Like everything else, the introduction of Isaiah 1-12 follows a seven day Creation pattern:
Ch. 1:1-31 – heaven/earth
Ch. 2-4 – mediation (firmament)
Ch. 5 – vineyard
Ch. 6-9:7 – king (rulers are symbolized by heavenly lights and vice versa)
Ch. 9:8-10:4 – curses (the 5th day is the first to receive a blessing)
Ch. 10:5-32 – king of Assyria shown as new Adam
Ch. 10:33-12:6 – restoration
Chapter 5 contains what is known as the Vineyard Song. There’s a lot of symbolism in it, but what I found interesting was the pun in the last verse (Is. 5:7):
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help
This is not obvious unless you look at the Hebrew. The word for “justice” is mishpat, and “oppression” is mishpakh. “Righteousness” is tzedaqah, and “a cry for help” is tza’aqah. The words are very, very similar: it’s a pun. Sort of like: “Ohhhh. You wanted mishpat. We have all this mishpakh. Oops.” This also means that the vineyard Yahweh planted did not produce no fruit, but bad fruit. It’s not a passive sin (want of conformity unto the Law of God), but an active sin (transgression of the Law of God).
Isaiah’s commission in chapter 6 contains elements of a worship service. He sees the seraphim (burning ones) worshipping before the Throne, and is afraid, because he is sinful. He knows sin cannot survive before God, and he confesses his sin before the Lord. So one of the seraphim touches him with a coal from the altar. Notice that the seraphim, a being made of fire, has to use tongs because this coal is so hot. Isaiah is purified with a baptism of fire, as it were, and now is clean to worship and serve Yahweh. He has become a burning one: he was set on fire. We cannot and should not presume to enter the Holy Place in worship without being cleansed through verbal confession of sin.
Notice also that the angels are crying “one to another” the Sanctus: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Yahweh of Hosts, the heavens are full of His glory.” It’s an antiphonal response: something that was utilized in the early church, seems to be suggested by the regulative principle, and has largely been lost in our modern worship, although it is making a slight revival among *cough* select churches.
Acts 2 does not give a model for the Church to follow. The church described there is a small band of people living in a new and exciting world. They are an immature church. Following this model is a refusal to progress, as well as longing for an abstract ideal. It’s primitivism, a flight from maturity, and a refusal to do battle. The real Church, with millions of people across the globe, just doesn’t work out that way. And in fact, all of the things described there quickly break down, even in the book of Acts in the next couple of chapters.
There are many, many, heated debates within the Church. And these are not viewed as bad things. Rather, it seems that arguments are evidences of the Spirit’s working in us to discern the truth. Everyone has an opinion, but only one of them is right. When we argue, that’s the Spirit working in us to debate and weigh these things: the right one comes out on top.
Paul and Barnabas have an argument so sharp that they completely part ways: we assume that they argued in love, in a spirit of working to find the best way, and that no bad blood remained between them, but that doesn’t change the fact that this argument (about Mark’s commitment and maturity) was a big deal. And keep in mind that up until this point, Barnabas is called the “Peacemaker,” because he has mediated all the other arguments we know of in Acts so far.
Arguments happen. They have to happen for the truth to come out on top.
The comments about the House of Yahweh in Zechariah indicate that it is the false worship of the people that has brought calamity upon them. As we’ve also been seeing in Isaiah, true faithful worship brings God’s protection (Hezekiah). If you’re worshipping the right way, your enemies can’t touch you. But when false worship occurs (Ahaz), judgment will come, and swiftly. Worship is not something you do if there’s no game on Sunday. Worship is warfare and it is far more important than we often realize. When we worship correctly, Satan trembles, because he knows he’s about to be judged. When we don’t worship faithfully and truly, he’s happy, because he’s not being attacked and in fact we have left ourselves open to his onslaught.
The new idol is humanity itself; we will worship our own brain.
The ancient pagans were tempted to idolatry because of sensory input, which is a basic brain function. The temples were beautiful, the gold of the idols was breath-taking, etc. They would not see this kind of awe inspiring beauty but once or twice in a lifetime.
We are not tempted to this ancient idolatry today because we are surrounded by more beauty and craftsmanship than ancient man could even comprehend. It’s simply decadent.
However, this constant bombardment of our sensory input has completely filled up our brains: we have left no room for higher order thought (the soul, the Spirit, philosophy). Our minds are full, as it were. That’s why the challenge today is not those who worship physical idols (in a sense), but those who deny the existence of God altogether: their minds have been molded because there’s just no more room in there.
Some questions still remain about what kinds of sensory input are good and which are bad. Some, like psalm singing, are obviously good. This requires more thought, but it’s a track we need to explore. We live in a world of constant sensory bombardment, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (modern technology is an incredible blessing from God), but we need to think about what we’re putting into our minds, and if it’s going to push those higher order thought processes into a tiny corner.
Because of this, those of us “modern men” who have not been trained to think about matters of dogma (through strengthening by the Spirit) are completely incapable of thinking about God in any context. God just doesn’t make sense to their lower order function brains (this has nothing to do with intellect, by the way: there are less intelligent people who know much about Scripture and love, and intellectual elite who are dead in sins and trespasses).
The problem with ancient man was not that he believed in a god: it was that he believed in the wrong one. The pagan world knew about Yahweh (see the sailors’ comments to Jonah as well as other places in the Scripture); He had a reputation as the baddest dude in town. People trembled when they learned that this prophet or king came in the name of Yahweh. “Not Yahweh! We must be in deep trouble, if that God is coming upon us,” and very often it leads directly to repentance (again, Jonah and Ninevah; when they learn that Yahweh is angry, they immediately repent).
This is not the case today. Today, man is incapable of comprehending any god at all, much less a God like Yahweh (who is a God like our God, indeed!).
Note that this problem of molding our minds to not accept God is a problem we have brought upon ourselves: it is not demonic activity per se. Man now has far more power than the angelic host, demons included. We are the ones who tempt each other away from God now. Our snares recoil upon our own heads.