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Only One risen Saviuor

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

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

 

Isaiah Day 260 - Look Up, Way Up

 

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

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

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

For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing

And her people for gladness.

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

And there will no longer be heard in her

The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

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

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

For the youth will die at the age of one hundred

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

Will be thought accursed.

21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;

They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 “They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat;

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

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

23 “They will not labor in vain,

Or bear children for calamity;

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 261 - Vegetarian Carnivores

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE LION WHO LAID DOWN WITH THE LAMB

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Isaiah Day 262 - Oops

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 263 - Heaven Starts Here

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Isaiah Day 264 - Think Bigger

 

66:1 Thus says the Lord,

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

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

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

2 “For My hand made all these things,

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

“But to this one I will look,

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 265 - Literally Limited

 

66:1 Thus says the Lord,

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

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things,

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

“But to this one I will look,

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

 

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

 

Silly right?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Love wins

 

 

Isaiah Day 266 - Do You Tremble?

 

66 Thus says the Lord,

 

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

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things,

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

“But to this one I will look,

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 267 - Abominations

 

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

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

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

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

As they have chosen their own ways,

And their soul delights in their abominations...

 

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

 

Sounds crazy until He explains why...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

That my mouth may declare Your praise.

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

You are not pleased with burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Isaiah Day 268 - Look Closer, Step Back

 

66:4 So I will choose their punishments

And will bring on them what they dread.

Because I called, but no one answered;

I spoke, but they did not listen.

And they did evil in My sight

And chose that in which I did not delight.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 269 - To Be Expected

 

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

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

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

But they will be put to shame.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Isaiah Day 270 - Enemies

 

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

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

 

God has enemies. It seems so odd.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Isaiah Day 271 - A Boy? A Nation?

 

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

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

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

Can a land be born in one day?

Can a nation be brought forth all at once?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 272 - Jerusalem: City of Peace?

 

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

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

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

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

And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here is the Jerusalem Isaiah wrote about:

 

Revelation 21:1

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

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

 

I hope you are thirsty...

 

 

Isaiah Day 273 - The Final Fury

 

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

15 For behold, the Lord will come in fire

And His chariots like the whirlwind,

To render His anger with fury,

And His rebuke with flames of fire.

16 For the Lord will execute judgment by fire

And by His sword on all flesh,

And those slain by the Lord will be many.

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

Following one in the center,

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 274 - Seeing and Knowing

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 275 - The Survivors

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I wish.

 

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

 

 

Isaiah Day 276 - The End Is the Beginning

 

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

“So your offspring and your name will endure.

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

And from sabbath to sabbath,

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

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

 

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

 

What are the key differences between there and here?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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