The birth described in Isaiah 66:7-9 is no ordinary birth; the extraordinary characteristics are as follows:
“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.”
The birth is so sudden that it happened before labor. What would an expectant mother give to deliver before any pain? However, this is no physical birth, rather “Zion” is personified as a mother who suddenly gives birth to a nation. Earlier in Isaiah, Zion (Israel) is depicted as a mother who gives birth to the Servant who causes her wayward children to return (Isaiah 49). To a weary remnant of faithful Jews, the question of whether Israel would ever be restored to its former glory was pressing. The answer is that the Lord would bring about something greater than any physical nation; He would do something unprecedented. God, in his eternal purpose, was going to bring forth a spiritual nation in one day. This certainly would be unique, unparalleled in history. Hence, the questions, “Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things?” (v. 8). But God had brought Zion forth to the time of birth; there was no way that He would shut the womb—let anything stop the birth of His spiritual nation.
Isaiah 66 goes on to describe how God’s glory would be declared among the Gentiles (v. 18), that both Jews and Gentiles would be part of bringing an offering to the Lord (v. 20) as God would take of both Jews and Gentiles to make priests to Him. The church is described as “a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Those redeemed by Christ’s blood from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation are made kings and priests (Revelation 5:9-10). When Christ came into the world, He preached that God’s kingdom was nearby (Matthew 4:17). He promised to build His church and give access to the kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19). The church came into existence on Pentecost day following the resurrection of Christ; notice the suddenness of the birth: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2). The result was those people who believed, repented, and were baptized were added to the church is(Acts 2:38, 41, 47).
Certainly the womb of Judaism brought forth Christianity. Jesus was a Jew born under the law of Moses (Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4). The first converts of Christianity were Jews (Romans 1:16). The Jewish Law and Prophets were the first literary evidence for following Christ (Acts 24:14; 28:23). Isaiah 66 shows that God’s spiritual seed would continue via a new spiritual nation; all flesh is invited to be part of it, but only those who in a contrite heart respond to the word of His invitation will escape the fire of God’s wrath.
12.12.18 WED – Daniel Goshorn – Obedient to the Gospel
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Many first-century Christians had to face persecution the likes of which few of us today have ever seen. Persecutors would plunder Christians’ property. How would you react if because you were a Christian your belongings were confiscated? The recipients of the letter of Hebrews had taken the spoiling of their goods joyfully (Hebrews 10:34). How could these Hebrew Christians be robbed of their possessions and take it joyfully? The text goes on to indicate why: “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34).
Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). We sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.” Do we mean it? Does our attitude toward property indicate that in our hearts this world is more our home than we’d like to admit? The next chapter of Hebrews includes a synopsis of those who lived by faith. Notice Abraham’s faith moved him to live the life of a sojourner. He did not settle in one place, build a mansion, and amass wealth doing business in some city. Though Abraham was a wealthy man, he went where God sent him, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He desired a better place to live than this world below—a heavenly home (Hebrews 11:16). To the Christian, God has promised “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:4).
Persecutors may rob the Christian’s goods, but no one can take away his reward in heaven. Remember the words of Jesus, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus also reminds us not to be afraid of those who may take our possessions or even our physical lives; one’s soul is the most valuable possession, and the eternal prosperity or ruin of it is in the hands of God whom we ought to fear (Matthew 10:28). Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” includes these words, “Let goods and kindred go. This mortal life also; The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.” Peter reminds us that we are awaiting an abundant entrance into heaven: the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11), while this earth and the works therein shall be burned up—all these things will be dissolved (3:10-11).
Accepting loss is never easy, but by faith we can endure losses in this life because we know the saving of our most valuable possessions, our souls, is on the horizon. Hebrews 10 goes on to quote Habbakuk 2:4 in showing how crucial it is to continue to trust in the Lord when we have suffered loss. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Whatever we must do without in this life in order to be with the Lord forever, it will be worth it. Paul wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Therefore, don’t base your life on the things you see, which will pass away, but by faith seek the unseen God who has prepared an eternal home for you (2 Corinthians 5:7).