Like a Flood

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 6:5 π Gen. 7:13-16 π Isa. 59:12 π Isa. 59:12-15 π Isa. 59:13; 2nd; 3rd π Isa. 59:14-15 π Isa. 59:15 π Isa. 59:15-19 π Isa. 59:17 π Isa. 59:19 π Isa. 59:20-21 π Isa. 61:1-2 π Isa. 61:2 π Isa. 63:1-6 π Mt. 15:14 π Mt. 24:10-11 π Mt. 24:12 π Mt. 24:37 π Lk. 4:18 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 8:44 π Jn. 8:45-47 π Jn. 12:31-32 π Jn. 14:6 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:3-12 π 2 Ths. 2:10; 2nd π 2 Tim. 3:1-5 π 2 Tim. 3:12 π Heb. 3:12-15 π Jas. 4:6 π Jas. 4:7 π 1 Jn. 1:5-6 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 21:7 π Rev. 21:8 π Rev. 22:14 π Rev. 22:14-15

Isaiah prophesied about many things. One of his more famous lines is "When the enemy comes in like a flood..." ( Isa. 59:19; top ) But though we are familiar with that line and use it often as a source of hope that we will not be overwhelmed by the devil, I suspect we know very little about its context. Let us examine that more carefully. But before we examine the whole passage, let's consider the place of this prophecy in the skeletal framework of the timing of their fulfillment. That is, when is this prophecy to be fulfilled?

The Lord said to Isaiah, "He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak." ( Isa. 59:17; top ) There is only one day of vengeance for God and that is Christ's return when He rules and reigns from that time forward.

In another prophecy, Isaiah is given more insight into this day of vengeance.

Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? - "I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save."

Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

"I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth." ( Isa. 63:1-6; top )

Let us also remember the time when Jesus Himself was reading from the book of Isaiah. In the synagogue, He read, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" ( Lk. 4:18 ; Isa. 61:1-2 a) If we go on to read in Isaiah, however, we will find that the very next line reads, "...and the day of vengeance of our God." ( Isa. 61:2; top ) Jesus knew that His time to fulfill that line was not yet at hand so He stopped reading.

The point of all this is that the prophecy, in which Isaiah speaks of the enemy coming in like a flood, is set in the context of the imminent return of Jesus. Both Paul and Jesus spoke of the time before Christ's return as being one of apostasy and rebellion. ( Mt. 24:10-11 ; 2 Ths. 2:3-12; top ) As we examine Isaiah's prophecy, we will see that he does too.

Rampant Lies

For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them: in transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. ( Isa. 59:12-15; top )

Let us pause here and examine some of the details of this prophecy. Though Isaiah is speaking in the first person plural ("we"), the context, as has already been discussed even though it is not in view in these verses, shows us that he is viewing some future time, the time just before the day of God's vengeance.

Let us list the sins that Isaiah saw and compare them with some of the more familiar phrases from the New Testament.

I have listed these so that we can see the parallels between the New Testament prophecies and Isaiah's prophecies. But let us examine the implications of what Isaiah has said about truth.

Jesus said, "Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth." ( Jn. 4:24 - emphasis added) Isaiah spoke of "...conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood." (v. 13 ) When we put all the pieces from Jesus, Paul and Isaiah together, we see that even in the hearts of people who profess to follow Christ, there will be deception and lies. Let no one be fooled - this is not acceptable behavior - for Paul warns that those who do not love the truth will not be saved but will be eternally condemned. ( 2 Ths. 2:10 ) John confirms this when he says, "But outside [of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem and excluded from the Tree of Life] are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. ( Rev. 22:14-15 - emphasis added) John is equally plain when he says, "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone" ( Rev. 21:8; top - emphasis added)

Isaiah prophesied, "So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey." ( Isa. 59:15 ) What a picture this presents! Rampant deception, lawlessness - and the man or woman who stands up for the truth is persecuted. This is the case especially when someone begins to understand just how devastating to the body of Christ the practices of the Nicolaitan clergy really are. ( Rev. 2:6 , 15; top ) To be a Nicolaitan is to lord it over the people so to speak of Nicolaitan clergy is really just like saying clergy twice. What is even worse in our time is that those who are Nicolaitan clergy have managed to deceive themselves and their followers into believing that they are not Nicolaitan clergy - a classic case of denial! This is one of the things Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the blind leading the blind. ( Mt. 15:14; top )

But let us note carefully that those who stand up and depart from evil and deceptive ways will become the target - just as did Jesus, Paul and Isaiah (to name but a few) - of those practicing evil and deception. And it is no coincidence that the worst persecution comes from the status quo religious leaders with unBiblical empires to protect or from those wannabes who are climbing the ecclesiastical ladder in hopes of becoming the next world-famous Bible guru. We must recognize that the truth is a divisive thing - and very detrimental to many "church" systems. As someone has wonderfully pointed out, there are any number of ways to fall but there is only one way to stand upright. Anyone not plunging headlong into deception is going to be going against the flow, swimming upstream all of his life. This is why Paul warned Timothy, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." ( 2 Tim. 3:12 )

Jesus said, "I am...the truth." ( Jn. 14:6; top ) Anyone who walks in, that is, habitually lives and practices, anything other than the Personal presence of the living Christ, that one is walking in the spirit of something other than Christ. Scripture is just too plain on this and the implications that we would be walking in the influence of some other spirit than the Holy Spirit of God ought to cause us to stop right where we are, repent and cry out for mercy. There is no other remedy for one who is possessed or controlled by a lying or religious spirit. And this is the same remedy for one who has simply trained their soul to traffic in deception and masks, whether for religious, professional or personal reasons. Those who prefer the caresses of the spiritual enemies of Christ over the tender mercies of Christ can only look forward to ultimate destruction from the hand of Christ Himself.

The Standard of Truth

Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. ( Isa. 59:15-19; top )

Here is the famous quote that so many look to as a source of hope. And indeed it is a source of hope that when the enemy comes in like a flood, threatening to overwhelm us, "the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him."

The Hebrew for "lift up a standard" contains the idea of causing someone to flee. This is consistent with what James said: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." ( Jas. 4:7 ) James was not speaking of resisting in our own strength but in the context of submitting to God and walking with His Spirit. (see also v. 6; top )

The standard was the banner or flag of the tribe or company of the army at war. When a banner or flag was lifted up, it indicated a secure or strong position on the battlefield. Any warriors in trouble or any troops being sent up from the rear could orient on these banners and thus could advance or retreat appropriately. These banners were indicators of the leaders of the fight - and wherever the leaders were, the troops around them were heavily concentrated.

And what is this standard that is lifted up? Jesus, in a strikingly parallel statement, said, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." ( Jn. 12:31-32; top ) Because the standard, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, would be lifted up from the earth, the ruler of this world, the devil, would be cast out and all peoples would be drawn to Christ.

When we see this standard, Christ Himself, in the context of truth - that is, He is the Person of truth - then we see the necessity for truthfulness in all things. For truth is one of Christ's standards, one of His banners, just as is the unity of the body of Christ, loving one another and living by His Spirit. Each of these are indispensable. Truthfulness in all things is not an option - it is an integral part of a genuine life in Christ. If this element is entirely missing, one must genuinely doubt the validity of one's salvation experience and should try again to connect with the living and true God. John wrote, "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." ( 1 Jn. 1:5-6; top ) Darkness and deception go hand in hand, being nearly synonymous with each other. They are entirely inconsistent with the nature of Christ who dwells within true believers.

Let us also recall what Jesus said about Satan: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." ( Jn. 8:44; top ) If you continue to habitually live in lies, deceptions and masks, know this: you are of your father the devil and you are not of God. This is not my judgment - this is the pronouncement of Christ Jesus Himself on all those who will not forsake the shameful ways of darkness and enter His kingdom of light.

When Isaiah says that the enemy comes in like a flood, what do you suppose will be his chief weapon of attack? Deception! Lies! And what can we conclude about anyone who wields these weapons? They are deceivers and liars! They are tools in the hand of the enemy of our souls! Let us not pretend that they are our friends or our pastors. Let us recognize that anyone who habitually practices is captivated under any form of deception, who has some spirit other than the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth, is only another lost soul on his or her way to Hell. Let us not be fooled and let us not fool ourselves. Honesty and truthfulness in all things is not an option for the follower of Christ!

In the same passage where Jesus speaks of the deceitfulness of the devil, He also speaks of why the people around Him both persecuted Him and were unable to understand and believe His teachings. He said, "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." ( Jn. 8:45-47; top ) Those who are of God hear God's words and put them into practice. Those who are under the control or in the possession of the devil do not hear God. If you truly hear God, you will believe and obey the teachings of Christ. How much more plain can this be?

The Bottom Line

"The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," says the Lord. "As for Me," says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the Lord, "from this time and forevermore." ( Isa. 59:20-21 )

What a promise! This is parallel with what John says: "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." ( Rev. 22:14 ) And again, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." ( Rev. 21:7; top ) We have been focusing on truth here - though there are indeed other applications which could be made from the same passages - so let us conclude in that same vein. The Spirit of truth will be upon us forever. We would be wise if we were accustomed to Him now. We must overcome our propensity toward deception if we want eternal life. This certainly means deceptive ways toward God and those around us, but it also includes self-deception as well, something which we excel at far more than we most often realize.

Let us realize also that the enemy is not the only one who comes in like a flood. Noah preached for a 100 years or more that there was a coming judgment. We have heard for centuries that there is a coming final judgment - and we have been hearing for decades that it is very, very near. I don't believe we can imagine Noah's frustration when day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, no one would be convinced of their need to repent. Instead, "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." ( Gen. 6:5 ) Interestingly, this is exactly the same condition Isaiah foresaw in the end days. Jesus also said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man returns. ( Mt. 24:37; top )

Seven days before the rains began to fall, Noah entered the ark - and God closed the door. ( Gen. 7:13-16; top ) There comes a point when the preaching stops and there is no more hope for salvation even though judgment has not yet happened. If we refuse to forsake our deceptive ways, there comes a point when we can no longer turn to God for mercy even though we have not yet received our final rewards.

The writer of Hebrews said, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called, 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'" ( Heb. 3:12-15; top - emphasis added)

Honesty - with God, with others and with ourselves - is not an option for the believer. It is a sign that we are on the right road. If that sign is missing, we need to know that we are on the wrong road. It is just that simple.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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