Tagged: download free Bible studies

Revelation 1-3: Download the free study

If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that we’ve been slowly working our way through the Book of Revelation (and with great fear and trembling, especially since this is such a challenging piece of Scripture). We still have a long way to go. You can read the posts to date by clicking here.

Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book, and we would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.

With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together,we have captured a number of blog posts into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the link below to capture an introduction to Revelation, along with notes on the first three chapters.

Revelation — Introduction and chapters 1-3

Isaiah 47: Sit in the Dust

Isaiah 47: Sit in the Dust (mp3 audio file)

Isaiah 47: Sit in the Dust (pdf study notes and worksheet)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 47 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile.

Key verses:

Isa. 47:3-4 – “Your nakedness will be uncovered, and your shame will be exposed. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one. The Holy One of Israel is our Redeemer; the Lord of Hosts is His name.”

Quick summary:

Babylon’s destruction is foretold. This prophecy is fulfilled in 539 B.C. when Persian King Cyrus captures the city. Babylon’s failure is exposed in verse 6. The Lord has disciplined the Jews, placing them under Babylon’s control, but the captors went beyond reasonable punishment and “showed them no mercy.” Now under God’s judgment, Babylon is challenged to turn to its sorcerers, who must try to do the impossible – to prevent disaster at the hands of the Persians. They will fail because the Lord says, “I will take vengeance; I will spare no one” (v. 3).

Take note:

Twice, Babylon is called “Daughter Chaldea” (vv. 1, 5) and throughout the chapter she is depicted as a pouting mistress. Once “pampered and spoiled,” she must now grind meal with a millstone, remove her veil and bare her thigh as she wades through rivers. She will sit in silence and go into darkness, no longer a “mistress of the kingdoms” (v. 5). Once a lover of luxury who never considered the consequences of her actions, she now experiences loss of children and widowhood in a single day. In the last days, Babylon is depicted in a similar way, indulging in idolatry, immorality and excessive materialism. Like Babylon in Old Testament times, the kingdom in the last days is utterly destroyed and the world grieves her loss, but the judgment comes from God (Rev. 18).

The Shame of Babylon (Isa. 47:1-4)

Proud Babylon will be conquered and its people will become humbled servants, sitting in the dust as a sign of mourning (see Jonah 3:6). The words “Virgin Daughter” depict the people of the city as young and innocent women, possibly meaning the city’s walls have never been breached, or the people have never been captured. The people no longer will be delicate like virgins. Rather, they will endure hardships, grinding meal with millstones, unconcerned about their clothing or modesty. Some no doubt will be abused and raped. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Babylon, the proud queen, is now a humbled slave. ‘I will continue forever—the eternal queen!’ she boasted (v. 7, NIV). But in a moment, the judgment for her sins caught up with her; and she became a widow” (Be Comforted, S. Is 45:1).

Verse 4 predicts the response of the Jews, who will rejoice at the devastating work of God’s hand on their oppressors. They will praise God, realizing that their redemption comes from His direct and divine intervention in human history. “The Holy One of Israel is our Redeemer,” they proclaim. “The Lord of Hosts is His name.” Matthew Henry reminds us, “God can make those sit silently that used to make the greatest noise in the world, and send those into darkness that used to make the greatest figure. Let him that glories, therefore, glory in a God that changes not, and not in any worldly wealth, pleasure, or honour, which are subject to change” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 47:1).

The Sins of Babylon (Isa. 47:6-8, 10)

Babylon has conquered Judah only because God has allowed it. More to the point, God chose this proud and pagan nation as His rod of discipline against the unrepentant Jews, a fact that should cause the Babylonians to place their victory in proper perspective. But they see things differently. They treat their captives with impunity, utterly destroying Judah’s capital city and place of worship. Although Yahweh places the Jews under the Babylonians’ control, they show no mercy and make life exceptionally difficult even for the elderly (v. 6). The Babylonians never entertain the thought that their rule is temporary. Brashly, the nation boasts, “I will be the mistress forever” (v. 7). Instead of seeing their triumph as an opportunity to serve the true and living God, they “did not take these things to heart or think about their outcome” (v. 7).

What’s more, the Babylonians think they can never be defeated. Enjoying the spoils of victory, sitting in the lap of luxury, resting in the security an undefeated army provides, the women declare they will never be widowed or know the loss of children (v. 8). But they are led astray by their “knowledge” and their “wisdom” (v. 10). “Their policy and craft, which they called their wisdom, were their confidence. They thought they could outwit all mankind, and therefore might set all their enemies at defiance. But their wisdom and knowledge perverted them, and turned them out of the way, made them forget themselves, and the preparation necessary to be made for hereafter” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, S. Is 47:7). Those who trust in their wealth, their wisdom and their wickedness will find these false comforts in the end to be their ruin.

The Suffering of Babylon (Isa. 47:5, 9, 11-15)

Babylon is considered nearly impregnable, yet because of her sins the Lord says she will “sit in silence” (the posture of mourning), “go into darkness” (the state of misery) and “no longer be called mistress (queen) of kingdoms” (v. 5). Disaster and devastation are coming suddenly and unexpectedly. The once-invincible Babylonians will be unable to anticipate, avert or escape the calamity. The Babylonians prided themselves in their sorcerers, who supposedly foretold future events and cast spells to exert influence over others. Such alleged knowledge would be of no value in the coming days, for the sorcerers would not be able to see destruction coming or cast spells to make their conquerors go away.

In verses 12-15 the Lord mockingly urges the Babylonians to continue their sorceries and spells. Like Elijah jeering the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), Yahweh pokes fun at Babylon’s inept spiritual leaders. “Let them stand and save you – the astrologers who observe the stars … they are like stubble; fire burns them up…. They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame … each wanders his own way; no one can save you.” Matthew Henry remarks:  “Witchcraft is a sin in its own nature exceedingly heinous; it is giving that honour to the devil which is due to God only, making God’s enemy our guide and the father of lies our oracle. In Babylon it was a national sin, and had the protection and countenance of the government; conjurors, for aught that appears, were their privy counsellors [sic] and prime ministers of state. And shall not God visit for these things?” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, S. Is 47:7).

Babylon and Chaldea are especially well known for their astrologers. In Chaldea the astrologers form a particular caste, in which knowledge is passed from father to son. They teach that the universe is eternal and that the movements of the celestial bodies are directed by a council of the gods. Their long and careful study of the heavens makes them more able than others to calculate the movements and influence of the stars. To assist them in their calculations, the astrologers divide the heavens into 12 equal parts, our houses – six above the horizon and six below – “and the various subjects that affect the happiness of human beings, such as fortune, marriage, life, death, religion, etc., were distributed among them. From the position of the stars in these houses the calculations were made…. And from the varied appearances of the heavens they foretold events that not only affected lands and nations, but also brought happiness or unhappiness to kings and common people” (James M. Freeman, Manners & Customs of the Bible. [Rev. ed.], S. 364).

No matter. Yahweh is direct and precise in His judgment that all the labors of the astrologers will come to naught, for He has determined that their season of sin is about to come to an end: “Look, they are like stubble; fire burns them up. They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame” (v. 14).

Closing Thought

D.A. Carson comments: “It is Babylon’s proper fate: there can be no mercy, for she has shown none….Yet the description is not without pity. We are watching the triumph of justice, but equally the tragedy of the sinner. Dust and toil, nakedness and shame, silence and darkness – these symbols of damnation have an added bitterness by the glimpse of the arrogant gaiety which they quench for ever. We can enter into her sinking of heart as the trusted expedients fail (the magic spells, sorceries and horoscopes of vs 12–14), and the old associates drift prudently away, ‘each in his own direction’ (15,), like the fair-weather friends that they are” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 47:1).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 42: The Islands Will Wait

Isaiah 42: The Islands Will Wait (audio / mp3)

Isaiah 42: The Islands Will Wait (study notes and worksheet / pdf)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 42 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance and the worldwide impact of the coming of Messiah.

Key verses:

Isa. 42:6-8 – “I, the Lord, have called you for a righteous [purpose], and I will hold you by your hand. I will keep you, and I make you a covenant for the people [and] a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, [and] those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, or My praise to idols.”

Quick summary:

Isaiah introduces the first of his “Servant Songs” referring to the Messiah (vv. 1-17). Israel is called the Lord’s servant a number of times (for example Isa. 41:8; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 48:20) and so is the Messiah (49:3, 5-7; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11). The context and the characteristics of the servant in these passages determine which one Isaiah intends. “Israel as God’s servant was supposed to help bring the world to a knowledge of God, but she failed. So the Messiah, the Lord’s Servant, who epitomizes the nation of Israel, will fulfill God’s will” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1095). Israel, blind and deaf to God’s law, is unable to fulfill the servant’s role (vv. 18-25), and thus it will be left to the promised Messiah.

Take note:

The “Servant Songs” of Isaiah (42:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13ff; and 53:1-12) refer to different aspects of the Messiah’s ministry. The first depicts Him as the key that unlocks the captives’ chains. The second tells us His mission calls for suffering. The third points to His ultimate exaltation. And the fourth graphically portrays the Servant’s crucifixion.

“These servant songs not only display Christ in His essential beauty, but also serve to model the nature of all servanthood. Anyone who serves God must (a) have a desire to do so, (b) remain humble before others and dependent on the Lord, (c) be committed to winning others’ release from sin’s grip, (d) accept personal suffering, and (e) rely completely on God for guidance and strength (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., 1996, S. 432).

The Servant’s Mission (Isa. 42:1-9)

The opening verses of this chapter clearly identify “My Servant” as a person and not the nation of Israel. The Lord calls Him “My Chosen One” and declares, “I have put My Spirit on Him” (v. 1). Matt. 12:18-21 quotes Isa. 42:1-4 and relates this passage to Jesus and His ministry to Israel. As the Lord’s Servant, He does what Israel could never do: perfectly carry out the will of Yahweh so that people everywhere believe in the Holy One of Israel. “Servant” is the position assumed by Jesus during His earthly ministry. He is chosen from the foundation of the world for the redemption of mankind (1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 13:8). Salvation is in the mind of God from eternity past and stretches into eternity future; it should never be seen as Alpha and Omega’s “Plan B” or an afterthought by a Creator who finds Himself backed into a corner by one of His creatures.

Because the Lord created the heavens and the earth and gives breath to all people, He is sovereign over the universe and is able to assist His Servant. Yahweh assures Him of several promises: His calling for a righteous purpose; His help from the Lord; His fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel; His role as light to the Gentiles; and His deliverance of people from spiritual darkness and bondage. Although Cyrus will release the Jewish people from captivity in Babylon, the Lord’s Servant will free mankind from captivity in Satan’s kingdom. As Jesus declares, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Later, the apostle Paul writes, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col. 1:13). The lost are spiritually blind and in darkness, but Jesus is sent to open their eyes and give them light (see John 8:12; 9:39-41).

Yahweh, Israel’s covenant-keeping God, makes these promises and refuses to let idols take the credit for their fulfillment. His people are called to remember all that the Lord has done for them and be assured that what He has promised will most certainly come to pass. Yahweh’s statement in verse 8 is especially important in the context of His relationship with His Servant, for if God will not give His glory to another, then Jesus’ claim to deity must either be true or blasphemy. Clearly it is true. Jesus not only claims to be God and demonstrates the authority of God by casting out demons, healing illnesses, controlling the world’s natural elements, raising the dead and forgiving sins; He also longs for the day when His work of redemption is complete and He returns to His glorified position at the Father’s right hand (John. 17:5).

A Song of Praise (Isa. 42:10-17)

Outburts of singing are frequent in Isaiah, and the songs of praise recorded here, as well as in Isa. 44:23; 49:13; 52:9 and other places are similar to Psalms 93 and 95-100 in theme and language. People everywhere are urged to sing and shout the praises of the Lord, who is victorious over His enemies at Messiah’s second coming. A “new song” (v. 10) is mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament (Ps. 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9) and twice in Revelation (5:9 and 14:3) – always in the context of worship and specifically in Revelation in worship of the exalted Messiah, who has redeemed people by His blood from every tribe, language, people and nation. This new song is “called for by a new manifestation of God’s grace, to express which no hymn for former mercies would be appropriate” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 42:10).

The mention of Kedar and Sela is noteworthy. Kedar is the second son of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13). He fathered a nomadic people in the northern Arabian Peninsula. Sela, or Petra, is in modern Jordan and defines people who carved their dwelling places out of rock. While the people of Kedar and Edom are at times Israel’s enemies, they will join their Jewish neighbors in praising the King of kings. The references to Kedar and Sela also may symbolize the world’s people who wander or remain in fixed locations. They, along with seafarers, desert dwellers and urbanites will join the chorus of nations to sing the Lord’s praise “from the ends of the earth” (v. 10).

The Lord is praised as He “advances like a warrior” and “prevails over His enemies” (v. 13). Silent for so long that people question whether He will come at all (see 2 Peter 3:3-4), He now “shouts” and “roars” (v. 13), laying waste the nations that reject Him and rescuing those who have waited patiently for His justice. It is interesting to note that the Lord groans “like a woman in labor” (v. 14). Earlier in the writings of Isaiah, the prophet says the day is coming when the Babylonians will be “in anguish like a woman in labor” (Isa. 13:8). This is just a foretaste of rebellious sinners’ plight in the coming Day of the Lord. So why, in this passage, does Messiah groan like a woman in labor? “Like a woman in parturition, who, after having restrained her breathing for a time, at last, overcome with labor pain, lets out her voice with a panting sigh; so Jehovah will give full vent to His long pent-up wrath” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Is 42:14).

Finally, those who trust in idols rather than the living God will be “turned back [and] utterly ashamed” (v. 17). Their confidence in “metal-plated images” will come to naught. They will be ashamed that they ever said to inanimate objects, “You are our gods!” As the psalmist writes, “All who serve carved images, those who boast in idols, will be put to shame” (Ps. 97:7).

Israel’s Blindness and Deafness (Isa. 42:18-25)

Isaiah closes this chapter with a message about Israel’s sin and the suffering that results from it. We need to understand that “My servant” in verse 19 is not the Messiah, as in verse 1, but the nation of Israel. The people will not listen to or see what God has done. In fact they cannot listen or see because in their persistent rebellion they have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes. More than 700 years later the hardness of Israel’s heart is personified in the people’s refusal to receive Messiah’s message of the kingdom of heaven. Quoting from Isaiah 6, Jesus tells His followers that He uses parables, in part, to confound the self-righteous religionists: “For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back— and I would cure them” (Matt. 13:13-15).

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is equally direct in his defense before the high priest: “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). What was the people’s response?  “Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him” (Acts 7:57). Later, the apostle Paul, quoting Isa. 29:10, notes that Israel’s rebellion is so complete that God has sealed all but the believing remnant in their hardness: “[A]s it is written: God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear, to this day” (Rom. 11:8).

Isaiah is clear that the fault lies, not with the Lord, but with His people: “The Lord was pleased, because of His righteousness, to magnify [His] instruction and make it glorious” (Isa. 42:21). But the people will not receive the Lord or His instruction. As a consequence, they are “plundered and looted,” “trapped in holes or imprisoned in dungeons” (v. 22). Who gives Jacob to the robber and Israel to the plunderer? “Was it not the Lord? … So He poured out on Jacob His furious anger and the power of war” (vv. 24-25). Even so, Israel is oblivious. “It surrounded him with fire, but he did not know [it]; it burned him, but he paid no attention” (v. 25).

Closing Thought

Judah’s coming captivity in Babylon will turn the people’s feet but not necessarily their hearts back to the Lord. They will cease their idolatry and return to their homeland yet fail to be fully transformed, waiting for God to grant them a “heart of flesh” in the last days (Ezek. 11:19). Lest we be too harsh in our judgment of the Jews, it’s helpful to note the all-too-frequent impact of God’s chastening on Christian lives today. His rod of discipline often succeeds in curbing sinful behavior but not reforming the heart. The fault is not the Lord’s, who punishes His own as a loving Father (see Heb. 12:3-13). Rather, the fault lies with us when we choose to stubbornly endure rebuke rather than tenderly embrace our Savior.

Warren Wiersbe comments: “How sad it is when God disciplines us and we do not understand what He is doing or take it to heart (v. 25). Israel’s captivity in Babylon cured the nation of their idolatry, but it did not create within them a desire to please God and glorify Him” (Be Comforted, S. Is 41:1).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 25: He Will Destroy Death Forever

Isaiah 25: Listen to an audio file (4.26.09)

Download a worksheet on Isaiah 25 for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 25:8 – He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Quick summary:

Speaking in the first person, Isaiah describes conditions when Messiah’s kingdom is established on earth. “This wonderful twenty-fifth chapter is a song, a song of three stanzas,” writes J. Vernon McGee. The first stanza (vv. 1-5) is praise to God for deliverance from all enemies. The second stanza (vv. 6-8) is praise for provision for present needs. And the third stanza (vv. 9-12) is praise in anticipation of future joys (Isaiah: Volume 1, pp. 175-178).

Take note:

New Testament writers Paul and John quote from this chapter as they anticipate the return of the Lord. Paul borrows from Isa. 25:8 when he writes about our future resurrection and glorification, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). And John, looking toward the day when believers will fellowship face-to-face with Christ, also quotes from verse 8: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4).

Deliverance from Enemies (Isa. 25:1-5)

While there could be some immediate or near-term fulfillment in this song of thanksgiving, it’s probably best to view Isaiah’s praise through the longer lens of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. At that time all the enemies of God and His people will be humbled and there will be a dramatic reversal of fortune for the remnant that has suffered poverty, captivity and persecution. Isaiah’s confessional song expresses a personal choice to identify with the name and deeds of God. Claiming “Lord, You are my God,” Isaiah states his commitment to a personal relationship with the Creator and Judge of all. In a melodic way, the prophet declares the wonderful truth that God is personal, knowable, just and faithful.

Isaiah provides at least three reasons God’s people are to be thankful:

  • God is faithful to His plan. “Although Judah was being attacked by Assyria, the people could rest assured that what God has said about the future will happen exactly as predicted. Believers today can have the same confidence. Nothing is outside the plan or power of God; no evil or circumstances will interfere with God’s accomplishment of his will for his people” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 430).
  • God will defeat His enemies. The identification of “the city” in verse 2 has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from a Moabite city (see v. 10) to Babylon. But perhaps it’s best to view this term as symbolic rather than specific, assuring us that even the best-defended walled cities – the seats of power and influence – will fall beneath the mighty hand of God.
  • God is a refuge to the weak. Isaiah uses two analogies to illustrate this truth. First, the Lord will be like a shelter that protects people from the scorching sun and the driving rain. That is, He will make sure the oppressive forces of evil will not overtake them. Second, He will be like the shade of a cloud that subdues the heat. Although wicked and barbarous people will always oppose God and His people, the Lord will restrain their evil as a cloud gives relief from the heat of the sun.

If chapters 24-25 are spoken just before Sannacherib’s attack on Jerusalem, Isaiah’s song of thanksgiving is an inspiration to those about to face a withering siege on their capital city. “Although this prophecy did not promise them deliverance from Assyrian oppression or victory in their present battle, it reminded them that everything happens according to God’s plan, that their God can do miraculous wonders to save his people, that God is a refuge in times of trouble, and that ultimately God will win the victory over all ruthless peoples” (Smith, p. 431).

Provision for Present Needs (Isa. 25:6-8)

When Messiah reigns, there will be a joyous celebration of His rule by people from around the world. As other passages in Isaiah confirm, Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and nation will gather to enjoy the abundance of the King’s provision (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 45:20-25; 49:22; 60:1-22; 66:18-21). This feast is similar to what David envisions when God finally rules the earth (Ps. 22:25-31). The image of prosperity and fruitfulness stand in stark contrast to earthly conditions in Isaiah 24.

Besides all this, verses 7-8 tell us God is going to do even more. He will destroy death, wipe away tears from every face, and remove His people’s disgrace:

  • The burial “shroud” could be understood in two ways: first, as the covering for a dead body; and second, as a shroud that mourners place over their heads (see 2 Sam. 15:30). In either case, Isaiah sees a day when death is destroyed and there is no longer any need to fear death or to mourn the loss of loved ones. More than 700 years later, the apostle Paul looks forward to the same thing: “The last enemy to be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Once the enemies of God in heaven and on earth are judged, the Lord will purge His creation of sin and its effects (2 Peter 3:10-13).
  • In addition, God promises the complete removal of tears – not just tears of mourning, but of sadness, pain, loneliness, oppression, injustice and all other kinds of loss. Since God is the Provider and Comforter, everyone will be happy and safe.
  • Finally, the Lord will “remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth.” This is more than a promise to Israel, for at this point in human history all people are God’s people. The reproach His followers have suffered for their faith will be taken away and their sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom well compensated. The enemies of God and His people have been brought to justice in God’s court, found guilty and punished (see Rev. 20:11-15).

Anticipation of Future Joys (Isa. 25:9-12)

On that day, when the believing remnant is delivered and Messiah rules as King over the entire earth, the saved ones will rejoice in the Lord and reaffirm their trust in Him. For those in Isaiah’s day, they would see the miraculous hand of God in delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians as He strikes dead 185,000 enemy soldiers. If God can deliver a city from certain destruction, He can – and will – deliver His people all around the world from the rampant wickedness of the last days.

Isaiah refers to Moab as representative of those who oppose God and will be destroyed. Moab lies east of Israel across the Dead Sea and is a constant enemy of God’s people. “Israel and Judah had many altercations with Moab, that was known for her pride (v.11; cf. 16:6). She felt that the works of her hands and her cleverness would protect her, but it would not. Moab – and all God’s enemies – will be totally destroyed, trampled, and brought down … low (cf. 26:5) to the very dust. Only God’s people, in Israel and other nations, will enjoy God’s time of prosperity and blessing” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074).

Warren Wiersbe adds: “The imagery here is quite graphic: The Moabites are compared to straw trampled so deeply into manure that the people have to swim through the manure to get out! While the Jews are enjoying a feast of good things, the Moabites are trying to escape from the excrement of the animals the Jews are devouring! Moab was always known for its pride (16:6ff); but God will bring them low along with all the other nations that exalt themselves, exploit others, and refuse to submit to the Lord” (Be Comforted, S. Is 25:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes, “There is no fortress impregnable to Omnipotence, no fort so high but the arm of the Lord can overtop it and bring it down. This destruction of Moab is typical of Christ’s victory over death (spoken of v. 8), his spoiling principalities and powers in his cross (Col. 2:15), his pulling down Satan’s strong-holds by the preaching of his gospel (2 Co. 10:4), and his reigning till all his enemies be made his footstool, Ps. 110:1″ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 25:9).

Isaiah 19: Egypt’s Heart will Melt

Listen to an audio file (3.1.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

The oracle in Chapter 19 describes four different kings who are trying to control Egypt around 720 – 711 B.C., according to Gary V. Smith in The New American Commentary. If so, this would place Isaiah’s prophecy in the reigns of Judah’s kings Ahaz and Hezekiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 19:1 – Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it.

Quick summary:

D.A. Carson summarizes: “This oracle is a strong expression of the truth that God smites in order to heal (see v 22). The initial breakdown is followed by a renewal which goes beyond anything promised to a Gentile nation in the O.T. Perhaps Egypt is shown here in its two aspects: first, as the worldly power to which Israel was always looking (cf. 20:5) and secondly, as part of God’s world, for which he cares, with a place in his kingdom in which present ranks and races will be quite superseded” (New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, S. Is 18:1).

Take note:

While Egypt must suffer God’s judgment, Isaiah depicts a glorious day when the nation will be converted and worship Him. When the Egyptians are converted (vv. 18-22) they will openly honor the Lord with an altar in the center of the country and a pillar near the border (vv. 19-20). The Egyptians will offer sacrifices and gifts to the Lord (v. 21) and, along with the Assyrians and Israelites, joyfully serve Him (vv. 23-25). Other Old Testament prophets wrote of Egypt’s future as well (see Jer. 46; Ezek. 29-30).

The Lord’s Message to Egypt (Isa. 19:1-15)

Here and in other passages of Scripture the Lord is seen riding on a cloud (v. 1; see also Ps. 68:4, 33: 104:3). In Canaanite mythology, the same imagery is used of Baal, the god of rain and fertility. But the Lord, not Baal, is the true Giver of rain, something the Egyptians will sorely need (vv. 5-10). The Egyptians’ false gods will not be able to save them from approaching judgment. Forced to abandon their trust in idols that “tremble” before Yahweh, the Egyptians will be reduced to infighting, despair and defeat at the hands of “harsh masters” and “a strong king” (v. 4). Isaiah does not identify the strong king, but possibly it is the Ethiopian ruler Shabaka or the Assyrian king Sargon.

Matthew Henry writes: “Isis, Osiris, and Apis, those celebrated idols of Egypt, being found unable to relieve their worshippers, shall be disowned and rejected by them. Idolatry had got deeper rooting in Egypt than in any land besides, even the most absurd idolatries; and yet now the idols shall be moved and they shall be ashamed of them” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 19:1).

The Lord also will afflict the source of their livelihood, the Nile River, interrupting the annual flooding that brings water and mineral-rich silt to its banks. As a result, papyrus reeds, plants, and every cultivated crop will wilt. Fishermen using hooks or nets will fail to get their catch of fish in the receding, putrid waters. And those who derive their income from flax, or from linens made of flax or other materials, will lose their livelihood. The entire economy will come to a halt despite the feverish way they invoke their pantheon of gods.

Zoan and Memphis (vv. 11, 15) are the two largest cities in Lower (northern) Egypt in Isaiah’s time and serve as important administrative centers. Although many leaders in these cities profess themselves to be wise, steeped in the ways of their fathers, God has given them “a spirit of confusion” (v. 14) so that the princes are “complete fools” and Pharaoh’s wisest advisers offer “stupid advice” (v. 11). The nobles of Egypt boast of their antiquity, but even with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom, they are not able to see the calamity coming, or prevent it. “Without access to God’s wisdom and plan, people are left confused and misguided. Fearing God and depending on his wisdom is where every wise person must start (Prov. 1:7)” (Smith, p. 358).

Egypt Will Know the Lord (Isa. 19:16-25)

The six-fold refrain, “On that day …” (vv. 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24) points to the day of the Lord and features the conversion of the Gentiles – in this case, the conversion of Israel’s enemies, the Egyptians and Assyrians. This is a future promise of judgment followed by blessing.

Both Egypt and Judah will see their roles reversed in the days ahead. In contrast with Isaiah’s day, when Judah thinks about appealing to Egypt for help, a time will come when Egypt is in terror as she recognizes that Judah is the stronger nation, held firmly in the uplifted hand of the Lord Almighty.

The “five cities” (or “several cities”) of verse 18 are unknown but could represent the rest of the nation. The “City of the Sun,” however, likely is Heliopolis, a major city in the south of the Nile Delta dedicated to the worship of the sun god Re. The dramatic change in this city – where the Lord is exalted above all Egyptian gods – will demonstrate to the world that Egypt has repented of idolatry and placed its trust in the one true and living God.

Some commentators suggest that the cities mentioned here are near the Egyptian border and engaged in commerce with Israel. If so, the cities could be Heliopolis, Leontopolis, Migdol, Daphne (Tahpanes), and Memphis. Isaiah’s prophecy that the Egyptians will speak the “language of Canaan” (v. 18) likely means they will embrace the Jewish religion and desire to study God’s Word in its original language. When will all this take place? After the Messiah comes and sits on the throne of David (Zech. 14:9; John 17:21).

An interesting side note about verse 19: In about 170 B.C. a temple was built at Leontopolis by Onias IV, an ousted Egyptian priest who appealed to this verse as justification. But the intention of this passage, it seems, is to point out that this once profane land one day will become holy ground.

Verses 23-25 give us a magnificent foretaste of the Gentiles’ full inclusion in God’s kingdom. “Israel will have only an equal part (a third, 24; but not third place), and her distinctive titles will be shared out with her cruelest enemies” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 19:16). This must be an unbelievable prophecy for the listeners in Isaiah’s day. The nation’s sworn enemies, and pagans as well, one day will be God’s people, sharing in Israel’s covenant blessings, having their prayers heard and answered, offering sacrifices to the Lord, and receiving spiritual healing. It will happen, and from our New Testament perspective we may anticipate this day just as the faithful in Judah did 2,700 years ago.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith writes: “Knowing how the radical Muslims control much of Egypt, Iraq, and Iran today, this prophecy still seems an amazing promise of the miraculous transforming power of God’s presence and grace. The prayer of every believer should be that the people in their own nation would respond as the Egyptians will and consequently join the many nations that will worship at God’s throne some day in the future” (p. 364).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips