Isaiah 18 has a message to the people. In a word, it is to pay attention to the Lord. He talks about three actions that need to be taken.
- “Go, you swift messengers
- Look, when a signal is raised on the mountains
- Hear, when a trumpet is blown”
Bottom line is that we need to pay attention to God’s communication. He is giving us a message. Are we listening.
Isaiah tells the readers of that time that there is change coming. God is going to “cut off the shoots….the spreading branches he lops off”. God is in the pruning business. If we aren’t paying attention – and taking action – He will make us bedding for others. God wants us to be tuned in and actively walking in obedience to Him. He isn’t about us sitting around and doing our own thing. He has a plan for us, He has a message for us to hear and deliver, and we need to be doing exactly that.
The message here is movement. These are action verbs: go, look, hear. They require us to do something, to be engaged, to be connected. We can’t do God’s work and fulfill His plan while sitting on the sideline or just going about our own things. We need to be actively interacting with Him. We need to hear His voice and see His hand so we know where to go and what to do. This isn’t rocket science. It is relationship with the living God. We need to be plugged in to the source. And we need to be in His Word and listening to His Word so we can go.
What’s the point? Isaiah says “at that time tribute will be brought to the Lord”. It’s all about Him. We are on this planet to bring glory and honor and praise to the Father. Life isn’t about you or me. It is about the God who created us and gives us life and breath each day. It is about hearing His voice and knowing His will so we can live a life of obedience to His plan. It is about going and doing His will. We often get that all mixed up. We think the plan is for us to get Him to do what we want. It is about Him serving us. That is as far from the truth as you can get. God is the center of the plan, not us.
Isaiah 17 has yet another oracle from God to Isaiah. He lets the cat out of the bag right up front. “Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins”. That is a pretty strong word from the Lord. Not only will the city be destroyed, but also other cities will be deserted to the point that they will become a place for flocks to lie down. Fortresses will disappear, and the kingdom of Damascus will cease to exist. A very strong word from the Lord. God is serious about what is to come.
“In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made”. When that day of reckoning comes, people will realize that God is God and that they are not the author of life or anything. An awareness will come, and they will realize that they have missed the boat and not been walking with the God of the Universe. And it will be a costly outcome for their loss of focus and recognition of who God is.
It is clear why this judgment is happening. “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge”. God demands our remembrance. He expects that we will not only recognize that He is God, but that we will cling to Him as the Rock of our refuge. Life has to center around Him. He is the source of salvation and life. He is the one who provides the harvest and is in control of all things. God is God. And when we fail to keep that in perspective, a correction will come.
For these people, it is very severe. Cities disappear, kingdoms vanish. God is serious about His expectations that we do not forget who He is and what He has done. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and the Master of the Universe. He is the First and the Last, the Great I Am, the Author of Life and the Creator of it all. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Almighty One who is above all and over all and in all and through all. He is God. And we must never forget that, nor forget His place in our world. Where is God in your patch? Is He King and Lord? If not, time to make a correction before He has to do something to set it all straight!
Isaiah 16 talks about what is to come for the people of Moab. Isaiah gives the Lord’s word clearly: “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble”. These people have had it pretty good. They have become a great multitude, but they have not walked with God and have fallen into the trap that they are something special and have created their own outcome. They are facing some justice.
The problem is pretty obvious in Isaiah words. “We have heard of the pride of Moab – how proud he is! – of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; in his idle boasting he is not right”. Oh how foolish we can be. We begin to believe in what we say and that we are the source of what is happening around us. Pride carries a heavy price. When we become prideful, we push God off the throne and put self on it, and our heart becomes all about self and us. We forget that God is the source of every good and perfect gift. We create a situation of judgment.
And judgment will come. Isaiah tells us “a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit in faithfulness in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness”. You see, we may be able to push God off the throne in our own life, but we can’t push Him off the throne of the universe. We can never remove Him from His place as Creator of the Universe, the Giver of life and all good things. God is God whether we want to treat Him that way or not. But when we don’t, we need to realize that judgment will come. And justice will be the outcome.
So how do we prepare for that day of judgment when we will stand before God and be asked to give an account? We need to realize what the questions will be. First will be a question about sin and how we intend to pay the price of that sin, which is eternal separation from God Himself. There is only one way to overcome that problem – the blood of Jesus. His death on the Cross has given us a way to be set free from the penalty of sin and receive a pass on the justice that we deserve. But we have to have a personal relationship with Him. He must be Lord of our life. Are you ready for that judgment day? It is coming. It will come. No one will be exempt. And rather than being like the Moabites who were brought into contempt and wiped out, we need to come with Jesus as our Savior and be brought into God’s Kingdom of Heaven. He is there waiting and ready to bring us home. Are you ready?
Isaiah has another oracle, this time concerning the land of Moab. Cities fall and are laid waste. “Moab is undone”. What was once a bustling place is now in shambles. The result of their evil living has come home to roost. Their failure to find and walk with God has brought pain and disaster on their place. We tend to think that things like this won’t happen. We somehow believe that we’re exempt from the outcome of our failure to walk with God. But as a nation, it is not so. God will deal with nations like He will deal with us individually.
So even as God is punishing a nation, it spills onto the people and gets personal. “On every head is baldness; every beard is shorn; in the streets they wear sackcloth; on the housetops and in the squares everyone wails and melts in tears”. The outcome of sin spreads far and wide. It becomes individual quickly. When a nation falls, it spills onto those that make up that nation. And many great and might nations have fallen throughout history because of their failure to address the evil of their ways.
Can God really deal with a nation? Yes, He can. “The grass is withered, the vegetation fails, the greenery is no more”. God is more than able to bring people to their knees and put an end to all that they know. Too often we begin to believe that what is really God’s blessing is something we have done or earned ourself. Or that the goodness we are experiencing is because of us, and it will be ours forever. Both are wrong. God is the One who blesses us. It is His goodness we experience. It isn’t about us. It is all about HIM!
“Therefore the abundance they have gained and what they have laid up they carry away”. We can create storehouses and stockpile things and come to the false belief that it’s somehow about us. We can begin to get caught up in our own world and believe that we are in control of the future and what it holds. We aren’t. We won’t be. It is all about God. We need to get that right and put Him on the throne where He belongs. First in our own life as we deal with our personal sin problem, but also as a nation as we put Him at the forefront of how we live as a nation. God is in control. This is His world. And we need to get that figured out sooner than later!
Isaiah 14 talks about God’s plan and purpose for His people. They have been slaves and wanderers and now have their place in the Promised Land. They have been defeated and captured and then set free. And when they are experiencing God’s blessing and goodness, “sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob”. It’s amazing how people want to be around folks when they are walking in God’s blessing. It’s like a magnet, and people from all over were connecting and trying to benefit from the people of God.
God is in control. He will deal with evil. “The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked….The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing”. The only way we will receive peace is to allow God to be in control. He alone is the king of kings and Lord of all nations. He is the author of peace and contentment. It is by walking with Him that we can experience that peace. We can’t manufacture it, we can’t create it, but we certainly can benefit from it. Isaiah also tell us “maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers”. Sounds like a very close back to nature experience that I could pass on. But the reality is that all of God’s creation can be in harmony with Him as the Author!
Isaiah interestingly talks about a couple of very important things – planning and purpose. Scripture tells us that where this is no vision, the people perish. Purpose is a little different, but the concept is very similar. “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand”, God is a God of order. He has a plan for each of us. He has created us with a specific purpose for our life. So it isn’t a question of whether God has a purpose and plan for us – the question is whether or not we will seek Him to discover His plan and purpose for our life.
And it is much bigger than you and me. God sees all of creation in light of all of eternity. We can’t even begin to understand either of those two dimensions, but God sees both clearly. He is the author of both. So for Him, it is pretty simple. “This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations”. God has a purpose and plan for not only you and me, but for each and every part of His creation. He also is Lord of Lords and has the power in His hand to make it a reality. “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back”. God’s plans and purposes will happen. With our without us, His perfect plan will be completed. The opportunity we have is to discover what His purpose and plan is for our life, and then become part of that fulfilling what He has for us. Are you walking with purpose in God’s plan? If not, the choice is yours to make that happen by seeking God’s Face to find out what His plan is!
Isaiah 13 talks about the oracle which Isaiah saw concerning the future of Babylon. He got a pretty clear glimpse of what was to come. And it didn’t bode well for those who were not the Lord’s. “The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle”. Why? Because the people were evil. They were not walking with the Lord. They were sinning rampantly and God is unable to just ignore that. It must be punished and paid for. And God’s wrath will come against all sin.
“Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come”. We need to realize that this prophecy is foretelling what will come for us too. God will deal with our sin. And we don’t know when that will happen. We only know that “the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger….to destroy its sinners from it”. There are plenty of people saying it won’t happen. That God will not punish us for our sin. But scripture says differently.
“I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless”. God will take action against evil and sin. He will not ignore it. He will not let it slip by, no matter how small. He can’t. His nature won’t allow it. He is a God of justice, and holiness, and judgment. He will address sin. There are plenty of preachers and teachers trying to tell us that God is just going to let us all slide into heaven. My friends, it just is not so. He will punish sin. And that punishment is not a slap on the hand, it is eternal separation from God. That is the outcome if we don’t deal with our sin.
The truth is that as sinners we are “like sheep with none to gather them”. We separate ourselves from the Shepherd and put ourselves at odds with God. We must come to our senses and understand that sin is a problem in God’s eyes. And while He never stops loving us, it separates us from Him. It creates this chasm that we have to overcome, and the only way to do that is by accepting His gift of grace through Jesus. The only bridge across the chasm of sin is Jesus. We have to repent, receive and believe. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other way!
2 Kings 17 has some strong lessons on the power of leadership. Hoshea becomes king and “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. We’ve heard that one before, haven’t we? But the people followed Hoshea’s lead and suffered mightily and we learn that “this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God”. They were suffering because a leader was off course and did evil and they followed. Yes it was their choice that caused the actual sin, but they had an easy route because of leadership.
“The people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right”:
- “built for themselves high places
- set up for themselves pillars and Asherim
- made offerings on all the high places
- did wicked things
- served idols”
Let’s face it, they were not on God’s path. God gets a bit angry and tells them “turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets”. Want to guess what happened? “They would not listen, but were stubborn….they abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God”.
Do you see what is happening here? The leader leads poorly. The followers follow diligently without any regard for what is right. “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight”. They were connected to their past and “walked in the customs….the people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did”. The truth is that they didn’t learn from Hoshea, and now do the same thing with Jeroboam who replaced him. They had no filter. So it really comes down to this….
“They would not listen, but they did according to their former manner”. It is extremely hard to change the ways of the past. We are creatures of habit, and it is very difficult to change how we live. These people were enduring amazing issues, and God made it clear that they were facing them because of their disobedience. The obvious fix was to straighten up and obey, but that didn’t happen. They continued on living in sin. But here is the sad part, and the reality that we need to pay close attention to today: “Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day”. Don’t ever believe that parenting doesn’t matter. It does, is very important and quite honestly matters a lot. We must take that responsibility very seriously!
2 Kings 16 gives us a little further look at Ahaz, king of Israel. He took the throne at age 20, and ruled for 16 years, and as we learned yesterday, “he did not do right in the eyes of the Lord”. He in fact did everything wrong. And he basically spit in God’s face and destroyed all that had been done previously to create a strong relationship with God by David. Oh how foolish this king was. “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel”. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen what was right, he deliberately chose to do wrong.
He was way off course. “He even burned his son as an offering”. It isn’t that he grew up void of knowing God. He chose not to follow. He got in a pinch leading his people when two other kings laid siege to Jerusalem. He lost some ground and was fearful of what might happen, so he reaches out to the king of Assyria for help, offering up all sorts of treasure. That worked as the king of Assyria came and defeated the armies that were laying siege to Jerusalem, but it also carried a heavy cost.
King Ahaz made a trip to thank the king of Assyria and deliver all sorts of treasure he robbed from God’s House. And while there, he viewed the altar and worshipped there. But he went further and sent plans to Uriah the priest to build one just like it in Jerusalem. And to tear out the altar of God and offer sacrifice to the gods of other lands. He gutted the House of the Lord of the altar and stopped the worship and sacrifice to the one true God so they could worship idols and false gods.
But he went further and “cut out the frames of the stands….and the covered way for the Sabbath….because of the king of Assyria”. Ahaz did all he could to remove anything that resembled the worship of God. He was not only caught up in the worship of false gods, he destroyed the temple so that there was no connection to the God of David. He was on a mission to not only change worship, but to run as fast and far from God as he could. The influence of the wrong people can truly cause us to make horrible mistakes in judgment and choices that lead us far from God. We must carefully choose who we will associate with, and even more carefully evaluate who we will follow.
2 Chronicles 28 has us learning about Ahaz who was king of Judah who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. Not only did he not do right, “he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord”. He was bad news and led the people away from the Lord. This is where leadership really shows poorly. King Ahaz was self absorbed and spent his time doing whatever he wanted and pushed his sinful ways onto his people. He worshipped idols and did all sorts of evil things.
God doesn’t take that stuff lightly. “Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus…..killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord”. God just turned the enemy loose on them, and they wiped out 120K in one day. They also captured 200K more and led them to their homeland, but that’s when wiser minds interceded.
A prophet names Oded confronted the group and suggested it was a bad idea to bring these 200K in as slaves. They were still God’s people, even though they had been estranged and living against God for years under Ahaz’s leadership. It was still a bad decision to make them slaves, and after Oded made that clear, a handful of other wise leaders stood behind him and suggested they not proceed. Rather they took the spoils and cared for these people and as Oded suggested they “send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken”. It was a wise choice as it prevented the wrath of God from coming upon them.
Ahaz gets even crazier and decides to try and shut down anything to do with God completely. “He shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem”. He went from dumb to dumber and really provoked the anger of the Lord. How is it that we can be so blind to the reality of our ways? Ahaz did many stupid things, all of which did not end well, and yet he continued to do even more evil and get further onto the bad side of God. Oh how shortsighted we can be. God doesn’t change. His righteousness and holiness does not adjust to our desires. We need to walk in His way doing things that He directs. It doesn’t happen the other way around!
Micah 7 paints the picture that sure seems to resemble what we live with today. “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net”. People focused on themselves, taking advantage of each other, totally consumed with self, and living without God. Does that seem familiar to you? It sure does to me. Some days it seems like there are no godly people left. There are none who walk humbly with God.
But there are, and we just need to seek them out. And we need to be that person ourself. Micah was. He said “as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me….when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me”. That is the sign of a true relationship with God – Micah is walking humbly with Him. He knows where the source of power is. He knows where to look for direction. He is tuned in to God and communicating with Him. They are in relationship – deep relationship and Micah gets his light from God.
It doesn’t mean that all is perfect. Why? Because of sin. Micah goes on to say: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me”. There is a price to pay for sin, even if we are walking with God. He can’t ignore it, but He has made provision for us. He has created a way to plead our case through the blood of Christ. We are covered in that blood as a Christ Follower and we will be able to deal with judgment as a result.
God wants us to be saved. Micah lets us know that when he says “who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love”. But God can’t pass over sin and set us free without some payment for that sin. He knew we couldn’t make it on our own, so He sent Christ to the cross to provide a way. That is where our pardon will come from. That is how our transgressions will be passed over and His anger will be set aside. Jesus is the way! Have you made that commitment? Today is the day!