who had performed all things and was over them. God’s answer—“I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.” He reaffirmed His commitment to Israel that they had been chosen and that He would strengthen them. Those who had been against Israel would be as nothing.

“Fear not, I will help you.” Israel would be renewed and God would provide for their needs. He reminded them of the futility of following heathen idol gods. They can neither tell events of past nor show the things that are to come. “Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.”

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Oct. 16. Handwriting on the Wall

Dan. 5:1-30

Babylon was in a period of political unrest. Nabonidus had become king, but was living in the Arabian desert. His son, Belshazzar became a regent over Babylon, but served the duties of king.

While serving as regent or substitute king, Belshazzar hosted a great feast at which he called for the gold and silver vessels that had been plundered years earlier from the temple of God.

As the king and his guests drank wine from those vessels and praised their various gods, a strange event occurred. Fingers of a man’s hand appeared, writing upon the plaster wall. After his astrologers, Chaldeans, soothsayers and wise men had failed to interrupt the writing, the terrified Belshazzar, at the suggestion of the queen called for Daniel.

The aged prophet read the words, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” They pronounced bad news to the wicked Belshazzar. “MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Even though the news was bad, Belshazzar ordered that Daniel be clothed with royal purple with a golden chain around his neck and pronounced third ruler in the kingdom.

Belshazzar was slain that very night and the kingdom was received by Darius, the Mede.

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Oct. 15. Various Prophecies Regarding Zion and Others

Is. 33:1-35:10

Isaiah continued to speak against the evil nations. Those who had plundered and dealt treachery against Israel would become recipients of that same treatment. However, the righteous are humble and submissive to God. They will be forgiven for their iniquity.

The prophet described the vengeance that God would take upon the nations that had been in rebellion against Him. Edom was named as a representative of those nations. They would die in a great slaughter and their land would grow up in thorny weeds and be occupied by wild animals.

The blessings of the righteous were likened to the freshness and new life of a desert after a refreshing rain. Jesus, several hundred years later opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, gave strength to the lame and put words into the mouths of the dumb/mute. There would be a highway for the righteous to travel in safety. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing…sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

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Oct. 14. Prophecies Against Babylon and Others

Is. 13:1-14:23; 21:1-17

Approximately two hundred years before it occurred, Isaiah prophesied the fall of Babylon. Babylon had been a great and powerful empire, but they also had worshipped idol gods instead of the living God. Various other idol worshipping kingdoms who had opposed Israel had been warned by the prophets of impending destruction. The Lord instructed Isaiah to declare the fate that would also befall the Babylonians. He described the cruel events that would occur during the attack against them by the Medes. Babylon would be destroyed never to be rebuilt.

The result of Babylon’s overthrow would allow Israel to return to their own land as their captivity would end and their captors would become their servants. Mighty Babylon would be humiliated and join their previous victims and become as they were in defeat. The land would be at rest and happy.

Babylon’s destruction was further described by the prophet as he saw a distressing vision of their fall. Elam/Persia and Media would form a coalition to attack and conquer the mighty Babylon. Treachery and plunder would be rampant. The images of their idol gods unable to save them would be broken as the true God inflicted His punishment upon the evil kingdom. Isaiah continued his prophecy by pronouncing doom against the Edomites and Arabians.

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Oct. 13. Egypt Receives Another Warning; Jehoiachin Released from Prison

Ezek. 29:17-21; II Kn. 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34

A couple of years after Ezekiel’s vision of the restoration of Israel and the temple, he received another warning regarding Egypt. Since Nebuchadnezzar had helped God punish Judah for her sins, He had promised wages to Babylon in the form of victory over Tyre. That victory was only partial as Tyre had only been crippled and not totally destroyed. Egypt’s previous warnings had been ignored and God was ready to allow Nebuchadnezzar to punish another sinful nation for Him. Egypt would be conquered by Babylon.

After many years of power, King Nebuchadnezzar died and his son, Evil-Merodach succeeded him. Soon after becoming king, Evil-Merodach released Judah’s king, Jehoiachin from prison during his thirty-seventh year of captivity. The new Babylonian king allowed Jehoiachin to have special privileges in his household for the rest of his life.

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Oct. 12. Laws of the Temple and Resettlement Concluded

Ezek. 46:1-48:35

The Lord continued to describe in Ezekiel’s vision the various offerings and sacrifices that would be made by the people in the new temple after their return from Babylonian captivity. Their civil ruler and the leader of worship would be the prince. He would be the only person allowed to enter the temple through the eastern gate. It would be in that area that he would perform princely duties. Whenever the people would enter the temple, they would be required to go out through the opposite gate.

The prophet’s vision made a remarkable change. He was taken to the eastern door at the front of the temple and saw a shallow ankle-deep stream of water flowing from beneath the eastern threshold of the temple. After moving a relatively short distance, the flowing water had become a river that he could not cross. It flowed into a salty sea and turned it into fresh water that was full of life. That vision is indicative of the abundant salvation that can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ, the King that came many years later.

Attention was then turned toward allocating land to the returning tribes of Israel. The restored Israel would have approximately the same boundaries as they did during the times of David and Solomon. After describing the borders of the land, the Lord stated the borders of the twelve tribes and also the allotments for the temple and the surrounding areas for the priests, Levites and prince. The rebuilt Jerusalem would have three gates on each side. They would be named for each of the twelve tribes. “…and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.

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Oct. 11. Laws of the Temple

Ezek. 44:1-45:25

The Lord took Ezekiel in his vision back outside to the eastern gate, but it was closed because the Lord had entered at that gate. After that, he was taken to the north gate where God began to review the temple laws with him. One of the more important laws dealt with the temple sanctity and who would be permitted to enter. No foreigner uncircumcised in heart or flesh could enter the temple. The priests who had previously defiled the temple worship would not be allowed to continue with those responsibilities, but instead would have limited duties as gatekeepers and ministers of the house. Main priestly responsibilities would be assigned to the faithful sons of Zadok, who also was of the tribe of Levi. Ezekiel received other laws regarding the duties and conduct of the priests. As at the beginning of the priesthood, they would have no land ownership, but would be sustained by the offerings of the people.

Upon their future return, there would be allocations of certain portions of land. One portion described would be set aside for the temple and for the houses of the priests. Various other portions were also described and allocated. Standard weights and measures were also established. God instructed Ezekiel about the various offerings that would be required upon Israel’s return home.

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Oct. 10. Various Dimensions Described

Ezek. 41:1-43:27

In Ezekiel’s vision, he continued to receive the dimensions of the areas in the new temple. Ezekiel being a priest was permitted to enter the sanctuary, but did not enter the Most Holy Place.

Just as God’s commands for us are specific and expected to be obeyed, He was specific in describing the designs and dimensions of the aspects of the temple and its courtyard. The temple and courtyard complex seemed to occupy an area of nearly thirteen acres.

Corruption by the many abominations that His people had committed caused God’s glory to depart from the original temple. In Ezekiel’s vision, he saw the glory of God return and occupy the new temple. Just as He had exited through the eastern gate, He would also return through the eastern gate. He assured the prophet that He would dwell in their midst forever. God instructed Ezekiel to repeat the descriptions and measurements of the temple to the house of Israel. He proceeded to instruct the prophet on how he was to make various offerings as they began to occupy the new temple. After a period of seven days, the priests would resume their priestly duties.

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