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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, 14 November 2017

Isaiah Days 103 to 110



Isaiah Day 103 - They Never Saw It

40:3  The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he[b] said, “What shall I cry?”

“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

9 O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

10 Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.

Promises. The Bible is full of them. Some we see. Some we miss. Some we misinterpret. Themes. The Bible is full of them as well and like the promises our understanding is mixed at best. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the Bible only tells one Story and somehow we have largely missed that too. The Story is that we were created to be with Him. We, through lack of trust, ruined that perfect place and perfect relationship. Fear, shame, guilt, doubt etc... came in like a flood. The knowledge of evil ruined everything. God had a plan. He had a plan before a plan was needed because He created us in love and love is always free to choose. Choices have consequences and He was prepared if we made the wrong one. Ever since the moment we left Him and fell for the lies of Satan, God has had one relentless objective. He wants us Home. He wants Eden restored. He wants to walk and talk with us as He did with Adam and Eve. He wants sin, guilt, shame, fear, and the knowledge of evil banished forever. That's the Story. That's the theme above every other and the Promise that will bring it all about was Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

They missed it. They expected a hero. They expected a king. What they never expected was God. To have the LORD come and live among them as one of them? They never saw it and yet it was right there. The promises. The prophecies. It was clearly foretold.

I have heard it said and at times thought it myself that maybe we'd do better if it was clearer. Maybe if God just wrote everything down we'd be able to follow...

God did better than that. First He sent messengers like Moses and Isaiah who sort of got it. He got them to write things down. Sure it's not the way we would explain it but it was tailored to the minds and times of ancient Israel not our times. Even now much of it was plain enough. This chapter clearly says to get ready because Yahweh, the LORD is coming.

But God didn't stop with messengers who sort of understood or a Book that was more or less clear. He actually came in the Person of His Son. He spoke yes. He taught for sure, but He went a giant step further. He lived here. He modeled the kingdom. He loved without borders. He forgave without limit. He answered every question by being a living example of what His kingdom is. They missed it. They sent Him to a Roman cross. They killed their King. We would have too. We miss lots too.

There is a reason why the Bible speaks so much about blindness. Revelation 3 says blindness is the condition of humanity at the end of time.

End of time? Yes. The King is coming again. It should be no surprise. He never hid it from us.

"Let not your (failing, wandering, faltering) heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I Am there you may be also." - Jesus (John 14)

It's the theme. It's the Story. It's the Plan. Always has been. He never wanted us to leave in the first place.


Isaiah Day 104 - Get Up the Mountain

40:9  O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Zion is another name for Jerusalem and both are symbolic here for God's people, those who know Him, love Him, and trust Him. Notice what the role of His church here on earth is. We are they who bring good tidings.

Many years ago I was in my office at the church. (For those who know me, this is not a common occurrence :) ) There was no knock. The door just flew open and in came one of my members. He was less than calm. He proceeded to tell me what I should be doing, what I should be preaching, and there was no small amount of urgency. One of the things I distinctly remember him saying was that I needed to sound the alarm. I needed to lift my voice like a trumpet. I won't get into the details but I can assure you he wasn't wanting me to blast good news from my trumpet.

In the days of ancient Israel and right up through until fairly recent times, mountains and hills played a huge role in communication. From hill to hill men were stationed. A message was conveyed either by sound or by visual cues from lookout to lookout. It was much faster than sending a messenger. Messages went from the top of the city wall out or from the hills they came in. The message could be a warning of incoming danger like an approaching army, or it could be a good news message sent from the king to the surrounding country side and villages. One verse in the Bible says "How beautiful are the feet of Him who brings good news".

Somewhere along the way it seems we have forgotten our role as His church even though it is often repeated in Scripture all the way down to the book of Revelation. "Then I saw another angel (messenger) flying in the midst of heaven (even higher than the mountains) having the everlasting good news to proclaim good news to the whole earth. 

On the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg we are reminded of how many centuries the church wasted on fear mongering and cohersion. How about you and I? Are we good news agents. Do we bring joy and comfort to those who hear about our God? Come on Zion. Get out there. Tell them how good He is. Tell them He's coming soon. Tell them. Everyone loves good news. :)


Isaiah Day 105 - This Is No Cliché About Human Suffering

40:27  Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
28 Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

I am a human being. I have suffered. I do suffer. I will suffer more. I have asked "Why God?" on more than one occasion. There have been times where I thought it was the perfect opportunity to grab center stage and show the doubters how real and how able He is only to be met with deafening silence. If you haven't read today's verses and just skipped to here or you read them quickly please go back and read them again.

This passage is where the rubber meets the road and pain meets the heart. We see the moment. We suffer in the now. We agonize over what He isn't doing and/or think He should be doing. In our anguish we come to the conclusion He must not see or must not care or isn't there at all. I have been there. I still am there in the sense that I don't understand why He intervenes with miracles in one situation and is silent in another.

But, and this is a huge but, I am at peace. I wonder but I don't linger in the questions because ultimately I know the answer. He sees what I can't. What seems clear to me is only that way precisely because I can't see what He sees. I don't know what He knows.

Let me put flesh and bones to what I'm saying. I should be dead. Left to the natural course of disease I would have been dead for many years already. God intervened. Even my surgeon who removed the cancerous tumour said it was a miracle. The tumour was dead and it never returned. Shortly after my miracle I visited a woman who had been fighting cancer for over five years. She was happy for me but at the same time she looked me in the eyes with a look I will never forget and asked "Why hasn't God done the same for me?"

Some will say she lacked faith. Others will say she had some sin in her life.

My mom believed in the same LORD as I do. She was not spared the ravages of cancer and died at 59.

The reason? I don't know. But. But I know He does. I know that if I knew what He knows with same heart/character He has I would have made the same choices. Does knowing this make the suffering less? I'm not sure. Pain is still pain. Suffering is still suffering. Loss is still loss. Jesus wept over the death of His friend Lazarus and the suffering of his family even though He knew it would soon be fixed.

Read the verses again. Those who try and fight through life with resolve and a stiff upper lip will soon or eventually run out of steam. Their ability to shake it off will come to an end. The ravages of life will take them down. But. But those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will rise again from the ashes of disappointment, tragedy, suffering, and loss. They will soar on the wings of hope. They will fly on the fuel of faith. Deep down where no immediate circumstances can touch them they know He knows. They know He sees. They know the end of the pain will come and a glorious forever will begin. They know He's making the best He can of a messy war where the enemy does not fight fair.

"Let not your be troubled. You believe... I will come..."


Isaiah Day 106 - This Isn't A Holiday

40:31  But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

There are two sides to this famous promise. The positive side is the promise of renewal. The other side is that we are constantly needing renewal. We live in what a friend of mine refers to as a war zone. Every day we take hits that draw on our strength, our joy, our emotional well being. Sometimes they are small hits. Sometimes they are anything but small but they all take their toll.

My dad has worked on cars all his life. The chemicals from the products used to paint them have had a cumulative effect. Now he gets headaches quickly from using the same products that for years never bothered him at all. The bible says our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made and they are but repeated abuse or misuse will always create a lasting negative impact. The same is true for our emotional health. If God is not sustaining us we will crash. It might not be a dramatic crash. We may lose the ability to care like we used to.

We live in a media driven world and most of the news is bad. To survive we shut it out. What we really need is to "wait on the LORD". Each day needs to begin with Him so that our perspective can be realigned from the hits of the previous day. Our emotions can be healed by the daily reminder we weren't made or meant for this broken place and restoration will come. Those who make Him their constant Shelter will find their strength renewed. It's a promise and He keeps His promises.


Isaiah Day 107 - Running Out of Steam

40:30  Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Here are some stats for you:

"Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives."

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/c/children-and-young-people

Geneva, 4 October— One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

11% of Canadians aged 15-24 met criteria for depression: StatsCan

Without boring you or alarming you with more statistics I can tell you the numbers among young people for depression, suicide, and mental illness are rising. God told Isaiah they would and Isaiah wrote it down and we are reading it.

But how do we know Isaiah was talking about our time and place? Isn't that taking the Bible out of context? It would be if Isaiah didn't frame the context. Basically he wrote that in any time and place when people aren't making Good their refuge and source of strength the people will begin to stumble and fall. They simply don't have the strength within themselves independent of God to cope.

The further we drift the more we make destructive choices and as adults make more and more bad choices no one suffers more than young people as a consequence. Domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce, absentee parents, etc... all take a devastating toll on children and youth. Experiencing these life altering scenarios is tragic enough but when there is no reason to have hope, no concept of a greater plan or a better future it's not hard to understand why young people are getting weary and young men utterly fall. Less then 10% of Canadian families attend any church or faith community on a regular basis. That leaves our children only living in and seeing the here and now and when the present is a pain riddled disaster it is no wonder they become depressed and suicidal. "If life is more bad than good and I can't see any hope for better why bother?"

But.

But those who wait (patience is a major Biblical theme, especially at the end of time) on the LORD will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get weary. They will walk and not faith.

Perspective changes everything. A better day is coming. We were created for more than this. Weeping may last for the night but joy is coming in the morning. "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world." - Jesus

When we look at our present from His eternal perspective suddenly our step is lighter. Someday sooner than we think He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, no sickness, no poverty, no hatred, no abuse, nothing will hurt or destroy in all His holy mountain. It's the truth and Jesus also said we would know the truth if we choose to believe in Him and the truth will set us free.

I don't need to solve my pain. Jesus will see me through and bring an end to it all. I will wait on the LORD and I hope you will too.


Isaiah Day 108 - So Easy to Miss...


41:1 “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength!
Let them come near, then let them speak; Let us come near together for judgment.

2 “Who raised up one from the east?
Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him,
And made him rule over kings?
Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?
3 Who pursued them, and passed safely
By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
4 Who has performed and done it,
Calling the generations from the beginning?
‘I, the Lord, am the first;
And with the last I am He.’”

5 The coastlands saw it and feared,
The ends of the earth were afraid;
They drew near and came.
6 Everyone helped his neighbor,
And said to his brother,
“Be of good courage!”
7 So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith;
He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil,
Saying, “It is ready for the soldering”;
Then he fastened it with pegs,
That it might not totter.

8 “But you, Israel, are My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
The descendants of Abraham My friend.
9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its farthest regions,
And said to you,
‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing,
And those who strive with you shall perish.
12 You shall seek them and not find them;
Those who contended with you.
Those who war against you
Shall be as nothing,
As a nonexistent thing.
13 For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

14 “Fear not, you worm Jacob,
You men of Israel!
I will help you,” says the Lord
And your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth;
You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small,
And make the hills like chaff.
16 You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away,
And the whirlwind shall scatter them;
You shall rejoice in the Lord,
And glory in the Holy One of Israel.

17 “The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the Lord, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers in desolate heights,
And fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land springs of water.
19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree,
The myrtle and the oil tree;
I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine
And the box tree together,
20 That they may see and know,
And consider and understand together,
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it.

For those who can read it is an easy thing to do. Our eyes pass over the words and our brain processes each one. However it is easy to see but not see. It is easy to hear but not hear. It is easy to read but not understand.

Isaiah 41, like so much of the Old Testament is about Jesus, but it's easy to miss. It's also about our relationship to Him but that can be easy to miss too.

The answer to all the "Who?" questions at the beginning is Jesus. Who but He is the first and the last? Who but rules over kings? When Adam and Eve were afraid and hiding in shame it was Jesus that came to them. It was Jesus who promised a Seed would come. It was the promise of His own arrival among us as one of us. Abraham's friend who visited with him on multiple occasions? Jesus. Moses in the cleft of the rock? That was Jesus too. The mighty warrior that met Joshua and told him to remove his sandals? Jesus. From the beginning to the end Jesus has been here, is here, and always will be. His title "First and Last" and "Beginning and End" are not just declarations about His eternal existence but a promise of His eternal presence close by us. The chapter is famous for verse 10 and verse 13 and rightly so, but today we're going to look at verses 8 and 9. They are precious verses that are too easy to see but not see; To hear our brain declare each word but not hear; To read but not understand.

It appears to be a promise to Jews only. It seems like a conversation between God and Israel and since we aren't Israel we mentally check out. We see the words but believe they don't apply and move on. But wait. The verses say God is calling people from the ends of the earth. At this point in history Judah is still a kingdom. Even Israel in the north, though fallen was not dispersed. The blood descendants of Jacob are not spread all over the earth as became the case later. So who is God talking about? Who are these "children of Abraham" that He is calling from the very end of the earth?

Well Jesus answers that question in John 8 very clearly but can we find the answer in the Old Testament? Is there evidence there that all children are His children?

What about the mother of the nation of Judah? Judah's lineage didn't come through an Israelite wife. She had no blood connection. In fact the relationship was scandal and yet her name, Tamar, is written down as part of the family of Jesus. Then there was Rahab the prostitute from Jericho. Ruth the Moabitess and let's not forget the entire city of Nineveh that was so far outside the "family" that Jonah was enraged that God cared about them.

The message is clear if we search. While men like Jonah might be as racist and prejudiced as is humanly possible God is not. His family has no borders. You and I are children of Abraham if we so choose no matter where our family tree came from. 

Now if we go back to famous and oft quoted verse ten it really comes alive:

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God."


He is your God. He is my God. He is the God of the Chinese, the Arab, the African, the Indigenous, the white man, indeed all men, all women, all children. Your personal family may be far from Him but He is not far from you. The earth has no remote corner where His love and grace cannot reach.


Isaiah Day 109 - Big Promises

41:10  Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing,
And those who strive with you shall perish.
12 You shall seek them and not find them,
Those who contended with you.
Those who war against you
Shall be as nothing,
As a nonexistent thing.
13 For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

14 “Fear not, you worm Jacob,
You men of Israel!
I will help you,” says the Lord
And your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth;
You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small,
And make the hills like chaff.
16 You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away,
And the whirlwind shall scatter them;
You shall rejoice in the Lord,
And glory in the Holy One of Israel

17 “The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the Lord, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers in desolate heights,
And fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land springs of water.
19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree,
The myrtle and the oil tree;
I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine
And the box tree together,
20 That they may see and know,
And consider and understand together,
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Did you count the promises in these verses? Did you notice how many times He said "I will"? Did the scope of the promises cause you to be skeptical? Do they seem too good to be true. Were you inclined to look back or look around you and ask "Where were You when I needed you?" or "Where are You right now?"

The essence of all the promises is "I will take care of anyone who is against you and I will supply all your needs".

Are those promises true?

As a life long Christian here is what I have observed in and around me. When things are going good we affirm all these promises without too much thought for those who are suffering. When we suffer the tune changes and we go from praising Him to wondering where He went to wondering if He was ever there. Israel was not different. One moment they are dancing and celebrating on the shore of the sea they just crossed miraculously and a few days later they are cursing God and accusing Him of bringing them out of Egypt to just be left for dead in the wilderness.

Which is it? Is God good all the time as we so easily and almost flippantly say or is He an absentee Father?

These questions are real. They deserve to be asked and answered.

Jesus claims He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What was life like for Him when He was here? How would He have related to these promises? I don't recall a time when His enemies were decisively dealt with and silenced. I do recall Him dying alone and thirsty. Of all the promises made here in these verses surely providing some water for the thirsty is simple enough yet Jesus cried "I thirst" and insult was added to injury when they offered him that which could not satisfy.

So what then? Is God a liar? Should these promises be seen the same way so many promises are? Quickly made and rarely followed through?

Or are we missing something? Are we looking at only some of the picture? Didn't Jesus say "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world"? And these promises, are they for every moment or for the future?

"I will" is a future tense statement and how can God deal with our enemies if we never had any, or quench our thirst of we were never thirsty?

Jesus suffered more than we ever will. Of anyone had cause to be skeptical about these promises and view them as empty or hollow it was Jesus. Yet at the height of His suffering He declared "Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit..." Where is Jesus now? Thirsty? Yes He is. Thirsty to drink the wine from the vineyard He is tending. The wine He promised He won't touch until He can drink with us. Enemies? Satan just still running around wreaking havoc everywhere. We only have to watch the news to see how active he is.

Yet the Story isn't over.

He will. He has done enough to show He can and enough to show He absolutely will.

Fear not little flock. It is Your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.


Isaiah Day 110 - Abominations

41:21  “Present your case,” says the Lord.
“Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen;
Let them show the former things, what they were,
That we may consider them,
And know the latter end of them;
Or declare to us things to come.
23 Show the things that are to come hereafter,
That we may know that you are gods;
Yes, do good or do evil,
That we may be dismayed and see it together.
24 Indeed you are nothing,
And your work is nothing;
Choosing you is an abomination.

The promises of God are rooted. They have backing. Over and over the Bible reminds us what God has already done. In addition to the historical record of His faithfulness and miraculous interventions is the record of His prophetic word. He lays out the future before us and then history unfolds exactly as He said it would. The rise and fall of nations. The destiny of Judah and Israel, the prophecies concerning Jesus, and the ones that continue to unfold in our day.

After making the lavish promises we read yesterday and the day before, God invites the idols that man has invented to replace Him to make their case. Can they point back to heroic things they have done? Can they point forward and tell the future? Finally God declares that choosing these idols is an abomination?

Interestingly the word is used many times in the old yet the meaning is not clear or rather the history of the word is basically unknown. There is a reason. Have you ever considered all the things God calls an abomination? It was in vogue for a while to point the finger at the gay community and call them an abomination. Convenient. Easy. Very misleading at best. There are many things God calls an abomination. Some of the food we consume He calls an abomination. Some of the marriages we enter into He calls an abomination. Some of our religious gatherings and even our prayers in some cases are classified as an abomination. The only way to know what He means is to look at the context where the word is used and it becomes clear.

The simplest word I can think of to replace abomination is the word nothing. The idols? They are literally nothing. They are no more real than the imaginary friends some children have. Food that doesn't nourish? It's like eating nothing. Religion that is empty of His presence and power? Nothing. Prayer that tells Him what to do, or worse tries to misuse Him for our selfish agenda? Worse than nothing. Relationships He can't bless? They will go nowhere and produce nothing.

The word itself seems to have no history, no roots, and that's precisely the point. To choose idols (a god of our own design, the god of our own ideas, a god that let's us exploit the poor and profit from injustice while seeing ourselves as good) is to choose nothing. It is an abomination.

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