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

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Isaiah Days 16 through 20

Isaiah Day 16 - In Case We Missed It...

5:8  Woe to those who join house to house;

They add field to field,

Till there is no place

Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!

In my hearing the Lord of hosts said,

“Truly, many houses shall be desolate,

Great and beautiful ones, without inhabitant.


For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield one ephah.”


Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink;

Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!


The harp and the strings,

The tambourine and flute,

And wine are in their feasts;

But they do not regard the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of His hands.


Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge;

Their honorable men are famished,

And their multitude dried up with thirst.


Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself

And opened its mouth beyond measure;

Their glory and their multitude and their pomp, and he who is jubilant, shall descend into it.


People shall be brought down,

Each man shall be humbled,

And the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled.


But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.


Then the lambs shall feed in their pasture, and in the waste places of the fat ones strangers shall eat.

Clearly God does not want us to miss the point. Jesus didn't want us to miss the point either. He told a story of a man who had acquired so much stuff that he tore down his barns to make bigger ones. Many of us are not so wealthy. I spoke with one person yesterday who is in a position where they have less than nothing. However the heart of greed is not measured in dollars. I don't have to have lots to have the same sickness. If my extra is always invested in acquiring more for myself than what's the difference if I have hundreds of dollars or billions of dollars? If one house isn't enough will two be enough? Three? Ten? Notice after the mention of houses and fields was music and chronic drinking. 

Let me say two things here. I don't drink, I never have, and I never will. Having said that this passage cannot be fairly used to condemn the drinking of alcohol. The opposite could be argued. There is nothing wrong with anything else in this list. A house is not bad to have. Neither is a field nor music. In each case it was the abuse of and/or the excess of that was bad. Why do we need more stuff? Why are we afraid of silence? Why do we drink to excess? Are they not all signs of internal unhappiness? Does it not indicate something is wrong inside of us? The great preacher/church planters Paul said he had learned to be content in every circumstance. Wealth or the lack of it had no impact on his inner self. 

The excessive accumulation of stuff is an attempt to fill a void, to find significance, to define self-worth. To not be able to be content in the quiet of one's own thoughts means there are things we don't want to think about. Excessive drinking is a form of self-medicating but why? 

Let me share a "secret". We are happy when we are filling our purpose. Neuroscience has determined that a person doing tasks they are gifted for and enjoy are ten times more productive than when doing tasks they aren't gifted for and/or don't enjoy. Guess what we are all designed to do? Love. Love is in us to give and share and when we don't our inner person goes toxic. We become a misery to ourselves and others. We begin acquiring instead of giving. We crank the volume and empty the bottle to numb the darkness of a life not meeting it's intended purpose. Are you feeling less than happy. Find someone to help. Be a blessing. Look for opportunities to serve and see what happens inside you. Selfishness leads to self-destruction. History has proven it over and over again. 

The Statue of Liberty reads in part "...Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me..."

America started as children start life. Open, accepting, loving, and basically decent and kind. Racism and prejudice and hard heartedness are learned. Yes even children struggle to share. That's where the battle starts and as we grow we choose daily to become givers or takers. 

I used to collect donations door to door for a charity. It was shocking to learn the most money was collected from the poorest neighbourhoods. Ask the nobility of Late Middle Ages France what happens when privilege and greed conspire to oppress the poor. Jesus said it quite succinctly. "The first shall be last..."

Isaiah Day 17 - That Is Sin?

5:18   Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity,

And sin as if with a cart rope;


That say, “Let Him make speed and hasten His work, that we may see it;

And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know it.”


Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!


Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!


Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,

Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink,


Who justify the wicked for a bribe,

And take away justice from the righteous man!


Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust;

Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.


Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;

He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled.

Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.

For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.


He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, and will whistle to them from the end of the earth;

Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly.


No one will be weary or stumble among them, no one will slumber or sleep;

Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, nor the strap of their sandals be broken;


Whose arrows are sharp,

And all their bows bent;

Their horses’ hooves will seem like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind.


Their roaring will be like a lion,

They will roar like young lions;

Yes, they will roar and lay hold of the prey;

They will carry it away safely,

And no one will deliver.


In that day they will roar against them

Like the roaring of the sea.

And if one looks to the land,

Behold, darkness and sorrow;

And the light is darkened by the clouds.

I have heard and read a lot about the need to be like Jesus, to be perfect. Some will quote the words of my favourite author: "Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own." Christ's Object Lessons pg 69

I fully agree with the statement. The problem is that when these same people talk about what that looks like it never involves relieving the suffering of others, bringing justice to the oppressed or anything of the sort. They/we talk of perfection but have no idea what it looks like. We are so far removed from Him that any attempt to reproduce His character ends up being an idol of our own making.

Isaiah says vanity is sin. Our own ideas and imaginations are sin. Instead of letting God shape us, we try and shape a good that suits us. Then we talk and pray as if the lack is with Him. We ask Him to be with us as if He is the distant one who neglects drawing close and is unreliable. We pray and ask Him to be with and help us when He is asking us to be with and help others. The central focus of our religious life is getting ourselves to a better place when truthfully the character of Jesus has very different concerns. He left heaven to seek, serve, and save. He poured Himself out.

When He was here religious people were always asking Him for a sign as if He was a traveling circus show. What they really wanted was for Him to shower His miracles on them yet got upset and even angry when He healed the outcasts and foreigners. 

I grew up in a church focused on the "soon return of Jesus". Still I hear people longing for Him to come soon. Isaiah says this is a sin for it savours of selfishness. Around us people are suffering and dying. Many of them have no idea who He is yet we want the world to end? Moses didn't want that. He told God he would rather miss out on heaven than to see his people die in the wilderness. He was far more concerned for their well being than his own. Moses was like Jesus yet I can't find in his life in his entire life story one instance of obsession over his own perfection or spiritual advancement. He lived to serve God and others. I am less like him and far more like the people Isaiah is talking to. I am thankful Jesus is a Great Physician. I am thankful He is able and has promised to remove hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. I want to be a blessing. I want to be a Moses. I want to give people a taste of what Jesus is like here and now. 

"Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."       

Isaiah Day 18 - Have We Ever Seen the Contrast?

1:6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!”

4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

5 So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King,

The Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;

Your iniquity is taken away,

And your sin purged.”

Isaiah was a priest. This was not the first time he entered the temple. He was a religious leader well familiar with religious things. So what happened? 

Well let's back the wagon up and get some historical context. Judah and Israel split under King Rehoboam (Solomon's son) in the mid 900's BC. King Uzziah (Judah) died around 740 BC or about 200 years later. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the glory days of Solomon and it has been a fairly steady decline. Israel in the north is already a mess and will be swallowed up by the Assyrians in less than twenty years. The truth is Israel was a mess from the very start of the split, setting up their own religion and holy places which included idol worship. They called it worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but it was nothing short of rebadged paganism. Judah was the more faithful nation of the two. Israel never had a king that was loyal to God while Judah had a mixed bag; some were good, some were awful.  

I give this background because it is important to understand at least a little bit the world of Isaiah. He was a priest among a people who were very religious yet very disconnected from God. They we're good at offering sacrifices and prayers and keeping religious holy days and feast days yet their characters were drifting further and further from His. 

The down side of being born and raised in a religious environment is that you grow up thinking you know when maybe you don't. As Mark Twain apparently said "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

One of the down sides of being raised religiously is that everything is familiar and comfortable. Isaiah became a priest and did his duties and went in and out of the temple like a Canadian goes in and out of Tim Hortons. I had a friend who had never been to church and was literally afraid of the thought of entering a church building. It was too holy for him. He didn't belong. He even asked me to pray for him because "He will listen to you..." I often reflect on that and wonder if he didn't have a greater sense of God's Holiness than I did.

So back to Isaiah. He enters the temple as he had done countless times before only today was different, very different. He saw a vision of God. Jewish teaching said that God lived in the temple. When Isaiah saw Him in vision the temple couldn't even contain the train of His robe. Isaiah described God as "high and lifted up" and probably the most telling part of how awesome God was to him in the vision was his immediate unscripted reaction. "Woe is me for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips living in the midst of a people of unclean lips..." 

When Isaiah saw God he instantly saw the stark contrast. Up until that moment Isaiah was a comfortable religionist. He felt no awe in the presence of God. He likely never thought much about His presence at all. God was more a system than a Person. He had certain demands and when met you could expect a certain reward. The idea of God as a real, personal, living, present Being had drifted from them. They were worshippers of Judaism, not worshippers of God.

Now I want you to see what happened next. An angel came and touched his lips with a live coal from the altar in the temple. Immediately he was purified. He didn't even ask to be in so many words. He simply confessed his condition and God did the rest. See you tomorrow. :)

Isaiah Day 19 - Send Me

6:5 So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King,

The Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;

Your iniquity is taken away,

And your sin purged.”

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send,

And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

It has been said that if we look only at ourselves in contrast to the Holiness of God we will die of hopeless despair. However on the flip side if we look at what God has done to rescue us we could never lose hope. It is vital to see the contrast and the hopelessness of our condition but more vital to see and understand that God has made a way.

Here in a what amounts to a few moments Isaiah has gone from a comfortable religionist to despair at his and his nations utter lack, to volunteering for frontline duty in the war against sin. That's quite a journey. How did it happen? It's not complicated. God revealed His care for Isaiah, not because of his worthiness, but because of God's love. 

There are three basic ways to motivate people. The most barbaric is force/cohersion. The second is payment. The third is love.

People who serve through force will only do the minimum. 

People who serve for profit will do so based on the perceived value of the pay. Studies have shown that employees who feel well treated and well compensated by their employer will perform better. 

People who serve out of love don't count the cost and will stop at nothing to see through whatever they are doing. I currently know a husband who has taken leave from work to spend every moment beside the bed of his sick wife. No one is forcing him. No one is paying him. In fact it is costing him financially in a big way. She isn't demanding it. One thing and one thing only is driving him and that is love.

The Bible says we love God because He first loved us. That while we were still sinners Jesus died for us. It was not a deal or an exchange. Jesus just did it because He loves us. There was no promise of a response from us. That wasn't the real motive. The real motive was simply love. He wanted us to have the option and the choice to return to Him. He made the way possible. 

Were there no sacrifice there would have been no altar and no fire. Isaiah was forgiven and washed clean not because God was forced or paid, but only for love. Isaiah's response? Whatever you want me to do, I will do.

If you find yourself unmotivated to serve others or God ask Him to open your eyes first to your condition and second to His love for you, in spite of your condition.

Isaiah Day 20 - Always A Promise

6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send,

And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’


“Make the heart of this people dull,

And their ears heavy,

And shut their eyes;

Lest they see with their eyes,

And hear with their ears,

And understand with their heart,

And return and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?”

And He answered:

“Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant,

The houses are without a man,

The land is utterly desolate,


The Lord has removed men far away,

And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.


But yet a tenth will be in it,

And will return and be for consuming,

As a terebinth tree or as an oak,

Whose stump remains when it is cut down.

So the holy seed shall be its stump.”

Not a complicated message today but a beautiful one. As we have seen Judah was a self-centered, religion worshipping mess. They ignored and/or exploited the poor and vulnerable. They were anything but like the God they professed to follow. In the midst of this reality God calls Isaiah, a priest in the temple to become a prophet. The message is one Jesus repeated when He was here. It is a message designed to insult our pride and shake us awake. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

However that isn't what I want us to see. Isaiah understands what he is supposed to say and asks for how long he is to proclaim the message. The answer from God appears bleak. He says basically "Until there is nothing left." If all we had was up until vs 12 and no verse 13 it would be a hopeless message. But! There's that word. The Bible is full of that word. God has a but in the darkness. Amid the gloom this little word shines like a candle in a cave. But. Judah will not completely destroy themselves. A tenth will remain faithful. A tenth will go through the ordeal.

Then God uses a powerful illustration. The stump will remain. The tree will be cut down and those who don't know better will assume the Story is over but the stump will remain and the Holy Seed is that stump. We'll dig into that tomorrow. For now just remember that in the darkest of situations God always has a “But!” 

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