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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

 

Isaiah Day 260 - Look Up, Way Up

 

65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing

And her people for gladness.

19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;

And there will no longer be heard in her

The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,

Or an old man who does not live out his days;

For the youth will die at the age of one hundred

And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred

Will be thought accursed.

21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;

They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 “They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat;

For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,

And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

23 “They will not labor in vain,

Or bear children for calamity;

For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them.

 

How do you tell someone something they can't fathom? How do you show them something they can't see, or describe something beyond the borders of their imagination? Judah just wanted their city. They wanted their home. They wanted peace and prosperity. God had something much bigger and better in mind. When Abraham left Haran he just wanted a son. He wanted a family. He wanted descendants to carry on his name and his faith. God had something much bigger in mind. We are a great challenge for God in many ways and one of them is our inability to grasp the bigger picture. How does a child appreciate the concept of nurturing their health when all they want is a candy? How do you help a youth appreciate the value of learning things that seem pointless to them? How do you explain to a young husband that washing the dishes is connected to the bedroom? There are things we can't see and others we don't want to see.

 

If the prophecies of Isaiah 65 seem muddled and confusing it is because they kind of are. God is trying to lead a people Home who just want to go home. He is trying to instill forever in a people who think living one hundred years is a distant dream.

 

How about us? Are we so consumed with the here and now that we can't hear or see what God is wanting to show us and tell us?

 

Look up, way up. Some are stressing out over the demise of our physical planet when God has already promised a new one. Some are trying to fight the effects of aging and live longer when God has a new body for each of us and a forever Home. Abraham would have been content with one son. God had so much more in mind. Judah would have been happy just to get Jerusalem back. God had so much more in mind. Don't settle for your small dreams and limited vision. There is more, so much more. Look up, way up.

 

 

Isaiah Day 261 - Vegetarian Carnivores

 

65:24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

 

Vegetarian carnivores?! Turns out we have been given a glimpse of the new relationship between animals in heaven already; the same relationship they had in Eden before it all went wrong.

 

Here it is and it is a true story I shared back when we read chapter 11:

 

THE LION WHO LAID DOWN WITH THE LAMB

 

Once upon a time, in 20th century America, there lived a lion who refused to be violent. Those who cared for her tried to train her to behave in a way they thought was dictated by nature - but she refused. Instead, she taught her keepers that man's idea of what constitutes "natural" animal behavior, is not necessarily what God created animals to be.

 

The Prophet Isaiah told of a millennial world in which the "lion would lay down with the lamb." For most people this is a promise so improbable it seems as if the very nature of animals must undergo a drastic change before that prophecy can be fulfilled. It seems they must metamorphose into different creatures; that although their outward appearance may remain the same, their inner structure must somehow be altered. Because, ultimately, we believe that biology is destiny. But the story of Little Tyke, a lioness who lived at Hidden Valley Ranch in California, gives evidence to the contrary.

 

Born to a mother who had been caught in the wild and imprisoned in a zoo-cell for many years, it seemed unlikely that Tyke would survive her birth. Impregnated five times in seven years, the fierce mother had destroyed each of her previous cubs before zoo-keepers could get near her. This behavior only added to the mother's reputation as a particularly ferocious animal: a born-killer. Yet in the wild, lions have been observed wailing in agony over a still-born cub. Perhaps this "killer" lion destroyed her cubs to prevent them from having to live out the horror of her own existence. She could not prevent her captors from having her impregnated, but she could thwart their plans to imprison her offspring.

 

But although the mother managed to badly maul the new cub, Little Tyke was rescued from her and sent to Hidden Valley Ranch. She lived there with Georges and Margaret Westbeau for the rest of her life.

 

During that time she taught the Westbeaus, and the thousands who came in contact with her, that much of what we believe about the nature of animals is the result of the way in which we have treated them. Animals have learned to fear, dread and attack the human beings who torture, imprison and kill them-- without compunction or remorse for the enormous amount of pain and suffering they inflict on God's other creatures.

 

But at Hidden Valley Ranch, Little Tyke was raised with great love and kindness. The story of her life was later chronicled by Georges Westbeau, in a book he wrote about the gentle lioness.

 

The numerous photos in his book show Little Tyke living with lambs, dogs, cats, chickens and deer, in happy companionship. And the stories that Westbeau relates about life on the Ranch make fascinating reading. But beyond the fascination and wonder of this narrative is the deeper sense of the "rightness" that the peacefulness and nonviolence at Hidden Valley Ranch evokes. It is a sense that the relationship between humans and animals can -- and should -- be different than it is.

 

But in order for this to happen, men and women must alter their behavior: it is the savagery of the human heart that must change. We do not have to wait until God changes "savage" animals into different kinds of beings in order for them to live in peace and harmony with mankind. And nothing in Westbeau's book makes this clearer than the report of Tyke's lifelong insistence on a vegetarian diet.

 

It was an insistence that her caretakers tried to overcome for four years. Convinced by scientific findings that the lion would die if she did not eat meat, the Westbeaus tried every possible subterfuge in order to get her to become a carnivore. But Tyke would not. And in spite of the fact that science had declared a lion's system was programmed to eat flesh, and would die without it, Little Tyke lived on.

 

Not only did she survive, she thrived on her vegetarian diet, becoming as healthy a lion specimen as anyone had ever seen. Still, it took four years for the Westbeau's to stop trying to find ways to get her to become a flesh-eating creature. And, eventually, it was a quote from the Bible that put their mind at rest about Tyke's health and her diet.

 

It came about after yet another expert had been asked if he knew of some formula which contained meat, that the lion might be persuaded to eat. Westbeau writes that the man he spoke to "turned to look at me with serious eyes, then asked 'Don't you read your Bible?' I admitted I didn't read it as much as I probably should. He continued, "Read Genesis 1:30 and you will get your answer."

 

Isaiah Day 262 - Oops

 

65:24 lt will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

 

I have shared Isaiah 65:24 with many people over the years but it was a rose picked from the garden that should have been left where it was planted. We like the sentiment that God hears us before we call and answers before we ever finish asking but that isn't what this verse/promise is really about.

 

Do you remember the tough words way back in chapter one where God called them out on their religious hypocrisy? Even went so far as to say He hated their religious gatherings. He called it "trampling My courts". The who issue with Judah then and the theme of Isaiah is God calling Judah out of injustice, oppression, hypocrisy and evil. He told them flat out that if they persisted He would turn away and leave them to the consequences of their own stubborn sin and rebellion. Part of the consequences of making the choices they were making was that He would not hear them even of they cried out to Him.

 

That's a huge contrast with the verse we are reading today. That's because it's a promise for the future. It is a picture of what life Weill be like when rebellion and evil are ended and those who chose love, justice, equality, and self-denial will be Home forever. It is a picture of the kingdom God intended for us from the beginning. It is a picture of when all that has gone wrong is made right again.

 

Part of that restoration is the free and open communication between us and God. Just as Adam and Eve could walk and talk with Him, so will we. When we really get to know someone we can often know what they are thinking, anticipate their reactions and even finish their sentences. That is what God is describing here. We will be so close to Him and He so close to us that before we even ask, He will know what we are going to say and before we have a chance to finish speaking He will finish the sentence for us. It is intimacy and friendship restored.

 

The last night before Jesus died He said to His disciples "I no longer call you servants, I call you friends." That's all He has ever wanted and it will be reality some day for all who choose love. Love wins.

 

Roses are much more beautiful for much longer if left where they were planted...

 

 

Isaiah Day 263 - Heaven Starts Here

 

65:25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

"They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain" says the LORD.

 

Is this speaking of animals only? Does it include us? Through human history there are two negative qualities we can't seem to get away from: pride and power. Israel, a nation God built through miracles despite their helplessness at several points still became a proud arrogant nation who believed power was the way forward. When the Christian Church was born it started out humble with no use of power to coerce others or gain the upper hand. In time Rome saw the influence to be gained by embracing Christianity but in the process Christianity took on the attributes of pride and power. Soon people weren't won to the faith by the compelling love of Jesus, instead it was the coercive force of the Roman Empire/church. It didn't happen overnight. Large changes never do. They creep in insidiously over generations.

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and pride and power didn't exist. It was Satan through the medium of a serpent who introduced the possibility of gaining power. It stroked the latent pride of Eve and then Adam. "We can be more?!" They did become more but none of the additions were good: fear, shame, guilt, anger, jealousy, insecurity, evil, murder, pride, prejudice etc...

 

These are the things that make our own lives and this world a contentious misery.

 

"They will do no evil nor harm in all My holy mountain" says the LORD.

 

What deeply concerns me and mystifies me today is how we think we can be preparing for that place now while embracing ideas of evil and hurt here. How can we hold hate in us and think we are following the One who looked over a murderous mob and prayed "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do." National pride, racial pride, gender pride, sexual orientation arrogance, how does any of this fit with the Man who ate with everyone, who disregarded borders, who treated women with dignity and respect, and uplifted the downtrodden? How can we carry a Bible under one arm and espouse white supremacy or black power with the other? To lift up "my tribe" invariably requires suppressing another yet in God's kingdom there is no such thing.

 

Jesus didn't tell us to be like a serpent now and later we'll be like doves. He told us to follow Him. Follow Him now. Follow Him here. Heaven begins here. It begins now. We must not do any evil or harm in the here and now if we intend to enjoy Home in the future. Heaven is not so much a geographic location as it is a condition of the heart.

 

He promised He can and would remove our hearts of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. He can. He really wants to. Will we let Him?

 

Isaiah Day 264 - Think Bigger

 

66:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that [a]I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things,

Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.

“But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

 

Some of us think in very literal lines. If you are a Seventh-day Adventist this can be a real struggle. In fact it is a struggle for anyone and everyone. To think beyond the lines and understand the abstract is a real challenge.

 

If you haven't noticed there is a resurgence in the belief that the earth is flat. There is even a large convention in August in Edmonton for all those who hold this belief. They believe it not because the evidence supports it, but because they are tied to literal thinking. The Bible says the earth is on pillars and can't be moved so it must be. Ironically the Bible also says the earth is a circle and has four corners. Not sure where one would find four corners on a flat circle and this is precisely the point at which many sincere people, enslaved by the tyranny of literal thinking lose faith and decide the Bible is nonsense.

 

Now let me come back to why this is particularly a struggle for Seventh-day Adventists. Do you remember Nicodemus? He was a Seventh-day Adventist in his day. He was religious, devout, believed the Scriptures to the letter, and took them literally. When Jesus told him he needed to be born again he became confused very quickly. His literal mindset came spilling out in one of the most bizarre questions ever asked. "How can I return to my mother's womb and be born a second time?" Talk about literal thinking!

 

For those suffering from this condition, you don't really believe all of Scripture is to be taken literally and I can prove it. You don't believe Jesus is a gate, a loaf of bread, or a curly wooled sheep. Those are symbolic statements meant to be illustrative. We all get that and it's made easier because we know He had two legs and a heartbeat like every other human. The problem is we immediately default back to literal thinking every time we are presented with new information.

 

Seventh-day Adventists strongly emphasize the heavenly sanctuary and the earthly sanctuary. God told Moses to build a sanctuary after the pattern of the heavenly sanctuary. Moses built a literal one here so there must be a literal one there. When God told Moses to build one here He said "Build Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among you."

 

Now in Isaiah 66, (the closing chapter of the greatest prophetic book of the Old Testament (in my opinion)), God declares Himself too large to fit in any sanctuary, the one here or the one there. What does this do to our understanding of the two sanctuaries? What is God saying when He says heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool? Have you seen His feet here?

 

Seriously though we'll explore the answers to those questions tomorrow and see what literal lessons we can pull from this symbolic language.

 

 

Isaiah Day 265 - Literally Limited

 

66:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things,

Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.

“But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

 

Remember earlier in Isaiah when God declared "Your thoughts are not my thoughts and your ways are not my ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."? God is not asking us to stop thinking, He is just making us aware that we shouldn't take our thinking too seriously. If you think about (yes that was intentional), every time we question God, it is when we take ourselves too seriously. We pray (tell God what to do), He doesn't do it, and then we say He doesn't answer prayer and then even go a step further and conclude He either doesn't care or doesn't exist. Does this hold true when compared to my children asking me for things? They essentially tell me what I should do for them. I decide that it isn't in their best interest. I don't "answer their prayer". Does this prove I can't (powerless)? Does it prove I don't care about them? Does it prove I don't exist?

 

Silly right?

 

Now yesterday we talked about the very literal thinking we can get locked into. We talked about the sanctuary Moses built patterned after the one in heaven. Moses built a real building that could be seen, touched, entered, and exited. We then conclude there must be such a place in heaven and that God sits on the throne in the Most Holy place. But now God throws a wrench into our comfortable wheel by declaring heaven is His throne, the earth is His footstool and that it is impossible for us to build Him a place to live. Does this mean there is no heavenly sanctuary? Does it mean every time there is an earthquake here it's because God shifted His feet and it moved the tectonic plates?

 

Is Jesus bread? Is the Holy Spirit a dove? Are we sheep?

 

God gives the answer to this "riddle" immediately. "I will look to him who is humble..."

 

God is bigger in every way than we can fathom. We should still try and fathom because He said if we search for Him we will find Him but in the process we must not get married to our small and often very literal ideas. We must be open to Him smashing our model and stretching it bigger, then bigger again. No matter how much we learn and stretch we will still have to trust Him in so many areas where we still can't see because He is after all God.

 

And yet for all His grandeur and power He is talking to us. He is pursuing us. He loves us.

 

Love wins

 

 

Isaiah Day 266 - Do You Tremble?

 

66 Thus says the Lord,

 

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things,

Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.

“But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

 

Do you tremble at His Word? Many have the false idea that God wants us to tremble at His word. I can prove this isn't the case. Trembling from fear is not what God wants. Whenever an angel is sent to a human with a word from the Lord the first thing they say is "Fear not..." When God spoke from Mount Sinai the entire camp of Israel trembled with fear but they weren't humble or contrite. As soon as they had opportunity they were rebelling again.

 

So what does it mean to tremble at His word if it doesn't mean shaking knees and beads of sweat?

 

Let's put this in a context we can easily relate to. When you read in God's word what we are supposed to be like - loving, patient, kind, joyful, having self-control, perfect... No hatred, no lust, no bitterness, no unforgiveness etc... how do you feel? Hopeless, undone, afraid? How about eager, excited, and filled with boundless hope? Are such opposite reactions to the same words possible?

 

When the sun's rays hit butter it melts but the same rays harden clay. When Jesus returns some will be eager to see Him and the rest will cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from Him. Same Jesus. Two very different reactions.

 

Think about it. Heaven is His throne. The earth is His footstool. He created everything. He can do anything. He delights in those who are humble, and who stand in awe of His word. They don't doubt a single syllable. If God says it, it is so, it is done, and it is good. When God describes His children as joyful, helpful, kind, loving, gentle, forgiving, having self-control etc... it can be taken as pressure to perform which leads to fear, which keeps us away from Him or it can be read as a promise to restore from a Father who can fix anything which draws us to Him.

 

He delights in those who are humble enough to believe He can do anything, contrite enough to allow Him to, and who transform under the power of His declared promises.

 

 

Isaiah Day 267 - Abominations

 

66:3 “But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;

He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck;

He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood;

He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol.

As they have chosen their own ways,

And their soul delights in their abominations...

 

God considers the meaningless killing of an animal equivalent to killing a person. The offering of a lamb at the temple as murdering a dog. He considers a grain offering as swine's blood and the offering of incense in worship as idol worship.

 

Sounds crazy until He explains why...

 

Religion apart from relationship, surrender, and commitment is evil. It is a thing of our own devising. It becomes a form of manipulation, self-deception, and essentially witchcraft. We think God owes us by the rituals we keep. We turn what is deep with meaning and points to Jesus as the lover of our souls and Saviour of our lives into some twisted form of religious prostitution.

 

"They have chosen their own ways and they delight in their abominations..."

 

Hating Samaritans was never part of God's plan yet they twisted it into a religious obligation. The subjugation of women, the dehumanizing of foreigners, the sexual double standard whereby only women were adulterers, all of this was codified as part of Jewish faith. "Devout" Jewish men were to thank God daily that they weren't born a foreigner or a woman (and some still do).

 

Then in their religious piety they would bring an ox or a lamb or a grain offering to the temple and called called it murder, not sacrifice, and the grain and incense as swine's blood and idol worship. In essence God is standing off to the side asking "What is this for? I don't want it. It can't be for Me because I don't even know you..."

 

When King David took another man's wife and then had the husband killed he came to realize what he had done and what it meant. He later wrote out this prayer we know as Psalm 51. Here is a portion of it:

 

16 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;

Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

That my mouth may declare Your praise.

16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;

You are not pleased with burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

 

David knew that religious sacrifices made by unrepentant hands was murder. He knew no amount of religious rituals would change anything. What he needed was a new heart. It was earlier in this agonizing prayer that he pleaded "Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me".

 

That's what we need. He wants us to bring our mess and ask Him to fix it. It is an abomination to think I can live like the devil and plaster it over with meaningless religious rituals. God created everything. Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. There is just one border He won't cross without our permission and that is the border of our soul. He can fix anything and he longs to for our sake the sakes of those our damaged hearts and minds are hurting every day.

 

It's time to stop playing church while dabbling in the darkness and lay everything on the altar.

 

Isaiah Day 268 - Look Closer, Step Back

 

66:4 So I will choose their punishments

And will bring on them what they dread.

Because I called, but no one answered;

I spoke, but they did not listen.

And they did evil in My sight

And chose that in which I did not delight.”

 

Sounds harsh, even arbitrary at first glance. An angry God doling out random punishments on those who don't tow the line. Look closer though. Then back way up and look at the big picture. When we look closer we see God choosing their punishments. That isn't random. That isn't a violent over reaction in the heat of rage. Choosing shows deliberation, consideration, and purpose. What difference does it make what punishment if the sole purpose is revenge? Do you remember what else God says? "Those I love I rebuke and correct. What does rebuke and correction feel like to those receiving it? It feels like punishment.

 

Think about putting prisoners in prison. Most of us feel it is simply making them pay for what they did or removing them from society for our benefit but in the long run wouldn't approaching it as rehabilitation be better for everyone? Wouldn't choosing punishment that has at least the potential for effecting a positive change be wiser?

 

Now back way up. Look at Judah from the sky over the span of generations. Is God really overreacting in a fit of irrational rage? Has He not bore long with them? Pleaded with them? Made promises and offers of protection and blessing if they would choose the right?

 

I have said it before and I will say it again and again. Choosing the right is not a random set if rules made to please God. They are unchanging and unchangeable laws of the universe that of kept bring happiness to us and if violated bring ruin, sadness, pain, etc... God has pleaded with them. He sent prophets. He sent smaller judgments and punishments. Like a parent trying to guide a child He has done everything He could for their sakes, not His. Eventually for the sake of those being oppressed and treated with gross injustice He had to act.

 

Love can do no less. The question is are we listening today? Am I hearing His voice of guidance, correction, even rebuke? Am I responding with humility or rebellion? These are the lessons to consider from ancient Judah because He is still God and we still have choices to make.

 

 

Isaiah Day 269 - To Be Expected

 

66:5 Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word:

“Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake,

Have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’

But they will be put to shame.

 

It started with Cain and Abel. Those in rebellion attacking, hating, mocking, excluding, slandering, etc... those who remain faithful, who believe God's promises and cling to them like a life preserver in the storm of the century. They did it to Jesus too. They spit on Him, plucked His beard, jammed a crown of thorns on His head, hit Him, and mocked Him. "Save Yourself! Come down from the cross if You are the Son of God."

 

Did you ever notice or think about the fact they admitted who He was even in their mocking? "He saved others..." They knew it. His works and witness were undeniable.

 

I used to think, in my naive idealism that it was just a matter of knowledge. If people knew they would believe. If they understood they would follow Him. Such isn't the case. There are things I know and understand but struggle to do. The Pharisees, the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, they all knew. Some knew and believed but most knew and resisted. They had a system and a little kingdom they weren't willing to let go of. They profited both from prejudice, injustice, oppression, and religion itself. They didn't need some carpenter's son telling the world there was a better way.

 

If we stand with Jesus we can expect similar treatment, especially as our culture turns more and more against Him. It will get really bad as the religions that bear His name fully adopt the character of His enemy. When that happens remember Isaiah 66:5. God knows who are His and in the end Love will win.

 

Isaiah Day 270 - Enemies

 

66:6 “A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple,

The voice of the Lord who is rendering recompense to His enemies.

 

God has enemies. It seems so odd.

 

I used to pride myself that I didn't have any enemies. I can't say that any more. Then I realized God has enemies which made me feel pretty foolish for thinking I could live in such a way that I wouldn't have any.

 

I have a friend who is a teacher. An excellent teacher. In her school there is one more than one class of the grade she teaches. Because she is so good and puts so much love into her students and what she does, parents want their children in her class. The teacher who teaches the other class does not like her. She does everything she can to make her life miserable and sabotage what she is doing. She is disliked for doing good. Is that sensible? We think of enemies as people who dislike us for something we did, something we deserve, something we earned. To be hated for doing a good job is crazy right? She isn't alone. I have had friends fired and/or run out for being successful.

 

What is God guilty of that He would have enemies. Well He is God. That's it. He rules the universe with love and more than fairness. Mercy is His throne. Yet there was at first one who wasn't satisfied to be less than God even though being God wasn't even possible. How can a created being expect to be higher than his Creator? Yet Lucifer deluded himself into thinking he could take God's position. He convinced one third of the rest of the angels of the same thing. The rebellion spread to our planet. Eve was told she could be more. She could be like God. She fell for it. She convinced Adam to join her and he did. Ever since there has been this idea among humanity that God is holding us back. That we could be better off by throwing off the yoke of all His "rules" and being our own king. God has enemies. God has children convinced they know better than Him. It's not a huge stretch. How many of us thought we knew better than our parents who were only working for our good and our happiness?

 

So what is this "recompense" that God will render to His enemies? Simple. He will let them have the natural consequences of whatever they chose. Will He enjoy it? Not a chance. We have no idea and never will know the anguish of God's heart. He has lost so many children already and will lose more, many for eternity because they refused Him. They didn't want Him. They fell for the delusion that they could be God and they wouldn't let it go. It's like believing I can live underwater or a fish believing he can live on land. My only true happiness is to be what I am and that's not God.

 

The last book of the Bible describes the return of Jesus to the world. It says His enemies will see Him and cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from His face. It will be the best and worst day for Jesus. Best because many will be longing for Him and awful because many would rather die than be His.

 

Enemies. Enemies by choice. What will you choose? Where will you be in that scene.

 

Love wins but love also respects the choices of those who would rather be His enemies.

 

Isaiah Day 271 - A Boy? A Nation?

 

66:7 “Before she travailed, she brought forth;

Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.

8 “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?

Can a land be born in one day?

Can a nation be brought forth all at once?

As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.

9 “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord.

“Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God.

 

Cryptic. Many often wonder why the Old Testament seems so cryptic and hard to understand. Why didn't the writers just come out and plainly speak? There are perhaps a few reasons but one significant factor is that they didn't know themselves what they were foretelling. They had an idea but it was vague. Isaiah knew a Deliverer of some sort would come. That was promised from the start to Adam and Eve. When? He didn't know. Who? He didn't know. How? He didn't know that either. God was trying to reveal it to Him but we aren't exactly quick to understand Him.

 

In this passage we find out it will be a boy. He will come without human effort. We won't cause it to happen. He would be here before humanity ever knew what happened. To make it easier to grasp God compared it to the birth of the nation of Israel. In one day they went from being a family of slaves in the land of Egypt to a free and independent people. The Bible called it the Exodus and it was foretold to Abraham 400 years before it happened. Now Isaiah is writing about the Boy Deliverer who would arrive suddenly over 700 years in advance.

 

So God birthed the nation in one day just as He said He would. He sent Jesus as a baby and we know from the story of the visit of the wisemen to Herod that Jesus was already a little boy before the Jews even realized He was here.

 

Then God ends with a question. Will He who is in labour not deliver? Will He who can deliver shut the womb?

 

In other words is there anything God has said that He won't do? Will any of His promises fall to the ground? Or will He come through? Every. Time.

 

Check His track record. Some choose to say there is no evidence but history says otherwise. He will do everything thing He has ever declared He would do. You can take that to the bank.

 

 

Isaiah Day 272 - Jerusalem: City of Peace?

 

66:10 “Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her;

Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her,

11 That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.”

12 For thus says the Lord, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,

And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.

13 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

14 Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, and your bones will flourish like the new grass;

And the hand of the Lord will be made known to His servants, but He will be indignant toward His enemies.

 

Jerusalem. It means City of Peace. History has shown it to have been anything but much of the time. Even as Isaiah was writing Babylon was on her way to destroy it. What did God mean when He spoke so hopefully about Jerusalem? Not only does He guarantee a bright future but He holds her up as the sustainer and hope of the rest of the world. Like a mother feeding and caring for her baby, so Jerusalem will feed and comfort the world?

 

That hasn't happened. Will it ever happen? Is it possible God has something other than literal Jerusalem in mind? The message was written to those mourning over Jerusalem. They saw the condition she was in. They sensed the impending doom. A feeling of dark foreboding and hopelessness covered the land. God shone a light into their darkness. The gloom wouldn't last. Jerusalem would restored better than ever. It was rebuilt but never matched the former. To this very day as I write this literal Jerusalem has never reached the heights foretold here by God. Did He lie? Did He make a mistake?

 

Our problem is not that Good lies or makes mistakes. Our problem is that we never seem to lift our eyes high enough. We never think big enough. We never leave the binding box of literal thinking. We are constantly obsessed with the here and now while God is trying to draw our hearts and minds to the heavenly and eternal.

 

I don't know if Isaiah understood what he was writing here but I do know one human who eventually got the message. He wrote about it in the Revelation, a book by the way that quotes and takes a lot of imagery from Isaiah and all over the Old Testament. Revelation shows us that God has been trying to shift our gaze Higher from the beginning. It's fascinating to me that Eve ate the fruit to get higher, to be like God, yet ever since our thinking has gotten smaller and smaller. God does want us to be like Him. Someday we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is and He will take us to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, for He is the Prince of Peace and nothing will hurt or destroy in all His holy mountain.

 

Here is the Jerusalem Isaiah wrote about:

 

Revelation 21:1

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

 

I hope you are thirsty...

 

 

Isaiah Day 273 - The Final Fury

 

66:14b But He will be indignant toward His enemies.

15 For behold, the Lord will come in fire

And His chariots like the whirlwind,

To render His anger with fury,

And His rebuke with flames of fire.

16 For the Lord will execute judgment by fire

And by His sword on all flesh,

And those slain by the Lord will be many.

17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens,

Following one in the center,

Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice,

Will come to an end altogether,” declares the Lord.

 

Again it is critically important to understand that God doesn't have temper tantrums but when He comes to finally rescue our planet and bring the reign of Satan and the tyranny of evil to an end there will be two distinct groups of humanity. Some will be rejoicing in His arrival and the rest will be horrified.

 

On the weekend my wife and I along with many others were at a marriage enrichment seminar "Mad About Marriage" with Mike Tucker. He used several video clips of real life scenarios between husbands and wives. One was a husband up late at night consuming porn when his wife walked in on him. Another was a husband talking to his mistress on the phone at home. He thought his wife was out only to realize she was in the next room hearing every word. The look on their faces as their eyes met was painful to say the least.

 

In both those scenarios do you think the husband was happy to see his wife?

 

When Jesus comes those fully invested in rebellion against Him will experience His fury but it won't be because He is violently swinging a sword at them or nuking them with fire balls. The torment will be internal. The full force of the broken connection between them and their Creator will hit them full force. They will cry to be hidden from Him. They would rather be dead then in His presence. As the saying goes when we find ourselves in a situation we don't want to be in "I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me."

 

On that day Jesus won't be able to help them. They have fully committed themselves against Him and He will only respect their choice. It's tragic and entirely unnecessary. Let's choose to be with Him now so we are happy to see Him then. Happy reunions are the best. Let Love win in your life.

 

 

Isaiah Day 274 - Seeing and Knowing

 

66:18 “For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations.

 

God knows. Whether it be actions or thoughts He knows. Some find that frightening. I find it comforting. Knowing He already knows removes all the barriers. I don't have to stress over telling Him or not telling what it going on in my life or in my thoughts because He already knows. Now to stay true to the context here, God is announcing that it is soon time to reveal His glory (character) to the nations. There is one rather large problem. Judah can't reveal to the nations what she doesn't know. When she could have been getting to know Him, she was off serving others "gods". He knew all about it. What to do?

 

He is going to send a sign. The word sign can also be translated witness. When Philip asked Jesus if they could see God Jesus responded in a most unusual way: "Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father '?"

 

Notice how Jesus uses both the words see and know. He is not referring to being seen visually, but being known - seeing His glory. The disciple John in introducing Jesus in chapter 1 of his gospel account wrote "We have seen His glory..."

 

Who knows how many thousands and maybe even millions of people I have seen with my eyes but how many do I know and of those how many do I truly know their heart?

 

God revealed Himself to Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob and his sons. Moses saw Him too. Joshua caught the vision as did many others as time moved forward and generations passed. Unfortunately they who knew His glory were in the minority and by the time of Isaiah they were a rarity. How can Judah share with the nations the heart of God when they didn't know Him themselves? They were in such a state of separation from Him that they cared nothing for the nations anyway.

 

God had a plan. He was going to send a Witness and the Witness was going to send survivors to the nations.

 

Survivors of what? We'll talk about that tomorrow...

 

 

Isaiah Day 275 - The Survivors

 

66:18 “For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations.

 

I wish I didn't have to write this. I wish it weren't true. Judah were the privileged people. They had a rich inheritance of faith. They had the sacred writings passed down from Moses. They had the history of deliverance from Egypt, and mighty miracles performed on their behalf. All the other nations knew them. They knew the history. Sadly at this point history is all it was. God had offered to do more but they refused, preferring to do things their own way. The surrounding nations no longer were concerned that much with the God of Israel. From their perspective it seemed like He had abandoned ship.

 

Into this darkness Isaiah was born and grew up to serve as priest in a temple system that was all form and no faith. Religion plods on long after living faith has left the building. One day when he was going through the rituals and routines he had a vision of God. The God who had heaven for His throne and the earth for His footstool. The God who can't be contained in a human temple or confined by our limited thinking. Isaiah staggered. He described himself as "undone". Remember this from way back at the beginning of this book of Isaiah? God invited Isaiah to truly serve Him beyond the rituals and Isaiah accepted. He wasn't popular. Not many were excited or thankful to get a fresh Word from the Lord.

 

Now here at the end of the book of Isaiah God makes a bold promise. The glory Isaiah himself saw in the temple that changed his life is going to be shared with the world. Not just the Jewish world, the entire world. Scandalous. Who will do this? The Survivors. Who are the Survivors?

 

God said He would set a sign or as we learned yesterday, a witness among His people. From there the Survivors would take the glory they saw in the Witness to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. For those of you who are Seventh-day Adventist, this is the Old Testament foreshadowing of the three angels messages - the everlasting gospel of His glory to the whole world.

 

But again who are these Survivors and why would I prefer not to talk about it?

 

These came from among Judah. They were at first the twelve apostles, Peter, James, John, etc... What did they survive? Religion. God describes those who emerged from the hollow forms of Jewish religion as Survivors. In Isaiah chapter 1, in describing His feelings about what their religion had become He said of their worship "My soul hates them". From amid the dead forms, and empty ceremonies there were some who recognized in the Witness the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They survived religion and found God.

 

It shouldn't have to be that way. God designed the rituals, He just never intended for them to become ritualistic. He gave the plans for the temple but never intended for us to confine Him in it. The symbols He gave to stretch our minds to consider His greatness we instead used to put Him in a box and then used that box (ark of the covenant) to try and manipulate Him like a puppet to do what we wanted.

 

We have of course gotten rid of all that foolishness now right?

 

I wish.

 

If it feels sometimes like you are trying to survive religion in an effort to find God you are not alone and you are on the right path. Keep searching. He promised we would find Him. Isaiah even found Him in church. The question is not whether we will find Him. The question is whether we will follow Him or return to the empty religion His soul hates.

 

 

Isaiah Day 276 - The End Is the Beginning

 

66:22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord,

“So your offspring and your name will endure.

23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon

And from sabbath to sabbath,

All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord.

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

 

That's the end. It's also the beginning. The beginning of what God intended for us when He made Adam and Eve. The beginning of life as it was supposed to be. The beginning of Home.

 

What are the key differences between there and here?

 

1, It will endure. Nothing endures here. Everything and everyone dies. Even the heavens are dying but God will make everything new.

 

2, We will worship God in person, face to face. Prayer will be a thing of the past. The seemingly endless distance between us and Him will be gone forever. Revelation says He will live with us and we won't even need the sun any more.

 

3, Our roller coaster heritage will end. No longer will a generation that believes be replaced by one that doesn't. No longer will our characters waffle between faith and unbelief. Our offspring and our name will endure.

 

4, No more division. No more racism or prejudice. No more high, middle, or low class. All mankind will be one, perfectly united in love, peace, joy, and worship of our Creator.

 

5, We will fully understand and come to peace with the decision of those who won't be there. Revelation says we will leave this planet and live with God for 1000 years. Then we will return here and watch as the army of the lost is given one last chance and they use it to attempt one last rebellion. That choice, that act, will settle forever any doubt that they could or would ever change. Their hearts are set against Him even in the face of a complete understanding of the whole controversy. I used to think it cruel that God would raise the rebellious dead only to have them die again, but it is necessary to settle forever in the hearts and minds of the saved what their persistent choice is.

 

I was challenged this week by my cousin about the fire and the worm etc... Notice that it says the saved will go out and look on the corpses of the lost. Corpses are dead. No life. Therefore the sick and twisted idea that the lost live for eternity suffering in the fires of hell is a lie, concocted by Satan and perpetuated by religion to make God look like a monster. (Also an effective tool to manipulate the masses through fear) What could any person do to earn such a punishment and God still be just?

 

The themes of fire unquenchable and worms not dying runs through the Bible. It simply means unchangeable. The verdict is settled and irreversible. There will be no coming back. Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with unquenchable fire yet no fire burns today. What would the worms eat after the fire has consumed everything? How would they survive in the fire? As for the sword, this is clearly the word of God. It's actually Truth that kills the rebellious. God is Truth. From the beginning He has done nothing but tell us the Truth. If my dad tells me I will die if I lay down in the middle of the highway at night and I go out and do just that and get flattened by a big rig, did my dad kill me? No he did not. He told me the truth and by my own choices the Truth killed me. It isn't arbitrary that sin kills. It is the natural unavoidable result of all sin. When God tells us sin kills it isn't a death imposed by Him. It is what sin causes. Lie to a friend (sin) and see the relationship die. Cheat on your spouse and watch the relationship die. Sin destroys. That's the truth. There is not one law of God that we can escape from the consequences of. If God didn't do anything the sure results would come. He is not trying to impose consequences, but rather offering an escape from the cycle of destruction that this world is. If we choose against Him we simply return to the cycle that already is. That's why Jesus said "I did not come to condemn but to save". We are already on a one way street toward death. He is offering life, and not just eternal existence, but eternal joy, peace, love, kindness, goodness, etc...

 

That's the end He wants. He paid for it with Himself. "Come let us reason together" says the Lord. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow."

 

Love wins. Will you choose Love? God is the source of life. If we choose to disconnect from Him, we choose to die. "Why will you die o house of Israel...?"

 

Isaiah Day 240 - When A Plan Comes Together

 

61:8

 

“For I, the Lord, love justice;

I hate robbery for burnt offering;

I will direct their work in truth,

And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

9

Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles,

And their offspring among the people.

All who see them shall acknowledge them,

That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.”

 

10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

My soul shall be joyful in my God;

For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,

And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11

For as the earth brings forth its bud,

As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,

So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

 

There are some things that are just difficult to believe. A typical response when we hear something that seems highly unlikely or impossible to ever happen is "I'll believe that when I see it."

 

The disciple Thomas is famous for not believing Jesus rose from the dead. Until he could see Him and touch Him he wasn't believing the claims. Here in chapter 61 is a scene and a sequence of promises difficult to imagine, much less believe. From their current state of paying tribute to Assyria for protection, to the doom prophecy of Babylon coming to destroy them God paints a very different picture for the future. It seems like cruel dreams and far fetched fairy tales. Will Judah, or any of humanity for that matter really become good, faithful, and beautiful? Will we really be righteous like He is righteous? Will the everlasting covenant really become a reality?

 

God says yes. All the evidence within us says no. Is there any evidence beyond these ancient words that any or all of this could or will actually happen?

 

Think about the words at the beginning of the chapter. For 700+ years they sat dormant on parchment. In all that time no deliverer had come. No hero came to open prison doors or relieve the oppressed. Then suddenly and very unexpectedly the son of a local artisan stood up in a synagogue in remote Nazareth and declared His arrival. It wasn't just empty words either. The lame walked, the blind had their eyes open, and even the dead were raised. In just 3.5 years Jesus turned the entire tide of human history. The Story isn't over. The rest of chapter 61 is still to come. There is an everlasting covenant authored by God before we were ever created and He will see it through to completion. We'll talk about that more tomorrow.

 

Isaiah Day 241 - One God - Two Very Different Perspectives

 

61:8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;

I hate robbery for burnt offering;

I will direct their work in truth,

And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

 

This chapter speaks of the work of Jesus in setting the captives free and the ultimate deliverance of His people, the restoring of justice, and the ushering in of His kingdom. In the midst of the description God references a covenant, an everlasting covenant. The Bible speaks of three covenants: An everlasting covenant, the old covenant, and the new covenant. The old and the new get most of the attention. Rarely is the everlasting covenant spoke of in Christian circles. The interesting thing is that the Bible speaks of the everlasting covenant more than the others.

 

Everlasting is an interesting word. It's meaning stretches from the far past to the endless future. It never ends and never changes. You would think since God made a covenant with us (that always was and ever will be, and never changes), that we would talk about it lots. Sadly if I ask people to tell me about the everlasting covenant they get that look in their eyes, a mixture of fear, confusion, panic, and embarrassment.

 

There is a double irony about the everlasting covenant. The first is that it's all good news, so why do we fear it and/or not know more about it and/or not talk about it lots? The second irony is that even though the covenant always was and is talked about from the beginning of Genesis onward, God often refers to it in the future tense. "I will establish an everlasting covenant with you..." How can God start something that always was?

 

Have you ever heard someone say they got a new car but the car is actually not new? It's only new to them, new in the sense that for the first time it belongs to them. What if God is saying that in the future we will finally possess something that always was?

 

Are you ready for this? If you aren't, take a break and come back when you are. You will need to be alert for this.

 

A covenant is a promise. Some covenants are two sided agreements so that both parties have to do something or agree for the covenant to take effect. Covenants can be one sided. If a person declares/promises they will do something no matter what, that is a one sided covenant. A marriage is a two sided covenant. If he says "I do" and she says "I don't", there is no marriage.

 

God's everlasting covenant is unique in that it is both one sided and two sided. It is one sided in the sense it will come to pass natter what. It is two sided in the sense it will only benefit those who say "I do".

 

Now let's take a real world example. God comes to Abraham and He says "I will make of you a great nation." Later on He very specifically says "You and Sarah will have a son and his name will be Isaac and I will establish my covenant through him."

 

It was one sided. God simply was informing Abraham of what was going to happen. The problem was neither Abraham nor Sarah believed it could happen. They wanted it desperately but they didn't believe it was possible. Sarah was and always had been unable to have children. Things got so desperate that Sarah told her husband to take her servant Hagar as a concubine and have a child with her.

 

That one act/idea/decision launched a way of relating to God we now refer to as the Old Covenant. Simply put, the old covenant is taking the promises of God and turning them into pressure to perform. What He promises He will do becomes what we must accomplish ourselves. Rather than waiting for Isaac, they schemed a way to make it happen, a way that didn't even fit the promise because now Sarah is out of the picture.

 

Here's where it gets wild. The Bible uses real life people and events to foreshadow much greater truths. In Galatians we find out that Sarah and her son Isaac who did eventually arrive represent the new covenant. Hagar the son she had, Ishmael, represent the old covenant. Here's the crazy part. Hagar and Ishmael were Sarah's idea. Taken figuratively, Abraham represents Jesus, Sarah represents His bride, the church, God's people. She was to have a son. The promise was made to her and to be fulfilled through her. She lost hope and invented a new strategy. She took matters into her own hands and took the responsibility of fulfilling the promise on herself.

 

Now in the literal story Abraham is at least equally guilty if not moreso, but symbolically the story is of God's bride turning His promises into pressure and taking matters into their own hands - the old covenant.

 

That's why at Sinai when God gave us ten promises of restoration in every sphere of life we answered with "Just tell us what you want and we will do it." To this day we call the document ten commandments, something the Bible literally never calls them. Sure in your English translation you will find that terminology but that is only because of old covenant translators. The Bible exclusively calls the document His Testimony. The box that held them in the most sacred room of the Temple was called the Ark of the covenant or the Ark of the Testimony. The building is even referred to at times as the Tent of the Testimony. 28 times in Exodus alone the Bible calls the document His Testimony.

 

We are so quick to not believe Him and so quick to turn His promises into pressure that God is still seeking to establish with us what always has been and always will be. He wants to birth in us a new person. He wants to establish for us a new kingdom. He wants to turn the tables. He wants to flip injustice upside down. He will do it. It's a one sided covenant. It's the everlasting covenant. What we call the new covenant is only new to us but always was. The reason He is delaying is clear.

 

"The Lord is not slack in keeping His promise. He is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish".

 

It's up to you and I. Promises or pressure. Will God be our Restorer, or will we insist on seeing Him as The Inspector while we offer to Him our botched up attempts at fulfilling His promises for Him?

 

Ten promises that flesh out the one great everlasting promise to put things back as they were always meant to be.

 

Isaiah Day 242 - A Mystery to Ponder

 

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,

And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness,

And all kings your glory.

You shall be called by a new name,

Which the mouth of the Lord will name.

 

Abraham chose God but he wasn't righteous. Isaac followed God too, but repeated some of his father's mistakes. He was not righteous either. Jacob? Hardly righteous. His twelve sons? There is not time or space enough to list their sins. Moses? Murderer, hot tempered, impatient... not righteous. You can search from Genesis to Malachi and you won't find a truly righteous person anywhere. But wait, didn't God call Abraham righteous? No He did not. The Bible says Abraham believed and God counted that as righteousness. He finally stopped trying to be God and fulfill His promises for Him and just let Him keep them in His own good time. This faith, this trust, this taking God at His word and resting in it even when no visible evidence exists to suggest it could ever happen - this God counted as righteousness.

 

Now God announces that He won't rest until the righteousness of Jerusalem is revealed and the whole world can see it. That's a tall order. It makes the promise that Abraham would have a son seem pretty tame. What is God talking about? This place that oppresses the poor and perverts justice will become righteous? Is that what He is saying? This people who are so far gone that God will let Babylon run them over is going to become a light in the world? After all the slight ups and the many deep downs can we expect Jerusalem to shine?

 

I'm going to let you think about that. What was God saying here? Feel free to share your answers. We'll continue digging tomorrow.

 

Isaiah Day 243 - Mystery Solved

 

62:1

 

For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,

And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

2

The Gentiles shall see your righteousness,

And all kings your glory.

You shall be called by a new name,

Which the mouth of the Lord will name.

3

You shall also be a crown of glory

In the hand of the Lord,

And a royal diadem

In the hand of your God.

 

If the righteousness spoken of here is literally the righteousness of the people of Jerusalem they and we are hopeless. At no point in history did they shine a perfect light. Their glory never benefitted the Gentiles. They were not salvation for anyone. This is no slight against them for the rest of us were no better. Never forget what the Bible says about our righteousness. All of it added together is like filthy rags. So what is this prophecy referring to?

 

The righteousness and salvation of Jerusalem is Jesus. The Light shining from Jerusalem to the Gentiles and the Kings of the earth is Jesus. The only hope this planet has had since Eve ate from that tree is Jesus, the serpent crusher. When Able offered a lamb on an altar it wasn't a gift to God, it was a reminder to Abel that the Lamb of God was their only hope. The skin of the animal covered the shame of Adam and Eve. Every altar built by every person of faith was to be a constant reminder that a deliverer was coming. The sacrifice disappeared but the stones of the altars remained, a visual reminder of the unseen One. The ram caught by thorns that replaced Isaac was a lesson to Abraham and all who came after that we don't provide, the Lord will provide. The thorns represented our sins and the ram was Jesus. The crown of thorns He wore at Calvary tied the ancient lesson to Him so the Jews could remember and understand that God has only been telling one Story from the beginning.

 

He is our righteousness. He is our salvation. He is the Seed of Abraham that will bless all the nations. In Him we have a new name, that new name is not a mystery, it is Israel which means overcomer. It was first given to Jacob the underhanded one and applied to every person of faith thereafter. Israel is not a chunk of land, it is not a blood line of people. Israel is a new name offered to anyone who dares believe in the One and Only. We were created Jacob, but reformed and restored into Israel. The old is gone and the new has come.

 

I have been taking some time off lately and spending some of it in the shop with my dad. We are restoring a 1968 Mercury M100. It's fun to watch and be a part of the transformation. The truck is doing none of the work. Blood has been spilled in the process so far but our blood. The truck has spilled none. Money has been spent, time has been invested but all the costs are ours. The truck was heading literally for the wreckers but we chose it. We saw not what it was but what it could be. We knew it would be costly and that the truck could and would do nothing to save itself.

 

We are that truck. 1968 was the last year a Mercury pickup was ever made. You are the last you there will ever be. Without Jesus you are headed for the grave. He does not want that to be the end of your story. God will not have any peace and He will not rest until His righteousness has been revealed to you and you have seen His salvation.

 

His name is Jesus and the name He wants you to have is Israel. :)

 

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Isaiah Day 244 - Short but SWEET

 

62:1

 

For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,

And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

 

Yesterday after reading this passage and seeing Jesus so clearly in it this one thought kept rolling through my mind all day. I want to share it and we'll continue through chapter 62 tomorrow. Here it is:

 

"God won't have peace or rest until Jesus is revealed to me, in me, and through me. My healing and salvation matter more to Him than to me".

 

#mindblown

 

Isaiah Day 245 - He is God

 

62:2

 

The Gentiles shall see your righteousness,

And all kings your glory.

You shall be called by a new name,

Which the mouth of the Lord will name.

 

Let's translate this verse into our context:

 

Those who don't know God or don't know what He is actually like will see your Jesus in you. Even those who think they have their own world view all arranged will see in you a Kingdom like none they have ever considered. You will be like no one they have ever met and they will search through all their "boxes" to fit you into something they have seen and defined before but you won't fit. God has manifested His Son in your life and the effects are striking and undeniable. They will be forced by your life to reframe their entire perspective but it isn't you or about you. It's a miracle of grace. It's Jesus in you.

 

Think about it. Jesus caused a stir everywhere He went just by being Himself. It wasn't His looks. It wasn't His clothes. It certainly wasn't His car or house or boat or anything of the sort. It wasn't even the miracles. Read the story carefully and most of those were done pretty quietly away from the spotlight. It was just Him. Crowds gathered. Ears strained to hear. Feet walked great distances. Grown men climbed trees. People listened all day without eating. Some were for Him, others were firmly against Him but there was always a reaction just from Jesus being Himself. Cain killed Abel just for quietly living his life with integrity. Being hated for being good is nothing new.

 

There is an obvious and uncomfortable conclusion to be drawn from all this. He does not yet live in me... I have two choices. I can panic and try and make myself "holy" just like Sarah and Abraham panicked or I can just keep following Him and wait for the promise to be fulfilled when He chooses.

 

I think I will wait and let God be God.

 

Isaiah Day 246 - The Story Isn't Over

 

62:2

 

The Gentiles shall see your righteousness,

And all kings your glory.

You shall be called by a new name,

Which the mouth of the Lord will name.

3

You shall also be a crown of glory

In the hand of the Lord,

And a royal diadem

In the hand of your God.

4

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,

Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;

But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;

For the Lord delights in you,

And your land shall be married.

5

For as a young man marries a virgin,

So shall your sons marry you;

And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

So shall your God rejoice over you.

 

Do you remember when Israel was on the border ready to cross into Canaan? For 40 years they had wandered around the wilderness learning to trust God and with the Promised Land nearly in sight they sent two spies into Jericho to scout it out. Do you remember what Rahab told those two spies? "Our hearts are meeting with fear because we know what your God has done for you, how He delivered you from Egypt and opened the sea before as dry ground..."

 

It's unlikely Rahab was even born when those events happened but she knew about them. The Gentiles (those in Jericho and beyond) knew all about the might of the God of Israel.

 

Fast forward to the time of Isaiah. Hundreds of years have passed and Israel is a mere shadow of her former self. The ten tribes in the north are long defeated. Judah is paying tribute for protection and is on her way out. Where is their God now? Who fears Judah anymore? Quiet times in the land. No miracles. No obvious sign that God even exists among His people.

 

In the midst of this dark hour God paints a picture of the future. He pulls back the curtain on history yet future and declares the day will come when the Gentiles again see God in His people.

 

Rahab was a foreigner. A Canaanite. A prostitute. Do you remember how her story ended? God spared her and her entire family. She married one of the spies. She became an ancestor of king David and of Solomon and of Jesus. Why? Because in the Seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed. He blesses one to reach another and then another until the whole earth is lit up with His glory.

 

Do you think it's too late for you? Do you think you have pushed Him away for too long, done too much, or too little?

 

Listen to this:

 

“Satan will lead us to think that our mistakes and transgressions have been so grievous that the Lord will not have respect for our prayers and will not bless and save us. In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character. When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience? But we may tell the enemy that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray.”

 

If Jesus can rescue Israel from Egypt and Rahab from doomed Jericho, can't He reach you too? Is the Arm of God short that He can't save you? Come and reason with Him. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow.

 

Isaiah Day 247 - Don't Stop Nagging God?

 

62:5

 

And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

6

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;

They shall never hold their peace day or night.

You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,

7

And give Him no rest till He establishes

And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

 

Did you follow all that? Sometimes Isaiah is speaking and sometimes God is speaking. First the message that God loves us and rejoices over us like a groom over his bride. It's actually more than that but God is limited to analogies that we can grasp. His love is deeper, higher, wider, and broader than any we have ever seen or experienced.

 

Then God declares that He has set watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem. Before the high tech radars and gadgets we have now, watchmen were the first line of defense against enemy invasion. Their 24 hour surveillance from the top of the city wall ensured time to get everyone inside and the gates shut and barred before the enemy arrived.

 

How did we go from God's love to needing watchmen?

 

Next He says they won't keep silent day or night? About what? Are there that many enemies approaching?

 

It gets more strange. He tells those who make mention of the Lord to not stop until He has kept all His promises. Does He need reminding? Does God need to be nagged?

 

Let's not forget how this chapter started:

 

"For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns."

So what's happening? What is God talking about? We have watchmen who never stop talking, and they or others, (it implies the watchmen) need to keep nagging God until He keeps all His promises. Why would He need to be nagged if He already has declared He won't have peace or rest until He keeps His promises?

I think we missed something. Who do watchmen speak to? Who do they serve? Who is their audience?

Notice it says "You who make mention of the Lord do not keep silent... until..."

They aren't speaking to God, they are speaking about Him. You see watchmen didn't only proclaim bad news. If their own army was returning they would announce the good news. If the king had been traveling and was returning they would announce the goods news. The job of the watchmen was to make known what was yet unseen, good or bad.

Can you see it now? God has many promises yet to keep. As time passes history has shown that we have a tendency to forget... We move on to other things. We start thinking our destiny is in our own hands. We may even forget we have a King. The role of the watchman is to keep us alert, aware, informed. He can see on the horizon signs that tell He is faithful, He is coming, He will keep His promises.

Today marks a pause in Isaiah. For the next week we will be reviewing the final days of Jesus leading to the cross. It's history now. It was prophecy at the time of Isaiah. Someday what is prophecy now will be history too. Until then the watchmen need to keep us informed of what is coming on the horizon. The Bible says what has been will be again, there is nothing new under the sun. The life and death of Jesus isn't just history, it is also prophecy. See you tomorrow as we consider what the watchmen have to say and what it means for us.

 

Isaiah Day 248 - Stained Garments

 

63:1

Who is this who comes from Edom,

With dyed garments from Bozrah,

This One who is glorious in His apparel,

Traveling in the greatness of His strength?—

 

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

 

2

Why is Your apparel red,

And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

 

3

“I have trodden the winepress alone,

And from the peoples no one waswith Me.

For I have trodden them in My anger,

And trampled them in My fury;

Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,

And I have stained all My robes.

4

For the day of vengeance is in My heart,

And the year of My redeemed has come.

5

I looked, but there was no one to help,

And I wondered

That there was no one to uphold;

Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;

And My own fury, it sustained Me.

6

I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,

Made them drunk in My fury,

And brought down their strength to the earth.”

 

As we jump back into Isaiah I offer this opening passage from chapter 63 for your consideration. It is deep, sobering, and full of symbolic imagery. I believe it is a glimpse of final judgment but I want to spend some more time searching out what God was trying to show Isaiah before I write anything. Those of you with any input to share don't be shy.

 

Isaiah Day 249 - Stained Garments Part 2

 

63:1 Who is this who comes from Edom,

With dyed garments from Bozrah,

This One who is glorious in His apparel,

Traveling in the greatness of His strength?—

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

 

2 Why is Your apparel red,

And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

 

3 “I have trodden the winepress alone,

And from the peoples no one was with Me.

For I have trodden them in My anger,

And trampled them in My fury;

Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,

And I have stained all My robes.

4 For the day of vengeance is in My heart,

And the year of My redeemed has come.

5 I looked, but there was no one to help,

And I wondered

That there was no one to uphold;

Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;

And My own fury, it sustained Me.

6 I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,

Made them drunk in My fury,

And brought down their strength to the earth.”

 

Before we jump into this winepress it is important to remember how chapter 62 ended to get some context. I know it has been a while so here it is:

 

62:11 Indeed the Lord has proclaimed

To the end of the world:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Surely your salvation is coming;

Behold, His reward is with Him,

And His work before Him.’”

12 And they shall call them The Holy People,

The Redeemed of the Lord;

And you shall be called Sought Out,

A City Not Forsaken.

 

So the context for the beginning of chapter 63 is one of rescue, of hope, of deliverance. All signs point to this being a future prophecy. It is a worldwide message to the daughter (future generations) of Zion. (God's people)

 

This One being spoken of is clearly Jesus. Who but Him delivers all by Himself? Who but Him was stained by our sins? Now what about Edom and Bozrah? Edom are the descendants of Esau, who became terrible enemies of Israel. They say no one fights like family. Bozrah was known for grape production. You can see the symbolism. Jesus has returned from the land of the enemy with garments stained in blood, reminiscent of the scenes from Bozrah, of people coming out of the winepresses stained in grape juice. It is a grotesque scene of judgment. Jesus has had to deal finally with those in rebellion.

 

Remember when we looked at God's wrath earlier in Isaiah and we found that whenever God was "angry" He removed His presence and protection? Here He is furious. His wrath is full and "Edom" has reaped the whirlwind. Since God is not like us and doesn't have temper tantrums what does this mean? It means God turned from His mercy. There was no more long-suffering. It was time to deal with sin once and for all time. It is a scene of sobering judgment but even here in this depressing place God's character is revealed. He did it alone. No one else had to suffer this with Him. His garments are stained, and stained forever. The pain of the loss will never go away. It is in His heart. The only thing that sustains Him through this horrible ordeal is the knowledge that it is necessary in order to save His redeemed ones. Sin and sinners are like malignant cancer cells intent on spreading and taking over every cell until there is nothing healthy left. Judgment is radical surgery. The flood was radical surgery. Sodom and Gomorrah was radical surgery. Babylon taking Judah was radical surgery. None of these compare to the judgment that is coming. When Jesus comes to "Edom" in fury sin and sinners will be no more. It is His act. His strange act. The stains will remain in His heart forever because every rebel is loved as if they were His only child. It seems so insane that it must come to this. Why do some refuse His love. Why do some insist on being a cancer in this world? "Come let us reason together" says the Lord. "Though your sins be like scarlet they shall be white as snow."

 

It's not too late to choose Love...

 

Isaiah Day 250 - Fury or Love?

 

63:7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord

And the praises of the Lord,

According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us,

And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,

Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,

According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.

8 For He said, “Surely they are My people,

Children who will not lie.”

So He became their Savior.

9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,

And the Angel of His Presence saved them;

In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;

And He bore them and carried them

All the days of old.

10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;

So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,

And He fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old,

Moses and his people, saying:

“Where is He who brought them up out of the sea

With the shepherd of His flock?

Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,

12 Who led them by the right hand of Moses,

With His glorious arm,

Dividing the water before them

To make for Himself an everlasting name,

13 Who led them through the deep,

As a horse in the wilderness,

That they might not stumble?”

14 As a beast goes down into the valley,

And the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest,

So You lead Your people,

To make Yourself a glorious name.

 

If it sounds different from yesterday it isn't. If it sounds complicated it is. If the story of God's interactions with us were a love story between two people it would be listed on social media as "it's complicated". The complexity however is one sided and the confusion is rooted in our immaturity. There would be lots of infidelity in the relationship but only ever from one side, our side.

 

Now if we were to compare the relationship to a parent and child we would get more insights. How many times has a parent been told they are hated by their child? Usually it's caused by a scenario in which the parent withholds something they want. In their immaturity and lack of wisdom they fail to see that the withholding is rooted in love and concern for them. They can't, don't, or won't see it. They just see a meanie who could give them what they want but won't.

 

So when we tell the Story of God's interactions with us it sounds like God needs therapy. One day He's wrapped in fury and wrath and the next mercy and loving kindness.

 

Recently I was asked to officiate a funeral for a lady I had never met. There was a little girl there who didn't have a shy bone in her entire body. She kept asking me after the service who I was. She knew lots of the people, most of them were family, but she couldn't place me. Trying to have some fun with her I told her "it depends". I am different things to different people. Sometimes I'm different things to the same person. When my son needs encouragement I try to be an encourager. When he is a little too proud I find ways to bring him back into a healthier perspective. He definitely likes the encouragement more but I do both from love.

 

So who is God? It's a complicated question. I will say this though. He is always who we need Him to be even if that is often not who we want Him to be. Love is not always hugs and high fives. Love is discipline, love is correction, love is leaving distance, love is so many things we don't like in the moment but I'm thankful He is who I need even when my immature heart wants to scream "I hate you!"

 

Isaiah Day 251 - More to Understand

 

63:15 Look down from heaven,

And see from Your habitation, holy and glorious.

Where are Your zeal and Your strength,

The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?

Are they restrained?

16 Doubtless You are our Father,

Though Abraham was ignorant of us,

And Israel does not acknowledge us.

You, O Lord, are our Father;

Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.

17 O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways,

And hardened our heart from Your fear?

Return for Your servants’ sake,

The tribes of Your inheritance.

18 Your holy people have possessed it but a little while;

Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.

19 We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled,

Those who were never called by Your name.

 

There is definitely more here than I can clearly see and understand. Rather than gloss over it or worse attempt to explain what I don't understand myself, I am going to let this passage sit for now, pray about it more, study more and see what God reveals. We are getting to the crunch of Isaiah where it speaks loudly and directly to our time. I encourage you to wrestle with God over these verses as well and see what He has in them for us. They weren't preserved for millennia for no reason.

 

See you tomorrow (or maybe sooner)

 

Isaiah Day 252 - More to Understand

 

63:15 Look down from heaven,

And see from Your habitation, holy and glorious.

Where are Your zeal and Your strength,

The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?

Are they restrained?

16 Doubtless You are our Father,

Though Abraham was ignorant of us,

And Israel does not acknowledge us.

You, O Lord, are our Father;

Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.

17 O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways,

And hardened our heart from Your fear?

Return for Your servants’ sake,

The tribes of Your inheritance.

18 Your holy people have possessed it but a little while;

Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.

19 We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled,

Those who were never called by Your name.

 

I thought about these verses off an on all day yesterday. I looked through some commentaries last night. I was not surprised to find differing views in them. When I came to these verses again this morning a little light began to flicker but I'm still convinced there is more. Here's what I have so far:

 

1 Corinthians 10 tells us that all the history preserved for us from Old Testament times is for our learning and "our admonition on whom the ends of the ages have come". Yesterday I was all concerned about the voice of the one(s) speaking. It wasn't God because the words were addressed to Him. It wasn't Jesus because it was in the plural. It sounded like it could be Judah but in some ways it didn't. Then I realized it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because the essence of the message could apply to anyone in any age going through a similar experience, especially those at the last gasp of time on whom the ends of the ages have come.

 

So what is the experience they are going through? It's dark. It's lonely. It's feels forsaken, even by God Himself.

 

I do believe that verse 15 is Jesus speaking. It is in the singular and He is seeking the care, the heart, the mercies of God. He feels forsaken, like God has turned from Him and forgotten Him, and worse feels nothing toward Him. What did Jesus say on the cross? "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?!?"

 

Jesus called us to follow Him. He said the cup He drank, His bitter experience would become ours. That we too would have a cross to bear. That means somewhere in our journey we will feel abandoned by Him. Think about it. What did Adam and Eve do after they realized their horrible mistake of eating from the forbidden tree? They ran and hid, thinking and feeling that they were cut off from God, not in a physical way, but in a much deeper way. Jesus felt this deep separation from the moment He began to take on Himself the guilt of the entire human race. He was the Lamb and the effect of it was feeling completely cut off by His Father. We know on a smaller scale how true it is that sin separates. When we hurt someone we avoid them, we feel that perhaps the relationship will never be restored. Our actions have cut us off. We wonder and doubt they feel anything for us anymore.

 

What an agonizing question: Are Your mercies toward me restrained?

 

Then it switches from singular to plural. "Doubtless You are our Father." They/we know who we are. Even "atheists" cry out to God when the road gets really dark. We know who we are. We know who are Father is. Abraham would have no clue, neither would Jacob/Israel. We are so warped, so distorted, so far from what You had in mind for us that neither Abraham nor Jacob could or would ever recognize us as Yours but we are Yours and we know it, we just can't feel it. It's a dark place. From that dark place we cry out to God "Why did you do this to us? Why did you ever let us drift this far?!"

 

This passage is the cry of those who see and feel themselves far from God yet know that despite themselves they are His and even if it seems His mercies are withheld, nothing can be withheld that doesn't still exist. They are crying out from their hopeless position seeking the hope and help of the One they know is their Abba/Daddy.

 

If you aren't there you have been or you will be. When I read the stories of the heroes of faith I know they would look at me and not recognize that I am His. Just as Abraham and Jacob would not see their descendants in the people of Judah during the time of Isaiah, neither would Joseph Bates, James and Ellen White, or any of the Advent pioneers recognize in the Adventist Church today their offspring. Where is the passion? Where is the self-denial? Where is the willingness to go anywhere and do anything for Him? Yet His mercies are everlasting. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Many if not most days I wonder how God will ever turn this listless ship around but He keeps reminding Me He is able, and the only place His separation from us is real is in my feelings.

"Behold I stand at the door and knock..."

He hasn't gone anywhere and He never will.

 

Isaiah Day 253 - Solutions that aren't solutions...

 

64:1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens!

That You would come down!

That the mountains might shake at Your presence—

2 As fire burns brushwood,

As fire causes water to boil—

To make Your name known to Your adversaries,

That the nations may tremble at Your presence!

3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look,

You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence.

4 For since the beginning of the world

Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,

Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,

Who acts for the one who waits for Him.

5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,

Who remembers You in Your ways.

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—

In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.

 

On my first visit home from college my mom told me Aunt May wanted me to come and see her. Aunt May was very elderly and residing in a seniors manor. I had known her all my life. She had taught me my Bible lessons at church and I had great love and respect for her. When I went to see her she was troubled. I was 18. She was past 80. The source of her trouble was religion. She was meeting and living with other seniors and she was the only one who saw Saturday as Sabbath and none of them could see why. She had tried to explain but many of them mocked her. Some even got angry and it was troubling to her gentle loving soul. After explaining her dilemma she asked me a question I won't ever forget. It was the first time I remember having one of my teachers and someone I looked up to turn to me for answers. Her question was this: Why doesn't God just write the truth in the sky for everyone to see and then there won't be any question or confusion?"

 

I had no answer. It seemed simple and logical enough.

 

I have an answer now but Aunt May is sleeping now. The answer or solution lies in the false premise behind the question. The false premise is that we are ignorant or uninformed or confused because of some lack on God's part and that if we had clear evidence/instruction we'd be fine.

 

That premise doesn't hold with cigarette packages. The clear warnings get more grotesque and the pictures more shocking but people keep buying them and smoking the cigarettes inside.

 

In Isaiah 64 it's like we're asking God to bully us into submission. It doesn't work. It never has and it never will. Isaiah even appeals to history, making reference to the time of Moses when God came "down", when the plagues followed each other in powerful undeniable succession. The sea parted. The mountain shook with thunder and flashed with lightning. But guess what? The Egyptians didn't suddenly become loyal to God because He "flexed His muscles". Even the Israelites still waffled and flipped and flopped and ultimately a whole generation failed to make it into Canaan.

 

We don't suffer from a lack of external evidence. The problem is inside us and no shaking mountain can change a human heart. Force can't flex the will in any meaningful way. An enemy can be beaten into submission but they are more of an enemy after. God does not want our submission, He wants our hearts. He wants us to see our options clearly and choose the kingdom of self-sacrificing love. He doesn't want us to bend under the weight of crushing evidence. He wants us to fall in love with Him and cherish the "still small voice."

 

Love is a whisper only heard in the heart, yet is as loud and clear as a thunderbolt. Today if you hear His voice no further evidence will be needed and it wouldn't change anything anyway. God is a gentleman who knocks, not a bully who barges in.

 

Isaiah Day 254 - Will He Give Up?

 

64:5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,

Who remembers You in Your ways.

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—

In these ways we continue;

And we need to be saved.

 

6  But we are all like an unclean thing,

And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

We all fade as a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind,

Have taken us away.

7 And there is no one who calls on Your name,

Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;

For You have hidden Your face from us,

And have consumed us because of our iniquities.

8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father;

We are the clay, and You our potter;

And all we are the work of Your hand.

9 Do not be furious, O Lord,

Nor remember iniquity forever;

Indeed, please look—we all are Your people!

10 Your holy cities are a wilderness,

Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.

11 Our holy and beautiful temple,

Where our fathers praised You,

Is burned up with fire;

And all our pleasant things are laid waste.

12 Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O Lord?

Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?

 

Caught in the web of their own making Judah is wondering if there is any hope left for them? Can God save them? Will He? As their homeland and God's holy Temple lie in ruins is there any hope left?

 

Several years ago now a youth pastor, married with two small children suddenly had his life turned upside down and his family and friends were left reeling when he was arrested for deep involvement in child pornography. Like Judah, his life burned to the ground pretty much in a moment. Is there hope for him? Is there hope for those who persist in sin for so long that their sin consumes them and leaves them in a pile of wreckage that affects everyone around them? If they cry does God hear them?

 

There is an answer. Even though Isaiah 64 only asks the question there is a most definite answer. Jesus said "Whoever comes to Me I will never throw away or turn away." It is a conditional promise. The condition is we must come. There is hope in this dark depressing chapter because from the wreckage they have created they are looking up. Will we? Can we meet the condition of coming? What if even that seems impossible?

 

We'll talk about that tomorrow...

 

Isaiah Day 254 - Hopeless?

 

64:11 Our holy and beautiful temple,

Where our fathers praised You,

Is burned up with fire;

And all our pleasant things are laid waste.

12 Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O Lord?

Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?

 

God are we hopeless? Have you given up on us?

 

Guilt and shame are both necessary and potentially fatal emotions. Without them we are cold, remorseless, and evil. If they take root without a way forward they can destroy us.

 

Adam and Eve huddled in the trees trying to hide, paralyzed and afraid because of guilt and shame. When Elijah was staying with the widow of Zarephath and her son, the boy died. Her conclusion? God was paying her back for her sins. Elijah suspected the same. Guilt was choking her. She felt unforgivable. Not only was it having a huge negative impact on her but it was affecting her picture of God too.

 

Guilt and shame that go unresolved become toxic. The wall builds. The separation deepens and eventually we write ourselves off as hopeless.

 

Judah was in that place. Their rebellion which caused them to oppress the poor, pervert justice, and misrepresent God and good in every way possible has lead to their downfall. Now from the ashes comes the question "God have you given up on us?"

 

No. The answer is always a resounding no. There will be many who never see Home. They will never be a part of His eternal kingdom of love where one pulse of harmony beats throughout the vast creation. However it won't be because God gave up on them or that they were unforgivable. It will be because they refused His grace and held to their rebellion. They don't want love, justice, or any of the attributes that make up God's character and His kingdom.

 

Our inclination to feel hopeless is authored by the Satan. He wants to crush our hope. He wants us to join him in his misery. He knows if we get a taste of how good God is his power over us is broken.

 

You may have done things to cause you to feel legitimate guilt and shame and that's a good thing to feel. It means your conscience is alive and you can sense the awfulness of sin. The Story does not end there. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Why are you trying to carry what He already dealt with?

 

Isaiah Day 255 - How does that work?

 

65:1 “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;

I was found by those who did not seek Me.

I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’

To a nation that was not called by My name.

2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,

Who walk in a way that is not good,

According to their own thoughts;

3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;

Who sacrifice in gardens,

And burn incense on altars of brick;

4 Who sit among the graves,

And spend the night in the tombs;

Who eat swine’s flesh,

And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;

5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,

Do not come near me,

For I am holier than you!’

These are smoke in My nostrils,

A fire that burns all the day.

 

Tough things to hear for a nation who saw themselves as God's one and only. What did God mean when He said He was found by those who did not seek Him and didn't ask for Him yet was rejected by the very nation He did so much for? What does any of it have to do with us?

 

This chapter, like most of Isaiah is telling the future. When Jesus came to this earth most of humanity was unaware He was coming. They certainly didn't ask for Him. There were a few who knew, especially the Jews. He was "their" Messiah. Yet when He arrived there was no fanfare. The Jews were somewhere on a scale between oblivious and apathetic.

 

However the list of non Jews that found Him, (many without looking) is long. How can that be? And what does it mean that we can find Him without looking or asking for Him?

 

Well let me flip it around. How can we look for what we don't know exists or ask for that which we don't know is available. We shop for what we know is available. We search for what we know can be found. We ask for the known. How could a demon possessed man in a cemetery in Decapolis who had pretty much lost all control over his own mind and body go looking for Jesus when he knew nothing about Him? How could he ask for Jesus when the only sounds that he could make were the voices of demons? How could the crippled man by the pool go looking for Jesus when he couldn't even walk?

 

Let's ask a deeper question. Where did the Jewish nation come from? Did they pursue God or did God build them from nothing?

 

The truth is that God was always after us, long before we even knew to look for Him. I am not better or wiser if I had the privilege of parents who introduced me to Him from the start. Often those of us who have had the most privileges in learning about Him treat Him with the most indifference. We have His Book, but it collects more dust than we would want to admit. He found us but we rarely seek others on His behalf. They say familiarity breeds contempt. I'm not sure if it is contempt or complacency. Those closest to us we often take for granted the most.

 

The Jews became so self-obsessed that they killed their own Messiah. It is a humbling realization that I am in a position that would/could lean in the same direction. That's the potentially bad news. The great news is that His love is relentless and His pursuit tenacious and it's harder to be lost than to be found.

 

 

Isaiah Day 256 - He Hates That

 

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the Lord hates,

seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19 a false witness who pours out lies

and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

 

You may be saying to yourself "I thought we were in Isaiah?" and you would be right. Here is our verse for today:

 

Isaiah 65:5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,

Do not come near me,

For I am holier than you!’

These are smoke in My nostrils,

A fire that burns all the day.

 

Now do you see why I started with Proverbs? That one verse in Isaiah about Judah's attitude toward outsiders ticks every box of the seven things God hates. All. Seven.

 

It is smoke in His nostrils. We could spend a few days going through the Bible regarding God's smoking nostrils. It is Hebrew imagery for God being really upset.

 

You have to be pretty haughty to think yourself better than someone else.

 

It is a lie that they were holier than others

 

Thinking yourself better leads to the shedding of blood, either metaphorically or literally. WWll was built on this idea.

 

Only a heart that devises wicked schemes could come up with such a reprehensible idea.

 

Only a mind bent on trouble and headed for evil starts putting people in boxes and ranking them based on externals.

 

A false witness? Check

 

Causes trouble in the community? Big check.

 

I don't know about you but I'm thankful such an attitude makes God's nostrils smoke. Love protects. Love is kind. Love never fails and when this is all over love wins.

 

Isaiah Day 257 - Not Pretty

 

65:13 Therefore thus says the Lord God:

“Behold, My servants shall eat,

But you shall be hungry;

Behold, My servants shall drink,

But you shall be thirsty;

Behold, My servants shall rejoice,

But you shall be ashamed;

14 Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart,

But you shall cry for sorrow of heart,

And wail for grief of spirit.

15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen;

For the Lord God will slay you,

And call His servants by another name;

16 So that he who blesses himself in the earth

Shall bless himself in the God of truth;

And he who swears in the earth

Shall swear by the God of truth;

Because the former troubles are forgotten,

And because they are hidden from My eyes.

 

I wish the whole Story could be good news. I wish in the end everything turned out right. I wish I never had to write a blog like this. However if I skipped over the dark chapters I would be less than honest and that would be a darkness of its own.

 

Isaiah 65 is a message of pain. God is speaking to Judah. These are the descendants of Abraham. These are the descendants of those who crossed the Red Sea on dry land. The list of things God has done for them is long and amazing. The surrounding nations have admitted repeatedly over the course of their history that there is no God like the God of Israel.

 

But already ten of the twelve tribes have fallen. They rejected Him. They set up a whole system of worship based around calves like the one Moses destroyed in the wilderness. Now Judah (and the tiny remnant of Benjamin) is doing essentially the same thing. The One true God has been rejected them, not once or twice but over and over and now finally He accepts their rejection and walks away. The water He provided in the desert will be no more. The food? Gone. No longer will he subsidize and enable their evil.

 

To add insult to the injury of their Jewish pride He will have a people. They will have a different name. They won't be chosen by blood lines. They will be made up from those who want Him from any and every nation, Judah included.

 

The dark terrible news is not that Good has decided Judah is hopeless. They can choose Him still. The dark terrible news is that they don't want him. Rejection. It's maybe the worst thing there is.

 

Yesterday I heard a story of a couple who packed up everything their son owned and dropped him off on the side of the road and told him they couldn't afford him any more. Rejection. Sadly I know personally of a very similar situation. A girl was told they were going for a ride and the ride went to a group home where she was dropped off and told that was it. She wasn't ever welcome back home. Rejection.

 

It's unfathomable to me for a parent to reject their own child. What's even more surreal is for a child to reject a parent who has only ever done them good. People won't be lost because of God's anger or even because of their sins. People will be lost simply because they would prefer death to living in His presence. Read Revelation. Those who reject God beg for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from His face.

 

Talk about rejection...

 

Love will win but so many will choose not to love. I don't understand. Perhaps that is why sin is called a mystery.

 

 

Isaiah Day 258 - Willful Ignorance

 

65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

 

This is good news. The best news. Why isn't it making me smile today?

 

Some of the Bible is difficult to understand. It requires wrestling with God to see, to "get" what it says. There are other parts, like this verse, that are so simple a child can understand immediately.

 

That's why I'm not smiling. This verse is a dark reminder of how we take the most plain statements in Scripture and twist them around or flat out ignore them. The Jews had no hope for new heavens and a new earth. All their hopes and dreams were centered in the here and now. Half the nation by the time Jesus came didn't even believe in life after death even though it was plainly taught in their own Scriptures.

 

How about their views on treating foreigners? The entire book of Jonah is a rebuke to their national pride and arrogance yet institutional racism and prejudice were deeply entrenched still when Jesus came.

 

Are we still guilty today of ignoring the plainest teachings of the Bible when they don't suit us? Are Christians guilty of claiming to be His while creating a belief system of their own making?

 

Does my religious life reflect the carpenter from Nazareth or the culture around me? Am I living like new heavens and a new earth are coming soon or am I living like I'm trying to create a heaven for myself here and now? Am I living like the most important person is "the least of these" or do I pretend I don't see "them" and walk on by?

 

It wasn't that the Jews didn't know how they should treat "them". They deliberately created a culture of exclusion. It was willful ignorance.

 

It's easy, too easy to pick on them. Lord open my willfully shut eyes and give me a heart like yours.

 

 

Isaiah Day 259 - Soon...

65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

 

Last week I was living a happy moment when I got news that an expecting mother we were praying for lost her baby at 8 months. Last night I was living a happy moment when I received the news that someone I love very much passed away. This morning I just received word that one of the men I looked up to during my growing up years is soon to pass away as well. To be honest I'm tired. Tired of sickness, pain, broken hearts, broken lives, and death. In the midst of all this I don't believe it is a coincidence that God has brought me to this portion of His Word.

 

Not only is God going to make new heavens and a new earth but the things that pollute this one won't be there.

 

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

 

5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

 

When the struggle of this planet is over and sin and rebellion are forever a thing of the past not only will we live in peace, where love reigns and the things that ruin this life are gone, but we won't remember the pain, the abuse, the trauma, the grief, the anxiety, none of it. All of this is possible not by anything I have done or will do, but because God loves me and wants me to come Home. I can choose to say no but why would I? My mom will be there. My nephew will be there. My friend who died last night will be there. That little baby who only made it to 8 months will be there. The man I looked up to who will soon pass to his rest will be there. Best of all my Jesus will be there and I can hug Him and speak to Him face to face for the first time.

 

I hope you won't say no.