Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1
As editor of SeekGrowLove, last December I created the Bible reading plan we are using this year. Each day we are generally reading two Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter. But, to fit it all into 365 days we’ve included Psalms and Proverbs in chunks throughout the year, taking the place of the New Testament reading. I didn’t pay much attention to what Old Testament and New Testament chapters were lining up together for each day. But, I have been amazed throughout the year at how often the two readings have complimented each other. It just goes to show how God’s scriptures are all connected, forever pointing us to the One Almighty God, His Son Jesus, and His plan of salvation and hope for the future. And, it’s been that way for all the generations who went before us, even for those who were reading His words as they were originally written by their writers.
Isaiah had been writing and preaching to the Jews around 740 BC. He was sharing many prophecies he’d received from God of what destruction was to come if the Jewish people and their neighbors did not repent and turn to God. Many of the things Isaiah wrote about did indeed come true within the next few generations. Some of the prophecies Isaiah wrote about (such as we find in Isaiah 24) were telling of a coming judgment further down the timeline – a time still in our future as well. We have not seen it all take place yet, but we can be sure that God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.
In Isaiah 24 we read that God’s judgments will reach across the earth and affect everyone: priest and people, master and servant, borrower and lender, rich and poor. There are none who will be able to escape it because of their wealth or power or position. “The exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4b-6a NIV). This will be the fate of the majority, those stuck in their sins without a Savior.
Isaiah also gives hope. To the Jews of his time he spoke of a remnant who would survive the destruction from the conquering armies and return to Jerusalem. This too, has already happened. And, regarding the judgment that is yet to come, Isaiah also has a word of hope and restoration for those who do trust in God in a world that doesn’t – the “very few” that are left after the harvest has taken place. (verse 6 and 13). We have not seen it take place yet, but we can be sure God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.
Those who are left are shouting for joy, giving God praise and singing, “Glory to the Righteous One” (vs. 14-16). Isaiah warns it won’t be easy. This group will be targeted by the evil who tries to trap them. But, God is coming with power and justice. “In that day, the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon…for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” Satan, his demons, and all sin and evil and those who have turned their backs on God will face God’s judgment. And God will reign.
Truly, there are so many passages that line up so well with Isaiah 24 (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Revelation just to name a few). For this is indeed a huge part of God’s story for the ages. It is what God wanted Isaiah to tell the nations nearly 3,000 years ago. And, it is what God wanted Paul to remind the church in Thessalonica less than 2,000 years ago. 1st & 2nd Thessalonians are often called the eschatological letters of Paul because of the many references to the end times (or, the end of this age and the beginning of the next). It was not enough for Paul to tell them how they ought to love and serve at the present, without preparing them for what was to come in the future, even if it wasn’t during their lifetime.
As we read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians this week and next, look for how many times Paul teaches, reminds, warns, and encourages the church with God’s perfect plans for our future. How does each chapter in 1st Thessalonians end? For a clue, let’s look at the end of chapter 1? “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV). It is especially exciting reading of a part of the future that Isaiah was only able to allude to – the second coming of Christ Jesus, since Jesus had not come for the first time at the time of Isaiah’s writing.
May we read and heed the warnings of Isaiah and Paul as sent by God. May we be encouraged by God’s plan for the ages as displayed throughout His scriptures. And may we too turn, “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV).