August 30 - Isaiah 66:22-24

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 30 – Isaiah 66:22-24

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

This is a heckuva way to end the book of Isaiah!

Just as the Bible ends with the new heaven and new earth in the Revelation, Isaiah ends with promises to the overcomer. To those who ignore the Lord God Almighty and rebel against Him, they will perish in ways that are loathsome.

Isaiah prophesied the coming Messiah and the New Jerusalem.  We know that the Messiah has come in the form of Jesus Christ.  We no longer wait for Him Who will bring us into direct relationship with God.

We do wait, however, for the return of the Messiah, when He will bring ultimate justice and final peace.  Do you wait with breathless anticipation?

August 30 - Isaiah 66:19-21

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30 – Isaiah 66:19-21

“I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels. And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD.

It is pretty incredible to witness the future transformation of God’s people. 

The remnant, the remaining Israelites who were true to God were to go out among the nations and everyone back to Jerusalem as a gift, an offering, to Him.

I love the specificity of this passage.  He told them where to go to find the people and He told them that by any means possible, they were to bring the world to His temple. 

The Israelites had become practically incestuous … holding God all to themselves.  As they fell further and further into sin and idolatry, they fell further and further away from their purpose, which was to proclaim God to the nations and draw even the Gentiles to Him. Their focus became solely themselves – their laws, their rules, their needs, the purity of their race, their families – it was all about them.

God never intended for them to become so separate from the world that they forgot they were to be redemption for the world.  It was long since past time for them to move out into the world and begin drawing it back to Him.

Then, there was the promise. A promise that even we as Gentiles can hold on to, a promise that Peter relayed to us in his first letter.

Isaiah says that God will select some of those that come before Him as an offering to be priests and Levites.  1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

It took Jesus to make this transformation begin, to turn the Jews from their inward seeking ways to being ‘fishers of men.’  That was several hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words.

We have been given stronger commandments than this – to go into the world and make disciples of all men.  How long will it take us to listen and obey?

August 29 - Isaiah 66:17-18

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29 – Isaiah 66:17-18

“Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together,” declares the LORD.

“And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.

The first verse of this probably has something to do with some strange pagan ritual.  You know, it just doesn’t sound like this is an appropriate thing to do if you are following the Lord!  The purification rituals found in the Torah are used to bring people closer to God.  Now, while these aren’t a new idea among the people at this time – many different religions required purification rituals to enter into various ceremonies – many are specific to Judaism and are intended to bring a sense of wholeness on the both the inside and outside.

David cried out in Psalm 51 asking God to cleanse him with hyssop – on the outside, and then in verse 10 to create within him a new heart – on the inside.  Both were important to God, both were needful to come before Him.

There are too many who called themselves Israelites then and too many who call themselves Christians now that follow after other gods with no thought to the Lord God who calls them into a relationship only with Himself. 

Yesterday we saw that fire is one of the signs of the Lord’s presence – it is a sign of His glory present with mankind.

When He gathers all nations and all tongues, people will see His glory … His presence will come forth as a purifying fire. 

August 28 - Isaiah 66:15-16

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28 – Isaiah 66:15-16

See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD.

Wow!  Just yesterday we were picturing God as a mother comforting her children and bringing as much peace as a swollen river is filled with water.

In a momentary flash, we change our imagery to a Lord that swiftly brings his anger and fury.  I don’t have any problem with this image in my mind.  I can easily picture a chariot flying through the sky at great speed with fire lashing behind as He moves.  An angry God is something I don’t want to ever see, but can definitely imagine!

Fire is an image that generally signifies the Lord’s presence.  In Exodus 19:18, the Lord descended in fire to bring the Commandments to Moses.  He traveled with the Israelites through the desert in cloud and in fire.

In 1 Chronicles 21:26 and in 2 Chronicles 7:1, both David and Solomon see the glory of the Lord as He comes in fire to consume their offerings and in 1 Kings 18:38, the Lord burns up Elijah’s offering even after it has been soaked with water during Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal.

Even in the New Testament, we see the Lord’s wrath on the ungodly being dealt with by fire (2 Thess. 1:8, 2 Peter 3:7-10).

We will see the Lord’s presence in fire.  Fire consumes sin, fire purifies. 

August 27 - Isaiah 66:12-14

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27 – Isaiah 66:12-14

For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.

I have seen more water this summer flowing through the meadow at the cabin.  The river has overflowed more often than ever before.  Generally by late summer, the river is quite low and we see many sandbars, but this year I didn’t see a sandbar pop through the flowing water until the middle of August.

Our youth group in high school took a whitewater canoe trip and the power of the water rushing through that gorge was amazing.  It didn’t stop until it hit the lake and everywhere I looked, all I saw was water. 

There is nothing like a flowing river.  The amount of water that continually flows is something to behold. 

This is the amount of peace that the Lord offers.  Those swollen rivers, filled with water, the flooded streams are images that he uses when talking about peace. 

Much of the Mid East is a desert, but around the rivers are found lush grasslands.  Consider that imagery, too as you think about the peace of the Lord filling our hearts.  We flourish because of God’s peace.

As you read these verses, notice that this all is done to make the Lord’s name known.  He doesn’t bring us peace and cause us to rejoice to keep it all to ourselves.  He does this to make Himself known.

August 26 - Isaiah 66:5-11

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26 – Isaiah 66:5-11

Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying his enemies all they deserve.

“Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God.  “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

In Matthew 10:22, Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Those who loved the Lord came up against their brothers – other Israelites who didn’t want to live according to not only the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law.  They mocked this group, yet the Lord promises that He will deal with them.  He will stand by those who love Him, no matter what is done to them.

The exiles are promised a quick return to Zion … to Jerusalem.  In fact, it will happen so quickly that it will be like a woman giving birth to her child.  God promises that when they return to Jerusalem, they will return to their Temple and to the protection of His hand.

He loves His people and though they were taken into exile and felt as if they had been separated from the Lord, though He was angry at them for their sin and dealt harshly with them, their return to Jerusalem was promised.  Not only would he bring them back, it would happen quickly and when they were there, they would be cared for as a mother nurses her child.

The Lord is always working to restore the relationships that He has with us.  We think that we are in charge, but it is Him that continues to care for us beyond anything we can desire or deserve.

Israel faced His anger and He is the one who brought them back into favor.  They had done nothing extravagant while in Babylon to deserve a return to His grace.  It was His doing, it was His work, it was His mercy.

In our lives, we can do nothing to deserve a return to God’s grace.  It is His doing, it is His work, it is His mercy. 

August 25 - Isaiah 66:1-4

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25 – Isaiah 66:1-4

This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD.

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”

The Israelites were still in the process of rebuilding the Temple and reinstating the sacrificial process following the exile.

What kind of words were these coming from the Lord? 

Long before the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the Lord had a relationship with Abraham’s children that relied less on sacrifice than it did on His children bringing themselves before Him in humility.

While the Israelites were in Babylon, they had to hold themselves together and maintain some semblance of a relationship with God, there was no Temple that would be a place for them to bring their sacrifices.

After the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the relationship had to change again.  The Jews found it necessary to rely on the relationship with God, not the sacrificial system.

The Gentiles also found that they would need to build that relationship with God – one based on a humble and contrite spirit. 

While this was difficult because they had relied on the structure of the Law, it became necessary.

The sacrificial system was put into place to create an ongoing bond between God and man, but just like everything else, it was abused.  Sacrifices were offered without a desire to actually be forgiven.  The sacrifice itself became more important than the relationship. 

So … the people could live as they wanted to live, ignoring the relationship while keeping up appearances.

The day will come when the Temple will no longer be necessary at all, God says.  We find this day in Revelation 21:22: “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Until that day, though, standing before God with a humble and contrite spirit is the form of worship that He desires.

August 24 - Isaiah 65:17-25

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24 – Isaiah 65:17-25

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.

They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Once again, we find more information regarding the new heaven and new earth.  This doesn’t sound like a bad place to live at all, does it!

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain …” (Rev. 21:4a)

But, keep reading.  The homes we build will be our own, the vineyards and crops we plant will not be left for others to care for because we aren’t able.  We will enjoy the works of our hands.

This doesn’t sound like a boring place to live, in fact, it sounds pretty amazing!  You know all of those things we dream about – enjoying our job so that it isn’t really a job, but a passion?  That’s what we will be able to do. 

Not toiling in vain or bearing children doomed to misfortune.  These are issues that everyone deals with as they grow into maturity.  But, that will no longer.  In the new heaven and new earth – in the new Jerusalem, the blessings of God will prevail over the curse.

Before a thought is even in our mind, God will answer it … While we are still speaking it, He will be there.

Peace throughout mankind, peace throughout the animal kingdom.  Peace on earth.

This sounds simply amazing.

Paradise.  Eden.  New heavens.  New earth.  God reigns.

August 23 - Isaiah 65:13-16

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23 – Isaiah 65:13-16

Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit. You will leave your name to my chosen ones as a curse; the Sovereign LORD will put you to death, but to his servants he will give another name. Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

Do you spend much time imagining living in the New Jerusalem?  While many might read this passage and think of the punishment of the wicked – those who forsake the Lord, read this from the other side.  Think about what comes to those who are God’s servants!

When I was growing up, I’m sure that I was like many of you when I thought about going to heaven.  All I could think was that it was going to be extremely boring.  Who wanted to stand around in a white robe all the time, singing!  I mean, yes, we should be thrilled to stand in the throne room of God and I would come up with reasons why He would make it so that we’d like that, but it seemed like an awful lot of work on His part to create zombie worshipers out of all of us just because we were finally dead.

Now, on the other side, I get weary of listening to people talk about their favorite golf course or finding their fishing buddies around a hole filled with walleye or the best shopping ever known, on and on … as if God was going to create a personal pleasure palace for each of us where we could be kings and queens of our space.

I really don’t believe that either of those extremes is true.  There are plenty of hints, such as in this passage.  We will eat, we will drink, we will rejoice, we will sing from the joy in our hearts.  When we look at Revelation 21 and 22, we find the majesty of the architecture, the beauty of the gems, the glory of nature and the pageantry of the kings of nations entering the city.

If we peek into the throne room with John in Revelation 4, we see astounding colors and images, filled with sights, sounds and great glory.

God looks forward to sharing His Kingdom with us.  He invites us to join Him there.  It’s an invitation to accept.

August 22 - Isaiah 65:8-12

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22 – Isaiah 65:8-12

This is what the LORD says: “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is yet some good in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live. Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.  “But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”
A holy remnant of Israel will always be found.  The glorious thing about this is that even though there may be only a few, God will continue to bring forth descendants.  He will never give up on his people … no matter what.

As angry as the Lord has gotten with His people, He promises that they will continue to be cared for – He will provide pasture for their flocks, a place for them to rest.  He continues to care for them as they come to Him with their trust.

There is still some good in His people … He still cares for His servants.

Worship is what took place on His holy mountain.  Those of the Israelites that took their worship to other idols and gods, with their offerings of food and drink will not be among the remnant.  Notice that He reminds them that He called them and they refused to answer.  The choice was theirs, the walked away from the Lord who had created them.

While there is yet good in His people, He will bring forth fruit.  We can rest in the promises of the Lord Almighty.  He will never forsake those who love Him.  He will still call for everyone to enter into that loving relationship. 

August 21 - Isaiah 65:1-7

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21 – Isaiah 65:1-7

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

“See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps— both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the LORD. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.”

Scholars debate whether God is talking to the Jews or Gentiles in the opening of this chapter, but I think He still talks to us today.

God constantly reaches out to us … constantly.  He doesn’t stop.  Even when we don’t actively seek Him, He is there – ready to be found.  When we don’t call on His name, He still says, “Here I am.”  He holds His hands out to us even when we are at our most obstinate.

We do everything possible to offend God.  We sin against Him in every way possible, yet He continually stands ready to gather us to Himself.

Before Jesus gave Himself on the cross as the final sacrifice in a system that required humanity to offer sacrifices in order to remain pure and be able to approach God in His divinity, there was always a question as to whether the sacrifices would be approved by God.  He had laid out His law so that there should be no question, but here He tells them that their sacrifices weren’t enough.  They would never be enough for the sins that had been committed.

Jesus Christ came to take care of our incredible sins, so that when God reaches out to us, we can reach Him without fear.  Even when we don’t know that God is reaching to us, caring for us, or loving us, He is … always.

August 20 - Isaiah 64:1-12

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20 – Isaiah 64:1-12

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people. Your sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?

Do you remember reading (or hearing about) the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal?  It all happens in 1 Kings 18:16-46.  Elijah was tired of hearing about how amazing Baal was, so God and he set up a contest.  Well, no matter what those prophets of Baal did, that god never was able to burn the offering.  When the Lord God came down, He burned the offering, the wood, the altar, the soil and the water that had soaked all of it (1 Kings 18:38).  That certainly proved to everyone in attendance that He was God.

He is the only One that has proven time and again His power and His willingness to intercede on behalf of His people on earth. 

When our sin separates us from Him, it feels as if He has hidden Himself from us.  No matter what we do … Isaiah is right … it feels as if we shrivel like a leaf, our sins sweep us away.

This prayer reminds us and lifts up a reminder to God that we are only the clay in His hands.  He is the potter.  He has created us.

Do not remember our sins forever, O Lord.  We are all your people.  Please Lord, do not hold yourself back from us.

With Jesus’ death on the cross, we no longer have to worry that God will remember our sins forever.  Jesus gave us the opportunity to come before God with His blood covering our sins. God will not punish us beyond measure, He will not keep silent. 

We have been given a gift … forgiveness from our Creator.  Open the gift, take hold of it, be grateful.

August 19 - Isaiah 63:7-19

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19 – Isaiah 63:7-19

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, “Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me”; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.

Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people— where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.

Look down from heaven and see from your lofty throne, holy and glorious. Where are your zeal and your might? Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us. But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. For a little while your people possessed your holy place, but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary.

We are yours from of old; but you have not ruled over them, they have not been called by your name.

In this prayer, Isaiah promises to tell of the glory of the Lord, the many things that He did for Israel.  When they were upset, He (the Lord) was upset.  He sent His angel of mercy to save them, He redeemed them, He carried them.

Yet, they rebelled against Him.  He became angry.

Then they remembered the things He had done for them and call for Him to be merciful once again.

“Look down from heaven,” they cried.  “You are our Father – please don’t make us wander away from you, please don’t allow us to harden our hearts so that we don’t love and honor you.”

Their hearts were in trouble.  They were in trouble.  They needed the Lord to rescue them, but He had left them.  Isaiah knew the trouble that was in store for his people, Israel.  He wanted to remind them that they were God’s people, He wanted God to know that these were still His people, even though the people refused to behave accordingly.

We are the same people.  He gives us life and everything we need.  Sometimes He gives us more than we need, more than we even deserve.  Yet we rebel against Him.

Remember the things He has done for us … the blessings He has sent.  Remember the redemption He has offered to us. 

Isaiah calls for the Lord to rule His people.  Can we call for the Lord to rule our hearts?

August 18 - Isaiah 63:1-6

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18 – Isaiah 63:1-6

Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.

For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.”

Revelation 14:17-20 tells of the harvest of the earth.  There is a grain harvest and a grape (wine) harvest.  Read these words:

“The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1600 stadia.” (Rev. 14:19-20)

Later we see that the Whore of Babylon drinks of the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath (Rev. 16:19).

The Day of Vengeance, the Day of the Lord, the End of the World … that day is coming.  God will unleash His wrath, no longer tempering it with His mercy and grace.  All of history points to that day when He fulfills His promises of justice and metes out the punishment that He has spoken of since the beginning of time.

It is a nearly impossible sight for us to imagine.  We count on His forgiving grace.  We count on His redeeming grace.  We live our lives confident that He will accept us into His kingdom as adopted children.  Praise the Lord for that confidence.

But, what of those who don’t have that confidence.  Can we leave them to His wrath because we are too lazy to leave our comfortable lives?  Is it their fault that they don’t know Him?  Is it not up to us to witness to His glory in our lives?  There is still time.  We have much to do.  We can’t leave it up to everyone else.  We can’t sit in our polished pews and play with our friends.  We have to reach beyond ourselves.

August 17 - Isaiah 62:11-12

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17 – Isaiah 62:11-12

The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ ” They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.

Are you ready?

The Savior is coming!  He brings salvation.  He brings redemption.

When the Day of the Lord comes, the Savior will be there first.  He will have His reward with Him.  He will redeem His people and that is how they will ever be known – the Redeemed of the Lord.

The city that was deserted following the Exile into Babylon will never again be deserted.  It will be made new.

The Savior that comes to redeem the earth will reign in this New Jerusalem.  He will rule over all the nations of the world and His people will never face adversity again.

Jesus came to the earth to redeem His people.  He will come again to redeem the world.

His promise stands clear in Revelation: “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev. 22:12-13)

He is coming soon.  The Lord proclaims His coming.  He is the author of our salvation, the redemption of all mankind.

He is coming soon.

August 16 - Isaiah 62:6-10

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16 – Isaiah 62:6-10

I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled; but those who harvest it will eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.”

Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.

The Israelites home had been ransacked and destroyed.  They had been carted off to Babylon and their sense of safety was shot.  Most of us have been there.  I still remember the fear that pulsed through my body after kids smashed the window in our back door and went tearing through the house stealing things they could sell quickly and easily.  Even though the window was replaced, it took a while for me to feel safe again.  I had a friend whose home had been broken into five different times, once while the entire family was gathered together outside on the patio!  She never felt safe – every time she’d relax, another break-in would occur and she realized just how tenuous that sensation was.

Most people put security systems in their homes to alert them, in the walled cities during the time of Isaiah, sentries were posted on the walls of the city.  They were responsible for monitoring the surrounding area and notifying the guard of anything that might pose a threat to the city.

These watchmen come from God.  Day and night they would call out all of the activity that was happening outside the walls of Jerusalem.  God promises their safety.  They would not be ransacked again, nor would their city be destroyed.  Their food would remain in storehouses and wouldn’t feed the enemy, their wine would be kept solely for them.

The New Jerusalem will be safe.  The watchmen patrolling the walls will be placed there by the Lord.  The highway will be made safe.  All people will be welcome.  All will find a safe haven within the walls of the New Jerusalem.

August 15 - Isaiah 62:1-5

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15 – Isaiah 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

I’m not so sure that the names Hephzibah and Beulah would carry great delight these days, but Hephzibah means ‘my delight is in her’ and Beulah means ‘married.’  What a great contrast to the names Deserted, in whom no one obviously delights; and Desolate, who will never carry children or be loved.

The theme of the bridegroom is such a strong one throughout this imagery.  The Lord brings His people to Him as a bride … fully forgiven, righteous and pure. 

In the first verses of this chapter, I almost feel the anticipation of the author as he can barely contain himself. 

The rejoicing that comes from the salvation of the nation is extravagant! 

Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

In Isaiah we see the speaker yearning to sing out to the nations, the joy of Israel’s relationship with the Lord God. In Luke we see the entirety of heaven rejoicing over one lost sinner.

The path back to the Lord can be difficult.  Israel faced tremendous hardships as they walked away from and then returned to the Lord.  But, God never left them alone, though they infuriated Him at every turn.  He disciplined them and then did everything He could to draw them back to Himself and when the final day comes, the rejoicing will be extraordinary!  Even God will rejoice!

August 14 - Isaiah 61:7-11

Saturday, August 14, 2010

 August 14 – Isaiah 61:7-11

Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.

“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Throughout all generations the Lord promised to be with His people.  He speaks to them now of restoration and redemption.  He reminds them of the everlasting covenant that was made and He promises to fulfill that.

Just as He promised Abraham, He continues to promise that their descendants will be known throughout the world.  Everyone will know the Lord because of His children.

This is such a great reminder to us that God’s name is made known to the world by us, by His children, by the ones that love Him.  It is our lives and our words, our work and our worship that tells the world who He is.  We show the world around us the glory of our Creator.  How can we not bring the world to Him?

His covenant is to fill the world with the children of Abraham.  By extension, we are part of that family when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  The same witness that He expected of the Israelites, He expects of us.  We can do nothing less than go out into the world and make disciples!

These final verses take us back to the completed restoration of His kingdom.  In that day, the Sovereign Lord will bring His bride before the bridegroom, righteousness and praise will spring up.

Restoration, Reunion. Renewal. Rejoicing.

August 13 - Isaiah 61:1-6

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13 – Isaiah 61:1-6

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

Just after Jesus had His encounter with the devil before beginning His ministry, He “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…” (Luke 4:14).  He went to Nazareth and went into the synagogue.  He stood up and read these words from Isaiah … “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me …” (Luke 4:18-19)

In just a few words, He proclaimed the beginning of His ministry, by using words familiar to His listeners and He also affirmed the work of the Trinity … the Spirit, the Sovereign Lord and He, Himself as the Messiah who would bring restoration.

Salvation and restoration will come to the people of Israel.  Their strength will return and they will show forth the splendor of the Lord.

In verse six we read that they will be called priests and ministers of the Lord.  They will return to their original purpose, which was to take the Lord’s name to the entire earth.  Israel was to be the bridge to the world between God and man.  When they couldn’t fulfill this, He sent the Messiah to redeem them and to finish the task, opening the path so that we could all approach the Sovereign Lord.

This is why Jesus’ commission continues to be one of the most important things He said to us.  We are not to hold back, we are to be the bridge to the world.  We are a kingdom of priests, we are salt, we are light.  We are not called to be stuck inside our church buildings, alone and playing games with each other.  We are called to reach beyond ourselves, to preach good news, to proclaim freedom and release, to tell the world that God is with them!

August 12 - Isaiah 60:15-22

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12 – Isaiah 60:15-22

“Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations. You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

One of the greatest glories of scripture is seeing how God works from beginning to end.  These verses will also be fulfilled in Revelation as we discover that the sun and the moon are no longer needed since “the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23)

In Revelation 21, we also discover the visual description of the walls (made of pure jasper – Rev. 21:18) and the gates (made of huge pearls – Rev. 21:21).  In Isaiah, we find that the walls are called Salvation and the gates are called Praise.

Salvation lies within the city, as people enter it they will enter with praise.  These are the promises of the Lord.  He will fulfill them and when it is time, He says that He will fulfill them quickly!

The New Jerusalem will come.  God will make all things new.  He promises that His children will be cared for in that place of peace.  The Israelites are offered that peace and through His Son’s sacrifice, the entire world is welcome into the Walls called Salvation and the Gates called peace.

August 11 - Isaiah 60:10-14

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11 – Isaiah 60:10-14

“Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations— their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.

“The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet. The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

The Israelites would always remember that it was Cyrus, the Persian king who gave them money and allowed them to return to rebuild Jerusalem, but one of the commentaries I read pointed out that God’s church was built by foreigners throughout the following centuries.  It became the task of the Gentiles (we are the Gentiles) to enlarge God’s territory and help it spread through the entire world, pressing in to locations that may never have known His Word.

With the spread of Christianity, the gates to the Kingdom were thrown wide open for anyone to come in, never again to shut away the world from the presence of God.

Read those words in the first paragraph again.  Now, read these words from Revelation 21:24-27.

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

In 1 Kings 5, we read that Lebanon supplied the wood for King Solomon’s temple and the Lord promises that this extravagance would again one day outfit His sanctuary.

The Lord’s anger had rested upon His children.  He promises them a future, albeit quite a distant future of peace in His New Jerusalem.

August 10 - Isaiah 60:1-9

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10 – Isaiah 60:1-9

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.

“Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests? Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.

We see the future fulfillment of these words in Revelation 21 when the nations walk by the light of the New Jerusalem and the kings bring their splendor into it (Rev. 21:24).

The day is coming when all will be restored. 

I love watching the sky when clouds are breaking up after a storm.  I see a lot of wonderful stuff as I drive across Iowa because I can drive in and out of storm fronts.  The most exhilarating images are those of the dark, grey clouds breaking into mist with the lighter clouds coming in behind them, followed by the bright blue sky.  It’s amazing to see the darkness dissipate. 

Just like that image, darkness fills the earth, but the Lord’s light will break through and restore everything.

In Genesis 13:14-17, Abraham is told to ‘lift up his eyes from where he is and look north and south, east and west.’ Everything that he saw would be given to him and his offspring.  This is the promise that God made to Abraham regarding the explosion of his offspring on earth.

Now, we see that Jerusalem is to lift up her eyes and she no longer sees space that is hers to fill with offspring, but she sees the return of the children of Israel and the explosion of growth in the land. 

The New Jerusalem is coming.  She will be covered in splendor.  Revelation 21:2 says, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

God says in Revelation 21:5, “I am making everything new!”

Restoration. Reunion. Renewal.

August 9 - Isaiah 59:15b-21

Monday, August 9, 2010

August 9 – Isaiah 59:15b-21

Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

This morning I began thinking about how so much of this parallels our own time period.  The Israelites had come through so much and had risen again to great glory with God.  He would offer them a chance to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, life was going well.

But, apathy struck.  They were no longer worried about anyone else.  The Lord saw that there was no justice.  His people weren’t reaching out beyond themselves.  They wouldn’t stand up for those that needed them, they had become so inward-looking that they couldn’t see a world in desperate need.

These that were so self-involved were betraying those that wanted to pursue righteousness and justice.

When they stood up for what was right and what was just, they were not only being battered by the world, but by the fellow Israelites, people they should trust. 

God took it upon Himself to bring justice to the world, to protect those within His care.  He brought wrath and retribution, He brought salvation and righteousness.  Then, He brought the Redeemer to those who would repent of their sins. (Isaiah 59:20)

Those who worked for righteousness and justice, who cared for the oppressed, who reached out beyond themselves, who acted as God had called them to act would continue to be filled with His Spirit, would continue to part of the covenant.  The promise was to them forever.

Are we like those self-centered Israelites?  Do we support and encourage or do we batter and tear down for our own agendas?  God is clear on where His support lies.  He calls us to reach beyond ourselves, to spend ourselves, to bring justice to the world.

August 8 - Isaiah 59:1-15a

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8 – Isaiah 59:1-15a

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.

For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

I don’t know about you, but this stuff starts wearing me out!  Continually going on and on and on about the sins of the Israelites.  It is a good thing that God is eternal … not only were His people dealing in injustice, but it has actually never stopped!

Look at the things He accuses them of doing now!  Their hands are stained with blood – probably not literally, but think of the number of times you have hurt someone.  We still walk through a lot of our relationships wounding each other and walking away with our hands permanently stained with their life-blood.

Their fingers are stained with guilt.  I always told my mother that for a non-Catholic, she was a master of guilt.  Oh my goodness!  I grew up bathed in the stuff.  But, for all of that, my guilt comes from myself – I know when I have done wrong by someone else and I am guilty.

Their tongues mutter wicked things.  Enough said?  Enough said.

No one calls for justice.  I can hardly move past this sentence.  The thing is – our justice is rarely the Lord’s justice.  We call for this, but we don’t have a clue what it is that the Lord wants when it comes to justice.  His is righteous, ours is petty. 

Go on in the scripture, “No one pleads his case with integrity.”  People of integrity are hard to find.  Why?  Because self-interest always seems to win out over integrity. 

Empty arguments, speaking lies, conceiving trouble and giving birth to evil.  All of these things are a breeding ground for injustice.  We don’t spend enough time smoothing the pathway for God’s righteousness.  It is so much easier to mutter behind the curtain, stirring up trouble, asking for gossip, looking for issues where there are none.

In Isaiah 59:8, we read “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths.  They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.”

We must continually be on the lookout, watching ourselves, thinking of the needs of others before we think of ourselves.  It seems to be impossible, but justice, righteousness, truth and honesty are right there; we just have to give up our own lives to the Lord.

August 7 - Isaiah 58:9b-14

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 7 – Isaiah 58:9b-14

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.  “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Isaiah repeats himself.  These are words we need to hear continually. 

Stop speaking against people, stop accusing people.  Spend yourself.

Very few of us actually give more of ourselves than is necessary.  We’ll do a couple of good deeds throughout the year, work on a committee, sing in the choir, maybe go on a week-long mission trip, facilitate a Bible study and then we’ll walk away feeling satisfied. 

No!  He calls us to care for the hungry and oppressed.  Spend yourself!  As soon as that happened, the Lord would satisfy their needs, He would strengthen them. 

The Israelites were caring only for themselves.  They kept their community pure and tight.  They followed the rules, but they did these things to make their lives easier, to make their lives more comfortable.  They gave absolutely no thought to anyone outside their community.

God wanted more for them and more from them. 

The Israelites spent the Sabbath day doing as they pleased.  They created the Sabbath for the worship of themselves.  They had absolutely no use for God on that day.  God called them to make the day holy unto Him, to do as He called them to do.  To come before Him in worship, offering themselves completely on the one day of the week that was set aside for Him.  It was never about rushing through worship so that they could get home and start their day, it was all about gathering in His presence and offering adoration to the One who would bring them joy.

Spend yourself on those in need.  Worship the Lord alone.  It sounds as if God is worn out with the self-centered religiosity of the Israelites.  I wonder how He feels about us?

August 6 - Isaiah 58:1-9a

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 6 – Isaiah 58:1-9a

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.  ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

It seems as if today the world has moved farther and farther away from God, while Christians proclaim their own righteous holiness by vilifying the world and accusing it of being nothing less than the devil’s playground.  We stand in judgment of every word that comes out of the mouths of those around us, judging their actions with our disdain and many times our words, whether written or spoken; and standing as some kind of vanguard for the Lord, so that no one who is unclean may pass through our lines of safety to Him.

Isaiah is obviously wearied by those who come to him wondering why all of their pious activities aren’t gaining any notice. 

They would come before the Lord for just a single day, humble themselves and then as soon as they were gone from His presence they would return to their daily behavior.  Nothing was different for them because of their relationship with God.  And to top it off, they did absolutely nothing for anyone else.  Their ‘fasting’ was a self-centered activity, meant only to benefit their status in the community.

Isaiah’s words note that fasting had different ways of being performed.  He called them and he calls us to fast from the comfortable life and bring change to the lives of those around them.  Injustice is found everywhere, oppression can be seen wherever we look.  We are to share with those in need whatever it is that is required.  We are not to turn away from those who might need us.

We are to make ourselves humble before God every moment – every time we see need.  We are to look beyond that which surrounds us to see that immense world that cries out for grace and mercy.

Then, he says, our light will break forth, healing will come, righteousness will go before us and the Lord God will be our rear guard – always protecting us.  When we cry out, the Lord will answer.

Looking beyond ourselves.  Not an easy thing to do – but one that draws the Lord to us!

August 5 - Isaiah 57:14-21

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 5 – Isaiah 57:14-21

And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me— the breath of man that I have created. I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.  “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

In Isaiah 40:3-5, we were told to prepare a way for the Lord; now the Lord prepares the road for us.  Those are contrite and lowly will find a clear path to the Lord.

This would come as welcome news to the Israelites who had lived through the exile and who were weary and exhausted from dealing with their God who had been absolutely furious with them. 

Isaiah clearly spells out what it was that infuriated the Lord – man’s greediness and his insistence to do his own thing and walk in his own way.

It continually astounds me to see the Lord move from anger to forgiveness as He does.  It takes nothing more than a contrite heart and God is ready to move mountains for His children.  He knows His children, Isaiah says that He can see their ways.  But, that simple act of contrition moves the Lord to healing, to guidance and comfort.  The response of His children is praise, even when they are coming out of mourning.

The Lord brings peace to those who bow before Him, but to the wicked, there will never be peace. 

August 4 - Isaiah 57:1-13

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August 4 – Isaiah 57:1-13

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.

“But you—come here, you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! Whom are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars? You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion; they, they are your lot. Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings and offered grain offerings. In the light of these things, should I relent? You have made your bed on a high and lofty hill; there you went up to offer your sacrifices. Behind your doors and your doorposts you have put your pagan symbols. Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked on their nakedness.

You went to Molech with olive oil and increased your perfumes. You sent your ambassadors far away; you descended to the grave itself! You were wearied by all your ways, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.  “Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?

I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.”

Even today, we have a difficult time understanding the early/untimely death of a good person – someone who loved God and lived their lives serving Him. 

Isaiah was writing to condemn the leaders of Israel who had so corrupted their people that when these righteous and devout people died, no one paid any attention – the only peace that these good people could find was in death.

This was written following the return of the exiles.  The leaders weren’t much better than they ever had been, yet now it fell on a larger group of people than just a King.  They are dealing with the same sin – idolatry.  They give up their children, they give up offerings to these idols, they hang symbols of the idols in their homes. 

It occurs to me that we take this idea of idolatry too lightly and don’t actually apply it to our own lives.  This was one of the greatest sins of the Old Testament, people’s lives were filled with finding ways to worship something other than God. 

While we might not put an actual idol / symbol of another religion up in our homes, we fill our homes with things that we worship.  I grew up with posters of actors and musicians on the walls of my room.  I couldn’t wait for my favorite television shows to be on and would make choices of what to do based on whether or not I needed to be home to watch one of them (yah, ok – long before DVR). 

I have a relative whose idols are her possessions.  She lives by herself in an immense home filled with stuff she will never use and her family doesn’t want, but she can’t give it up and constantly buys more.  Things remind her of her wealth and that brings her comfort.

We idolize friends and family – making them worth more to us than our relationship with Jesus.  We lose ourselves in our work and our hobbies, in drinking and partying … making all of these things of greater importance than God.

He tells us that all of these things will be carried off by the wind. 

God is our refuge, He will give us an inheritance and ownership of His holy mountain.  This is what He offers – a home and all we can ever desire, if only we place Him above all else.

August 3 - Isaiah 56:9-12

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 3 – Isaiah 56:9-12

Come, all you beasts of the field, come and devour, all you beasts of the forest! Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.  “Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.”

When my father was young, he was quite deaf.  He had what was known in the mid 1960s as a miracle surgery and his hearing was returned to him.  Up until that point, he had to rely on mom as his warning system for high winds and bad storms.  She’d wake him in the middle of the night, then the two of them would move through the house, waking us kids and getting us to the basement.

After he got his hearing back, he awoke one night and began the process of moving everyone to the basement until mom stopped him and asked what was going on?  “Can’t you hear the wind?” he asked.  It was the first time he had ever heard even a breeze and it was so loud to him that he assumed a terrible storm was brewing.  He never slept the same after that, always nearly alert to care for the family.  And mom?  She finally got solid sleep, knowing that he would quickly awaken to handle any need.

God’s flock – Israel – was under constant attack, both from other nations and from false prophets.  In this prophecy, we also find the leaders of Israel as drunkards, shepherds who don’t understand their territory, looking to make their own lives better.  All they can think of is their own satisfaction, their own immediate happiness.

With the outlook of a drunk or a drug addict, they hope that the next day will bring more highs and more excitement, not realizing the peril in which they have put their people.

I find it very easy to transfer this metaphor into my own life.  When is it easy to lie around and dream, sleep, overeat, drink until we’re drunk?  It is always much easier to do that than it is to protect our hearts, our integrity, our souls. The great beasts are right there, ready to devour us.  We must be alert.

August 2 - Isaiah 56:1-8

Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2 – Isaiah 56:1-8

This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”

For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Sovereign LORD declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

God has always made provisions for His people.  But, in these verses, we discover that with great care, He made provisions for everyone, long before Christ died for our sins. 

Eunuchs weren’t allowed to enter the Holy of Holies (Deuteronomy 23:1), but when the Messiah returns, even they will be allowed into the temple and will be given an everlasting name.  God provides for them.

Foreigners were also excluded and had to adhere to strict rules (Deuteronomy 23:3, 7-8), yet here God provides for them by bringing them to His holy mountain – His house of prayer, which would be where they (we) can communicate with Him.

His temple – His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  No one will be excluded.  Everyone will be provided for.

He declares that He will not only gather the exiles of Israel, but others.

While we look at the Old Testament through the eyes of the Hebrews, we must also see that God has been preparing heaven for everyone on earth.   He created us all, He wants us all to join Him in heaven.

August 1 - Isaiah 55:6-13

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1 – Isaiah 55:6-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

Sometimes it is difficult for us to comprehend the depth of God’s forgiveness. It makes absolutely no sense to us.  When we would punish, God offers forgiveness.  When we would shun someone, God offers grace.  The sin doesn’t matter, the cry of the sinner is everything to Him.

These verses tell us that we will never be able to comprehend God’s thoughts or the things that He does. 

1 Corinthians tells us that it won’t be until we are in heaven that we will know fully (1 Cor. 13:12).  We are so limited by our own perspective, our selfish behavior, our misconceptions, our pain, our anger, our demands, our needs, our sometimes one-sided sense of right and wrong, our desires … things about which God cares nothing when it comes to loving us.  His thoughts and His ways are higher than anything we can begin to imagine.

He promises that He will send His word to us.  Whether we see this as Scripture, as Jesus Christ, or as God’s touch on our lives, His promise is that it will do exactly what it is God wants it to do.  We will go out in joy and peace and as His word works in our lives, we will bring the Lord glory.

There is such a thread of power flowing through these verses.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness.  This is forgiveness that we can’t understand, but it is there all the same.  His word comes from Him to us and will transform us and the world around us.  When we are free, we can accept and be filled with God’s word.  When we are filled with God’s word, we can move throughout the world in joy.  When we move throughout the world in joy, we bring God glory.

It’s really as simple as that!