TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- ISAIAH 22:1-24:23

The prophet has been discharging his burdens concerning the surrounding nations: Babylon (13:1-14:23); Assyria (14:24-27); Philistia (14:28-32); Moab (15:1-16:12); Damascus-Syria (17:1-3); Cush/Ethiopia (18:1-7); Egypt (19:1-23); Egypt and Cush (20:1-6); a second prophecy re: Babylon (21:1-10); Edom-Dumah (21:11-12); Arabia (21:13-16).

Now he returns his focus to Jerusalem (22:1-25). He calls the city “the valley of vision”. The term ‘valley’ is associated with humility, sorrow, lowliness, and death. A ‘mountain of vision’ would be understandably referring to getting perspective from a mountaintop, such as Moses gazing over the Promised Land from Mount Nebo or Jesus weeping over the city from the Mount of Olives.

The picture here is of an invasion, most likely referring to Babylon taking the city under Nebuchadnezzar or a date in the future. Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem but did not enter the city.

Jerusalem felt the threat of Assyrian invasion and made every effort to defend themselves. Isaiah’s prophecy upbraids them for not trusting in the Lord.  Instead, houses were demolished to repair breaches in the city wall, and subterranean tunnels were built to safeguard the city’s water supply (22:8-11). The crisis called for true repentance. But instead, they lived as practical atheists. Instead of inquiring of the Lord, they feasted with the existential philosophy, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we die.” (22:13).

Isaiah is moved to tears (22:4) because Jerusalem relies on its own wisdom and strength rather than calling out to the Lord. He reminds them that they must give a reckoning for their sins. The wages of sin is death.

Isaiah 22:14 14 But the LORD of hosts revealed Himself to me, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you Until you die,” says the Lord GOD of hosts.

In verse 15, we read of Shebna, the secretary of the treasury appointed to the house of David under Hezekiah. (See 2 Kings 18:18; 19:2; Isaiah 36:3; 37:2). Apparently, he was an unfaithful servant who misappropriated funds. Like a cheap politician, he finagled his way into an office he did not deserve. The Lord promises to oust him from his position in shame.

He will be replaced by Eliakim, whom the Lord calls ‘my servant’. He is a type of Christ. Unlike Sheba, who is unfaithful and removed from his office, Eliakim will be a faithful, unselfish statesman.

In many ways, Shebna is a type of the Antichrist, and Eliakim, the true Christ. Notice the language that will appear in the New Testament Book of revelation.

Isaiah 22:22 22 “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open.

Revelation 3:7 7  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…

How wonderful to put ourselves in the hands of Him who is able to open or close any door!

Unlike Shebna, who appeared to have a secure office but was deposed. Eliakim is given this assurance:

Isaiah 22:23-24 23 “I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, and he will become a throne of glory to his father’s house. 24 “So they will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, offspring and issue, all the least of vessels, from bowls to all the jars.

We can hang our lives on that sure nail also! Don’t trust in the counterfeit!

The following verse foreshadows the demise of the Antichrist and deposing of Shebna.

Isaiah 22:25 25  “In that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “the peg driven in a firm place will give way; it will even break off and fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”

Chapter 23 is the prophecy against Tyre. Tyre and Sidon were the two great cities of the Phoenicians. Sidon was considered the mother city, and Tyre was her proud and prosperous daughter, who eventually excelled her mother’s prominence in wealth. Tyre was a symbol of commercial success. Its fleet of ships traded with Egypt, Tarshish (on the southern coast of Spain), and as far away as the islands of Britannia. We read about the great help that King Hiram of Tyre was to King David as he offered building material for the temple and royal palace in Jerusalem.

Here Isaiah predicts that Tyre will be destroyed and taken into captivity for 70 years (23:17), even as Judah was. In the Book of Ezekiel Chapter 26, we will see how accurately the prediction of Tyre’s destruction will be.  The ruins of the old city will be used by Alexander the Great to build a causeway to the new island city of Tyre. The old city would be scrapped, as predicted by Ezekiel (26:4). That ancient city, however, will not be rebuilt.

Returning ships will one day see that the port city of Tyre has been destroyed. How did it happen?

Isaiah 23:9 9 The LORD of hosts has planned it, to defile the pride of all beauty, to despise all the honored of the earth.

At the end of the seventy years captivity, Tyre resumed its commerce. She is portrayed prophetically as a harlot plying her unholy trade.

After the judgment of the Great Tribulation, we see Tyre will enter the Millennium as a strong nation:

Psalm 45:12 12 The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift; The rich among the people will seek your favor.

Chapter 24 brings us to a new section, but the theme is still judgment. The Day of the Lord, as we have noted, begins with the nightfall of judgment, the Great Tribulation.

Isaiah 24:1-3 1 Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. 2 And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. 3 The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word.

In verses 24:13-14, we learn that the saints are preserved in this period. A remnant will lift up their voices to the Lord in praise.

Isaiah 24:13-16 13 For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples, As the shaking of an olive tree, As the gleanings when the grape harvest is over. 14 They raise their voices, they shout for joy; They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the LORD. 15 Therefore glorify the LORD in the east, The name of the LORD, the God of Israel, In the coastlands of the sea. 16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs, “Glory to the Righteous One,” But I say, “Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me! The treacherous deal treacherously, And the treacherous deal very treacherously.”

This corresponds to what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:21-22.

Matthew 24:21-22 21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

“In that day,” we will see that the unseen powers and principalities in the demonic world will be punished.

Isaiah 24:21-22 21 So it will happen in that day, That the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high, And the kings of the earth on earth. 22 They will be gathered together Like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; And after many days they will be punished.

The darkness comes before the dawn. After the judgment, the kingdom reign of Christ comes to full view.

Isaiah 24:23 23 Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – GALATIANS 2:17- 3:9

Paul often anticipates the criticism that people give when they learn that we are justified (pronounced righteous) simply by faith, believing God’s perfect provision in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Does this mean that we are to live lawlessly in sin?  No. We are not lawless. Instead of living under the law, the law lives in us in the person of Christ mediated to us by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 20  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

And by the way, Paul adds, if there were any other possible way for a human being to be made right with God, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross would not have been necessary, and therefore in vain (2:21).

To believe any other gospel is nonsense. A delusion. Paul says that to turn away from this gospel to another gospel involves bewitching!

In illustrating the reality of being saved by grace through faith, he asks them to consider their own story. How did they become Christians by receiving the Holy Spirit? Not by serving the Law. But by believing the gospel!

Regeneration is a miracle, and it does not happen through people working to keep the law. It happens by trusting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Paul makes it clear that this message is nothing new. Abraham was saved, that is, justified before God, by believing God’s promise. Paul directs his readers to Genesis 15:6

Genesis 15:6 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

He also reminds us that we are written about in the book of Genesis. Did you know that you were in the Old Testament? (Genesis 12:3, 18:18; 22:18).

Genesis 22:18 18 “In your seed (CHRIST) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (BECAUSE YOU BELIEVED THE PROMISE).”

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 60:1-12

This is another psalm written in the midst of tough times.  The Psalmist recognizes God’s chastisement in His present dealings, but he prays for restoration.

He lays claim to the Lord’s title: “Yahweh nissi,” the Lord our banner (Exodus 17:16).

Psalm 60:4 4 You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. 

On that basis, he asks for victory over the surrounding enemies. The Lord affirms that He is sovereign over all the nations (the ones Isaiah prophesied about in Chapters 13-21).

The Psalmist puts his confidence in the Lord. He knows the purpose of his nation is to display the glory of the Lord, who is his banner of victory.  May we do that also!

Psalm 60:12 12 Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 23:15-16

Proverbs 23:15-16 15 My son, if your heart is wise, my own heart also will be glad; 16 And my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. 

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand

Aotearoa

Pacific

Geography

Area: 267,515 sq km

Two mountainous main islands 1,600 km southeast of Australia.

Population: 4,303,457    Annual Growth: 0.92%

Capital: Wellington

Urbanites: 86.8%

HDI Rank: 20 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)

Peoples

Peoples: 62 (8% unreached) All peoples
Unreached Peoples Prayer Card

Official language: English, Maori. Samoan widely spoken    Languages: 22

Religion

Largest Religion: Christian

Religion                 Pop % Ann Gr
Christians 2,289,439 53.20 -0.8
Evangelicals 784,015 18.2 0.5

Challenges for Prayer

Kiwi society is increasingly post-Christian and secular. Other religions are far less a threat to the Church than basic unbelief. The last 20 years have seen significant proportional decline among Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and, to a lesser extent, Catholics. Those claiming to be non-religious increased from 1.1% in 1951 to 40.9% in 2010; at current rates of change, Christianity will cease to be the majority religion before 2020. Church attendance is also in decline. About 14% attend weekly; 40% of Kiwis attended church in the past, but no longer do so. Pray for:

a) A further outpouring of the Spirit to renew those in churches and to draw in again those who have left. 24/7 prayer rooms and other prayer groups are multiplying throughout the country, indicating that God is indeed stirring the Church.

b) Effective training and discipleship tools that enable all Christians, ministers, and laity to connect meaningfully with the unchurched. New bridges to non-believers need to be built.

c) New expressions of church that are dynamic, relational, relevant, and culturally appropriate to both the Pakeha (Caucasian) majority and the many minorities.

d) Wisdom for the Church as it comes under increasing pressure from the government to cooperate with other religions.

Christian division is a threat. There are tensions in many denominations over a variety of issues, and cooperation among denominations has declined. Some tension exists among Pentecostal churches. The activity of some churches in politics is criticized by others. New Zealand Christian Network (formerly Vision Network) is a national body linking denominations and agencies that represent the majority of New Zealand’s Christians. Pray God’s wisdom for this group in what is a vital ministry for the health of the Church and its testimony to non-believers. 

The unparalleled beauty of New Zealand’s snowcapped mountains and majestic lowland plains attracts tourists year-round as does the vibrant intersection of British and Maori cultures. A world-renowned destination for the nature enthusiast and cultural connoisseur alike, New Zealand is truly a traveler’s gem. Though tourism is a thriving industry in New Zealand, there is much more this nation’s story than trendy hotels and epic wilderness adventures.

The Polynesian Maori were New Zealand’s first inhabitants and settled as early as 800 A.D. Hunting and fishing people; the Maori sustained themselves with the rich natural resources the island provided.  These resources lured European explorers to the islands in the late 18th century.  In 1840, a treaty was signed between the United Kingdom and Maori chiefs, which granted Britain sovereignty over the island. Twenty years later, the UK established its first colony. Tension between the Maori and British settlers over land rights erupted in conflict and the eventual defeat of the Maori.  By the 1890’s, a constitutional government emerged, and in 1947 New Zealand became autonomous. Regarded as one the least corrupt nations in the world, New Zealand stands at the forefront of Pacific affairs and has embarked on numerous international peacekeeping missions.

Since the 1960s, New Zealand has seen dynamic growth among charismatic groups, and many dynamic churches have emerged. But non-belief is increasingly prevalent.  In 1951 only 1% identified themselves as non-religious, but by 2010 that number grew to 41%! It is estimated that by 2020, Christianity will cease to be the majority religion and will be replaced by non-religious thought. A post-Christian nation, New Zealand faces growing secularism, which has infiltrated education and political policies. Prostitution, which was legalized in 2003, exemplifies the rapid moral decline facing this nation. The Church is in great need of unity amidst growing indifference. Pray that Truth would infiltrate a society increasingly lost in darkness. 

PRAYER: Lord, Your Sovereignty is on display in the Scriptures as You rule over all. You are the One who raises up and brings low, the nations, the kingdoms, and its rulers. You are the One who gives us the victory!  Help us today to be victorious over sin. We pray that the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus will enable us to transcend the downward pull of our old sin nature. Give us the grace to walk in accordance with Your Word and Your Spirit. Thank you for concluding our old life in Adam on the cross. We are grateful that the life we NOW live, we live by the faith of Your holy Son Jesus to do what is pleasing to You. May we bring You glory by resting in the sufficiency of Jesus’ Name. Amen.