Isaiah writes in chapter 27 about how God tends our lives to remove our sin and take our guilt away. God is in the business of helping us become like Himself and moving us toward holiness. He doesn’t ignore sin. He can’t just look the other way. He may be “hard” on us and even give a “harsh sentence” in how we have to live in order to bring us back to Himself. But with the difficulties there is always the opportunity to come back to God. That is the great news of scripture. There are certainly tough times for people throughout the pages of God’s Word, but none of that ends the relationship unless the people on this end decide to. God always gives a way for us to come back to Him. He draws us to Himself in fact. The real question is whether we choose to go back. That is our choice – He is there with open arms.
Isaiah paints a picture of God as the vinedresser. He tells us a few facts about God in that role:
- He will tend it
- He will keep it well watered
- He will keep careful watch over it
- He will pull out and burn up the weeds
- He will provide safety
Check out this verse which describes what can happen if we cooperate with God as the vinedresser in our life: “Let that vine cling to me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with me, let it hold on for a good and whole life”. Do you see the promise here? We need to cling to God and experience the “good and whole life” he has for us. Are you experiencing that life today? If not, maybe you aren’t clinging to the right thing. Maybe you are focused on being self sufficient and one of those pull yourself up by your bootstraps independent kind of people. We can pull all day and all night and never get close to what God wants for us in our lives. I am not advocating that we sit around and just wait on God to do it all for us, but that we get deeply rooted in our relationship with Him and be in complete alignment with what He wants us to do in our life. We need to dig in to Him and be rooted there. It isn’t about me doing more. It is about me doing what God wants me to do. Are you clinging to the Rock? He has so much for us if we just get connected.
Isaiah 25 has a couple gems that we need to camp on today. Isaiah writes “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit”. Where is your mind set? Are you focused on the God of the universe? Or is your focus on self and what you believe you do? God is all about steadfastness. He wants to be the center of our dailyness. That is the struggle with life, it is so darn daily. We get up each morning and there it is again. That is why it is critical we “keep at it and don’t quit”. Today is a new day. In 24 hours, there it will be again, another new day. Are you keeping on? Isaiah goes so far as to tell us how or why we should do it. “Depend on GOD and keep at it because in the LORD GOD you have a sure thing”. How many sure things do you have in your life? I know I can count them on pretty much one finger in mine. We need to stay focused on the One sure thing we have.
He goes on to tell us that “The path of right-living people is level”. I have to admit it doesn’t always feel all that level. Sometimes it seems like life if climbing a mountain going straight up. But comparatively, if we live right with God, He will direct our paths and help us live in a much more level place than those who do it entirely on their own. Isaiah goes on to say “The more life you give, the more glory you display, and stretch the borders to accommodate more living”! Did you catch who gives the life and displays the glory and stretches the borders? It isn’t you or me. God does all that. He gives us life. He is in control of the details. He sent Jesus to make sure we have life and have it abundantly. Is God stretching your borders? Or are you telling Him you don’t want more, you can’t take any more, you are overwhelmed already. Jabez prayed that God would expand his territory – move the boundaries of his life so he could experience all God had for him. I pray that for my life each day as well. Are you experiencing the joy of the life God has for you? It doesn’t happen if you are focused on self. It doesn’t work if you are self centered. It only happens when you depend on God and keep at it. The joy in life can come in the dailyness of it if we only keep our eyes focused on the One who has the plan already in hand. Will you walk with Him today, moment by moment and keep at it?
Isaiah 25 really puts things in perspective about who God is. Isaiah gives us some great ideas on how we need to approach our God:
- “you are my God”’ He makes it personal. God is a personal God. He is not just some great big force out there somewhere disconnected from my life. He is intimately involved in what happens each and every day and completely part of what happens.
- “I will celebrate you”. He lets people know that God is in his life. God wants us to share what He does with those in our circle of influence. He wants us to shout it from the mountaintops and let people know that He is the reason for all that we are and have.
- “I praise you”. He gives God His rightful place. God is worthy of our praise. In fact, it needs to be something we do daily and continually – to recognize and verbalize that God is who He says He is and worthy of our adoration. We need to be proactive in praising Him continually, not just when some big thing happens.
- “You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders”. He gives God credit where credit is due. God has always been in the miracle business and He certainly still is today. But too often we don’t give credit where it is due and we even go so far as to try and take credit for something that God has done. That is a bad plan.
I love how Isaiah says “superpowers will see it and honor you”. Can’t you imagine Spiderman and Superman and all the other superpowers down on their knees giving God the credit for all they do? Seems a little silly doesn’t it. But no matter who believes they are a superpower, in reality they really can do nothing without God. He alone is worthy of our praise. We have to keep things in right perspective. We need to spend time recognizing the God we serve, giving him praise and celebrating what He has and continues to do for us. He is the miracle worker of our lives. Let’s give Him the place He deserves each and every day, moment by moment.
Isaiah 24 talks about the danger that lies ahead as God prepares to “ravish the earth and leave it in ruins”. It describes the truth that people are just people when compared to God. Doesn’t matter if you are celebrity, banker, buyer, owner or priest. You are no different than the laypeople, workers, beggars or have-nots when compared to God. He will deal with the earth equally regardless of status or situation. “And why? Because God says so”. Pretty simple isn’t it. Scripture goes on to tell us in this chapter that the reason for his dealing with us is simple – SIN. “Earth staggers….its piled up sins are too much for it”. There is a price to pay for sin. And we will face a day of reckoning when we will have to account for all we have done. The sins are piling up on earth. We are creating a pit that we will have to deal with. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be fun.
This chapter tells us of the pending destruction that sin will bring. “Earth is smashed to pieces, earth is ripped to shreds, earth is wobbling out of control”. It does not look good if we don’t get our act together. We have to deal with sin, first in our own lives, and then collectively. The reality is that Jesus is the only way for us to address the sin in our lives. We can’t do it alone. We will never be good enough to live a life pleasing to God free from sin. So we have to address our sin problem by accepting the atoning blood of the Cross and receiving the grace Jesus has offered us. That is the only way you and I can deal with the reality of sin. It just can’t be fixed any other way. So realize how seriously God views sin. It isn’t something He can just ignore. And know that the day will come when He will address it – totally and completely. The key is to get right while you can. It has to happen before destruction or death!
Isaiah 23 speaks about the fall of Tarshish, a powerful merchant city that had experienced lots of buying and selling and money. It was a “multinational broker” kind of place – business was happening and money was flowing. But it all is coming to an end. It had been “energetic and alive, bustiling with activity” but then comes the “crash”. The “business tycoons” and “traders called all the shots”. They “controlled the world markets” and were in the driver seat – at least they thought so. But check out what scripture tells us: “GOD…ordered the crash to show the sordid backside of pride and puncture the inflated reputations”. Pride is one of those things that God has an issue with. When we think we are in control, when things are resulting from what we are or do, when the world revolves around you or me – we need to look out because something is going to change. Are you paying attention to the progression here? Tarshish has become a boom town and the economy is doing well. People are actually convinced they are calling the shots and that the world revolves around them. God puts an end to that rather quickly.
Sound familiar to anyone? Sure sort of reminds me of some current events from where I sit. The reality in this scripture is that Tarshish is in ruins for 70 years. A rather long time to be out of the loop. And when things do begin to change, on God’s timing, it really doesn’t happen at near the level it had been previously. God takes control and the selfish focus is replaced as the “profits will be put to the use of God” rather than on the people who made them. There is a lesson here. God owns it all and we must never forget it. God opposes the proud and despises those who think the world revolves around them. He will bring reality and truth to the surface. We need to pay attention to the way we treat God’s wealth. We need to be in alignment with His plan for how we use it. It isn’t my money, nor is it yours. It all belongs to God and He entrusts it to us to be used His way. No real room for discussion or negotiation here. If we don’t get it, He will make sure we do. Just look at Tarshish!
Isaiah 22 talks about the way people are running around trying to fix things and be prepared for coming battle. They checked the walls, water supply, inventoried houses, fortified the city and on it went. Sounds like the right thing to do doesn’t it? But these words really describe what I and maybe you do. We miss the forest for the trees. Check out what scripture says: “You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him….never once consulted the One who has long had plans”. Ouch – 2X4 between the eyes. Does that sound like anyone you know? Sometimes I get so focused on the details (ok not the details in my case) that I miss the fact that God already has the plan and I need to consult Him rather than run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to fix things. I actually believe that I can figure out how to fix stuff. That if I just work harder and longer, I can make it happen. How ridiculous. I don’t really have a clue in all honesty about the best way to do a lot of things. I didn’t create the universe, haven’t been here since it began, can’t say I have the eternal plan in my brain, and certainly can’t see the future. God has and did all that, and yet I for some reason just decide to try and deal with all of it on my own. In a word – stupid. Another word – self centered idiocy. God alone has the plan I need for my life. I need to get in His Word and on my knees and find out what that is and then align my life with it.
The chapter goes on to talk about God cleaning house a bit and putting Eliakim in charge. The thing that caught my attention is how scripture describes him – “father-leader”. That is not an oxymoron men. That is what our role should be. We need to be fathers who lead, first our families, and then others. Think on that. It really is one and the same. We too often defer our God given responsibility of leading at home to our spouse. Bad plan and certainly not God’s plan. Are you leading as you father? Time to step up.
Today we read a chapter filled with a lot of description of coming plunder and betrayal, pain and suffering. The fight is coming. The watchman is at his post and waiting til daybreak so they can see what is happening. There isn’t much good news here. People are out of their homes and are refugees in the desert. But two words jump out that I think we all need to grab hold of: “hold on”. “God of Israel says so”. We are told to just hang in there. Too often we throw in the towel when things get tough. We want to give up and not keep fighting. But there are tough days, there are difficulties we all will face and the truth is, sometimes we just need to hang on and trust God to deal with the details. We have to stay focused on the One who can deal with the problems we face even when it seems overwhelming. The enemy wants us to feel like it is a helpless situation. He wants us to really just walk away and say the fight is not worth it. But God is faithful, and He is able, and He is more that willing to get involved in our lives. We just need to hold on. My life verse in 1 Cor 15:58 puts it this way: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding….”. We need to stay connected and just hang on to Him!
Isaiah 20 is a rather short but sobering chapter. Isaiah has been God’s prophet for a while by now. He has been sharing God’s truth boldly and accurately and the people are still being quite stupid and rebellious in spite of everything Isaiah tells them coming to pass. So God instructs Isaiah to take a different tact here. “Go take off your clothes and sandals”….. “and Isaiah did it”. God instructs His man to basically get naked and walk “around town naked and barefooted for three years”. Did you catch that? God asks Isaiah to basically humiliate himself before the very people who are supposed to be listening to him, and not just for a day or a week or a month – but for three years. Now there are different discussions about what “naked” really means here – may not have been completely without clothes but the point is that Isaiah completely changed what he was wearing to the point he stood out from the crowd in a significant way. And he did it for a very long time. Why? Because God told him to. The real message here is not about being naked and barefoot, it is about how God’s people need to obey like Isaiah does – he is setting the standard for obedience. And that is the standard that applies to you and me too……
What if God asks you to change something completely and stick out from the crowd. For most of us, we work hard at fitting in and not being noticed. In fact, research says that most Christians work so hard at being part of their environment that no one even knows who they are. That is not God’s desire for us. We can’t be salt and light if we don’t have any spice or shine. We have to be willing to follow God to the point of really standing out, not in a prideful or look at me sort of way, but a quiet and focused obedience lifestyle. People should see we are God’s by how we use our time (that 168 hours God gives us each week) and our money (which really isn’t our money anyway). They should see a difference in how we treat others and how we react to difficult situations. They should know that our spouse and family are a higher priority that our work, and that our relationship with God comes above all else. But how will they know if we don’t live life in a way they can see those things. God was using Isaiah here to give warning to the coming situation for the people. They were going to experience exactly what Isaiah was living. God has called us to be a “peculiar people”. We need to be different and that difference needs to be marked by our obedience to the Creator of the Universe – our God and Savior. We need to live in a way no one wonders to whom we belong. God wants people to know…..are you willing to tell them?
Isaiah 19 starts with a visual that made me smile. Not in a funny way, but the picture that came to my mind was sweet. “Watch this! God riding on a fast moving cloud”. (Message version). Can you picture it. God being able to be in total control of His creation. He is and we need to never forget that. Riding clouds is no big deal for God. He made them, He put them up there in the sky. This chapter really is about the transformation of Pharaoh’s Egypt and the bringing to submission the people there. They were arrogant and foolish. They thought they really were something special. But they weren’t and scripture says “there’s not a wise man or woman left in the country”. They were absorbed with self and what they wanted. And God doesn’t tolerate that. He is bringing them to the reality that He alone is God. The Nile dries up, and all they depend on vanishes. They come to the end of themselves and cry out for “a savior who will keep them safe and take care of them”. That is the spot we all need to get to. To recognize that we need God and it is no longer about ourselves. It is totally about God and who He is and what He does. Not about me, not about what I do, not about what I think or want. Scripture tells us God will “wound Egypt, first hit and then heal”. He is not able to just ignore those who chose to ignore Him. When they finally come back to God, He is willing to listen to their prayers and heal them. He is a God of grace and mercy, but it has to start with repentance and recognition that He is who He says. We have to come to God so He can release His goodness on us. The principle is the same today. We need to put off the focus on self, and come to God. Are you doing that? He is riding on a cloud and watching your life and mine. Let’s walk to Him so we can walk with Him.
Today we resume our walk through the scriptures. You may not remember but we are in Isaiah and today we pick up on chapter 18. This chapter is short and sweet but says a couple things we should ponder. First there is a warning that we need to “look” and “listen” as we live. God is not a constant noise machine. One of the things I use when I travel is one of the white noise machines that keeps a constant noise which drowns out all the slamming doors, people talking and bellmen knocking on doors. But God isn’t like that in how He communicates with us. It isn’t a continual flow of information we should just ignore. When God speaks, we need to listen. And in order to do that we need to know how to identify “a flag flying on the mountain”. We need to be paying attention so we can “hear the trumpet blow” and know it is His voice. I wish there was an easy way to always hear God. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if He would just call me up on the phone and tell me what I need to know. But God’s way is much less intrusive than that and requires us to be involved in the process. We have to tune in and pay attention and spend time with Him. And part of that means we have to be still and listen. That is a very different way to pray and have relationship time with God. Most of the time we spend with Him is all one way – us telling God what we need. But effective relationship means we also need to be quiet and listen to what God has for us – to “be still and know” that He is God and has a plan for us which we need to hear. That means receive His word without saying one. Big change from how most of our prayer time is spent, but so critical if we want to hear His voice.
The other thing that jumps out in this short chapter is the harvest. God is clear that even though things have come along nicely, pruning still has to happen. “The blossom has turned to a maturing grape” – things are almost done here – but God still has to “step in and prune”. Seems like once we are that close – when the harvest is in sight and the work for the year is almost done – God could cut some slack doesn’t it. But that isn’t how things get better next year. Without pruning, new growth in the future doesn’t occur. Without preparation for next year, the harvest won’t be as good. So know that God is always looking for ways to help us grow and continue to bear fruit. God is about the long haul, not the short crop. He wants us to mature and become like Jesus and knows it will take a lifetime. So He makes those investments in us year after year to help us bear more fruit and achieve His plan for us. Don’t resist His pruning shears. Know that we serve a mighty God that loves us enough to be focused on what we can become. And know He is committed to doing whatever it takes to get us there. We just need to listen and cooperate with His plan!