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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 200 - Have You Considered the Rain?

 

55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

And let him return to the Lord,

And He will have compassion on him,

And to our God,

For He will abundantly pardon.

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.

9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

And do not return there without watering the earth

And making it bear and sprout,

And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty,

Without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

12 “For you will go out with joy

And be led forth with peace;

The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

13 “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,

And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,

And it will be a memorial to the Lord,

For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”

 

Jesus said the Old Testament was actually about Him. (John 5:39) and while it isn't always immediately obvious, once you catch the rhythm you start to see Him all over the place as we have seen already in Isaiah. Today is another example, and until yesterday I had never caught this one before and it makes me wonder how many I've missed.

 

I remember in school studying the rain cycle. We had to draw pictures to illustrate it too. The rain comes down, it waters the earth. It maintains the water table below the earth's surface. The rain water also runs into the streams and brooks, which feed lakes and rivers and eventually the water finds its way to the ocean where it evaporates and returns to the sky where clouds form and the whole thing starts all over again.

 

Here in Isaiah 55 God is speaking. The subject is His mercy and forgiveness. In explaining it He first makes it clear that He doesn't think like we do. Then He points to the sky and describes the water cycle of snow and rain. He points out that even though the water amount never diminishes, each cycle feeds and waters the earth, bringing life and sustaining life. If it never came all life would die. When scientists study the universe, wondering if there are other planets that can sustain life, the first thing they look for is water. A planet with no water is lifeless.

 

Then God compares the life giving, life sustaining water cycle to His word. He says His word will go forth, accomplish exactly what He sent it for and then return to Him. Then He ends by describing how we will flourish as a result of this word and that the curse of sin (thorns) will be reversed and fruitful trees will grow instead.

 

John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made by Him..." and then John 1:14 says "And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us and we beheld His glory..."

 

Jesus is the Word sent from Heaven. He is the water of life and the bread of heaven. He was born and placed in a feed trough. He said "If anyone eats My flesh and drinks My blood he will live forever."

 

God is promising in Isaiah 55 that Jesus is coming. That He is the Word and the water of life and He will accomplish exactly what He was being sent to do.

 

Now every time you take a drink of water remember what it represents. Jesus is our life. He died so that we can live, yet in doing so He was not the least diminished, just as the water cycle keeps going yet never decreases. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. God doesn't think like we do. He just keeps giving regardless of how or if we respond. He, like water, only benefits us if we drink. Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart. He loves you and the evidence is everywhere, even in the water you drink.

 

Isaiah Day 201 - Deep Waters Again

 

56:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed.

2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it;

Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,

“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”

Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord,

“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,

5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,

And a name better than that of sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,

To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,

To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath

And holds fast My covenant;

7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;

For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the people.

 

Chapter 55 was a beautiful promise of God's forgiveness and restoration. We can't forget that context as we continue into this chapter. We also can't forget the broader context of God's people in Judah having fallen far from His ideals for them. It is in this framework that we must read. Judah is a mess but God has a plan to forgive and restore. Now He casts the net wider. It's not just Judah.

 

In the Jewish mind of that era the two worst things to be were foreigners and eunuchs. Foreigners because they were perceived to be outside the covenant, outside the promises, and enemies of God. Eunuchs because the covenant and promises were linked to future generations and if you were a eunuch (castrated male specifically and/or infertile) you could have no part, no connection to this future or to the coming Messiah. To be a Jewish woman who could not have children was the greatest shame and failure. To be an impotent male was the worst of all curses. Remember what God told Hezekiah would happen to his descendants? They would be carried off to Babylon and made eunuchs. No fate was seen as worse to the Jewish mind.

 

With that important background information we are better prepared to enter this chapter. God is specifically addressing the two most cursed classes of people in a most unusual way. He is calling foreigners and eunuchs into the covenant. He is also linking the covenant to the Sabbath. He is also calling all people to justice and righteousness.

 

It was also the words of this chapter that Jesus echoed as He flipped tables and drove the money changers from the temple. "My house will be called a house of prayer for all people."

 

Justice, righteousness, Sabbath, covenant, foreigners, eunuchs, His house - these are the themes of this chapter. We have much ground to cover. We may be mining treasure from this chapter for a while. We'll start in earnest tomorrow. Until then I invite you to read the chapter again. 

 

 

Isaiah Day 202 - Sabbath Profanity?

 

56:1 Thus says the Lord, “Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation (Jesus) is about to come and My righteousness (Son) to be revealed.

2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it;

Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,

5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant;

7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

Following up from yesterday our key words/themes in this chapter are: eunuch, foreigner, Sabbath, covenant, God's house, and righteousness/justice. Notice how God warns three times in this short passage against profaning the Sabbath and how it is linked to keeping the covenant.

I dug into the Hebrew and the literal word for profane is to pierce through (like an arrow) or to hollow out (like a log). The word translated as hold fast is literally strong. Add the grammar back in and the last half of verse 6 literally reads like this is:

"every one who keeps from piercing through or hollowing out the sabbath and strengthens My covenant..."

This puts the meaning back into what God was actually saying. Typically the Sabbath is a point of contention only when discussing when it should be. For the Jews this was never an issue. Never is their history did they lose sight of when the Sabbath is. To this day they keep it from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday as God set it up at creation. God wasn't concerned here in Isaiah about the when. He was concerned about the how, and it's connection to His covenant.

In simple terms, there was something about the way they were regarding the Sabbath that was weakening, rather than strengthening His covenant. Put another way, the Sabbath properly understood was and is designed to magnify, to make strong His covenant. A simple word for covenant is promise.

Before we dig deeper tomorrow consider the reality that nearly every miracle Jesus performed was on Sabbath and the Sabbath was a major point of controversy between Him and the religious establishment. The problem had nothing to do with the when and everything to do with the how. The Jews had come to the place where they had pierced the Sabbath through. They had hollowed out all the meaning and we're left with an empty shell.

What about us? Have we inherited an empty Jewish she'll or are we adding strength to His promises in our experiences in/with the Sabbath?

See you tomorrow...

Isaiah Day 203 -

 

56:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed.

2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it;

Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,

“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”

Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,

5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant;

7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

When God wrote on stone with His own finger here is what He said about the Sabbath:

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord bless the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Ex. 20:8-11)

After Moses smashed the first set of stone tablets, God wrote a second set. Here's what He said about the Sabbath the second time:

"Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day."

This week my car wouldn't start when I was leaving the church on Monday. I called CAA and they said they would pick it up and return it to my house. I didn't even need to be there when they came for it or dropped it off. I could rest. Someone else was going to take care of it.

We have only begun to scratch the surface but what we just covered is vital to understand before we go deeper tomorrow and contrast what it means to keep the Sabbath versus profaning the Sabbath and how the former strengthens the covenant and the latter pierces it through and hollows it out.

See you then. :)

 

Isaiah Day 204 -

 

56:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed.

2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it;

Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,

“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”

Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,

5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath

And holds fast My covenant;

7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;

For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

Sabbath: God made us. God rescued us. God is restoring us.

To "keep" the Sabbath is not what we typically think of either. There are three English words that help express the meaning of the Hebrew word: keep, watch, and preserve. It is keep in the sense of "Don't allow it to be altered (preserve). Watch that nothing happens to it. Keep it as it is. Don't pierce it through or hollow it out."

Also remember that each time Sabbath is mentioned it is tied to the covenant. Here's why. The Sabbath properly understood illustrates and strengthens the covenant. The covenant is God's promise to rescue and restore His creation. When God reinstituted the Sabbath in the wilderness after He had delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, He did by miraculously providing food for them. He sustained them alive when all their own resources were depleted. All they had to do was gather up what He had placed on the ground for them. When Sabbath came they didn't even have to do that. They could rest inside the complete provision of God.

 

What did Adam and Eve do to help God at creation? Nothing.

What did Moses and the Israelites do to help God rescue them from Egypt? Nothing.

What will we do to help God restore us? Nothing.

 

If the Sabbath keeping we do is a constant reminder of these basic, vital realities then we are truly keeping the Sabbath. If not we are profaning it, especially if somehow we think our Sabbath keeping is something we are doing to help God save us.

Remember the two times Jesus went into the temple and cleared it out? Do you understand why? It clearly and deliberately says He turned the tables over. The tables of the money changers. He said they had made His Father's house a den of thieves. Do you know why He said that?

The temple was the only place in the world that a lamb could be brought by sinners like you and I. It was a continuation of what God began with Adam and Eve. It was parallel to the ritual that divided Cain and Abel and left Abel dead and Cain cast out of the family. Cain took a ritual that taught our rescue was coming from the Promised One and tried to turn it into something he was doing to gain God's favour. He profaned the  offering. He pierced it through and hollowed out all the meaning.

When Jesus came, He came to a Jewish faith practicing the offering of Cain. He couldn't let it continue. They were robbing humanity of the grace of God. They were turning the Story into religious prostitution. He turned the tables. He sent those trying to sell what Heaven already was paying for packing.

If your Sabbath "keeping" is an attempt to appease God or gain His favour it is the offering of Cain. If it is a weekly memorial of God as our Creator, Rescuer, and Restorer, than you are truly preserving the Sabbath instead of profaning it. Tomorrow we will explore what all this has to do with Eunuchs and Foreigners.

Happy Sabbath rest. :)

 

 

 

Isaiah Day 205 - Profaning the Sabbath - Part 4

 

56:1 Thus says the Lord,

“Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed.

2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,

“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,

5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,  to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant;

7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

Today we will explore why the theme of Eunuchs and Foreigners is interwoven with the themes of Sabbath and the Covenant. So far we have established that the Sabbath is a memorial and celebration of three key things. God made us, God rescued us, and God is restoring us. The Covenant is God's promise to rescue and restore His creation. If we forget the meaning of the Sabbath we will also forget the covenant. They are inseparable. To make the Sabbath about other things will end up distorting our understanding of the covenant as happened to the entire Jewish nation.

So where do the Eunuchs and Foreigners come into this? From here on out I am simply going to refer to them as the undesirables. In our present culture the list of undesirables may differ. For some Muslims are undesirables. For others it's blacks and/or Native Americans and/or LGBTQ and/or women, etc...

They are people that the majority decide don't fit, or are less than.

Notice in this chapter as God affirms the Sabbath in its “unhollowed” out form and praises those who hold onto His covenant promises He also has a deep concern. He sees the eunuchs and foreigners recoiling from both, not because they don't want them, but because they are starting to believe the lie that they can't have them. When a person is repeatedly put down or pushed to the side by factors they can't even control and had no say over they begin to believe the message. It is a dark blot on Jewish history that they began to see themselves as superior and eventually institutionalized racism, prejudice etc. By the time Jesus came it was so pervasive that they believed it was their religious, God ordained duty to keep the undesirables out.

Who gets to decide where they are born? Who gets to decide what color their skin is? Who gets to decide the religion or non religion that their parents teach them? Who gets to decide what political leanings dominate their home as a child?

So institutionalized was the case against the undesirables that when Herod helped the Jews rebuild their temple, the courtyard was designed in a way it had never been. The original design was given to Moses by God and there was just one courtyard for everyone. The Sabbath (commandment/promise) was also given by God and in it was explained in concise detail that the rest was for everyone. There was no room for misunderstanding. Everyone was to benefit from the rest. Notice the order God chose, knowing how warped humanity is. Parents, children (male and female), servants (male and female), animals, and strangers. (Undesirables).

Do you remember the story of Jonah the prophet and Nineveh? Nineveh was a foreign city. It was the poster child of that era for the undesirables. When God told Jonah to go there, he found a ship headed in the opposite direction. God had to resort to some serious coaxing to get him to finally agree to go. His mission was to predict doom. The city was going to burn. In the end the people were sorry for their evil and turned to God for forgiveness and the judgment never fell. Jonah was enraged. He had camped on the hill with some popcorn waiting for the fireworks to start but they never did. In his anger God tried to explain. "Jonah there are 120000 people(humans, My creation, My children) in that city who don't know their right hand from their left. They didn't choose to be born there. They never had the family and upbringing you had. And besides Jonah, there are many cattle there too..."

Obviously I have paraphrased and added. You can go to the last chapter of Jonah if you want to read exactly what God said. The point is that God had to appeal to Jonah's love for animals because in Jonah's world the cows ranked higher than the Ninevites. When God wrote about the Sabbath with His own finger He knew animals would be considered of more value than some humans yet He included them. The Sabbath rest was for "them". The covenant was and is for "them" because God has no "thems".

Don't let the eunuch say he is excluded. Don't let the foreigner think he or she or _____ does not count.

The Jews rebuilt the temple with a courtyard that ranked people. The more important you were, the more "worthy" you were, the closer you could come. In their pretend compassion they even made a courtyard for the undesirables. It was in that place that they money changers set up their tables and animals were sold so people could buy them and use them to earn God's favour. It was here that Jesus came. It was in that place (where the only corner was available to the undesirables and then desecrated by turning it into a marketplace) that Jesus threw the table over. It was in that place that Jesus boldly declared the words from Isaiah 56:7 - My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL people.

The undesirables may struggle to find a corner here where they fit but God's house will be filled with them. The first will be last and the last will be first.

 

 

 

Isaiah Day 206 - "Even Those..."

 

56:7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

I'm Canadian. I was born and raised in Quebec. I was raised an English speaking Protestant, a Seventh-day Adventist, in a French, Roman Catholic culture. I was left handed in a right handed world. I have red hair. I often joke that you could travel the globe and interview every single person and you won't find another left-handed, red haired, Seventh-day Adventist, English Quebecer anywhere. I'm the only one.

 

Is there any significance to that? Not really. But what it did do for me was open my eyes from the start to the invisible lines humans draw between themselves. I saw hockey games, something that should be fun, turn into brawls simply because of language. I experienced the separation caused by religious affiliations. I learned what it is like to be lumped into a group and seen a certain way with multiple assumptions made about me without the person ever making the effort to see me as an individual. When I moved to Alberta for college I discovered a new wall I hadn't expected. I drove to college in a car with Quebec license plates. I had never been pulled over before going to college but there it became a routine event, usually for no particular reason. When people in conversation found out I was from "there" they invariably asked two questions before any others. They wanted to know if I spoke French and if I was a separatist. Why? Because as humans we have boxes in our minds and we try and avoid thinking by just placing people in these ready made boxes. I discovered in college that in addition to being an undesirable for many in my home province because of my language, I was also an undesirable in the rest of my country for those who saw me as from the wrong province.

 

In college I also learned for the first time that we, polite, lovable Canadians put Canadian born citizens of Japanese descent into camps during the war. I was stunned. I refused to believe what my professor was saying until I checked it out for myself. Later on the atrocious history of the residential schools into which we boxed our First Nations people came to light. As much as the black/white divide gets air time in the United States (and rightfully so), the even more appalling history of the treatment of Natives in Canada lingers under an uncomfortable shadow of near silence. There is no First Nations history month. There is no First Nations Business Initiative. Can we fathom a First Nations Prime Minister? The list goes on.

 

Why am I bringing all this up? I could go further and speak of the mistreatment of women. The stats say 1 in 4 women have been abused sexually. I can tell you after 18 years working with people as a pastor that it is much higher and I'm a man. Imagine how many more stories I would have heard if I was a female pastor. The #metoo movement is long over due.

 

Again why bring this up? Because there are countless individuals in this world who find themselves among the undesirables. They are as Eunuchs and Foreigners were to the Jews. I remember being in a park in Halifax waiting for my wife and daughter to be done their dental appointments. While I was there a mother and daughters who were obviously from the Middle East came to the park. I was too ignorant at the time to know that I shouldn't be talking to them. I talk to everyone. I did notice no eye contact was made at first but as the conversation continued and they got more comfortable their body language relaxed. I don't remember how the conversation turned but we started talking about their experience as immigrants to Canada. I asked them if they had ever experienced overt racism or prejudice. It got really quiet. The mom looked at the ground while the daughters looked at their mom. Clearly I had struck a nerve and was about to apologize and retract the question when the mom looked up with tears welling up in her eyes and said "sometimes when I hail a cab, the driver will look at me and speed away. Some people won't help me or even talk to me in the stores."

I looked her in the eyes and then at her daughters who were now looking at me wondering what I would say.

"I'm sorry" I said. "It's not supposed to be that way and I'm sorry".

Our conversation was interrupted by the return of my family and after introducing them we parted ways. I never saw them again but I have never and will never forget those moments.

"Even those I will bring to My holy mountain..."

I don't know who you may be reading this? One never knows where the written word will go. If there is anyone reading this who for whatever random reason has been boxed in with the undesirables, you need to know God has no such boxes.

Isaiah 56:7 "Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

 

 

Isaiah Day 207 - Tragic

 

56:7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain

And make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;

For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,

“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

9 All you beasts of the field,

All you beasts in the forest,

Come to eat.

10 His watchmen are blind,

All of them know nothing.

All of them are mute dogs unable to bark,

Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;

11 And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied.

And they are shepherds who have no understanding;

They have all turned to their own way,

Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.

12 “Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink;

And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.”

 

Can you see now why Judah was heading for demise? God blessed Abraham. He guided Isaac. He restored Jacob into Israel. Israel means overcomer. From Jacob/Israel came the twelve sons who would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. God continued to lead, guide, and bless. They prospered in Egypt as God said they would. Judah was identified as the one through whom the Seed would come. Then they were enslaved and mistreated for centuries as God said would happen but still His eye was on them. At the time prophesied to Abraham God sent Moses to deliver them, or rather to announce that God would deliver them. He did deliver them and after an unnecessarily long journey due to their lack of faith, they finally settled in Canaan, the Promised Land. The settling wasn't all that peaceful again due to their lack of faith. Generations past. In time they cried for a human king. It was an act of folly that revealed how far from God they were. More time past and over an issue of taxation the kingdom split. Judah and Benjamin, an almost extinct tribe remained alone in the south while the other ten started a new kingdom of compromise and false worship in the north. Not one of their kings was ever faithful to God and eventually they were crushed and assimilated by Assyria. Judah alone remained. To Judah was sent messages of warning through the prophet Isaiah.

God was no longer able to bless them. Their calling to light the world with the glory of God was not being realized. They were positioned at the crossroads of the ancient world to spread light and love. Instead they built walls around Jerusalem and became self-obsessed. They even began to turn on their own. If you were a sick Jew you were cursed by God and unworthy of care. If you were a poor Jew you got the same treatment. Injustice flowed like water and oppression like an inexhaustible fountain. Eunuchs we're shunned as cursed. Foreigners were like the plague, to be avoided at all costs. The city on a hill that was to shed light and love across the land became a prison house of hate, elitism, discrimination, and pride. The Spirit of God was absent. No longer could He bless Judah. Everyone He was calling to, they were turning away.

Their watchmen didn't know what or who they were watching for. Their shepherds were only looking out for themselves. People were not cared for, they were a nuisance to be exploited for profit. They were good at it too. The wine was always going to flow. Times were good. The Dow kept increasing, the dividends kept coming in, and Isaiah's voice of warning was a foolish annoyance...

God is not mocked. He is a faithful Shepherd and if those called to care do not, He calls someone else.

Judah was going down by her own choices. She tied the noose around her own neck and when God attempted to remove it, she tied it tighter.

The good news? When we fail, God does not. His house will be a house of prayer for all people. There will be joy in that land and injustice and oppression will never rise again.

 

 

Isaiah Day 208 - The Good Die Young?

 

57:1 The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart;

And devout men are taken away, while no one understands.

For the righteous man is taken away from evil,

2 He enters into peace;

They rest in their beds,

Each one who walked in his upright way.

 

The original texts that make up the Bible had no chapters and verses. They were (thankfully) added later to make it easier to find passages etc... The downside is that we mentally tend to disconnect chapters from each other when we shouldn't. Chapter 56 ended describing the sad state of Judah and it is in this context that chapter 57 begins by saying the good people are dying and no one really cares. They are dying and no one understands why. Then God explains why. He says He is delivering them from the almost completely evil condition of the country. It's exhausting and painful to live in places where evil rules the day, especially when you don't want to be a part of it. There is a reason why people flee their countries to go to other ones. Many times I have been told by immigrants "You don't realize how blessed you are in this country." I lived in the Ukraine for 6 weeks in 1994 when they were still reeling from the change over of communism after the cold war ended in 1989. The currency fluctuated like a yo yo. There was no real justice. It was so different in so many ways from the steady calm of Canada that I was used to and yet even Ukraine in that state was far better than many other places people live in. When God says a place is bad and that enough is enough and He puts to rest His faithful ones to spare them front the evil, it is because it is truly bad. When you review the histories of places in the Bible where God said "Enough is enough" it was truly awful. Consider Sodom where the men got together in a gang to rape the "fresh meat" that just came to town and when they were struck with blindness instead of going home or coming to their senses in some way, they kept pursing their evil scheme.

 

At a time of anarchy God let's His faithful go to rest. There is an unmatched peace in sleep and that's all death is. We sleep until the coming Day when Jesus returns to wake all who went to sleep longing for Him and His kingdom.

 

Ellen White, who is much maligned and accused of adding to Scripture wrote that just before Jesus comes many of the faithful will die and rest through the chaos until He comes. Her opponents say she makes these things up but once again the principle is clearly taught in the Scriptures. What a merciful God. There are many things far worse than dying and Jesus knows it. Whether I die early or live through the coming storm I can rest every day knowing My God is infinitely better than good and does all things well.

 

Isaiah Day 209 - Love Is Relentless

 

57:3 “But come here, you sons of a sorceress,

Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.

4 “Against whom do you jest?

Against whom do you open wide your mouth

And stick out your tongue?

Are you not children of rebellion,

Offspring of deceit,

5 Who inflame yourselves among the oaks,

Under every luxuriant tree,

Who slaughter the children in the ravines,

Under the clefts of the crags?

6 “Among the smooth stones of the ravine

Is your portion, they are your lot;

Even to them you have poured out a drink offering,

You have made a grain offering.

Shall I relent concerning these things?

 

I wish it was a better news day than it is, but when times are bad we can either stick our heads in the same or be honest about it. Before I go any further let me tell you a story about what happened to my sister-in-law Natalie last week. She was waiting for a shuttle to pick her up and it never came. She called to find out what happened and for whatever reason it had never showed. The owner of the hotel came himself to pick her up and was super apologetic. He asked her what she would like as compensation for the error. She didn't know what to say so she asked him and he offered her free meals for the rest of her stay. I have always found it a very effective way to handle a mistake: let the guilty party choose their own penalty.

 

Here in Isaiah 57 we already know Judah is a mess. Things are so bad God has declared He will let many of the faithful go to their rest to spare them from the anarchy around them. We covered that yesterday. Today we come to the part where He turns to the rebellious ones, the unjust ones, those steeped in prejudice and oppression. What can He say that hasn't already been said? What can He do that He hasn't already done?

 

As I have conceded before, the wording of Isaiah can be a little cumbersome so let's take a closer look and simplify what's there:

 

“But come here, you sons of a sorceress, (reference to the demonic religions and mindsets they have inherited)

Offspring of an adulterer (male) and a prostitute.(female) A great historical example of this kind of union was Ahab and Jezebel. He was unfaithful to God (adulterer) and she married him for profit and power (prostitute).

4

“Against whom do you jest?

Against whom do you open wide your mouth

And stick out your tongue?

Are you not children of rebellion,

Offspring of deceit, (Who are you fooling? Who will your antics persuade)

5

Who inflame yourselves among the oaks,

Under every luxuriant tree, (the word inflame very likely refers to perverse sexual practices performed under the guise of religion. These were common in various ancient cultures.)

Who slaughter the children in the ravines,

Under the clefts of the crags? (Child sacrifice was also widely practiced. It was this practice God was addressing with Abraham when He provides the ram in place of Isaac. Abraham was a child of idolatry and well familiar with child sacrifice but God wants no such thing from us - The Lord Will Provide.

6 “Among the smooth stones of the ravine

Is your portion,  they are your lot; (another reference to idols/idolatry)

Even to them you have poured out a drink offering,

You have made a grain offering.

Shall I relent concerning these things?

 

So we have the descendants of Abraham practicing lewd sexual rituals in the name of religion, killing their own children in the name of religion, on top of the injustice, oppression, exploitation of the poor, and wasting of resources to appease stone images etc...

 

Now God is our Father. He made us. He knows what is best for us and what is bad for us. With Judah reeling into self-destruction through generations of sin He ends with a question to them: "Shall I relent concerning these things?" In other words should He turn a blind eye? Should He be ok with it? Should He just let it slide even though He knows it is bad? Should He continue to allow the innocent to suffer while the perversion and dysfunction deepens?

 

Yesterday a friend asked why God doesn't intervene more? Love gives every opportunity for a turn around, for change, for restoration. Love is relentless. However there comes a point when mercy and long-suffering no longer serves a purpose. There comes a tipping point when no change will ever come. For God to extend mercy past that point because pure abuse to the victims and God would never allow it. The wisdom to know where that line is only He knows. Our role is to both be faithful and to fight injustice and oppression wherever we can while leaving the rest of the mess to God. Some of the most vile people in history have recovered and some of the most seemingly "good" have turned awful.

 

Judah was passing her tipping point and God was about to step in. Could He relent and do otherwise? He is asking those in the wrong what He should do so they can reflect and see He has done everything He could already.

 

  Isaiah Day 210 – Our Sexual Sickness Is Not New

 

57:7 “Upon a high and lofty mountain

You have made your bed.

You also went up there to offer sacrifice.

8 “Behind the door and the doorpost

You have set up your sign;

Indeed, far removed from Me, you have uncovered yourself,

And have gone up and made your bed wide.

And you have made an agreement for yourself with them,

You have loved their bed,

You have looked on their manhood.

9 “You have journeyed to the king with oil

And increased your perfumes;

You have sent your envoys a great distance

And made them go down to Sheol.

10 “You were tired out by the length of your road,

Yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’

You found renewed strength,

Therefore you did not faint.

11 “Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time, so you do not fear Me?

12 “I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, But they will not profit you.

13 “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up,

And a breath will take them away.

But he who takes refuge in Me will inherit the land and will possess My holy mountain.”

 

Not glaringly obvious in the English rendering but there are two major sins God is addressing here and they are both connected to the pagan idolatry they have adopted from the nations around them. One is child sacrifice and the other is gross sexual perversion. If you did some research into cult prostitutes you would find that in some ancient cultures families were required either give a large monetary donation to the deity/deities or send their teenage daughter to the temple to be available to whomever comes along. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the subject:

 

"The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger at least once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta”. It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus."

 

Another culture I read about had the young girls serving for a year whomever came along. Can you imagine the vileness of it and the lifelong trauma caused by it? Jesus said "Better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea than to offend one of these little ones. Jesus elevated the status of children in a culture and time that treated them as nothing. In the time of Isaiah the young were sexual toys in the name of religion or sacrifices burned on altars on the high places. Is it any wonder God asked "Should I relent?"

 

In today's passage He says "I was silent for a long time". Love grants freedom. If God did not allow us freedom He could not claim He loves us. With that freedom they became unbelievable perverse and evil. When you study ancient cultures you will find similar patterns. The deeper into idolatry and man made religions any civilization sinks, the more they exploit the poor and vulnerable (children and seniors) and the more twisted their sexual appetites become.

 

In the west we have steadily been drifting further and further from God. In the wake of that trend we should expect to find more and more exploitation of the poor and vulnerable and increased sexual deviance. I don't think I need to say more. When God is silent we call Him absent and uncaring. When He intervenes we call Him a tyrant. I'm just thankful some day evil will be no more.

 

Isaiah Day 211 - God's Anger

 

57:17 “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him;

I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart.

18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

19 Creating the praise of the lips.

Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,”

Says the Lord, “and I will heal him.”

20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea,

For it cannot be quiet,

And its waters toss up refuse and mud.

21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

 

The 'him' referred to here is of course Judah. God is speaking to the nation as if it were an individual. Notice the hope in the darkness. God had one objective and one objective only and that is to heal him. Not only is that His objective but He declares that He will accomplish it. There is a qualifying 'but' though. He will heal Judah but not everyone in it. The wicked who insist in their wickedness He can't heal.

 

Verse 17 God says He was angry because of his (Judah's) unjust gain. That's a black reference to his oppression, exploitation of the poor, injustice etc... He has reason to be angry as we saw yesterday. If God was not angered by what they were doing how could He say He is a God of love?

 

Notice what He did in His anger. He struck Judah, then He hid Himself from him, and then Judah kept pursuing his rebellious ways. Interesting. Clearly God's anger was not a death blow. If Judah could continue in rebellion and God could still promise healing then His anger did not destroy them. In fact His anger resulted in Him turning away and hiding His face. We have seen this before. When we persist in rebellion God permits it but He won't go with us. We are on our own. The prodigal son was free to live as he chose but Dad didn't go with him.

 

How does such a course end? What is the result of pursuing wickedness? The wicked have no peace. God doesn't cause them to have no peace. He isn't even directly present. The lack of peace is the natural inescapable result of sin. It's tempting sometimes to look at those who are pursuing evil and think "They seem ok to me". In fact Psalm 73 is all about that. However it's possible to appear at peace to others and yet have no peace. Isn't that true? How many times have we put on a good face when inside we were far from peaceful?

 

Look at the rising anger in society today. We have no peace and we never will until we allow Him to do the healing in our hearts that He do desperately wants to do and is more than able to accomplish. I believe that is what angers God the most, knowing how fixable we are yet forced to stand to the side and watch us self destruct because love forces no one.

 

Isaiah Day 212 - Incredible Tension

 

57:15

 

For thus says the high and exalted One

Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,

“I dwell on a high and holy place,

And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit

In order to revive the spirit of the lowly

And to revive the heart of the contrite.

16

“For I will not contend forever,

Nor will I always be angry;

For the spirit would grow faint before Me,

And the breath of those whom I have made.

 

I have two children. What of one of them turned against the other. What if one treated the other with injustice, oppression, exploitation and merciless violence?

 

We are all God's children. Some of us fight for the right and others stand against justice.

 

The story of the prodigal son is deep and full of meaning. A Father had two sons. The younger asked for his inheritance early and left with it, wasting it all on wild living. At this point in the story the younger son is the bad son. He is the one causing heartache to his father. He is the one leaving the older son to work alone on the farm.

 

The younger son comes to his senses. He returns. At this point the older son becomes furious. He reveals his true heart. He didn't stay out of love for his father. He stayed to secure the entire farm for himself. He was selfish, unloving, and unforgiving. The Father left the party for the younger son to plead with his angry son. The story is left hanging. We don't know what happened. Did the angry son soften and come to his senses or did he remain angry, bitter, and self-service?

 

Since we don't know let's not speculate. Let's consider the Father. He gives freedom to both sons. He loves both sons. He desires they love Him in return but that is something they must decide. As time progresses it at first seems the younger son is the bad son and then when he returns it seems the older son is the bad son and how it ends we never find out.

 

Life is like that. It's a roller coaster. People do good thing and bad things. Some of the bad things they do are actually done with good motives. Some of the good things are done with bad motives. We make judgment calls. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong. We even judge God, wondering why He allows some of the horrors that happen and where He is during the sometimes wild ups and downs of life.

 

In two verses Isaiah pulls back the curtain on all of this. We see God angry at our evil yet patient to endure it, yet the patience has a limit too. He even admits what is the cause of His patience having limits:

 

"For I will not contend forever,

Nor will I always be angry;

For the spirit would grow faint before Me,

And the breath of those whom I have made."

 

When the patience of God toward evil would squash the hope of the faithful entirely He relents. He draws a line and says "Enough".

 

In Matthew 24 Jesus describes the great struggle of the last days. Love is on the line. It is growing cold and dying. So evil are the times that Jesus says the most loving are in danger of losing all hope and for their sakes He steps in, cuts the time short, and puts an end to the darkness.

 

He will allow as much time as possible for His wayward children to come to their senses but not so much time that the innocent will give up hope and die on the inside.

 

What an ordeal for God. To have to make the choice to let one child die in order to save the other, knowing if He does nothing both will die is a choice I can't and don't want to imagine. What I do know is that God is love and He will work in such a way as to save every child He can.

 

Isaiah Day 213 - Well Below the Surface

 

57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One

Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,

“I dwell on a high and holy place,

And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit

In order to revive the spirit of the lowly

And to revive the heart of the contrite.

16 “For I will not contend forever,

Nor will I always be angry;

For the spirit would grow faint before Me,

And the breath of those whom I have made.

17 “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him;

I hid My face and was angry,

And he went on turning away, in the way of his heart.

18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

19 Creating the praise of the lips.

Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,”

Says the Lord, “and I will heal him.”

20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea,

For it cannot be quiet,

And its waters toss up refuse and mud.

21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

 

I'm going to start with a confession. I should be in chapter 58 today. That was my plan. However I'm hesitant to enter that chapter because it doesn't say/teach what "my people" think it does. So on my hesitation I reviewed chapter 57 again and I'm glad I did. God has ways of using our foolishness for good.

 

Two words jumped off the page this morning: heart and healing. I also noticed a contradiction.

 

When you read chapter 57 it's hard to miss where God says the problem is. It's in our hearts. We may do the "right" things and still be in rebellion against Him. How many times when I was growing up did my mom make me say "I'm sorry"? I wasn't. I would say I was but it was just words. In University I had a disagreement with my professor. I soon realized he held all the power and wasn't going to back down so I told him what he wanted to hear. I think he even believed me but it wasn't true. The heart is unseen but it's where all the real action takes place. We may say and do what is acceptable to those around us but in our heart is the truth of it all. There is something else about the heart too. Our inner person is formed by life experiences and even inherited tendencies. The Bible says some pretty tough stuff about the heart like "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who understands it?"

 

God does. He knows why you lie, even when there is absolutely no need. He knows why you overreact to certain people and certain things. He knows why you feel certain things more than you should and can't feel other things at all. The human heart is a damaged place. God says it is like the tossing sea, churning up refuse and mud. When the heart truly opens, garbage comes out, filth comes out. Jesus said "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." When the pressure is on and proper decorum flies out the window what comes out of your heart?

 

That's the bad news. The good news is that God can fix it, no matter what it is. Over and over He promises "I will heal."

 

Most of us avoid our hearts. We don't want to think about what is in there. We just keep closing the closet door hoping it stays shut. We need to let God shift our thinking. We need to focus on His ability to heal, rather than the apparent hopeless condition of our hearts.

 

There is no contradiction. Our hearts are wicked and full of garbage and we can't fix it, but that has nothing to do with His ability to heal.

 

We can't but He can.

Isaiah Day 214 - Gut Check Time

 

58:1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back;

Raise your voice like a trumpet,

And declare to My people their transgression

And to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,

As a nation that has done righteousness

And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.

They ask Me for just decisions,

They delight in the nearness of God.

3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?

Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’

Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,

And drive hard all your workers.

4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.

You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

5 “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?

Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed

And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?

Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

6 “Is this not the fast which I choose,

To loosen the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the bands of the yoke,

And to let the oppressed go free

And break every yoke?

7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry

And bring the homeless poor into the house;

When you see the naked, to cover him;

And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

 

Just in case you missed it due to some of the awkward wording here it is:

 

God is speaking of people who pray, who fast, who want Him to intervene in their lives and give them justice. While they are doing these things they themselves are taking justice from others, exploiting and abusing their employees and ignoring the most basic needs of the poor.

 

If that picture kicks you in the gut, it does me as well. When was the last time I took in someone in need? How often are my prayers about my needs while I ignore those around me who have far more urgent needs?

 

The message of Isaiah is consistent from beginning to end. God is looking down on people who claim His name yet in their hearts are nothing like Him. He promises He can heal. That's what I’m clinging to.

 

Isaiah Day 215 - Gut Check Part 2

 

58:6 “Is this not the fast which I choose,

To loosen the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the bands of the yoke,

And to let the oppressed go free

And break every yoke?

7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry

And bring the homeless poor into the house;

When you see the naked, to cover him;

And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn,

And your recovery will speedily spring forth;

And your righteousness will go before you;

The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9 “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you remove the yoke from your midst,

The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,

10 And if you give yourself to the hungry

And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

Then your light will rise in darkness

And your gloom will become like midday.

11 “And the Lord will continually guide you,

And satisfy your desire in scorched places,

And give strength to your bones;

And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

 

It's pretty plain. We were designed to love and part of love, a huge part of love, is caring for each other. Bad religion is not about others. Bad religion is a formula used to extract from God what we want. If it involves caring for others it is only as a means to an end. It actually has nothing to do with genuine care for the person being helped. Bad religion makes lists, keeps records, tracks statistics, and strategizes, all for the goal of doing to get. That's why Jesus plainly stated in Matthew 7 that many would come to Him and say "Lord, Lord, here is a list of all the things we have done." They present the list as payment to get the reward they have been working towards. Somewhere along the way they ignored God's voice to their soul. They shut Him out in favour of a system they were more comfortable with.

 

Heaven is not a rewards program. It is Home for all those who belong to His family, those who prefer to give, rather than receive, those who would choose to be cheated, rather than cheat someone else, those who can't be comfortable having much while others have little or none.

 

God is plainly saying that if we want to find Him, find happiness, find meaning, find fulfillment, we need to lay down the whip, lay down the lists, lay down the seeking after things, and turn to those within our reach to help and help them. Sometimes I wonder of the rapid rise of depression and mental illness is largely (not exclusively for sure) attributable to our self-obsessed culture: "Love yourself, take care of yourself, be good to yourself, you deserve it". Do these sound familiar?

 

It's a very different message from this one:

 

"And if you give yourself to the hungry

And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

Then your light will rise in darkness

And your gloom will become like midday."

 

God made us and there is a high probability that He knows what are designed for. Now I am praying He will continue to heal me and make me like Him; to love just because...

 

Isaiah Day 216 - Sabbath Pleasures?

 

58:10 And if you [give yourself to the hungry

And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

Then your light will rise in darkness

And your gloom will become like midday.

11 “And the Lord will continually guide you,

And satisfy your desire in scorched places,

And give strength to your bones;

And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;

You will raise up the age-old foundations;

And you will be called the repairer of the breach,

The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot

From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,

And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable,

And honor it, desisting from your own ways,

From seeking your own pleasure

And speaking your own word,

14 Then you will take delight in the Lord,

And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

There may not be a more misused and warped section of Scripture by Seventh-day Adventists than the last verses of Isaiah 58. Here's why. The heritage of the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers was largely the Puritan movement which leaned heavily toward "Holiness". The problem is that the kind of holiness was defined by man, and not God. For the sake of simplicity, man's definition of holiness all revolves around personal performance. God's definition of holiness is all about how we treat others. Man's holiness becomes a weird kind of self-obsession that has him so busy keeping track of himself and his performance that he has no time or energy for others. Remember it was the priest and levite who left the victim bleeding in the road. They couldn't risk bring made "unclean" and they had things to do that were "more holy".

 

Combine a people who rediscovered the seventh day Sabbath with a bent toward pleasing God through personal performance and you have the perfect recipe for scouring the Bible to find out how to gain holiness points through correct Sabbath observance. In that quest they found Isaiah 58:13,14. As a child raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church I heard these verses a lot. The problem was they made no sense to me. How can I turn away from everything that is pleasurable and call the Sabbath a delight? If it is delightful it is pleasurable and therefore I must turn away from it.

ell I grew up and began to read the Book for myself. I learned to read in context, instead of handpicking verses like flowers. Is Isaiah 58 talking about Sabbath behaviour? Is it addressing not riding my bike on Sabbath? The answers are sort of and definitely not.

 

The book of Isaiah is about how the nation of Judah went off the rails. It's about how they fell from grace to religion. It's about how they manipulated their religion around so badly that they used it to treat God like a puppet and their fellowmen like commodities to be exploited. Even their own children became victims of their sick self-obsession. Isaiah 58 is about turning the ship around. It's about not playing religious games any more. They fasted but only to try and control God. They kept the Sabbath but only as a means to get what they wanted. The phrase "turn your foot" implies they were trampling on the Sabbath. They were killing it. The admonition to stop doing it comes on the heals of the counsel to help the poor and disadvantaged.

 

Now consider the Sabbath "commandment" as written by God's own finger:

 

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shall you labour and do all your work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your manservant nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger/foreigner that is within your gates for in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth and the sea and all that in them is. Then He rested on the seventh day therefore He blessed that Sabbath day and hallowed it.        Exodus 20

 

Now consider version 2.0 that God wrote after the golden calf incident when Moses smashed the first edition:

 

Deuteronomy 5:12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

 

There are some changes. Let's look particularly at the section about who is to rest. The list of animals went from cattle to ox, donkey, and any of your cattle and then at the end of the section God added "so that your male and female servants may rest as well as you".

 

Do you see it? After the first one they started looking for ways around the "law". He said cattle but He never said Ox or Donkey so let's use those so we can make money seven days a week. Who handled the animals? Of course, the servants did. Sabbath was meant as rest for all. Not only as rest for all but in a culture of the have and the have nots the Sabbath was designed to level the playing field. The cry today in some sectors for equality and justice is not a new cry. God has been crying for it from the start. He wrote it into the very heart or the only document He ever wrote for us with His own finger.

 

We’ll finish tomorrow...

 

Isaiah Day 217 - Let's Be Honest

 

58:13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,

From doing your pleasure on My holy day,

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy day of the Lord honorable,

And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,

Nor finding your own pleasure,

Nor speaking your own words,

14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;

And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.

The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

Let's be honest, the context of Isaiah as a whole and chapter 58 particularly is not about Sabbath observance, it is about being religious and evil at the same time. Chapter one opens with the same impact as when Jesus took a whip and entered the temple, turning over tables and chasing out the money changers. God literally told them He hated their sacred assemblies. He called their religious assemblies a "trampling of His courts". Why? Because they were religious but evil.

Now in chapter 58 God chastises them for fasting to move His arm, to attempt to manipulate Him. He says if you really want Me close, if you really want to hear from Me, if you really want to lift the gloom that surrounds your soul, help the poor, lift up the fallen, seek justice for the oppressed, etc...

 

In that context He brings up the Sabbath. He tells them to turn their foot away. It's an expression that implies they have been trampling it. Not in the sense of getting rid of the Sabbath but making it something it was never meant to be. Jesus didn't have to tell them to build a temple when He was here. He had to overturn what they had made it and tell them what it was really meant for - a house of prayer for all people, all nations, everyone. Instead they turned it into a house of segregation and merchandise, where God's favour was literally for sale. Think about the Sabbath. Jesus confronted Jewish views of Sabbath observance at every turn. Again they still "kept" it, but trampled it underfoot. The meaning was worse than lost, it was twisted into the opposite of what it was meant to be.

 

God squeezed so much meaning into those few words about the Sabbath in Exodus and Deuteronomy that unpackaging it all could fill books. It deals with how salvation really works, it deals with marriage, gender equality, race equality, animal treatment, identity, purpose, relationship, etc... The list is endless and the truths are both powerful and revolutionary. What did we do? We turned it into another way to manipulate God. We used it like they were using fasting. We do religious things that make Him "happy" so that He is "obligated" to do what we want. That's the reason why He addresses pleasure/desire over and over as it relates to the Sabbath. That's why He said the Sabbath should be a delight. He wouldn't have had to say that if it truly was a delight for them. How could it be? They made every seventh day an onerous burden to appease God. They fasted to appease God. They offered their youth as religious prostitutes to appease God while satisfying their own perversion. They sacrificed their children to appease God. Everything was done so they could see themselves as worthy of getting from God while at the same time taking from their fellow man.

 

Did you see the comments on my blog yesterday? These rules about Sabbath observance, where did they come from? Where in the Word of God does it say anything about swimming on Sabbath or carrying a mat on Sabbath, or walking a certain distance on Sabbath or any of the other myriad nonsensical, appeasement based behaviours we have added to the Sabbath? All He gave us was a blessing to be both received and shared and we turned it into a burden and a curse. Why? Because we see God as we are, unwilling to give and needing to be appeased and manipulated.

 

Let's be honest, we need to consider Him and Sabbath anew. We to overturn the tables, chase our the money changers, get rid of all the noise and start over.

 

Rest for me, rest for you, rest for everyone.

 

We'll continue tomorrow...

 

Isaiah Day 218 - Let's Be Honest Part 2

 

58:13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,

From doing your pleasure on My holy day,

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy day of the Lord honorable,

And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,

14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;

And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.

The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

Inevitably the religious debates regarding Sabbath observance revolve around what we can and can't do. Not only does this miss the point, but it is pure self-obsession. The question we need to ask ourselves about the Sabbath is: "Do I see the day as a duty performed by me for God's benefit, or do I truly understand it as a gift made God and given to us for our benefit?"

 

Those two views are opposite and in practical reality for too many, if not most, the former view is the one taken. To this day many Jews believe it is their imperfect observance of the Sabbath that prevents Messiah from coming and if they could keep just one Sabbath perfectly He would come. Missed entirely in that thinking is that Sabbath was made for us. It was created and given before sin ever entered the picture. It will exist throughout eternity when sin is no more. Sabbath is not a test. It is not a hood to jump through to please or appease an exacting God.

 

How many employees would revolt if their employer said "From now on you can count on having every Sabbath (Saturday) off. No matter what is happening or how busy we are  we will never call you in on that day." Would it be possible to turn that announcement into a burden? Why have we done it with the Sabbath throughout history?

 

Well truthfully it isn't just the Sabbath. Abraham was promised by God that he and Sarah would have a son. Abraham turned this gift to be received info pressure to achieve. Jacob was promised the birthright before he was ever born. God told Rebekah his mom that it would be his. Yet they both plotted together how to steal it from Esau rather than allow God to give it to him.

 

On and on the cycle has gone. God gives and promises, we turn it all into burdens, pressure, etc...

 

In Judah people were fasting, Sabbath "keeping", offering their children for religious prostitution and blood sacrifices, all to squeeze out of God what they thought they wanted. All of it man-made. All of it a system of buying from Him through their religious exploits. His response? "If you want Me, if you want fulfillment, if you want to find delight, join Me in what I am doing. Join Me in what you are designed for. Put down all the nonsense that causes you stress and pressure and help your neighbour. Feed the hungry people downtown, use your spare bedroom to house a guy down on his luck and help him get back on his feet. Stop turning the day I gave you into some kind of sick religious prostitution. It isn't making you happy and it certainly doesn't bring Me joy either."

 

Here's the litmus test. If I'm even close to right it should be supported by how Jesus lived when He was here right?

 

Did you know that nearly every miracle Jesus did was on the Sabbath? He went to church and worshipped His Father every Sabbath morning. Luke tells us that was His custom. Some of the miracles were done in church. Each time it made the religious angry. They truly believed He was desecrating the day because healing was work. They had no idea what they were talking about or Who they were talking to but they really believed what they were saying.

 

Remember the crippled man by the pool? That was on Sabbath. Jesus went out of His way to find that man. When was the last time we used the Sabbath hours to go out of our way to find someone we could help and bless? Then Jesus told them an to pick up his sleeping mat and go home. Jesus knew this was illegal Sabbath behaviour according to Jewish man-made rules. He wanted to challenge those rules. He wanted to bring a spotlight on the whole Sabbath conundrum.

 

I challenge you to compare your views of Sabbath "keeping" with the Jewish approach versus the Jesus approach and see which they are more similar to. Perhaps God feels so distant because we are so distant? Maybe it's time we joined Him in the activities that are closest to His heart and we might just find He isn't so far away after all...

 

Isaiah Day 219 - Let's Be Honest Part 3

 

58:13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day,

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy day of the Lord honorable,

And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,

14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,

And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.

The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

Yesterday I had the privilege of baptizing a man who is into his senior years and has been a believer all his life. The faith community he belonged to growing up did baptism by sprinkling. Long story short he decided to get baptized the Biblical way: full immersion under water.

 

Make no mistake. He isn't more saved today than he was yesterday morning before his baptism. Baptism itself contains no mystical powers. God reads the heart, not the résumé. All married couples go through some kind of ceremony. Nearly 50% of them will divorce. Clearly the ceremony has no mystical powers to hold two people together just as baptism has no power to hold us to God.

 

So why baptism at all? And why fuss over the particulars of how it is done? Baptism is an event that if done the Biblical is rich in meaning. Meaning that is lost when the process is changed. When a person submits to go under the water they are symbolically dying. The water represents cleansing. When they come back up it represents a new life, a new person, new everything. It was Jesus who said "You must be born again by water and the Spirit or you will never see or enter the kingdom of God." Jesus Himself submitted to baptism even though there was no sin to wash away. He did as an example of the importance and for those who for various reasons never had the chance to get baptized themselves.

 

Notice though Jesus said water and Spirit. It's not just the ritual. The outward ritual must be accompanied by a change on the inside. I can go through a marriage ceremony with anyone but it won't cause me to love them as a husband ought to love His wife. The outward ceremony is only meaningful if it is sealing what was and is happening on the inside.

 

Now what does all this have to do with Sabbath?

 

Sabbath can be and too often is an empty ritual. We don't delight in it. We see it as a thing to be endured to please or appease God. We add it to the list of other religious things we do to complete the list so we can get the prize.

 

Pray - check

Read Bible - check

Maybe fast once in a while - check

Do some nice things for others - check

Give money to the church - check

Go to church - check

Keep Sabbath - check

 

Maybe your list is longer or shorter. The point is if Sabbath "keeping" is just another thing on a list of things we do to fulfill Divine requirements so we can secure heaven we entirely missed the point. That's why I try very hard to avoid the discussions about what can and can't be done on Sabbath. It misses the point and serves only to reinforce a false and soul sucking idea. 

 

Jesus gave us the Sabbath. He gave it before sin ever existed so it can't possibly have anything to do with buying our way out of sin. It was a gift to us, a gift in time. A gift of relationship, a gift of identity.

 

Guess when adopted children think about their biological parents the most? Around their birthday. Birthdays mark our beginnings. Sabbath marks our beginnings. We don't celebrate birthdays to appease our parents and gain points with them. We celebrate life, we celebrate being, we celebrate family and relationships. We invite the people who add joy and meaning to our lives.

 

Jesus almost exclusively spoke of heaven as a party, an event, a major gathering. Invitations went out. Special outfits were even given out in one story to wear to the banquet. Invitations are special. They signify relationship. There is a connection between the host and the guests. The guests may be strangers to each other but through the host they are linked.

 

When Jesus spoke of people not going to heaven it was also in the context of relationship. "I don't know you..."

 

Are your interactions with God about requirements or relationship? Sabbath will never make sense until it's a celebration of God's relationship to us. He made us, He rescued us through Jesus and He is restoring us. All of that is worth celebration and all of that is forgotten in whole are in part when His weekly invitation to come and rest is forgotten or turned into some grotesque form of religious prostitution.

 

Rest for me, for you, for everyone.

 

Stress levels drop when you can kick back with those who truly love you. He loves you more than you know. Rest.

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