Archive for June, 2013

Isaiah 36

Isaiah 36 has Sennacherib, who was king of Assyria, coming to Jerusalem and putting it under siege.  He sends three of his thugs to talk with Hezekiah’s people about surrender.  It becomes a war of words between the leaders with most of the trash talk coming from this guy names Rabshakeh.  He was the apparent spokesperson, who was charged with getting Hezekiah to surrender.  So Rabshakeh delivers the message that doom and gloom is coming if they don’t fold the tent and give in.  And he challenges Hezekiah’s trust in God.

Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me”?  Rabs (we’ll call him that for short) is calling Hezekiah’s faith inadequate.  He is challenging the truth of the past.  He knows that will be the response from Hezekiah.  He knows the history where God has been the foundation of His leadership and kingdom, but he is trying to break the people and their trust.

So he stands outside the wall talking to Hezekiah’s leaders and basically yells the challenge.  The request had been made to hold the conversations quietly and in Aramaic, a language the leadership knew but that the people on the wall and behind it would not understand.  No sense talking about the battle in front of the entire city.  But Rabs defies that request and just goes on even louder.  “Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice….do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us”.

Hezekiah had told his people this was coming, and their response should be silence.  Can you imagine the scene?  A powerful enemy outside the wall of your city threatening your future if you don’t do it their way and just roll over and let them have control.  But Hezekiah had a past – one based on trusting the Lord and leading the people well.  So “they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him”.  How awesome is that.  They are likely shaking in their boots talking to these powerful enemy leaders, but they remember what the king had told them.  Be quiet, trust me as we trust God together.  So Hezekiah’s team returns to the city with the message “with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh”.  Overwhelming news.  Next chapter we will see what Hezekiah does with it.

Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35 gives us a very strong picture of just how powerful and awesome God is.  God deserves our praise.  Isaiah tells us:

–       “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad

–       The desert shall rejoice and blossom….abundantly

–       Rejoice with joy and singing

–       Glory…..and majesty

–       Strengthen the weak hands

–       Make firm the feeble knees

God is powerful and worthy of our praise.  When’s the last time you stopped and just thanked God for who He is?  When did you last spend time in adoration and praise?  He is worthy.  He deserves it from us.  We need to make sure we take time to adore Him.

We also learn that there is no reason for fear.  “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance….He will come and save you”.  There is no reason to fear.  God is more than able to come and save us.  He is more than capable of dealing with whatever we bring to Him.  We need to simply be strong.  We need to have confidence in Him and know that He not only hears us, but will respond.

How powerful is He?

–       “the eyes of the blind will be opened

–       The ears of the deaf unstopped

–       The lame man shall leap

–       The tongue of the mute sing for joy

There is nothing that God is unable to deal with.  No physical calamity.  No natural creation.  God made it all.  He controls it all.  He has authority over all.   There is not even any spiritual warfare He does not determine.  He is God.

And His desire is to bring us back to Himself.  “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”.  God wants us to come back to Himself.  He calls us to Himself.  He wants us to come home.  And when we do, when we finally figure out that the world does not revolve around us, but rather Him, we can experience joy and gladness and rid ourselves of sorrow.  We can experience the joy that God desires in our lives.  Don’t have that joy?  Just come to God.  He wants us to come Home.  And He’ll welcome us and set us free from the burden of sin!

Isaiah 34

Isaiah 34 reminds us to “draw near….to hear and give attention”.  Does that describe your walk with Christ?  Do you spend time in His presence listening and paying attention?  Or do you just do a spiritual drive by and drop off some requests and keep moving through life.  That seems to be how many of us relate to our Savior.  Busy life, lots to do, so we just load up a bunch of requests and drop them on Him briefly.  He knows what needs to be done anyway so we don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining.  Is that close in your life?  If you come to Him at all.

If we are going to hear, we have to stop and listen.  I know everyone has experienced the frustration of trying to communicate with someone who is reading their email, talking on their phone, or answering a text.  We may be in the area but are certainly not paying attention.  Isaiah here begins by reminding us that we need to give attention.  We are speaking to the Lord of the Universe when we pray.  We are in the presence of the Holy God when we come before Him.  He not only deserves, but demands our attention.

And in case we forget just who we are dealing with, Isaiah makes it pretty clear that God is not just some passive person.

–       “The Lord has a sword

–       The Lord has a sacrifice

–       The Lord has a day of vengeance

–       The Lord has a year of recompense

He is the real deal.  He has power and is not afraid to use it.  God is God, and He is in charge.  He will bring people to their place.  “He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plumb line of emptiness”.  Without Him we will be confused and empty.  He is the source of fullness of life.

So how do we get things right with God?  “Seek and read from the book of the Lord”.  It isn’t rocket science.  We just need to spend time with Him.  We need to be in His Book and know it.  We need to seek His face through prayer and not only share our heart, but listen to His.  It is about spending time and being in relationship. It is about knowing Him so we can live according to His ways. He has written the guide book.  He has given us the instruction.  We simply need to seek His wisdom and instruction and then live by it.  Are you on that path?  If you are, it is the path to a great life with Him!  If not, it is time to change course and become a Christ Follower so you can experience His goodness and joy!

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 gives us a great picture of our Lord.  Isaiah reminds us that while he is destroyer to many, He is gracious to His own.  And we have the opportunity to begin our day with Him.  “Be our arm every morning, our salvation in time of trouble”.  God is not just on standby to come to our aid when we are in trouble.  Sure, He is there when we cry out in situations we cannot deal with, but He also is there every morning.  Do you begin your day with Him?  Do you acknowledge Him when you rise up?  And end your day with Him when you lie down?  He is our arm.  He is our Savior.

Isaiah goes on to remind us that He is to be exalted.  “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure”.  He is not only a God of salvation, but also of justice and righteousness.  He is consistent and true.  He never changes or moves.  Scripture elsewhere reminds us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is the stability of our day.

We can trust Him as the Rock of our lives.  We can cling to Him and know He will never move.  In Him is abundance.  Scripture says an abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge.  God has no limits.  He is the source of all things. He never runs dry. How do we gain access to all that God is?  The fear of the Lord is our ticket. Having the relationship right – where God is God and we are mere man.  When we put Him on the throne and remember that we are His creation created for His purpose – that is when we can access all that He is and has done.

But there are some expectations.  “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us”.  We will stand before Him and give account.  He is the judge.  He is the ruler.  He wrote the Book on law.  So we need to pay attention to His requirements.  But at the same time as He is the judge, He also is the King and Savior.  And He has made a way for us to overcome the sin which will lead to judgment.  He sent Jesus to the Cross to atone for our sin and cover us when we stand before His judgment seat.  All we need is a relationship with Him to be able to be set free.  Do you have that relationship?

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 has Isaiah warning about complacency.  He paints the picture of a ruling king and princes who have things going well.  They “reign in righteousness and rule in justice”.  Things are going well.  Order is being restored, and people are seen as they are.  But when we think we have it all under control, reality strikes.  The harvest fails and will jar us out of our complacency.  It will cause us to need to change what we do and how we respond to God.  

Isaiah says “Rise up”.  He charges the women who are “at ease” to “hear my voice”  He charges the complacent daughters to “give ear to my speech”.  The picture here is that when things are going well, we tend to get lazy and complacent and stop listening to God.  We bleive things will just continue on as they have been and we don’t need to do anything or stay connected with the Father.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Isaiah warns them of the pending issues and tells them to take action. 

We need to seek god and ask that “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high”.  We need to seek God’s blessing and His Spirit.  He slone can provide that.  He alone is the holder of the keys to blessing and fruitfulness. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever”.  When we seek Him, good things happen.  He can make our life be full of peace and righteousness and quietness and trust.  What a blessed way to live. 

God is the source of every good thing.  “He provides a wonderful outcome. “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places”.  Can you imagine living in peace and being in a secure and restful place.  God provides that to His children.  Is it always that way?  Probably not, but not because of anything He does.  We choose to take our eyes off Him.  We move out from His presence and want to do things our own way.  We leave the shelter of His blessing for our own desires.  God is good.  He wants to bless us. We just need to remain in Him!

Isaiah 31

Isaiah 31 begins with a warning – that we should not depend on man or self – but only on God for our help and direction.  “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses….trust in chariots….and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord”.  You been there and done that?  Rely on self, or others for protection or direction?  It is our normal and often first response.  But it is foolish.  There is a much better way and that is to trust and consult the Lord!

The Egyptians are man and not God”.  When we rely on anything less than the Creator of the Universe Himself, we are looking at a place that cannot possibly give us the right answers.  We are depending on something without the power.  “When the Lord stretches out His hand….they will all perish together”.  God alone is in control.  He alone is in charge of all things great and small.  And to rely on anything else is foolishness.  But we still do it.  We do our own thing our own way and wonder why it fails and we fall down.

Isaiah gives us clear instruction: “turn to Him from whom people have deeply revolted”.  We need to turn to God.  We need to run to God.  That is where the wisdom comes from.  That is the source of power.  Instead, we make “idols of silver and idols of gold” and walk in sinful ways.  We do stupid things that separate us from God and keep us from His goodness and bring His justice upon us.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can make a different choice.  God is ready to bring us back to Himself, if we only turn from our ways and return to Him.

The day will come when everyone will face God.  We will stand before Him and face judgment.  And when we do, there will be no place to hide, no place to run, we will stand there and defend the choices we have made.  What will you have to say for yourself?  Will it be a life of obedience and walking with God?  Or will you be scrambling to explain why you chose to disobey and live a life pleasing to yourself?  Will you be making excuses and trying to explain away your sinful choices?  There is no answer or excuse.  All we can do is come to Him with the covering of the saving blood of Jesus.

Isaiah 30

Isaiah 30 picks up from the start the reality that mankind falls short.  “Ah, stubborn children, declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt”.  We really are a stubborn lot as people.  We do what we want.  We plan and do our own thing.  We ignore God’s direction, and we choose to sin.  We fail to take direction and run elsewhere to get protection, which doesn’t exist.  Apart from God there is no protection.

So God instructs us to learn His ways and then write it down so we can remember it and teach it to our children.  “And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever”.  Did you catch this?  We need to record what is going on and what God has taught us so we have a record and witness.  And we need to share it with those around us and be sure we teach others well.  When we fail, trouble comes.  “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them”, disaster is ours.  We will suffer.

But even though we fail to walk with God, He is there waiting to bring us back and opens His arms to us.  “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him”.  Note what scripture tells us here.  God is gracious, but also a God of justice.  It isn’t a free ride.  It’s just that He has a plan for someone else to pay the price.  He shows mercy on us by having sent Christ to the Cross to atone for our sin and meet the judgment that is ours.

He is a God of love.  He has made a way for us.  “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you”.  We will be blessed beyond what we deserve if we come to Him.  But it isn’t easy.  The enemy is there trying to lead us astray and to get us to ignore God’s call.  “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left”.  We need to have our eyes wide open that we have an adversary that does not want us to experience God’s grace or mercy.  He wants us to fail and not cry out to God.  His plan for our lives is destruction!

Isaiah 29

Isaiah 29 has the prophet reminding the people that ignoring God and doing their own thing is not going to go well.  God will punish those who disobey, and He will come in an instant and bring His wrath.  God hides His truth from those who do not walk with Him.  “The vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book to one who cannot read”.  God’s truth is not for those who do not follow Him and obey His commandments.  He hides it from them, so they cannot understand.

We become foolish and believe we can hide from the Lord.  But we can’t.  He always knows where we are.  “Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us”?  God knows and sees everything.  We can’t run.  We can’t hide.  We will give account for what we have done.  And it will be a major blow when we discover that we missed eternity because of our choice to sin and disobey God.

We push Him aside and fall to the belief that the world is all about us.  We’ve become the center of the universe somehow, and everything revolves around who we are.  We talk back to the Creator and tell Him that we did it all ourselves.  Oh how foolish.  “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”.  How stupid can be become?  To believe that we did it ourselves – is ludicrous.

But eventually we will come to our senses.  “For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel”.  We will come back to God once the reality of life hits us and we realize we can do nothing apart from Him.  He will bring us back, either voluntarily when we actually figure it out, or with a rude awakening that can come in many forms and fashions.  But make no mistake, we will come around. “And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction”.  God will get our attention and correct our ways, even if it is at judgment.  He is and will be in control – always!

Isaiah 28

Isaiah 28 continues alongside Hosea in speaking truth to God’s people.  He reminds us that the day is coming when we will stand before God and give account.  “In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate”.  The Lord will be exalted and sit on the judgment seat.  And He alone will determine who enters.  He alone will make the call.  And no storming of the gates of heaven, or sneaking in will occur. God will invite those who are His to come Home.  To the rest, He will turn them back.  They will not enter heaven.

Isaiah reminds us of the task we have to teach “those who are weaned from the milk” or our kids.  “For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little”.  Parenting is hard work.  It’s easy to become a parent, but a whole lot more work to actually do what we are instructed by God in His Word about being a good parent.  It comes with a lot of responsibility and takes significant effort and time.  But it is also the greatest blessing God offers us on earth outside of a great marriage.  We are to do the painstakingly hard work of training up our kids.  It is a meticulous task, but the result is so important.

God’s message is pretty simple.  If we come to Him, He will give us rest.  “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear”.  Why wouldn’t we want that?  The amazing thing is that everything God offers us, yes everything, is so much better than what the world can provide.  Yet so often we choose that which is right in front of us and choose not to take God’s perfect gifts.  But man will never approach what God can do: “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste”.  And there will be a price to pay for that choice.

Isaiah makes it clear that God has given us what we need to know to live God’s way.  “I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line”.  God has set the standard.  He has let us know where the line is.  “For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him”.  He has and continues to share His truth and the instruction for our life through His Book which contains our guide for life, but also those around us.  Isaiah says “Give ear, and hear my voice; give attention, and hear my speech”.

We need to be taking in God’s Word in many ways, along with studying what He has said in the Bible.  We don’t lack knowing what we should do.  We have a doing issue, an execution and accountability problem.  Which is why we need each other and the body of Christ – the church – to hold our feet to the fire and help keep God’s truth front and center in our life.  We will stray when left to on our own.  But God has set us up for success.  “This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom”.  Are you walking with Him?

Hosea 14

Hosea wraps up his prophecy in Hosea 14 by challenging the people to return to God.  “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity”.  The charge is pretty straightforward.  You’ve been floundering around on your own for generations, it is time to get back to the Lord and get your nation straightened out.  Sin brings us down, even a nation, when it is living in iniquity.  And be it as individuals or a nation, we need to get over ourselves, confess our sin, repent from our evil ways, and return to the Lord.  The same message Hosea delivered thousands of years ago applies to us today.

He calls out the real issue – which is pride.  “We will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands”.  Man has this issue of believing that we are in charge and what happens is a result of our efforts.  It isn’t.  Never has been, never will be.  God alone is the source of every good and perfect thing.  And when we take credit for that, it is sin.  But God still loves us, and wants us to come back to Him, in spite of our pride and sin.  And when we humble ourselves and return, He is ready to take us back with open arms.  “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. 5 I will be like the dew”.

God wants to bless us.  He is waiting for us to come back.  “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon”.  And our return does not bring momentary or partial blessing during a trial period.  When we come back to God the floodgates of heaven open and He pours blessing on us.  When we dwell with Him, goodness pours into our patch.  So what’s the problem?  We can’t get over ourselves to come back to God.

We want to stay in control.  We want to buy into the lie that life is about us and God is just there in case we need help.  Hosea ends with these words: “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them”.  The wise approach is to recognize that God’s ways are the best ways and we need to walk in them.  Being in an intimate relationship with God is not a sign of weakness, but rather wisdom.  Walking in His ways is not a lack of creativity or limiting our freedom, but sets us free to receive His blessing.  Oh that we would listen and heed Hosea’s direction.  Come to the Lord and walk with Him.  It is the formula to blessing and success!

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