Background Scripture: Isaiah 6-7; Jeremiah 1, 36
Quotes of the Week:
Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10.
The next six or seven lessons will be centered on Jesus, the one who is like no other. In it, we will be briefly talking about prophecies regarding Jesus, His birth, His miracles, His teaching, His death, His resurrection and His ascension. There is truly none like Jesus. There never has been and there never will be anyone like Jesus. If we were to talk about any other human, we may talk about their birth, their teaching (or a summary of their lives) and their death. However, nobody else was prophesied beforehand and lived their lives in a way that was consistent to those prophecies. There have been high profile people, but absolutely none that have impacted the world the way that Jesus did. We can hardly remember the people in the news from 10 or 20 years ago, yet we know more about Jesus, His life and His death, than we do of anybody else that has ever lived.
In this lesson, we briefly get into the prophecies of Christ. We won't examine them in detail, but you can find lists of over 300 Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Some may question a few, but there are an overwhelming number of prophecies that were clearly fulfilled in the birth, life and death of Christ. No other religious system has been as bold as Christianity to speak of prophesies in their "holy" Scriptures. Many of these religious works exist to point their followers to a simpler, more satisfactory life. Some are records of history and desire for the future, but do not contain prophecy. There are other 'prophets' that people have alluded to at times - Nostradamus is one that has attempted to predict the future. When his writings appear to be consistent with events in the world, you often have to let your thinking take a leap to match his predictions to what has happened. His writings never got specific enough to be "right" or "wrong". In fact, Nostradamus was likely a clever guy, writing his prophecies in such a way for open interpretation. Even when it can be 'assumed' that he got one right, he certainly does not qualify as a prophet according to the Scriptures. In Scripture, a true prophet is consistent with the rest of Scripture, ALL of their prophecies will come to pass and the prophet's prophesies will humble people, as opposed to puff them up. A prophet speaks God's word and not his own words. The aspects of prophets is fascinating to many and would make a good study, however this lesson is not that study.
This lesson will give a brief highlight on two of the more familiar prophets (by name) from the Old Testament, Isaiah and Jeremiah. In fact, the lesson is even less about the men but more about the fact that they are prophets. We will see some similarities in them, and some of these similarities still are applicable to many in the Christian faith today. As opposed to most of the lessons that we have written in the past, each section will take about a chapter as opposed to going through each selected verse. (There are four entire chapters referenced in this lesson)
In his vision, Isaiah saw the Lord and was taken aback by the worship and exclamation of holiness upon the Lord. He heard "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." When Isaiah recognized the supreme Holiness of God, he cried out "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." When any of us begins to understand the holiness of God, we have an even clearer picture of our own sin. In fact, it is impossible to approach God without realizing that we should never be able to approach Him based on our own goodness.
Seraphim were singing to the Lord and one flew to Isaiah with a live coal in his hand, taken from the altar. He touched the coal to Isaiah's mouth and said "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." The only way for a prophet to be able to share the Word of the Lord is to be able to approach the Lord and be accepted.
Then, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And then, Isaiah said "Here am I, send me!" It is incredible that Isaiah first saw that he was not worthy, yet now he was more than willing, if not excited, to go as the Lord's spokesmen.
The message that Isaiah was told by God to tell was that His people would hear, but not understand. They would see, but not perceive. Their hearts would begin calloused and their ears dull. They would close their eyes. This was all part of God's plan. Wouldn't you like to be able to give a word from God, if you were a prophet that would be uplifting to others? However, this was part of God's plan. All of Scripture points to God's plan, which is in the cross of Jesus. Some may think that God had to come up with Plan B, as events in the world would alter the original course. Prophecies long before the life of Jesus Christ show that God was fully aware of what was going to happen.
Isaiah said that God had a sign to give, not just for Ahaz, but for all of humanity. The sign is familiar to many of us, from Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, meaning God with us." As believers, we read this and can easily connect the dots with the virgin birth of Jesus. In both Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25) and Luke (Luke 1:26-38), we can read details involving the birth of Jesus, who was born about 700 years after the time of Isaiah. Both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary and that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Lord said to Jeremiah, "Do not say, 'I am too young.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched Jeremiah's mouth and said, "I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."
The Lord spoke to Jeremiah in visions, to show him that God was watching to see that His word was being fulfilled and to see that disaster would be poured on all who live in the land. The people of Judah had become wicked and had begun burning incense to others gods and worshiping what their hands had made. Jeremiah was to go before the people and stand up and say whatever God commanded him to do. God would be with Him and Jeremiah was not to be terrified by them. What would you do if you were Jeremiah? God had already taken his one excuse away, but he would have to say some very difficult things. What would you do?
Baruch did as Jeremiah had told him to do. He read the words of the Lord from the scroll at the Lord's temple. There were people from many towns in Judah. As the words were spoken, the officials sent for Baruch, saying "Bring the scroll from which you have read to the people and come." He came to them with the scroll and they said "Sit down, please, and read it to us."
The people listened, but after they had heard the words, they looked at each other in fear and said that these words must be reported to the king. Then they started asking questions about where the words came from and were told that Baruch wrote the words as they were dictated. The officials believed the words, but began to fear the reaction of the king, so they told Baruch to go back and find Jeremiah and then go hide, without letting anyone know where they were.
The officials went and reported everything to the king. The king told them to get the scroll and read it to the king and his officials. As it was winter, there was a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. After a bit had been read, the king asked for the scroll and cut pieces off and threw them into the fire. Neither he nor his attendants showed any fear of the Lord. Some urged the king to not burn the scroll, but he would not listen to them, and, well, he was the king. Then, he commanded some men to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. However, they were unable to find Baruch or Jeremiah.
The word of the Lord once again came to Jeremiah and he was to take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll. They were also to give words to the king saying, 'This is what the LORD says: You burned that scroll and said, "Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?" The king didn't like what he read, but that didn't stop Jeremiah from saying it again, and prophesying against the king. The king would have no one to sit on the throne of David and his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. God's punishment would be on the king and his children and his attendants for their wickedness. Additionally, rather than relenting from the original words, God would bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster He had pronounced against them, because they did not listen. You would have to imagine the reaction would be similar, if not worse than before.
God took care of both of their excuses. God had a seraphim touch a live coal to Isaiah's lips and God's hand touched Jeremiah's mouth. It is interesting that both of them had parts of their lips or mouth touched, as they would be God's spokesmen. The mouth seems to fit with those whose words are being used. If you feel that God has ever called you to a task, what excuses have you used? If God wants you to do something and your job is a problem, your job may be in jeopardy. If you are too busy, you may find yourself slowing down. If you are fearful to speak, He will give you courage. What does God need to touch for you?
Both of these men had specific words to give to kings. If they had changed the words to be more receptive, their words would have been naught. We need to remember what God has said are the words that He said. The world may want the story told differently. In Paul's letters, he wrote that he did not come with flowery speech and did not speak with human wisdom. Although Paul could have spoken with much intellect, he knew that the power of the cross is not based on human intellect, but based on what God has done and what He will do. As Christians, we are not to be salesman, saying whatever it takes to make the sales. We are to go with the power of the gospel and everything should point to that.
So, what does this say to you? What excuses are you using to not do what God has called you to do? What does God need to touch? It was vital that Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke the words that God said. As you share your faith, realize that it is His words that are important. Yes, it is good to know your story, but realize that it isn't your delivery that wins people to the gospel. It is God's power.
There will be reaction to God's words that are similar to the king's reaction to what Jeremiah had dictated and were recorded in the scroll. Rather than showing any remorse, the king and those around him stood up against God and wanted to attack His messengers. Today, you may find that people are not willing to listen to the gospel, despite the fact that it brings salvation to them. Many will find it offensive to hear that eternity only comes through Jesus Christ. However, are you and I willing to say what God wants us to say and to point others to Christ?
People used to ask Charles Spurgeon why all of his sermons sounded the same. In many ways, that had to be a compliment. He once said "I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross". Every time we share our faith, this should also be the goal. Do the words you speak and the things you do point to the cross or somewhere else? The prophecies in Scripture and all of Scripture point to Jesus Christ, the one who is like no other.