Isaiah 57

Isaiah 57 has the prophet describing the mistreatment of good men by the leaders in Judah.  “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness”.  Though the righteous were ignored and persecuted by the wicked leaders of Judah, God did not forget them. When they perished, God used it to bless the righteous, to take them away from evil and to allow them to enter into peace.

Isaiah attacks the spiritual adultery of God’s people.  They made fun of the righteous. They mocked them, and God heard it.  And God challenges them on that by asking “Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue”?  They have no grounds to question these righteous ones.  This is a common sin of human nature – to see the sins or the problems of others, while being blind to our own sins or problems.  We always point fingers first, rather than look in the mirror and see our own short comings.  But God sees the whole picture.  He is not blind to our sin.

The people were not obeying God at all.  In fact, they were mistreating those who did try to walk with God.  So God deals with them.  “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain”.  God’s people didn’t trust in Him, and the things they did trust in – themselves, and their idols (let your collection of idols deliver you) could not help them.  There is no other God.  Putting faith in anything beside Him is a waste of breath!

As is always the case though, God is ready to allow His people back.  “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite”.  While God has to deal with the sin of people because of His very nature, He also always has a love that transcends that sin and will allow anyone who will confess, repent and receive His grace to return to Him.  Jesus went to the Cross to make that possible for you and me.  We can’t be like these people who chase idols and follow their self driven ways.  But if we stop, turn and follow Christ we can come back to a loving God who receives us with open arms!

Isaiah 56

Isaiah 56 has the prophet trying to shake the people out of their discouragement.  “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil”.  They have not be living obedient lives and falling short of righteousness.  They don’t see much reason to change, because things are not going well.  So God wants to shake them up and get them focused on what’s to come if they get their lives together.

Today some may have the attitude that giving will begin after the Lord blesses them financially.  That’s not how God works.  We need to start first – obedience comes before blessing – and then God can act.  We give, trusting God and His faithfulness, and God blesses.  Sometimes we feel like outcasts, but God’s promises and truth apply to all.  “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree”.  God doesn’t treat us that way.  Our actions and choices can cause us to live like that, but it’s self-imposed, not from God action.  We have to choose to believe and act as part of His family.

God’s plan in inclusive.  “I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”.  It isn’t just all inclusive, it is also eternal!

God does expect obedience and for us to walk with Him. “But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all”.  Unfortunately some are unfaithful and walk in their own selfish ways.  Their focus is on personal gain, not obedience to God.  They think tomorrow will come and be like today, which is not necessarily the case.  They will be unprepared to stand before God at time of judgment because the focus is entirely on self.  That’s not God’s call to obedience.  We have to have our eyes on Him!

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 begins with a bang.  “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”.  The prophet calls out asking everyone that can hear to listen.  He has an important announcement.  His call is to all of us – if we thirst we need to come – and all of us are thirsty.  This isn’t about buying anything.  It is about coming.  It is realizing our need and simply bringing our trust and faith to receive what God has to give us.  It isn’t about money.  It’s about answering God’s call.

God asks an extremely important question.  “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy”?  God wants us to do a little introspection.  This is a remarkably relevant question, in light of all the things we can pour our time and money and effort into – things which will never satisfy they way the Lord can satisfy.  We chase lots of things, but God alone can satisfy.  So what should we do?  “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food”.

Did you catch that?  We are to listen to Him.  It takes time, attention, and effort to listen diligently, and some of us aren’t willing do this.  We are to each what is good.  That means learning what is good and making sure we’re taking in the right spiritual nourishment, not just whatever is set before us.  Third, we are to delight ourselves in rich food.  Merely listening and eating the right food isn’t enough.  We must delight in it.  We can’t have a hard heart or bad attitude.  We have to take it in and enjoy it.

Then God gives us a promise.  “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant”.  When we incline our ear and truly listen to God we have life for our soul.  It really matters that we align with what God’s up to.  For the one who will listen to the Lord, God promises a covenant.  If we walk in obedience as a Christ Follower, God promises us the same love as He had for David.  But we have to take action.  “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near”.

We have to remember though, that we are not like God.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.  God doesn’t think like we do. We get into a lot of trouble when we expect that He will think like us.  In fact, it isn’t even close to the same.  The difference and distance between God and man is revealed, not to discourage us from seeking Him, but to keep us humble as we seek.  We’re not on the same playing field and never will be.  He is far beyond anything we can even imagine.  We must keep Him where He belongs as Creator and Lord!

Isaiah 54

Isaiah 54 has the prophet letting God’s children know that He is going to restore them.  The picture is painted of barrenness that carried shame and disgrace, but God assures His people that He will come and bring them to Himself.  “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more”.  Just as God compared the disgrace of Israel to the shame of barrenness, now He compares their humiliation to the reproach of widowhood. Here, the Lord promises rescue from their shame.

God doesn’t leave His people.  “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called”.  Forsaken by a husband, or forsaken of a husband, they have found beautiful comfort in the promise that God would be a husband to them, when all others forsook them.  He has promised to be husband to them, even when all others have forsaken them.  The principle is true; God will supply and meet our emotional needs, and rescue us from our disgrace and shame, when others forsaken us.

Can we trust Him.  Isaiah reminds us just who is making this promise.  He reminds them of how glorious of a Savior He is. He is their Maker, He is the Lord of hosts, He is their Redeemer, He is the Holy One of Israel, and He is called the God of the whole earth.  God goes even further in that He pursues His children when they are lacking.  “For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God”.  He doesn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for us to call on Him.  He will call us to Himself.

God reminds us of the promise He made.  “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you”.  There will be no more complete destruction.  There will never be a time when God casts us away.  He will always love us.  “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed”.  His love and kindness is more certain than the mountains.  What a promise we can cling to!

Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 has our prophet giving us a picture of the coming Messiah.  He reveals much about the coming Savior.  “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him”.  Jesus came to earth and lived life as a baby growing to a young man.  Scripture tells us He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

Jesus grew up in the Galilee region of Roman occupied Palestine. In respect to spiritual, political, and standard of living matters, it was indeed dry ground.  He lived a normal childhood and early adult life.  He didn’t stand out or do things that set Him apart.  That is, until it was time for His public ministry when it all changed and He not only stood out but revealed His role as God’s Son and Savior of all mankind.  That upset things and “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not”.

That rejection didn’t stop Him from completing His mission to bear the sins of man and carry them to the Cross to provide forgiveness and salvation for all time.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”.  The image is that He loaded them up and carried them on His back, so we wouldn’t have to.  He paid the price and set us free.

Did His sacrifice apply to you and me?  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.  Yep, it certainly did and does.  Isaiah tells us what scripture says through and through – we’re all sinners.  We all choose to disobey and do things our way rather than walk in obedience with God.  That’s why Jesus had to go to the cross, because without that we are doomed to eternal separation.  So God sent Him, and through His stripes we are healed.  Our sin problem can be healed – in only one way – through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  He’s paid the price.  We merely need to receive the gift of grace called salvation!

Isaiah 52

Isaiah 52 has our prophet calling on his people to wake up.  “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean”.  The first Awake, awake! asked the Lord to put on strength (Isaiah 51:9). The second Awake, awake! asked Jerusalem to remember the Lord’s judgments and promises. Now, the third Awake, awake! tells Zion to put on strength in light of the first to awakenings.

God is calling His people to action.  “Shake yourself from the dust and arise”.  We aren’t just to sit back and wait for God to do things for us.  We need to get up and join Him in what He’s up to.  Being a Christ Follower is not a spectator sport.  We need to get up, get shaking, and arise.  God wants to do great things through us.  He can’t do that if we’re sitting idly on the bench.  He can’t move an object that is at rest nearly as easily as one that is up and ready for action.

This chapter addresses the redemption of God’s people.  “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money”.  There is a price to be paid for their redemption, and our redemption, but it isn’t money.  Later in the chapter we find the price of that redemption – Jesus Christ.  “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted”.  Jesus will be exalted.  He will triumph over all enemies.  Before any mention of His suffering comes, His victory over evil is proclaimed.  He is our redeemer.

But that redemption comes with a significant cost – the Cross.  “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand”.  Jesus will suffer and die on that Cross to redeem us from the grip of sin.  He will cleanse us from the power of sin and set us free to spend eternity with God and Him in heaven.

Isaiah 51

Isaiah 51 has the prophet giving a direct word from God – we need to listen.  “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug”.  Ever since creation people have struggled to listen to God.  Three times in this chapter God calls us to do one simple thing – to listen.  It often happens when we get discouraged and feel overwhelmed.  Circumstances grab us and pull us from the one place we can have stability and security – our God.

Satan wants us defeated.  He wants us to feel like we are conquered and the only thing we can do is listen to world around us to find hope.  That’s the wrong place to look.  God not only tells us to listen to Him but also “give attention to me…..give ear to me…..lift up your eyes to the heavens….awake, put on strength”.  God is our source of life and joy.  “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples”.  He’s prepared a way.

He continually calls us to look to and listen to Him for life.  We need to remember the past, that God is a rock upon which those who call on His name have always been able to cling.  He’s not moved or going anywhere.  He calls us to Himself and has created a way for us through Christ.  He tells us not to fear man.  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings”.  Are you afraid to let people know you are a Christ Follower?  We need to listen to God and not fear man.

God calls us to wake up and put on His strength.  “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago”.  Far too many of us are somewhat sleepy in our faith.  We drift off and we fail to live with intention as we walk with God.  Our faith should be vibrant and alive.  It should be the foundation of life, the very rock on which we go through our day.  It isn’t something we set on the shelf and grab each Sunday when we head to church.  We need to wake up and live our faith.  It is the core of who we are as Christ Followers!

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