Archive for September, 2016

Isaiah 61

Isaiah 61 has our prophet prophetically speaks for the Messiah, and the Messiah announces that He is blessed and empowered by the Spirit of the Lord God.  He also defines quite a long and detailed assignment.  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to”:

  • bring good news to the poor
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • proclaim liberty to the captives
  • opening of the prison to those who are bound
  • proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
  • proclaim the day of vengeance of our God
  • comfort all who mourn
  • grant to those who mourn in Zion
  • give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes
  • give them the oil of gladness instead of mourning
  • give them the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit
  • call them oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord
  • He may be glorified

Talk about a detailed list of things Jesus came to deal with.  The Messiah announces that He is here to heal the damage that sin brings. Sin has done great damage, so there needs to be a great work of redemption.  Jesus went to the Cross to deal with sin once and for all.  Because sin brings grief, He will comfort all who mourn.  Jesus fixes it all.  That’s how God shows His love.  He sent Christ while we were yet sinners.

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations”.  God loves to restore ruins. He wants to use His people to restore and rebuild things that are broken down and ruined.  But He doesn’t merely restore broken down cities and nations.  He builds up the ruins of lives that have fallen apart.  If we follow Christ, He will come into our life and help us rebuild that which sin has broken down.  He restores the devastation and makes us whole.

God has made a way.  “For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them”.  We need that way because God is a God of justice.  He can’t ignore sin.  He can’t overlook or ignore it.  His nature will not allow that.  He is faithful to provide a way for us to address our sin.  In fact, He has given us an everlasting covenant that allows us to overcome the sin problem we have as humans and get right with Him through grace.  Jesus is that way.  We need to cling to the Rock and make faith in Him our own!

Isaiah 60

Isaiah 60 has the prophet telling us to “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”.  This is God’s glorious rescue for us through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. The light has come – so God tells His people to respond to it, and to arise and shine!  That’s really the only catch to the redemptive offer that God gives us.  Salvation is free.  Forgiveness of our sins is free (at least to us).  But we have to rise up and receive it.  We have to recognize our sin and confess, repent and turn the other way, and just take what God holds out free for us.  It really doesn’t get any better or simpler than this.  God has paid the price through the shed blood of Christ.  We merely need to make that gift of grace our own.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see….then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult”.  God’s got a great plan for His people.  He’s calling them together and they’ll all come home.  We need to keep our eyes on heaven and see what He’s up to, even now.  God’s not dead, and isn’t sitting on the throne twiddling His thumbs all day.  He’s active and alive and making things happen all around us.  We need to pay attention and see His actions.  We need to be thrilled with His goodness.

God’s clear that His relationship with His people is not always smooth sailing: “for in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you”.  There are times when we need a good swift whack to the side of the head.  God has to do something pretty strong to get our attention and point out that we can’t just keep doing whatever we want.  Obedience still matters.  Sin still carries a price.  At the same time, in His love, He stands ready to pour His mercy out on us in spite of what we do and who we are.  He loves us.  Always has, always will!

God’s going to make Himself known: “you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob”.  If we were to boil down what our purpose on earth really is as a Christ Follower – it is this – to make God known and let the world see the power of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in us.  God is the center of what our message should be.  Life isn’t about us.  It’s about Him.  It’s about who He is and what He has done.  He is the only One worthy of praise.  Too often we get in the middle of that.  It’s all about Him and we need to point to Him!

Isaiah 59

Isaiah 59 starts off with the prophet making a very clear statement about the problem mankind has – its sin.  “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear”.  People during Isaiah’s time wondered why God was not rescuing them from their trials.  They thought maybe He was running out of power.  That was not, and will never be the case.  The issue is entirely different.

The problem is the choice we make to sin.  That’s the first thing we have to understand.  Sin is absolutely a choice.  It isn’t a mistake or accident.  It is a willful decision to disobey God.  Period and end of story.  There is no other definition or way to soft sell the seriousness of what sin is.  We choose to sin.  “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness”.  Our hands are dirty.  We don’t accidentally sin.  We make a choice.  And there are consequences to sin – some serious ones.

Sin never removes us from God’s love.  However, sin does have consequences according to Guzik:

  • Sin separates us from fellowship with God, because at least at the point of our sin, we no longer think alike with God.
  • Sin separates us from the blessing of God, because at least at the point of our sin, we are not trusting God and relying on Him.
  • Sin separates us from the some of the benefits of God’s love, even as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) was still loved by the father, but didn’t enjoy the benefits of his love when he was in sin.
  • Sin separates us, in some way, from the protection of God, because He will allow trials to come our way to correct us.

But the biggest consequence of sin is what happens if we don’t address it – eternal separation from God.  He can’t overlook it.  We must confess, repent and receive His gift of grace – Jesus Christ – who went to the Cross to pay the price for our sin.

Isaiah defines the sin of God’s people and makes clear that they were missing the mark.  God is not pleased, but He still loves His people.  “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him….a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression….this is my covenant with them”.  God will make a way.  God did make a way.  Jesus is that way – our Redeemer, our Salvation, our Lord!

Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58 has the prophet delivering a hard realization – God’s people are sinners.  “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins”.  After all, they were going through the motions of walking in obedience.  They had the appearance of following God.  “They seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God”.

Sounds like the right stuff to do, doesn’t it?  On the surface it seems right, but underneath the spiritual façade they weren’t really following God.  They were merely going through the motions.  They were shallow in their faith.  The people didn’t understand that.  They challenged God.  “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it”?  In their mind they were doing the right things, but God wasn’t keeping up His end of the bargain.  Then God puts the hammer down…..

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high”.  Their actions weren’t about God at all.  It was an attempt to manipulate God.  Though their prayer was accompanied with fasting, it was still a selfish, even wicked prayer – so God did not answer.  God sees the heart, which is where our problems come from.  And He doesn’t allow us to pull His strings by our shallow actions.  We have to do it His way.

God promises blessing to those who truly worship Him.  There is amazing power at our disposal if we get our worship right.  “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer….the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire….your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in”.  That’s what is possible, but only if we get our life aligned with God.  Guzik captures these characteristics of a life that is right with God:

  • It is an enlightened life: Your light shall down in the darkness.
  • It is a guided life: The Lord will guide you continually.
  • It is a satisfied life: And satisfy your soul in drought.
  • It is a fragrant life: Like a watered garden.
  • It is a freshly sustained life: Like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
  • It is a productive, healing life: You shall build up the old waste places.

That’s what God promises to us.  It will be amazing when we get self out of the way and walk in obedience to God.

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.

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