TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- ISAIAH 15:1-18:7
In Chapters 15 and 16 Isaiah pronounces his prophecy against Moab. (A prophecy is sometimes called an oracle or burden). Moabites were descendants of Moab, the son born through Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughter (Genesis 19:37). The Moabites consistently proved to be enemies of Israel. You may remember that their king Balak, hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel when the nation passed through their lands on their journey to Canaan (Numbers 21-25). The people of Israel were seduced by Moabite women into their practice of sexual immorality and idolatry. The Moabites worshiped false deities and offered their children as sacrifices on altars to Chemosh.
Moses views the promised land and dies on Mt. Nebo, the peak of Mt. Pisgah, in territory east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea (Deuteronomy 34). This is the country of Jordan today.
We remember in the Book of Ruth how an Israelite from Bethlehem, named Elimelech (literally, ‘God is my king’) abandoned faith in Yahweh in a time of famine and moved to Moab in an attempt to save his family. His sons, Mahlon and Chilion (meaning ‘sickness’ and ‘pining away’) took Moabite wives there (Ruth and Orpah). During a period of ten years in Moab, Elimelech and his two sons died, leaving his wife, Naomi, and his daughters-in-law as widows. Ruth cleaves to Naomi and her faith, returning to Israel where they are shown the mercy of God’s law, a provision of redemption from their destitute state- as they meet their kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. The Redeemer marries Ruth and, by the law of a levirate marriage, restores the household name of Elimelech (‘God is my King’) through the birth of a son, the grandfather of King David, Obed.
So, David was part Moabite. When he is pursued by King Saul, he sent his father (Jesse) and mother there to stay with relatives (1 Samuel 22:3-4).
Isaiah pronounces God’s judgment on the cities of Moab going from the north to the south. The Lord does not take delight in executing judgment. He does not delight in the punishment of the wicked.
Ezekiel 18:23 23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”
Isaiah 15:5 5 My heart cries out for Moab; His fugitives are as far as Zoar and Eglath-shelishiyah, For they go up the ascent of Luhith weeping; Surely on the road to Horonaim, they raise a cry of distress over their ruin.
Nevertheless, judgment is warranted. According to the prophet, Assyria will judge Moab swiftly, “in a night” (15:1).
Isaiah 15:1 1 The oracle concerning Moab. Surely in a night Ar of Moab is devastated and ruined; Surely in a night Kir of Moab is devastated and ruined.
“Kir” means “city” and so, “Kir of Moab” probably refers to “Kir Hareseth” (“city of potters”) which was Moab’s capital city, modern-day Kerak, 11 miles east of the Dead Sea.
The listing of cities includes Dibon, which most likely was the location of a temple dedicated to Chemosh. Nebo is in the region of Mt. Nebo. Much bloodshed is promised (15:9). The inhabitants of the cities would be taken captives and suffer humiliation and there will be great mourning. (Every head is shaved, and beard is cut off, and in the public square, they will wear sackcloth (v.2-3).
The prophet describes the judgment as the people eating the fruit of their accumulated sins. Yet Isaiah extends an offer for mercy through a Lamb to be sacrificed on the altar in Jerusalem!
Isaiah 16:1 1 Send the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land, From Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion.
God offers peace and reconciliation to the Gentile nations through faith in the promise of Messiah. May the outcasts of Moab find shelter from the destroyer through faith in Him (15:4).
Isaiah 16:5 5 then a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness.”
When Christ returns the tabernacle of David will be restored and Messiah will judge the nations.
James refers to the tabernacle of David and the Messianic promise when he hears the reports of Gentiles coming to faith in Christ in the Book of Acts.
Acts 15:16 16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it.”
The reason for the severe judgment is found in verse 6.
Isaiah 16:6 6 We have heard of the pride of Moab— how proud he is! — of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; in his idle boasting he is not right.
God would have mercy, but Moab refuses His offer, trusting in their own brand of righteousness.
The timeline for judgment for the local and immediate prophecy is specific.
Isaiah 16:13-14 13 This is the word that the LORD spoke concerning Moab in the past. 14 But now the LORD has spoken, saying, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.”
Bible scholars have noted that God uses a timeline in his prophecies with Israel and the nations, but never with the church (For example, no man knows the day or the hour- Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). Within 3 years, God used Assyria as His instrument to bring judgment on Moab.
Chapter 17 is a prophecy against Damascus (Syria). Damascus was one of the oldest cities in the world and the leading city of Syria. Damascus is used as a name for both the city and the nation in this prophecy. Ephraim is the name of a tribe of Israel, the name of a city, a mountain, and a man. The name Ephraim is often used in Scripture as a name for the ten northern tribes of Israel, particularly in its apostate state.
Hosea 4:16-17 16 Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the LORD now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture? 17 Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone.
Because of the confederacy between Israel and Syria, Isaiah prophecies how both nations will come under judgment. These nations joined in warring against the southern kingdom of Judah. Partners in crime are often partners in judgment.
Isaiah 17:1 1 An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.
Some critics take issue with this prophecy, saying Damascus has remained to be a city. There are a number of considerations. Remember that there are local and immediate applications to many of these prophecies and there are distant and future applications. In the immediate and local application, the original city could have been destroyed and rebuilt. There are ruins of ancient cities in the area of Damascus today. In our lifetime we have seen how Damascus has continually withstood the onslaught and destruction of wars. Another important consideration is that according to the Bible there are future judgments coming upon the nations in the Great Tribulation. And this prophecy could be pointing to this also. Sometimes there is an earlier partial fulfillment before an ultimate complete fulfillment.
The northern kingdom of Israel was indeed brought low as the ten tribes were besieged by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29) and finally deported by the Assyrian, Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:6).
This is what the Lord said to Israel (Ephraim):
Isaiah 17:10 10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger.
The Lord’s people need to be purged of their idolatries. They had been worshiping at the altars of Baal, and constructing Asherah poles dedicated to the fertility goddess, Asherah, the consort of ‘El’, the chief Canaanite god (17:8).
In Chapter 18 Isaiah delivers the 5th oracle, or burden, against Cush, or Nubia, which was south of Egypt. It was also called Ethiopia, but is not to be confused with Ethiopia today. Its northern limit was at the first cataract of the Nile and its southern border was the sixth cataract. It was known for its precious minerals and great wealth. The Egyptian name ‘Nubia’ may come from the word, “nub” that means ‘gold’.
Whereas earlier judgments are described as being sudden ‘in one night’ (15:1) or like a violent storm (17:12-14), the Lord speaks to Isaiah and tells him that judgement comes in different degrees of ferocity.
Isaiah 18:4 4 For thus the LORD said to me: “I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
Isaiah 18:6 6 They shall all of them be left to the birds of prey of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth. And the birds of prey will summer on them, and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.
Isaiah is told that there is a time coming when the Kingdom of God will be established and the inhabitants of Cush will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord, and will be born of the Spirit (Psalm 87:4).
Isaiah 18:7 7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – GALATIANS 1:1-24
Today we start Paul’s letter to the Galatians. You can tell by the tone of this letter that Paul is irritated by how quickly the Christians of Galatia bought into the bondage-producing religious distortions of the legalistic Judaizers. These false teachers were insistent that it was necessary to externally conform to the ordinances of Judaism, if you were a true follower of Jesus. After all, Israel had the privileges of God’s instruction in the Law and the Prophets. Rather than seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law, and seeing that the Law’s purpose was to prepare the context for Jesus’s work of redemption, they saw that the Law was an end in itself. They believed in salvation by law-keeping. The evidence of people buying into that religious system would be for the men to adopt the custom of the initiatory rite of circumcision.
To this, Paul says, “nonsense!” How does Paul know? His conviction was birthed by the revelation of Jesus Christ and consistent with the teaching of Scripture.
He starts his letter out with a summary. The rescue that the Law of God proved that we needed was provided fully by Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:3-5 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Then Paul goes for the jugular. He is no longer playing Mr. Nice Guy.
Galatians 1:6-7 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
How easily and how often the gospel is distorted today. False teachers propose alternative ways to spirituality. They propose new ways to achieve intimacy with God. They advocate communion with positive forces and practices that attract health, wealth, success and the realization of your desired destiny.
Paul makes it clear there are not many gospels. There is no other gospel than the one preached- the apostles’ doctrine, the New Testament revelation of the gospel of God’s glorious plan of salvation, through penitent faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s language is very strong. He basically says if anybody preaches another gospel, let them be eternally condemned! (1:9) Let them bear the penalty (5:10) and be castrated to boot (5:12). Jesus pronounced similar judgments.
Matthew 18:6 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Paul is not a man-pleaser, nor can we afford to cater to those who insist that they can be saved by their maintaining their own favorite brand of self-justifying righteousness.
In verses 11-24, Paul gives his powerful testimony of how he was once was a self-righteous Pharisee persecuting the church, subscribing to the false doctrine of self-justification through attempts at external conformity to the Law. He was converted by the revelation of Who God truly is and what He has done through the person of His Son. Paul, once known as Saul of Tarsus, met the crucified, risen, glorified Jesus Christ, on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul did not make up this gospel. Nor did he get it from any other man. He received it directly from Jesus Christ. His understanding of the gospel of God’s saving grace was confirmed by the apostle Peter when he went up to Jerusalem three years later. He has already been preaching Christ in the synagogues in Syria. He also met with Jesus’ half-brother, James (1:19). Saul’s conversion was a God-glorifying wonder to those who met him.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 58:1-11
The old sin nature is well described in verse 3.
Psalm 58:3 3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
The Psalmist seeks God avenging him of his enemies, but we can read this Psalm and rejoice that he has judged our wickedness on the cross. There the wicked receives due punishment. Those who believe the gospel are made righteous by embracing the crucified Lord of life. They receive the gracious reward of His worthy sacrifice.
Psalm 58:11 11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 23:12
Proverbs 23:12 12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – NETHERLANDS
Kingdom of the Netherlands
With over 20 percent of its lands lying below sea level, the Netherlands – “low lands” – is one of the geographically lowest nations on earth. Also known as Holland, this most crowded European nation shares borders with Germany and Belgium and also includes several islands in the Caribbean. The Dutch word gezelligheid, which means cozy and sociable, is embodied in Dutch culture, and the people of Holland have a long history of tolerance and acceptance, traditions that today are increasingly taken to extremes in embracing all lifestyles.
The Netherlands has an advanced free market economy and boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. The capital city of Amsterdam is one of the world’s major financial centers, while Rotterdam boasts one of the world’s busiest ports. The Hague, the seat of government, is home to over 150 international organizations, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and it also
hosts a large United Nations presence.
With a rich Christian heritage forged in the Protestant Reformation, the Netherlands has long been a vibrant part of the Church. Sadly, much of that heritage has been lost as the nation increasingly turns its back on its Christian roots. Less than 20 percent of the Dutch people attend church regularly, and half of all church buildings have been destroyed or repurposed as taverns, mosques, etc. The nation is a world leader in promoting New Age worldviews, and more than 47% of the population does not claim a religion at all. While great opportunities exist for reaching out to the Muslim minority because of cultural discrimination, Christians are becoming afraid to speak out against what is wrong because of the tolerance that the society prides itself on having. The Netherlands desperately needs spiritual revival so that the multitudes of lost across the nation would be saved.
Area: 41,785 sq. km
Northwestern Europe occupying the Rhine delta; over 20% is below sea level.
Population: 16,653,346 Annual Growth: 0.41%
Capital: Amsterdam (administrative capital); The Hague (seat of government)
Official language: Dutch (Nederlands), Frisian. Many also speak English Languages: 38 All languages
Largest Religion: Non-religious
Challenges for Prayer
There are signs of hope amid the decline. Pray for:
- a) Growth in the number and strength of many independent churches, and continued vitality among charismatic Pentecostal Christians. Pray that spiritual depth, lasting discipleship and effective outreach might be strengthened. There are new international churches and small congregations being planted which demonstrate the openness of some hearts to receive the good news.
- b) Immigrant churches bring diversity, vitality and a new sense of hope to the Netherlands. Pray for the effective integration of these 700,000 immigrant Christians into Dutch church life. Pray also that they might have dynamic partnerships with indigenous congregations and a burden for cross-cultural church outreach to their host nationality and to other immigrant groups.
- c) The Gereformeerde Bond and Evangelisch Werkverband are growing evangelical expressions in the PKN (Protestant National Church) with over 500 pastors involved. These movements are increasingly respected and instrumental in sending missionaries, fostering unity and planting new churches using new models.
- d) Unity within evangelicalism sees progress, but remains a challenge. The Evangelische Omroep and the Evangelical Alliance are important in this regard. Evangelicals come from a very wide spectrum and are often fragmented and isolated. SKIN is an interdenominational network bringing together the growing number and diversity of migrant churches. Pray for spiritual unity that draws denominations, institutions, agencies and ethnic groups into a single vision for reaching the nation and the world, and for their willingness to financially support this with generosity.
PRAYER: We thank You, God of grace, that mercy has triumphed over judgment for those who bow at the foot of the cross. We are grateful that by this new and living way You provided through the gospel, we can enter the Holiest of all, by the blood of the Worthy Lamb, Christ our Passover. He is all our righteousness and we stand in Him complete. Give us a fresh appreciation of the gospel and a firm resolve to be able to stand fast in its liberty. Give us wisdom, clarity and boldness to declare it. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.