The Promise of a New Creation (Isaiah 63-66)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry it’s been so long and unpredictable when I’m going to blog. I’ve been going through a pretty rough time in my life. Today I finally feel renewed and feel that it’s time for me to get back into this blog. So hold on tight. We are going to finish the Book of Isaiah today! Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but if we’re all here there will be another post!

As we finish the book of Isaiah, we start with a depiction of God coming in wrath among the nations of the world. He is covered in a red garment. He is asked why, and God explains that it is the blood of those who do not follow Him. Calling forward to the future crucifixion, God is pictured in blood, suffering in order to save His people, and dying for people of all nations. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, …” (63:9, NASB). In verse 16 we see a glimpse at the future struggle of Gentile Christians. “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” (63:16, NASB).

God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, offer up a prayer of mercy and help. They recognize that God is angry because of their sin. They have all chosen to go against God. Now, they have realized the error in their ways, and are asking Him to give them mercy. “You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a log time; and shall we be saved? (64:5, NASB). They now submit themselves for God to make them as He thinks is right “we are the clay, and You our potter;” (64:8, NASB). They recognize that they need His mercy in order to become the people that He wants them to be. Their heart’s cry is to simply be made new. For God to destroy their old selves, and make them new.

The nation of Israel had long been a people who knew about God. God calls the a rebellious people. They constantly turn away from Him, and do the things He has asked them not to. So God tells His people that He has chosen a new people that will obey Him. He says, “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.” (65:1 & 9, NASB). “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty…” (65:13, NSAB). God is telling the people of Israel that because they are unfaithful, He will take care of those who obey Him before them. They will find themselves in need, and God won’t help them until they seek Him. Then God promises a new creation. He will remake Jerusalem, and the earth, into a place that knows and follows God through the people who obey Him today.

God does make one final warning to His people before the new Creation. It is not simply good enough to say and do the correct things. They have to actually do them and follow God, because they know it is right in their hearts. Hypocrisy has no place in God’s new Creation. God’s new Creation will see an end to all evil, and people who actively work against Him. “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind” (66:24, NASB).

We live in some crazy times. We hear people all the time denouncing God. There are Muslim extremist groups who’s sole purpose is to destroy either the US or Israel. This something easy for us to remember as our nation remembers the events of 13 years ago today. We see and hear about despicable acts towards women and children, simply because its a lucrative business and makes someone lots of money. We live in a world full of evil, but there is hope. We have hope because of Christ. We find our salvation in him, so our souls are good. But what about this world that we all must live in until it is time for us to go home?

God promises a new creation for the people who follow Him. All evil will be eradicated from this world, and God will set a new world with Himself and Christ at the center.  If you’d like to read more about that I’d suggest reading the event in the Book of Revelation.

For us today though, as we live our day in/day out lives, God’s promise is still there for us. God will never leave or forsake you, so long as you believe in His Son. Jesus is the way that we can have hope in a world full of evil. Christ came, and died for our sins so that we can have God’s promises. We just have to make a stand and follow Christ, no matter what the world tells us.

I’ll end here with a verse that has been my prayer today, and I hope it becomes yours.

“Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” –Psalm 119:133, NASB

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 119

Also in this Series

God’s Blessings Restored (Isaiah 60-62)

Book of Isaiah

With the desolation of Jerusalem, the city was now longer a symbol of glory for the people of Israel. However, God wants to see it restored. He shares a vision with Isaiah showing that not only is Jerusalem restored, but people from all nations come to worship God. First the people of Israel will be brought back to their home land, after the Exile. With their help, “Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you.” (60:10, NLT). All nations are bound to serve the people of Israel; they will be glorified above all others because of God and they will praise God. “salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter.” (60:18, NLT).

God isn’t done with His people. He knows them, and remembers His promises made to them. Blessing will come upon them because of their oppression . “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (61:7, NLT). The people have had to suffer because of their sin. But now that the punishment is over, they will enjoy great blessing from God.

When Jerusalem is restored, the people of Israel shall be restored as well. They will become something desirable, a shining light to all the nations. Where they were once thought of as a nation of undesirables, all people will come to see there glory and God’s glory. “They will be called ‘the Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord’. And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’.” (62:12, NLT).

In this reading I realized something about myself, I take my salvation for granted. The truth is that salvation does for us the same thing God is describing in these passages from Isaiah. We were all once disgraceful because of our sin. There was no need for anyone (even God) to give me a second thought. Yet still, he did think about me. He thought about me while hanging on a cross. And because of that, I now have glory in God.

I had always known what happened, and just took for “I’m a Christian and that what God does for me.” The honest truth is that God does this for everyone. Not just me and other Christians, but even people who don’t believe in a Him. But the thing that really gets me (God has been working on this in me recently), is that he does this for his enemies and people who actively work against Him. The people who fight against God can still be saved by His redeeming grace if they simply put their faith in Him.

God is calling us back to a place of glory. He wants to bestow great blessings upon us and make us a shining light for all people. But he can’t do this until we choose to come back to Him. The people of Israel were taken away from their homes for 40 years in order to teach them this lesson. God teaches us this same lesson today. When we fall away from Him, life gets much more difficult and dark. But when we come back, He pours out the blessings!

So if this is you today, I pray that you recognize what is going on and make the changes you need in order to come back to Him. He desires to be close to you. So come back to Him.

 

Also in this Series

Love Came Down (Isaiah 57-59)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry about my infrequency of blogging. I have had a pretty stressful last few weeks that ended with my worship ministry being shut down. It has been a hard process to go through, but it has made me realize my need to lean on God. If I had not had Him, things would be much worse for me today. My hope is to finally finish up this study we started in April!

Adultery is a strong word. I’m sure there are some that are shock that adultery was the (real) first word in this post. But God uses this word to describe what the people of Israel have done. They committed to being His people, and He would be there God. However, time-and-time again, these people follow there own wants and desires and often leave behind God altogether. God says to His people, “You have put pagan symbols on you doorposts and behind your doors. You have left me and climbed into bed with these detestable gods. You have committed yourselves to them. You love to look at their naked bodies.” (57:8, NLT). He goes on to push them to realize that their new idols are worthless in comparison of Him. Yet still God offers one thing that can save His people for His wrath. If they are truly repentant, He will spare them from such pain. “I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far” (57:18-19, NLT).

When we follow our own paths, one thing will always remain in our relationship with God: false worship. False worship could possibly be one of the worst things we can get into as worshipers, because mostly likely we don’t recognize that it has happened. God tells them, “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do You really think this will please the Lord?” (58:5, NLT). The reason we are doing anything matters more than the act of worship we are participating in. If you do it, so you can get something out of it, it’s not true worship. You give everything to God expecting nothing in return. That’s how you please God the most. He goes on to say, “this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do no hide from relatives who need your help.” (58:6-7, NLT). God calls the Israelites to come back to Him, and cease their false worship. This comes with the promise that they will be able to come back to Him, and receive the inheritance they were promised.

Sin is very problematic. There is no way to truly convey what it is that sin does to us. I’ve become quite fond of a phrase I’ve heard, “sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead”. God have a very honest message for His people during this section of reading. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hand are the hands of murderers and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.” (59:2-3, NLT).  That’s what sin has done, and the Israelites were feeling exactly that through the Exile. They were cut off from God geographically, and spiritually because of the choices they made. But all the people that were repentant still haven’t seen much salvation, but God promises to come to earth and rescue all that are repentant. “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” (59:15-16, NLT).

Friends, we have all had problems following God, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Sin causes us to do some crazy things. We could leave behind a God who has done far more than we deserve, when all He asks is that we seek Him. We can suddenly decide to hate Him, or His people. We could chose to leave Him altogether and change religions, or decide there is no God at all. We could decide that our faith in Him is based on a certain act, like saving a loved one from a sickness. We say things like, “God, if you could bring my wife out of this, I promise I will go to church every week and spend time in the Word everyday.” We could decide that we know better what makes a sin, so I will decide what is right. But is this really glorifying to God?

Time after time God offers salvation to the repentant, the truly repentant. All we have to do is recognize our sin, and that we cannot overcome it. God is the only one that can save us from the path we have set for ourselves, all we have to do is ask. I have heard countless people make the claim that they are too forgone for God to do anything with them. “Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.” (59:1, NLT). This means you could have run as far away as you can. You can be as dirty as you can get. But God will still come to you, if you are truly repentant. Sin doesn’t have to keep you dead, you can come to life through Jesus Christ.

 

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 115-118

 

Also in this Series

Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

Also in this Series

The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53)

Book of Isaiah

After His call for Israel to put their trust in God, He moves to promise their salvation. The Israelite nation has been taken into exile, and now is held in “enemy” territory. God recounts the days that Israel was in slavery to Egypt. “Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. What is this? Why are my people enslaved again?” (52:4-5, NLT). In the land they were being kept, God’s name was constantly being blasphemed and ridiculed. It would have been enough to cause the Israelites to question if their God was even real. But He responds to them, “But I will reveal my name to my people and they will come to know its power. Than at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them.” (52:6, NLT). God offers them a vision of a restored Jerusalem, where there is much celebration at the people’s return. They will be allowed to leave their places of captivity and travel back to their land. Bu they will not do this alone. God promises to go with them, “For the Lord will go before you, and they God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (52:12, NASB). God then switches focus away from the people of Israel towards God’s servant, better known to us as Messiah. God begins to talk of an exalted servant, who has been “marred” (52:14, NASB) or “disfigured” (NLT). This servant will bring untold knowledge even to the kings of other nations.

Isaiah opens up to a vision that we know today as the Passion story found in all 4 of the gospels. He describes all the events that Jesus was put through at the end of his life (keep in mind this was written 500-600 years before he was born). “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed … He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; … His grave was assigned with wicked me, Yet he was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” (53:5, 7, 9, NASB). Yet through all of his suffering, God was pleased. He wasn’t pleased that the servant had to suffer. God was pleased because of the end result. “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (53:11, NASB).

Where does this leave us today? I find myself thinking about Jesus’ crucifixion. I am so thankful for what God has done for me. I know that I am a sinful person. Even after coming to Jesus, there are still sins that I fight with everyday! If it weren’t for the suffering of Jesus, I would have no hope of salvation today. I know that when it comes time for me to be judged, my sins have been paid for by Jesus’ blood. My only hope is that I live a life where I know Jesus, and he knows me. Jesus told his disciples, “Many will say to Me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And they I will declare to them ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:22-23, NASB). We can all be sure that we live lives that line up with God. The process is simple, but it is a difficult life. We must spend time in prayer, reading Scripture, and discerning what God’s will is for our lives. It’s hard, and there are many who say they do these things, but few who do. I pray that we can all be better at coming to Christ. Not just when we need him, but for every single day. Leaning on him in distress, thanking him for blessings. We need him for everything!

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 111

 

Also in this Series

Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

Also in this Series

Idol Worship is Foolishness (Isaiah 45-48)

Book of Isaiah

After Gods’ promises of salvation and victory in the previous section, God begins to talk about an anointed one to bring forth salvation for all mankind. However, knowing His people the way He does, God knows that people will begin to question His motives or the method that He uses. But God tells His people, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” (45:9, NLT). God uses the fact that He is the Creator as His reasoning for His ability to do as He sees fit. God then speaks on the future conversion of the Gentiles. He says, “I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.” (45:19b, NLT). Which then leads to the conclusion at the end of the chapter, “The people will declare, ‘The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.’ And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed.” (45:24, NLT).

God continues to call out to His people to repent. He does not want to punish these people; they are His and He loves them very much. However, He knows that a time is coming that He will have to unleash His wrath upon them. He makes yet another plea to them saying, “Listen to me, descendant of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have care for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until you hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (46:3-4, NLT). He points again to idol worship of the pagans, especially Babylon. These idols cannot save the people who worship them or do anything else for them but stand there and look pretty. But God tells them that He is a living God who is willing to act for them. “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.” (46:12-13, NLT).

Turning towards the new oppressors, God addresses the Babylonians. They claim that they are the only one, and none are more powerful than they are. Yet God tells them that a great calamity is coming their way, one they are not prepared to handle. The consequence of this is that they will sit in shame before all people. God says to them, “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. Four your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. Take heavy millstones and grind flour. Remove you veil, and strip off your robe. Expose yourself to public view. You will be naked and burned with shame. I will take vengeance against you without pity.” (47:1-3, NLT). Nothing about this image is nice, it is all a place of shame. God seeks to take a once great nation, and bring it down low because it was too prideful and worshiped false gods.

He then brings the idol worship back home to the Israelites. God knows that even they are subject to breaking this Commandment.”You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel.” (48:1-2, NLT). Even Israel is not safe from the condemnation of idol worship. But God offers them a new prophecy to show that He is God and none of the idols can compare to Him. He tells His people that His anointed one will come and destroy Babylon.  This act is going to cause the Israelites to be set free, and return home after the Exile.

There is a single theme that keeps grabbing me today as I read these passages, idol worship is foolishness. Back during the times of Isaiah’s writing, idol worship was easy to pick out. If someone created a statue and decided to worship it, that was idol worship. Yet, this sin still exists in our world today, it just normally doesn’t come up as a statue anymore. The biggest form we see today is over money. People seek after the “great green George” thinking that all their problems would be solved if they made enough money. I myself have been caught thinking these same thoughts a time or two. Another form of idol worship comes in the form of fame or the famous. We either want to become well-known, see our name in lights, or be some big hot-shot movie star. We can also tend to take a person and follow their every move, know everything about them and their life as if we were actually friends with these people. The list goes on and on over what idol worship looks like to us today. I simply ask that we be mindful of where our gaze gets taken away from the Creator and given towards created things. Many times in these passages God calls the people who worship idols foolish. Do you want to be foolish? Or would you rather stick down a path that leads to wisdom? Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB). We must seek out God and not allow our sights to be taken off of Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 108

 

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God is Our Savior (Isaiah 40-44)

Book of Isaiah

**Personal note** Sorry for my lack of posting. Life got super hectic for awhile (ie. moving, business, still trying to figure out having a new baby, etc.). However, recently my problem has become that my usual time for blogging has gotten super busy now that I am working on a job change. Anyways, I am going to be trying out some new times for blogging. I will get this blog back on track and finish us the Book of Isaiah so we can talk about something new! Thank you for all your understanding.

 

Isaiah opens this section by addressing all of God’s people (Northern and Southern kingdoms), in order to give them comfort during a long hardship (probably the Exile). The call is for people to return to God because He remembers them and is there to take care of them. Before we get to that point, God reminds them that even though people change, He doesn’t. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (40:6-8, NLT). He knows that they have had problems, and He knows that more are to come. Yet He reminds them to stay faithful because He does not change. Isaiah then switches gears somewhat to tell us about the greatness of God. God says “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” (40:25, NLT). Through the preceding verse we know that none can compare to our God. Isaiah mentions that God has held the oceans in His hand, measure the entire heavens with His finger, knows the weight of the world and all its mountains and hills. None can advise God, and He doesn’t need advise. Isaiah even states, “He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand” (40:15, NLT). But then Isaiah brings it all back around for the ultimate comfort. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depth of his understanding. He give power to the weak and straight to the powerless … But those shoe trust int the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (40:28-29, 31, NLT).

The Lord then turns to the idols of the nations and asks them to make a case for themselves. The nations become prideful when they are successful in conquering, or outlasting other nations, yet none of them realize where that power comes from. They attribute it to their made up gods and say that they are greater than the God of Israel. God tells His people, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discourage, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (41:10, NLT). He provides for them a miracle to prove to the other nations that He is God. “I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.” (41:18, NLT). God shows the other nations that He provides for His people. He asks the idols to perform something, do a good deed, tell of the past, or tell of the future, and none of them respond. None of the idols can stand in comparison to the God of the Isrealites. He says to them, “See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (41:29, NLT).

God sets His sights again on the future. He begins to talk about a servant that He has chosen to serve Him. God says, “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (42:6-7, NLT). “I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way.” (42:16, NLT). God is seeking to correct His people. He goes on to discuss how they have become blind to His ways and are no longer keeping them. This is the reason for His servant to come. He will send His servant to correct Israel’s mistakes and bring them down a new path that will be unfamiliar to them, but is they one they should have been on all along.

God moves beyond a servant, and begins promising a savior. “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you.” (43:2, NLT). He speaks of bringing the people back to Israel, and tells them that they are to be His witnesses before all other nations. They are to proclaim, “There is no other God — there never has been, and there never will be.” (43;10, NLT). He promises to bring them victory over their sins. He goes on to talk about how they stopped presenting Him with offerings, but instead burdened Him with their sin. So He says to them, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (43:25, NLT). God then returns to the topic of the foolishness of idol worship. speaking to the people about how useless it is. “The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, ‘Why, it’s just a block of wood! I bunted half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. Ho can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?'” (44:19, NLT). The answer is, of course, NO! God says to His people, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered you offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (44:22, NLT).

There is certainly a lot in these chapters of Isaiah. I feel as though each one deserves a post on their own. But there is a central theme here, God is always there for us. God was looking into the future and knew what was soon to happen to His people. They were going to continue to rebel, and not listen to the Prophets. This behavior ultimately lead them to be exiled into the land of Babylon. Yet, He wanted to give His people every opportunity to turn around and come back to Him. He promises them a Savior to come and pay the price of their sin. We live in a world where that price has been paid. When Jesus was hung on the cross, it was not simply for all the sins of the world that had happened up to that point. It wasn’t for all the sins of the people alive and around at that point. It was for every single person who ever lived, and will ever live. I love that tradition shows us that Christ was crucified on top of a hill. Not just any hill, but a hill that overlooks Jerusalem, and Israel for that matter. I love the imagery, because it says to me that Jesus had the perfect view to see through time and see me. He could see me and he knew that he was paying the price of my sins.

The same can be said of you. Christ saw you and knew that he was paying the price for you to be free. Paul writes, “and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1:20-23, NLT). Christ saw you on that day and is calling out to you. Will you respond to him, and say “Forgive me of my sins, Lord”, or are you able to come up with something on your own to justify yourself to God? I promise you nothing will succeed.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 107

 

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Stay Strong (Isaiah 36-39)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading we leave behind all of God’s messages to the nations of the world, and enter into a story. We find that Assyria has invaded Judah and is preparing to hold Jerusalem under siege. The king sends a messenger to speak with messengers from King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib, of Assyria, began to taunt the people of Jerusalem and offer them anything in order to survive this siege if they only let the Assyrian army into Jerusalem. Hezekiah and his people refuse, and the king sends for the prophet Isaiah. The king asks for Isaiah to intercede for the people with God, and he delivers a message, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.” (37:6-7, NLT). After receiving more messages from Sennacherib, Hezekiah begins to pray to God for deliverance. That night God killed 185,000 members of the Assyrian army. When the surviving members awoke, they fled back to Assyria and the king went back to Nineveh. While the Sennacherib was worshiping his god, two of his son came and killed him. Then King Hezekiah became extremely ill, and was dying. Isaiah told the king that he would not survive this illness. Hezekiah then prayed to God, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” (28:3, NLT).  After hearing his prayer, God decided to bring Hezekiah out of his illness and give him 15 more years to live. After the news of Hezekiah’s recovery, King Merodach-baladan of Babylon sent envoys to give his best wishes and a gift. Hezekiah became so delighted by the gesture that he showed the envoys everything that he owned. Isaiah came to the king and asked about the men he showed around. Isaiah then delivered a message from God, “The time is coming when everything in your palace — all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now — will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” (39:6-7, NLT).

The thing I loved about this section was how it started. King Sennacherib threatens the people of Jerusalem by saying, “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem … Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian kin! … Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? … What God of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:7, 14-15, 18, 20, NLT). Some of these comments seem very familiar to me, they just sound a little differently to us today.

As a Christian, my main filter in life is the Bible and my faith in Jesus Christ. This fact is the founding principle of my entire worldview. Because of this, I can seem to be an “idiot”, or “hypocrite”, or “bigot” (I’ve never personally been called this, but other Christians have). The problem is a world that doesn’t understand why I believe what I believe. The world wants to teach that there is no God, let alone salvation from our sins. It wants to teach that the only right way, is the way you decide is right and no one else. It wants to teach us that we cannot stand up for what is right when it stands in contrast of others. The problem is that with me there is a sense of wrong, but the world wants to teach us that there is no wrong.

I love this passage from Isaiah because it shows me that there will always be someone trying to convince us our beliefs are wrong. Sennacherib was trying to convince the people of Jerusalem that they were wrong to trust in God. Today people tell Christians they are wrong for trusting in God as well. I encourage you to stay faithful in your beliefs (so long as they are biblical). If you are facing difficulty, make sure to pray for the strength to get through these hard times. Stay in the Word, and spend some time in worship. God is powerful enough to help you overcome adversity. So what the world tells you you’re wrong? So long you stay true to the Word of God, and show love to everyone, that’s what matters most.

 

Also in this Series

Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 33-35)

Book of Isaiah

Today’s section starts with a message to Assyria. God tells them that even though they are mighty, and will destroy the Northern Kingdom, they will be destroyed. He goes on to describe that Jerusalem will end up being strong. “I will be like a tent whose ropes are taut and whose stakes are firmly fixed.” (33:20, NLT). “The people of Israel will no longer say, ‘We are sick and helpless,’ for the Lord will forgive their sins.” (33:24, NLT). The Lord then explains His wrath against all the nations of the world. He states that He has problems with every single one of them. Yet He singles out the nation of Edom (the descendants of Jacob’s twin brother, Esau). He promises that the Edomites’  land will be destroyed and become a wasteland. God then delivers a hope for salvation and restoration. He describes the land as becoming lush and abundant. “Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!” (35:2, NLT). Lastly there will be a road that cuts through the deserted area called the Highway of Holiness. This road can only be found and traveled on by those following God; all others would perish in the wilderness.

The “Highway of Holiness” really is another prophecy about God’s redemptive plan. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways.” (35:8, NLT). Before Christ, we were all stuck in our sin. There was no way out. I love the phrase that the pastor Louie Giglio has been throwing around, “Sin makes you dead”. Sin is exactly like the deserted land being described in these chapters. Nothing is alive in sin, everything is dead. Yet a pathway has been cut for us to travel through this deserted land and into a living place full of singing and joy. That path was created when Christ died on the Cross. Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;” (John 14:6). Jesus is telling us that if we want to get through the deserted place and come into life with God, we must travel on the Highway of Holiness. The only way to reach that Highway is through belief in Jesus Christ.

 

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