Today: [Isaiah 29] Woe to Ariel, the City of David: In this chapter Isaiah calls the city of Jerusalem “Ariel” which means “Lion of God”. The people of the city considered themselves the very expression of spiritual fervor but in fact Isaiah points out how cold hearted they have become toward the message and the messengers that the Father sent to them. The warning from Isaiah is that the entrenched self-interest of the people would eventually lead to their run. Yet in the midst of what Isaiah describes as a total destruction of Jerusalem there is a promise of a remnant that shall return and serve the Lord.
[Isa 29:1-24 KJV] 1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city [where] David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. 2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. 3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. 4 And thou shalt be brought down, [and] shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. 5 Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones [shall be] as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. 6 Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. 7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. 8 It shall even be as when an hungry [man] dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, [he is] faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
In this chapter Isaiah speaks against the city of Jerusalem and predicts its eventual destruction. It is no wonder that Isaiah ultimately is martyred given the insistent and unflinching manner in which he delivers the word of the Lord and refuses to look away from the sins of the city. It is observable as well that just as God speaks of the city of Jerusalem He deals likewise with all the independent cities of the earth. What would be in your view the word of the Lord over your city? Would the prophet that God might raise up over your city be comforting and speak gently to the people, or would he bring a word of correction and warning? If you are sent into a particular city, or into a relationship with a neighbor and you are rejected, what is to be your response? Jesus spoke extensively in terms of the Father’s mind not only toward individuals but toward families and cities as a whole:
[Mat 10:14-15 KJV] 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
We tend not to think this way. We have been taught that spiritual matters and an individual consideration and that there is no broader application in terms of the mind of God or the will of God toward a nation or a larger group. This rebuking or addressing whole cities was not just something the old testament prophets indulged in but Jesus Himself as well:
[Mat 11:20-22 KJV] 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
Again, we tend not to think this way because in our Western world view we exclude cities and nations from accountability to God and make it a strictly personal and individual matter. We are taught in our religious culture how an individual establishes a proper response to God but how about an entire city or a nation? How does a nation, or a city, your city get right with God? What would the repentance of a city look like? We don’t even think this way because even in the church we have accepted the politically inviolate mandate of excluding God and religious, spiritual matters from the public square. When Jesus instructed His disciples regarding their apostolic mission He assigned them not just to reach out to individuals but to confront whole nations with the claims of Christ:
[Mat 24:14 KJV] 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
[Mat 28:19 KJV] 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
How do you teach a nation? How do you teach or disciple a city? The very nature of our society excludes even the platform that would make this possible. To reach a city with anything other than an anemic religious message is impossible without radical signs, miracles and wonders. The ambient unbelief in our communities, and the manner in which our society systemically rejects the gospel even within Christian culture requires an absolutely radical intervention even to get the attention of the people. If our message is ignored or rejected Jesus said in Matt. 10:14 that we are then to leave that city and travel to the next. This mandate was historically carried out as we know from first century narratives that the apostles and prophets of the early church were very transient in their activities, never staying too long in one place. It gives us pause when by contrast we see leadership and structure in Christian culture being more inclined to focus on permanence in assignment rather than taking an honest measure about whether or not they are actually reaching the city where they may be stationed or located. What would you do if God told you that your city wasn’t receiving your witness and that you were to put your house on the market and move?
9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. 11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed: 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, [even] a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall be hid. 15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Isaiah reproves the people for having no hunger for understanding the word of God. The prophets and the rulers were looking at the scrolls of God’s word and handing them off to others saying “this is too deep for me – let someone else read this, I don’t have time…” In our time we have made neglect of the word of God into a virtue as though to say “I have personal things to attend to, a job to go earn a living, or children I need to take to the soccer game – I don’t have time to spend in God’s word…” Because of this attitude in Jerusalem Isaiah declares that the Lord will send a spirit of slumber upon them to close their eyes from the truth. We see this even in the New Testament where it is declared that a veil of unbelief rests upon the whole Jewish people because they generationally and literally for 1000’s of years rejected the message and the messengers sent to them by the Father.
16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? 17 [Is] it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? 18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. 19 The meek also shall increase [their] joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: 21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. 22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. 23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. 24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.
The people in Isaiah’s day were listening to what Isaiah was saying and replying “if this is what God’s message is – then He doesn’t understand what we are facing…” In other words the people were holding God accountable for the existence of a total disconnect they perceived between what they were concerned about and what they were choosing in terms of their own lifestyle rather than what God’s word actually said. As one lady observed on the way out of the sanctuary one Sunday morning – “what does any of this even have to do with me…” She walked away from God shortly after that and completely repudiated her born again experienced and her life was made completely shipwreck. Yet in the midst of that she has never repented or for one moment given evidence that perhaps she erred by choosing her own opinions and intransigent self-interest over the claims of Christ.
The chapter concludes on a note of hope that in the midst of hearts that had grown cold toward the things of God that there would be a remnant that would hear and return. Though the house of Jacob will be ashamed yet those that erred in spirit shall eventually come to understanding. God never casts off those He loves forever. He continues to send them messengers and in this case eventually sends His own son to draw the people back to a place of faithfulness and acceptance of His Lordship and rule over their lives.
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