19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said. (John 1:19–23, NKJV)
We must know who we are. Christians are the children of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of righteousness (1 Jno. 3:1-3; Acts 11:26; Rom. 6:17-18). John knew who he was. Being repeatedly asked, “Who are you?” John quoted Isaiah 40:3, declaring himself to be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. John was not the Christ; he announced the Christ to Israel (Jno. 1:29-34; 3:28). John was not Elijah. He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” and called on Israel to repent (“to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”) “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:16-17). Jesus identified John as Malachi’s prophesied Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12). John was not “the Prophet” predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:18-19). He would decrease as Jesus increased and spoke the words of God (Jno. 3:30-34). John knew who he was. He fulfilled his God-given work. Do you know who you are? If so, then use today to do the work God has given you (Rom. 12:3-8).
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5–6, NKJV)
Jeremiah wrote spoke prophetically of Jesus Christ the King. He is the “Branch of righteousness” raised up by Yahweh to reign, to execute justice and righteousness, to bring salvation and safety to the people of God. Jeremiah’s predecessors, Isaiah and Micah, spoke of His coming reign of justice and righteousness (Isa. 2:2-4; 11:1-5; Micah 4:1-8). Jeremiah’s contemporary, Ezekiel, anticipated a shepherd prince who would feed God’s sheep and God would make a covenant of peace with them to dwell safely and receive “showers of blessing” from the Lord (Ezek. 34:24-28). Later, Zechariah reassured Jerusalem their king would come with salvation, riding on the foal of a donkey and speaking peace to the nations (Zech. 9:9-10; Matt. 21:1-10). God has delivered what He promised. The righteous Branch of David has come bringing salvation from sin, peace with God, and showers of blessings as the sheep of His flock (Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 1:3; Jno. 10:15-16, 26-29). Do not be misled into looking for a future return of Jesus to reign as king on the earth. The King is on David’s throne now, reigning at the right hand of God (Acts 2:29-36; Heb. 1:8-13). Jeremiah said, “the days are coming,” and those days have arrived. Christ’s kingdom is His church (Acts 2:44; Mk. 1:14-15; 9:1; Matt. 16:18-19). Praise God for His great redemptive plan and the eternal spiritual blessings available to us all in His Son!
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16, NKJV)
The whole world was in darkness when the Son of God arrived on the scene (Jno. 1:4-5, 9). Here, by dwelling in Capernaum, Jesus was fulfilling Israel’s prophetic anticipation of liberty and light (Isa. 9:1-2). Numerous invaders had pillaged and oppressed the Galilean region throughout Israel’s history (Syria, 1 Kgs. 15:20; Assyria, 2 Kgs. 15:29). Now, the first to be crushed by oppression and death would be the first to see the Messiah’s light of truth. The promised kingdom was near, so Jesus called the Galileans to repent (Matt. 4:17, 23). His kingdom has now come (Mk. 9:1). All who come to His light and follow Him are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of marvelous light (Jno. 8:12; 12:35-36; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Jesus is shining for you. Escape sin’s darkness and death. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and have eternal life (Jno. 8:12).
28 … And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:28–31, NKJV)
This man from Ethiopia was reading the Scriptures. He wanted to understand them, yet he recognized his need to be taught their meaning. He put his desire into action by asking Philip to join him in his chariot, upon which he identified the text he was reading and asked Philip, “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of someone else” (Acts 8:32-34)? Philip started with that Scripture and preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). Our willingness to be taught the Scriptures says some important things about us. It says we want to know God’s will. It says to learn we must have the humility to ask for instruction. It says we do not have all the answers, but the Scriptures do. We learn from this encounter that the Scriptures can be understood. We learn the Scriptures are the source of information to learn about Jesus (not human wisdom, church traditions, credal confessions, etc.). And, we learn God wants us to teach His Scriptures to others. So, we must want to learn from the Scriptures. And, we must want to teach the Scriptures. Both are crucial to faith and salvation in Jesus (Acts 8:36-39).
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:14–16, NKJV)
Jerusalem was besieged and it appeared the city would soon be captured by Assyria. God’s prophet assured king Hezekiah that God would overthrow the Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:1-7). Now, messengers from Assyria’s king delivered a letter of intimidation and reproach to the king of Judah (Isaiah 37:8-13). Hezekiah’s faith remained in the Lord, and he brought the threat before Him. In verse 16, Hezekiah honored three attributes of God that we do well to remember when we come to God in time of trouble. He honored 1) God’s holiness and mercy (“the One who dwells between the cherubim” referred to the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple), 2) God’s sovereignty as the One true God (“You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and 3) God as Creator of all things (“You have made heaven and earth”). When the enemies of truth and righteousness press down upon Christians, we assure our hearts and our faith with these eternal truths. Let us follow Hezekiah’s good example of faith. God does not forsake the faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).
“Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; He is utterly cut off.” (Nahum 1:15, NKJV)
Using language similar to an earlier prophet (Isaiah), Nahum announces the joy of Judah upon hearing the news of Nineveh’s overthrow. He pictures a messenger traversing the mountains to bring good news that the wicked enemy had been defeated and would no longer plague them. As the messenger proclaims peace, Judah is called to worship Jehovah free of the enemy’s oppression. Isaiah used these words to declare the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:9; 52:7). In Romans 1:15 the apostle Paul used this figure to describe preaching the gospel. Like Isaiah and Nahum, the gospel contains both the message of salvation in Jesus Christ and the defeat of our enemies. Like the proclamation of Nineveh’s defeat, the gospel of Christ proclaims peace with God because our enemies, sin and death, are defeated (John 12:31-33). It is by preaching this good news that sinners hear, believe and call on the Lord for salvation (Romans 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 2:36-41). With the oppression of sin removed in Christ, we now serve Him with the joy of salvation (Philippians 4:4-9).
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3, NKJV)
Christians are evangelistic. We urge others to join us in the kingdom of God, to learn His ways and to walk in His paths. The gospel of Christ went into all the world beginning at Jerusalem to proclaim God’s salvation to the world (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38-41). Have you shared the saving gospel with anyone lately? Have you urged them to come to the kingdom and be blessed by the King? Let us use the Jerusalem gospel to call the lost to salvation. It has the power to give the kingdom blessings of redemption and eternal life to those who are lost in sin (Romans 1:16-17). Come and learn the ways of God. Come and walk in His paths. Find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30).
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.” (Isaiah 2:1–2, NKJV)
Far from being a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled, Isaiah lifts his eyes beyond the Judah and Jerusalem of his day to see what would transpire in the days beyond his own (Micah 4:1-3). Just as Peter said the “last days” of which Joel spoke were being fulfilled on Pentecost, even so this prophecy looks to the days of the Messiah’s reign and redemption for its fulfillment (Acts 2:16-17; 1 Peter 1:19-21). This grand portrait of the mountain of the Lord’s house rising above the mountain tops depicts the strength and power of the kingdom of God, the church, to which all nations flow (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; Hebrews 12:21-24, 28). It is the gospel of the kingdom that calls the lost to come and live in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Ancient Judah and Jerusalem fell as punishment for their sins. Isaiah sees heavenly Jerusalem, freed from sin’s bondage and exalted in the heavenly places in Christ (Hebrews 12:22; Ephesians 2:19-22). This kingdom, the church, is superior to all the kingdoms of men. The gospel call rings out, urging you to come and enter the kingdom, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Acts 2:36-41; Colossians 1:13-14).
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isaiah 30:8–10, NKJV)
God wanted there to be no doubt as to why Israel would come under the penalty of His judgment and be fragmented as a nation (Isaiah 30:12-14; Jeremiah 30:11). The prophet’s inscription of God’s word has left an indelible explanation that instructs us today. Like the rebellion of lying children who refuse to obey their parents, Israel rebelliously rejected and opposed God’s servants the prophets (Jeremiah 7:23-27). They rebelled at His word and called for smooth teachings instead of the right things of God. They were willing to be deceived by sin and error. Their rebellion was their downfall. Do not argue against the word of God. Do not call for smooth teachings that feel good but deny the truth (God’s word). One who refuses the truth of God is in rebellion against God. That is a most unenviable, most repulsive, place to be. If that is where you are, leave your rebellion and go back to your heavenly Father. He is merciful, and ready to forgive (Luke 15:11-24).
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6–7, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of Israel was reaching its zenith in the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13-14). Israel gave Jehovah lip service, while serving idols, and demanding their own teachings be regarded as divine truth. This verse gives us God’s definition of a hypocritical heart: While saying one honors God, he elevates his own will above the will of the Almighty. Hypocrisy is pretense, pretending to be what one is not. The Greek word was applied to the actor who wore a mask, pretending to be a character in a drama. Christ applied this term to the Pharisees and scribes of His day. Their words honored God, but their hearts were given over to the commandments of men. The Jews had codified their oral traditions (the Mishnah). These men whom Jesus rebuked judged a violation of their traditions to be a violation of God’s law (see Mark 7:8-9). We must avoid accepting human traditions as if they are the will of God, lest we join hands with the hypocrites of Christ’s day. Revealed truth, not the traditions of men, must guide our hearts and our deeds. Otherwise, our worship will be vain.