Monday, June 30, 2014

When blessed people Forget

Read Isaiah 17.

The northern kingdom of Israel  had turned to the Arameans, their neighbor, in an alliance to war against the invading Assyrians.  Damascus was the the capital city of Aram, a region in central Syria.  But just as the prophecy against Israel predicted their destruction and scattering, so it was to be with Arameans.

Three times the phrase "in that day" appears in this chapter.  This is most often a trigger wording that points to the future time of God's wrath and His ushering in unprecedented blessing and peace.  But the descriptions here are events that would have taken place in Isaiah's day.

God's dealings with people, as His character is, have not changed.  These are good warnings and reminders to all of us.

1. Humility in that day. (vv.4-6)
Israel will be brought low.  The first description is one of weight loss.  The war will bring a food shortage and starvation.  The second pictures Israel as crops after the harvest with little left.   No longer will they enjoy abundance.  What they had was from the hand of God, but they gave Him no honor or credit.  When one does not humble themselves before the LORD, God will eventually intervene.

2. Repentance in that day. (vv.7-8)
Someone said that when things go well, people play.  And, when things go bad, people pray.  When Israel would experience the terror of the Assyrians, they would turn to God.  In the crisis they would realize their man-made religion offered no help.  They would indeed return to their "Maker".  When a person gets a fresh glimpse of the Holy One, feelings of personal sin jump to the surface.  He alone could forgive them, deliver them, and give them hope for the future.

3. Judgment in that day. (vv.9-11)
Once the ruthless Assyrians were through, the entire region would be devastated, destroyed, and deserted.  Why?  Israel had become a godless nation.  They forgot the God of their fathers who promised the land to them and delivered them from slavery in Egypt.  They chose not to remember the miracles of God's protection of them and His countless provisions to them.

For us, let today be a day of remembering the goodness of the LORD and humbling living for Him.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

God's word stands Forever

Read Isaiah 16.

Moab had been attacked by Assyria in the previous chapter.  The people scattered and ran for their lives.  However, the reference to Sela in verse 1 seems to indicate they ran further south.  Judah would have been a safe haven for them.

1. Why did this happen to Moab? (vv.6-7, 12)
As in each case of judgment, its root focus is spiritual and on the surface is arrogance.  Moab worshiped Baal and rejected the true and living God.  When the pressure was on, instead running to the safety of Judah, they ran in the opposite direction geographically and spiritually.  There was only silence in their vain attempts to pray to their man-made Baal (v.12).  They prided themselves in not needing God.  They had their own beliefs.  Selfishly and smugly going their own way, deeper into sin, they actually boasted about it.  The LORD dealt decisively with their insolence.

2. Where is justice against the oppressor? (vv.4-5)
In previous chapters, Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Assyria.  Notice how quickly in this context Isaiah mentions ultimate justice by the ultimate judge.  One day, Messiah Himself will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem.  His judgment will be characterized by love, faithfulness, and righteousness.

But that is not all.  God gave Isaiah an exact prophesy in verse 14 that what happened to Moab and their nation is only the first part.  "In three years" more destruction will come.  Isaiah served a very long time as a prophet.  If anyone wanted to, or could, discredit the veracity and reliability of God's word and using Isaiah to deliver His messages, this could have done it.  Three years later, God's word and Isaiah's ministry continued to be exactly reliable.

"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (Psalm 119:89)

Friday, June 27, 2014

A lesson learned the hard Way

Read Isaiah 15.

Moab was the son of Lot (Genesis 19), the result of incest with one of his daughters.  The Moabites settled on the southeast side of the Dead Sea.  Spiritually, they worshiped Baal, not the God of Abraham.

During the Exodus, the Moabites refused passage to the traveling Jews.  The LORD prevented Moses from attacking them.  Ruth was a Moabite.  She married into a family from Bethlehem.  When her husband died, she moved to Israel and embraced the true and living God.  She then became the great-grandmother of King David.  Saul and David warred against the the Moabites and defeated them.

At the time of Isaiah's writing some of Moab's key cities had already been destroyed.  Those not killed fled in humiliation looking for a place of safety.  Even Isaiah was impacted emotionally (v.5) by what had happened.

The rest of this story continues into chapter 16.

There is an old saying, "The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine."

Because the LORD chooses not to immediately strike a person dead over their sin, some believe they got away with it.  Or, worse, they come to believe there is not God who is holding them accountable.  Moab learned this lesson the hard way.

The beauty of God's grace is that He has taken the initiative to deliver us.  "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What prophecy reveals about God's Character

Read Isaiah 14.

This is a power packed series of prophecies for five different target audiences.

To Israel (vv.1-2)
The northern kingdom would be invaded and taken by the Assyrians.  However, all is not lost.  There is a future and a hope.  The LORD said that He will again "choose" them, place them on the land of promise, and other nations will "attach" themselves with the Jews.

To Babylon (vv.3-23)
This was written as a song that the Jews will tauntingly sing at the destruction of Babylon.  Even the greatest of leaders are human and eventually die.  But the king referred to here will get God's special attention due to his arrogance and attempt to deify himself.

To Assyrian (vv.24-27)
God has a purpose in using them for a time to carry out His judgment.  But they too will come to an end.

To Philistia (vv.28-31)
The coastal kingdoms of the Philistines had been a thorn in the side of God's people ever since Joshua led the people into the land.  God's judgment will break them.

To Judah (v.32)
The message for Philistia is not so much for the Philistines as it is for the southern kingdom of Judah.  The LORD will watch over Jerusalem and protect them.

In the midst of all these prophesied judgments, there are three lessons to learn regarding the character of God.
1. He is the God of compassion. (v.1)
Though Israel sinned and indeed had become godless in their culture, "the LORD will have compassion on Jacob."  He is a God of mercy and His motive in judgment is to deal with sin.  It is out of His grace that He extends forgiveness, cleansing, and "again" decides to use people.

2. He is the God in control. (v.24)
The earth belongs to Him.  He is the Owner of all things.  As sovereign LORD, He has detailed purposes and plans for each life.  What He declares will be done.  "As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand."  He is ever faithful.  We may rely on His word absolutely.  When He offers to deliver us from the penalty of sin and home in heaven, we can stake our eternity on it!

3. He is the God of comfort. (v.32)
While kingdoms and empires will be falling, Judah need not fear.  The Jews did not conquer the land and found the city of Jerusalem.  God did.  These people belong to Him.  Will they experience affliction?  Yes.  But the LORD already planned to be their refuge and to comfort them in their affliction.  And, He is the same for us this very day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

He is God of the present and the Future

Read Isaiah 13.

From Genesis to the Prophets to Revelation, the Bible condemns the city of Babylon as a center of hatred against God.  It is referred to as the source of astrology and other satanically inspired alternatives designed to distract people from trusting in God's word.  Here, the Holy Spirit revealed to Isaiah the destruction of the Babylonian Empire.

Perhaps, the most significant element of Isaiah's message, literally "burden", is that Babylon would not become such a world empire for another 200 years.  But such is the nature of prophecy, that is, telling the future in advance.  No one but the sovereign LORD Himself could know and control this plan.  The events described here were fulfilled in Daniel 5 with the famous handwriting on the wall.  Babylon's end came with the sandwiched attack by the Medes and Persians.

A similar description of a revived Babylon is found in Revelation 16-18.

Notice in the chapter that though empires fall and another is raised up, it is God who planned it all and takes full credit for using them to do His work.
v.3-"I myself have execute my anger..."
v.4-"The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle."
v.5-"...the LORD and the weapons of his indignation,..."
v.11-"I will punish...I will put an end..."
v.12-"I will make people more rare..."
v.13-"I will make the heavens tremble..."
v.17-"I am stirring up the Medes against them..."

While the God of the universe has such plans and power to fulfill them, He knows and cares for every individual life.  Jesus said, "Therefore do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The words of a new Song

Read Isaiah 12.

What a difference!  "In that day" God will literally change Israel's tune.

As the messages in the previous chapters have described, there is coming a day when all the earthly covenant promises of God will be fulfilled.  The Jews will gather on their land as one, not two kingdoms.  Jesus, the Messiah, will rule the world as He sits on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

It will be a time to celebrate and rejoice.  It will be a time of comfort from the LORD Himself.

This is a song in basically two stanzas.  The wording of much of this chapter is right from the book of Psalms.  After all that had been predicted against the people in Isaiah's day, what would take place against the Jews over nearly 3,000 years since, and what will happen to them in the coming times, God has never changed His plans for the future of His chosen people.  Indeed, He is the God of their ultimate deliverance.  That is a day in the future for the Jews.  But for now, we grab on to the unchanging character of our LORD and rejoice today in our personal relationship with Him!

Verse 2 is worthy of memorizing.

1. He is my strength.
No matter how hard the circumstances are that we face, His grace is available to us.  As the old saying goes, "If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it."  Paul quoted Jesus as saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. He is my song.
The world's music maybe catchy.  So much of urban music is immoral and offensive.  But when a person comes to personal faith in Christ, He gives us something far better.  "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD." (Psalm 40:3)

3. He is my salvation.
Everyday, we experience the deliverance of God.  Sometimes, we notice.  He protects us from temptations, dangers, and losses that we did not even see.  He safely brings us through another day.  Even more, He has provided eternal deliverance from sin and its penalty.  He loved us so much that Jesus died in order that we could experience His wonderful salvation.  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A look at world Peace

Read Isaiah 11.

One of the most important rules of interpreting the Scriptures is context.  It is the habit of many to only quote phrases from the Bible they like and not read the rest.  This chapter is one of those portions.

"A little child shall lead them" is a phrase, part of a sentence, in a chapter full of detail.  The prophetic descriptions foretell of a unique time on earth that has never happened.  Some have tried to explain these verses away as having taken place in Isaiah's time.  Others endeavor to discredit an earthly fulfillment of this prophecy, choosing to spiritualize the words as taking place in heaven.  But even a cursory reading makes those two attempts ludicrous.

Here is why.

1. The King. (v.1)
Who is he?  He will rise up as a branch from the family tree of Jesse, the royal lineage of King David.  That is why Matthew 1 is so important.  It is a legal statement that Jesus has a right to that throne.

2. The King's rule. (vv.2-3)
He will rule in the full power of the Holy Spirit.  He will be the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) to the nations on earth.  He will do what pleases the Father (John 8:29).

3. The effects of the King's rule. (vv.4-9)
When Jesus comes again, He will be the King of Kings, judging and ruling this world by the Word of God (Revelation 19).  As the Prince of Peace, the Messiah will usher in a time of absolute peace.  Sin brought death, disobedience, and division.  Jesus will bring unity, right behavior, and life.  So-called natural fears and threats will be gone.  "...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD."

In Isaiah's time, reconciliation of Israel and Judah seemed unthinkable.  But "in that day" (v.10), Messiah will regather and unify His people.  Note that God plan is not only for the Jews, but all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12).  

God's sovereignty at work-then and Now

Read Isaiah 10.

The fascinating feature of prophecy is to be reading history in advance.  In great contrast to the Satanically inspired and phonies predictors of the world, God provides exact times and names in advance and all come true.  It is undeniable proof of His sovereign plans for each of us.

Proverbs 21:1-"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will."  If anyone needed proof of the veracity of that statement, Isaiah 10 is it.  The message spoke to the future of two kingdoms and an empire.  The Assyrian Empire would invade and destroy the northern kingdom of Israel.  Then, the Assyrians would attempt to do the same to Judah.

1. Israel. (vv.1-4)
God gave some specifics that prompted judgment against Israel.    Despite their heritage of faith, this generation had become a godless nation (v.6).  As a result, the northern kingdom would lose everything.  God does have future plans to fulfill His covenant promises to the Jews.  There is hope for a remnant to return to the land, as mentioned in verses 20-23.

2. Assyria. (vv.5-19)
The means of implementing judgment from God is most often an opposing nation.  Here, the LORD sovereignly chose Assyria to be His instrument.  They are called "the rod of my anger," "the staff in their hands is my fury," "the axe," and "the saw" wielded by God to do His work.  But that axe is double-edged.

It may seem confusing to some that the LORD would use a sinful nation to discipline His people.  In history, however, that happened repeatedly.  In doing so, God is not overlooking the sin of any nation or people.  Here He predicted that the King of Assyria will think it was his own plan and his own might that caused the downfall of Israel.  Notice the 6 references to "I" and "my" in verses 13-14.  This, then, set up the eventual destruction of the Assyrian Empire foretold in verses 16-19.  And, indeed, the Babylonians conquered them in God's timing.

3. Judah. (vv.24-34)
For those living in Jerusalem, they will witness Israel's judgment but they will be spared.  The King of Assyria will think that he can keep going south and overrun Judah.  But as we discover in Isaiah 37:36-38, when Sennacherib surrounded Jerusalem the angel of the LORD "struck down 185,000" Assyrian soldiers.  The defeat resulted in Sennacherib's own sons assassinating him.

These are reminders for us today that God has a plan for each of our lives; that He watches our behaviors and responds accordingly; though great stress may be upon us, He will protect His own.
"For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Light in the Darkness

Read Isaiah 9.

The LORD continued to give Isaiah prophetic messages concerning the northern kingdom of Israel.  Their sin reached the point of judgment from God.  He would used the Assyrians to invade and do His work.  But what about the promises made to Abraham in Genesis?  What about the promises made to David that he would never lack a man to sit on his throne?  Those promises are as good today as the day God made them.  He has neither changed His promises, nor His plans.  What must change are the lives of His people.

So, in this word of doom and "deep darkness," the LORD makes a promise of hope and "great light."  A child will be born, a son, and he will make things right.  Matthew 4:12-17 quotes Isaiah 9 and states that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  What is the Messiah to do to bring this spiritual, moral, and judicial illumination?

1. His rule.
"...the government shall be upon his shoulder..."
"...on the throne of David..."
As a descendant of David, Jesus is of royal birth and an heir to the throne.  As a descendant of Abraham, Jesus will rule as the King of the Jews.  One of the reasons the Jews then and now reject Jesus as the Messiah is that He did not kick the Romans out and take over the government.  They failed to see the two-fold aspects of the prophecies concerning Messiah.  The mission of His first coming was to be the Suffering Servant for redemption.  The second time He will appear as the King of Kings.  Others try to spiritualize this and related passages in an effort to explain them.  But the Scriptures are clear and specific.

2. His name.
There are four names given here regarding the coming roles of the Messiah.  As ruler, people will marvel at His counsel on any subject.  Do not miss who this One really is.  Jesus is called God.  Those who say otherwise simply do not know their Bible.  Next, Jesus is in fact one with the Father.  Jesus stated this Himself in the Gospels.  The God of the Bible is triune-Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus rules the world from Jerusalem for 1,000 years, He will bring a time of peace no human leader has ever been able to achieve.

3. His kingdom.
"...there will be no end..."
"...from this time forth and forevermore..."
Considering all the prophecies of the Messiah's future rule, the Scriptures teach in Revelation 21-22 that at the end of the 1,000-year reign, there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  Then, we will reign with Him forever and ever.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

3 action items for facing a Crisis

Read Isaiah 8.

The LORD provided more confirmation of the invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians.  He gave Isaiah three things to substantiate this prophecy.  It would be in writing.  It would be witnessed.  Isaiah and his wife would have a son (with the longest name in the Bible).  The timing of the weaning of the child would coincide with the God's word being fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah had no cause for fear.  The Assyrians would put enormous pressure upon them but they would not be able to conquer Judah.  Why?

Because God was with them. (vv.8-10)
His presence would not keep them from experiencing the stress.  Rather, He assured them that He would bring them through in victory.

Because the LORD of hosts is holy. (v.13a)
God was sovereignly overseeing these events.  All of heaven's armies (hosts) were at the ready to protect Judah.

So, what were the people to do?
1. Instead of fearing an invading army, they were to fear God and dread disobeying Him. (v.13b)

2. Instead of turning to satanically inspired alternatives, they should pray to the LORD alone. (v.19)
The people had been influenced by the surrounding pagan cultures to use mediums, witchcraft, even praying to dead people for wisdom and help.  Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 2:5 that there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

3. Instead of looking to the philosophies and writing of humans, they should be reading and heeding the written Word of God. (v.20)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The secret to looking fear in the Eye

Read Isaiah 7.

Sensing that the kingdom of Judah was vulnerable, the northern kingdoms of Israel and Syria joined forces to attack Jerusalem.  Ahaz, King of Judah, buckled in fear.  But God intervened and sent Isaiah with His message.  There were instructions on several levels, all to give the king courage and hope.  At its root, what Ahaz faced is not unlike the daily confrontations and temptations with which we all have.

Emotional (v.4)
1. Be careful.
Literally, this means to be on your guard.  It was a dangerous situation.  Take a 360 degree view and watch out for yourself.  "Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

2. Be quiet.
Our natural tendency is either to cower in silent fear or to let our emotions explode for all to hear.  In a crisis, do not lose your composure.  This is not a work of self-control as much as it requires Spirit-control.  Peace is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts...." (Colossians 3:15)

3. Do  not fear.
As hard as it is at times to reconcile, fear is a choice.  We either trust in ourselves or trust in God.  Who has the most power to help?  "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (Psalm 56:3)

4. Do not let your heart be faint.
By heart, God is referring to our innermost being.  It is who we are at the core.  We must choose to steel ourselves against crumbling inside when threatened or tempted.  Again, it is not us, but the LORD who is our strength.  Depend on Him.  He is worthy of our trust.  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10)

Spiritual (vv.7 and 9)
God bolsters His people with His promises: "It shall not stand."  In other words, the threat was only that.  The attack was not going to happen.  Most of the stuff we fear never happens anyway.  Still, Ahaz had to go to the meeting and face his worst fear in the eye.  He could have been killed on the spot.  Then, God gave him the secret to his success: "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all."  This was not going to be a test of military strength but of his personal faith.  Stand strong in faith about what the LORD said.

Prophetical (vv.8, 14)
First, in 65 years the kingdom of Israel would be overrun by Assyria and the people scattered.  The second, is a "sign" of future hope.  "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."  Matthew 1:22-23 declares this prophecy's fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.  Immanuel=God is with us.  He is here.  There is no need to fear.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Playing the comparison Game

Read Isaiah 6.

The Apostle Paul warned about comparisons.  "But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding." (2 Corinthians 10:12)

Comparisons involve taking at least two things and making a decision about their similarities or differences.  Often, it is a choice between the good and the better.  The one comparing makes a personal judgment as to which has the most benefits for them.  But then there are those times, after considering the options, truly there is no comparison.

We may feel that we are better than others because of our possessions or performance.  Or, we may feel bad because we just don't measure up against someone else.  In doing so, we allow others to be our standard.

Living in a sinful world that is increasingly headed for the judgment of God, we who know Christ and endeavor to serve Him may feel "better than" others.  We know the truth and understand a few things about life and eternity.  Isaiah was a prophet of the LORD who ministered in a corrupt and doomed kingdom.  God gave him direct messages through divine visions.  He was a faithful man to his death.  But, one day in a vision, God pulled back the curtain and allowed Isaiah to see something he had never seen.  It was a new comparison.

1. What he saw.
Though the nation had rejected God, nonetheless, He is sitting in His rightful place as Sovereign.  Though the nation limited their perception of God, His glory filled the place.  In great contrast to the nation, and even himself, Isaiah saw the LORD in all His holiness.  Purity.  No sin.  Perfection.

2. How he felt.
When standing in the presence of God, Isaiah felt as sinful as anyone else.  His accountability to God for his sin brought such guilt that it humbled him to the point of despair.  He admitted aloud his condition.  What could he do?  The answer is nothing.  There is nothing a person can do to cleanse their sin and stand right before God.  God Himself must intervene.  Upon his confession of sin, it was the provision of the LORD that touched and changed his life.  There is nothing a sinful person can do to cleanse themselves.  Only a holy God can cleanse from sin.

3. What he did.
Having experienced God's forgiveness, he was now ready to fulfill his life purpose.  God had planned all along that Isaiah would meet a strategic need among the people.  God wanted to send him on a mission.  Humbled and grateful, Isaiah simply replied, "Here am I!  Send me."

One never will never know why they have been placed here on earth until they come to a personal encounter with the Living LORD.  Forgiveness gives us the freedom and understanding to serve others.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A song about God's Vineyard

Read Isaiah 5.

Not all the songs of the Bible are in the book of Psalms.  Here is one from Isaiah.  The introduction compares Israel to a vineyard.  The owner planted it, cultivated it, protected it, and prepared for the day when he would enjoy its fruit.  But instead, the product was disappointing and unusable.

We are not left in doubt as to its meaning.  God is the owner and caretaker.  The vineyard is Israel and Judah (v.7).  Because they rejected and despised God's word (v.24), they people turned to their own way.  Their sin had multiplied to the point where God decided to no longer cultivate them as His people.  He would let them go as an untended vineyard.  Not only that, He would remove all protection of them.

In a series of six "woes", God's plan of judgment is revealed.  Some of the people died in the process.  Most experienced exile.  Surrounding nations such as Egypt, Syria and then Babylon were used by God to put increasing pressure upon them until finally the kingdom fell.

What was the root problem and what was God's purpose?
1. The root problem was pride. (v.15)
When a person says, "It is my life and I will live it in the way I want to.  I do not need the LORD telling me what to do," the pain and brokenness are sure to follow.  Indeed, in verse 19 they even dared God to do something about it.  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)

2. The purpose was that He would be exalted. (v.16)
He is lifted up when His word is obeyed and His character is reflected in personal behaviors.
-He is a God of justice.  But the nation had turned justice into bloodshed. (v.7)
-He is a God of holiness.  But the nation had turned aside to sinful "filth". (4:4)
-He is a God of righteousness.  But it is impossible to do what is right before God if one rejects His word.

The LORD wants us to learn and shape our character to be like Him in a sinful world.  "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hope-in that day and Today

Read Isaiah 4.

God never leaves us without hope.  Even with the stinging indictment against Judah in chapter 3 into verse 1 of chapter 4, there is hope for the future.

Yes, the Babylonians would come and take most all of them away.  Everything would be lost with only a remnant remaining in the land.  The resettlement did not begin until after 70 years of captivity.  However, even a cursory reading indicates much more than a return of the people.  God is not through with His people, nor has He forsaken His unconditional promises made to Abraham.  There is a hope and a future for the Jews.  One day, as explained in Romans 11, "...all Israel will be saved" (v.26).

A key indicator is the phrase "in that day."  Most often, those words move the prophecy to that future day when Messiah will rule and reign over the world from Jerusalem.  Other passages teach that reign on earth will last for 1,000 years.  What will "that day" look like?

1. Messiah will be glorified. (v.2)
In John 15, Jesus referred to Himself as the Vine.  Here, and in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8, Messiah is called the Branch.  The later speaks to Messiah's lineage as He will be a branch of the family of King David (see Matthew 1).  This gives Him the legal right to sit on the throne as King of Kings and fulfill the promises made to David in 2 Samuel 7.

2. The people will be holy.  (v.3)
No longer will they be known for rebellion and openly sinful.  They will be and behave as God's people, set apart just for Him.

3. The nation will be cleansed. (v.4)
Immorality and violence characterized the sins of the past.  But "in that day", the people will live in forgiveness and the land will be washed from all "the filth" of their history.

4. God's presence will be visible. (vv.5-6)
Just as Israel experienced in the wilderness wanderings of Exodus, so "in that day" the very personal and caring presence of God will be felt and seen.  Everyone in the world will know that the LORD once more has taken up residence in Jerusalem.  This has not been evident since the Temple veil of the Holy of Holies was torn at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:51).  The flaming fire not only speaks of judgment but also will provide comforting warmth and light in the cool of night.  The canopy of a cloud will provide protection during the heat of the day, "a refuge and a shelter."

These elements God wants to fulfill in each of us today.  When we allow Him to rule and reign as Lord of our lives, we experience His forgiveness, cleansing from our past, and each moment enjoy His wonderful presence.  "You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What happened to our Country?

Read Isaiah 3.

God announced that Judah would lose everything as a kingdom.  Their basic needs of bread and water would be taken away.  They would not be able to find a leader.  There would be a complete breakdown of society.

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21b)

Why?  What prompted this decision?
"...because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence." (v.8b)

1. They forgot that God is the Owner of all things.
Judah reached a point where they thought life and the country belonged to them.  They thought they got here on their own and they could say and do whatever they wanted without any accountability.

2. They forgot that God is the Sustainer of all things.  
So, when the nation openly defied Him and then chose to ignore Him, God simply withheld His support and supply.  Notice how pervasive His sustenance is to people.  It is total.

3. They forgot that God is the Omnipresent.
They not only decided not to give God His rightful glory, but they disregarded even His very presence.  They lived as though God did not exist.  Like Sodom, they showed no shame for their sin.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, "For God has not called us for impurity but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you."

There are two separate messages to individuals within the nation.
"Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them." (v.10)
Even though the kingdom of Judah would collapse, God will take care of His own.  Under pressure?  Yes.  But He will provide and protect those who say and do what is right according to the word of God.  Namely, this became true of men such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when the Babylonians took them from Judah in the captivity.  This is a consistent principle of God's loving care of the godly throughout the Scriptures.

"Woe to the wicked!  It shall be ill with him." (v.11)
Not everyone will experience the blessings of God, have their prayers answered, and spend forever with Him.  Those who defy God will pay an awful price both here and in eternity.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beating swords into Plows

Read Isaiah 2.

How often this phrase has been lifted from the Bible and even depicted in a famous sculpture: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares."  It is used internationally to speak of a day when there will be no more war.  It would be most helpful if the entire chapter were read instead of lifting only a part of one sentence.

Indeed, the LORD did reveal to Isaiah that such a day is coming.  He called it "in the latter days" and three more times as "that day."  But in great contrast to the thinking of unbelievers, this is not a day of negotiated peace between the nations.  Rather, it refers to the return of the Messiah who will rule and reign over all the nations from Jerusalem.

What will that day look like?
1. Jesus will teach the nations. (v.2-3)
This is not only for the Jews, but "all the nations" will make their way to Jerusalem to be taught how to live for God.  Proverbs 16:7-"When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."  The secret to world peace is not pacifism but both parties doing what is right according to God's Word.  Without that, sin and greed for power will lead to war.

2. Jesus will judge the nations. (v.4)
As Isaiah will prophesy later in this book, the "government shall be upon his shoulders" as the "Prince of Peace."  He will decide between nations and they will obey Him.  Psalm 2 tells of the Father offering this position to the Son and encouraging the nations to repent.  This is not described as a happy time for those who rebel against Him.  Twice, Isaiah predicts, the haughty will be humbled.  Insanely, unbelievers will try to hide from "the terror of the LORD."

3. Jesus will be exalted among the nations. (vv.11, 17)
God's judgment is prompted by individuals and nations who refused to bow before His Sovereignty.  Humans are incurably prone to worship something or someone.  In the attempt to replace the LORD, idols and philosophies of all sorts are generated by Satan to distract people from the truth.  But in that day, all the foolishness of sinful thinking will be brought under control and "the LORD alone will be exalted."

The good news is that no one need wait to repent of sin and trying to live apart from God.  Isaiah's invitation is to respond now.  "Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD." (v.5)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A call to stop Worship

Read Isaiah 1.

God's chosen people were in deep trouble.  At the root was their spiritual rebellion against the LORD.  The nation had divided and formed two kingdoms.  The ten tribes in the north, as the majority, maintained Israel as their kingdom name.  The two tribes in the south that included the city of Jerusalem, took the tribal majority name of Judah.

In response, God sent his spokesmen, the prophets, to deliver His word to the people.  Isaiah preached and ministered in the south throughout the reign of four different kings.  Many have compared these 66 chapters to the 66 books of the Scripture and referred to it as a mini-Bible.  All the themes of Word of God may be found in the rich writings of Isaiah.  The messages came to him through visions directly from the LORD Himself (v.1).

Immediately, we are told what the problem was.  The nation forgot that God was the Owner of all things and that they were to be good stewards of what He had given to them.  Instead, they sinfully thought they could live however they wished and ignore the Owner's expectations of them.  Incredibly, all the while, they never stopped going through the motions of worship.  They showed up at the right times, even offered their sacrifices, and prayed.  They forgot that acceptable outward obedience of worship is to be the response of a heart that is right with God.  Without it, the outward displays proved meaningless.  The message was to stop!

Note God's personal responses:
"I have had enough." (v.11)
"I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly." (v.13)
" soul hates..." (v.14)
"I am weary of bearing them." (v.14)
"I will hide my eyes from you." (v.15)
"I will not listen." (v.15)
The LORD wants us to pray, to worship corporately, and to offer our sacrifices of praise and giving.  But first the sin must be removed.  God does not condemn people merely to make them feel guilty but with this strong message He also provides the solution.

1. "Wash yourselves."
2. "Remove the evil."
3. "Cease to do evil."
4. "Learn to do good."  Once we have repented of our sin and received His forgiveness, what are some of those good things that please God?
     -Seek justice.
     -Correct oppression.
     -Bring justice to the fatherless.
     -Plead the widow's cause."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

3 characteristics of true Love

Read Song of Solomon 8.

This chapter is a rich conclusion to the book.  It recounts how she was protected by her brothers growing up (v.8).  When she matured, she had resisted sexual temptation (v.10).  Then, she met Solomon in one of his vineyards (v.11).

The middle verses contain some of the most powerful statements of human love in all the Bible.

1. True love is persistent. (v.6a)
The signet seal is an official stamp.  Once done, it is not to be tampered with or altered.  The marriage vows state that regardless of any change in circumstances-for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health-the couple is to love and to cherish each other.  Her request was that such a seal be upon all his thoughts and his actions.  True love never gives up.

2. True love is passionate. (v.6b-7a)
There is someone for everyone.  Like death, true love is no respecter of persons, stage of life, or status.  It happens to all of us.  Love is a burning desire to give oneself and to be with that one person.  This is very different from lust, whose only goal is to get.  The phrase may be translated "the very flame of the LORD" as in the ESV and the NIV notation.  Not only is this kind of love acceptable to God, He is the Creator of such emotions.  With that literal translation, it is the only reference to God in the book.

3. True love is priceless. (v.7b)
No amount of money can buy love.  Trying to do so will only result in that one being despised.  True love is given.  It is gift that one freely offers to another.

In Ephesians 5, we learn that marriage pictures to an unbelieving world our relationship with Christ.  How a wife shows respect to her husband and the manner in which a husband demonstrates love to his wife, tells everyone around them, "This is how Jesus loves me!"

Monday, June 9, 2014

Love requires giving and Receiving

Read Song of Solomon 7.

Love involves giving and receiving; initiating and responding.

1. Giving. (vv.1-9a)
As the poem continues, the husband described in detail why he was so attracted to her.  He began at her feet and went all the way up to her head in praising her beauty.  Of course, this was not the first and only time he did this for her (chapter 4).  And, she had done the same for him (chapter 5).  It would be only a guess that not many couples intentionally and verbally praise each other's physical attributes and personal attractions.  Yet, such allurements lead to love-making.

2. Receiving. (vv.9b-10)
The flip side of giving such praise is thoughtfully and emotionally receiving it.  Insecurities and realities cause us to focus on what we perceive as our imperfections.  That makes it difficult for many to accept that someone else finds us attractive.  Often, praise can be dismissed or ignored as insincere.  Receiving love may be more difficult than giving it.  Here, the wife felt her husband's love and his desire for her.

3. Initiating. (vv.11-13)
As the passions peaked, it was the wife who suggested they get away together for the purpose of sex.  It was she who said, "I will give you my love" "which I have laid up for you."  The husband does not always need to be the initiator.

4. Responding.
There are three practical areas of creating romantic responses.
>Be attentive.
Throughout the day give attention to each other.  Someone once said that sex begins in the kitchen.  In other words, treating each other lovingly throughout the day builds anticipation.
>Be affectionate.
Throughout the day express love by words, touches, hugs, and kisses.  It should be a way of life, not just for specific times.  
> Be available.
Making private time a priority is crucial to the relationship.  Some are morning people.  Others are night owls.  Being spontaneous and having fun together requires one or both to be willing to give time and energy in order to receive love.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The two became One

Read Song of Solomon 6.

"What's mine is yours."  That statement announces unreserved surrender of one person to another.  There is no holding back, no secrets, and no place for selfish protection.  Giving up a sense of ownership to a spouse for life is a Biblical understanding of marriage.

The Apostle Paul wrote in no uncertain terms, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does"

"But I have my rights," some would say.  "It is my body and I can do what I want," others claim.  Maintaining those views of personal rights will not only violate the Scriptural statements of marriage, but it will hinder and then destroy the relationship.

Notice the statements from the text expressing this sense of belonging.
Husband: "This is my beloved and this is my friend." (5:16)

Wife: "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." (6:3)

Husband: "My dove, my perfect one, is the only one..." (6:9)

Jack S. Deere comments that her nickname, Shulammite (v.13), in Hebrew is a feminine form of Solomon.  Others so identified her with her husband, as a couple, that they referred to her in that manner; Solomoness, if you will.

Eve was called Woman "because she was taken out of Man."  The declaration was "therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they all become one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24).  Oneness is  not sameness.  Rather, it is two opposites that compliment each other to form a whole.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2 elements of a healthy Marriage

Read Song of Solomon 5.

This chapter highlights two more important elements in maintaining a healthy marriage.   Some changes in the personal references would indicate that no longer are they newlyweds.  If a couple is not careful, they may take each other for granted.  What they used to say and do for each other can feel unnecessary to them.  Other things become more important, transferring time and attentiveness elsewhere.  They grow apart instead of continuing to cling to each other.

1. Her availability to him. (vv.1-9)
Again, she dreamed about him.  In what seems to be a near nightmare, he came to see her but the door was locked.  It was too inconvenient for her to get up, pull something on, and get her feet dirty to let him in.  Then, in a change of mind, she ran through the streets looking for him.  But unlike her dream in chapter three, this time the city watchmen mistook her for a criminal.  Was this dream displaying her guilty feelings?

Wives can busy themselves with the rightful duties of household chores, their own work, taking care of children, talking to friends, etc. that they ignore their most important human relationship.  All energies and time are spent and there is nothing left for her husband when he is available.

If being available to one's spouse is deemed as an inconvenience, some decisive changes are in order and quick.

2. His attractiveness to her. (vv.10-16)
In chapter four, Solomon kept saying she was beautiful and then gave eight specific reasons to support his feelings.  Here, it is the wife who did that for him.  He was handsome to her and she said so.  Beyond his general appearance, she mentioned nine things about him that she liked.

Husbands have feeling also.  A man needs to sense that his wife respects him, values him, and is attracted to him.  Silence is not golden on this subject.  Likewise, this means that a husband must be a man of inward character and attentive to his appearance.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Attraction on the wedding Night

Read Song of Solomon 4.

Rogers and Hammerstein asked a great question in Cinderella, "Do I love you because you are beautiful or are you beautiful because I love you?"

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  In other words, it is a relative and individual evaluation.  The Apostle Paul wrote in another context that comparing ourselves among ourselves is not a wise thing to do.

"Beauty is only skin deep."  Character trumps outward looks.  God had to remind Samuel that humans look on the outside but the LORD sees on the heart.

The truth is that we do see the outward appearance of each other and make certain evaluations.
The truth is that a man is attracted to what he sees.

The wedding night description begins here in chapter 4.  They are finally alone for intimacy.  Solomon took the lead and repeatedly speaks of her beauty.  But more than just a declaration of his love, he detailed what attracts him to her.  Eight distinct features are mentioned: her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth, cheeks, neck and breasts.
As his emotions heightened, his focus is not on himself, but her.  He compared her to a wonderful, fruit-filled garden.  "Locked" (v.12), as a virgin, she welcomed him (v.16).  He thoroughly enjoyed making love to her (5:1).

While one's culture, family background and personal preferences guide our likes and dislikes, a woman should always be mindful of her appearance and attractiveness to her husband.  For a wife, it is her husband's appreciation that truly counts.  Husbands need to take notice and say so.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The foundations of a Marriage

Read Song of Solomon 3.

Few days in the life of young lady is more anticipated than her wedding.  The Bible does not give any instruction about a wedding ceremony itself, except that it does involve a public commitment of a man and a woman for life.  God clearly holds marriage in the strictest sense of honor and purity.

"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." (Hebrews 13:4)

Every wedding in the Bible includes three things that are always present: wedding guests, wedding garments, and food.

After some time of courtship, the couple's love reached a zenith.  It was time for the ceremony.

1. He was the man of her dreams. (vv.1-5)
After the visit in chapter 2, Solomon left her and her heart left with him.  She loved him so much she could not stop longing for him.  At night, she dreamed that she wandered the streets searching for him.  And, when at last she found him, she took him home with her.  But it was only a dream.

2.  He was the man of her destiny. (vv.6-11)
The wedding day arrived.  She was at the appointed place and waiting.  Then, afar off she and the guests could see the groom's procession- "here comes the groom."  Not only was he the king, but in eastern culture the groom was the focus of attention at the ceremony.  Solomon appeared accompanied by an entourage of 60 armed men.  He came on a royal carriage made especially for the occasion.  Nothing was too good for his bride.  On his head was the crown that Bathsheba had given him in 1 Kings 2:13.

There is nothing else in life that compares to two people who are so committed to each other that they willingly and publicly promise faithfulness until their death.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

4 signs for women of Mr. Right

Read Song of Solomon 2.

The soon-to-be bride expressed her love for Solomon and explained in romantic terms why he was the right man for her.  With her humble background, she looked for reassurances.  In verse 3, she said of all men, this one surprisingly stood out among the rest.  Why?  What were those indicators that caused her to want to spend the rest of her life with him?

This is a good checklist for all women in their days of dating.  And, some absolute reminders for men on how to treat women.

1. She felt safe with him. (v.3b)
His presence ("shadow") provided a spot of comfort.  Her favorite emotional place was to be in his arms.

2. She enjoyed him.  (v.3c)
Over time, they had enough experience to know one another.  She not only loved him, she liked him; especially, his kisses.

3. She felt special among his friends.  (v.4a)
The king escorted her into his banquet.  Everyone present took notice as he lovingly wanted to show her off.

4. She felt honored by him in public. (v.4b)
The army in the field held the nation's banner high with a sense of pride.  In the same way, in his love for her, he wanted others to take notice of them as a couple.

She was so taken back by all this that she swooned with weakness.  She could hardly wait to see him, to have something sweet to eat, and for him to hold her.  Then, he showed up at her home (vv.5-17).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Conversations of a Courtship

Read Song of Solomon 1.

The wise king wrote 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32) but of all of them, this is his "Song of Songs."  Through the years many have taken various views on the book, but it is important to maintain a consistent view of interpreting Scripture.  All of Scripture must pass the tests of historical, grammatical, and literal contexts with the whole of the Bible.  Indeed, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Jack S. Deere stated it well in the Bible Knowledge Commentary: "The purpose of the book is to extol human love and marriage.  Though at first this seems strange, on reflection it is not surprising for God to have included in the biblical canon a book endorsing the beauty and purity of marital love.  God created man and woman (Genesis 1:27; 2:20-23) and established and sanctioned marriage (Genesis 2:24).  Since the world views sex so sordidly and perverts and exploits it so persistently and since so many marriages are crumbling because of lack of love, commitment, and devotion, it is advantageous to have a book in the Bible that gives God's endorsement of marital love as wholesome and pure." (BKC pp.1009-1010)

The elements of the conversation between these two are the same for all healthy relationships prior to marriage.  These same exchanges can help maintain a healthy marriage also.
1 Her desire for him. (vv.1-4)
The bride anticipated the time when she would finally be alone with the king.  She longed for his kisses and expressions of his love.  But it was not only his physical attraction that wooed her.  It was his "name," reputation or character, that motivated this longing for him.  At the end of verse 4, a chorus of unidentified others, possibly family or friends, confirm the rightness of this relationship.  Having conducted a few score weddings, it is crucial that a couple have wise counsel and support of others around them.

2. Her feelings of inadequacy. (vv.5-7)
The bride expressed some insecurity about herself and her background.  She explained that she did not grow up as a daughter of privilege.  Her sun tanned appearance was the result of working in her family's vineyard and pasture.  In other words, this girl was a commoner about to marry a king.  Would she be looked down upon or would she be truly accepted?

3. His verbal reassurance. (vv.8-11)
"If you do not know by now...," is the reply.  The soon-to-be groom tried to allay her fears with his statements of love and affirmations of how beautiful she is to him and others.  The comparisons he used do not convey the same message very well to the western mind.  But in the style of Solomon's day, these were romantic things to say.  The voices of others quickly added that jewelry would be made and given to her for even greater compliments to her beauty.

4. Her sighing. (vv.12-14)
Like an intoxicating fragrance, this man was constantly on her mind and stirred an increasing desire for him.

5. His specific appreciation. (v.15)
Solomon simply responded with how attracted he was by her beautiful and peaceful eyes.

6. Her feelings of confidence. (vv.16-17 and 2:1)
The bride thought he was handsome and charming.  Further, she seemed pleased with the environment of their courtship.  Then she made the bold statement of her sense of self-worth.  Common flowers, but she felt beautiful and admired because he said so.  His opinion was all that mattered.

7. His confirming words. (v.2:2)
To him, she was a beautiful flower.  All the other women he considered thorns.  There was no one else for him but her.

Two actions are required for such a conversation: men who will express their love and women who will receive it.