July 31 - Isaiah 55:1-5

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 31 – Isaiah 55:1-5

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

This chapter of Isaiah is one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture.  The words that He speaks to the people of Israel and to each of us are filled with comfort, with challenge and with power.

Jesus, in speaking to the Samaritan woman fleshes out these words in John 4:3-42.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

God offers us living water.  We are parched, we are dry, we live in the desert yearning for more than what we have surrounding us.  Why do we spend money on things that won’t satisfy us and work for that which will bring momentary enjoyment?

God tells us to listen to Him and eat what is good.  Keep reading, though.  “…eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare  … that your soul may live!”

That your soul may live.  God is so much more concerned with our soul than our body, yet He cares for our bodies so that we can continue to tend to our souls.  I do find it fascinating, though, to see people whose bodies are a complete mess, tending their souls with great care.  It is in those times that they manage to find just how close God can be.

God invites us to come and freely take the water that is offered to us, living water that refreshes us and sates our thirst.

Jesus tells us that this water will spring up from us.  In Isaiah, God assures His people that nations will come to them because of the fact that He brings them splendor.

As we fill our souls with the nourishment that comes from God, the world will notice and will give Him glory!

July 30 - Isaiah 54:1-17

Friday, July 30, 2010

July 30 – Isaiah 54:1-17

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD.  “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.  “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.

“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

One of the greatest attributes of our God is His ability to fulfill His promises.

He promised Israel that she would be a great nation, yet their most immediate memory was that of the exile.  During that time, their numbers decreased and they faced incredible desolation.  But the exile is over for the Israelites and as we look at these words, we realize that when the Servant – the Messiah came, the exile was over for all of us!

God promises that shame is not necessary. Why?  Because He is the creator and He is the husband … of Israel … of His children.  The Holy One of Israel is the Redeemer – the God of all the earth.

For a brief moment in time, He allowed His children to be taken into exile, but read the end of Isaiah 54:8, “with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.”  His kindness and compassion for those He loves will last forever.  These are glorious words!!

He reminds them of the covenant He made with Noah and tells them that He will never rebuke them again – His unfailing love will not be shaken.

Hebrews 12:28 says, “…we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”  He is unshakeable!  He cannot be moved.  When He says He will do something, that is what He will do.  We should never doubt in His word.

God’s great promises fill these words from Isaiah 54 and He finishes by saying, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”

This is our heritage, a commitment from God, the creator of the world who has redeemed us by sending His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.  What He has promised, He will fulfill.

July 29 - Isaiah 53:7-12

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29 – Isaiah 53:7-12

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Although ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is a point of law in the United States, it doesn’t often feel as if that is the case.  When someone is accused of a crime, there is a general assumption that they actually committed the crime.  It is very rare to see someone take a conviction knowing that they were innocent.

The Servant stayed silent through the accusations, the oppression, the judgment.  He allowed all of the accusations to be laid on His shoulders and accepted them.

God says in Isaiah 53:8b, “…for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”

For the sins of my people he was stricken…

How difficult would that have been for people to comprehend?  Imagine the difference in the time.  These people did not know that Jesus had died for them.  They were still living under the Law.  Every sin and transgression had to be atoned for with sacrifices.  There was very little freedom.  They didn’t live with the hope that we live with.  Can you begin to comprehend the difference in their outlook?  They didn’t know who Jesus was.  They didn’t understand the great sacrifice that God had made for their freedom. 

It’s hard to imagine living in a world that doesn’t know the saving grace of God, yet we still have people who have never heard of Him or aren’t allowed to know about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

For those of us who live in freedom and are given the freedom to accept Jesus as our Savior, we can’t afford to take this incredible gift for granted! 

Isaiah prophesied to a people that didn’t know how to accept a Savior.  Their sin would crush them.

Isaiah speaks to us – a people who constantly needs to be reminded of the extraordinary gift for without Jesus’ sacrifice, our sin would destroy us.

July 28 - Isaiah 53:1-6

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 28 – Isaiah 53:1-6

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This is probably one of the most familiar passages from Isaiah – the fourth of the Servant songs. 

As you read through the description, you can’t help but find yourself picturing the Messiah – Jesus as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

There are many scholars that believe these servant passages refer not to Jesus, but to Israel and if you spend some time processing on them, you can see how that is possible.  But, the New Testament writers believed that this was a prophecy regarding Jesus Christ and I’m fairly confident that I’ll end up on their side of the fence any day.

He was rejected by those whom He came to save, He faced suffering and punishment to offer salvation to the world. 

When the disciples saw Him die on the cross, they believed that it was over, that God had walked away from Him right at the crisis moment.  Much as we find it difficult to see the big picture when we are faced with pain or sorrow, they missed the point of everything.

He carried our sorrows, He took our pain, He was pierced for our sins, He took our punishment. 

If He had not allowed any of these things to be done, we would never know peace, we would never know healing.

The Israelites had strayed far from God, they did things on their own … but the Servant took their punishment.

We constantly stray far from God, we do things on our own … the Savior took our punishment.

July 27 - Isaiah 52:13-15

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 27 – Isaiah 52:13-15

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness— so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

The Suffering Servant. 

From extreme glory to disfiguring suffering, the Lord’s Servant – Jesus Christ – will impact the world. 

In retrospect, we see the way in which these verses were prophetic.  Christ’s resurrection took Him back into heaven to be lifted up and highly exalted.  The beatings and the crucifixion along with the enormous amount of pain would have disfigured his body beyond recognition.

For hundreds of years, though, people would have been curious about how to interpret this prophecy.  It all makes sense now, but in reading about a disfigured appearance, might we (in today’s vernacular) have expected a Frankenstein type horror? 

I often wonder about that as I study the prophecy found in the Revelation.  How can we even begin to understand the mind of God.  His words are perfect, our understanding is so imperfect.

The Israelites were assured that God would exalt His servant, no matter what.  The other thing that they could be assured of is that when the Servant – the Messiah – the Christ would come, He would transform the way that the world acted.  Kings would shut their mouths because of Him. 

The day would come when seeing and understanding would finally take hold.  For us, the day will come when we see that the promises found in New Testament prophecy are apparent and are coming true.

July 26 - Isaiah 52:1-12

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26 – Isaiah 52:1-12

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.

For this is what the LORD says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

“And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

One of the first things I do when I finally start feeling better after a bad case of the flu or a particularly wondrous cold is wash my bedding.  Everything is fresh and ready for a new healthy me!

That image occurred to me as I considered Jerusalem coming out of exile.  Now, while my clean sheets and blankets are necessarily garments of splendor, they do signify that a change from unhealthy to healthy has occurred!  I’m simple, I like to celebrate with clean sheets!

The Lord wanted Jerusalem to celebrate with clothes of strength and garments of splendor!  He promised that the uncircumcised and defiled wouldn’t come back.  They were to shake off the dust, rise up and free themselves from the chains that had bound them.

I’d love to believe that I’d never get a cold or a case of the flu again, but the Lord assured them a day would come when they would be safe from all evil.  They would be given the opportunity to dance and sing with gladness and joy.

Babylon hadn’t paid anything for Israel and so they weren’t going to get any money for her redemption.  They had even gotten to the point of mocking the Israelites and blaspheming the Lord’s name.  God would no longer put up with this nation being in control of his children.  He owed Babylon nothing, Israel’s redemption was in His hands.

Then we read some of the most beautiful words in Isaiah as he allows us to envision the joyous news of salvation dashing across the earth: “Your God reigns!”  In the days when watchmen stood on the walls, the words would ring out as the messenger traveled past and the watchmen would repeat them for the city to hear.

God reigns!  He has redeemed His people and the entire earth will see His salvation.

Leave the past behind, the filth, the unclean things.  Come away from it and be pure.  As you leave it all, God will go before you and will be your rear guard.  The Israelites were assured of His protection.  We can be assured of His protection as well!

July 25 - Isaiah 51:17-23

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25 – Isaiah 51:17-23

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. Of all the sons she bore there was none to guide her; of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you— who can comfort you?— ruin and destruction, famine and sword— who can console you? Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God.

Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.”

The wrath of God is not something to be taken lightly.  In Revelation 16 we find that there are seven bowls of God’s wrath that are poured out on the earth.  In Revelation 18, the great prostitute – Babylon no less – is forced to drink a double portion of her own sins, after she tempted the nations of the earth to become ‘drunk with the maddening wine of her adulteries.’

Jerusalem (Israel) has had to face God’s wrath, to the point that they are staggering as if they are drunken.  No one was there to ensure that she was safe while wandering around in this state.  Everyone had deserted her.  There is no comfort or consolation, only ruin, destruction, famine and sword.  The wrath of the Lord has brought them to the point of destruction.

At the beginning of Isaiah 40, God promises to bring comfort to His people.  Though He has poured out his wrath, He finishes this passage with just that … the comfort of knowing that the cup of wrath will be removed from them.  Once it is removed from them, they will never face that fury from  Him again.  He will turn it instead to their tormentors who asked terrible things of them.

God will bring comfort. His people chose to drink of the cup of wrath.  When they were staggering from the impact of it, He pulled it out of their hands and turned it instead to those that tried to destroy them.

It occurs to me there might be a few lessons for us as His children in this passage!

July 24 - Isaiah 51:9-16

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 24 – Isaiah 51:9-16

Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over? The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

“I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the LORD your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ ”

There are several different places in the Old Testament where the power of God is found in His outstretched arm.  It occurs in the story of the Exodus (Exodus 6:6, Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:19) and quite a number of times in Isaiah as well as in the Psalms.  We see in Psalm 93:1 that the Lord puts on strength as a belt!

The people of Israel call out to the Lord their God to go before them with the strength and power that He brought in days of old.  The ransomed of the Lord are those that were exiled into Babylon.  They remember the Exodus and the Promised Land and now want the Lord to go before them as they return to Jerusalem with singing and gladness and joy.  These are the same things that the Lord told them He wanted for them in previous verses. 

He responds to their words with assurance.  They have nothing to fear from mortal men.  These people are like grass, yet the Lord is the creator of heaven and earth.  They spend time worrying about mankind’s wrath, yet it is the Lord who has all of the power.

He says, “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.”

We do spend more time worrying about the perceptions and reactions of those who live around us and those with whom we interact every day than we do worrying about God’s reactions.  Men are like grass … they will easily fade away.  The Lord, on the other hand, is always going to be there to care for us.  He is the creator of all things, He laid the foundations of the earth.  With Him going before us, standing beside and behind us … we have nothing to fear on this earth.

July 23 - Isaiah 51:1-8

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23 – Isaiah 51:1-8

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

“Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.”

The Lord cries out three times, “Listen to me!” 

He is calling the righteous, those who seek the Lord.  Look back to your past, to your beginnings, O Israel.  You came from one man and one woman.  The Lord blessed them and made a nation of many.  Why would He not continue to bless them.

Can you create this image in your mind as you read these words?  God wants nothing more than to give Hi people – whether it’s Israel or each of us individually – good things, to turn deserts into Eden, wastelands into a garden of the Lord.  Imagine the unadulterated glee He feels as we are filled with joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

If you ask many people what they believe is the difference between the Old and New Testaments, one of the first things they will point to is that God seems so much angrier in the OT, punishing His people time after time, slaughtering nations who get in the way of Israel, all they see is His anger.

But, while those portions can be found in the Old Testament, more often we see God pleading with His people to return to Him sot that He can give them every good thing.  He doesn’t want to discipline them, He wants them to find joy and true, visceral joy will be found only in Him.  It requires setting aside the idols that draw us away from Him, no matter what those may be.

He calls us to set aside our worry over what people think or the whimsys of the earth.  God’s salvation is forever.  His joy will last forever.  He reminds us that we know what is right. 

Joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.  God would do anything to hear that from us.  Jesus Christ is proof of that.

July 22 - Isaiah 50:1-11

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22 – Isaiah 50:1-11

This is what the LORD says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!

It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.

The Israelites were still complaining … and it sounds as if they were asking God why He had cut them off, why He had sold them out (the word for divorce comes from a Hebrew word which means cut off).  But, He reminds them that there is no paperwork for divorce and He actually has no creditors.  They are then reminded that it is because of their sin that they were separated from Him.  He did not choose for them to be gone from the relationship, they did.

But, He also reminds His children that He has the power and the strength to bring them back.  There is no question that is what He wants, but it is impossible for Him to redeem His people if they can’t be found because of their own choices.

The next portion of this is the words of the Servant, the Messiah.  The Servant knows that the Sovereign Lord is His help.  These words are so prophetic of what Jesus will face during His time on earth.  He is completely obedient to the Father, He allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked and spat upon knowing that there is no disgrace in doing what God called Him to do.  He will be vindicated and long after those who accused Him would be dead, Jesus Christ will live.

Promises made during the time of Isaiah, fulfilled hundreds of years later.  Our God is glorious!

His words then move towards the end of time when torment will visit those who insist on walking in their own light instead of the one who chooses to walk by the light (and in the name of) the Lord.

I think those are perfect words for me to end on today.  “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10b)

July 21 - Isaiah 49:8-26

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21 – Isaiah 49:8-26

This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar— some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.”

Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all your sons gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.

“Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away. The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’ ”

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce?

But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

If you skipped ahead … go back!  These are gorgeous words.  Some are quite familiar  “See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” (Isaiah 49:16)  Some aren’t. 

These words remind us that Israel is chosen of God.  And I believe that God keeps His promises, no matter how much we screw up. 

Israel screwed up, but in ‘the day of salvation’ or in the final days, God is not going to forget His promises to His people, Israel. 

They will always be His chosen people, no matter that we have been adopted into His kingdom.  We will receive the same glorious gifts that He offers to them, but believe that He does offer these gifts over and over and over again to His beloved. 

He comforts them, He has compassion on them.  When Zion says, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me,” (Isa. 49:14), He tells her that He has engraved the name of Israel on the palm of His hands and could never dream of forgetting her, much like a mother loves the baby at her breast. 

Ruin and desolation may be something that the Israelites … the Hebrews … the Jews have to face.  They’ve faced it over and over throughout their history.  But, look at what Isaiah 49:22-23 says:

God calls to the Gentiles who will bring Israel’s sons and daughters home.  Kings of foreign nations will foster them, queens will care for them.  And they will bow down so that everyone knows that He is the Lord and will never disappoint those who hope in Him.

He is the Savior, the Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

We should never forget that God keeps ALL of His promises.

July 20 - Isaiah 49:1-7

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20 – Isaiah 49:1-7

Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength— he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

I get so excited when I see Jesus plainly in the Old Testament.  I want to jump up and down and shout – there he is!  There He is!!

Here He is.  He is actually the speaker in these verses.  We learn so much about the Messiah in these verses.

God had named him before He was born – and then look at what we see!!!

My mouth like a sharpened sword (Isaiah 49:2).  What do we know about this?  Well, we know that Jesus is the Word of God and in Ephesians 6:17, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

In Revelation 1:16, out of his mouth comes a sharp double-edged sword.

I love seeing the scriptures come together in that kind of unity.

In Isaiah 49:3, we read “He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’”

Now, God isn’t speaking to the Israelites, He IS speaking to the Messiah.  Because the Messiah actually comes to earth to do what the Israelites were supposed to do.  At some point they quit responding to God as a servant nation, so the Messiah would be sent to finish their work.

Though the Messiah came among the people of Israel, He didn’t actually change them.  Even when He walked among them, they remained stubborn and didn’t hear what it was He was telling them.  (“But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.’” Isaiah 43:4a)

John 1:11 says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

The servant continues with His faith in God.  No matter that Israel doesn’t pay attention when it should, God’s timing will be fulfilled.

Then, look at Isaiah 49:6 – “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

My goodness, these words fill my heart with joy. 

Jesus Christ … Jesus the Messiah … the servant of God.  Isaiah prophecies that He will not only restore the tribes of Jacob, but He will bring salvation to the Gentiles and to the ends of the earth.

Here He is!!!

July 19 - Isaiah 48:12-22

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19 – Isaiah 48:12-22

“Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.  “Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The LORD’s chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon; his arm will be against the Babylonians. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission.

“Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, with his Spirit.

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.”

Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians! Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it. Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.” They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out.

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”

God continues to remind His people that He is the creator, that He laid the foundations of the earth and put the heavens into place.  There is no idol that can compare with Him.

As often as this is repeated throughout the Old Testament, it doesn’t seem that we’ve ever really figured it out.

Today we put so many things ahead of God.  We think that they can answer all of our concerns and worries … these are our idols.  God is set aside, placed into a tiny nook or cranny, waiting for us to get to the point that we might want to give Him a try before moving forward since everything else has failed.

This passage, though, changes the tone a bit.  God is telling His people that even through it all, He keeps an eye on them, caring for them.  The Babylonians will be laid low.  One is coming to win in battle against the Babylonians and He will release the Israelites back to their home.

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)

We understand that these words are true, yet we fight against them with every fiber of our being.  Keep reading, though.

“If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18)

Do not ever believe that God hasn’t given us free will.  He allowed His people to make their choices, even though He pleaded over and over with them to choose Him … to choose life.  They ignored Him and while He punished them and allowed them to be taken into exile, He released them from their punishment, knowing that they would more than likely return to the same ways.

God isn’t about that negative behavior though. Look at the end of this passage.  He wants His people to be joyful.  He doesn’t want them worrying about the bad things that are probably going to be coming in the future.  Their release from Babylon is to be celebrated – right now!

“Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it.  Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob.’” (Isaiah 48:20)

We have been redeemed.  We have been set free from the things that hold us back, from the exile that is a product of our sin.  Announce the redemption with shouts of joy … send it out to the ends of the earth – The Lord has redeemed us!!! 

It’s time to celebrate!

July 18 - Isaiah 48:1-11

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18 – Isaiah 48:1-11

“Listen to this, O house of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel— but not in truth or righteousness— you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and rely on the God of Israel— the LORD Almighty is his name: I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them?

“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’ You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ear has not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

Ok, there are a lot of things that I know the Lord knows about me.  Yes, I know – He knows everything about me, but when I read that he knows how stubborn I am, the sinews of my neck are iron and my forehead bronze, I actually had to think about that! 

Calling them of the house of Jacob is calling them by their secular name.  Invoking the name of Israel is bringing to bear their covenant name.  Using the line of Judah specifically speaks to the separation of the tribes and those that have finally been taken into exile.  God wants them to know that He is fully aware of who it is He is speaking to.

The Israelites call themselves citizens of the holy city.  You know what?  This is a lot like us calling ourselves Christians.  It actually means very little when we refuse to live as a follower of Christ.  All they had to do was live there and they could claim citizenship.  The name ‘Christian’ means something very different today than it did when it was first coined in Antioch over 1900 years ago.  It is practically a secular term these days and does not hold us to any type of spiritual commitment.

The Israelites were stubborn.  They continued to believe in their idols, though God had warned them over and over to be rid of them.  God did NOT want them to believe that anyone was in control of the fate of the nation besides Him.  He reminded them that He had been preparing them for everything that was going to happen to them.  They could not claim that it was coincidence or that their other idols had anything to do with it.  Only God would claim responsibility.

When a new thing began to happen – when the Israelites were called back to Jerusalem following the exile – this would also be from God.  No one could claim prior knowledge.  No one could find information regarding the new prophecies in the history of Israel.  God would be the one to make all things new.

He’s furious with His people, but He promises to withhold His fury and wrath.  He refines His people, but it is not for them or for anyone else, it is to make His name glorious throughout the world, to let the world know that He is the One to whom all glory should be given.

He will not yield his glory to another. (Isaiah 48:11b)

July 17 - Isaiah 47:1-15

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July 17 – Isaiah 47:1-15

“Go down, sit in the dust, Virgin Daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, Daughter of the Babylonians. No more will you be called tender or delicate. Take millstones and grind flour; take off your veil. Lift up your skirts, bare your legs, and wade through the streams. Your nakedness will be exposed and your shame uncovered. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one.”

Our Redeemer—the LORD Almighty is his name— is the Holy One of Israel.

“Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms. I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. You said, ‘I will continue forever— the eternal queen!’ But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen.

“Now then, listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.’ Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day: loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells. You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you.

“Keep on, then, with your magic spells and with your many sorceries, which you have labored at since childhood. Perhaps you will succeed, perhaps you will cause terror. All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. That is all they can do for you— these you have labored with and trafficked with since childhood. Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.

Babylon will face doom.  She began as an innocent girl, seated on a throne, delicate and tender, but would end up tossed from that throne sitting on the ground and forced to do menial work. 

Just as Isaiah is getting revved up in his description of her downfall, he inserts those words that should strike terror into the Babylonians:  “Our Redeemer – the Lord Almighty is his name – is the Holy One of Israel.” 

Then he goes on as the Lord describes how He allowed Babylon to take His people as punishment, but Babylon showed no mercy and believed herself to be timeless.  I love the next sentence.  “But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen.” (Isaiah 47:7)

The Lord has had enough.  Babylon thinks that she will exist forever, never be a widow or suffer the loss of children, but He says that in a single day her children would be gone and so would the men.  Babylon has said “I am, and there is none besides me.” (Isaiah 47:10b)

Disaster, calamity, catastrophe.  None of these things can be averted by spells and sorceries – things that Babylon has known since the beginning of her reign.  No one can save her because she has relied on herself.  Those she counts on to bring relief will not be able to save themselves.  There is no one that can save her.

The Old Testament is filled with God’s power and sovereign rule.  He will not be usurped by anyone, even those whom He has given short-term power.  Do we see this in our own lives?  God gives us a small amount and we believe that we have it all!  We can’t be trusted to continue to rely on Him and Him alone for everything.

He doesn’t want the blessings that He gives to us to be enough.  We aren’t to be content with asking, receiving and stopping.  It is only on Him that we should stand.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful. He is everything.

The moment that we believe ourselves to be rulers of our own kingdom, He can no longer work through us. 

“Each of us goes on in his error – and no one can save us.” (Isaiah 47:15b)

Let us not continue to believe in our own errors.

July 16 - Isaiah 46:1-13

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16 – Isaiah 46:1-13

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

“To whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.

“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.

Oh, the difference between the gods of our making and the Lord God!

When I consider the pressure that comes from me bearing the idols I have created, I can become overwhelmed.  The things I love and adore (I’m not talking about friends and family here, though those can be a problem as well).  The stuff that I have to make room for in my home, the time that I invest in those things.  All of this pressure is of my own making.

Then, compare this to God.  Rather than me being forced to carry Him around, He reminds us that He has held us up since before we were born and has carried us since that day.  He will sustain us even to old age when we get grey hairs (I’m not going to have any of those – just so you know).

He has made us … He will carry us … He will sustain us … He will rescue us.

That’s quite a different way to look at the things that we obsess and worry over.  We worry about money.  God sustains us.  We obsess over our yards, our homes, our cars, our things.  God has made us.  We get in over our heads with our mouths and our craziness.  God rescues us.  We become exhausted because we spend every day trying to fill it with meaningful things.  God will carry us.

There is no one that compares with God, though we try to be more like Him every moment.  We can’t buy what He can give us, We can’t carry what He can carry for us.  When everything falls apart around us, we can’t fix.  God can.

God’s grace.  God’s redemption.  God’s righteousness.  He is bringing it.  We don’t have to go get it.  He will bring salvation.  We simply have to accept it.

July 15 - Isaiah 45:1-25

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15 – Isaiah 45:1-25

“This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:   I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.  I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.   I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

“You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it.

“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to his mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’

“This is what the LORD says— the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?   It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty.”
This is what the LORD says: “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,and those tall Sabeans— they will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you, coming over to you in chains. They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying, ‘Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.’ ”

Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel. All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced; they will go off into disgrace together. But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.

For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

“Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.

“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’ ” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.

Yup – we’re getting through the entire chapter of Isaiah 45 today.  This is pretty interesting, though.  For the first time … ever … God speaks to a king outside of Israel.  Yes, He spoke to others in dreams, but this is pretty profound. 

Not only does He speak to Cyrus, but He says that he is anointed by God and that the Lord will go before Cyrus to prepare the way.  The Lord will open doors and bring treasure before him – even though Cyrus doesn’t acknowledge that the Lord is God!

Why?  Because of Jacob, because of Israel – God’s chosen.

He loves His people that much – though they have strayed and ignored Him.

The Lord warns those who question Him.  He is the creator and He will not be questioned.  Cyrus will be raised up in God’s righteousness.  He will move through and conquer nations and then when the time is right, he will rebuild Jerusalem and allow the exiles to go free, simply because it needs to be done, not because he will receive any reward.

There are so many seemingly insignificant verses in this chapter that spit out great truths!  We don’t dare miss any of them.

“Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation …” (Isaiah 45:17a)

God is the Lord and there is no other.  He says, “I have not spoken in secret from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’  I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.” (Isaiah 45:19)

Look at Isaiah 45:22: “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked.”

God is sovereign!!  He is righteous!  He has declared salvation for His people, Israel.  He brings strength and righteousness.  In Him can salvation be found.  These are the truths that He brings through Cyrus to the world.

A Gentile is anointed to return the Israelites to their home.  Interestingly enough, through Jesus, an Israelite is anointed to return the Gentiles to our home in heaven!

July 14 - Isaiah 44:24-28

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14 – Isaiah 44:24-28

 “This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’  who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ’

All those questions that I asked of mom when I wanted to know why I should do something generally came to a head when she got tired of me pushing back and finally said, “Because I’m your mother – that’s why.”  Oh.  Ok.

God wants His people to know why they should listen to Him.  They’ll probably just ask the question anyway because of their disobedience, so He’s going to clear it up before He has to face the frustration.

I am your redeemer.  I formed you in the womb.  I created all things.  I shut down false prophets and make diviners look like fools.  I make the words of supposed wise people sound like nonsense and my prophets will have their words fulfilled.

I intend for Jerusalem to be lived in and for all of Judah to be restored.  I will send back flood waters and I will allow Cyrus to bring peace to the land and rebuild the foundations of the temple in Jerusalem.

This is one of those passages in Isaiah that causes hysteria among historians.  How could Isaiah have known the name of the man who was to bring the people of Israel back to Jerusalem one hundred years before it even happened?  Such a precise prophecy must surely be the work of someone else who wrote this after the fact rather than before the man was even born!

I’m not here to debate the timing of this passage.  I will say that I believe that the God who identifies Himself as the One who formed us in the womb could easily give that name to Isaiah.  He also identifies Himself as the one, in Isaiah 44:26) ‘Who will carry out the words of his servants and fulfill the predictions of his messengers.’ 

The God Who has done all of this is not bound by time or circumstances.  In those few verses, He tells us who He is and then He tells us who He is sending to do His work … by name! 

Will you believe it?  I do.

July 13 - Isaiah 44:6-23

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13 – Isaiah 44:6-23

“This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing?   He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine.  He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”   He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

“Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.

If you skimmed over this passage to get to my words, stop right there and go back.  This is an amazing passage!!!

We all know that there is no other God besides the Lord.  He is the first and last … the Rock.  There is no one that can compare.

Everything else that we worship is made by man.  In Isaiah’s day, craftsmen made idols that people worshipped.  We don’t see so many of these in America, they’re a little more prevalent in Asian countries with Hindus and Buddhists and other Eastern religions.  But again, they are made by men. 

As you read this passage, God emphasizes the limitations of the creators.  The blacksmith gets hungry and loses his strength, the carpenter shapes an idol from wood, but that same wood is used to burn for making dinner or keeping warm.  It is not something that should be worshiped, it ends up being nothing more than ash.

While we don’t create these types of idols in our lives, we still worship the things of our own hands – our homes that we work hard to pay for, our beautiful cars.  We wear ourselves out earning money to pay for the things that bring glory to our lifestyle.  We worship things that are quite unimportant. 

God knows that we do this.  He calls us back to Him constantly.

Remember that you are my servant, He says.  He has swept away our offenses and our sins.  He has redeemed us.

For these great gifts, we bring worship.

Sing for joy … shout aloud … burst into song!  He is our redeemer!

July 12 - Isaiah 44:1-5

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12 – Isaiah 44:1-5

“But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the LORD says— he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.   One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.

In doing a bit of study on this passage, I just ended up smiling and smiling!!!  There is a lot of wonderful stuff in these five verses.

Let’s begin with the first words – “But now listen …”  The translation doesn’t tell us that the Lord is actually saying, “Don’t be too upset at what you have just heard, please listen just a little longer.”

He wants them to know that even though punishment comes, His grace is greater!  He called Jacob – Israel to be His servant.  He created this people, He will help them.  Listen just a little longer and don’t be afraid.

He then calls them by the personal name – Jacob, his servant and then uses the name “Jeshurun” which is used to signify the Israelites in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26).  By using that name, He is calling them ‘righteous.’

They are to be symbols of His righteousness in the world.

God is going to pour out water on a thirsty land – bring up streams on dry ground.  All through Isaiah, we see references to water.  Isaiah uses this imagery over and over to signify God’s grace.

The outpouring of this grace brings growth.  The people will spring up like grass, like poplar trees beside the water.

I see the yearning of God for His people to return to Him.  He is offering incredible grace and the response is amazing growth.  Upon their return, they will call themselves by the name of God – Jehovah/Lord.  Or they will be reminded of their ancestry and become as the true Israelites of days gone by.

Over and over, God sends grace before His people grow.  He continues in the same manner today.  His grace is never ending and always available to us.  He won’t stop offering that grace, even when we can’t accept it.  We just need to know that it is always there waiting for us to turn back to Him!

July 11 - Isaiah 43:14-28

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11 – Isaiah 43:14-28

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

“Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Your first father sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me. So I will disgrace the dignitaries of your temple, and I will consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn.

The Israelites hadn’t yet been sent in to exile and this was a prophecy regarding the army that would come up against the Babylonians.  That army would bring release for a captivity that they hadn’t even seen yet.

God was so specific in this prophecy.  When it finally came to pass, the children of Israel would remember these words and know that He had spoken of the days ahead. 

Isaiah reminds them of their first Exodus, when they came through the Red Sea and God destroyed the chariots of Egypt in the water.  Then he tells them that the next rescue from captivity won’t look like the first.  God will do a new thing.

The only thing we can expect from God is what we know.  It’s hard for us sometimes to realize what an incredibly creative Lord He is!  Yes, He could have ensured that the Israelites faced a large body of water in order to leave Babylonian captivity, but they had changed so much since then and His relationship with them was always transforming and growing.  He would make water in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  He would make dry places lush for His people.

Through all of this, God’s expressions of love for the children of Israel, they continued to refuse to honor Him.  I love the words, “You have not wearied yourself for me.”  His people had forgotten how to offer themselves up to Him.  And then He flips it around – yet they weary God with their sin.  What selfishness they showed.

What selfishness we show when we want God to answer all our prayers, yet live our daily lives as if He barely exists.

Everyone since the beginning of time had sinned against God.  The grandeur of His grace continues as He promises to blot out all of that sin and remember it no more.  We can’t understand grace like that.  But, God does.

July 10 - Isaiah 43:1-13

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 10 – Isaiah 43:1-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”   “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”

I can hardly read these verses without my eyes filling with tears.  The beauty of God’s love is so apparent.  He has just told His people that they will be punished and now He lets them know that even while that is occurring He will remain with them. 

How many of us can face punishment with no fear.  We aren’t trained to behave like that.  I remember my father telling me that my punishment hurt him more than it did me.  I still don’t think he was right, but I understand what he was trying to say to me.  But, God wanted His people to understand that in the long run, His redemption of them was greater than the punishment they faced.

It really is difficult for us to comprehend that type of longevity.  We take every very personally and see things only in the short term of our miniscule lives.  God sees things in long periods of time.  His punishment of Israel might have lasted quite a few years – individuals would have lived and died throughout those years.  His redemption of Israel wasn’t to come for many, many years with the arrival of the Messiah and His redemption of the world may not happen for many years to come.

Yet the promises remain.  His love remains.  His steadfastness remains.

The final verses of this section remind us that there is no one besides the Lord who will care for us like that.  He has revealed and saved and proclaimed.  Nothing and no one else can do for His people what He has done, is doing and will do. 

The Israelites were a witness to the world in those days as we are today.  We stand and proclaim that He is God. He is the same God as was known in ancient times.  What He says He will do, will be done.  When He acts, no one can reverse it.  And no one can remove us from the palm of His hand.  Amen!

July 9 - Isaiah 42:18-25

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 9 – Isaiah 42:18-25

“Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.”

It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.”

Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come? Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

As the Israelites (who are, by the way, the blind servant and deaf messenger) lived in the world, they were called by God to be servants to the world and messengers of God’s Law.  They were to bring hope to the entire world.  But, they kept the glorious things that they saw to themselves and the words of God that they heard, they refused to share.  They ignored it all.

By the time they were exiled to Babylon, they couldn’t believe what had happened to them.  Isaiah tried to warn them a hundred years prior to the exile that they needed to change their ways.  They hadn’t listened to the prophets before, why would they listen now.  And they didn’t.

They became plunder.  There was no way for them to return to Jerusalem.

God … through Isaiah … continued to beg them to listen to the words of warning!  Who will listen?  Who will pay attention?  God was going to have to hand them over.  They wouldn’t follow His ways, they wouldn’t obey His laws.  When war came, you might think that would soften their hearts to the Lord, but it didn’t.  They went into exile not fully understanding what had happened to them.

Are we, as Christians, following the same path as the Israelites did thousands of years ago?  We are to bring hope to the entire world, yet we keep it to ourselves, believing that God will bless us because He sent His Son to die for us.  He calls us to be salt and light in this world, to reach beyond ourselves to share the Good News.  If we don’t do this – who will? 

When the Israelites refused to do this, the life they had known for hundreds of years was stripped away.  The Messiah returned to bring them back to their God and He opened the Holy of Holies to the entire world.  We, as Christians in today’s world don’t have a lock on God’s grace.  He has extended it to everyone … everyone.  Everyone.

July 8 - Isaiah 42:10-17

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 8 – Isaiah 42:10-17

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands. The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.

 “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.   I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.  But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.

This is a prophecy not about the Messiah’s first coming, but His second coming on earth.

In Revelation 5:9, we find those gathered before the throne and “they sang a new song.”  In Revelation 14:3, the 144,000 who were standing on Mount Zion with Lamb as the first fruits of mankind sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.  We find reference to a new song in the Psalms every time God does something amazing and the Psalmist has to find a way to praise His name.

With the moment-to-moment, breath-to-breath extravagant creativeness of our God, we are always searching for new ways to praise Him. The old songs may feel comfortable in our souls, but a new song reminds us that God’s love is fresh every morning and so should be our praise!

When the Messiah returns, He will march out, the shout will be raised and He will triumph.  This is the reason for the new song!

God’s patience seems endless to us, but to Him it is a measured time.  He has remained quiet while watching sin and corruption enter His creation.  But the day is coming when He will turn His creation upside down.

The blind refers to Israel who remains spiritually blind.  But, God loves His children so much that even while He is laying waste to the earth, He will make a path for them to walk.  These are images that are profound in my mind.  I see primeval forests with the trees ripped from the ground, the rivers pouring the water out and leaving only the stones of the riverbed, the rocks and brush from the hills create an impossible barricade to move forward, yet out of all of this a smooth path is created for God’s children to walk.  While all around them, chaos is erupting, with their feet on the path, they are safe. 

He will not be bothered by those who serve other gods and worship idols.  I see in my minds-eye them (us – me and you as well) not finding the path and stumbling along, wounding our knees and our hands as we continually fall to the ground in a terrible mess.  We might be right beside the path, but our love for everything else keeps us from seeing the smooth way to the Father.

July 7 - Isaiah 42:1-9

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 7 – Isaiah 42:1-9

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

This passage is filled with good news.  The Good News about Jesus Christ!!!  Jesus fulfilled these prophecies when He came to live among men and it is so exciting!

The Messiah comes as a servant, with the Spirit of God placed on Him.  He will bring justice, He will come with gentleness and He will stand strong until justice is established.  Once again, Isaiah mentions the islands – this means that not only the nations on the main lands of the earth, but those on the remotest islands – everyone will be offered hope because of the Messiah.

Our Creator – God, the Lord – says …  We are not to forget Who is speaking here.  He is the creator of all things, the heaven and the earth, He gave breath to all mankind and life to everything that lives on the earth.

The Messiah has been called in righteousness and will receive all that He needs from God.  Now, notice this next verse “I … will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles …” 

That is amazing.  Jesus Christ came to bring the New Covenant.  He re-established the Covenant in His name.  The people of Israel were a people of the Covenant, so He began His ministry with them, but He also came to be a light for the Gentiles.  All of the people of earth would be brought into God’s kingdom because of this servant.  He is a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.  He brings hope to all who are downtrodden, for those that need it most.  He will not discriminate.

God is the Lord.  He is Sovereign.  He will not have anything to do with idols.  What has happened is in the past, a new thing is coming.

Then, He assures His children – before these new things come, He will announce them to you.  This shoots us to the opening words of John the Baptist who called out for repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  The scriptures remind us that it is John who is “The voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord …” (Luke 3:4)

July 6 - Isaiah 41:17-29

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 6 – Isaiah 41:17-29

 “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

 “Present your case,” says the LORD.  “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.  “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable.

“I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes— one from the rising sun who calls on my name. He treads on rulers as if they were mortar, as if he were a potter treading the clay.  Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’? No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you. I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’ I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good tidings. I look but there is no one— no one among them to give counsel, no one to give answer when I ask them. See, they are all false! Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion.

One of the things I love the most about the Old Testament is the poetry around the power of God.  It might be enough to say that God will provide everything for His people, but it really isn’t.  Our hearts and minds thrill to the words that we read.  We see the details that the prophet wants us to see, all the while reinforcing the images of dry and thirsty being transformed into streams, pools and lush forests.

God will provide.  Since water is so necessary to life, God wants us to know that He will always provide for us, to the very basic necessities.  But, God even goes further than that.  The driest desert will be transformed so that people will understand that it is God who did this. He is the one who creates.

The next section deals with mankind’s continued reliance on idols.  Bring them forward to remind Him of the past and predict the future.  Do something!!  Do anything with them.  But, no … those idols are less than nothing and those who trust in them are worthless. 

On the flip side, God knows all of time.  He knows what the future will bring and promises that a leader will come from the north.  No one has told of this until God’s prophet, Isaiah, spoke these words. 

Cyrus would come from the north.  And a messenger would come to Israel bringing good news – they would return to Jerusalem.

The false prophets carrying their idols are nothing but wind and confusion.

In our lives, God refreshes and restores us.  When the world promises us things that we can’t trust, that is simply wind and confusion.  We can trust God, Who sees everything from the beginning to the end.

July 5 - Isaiah 41:1-16

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5 – Isaiah 41:1-16

“Be silent before me, you islands!  Let the nations renew their strength!  Let them come forward and speak; let us meet together at the place of judgment.  Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him. He turns them to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow. He pursues them and moves on unscathed, by a path his feet have not traveled before. Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.”

The islands have seen it and fear; the ends of the earth tremble. They approach and come forward; each helps the other and says to his brother, “Be strong!” The craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer spurs on him who strikes the anvil. He says of the welding, “It is good.” He nails down the idol so it will not topple.

“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

“All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

God is calling everyone on earth together.  The islands here imply the furthest reaches of humanity.  Judgment will be coming and God wants to meet it face to face with everyone.  Then he reminds the listeners that He (God) is not only in control of all creation, but of history as well.  He will be in charge of the ruler who comes – the ruler may not be righteous, but he is doing God’s work.  This is likely prophesying the arrival (in 100 years) of Cyrus of Persia.

Islands and nations try to band together against this mighty conqueror, but to no avail.  All they can do is continue to turn to idols to save them.  This is no power against God.

But, Israel … Jacob, descendants of Abraham (and don’t you love that God continues to call Abraham friend!!!) are the ones called by God.  Because He chose this group of people as His servants, He will give them strength, He will be with them and His righteous right hand – the right hand of power will hold them up.

There is nothing that can stand against Israel when God is by their side.  Nothing!  Their enemies will be gone before they even see them, the ones who want to wage war against them will be beaten before the battle begins.  This is the Lord, our God who understands our fears and holds OUR right hand offering strength.

He reminds Israel that they are nothing without Him.  But, with Him in control, they will be made into a threshing sledge – one that has been sharpened.  With God, everything will bow down before them, even the mountains and hills.

All we have to do is reach out our hand to God and allow Him to take our right hand – the hand of power.  When we turn that over to God … and allow His power to guide us and strengthen us, we can do marvelous things!

July 4 - Isaiah 40:21-31

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4 – Isaiah 40:21-31

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Sometimes I can’t come up with words to describe my feelings as I read scripture.  It doesn’t happen often … I generally have plenty to say.  But in this case, I am overwhelmed by the glory of Isaiah’s words.

We act surprised when God wields His power, or when things are out of our control.  Yet, Isaiah asks – Is this something that is new to you?  You’ve heard it over and over.  In fact, all of nature, all of creation regards God as sovereign.  We are nothing, yet we try to compare ourselves to God by making decisions that only He should be making. 

But, we refuse to understand.  And when we complain that God isn’t paying attention, we misunderstand the depth of His power.  He isn’t too busy with other things, we can’t wear Him out.  He is the one who gives us strength. 

When our strength comes from God, it is constantly renewable.  Even when things wear us out and life attempts to destroy us, having power from that source allows us to step beyond the vagaries of daily life.

Mom spoke that last verse over and over while she coped with cancer at its most destructive.  Her body wore out and finally quit, but the strength she maintained was found in her hope in the Lord.  She gave me a new definition of soaring, running and walking.  It wasn’t in the manner I expected, but it was exactly what God wanted me to comprehend.