The Call of God to a Holy Life

The Call of God to a Holy Life

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4

1Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

Introduction:

Paul begins to give further instruction to these new believers. Remember that they lived in the Roman world, where, just as in the Grecian Empire before it, the public and private morals were very corrupt. Sexual sin, in particular, was rampant.

Corinth was far worse!

In Corinth, at that same time, where the church had even greater contamination, there was a gigantic temple to Aphrodite. It was called a “temple,” but the acts of “worship” involved having sexual relations with the temple prostitutes (for money.) The Encyclopedia Britannica records that in its heyday, that “temple” had 10,000 prostitutes, both male and female. Business was booming! I assume that sexually transmitted diseases were also flourishing there.

In Thessalonica, no such religiously oriented prostitution existed. But there was still the ungodly influence of the World, just as there is today. Paul begged the believers to live the way the apostles had taught them during their brief stay there. (That is what “beseech” means: “beg!”) They had been taught what sort of lifestyle pleased God. Paul begged them to “abound more and more” in that walk with God. They were to be growing in that relationship.

The Apostles’ Teaching

We can go through the Pauline epistles and see what sort of other things he is “likely” to have told them. Some they probably already knew, as some of these “new” believers in Christ were already well-taught Jewish believers, and others were Gentile proselytes to Judaism.

They all were gaining an understanding of the God of the Bible and a beginning of awareness of His Holiness. Some of the things Paul taught may have seemed to be “new,” and those were probably rooted in the “upgrades” that Jesus pointed out. He sharpened the understanding of the believers, to realize that sin is not just “outward actions:” It also includes the root thought or attitude that fostered the eventual actions.

Why is Sexual Sin a Good Example to Use?

In Romans 7, Paul used the example of covetousness. It is one of the prohibitions in the ten commandments and it is one that is entirely inward, though it will certainly bear outward fruit.

Still today, there are people who teach that “you cannot sin in your mind.” They teach that “until it results in an outward action, it is not sin.” Jesus refuted that, saying that when a person is angry without cause, they are in danger of judgment. In the same passage, He taught that when a man looks upon a woman to desire her, (That is what “lust” means: “desire.”) that he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. That is where sin begins. Every man who is honest with himself already knows this. But we can expand that concept to every other sin.

All sin begins in the heart! And that should not be a surprise: Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” So how can we escape such a cycle of sin and death?

What does it mean to be Holy?

Verse three states that we are to be holy: we are God’s private property. That is what “sanctification” means: It means that we have been declared to be “holy.” It means that we are set aside for God’s private and exclusive use.

Remember that the vessels in the Temple of God were Holy, too. On more than one occasion, the temple was raided, and the vessels were stolen. In Daniel 5:3, 4, we see that the Babylonian king Belshazzar took those stolen vessels and drank from them, specifically “drinking as an act of worship to his idols.” He and all his family, friends and servants drank from those holy vessels and praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.  That was an blatantly blasphemous desecration of God’s property!

Result of Defilement

But here is the question to consider: having been defiled in that manner, were those vessels less holy? Were they not still God’s private property?  The fact is, they did belong to God.  When they eventually were returned to the temple, they had to be washed, and reconsecrated for Temple use: but after that cleansing, they were once again used for their intended purpose.

When we fall into sin, no matter how great or small, we are taking God’s private property and using it in a manner that shames Him, just as Belshazzar did! We still belong to God, but we are defiled by the sins we commit. Until that sin is confessed and fellowship is restored, we are just as defiled as those holy temple vessels had been by the wicked acts of Belshazzar and company.

What Vessels?

It is interesting, too, that, in verse 4, God chose to use the word “vessels” here, regarding us. (What vessels?) Since there was so much information about the “vessels” of the temple, and what happened to them, it is interesting that God chose to refer to our bodies as “vessels.”

In Romans 9:21-24, Paul pointed out that physical “vessels,” made of clay, by a human potter, could be destined for honor or dishonor, according to the intent of the maker. A flowerpot, for example, is usually made of cheap, common, red clay. It is used to hold beautiful ornamental plants, but it is relatively weak, very porous, and fragile.

Fine china, in contrast, is made of expensive kaolin clay. It can be fired at extreme temperatures and, as a result, it is much harder and stronger. Ironically, toilets and other such “vessels” are also made of kaolin clay. Their intended use is not the same as it is for “fine china.”

What is our intended Use?

But what the vessel is made of is not the question, here. The real question is, “What is its  intended use?” We are intended for God’s use. Yes, we are weak and fragile, and we have many “frailties” built into us. But we are made for His honor. Especially after being born again, we belong to Him and are expected to live in such a way as to honor Him. We cannot claim that “our frailties made us do evil.” We choose to sin.

In contrast, the angelic hosts were created with none of our frailties, and yet a third of them chose to follow Satan into rebellion, despite knowing their Creator face to face. The reason God offers His Grace to us and not to them is that we have not seen Him, and we have no idea of the enormity of our rebellion. God says we received Grace because we sinned ignorantly. The angels did not sin ignorantly: they knew their Creator personally, and had seen His glory in person.

Possessing our Vessels

We are immortal spirit beings, dwelling in bodies of mortal flesh. We will exist somewhere, forever, either with the Lord, or apart from Him. Unlike the Spirit of God, our spirits have a “starting point,” at conception. Jeremiah 1:5 makes it clear that God knew us before He created us: He says His foreknowledge precedes the creation of each new spirit. And, from conception, that spirit lives in a body (sometimes called a “temple” or a “tabernacle”…a tent) of flesh. How we use that body, and how we use our minds, will either honor God or fail to do so. Paul teaches that, as born-again children of God, we are to walk with God in a manner that honors him.

Defrauding your Brother

How we live also affects others: For example, if you are unfaithful to your spouse, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects your spouse, and it affects the person with whom you committed adultery, and their other relationships are affected in turn. Children are affected, too: sometimes scarred permanently by the sins of their parents.

We cannot undo the effect of our sin. All we can do is confess it, and stop it! We are told to renounce that kind of behavior and live as the people of God. You cannot serve the flesh and simultaneously serve God. And in verse six, God warns that He still judges sin: don’t get the idea that people are “getting away with” anything.

This is not just an admonition to married people, either: the word he used here, translated as “fornication,” is “porneia.” It is a broader term than “adultery:” it simply means “sexual sin.” It is where we get our word, “pornography.” Satan begins his attack in the mind, luring us to lewd thoughts and tempting through the eyes and ears, as he lures us to sin.

But we are given the weapons of warfare to combat that attack: 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5 says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imagination and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”.

Casting Down Imaginations!

That rather rules out the idea that “our inner thoughts are ok, so long as we don’t act on them,” doesn’t it? And the fact that the weapons are not carnal tells us that we can’t fight this battle in the flesh. Finally, he says that every thought is to be taken captive to the obedience  of Christ.

“Secret sin” is not a secret! God is completely aware of every thought we entertain, for better or worse. Our lives are completely open to His gaze. I don’t know about you, but that is not an entirely comfortable thought, to me. It means that when I am thinking wrong thoughts (regardless of what kind) I am “doing” what those thoughts entail, right in front of God. I am defiling myself in His presence, even though I may protest that “I didn’t do anything!

We are called to cast down our imaginations of sin (of every kind, not just sexual sin) and bring every thought into obedience to Christ.

God has not called us to remain in uncleanness, but to accept our new position (being “holy unto the Lord,”) and live that way!

He Who Despises

Is everyone going to respond well to this message? No…unfortunately, even among born-again believers there is a tendency to rebel. We all still have a Sin nature. But God warns us here, that if we despise this commandment, and rebel against it, we are not rebelling against man’s rules, but against God…the very God who gave us the Holy Spirit to seal us as His property. That is serious business, and sometimes has terrible consequences.

Sin Always has Consequences

Ananias and Sapphira died, physically, because they attempted a “secret sin:” God called them on it, and He made an example of them. He took them home on the spot.

We don’t always know what the consequences will be. I have known more than one believer who fell into sexual sin and contracted incurable diseases: One of them died of that disease. It all could have been avoided by stopping the sins where they began: in the heart.

Anger management is another area that can have terrible results. More than one believer has succumbed to anger, and ruined his or her testimony, or marriage, or has even been imprisoned because of his or her sin.

Ann and I knew a pastor who permanently lost his ministry, because of theft…shoplifting! (What a foolish choice!) And yet, it begins in the heart, just like every other sin. It had already affected his ministry, before he was finally caught. He confessed that he had been plagiarizing his sermons, too…(he called it “stealing” those sermons.) That whole sad story was completely avoidable! And so is the damage we incur in our own lives by our sins.

Embrace the Holiness of God! Allow Him to transform you from the inside, so that your life begins to reflect His holiness and so that His Love can freely flow through you. Only the Holy Spirit can empower you to live in such a way as to continually exhibit His Grace.

Lord Jesus, help us to apply the principle of practical holiness in our daily lives, so that we do not allow the enemy a foothold in our lives, but rather walk close to You, and in safety.

Responding to the Redeemer

Responding to the Redeemer

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 1:13-25


Introduction:

We are studying through 1st Peter, and we have seen the security of the believers and the Joy that is their choice, and which is only possible because of their position in Christ. Given that position, that security, and the possibility of such Joy, the logical question seems to be, “What now? How should we respond to this reality?” Peter addresses that question in the last 13 verses of this chapter. He begins by listing three things the believer is to do:

How should we Respond?

1.      Gird up the Loins

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

I am told that when a man of that time was called to some sort of active work, or a coming battle, he would prepare by picking up the hem of his tunic or robe or whatever sort of long garment he was wearing, and tucking it into his belt, or “girdle” as it was called, then cinching it so that it could not fall loose and trip him. I have no way to know the accuracy of that historical note, so all I can do is look at it in the context of the rest of the scriptures and see that, in every case, when people were told to “gird up their loins”, it meant to prepare themselves for coming activity, whether a fight, a trial, or a task. It was an admonition to “get ready for action.” God wants to use your life: prepare yourself so that you are usable in His hand! We see this over and over in the New Testament. We are saved to serve. We have been set free from our slavery to sin, and now we are free to go to work “with Jesus.” He asks us to join Him in His work, but working with Him requires that we are prepared to serve.

2.      Be Sober

Being sober is not the opposite of being drunk: it is looking at things realistically, from God’s perspective: not frivolously, but also not overly optimistically when God has not promised a good end to circumstances. Nor are we to think pessimistically, assuming that God doesn’t care. We have been left in this world to live as lights in a dark place! If life were “all easy” for us, then we would not be seen as lights at all: we just would appear to be “privileged characters” incurring the envy and anger of all those around us. If we are complaining about life all the time, then we are not seen as a light, either: we are simply seen as whiners.

But, if we see life soberly, accepting hardship and privation as being part of life, and choosing to find our Joy in the Savior Himself, instead of only in all He provides, then the people around us can see that we have something to be desired. We have clear Hope when there seems to be no hope. We have Joy in the presence of grief. People are not blind to the work of an active faith. Serenity and peace during tumultuous times is an unusual thing, and it is seen as valuable to most people. It is a mark of stability and strength, and attracts attention to the source of that strength.

3.      Hope to the End

All the believers to whom this epistle was originally written have died, obviously. Every one of every generation since then has also “hoped to the end” to see the revelation of Jesus Christ. I believe that we are very close to His return, now, but we are still told to “hope to the end.” So, we keep pressing on, doing what we were told to do, placing our faith in the faithful Creator who claims us as His children; building our lives on the foundation of our new relationship with Him.

A New Relationship

We have been born again, so we are in a new relationship with a new Father. We want to imitate our Heavenly Father, just as a toddler tries to imitate his parents.

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

God’s primary attribute is His Holiness. Even His Love is subject to His Holiness. So, we need to consider what that means, if we hope to imitate it. The word “Holy” means “set apart for a particular purpose.” It does not mean “walking around with your hands pressed together as if in prayer, and with a pious expression on your face.” The world recognizes that phony charade and rejects it, just as God does. The Pharisees specialized in that sort of behavior, and Jesus condemned it as hypocrisy and fraud. In Matthew 23:25, He said they were polishing the outside of a cup, while the inside was still filthy; “…filled with extortion and excess”.

But we are called to imitate the holiness of God, because He has created us by the new birth to be as holy as He is Himself: It means that, as His child, and His new creation, you belong to Him, and you are created for His personal service and fellowship.

Your whole life belongs to Him, which is really nothing new: He created every sub-atomic particle in every atom of every molecule in every cell in your body as well as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. That was true of us all, even when we were still in our sins! How much more, now that He has freed us from our slavery to sin, and provided us with eternal life?

We are re-born in His image, and we are created for His pleasure and service. It is our privilege to be in his service. We are in a place of honor and reward, not “forced servitude.” So He calls us to imitate Him in His holiness. Paul begged the believers to do just that In Ephesians 5:1, saying, “…be imitators of God, as dear children.”

This is part of what is involved in “girding up the loins” of our minds, in preparation for service. It means that we are to subject our wills to His, and see our lives beginning to reflect His character.  It also means that we are to learn His Word. Over in 2nd Peter 1:4, it says that by means of the “exceeding great and precious promises” in God’s Word, we are to become “partakers of the Divine nature.” The way…the only way, God promises to change us into His likeness is through the application of His Word, as we allow the Holy Spirit to use that scripture to change our hearts. (Psalm 119:9-11)

Since we are born of “His seed” as it says in 1st John 3:9, we are “genetically predisposed” to bear His likeness. One of the first laws discernible in God’s Word is the Law of the Harvest: “Like begets like!” God made man in His image, but that image has been marred by sin. So He offered the new birth, and we are born again in His likeness, with the express intent that we are to be like Him, in character and purpose and action. Psalm 119:9 says that the way our lives can be cleansed is by the application of God’s Word. This is a key issue, because it means that His Word can change us into His likeness. (So, what was the means by which we have been born again in the first place? We will answer that question in verse 23. But for the moment, we are to remember the price that has already been paid for us.)

How did we Get here?

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Since we call upon the Lord as our Father, we need to consider and remember how we became His children: the result should be a sobriety and a respect for the Holiness of God, and a dread of offending the Eternal One who loves us.

We were not bought out of our slavery to sin by a “cash payment” of any sort, nor were we freed from the Law of Sin and Death by a price that we could pay. This is especially important in the case of these Jewish believers: they had lived their whole lives attempting to please God by works of the Law, as their ancestors had taught them. They (like most humans) were convinced that they could live in such a way as to please God. But they could not pay the sin-debt that stood as a testimony against them. That One Blood Sacrifice approved by God and delivered by Jesus is the only price that could redeem them and us. The Greek word, here, for “redeemed,” is “elutrothete” which is a form of the infinitive verb “lutroō,” meaning “to purchase with the intent to set free.” There are three words translated “redeem” in the New Testament:

  • “agorazo,” meaning “to purchase in the marketplace”…the “agora.”
  • “exagorazo,” meaning “to purchase out of the marketplace”…not to be sold again. And,
  • “lutroō,” meaning “purchased for the purpose of setting free.”

All of these words, combined, tell the story of our redemption.

  • We were enslaved to sin. Jesus went to that marketplace of sin, to purchase us with His own blood. That is where he bought us, because that is where we were!
  • He purchased us out of that marketplace, never to be returned there. We belong to Him eternally. And, best of all,
  • He purchased us with the purpose of setting us free. He was not just trying to increase his household staff, nor the number of workers in his field. We were set free by that purchase. We are free to serve Him, but also free to choose not to serve, in which case we suffer loss, though we still are saved.

Remember, we were all pretty much living pointless lives, serving our own desires, in activities that had zero eternal value, regardless of how they may have seemed to us. He has given us a new purpose in life. Now we can live in such a way as to be to His eternal glory! We can work with Him in a task that has eternal value and which will earn us eternal reward!

20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

This is an important concept and it is very easy to just “pass over” and not notice it. It says here that He was “foreordained” (or “appointed before the time”)…when? Before the foundation of the world! Before Genesis 1:1 (!) Ponder on that for a while! So, when it says, “In the beginning…” He was already there and was already “Plan A” for our salvation!

Compare this verse to Revelation 13:8, and see what it means: in that passage, He was “the Lamb Slain, from the foundation of the world.” But here it says, from “before the foundation of the world!” Jesus was always “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B.” Before He created the world, God ordained that Jesus was to be the sacrifice for the fallen Human Race…the “as-yet non-existent, un-created, un-tested, and not-yet-in-danger, Human Race.” God provided for us before He created us. What wisdom and care! We can see in Ephesians 3:8-11 that God had an eternal plan. And, He laid the foundation for His plan before He laid the foundations of the earth!

Where do we Stand? And, What should we Do?

21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

It is interesting that he is not “commending them” simply for “believing in God:” these were Jews, who already believed in the God of Israel. And James points out that “belief in God” is not necessarily even meritorious: he said, “The demons also believe, and tremble!” But something has changed in them, in Acts 2-7: they met God personally, by faith, in the person of Jesus their Messiah. Now they believe in God through Jesus. The result is an unfeigned (genuine) love of the brethren. Agape love is the fruit of their lives because they believe through Jesus. They received the Holy Spirit when they believed, and He changed their hearts and their desires, just as He has changed our hearts and desires. Each has a new nature, because they have been born again, same as we have. And along with them, we are commanded to fervently love one another with that Agape Love. Finally, he reminds us of the means by which we were born again:

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Take special note of what Peter says, here: He says that you were “Born Again:” by what means? By the Word of God! It had nothing to do with works! It had everything to do with your having heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and having believed that message, placing your trust in the promise, and thus in God who gave it.

So, this also correlates with verse 3 where he says that we have been “begotten again.” The “seed” of natural birth is corruptible. The “seed of God,” in this case, is incorruptible, as it is the Word of God.

This is an important concept, because we sometimes are given to think that our own “persuasive speech” is the key to drawing a lost soul to Christ. But Jesus said, in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up…I will draw all men to myself!” He is the one who draws souls, like bits of iron to a magnet. We are to lift up Jesus, not try to dazzle unbelievers with our convincing arguments: The door to the truth is the will, not the intellect! We are to preach the Cross and Jesus Christ: not try to “convince” people by philosophy or moralizing, or any other sort of Human reasoning. Paul echoes this idea, in 1st Corinthians 1:17, saying that he was sent “…not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the preaching of the Cross be made of none effect.” We actually reduce the effectiveness of the Gospel through our “human effort.” Peter concludes this passage with a clear comparison between the flesh and all its “human wisdom” versus the Word of God and His eternal Wisdom. He says,

24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Let’s bear in mind that God’s Word has eternal value. Everything we can do on our own is destined to decay and failure. What God chooses to do through us, by His indwelling Spirit, by His perfect Word, not only has eternal value, and will bear eternal fruit, but it will also pay eternal rewards or “dividends.”  God gives us the will to serve, and He does the work through us, but then He rewards us for the work as if we had done it ourselves. What Amazing Grace!

Lord Jesus, free us from our addiction to self. Teach us to subject ourselves willingly to Your will, to Your Holy Spirit, and the teachings of Your Word. Continue to remake us into your likeness, and let us shine in this dark world as reflections of your Light.

Judgment and Cleansing

Judgment and Cleansing

© C. O. Bishop 2019

Isaiah 3, 4

Introduction:

We have been studying through the book of Isaiah, and have taken a long hiatus to look in detail at the many prophecies regarding the day of the LORD. Now we are circling back to what Isaiah was actually discussing when we went off on that side-excursion. Isaiah was discussing the coming judgment on Israel and Judah, and specifically Jerusalem:

Judgment

Chapter 3

1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.
The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.

Verses 1 through 3 outline the way that God will strip the nation of Judah of everything they depended upon:

  • Food and water,
  • Civil and military leaders,
  • Preachers,
  • Teachers,
  • Elders,
  • Public speakers,
  • Counselors, and
  • Craftsmen

All would be removed.

He then says that those who were left would be ruled over by those least qualified to bear authority…those who had as yet developed no wisdom, no life-experience from which to make sound decisions. The result would be turmoil and oppression:

And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.

The men who were in rulership did not behave as grown men ought to act, but were foolish, as if they were children.  The few who were left would be living in ruins, too, and without the wherewithal to improve their lot.  This actually happened during the Babylonian invasion. Nebuchadnezzar simply took away anyone he thought might be useful, either to himself or to those left behind. He left only the poorest, least-skilled, and least educated. (Why should he add to his own country’s welfare problems? Leave them here to fend for themselves!) He did just that, and many starved, or were killed by bands of marauding raiders. It was a miserable time in Jewish history.

When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.

The people would try to choose someone to be a ruler, based only upon the fact that he still had presentable clothing. What a shallow, idiotic reason to confer the responsibilities of leadership upon a person! And it seems that the appointment was not welcome, either: no one wanted the position. (Perhaps we need to learn this lesson, too, and think about how we vote in our country, and how we view civic duty and responsibility.)

A further way to look at this would be that, in the New Testament, God has given specific requirements for choosing church leaders; none of it has to do with personality cults, popularity, or good looks. One does not “dress for success” to become a shepherd in the flock of God. There are specific requirements (listed in 1st Timothy 3:1-8; Titus 1:5-9, and 1st Peter 5:1-3) which must all be met; it is not a “smorgasbord”, where we can just choose what is important to us, personally. They all have to do with character and behavior, as well as giftedness. Even education (while valuable) is not on God’s list. But the willingness to serve, and the faithfulness to serve, and continually feed and guard the flock, are critical needs.

Reason for Judgment

Verses 8 and 9 remind us of why the judgment fell, and they should stand as a solemn warning to all those who follow: The people openly, deliberately, flagrantly sinned against God. (Many do the same, today, and openly mock Him as being powerless against them.)

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Sodom was proud of its excesses, and flaunted its depravity. Somehow that seems very familiar today, as well…we think we have thrown off the shackles of authority and morality, as a nation, saying that we are becoming free; but, in reality, we are becoming increasingly enslaved to sin. And Judgment is coming. God says so!

We should also be taking a lesson from the wartime experience of Israel, and recognize our own helplessness against the enemies of our souls, and so throw ourselves on God’s Mercy, and seek His Grace in humility. Has it occurred to you that your greatest enemy, Satan, is not only far more intelligent that any human, and far more powerful, and hugely influencing world affairs: our great enemy is all of these things, and invisible, as well! How badly we need the Great Shepherd of our Souls! We are utterly defenseless against our enemies, apart from the Person and the Work of Jesus Christ.

Cleansing

10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

God said to the righteous within the nation (verse 10) that He would look out for their well-being. In that time, I believe, He probably meant their physical well-being. But the righteous suffered then as well as now, so we must remember that, in every age, the eternal well-being of God’s people has always outweighed the temporal. (Remember Hebrews 11. Those whom God said were the best of the best (“of whom the World was not worthy”) were those who had been completely oppressed and destitute, but who were still faithful to God.) He also says, here in verse 11, that the wicked will receive the just due of their wickedness. Compare Romans 6:23 “—the Wages of Sin is Death.

The same principle still holds true…check out Psalm 37 and Psalm 73. Even at that time, there were wicked people who seemed to be totally blessed in their evil lives. But the Psalmists remind us that we cannot always see the judgment of God. Think of Luke 16:19, ff…would you rather have been Lazarus or the rich man? (Keep in mind the fact that this particular account told by Jesus was not a parable…those were real individuals.)

12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

God warns the people (verses 12, 13) that their rulers were leading them astray, and that childish and unmanly behaviors among the leaders were becoming the norm. (In the end, many of their kings were literally children, some the age of first or second-grade children; and their mothers ruled through them… usually disastrously, though there were some exceptions.)

14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.

God said to the rulers of his people (they had used their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, who were relatively defenseless in legal battles), that He would take the witness stand against them, and enter into judgment against them. He said that they had beaten his people to pieces, and had ground the faces of the poor.

It is inescapable to me, that we should see the parallels in our own nation, in this age. There are wealthy “rulers” who have actually boasted about their supremacy, that they always get what they want, and that “only the little people pay taxes…,” etc. We have governing officials who have made secret deals with wealthy “robber barons”, and accepted bribes to give preference to them in legal issues…and judgment truly will come for them, too…but this one was to the rulers of Judah, and Jerusalem.

Further, in verses 16-24, God says the wanton behavior of the leaders was mirrored in the wanton behavior of the women…the over-indulgence in cosmetics, and personal adornment, and overtly flirtatious, suggestive behavior and alluring perfumes. He says that this too would be taken away, and replaced with their opposites…disfigurement, poverty and humiliation; uncleanness, and foul odors.

16 Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.

He concludes in verses 25 and 26 that the coming wars would take away the men, and the few people who were left behind would be desolate, sitting on the ground in despair and poverty. The “her” in verse 26 is actually in reference to the city, not the women. Jerusalem is usually referred to in the feminine gender.

25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.

Conclusion:

The judgments outlined here were literally fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity, but there is an even more pointed fulfillment, during the tribulation period still to come. (Remember: so far, Isaiah is just stating the theme! He isn’t even warmed up yet!)

If nothing else, we should be beginning to sense the holiness of God: that He hates sin, and that He judges sin. One of his titles is “Judge of all the Earth;” and as we discovered in earlier study, the specific member of the Godhead who carries out the judgment of Sin, is God the Son: Jesus! Jesus confirmed this, saying that “the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)

Next week we will see the ultimate result of God’s Judgment.

Lord Jesus, teach us to see your hand in the World around us, and to take your Holiness seriously, not taking it lightly. Purify our hearts, and le