Zedekiah – Discontent, Disobedient, and Destroyed

The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was discontent and disobedient to his God. It destroyed him and his whole nation with him. How does his tragic experience inform and challenge us today?

Few Christians look at Jeremiah or the Old Testament prophets for guidance in modern life. Fewer still look at the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. But their folly and failure contain powerful lessons for followers of Christ today. Zedekiah is a good place to start.

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The Identity of the Child in Isaiah 7:14

God uses normal means to accomplish wonderous effects, and He does so for now, for the future, and for eternity.

Judah was in desperate straits.  The strength and prosperity of King Uzziah had given way to the weakness and poverty of King Ahaz.  Tilgath Pileser III, the ascendant ruler of Assyria, was expanding with a mighty army and his neighbors, Syria and Israel, had attacked Judah to force it to ally with them against Assyria.  Judah had suffered a severe defeat, and at that moment, Ahaz was not thinking about something that was going to happen 730 years later.  Probably, Isaiah wasn’t either.  Therefore the child promised in Isaiah 7:14 was not, at least in Ahaz’ mind, the future Messiah.  Isaiah had promised him a sign that God would deliver him and his nation from the combined might of Israel and Syria and the child was to be the sign.  The sign was not that a young woman would bear a child; this is an ordinary part of human experience.  Rather it was that the birth of this child would begin the countdown to destruction for Judah’s enemies.  Specifically, the kings that Ahaz feared would be destroyed before the child reached preadolescence.

That prophecy was most likely fulfilled by the birth of Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hashbaz (MSH).  According to Herbert M .Wolf, “almah” most reasonably refers to a young woman of marriageable age, who in Hebrew culture was expected to be a virgin.  The event in 8:1-2 is likely the marriage ceremony between Isaiah and his new wife, and the child is conceived in verse 3.  Isaiah’s prophetess was a virgin when she married but obviously not a virgin when she conceived.  In verse 4, Isaiah clarified his prophecy; this time saying that before his son was even old enough to talk, Israel and Syria would be no more.  Thus MSH was the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.

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Interpreting Biblical Prophecy – the Transparency, Translucency and Fulfillment of Isaiah 2:1-4

How can we understand biblical prophecy?

Biblical prophecies are transparent in that they clearly demonstrate the victory of God over all those who oppose Him, human and demonic. Additionally, all mankind will obtain the just consequences for their deeds in the final judgment. They are translucent in that the specific details of how the Lord will achieve victory is often obscured, sometimes by misunderstandings of time, geography, and culture, other times by the prophet’s use of figurative language, and always compounded by the confusion characteristic of the minds of sinful humanity. We will examine the meaning, transparency, translucency, and fulfillment of Isaiah 2:1-4.

Isaiah’s imagery in Isaiah 2:1-4 refers to God’s universal reign in the end times, probably during the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, possibly during His final reign on the new earth, or possibly both. It is very similar in content and thought to the prophecy of the last days written by Isaiah’s contemporary, Micah (Micah 4:1-3). Verse one identifies the speaker and the audience, the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

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The Old Testament Prophets – What Did They Do?

Prophets seem strange to us, but they also seemed strange to their contemporaries. Who were they, and what did they do?

Some Christians believe that the Old Testament (OT) prophets are thought of as men who only predicted a distant future revealed to them by God.  Either the coming of Christ or the book of Revelation and the end times (or both) are seen as the main message of the Old Testament prophet.  Some critical scholars in the past have seen OT prophecy as unique or even fictitious; their messages brand new without any connection to Israel’s past and with no relevance for the future.  In reality however, the primary mission of the prophets was to proclaim God’s truth to the people of their time and place, just like pastors and teachers today are called to do.

Were the prophets primarily ‘foretellers’ or ‘forthtellers’ or both?

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The Messiah, Who Did the Jews Expect Him to Be?

The Messiah was supposed to deliver Israel from all oppressors and lead them into a new golden age. A rabbi from Galilee was not what they had in mind. 

“Messiah”, “Anointed One” and “Christ” are some of the most common names used by Christians (“Christ followers”).  We understand that Jesus (the) Christ is the anointed Son of God, Creator, and Lord of the Universe who came to earth once to suffer, die and be raised again to save us from our sins.  One day He will come again to establish His perfect kingdom in the Universe.  We see Him as a suffering servant, and a conquering hero.  Given the full text of the Bible and our knowledge of what Jesus actually did, this is entirely reasonable.  But the picture of the Messiah was far different to Jews in the first century.

Like America in 2011, Palestine in the first century AD was a diverse place, with Jews, Romans, Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, Africans, and a host of others.  Religions were aplenty, especially in Galilee, Samaria, and Perea, and political intrigue and violence was the norm.  Many Jews longed for a return to the glorious days of King David, when Israel was the greatest power in the Near East.  They also chafed under Roman domination, oppressive taxes, and the rule of an outsider, Herod.  Spiritually, the Jews had been bereft of the prophetic voice of God for 400 years, and they hoped for another prophet to show the way.

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The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes

The Pharisees, whose origin is probably in the “pious ones” or Hasidim, were a prominent religious group of at least 6,000 members in first century Palestine. After the catastrophe of the Babylonian exile and the growing threat of Hellenism during and after Alexander the Great, the Jews tried to recover what was right about their religion and culture and prevent anything similar from ever happening again.  They were dedicated to the Law, including the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets, and they believed that they should focus on three things.

  1. To know the Law expertly and judge wisely from it
  2. To make disciples
  3. To build a fence around the Law.

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