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Isaiah Insights #8

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

“Woes” Isa. 5

Moral Confusion

This is Isa. 5:20.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

In the Bible, and therefore in reality and eternity, there is good and evil. We often talk about this as an absolute moral standard. It is defined and revealed by the Creator.

If man ignores it, edits it or renames it – there is trouble. Trouble here on earth and eternal consequence.

I want to point out, what you call something doesn’t change its nature. A label is a human assignment. It doesn’t change what God has said about an attitude, practice or lifestyle.

For example, you can call a lie – white or black. You can call a lie an innocent prevarication. It is what it is in the sight of God, no matter how man may rename it.

Such label editing and attempted reversals of reality do nothing but deceive, both the ones making the “changes” and those who listen to them.

Good and evil is fixed in the mind of God. Being made in His image, our obligation is to call things what they are according to His revealed standard.

The world we live in is turning defintions and labels upside down, yet the nature of the thing renamed isn’t changed.

Sexual immorality can be called “gay, affair, romance, fling,” or any other term or phrase. It doesn’t change God’s view of it.

Marriage will always be, in the eyes of God, a covenant between a man and a woman. Killing unborn babies may be called something else in the future. The nature of the act doesn’t change.

What is bitter can be called sweet, but it taste the same.

Calling evil good and good evil doesn’t change God’s mind about it. It doesn’t reduce the consequence of it, and only serves to promote a defiant absence of discernment and discipline.

When the standard of the Creator is rejected, there is no good outcome. Especially when considered in the light of this: “The end of the matter; all has been heard, Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,” (Eccl. 12:13,14).

God will not – on that final day – ask what we called it, how we viewed it or what name we applied. His standard will be the basis of judgment.   

Isaiah Insights #7

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

“Woes” Isa. 5

Slaves of Sin

This is Isa. 5:18-19.

“Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes. To those who say, ‘Let God hurry, let him hasten his work so we may see it. Let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so we may know it.”

Here is this graphic word-picture of people so loaded down with sin, it is like they are pulling around little wagons loaded with their transgressions. Picture that. Maybe not little wagons. Big carts filled with their wickedness. Tighly packed bundles of sin they cannot or will not get rid of.

And, with a mocking, demanding attitude toward God, the Lord of hosts.

Isaiah spoke to the people about their sin and God’s intention to be swift and decisive in His judgment against them. What was their reaction?

As they pulled along behind them their cart-loads of sin – they would verbalize their defiant attitude, as if to say: “Come on, Lord, show us what you have! What are you waiting for?” Or they might have said to Isaiah, “Tell the Lord to hurry up, so we can see what He will do.”

Sinful, deceitful, wicked people – holding fast to their sin – while mocking God and challenging  Him to show Himself or hasten His work.

To many people, God is just a joke. They are attached with glue to their vices. They cannot go anywhere without pulling along their cart full of sins. Their phones, tablets and computers are pushing the limits of digital storage to hold their apps, photos and messages reflecting their carnal hobbies and lewd pursuits. Their bank statements show regular debits for worldly pursuits which lead to spiritual and in some cases actual poverty.

When God is mentioned, they just laugh Him away. “Where is He. Bring Him on, that we may know it.”

What are we pulling around? What vices, weaknesses, off-color pleasures are we carrying through life?

“…let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurnace the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…,” (Heb. 12:1b,2).

Revelry, Isa. 5:11-17

Isaiah Insights #6

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

“Woes” Isa. 5

Revelry

We are again in Isaiah chapter five, exploring the statements of “woe” God gave to His people through Isaiah. This podcasts is based on Isa. 5:11-17.

Let me ask, have you known people who live for the party? Perhaps at your workplace, the excitement is pretty noisy as the week-end approaches. Around the water cooler or in the breakroom – the talk is centered around week-end plans that may involve activities you can’t endorse. They work all week with their hopes pointing to the week-end party, often involving alcohol.

Is that interests new? Isaiah said, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tamborines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands,” (Isa. 5:11,12).

The word is “Revelry,” and it is an irreverent, lacivious obsession for temporal pleasure. It is more than just enjoying a good time with people, playing a game or having a meal with friends. It is being ensnared by the party life style.

Hollywood wants us to believe we deserve or have earned a night at the club; a time to be loose and fun-loving, without the discipline of good character.

What accompanied this revelry? Verse 12 says, “they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands,” reminding us of Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 3:4 – about “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.”

I’ll leave you with this, from 1 Pet. 4:1-5.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 

Peter said to Christians – Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking as Christ. This will prevent us from hearing the woe against revelry in our lives. Thank you for listening.

Isa. 5 Unholy Ambition

Isaiah Insights #5

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

“Woes” Isa. 5

UNHOLY AMBITION

 

Your first thoughts about the book of Isaiah may be about his marvelous prophecies of the Messiah and the future glory of God’s kingdom.  Yes, that is a prevailing theme.

But Isaiah and the other prophets also spoke to the people in their time, about their sin and the judgments of God against them. This holds value for us, in learning what to avoid personally and what to speak against in our preaching and teaching.

The next few podcasts will be about the “woes” in Isaiah chapter five. You’ve heard the expression “woe is me” rather cavalierly in modern discourse.

Well, Isaiah spoke bold condemnation against the people for their sins – and expressed it with this word “woe” which conveys guilt and trouble. “Woe unto you,” he said.

There are five of these in chapter five. The first is in verses 8-10. Here’s verse 8: “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midsts of the land.”

This is not just building, expansion or growth. This is not the equavilent of adding on to your house.

This reflects aggressive acquisition that displaces people. It is a symptom of selfish grasping and greed.

Micah brings this up, in Micah 2:2 – “They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away; and they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.”

This is not simply buying land, expanding, progress or building. This is expansion that is oppressive, drives people away and makes families victims of self-exalting progress.

It might be called “unholy ambition,” and the opposite is – love your neighbor as yourself.

Isaiah Insights #4

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

Stop Regarding Man

Isa. 2:22

In Isaiah, chapter two, the last verse, may I call attention to this curious statement, that would have no meaning without historical context. Isa. 2:22 – the prophet said, “Stop regarding man, in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”

So, when you factor in literary context from this section of Isaiah, and the broader historical context of the conditions of the people in Judah in the time of Isaiah – this makes sense as an admonition, really a prohibition.

Instead of trusting God, depending on Him, doing His will and embracing His promises – the people had turned away from God to man, to themselves, to their own inventions, devices and resources.

We have a word for that in our post-modern world: HUMANISM. That is no longer a narrow philosophical category or one of many worldviews.

It is the way of the world in our time, to not look to God; to consider Him either non-existent or irrelevant. Then, to put man in His place. To worship man, trust in man, and deceive the next generation into thinking that man has the answers, not God.

The Jewish people in Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah’s time were trusting in idols, forming political alliances with heathens, turning to fortune tellers and celebrating men who were drunk and women who were worldly.

Humanism marks out the way, from God to exalted but empty human wisdom. Isaiah describes their sin of exalting human wisdom, then calls upon them to stop it.

“Stop regarding man, in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”

Earlier in Isaiah chapter two, the people are warned. Back in verse 17 – “And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

This should ring true for us today, as we approach the year 2020. Humanism isn’t just a school of thought peddled by atheists. It isn’t just a footnote in a philosopy class. It is becoming a way of life, acclaimed, in some cases enforced as law and imposed on our children.

We must not let who God is slip from our hearts. In Isa. 45:5, the Lord of Hosts declares, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me, there is no God…,”  

Isaiah Insights #3

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

Telescope & Microscope

Isa. 2

 

In the book of Isaiah, in the section beginning with chapter two, over through the next few chapters – there is something for readers to be aware of and careful about.

The text shifts from (Isaiah’s) present to future, back and forth. Sometimes Isaiah is talking about the present sins of the people during the reigns of the kings identified in verse one of chapter one. In other places, the prophet speaks of the immediate future punishment coming, or the distant future coming of Christ.

One way to think of this is – Microscope and Telescope. This study device is not unique to me, or originated by me. It is helpful.

By Microscope I mean, Isaiah is enabled by God to look right at the people in his time and see in detail their sins. This happens in chapter one.

By Telescope I mean, think of it as God giving the prophet a Telescope to see the immediate future judgments against the people. But also, to see the distant blessings that would come to pass through Jesus Christ.

In Isaiah 2:1-4, I believe Isaiah is using the Telescope – to see “the house of the Lord” that would be established “as the highest of the mountains” for people of all nations. People would be taught and invited to walk in the paths and live by the word of the Lord. There would be peace for these people. This is about Christ and His kingdom, the church.

Once Isaiah uses the Telescope and issues this statement of what God let him see, he says to his contempories: “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

At verse 6, he takes up the microscope to report what he observes as the errors of the present: evil compromises with foreigners, covetousness, idolatry, “the lofty pride of men.”  Using the Telescope again, he reports there would be, as a result of these evils, “a day,” of God’s response to their sin. God would express Himself “against” them.

So the prophet said, “Stop regarding man, in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isa. 2:22). This is where we plugin self-examination.

Isaiah Insights #2

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

Vain Worship, Isa. 1:12-18

 

In Isaiah chapter one, verses 12-16, God’s disappointment with His people in Judah and Jerusalem is spelled out in some detail, as it concerned their vain worship. While nurturing their crooked hearts and engaged in injustice and rebellion, yet – they continued to go through the motions of worship. Perhaps they were thinking their worship routine would in someway have a redemptive result, even though they continued in their sin?

God wouldn’t have it. He said, through the prophet, “bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.” The prophet spoke for God, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” And notice: even when they prayed (no repentance), God said, “I will hide my eyes from you, even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.”

Worship acts or rituals, when not accompanied by a sincere heart devoted to God, serve no purpose in the sight of God. Such acts may appear to men to be pious and admirable. God isn’t fooled. And the notion that such acts have a redemptive purpose is just wrong.

Jesus spoke of worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth (Jno. 4:24). But we can make this point in a larger context. Any form of “obedience” to God or attempt to worship is vain, when not accompanied by genuine motive.

So, back to our text in Isaiah 1, the prophet told these people: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow,” (Isa. 1:16-18). This is where we pause, for self-examination.

Isaiah Insights #1

Warren E. Berkley – wberkley.podbean.com

Rebellious Children, Isa. 1:2

God’s people in Judah and Jerusalem are “on trial.” God is the Judge as well as the offended party, with His servant Isaiah announcing the case against the people. This was during the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. The offended party is the Heavenly Father, disappointed in His children.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.”

The first step into this passage is emotional, especially for parents. And most especially for parents who have known this disappointment.

There is that natural affection of mothers and fathers for their children. This prompts desire, effort, work and hope. This is why parents become engaged with instruction, influence, wise discipline, warmth and all good provision for their children. Inside all this work there is hope, that the children will be responsive and sensible. That they will grow up to be mature and useful adults, that the hope of the parents might be realized and satisfying. The children, faithful servants of God. God gloried by their lives.

Yet, in spite of all effort and prayer otherwise, since children have free will, disappointment is a very real possibility. There is no heartache like it; no stress that compares, when parents realize their children have chosen a destructive path in life.

This resembles how God felt about His people in Judah and Jerusalem in the time of Isaiah and these kings.

Now, God was and is the perfect parent, the Father in heaven. He formed a nation from the offspring of His servant, Abraham. He brought them out of bondage. He gave them law and leaders and guidance and promises.

Their response? They rebelled against their Father. Isaiah’s duty was to convey to these wayward children, the deep disappointment of their Father.

Pause here for self-examination. Am I pleasing my Father? Is He disappointed in how I’ve turned out? The way out of rebellion is repentance.

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John 20:19-31

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