Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 62
COMPARING AMERICA TODAY WITH ISRAEL OF OLD
ISAIAH 57:3 – 60:22
It’s so good to see everybody again this afternoon. We just thank the Lord for a beautiful day in Oklahoma. We pray that as we open the Scriptures again today that hearts will be blessed and opened from one end of this country to the other. For those of you joining us on television, and we know that every day we have new listeners, we pray that the Spirit will open your understanding.
Okay, we’re in the beginning of book number 62, and the next twelve programs will be part and parcel of book 62. How much will be in Isaiah? I’m not sure yet, but these first four programs will be. So, let us turn to Isaiah 57. We’re going to pick up pretty much where we left off in our last taping.
I guess I should do this at the beginning of every four programs, I want to keep reminding our folks that Isaiah writes 700 years before Christ. He writes almost 100 years before the Babylonian captivity, which is his primary warning to the people of the things to come, that the enemy will be overrunning them. But on the other hand, remember, Isaiah doesn’t limit his prophecy to just the oncoming Babylonian captivity. He’s also looking forward to the Roman destruction of the city in 70 AD when they would be dispersed into every nation of the world. Then he also looks forward to the very end and the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.
So, as we’ve been stressing, you have to almost dissect it yourself – is he talking about the near term? Is he talking about the mid-term? Or, is he talking about the final end? Some of them all meld together. But, the warnings and everything concerning Israel are with the view that one day the Glory of the Lord will still come upon them in spite of their unbelief and their rebelliousness.
So, the whole book of Isaiah is almost a roller coaster of the spiritual climate of the nation of Israel. When they are in a spiritual high, the Lord is blessing them. Then, it isn’t long until they go down into abject wickedness and idolatry. After the Babylonian captivity the Jews were never again guilty of idolatry. That’s one of the unique things of Scripture. Idolatry was the thing that caused God’s wrath that caused the judgment that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. But, when they came back from the 70 years in Babylon, they never again were guilty of idolatry.
But, as Isaiah writes, this is the number one thing that God has against the nation of Israel – their abject falling into idolatry. To such a pitiful extent, as we’re going to see here in the very first few verses, that even Israel, God’s chosen people, would go so far down into abject idolatry as to do the they did.
“But draw nigh hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.” Now, why in the world such language? Well, in antiquity, to refer to someone as the “son of a prostitute” was about as low a term as you could put on him. It was a term of scorn. So, this is how God is referring to His chosen people, Israel.
Now, remember whenever you see these sexual connotations here, it’s not physical, it’s spiritual. When we speak of adultery here it’s not physical adultery. It was spiritual adultery when Israel would start having relationships with pagan gods and goddesses instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All right, so here’s how He refers to the children of Israel, a term of scorn, “you who are the offspring of a prostitute.” Remember, even Hosea, by illustration, married a prostitute who gave him children but went back to the street and finally comes back and becomes the restored, forgiven wife of Hosea. This again, is just a typical picture of Israel.
“Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue?…” Now, you know I had to read that three or four times before it hit me. You know what he’s talking about? What do kids usually do when they make a face? They stick out the tongue. Well, that’s exactly the expression used here and you know what? It happened during the campaign didn’t it? Yeah, one of our ladies in the middle of the campaign stuck out her tongue at somebody. Well, it’s nothing new. It’s way back here in Isaiah’s day. So, that’s what Israel was doing to God! They were literally sticking out their tongue at Him in scornful rebellion.
You know, whenever I bring some of these things out of Isaiah I get a kick out of you in the audience how you suddenly catch on that this is exactly what’s in vogue today. There’s nothing new under the sun! Everything that has been will be Ecclesiastes tells us. All right and he says:
“…against whom [do you stick out the tongue]? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,” They are absolutely ignorant of truth, but they’re steeped in falsehood and false religions.
“Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree,…” What were they doing? Wherever there was a tree, they had idols. They were constantly worshipping those idols. Now, we’re not talking about Gentiles, we’re not talking about the Egyptians or the Babylonians, these are Israelites! All right, now watch the next portion. This is enough to make your stomach turn.
“…slaying the children (the babies, the little ones) in the valleys under the cliffs of the rocks?” Now, in order to get the full explanation of that verse I have to bring you up to verse 9.
“And thou wentest to the king…” Now the word king here in the Hebrew is the pagan god Molock. Now most of you remember that Molock was associated with what? Fire. He was called the ‘fire god’ and the depiction of the idol was a huge, ugly looking thing with great outstretched arms. And what would they do with those arms? Heat them white hot. And then lay their children on them as an offering to this pagan god. That was Israel! Unbelievable!
“And thou wentest to the king (you went to that great idol Molock) with ointment, (to pacify) and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, (in other words, to the prophets, like Isaiah, get out of here we don’t want you around here. We want to do this by ourselves. So, they laid their children on these white-hot arms of Molock.) and didst debase thyself even unto hell.” All right, this valley referred to in verse 5 was actually called, I think in another place here in the section, we may come up to it later, and it was the “valley of Tophet.” The word “toph” in the Hebrew was “drum.”
Okay, now put all this together. In this valley in which this fire god Molock was located, and where they offered their little infant children and their small children on those white hot arms of Molock, what would those children do? Scream! Now, in order to cover up the screams, what would they do? Beat the drums. That’s what the word toph means in Hebrew, a drum. So, it was called the valley of drums in order to drown out the hideous screams of their little children. Isn’t it awful?
Now, I was reading an account of a friend that just came back from Thailand. He left me some stuff to read. Some of the people amongst whom he was working not too many years ago were being intensely persecuted by the Burmese. It showed a picture of a fellow who had escaped them. But before he escaped they had actually held his feet in open fire to burn them so that he couldn’t walk. Well, see, we’re not accustomed to that kind of stuff in America, but that’s what’s going on around the world. I told Mike as he left, you know, almost every morning I pray that the Lord will come quickly. Not to take us out of our misery because we’ve got it pretty good, but for the sake of people like that who in other areas of the world are suffering beyond our comprehension, for whatever reason or another.
Not only in the area of Christianity but in other areas, you take Africa and the Sudan, these people are being murdered and slaughtered, so it behooves us to pray that the Lord will come. But it’s been this way since antiquity where people have been brought into places of such suffering. All right, come back to verse 5, and this is what the picture is, they were bringing their little children and offering them to the fire god Molock under the noise of these incessant drums that would drown out, hopefully, the screams of their little ones.
“Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the cliffs of the rocks? 6. Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion;…” Now, unless you understand some of antiquity, that doesn’t mean much. What do you suppose they were doing with these smooth stones from the creek bed? Making them an idol! Now, watch the rest of the verse and it’ll make sense.
“…they, (these smooth stones from the creek bed) they are thy lot: even to them (these worthless stones) thou has poured out a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I (God says) receive comfort in these?” Well, to whom would people pour out a drink and meat offering? A god. See how ridiculous people can get? We think it’s bad, but hey, we don’t know the half of it.
Now, I know we’ve got a segment in our society that are all in a dither. They can’t imagine that people would vote based on moral values. But, you see they don’t get it! They can’t comprehend that. But listen, Israel was even further down than that. They would actually go find a nice smooth stone in a creek bed, take it home and make it an idol! Now then, God says to these Israelites, “Should I receive comfort in these?” Is that part of your worship of Me? Well, absolutely not.
“Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: (Now, the word bed here is an ‘altar,’ a pagan altar.) even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.” Not to a sleeping bed, but to an altar. Now, verse 8:
“Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me,…” Now again, what does the term ‘discover thyself’ mean? Take off the clothes! Like someone preparing for an adulterous act physically. Can’t do it until they take off the clothes. Well, that’s exactly what’s mentioned here. Israel, nationally, had literally taken off their spiritual clothes to appear to the pagan gods as something they would want to have a relationship with. So, here’s the language:
“…and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, (altar again instead of the word bed) and made thee a covenant with them; (Who? Pagan gods) thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.”
Well now, lest you think that this is just uniquely Isaiah, we do this quite often because it’s just so graphically easy to understand. Turn with me to Jeremiah 44. Now again, you’ve got to remember that Jeremiah is much the same kind of a prophet, but he’s writing approximately 100 years later. Jeremiah is now writing at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Isaiah is writing a hundred years before it, but their prophecies coincide so beautifully because they’re both dealing with the same wickedness in the Nation of Israel – idolatry.
All right, in Jeremiah 44 starting at verse 15. Now don’t forget, this is Israel! The Israelites! The offspring of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and they’ve got the Temple down there at Jerusalem. The Law, of course, has almost been lost. They don’t even know where it is.
“Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, (who were guilty of that) a great multitude, even all the peoplethat dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,” Now, these were Jews who had been down in those foreign nations; they answered Jeremiah saying:
“As for the word that thou has spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, (Jehovah) we will not hearken (or listen) unto you. 17. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth,…” What is that? That’s rebellion. They’re not going to do what God says to do.
“…[we’re going] to burn incense unto (whom?) the queen of heaven,…” A female goddess and whenever mankind back in antiquity worshipped the female goddesses, the sexual immorality went to the greatest depths. That was just part and parcel of the worship of these female goddesses.
“…and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings,and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: (imagine!) for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.” Now, that was a lie, because it was the other way around.
“But since we left off burning incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.” They got it wrong. Why were they being consumed by famine and the sword? It was because they were worshipping the queen of heaven instead of the God of Heaven. Isn’t it amazing how the human race can be so, what’s the word? Ignorant. Idiotic. Yeah, that’s what it is.
Okay, back to Isaiah chapter 57, the time is just about gone already. Now, verse 10:
“Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. 11. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou has lied, and hast not remembered me, (God says through the prophet) nor laid it to thy heart? have I not held my piece even of old, and thou fearest me not?”
“I will declare thy righteousness and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. 13. When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain.” In other words, there was always that small percentage of believers even in abject idolatrous Israel. There was still that small segment of believers, and those believers are still going to inherit the promises of Israel’s God.
“And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people. 15. For thus saith the high and lofty One (another term for God) that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, (In other words, a believer in Israel had that relationship with the God of Abraham just as well as some of the patriarchs themselves.) to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” That is the true believers. Now, verse 16, we’re going to move quickly, because I want to get into a later chapter in the next program.
“For (God says) I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. 17. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth,…” Now, whenever you see the word covetousness in the Old Testament, it usually is associated with idolatry. Coveting and idolatry and even Paul will put those two words together over and over. They were hand in glove – coveting and idolatry.
“For the iniquity (then) of [their idolatry], was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. (speaking of Israel as a Nation) 18. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 19. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.” Now, that reminds me of a verse way up in Romans. Let’s see how Paul puts it, because we still like to compare Scripture with Scripture whenever possible.
Come up with me to Romans chapter 10, and Paul uses almost the same language for us today. Even though chapter 10 is directed first and foremost to Jewish people, yet it is so appropriate for us. Lets start with verse 6. Now, this is Paul and he says:
“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7. Or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in they mouth, and in thy heart; (What word?) that is, the word of faith, which we preach;”
Here is the word of faith for us.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, (or that Jesus is Lord) and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” All right, now of course, Israel wasn’t being approached with faith in the death, burial, and resurrection as we are today, but nevertheless, they were to approach the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by faith. They had to believe that He was. They had to be obedient to His Word. Now, back to Isaiah 57, and in the closing minutes let’s look at the last two verses,
“But…” Regardless Old Testament or New, “But” still means what? The Flipside! The just will live by faith and God will honor that faith. They’re going to have peace with God because they know that His righteousness has been imputed unto them. But, the flipside:
“But the wicked (the unbelieving) are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters (speaking of the sea now) cast up mire and dirt.” I imagine Floridians could tell us about that after all their hurricanes, how the sea can roar and be riled up with that which lies on the bottom. That’s the lost person, because now look at the last verse.
“There is no peace, saith my God, (to what people?) to the wicked.” Oh, they can drown out and they can try to cover it with all of their raucous activity, but do they have peace in the hearts? No! So many of our wealthy, especially athletes and entertainers, can take it in by the millions. Are they happy? Are they content? No. Most of them, in a few years, are bankrupt because…why? They spent all their millions trying to find a certain amount of peace. And to the wicked “There is no peace,” and never can be.
All right, now on the other hand, let’s again go back to Romans. This time let’s stop at Romans chapter 5, and what a difference between the peaceless existence of the wicked and the peaceful existence of the believer.
“Therefore (And remember, when we taught Romans we always point out when Paul uses ‘therefore’ he’s referring to that which went before.) being justified by faith,…” Now for us our faith is in that finished work of the cross – “that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead!” All right, when we trust that, then we’re justified by that kind of faith, and if we’re justified what do we have?
“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” No believer has to fear going into God’s presence. If the trumpet call should happen today, we don’t have to be shaking in our boots. If death should suddenly come, we don’t have to be afraid of death, “because we have peace with God.” I can’t skip verse 2.
“By whom (that is the Lord Jesus Christ) also we have access by faith (Not works, we don’t work for it, we simply believe it. We trust in what Christ has done and what He has promised.) into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” That’s our lot as a believer. Well, Israel had much the same opportunity in antiquity. Now, they weren’t placing faith in a death, burial, and resurrection. They were placing their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Israel. All they had to do was be obedient to what He told them as a nation of people, but were they? No. For the most part they utterly rejected all of His commandments. They rejected all of His requirements for temple worship and all that. They wanted new things. They’d rather run down and worship some pagan idol. They would rather offer their own children than to exercise faith in the God of Abraham.