Isaiah Day 11 - Healing in Heaven?
2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Clearly Isaiah is speaking of heaven for there is no city or place on Earth that is higher than the mountains. In fact my daughter was just reading about expeditions to the top of Everest and how they actually use the frozen bodies of those who didn't make it as navigation points. We will never live above those heights in a literal sense. God is drawing our minds higher than this world. He speaks through Isaiah of greater and better.
Notice first the intentional use of the name Jacob. Jacob was the Son of Isaac. His name means underhanded or usurper because he was born clinging to the heal of his twin brother Esau. His mother Rebecca had already had a dream about this one who would be born second but seek first place. It is not a flattering name. It is not honourable to rise higher by dragging someone else down. When Jacob stopped trying to advance himself and put his trust in God, God changed his name to Israel which means overcomer. What did Jacob overcome? Himself and his need to advance himself in underhanded ways.
Why does Isaiah call Him "the God of Jacob"? Why is the Almighty identified as the God of the underhanded ones?
Note the rest of the message. Heaven will not immediately be a place filled with perfect people who have completely overcome. It would be a lie to call our Father the God of the overcomers at that point because when we first get to heaven we will have growing and overcoming left to do. Revelation tells us that the leaves on the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. Who do you know that went to their graves perfect even if they loved God and had placed their faith in Him? Will God reprogram them so they wake up at the resurrection a new and different person? Not according to the Scriptures. God reprograms no one. Every step we make closer to Him is done with our full permission and participation. It will ever be that way. When we get Home we will learn more deeply than we ever could here that there is no true advancement by violence. We can't war to a better place. Stepping on others lifts no one higher. That's why symbolically speaking we will beat our swords into plows when we get Home.
I don't know what you think of this but I am thankful for how God walks with us. There is no force, no coercion, and no reprogramming. Even in heaven our growth will continue with our full awareness and participation. Amazing. Don't despair that you aren't yet perfect here. We won't even be perfect when we arrive to that Home above the mountains, and He's ok with that. He will work it out. :)
Isaiah Day 12 - Don't Be A Jacob
I'm shifting gears today. There will be exceptions along the way but often I will be summarizing large sections rather than the few verses a day I normally do.
2:5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.
6 For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob,
Because they are filled with eastern ways;
They are soothsayers like the Philistines,
And they are pleased with the children of foreigners.
Their land is also full of silver and gold,
And there is no end to their treasures;
Their land is also full of horses,
And there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is also full of idols;
They worship the work of their own hands,
That which their own fingers have made.
People bow down,
And each man humbles himself;
Therefore do not forgive them.
Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust,
From the terror of the Lord
And the glory of His majesty.
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,
The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
For the day of the Lord of hosts
Shall come upon everything proud and lofty,
Upon everything lifted up—
And it shall be brought low—
Upon all the cedars of Lebanonthat are high and lifted up,
And upon all the oaks of Bashan;
Upon all the high mountains,
And upon all the hills that are lifted up;
Upon every high tower,
And upon every fortified wall;
Upon all the ships of Tarshish,
And upon all the beautiful sloops.
The loftiness of man shall be bowed down,
And the haughtiness of men shall be brought low;
The Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols He shall utterly abolish.
They shall go into the holes of the rocks,
And into the caves of the earth,
From the terror of the Lord
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver
And his idols of gold,
Which they made, each for himself to worship,
To the moles and bats,
To go into the clefts of the rocks,
And into the crags of the rugged rocks,
From the terror of the Lord
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
Sever yourselves from such a man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils;
For of what account is he?
It is no accident that God keeps referring to His people generations after the life of the actual person Jacob, by his name. They are supposed to Israel. They are supposed to be overcomers but they aren't. Reading the rest of the chapter as we just did and it becomes obvious what the problem is. They are self-obsessed. They are so consumed with their own advancement that they are even making their own gods.
Remember the man Jacob? He had big dreams. He had high aspirations. He was going to become the elder brother in every practical sense. The blessing would be his. The inheritance would be his. He would be the namesake of the family. First he tried to buy it. His elder brother Esau came home one day exhausted and near starved and Jacob saw his opportunity. In exchange for a hot meal Esau would give him everything. To Esau it was a joke. To Jacob it was serious. Of course Esau agreed with no intentions of following through. When that didn't work he hatched a plan with his mother to trick his blind and aging father into thinking he was Esau so he could get the birthright that way. Jacob the underhanded one. It all blew up in his face and he ended up fleeing with nothing to relatives far to the north. There he worked and was soon making deals with his equally underhanded uncle again trying to advance himself. He managed to get rich but peace eluded him.
Eventually he came face to face with his past and himself and was terrified for his life. Everything he had wanted and worked for and schemed for his entire life was now an impossibility and it seemed his brother Esau would even take his life. It was in this time of great personal distress when all his best efforts had yielded nothing but failure, regret, and impending doom that God finally got through to him. In a dark night of wrestling, first with his past, and then with an unknown foe Jacob got it. The person he was wrestling against was God, the only One who could truly help him. Everything he had been striving for and cheating to obtain had already been promised before his birth. He was trying to buy, earn, steal or obtain by any means what God had promised to give free of charge. That night Jacob overcame himself. His self-obsession died. He left himself in the Almighty care of God and stopped trying to buy His promises.
His name was changed. Israel was a new man. He was the man God promised he would be.
Now generations later his descendants are in the same place he was before he came to his senses. Busy, striving, acquiring, building up, chasing the dream, worshipping self and their achievements and acquirements. All the while God has been pushed out. They had lots of stuff but no inner substance or inner peace.
O houes of Jacob...
Are you Jacob or Israel? God shook Jacob and he became Israel. God never shakes to destroy. He shakes to restore because those He loves He rebukes and corrects.
Isaiah Day 13 - Read Carefully
2:1 For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts,
Takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stock and the store, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water;
The mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder;
The captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter.
“I will give children to be their princes,
And babes shall rule over them.
The people will be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor; the child will be insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable.”
When a man takes hold of his brother
In the house of his father, saying,
“You have clothing; you be our ruler,
And let these ruins be under your power,”
In that day he will protest, saying,
“I cannot cure your ills, for in my house is neither food nor clothing;
Do not make me a ruler of the people.”
For Jerusalem stumbled, and Judah is fallen, because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord,
To provoke the eyes of His glory.
The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves.
“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.”
Oppression and Luxury Condemned
The Lord stands up to plead,
And stands to judge the people.
The Lord will enter into judgment
With the elders of His people and His princes:
“For you have eaten up the vineyard;
The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the faces of the poor?” says the Lord God of hosts.
16 Moreover the Lord says:
“Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, making a jingling with their feet.
Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts.”
In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents;
The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils;
The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; the perfume boxes, the charms,
and the rings;
The nose jewels,
the festal apparel, and the mantles;
The outer garments, the purses,
and the mirrors;
The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes.
24 And so it shall be:
Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench; Instead of a sash, a rope;
Instead of well-set hair, baldness;
Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.
Your men shall fall by the sword,
And your mighty in the war.
Her gates shall lament and mourn,
And she being desolate shall sit on the ground.
Not a pretty picture but did you notice anything strange? There was no talk of God sending any super natural punishments. Instead He said He would simply withdraw the honourable people, the elders, the prophets etc... from them. (Verse 2 and 3). Then He goes on to reveal that they will suffer at their own hands. They will turn on each other.
Again note the real problems. Note why God is withdrawing His protection from them as well as those from their own people who are still not corrupt. It is because they oppression and exploit their own. They are obsessed with wealth and fancy stuff yet inside they are destitute and poor. God refuses to subsidize their evil any longer. He will not lend His Name to their shame. Note in verse 17 what He calls the people of Judah - the daughter of Zion (Jerusalem). We will see as Isaiah unfolds that this becomes a major theme. He begins referring to the descendants of Jacob as the daughter of My people. He acknowledges the ancestry. He admits the bloodline. However by calling them the daughter of He is saying they are of that line but not like them. Something has changed within them. Same genetics but different characters.
Have you ever heard parents discussing the actions of one of their children and one parent will say to the other "Your son did or said...". Speaking this way conveys blame and disassociation. In simple terms "That son of yours didn't get that bad trait from me."
When we do it, it's usually negative, demeaning, and even untrue, but God is shaking Jacob's daughters. He is about to withdraw all those among the people who have a calming, steadying, humbling, and positive effect upon the society. The peacemakers will be taken. The voices of reason will no longer be heard. The judges who don't take bribes or pervert justice will not sit to judge any longer. The prophets who speak the truth from God rather than pleasing things will no longer speak. The society, the culture, the very fabric of the people will consist of those who are but the daughters of the overcomers who have never learned what overcoming means.
I have been to a lot of funerals. When a giant of faith is laid to rest I often wonder the impact it will have. Who will replace them in that family, that church, that community? Will The voice of love, justice, wisdom, grace, and peace be diminished? Will it fall silent. Will the grandchildren even know the God that guided their grandparents or great grandparents?
As I helped lead and teach our class of five and six year olds at camp meeting I couldn't help but notice how many were brought by grandpa or grandma. What will happen when that generation is gone? Who will say it's better to give than to receive? Who will put more value on lending a hand rather than having a hand out to get or take?
God was warning Judah that if they insisted on being underhanded Jacob He was going to leave them to their choices... Are we listening?
"What has been will be again. There is nothing new under the sun."
Isaiah Day 14 - In Name Only
4:1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying,
“We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel;
Only let us be called by your name,
To take away our reproach.”
2 In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious;
And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing
For those of Israel who have escaped.
3 And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, 5 then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. 6 And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.
Chapter 4 is short but intense. It opens with the cry of the rebellious. Look what they want. They want His Name but they want to supply their own bread and clothing. These are powerful themes that run all through the Bible. Bread is the Word of God. It cannot be altered. Revelation ends with powerful charge to add nothing to not take anything from His Word yet these want their own Word. They also want their own clothing. Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast where the King provided The wedding clothes for every guest to wear. One came who wanted his name on the list, he wanted to be among the guests yet he refused to where the provided clothes and wore his own instead. This garment is symbolic for the righteousness of Christ. His name is His character. We can't have His name and refuse His character. We can't supply our own.
A woman is symbolic of the church. Here are churches who want to have their own truth (word/bread) and their own righteousness (clothes) yet be called followers of Jesus and invited to the Kingdom. This can never be. The Kingdom can never be the kingdom when the Spirit of rebellion is there. That is how this whole mess started. Satan wanted to be part of the Kingdom on his own terms. Terms of self-obsession. Terms that would lead and did lead to oppression, violence, and destruction. Sin is it's own destruction. Wherever it rises, chaos and pain follow.
Do you think there were churches in the world while Noah was building the ark? Of course. Religion will never cease, but what kind? In Judah religion had become a birthright, a sense of holy entitlement. The blood of sacrifices flowed. Prayers were offered. Religion was central but where was Jesus? Where was His Word? Where was His character?
God was about to withdraw His faithful ones from Judah. He was about to walk away from "His people" who had become a mere shadow of His people. Abraham would not have recognized them as God's people. Moses either. They were the daughters of His people.
However, and don't miss this, did you see it? In the darkness of chapter 4 with God planning to remove His true followers and leave the rest in their own clothes eating their own moldy bread did you see it?!
Look at verse 4. There is hope still for the daughters. They don't have to remain in their own clothes eating their own bread. There was still time then and there is still time now. Take off the garments of religion and invite Jesus to clothe you. Feed on His Word. Learn to discern His voice. His sheep know His voice and they follow. This world is a confusing mess and no where is that more true than in the heart of modern Christianity. Everyone seems to have their own way. We have these phrases like "It works for me." or "Maybe that's true for you but it's not true for me."
I have always loved Paul's counsel in Hebrews 12: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...
Isaiah Day 15 - Sounds Familiar...
5:1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
If this “song” sounds familiar to you it should.
33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease hisvineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
People make a lot of accusations toward God. When He lets us be free to live our lives as we choose they say God is weak and unjust because the world is such a mess. When He intervenes to protect the innocent from the wicked they say He is a genocidal tyrant. If He was a genocidal tyrant who played favourites in the Old Testament how do we explain Isaiah's time when God's intervention was about to fall on His supposed favourites? Why did He permit "evil" Babylon to come and destroy His "own"? Where was this genocidal God then?
And as for the world being a mess is that His fault? Can we be free and controlled at the same time? There is no need for anyone to starve on this planet. The military budget of the United States alone would feed the world. What if we sent humanitarian aid instead of troops? What if we invested in people instead of weaponry? What if we actually cared for God's vineyard? What if our religion was about caring for the marginalized rather than trying to figure out how to use God for our own personal gain? At the end of the day it isn't about what the United States is or isn't doing, or what religion is or isn't doing. At the end of the day the only relevant question is "What am I doing?" Is the corner brighter where I am? Would Jesus be pleased with the part of His vineyard He placed me in? Would He say "Well done good and faithful servant"? Most of the people in Isaiah's time were self-obsessed. Most of the people in Jesus' time were self-obsessed. What am I?