Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 2 * BOOK 60
MAKING CHOICES – PART 2
My, when we go on our seminars, people share with us constantly, “We pray for you and Iris and the ministry.” They tell us they not only watch us every day, but they pray for us every day. I think that’s why the Lord has blessed our ministry the way He has. He has blessed us so abundantly, and as I’ve rehearsed with people, especially as we travel, that it just seems as though the Lord has reached out to so many men, older men, and not exactly good men.
In fact, I was just talking with a gentleman the other day up in Kansas, and I’m not going to identify him, but I imagine a lot of people up there will know who I’m talking about. He had lost his wife some time ago, and he called me on the phone and shared with me that he had just lost her, and he was so totally broken up I could hardly understand him. But anyway, he happened to be in one of our seminars last week and introduced himself. He shared how the Lord had opened his heart because of the loss of his wife. She had left two crucial verses for him in their bathroom, which he found two or three days after the funeral, and through tears he shared with me how the next day he caught our program and within one or two programs came to know the Lord!
He was a nice-looking fellow and you would never dream what he said, and I just said, “Well, why are you emphasizing how awful you’ve been?” He said, “Les, I’ve probably been in prison more than I’ve been out.” He certainly didn’t look like that type of a person. But, you know, the Lord can save to the uttermost those that are willing to believe the Gospel of salvation that we find in I Corinthians 15:1-4. So it encourages us as we see this across the ministry.
Okay, we’re going to pick up where we left off in our study in Isaiah. As I said at the beginning of the first program, we’re not going to belabor the book, we’re not going to stay in it from now on, but we will spend a little while because it is such an appropriate book for today, because its a book of prophecy. And I’ll keep repeating, because remember, bear with me, we’ve got new listeners coming in every day. Our database is just exploding lately, and so for the benefit of new listeners, I’m going to keep repeating.
Isaiah is going to be prophesying to the nation of Israel in near-term events because of their falling headlong into idolatry. Even though they’ve got the Temple operating, it means nothing, and the rank and file of Israel has just become total rebels. So near-term judgments, such as an invasion by the Assyrians from the north – now while we were having coffee at the last break, I wrote a little bit of my makeshift map up here. Now, nothing is to scale; it’s almost a caricature so far as maps are concerned. But here we have the Euphrates River running all the way down through present day Baghdad down to the Persian Gulf. And here we have the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea. Jerusalem, right off the northern end of the Dead Sea, and slightly north of Jerusalem is where the nation was divided. The ten tribes comprising the Northern Kingdom, the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin comprising the Southern Kingdom are staying down here at the south where they have the Temple.
Now, as Isaiah is writing, the near invasion of the Ten Tribes by the Syrians is right at hand. It’s going to happen within a matter of a few years. Then, almost a hundred years later the Babylonians will come in from the east and they will besiege Jerusalem, destroy the Temple, and take the Jews back out to Babylon, which is present day Iraq. They will be there for 70 years of captivity. Now, I always like to emphasize that contrary to the teaching of Armstrongism in years back which said that the Ten Tribes were lost and became Europeans and Americans, that is as false as a three dollar bill. Because, if you go back into the account of the Kings and the Chronicles and study the civil wars, and they did have civil wars, the tribes of Judah would have a civil war with Israel and back and forth. If you will compare the wars from when they first started, Judah only had a few hundred thousand men of war, whereas the Ten Tribes had one million three hundred thousand. Five years later the numbers have come a little closer to equal but the majority is still leaning to the Ten Tribes. But then thirty years later, after the first civil war, Judah now has a million some hundred thousand soldiers, and the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom have an army no bigger than a little flock of kid goats.
That’s the way the Scripture puts it. So, what has been happening over the years? They’ve been migrating back into Judah because, after all, that’s where the Temple is. That’s where the major activity is taking place. So, when the Syrians come in and take Israel captive, (the ten tribes) there weren’t that many left, because most of them have moved back down to the Southern Kingdom.
Now, when they are taken captive out to Babylon it figures how many Tribes went into the Babylonian captivity, two or twelve? Well, twelve of them. And when they came back, the language in Ezra and Nehemiah is “all” Israel. By the time you get to Christ’s first advent and Peter addresses in Acts chapter 2 what is his application? “Therefore let the whole house of Israel.” So, don’t ever buy into that fact that there are ten lost tribes. They were never lost. They were always part and parcel of the nation of Israel.
Okay, let’s pick up where we left off in Isaiah chapter 1 verse 4. Just get the picture of how far down the tube the nation of Israel has gone just in the last two hundred years since Solomon’s death.
“Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel into anger, they are gone away backward.” Now, you remember in our last taping, I made the statement that nations, as well as individuals, are constantly given choices. For the nation of Israel it was choice after choice.
Now, let’s go back so that you’ll see what I’m talking about. Go back with me to the time of Moses as he writes the book of Deuteronomy and turn to chapter 28. This is just exactly what I’m trying to bring across in this study here in Isaiah. They had the choice. We Americans are in the same place. We’re going to be making a tremendous choice. Are we just going to pull off all restraint? Are we just going to open the floodgates to wickedness or are we going to try and hold it back?
Now, I’ve said everywhere I go, “We can’t turn it around.” You will not turn it around, because we’re too close to the end. The best we can hope for is to slow it down. But you know, like one fellow in Minnesota put it, and I think he’s probably right. He said, “If it doesn’t slow down, then we’re just that much closer to the Rapture.” Well, I’ll have to agree, because we as a nation are at the same crossroads that Israel was, and here’s the choice. Deuteronomy 28 and we can just start at verse 1. Now, this is even before they have gotten into the Promised Land and Moses is putting the choice before them.
“And it shall come to pass, (it’s going to happen however Israel chooses, and what’s the next word?) if (That’s the condition.) thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, and to observe to do all his commandments which I command thee this day that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth:” That was Israel’s prospect. You remember way back when they came out of Egypt, I’m always teaching in Exodus 19, what could they have become? A nation of priests. Every Jew would have the opportunity to bring Gentiles to the knowledge of their God. But, it was all based on whatever choice they would take.
“All these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if (you make the right choice. And what’s the choice?) thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.” Then he begins to show the blessings that God is going to shower on the nation if they’re obedient.
“Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.” Now, this is all in the normal events of everyday life. They’ll be blessed family-wise. They’ll be blessed in food production. They’ll be blessed in every way.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, (children) and the fruit of thy ground, (crops) and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kind, and the flocks of thy sheep.” In other words, like Abraham and Isaac of old, it would just come rolling in. That was one prospect. All right, but now let’s come down to verse 15. What’s the first word? “But.” Flipside! Here’s the other choice and it’s a choice.
“But it shall come to pass, if you wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes…” Now remember, this is Israel under the Law; this isn’t you and I under grace, but the whole concept of choices is the same regardless.
“…which I command thee this day; that all these curses (all these bad things) shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. (Then here he lists them) 16. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. 17. Cursed will be thy basket and thy store. 18. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, (you see what an awesome choice we’ve got here?) and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kind, and the flocks of thy sheep. 19. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 20. The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation and rebuke…” So, if they choose wrong, is that God’s fault? No. It’s not God’s fault. The same way today. When people choose wrong and they end up in a life of drug addition and sleeping under the bridge, is that God’s fault? No, they made choices.
All right, now jump back to Isaiah then, and I hope you got the picture. Israel now, for 200 years, has been choosing to rebel against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and against the Law of Moses, they’re going their own way. They are falling under the influence of the pagan gods and goddesses of the Gentiles around them.
“Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick…” What’s he talking about? Their thinking is all fouled up. Is it any different today? You know, we got an interesting letter from a grade school principal out east in yesterday’s mail. She attached a paper and said, “This is typical of the kids down in the upper elementaries.” I’m thinking sixth or seventh grade. She said, “This is typical of what we see everyday.” It was just a blank sheet on which this kid had been doodling. And you know what the doodling was? Everything satanic. It was all satanic; death and hell. That’s some of our kids, their heads are sick. And that’s Israel, they’re sick in the head, so far as spiritual things are concerned.
“…and the whole heart faint.” Now, this isn’t nice reading, I know it isn’t. It’s a warning. And the whole thing is, that if they respond to the warning, will the bad things happen? No. God will turn them into a blessing. But, if they do not respond, judgment’s going to fall.
“From the sole of the foot even unto the head (that is just a figurative word of speech so far as the nation is concerned) there is no soundness in it. (You don’t do anything sensible.) But wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. (The nation is sick and getting sicker by the day.) 7. Your country is desolate…” Now, remember, what was the Promised Land really called? “The land of milk and honey.” It was a tremendously productive area of the world; it was beautiful. But what have they done with it? They’ve made God bring the curse upon it and it’s no longer beautiful and productive.
“Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land…” Now, this hasn’t happened yet, but it’s going to, so it’s spoken as if it’s already done. I hope you catch that now. This is what’s coming to the land of Israel, because the Syrians are ready to march up into the Northern Kingdom. Old Nebuchadnezzar is sitting out there in Babylon getting ready to increase his empire, and God knows that within a hundred years Jerusalem will be laying in ashes because of Nebuchadnezzar.
“…your land strangers (that is the boots of invading armies.) devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8. And the daughter of Zion is left (in other words the people that are still in the land) as a cottage in a vineyard, (in other words, we would say, ‘an abandoned shack.’) as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.”Now, we don’t know what it’s like to come under siege, but in antiquity it was awful. You know that when Samaria was under siege, Jerusalem was under siege; no food comes in. They sooner or later run out of water. They become destitute and you know what happened.
“Except (or unless) the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant…” What’s that? It is that small percentage of faithful believers that God has always kept. And He’s never had much more. In fact, that’s a doctrine you can follow from almost the time of Cain and Abel all the way to the end of the book of Revelation. It’s what I call the “doctrine of the remnant.” There are always those few.
I had an interesting letter yesterday. If the Rapture takes place today, will the world suddenly realize a catastrophe has happened? With millions and millions and millions of people gone? I wish that were true. I wrote back the answer this morning before I left, “Don’t you kid yourself. There are going to be so few believers raptured out of this world that they won’t even miss us. They won’t even cause a headline in the New York Times.” Sad to say, but it’s true, because that’s the way it’s always been. It’s always been that small, small remnant.
“Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, (now we’re talking about Israel remember, Judah in particular but Israel as a whole) we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” We’d have been a Sodom, if it hadn’t have been for the remnant of believers to hold things together, God would have just had to wipe the whole thing off the map. “And we would have been like unto Gomorrah.”
“Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom;…” Who is he referring to? Jerusalem. Jerusalem has become just about as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah and don’t you think for a minute that homosexuality didn’t ravage Israel just like it does other nations. It did. And this was one of their problems. That’s why it’s referred to as such.
“Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” It’s still talking about Jerusalem. Now, verse 11. Here it really gets down where the rubber hits the road.
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD:…” What did I tell you a little while ago? The Temple is going full blast. They’re killing animals by the hundreds in the name of “religion.” Oh, they’re religious, but how much affect has it on their life? None! Is it any different today? Our churches are full, new ones going up every day. Is it changing the moral fiber of our country? I can’t see it. And so what is it? It is just emptiness; like Israel.
“… saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, (in other words, how do we put it? I’ve had it up to here!) and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.:” When it’s not offered by faith.
“When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” Now, what do you suppose He meant by treading the courts? What’s the other word? Trample! Trample! They had, just like a mass of animals, trampled the approaches to the Temple.
Now, let’s give you a good vivid picture of what he was really talking about. Come back with me to Matthew 21 verses 12 and 13. Now, you’ll see exactly why I’m using the word trample back here in Isaiah. My, they were flooding to the Temple. They were bringing their sacrifices, but what else was going on? Well, here we have it here, and it’s the time of Christ at the Lord’s earthly ministry.
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, (there on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and cast out all them that sold and bought (where?) in the temple,…” Not a block or two down the street! They were doing all this within the confines of the Temple compound. Now, they weren’t in the Holy of Holies. They weren’t in the sanctuary. That was just a little tiny building. But the whole complex made up what they called the Temple, you see.
“…and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” What were they doing? Well, they were selling the stuff that they needed for their sacrifices.
“And he said unto them, ’It is written, my house (the Temple) shall be called the house of prayer; but ye (Israel) have made it a den of thieves.’” All right, now why does he call these moneychangers thieves? Well, they were selling animals that were probably lame or not quite healthy, which weren’t even acceptable for a sacrifice.
But, they were selling them for more bucks than they were worth. They were thieving from the poor people who couldn’t afford to go someplace else and buy something for a sacrifice. They were trapped. And they took advantage of them. That’s nothing new. My, we’re full of it today. They’re charlatans. They’re pulling the money right out of people’s pockets and they don’t even blink an eye. No shame. No guilt. And they think they’re doing it for God’s purposes. Well, I’ve got news for them. It’s not biblical; it’s not Scriptural. But this is what they’re doing. They’re thieving from the poor people that can’t help themselves. Okay, back to Isaiah verse 13.
“Bring no more vain oblations; (that is things that were brought for sacrifice and worship,) incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and the Sabbaths, (which meant everything to a religious Jew) the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.” What’s He saying is so many words? I can’t handle it! I can’t stand what you’re doing. “It is iniquity, even your solemn meeting.” What does that mean? Oh, they prayed. They bowed. They did everything that they thought their religion demanded, but where was their heart? As soon as they could get out of there they could go back out into the things of the world.
“Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me. I am weary to bear them.” Well, now you know that the new moons and everything were a part and parcel of the Mosaic Law. That isn’t what God hated. What God hated was what they were doing with it. They were just making it a trumped up, false religion, and thought they were doing God a service. All right, now then, verse 15 and this really gets close to home.
“And when ye spread forth your hands, (don’t you see it?) I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Now look, they weren’t there with a bunch of actual blood all over them, it’s a figure of speech. But if they had bloody hands, what did it show them? Their guilt. Maybe not of actually murdering somebody, but they were so deep into sin and rebellion, it’s as if they were no better than the murderer who has just walked away from killing someone.
Now, that’s how serious it gets when unbelievers try to placate a Holy God with their false approach, with their false worship and their rituals and their lifting up of their hands, and their heart is as far from God as it can possibly be. You think God’s going to stand for it? No more today than He did back here. Because we’re going to see, probably not anymore this afternoon, but a little later in Isaiah, what happened. The enemies come in, and the Jews suffer immeasurably. But was it God’s fault? No. He’s warning them and warning them and warning them, but they will not listen.