WEEK 19: Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I, send me.
Starting with the Book of Isaiah we will now go through the Prophetic Books. All take their name from the Prophets whose messages they bear. They are written largely in the poetic style and are divided into two divisions.
(1) The Major Prophets including – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel.
(2) The Minor Prophets including – Jonah, Amos and Hosea – they were the prophets of Israel.
(3) Obadiah, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah – they were prophets of Judah.
(4) The exilic prophets – Ezekiel and Daniel.
(5) The Post-exilic prophets – prophets who prophesied after the captivity. All are of Judah and are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
What is known about Isaiah? Several things are known of him. (1) He was called to his work the last year of the reign of Uzziah. (2) He lived at Jerusalem during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. (3) He is the most renowned of all the Old Testament prophets, his visions not being restricted to his own country and times. He spoke for all nations and for all times (4) He is quoted more in the New Testament than any of the other prophets and, because of the relation of his teaching to New Testament times and teachings, his prophesies have been called the Bridge between the old and new covenants. (5) He married and had two sons.
His first vision recorded in Isaiah chapter six impressed upon him some truths that shaped his whole career. He saw: (1) The holiness and majesty of God; (2) The corruption of those about him; (3) The certainty of awful judgment upon the wicked; (4) The blessing of those whose lives are approved of God; and (5) The salvation of a remnant that was to be the seed of a new Israel. With these truths burning in his soul he pressed the battle of righteousness into every sphere of life. He tried to make not only religious worship, but commerce and politics so pure that it could all become a service acceptable to God. He therefore became a religious teacher, preacher, social reformer, statesman and seer.
Conditions of Israel (The Northern Kingdom). Isaiah began to prophecy when it was outwardly rich and prosperous under the rule of Jeroboam. Inwardly it was very corrupt. It soon went to pieces, however (621 B. C.), being conquered and carried into captivity by the Assyrians.
Conditions of Judah (The Southern Kingdom). During the reigns of Ahaz, Jotham and Uzziah, oppression, wickedness and idolatry existed everywhere. Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria, which finally brought destruction to Israel, but Hezekiah listened to Isaiah and made reforms, and God destroyed the Assyrian army before Jerusalem was destroyed.
In chapter 6 Isaiah recounts his original call to the prophetic ministry, dating it from the year that king Uzziah died (740 B.C.), with the death of godly Uzziah. Judah’s golden age was fast slipping away. No human leader appeared on the scene to reverse the decadence that had begun during Uzziah’s final years of isolation due to leprosy. At this crucial hour, the prophet’s attention was turned to God.
Isaiah’s call – Isaiah states that he heard the voice of the LORD asking whom He should send and who will go for us? The plural pronouns are used here (as in Genesis 1:26), to refer to the triune God (God the Father; God the Son; and God The Holy Spirit). The prophet himself is now a changed man. Having his burden of guilt and worry removed, he spontaneously volunteers “here am I; send me”. His consecration by God prepared him to answer God’s call to service.
This is the most beautiful call to minister and the answer to that call. Not only was Isaiah aware of the presence of the LORD in the smoke and in the fire, but now he hears the voice of God. The answer Isaiah gave showed his willingness, and even eagerness, to serve God.
Isaiah’s history is a picture of what many a true Christian labourer may expect. Isaiah was sent to preach very unpleasant truths, but like a true hero he was very bold in preaching it. If you are called of God either to preach or teach, or whatever it is, remember the things you have to preach or teach will not always be palatable to your hearers.
Are you ready to take up your cross and run the race that has been set before you and answer that call?
WEEK 18: Song of Solomon 2:1 I am the rose of Sharon: and the lily of the valleys
The subject is faithful love seen in a woman who though subjected to the temptations of an oriental man, remains faithful to her old lover. She is a country girl from the north. She attracts the attention of the king who brings her to Jerusalem and offers her every enticement possible to become the wife of the king. However, upon her defiant refusal she is allowed to return home to her lover – country shepherd lad.
Who does the Song of Solomon speak to?
(1) To the Jews of that time it was a call to purity of life – for a return to those relations which God had ordained between man and woman. It was a protest against polygamy which had become almost universal.
(2) To the Christian it sets forth in allegory. Christ and His church as Bridegroom and Bride and the fullness of love which unites the believer and his Saviour.
(3) To the entire world there is shown the purity and constancy of a woman’s love and devotion to her ideals.
The Rose of Sharon – of all the flowers that God has made, the rose, take it all in all, is the loveliest and the sweetest. It has three things in perfection – (i) shape (ii) colour, and (iii) fragrance. Indeed, we may call it the queen of flowers. Now, it is in its sweetness especially that the rose reminds me of the Lord Jesus Christ. His character was marked not only by manliness, but also with what one may call sweetness, for He had all the firmness of a man and all the tenderness of a woman.
The rose is the most common as well as the most beautiful of all the flowers. You find it wherever you go, – in all countries and in all places. In fact, it is the universal flower. It belongs to everybody, and in this respect it resembles Christ, for Christ is the common property of all – of the peasant as well as of the prince; of poor as well as of rich; of the child as well as of the fully grown man. He belongs to all nations too – to the dwellers in north and south and east and west.
The Saviour calls Himself in the text “The Lily of the Valleys”, and we have now to consider what this second title is intended to teach us. Supposing that “the Lily of the Valleys” is the flower which we know by that name – you all remember how graceful it is, with pretty little white bells ranged in a row on a tapering stalk, and how it appears to hide itself modestly under the shade of its broad green leaves. Now, why is it thus chosen? Partly because the lily is of a beautiful white colour, and represents purity.
How pure was Jesus? Never at any time did He think, or say, or do anything that was wrong. As a child, as a boy, as a man, He was absolutely free from fault. However, the lily of the valley – because it has a drooping head, and hides behind the shade of its broad green leaves, instead of thrusting itself forward, it may be taken as an emblem of lowliness or humility. This serves to remind us of our Lord Jesus Christ.
WEEK 17: Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools
The Hebrew word “Ecclesiastes” means “preacher” and refers to or signifies one who calls together and addresses assemblies.
The Book of Ecclesiastes shows us that man was not made for this world alone and not for selfish achievement or gratification, but to fulfil some great plan of God for him which he will accomplish through obedience and Divine service. It shows how a man under the best possible conditions sought for joy and peace, trying at its best every human resource. He had the best that could be gotten, from human wisdom, from wealth, from worldly pleasure, from worldly honour – only to find that all was vanity and vexation of spirit. It is what a man with the knowledge of a holy God, and that He will bring all into judgment, has learned of the emptiness of things under the sun and of the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep his commandments”.
Are you in a hurry to be angry? When our attitude isn’t right many of us are simply looking for an excuse to get angry, like someone who is just itching for a fight. Does one have a short fuse? Is one quick to manifest and start shouting the odds? Or is one able to count to ten slowly? Take a deep breathe? Go for a walk when that anger threatens to boil over? We are admonished to temper our anger. It is fools who are quick to flare up.
There is a close connection between pride and anger. Humility and patience is a great check against selfish and sinful anger. This should make us seriously re-evaluate our own anger. Often what triggers an angry response isn’t righteous indignation, rather it is when our pride has been seriously humbled or put in its place.
The fool is a person who cherishes and nourishes such anger. A quick temper in company with frustration is the earmark of the fool.
WEEK 16: Proverbs 11:2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom
The Book of Proverbs teaches how to practice our faith and overcome daily temptations. They express a belief in God and His rule over the universe.
What do we find in the Book of Proverbs?
(1) There is a voice of wisdom which speaks words of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, prudence, subtility, instruction, discretion and the fear of Jehovah, and furnishes us with good advice for every condition of life.
(2) There is a voice of folly, which speaks words of folly, simplicity, stupidity, ignorance, brutishness and villainy, and lifts her voice wherever wisdom speaks.
(3) Wisdom is contrasted with folly, which often issues in simplicity and scorning.
(4) Wisdom is personified, as if it were God speaking about the practical, moral, intellectual and faithful duties of men.
(5) Christ finds Himself in the Book.
Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Proverbs Chapter 1 through Chapter 9 talks about the virtues of wisdom. If Christ be substituted for wisdom where it is found, a new and wonderful power will be seen in the Book.
He that exalts himself is abased, and contempt shall be put upon him. When pride comes then cometh shame. It is a sin which others cry out shame on and look upon with disdain. He that is haughty makes himself contemptible. It is a sin for which God often brings men down, as He did Nebuchadnezzar and Herod, whose pride and pomposity immediately brought their vain-glory. God resists the proud. Pride is loathed by the LORD. It was pride that got Satan kicked out of heaven when he vaunted himself saying “I will like God” amongst other things.
He that humbles himself is exalted, and a high character is given him. With the proud there is folly and shame. So with the lowly there is wisdom, and will be honour. A man’s wisdom gains him respect and makes his face to shine before men. If any be so base as to trample upon the humble, God will give them grace which will be to their glory. Consider how safe, and quiet, and easy, those are that are of a humble spirit – what communion they have with God and comfort in themselves!
You are never more Christ like when you are humble in spirit. Conversely, you are never more like Satan when you are filled with pride!
WEEK 15: Psalm 119:133: Order my steps in thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
The Book of Psalms can be divided into 5 sections as follows:
(1) Davidic Psalms. 1-41. These are not only ascribed to him but reflect much of his life and faith.
(2) Historical Psalms. 42-72. These are ascribed to several authors. Those of the sons of Korah being prominent and are especially full of historical facts.
(3) Liturgical or Ritualistic Psalms. 73-89. Most of them are ascribed to Asaph. Apart from being specially prescribed for worship, they are strongly historical.
(4) Other Pre-Captivity Psalms. 90-106. Ten are anonymous. One is Moses’ (Psalm 90) and the rest David’s. They reflect much of the pre-captivity sentiment and history.
(5) Psalms of the Captivity and Return. 107-150. Matters pertaining to the captivity and return to Jerusalem.
Here David prays for two great spiritual blessings, He prays for:
Direction in our walk with Him: “Order my steps in thy word”. Having led me into the right way let every step I take in that way is under the guidance of thy grace. We ought to walk by rule; all the motions of the soul must not only be kept within the bounds prescribed by the Word, so as not to transgress them, but carried out in the paths prescribed by the Word, so as not to trifle in them. Therefore we must ask God that by His Spirit He would order our steps accordingly.
Deliverance from the power of sin: “Let no iniquity have dominion over me”, that I should be led captive by it. The dominion of sin is to be dreaded and abhorred by every one of us; and, if in sincerity we pray against it, we may receive that promise as an answer to the prayer Sin shall not have dominion over you (Romans 6:14.)
WEEK 14: Job:13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; but I will maintain mine own ways before Him.
The name “Job” means “Persecuted”. Job is thought to be the oldest Book in the Old Testament – even predating the Book of Genesis. Neither the date nor the author can be determined with certainty. Job stands alone, being one of the so-called wisdom books of the Bible.
The purpose of the Book, then, is to justify the wisdom and goodness of God in matters of human suffering and especially to show that all suffering is not punitive.
Job’s temptation came by stages and consisted largely in a series of losses as follows: (1) His property (2) His children (3) His health (4) His wife’s confidence – she would have him curse God and die (5) His friends who now think him a sinner (6) The joy of life – he cursed the day of his birth (7) His confidence in the goodness of God – he said to God “Why hast thou set me as a mark for thee”?
Job had more or less everything thrown at him at the same time. An unseen spiritual battle was taking place. Satan appeared to God. A discussion took place. Satan dares God. Satan tells God that the only reason why Job worships and serves Him is because God has blessed him. Take away everything Job owns, and Job will curse God. God agrees to the challenge, but He tells Satan “only upon himself put not forth thine hand(Job 1:12).
Job had seven sons, three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses (Job 1:2-3).
In a twinkling of an eye, Job lost all. Satan was not content. He continued pursuing Job and afflicted him with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. Job’s physical body was covered in blisters (Job 1:7). He ached all over. but then his wife adds insult to injury “dost thou still maintain thine integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 1:9). That’s all Job needed to hear. I guess his wife was hurting too, having lost all her children, their livelihood and now her husband was inflicted with boils from head to toe.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed” is a popular saying. Job’s three friends heard about the misery he had gone through. They decided to pay him a visit. They arrive and for seven days and seven nights, none could utter a word to him. They sat in silence – such was their grief. When his friends finally speak, rather than console him, they add more to his agony.
Such was the determinate resolution of the venerable and pious Job. Six points to note:
That all things are under the Divine control.
Piety and integrity do not exempt one from trials.
All things eventually work together for good to those that love God (Romans 8:28).
Job might confidently trust in the LORD, because he had not brought his sufferings upon himself by his own neglect or imprudence.
Job’s trust or faith was of the right kind. Trust in God implies that the depending person has an experimental knowledge of His power, wisdom, and goodness. Trust in God includes prayer, patience, and reconciliation to His will.
How well it was for Job that he trusted and patiently waited to see the salvation of God.
WEEK 13: Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night and day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.
The events narrated are thought to have occurred about 56 years after the first return of Zerubbabel in 536 B. C. King Ahasuerus was on the throne at that time. He held a feast for all princes, and servants, that were under the 127 provinces he was king over. This drunken feast may have been preparatory to the invasion of Greece in the third year of his reign. There is no connection between Esther and the other Books of the Bible. While it is a story of the time when the Jews were returning to Jerusalem, and very likely should come between the first and second return, therefore it seems to fit between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra, the incident stands alone. Without it we would lose much of our knowledge of that period.
While Esther stands out as the principal character, the whole story turns on the refusal of Mordecai (her adopted father) to bow down to Haman (the King’s second in command), which would have been to show him divine honour. He did not hate Haman but, as a Jew could not worship any other than God. He dared to stand for principle at the risk of his life.
One of the peculiarities of the Book of Esther is that it nowhere mentions the name of God, or makes any reference to Him. This may be because His name was held secret and sacred at that time. However, God’s power and His care of His people are everywhere implied in the book. Esther was written to explain the origin of the feast of Purim.
Esther was a Jewish maiden chosen by king Ahasuerus to replace queen Vashti who had humiliated him in the presence of all the governors and princes and chiefs of the 127 provinces that he ruled over. Esther’s father (adopted) Mordecai held a position at the city gates. When Esther became queen, he warned Esther not to disclose her identity to anyone. Haman was the king’s second in command. Haman was a very proud and arrogant man, who demanded that whenever he passed by, all who saw him should bow down and pay obeisance to him. All did – accept Mordecai. When people asked him why he didn’t obey Haman’s command to bow down to him, Mordecai replied “because I am a Jew”. Word got back to Haman that the reason why Mordecai refuses to bow down to you is because he is a Jew. Haman was incensed. Rather than deal with Mordecai alone, he sought the king’s permission to put all the Jews scattered throughout the king’s 127 provinces to death on the 14th day of the month of Adar. The king removes his signet ring, and the deal is done.
Mordecai and the rest of the Jews see the king’s edict go up across the nations that on the 14th day of Adar – in seven months – all Jews will be exterminated.
Mordecai is beside himself. Queen Esther is told that Mordecai is at the front of the Palace wearing sackcloth and ashes and refuses to be comforted. Queen Esther is told about the edict to kill all Jews. Mordecai naturally wants her to petition the king on behalf of herself and her people. There is a problem though. The king has not called to see her for a month. No one – absolutely no one must come before the king unless he calls for you. If you do – death awaits you, unless he stretches out his golden sceptre which is in his hand.
Esther tries to convey to Mordecai that the king has not sent for her in about a month. Esther knows what to do. She needs to get down on her knees – together with all the Jews in Shushan for three days and three nights when they will all fast and pray and seek the LORD’s counsel and wisdom. THEN – she will go before the king………and “if I perish – I perish”.
There are Goliath’s that like to rear their ugly heads in our lives every now and then. That is when we are to take a stand. Not to cower. Not to hide. Not to draw back. Not to retreat. Make that bold stand like the 3 Hebrew boys in the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar who also asked them to bow down and worship an idol when they hear the music. They took a stand and told the king that they are not able to do so. They serve a God who is able to deliver them from the fiery furnace – but even if He does not – they will not bow down to the king’s image.
We may face situations and circumstances in life that require us to take such a stand. What side of the fence do you stand on? Do you cower to the dictates of your oppressors? Or do you take a stand like Esther? “If I perish – then I perish”. We all have choices. We need to choose wisely!
WEEK 12: Ezra 10:1 Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept sore.
Ezra and Nehemiah were once counted as one book and contain the account of the restoration of the exiles to Jerusalem and the re-establishment of their worship. They soon came to be called First and Second Ezra. Jerome first called the second book Nehemiah. Wycliffe called them the first and second Esdras and later they were called the books of Esdras otherwise the Nehemiah’s. The present names were first given in the Geneva Bible (1560). “Ezra” means “help”.“Nehemiah” – his name means “Jehovah comforts”.
These two prophets were associated with the first return of Zerubbabel and their words incited the Jews to complete the temple in spite of opposition. The return consisted of three expeditions led respectively by (1) Zerubbabel (2) Ezra and (3) Nehemiah. The time covered cannot be accurately calculated. It is probably not fewer than ninety years. Some think it may have been as many as one hundred and ten years.
The children of Israel had taken for themselves foreign wives. Their Nation had been overtaken by so many of these foreign wives that they had marriage; they had forgotten the God of the Hebrews. Their cultures, their language, their laws and customs had all become diluted and even erased by the traditions of the foreign wives that they had taken unto themselves. Their children no longer spoke Hebrew. They had taken up their foreign gods and worshipped them.
Ezra the Priest was not best pleased about the situation. He was a very well respected Priest amongst them. One whom the people knew feared God. Their God that they had left behind and forgotten.
Ezra being a Godly man knew what to do. Ezra prayed. Now when Ezra had prayed, since this prayer was uttered in public, while there was a general concourse of the people at the time of the evening sacrifice (Ezra 9:4-5), and as it was accompanied with all the demonstrations of poignant sorrow and anguish, it is not surprising that the spectacle of a man so respected, a priest so holy, a governor so dignified, as Ezra, appearing distressed and filled with fear at the sad state of things, should produce a deep sensation; and the report of his passionate grief and expressions in the court of the temple having rapidly spread through the city, a great multitude flocked to the spot. His attitude of kneeling down and spreading out his hands towards heaven would soon attract a multitude around him, and his touching prayer would naturally make them weep.
There assembled… a very great congregation – word had spread quickly that there was some sort of commotion in the court of the temple. It seems that Ezra’s prayer and his agonizing attitude had brought the most of them together. Ezra was not just sobbing, he was wailing, and crying and weeping loudly. He was distraught. He was beseeching the LORD, petitioning the LORD to have and show mercy to His children who have neglected Him. His heartfelt cry and pain witnessed by all as the crowd gathered had such a profound effect on them, the people gathered – men; women and children also lifted up their voices to heaven and wept sore. This was genuine repentance. They resolved to put away their foreign wives, and return back to the God of their fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
WEEK 11: 2 Chronicles 7:14-1514 If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
The name Chronicles was given by Jerome. They were the words of days and the translators of the Septuagint named them the things omitted. They were originally one Book.
Beginning with Adam the history of Israel is rewritten down to the return of Judah from captivity. It covers the same field as all the others. From this we see the books have fitted one into another and formed a continuous history. Here we double back and review the whole history, beginning with Adam, and coming down to the edict of Cyrus which permitted the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem.
The LORD is talking directly to His people. This is not an individual or a select group of people – it is Israel as a Nation that the Lord is addressing here. Israel had fallen into such idolatry and had hardened and seared their hearts so much so, that sin was rampant. It had gone to another level. The LORD was calling them back.
They had dishonoured His name by their iniquity. They should honour His name by accepting the punishment of their iniquity. Pride goes before a fall. They must humble themselves under His mighty hand, and pray for the removal of His coming judgement upon them. They are to put on sackcloth and ashes and seek His face with prayer and fasting. They must seek Him diligently whilst He can be found. Open and genuine repentance is what is required. No airs. No graces. They are to seek Him and turn from their wicked ways. No point in beseeching His face if they will go back to their wicked ways.
So in summary the conditions to the IF are:
(i) Humble yourself
(iii) Seek His face
(iv) Turn from their wicked ways
THEN He will forgive their sin, and heal their land. This is a condition that must be met by the Nation of Israel, before the LORD fulfils His side of the equation.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
WEEK 10: 1Kings 19:11-1211 And he said, Go forth and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD: but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake: but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire: but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
The name is taken from the Kings whose deeds they narrate. It takes up the history of Israel where Second Samuel left off and gives the account of the death of David, the reign of Solomon, the Divided Kingdom, and the captivity.
The political changes of Israel are given in order to show the religious condition. Everywhere there is a conflict between faith and unbelief, between the worship of Jehovah and the worship of Baal. We see wicked kings who introduce false worship and righteous kings who bring about reforms and try to overthrow false worship. Israel yields to evil and is finally cut off, but Judah repents and is restored to perpetuate the kingdom and to be the medium through which Jesus came.
There are times in our lives that when we want to hear from the Lord, that we may need a mountain experience. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:9). Likewise, we read in:
Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that He went into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Mountains are solitary places that are absent from the noise that goes on in and around our lives. It is a place of peace and tranquillity. A mountain top experience is where one can hear the LORD clearly.
As the LORD passed by Elijah, there was such a great and powerful strong wind, that it took chunks off the mountain and broke boulders of rocks. A tornado perhaps – yet the LORD was not in and amongst all that noise and confusion that was being whipped up by the wind – debris flying everywhere. An earthquake swiftly follows. It shakes the foundation of the earth. Everything that was in place is being shaken from its very roots. Sometimes in our life’s, things happen that can shake our very foundation. It can unearth things – hidden things that we have kept secret. It’s all under lock and key – then without warning, our very foundation is shaken and exposed. As if that wasn’t enough, things that we hold dear to us – treasures, artefacts, pictures, souvenirs, gold, silver, money. We’ve put our most treasured items in a safe deposit box. Then a freak fire that started next door envelopes your apartment – within an hour, all that was held dear has gone up in a puff of smoke. Just like that.
In life, we are not promised a bed of roses. On the contrary, oftentimes, it is quite the opposite. It is during these turbulent times in our lives, that IF we are still – we will hear the still small voice of the Father. You may not perceive Him during the storms and winds and earthquakes and firestorm of life – but He is there – He is always there – but He is that still small voice.