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Entries in Discipline (5)

Tuesday
Aug152017

Faith in the Time of Discipline

Hebrews 12:3-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 13, 2017.

There is always friction between generations.  Though generations today may disagree on how to teach and train children, you will not find very many people who would say that it shouldn’t be done at all.  The question is not about teaching kids, but about how and what we teach them.  Thomas Sowell, the American social theorist and political philosopher has said, “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”  He is not the first to recognize the importance of socialization.

Today it may seem like our culture is kicking back against this as they tell parents to teach their kids all religions so that they can choose for themselves, or even better, don’t teach them religion at all.  Similarly it is becoming vogue to avoid seeing the gender of your child as something that is biological.  The mark of a progressive parent is to help your child transition from a biological gender to the gender of your feelings.  Of course, the social discussions taking place around them and with them begs the question if these kids are being overly influenced in this area.  Regardless, my point is that these two examples are not really rejecting the idea of training kids.  The truth is that they object to training them in certain ways and with certain ideas.  Thus in the areas that they want to deconstruct they promote jettisoning it and in the areas they want to construct they promote very heavy training, if not outright propaganda.  In truth they indoctrinate children with their truth that gender is a state of mind, and that all religions are the same, if anything at all.

Our passage today focuses on one of the great difficulties of trusting God, and that is the fact that God treats us as His children.  Just as human parents teach and train their child, so He teaches and trains those who will trust Him in order for them to be like Him.  May we learn to embrace this fact with faith.

Consider Jesus and His example

In verse 2 we were told to turn our focus upon Jesus.  In verse 3 another word is used that takes this focus further into the mind and tells us to “consider” our Lord Jesus and what He went through.  Believers in God can not only look to Jesus to show us the way, but also we can make connections between what He went through and what we face in our life.

First, we are told that Jesus endured hostility from sinners.  Do you remember in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11-12) where Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Now Jesus said that knowing that great persecution lay ahead of Him.  He was not merely taking His place in a list of those who have trusted God through the ages.  He is the Lord Himself, perfect and without fault.  He is the Son who is to inherit all things, and yet sinners brazenly persecute Him too.  It is easy for wicked people to tell themselves that the righteous are not as righteous as they pretend.  This becomes the justification for why they can mistreat them.  But this idea is completely undercut with Jesus.  This hostility between those who want to follow God and those who despise them for doing so is a fact of life.  But the key is that Jesus endured it.  The word means He persevered and stayed the course of faith even when to keep faithful was like a heavy burden on His back.  Too easily, we reach the end of our patience and throw off faith like a heavy weight.  “I won’t carry it anymore!  This is too much, I quit!”  When we look at Jesus and see that He didn’t quit, knowing full well what was ahead of Him, we are to take courage from it.  The godly have always suffered at different times in their lives because of the fallen world in which we all live.  But, Jesus tells us to rejoice because God will reward us along with all who have endured such evil.  Don’t look at Moses, Elijah, et alia and say that you aren’t as good as them.  Don’t look at Jesus and say that it must have been easy for Him.  Instead, trust God and take your place (whatever you are called to face) among God’s faithful followers.

In verse 4, when the writer mentions bloodshed, he is literally talking about death.  Jesus didn’t just endure hostility from sinners.  He was also executed and killed by them.  Jesus endured with faith to the point of death.  But notice that the struggle is not with the sinners themselves.  The real battle is with sin itself.  We are reminded that we haven’t resisted against sin to the point of death yet (if we had we would be in heaven and not reading Hebrews).  The sin we resist is not the sin of those sinners who are being hostile.  The sin we resist is our own temptation to jettison faith and give in for the sake of comfort and ease, to make the pain stop.  We are to recognize that Christ shows us to trust the Father even if it costs us our life.  Many Christians throughout history have resisted sin to the point of bloodshed.  But they did it by thinking about what Jesus endured, and keeping their eyes on the goal of being with Jesus and like Jesus.

Now I did skip over a very important phrase.  We are told to consider Jesus in order to avoid becoming “weary and discouraged in our souls.”  Both words give voice to the reality that our inner person struggles with trusting God.  When we face hostility and even death, we can grow tired of trusting God.  We can be discouraged in the fight against our flesh.  Such a soul is on the verge of giving in to unbelief and sin.  Where does one get the strength and desire to keep going on?  For a time we may have it from our own sheer will power, but this is not put forth as an answer for the believer.  Your strength will always come to an end.  The only way we can avoid spiritual weariness and discouragement is to keep our eyes on Jesus and draw strength from Him.  Your soul needs spiritual nourishment that it cannot get from the things of this world that your flesh craves.  When you feel discouraged, ask the Lord Jesus to strengthen you by His Spirit and also talk with other believers.  Sometimes they can encourage you with their stories of how God helped them.

Consider how the Lord disciplines His children

In verses 5-11 we are reminded of our calling and position in Christ.  We have become sons of God.  John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The truth is that every child must be taught the way to live in this world.  Now some versions use the word “chastise” in this passage.  The problem with this is that “chastise” has come to be used of corporal punishment only.  Originally it meant to make chaste or pure.  The Greek and Hebrew words that lie behind this translation refer to everything that is done in order to train up a child.  Thus it involves instruction, training, correction, rebuke, and sometimes punishment.  That is why I have used the word “discipline.”  God does all of the above in our lives.  We belong to the Lord and as such He is going to work in our lives in many different ways in order to help us grow up and become like Him.  Every time you go through a difficult stretch, you need to be careful of thinking that God is mad at you or doesn’t love you anymore.  He loves you very much because you are His child.

Verse 5 tells us that we can forget God’s Word to us.  It is important to recognize how forgetting God’s Word can lead to losing faith in God.  The writer quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12, which is written in the form of a parent addressing a child with wise instruction.  The key is that God’s Word tells us that not only are we made to be the sons of God, but that God will actually treat us as His children by being faithful to do all that a good parent would do in order to prepare their child for adulthood.  The enemy of our soul wants us to forget who we are and to create a rift between us and our Heavenly Father.  Your flesh even wants to lash out in anger at God when He allows difficult times in our lives.  But God’s Word tells us that He loves us and that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God, except our own choice (Romans 8).

Now the proverb in verse 5 brings up the issue of despising God’s discipline.  It tells us not to despise God’s discipline because it is proof that we are His children.  Now the word “despise” typically carries the sense of a strong, visceral reaction- which we would do well to avoid.  But the word it translates here actually has the sense of not caring at all about it.  It is the picture of a person who could careless that God is “disciplining them because they are His child.”  Instead of being encouraged by it, they see it as worthless or something not worth holding on to, as they toss the relationship away.  How great and amazing it is that the God of the universe has made us His children.  You are special and He is bringing you to His greatness.  But you must trust Him.  Just as the One and Only Son of God, Jesus, was allowed to face difficulties even to the point of death in this life, so we too must face things in our life that our flesh will despise.  We must resist the temptation to throw away the priceless love that God offers you.  Don’t let the difficulties of life cause you to treat God’s love for you as a thing of little worth.  Like Esau we can sell our faith for a pot of beans, or for an immoral, sexual liaison, or for a drug induced high, or for the praise of the world, or for any other work of our flesh.  God’s work of discipline is proof that He accepts you as His child, rather than the opposite.  Why doesn’t He spoil you and me rotten?  He doesn’t do it because it would ruin us.  He cares about what we become because we are not illegitimate children.

In verses 9-10, we are reminded that God’s discipline is superior to human discipline.  Whether parents or teachers or professionals, we often look up to humans who train us in ways that our flesh doesn’t appreciate, but our minds recognize as valuable.  How much more ought we to embrace the discipline of God.  He is not subject to the jealousies and selfishness of humanity.  He trains us for our benefit.  Only God can bring us to that which is good and profitable for us, both in body and in soul.  It is more than profitable.  We also are able to obtain a portion of the Holiness of God.  He is not just teaching us to look a certain way.  He is changing us from the inside out.  We are separated from those who reject His discipline and fashioned into His image, to His glory and for our good.  This is the essence of holiness.  God is completely other than fleshly humanity.  But in His grace, He gives Himself to us and makes us like Him.

Lastly, in verse 11, we are told to see the result of God’s discipline over the occurrence of it.  When we are in the moment of discipline it is not joyful.  The occurrence can obscure our vision of that to which it is leading us.  We have to learn to see beyond the instruction that our flesh doesn’t like, and the rebukes that our heart is hurt by.  We have to learn to see beyond the hardships that He allows us to encounter and see the joy that is on the other side.  We will not be children forever.  He will finish His work and we will be adult sons of God at the resurrection.  God’s work in us will yield the amazing fruit of righteousness that is characterized by peace.  In a world where we are being stirred up to anger, division, and self-seeking, is a God who tells us that we were not created to be so.  You will never find peace by tossing aside your faith and confidence in the Lord.  But with Him there will be peace in the time of trouble.  There will be peace in the midst of the storm.  There will be peace, though the world be raging, in the shelter of God’s arms.

Faith in Discipline audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Disciplined but not Destroyed

Isaiah 27:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 21, 2016.  This sermon is out of order on this page because of when it was uploaded.

 We are starting mid-stream in this passage and will finish this section known as Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse.  Here Isaiah has been making the point that it will look like God has judged Israel so as to cut it off completely.  However, God will be actually pruning Israel so that it can once again bear fruit in the millennium.  Now, when we talk about the millennium we have to be careful about making too strong of a distinction between Israel and the Church.  In some ways God will be fulfilling His promises to national Israel.  And, yet in other ways God will be fulfilling His promise to make His people One nation out of all the nations of the earth.  Yes, this has happened already in the Church, but it is not finished.  In fact Paul speaks of the grafting back in of the natural branches in Romans 11.  People will differ regarding whether this will be completed at the end of the tribulation or at the end of the millennium.  Ultimately, Israel would be discouraged at its discipline in the future.  In fact they would be tempted to think that God has cast them off or is even a fairy tale.

We must remember in our lives that no matter how difficult things may be, if we will put our trust in the Lord instead of the things of this world, He will restore us both physically and spiritually.  We must do this in the face of how things appear.  Sure we may feel like God has abandoned us or cast us off, but the reality is that He is still working things towards our good, even when we are under His discipline.

God’s judgment will cleanse His people

Starting at verse 7, Isaiah looks at the judgments that will fall upon national Israel.  When they happen they will seem to be God destroying His vineyard.  But in the end, it will serve to cleanse and prune it.

In fact, Isaiah states that God would not strike Israel to the degree he struck their enemies and that His scattering of Israel to the nations would be a measured discipline to contend with them. He also states that when God covers their iniquity their altars and wooden images will be completely removed.  This brings us to verse 10.  Isaiah is giving them good news and yet keeps it tempered with the harsh reality of what is ahead.

The fortified city will be desolated.  Now most logically this is the same City of Confusion referenced in Isaiah 24.  Yet, there also seems to be a tie to the corrupt leadership of Israel.  Jerusalem is following the Harlot cities of the world that seek to be the seat of power.  If you couple this with the fact that the context of this passage is the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel, you are left with the conclusion that this references at least Jerusalem.  Yes, God will be pruning them for their good, but Jerusalem will be desolated.  In fact, there seems to be a parallel between God’s judgment of Israel and the later judgment at the end of the Age upon the nations of the earth.  The same spirit is at work in both situations to exalt itself through them.  They have trusted in their own ability and strength, rather than in the God of heaven.

Part of the desolate scene is the picture of women walking through the ruined city picking up branches to use for fuel.  This is a very reference to the natural devastation.  However, there is a spiritual picture as well.  Jesus picks up on this tie when he talks about being the vine and his people being the branches (John 15).  Dead branches are broken off and used for fuel.  The reality of the judgment of God is that a certain number of people who were spiritually dead, would be cut off and be lost in it.  God’s work would be discipline to those branches that still had a living, spiritual connection to Him.  But it would be judgment to those had no spiritual connection to Him at all. They have been irretrievably seduced by the spirit of the Age, the spirit of Mystery Babylon.  So we have simultaneously the severity of the Lord and the mercy of the Lord in the same situation.  Ultimately the second coming of Christ will be such a day.  It will be a horrible day for those who have cast their lot in with Antichrist and Mystery Babylon.  But it will be a joyous day for those who have a living connection with Him.

God will gather the remnant of Israel

The last two verses of this chapter look ahead to that time when God will once again stand up for Israel.  For close to 2,000 years, the people of Israel have undergone the discipline of the Lord to the point that it would seem God has abandoned them.  Even some in the Church state that we have taken the place of Israel.  In light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, I find this a view that fails to explain all that God has spoken in a coherent manner.    However, these verses clearly refer to a time when God will gather back Israel.  “In that Day” (verse 12) is a phrase that is used 44 times in the Book of Isaiah.  It refers to the ultimate Day of Judgment upon all the nations of the earth.   This has not happened yet.

The Lord will have a great harvest to accomplish (threshing and gathering).  It is important to note that the process of harvesting is a two sided metaphor.  If you are grain, good grapes, good figs, etc., harvest is a process that is good thing.  The harvester’s purpose is to protect and gather you into His barn.  But, if you are chaff, bad grapes, rotten figs, etc., harvest is a process that is a bad thing.  The chaff is either burned up or blown away by the wind.  The bad grapes and figs are left to decay and rot on the ground.  The stubble and stuff left behind is then destroyed as the field is burned in preparation for the planting time.  This two sided imagery is important.  Yes, God will gather Israel, but at the same time He is removing the wicked from their place in this age.  God will use the events of the last days to bring Israel to a place of repentance.  Those who refuse to repent will be lost along with all the chaff of the nations.  But the Lord will gather in those who humble themselves in repentance.

Those who had been lost to the nations of the earth will be found.  Isaiah mentions a great trumpet that will be blown at this time.  Some have connected this with Paul’s “Last Trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52.  Whether this is a sound that will be heard on earth, it will definitely be heard in the spiritual realm.  Those who had perished in faith will come forth like Lazarus from the grave.  In fact the word used in verse 13 of those who are about to “perish” has the sense of being lost in it.  On the verge of being lost to any hope of help from God, is the salvation of the Lord.

This is the great thing about the Lord.  He is continually searching throughout the earth for those who are perishing.  He continually seeks that which the enemy seeks to devour in order to save them.  No situation is too far gone and too hopeless.  So, friend, put your trust in the Lord Jesus and His ways, not in the ways of this world.  Regardless of what it may look like today and in the days ahead, this world is destroying itself and is under the judgment of God.  Only that which has a living connection with Jesus will come through the end of the age to the other side.  Repent of your desire to connect to the allurements of the world and place your faith in Jesus.

At this point it would be easy to focus upon the physical restoration of Israel.  However, Isaiah ends with a statement that makes it clear that it will be a spiritual restoration as well.  The gathering will "worship the Lord" in Jerusalem.  This statement of fact is reminiscent of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:12, “So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  Of course Jesus does not need a sign, but one is given anyway.  What a day it will be when God's people from every nation worship Him upon Mt. Zion!

Disciplined audio

Tuesday
Aug092016

A Song of Salvation II

Isaiah 26:16-21; 27:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 7, 2016.

As this song of chapter 26 comes to a close, it focuses on a problem that is universal for people who put their trust in God.  People who trust God live with great promises that are future within a context that often seems like those promises will never come true.  Countless millions have died waiting for the complete promises of God.  Yet, God has incorporated this into His plan.  His people must simply wait for His deliverance and the time of jubilation that will follow, even in death.  This sets up the key idea that this life is not all there is.  There will come a day when all the Righteous of all times will be resurrected and see the completion of God’s promises together.  Thus, we will all experience this jubilation as a family of the Redeemed at the same time.

At the same time, this life is still incredibly important.  It is the testing ground of where we will stand in the day to come.  Will I be swept away by judgment, or will I be singing with the Righteous after the judgment has gone by?  The Resurrection is God’s plan to set everything on its head and then set all things in order.

The Dependency of the Righteous

Verse 16 continues the theme of how the righteous are dependent upon God.  In verse 13 Isaiah had mentioned that other masters had ruled over Israel.  We pointed out then that this was God’s discipline for their disobedience.  Here in verse 16 the theme of discipline is picked up again.  In the midst of “trouble” (their discipline) they turned towards the Lord in prayer.  The word “visited” here is interesting because normally the Scriptures talk about God visiting us.  Sometimes He visits in the sense He is showing up to help us (like Israel being delivered from Egypt).  Other times, He visits in the sense of bringing discipline.  You could say that though God had visited them in discipline, they were visiting God with prayers of mercy.  It is easy to get angry and retreat from God in the times of our discipline.  But that will not lead to healing and deliverance.  We need delivered from our sins and God’s discipline is intended to point us in His direction.  Thus the righteous humble themselves and seek God even in times of discipline.  They know that they are completely dependent upon Him.

Verse 17 compares their times of “chastening” to labor pains.  Israel felt like all their labor pains had been for nothing and had accomplished nothing.  In a way this is true.  If it was only up to Israel (or us for that matter) nothing would be accomplished.  But God always intervenes and does through us what we cannot do on our own, if we will trust Him.  Israel had been through many times of not trusting God, being disciplined, repenting, and turning back to God.  This cycle seemed to never end.  Imagine a woman going through 9 months of pregnancy, a day or more of labor, and then the doctor says, “I’m sorry ma’am but there isn’t a baby.  You’ve just given birth to wind.”  That is the feeling Isaiah is describing into verse 18.  In our attempts at God’s things we are unable to produce any deliverance in the earth without God.  Also, the “earth dwellers” are still ruling over the earth.  Remember they are those who live without thought for God. 

The thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this is that we are not alone.  God is with us and He is also for us.  Even when it looks like the enemy has completely won, God has promised to stand up on our behalf.  The New Testament connects this idea of labor pains to how the earth will be in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  Things will become increasingly painful and the pains will come faster and faster.  This may make us feel like serving God is for nothing.  But that is not true.  God has not abandoned us.  How can we know this?

Verse 19 is the answer.  All of this emotion and fear will be overturned by the Resurrection.  Those who have perished without seeing God’s ultimate deliverance will be resurrected.  Also, that resurrection is not just a spiritual thing; it is a physical thing (“with my dead body”).  You can read “my dead body” as referring to Isaiah, which would be true.  Isaiah could be saying that they should take comfort because they will all be resurrected.  However, all prophets speak what God tells them to speak.  Thus the “my dead body” could be a reference to God Himself.  This would be pointing forward to a time when God Himself would take on human flesh and die, only to be resurrected.  So this could be a reference to what Jesus would later do.  He told us that He was the resurrection and the life.  Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus gives us the proof of this coming reality and strengthens our faith so that we will never give up even in the face of death.

The phrase “you who dwell in the dust” refers to those who are in the grave.  Just as a physical grave is made in the dry ground, the Hebrews pictured the spiritual side of the grave as a dry and dusty place.  So we have a poetic picture of the resurrection.  The dead will awaken out of a dry and dusty place to sing in the midst of the dew of a new morning.  He is basically saying you were dead and your bones were dry.  But you will rise with green bones and sing to the Lord.  Thus the earth will cast out the dead.  Daniel 12 also points to this by saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  All has been recorded in the earth, none will be lost.

The Promise of the Lord to the Righteous

Verse 20 picks up the idea of the resurrection and gives an instruction and a promise to God’s people.  First there is the call to enter your chambers.  In the context this must be referring to the death that they fear will rob them of victory.  God is in a sense saying, “Don’t see death as a failure.  Rather, see it as a time of rest and peace from the struggle.  Let Me rise up and struggle for you.”  Of course this is not an excuse for suicide.  At the proper time, we will all come to the end of our life.  We need to be faithful to God in how we live this life.  But when the day of death comes, we can enter into it with peace instead of fear.  Is it true that death can actually be a “grace” to the believer?  Yes.  First, death keeps us from living forever in bodies that have been damaged by sin (both ours and others).  Second, death gives us rest from the oppression of a world bent on rebellion (imagine how Adam would feel if he were still alive).  Third, death was designed to be overcome by God.  It is only a temporary condition of a person.  Of course the resurrection is connected to the Rapture in the New Testament because when the dead are raised there will still be some believers alive.  They too will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into glorified bodies and caught up to be at the Lord’s side.  So death is the refuge of the righteous until the day of deliverance.

Notice the phrase “the indignation.”  This is another way of referring to the Wrath of God.  Verse 21 makes it clear that there will be a final day of judgment for the whole earth.  God Himself will come out of the heavens and judge the earth.  In the New Testament it is revealed that this is Jesus.  Yes, Jesus loves us and died for us.  But He will also come back to judge those who have rejected His offer of grace and mercy.  The wrath of God will be poured out on all the earth.  Thus the righteous are protected not just from the wicked, but also from the wrath of God.  It says that God will “punish the earth dwellers for their iniquity.”  The word “punish” is the idea of settling accounts.  It reminds me of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  He is in the middle of throwing a party and using the holy cups and bowls from the Jerusalem Temple.  God tells Him, “You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking.  Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Thus God will remove the kings and the armies of the earth.  They are lacking in any ability to support godliness and righteousness on the earth.  Their kingdoms will be taken away and given to the Righteous.

The last phrase is that the Earth will disclose her blood and will no more cover her slain.  We are told in the book of Revelation that the raising of the righteous will happen before Christ comes back (or at the same time.  It isn’t quite clear).  After 1,000 years of reigning with Jesus on this earth, the wicked dead will be raised up for a final judgment.  At this point God will create a new heavens and a new earth where no wickedness will ever be.  This is God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him.

I believe that the first verse of chapter 27 should really go with this chapter.  Regardless, let’s finish with looking at that verse.  We are told that the ancient serpent, Satan, will be slain.  He is called Leviathan because this is a sea creature the ancients were familiar with.  In fact many of the religions had mythologies about a sea creature that ruled the seas.  Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 tell us that the ancient serpent that the Bible references is in fact the Devil or Satan.  He is pictured as being in the sea because the sea was a metaphor for all the peoples of the earth (thrashing and tossing to and fro).  Satan has ruled the seas of mankind like a great sea serpent throughout history.  But God will come down and slay Him.  Though he is an immortal being, he will be slain as if he were mortal.  But the righteous that are mortal, will be raised up with immortal bodies.  This is the ultimate victory that God has planned for us all.  So let’s trust in God.  He will slay our enemy and redeem us from our own frailty because He loves us.

Song Salvation Audio

Tuesday
Aug022016

The Song of Salvation

Isaiah 26:1-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 31, 2016.

We have been looking at the joy that will erupt from the people who are alive after the Second Coming of Jesus.  In chapter 25 we saw that all people will be gathered to the Jerusalem area and will celebrate with a feast before the Lord.  Thus chapter 26 continues in this context.  A song breaks out in which the people praise God for His salvation.

Singing for the City of the Righteous

If this passage is not taken in context, it would be easy to think this is only speaking of Jewish people.  But notice verse one focuses on the place, “in the land of Judah.”  This is a song that will be sung by all the people of God and the survivors of the wrath of God.  What is the object of this song?  They recognize the strength of their city as opposed to the cities of man, especially the City of Confusion (chapter 24), which represent and rules over them all.  Throughout history the righteous have often been walked over by the dominions of this world.  Even now the Church does not have a nation or capitol on this earth.  Thus when Jesus comes back the celebration is over the fact that finally our King is here and His dominion is one that is stronger than all those of mankind.

We can think of this city as literal in that Jesus will rule from a literal Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.  Yet the earthly Jerusalem is only a shadow or symbol pointing the New Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven at the end of the Millennium.  Even then, the wording of the song goes beyond a focus on a physical city.  Notice that walls and bulwarks of this city are salvation that God appoints.  Thus the righteous recognize that no matter what our walls and defenses look like in the natural and in comparison with the defenses of this world, our city is strong and our walls impervious because it is the Lord Himself who has appointed us to salvation.  Thus after the cities of this world are turned to rubble, the righteous rejoice in the City of God.  There is another thing to notice.  In light of the New Testament, this passage becomes even more amazing because the term for salvation is yeshua.  Literally it could be read, “God will appoint Yeshua (Jesus) for walls and bulwarks (i.e. as its defenses).  Is this not what we have now?  Jesus is our defense.  No matter what the mighty of this world do and how often they take advantage of us, their defenses will fall and ours will stand in the end.

Verse 2 refers to the gates of the city.  These gates are most likely fully realized in the gates of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:27.  “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”  Gates protect access.  The wicked cannot live in this city, but the righteous are allowed access.  So who is this “righteous nation which keeps the Truth?”  It is not natural Israel.  Rather Isaiah is seeing a nation of people who have been called together out of all the nations of the earth.  Thus Peter exhorted the believers, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).  It is a nation of God’s own making.  They are not righteous because of their biology or geography.  They are righteous because they have been made so by God Himself.  The Truth that they keep is the revelation of God: Jesus is our salvation and there is no other.  This call for the gates to open up and allow the righteous nation to come in is parallel with Psalm 24.  There the call for the gates to open up is to allow the King of Glory to enter.  “Who is this King of Glory?  The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”  It is Jesus.

Verse 3 points out the inner reality of those who are the righteous.  They have the perfect peace of God because of what goes on inside of them rather than what they are or do on the outside.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Perfect peace is that peace which has been given by God, rather than men.  When I was a kid we sang a song in which the lyrics said, “I’ve got something the world can’t give and the world can’t take it away.”  The righteous refuse to take the offers of this world and instead hang onto God in trust.  This inner trust or faith is rewarded by God with peace, both now and ultimately at His Second Coming.  Isaiah says that their “mind is stayed on You.”  The word “stayed” has the sense of leaning upon something or resting upon/within something.  Thus the righteous have refused to lean upon anything but Jesus.  They look nowhere else for their defenses, but Jesus.  Thus they will “trust in the Lord forever.”  In the face of that which tries to separate us from the Lord, we trust in the Lord.  Why?  We trust now in the light of that day of joy which lies ahead, rather than in the light of the nations and the powerful of this world.  Verse 4 ends with a phrase translated “everlasting strength.”  Literally, the Lord is an Everlasting Rock.  This picture of an unassailable place like Masada is in mind.  In this world, even the most unassailable rocks can be taken (as the Romans eventually did to the Jews there).  But the Lord is a rock everlasting.  None can climb these defenses.  The Rock is also the picture of a firm foundation that will hold up anything built upon it in the Day of Shaking.  God is an impregnable refuge for those who trust in Him.

In verses 5-6 we are reminded of the character of God.  The City of the Righteous will continue where the City of the Wicked is cast down.  It is part of God’s nature that He brings down the high and mighty who trust in themselves and lays them down in the dust.  This picture of total humiliation and defeat is exactly what Isaiah has described in chapter 24.  So why would anyone ever put their trust in the high and mighty of this world, whether spiritual or material?  Why trust in occult knowledge gained through rebellious spirits?  Why trust in politicians, artists, or even technology of man?  All these things are destined to be cast into the dust.  But the City of the Righteous will not be cast down, because it has been humble all along.  The rubble of the destruction is so complete that it becomes like the gravel that is used to make a road.  Thus the poor and the needy will tread over the rubble of the high and mighty kingdoms.  So which city does your heart dwell in?  The city doomed for destruction, or the City of the Righteous?

The Dependency of the Righteous

Whether the song continues in verses 7-15 or not, the theme does change.  Isaiah turns to the inner life of the Righteous.  They depend upon God and Him alone.  In verse 7 we see that they walk the straight path of the Lord.  In other words they walk a path that is measured against the Lord Himself- the Most Upright One.  The word translated “upright” is a word that draws its meaning from the context.  An upright road would be straight and level.  An upright building would be plumb or square.  Thus an upright person is a person who walks straight and stands upright.  In all of this the key is that the Lord is the “Straight One.”  It is He who judges our path and helps to make it even.  God will teach us His ways and straighten out our path if we will depend upon Him more than our own reasoning.  A person’s ways always seem right to them, unless they depend upon God’s direction more than their own.

In verse 8 we see that the righteous have waited for the Lord because He is the desire of their soul.  Notice that Isaiah sees the righteous waiting for the Lord on His path.  When we walk the way of the Lord it does not guarantee instant connection.  Many have “tried” the ways of the Lord and walked away.  However, those who wait for Him will find Him.  The ways of the Lord test us, melt us down, and temper us, until we are as we should be.  So what makes a righteous person wait?  They wait because they are not solely interested in getting something else out of God.  Too often we are trying to get something else from God because our soul desires something other than Him.  This is exactly what an idol is.  All things must be laid at His feet as we wait for Him to reveal Himself to us.  The righteous always wait for God. 

This is contrasted with the wicked at the end of verse 9.  They learn righteousness when God judges the earth.  Even more than that, when God gives grace and favor, the wicked do not learn anything.  They simply take advantage of it and the righteous, and attribute it all to their own greatness.  Given a wonderful society and good people, they will still choose wickedness (a crooked path).  This is not to say that people cannot change.  The wicked here are not just those who sin at any time.  But rather those who have rejected God’s ways and will never turn back.  Verse 11 goes further and describes that the wicked don’t even recognize God when His hand is raised for judgment.  They will not recognize until they are actually being crushed under the weight of His falling judgment.  We all have a decision to make in the now.  Either we let our hearts be broken and turn to the Lord, or we march stubbornly on, only to have our life broken in judgment.

Thus in verse 12 we see that the Lord brings peace to the righteous.  No matter what the present looks like, the Lord will establish peace for the righteous.  Their ending point is secure because of Him, not themselves.  Even our accomplishments of righteousness have been done by God who is working through us.  His Word and His Spirit, working and moving upon us enable faith and action.

In verses 13-14, we see that even after being chastised, the righteous are blessed.  Just as Israel had been chastised by the Lord many times, we also find ourselves under the Lord’s rebuke from time to time.  No matter how many nations had ruled over Israel, they still belonged to the Lord.  Thus our destiny is sure even when God is disciplining us.  Those whom He uses may fall into the dust to never be raised up again, be the righteous will be raised up by God Himself.  Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  Thus Israel, who would later find their nation broken and cast to the winds, will find that Jesus has increased the number of the people of God and has expanded the borders of the True Israel of God.  That is, Both Jew and Gentile will be drawn into one people that will be far greater than all the ancient land of Israel.  This is the destiny of those who put their trust on God and depend upon Him alone.

Song of Salvation audio