Friday, August 29, 2014

The hope of Israel and joy to the World

Read Isaiah 60.

Certainly, the captured and scattered people of Israel were looking forward to better days ahead.  But none of the events of their return under Persian rule, nor any time since, can account for the prophecies in this chapter.  Indeed, the Jews continued to be under someone else's rule until 1948.  And, the promised days of prosperity, world homage, and peace have yet to be fulfilled.

When the Messiah returns and establishes His rule in Jerusalem, here is what the nation of Israel will be like.
1. Worldwide Ministry. (vv.1-3)
"Arise and shine."  Israel will not only embrace Jesus as LORD, but the nation they will reflect His glory to the world.  They will literally be attracting the world to Jesus.

2. Worldwide Honor. (vv.4-13)
"Lift up your eyes."  A new Temple will be erected in Jerusalem.  World leaders will come to serve the interests of Israel.  The world's abundance will flow toward this one small land.  The purpose will be for "the praises of the LORD" (v.6), "to beautify my beautiful house" (v.7 and 13).

3. Worldwide Peace. (vv.14-18)
All Israel's enemies will be coming in great humility and acknowledgement of Messiah's reign over them.  With the Prince of Peace in place, world peace will finally be a reality.  God's purpose is not political but "you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (v.16b).
The entire nation will be right with God and disputes over the land with its Biblical boundaries will no longer be an issue.  Why?  So "that I might be glorified" (v.21)

How soon will this happen?  "I am the LORD, in its time I will hasten it" (v.22b).  The Disciples knew these prophecies and after the resurrection asked Jesus, "'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'  He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority."  Then, Jesus ascended to heaven as they watched.  Two angels declared, "This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:6-11).

Today, we look forward to the literal, visible, powerful, personal, and royal return of Christ.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

If you are not feeling close to God

Read Isaiah 59.

If you are not feeling close to God, what is the problem?

God had not lost His power to deliver the nation of Israel.  God had not become hard of hearing to their cries for help (v.1).

Humans have a problem.  God calls it sin.  And, it is our personal sin that separates us from a Holy God (v.2).  The LORD names some of the evil and disobedient acts of the people.  As a result, they could find no "peace" (v.8).  Because of their corrupt spiritual condition, the nation knew no "justice" (v.9).  It is described as a dark time in their history.  Like blind men who were lost, they could find no way out (v.10).  All they could do was complain about it (v.11).  It was impossible for them to fix their guilt (v.12).  And, there was no one to intercede for them to make it right (v.16).  

People are helpless to save themselves.  There is no system whereby one may earn merit with God and their way into heaven.  God alone can forgive sin.  When one is willing to come to the LORD, confessing their sin, and seeking His forgiveness, He immediately supplies what is needed.

When Israel finally turns to the LORD, the promise is that they will be right with God and He will provide spiritual salvation and national deliverance from their enemies.  God receives no glory from sin.  His purpose in offering this to them is so that the other nations "shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun" (v.19).

When Messiah returns He will enter Jerusalem as Israel's Redeemer and Restorer.  At that time Jesus will fully implement the New Covenant for the nation.  He will pour out His Spirit upon them and God's word will be in them, every one.

It is the same for us today.  Our sin separates us from the LORD.  He has already paid the price for our salvation.  "Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16b).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 types of people who determine your true worship of God

Read Isaiah 58.

Here is an interesting conflict.  The people seemingly sought to know God and His word daily (v.2).  Yet, God issues a call to loudly proclaim that the people were rebellious and living in sin.  How can that be?

The people's response was that God did not take notice all that they were doing, including fasting.  So, what was the problem?

They went through the motions of worship, but obedience to the LORD must come from a heart that is right with Him.  Their fasting showed only outward humility (v.3).  God wanted them to humble themselves inwardly by confessing and forsaking their sin (v.5)

When they finished going through the motions of worship, their lives were unchanged (v.4).  God wanted their lives demonstrate a difference, especially in the way that they treated people in need (vv.6-7).
1. The trapped.  Those who are involved in wicked wrongdoing and cannot get themselves out.
Loose them.

2. The oppressed.  Those who are being crushed and struggling to make it in life.
Free them.

3. The hungry.  Those who do not have enough resources to sustain themselves.
Feed them.

4. The homeless poor.  Those who cannot provide a roof over their heads.
Bring them in.

5. The naked.  Those who lack clothing.
Clothe them.

The LORD said it is such unselfish and loving acts as these that will demonstrate what James called "pure religion and undefiled" (James 1:27).  Not only will the people in need be served but God promised to bless those who serve.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Where does God Live?

Read Isaiah 57.

When King Solomon began to build the Temple for God in Jerusalem, he was humbled.  In 2 Chronicles 2:6 he asked, "Who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him?"  True.  Buildings cannot contain this Omni-present God of heaven.  He is everywhere, at once, at all times.

In the opening verses of this chapter, the LORD again chastens the people for their idolatry.  Their false worship led them to unimaginable practices such as orgies and the sacrifice of their own children.  God accused them of "deserting me" (v.8).  His lack of immediate intervention was due to His great patience (v.11), waiting for them to repent of their sin.

 God challenged them in their time of trouble to cry out to these false beliefs for help.  They would find them to be as empty as the wind (v.13a).  "But," here is the turning point, "he who takes refuge in me" will experience the difference (v.13b).  Yes, God dwells in the heavens.  But He is "also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit" (v.16).

What is that difference He alone can make when we humble ourselves before Him? (vv.18-21)
1. I will heal.
Sin separates us from God and destroys life.  The Messiah came, died for our sin, and "by his wounds we are healed" (53:5)  There is no other source of such forgiveness and healing anywhere.

2. I will lead.
Seeking answers and life-guidance prompts people to place their faith in something.  Everyone does.  But only the LORD leads us in the right way to true life-fulfillment.

3. I will restore comfort.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus called Him the Comforter.  He comes alongside to reassure us of His presence.  He helps us to see beyond the present hurt to find future meaning and value.

The result is a peace that nothing else in the world can give.  Peace with God.  Satisfying peace within.
"'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked." (v.21)

It is an amazing thought that the LORD of heaven desires to live with us.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What does the LORD expect from Us?

Read Isaiah 56.

This section of Isaiah continues to give Israel hope for its future.  However, the people need not wait for the Messiah in order to live for God in the present.

What does the LORD expect from His people? (vv.1-2)
1. Justice.
This has to do with legal decisions or doing what is right according to the law of the land.

2. Righteousness.
This has to do with life decisions or doing what is right according to God's expectations.

3. Not profaning His word.
A person who is right with the LORD shows it in how they live publicly.  The one example given here is keeping the Old Testament Sabbath law.  Everyone took notice that they person did no labor on Saturday.  But it was only one example.

4. Keeping from evil.
A person who is right with the LORD shows it in how they live privately.  When no one else is watching, God is.

Who is included in God's plan of salvation? (vv.3-8)
Though the Jews are God's chosen people and have an everlasting covenant relationship from Him, His plan always included the rest of the world.  Every one and anyone who would turn to Him for forgiveness and worship would experience His blessings.  Three examples are given that supersede the Old Testament Law-eunuchs, foreigners, and outcasts.  Compare Deuteronomy 23:1.  But this was always in the mind of God.  In Genesis 12:3, God told Abraham, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

When the religious leaders of Jesus' day tried to squeeze the Gentiles out and restrict the access of others to the Temple, He quoted verse 7 of this chapter.

Where was the root problem? (vv.9-12)
God called for judgment due to corrupt national leaders.  Instead of being on guard spiritually and watching out for the people, they only sought to take care of themselves.

Friday, August 22, 2014

When life does not go our Way

Read Isaiah 55.

How disappointing and disillusioning it is when life does not go the way we wanted.  The sense of confusion causes some to put their spiritual lives on hold.  Some blame God for their hurt and never come to a place of healing.  Others use such hurt and confusion as an excuse to reject that there is a God.  Certainly, there is not one who cares about them.

One of primary concepts about the God of the Bible is found in verses 8 and 9.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

We have our plans.  God has His.  We have our thoughts on how things should be.  God has His.  So, the question is, "Whose thoughts and plans are correct?  Whose thoughts and plans lead to a life of complete fulfillment-our ways or God's?"  Do we possess such arrogance to think for moment that we know better than the One who made us and knows every detail of our lives?

Isaiah 53:6 describes the problem: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way."  That going our own way, wanting our plans instead of the LORD's, is the definition of sin in that chapter and is what put Jesus on the cross.

How can we experience a truly fulfilled life?
1. Come to the LORD. (vv.1-5)
Every person has a spiritual thirst, a lack of satisfaction, inside them.  We naturally try to fill that void with other things, or people, or activity.  In John 4, Jesus met a Samaritan woman who was thirsty, inside and out.  She tried to find satisfaction by going from one relationship to another.  He offered her eternal life so she would "never be thirsty again."
"Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live." (v.3)

2. Seek the LORD. (v.6a)
People search for life-meaning, life-guidance, self-improvement in every place but the one source that guarantees eternal results.  Repeatedly in the Old Testament and in the New, we are told to seek God.  Most people who have become disillusioned or rejected God have never read the Bible or sought to understand it's message.
"...he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
"...those who seek me diligently find me." (Proverbs 8:17)

3. Call upon the LORD. (v.6b)
The rest of this verse includes, "...while he is near."  The Holy Spirit pursues us and prompts us to come to the LORD and seek Him for filling that spiritual emptiness inside.  It is perilous presumption to put off an immediate response to God.  His offer of forgiveness, cleansing of our past, and eternally securing our future is available now.
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." (Hebrews 3:7)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is God through with Israel?

Read Isaiah 54.

Having presented the Suffering Savior who paid the price for our sins in the previous chapter, here the focus turns to His second coming.  He will reign as King of Kings.

Israel had suffered the shame and punishment of God's judgment.  This chapter is a call for singing and rejoicing as they look forward to their national future.  Yes, for a "brief moment" (v.7) God had to severely deal with their sin.  But, that did not change His promises to Abraham.

How long will God have compassion on Israel and love them as His chosen people?
"'In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,' says the LORD, your Redeemer." (v.8)

"'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.' says the LORD, who has compassion on you.'" (v.10

Was not this fulfilled with their return from captivity five centuries before Christ?
Notice God's promises.
1. The Jewish population will increase to far exceed their ability to all live on that land. (v.3)
2. Everyone will know the LORD and all their children will be taught to know Him. (v.13)
3. The nation will be safe from all threats. (v.14)
4. No enemy will succeed against them. (v.15-17a)

While these promises are prophetic and will literally be real one day, in the meantime God is at work today.  The spiritual family of God has been widened with the grafting in of believers from all nations.  See Romans 11:11-24.  God's character and treatment of His servants is the same, Jew and Gentile alike.  He loves us with an everlasting love and that will not change.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The astounding results of Messiah's Death

Read Isaiah 53.

This portion of Isaiah is one of the most sacred of all.  As one reads it, there is a sense of being on holy ground.  The immediate context for this chapter begins with 52:13.  The Servant, as this passage explains, is none other than the Messiah.  Keep in mind that this was written some 500 years before these events took place.

1. Why did Jesus die on the cross?
He was sinless.  He did nothing wrong.  It was we who sinned.  We deserved the punishment.  But in the plan of God, the Son was sent to be the Savior of the world.  He took upon Himself what we deserved and became our substitute.
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

2. For whom did He die?
He died for "every one" (v.6) because every person who ever lived since Adam has the curse of sin upon them.  The description in verse 6 is that of sheep wandering off, going their own way, from the shepherd to whom they belong.  That is the essence of all sin.  It was "our transgressions," "our iniquities," our sin that put Jesus on the cross.
"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
(1 John 2:2)

3. What are the results?
His death on the cross "brought us peace" with God (v.5).  It provided spiritual healing of our sin and the hurt that it causes.  It satisfied the righteous demands of a Holy God for our unholiness (v.11).  Instead of seeing us as sinners, the LORD declares those who place their eternal trust in Him as righteous, or right with Him.  He now is our advocate in heaven, interceding on our behalf.

4. Was His death the end?
So many who claim faith in Jesus still see Him hanging on the cross bleeding.  In John 19:30, Jesus declared, "It is finished."  That was business term of His day indicating the debt had been paid in full.  And, the story does not stop there.  Verse 10 states that after Messiah's death, He will live.  There will be a spiritual family who will enjoy all the blessings of faith in Christ.  The resurrection of Jesus is the proof of His on-going ministry on our behalf.  He is our living Advocate in heaven.
"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

The Apostle John summed up much of this chapter's message.
"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:10-12)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is there any good news Today?

Read Isaiah 52.

The Jews have a discouraging history to say the least.  But each time an enemy sought to destroy them, the LORD intervened.  Because of the number of years involved there were those who lost hope in God's promises.  God never forgot.  He acts exactly on His schedule to fulfill His plans.

Historically, the Jews were in Egypt for 400 years.  But God delivered them from slavery.  In this chapter, the northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered and the people scattered at the hands of Assyria.  The southern kingdom of Judah had been taken captive by Babylonia.  They remained in Babylon for 70 years.
The nation was in need of a comforting message.  Some good news of hope.

The message is, "Wake up and get ready!  You are going home." (vv.1-2)

There are two aspects to this prophecy.  Immediately, in 536 B.C., the Jews returned to their homeland. This would take place at no cost to them.  The nation was redeemed by God's free grace.  But the details in this chapter obviously speak of much more that has yet to happen.  Note the little prophetic phrase "in that day" (v.6).  What will that day be like?

1. Everyone will know the LORD. (v.6b)
No more will they be in doubt about who God is or turn to other forms of worship.  Spiritual allegiance will be to Him alone.

2. It will be a time of good news. (vv.7-9)
After decades of prophecies of God's judgement, here is news of peace, happiness, salvation, comfort, and redemption.

3. The LORD will reign. (vv.7b-15)
This is the key reason for the celebration.  There is no denying that Messiah will one day literally sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem.  As Isaiah wrote in 9:6, "the government shall be upon his shoulders."  The Messiah ("my servant" v.13) will assume world power.  He will "sprinkle" or cleanse the nations (v.15) and all the world's leaders will be silent before Him.

What a contrast from the first coming of Jesus.  Verse 14 prophesies His physical appearance after being beaten and crucified.  This description was written over 500 years in advance!

But another 2000 years have gone by since Jesus' ascension back to heaven.  That is not a problem for God.  He has not forgotten.  He will act in His time.  Our good news to a world without hope is that Jesus is coming!  Time to get ready and be prepared.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Conducting a spiritual Assessment

Read Isaiah 51.

It is good for us to stop on a regular basis and take stock of where we came from and where we are headed.  Granted, we all have things in our past for which we are grateful for God's forgiveness and cleansing.  While we may not wish to dwell on all our history, we do need to honor our heritage.

God called on Israel to conduct a complete spiritual assessment.

1. Look back. (vv.1-2)
The people of Israel exist because of God's calling and unconditional covenant with Abraham.  They were to never forget nor violate their beginnings.  Personally, I am grateful for the spiritual heritage of faith in Christ from my grandparents on both sides of our family.  In addition, there were those who taught me and encouraged my spiritual growth at church.  One's spiritual heritage may not be found in a physical family but from others who pointed us to live for Jesus.

2. Look ahead. (vv.3-8)
Next, God called them to focus what He has planned for their future.  He will mete out His justice and make things right.  One day, all we have known here will be gone.  But forever we will enjoy our deliverance in Christ and our relationship with the LORD.  In the meantime, the Apostle Paul reminds us not to be discouraged with present circumstances.
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

3. Look Up. (vv.9-11)
Here the people respond to God.  They call upon the One who destroyed Egypt (Rahab) and Pharaoh (dragon), the One who dried up the Red Sea for them, the One who ransomed them and will bring them home singing with everlasting joy.  Remembrances of past deliverances by God encourages us to pray for His power to be displayed today.

4. Wake Up. (vv.12-23)
God's call to the people is "wake yourself" and "stand up."  Stop wallowing in your misery of what happened to you.  God promises to afflict the tormentors and offers His comfort to the afflicted.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What's the problem Here?

Read Isaiah 50.

With Israel's loss of the land and God's blessings, doubtlessly the people asked, "Why?  Why did this happen to us?  We thought God would protect us?"  So, the LORD answered those questions with a few of His own.

1. What is the problem? (vv.1-3)
God wanted them to know it was not because He could not protect them by His power.  Indeed, He allowed this to happen to Israel at this time because of their sin.  He faithfully sent the prophets with His message but they would not listen nor repent.

2. What is the solution? (vv.4-9)
Here Messiah speaks for Himself.  In some detail, the sufferings of Jesus are given.  Matthew 26:67 tells of the fulfillment of this prophesy: "Then they spit in his face and struck him.  And some slapped him."  The Son of God voluntarily laid aside His rights and withheld His power to suffer and die on the cross in full and final payment for our sins.

3. What is the need? (vv.10-11)
This is a direct challenge to those who trust in something else for life-guidance.  They can use whatever "light" they can imagine but it will only lead down a path of torment in the end.  The LORD calls out to "trust" and "rely" on Him.  Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Choose life!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When feeling Forsaken

Read Isaiah 49.

The Messiah speaks to the Gentiles.  He calls out, "Listen to me" and "give attention."  His message is sharp as a sword.  (Compare Hebrews 4:12-13).  While, for a time, there were great crowds following Him, ultimately Jesus was rejected.  "I have labored in vain" (v.4).

Most of the chapter looks forward to the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel at the second coming of Christ.  Then, there will be prosperity and abundance.  All world leaders will come and "bow down to you" (v.23).  Given the history of Israel since the death of King Solomon to this very day, those promises seem almost unreal.  The Jews have been the object of ridicule, scorn and threat by so many world leaders and groups.

But God is committed to keeping His unconditional promises to Abraham (Genesis 12).  He "will contend with those who contend with you" (v.25b).  When the nation is completely and spiritually restored as people of God, "Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame" (v.23b).

In the meantime, many Jews today feel as if the LORD has forsaken them, that He no longer cares.  That sense is in this prophecy.  "But Zion said, 'The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me" (v.14)  The Apostle Paul asked in Romans 11:1, "Has God rejected his people?  By no means!"  When Jesus hung on the cross and became sin for us, He experienced that feeling of being forsaken by the Father (Matthew 27:46).

Being rejected and forgotten is a terrible emotion for anyone, but to feel that God has forgotten can be terrifying.  Here is Messiah's answer to anyone who feels alone, with unanswered prayers, and alienated from the presence of God.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you."  And then comes the most powerful statement the Messiah could ever make on this subject, "Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (vv.15-16)

The crucifixion of Jesus paid for all sin once and for all.  He gave His life for each of us.  His promise then is "'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'  So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me.'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God's purpose in Prophecy

Read Isaiah 48.

Being conquered and captured by a foreign power, meant the people of Israel suffered the loss of everything.

Those events should not have come as any surprise to the nation.  Through His spokesmen, the prophets, God repeatedly warned them with specifics and called upon them to repent of their sin. But they would not listen.

In prophetic messages, God foretold of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity, Babylon's defeat by Cyrus, and of their return to the land.  Why did LORD tell Israel about all these happenings in advance?
1. So, God alone would get the credit. (v.5)
The people had placed their trust for guidance and their future in other things.  When the prophecies became reality, only the only explanation would be God's word.

2. So, God could display His foreknowledge. (v.7-8)
He knows and controls the future.  No one else does.

3. So, God alone would be praised. (v.9-11)
He reveals His truth and implements His plans for people to stand in awe of Him.  The reasonable response is to praise and worship the LORD.

The error the Jews made was to think that because of their heritage and because they used the right words they were in right standing with God.  God's view of them on the other hand is described with these words: hypocrites (v.1), obstinate and hardheaded (v.4), spiritually deaf (v.8a), rebel (v.8b).

How many people have held to the same erroneous thinking about their relationship with Christ?  Just because a person has parents were believers in Jesus or because they went to church no more fits one for heaven than walking into a garage turn will someone into a car.  Reciting certain words does not make one right before the LORD.  He wants our exclusive, personal faith and trust in Him.

"Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!  Then your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness live the waves of the sea." (v.18)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

4 thoughts that will destroy your Life

Read Isaiah 47.

This is an amazing prophecy regarding the end of the Babylonian Empire.  Dethroned and disgraced, the once powerful kingdom that ruled from India to Africa will be no more.  God had used the Babylonians to discipline the kingdom of Judah and take them captive for 70 years.

Babylon's demise happened quickly, as the LORD foretold in verse 9, "In a moment, in one day."  Daniel 5 needed only two verses at the end of the chapter to tell what took place.  Immediately, the Medes and Persians came to world power.

What was behind the downfall of this mighty empire?
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)

Notice the quotes from God concerning the Babylonians.  This reminds us again that God hears our every word, knows the thoughts of our hearts, and watches our every action.
1. "You felt secure in your wickedness." (v.10a)
They thought they could sin and get away with it.

2. "You said, 'No one sees me.'" (v.10b)
They thought, if there is a God in heaven, He is far removed and does not care about what I do.

3. "Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray." (v.10c)
They thought they knew better than God about how to live and what guidance they should follow.

4. "You said in your heart , 'I am and there is no one besides me.'" (v.10d)
They thought that they arrived where they were by their own doing and they would be the masters of their fate.  They could live as they pleased with no accountability to the LORD.

So, God challenged them to go on and depend upon their own made up spiritualism (v.12) and their belief in astrology (v.13).  See if they can save you in the time of trouble and terror.  All of it will prove to be futile and a waste of time when real help is needed.

There is only One who can save.
"'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'  Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (James 4:6b-8a)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Now, hear This!

Read Isaiah 46.

Twice in this chapter, God says, "Listen to me."  In the middle of the chapter, He says, "Remember this."  What is it that the LORD wants His people to hear and remember?

The historical context has to do with encouraging Israel to look beyond the pending Babylonian captivity.  No matter what suffering and loss they may endure, there are some basics of the faith to which they must cling.  For them, locations will change, culture will change, leadership will change, but God does not!  He will be with them and deliver the nation.

Since the character of God does not change, the key statements may be equally applied to us for our hearing and reminders.

1. There is no other God. (vv.1-7)
Over and over again, the LORD claims that He is the only God there is.  All others are man-made illusions that are incapable of providing any help.  Believing in the power of the planets, like Bel the sun god or carrying around idols, will prove to be a waste of time and money.

Instead of carrying around one's god, the LORD of the universe claims to carry us.  He superintends our lives from before our birth, while in the womb, into old age.  He has no equal.

2. He is sovereign over all. (vv.8-11)
As the eternal God, He has no beginning and no end.  The creation is not the result of chaos but purpose.  The LORD personally superintends His creation, including our lives, to fulfill all His plans.  "I will do it."

3. His righteousness is available. (vv.12-13)
He brings His power of forgiveness and making things right to us.  It is near us now.  Then, why do so many live alienated from God and carry their guilt and shame?  It is not because of a lack of provision from the LORD.  Verse 12 states the problem is a stubborn heart that refuses to acknowledge who God is and His claims upon them.  Once a person listens and responds, their hearts open to receive His deliverance.

How near is this salvation?  The Apostle Paul wrote a similar application, quoting from Deuteronomy 30:14, "But what does it say?  'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:8-9)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Prophecy: reading history in Advance

Read Isaiah 45.

This prophecy concerns Cyrus, who became the head of the Medo-Persian Empire.  In short, the Assyrians would be defeated by the Babylonians.  The Babylonians would then take Judah captive for seventy years of exile.  Next, the Medes and Persians allied to conquer the Babylonians.  Cyrus not only assisted in helping the Jews return to their homeland from Babylon but he paid for the rebuilding of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.  Isaiah 45:13 is the prophecy and 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 is the historical record.

The astounding value of this portion of Isaiah, with names and details, is that it was written about 100 years in advance!  When God states, as He indicated in chapter 44, that He controls the future, He means it.

God referred to Cyrus as "my Shepherd" (44:28) and "his anointed" (45:1), called and used by God to fulfill His plans, "though you do know me" (v.4).  The LORD can use anyone and anything for His purpose, even unbelievers, without them realizing it.  Some may object and question God doing this.  But in verses 9-10, the LORD warns against arguing with Him.  As the Creator, He can do as He wishes with His property.

The future of the restoration of Israel, however, would not limited to their return to the land and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Of even more importance was the rebuilding of the nation spiritually.  The prophecy looks forward to a time when Israel will unitedly worship the LORD and experience the full blessings of God on earth.  In addition, all nations will acknowledge that He is the one true God and that there is no one else (v. 14).

His call in verse 22 is to "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!"  We have the freedom to respond now.  But in that day, when Messiah rules and reigns from the throne of David, the response will be by both worship and command.  The Apostle Paul undoubtedly used verse 23 and applied it to Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11: "So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

6 irrefutable claims by the God of the Bible

Read Isaiah 44.

"There are none so blind as those who will not see."  According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings that quote may be traced back to John Heywood in 1546.  Many people choose to ignore the spiritual truth that they already know.  That is nothing less than willful ignorance.  A vast number of people, even when they see the truth in front of them, hear it in their own language, and have it explained to them just cannot process God's word.

Several times in the Bible the subject of spiritual blindness and deafness is discussed.  Sometimes it is willful and at other times it is God who has prevented them from responding "for he has shut their eyes" (v.18).

The result of such inability leaves people to their own imagination and devices to fill that spiritual void.  Isaiah details in verses 9-20 how some make up gods with their own hands.  It is insane to think that a piece of wood or metal, shaped and formed by a craftsman, has some supernatural powers.  Others place their faith in philosophical schemes or depend on their own thoughts about eternity.  And, then they hope they are correct.

Here are six irrefutable claims of the Sovereign LORD God of the Bible.
1. "I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god." (v.6)

2. "I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone spread out the earth by myself..." (v.24)

3. "...who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish..." (v.25)

4. "...who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers..." (v.26)

5. He controls the natural world. (v.27)

6. He controls the future. (v.28)

In addition, the LORD has claims on our individual lives and decisions.  Can you see it?  Can you hear it?  His invitation in verse 22 is "I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you."  Will you come?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

11 reasons not to fear the Future

Read Isaiah 43.

"Thus says the LORD."  Isaiah delivered God's messages primarily to the southern kingdom of Judah.  Increasingly, the warnings look beyond the Assyrian invasion to the Babylonian captivity.  The discipline of the nation was due to their sinful disobedience (vv.22-24).  But along with the predicted judgment came the promise of Israel being regathered, forgiven, and blessed.

The LORD wanted to remind them who He is, what He has done, and what He can do for them.  Twice in this chapter God said, "Fear not."  Here are the reasons why they needed not fear the future.
1. I created you. (v.1a)
Man is not the result of some cosmic accident.  Creation is not just a Genesis issue.  God claims to have personally brought the universe and life into existence.  He is the Owner of all things (Psalm 24:1)

2. I formed you. (v.1b)
As a potter works the clay for His own design and purposes, so the LORD takes full responsibility for the shaping of this nation and its people.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesian 2:10, "We are his workmanship."

3. I redeemed you. (v.1c)
Literally, He bought them out of slavery.  This is an obvious reference to the Exodus.  At great cost, through the shedding of blood during the Passover, the people were freed.  "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).

4. I called you. (v.1d)
In Genesis 12, God called Abraham and subsequently made an unconditional covenant with his descendants.  He called the nation out of Egypt.  This calling of God was in order for them to fulfill His plan.  They were on an assigned mission.

5. You are mine. (v.1e)
Now, they are twice His-by creation and by redemption.

6. I will be with you. (v.2a)
Though they will face difficult days ahead, God's presence will never leave them.  He is and will be right there with them all the way.  "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

7. I will protect you. (v.2b)
There is no need to feel overwhelmed or give up.  He will bring His people through the toughest of circumstances.

8. I am your Savior. (v.3)
The LORD claims exclusivity.  There is no other Savior.  The Apostle Peter proclaimed, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

9. I love you. (v.4)
The God of the Bible is not detached from His creation.  He is a loving God who desires a personal relationship with each of us.

10. I will provide for you. (vv.19-21)
He will make a way for His people when there does not seem to be a way.  He will take care of His own when no resources are in sight.

11. I am he who blots out your transgressions. (v.25)
His promise to forgive and "I will not remember your sins" does not mean God has a memory lapse.  But once we have confessed our sins and He has cleansed us, He will not bring up our past against us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It is a great day for Singing!

Read Isaiah 42.

The people of Israel, called "my servant" in verse 19, were to have shown the world what a nation under God looks like.  Their obedience to the LORD should have pointed others to Him.  They are His people by creation and covenant (vv.5-7).  That will not change.  However, two things will happen in response.  First, God will deal with their disobedience.  Second, He will send "my servant" (v.1), a person this time, to lead them and the entire world.

We could be at a loss as to this person's identity.  Some have tried to claim him as an historical leader who fulfilled this role.  However, Matthew 12:15-21 quotes these verses, stating that this is no one else but Jesus.  Notice that the details do not fit His earthly ministry 2000 years ago.  So, some try to spiritualize the passage by saying that Jesus is ruling the world from heaven.  But look closely at the details.

What will characterize this international servant-leader?  (vv.1-4)
1. He will be chosen by God.
This will not be a leader by human empowerment, but one sent from the Father on an earthly mission.  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

2. He will be a delight to the Father.
At the baptism of Jesus, the Father spoke for all to hear.  "And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.'" (Mark 1:11)

3. The Spirit of God upon Him.
On one occasion in the synagogue, Jesus read aloud Isaiah 61:1-2: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me."  Then, He said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

4. He will judge all nations.
This certainly has not taken place yet.  One day, the LORD will exercise His power of ownership over His creation.  See verses 13-17.  Some count God's patience as silence (v.14).  There is coming a rude awakening, especially for those who have put their trust elsewhere (v.17).
5. He will be quiet and gentle.
Isaiah wrote in 40:11, "He will feed his flock like a shepherd.  Jesus said in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd."

6. He will be faithful.
In the depiction of the returning Christ in Revelation 19:11, He is called "Faithful and True."

7. He will establish His rule on earth.
The Bible contains more prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ than His first coming.  Revelation 20:1-6 describes the fulfillment of Jesus earthly reign for 1,000 years prior to making a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21.

Jesus is coming!  With this hope of the future secured, the instruction in verse 10 is to "Sing to the LORD a new song."  Today is a great day to sing as we await His return.