Archive for August, 2016

Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35 begins to show us the restoration after the judgment we’ve seen in the past few chapters.  “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing”.  After the judgment on the nations described in Isaiah 34, God will bring a beautiful restoration.  This is being exhibited today as the land of Israel, mostly desert and rocks, has been turned into productive farms and food production for it’s people.  In the end times, after the destruction of those days, it will again be restored by God into beauty.

But it won’t be the land that will stand out in beauty.  “They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God”.  The day is coming when God will make Himself known to all mankind.  He will be lifted up on high.  Unfortunately many of us are not walking with our eyes on His power.  “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees”.  We let the world around us keep us from experiencing God’s power in our lives.  Some among God’s people have weak hands and feeble knees. What is the cause of it? If we are not making progress in our walk with Jesus, it will result in our having weak hands and feeble knees.  Depending on self will never provide us the stability we get from Christ.

How should we live?  “Say to those who have an anxious heart, Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you”.  God is going to show up.  He is our Savior and Lord.  We should not be overcome with fear, but have confidence on God who always does what He says.  He is worthy of our trust and praise.  He never fails.  And He brings with it His power.  Miracles will happen.  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy”.

God will show up and save us if we put our trust in Him.  Isaiah announces that in the ministry of the Messiah, there will be a wonderful highway, a road, known as the Highway of Holiness. “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray”.  This will be an engineering marvel – a highway lifted up that provides a way from sin to holiness, from death to life, from condemnation to perfection.  God will make a way for us to get to Him.

We have to walk in faith – putting our trust in the forgiveness of the blood of Jesus on the cross – but God’s already made a way for us to conquer sin and overcome the fact that we are not worthy on our own.  It’s why Jesus came to live, be crucified, raise again, and conquer death – to give us access through God’s grace and mercy based on His sacrifice to a highway that will bring us into God’s eternal presence someday!  Isaiah paints the picture.  Now it’s up to us to make the decision to walk in faith with Jesus!

Isaiah 34

Isaiah 34 has God speaking to all the nations.  “Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it”.  When God speaks, we need to listen.  This passage not only talks to the coming judgment of the Assyrians, but also is an announcement of the judgment to come upon all nations during the Great Tribulation. That’s when the judgment of God will create conditions on the earth that will be the worst anyone has ever seen.  God details it in Revelation, but Isaiah foretells it here.

It’s why Isaiah is pleading with the nations to come near and to hear and pay attention.  In light of how terrible the great tribulation will be, when we consider how prophecy has been fulfilled, and how the stage is set for even more fulfilled prophecy, we should hear and take heed!  God is furious with the nations.  “For the Lord is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter”.

The Lord has a sword….the Lord has a sacrifice….the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion”.  The warning of the Lord is directed not to God’s people, but to the nations. This is because God’s people will escape the terrors of the great tribulation, though they may experience great hardship in the time leading up to it.  The sword will have its final fulfillment in the battle of Armageddon which will be  a very bloody and final battle.

This is some pretty overwhelming stuff.  So what should we do?  “Seek and read from the book of the Lord….For the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them”.  Isaiah understood that his words were the words of the Lord. It also tells us that Isaiah meant his prophecy to be understood literally – poetically, but literally. It also means that Isaiah clearly challenged doubters to “look it up” once the prophecy was fulfilled.  This time of great tribulation is certainly coming. This is beyond all doubt; our part isn’t to bring it or to prevent it, but simply to be ready, and to pray.  God’s Word is true.  Every line it contains is inspired and either has or will happen.  We need to read, heed, and be ready!

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 has the prophet reminding us that those who did the plundering will be plundered (the Assyrians), and will be dealt with treacherously by others.  He shares the simple prayer of God’s people:  “O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble”.  There is a confident expectation that God not only hears their prayer, but will take action.  They trust in the Lord and are waiting for Him to come correct the evil that is upon them.

The people also recall God’s character and praise Him for who He is.  “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”.   God is the Almighty One and no matter what is happening around Him, He is still God and still sitting on the throne of this universe.  And He will take action against evil.  “Now I will arise,” says the Lord, now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted”.  Even when it seems like evil is winning, it is not, only waiting God’s timing.

Character matters.  Integrity matters.  How we live matters.  God will raise up those who walk in obedience with Him.  “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure”.  God will lead us to our Savior and keep us safe.

God promises to take care of His people and their place – He is going to preserve Jerusalem in spite of the Assyrian captors.  “Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken”.  It may not look like it but God is in control.  “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us”.  God is holy and righteous.  He is judge and jury, but in His righteousness He will save those who are faithful to Him.  He is King.  He will save us!

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 has the prophet talking about what comes after Jerusalem is delivered and set free from the Assyrians.  God’s people have been under the control of the enemy for some time, and now God not only removes that captivity but also blesses the people of Judah with a righteous king.  “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice”.  Scholars believe this is probably Hezekiah, a king who did what was right in the sight of the Lord according to scripture.  He was a picture of the coming Messiah.

The righteous king will restore the people and bring spiritual renewal back to the land.  He not only provides protection and shelter from enemies, this king will also restore the people to blessing and righteousness and relationship with God.  There will be plenty who will try to tear down and stop the progress – the hasty, stammerers, ungodly, fools and scoundrels.  They all have their own agendas and desire to derail God’s efforts to restore His people and return them to blessing.

But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands”.  But God’s plan will continue.  The heart of this king will stay the course no matter the opposition because His foundation is built on God which never moves or changes.  A righteous man has a foundation that doesn’t shift.  He will fight through the difficult times and overcome the challenging people and brings God’s people home.  “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever”.  And when he does, the outcome will be a wonderful change from what they have experienced.

It won’t be without challenges.  “For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest”.  Things have been tough.  God used the Assyrians to humble His people and clean up their lives.  But when God’s Spirit returns, the forsaken is restored and blessing will return.  God will bless His people once again.  Great days are ahead!

Isaiah 31

Isaiah 31 continues the rebuke of the people of Judah for trusting Egypt to save them.  “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord”!  Unfortunately our human nature is to first trust what we can see and try to control rather than trust the God of the Universe who we can’t see but who has ultimate and complete control.  If only we’d learn that lesson, we could avoid a lot of turmoil.

Isaiah spells it out clearly.  “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit”.  That’s the reality of every person or thing we tend to put our faith in – they are not and cannot replace God.  We put our trust somewhere that can’t provide the results.  God alone is our source of security and peace.  He alone is our power and strength.  He is our Rock.  “When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together”.  Anything other than Him will disappoint.

The good news is prophesied by Isaiah: “the Lord of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill….the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it; he will spare and rescue it”.  Do you see any doubt here?  God will show up.  He will fight.  He will protect.  He will deliver.  He will spare.  He will rescue.  There is no sign of question here.  God will, plain and simple.  No doubt.  No question.  No concern.  We can trust Him because He alone is able.  He alone is God.

But we have to do something….” Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted….cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you”.  We have to put God back where He belongs.  We turn away when we think we have things under control.  We put God on the shelf if we feel like we’ve got things where we want them.  We replace God with idols – things that take His place in our life – and we sin against Him.  If we want God to show up in our life, we have to repent, turn from our idols, and let Him be Savior and Lord of our lives.  It’s that easy, but that hard!

Isaiah 30

Isaiah 30 has the prophet rebuking the people of Judah who are making a very poor choice as they “carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin”.  This prophecy was given at a time when the Assyrian army was attacking Israel and Judah.  The Assyrians would capture the people of Israel in the northern kingdom, and then come against the southern kingdom of Judah.  Because of this threat the leaders of Judah looked to Egypt for protection against the Assyrian invasion.  God is not pleased with that choice!

The decision the leaders of Judah would make would be to seek protection “without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt”!  God is clear the outcome won’t be protection, but rather it will “turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation”. In fact, God is clear that “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty”.  This isn’t a solution to the problem, but in fact is going to assure failure and defeat.

God tells Isaiah to go and make it clear just how wrong the people of Judah are on this.  “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. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord”.  It’s sin – choosing to get help from an enemy nation without even asking God.  Their memory is short.  Their understanding is non-existent.  They are going to pay a price for their rebellion.

Isaiah does give the solution to their problem.  “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength”.  All God wants is for His people to come to Him and trust Him.  All He asks from us is the same – to remember and choose to let Him be Savior and Lord of our lives.  He doesn’t force it.  Our lack of choosing to live that way changes nothing in the realm of reality and truth.  God is God whether we treat Him that way today, or centuries ago.  He is God.  He is in control.  And if we choose to ignore and live like He isn’t, there’s a price to pay.  Judah did, and so will we.  Our nation certainly is moving that way and unfortunately a similar disaster will result from His fury and anger!

Isaiah 29

Isaiah 29 has Isaiah talking about Jerusalem as proud, resting on its spiritual heritage instead of its present reality and living for present pleasures without concern for God and His expectations.  Jerusalem may have had a high opinion of itself, but it is not out of the reach of God’s hand of judgment.  “I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning and lamentation, and she shall be to me like an Ariel”.  The repetition of the name Ariel the idea that Jerusalem may have thought of herself as the Lion of God, but God didn’t share that lofty opinion of the city.

God is not happy with Jerusalem.  ”The multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff….you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire”.  There’s a bit of a mixed signal here as God describes what will happen.  His action won’t just be against the city of Jerusalem but extend to those who attack the city as well.  God will humble Jerusalem in the dust, and then scatter her enemies like fine dust, like chaff that passes away.

Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men….I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden”.  Jerusalem knew how to talk the spiritual talk, but their hearts were far from God.  God doesn’t move away from His people; they remove their hearts from Him.

In spite of how we may treat God, He always loves us.  He never gives up on us.  He didn’t give up on His people in Jerusalem either.  The people of Jerusalem made the terrible mistake of raising themselves up, and lowering God at the same time.  “Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, He did not make me”.  How we view God doesn’t change the facts that He is creator and our maker.  He is in power, in control and on the throne of this world.  We need to put Him back where He belongs and walk in obedience to His commands.

Isaiah 28

Isaiah 28 begins with the assessment of the people of Ephraim.  “Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim”.  There is a problem and drunkenness was a significant enough problem that the Lord directed Isaiah to directly address the drunkards of Ephraim.  When alcohol overcomes us, we are in sin. You might think there would be a strict prohibition against drinking alcohol in the Bible, but there isn’t.  Isaiah calls the people of Ephraim “those overcome with wine”!  They have a problem and he calls them out.  But it isn’t the wine that is the problem.

In fact, Jesus drank wine along with many other biblical folks.  The Bible allows the moderate use of alcohol but it strictly condemns drunkenness. There is a huge difference between those two. Whenever alcohol impairs our senses, our thinking, our judgment, or our reflexes, we are overcome with wine and it is sin. Whenever we feel compelled to drink, or have difficulty not drinking, we are overcome with wine and it is sin. If we have to hide our drinking, or are secretly ashamed of our drinking, we are overcome with wine and it is sin.

The Lord has one who is mighty and strong”. The drunkard needs to know that God is stronger than the drunkard, stronger than the power of alcohol, stronger than anything. If the drunkard is powerless to stop his drinking, God has the power to help him stop.  It is not hopeless.  God is able.  The drunken priests and teachers in Ephraim are making fun of Isaiah and the teaching he makes.  “For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little”. With this, the drunk, ungodly prophets and priests mock Isaiah’s teaching believing it is too simple.

God makes it clear through Isaiah that the standard has been set and has not moved.  “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….I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter”.  God set the cornerstone who is Jesus Christ – the foundation for our lives, and a secure, stable foundation upon which everything lasting can be built.  And He keeps building into us in order to keep the building straight with justice and righteousness.

Isaiah 27

Isaiah 27 has a picture of the coming showdown with the enemy.  “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea”.  God will show Himself strong and put away the enemy once and for all.  The victory is behind, but the show will happen when God determines.  Jesus has already won the war, but the final battle where He puts away the enemy for good is about to come.  The ultimate triumph of the Lord happens with victory over Leviathan the fleeing serpent.

God is our keeper.  “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day”.  We can only be fruitful when take hold of the strength of the Lord. As long as we hold on to our own strength, what we really have is weakness.  This will be ultimately fulfilled when Christ returns, but if we yield to the care of the Lord right now, He will care for us as His precious vineyard right now, and we will enjoy the blessings of that care.  We can experience some heaven on earth today if we will yield to His direction and care!

Has he struck them as he struck those who struck them? Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain”?   Even though the Lord struck Israel when Israel went astray, He did not strike Israel as severely as He did the other nations that went astray.  He had mercy on Israel and covered their sin.  God shows His mercy to Israel in that He destroys their idolatrous altars and images, forcing them to worship the Lord only.  “Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing”.

The chapter winds up giving us a couple of glimpses of what will happen “in that day” when Christ returns:

  1. the Lord will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel”.
  2. a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem

God will bring back His people and they will all come together and worship Him in Jerusalem.  What a glorious day that will be!

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26 tells us more about the last days.  In that day, there will be a lot of joyful singing, such as this song that will be sung in the land of Judah.  In that day, all will know the strength and glory of the city of God.  The Kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth will be made up of cities – redeemed cities, glorious communities organized under the strength and salvation and righteousness and truth of the Lord. God’s plan is not that we are isolated from all community but that the Kingdom of God will be realized in a strong city.

We serve an amazing God.  “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock”.  There is no other that even comes close to the power and stability of God.   He is alone in His sovereignty and pwer.  “For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy”.  The world will see His power and His ruling of His Kingdom.

If we want the least resistance on our journey through life, we need to learn to walk with God in righteousness.  “The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous”.  It doesn’t say there will be no ups and downs or struggles or persecution or suffering.  It does say that our path will be level – that we will find some peace and consistency and levelness in life if we walk in righteousness – obedience to God.  Ultimately God’s mission is to make us holy.  Judgment and other struggles are part of His loving and teaching us righteousness.  “For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness”.

Isaiah gives us a glimpse of what lies ahead.  “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy”!  We will rise again someday.  We’ll stand before God and give account for how we have lived.   Those who have been redeemed from their sins through the blood of Christ will be protected.  The rest will experience Christ’s judgment.  “For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain”.  How much better it will be to walk under the cover of Christ’s love and sacrificial blood on the Cross!

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