The wilderness will become an orchard and the orchard will be considered a forest

Isaiah Orchard

Wednesday 05/11/22 

Series: Thru the Bible

Message: The wilderness will become an orchard and the orchard will be considered a forest

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The wilderness will become an orchard and the orchard will be considered a forest

Isaiah 29:1-24,

“(1) Ariel is as good as dead – Ariel, the town David besieged! 

Ariel is another name for Israel, though in particular Jerusalem. The meaning of the name is uncertain. It “could” mean either Altar Hearth or if it is in its compound form may mean Lion of God. Here it is specifically being used in reference to Jerusalem and probably carries the meaning of altar hearth since that is the imagery used in verse 2.

“Keep observing your annual rituals; celebrate your festivals on schedule.  

(2)  I will threaten Ariel, and she will mourn intensely and become like an altar hearth before Me.  

(3)  I will lay siege to you on all sides; I will besiege you with troops; I will raise siege works against you.  

(4)  You will fall; while lying on the ground you will speak; from the dust where you lie, your words will be heard. Your voice will sound like a spirit speaking from the underworld; from the dust you will chirp as if muttering an incantation.  (5)  But the horde of invaders will be like fine dust, the horde of tyrants like chaff that is blown away. It will happen suddenly, in a flash.  

(6)  Judgment will come from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, accompanied by thunder, earthquake, and a loud noise, by a strong gale, a windstorm, and a consuming flame of fire.  

(7)  It will be like a dream, a night vision. 

There will be a horde from all the nations that fight against Ariel, those who attack her and her stronghold and besiege her.  

(8)  It will be like a hungry man dreaming that he is eating, only to awaken and find that his stomach is empty. 

It will be like a thirsty man dreaming that he is drinking, only to awaken and find that he is still weak and his thirst unquenched. 

So it will be for the horde from all the nations that fight against Mount Zion.”  

The meaning of these words I find a little elusive. It may be referring to the enemies of Israel who thought to be satisfied by their destruction and by the goods they carried away from the battle, but who found it less than they had hoped. – OR – It could be in reference to Israel itself who though they were to be attacked due to judgment against them, in their spiritual blindness they still believed God would deliver them.

“(9)  You will be shocked and amazed! You are totally blind! 

They are drunk, but not because of wine; they stagger, but not because of beer.  

(10)  For the LORD has poured out on you a strong urge to sleep deeply. He has shut your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).  

(11)  To you this entire prophetic revelation is like words in a sealed scroll. When they hand it to one who can read and say, 

“Read this,” 

he responds, “I can’t, because it is sealed.”  

(12)  Or when they hand the scroll to one who can’t read and say, “Read this,” 

he says, “I can’t read.”  

(13)  The Lord says, “These people say they are loyal to Me; they say wonderful things about Me, but they are not really loyal to Me. Their worship consists of nothing but man-made ritual.  

(14)  Therefore I will again do an amazing thing for these people – an absolutely extraordinary deed. Wise men will have nothing to say, the sages will have no explanations.”  

(15)  Those who try to hide their plans from the LORD are as good as dead, who do their work in secret and boast, “Who sees us? Who knows what we’re doing?”  

(16)  Your thinking is perverse! 

Should the Potter be regarded as clay? 

Should the thing made say about its Maker, “He didn’t make me”? 

Or should the pottery say about the Potter, “He doesn’t understand”?  

(17)  In just a very short time Lebanon will turn into an orchard, and the orchard will be considered a forest.”  

This too is a difficult passage to tack down the specific meaning of.

One interpretation has this as a reversal. Seen this way it is hard to say which is the positive and which the negative since both forests and orchards have value. Considering God’s predilection to favor fruitfulness however, it is quite possible that the orchard is favored above the forest in this case. Regardless of which is best, if in fact a reversal of fortune is what is being conveyed here – it matters little which is better – the existence of the reversal itself being the real point.

In this view the Gentiles who were an unfruitful forest, will temporarily replace Israel as an orchard producing fruit. This would find it’s fulfillment in the words of Jesus Who said, 

“Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone . This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  (43)  For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Matt. 21:42-43.  

However, I also thought that perhaps this was a play on words. That Lebanon was referring to Israel in their unfruitful state but that they would become a fruitful orchard when they came to except Messiah (either those who did so at the initial onset of the church or in the distant future in the Millennial kingdom) and that as such the orchard would grow so large that in its fruitful condition it would be considered a veritable forest of fruitful trees. In which case this is not a reversal between the conditions of two people, but rather the reversal of condition of one.

“(1) In the future the LORD’s Temple Mount will be the most important mountain of all; it will be more prominent than other hills. People will stream to it.  (2)  Many nations will come, saying, “Come on! Let’s go up to the LORD’s mountain, to the temple of Jacob’s God, so he can teach us his ways and we can live by his laws.” For instruction will proceed from Zion, the LORD’s message from Jerusalem.  (3)  He will arbitrate between many peoples and settle disputes between many distant nations. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not use weapons against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.  (4)  Each will sit under his own grapevine or under his own fig tree without any fear. The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has decreed it.  (5)  Though all the nations follow their respective gods, we will follow the LORD our God forever.”Micah 4:1-5

The next words could have many fulfillments at various times in the future relative to Isaiah – all of which are literal and true.

Isaiah 29…

“(18)  At that time the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll, and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness.  

(19)  The downtrodden will again rejoice in the LORD; the poor among humankind will take delight in the Holy One of Israel.  

(20)  For tyrants will disappear, those who taunt will vanish, and all those who love to do wrong will be eliminated –  (21)  those who bear false testimony against a person, who entrap the one who arbitrates at the city gate and deprive the innocent of justice by making false charges.  

(22)  So this is what the LORD, the One Who delivered Abraham, has said to the family of Jacob

Jacob will no longer be ashamed; their faces will no longer show their embarrassment.  (23)  For when they see their children, whom I will produce among them, they will honor My name. They will honor the Holy One of Jacob; they will respect the God of Israel.  (24)  Those who stray morally will gain understanding; those who complain will acquire insight.”

Isaiah 30:1-33, 

“(1) The rebellious children are as good as dead,” says the LORD, “those who make plans without consulting Me, who form alliances without consulting My Spirit, and thereby compound their sin.  

(2)  They travel down to Egypt without seeking My will, seeking Pharaoh’s protection, and looking for safety in Egypt’s protective shade.  (3)  But Pharaoh’s protection will bring you nothing but shame, and the safety of Egypt’s protective shade nothing but humiliation.”  

This actually happened several times either during the time of Isaiah or afterwards like during the ministry of Jeremiah.

“(4)  Though his officials are in Zoan and his messengers arrive at Hanes,  (5)  all will be put to shame because of a nation that cannot help them, who cannot give them aid or help, but only shame and disgrace.”  

“(6)  This is an oracle about the animals in the Negev: 

Through a land of distress and danger, inhabited by lionesses and roaring lions, by snakes and darting adders, they transport their wealth on the backs of donkeys, their riches on the humps of camels, to a nation that cannot help them.  

(7)  Egypt is totally incapable of helping. For this reason I call her ‘Proud one who is silenced.’”  

(8)  Now go, write it down on a tablet in their presence, inscribe it on a scroll, so that it might be preserved for a future time as an enduring witness.  

(9)  For these are rebellious people – they are lying children, children unwilling to obey the LORD’s law.  

(10)  They say to the visionaries, 

“See no more visions!” 

and to the seers, 

“Don’t relate messages to us about what is right! Tell us nice things; relate deceptive messages.  (11)  Turn aside from the way; stray off the path. Remove from our presence the Holy One of Israel.”  

(12)  For this reason this is what the Holy One of Israel says: 

You have rejected this message; you trust instead in your ability to oppress and trick, and rely on that kind of behavior.  (13)  So this sin will become your downfall. 

You will be like a high wall that bulges and cracks and is ready to collapse; it crumbles suddenly, in a flash.  

(14)  It shatters in pieces like a clay jar, so shattered to bits that none of it can be salvaged. 

Among its fragments one cannot find a shard large enough to scoop a hot coal from a fire or to skim off water from a cistern.”  

(15)  For this is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel says: 

“If you repented and patiently waited for Me, you would be delivered; if you calmly trusted in Me you would find strength, but you are unwilling.  

(16)  You say, ‘No, we will flee on horses,’ so you will indeed flee. 

You say, ‘We will ride on fast horses,’ so your pursuers will be fast.  

(17)  One thousand will scurry at the battle cry of one enemy soldier; at the battle cry of five enemy soldiers you will all run away, until the remaining few are as isolated as a flagpole on a mountaintop or a signal flag on a hill.”  

(18)  For this reason the LORD is ready to show you mercy; He sits on His throne, ready to have compassion on you. 

Indeed, the LORD is a just God; all who wait for Him in faith will be blessed.”  

Though this is an acceptable translation of these words, as read it is hard to reconcile with the preceding words. Therefore it makes more sense to go with an equally accurate rendering which does not create that difficulty which reads like this…

“Therefore the LORD waits to show you mercy, and therefore He is exalted to have compassion on you.” 

All true biblical exegesis MUST bear in mind that the Bible is written from God’s perspective – this is even true when on the surface the story is in the narrative of a human point of view – the panorama of the story itself is still telling God’s story!

So it is here – the point seems to be that Judah’s impending doom does not cause joy to God’s heart. Instead He is inwardly stirred towards compassion at the prospect of Israel’s suffering. They must however approach God on His terms not their own. (amended from the notes of the NET commentary)

“(19)  For people will live in Zion; in Jerusalem you will weep no more. 

When He hears your cry of despair, He will indeed show you mercy; when He hears it, He will respond to you.  

(20)  The Lord will give you distress to eat and suffering to drink; but your teachers will no longer be hidden; your eyes will see them.  

(21)  You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left.  

Guzik says, 

“Now, God has given them the bread of adversity and water of affliction, but they can hear God and be guided by Him again. It’s always better to be uncomfortable and in tune with the Lord than to be comfortable and out of step with God.”

“(22)  You will desecrate your silver-plated idols and your gold-plated images. You will throw them away as if they were a menstrual rag, saying to them, “Get out!”  

(23)  He will water the seed you plant in the ground, and the ground will produce crops in abundance.

At that time your cattle will graze in wide pastures.  (24)  The oxen and donkeys used in plowing will eat seasoned feed winnowed with a shovel and pitchfork.  

(25)  On every high mountain and every high hill there will be streams flowing with water, at the time of great slaughter when the fortified towers collapse.  

(26)  The light of the full moon will be like the sun’s glare and the sun’s glare will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days, when the LORD binds up His people’s fractured bones and heals their severe wound.  

(27)  Look, the name of the LORD comes from a distant place in raging anger and awesome splendor. 

He speaks angrily and His word is like destructive fire.  (28)  His battle cry overwhelms like a flooding river that reaches one’s neck. 

He shakes the nations in a sieve that isolates the chaff; 

He puts a bit into the mouth of the nations and leads them to destruction.  

(29)  You will sing as you do in the evening when you are celebrating a festival. 

You will be happy like one who plays a flute as he goes to the mountain of the LORD, the Rock Who shelters Israel.  

(30)  The LORD will give a mighty shout and intervene in power, with furious anger and flaming, destructive fire, with a driving rainstorm and hailstones.  

(31)  Indeed, the LORD’s shout will shatter Assyria; He will beat them with a club.  

(32)  Every blow from His punishing cudgel, with which the LORD will beat them, will be accompanied by music from the tambourine and harp, and He will attack them with His weapons.  

(33)  For the burial place is already prepared; it has been made deep and wide for the king. The firewood is piled high on it. The LORD’s breath, like a stream flowing with brimstone, will ignite it.”

Isaiah 31:1-9, 

“(1) Those who go down to Egypt for help are as good as dead, those who rely on war horses, and trust in Egypt’s many chariots and in their many, many horsemen. 

But they do not rely on the Holy One of Israel and do not seek help from the LORD.  

(2)  Yet He too is wise and He will bring disaster; He does not retract His decree. 

He will attack the wicked nation, and the nation that helps those who commit sin.  

(3)  The Egyptians are mere humans, not God; their horses are made of flesh, not spirit. 

The LORD will strike with His hand; the one who helps will stumble and the one being helped will fall. Together they will perish.  

(4)  Indeed, this is what the LORD has said to me: 

“The LORD will be like a growling lion, like a young lion growling over its prey. Though a whole group of shepherds gathers against it, it is not afraid of their shouts or intimidated by their yelling. 

In this same way the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will descend to do battle on Mount Zion and on its hill.  

(5)  Just as birds hover over a nest, so the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; as He passes over He will rescue it.  

(6)  You Israelites! Return to the One against Whom you have so blatantly rebelled!  

(7)  For at that time everyone will get rid of the silver and gold idols your hands sinfully made.  

(8)  Assyria will fall by a sword, but not one human-made; a sword not made by humankind will destroy them. They will run away from this sword and their young men will be forced to do hard labor.  (9)  They will surrender their stronghold because of fear; their officers will be afraid of the LORD’s battle flag.” 

This is what the LORD says – the One Whose fire is in Zion, Whose firepot is in Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 32:1-20, 

“(1) Look, a king will promote fairness; officials will promote justice.  (2)  Each of them will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from a rainstorm; like streams of water in a dry region and like the shade of a large cliff in a parched land.  

(3)  Eyes will no longer be blind and ears will be attentive.  

(4)  The mind that acts rashly will possess discernment and the tongue that stutters will speak with ease and clarity.  

(5)  A fool will no longer be called honorable; a deceiver will no longer be called principled.  

(6)  For a fool speaks disgraceful things; his mind plans out sinful deeds. He commits godless deeds and says misleading things about the LORD; he gives the hungry nothing to satisfy their appetite and gives the thirsty nothing to drink.  

(7)  A deceiver’s methods are evil; he dreams up evil plans to ruin the poor with lies, even when the needy are in the right.  

(8)  An honorable man makes honorable plans; his honorable character gives him security.  

(9)  You complacent women, get up and listen to me! 

You carefree daughters, pay attention to what I say!  

(10)  In a year’s time you carefree ones will shake with fear, for the grape harvest will fail, and the fruit harvest will not arrive.  

(11)  Tremble, you complacent ones! Shake with fear, you carefree ones! Strip off your clothes and expose yourselves – put sackcloth on your waist!  

(12)  Mourn over the field, over the delightful fields and the fruitful vine!  

(13)  Mourn over the land of My people, which is overgrown with thorns and briers, and over all the once-happy houses in the city filled with revelry.  

(14)  For the fortress is neglected; the once-crowded city is abandoned. Hill and watchtower are permanently uninhabited. Wild donkeys love to go there, and flocks graze there.  

(15)  This desolation will continue until new life is poured out on us from heaven. 

Then the wilderness will become an orchard and the orchard will be considered a forest.  

(16)  Justice will settle down in the wilderness and fairness will live in the orchard.  

(17)  Fairness will produce peace and result in lasting security.  

(18)  My people will live in peaceful settlements, in secure homes, and in safe, quiet places.  

(19)  Even if the forest is destroyed and the city is annihilated,  (20)  you will be blessed, you who plant seed by all the banks of the streams, you who let your ox and donkey graze.”

Isaiah 33:1-24, 

“(1) The destroyer is as good as dead, you who have not been destroyed! 

The deceitful one is as good as dead, the one whom others have not deceived! 

When you are through destroying, you will be destroyed; when you finish deceiving, others will deceive you!”  

This is spoken in reference to Assyria but in some ways has a dual reference to the final end of satan’s influence on earth.

“(2)  LORD, be merciful to us! We wait for you. 

Give us strength each morning! 

Deliver us when distress comes.  

(3)  The nations run away when they hear a loud noise; the nations scatter when You spring into action!  (4)  Your plunder disappears as if locusts were eating it; they swarm over it like locusts!  

(5)  The LORD is exalted, indeed, He lives in heaven; He fills Zion with justice and fairness.  

(6)  He is your constant source of stability; 

He abundantly provides safety and great wisdom; 

He gives all this to those who fear Him.  

(7)  Look, ambassadors cry out in the streets; 

messengers sent to make peace weep bitterly.  

(8)  Highways are empty, there are no travelers. 

Treaties are broken, 

witnesses are despised, 

human life is treated with disrespect.  

(9)  The land dries up and withers away; 

the forest of Lebanon shrivels up and decays. 

Sharon is like the arid rift valley; 

Bashan and Carmel are parched.  

(10)  “Now I will rise up,” says the LORD. “Now I will exalt Myself; now I will magnify Myself.  

(11)  You conceive straw, you give birth to chaff; 

your breath is a fire that destroys you.  

(12)  The nations will be burned to ashes; like thorn bushes that have been cut down, they will be set on fire.  

(13)  You who are far away, listen to what I have done! 

You who are close by, recognize My strength!”  

(14)  Sinners are afraid in Zion; panic grips the godless. 

They say, ‘Who among us can coexist with destructive fire? 

Who among us can coexist with unquenchable fire?’  

(15)  The one who lives uprightly and speaks honestly; the one who refuses to profit from oppressive measures and rejects a bribe; the one who does not plot violent crimes and does not seek to harm others –  

(16)  This is the person who will live in a secure place; he will find safety in the rocky, mountain strongholds; he will have food and a constant supply of water.  

(17)  You will see a king in his splendor; you will see a wide land.  (18)  Your mind will recall the terror you experienced, and you will ask yourselves, 

“Where is the scribe? 

Where is the one who weighs the money? 

Where is the one who counts the towers?”  

(19)  You will no longer see a defiant people whose language you do not comprehend, whose derisive speech you do not understand.  

(20)  Look at Zion, the city where we hold religious festivals! 

You will see Jerusalem, a peaceful settlement, a tent that stays put; its stakes will never be pulled up; none of its ropes will snap in two.  

(21)  Instead the LORD will rule there as our mighty king. 

Rivers and wide streams will flow through it; no war galley will enter; no large ships will sail through.  

(22)  For the LORD, our Ruler, the LORD, our Commander, the LORD, our King – He will deliver us.  

(23)  Though at this time your ropes are slack, the mast is not secured, and the sail is not unfurled, at that time you will divide up a great quantity of loot; even the lame will drag off plunder.  

(24)  No resident of Zion will say, “I am ill”; the people who live there will have their sin forgiven.”

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!