Saturday, June 30, 2012

Isaiah 48 - Obstinacy or Submission

LINK: Isaiah 48  

BACKGROUND 

God reproved His people for their hypocrisy much like Samuel reproved Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22. The Jews were going through all the right ceremonial motions, but their hearts were so far from God. For this, God called them obstinate. This comes from the Hebrew word qāšeh that comes from the root word qāšâ that arose from an agricultural term for the the oxen's rebellious resistance to the yoke. Israel had a history of being non-responsive to God since the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 9:27; 10:16; Judges 2:19; 2 Kings 17:14; Nehemiah 9:16; Acts 7:51). They bowed to the Lord and to idols, and God wanted their whole heart. 

Israel had ignored previous prophecies of the coming captivity, but He would give them new ones that foretold of being released from that captivity. For His purposes and His name's sake (not because of any righteousness on their part because they had dismally failed in this department), He would bring salvation by predicting the fall of Babylon and the victories of Cyrus, King of Persia (48:14) that would eventually lead to their return from captivity. 

Their way could have been peaceful like a river (48:18), but they were too stiff-necked to do it the easy way. Instead there was "no peace for the wicked" (48:22; 57:21). 


REFLECTION 

We can all be obstinate toward the Lord now and then. We resist God's yoke because it cramps our style; but living for one's self only leads to a life devoid of peace (48:22). Much (but not all) suffering is brought on by trying to live life our way rather than His way. Trust me, I know!

Christ said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).  It requires we surrender our will and way that we think is right (Philippians 4:3; James 4:7) for a way that leads to righteousness and peace.

The choice is ours. What do you choose for your life? 


APPLICATION 

So much of suffering is brought on by our own foolish choices. Have you submitted yourself 100% to His way? 

If you have not, talk to God about that. 

PRAYER

Lord, we submit our lives to you 100%, 24/7/365. Amen. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Isaiah 47 - The Fall of Babylon

LINK: Isaiah 47

BACKGROUND 

It is estimated that these undated prophecies were given toward the end of Isaiah's ministry (681 B.C.). Isaiah predicted the fall of Babylon more than 140 years before it happened in 539 B.C. when it fell to the Medo-Persians leading Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem! What is extraordinary about this prophecy is that Babylon was not even a world power at that time. So, who would have thought that Judah would have fallen to them and be carried into exile in 587 B.C.? 

We will learn more about the fall of Babylon when we study Daniel. 

REFLECTION

God used Babylon to judge Judah. He used Assyria to judge Israel. They were both ruthless nations. God uses some pretty unconventional events, people, and nations to accomplish His purposes. 

Just yesterday, I read an article out loud to my friend, Kathleen, about the spread of the Gospel in a very closed country, The extreme government kicked all global workers out of the country in 1979 and have done all they can to force the people to follow a certain religion, causing the people to question everything about what they have believed:
In the year 2000, Christian satellite broadcasting began beaming the gospel to almost every home in _____. This was made possible by the fact that millions of satellite dishes had been illegally smuggled into _____ by corrupt members of the same government that had outlawed them. The Christian satellite programs became a lifeline for the church in _____. Much more, when the people learned that the government was trying to scramble the broadcasts, they became an overnight sensation. Recent nationwide surveys reveal that over 70% of the population is watching Christian satellite programs. These same surveys indicate that at least one million have already become believers, and many millions more are on the verge. 
God has used this evil regime to accomplish His purposes! Praise Him!

APPLICATION 

With this growth, there has become increasing persecution of the believers. Please pray for this country even if I cannot say it by name! We know many people from this nation, and we love them with all of our hearts. We even know many from this country who have come to follow Jesus!

Also, how have you seen God's purposes linked with personal events in your life? Sometimes, hard things happen, but when we look back, we can see how God used it mightily in our life. Can you see that?

PRAYER

Lord, accomplish Your purposes among these people and in our own lives. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Isaiah 46 - God's Superiority over Babylon's Gods

LINK: Isaiah 46

BACKGROUND

Babylon would be the instrument God would use to judge Judah, but she would eventually be destroyed. The gods of Babylon would not be able to save them because the one true God was superior over Babylon's gods.

Bel was another name for Marduk (Jeremiah 50:2), god of the sun. Nebo, son of Marduk, was the god of learning, writing, and astronomy. Their images were carried during the New Year's Day festival. God did not need to be carried, but He would carry His people!

REFLECTION and APPLICATION

Listen is a key word in Isaiah (44:1; 46:3, 12; 47:8; 48:1, 12, 14, 16; 51:4; 52:8; 55:2) that you may want to underline. It is the same word that is in the SHEMA of Deuteronomy 6:4:


   Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 

This Hebrew word means more than to just listen or hear. It means "to listen in order to obey." 

Are you listening intentionally to the Lord today? Are you obeying what He is telling you to do? I like to write it down. I have a listening time in the shower every day, and I have a shower crayon so that I can write down what He tells me to do. I keep it on the shower wall until I obey it! 

God Guides is a great book to motivate you to do this. 

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You as king of Kings and God of gods. You are high and above all other gods. We praise You as the one and only TRUE God. We praise You for Your power to rule over all the nations, and we ask that we might listen to Your mighty voice today and obey. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Isaiah 44 & 45 - The Uniqueness of the One True God

LINKS: Isaiah 44 & Isaiah 45 (read over the next two days)

BACKGROUND

God's uniqueness as the one true God is the main thrust of this section of Isaiah, God is contrasted with idols. His sovereignty is revealed because Isaiah prophesied 150 years before Cyrus allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem.

In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and his forces broke through Jerusalem’s walls, burned down the temple, and carried captives into exile. Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. (Daniel 5:30), and the next year he issued a decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). He became God’s shepherd (Isaiah 44:28) in that he served God’s purposes. The returning exiles built the temple, completing it in 515 B.C. In 444 B.C, Nehemiah directed the rebuilding of the walls (Nehemiah 1-2; Daniel 9:25). “Jeshurun” in 44:2 means “the upright one,” and is the poetic name for Israel (Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26).

Cyrus would also conquer other nations (Isaiah 45:1b), and he did by conquering Lydia and Babylon. All this was for the sake of God’s chosen people. God raised up an “anointed” one who did not even believe in Him to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 45:1, 4)!

In this passage the fact that there is “no other” god like God is stated over and over again (44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, and 21-22). Again, this is a key phrase, and you may want to underline it in your Bible.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

A sea of golden Buddhas shimmered in the light of a sultry Bangkok afternoon as I walked and prayed by all the stalls in the outdoor market. As I prayed, I thought about all the time and labor that went into the making of these idols. I also prayed toward a massive turning to Christ that would put the idol-makers out of business!

This memory from 1988 flashed into my mind as I was reading Isaiah 44. It was easy for me to spot idolatry when I lived in Thailand, but the idolatry in Western countries is much more subtle, isn’t it?

What are our modern day idols? (My friend, Mike, says we might have a clue about this if we see that the one of the most popular television shows in American is called “American Idol,” but I digress. . .) We might not have idols of gold or wood or stone, but an idol can be anything that is given sacred value or power. If your answer to any of the questions below is someone or something other than God, you may need to turn from these idols and toward the One true God:
Who created me?

Who do I ultimately trust?

Whom do I look to for ultimate truth?

Whom do I look to for security and happiness

Who is in charge of my future?

(The Life Application Bible, p. 1243)

PRAYER

Lord, show us our idols so that we might caste them out to make room for only You. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Isaiah 43 – Redeemed and Chosen

LINK: Isaiah 43

The Lord exhorts Judah to "not fear" (remember to keep underlining this key phrase in Isaiah). Despite their past failures, He would restore them from Babylon and bring them back home in a new "Exodus" through a new desert. This would show the world that He is the only true God (43:8-13).

God had "redeemed" them. The Hebrew word al, means "to buy out of slavery" and is a key word in Isaiah. There are allusions in this chapter to the first Exodus when God redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

God had "chosen" them. This word translates bachar in Hebrew.
Yahweh chose Israel to be holy and thereby to serve as his witness among the nations (Deuteronomy 14:6). But her election is not based on her own greatness but on the greatness of the Lord's love (Deuteronomy 7:7f.). The choice of Israel is confirmed by the exile and restoration, for in a new way Israel now bears witness of the Lord to the nations (Isaiah 41:8f.; 43:10; 48:10).
Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (100). Chicago: Moody Press.
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION 

Israel was an unworthy servant, but God chose them and redeemed them and would bring them back to the Promised Land. He had chosen them because He loved them and for a unique role in the history of the world. They would bring the Messiah to bless the whole world!


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Just as Israel was a "chosen people." We who believe in Jesus, the Messiah, are chosen:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Rejoice and thank God for this fact!

PRAYER

Thank You Lord for redeeming me from slavery to sin and choosing me to be part of You family. Amen. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Isaiah 42 - God's Servant Messiah

LINK: Isaiah 42

BACKGROUND 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Isaiah 42:1-7 is the first of four "Servant Songs" in Isaiah (49:1-6; 50:1-11, 52:13-53:12). This section is quoted in Matthew 12:14-21 in referring to the Servant Messiah, Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of this song. This is the beginning of many times where the Messiah is called the Servant in Isaiah (42:1-17; 49:3, 5-7; 50:10: 52:13; 53:11). 

Israel is also called the servant in the book of Isaiah (41:8; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1, 21; 45:4; 48:20), but Israel failed: 
The nation was given a mission to serve God, to be custodian of his word, and to be a light to the Gentile nations. Because of sin and rebellion, they failed. God sent his Son, Christ, as Messiah to fulfill his mission on earth. 
The Life Application Bible, p.1239
Jesus came to accomplish God's plan of salvation. He is the light to the whole world, and that includes the Gentiles (John 8:12; Is.42:6; Acts 13:47-48; Luke 1:79). Israel will be delivered from Babylon and sinners will be delivered from condemnation (42:7; 29:18; 32:3; 35:5; 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19). This deliverance will be accomplished through His death and resurrection. Because of this there will be a kingdom where He will reign in righteousness for all peoples. 

The rest of this chapter is a song of praise to God. The "servant" in 42:18-25 is Israel who is blind to their sin and cannot hear God's voice. Yet He will lead those who turn away from their idols. The chapter ends with God lamenting their blindness and deafness and the prophecy of His punishment for their disobedience. His anger would eventually destroy Jerusalem and they would be taken into captivity and exile. They needed God's Servant Messiah to open their eyes!

REFLECTION 

I just got a telephone message from a dear friend with whom I have shared deeply from the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation. At that time, I thought she had totally embraced Jesus as the one who died for her sins.

It was a wonderful moment, but at Christmastime she said, "Why do we worry about heaven or hell or Jesus. Isn't it enough to just love God and each other and just walk every day with God?" I responded with a review of all we had learned from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus means a great deal, and He is the only way to loving God.

Sigh.


She still has partial blindness. Would you pray for her?

APPLICATION 

Here is a handout that contains four different Discovery Bible Studies for people at all stages from a not yet a follower of Jesus to leaders:

DISCOVERY BIBLE STUDY WITH LISTS


PRAYER

Lord, I pray You would open my friend's blind eyes, and the eyes of all of our friends who are still in the darkness. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Isaiah 41 - Challenge and Encouragement

LINK: Isaiah 41

BACKGROUND 

As you read Isaiah 41-44, underline all the times the Lord says "Do not fear" and similar phrases. This chapter alone says it three times. Also, from this chapter to the end of the book of Isaiah, underline every time you come across "I have chosen" and similar phrases. 

The Lord puts out a challenge to all the nations because He is greater than all of them combined (40:12-17). "Islands" are referred to 15 times in the Old Testament, and 14 of those times are in Isaiah! Islands and nations together mean the very ends of the earth. The Lord wanted them all to hear in silence (Zechariah 2:13). The one who would be "stirred up from the east" (41:2) was Cyrus II of Persia (44:28) who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and gave a decree allowing the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. He is called "righteous" simply because he fulfilled God's righteous purpose in restoring the Jews (41:2). He is described as a potter treading on clay (41:25), shepherd (44:28), God's anointed (45:1), and bird of prey (46:11). Isaiah called Cyrus by name a century before he was born (44:28)!

While this chapter is a challenge to the pagan nations, it is an encouragement to His chosen people to not fear (remember chosen and fear are key words). The world around them may be in utter chaos, but they could rely on their God. He was with them and would help them, but the idols would not help them nor predict future events like He could (41:23).

REFLECTION
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do no anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

This is another verse in the Topical Memory System under the "Rely on God's Resources" section. I cannot even count the number of times on both hands I have been so glad I have hidden this verse in my heart. God was trying to tell His chosen people not to look at the intimidating nations around them but to look at Him. This is what I want to do in every difficult, fearful circumstance, and I trust that you do too! 

APPLICATION/PRAYER

Slowly, meditatively pray through this verse telling God what you fear, where you are looking anxiously about you. Worship Him as your God. Thank Him too. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Isaiah 40 - Comfort to the Chosen!

LINK: Isaiah 40

BACKGROUND

The book of Isaiah has 66 chapters. The first 39 chapters are mostly about God's judgment. The last 27 chapters are mostly about comfort, restoration, and deliverance by God. It is so interesting that the Bible has 66 books. The Old Testament contains 39 books, and the New Testament contains 27. 


These remaining 27 chapters divide into three parts of nine chapters each. These three parts center around three events:
1) Deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity prophesied in Isaiah 39:7 (Isaiah 40-48).
2) Rejection and restoration of the Suffering Servant - Jesus (Isaiah 49-57).
3) Restoration of Israel and the world with the coming of the Messiah Jesus (Isaiah 58-66).
The prophecies of Isaiah were written 100 years before Judah fell to Babylon.

Isaiah 40 marks the beginning of the transition. It is one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture because it is filled with hope and comfort for the people of Israel. It speaks of the restoration after the exile. It calls Israel to have a right relationship with Him. Most importantly, it speaks of the greatness and majesty of our God!


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

The voice of peace (vv. 9–11). Now the nation itself comes out of the valley and climbs the mountaintop to declare God’s victory over the enemy. To “bring good tidings” means “to preach the Good News.” The good news in that day was the defeat of Babylon and the release of the captive Jews (52:7–9). The Good News today is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ and the salvation of all who will trust in Him (61:1–3; Luke 4:18–19). God’s arm is a mighty arm for winning the battle (Isa. 40:10), but it is also a loving arm for carrying His weary lambs (v. 11). “We are coming home!” would certainly be good news to the devastated cities of Judah (1:7; 36:1; 37:26). 
Warren Wiersbe, Be Comforted:“Be” Commentary Series, p. 109

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

This chapter sends me into “awe orbit.” It is important to soak in it and write down all the things you learn about God from it! Enjoy and worship Him!

The phrases "I have chosen" and "do not fear" or similar wording are key phrases in the coming week's readings. Circle them every time you come across it.

PRAYER


Lord, we praise You that all may pass away but You and Your Words stand forever. We praise and worship You today as the everlasting God. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Isaiah 38 & 39 - Hezekiah's Healing and Pride

LINK: Isaiah 38 & 39
Parallel Passages: 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32

In Isaiah 36-37, we saw King Hezekiah as a man of faith. In Isaiah 38-39, we see him as a man of pride. It is obvious from Isaiah 38:6 that the events in Isaiah 38 happened before the events in 36-37 because Isaiah prophesied Judah’s deliverance from Assyria.

Here is a review of what I wrote about these chapters in the post for 2 Kings 20:
Isaiah prophesied that Hezekiah would die, but Hezekiah's faith-filled intercession caused God to hear his prayer and see his tears and heal him, giving him fifteen more years of life (701-686 B.C.). He showed this through the sign of the shadow on the "stairway of Ahaz." Some commentators say this was an Egyptian sundial in the form of a miniature staircase with shadows moving up and down the staircase. Other commentators say it was a literal staircase built by King Ahaz. 
Merodach-Baladan reigned Babylon during two period: 721-710 and 703-702 B.C. He sent an envoy to Judah to seek King Hezekiah's support as an ally in the anti-Assyrian effort but also to find out how strong Judah was. Hezekiah made a foolish mistake in showing the envoy all of his wealth and armaments and revealed his proud heart (2 Chronicles 32:25). This led to Isaiah's sad prophecy regarding the end of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. 
In spite of his pride, Hezekiah was still considered Israel's best king. In fact, only a handful of people are given 10 or more chapters in the Bible: Moses, David, Paul, and Hezekiah are a few. Of course, those chapters are scattered between three books: 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah!
One thing that the account in Isaiah has that the other two accounts do not have is the song Hezekiah wrote to express his thanks to God for his healing. Hezekiah said that he would walk “humbly all his years,” but we know that he walked in pride by showing his treasures to Babylon!

REFLECTION (written in 2009)
Oh PRIDE! I have been reminded of this area of my life over the past couple of days, and this passage could not be more perfectly timed.
Pride gets the best of us. It ensnared even a good King like Hezekiah. Pride is one of Satan’s greatest tools:
Pride is one of Satan’s chief weapons in his battle against the Lord and His people. Satan himself committed the sin of pride when he rebelled against God and sought the worship and obedience that God alone deserves (Isa. 14:12–15). Pride makes us rob God of the glory that belongs to Him alone. Pride gives us a feeling of false security and this leads us into sin and defeat. Charles Spurgeon said to his London congregation, “Be not proud of race, face, place, or grace.” Good advice! William Barclay wrote, “Pride is the ground in which all the other sins grow, and the parent from which all the other sins come.
Wiersbe, W. W. (2002). Be distinct (135). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.
Be aware! No one is immune to pride.

APPLICATION

There are many verses on pride, pray through some of them:

Leviticus 26:19 
Psalm 36:11 
Proverbs 8:13 
Proverbs 11:2 
Proverbs 16:18 
Proverbs 21:24 
Proverbs 29:23 
Isaiah 2:17 
Micah 6:8
Also, the book Praying God's Word by Beth Moore has an excellent chapter called "Overcoming Pride." I heartily recommend this book. It is fantastic for your prayer life! 


"Pride is the deification of self" 
Oswald Chambers, 
My Utmost for His Highest

PRAYER


Lord, You bring down rulers from their thrones, but you exalt the humble (Luke 1:52). Please show us the areas of pride in our life and root it out so that we might give ONLY YOU the glory and honor. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Isaiah 36 & 37 - "When the Outlook is Bleak, Try the Uplook."

LINK: Isaiah 36 & 37

BACKGROUND

Isaiah 36-39 is a historical interlude that contains two events which are foundational to understanding Isaiah and Judah's history. 

Isaiah 36-37 concerns the Assyrian threat and God's miraculous intervention that we have been hearing about. Isaiah had prophesied in Isaiah 1-35 that God would use Assyria to punish them and bring them back to Himself. He also prophesied that Judah would not be destroyed. This is the fulfillment of that prophecy.

We have already studied this account in 2 Kings 18:13-19:36 and 2 Chronicles 32. Here is the background post:

Hezekiah the King

REFLECTION (written in 2009)


"When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook.
Warren Wiersbe in Be Distinct.

This quote captures the essence of these chapters. King Hezekiah had nowhere to look but up. God would never fail him. Hezekiah response is a good lesson for us. How do we respond in intimidating circumstances? We can ignore them, give in to them, or we can follow Hezekiah's game plan (sort of like a "Hail Mary Play").

Hezekiah acknowledged that he was pretty intimidated as evidenced by tearing his clothes. Then, in faith, he headed straight for the temple of God and called for a word from the Lord through Isaiah! He admitted he was utterly helpless in the face of the threat. Then, Isaiah reassured with these familiar words: "Do not be afraid" (1 of the 240 "do not be afraid" quotes in the Bible), the Lord would not be blasphemed by this pagan king and would defeat Assyria.

Even Sennacherib's intimidating letter would not intimidate Hezekiah. He went to the temple, spread that letter out to the Lord, and acknowledged God's holiness, power, and sovereignty as the "God . . . enthroned between the cherubim" (angels on the atonement cover of the ark of the covenant).

Hezekiah also explained the reason behind his petition: "so that all nations on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God" (37:20). Here is an example of the bottom line in Scripture that I have been talking about since the beginning of the Bible Book Club: God wants to be exalted among the nations as the one and only true God!

In the end, 185,000 Assyrian troops died before ever coming to battle, and Sennacherib went home only to be slaughtered by his own children!

I have a situation now that is out of my control, and this reading is perfectly timed. This morning, it is time for a "Hail Hezekiah Play (and Pray)." I need to . . .
1) Acknowledge that I am fearful2) Run straight to God3) Seek affirmation through people who hear from God and speak His truth4) Admit that I am utterly helpless, and it involves things out of my control5) Praise God for His sovereignty and power over the situation6) Pray that He would be glorified to others through it
I just applied it! My sorrow last night has been turned to joy this morning too! Praise God!

APPLICATION

Perhaps you have a difficult situation today. Follow Hezekiah's game plan!

PRAYER


"O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see, listen" to our prayer this morning. Some of us are in difficult circumstances. We choose not to ignore them or give into them, but we choose to stand before You and ask You to solve the problem so that it might bring greater glory to You alone. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Isaiah 35 - The Holy Highway

LINK: Isaiah 35 

BACKGROUND


We have talked about God's wrath, fury, and destruction over the last two days, but we are now at the joy of Isaiah 35!


In Isaiah 1-34, the prophet had a message of judgment on all nations; but as the smoke of judgment begins to clear, we see a vision of overwhelming beauty and God's merciful restoration. This is a picture of the future, final kingdom where evil is destroyed and God establishes justice and peace. Isaiah mentions Carmel and Sharon (35:2). These were fertile and fruitful regions. The redeemed will travel along a "holy highway" to Jerusalem with singing and everlasting joy! Also, the redeemed will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit according to Ezekiel 36:24-28.


REFLECTION

God is just as thorough in his mercy as he is severe in his judgment. God's complete moral perfection is revealed by his hatred of all sin, and this leads to judgment. This same moral perfection is revealed in his love for all he has created. This leads to mercy for those who have sinned but who have sincerely loved Jesus and put their trust in him.  (The Life Application Bible, p. 1225)
APPLICATION


Meditate deeply in the beautiful picture of Isaiah 35 today!

Also, here is a sweet young woman on You Tube who allowed Isaiah 35:9-10 (and Job, Esther, and Jeremiah) to encourage her to trade her sorrows for joy. What a great application!





PRAYER


Lord, You are so good. We shout for joy to You. We are thankful that You are a God of mercy and restoration. We praise You that Jesus redeemed us through His blood so that we might travel on the "holy highway" to heaven. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Isaiah 33 & 34 - The Justice and Judgment of God

LINK: Isaiah 33 & 34  (read over the next two days)

BACKGROUND

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Assyria is looming, but these chapters point to the reign of a future King (Jesus) who will rule in righteousness and peace worldwide. Isaiah urges all to put their confidence in God and not in their circumstances as they wait. 


Isaiah 33 is the final "woe" of judgment for the enemies of God's people. God's judgment is very great for the unrighteous, but God's blessings are very great for those who have been redeemed by Him (33:13-24).


Assyria is the "destroyer" and Judah is probably the "traitor" in Isaiah 33. Assyria broke its promise (2 Kings 18:14-17) but demanded that others not break theirs!  See 2 Kings 19:20-37 and Isaiah 37:21-38 for the victory over Assyria that is described in 33:3-4. 


Isaiah 33:9 needs further explanation. Lebanon is north of Israel and had cedar forests that would wither. Sharon was a fertile, coastal plain south of Mount Carmel that would become like the Arabah (arid) desert, a dry valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqabah. Bashan was east of the Sea of Galilee. It was an agriculturally productive producer of grain and cattle and also known for its oak trees (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 27:6; Micah 7:14; Zechariah 11:2). Carmel was a thickly forested mountain range. The trees in Bashan and Carmel would drop their leaves. 


In contrast to the unrighteous, the righteous would be saved and live in a fruitful land where peace would flourish. 



Isaiah 34 is the Lord's announcement of judgment on the nations that oppose Him with specific judgment on Edom. Edomites were descendants of Jacob's twin brother, Esau, and were always Israel's bitter enemy. All nations will be judged but Edom is a representative for all nations who oppose God's people. 

The "scroll/book of the Lord" is the collected prophecies that point toward the deliverance of His people (Isaiah 30:8; Daniel 9:2). Prophecy predicts and history will reveal God's plans. 


Isaiah 1-34 have been a message of judgment on all nations who rejected God, even including Israel and Judah. There have been brief glimpses of comfort, redemption, relief, and restoration for the believing remnant. Isaiah 35 will include a vision of beauty and encouragement for the people of God. Stay tuned!


REFLECTION 

Long ago, I heard a story about the wise man who asked his 
protégé, "How are you?" 

The protégé responded, "I am well, under the circumstances."  

At which the wise counselor said, "But why are you living under them?"  

God calls us to live ABOVE our circumstance, not under them. Lately, we have been around a young believer who is somewhat of a pessimist who panics at every wave of circumstance. This leads to quite a bit of complaining about little things. 


What can I say? This person is young. I was similar at that age. In fact, I remember clinging to Isaiah 33:6 during much transition and change in my life during my early 20's, "He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." We cannot change our circumstances, but we can cling to the one who allowed them for His purposes and plans that we might not be able to see at the moment. 


I could give you a whole host of other verse from Scripture that encourage us to take our eyes off our circumstances and on to the LORD (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28), but Isaiah 33:6 is an excellent place to start. 


Granted, we all have pity-parties now and then, and God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him, but if complaining about circumstances is a regular pattern in our lives, maybe we need to look at life through a different lens. 


Our prayer for this complainer is that that person would learn the art of "noble suffering" (George's words that sound so diplomatic and regal.). God has such a plan for our sufferings. We need to rest in that.


APPLICATION 


The optimist is one who makes the best of it when he gets the worst of it; a pessimist is one who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. And a realist is one who lets God show him which end of the telescope to look through when studying his circumstances. Which kind of person are you? 
It is difficult to be optimistic when you know that "the LORD is angry with all nations; . . . He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter" (34:2). And yet, it's equally difficult to be pessimistic when you know that "the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us" (33:22). So how should you respond? In humble, realistic confidence, knowing that "the fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever" (32:17). Peace, quietness, and assurance are three elements God wants to be true of your daily experience with Him in spite of the complexities and uncertainties you face. Use each of these terms to complete this sentence: "Because I know the King is coming. I'll exchange my pessimism for ____________________ today!"
(The Daily Walk, July 23, 2008, p. 27) 

PRAYER

Lord, You will turn our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into joy. Help us to look at life through Your lens. In the name of our coming King, Jesus. Amen. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Isaiah 31 & 32 - Peaceful Habitations

LINK: Isaiah 31 & 32 

BACKGROUND

This woe is directed against the alliance Judah wanted to make with Egypt. This was strictly prohibited in the Covenant (Deuteronomy 17:16). The Lord is calling back His covenant people: 
Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected. (Isaiah 31:6)
He assures them that protection from the Assyrian threat would only be in Him, and Isaiah's prophecy speaks of a messianic King who would deliver His people in the future and reign in righteousness giving them peace:
The Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fertile field,
And the fertile field is considered as a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness
And righteousness will abide in the fertile field.
And the work [fruit, NIV] of righteousness will be peace,
And the service [effect, NIV] of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. 
Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation,
And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places. 
(Isaiah 32:15-18)
REFLECTION

In the midst of a world that is in constant turmoil, I find great comfort in the fact that my confidence can be in my sovereign Lord. He is the only One that we can rely on in turbulent times. It also excites me to no end that there will come a time when a King will rule in righteousness over the whole world!

APPLICATION

Meditate on Isaiah 32:15-18 more closely. It says that the "fruit of righteousness will be peace" and "the effect of righteousness with be quietness and confidence, forever." As believers, God has "poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5), and quietness, confidence, and peace can be part of our daily life no matter what our circumstances.

How are you doing living into that promise?

PRAYER

We praise You that Your Spirit has been poured out into our hearts. Lord, help us not to rely on anything apart from You. We give You rule in our hearts today, and we trust You for whatever comes our way. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Isaiah 30 - The Lord Longs to Be Gracious to You

LINK: Isaiah 30

BACKGROUND

This fourth “woe” was pronounced against Judah because Hezekiah had been seeking an alliance with Egypt against Sennacherib of Assyria (2 Kings 18:21). They would carry their bribes through the Negev desert on their way to Egypt, but Egypt was “utterly useless “and “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (30:7). In Ugaritic mythological literature, Rahab was a female sea monster associated with Leviathan (27:1; Job 9:13; 26:12). It is thought that this is referring to the hippopotamuses that looked like Rehab, sat on the Nile River, and did nothing. Rahab was a poetic synonym for Egypt.

Like obstinate children, Judah did not want to listen to God’s warnings through Isaiah. So, Isaiah had them write it down so they could not claim that they never heard the message. The scrolls would bear witness to Isaiah’s central message:

For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 
“In repentance and rest you will be saved, 
In quietness and trust is your strength.” 
But you were not willing. 
(Isaiah 30:15)

Consequently, they would experience God’s judgment. When Assyria invaded the land, Egypt really did “do nothing”! Yet, God stepped in and rescued His covenant people (37:35-36).

In the midst of the judgment, God’s message through Isaiah is one of love because of His covenant relationship with them:

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, 
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. 
For the Lord is a God of justice; 
How blessed are all those who long for Him. 
(Isaiah 30:18)

And at some future date, they would be restored to their land and enjoy the blessings that God intended for them:
O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:19-21)
REFLECTION

Sharon, a dear college friend, shared these verses in Isaiah with me when I was feeling afraid about my future after college. I know these are promises specifically for Judah, but they contain timeless principles for all of us:

God is . . . 
  • Gracious
  • Compassionate
  • Just
  • Our Guide
Our only hope is in: 
1) Repenting – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 
2) Resting in God because of His gracious, compassionate, and just character exemplified in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4). 
3) Longing for Him – "I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land" (Psalm 143:6). 
4) Looking at and listening to Him by following the example of the Messiah – "The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back" (Isaiah 50:4-5).
APPLICATION

The reflection above is a perfect framework for a praise and prayer time with the Lord. Pray through the Scriptures above.

We often have our time with God and forget to "listen as a disciple" by having a "listen and obey" time (Isaiah 50:5). Make sure you write down what He tells you so you do not forget! 

God wants to guide you! Here are two books I heartily recommend to help You understand that He does speak to us today:

Hearing God by Dallas Willard - It used to be called In Search of Guidance and can be purchased at a lower price under that title.

God Guides by Mary Geegh

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You for Your grace and compassion toward us in the person of Jesus Christ; who satisfied Your justice by His death on the cross. Thank You that we can rest in His life. Teach us to walk according to Your will all the days of our life, and we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.