Friday, May 29, 2015

Why Doesn’t God Answer?

Isaiah 63:7-64:7

“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.  For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:7-9)

There is a very real tendency for people to forget what God has done for them when things are not going as they hoped, with the result that they begin to feel he has broken his promises.  Isaiah endeavors to remind them what God has done for them.  He reminds them how loving and kind God has been in giving them a land of their own, claiming them as his own children, saving them from their enemies, and  how many times he had redeemed them from captivity to other nations, enabling them to survive until they were able to reestablish themselves.

“But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.  Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?  That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?  That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?
As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.  Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?” (Isaiah 63:10-15)

Unfortunately, Israel and Judah have been like a horse or dog being led by their owner that decides to go somewhere else than where he is trying to lead them, fighting their leash or lead rope and struggling to go their own way and forgetting how much they have been blessed when the allowed him to have His way.  During the years in the wilderness, God took them like a shepherd, avoiding enemies and providing the food they needed every day.  That same God was leading in Isaiah’s day and he had not lost any of his power, nor did he love them any less. 

“Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.  O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.  The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.  We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.” (Isaiah 63:16-19)

A thousand years after God made the promise to Abraham, He might not know who they were. And Jacob might not recognize them as his descendants but God was still their father and protector.  Why has he allowed them to turn away and be so stubborn against doing what is right or showing him proper respect?  Why has he allowed people who were not his children and never obeyed him to control the land and destroy the holy things.  He requests that God fix things up for their sake. 

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.  As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!  When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.  Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.” (Isaiah 64:1-5)

Isaiah asks that God would reveal himself in mighty power, like lava flowing down from the mountains, boiling away even the streams of water and melting the very rocks to make the enemies know how powerful He is.  It would be like it had in the past when God had done things they couldn’t imagine and their enemies were afraid of the God of Israel, 

Even in the Past. When god did those wonderful and powerful things, they still had no idea of the wonderful things God has planned and can do for those who follow and trust him completely or the fellowship they can have.  God will make himself known to those who are doing what he has commanded and are enjoying the privilege.  In John 14:21-23, Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.   Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

If a person will demonstrate his love of God by obeying him.  The Spirit of God will indwell him, empowering and encouraging him and developing a relationship others never experience. 

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.” (Isaiah 64:6-7)

Unfortunately, the Jews have not chosen to establish such a relationship with God.  They insist that he do everything they want while making no effort themselves to develop it, much like a wife who blames her husband for never talking to her but insists on vacuuming the floor or walking out to do something else while he tries to talk to her, making it clear she has no interest in what he is trying to say.  Their best efforts to do what is right are soiled with the wrong attitudes and have lost their shine and beauty like a leaf fallen from a tree.    Their sins have separated between them and God, so that they no longer really make an effort to please him, with the result that God is no longer going out of his way to try to talk to them.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Treading the Winepress

Isaiah 62:1-63:6

“For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.  And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.” (Isaiah 62:1-2)

Because God loves the Israelite people, and his love for the city of Jerusalem, He will never stop warning them of what is wrong until they finally turn and keep His law.  When they do their righteousness will shine forth and their salvation as a result will be apparent like a lighted lamp.  The unbelieving around them will see the results of their righteousness and God’s blessing.  They will be called by a new name God will give them. 

“Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.  Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.  For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” (Isaiah 62:3-5)

When they turn to God, Israel will become a crown of glory or a trophy in His hand a sign or victory though it was hard to win.  They will no longer be considered the as the one whose lover left them, and their land considered barren.  Instead they will be called His delight, and their land called husband, because God is pleased with them, and their land is like a husband providing the very best for his wife.  The descendants of Israel will cling to her and God will rejoice like a loving groom who has just been married.

“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence.  And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6-7)

God placed watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem to warn her of her sin.  They were never to stop warning her or reminding her of the Lord.  Those same watchman would constantly remind God of his promises until his promise is fulfilled. 

“The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: But they that have gathered it shall eat it and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness.” (Isaiah 62:8-9)

Because of their sin. God has allowed Israel’s enemies to steal the crops they have grown and the things they have produced, so that their labor has been wasted.  One day, that will no longer happen, but the ones who did the work will get to enjoy the benefits of their labor.   

“Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.  Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.  And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:10-12)

When the Lord returns and sets up his kingdom, he will prepare a highway for the Jews and people who migrate to Israel, removing the obstacles so they can come easily.  He will also set a standard, like a flag for the people to rally around on their journey.  God will announce his commitment to Israel and they will be called God’s chosen people.  Jerusalem will no longer be just a ruin, but a place where People want to go.

“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?

I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.

Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?

I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.  For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.” (Isaiah 63:1-4)

Who is this person who comes from the east, from Edom, in Saudi Arabia, and Bozrah in Iraq with such amazing clothing and obvious power?   Why is his clothing stained like he has been treading out the grapes in a winepress? 

The Lord answers that it is the righteous savior who is coming and that he has trodden out the judgment of the Lord on the peoples of the earth, exacting vengeance for the hurts they have done to his people.
Revelation 19:11-16 describes these events as well.  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

“And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.  And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.” (Isaiah 63:5-6)

The Lord looked for someone to come to the rescue of God’s people, but no one did.  In anger against the world’s treatment of them, He stepped forward to bring them salvation.  He will destroy those who have despised his people, treading them down like weeds in path, leaving them bent every which way as if they were drunk and with the stalks broken so they can no longer hold themselves up. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

God’s Mandate

Isaiah 61:1-11

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Isaiah describes the mandate God has given him, as a prophet to Israel, foreshadowing what Christ would provide for mankind, but it applies to every follower of Christ today, and especially the pastors and teachers.  They are to provide good news to meek people who are not so wrapped up in themselves that they won’t listen to anybody else.  They are to help them recover from their emotional injuries, showing there is deliverance from the consequences of sin, but also that they can be delivered from the control of sin today.  They are to tell them about the Lord’s setting up his earthly kingdom, and warn them of his judgment of the earth.  They are to assure people that the sorrow will eventually be over and that there is something better to come in the future., so that they are looking to the future with a sense of eagerness, thanking God rather than complaining and being depressed.  The people will be known as God’s people at that time. 

“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.  And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.” (Isaiah 61:4-5)

When the time comes, they will rebuild the ancient cities and communities that have been nothing but ruins for centuries.  People from other lands will flock to Jerusalem working for the Jews, doing menial work such as herding sheep and farming the land. 

“But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.  For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.” (Isaiah 61:6-7)

During the Tribulation, many of the Jews will turn to Christ, and whn He establishes his earthly kingdom, those who believe in him will be counted as his priests and servants.  Like Old Testament priests, they will receive a portion of everything given to God.  Because of the degradation and shame they have suffered for serving god, they will receive a double portion, rejoicing and enjoying their newfound freedoms and power.  Revelation 20:4-6 describes a little of this.  “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” During that time no sin will be condoned.

“For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.” (Isaiah 61:8-9)

The Lord loves justice and discernment.  He hates having the fruits of robbery and wrong doing offered as an offering to thank him for his help or as an effort to enlist his help.  He will direct them in the proper way, making an eternal contract with the people.  As a result, their descendants will be widely known, as God’s people that god blesses.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.  For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:10-11)

Because of what God will do, his people will rejoice for what he does for them, knowing he has given clothed them with Christ’s righteousness and given them eternal salvation, almost like a bride or bridegroom putting on their wedding gown or tuxedo in celebration.  Just as he causes the plants to bud and the garden plants to grow, God will cause his people to be righteous praise him before all the nations of the world.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Prophecy of New Jerusalem

Isaiah 59:21-60:22

“As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” (Isaiah 59:21)

God’s original covenant in the law was dependent on human effort to obey that law and as Romans 8:3-4 tells us, it was unable to save people as a result.  “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  Galatians 3:23-24 tells us if it had been possible for the law to take away sin, mankind could have been saved by his own efforts.  “… For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

While the Law promised the best possible life here on earth, even keeping it perfectly would not get anyone into heaven, as a result the Law was a curse, leaving the people with no hope of eternity.  In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God promises to make a new covenant with them.  “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Under that new covenant, Isaiah 44:3 explains, “…I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”  Instead of trying to measure up to the minimum physical standard required by the Law for a good life on earth, they will have the Holy Spirit, to enable them to live a life of spiritual righteousness, in which sin is no longer an issue.  There will be no problem with forgetting what is right or wrong because it will be an innate part of the person’s life, rather than a set of rules he is trying to keep.   

“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.  For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.  And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

When the Lord sets up his earthly kingdom and the Holy Spirit indwells Israel, The Antichrist’s kingdom will be in power, directed by Satan.  The world will be enslaved by sin and darkness, and Christ’s Light shining in Israel will draw people like moths are drawn to a light in the darkness. 

“Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.  Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.  The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the LORD.  All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.” (Isaiah 60:4-7)

The influx of people coming to worship God at the Temple will amaze the Jews.  All the people of Jewish heritage will seek to be there, but the Gentiles will come as well, leaving their false religions and converting to the worship of God.  they will come from every direction and their camels and means of transport will cover the land and the offerings they bring will enrich the land.  All of them will be accepted on God’s altar.

“Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?  Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.  And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.

Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.  For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.  The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.” (Isaiah 60:8-13)

The traders and shipping nations of the world will be the first to turn, transporting the Jews to Israel, and turning to him themselves, bringing the power and wealth of the world to Israel. Revelation 21:22-26 describes these details about the Great city, New Jerusalem.  “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.  And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.”

“The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Isa 60:16 Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.  Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.” (Isaiah 60:14-18)

When Christ sets up his kingdom, Israel’s enemies will come humbly asking forgiveness and their officers and guards will not have to keep peace but will be at peace themselves.  The detractors of Israel will themselves live by the same standards and violence and vandalism will cease.  The walls will represent the standard of salvation with the gates that are never shut a place of praise because they don’t shut people out.

“The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.  Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.  Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.  A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.” (Isaiah 60:19-22)

Revelation 21:27 concludes, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sin Is Preventing God’s Blessings

Isaiah 59:1-20

“Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Threatened by the Assyrians and in fear of defeat, Judah was desperate for help.  Israel had already been conquered.  God reminds them, nothing had taken away his strength.  He still had the power to save them if he chose to do so.  The problem was that they had deliberately and intentionally broken their covenant with Him for so long.  Most contracts define the penalties for failure to fulfill their contract by either party, and the covenant with Israel was no exception.  Because of their breaking the covenant, God was applying the prescribed penalties.  He refused to honor his part any longer until they started doing theirs.  He lists his complaints.

 “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.  None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.  They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.  Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.  Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.  The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” (Isaiah 59:3-8)

Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy go into detail as to Israel’s responsibilities under the covenant.  A major part of the Law related to how they were to treat other people.  They had ignored God’s laws, killing and allowing murderers to go free, lying and deceiving each other, and deliberately doing things he had forbidden.  There was no real concern for justice for the victim or insistence on having the truth made public.  Instead they spent their time conspiring how they could get the advantage.  Their conspiracies were like a spider’s web, intended to catch anything that came in contact with it.  They don’t understand that some of the things they are protecting are not spider eggs, but the eggs of poisonous snakes.  When the eggs break open, those snakes will attack anything that gets close.  The webs will not contain them or be valued as clothing and they will not hesitate to eat the spiders that took care of them. 

The people who have been raised in these webs of intrigue have no consideration for those who protected them, or their standards.  They actively and intentionally commit violence and wickedness, seizing every opportunity to maim or kill people.  They devote their energies to figuring out how to injure others and vandalize their property.  They have no thought for the rights of others or of getting along with them, and anyone who associates with them lives in constant danger. 

“Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.  We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.  We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.” (Isaiah 59:9-11)

As a result of their actions. There is no justice or resolution of issues between them.  While they expect everything to work out, it is like they are fumbling around in the dark feeling their way along like a blind man and stumbling over every problem regardless how obvious the solution might be to others.  They are as alone and isolated as a dead person, and their threats and calls for help bet no response.  There is nobody or nothing coming to their rescue. 

“For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.  And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.  Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.” (Isaiah 59:12-15)

Because they have for rebelled so many times and made no effort to change, lying to and about God and refusing to obey or keep their covenant, they are no longer experiencing the freedom and peace they once had.  Truth and equality no longer exist and anyone who tries to do right becomes a victim of wicked.  God is very upset that there is no effort to make things right. 

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.  For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.  According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense.  So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.  And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 59:16-20)

Because God saw that their e was no effort to make things right and that those who tried to do right were victimized, he has provided a savior to save those who are righteous.  While he provides salvation and righteousness to protect his people, there is also vengeance against those who attack them.  Each person will receive fitting rewards or punishment for what they have done.  His judgment will be a time of terror and fear.  When they try to attack and overrun his people Christ himself will protect those who have turned from their sin to Him.  Revelation 19 describes his coming and defense of his people.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What God Really Wants

Isaiah 57:12-58:14

“I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.  When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people.” (Isaiah 57:12-14)

Israel has persistently rebelled against God, choosing to worship other gods while insisting they are serving Him.  God is going to make their self-righteousness and sinful behavior apparent to everyone, showing that it is just an act and means nothing.  Like a leaf in the wind, they will learn how weak their human armies are.  At the same time, those who have put their trust in God, acting on that faith by obeying Him will be firmly established in the land, experiencing a satisfactory relationship with him, encouraging others to put away their pride and sin, making things ready for God. 
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.  For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.”  (Isaiah 57:15-16)

The eternal, all powerful and holy God advises that he lives in a holy place with all who are humble and acknowledge their sin.  He will give the humble a sense of confidence and worth and will give those who are sorry for their sin hope and comfort in his love.  He will not stay mad forever, or prolong punishment unduly, because he understands that if he did everyone would give up hope and all would be destroyed. 

“For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.  I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.” (Isaiah 57:17-18)

God was angry because the children of Israel and Judah were not content with what he gave them, wanting what the people around them had as well, and trying to get them by doing what they were doing.  When God rebuked them and warned them they deliberately ignored the warnings, trying to get what they wanted.    God has seen their ways, and still loves them, wanting to give them what they want and restore their happiness and peace.

I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.  But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:19-21)

God is the one who makes people able to express themselves and their feelings.  He gives peace to people whether they are close to him or far away, willingly healing their emotional and psychological pain.  Many times rescuers used to pour oil on the waves to enable them to effect a rescue because the surface tension of the oil would reduce the violence of the waves, but it required too much oil to succeed if the wind was too strong.  The wicked are like the waves in a hurricane, so powerfully driven by their own goals and desires that the peace god offers does not settle them down.  They continue to bring up the dirt and muck from the bottom of the lake. 

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.  Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.” (Isaiah 58:1-2)

Like many people today, the Jews thought of themselves as walking closely with God.  They regularly read the Bible, and loved to hear preaching about the law every day as if they were actually serving God and following him exactly.   They spent a lot of time in study and prayer, thoroughly enjoying celebrating the times they came to together to celebrate the various holidays commemorating what God had done for them.   Isaiah is give the job of showing them that while they were quite zealous, they were not pleasing God by their actions.  It is a message that is needed in many churches today.   

Fasting was considered a very important aspect of worship and a close walk with God, and most  Jews practiced fasting in an effort to please God.  Isaiah points out that while it is important, it is not about simply going without food.  If not done properly, it accomplishes nothing of value. 

“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.  Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” (Isaiah 58:3-4)

Despite the many hours the Jews spent fasting it was accomplishing little.  God was not answering their prayers, and they were beginning to question the value of their sacrifices and effort.  As He points out, while they were taking time off from work to fast, they were still finding time to go out and enjoy their hobbies and requiring other people to do their jobs.   In many ways, it was no different than Christians who insist on having Sunday off because they are Christians, but who go out to eat Sunday afternoon or go home to watch football Sunday afternoon, forcing others to work.  The only real difference between it and any other day is they are acting religious.

They were fasting to gain God’s support so they could get victory over their enemies or win some kind of an argument.  Sometimes they were even praying for God’s blessing to help them do something that was wrong.  Several times I have heard preachers tell their people that if they wanted something, they should make a commitment to fast until god answered their prayers.   When a person refuses to eat anything until a government official does what they demand, it is called a hunger strike.   It is a form of blackmail that only works if the official fears public opinion.   God forbid them to fast in such a fashion.   

“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?” (Isaiah 58:5)

God loves people and gets no pleasure out of their suffering.  The idea of going without food or water does not please him.  He is not thrilled by our efforts to humiliate ourselves or our evidences of sorrow and suffering.  False religions may approve such behavior or even demand it, but God does not.    To him such behavior is not acceptable, regardless what others may think.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?  Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.  Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:6-9a)

What God wants is for people to break free from the power of wickedness, the lusts and cravings they have and to set people free from their worries, relieving those who are being taken advantage of and setting everyone free.  Choosing to do without food in order to donate the food to someone who was hungry would be pleasing to him, as would inviting some homeless person to eat with you or giving them clothing if they needed it, even if it means you have to go without.  Godly fasting is about focusing on God and on other people, not about getting something for one’s self.

As a result of focusing on God and other people’s needs rather than one’s own, a person  will begin to see the blessings of God.  Suddenly he will become a beacon of hope to others and God will bless with his health.  People will see the glory of God in his life as his legacy or life accomplishment.  When he prays, God will answer and be there to comfort him when he is in distress.   

“If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.  And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” (Isaiah 58:9b-12)

God specifies some particular actions that God would bless if they would take them.  First they would need to give up control of other people.  They would need to give up using insulting and rude signs, such as what people today refer to as flipping people off.  They would need to stop using rude and meaningless language or telling off color stories.  They would need to start showing concern for other people’s physical and emotional needs. 

If they would do so, God would make them a light even in a place where no one noticed them.  They would experience the Lord’s leadership and find their needs and wants satisfied abundantly.  Their families would be strong and they themselves would be respected for their moral and ethical standards. 

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

For the greatest blessings, they needed go a step farther, actually fulfilling the commands about keeping both the Sabbath day and the sabbatical years, because they were what God wanted, and not celebrating them as just a ritual to be observed. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adulterous Israel

Isaiah 56:8-57:11

“The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.  All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.  His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.  Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.” (Isaiah 56:8-12)

Ezekiel 38:2-12 describes God as baiting a hook with the opportunity to destroy an unprotected Israel as a way to catch and destroy her enemies.  “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.

Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.  After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.  Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.”

Isaiah is saying basically the same thing, namely that Israel’s enemies will assume she is unable to defend herself and will make an attack on her.  This will lead to a period of anarchy according to Revelation 6:4 and result in famine and political turmoil, enabling the antichrist to set up his kingdom.  Daniel 11 gives additional details about those events. 

“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.  He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)

Many of those who serve God will be killed and people will not even be concerned that innocent people are being killed.  They will not realize God is actually delivering the believers from the terrible things to come on those who remain.  The believers will go straight into heaven to rest, as described in Revelation 6:9-11.  “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?  And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

“But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.  Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?” (Isaiah 57:3-5)

Unfortunately, Israel has been rebellious and unfaithful, chasing a variety of false gods.  They have gotten stirred up over those gods, worshipping them under the trees and killing their own children as sacrifices to them, and turning on those who worship God. 

“Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?   Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.  Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.  And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.” (Isaiah 57:6-9)

Israel had gone so far as to even offer sacrifices to individual round rocks in the bed of streams, literally worshipping anything except God himself, implying that anything was better than God himself.   Why should they think god would not be hurt or upset by such behavior?  They have actively sought someone else to take his place.

“Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.  And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?” (Isaiah 57:10-11)

Like the adulterous woman haunting the bars who gets her feelings hurt repeatedly because all the men there just take advantage of her but refuses to quit because she likes the attention of such people and the things they do, Israel has refused to change her ways or remember the Lord.  They refuse to take the results seriously, lying to everyone about what they are doing.  Because God has not reacted violently, trying to kill them, they do not respect or fear him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Benefits of Listening

Isaiah 55:1-56:7

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Israel had offered vast amounts of money, sacrificing to other gods in an effort to gain their blessings and protection.  God asks why they would spend so much on something that couldn’t meet their needs when they got it.  He would give anyone who asked what they wanted at no cost to them.  All they would need to do was listen to what he said. 

“Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.  Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.  Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.” (Isaiah 55:3-5)

If they would just listen to him. He would make an everlasting covenant with them just as he had done with David, promising Christ as his descendant to reign over Israel forever.  Christ was and is an example or witness of the benefits of trusting and obeying God.  He is the leader and eternal king,  As a result of his sacrifice a different nation, that Israel didn’t know, made up of those who believe in Christ would teach Israel and all the nations of the world would come to him in Israel because he will make it his capitol, as described in Revelation 20-22.

“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:6-11)

God’s offer must be accepted while it is still available.  If they will turn to God before Judgment starts, stopping their sin and their wicked thoughts and attitudes, complying with his standards, he will not give them the punishment they deserve, but unlike mankind, will pardon their sin, forgiving them completely because God’s ways are much greater and better than those of any human.   He sends the rain or from heaven, and rather than evaporating immediately and going back into the clouds, it soaks into the earth where the plants roots soak it up and use it to grow and obtain nourishment and produce seed for the farmer and food for the hungry before it evaporates and is recycled by God.  In the same way, God’s word will not just go out into the air, but will accomplish the things God intended it to do before it is taken away.   It is not just for the pleasure of hearing himself talk.

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:12-13)

If they will heed his words, they will have a life full of joy and live in peace.  The entire earth will seem like it is happy, producing fig trees and other fruit and useful plants instead of weeds and thorns.  It will be a permanent state rather than just a temporary good spell, glorifying God. 
“Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:1-2)

Those who follow God’s commands and standards will be blessed.   They will experience His salvation and see His goodness because they keep his laws and don’t allow themselves to do evil. 

“Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.  For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:3-7)

The Jews will no longer think they are superior because of the family heritage, or discriminate against other races.  There will be no inequalities or regrets or sorrow for having missed out on family or other blessing.  Everyone who serves God, following his laws will share in the riches of his promises and be acceptable before God.  All will be welcome.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Israel Will Be Restored and Enlarged

Isaiah 54:1-17

“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.  Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 54:1-3)

Many women who have been unable to get pregnant using natural means turn to in vitro fertilization as a last resort.   Israel is like a woman who tries in vitro fertilization and becomes pregnant.  When she goes in for an ultra sound, she learns that she is carrying septuplets.  She will need to  have additional rooms added to her house because suddenly she will have more children than her neighbors who got pregnant naturally.  The land of Israel will have to be expanded when the Lord returns to accommodate all the people who join them. 

“Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.  For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.  For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.  For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:4-8)

Israel has been like a woman who constantly fights with her husband until, in frustration, he goes somewhere else to get away from the conflict.  She is embarrassed to admit her husband walked out on her because she was so hard to get along with and blames him for all the problems.    He still loves her and will gladly return and work things out if she is willing to try.  God has called out to her like as woman wanting to make real changes in her life.  Like that loving husband, he will eagerly come back and forget about what caused the conflict as if it were only a minor matter.  The marriage can be even better than it ever was.   

“For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.” (Isaiah 54:9-10)

Just as God limited the time the flood was upon the earth and protected Noah and his family, God will limit how far and long things will affect Israel and will protect her.  Even though the hills and mountains will be shaken out of place or flattened out during the Tribulation, God will not forsake ofr forget his promise to Israel. 

“O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.  And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.  And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.  In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” (Isaiah 54:11-14)

Though they were experiencing some terrible things at the time feeling homeless and unloved, God promised them a beautiful house one day, decorated with sapphires.  Their windows did not have glass and were covered with a lattice to keep out the birds.  God promised to place agate stones in the windows to let in the light while blocking the wind and rain.  The door would be covered with precious jewels and the gardens outlined with beautiful stones.  God would teach her children righteousness will become their way of life.  As a result, they will not have people controlling them or have to wory about being attacked, as Revelation 20 describes. 

“Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.  Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.  No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:14-17)

People will unite to fight against them, but it will not succeed.  God created the blacksmith and gave him the ability to make tools and weapons.  In a similar way, he created those who wicked to destroy.   When they turn against God’s people, their failure is guaranteed.  Even the accusations against them will be proven false and God will bless them.  That is just what he does for his people.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Messiah’s Sacrifice

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.  As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” (Isaiah 52:13-15)

God’s servant would come bringing a message of hope and salvation, as described in Isaiah 53:7-10.  Now we begin to learn more details about the messenger himself, and the things he will experience.  Previously Isaiah has served as a type or illustration, but here the description goes far beyond what Isaiah experienced.   The Messiah will be very wise in his dealings with people and will be praised and honored above anyone else, so that the kings and rulers will be silenced by his power, and he will influence many nations, even though he will be so abused and mistreated he will be almost unrecognizable.   As a result people will be amazed at how he is viewed, forcing even the powerful and educated to consider things they would normally ignore. 

“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Though the Jews were expecting the Messiah, even Jesus’ disciples could not believe he would be executed.   The year of his birth was predicted by Daniel, yet only a few were aware he had been born, with the King having to ask the educated men where he would be born, perhaps as much as two years after it happened.   Because they didn’t believe he was the Messiah, the Jewish leaders had Jesus executed in an effort to silence him. 

They were expecting him to come as king with a mighty army who would sweep through the land destroying the Roman forces.  Instead Christ came as a little baby born to an ignored branch of David’s family.  He was so totally ordinary that nobody would even give him a second glance.  Being homeless, most people would avoid contact with him, literally looking the other way and treating him as if he was nobody.  There was no concern for the sufferings and loneliness he experienced. 

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus experienced the same sorrows and concerns as other people, empathizing with other people to the point of experiencing the same hurt.  Other than his disciples and a few women, the Jewish people either viewed Jesus’ execution as punishment from God and something he deserved.  They didn’t understand or consider that he was the only one of them who didn’t deserve what he was suffering.  He was literally taking their punishment, to enable them to avoid damnation themselves, even as they cheered and egged on his executioners.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” (Isaiah 53:7-8)

When he was beaten and mocked, and spat upon, Jesus did not threaten of accuse his abusers.  He was denied a fair trial and rushed to judgment with no opportunity to obtain legal representation and was condemned to die even though the Judge, Pilate, said he found no evidence of wrongdoing.  He was executed without ever establishing a family to carry on his name.  His death was a direct result of the Jews rebellion against God and his law. 

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:9-11)

Jesus was executed alongside two thieves who, by their own testimony, were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused, though he had done nothing to hurt or take advantage of anyone.  He was buried in a rich man’s (Joseph of Aramathea’s) tomb because he had nothing of his own.  God chose to have him suffer these things in order that he might make an offering to pay for the sins of others.   Jesus’ suffering for sin satisfied the demands of God’s justice and because he willingly experienced it many will be made right with God because he paid for their sins.  Because he has honored God’s standard he will be given eternity with those he has chosen as his children. 

“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

God will give Christ authority over the entire universe, sharing everything with him because he willingly gave his own life for others, being considered one of the evil and taking their place to intercede on their behalf, as has been mentioned several times before in Isaiah’s writings.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Get Out Of Depression

Isaiah 51:17-52:12

“Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.  There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up.  These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?  Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God.” (Isaiah 51:17-20)

Jerusalem has experienced God’s anger.  They have felt the extremes of fear and hopelessness and have no guide to show them how to escape their situation, or even anybody who can give them a sense of hope.  They feel deserted and fear they will be destroyed because of the famine and attacks by other groups.  They have come to same point of despair as a wild animal caught in a trap, angry and resentful but helpless in the hands of its captors and dreading what God may do to them.   

“Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.” (Isaiah 51:21-23)

Drunks are so affected by the liquor they have difficulty controlling their actions and thoughts.  Jerusalem had a similar problem because of their emotional despair and fear.  Like the captor of the wild animal, God has relieved the pressure on them and will take it completely away so they never have to feel that pressure again when they yield to him.  Instead he will turn the things they hate against those who inflict the pain and suffering on them.  They will no longer have to allow others to order them around and run over them.   

“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.  Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.  For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.  Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.  Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.” (Isaiah 52:1-6)

A person or animal that is depressed tends to let everything go and not care about how they appear.   The action of grooming themselves indicates a change in focus, but it also tends to overcome the depression.  Jerusalem needs to quit focusing on their problems and begin to focus on making things right.   Like a person who begins to drink and gamble as a way of gaining friends and popularity, Jerusalem had devoted their energies to things that would not produce lasting benefits.  They had turned to Egypt for help, submitting to the Egyptian demands for protection from the Assyrians, but the Egyptians had not protected them, and the Assyrians had surrounded them, cutting off most of their supplies. 

There was no reason for Jerusalem to be in such a state, but the leaders had focused their attention away from God, blaspheming His name by implying he was unable to protect them.  God’s purpose is that his people will know who he is and that he can be trusted to keep his word. 

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!  Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.  Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:7-10)

There was great rejoicing when the end of World War II was announced because it meant there would no longer be a demand for young men to sacrifice themselves on the battle field, or for families to go without to help the war effort.  In the same way there was a wonderful feeling to know that God was the ruler of the universe and that he was going to build Jerusalem again.  The guards who had watched would sing and shout with excitement that God was comforting his people and they were no longer in fear.  The whole world would see the power of God, and the salvation he offered. 

“Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.  For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.” (Isaiah 52:11-12)

God’s people should withdraw themselves from the world and not get involved in the things around them.  Instead, they should get their act cleaned up because they would not be forcibly driven out, but led out by God as they had been when they left Egypt.  He would be all the reward they needed, providing everything else for them.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Listen To God

Isaiah 50:10-51:16

“Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.  Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” (Isaiah 50:10-11)

While they don’t know the future, people who have put their trust in God and listen to those he has sent can move confidently through life as long as they continue to follow him.  Those who try to define their own way, producing their own forms of light based on other things will ultimately wind up at the place that approach leads to.  They will experience the chastening and punishment of god and regret their decisions. 

“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.  Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.  For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” (Isaiah 51:1-3)

People who want to do right, and to follow God need to realistically look back at where they came from.  The Jews needed to see that God had taken a man called Abraham, separating him from his people like a rock cut out of a quarry.  It was God who shaped and empowered Abraham to become the father of the nation.  That same God will comfort and strengthen the Jews, making her land, even the deserts and seemingly useless land productive and valuable, and giving them peace and happiness. 

“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.  My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” (Isaiah 51:4-6)

God was going to establish a new law or contract like what he had originally given them.  He would provide a standard of right as a light to guide themHis plan was already in place and salvation was already planned, that would reach even to the foreign lands and islands that had no contact with Israel.  Israel should listen to God and observe what he had done, understanding that he will one day destroy this present earth, and the people who dwell on it, but that his salvation would not end when the earth is destroyed.  While the Old Testament Law would remain in effect only as long as the earth remains, the New Testament law will be in place forever, and his promises will never be changed. 

“Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.  For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” (Isaiah 51:7-8)

The people who obey and trust God need not fear those who hate them, nor the things they accuse them of.  While they seem powerful at the moment, like a moth eaten piece of wool cloth, the holes in their claims and their weakness will be apparent to all.  God’s righteousness will last forever, and his salvation will be effective for generation after generation of people. 

“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?  Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?  Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:9-11)

The Rahab mentioned here is not the harlot of Jericho but means the proud or boastful one, and refers here to the Egyptian Pharaoh.  God delivered his people from them, destroying the Egyptian army and allowing the Hyksos to overrun and humiliate them.  He delivered the Jews by drying up a way through the Red Sea.   When it moves, that same great power of God will bring back God’s people from the foreign lands, and they will spend eternity rejoicing that he has loved them so much. 

“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isaiah 51:12-13)

It was God who was encouraging them to put their faith in him.  Their enemies were just people like themselves, who would die just as easily as they.  They had forgotten who God was, the creator of the universe.  As a result of forgetting who God was, they had lived in constant fear of the anger and threats of those around them. 
“The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.  But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts is his name.  And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” (Isaiah 51:14-16)

A captive in another land devotes his effort to trying to escape and to seeing that he doesn’t starve to death.  Israel had the same God who divided the Red sea to guide them.  He had told them what they were to do and had covered and protected them so they would not be harmed when he rebuilds the earth.  At that time, he will renew his commitment to them as we see in Revelation 20.