Isaiah 57 has Isaiah talking about how God deals with the wicked. As humans we just do our own thing. And most of the time unfortunately, it is not really lined up with what God desires – a life that is holy and godly and pure. Sin gets in the way of that. And we live like it doesn’t matter. We act like God doesn’t know or isn’t paying attention. We mock Him. And Isaiah asks this question: “Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue”? We act like little kids that stick out our tongue at God saying ‘nana nana nana’. But we deceive ourselves. He will not be mocked.
God alone determines the outcome of life. Someday each of us will stand before Him and answer for how we have lived. And when we do, we’ll find out that we didn’t do enough to enter heaven on our own. “I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you”. Even if we are 99.9% righteous, we will have fallen short of what God requires. Sin is a reality for each of us. We will miss the mark. And as such, our good deeds and good living won’t punch the ticket for entrance to heaven. How we live matters much in terms of what eternity looks like once we are there, but it doesn’t determine where we spend it.
All that matters on that count is how we dealt with our sin, which is the problem we all face. And the solution to sin relies in one thing – the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It is about acknowledging our plight, confessing our sin, repenting and going the other way, and receiving the grace God offered when Christ died for that sin. That is our refuge from sin – the blood of Jesus. “But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain”. It is Christ alone that saves us from our sin. It is the only solution we have available. We can’t live that well. We will fall short. Jesus has already won the victory over death and sin. We need to have relationship with Him as our Savior and Lord!
But as humans, who want to be independent and do it our way, we struggle to let Christ be Lord in our lives. “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart”. We keep on doing what we have always done and backslide to our own desires and ways. God has to deal with sin. His nature won’t let Him just ignore it. So we need to realize that Jesus is not a Band-Aid, He is the ONLY THING that will save our sorry souls. Are you in relationship with Him? He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!
Isaiah 56 points out that there will be some who spend eternity with God, and others who don’t make the grade. God is not in the business of treating us all the same. How we live matters, both today and for eternity. “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed”. Many want to believe that a God of love will let everyone into heaven some day. But scripture doesn’t say that. In fact, it says exactly the opposite. God’s nature and character requires Him to respond to us based on how we live.
That means some are blessed, and some are not. Some get into heaven, and some do not. Some spend eternity with God, and some do not. “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”. God will judge us based on how we live. He cannot tolerate or ignore evil (or sin) and has to deal with it. If we confess, repent and address our sin through the blood of Christ, we can spend eternity with the Father. “I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off”.
And let me be clear – that is what God wants – that we spend eternity with Him in His Kingdom. But entry isn’t automatic because we can spell God. It is about the relationship with have with Him. It is about how we put Him in His rightful place in our lives. It is about how we make Jesus Savior and Lord and allow the blood of His death to cover our sin. “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”. God has made a way. We need to hold fast to it!
God is in the business of gathering people to Himself. He does pursue us, but He never forces us. That is His nature, to allow us the choice of how we will live. “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered”. And He’ll keep gathering and calling us to Himself until the Day of the Lord when Christ returns. But make no mistake – we have to respond. We have to hear His call and take the step of joining Him. We have to do something, and while it may not seem that important, it is absolutely critical. Have you responded to God’s call? Are you ‘gathered’ by Him to the Kingdom?
Isaiah 55 begins with this word: “come”. Isaiah reminds us that we are invited to come. He says “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”. God invites us to come to Him. We are to come however we are, with whatever needs we have. He is the source of filling those needs. He is the One who can meet each and every one. He alone is the source of our satisfaction and joy.
He continues with a second important word: “listen”. Isaiah reminds us that not only is God the source of all, He also is the answer to all. “Listen diligently to me….Incline your ear….hear that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant”. We not only need to come to Him, but we need to listen and hear what He has to say to us. We need to understand the life that comes to us as we meet our Lord and follow His direction – it is the source of life and His covenant with us.
Isaiah gives us another word: “seek”. We are told to “seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near”. We not only need to come to Him, and to listen to Him, but we need to seek or pursue our Lord. Why? So that we can have a relationship with Him. We need to spend time in His presence to understand His ways and His truths. The reality is that we are on a very different plain than God when it comes to how we think and what we know. We need to seek His ways and His wisdom. Scripture makes this very clear.
“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”. If you wonder why we don’t line up with God’s plans – this pretty well says it. We just don’t think like God. So we need to spend time with Him so we can begin to allow His ways and thoughts to penetrate us. We need to be in His presence so we can be immersed in His vision and teaching. We need to work hard to understand our Lord. We need to come….listen…..seek so we can become more like Jesus!
Isaiah 54 has a couple promises from the Lord that show His love and commitment to His children. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes”. God is all about expanding our territory. He wants us to push the boundaries of where we are and what we do. He wants us to trust Him and cling to His promises. He tells us that Jabez was more noble than his brothers because he prayed for expanded territory.
God wants to use us to change the world around us and enlarge His territory. We should not hold back, but realize that God wants us to be stretched out and trust Him. We need to consider how we go further and do more. God is about growing us and stretching us way beyond our comfort zone. When is the last time you did anything that could only happen if God showed up and did something? That is how we should live. On the edge, trusting the Father, and expanding our territory.
Can we trust Him? “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”. This promise says it all. God isn’t going anywhere. The circumstances may be completely changed, but God remains. His love for us never ends. We may cause some challenges in our relationship when we fail to obey and walk with Him, but He never leaves nor forsakes us. He just won’t leave us. We have a God that loves us no matter what. We can take that to the bank!
Isaiah 53 is all about Jesus. Isaiah prophecies of the Savior who was to come, and gives us a very clear picture of just how it would happen. He lets us know that Jesus would be born in a very unlikely way, and live a very low key and unspectacular life. “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 didn’t come in like a king, or demand an upbringing that was showy or pampered. He was born in a stable and lived in a small town.
But that doesn’t diminish what He did. And it certainly didn’t impact how He was treated. “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”. He was mistreated and misunderstood. He came to save and to serve and was rejected and despised. But the thing that separates Jesus from every other was that love kept Him going and giving to the point of death on the Cross, in spite of His treatment. He could have walked away, but “he poured out his soul to death”. That is the love He bore!
Does His death matter? “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed”. There is nothing as important. We have a problem as humans. And without the love God had which caused Him to send Jesus, without Jesus’ love for us to carry our sin to the cross so we could be set free, we would be in a very sad state of hopelessness. We have a fatal problem – sin. “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”. It isn’t just some of us that are in trouble. We all are. And God made a way to redeem us through Christ.
Jesus didn’t have to go to the Cross, but He chose to. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth”. He went quietly and willingly because He loved us. And our hope is in His death, burial and resurrection. Because of His actions we are healed. “He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. Remember that Isaiah is writing this centuries before Jesus was born. How awesome is the God we serve. He loves us so very much!
Isaiah 52 has the prophet talking about salvation and what is to come. He tells the people to “shake yourself from the dust and arise….loose the bonds from your neck”. We get caught up in our sin. We settle in and fall into comfort with people around us who are on the wrong path. We need to ‘awake’ and notice where we are hanging out and with whom. And when we see it is not God’s presence we are in, but stuck in the mire of sin and the world, we need to shake off that dust and unwrap ourselves and move toward God.
God wants a relationship with us. He is our life and our source of salvation. And here is the defining truth about our walk with Him: “my people shall know my name”. Do you know God? Not as the One you run to when you are in trouble, but as the Creator of the universe? Do you know Him as the Author of life? Do you know Him as the First, the Last, and the Great I Am? Have you spent time at His feet declaring the many qualities that describe Him in scripture, and been in adoration and awe of our God?
We should be praising and glorifying Him every day – not just a few minutes here or there – but as a way of living. God is the God of our salvation. He is the Provider of all. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’”. We need to be shouting the truth of our God from the mountaintops. We need to know Him intimately and be sure that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God”.
But it goes further than talking about God. It is living with and for Him. Our lives should glorify Him. He should be our everything. People may be drawn to the words we speak, but they will be consumed by the life we live if we live it for Him. When we are living life as a Christ Follower the way God intends, “that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand”. We are His hands and feet. We express His glory by the way we live and walk with Him. Are you making that difference in the lives of those in your patch?
Isaiah 51 begins with a word from the Lord. “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”. God calls us to listen. He calls us to wake up and continue to pursue righteousness. He calls us to seek Him. He calls us to look to the Rock that never changes. He calls us to remain firm in the ‘quarry from which you were dug’. God wants us to remain focused. He wants us to listen and seek and look and cling.
Why? Because He is the source of blessing and salvation. He tells us that Abraham was an example. “I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him”. God wants to do the same with us. He wants to bless us. But that requires us to follow Him. It requires us to walk with Him in righteousness. It means that He is Lord, not the prayer genie we call on when we want something. The reality is that we need to get our act together. Judgment is coming. The day we stand before God and defend our actions is near. “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples”.
We will have to stand before God and answer for our lives. We’ll have to give account of how we have lived. ”Lift up your eyes to the heavens….the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed”. What we know will go away. This earth will vanish. So our place of living will change. God calls us to wake up. “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”. We should not fear man. We need to fear God. He will be the One who determines our eternity. He alone is the judge and justice.
And between now and then He desires a relationship with us. “I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day”. That is what God desires. He wants to be the center of our life. He wants to sit on the throne of our heart. God is the creator. He is the King. And we need to keep Him first and foremost. We need to have Him be the focus of all we are and do. He alone is God!