Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

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The Problem of Pride (Isaiah 21-23)

Book of Isaiah

God continues delivering messages to the nations of the world, by directing one to Babylon. There is debate over whether these prophecies refer to Babylon’s revolt against Assyria (around 700 BC) or the actual fall of Babylon (539 BC). Either way, God tells them that they will be destroyed for their idolatry. Then, speaking to Edom, He makes commentary that their time is coming to a close as well. God turns to Arabia and says, “Within a year, counting each day, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.” (21:16, NLT). God then focuses on His own people. He tells Jerusalem that they will be destroyed as well because they will not rely on Him. In 22:1-13, God describes a people that make every attempt, on their own, to prepare for the oncoming army. They never once turn and pray to God. Then He turns to a individual named Shebna. Shebna could have been just like most of the people of Jerusalem, but he gets special mention because he was the palace administrator. God’s final message to the nations goes to Tyre, in Phoenicia. He tells them that due to their pride. He also tells them that after they are destroyed, they will return after 70 years but still be the same way they are today. However it won’t be for a complete loss. “But in the end her profits will be given to the Lord.” (23:16, NLT).

Pride is a big problem for humanity. I know that I have a big problem with it. In today’s reading, the people of Jerusalem were not trusting God to take care of them. I know that this is a popular circumstance for God’s chosen people, but I really think it is a good picture of all of us. We have times where we trust God, things go well, we stop trusting him, things go bad, and we wonder why things stopped going well in the first place. Pride is the thing the misaligns us most with God. Where God tells us one thing, our pride gets in the way and we do something else.

This really becomes a problem when we speak about God to other people. We could know about God. We could be able to answer any question you have on the Bible. We could be able to tell about all the things Christ did. But if we have pride, it never becomes personal. We’d say, “Christ died on a cross” but we’d never think, “for me”. Pride doesn’t allow God to work for us. It gets in His way. Do you know who’s fault that is? Your’s. I have the same problem. My pride likes to get in the way too. Let’s all decided to take a stand, and let God work in our lives. I can’t do anything apart from God. I do nothing, it is Christ working in me! That’s how we should be. Not “prideful” but “Christ full”.

 

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Where Does Your Wisdom Come From? (Isaiah 17-20)

Book of Isaiah

Continuing His messages towards the nations, God addresses Damascus and the Northern Kingdom (Israel). The people had fallen away from God. They had been assimilated into the Assyrian Empire, which lead to a cultural change for the Israelites. They began worshiping pagan idols and Asherah poles. Which is directly against warnings found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 12:3; 16:21). He tells them, for their abandonment, they will be destroyed along with Assyria. Several years later, God delivered a message to Ethiopia. This message was given because Ethiopia had asked Judah to be in alliance to repel the oncoming Assyrian threat. But Isaiah responded by telling the that Judah only need God to withstand Assyria. This message comes as a message that God will overcome Ethiopia and use the Assyrians to destroy them. Next God addresses Egypt. He tells them, “What fools are the officials of Zoan! Their best counsel to the king of Egypt is stupid and wrong. Will the still boast to Pharaoh of their wisdom? Will they dare brag about all their wise ancestors? … The officials of Zoan are fools, and the officials of Memphis are deluded. The leaders of the people have led Egypt astray.” (19:11 & 13, NLT). However, God tells them that they will leave behind their human leadership, and look to God for help. “In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. And Israel will be their ally. The three will be together, and Israel will be a blessing to them.” (19:23-24, NLT). The final message given in this section was to both Egypt and Ethiopia. Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years, because this is what Assyria was going to do to them when they were conquered by Assyria.

How many times to we honestly seek wisdom? For me, I feel like I do it everyday. But where do we look? I think most people look to a role model, a professional (therapist, counselor, etc.), or even people like psychics. The problem with this is that they are all humans. Human wisdom is fallible and temporary. It doesn’t really help us in the long run. It may help us feel better in the moment, but one day it will no longer help us. True wisdom comes from God. James wrote in his letter, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB). We should turn to God for wisdom. He shows us here in Isaiah that human wisdom can be disastrously wrong, yet “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5, NASB). God’s wisdom knows no bounds.

So I ask, where do we go to seek wisdom? Would we rather ask someone for their opinion, or do we ask God? This isn’t to say that people can’t help us get God’s wisdom. God brings up men and women that can do this. Typically they are found as pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc. Not all men point you away from God. I’m just saying that we should pay attention to where our advice comes from. People who do not follow God, can only give opinions according to their worldly view. Yet someone who follows the Lord, can give you His advice. But you should spend time in the Word and in prayer on your own. DO NOT rely solely on someone else’s thoughts and opinions. God has a message for you, and you can’t hear it if you are not listening to Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 101

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He Keeps His Promises (Isaiah 13-16)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, God turns His sight upon Babylon. At this time they were not a powerful nation. They were still a part of the Assyrian Empire. But He knows they will be a people who are against Him. They, like Assyria, will even think that they are better/higher than God. However God promises destruction upon them as well. “Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them.” (13:19, NLT). Because of its pride, Babylon will be overrun by God’s wrath. God goes on to describe how He will display His might to the people of Assyria and Philistia. Then the Lord turns His sights upon Moab, a long time enemy of the Israelites. He tells them, “Even the waters of Nimrim are dried up! The grassy banks are scorched. The tender plants are gone; nothing green remains.” (15:6, NLT). God had threatened Moab before, but the important point is “Within three years, counting each day, the glory of Moab will be ended. From its great population, only a few of its people will be left alive.” (16:14, NLT). The people of Judah saw all of these prophecies made against other nations (except Babylon) come true in their time before the Exile.

I find some peace in knowing that God keeps His promises. Sure the ones He gave in this reading were destructive, and not exactly something I want in my own life. Yet it is still nice to know that He will keep those promises. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses wrote, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NASB). This says to me that, even though God proved His follow through with these destructive promises, He still remains faithful to you and I for simply believing in Him. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB). God keeps that promise too. We haven’t been left alone to figure things out on our own. God gave us a way for salvation. It is found in Jesus Christ, and God will keep that promise until the end of time.

Also in this Series

 

O Praise Him (Isaiah 11-12)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah continues his description of the Messiah. The Messiah would bring forth a time where Israel can be reunited, and bring a time without fear. He says “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all … The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” (11:6-9, NLT). Isaiah adds a song about salvation and giving praise to God. This song is given to continue the illustration of the coming Messiah. It’s a song from people who have found their salvation and thank God at all times for it.

Do we do this today? Unlike the Jews that Isaiah was speaking to, we know where and when our salvation comes. When Isaiah wrote, the people needed encouragement to get through the difficult times. Today, the scripture is still there to encourage, but instead to encourage us to praise Him. We no longer have to wait for Jesus to come, as I said yesterday. Yet since he has come, when we receive His gift we get a new purpose. “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” (12:2, NLT). Jesus gave us our victory over sin and death. What better of a reason for celebration is there? We have been made new and clean, so we should praise Him everyday and every opportunity we can. When we get up, praise! When we get in the car for work, praise! When we get to work, praise! When we do well, praise! When we don’t do well praise! Praise Him all the time! He has saved you from your sin and death, so He deserves our praise!

Here’s a song all about praise!!!!

 

Also in this Series

No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

A Call to Be Different (Isaiah 5-8)

Book of Isaiah

As we start today’s readings, we finish the description of fallen Judah. God gives His reason for their punishment through a song about His beloved vineyard. He tells of a vineyard that only produces bitter grapes, rather than sweet ones. In order to solve this problem, He says to them, “Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.” (5:5-6, NLT). God is telling His people that they must change and come back to Him; they are not the people He sent them out to be. These first few chapters (1-5) were set up to address Judah as it currently was.

Then Isaiah returns to the beginning of his ministry. He recounts God’s calling upon him to be a messenger to the people. We receive many accounts about the glory and majesty of God. Aside from Revelation, Isaiah 6 might just be my favorite. “He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings … Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (6:1-2, 4, NLT). After having his sins forgiven, Isaiah volunteers to be a messenger for God.

The first message Isaiah is sent to give is for King Ahaz. Ahaz was facing both the armies of Israel and Syria. God told him not to fear and to trust in Him, because He would not allow the opposing armies to win. God then offered to give Ahaz a sign for the promise He made to him. Ahaz refused to “test” God, so He chose a sign for him. “Look! the virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (7:14, NLT). Isaiah then receives a call to act differently from other people.

This final call of Isaiah’s still rings true for us today. We are called to still live a different life from unbelievers. Let’s take a look at some of these points:

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. (8:13, NLT)

Preserve the teaching of God; (8:16)

But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? (8:19)

People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (8:20)

It doesn’t sound completely unlike the things we are told today. It just goes to show me that the things God wants from/for us never really changes. Unbelievers do not do any of these things, especially realize they are in the dark. God calls us to live a certain type of life, and to do certain things. This isn’t because God just decided this was the way to be. It is the best way to be. That’s what God wants for us, the best. There is another passage of scripture where we are called to be different.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all me will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NASB). Christ even acknowledged that we are to be different.  On the night of his betrayal, he gave a prayer to God saying, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16, NASB).

We are called to be separate from the world. It should be obvious. People should know from the way that we are that we believe in the one true God, and that we believe in His Son and Holy Spirit. Our faith changes us. It’s not merely something we say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian” without even breaking a smile! God changed you through faith! You are not the same person you were before, but you now stand new. You cannot be a follower of Christ and expect things to remain the same. Christ was a game-changer. He changes our lives. We are called to be different, and that’s what we must be. Sure, you’ll be ridiculed. But what’s more important? Your friends not picking on you, or your Savior knowing you by your faith and love?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 99-100

 

Also in this Series

The Call to Come Back (Isaiah 1-4)

Book of Isaiah

I had a request for a Bible study to do in May, but I think I will go ahead and start it today. We will be starting the book of Isaiah. However, this will be a little different from the ones we have done in the past. Since Isaiah is 66 chapters long, we cannot take it one chapter at a time. We will be doing at least 2-3 chapters per post, in hopes we can get it done in May. So let’s pray that God opens our hearts to hear the words He has for us through this book.

 

Isaiah’s ministry lasted through four different kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He spent his time teaching Judah the need to repent and turn back to God. He spoke about their faithlessness, and the coming judgment upon Judah. However, he also taught about a coming Messiah to save God’s people. So his messages of pain and destruction were also coupled with hope and salvation.

Isaiah opens his book by describing the rebellious nature of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God says to these people, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care — but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” (1:3, NLT) He is letting the people know how far they have turned. They have even gone so far that their worship has become a ritual by rote, rather than a meaningful expression to God. But God still offers the people of Judah hope, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.” (1:18-19, NLT). Isaiah then begins to bring on the terror to come on the day of judgment, to those who do not come back to God. Isaiah writes “When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground. They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats,” (2:19-20, NLT). The Lord than promises to make the people humble and realize their need for Him by saying, “[I] will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water,” (3:1-2, NLT). But God does promise a restoration for the people who survive. He promises to bring Israel back as a great people, with Him as their comfort and shelter (Isaiah 4).

I think if we all set and think about it, the warnings found in these opening chapters not only apply to the world we live in now, but to some degree every society since Creation. We have all felt that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket” at one point or another. I say this because I don’t want anyone thinking, “Oh no! Our time sounds exactly like this!!!!!” While the promise and threat are very real, we live in a time where God has already given us our salvation. We simply need to accept it as our own. There will always be unbelievers driving the world in a direction contrary to the way Christ teaches us to be. They are even some believers that get it wrong (including me, I definitely am not the fore-most expert on the Will of God). But so long as we are not reading Scripture and praying, we are not following either. We know a few lines, and we think that is all we need. Honestly, that’s how we have some really bad teaching out there.

To turn this and make it more personal, have you had a time when you have not sought God’s will for your life. Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us are in that practice. I think most people (who are in the practice of prayer) are more of the mind “I’ll make the decision then ask God to bless it later.” The truth is that it works the opposite way of that. If we want to do our best, and make sure our life is in line with God’s will, we consult Him first then make the decision. Often times, I’ve found, He takes forever to get back with me. But I think it is to help us realize what we are about to do. In these open chapters of Isaiah, the people of Judah stopped consulting God. They did whatever they pleased. That can become us when we have the “do now, bless later” approach to running our lives. God promises us, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). I’d much rather choose a path that I can trust, and leads to good, than to forge my own path and lead myself into destruction.

So we lift up our eyes to Heaven and says these words that the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV).

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 97-98

What Does Snow Remind You Of?

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This morning I woke up to a blanket of white over everything! I really surprised me since I had no idea it was supposed to snow and my entire family was running late for work! I was thinking about all the snow when a Scripture came to mind. “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get you sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. ‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord have spoken'” (Isaiah 1:16-20, NLT).

The thing I love most about this passage is that it sounds like a message from Jesus, but it was written several years before his birth by the prophet Isaiah! But the message is great all the same. God knows that we are made unclean by sin. There’s a section in the book The Resolution for Men were the authors talk about living with sin. At the end of the man’s life, he was sick and dying and surround by garbage and filth. The imagery, to me, is one of a man living in a garbage dump who is so sick he cannot continue to live. That’s what sin does to us. It hurts us, makes us sick, and makes us dirty. But God wants to make out lives “as white as snow”. He wants us to be clear from it, to be free and not be sick and dying.

The choice to follow Christ is definitely a hard one. It may not be hard at the onset, but it most certainly gets more difficult as life goes on. Christ is counter-cultural. He stands in contrast to the world, because He knows what God truly wants from us. That’s why the religious leaders of his time wanted to kill him. Christ told them they were wrong. God doesn’t care about meaningless sacrifices (read the first part of Isaiah 1 if you don’t believe me). What he wants is our obedience to him. He promises us that if we follow Him, He will provide for us. So we must stand firm in our faith, and trust the Lord’s provision for us, and that He knows what He is doing.

So looking at the snow this morning, I was reminded. Not only about what Christ has done for me through the Cross. But also that I should put my trust in the Lord, because He is faithful and will provide.

His Name is Immanuel

happy100thblogpost

Before I even get started with today’s post, I would like to say that today is a special day for The Heart Man. Today is the 100th blog post!!!!!!!!!!! Woot Woot!!!!!!!!!!!!

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In this time of year, lots of people talk about Jesus’ birth, and pretty much read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2:20. Instead I thought I would go a little farther back, about 700 years before the birth of Christ!

Judah is under the threat of war. Both kings from Ephraim (Israel) and Aram are rising up against King Ahaz and Judah. The prophet Isaiah came to the king and told him not to worry. God did not want the these other nations to succeed. He even mentions that Ephraim only has 65 years left. So God told Ahaz to ask for a sign of God’s promise, but he did not wish to do so. The Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NASB).

I remember the first time I read that verse. I grabbed the closest writing utensil next to me, a red pencil, and drew an arrow and wrote “JESUS!” in my Bible (at this point I would refuse to write in my Bible, so yea, I got pretty excited).

But there is something here that is not so easy to see. God told Ahaz to pick anything. It could be as extravagant as he wanted. He could have requested that the stars be realigned to say “God will protect you!” and God would have done it. When Ahaz refused to pick a sign, God offers a child born of a virgin. That alone is pretty miraculous! However, God took it one step farther. The child’s name is Immanuel (or Emmanuel if you prefer). But do you know what his name means? Immanuel means “God with us”.

Essentially God told Ahaz, “If you won’t pick a sign, then I am coming to you in human form.” Jesus is just that. He is God among man. God shed Himself of His glory and humbled Himself to become man. He did this to defeat the enemies (sin) that rise up against us. Our God is a god that fulfills His promises. Even if that means He has to become a man in order to complete them.

Take a moment today, and all throughout the season of Advent to revel in the fact that God was with us, in a little baby called Immanuel.