Today’s passage begins with the twenty-first verse of the first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah and continues through to the eleventh verse of the second chapter. As you begin reading this passage of Scripture you will begin to notice that there essentially two different lines of thought that run through this selection of Scripture. This particular passage of Scripture begins and opens with an absolutely terrifying and frightful description of the city of Jerusalem within the southern nation and kingdom of Judah. “How is the faithful city become an harlot!” Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous weight and significance of those words and truly allow them to sink deep within your heart and your mind. Here the Lord of hosts through His servant Isaiah is declaring to the city of Jerusalem that when once she was faithful she had now become a harlot. What a tragic transition it is to think of a faithful city becoming a harlot. When once this city was faithful before and faithful unto the Lord it had now become a harlot before Him—unfaithful, adulterous and promiscuous in the earth. There are many among us who have a difficult time with language such as this for it offends our sensibilities. The prophet Isaiah uses the word “harlot,” but another word that might very well be used is “prostitute,” and carries with it the same meaning. This city which was once faithful before the Lord and faithful in the land had now become an unfaithful and adulterous city in the land. In other words, the faithfulness which this city once possessed was no longer present within it, for she had traded her faithfulness for unfaithfulness and adultery. Please know and understand that this is not a literal and physical adultery which the Lord is speaking about, but a spiritual adultery which the city had engaged themselves in. The Lord of hosts even spoke and declared that this city was once full of judgment, and that righteousness lodged within it, yet now murderers are found within it. What a terrible and tragic transition and transformation took place within the city of Jerusalem which was the city which had both the representation of the authority of the Lord [the throne of David] and the representation of the glory and presence of the Lord [the Temple of the Lord and the Ark of the Covenant].
Perhaps the best way to explain the reality of what the Lord of hosts is speaking through His servant Isaiah in this passage is through the words which another prophet would declare during the days of the Babylonian siege and captivity. In the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we find a sobering and terrible description of the city of Jerusalem—one that I would dare say would very well offend the sensibilities of many more. “But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colors, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredoms with them, and tookest thy broidered garments, and covered St them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and homer, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord God. Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast burned unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them? And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and barte, and wast polluted in thy blood. And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! Saith the Lord God;) that thou hast also built unto thee and eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street. Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way. Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou was insatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied. Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith. How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; in that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and madest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; but as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband. They give gifts to all whores: but thou gives thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou gives a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary” (Ezekiel 16:15-34).
There’s another passage in the prophetic book of Ezekiel which I feel helps shine even more light on to this reality, and actually helps further explain the root cause and condition of this adultery, harlotry, and whoredoms. In the fourteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel the elders of Israel came unto Ezekiel and sat before him. While sitting before and in the presence of Ezekiel the word of the Lord came unto the prophet concerning these man—a powerful prophetic word which provides a powerful truth which must be understood. “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblinblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblok of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: and I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 14:2-12).
Within these two passages we encounter the true source of such adultery, such spiritual fornication, promiscuity, whoredoms and harlotries. In the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel the prophet makes this very pointed and powerful declaration to those to whom he is speaking—“How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman” (Ezekiel 16:30). In the fourteenth chapter of the same prophetic book the prophet acknowledges this reality even more in a completely different manner. In the fourteenth chapter the word of the Lord comes to the prophet upon the elders of Israel coming unto him and sitting before him. The word of the Lord came to the prophet and declared that the men who had sat before him “have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face.” Furthermore, the Lord goes on to speak of “every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet.” The prophet goes on to speak of every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger which sojourned in Israel, “which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me.” In the fourteenth chapter the prophet Ezekiel it is revealed to the prophet that the elders of Israel had set up their idols within their heart, and as a result have put the stumbling block of iniquity before their face. What’s more is that the prophet goes on to speak of how those who set up idols within their heart have done so because they have first separated themselves from the Lord. Please don’t miss this, for first comes the separation from the Lord, then comes the setting up of idols within one’s heart, and finally comes the putting of the stumbling block of iniquity before one’s face. In the sixteenth chapter the prophet Ezekiel declares of those to whom he is speaking that their heart is weak, and as a result of this weak heart they did all the things they did, the work of an imperious whorish woman.
Oh please don’t miss this very important and crucial truth, for in order to understand spiritual adultery, spiritual fornication and spiritual whoredoms, it is imperative that we understand the reality that it is a matter of the heart and begins within the heart. Before the elders of Israel, and before anyone from the house of Israel put the stumblingblock of iniquity before their face they first set up their idols within their heart. I have written before and I firmly believe that the idols and idolatry that is present within our lives first begins within our heart. Any outward idol within our lives is but the manifestation, the demonstration and the expression of an idol which has already been set up within our heart. In the fourteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we are confronted with the setting up of idols within our hearts. In the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book we are confronted with the weakness of one’s heart which entices them to engage in the actions of an imperious whorish woman. In the first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah the prophet speaks of the whole head being sick, and the whole heart being faint—words which further confront the issue that what we read within the prophetic books is ultimately a matter of the heart. A FAINT HEART! A WEAK HEART! A HEART FULL OF IDOLS! It is absolutely imperative and necessary that we understand each of these concepts for it helps reveal the true heart of the matter of all idolatry and all immorality within our lives. The house of Israel could put the stumblingblock of iniquity before their faces because they had first set up idols within their own hearts. Oh I would dare say that the true idol within our lives which must be confronted and dealt with is that which exists within our hearts. There is such a thing as an outward and external demonstration and manifestation of the destruction of idols within our lives—one that is expressed in the reforms which Josiah introduced in the land after being convicted by words recorded in the Law of the Lord.
Consider what is recorded concerning Josiah in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings. “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cites of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the woman wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-Sheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinton, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Merle he the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for. Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and Seth, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed these words…And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem” (2 Kings 23:4-20).
What we read in this passage of Scripture is an incredibly powerful demonstration and manifestation of an inward reality. The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed that the elders of the house of Israel and even the house of Israel themselves had set up idols within their hearts, and as a result had put the stumblingblock of iniquity before their faces. Please don’t miss the order of this for it is quite significant when seeking to understand what is needed within our lives. Josiah’s actions within the city of Jerusalem, within the land of Judah, and even within the land of Israel was absolutely critical and crucial and was a direct response of the word of the Lord bringing conviction upon and within his heart. Were it not for the conviction of the word of the Lord as revealed in the law of Moses Josiah might not have engaged in the very powerful reforms he did throughout the land. With that being said, I am convinced that it is not enough to merely deal with and remove the outward and external stumblinblocks within our lives while leaving the idols within our hearts untouched and not dealt with. It’s worth noting that the prophet Ezekiel saw the idols within the heart and the stumblingblock before the faces of the elders and people of the land. This is incredibly vital, for there are many times when we deal only with the stumblingblock while leaving the idol that is set up within our heart untouched. It is not enough merely to remove the stumblingblock from before our faces if we are not willing to also remove the idols that have been set up within our heart. The true source of spiritual whoredoms and harlotries is actually a matter of the heart and our setting up idols within our hearts. If you want to truly deal with the whoredoms and harlotries within your life it is imperative that you first deal with the idols which have been set up within your heart. The faithful city had become a harlot because she had set up idols within her heart and had put the stumbling blocks of iniquity before her face. The various stumbling blocks that were present within and throughout the land were nothing more than an outward expression of the idols which men and women had set up within their hearts. The true question that must be asked when reading this passage is whether or not we are willing to confront our weak and faint heart which we may very well have set up idols within. Dear brother, dear sister—are you willing to confront your own weak and faint heart and the idols you may have set up within it? Please note that an idol is anything that takes the place of the Lord Almighty within our lives. Oh that we would rise up in these Last Days and deal with the idols, the altars, the high places and the thrones we have set up within our hearts—those things we have allowed to creep in and take the place of the Most High God.
As you continue reading this passage within the prophetic book of Isaiah you will notice the Lord taking very serious and pointed action in the midst of Jerusalem and Judah. “Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: and I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:24-31). The first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah concludes with the Lord declaring His easing Himself of His adversaries, and the avenging of Himself of His enemies. The Lord will purely purge away the dross of Judah and Jerusalem, and will take way their tin, and will restore both their judges and counselors. The first chapter concludes with the Lord easingHimself of His adversaries and avenging Himself of His enemies, while the second chapter begins with a powerful declaration concerning the mountain of the Lord being established in the top of the mountains. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nation shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:1-4).
I absolutely love how the second chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah begins for it brings us face to face with that which is desperately needed within our own lives—the establishing of the mountain of the Lord’s house and the exalting the mountain of the house of the Lord above all the hills. This is incredibly important and powerful for it was upon the hills and various other mountains where the people of Jerusalem and Judah had set up their altars, their high places, their idols, and their idolatrous practices. Even Solomon the son of David was guilty of this, and might very well be considered the one who initiated the high places and idolatrous practices upon the hills and mountains outside of Jerusalem. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the ammonites.l And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:4-8). I absolutely love the contrast between the second chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah with the eleventh chapter of Second Kings and considered alongside the actions of Josiah. I am convinced that what is needed within our hearts and lives is the reformation of Josiah and the elevation of the mountain of the house of the Lord. It is time that we leave the hill that is before Jerusalem [the hill that is outside Jerusalem] and once more return to the mountain of the house of the Lord where His throne and Temple have been established. It is time that we go to all those hills that have taken the place of the mountain of the house of the Lord within our lives and destroy every high place, every altar, every idol, and everything that offends the Lord our God. It is time that the mountain of the house of the Lord and the house of the Lord be established and exalted in our lives once more. It is time that true worship of the Most High God be restored to its proper place within our lives once more.