Transformation

If we could see our spiritual condition, we might be shocked to find out we are standing naked before God. It says in Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

The Greek word translated naked in Hebrews 4:13 is gumnos (goom – nos´), which means nude (1131). In other words, Hebrews 4:13 is saying that God can see every person, and in a spiritual sense, some people don’t have any clothes on. Many people are concerned about the clothes they put on their physical body, but never give any thought to clothing themselves spiritually. The only way we can be clothed spiritually is through the process of salvation.

Isaiah’s message to the people of Judah served a dual purpose in that it spoke of two types of salvation. After the people were taken into captivity, they needed to return to the Promised Land and restore the city of Jerusalem. Then, their Messiah would  come and release them from the bondage of sin. Isaiah declared, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

Jesus applied these verses to himself in the synagogue at Nazareth when he said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was letting the people know that salvation was available to them in the final or complete sense that they could be free from bondage of all sorts, including the bondage of sin. Isaiah described the results of salvation in terms of transformation. He said it would, “give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).

The transformation that occurs when a person is born again is similar to the change that takes place when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The same creature takes on a different form that enables it to do different things, to function from a different perspective. A Christian is no longer bound by the physical world, but is able to function from a spiritual perspective. This person no longer stands naked before God. He is clothed by his salvation. Isaiah described it like this:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)

At the time of spiritual birth, I believe the LORD gives everyone a new name. An example of this in the Old Testament is when Abram was renamed Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:28). In the New Testament, Saul’s name was changed to Paul (Acts 13:9). Isaiah said, “And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name” (Isaiah 62:2). The Hebrew word translated name here is shem (shame), which means reputation or memory (8034). In a sense, when a person becomes born again, he gets a new reputation. He will no longer be remembered for the wrong things he has done, but for his acts of righteousness.

Isaiah made it clear that a believer’s transformation was intended to bring glory to God. The people of Judah that returned from captivity in Babylon would be the first to experience the joy of redemption and they would prepare the way for the rest of the world to receive salvation. Isaiah declared:

Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of the thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married…And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken. (Isaiah 62:3-4,12)

Spiritual warfare

In the same way that every Jewish person belongs to God, they are his people/servants, so every non-Jewish person belongs to Satan, they are his people/servants. Because we were created with a free will, God gives non-Jewish people the option to switch sides if they want to. We do not have to remain under Satan’s control if we don’t want to.

Salvation is the process whereby Satan’s hold on a person is released, We escape from him. God literally snatches believers out of Satan’s hand (Isaiah 50:2). Even though the Israelites belonged to God, Satan was still able to influence them into disobeying God because of their free will. Therefore, everyone needs salvation.

Isaiah stated, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). The Hebrew word translated separated, badal means to divide (914) in the sense of cutting or splitting something in two (2673).

To separate something can mean that it is consecrated or set apart for a specific purpose (5144). In this sense, Israel had deliberately separated itself from God in order to worship foreign gods or idols (Hosea 9:10). In essence, they chose to join Satan’s  camp and were enemies of God. That’s why the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed and its people  removed from the Promised Land.

In order for God’s people and the rest of humanity to become unseparated from God, there needed to be an intercessor, someone that could encroach upon Satan’s territory and set his prisoners free (Isaiah 59:16). Basically, from a military stand point, the Messiah’s mission was to advance over Satan’s territory (area of influence) and make an impression on his people so that they would choose to abandon ship and return to God.

The reason why Satan’s people are referred to as prisoners (Isaiah 42:7; 49:9)  is because they cannot set themselves free. The  power of sin can only be broken by God. The separation that occurs when a person sins is permanent unless God forgives the sin and restores the relationship. Isaiah declared, “Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:16).

Israel’s Messiah was expected to be a warrior, but the people were mistaken about the type of warfare he would engage in. Isaiah described the Messiah in spiritual terms. He said, “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke” (Isaiah 59:17).

The apostle Paul described similar attire for Christians in Ephesians 6:14-17 where he talked about putting on the whole armour of God in order to defeat the devil. Paul explained, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Somehow, when Jesus came, Israel didn’t recognize its Messiah, even Paul rejected Christ initially. Isaiah talked about “an acceptable time” and “in a day of salvation” when Israel would be redeemed (Isaiah 49:8). Isaiah concluded with, “And all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Savior, and thy redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26).

Because God intended that his Messiah would save the world, not just his chosen people, his plan of salvation included a period of time when the Gentiles’ sin would be dealt with. Prior to the dawn of Zion’s glory, there would be a period of grace in which salvation would be offered to everyone. Afterwards, God’s people would be redeemed. Isaiah declared:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

 

Born again

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse established the fact that Jesus was both distinct from God the father, and was God in the fullest sense of who God is. Therefore, when Jesus spoke during his ministry on earth, he was not speaking for God, but as God.

In Isaiah 55:11, it was made clear that God would speak for himself at some point in the future, instead of through a prophet. He said, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” In the same way that God spoke the physical world into existence, so he intended to speak a spiritual world into existence through the teaching of Jesus Christ.

The difference between God’s original work of creation and his work of salvation through Jesus was the eternal durability of the human heart. Whereas the heart of man was originally able to be broken and filled with sin, Jesus made it possible for man’s heart to be regenerated, to be born again (Titus 3:5). Isaiah declared of God, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

The Hebrew word translated revive in Isaiah 57:15 is chayah (khaw – yaw´). This word means “to bring to life” or “to cause to live” (2421). In this instance, God was referring to causing someone to live again in both a physical and spiritual sense. When Jesus told the man Nicodemus he must be born again, Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:4-5).

The key to understanding Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ question is the word and. Jesus said that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit. Water spoke of the natural birth, coming out of a mother’s womb, and the Spirit referred to the spiritual birth that took place when a person believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Only God could see the result, but Jesus assured Nicodemus that if he believed, Nicodemus would receive eternal life (John 3:16).

Believing

Believing is more than an acknowledgement that something is true. When we believe something, we act on it. Our behavior makes what we believe evident to others. Originally, the kings of Israel were meant to be role models. Their personal relationship with God was a living testimony to the truth of God’s promises. The prophets of Israel were mouthpieces of God, designed to keep Israel’s kings in check, but false prophets undermined the people’s trust and caused Israel to veer off course. By the time Isaiah came on the scene, the role of a prophet was merely to communicate God’s will and pronounce judgment.

Israel’s Messiah was a prophet as well as their king. It was important for these two roles to be combined so that the people could see the alignment between words and actions. In essence, what Jesus did was speak the word of God and simultaneously act it out. His words and behavior were completely consistent. Although we don’t think of Jesus as a believer, he was a true believer in every sense of the word. What Jesus demonstrated was perfect obedience to the will of God at the cost of his own life.

Isaiah described Israel’s Messiah as a servant, one who was called by God, subject to the will and command of his master (5650). In his description of the Messiah’s calling, Isaiah proclaimed, “The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name, and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:1-3). As an instrument of death, the Messiah was destined to convict the world of its sin. Not only would he cause Israel to repent, but the Messiah would also make it possible for the Gentiles to be saved (Isaiah 49:6).

As God’s chosen people, the Israelites had an advantage over the rest of the world. Through their birthright, they were guaranteed salvation. The main purpose of God’s work was to bring the Israelites to the point of believing. Isaiah provided a clear picture of the Messiah’s obedience in order to convince God’s people that their Savior had come. Approximately 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:5-7).

At the core of Israel’s believing was the issue of death and eternal life. Jesus willingly went to the cross because he believed God would raise him from the dead (Matthew 17:23). Repeatedly, God delivered Israel from her enemies in the Promised Land, but salvation was ultimately about defeating death itself. Isaiah exclaimed, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).

Isaiah likened death to being a prisoner and living in darkness (Isaiah 42:7, 49:9). In contrast, Isaiah portrayed life after death as waking up from sleep. He stated, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city…shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:1-2). The Messiah’s resurrection from the dead was more than just a restoration of life. The transformation that occurred during Jesus’ resurrection was a supernatural changing from one life form to another. He was no longer a mortal being, but the immortal Son of God.

God’s message of salvation was in many ways news that was too good to be true. Regarding the Messiah, Isaiah asked, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). The Hebrew word translated believed, aman is the same word used in Genesis 15:6 where it says of Abraham, “he believed in the LORD.” “The meaning here is that Abram was full of trust and confidence in God…It was not primarily in God’s words that he believed, but in God himself…In other words, Abram came to experience a personal relationship to God rather than in impersonal relationship with his promises” (539). Isaiah referred to believing as having a personal relationship to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah predicted the rejection of Israel’s Messiah and made it clear that Jesus would suffer because of Israel’s unbelief. Isaiah declared:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid  on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:3-7)

In exchange for giving up his life, the Messiah would be rewarded by God with the spoils of his victory. Isaiah foretold of Jesus, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Although the nation of Israel as a whole rejected its Messiah, there were some who believed in Jesus. Isaiah described those who would believe and receive salvation as a wife of youth, and said, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy redeemer” (Isaiah 54:6-7).

Similarities between the Messiah and his followers were noted by Isaiah in his use of the same Hebrew word to designate the servant and servants of the LORD. True believers would be expected to submit themselves to the will of God as the Messiah did. To those who responded in faith, God promised, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (Isaiah 54:17). Essentially, the believer was guaranteed entrance into heaven where he would be united with other believers and receive eternal blessings from God (Isaiah 54:11-17).

Isaiah’s great invitation of salvation had two characteristics that made it difficult to resist. First, salvation was free of cost. Isaiah stated, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Second, salvation was obtained by merely paying attention to what God said. Isaiah declared, “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3). The type of hearing Isaiah referred to involved not only the ears, but also the heart (8085). God wanted his people to listen to him using spiritual discernment.

According to Isaiah, the key to believing was an understanding of the ways of God. As much as God had done to develop a relationship with the people of Israel, his effort was fruitless because they couldn’t comprehend his loving nature. Isaiah declared, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). In order to close the gap, God would himself become the messenger and for the first time since the garden of Eden, he would speak face to face with his children. John the apostle stated it this way. “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Phase Two

The LORD identified Cyrus king of Persia as the shepherd that would lead his people out of captivity (Isaiah 44:28). God referred to Cyrus as his anointed (Isaiah 45:1), a term associated with Israel’s Messiah. In Cyrus’ case, this title meant that he was consecrated by God for a special office or function. Cyrus was a pagan king that did not know God. The LORD declared about him, “For my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isaiah 45:4).

God intended to use Cyrus for his own purposes in order to demonstrate his sovereign control over all his creation. In explaining this strategy the LORD said, “That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:6-7). Cyrus’ connection to Israel’s Messiah made it possible for God’s people to see that Jesus was to be the savior of the world, not just Israel.

The idea that God would save the world was a new concept for the Israelites because up to that point the Gentiles were excluded from having a relationship with God. If Israel had kept God’s commandments, they might have been able to retain their exclusive rights to his inheritance (Isaiah 48:18), but as it were, they chose to rebel and forfeited that right (Isaiah 48:19). Therefore, the LORD said, “Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them” (Isaiah 48:6).

The Israelites’ captivity would prepare them for a new assignment. Phase two of God’s redemption plan required his people to become messengers, spreading God’s word throughout the earth. The scattering of God’s people was not just to punish them. God had always intended for the world to hear of his fame. What the Israelites didn’t know, and were being told for the first time, was they would be sharing their story with the Gentiles in order to get them to repent.

Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And they thirsted not when he led them through deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked. (Isaiah 48:20-22)

 

The Creator

One thing Isaiah made perfectly clear about God was that he alone created the world in which we live. Isaiah declared of the LORD, “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (Isaiah 40:25-26).

God’s sovereign control over his creation and ownership of its people and resources entitles him to do as he pleases with those who rebel against him. Using his chosen people as an object lesson in judgment, God showed everyone his ability to carry out his divine decrees and his willingness to forgive anyone who would repent.

As if speaking to the entire world; past, present, and future; Isaiah proclaimed judgment upon idol worshippers. He said, “Thus saith the LORD the king of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts, I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God…Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:6,8). Idols were merely man-made images designed to take the place of God (Isaiah 44:17).

The primary issue God wanted to clarify was his ability to restore Jerusalem after the captivity of his people was completed. As far as God was concerned, it was a done deal. The LORD even named the pagan ruler who would facilitate the rebuilding of his temple and called Cyrus his anointed (Isaiah 44:28-45:1). Only God could do such an astonishing thing as to have the king of Persia fund Jerusalem’s rebuilding project.

God’s sovereign rule over every aspect of life was established when he declared, ” I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). God left no doubt about the source of his children’s punishment. Rather than blame the devil for the Israelites willful rebellion, God placed the responsibility for sin on each individual’s shoulders. The only hope for salvation was an intentional turning to God.

The LORD declared, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). This invitation was given to everyone, regardless of race or nationality, because all will be held accountable for their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ (Romans 14:12). Anyone who thinks he can live outside of God’s sovereign control is mistaken. According to the creator of heaven and earth, there is only one way to be saved. He said, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isaiah 45:23).

Not finished

The nation of Israel was unique in that God took a special interest in the descendants of Abraham, and in particular, the 12 sons of Jacob and caused them to settle in a land that had been promised to them hundreds of years earlier. As God developed the nation of Israel and caused it to grow, his people became known throughout the surrounding nations because of the way God blessed them.

After the northern kingdom of Israel was  destroyed by the Assyrians and the people of Judah were told they would be taken into captivity in Babylon, there was doubt about the future. God assured his people that he wasn’t finished with them. Through Isaiah he said, “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

Looking forward to the day when God’s eternal kingdom would be established, God declared, “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:6-7). During an unspecified period of time, God’s people would be scattered throughout the world, but their identity as God’s children would be preserved and eventually, they would return to their land.

The primary focus of God’s future work was a re-creation of what was once the nation of Israel. As God had established his presence in the Promised Land, so he would make himself known throughout the earth by the redemption of his people. In order to distinguish himself from all other deities, God intended to show the world his glory by dying for the sins of all people (Isaiah 43:10-11).