Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

Also in this Series

Idol Worship is Foolishness (Isaiah 45-48)

Book of Isaiah

After Gods’ promises of salvation and victory in the previous section, God begins to talk about an anointed one to bring forth salvation for all mankind. However, knowing His people the way He does, God knows that people will begin to question His motives or the method that He uses. But God tells His people, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” (45:9, NLT). God uses the fact that He is the Creator as His reasoning for His ability to do as He sees fit. God then speaks on the future conversion of the Gentiles. He says, “I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.” (45:19b, NLT). Which then leads to the conclusion at the end of the chapter, “The people will declare, ‘The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.’ And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed.” (45:24, NLT).

God continues to call out to His people to repent. He does not want to punish these people; they are His and He loves them very much. However, He knows that a time is coming that He will have to unleash His wrath upon them. He makes yet another plea to them saying, “Listen to me, descendant of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have care for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until you hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (46:3-4, NLT). He points again to idol worship of the pagans, especially Babylon. These idols cannot save the people who worship them or do anything else for them but stand there and look pretty. But God tells them that He is a living God who is willing to act for them. “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.” (46:12-13, NLT).

Turning towards the new oppressors, God addresses the Babylonians. They claim that they are the only one, and none are more powerful than they are. Yet God tells them that a great calamity is coming their way, one they are not prepared to handle. The consequence of this is that they will sit in shame before all people. God says to them, “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. Four your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. Take heavy millstones and grind flour. Remove you veil, and strip off your robe. Expose yourself to public view. You will be naked and burned with shame. I will take vengeance against you without pity.” (47:1-3, NLT). Nothing about this image is nice, it is all a place of shame. God seeks to take a once great nation, and bring it down low because it was too prideful and worshiped false gods.

He then brings the idol worship back home to the Israelites. God knows that even they are subject to breaking this Commandment.”You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel.” (48:1-2, NLT). Even Israel is not safe from the condemnation of idol worship. But God offers them a new prophecy to show that He is God and none of the idols can compare to Him. He tells His people that His anointed one will come and destroy Babylon.  This act is going to cause the Israelites to be set free, and return home after the Exile.

There is a single theme that keeps grabbing me today as I read these passages, idol worship is foolishness. Back during the times of Isaiah’s writing, idol worship was easy to pick out. If someone created a statue and decided to worship it, that was idol worship. Yet, this sin still exists in our world today, it just normally doesn’t come up as a statue anymore. The biggest form we see today is over money. People seek after the “great green George” thinking that all their problems would be solved if they made enough money. I myself have been caught thinking these same thoughts a time or two. Another form of idol worship comes in the form of fame or the famous. We either want to become well-known, see our name in lights, or be some big hot-shot movie star. We can also tend to take a person and follow their every move, know everything about them and their life as if we were actually friends with these people. The list goes on and on over what idol worship looks like to us today. I simply ask that we be mindful of where our gaze gets taken away from the Creator and given towards created things. Many times in these passages God calls the people who worship idols foolish. Do you want to be foolish? Or would you rather stick down a path that leads to wisdom? Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB). We must seek out God and not allow our sights to be taken off of Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 108

 

Also in this Series

God is Our Savior (Isaiah 40-44)

Book of Isaiah

**Personal note** Sorry for my lack of posting. Life got super hectic for awhile (ie. moving, business, still trying to figure out having a new baby, etc.). However, recently my problem has become that my usual time for blogging has gotten super busy now that I am working on a job change. Anyways, I am going to be trying out some new times for blogging. I will get this blog back on track and finish us the Book of Isaiah so we can talk about something new! Thank you for all your understanding.

 

Isaiah opens this section by addressing all of God’s people (Northern and Southern kingdoms), in order to give them comfort during a long hardship (probably the Exile). The call is for people to return to God because He remembers them and is there to take care of them. Before we get to that point, God reminds them that even though people change, He doesn’t. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (40:6-8, NLT). He knows that they have had problems, and He knows that more are to come. Yet He reminds them to stay faithful because He does not change. Isaiah then switches gears somewhat to tell us about the greatness of God. God says “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” (40:25, NLT). Through the preceding verse we know that none can compare to our God. Isaiah mentions that God has held the oceans in His hand, measure the entire heavens with His finger, knows the weight of the world and all its mountains and hills. None can advise God, and He doesn’t need advise. Isaiah even states, “He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand” (40:15, NLT). But then Isaiah brings it all back around for the ultimate comfort. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depth of his understanding. He give power to the weak and straight to the powerless … But those shoe trust int the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (40:28-29, 31, NLT).

The Lord then turns to the idols of the nations and asks them to make a case for themselves. The nations become prideful when they are successful in conquering, or outlasting other nations, yet none of them realize where that power comes from. They attribute it to their made up gods and say that they are greater than the God of Israel. God tells His people, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discourage, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (41:10, NLT). He provides for them a miracle to prove to the other nations that He is God. “I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.” (41:18, NLT). God shows the other nations that He provides for His people. He asks the idols to perform something, do a good deed, tell of the past, or tell of the future, and none of them respond. None of the idols can stand in comparison to the God of the Isrealites. He says to them, “See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (41:29, NLT).

God sets His sights again on the future. He begins to talk about a servant that He has chosen to serve Him. God says, “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (42:6-7, NLT). “I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way.” (42:16, NLT). God is seeking to correct His people. He goes on to discuss how they have become blind to His ways and are no longer keeping them. This is the reason for His servant to come. He will send His servant to correct Israel’s mistakes and bring them down a new path that will be unfamiliar to them, but is they one they should have been on all along.

God moves beyond a servant, and begins promising a savior. “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you.” (43:2, NLT). He speaks of bringing the people back to Israel, and tells them that they are to be His witnesses before all other nations. They are to proclaim, “There is no other God — there never has been, and there never will be.” (43;10, NLT). He promises to bring them victory over their sins. He goes on to talk about how they stopped presenting Him with offerings, but instead burdened Him with their sin. So He says to them, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (43:25, NLT). God then returns to the topic of the foolishness of idol worship. speaking to the people about how useless it is. “The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, ‘Why, it’s just a block of wood! I bunted half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. Ho can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?'” (44:19, NLT). The answer is, of course, NO! God says to His people, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered you offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (44:22, NLT).

There is certainly a lot in these chapters of Isaiah. I feel as though each one deserves a post on their own. But there is a central theme here, God is always there for us. God was looking into the future and knew what was soon to happen to His people. They were going to continue to rebel, and not listen to the Prophets. This behavior ultimately lead them to be exiled into the land of Babylon. Yet, He wanted to give His people every opportunity to turn around and come back to Him. He promises them a Savior to come and pay the price of their sin. We live in a world where that price has been paid. When Jesus was hung on the cross, it was not simply for all the sins of the world that had happened up to that point. It wasn’t for all the sins of the people alive and around at that point. It was for every single person who ever lived, and will ever live. I love that tradition shows us that Christ was crucified on top of a hill. Not just any hill, but a hill that overlooks Jerusalem, and Israel for that matter. I love the imagery, because it says to me that Jesus had the perfect view to see through time and see me. He could see me and he knew that he was paying the price of my sins.

The same can be said of you. Christ saw you and knew that he was paying the price for you to be free. Paul writes, “and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1:20-23, NLT). Christ saw you on that day and is calling out to you. Will you respond to him, and say “Forgive me of my sins, Lord”, or are you able to come up with something on your own to justify yourself to God? I promise you nothing will succeed.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 107

 

Also in this Series

Stay Strong (Isaiah 36-39)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading we leave behind all of God’s messages to the nations of the world, and enter into a story. We find that Assyria has invaded Judah and is preparing to hold Jerusalem under siege. The king sends a messenger to speak with messengers from King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib, of Assyria, began to taunt the people of Jerusalem and offer them anything in order to survive this siege if they only let the Assyrian army into Jerusalem. Hezekiah and his people refuse, and the king sends for the prophet Isaiah. The king asks for Isaiah to intercede for the people with God, and he delivers a message, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.” (37:6-7, NLT). After receiving more messages from Sennacherib, Hezekiah begins to pray to God for deliverance. That night God killed 185,000 members of the Assyrian army. When the surviving members awoke, they fled back to Assyria and the king went back to Nineveh. While the Sennacherib was worshiping his god, two of his son came and killed him. Then King Hezekiah became extremely ill, and was dying. Isaiah told the king that he would not survive this illness. Hezekiah then prayed to God, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” (28:3, NLT).  After hearing his prayer, God decided to bring Hezekiah out of his illness and give him 15 more years to live. After the news of Hezekiah’s recovery, King Merodach-baladan of Babylon sent envoys to give his best wishes and a gift. Hezekiah became so delighted by the gesture that he showed the envoys everything that he owned. Isaiah came to the king and asked about the men he showed around. Isaiah then delivered a message from God, “The time is coming when everything in your palace — all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now — will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” (39:6-7, NLT).

The thing I loved about this section was how it started. King Sennacherib threatens the people of Jerusalem by saying, “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem … Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian kin! … Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? … What God of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:7, 14-15, 18, 20, NLT). Some of these comments seem very familiar to me, they just sound a little differently to us today.

As a Christian, my main filter in life is the Bible and my faith in Jesus Christ. This fact is the founding principle of my entire worldview. Because of this, I can seem to be an “idiot”, or “hypocrite”, or “bigot” (I’ve never personally been called this, but other Christians have). The problem is a world that doesn’t understand why I believe what I believe. The world wants to teach that there is no God, let alone salvation from our sins. It wants to teach that the only right way, is the way you decide is right and no one else. It wants to teach us that we cannot stand up for what is right when it stands in contrast of others. The problem is that with me there is a sense of wrong, but the world wants to teach us that there is no wrong.

I love this passage from Isaiah because it shows me that there will always be someone trying to convince us our beliefs are wrong. Sennacherib was trying to convince the people of Jerusalem that they were wrong to trust in God. Today people tell Christians they are wrong for trusting in God as well. I encourage you to stay faithful in your beliefs (so long as they are biblical). If you are facing difficulty, make sure to pray for the strength to get through these hard times. Stay in the Word, and spend some time in worship. God is powerful enough to help you overcome adversity. So what the world tells you you’re wrong? So long you stay true to the Word of God, and show love to everyone, that’s what matters most.

 

Also in this Series

Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

Also in this Series

A Call to Be Different (Isaiah 5-8)

Book of Isaiah

As we start today’s readings, we finish the description of fallen Judah. God gives His reason for their punishment through a song about His beloved vineyard. He tells of a vineyard that only produces bitter grapes, rather than sweet ones. In order to solve this problem, He says to them, “Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.” (5:5-6, NLT). God is telling His people that they must change and come back to Him; they are not the people He sent them out to be. These first few chapters (1-5) were set up to address Judah as it currently was.

Then Isaiah returns to the beginning of his ministry. He recounts God’s calling upon him to be a messenger to the people. We receive many accounts about the glory and majesty of God. Aside from Revelation, Isaiah 6 might just be my favorite. “He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings … Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (6:1-2, 4, NLT). After having his sins forgiven, Isaiah volunteers to be a messenger for God.

The first message Isaiah is sent to give is for King Ahaz. Ahaz was facing both the armies of Israel and Syria. God told him not to fear and to trust in Him, because He would not allow the opposing armies to win. God then offered to give Ahaz a sign for the promise He made to him. Ahaz refused to “test” God, so He chose a sign for him. “Look! the virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (7:14, NLT). Isaiah then receives a call to act differently from other people.

This final call of Isaiah’s still rings true for us today. We are called to still live a different life from unbelievers. Let’s take a look at some of these points:

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. (8:13, NLT)

Preserve the teaching of God; (8:16)

But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? (8:19)

People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (8:20)

It doesn’t sound completely unlike the things we are told today. It just goes to show me that the things God wants from/for us never really changes. Unbelievers do not do any of these things, especially realize they are in the dark. God calls us to live a certain type of life, and to do certain things. This isn’t because God just decided this was the way to be. It is the best way to be. That’s what God wants for us, the best. There is another passage of scripture where we are called to be different.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all me will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NASB). Christ even acknowledged that we are to be different.  On the night of his betrayal, he gave a prayer to God saying, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16, NASB).

We are called to be separate from the world. It should be obvious. People should know from the way that we are that we believe in the one true God, and that we believe in His Son and Holy Spirit. Our faith changes us. It’s not merely something we say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian” without even breaking a smile! God changed you through faith! You are not the same person you were before, but you now stand new. You cannot be a follower of Christ and expect things to remain the same. Christ was a game-changer. He changes our lives. We are called to be different, and that’s what we must be. Sure, you’ll be ridiculed. But what’s more important? Your friends not picking on you, or your Savior knowing you by your faith and love?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 99-100

 

Also in this Series

The Call to Come Back (Isaiah 1-4)

Book of Isaiah

I had a request for a Bible study to do in May, but I think I will go ahead and start it today. We will be starting the book of Isaiah. However, this will be a little different from the ones we have done in the past. Since Isaiah is 66 chapters long, we cannot take it one chapter at a time. We will be doing at least 2-3 chapters per post, in hopes we can get it done in May. So let’s pray that God opens our hearts to hear the words He has for us through this book.

 

Isaiah’s ministry lasted through four different kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He spent his time teaching Judah the need to repent and turn back to God. He spoke about their faithlessness, and the coming judgment upon Judah. However, he also taught about a coming Messiah to save God’s people. So his messages of pain and destruction were also coupled with hope and salvation.

Isaiah opens his book by describing the rebellious nature of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God says to these people, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care — but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” (1:3, NLT) He is letting the people know how far they have turned. They have even gone so far that their worship has become a ritual by rote, rather than a meaningful expression to God. But God still offers the people of Judah hope, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.” (1:18-19, NLT). Isaiah then begins to bring on the terror to come on the day of judgment, to those who do not come back to God. Isaiah writes “When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground. They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats,” (2:19-20, NLT). The Lord than promises to make the people humble and realize their need for Him by saying, “[I] will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water,” (3:1-2, NLT). But God does promise a restoration for the people who survive. He promises to bring Israel back as a great people, with Him as their comfort and shelter (Isaiah 4).

I think if we all set and think about it, the warnings found in these opening chapters not only apply to the world we live in now, but to some degree every society since Creation. We have all felt that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket” at one point or another. I say this because I don’t want anyone thinking, “Oh no! Our time sounds exactly like this!!!!!” While the promise and threat are very real, we live in a time where God has already given us our salvation. We simply need to accept it as our own. There will always be unbelievers driving the world in a direction contrary to the way Christ teaches us to be. They are even some believers that get it wrong (including me, I definitely am not the fore-most expert on the Will of God). But so long as we are not reading Scripture and praying, we are not following either. We know a few lines, and we think that is all we need. Honestly, that’s how we have some really bad teaching out there.

To turn this and make it more personal, have you had a time when you have not sought God’s will for your life. Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us are in that practice. I think most people (who are in the practice of prayer) are more of the mind “I’ll make the decision then ask God to bless it later.” The truth is that it works the opposite way of that. If we want to do our best, and make sure our life is in line with God’s will, we consult Him first then make the decision. Often times, I’ve found, He takes forever to get back with me. But I think it is to help us realize what we are about to do. In these open chapters of Isaiah, the people of Judah stopped consulting God. They did whatever they pleased. That can become us when we have the “do now, bless later” approach to running our lives. God promises us, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). I’d much rather choose a path that I can trust, and leads to good, than to forge my own path and lead myself into destruction.

So we lift up our eyes to Heaven and says these words that the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV).

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 97-98

Which Way Will You Choose? (Judges 21)

Right-Career

As we finish up the book of Judges, we see that Israel really hasn’t changed during their war on the tribe of Benjamin. The book ends with the phrase that has been used a few times in the last chapters, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25, NLT). The people of Israel felt bad that they wiped out a tribe of Israel, so they sought to get wives for the survivors of Benjamin. They were trapped by an oath they had made that none of their daughters would marry Benjamites. So they looked for people who had not joined in the war and made the oath with them. The area of Jibesh-gilead had sent no one to the war, so (based on another oath) the people of Israel went to Jibesh-gilead and killed all of the people except for the women virgins. These women were to be given to Benjamin as wives. However there were not enough women for the surviving men. So Israel instructed Benjamin to wait in the vineyards near Shiloh and take the daughters that came out to dance at the festival.

We end the book of Judges with a differing opinion of what is right. God commanded the evil be eradicated from the land of Israel. So He commanded that Benjamin be destroyed. After their success, the people felt bad that an entire tribe of Israel had been destroyed. So they sought to make it better. The people’s opinion of what was right is that Benjamin must survive their destruction. They felt terrible for Benjamin’s situation, but sometimes that’s the consequence of disobeying God’s Laws.

So here we are left with a question that I feel flow throughout all of Judges. Is it better to trust and follow God, or our own desires?

This question has plagued humanity ever since it’s creation. We read in the beginning, that there was a tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from. “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.” (Genesis 3:6a, NLT). They both chose to follow their own desires, and not what God had planned for them. Ever since that day, we have all been faced with the question of who knows best for our lives.

As I was saying yesterday, the cost to follow God is large. It’s so big that many of us don’t want to pay it, and we don’t want a gospel message that asks something from us. We would rather keep Jesus at arms length, and not allow him to get close. But Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:25, NLT). Right there Jesus lays it out for us what it takes to be a follower of God. We must turn away from the things that we desire, and focus on the things God desires. We must die to ourselves and our sin. Then we must follow Jesus Christ.

So it comes down to a simple point. We can either choose to follow a loving God that brings order to chaos, or we can trust our sinful desires that do nothing but create chaos. Which would you chose?

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 89

God’s Ways or My Ways (Judges 19)

my-way-gods-way-sign

In today’s chapter we really see how low the morality of Israel became without a Judge or a king. We know that Israel had gotten bad in the past, but we weren’t shown exactly how much. Here we meet another Levite that left his home to find a new place to live and landed in the hill country of Ephraim. This man had taken a woman to be his concubine. She was unfaithful to him and ran away to her father’s house in Judah. After four months had passed, the Levite traveled to get his concubine back. He stayed in his father-in-law’s house for three days, and decided to leave on the fourth. He was convinced to stay another day. So on the fifth day he finally left. When night was approaching, the Levite’s servant suggested staying in Jerusalem until morning. The Levite said no, because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city; so they continued on to Gibeah (which was an Israelite city). They took refuge with an elder man, who was also from the region of Ephraim. Then the story turns into one that reads like the story of Lot and his family during the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29). The  men of Gibeah came to the man’s house and demanded that he give them the Levite so they could have sexual relations with him. The man refused, but offered his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men refused them and insisted on the Levite. The Levite then forced his concubine out into the crowd, and they took her and abused her throughout the rest of the night. In the morning she was released, but when she reached the house, she died.

The last two chapters start with the same phrase, “Now in those days Israel had no king.” (18:1, 19:1, NLT). This phrase can be taken in two different ways. At first, you can take it at face value. When it says “Israel had no king” it could literally mean there was no king, no central governing body to rule over the people. The second way you can take it is that Israel did not follow any sort of king. If you remember from a few chapters ago, Gideon told the Israelites, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!” (Judges 8:22, NLT). This would mean that the Israelites were not even listening or obeying God.

As terrible and tragic as this chapter is, I think it paints a very good picture of what our lives can be like without God. When we remain in sin, we run our lives into the mud. We ruin them because we are looking out for ourselves, with little or no care for the cost. But Jesus changes this for us. He gives us the opportunity to be reconnected with God, and learn to live good, godly lives.

We read in John’s letters, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10, NASB). Since we know God, we know how to love, and Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:23, NASB). This love that we share will not let us step on or hurt others to keep us in a better place. Rather it forces us to humble ourselves beneath all others in order to serve them, and build them up into a better place.

So I ask you a simple question. Are we more likely to act like the men of Gibeah and serve our own wants and desires, or do we put ourselves aside in order to help others? We all know what the right answer is, but try to be honest about it. I know that there are times the mantra “Gotta look out for #1” pops into my thoughts. It’s also the way the world teaches us to be. But this is a time where we must question, do we do what the world teaches us, or Christ?

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 84-87

Are You Living a Lie? (Judges 17)

Idol-Worship1

In today’s chapter, we meet a man named Micah. Micah had stolen some money from his mother. When he returned the money, she made some of it into a idol of him. Micah then made a shrine for the idol and set it up in his house. One day a Levite from Bethelehem came to Micah’s house looking for a place to stay. Micah offered the man a salary to remain in his house and be his priest. Micah finishes by saying, “I know the Lord will bless me now because I have a Levite serving as my priest.” (17:13, NLT).

Have you ever thought you were doing the right thing, but in actuality, it was completely wrong? That’s the story we find here in the 17th chapter of Judges. But it is just as applicable to our lives today. We often spend time trying to help others, when all we are really doing is hurting. Micah breaks so many of God’s laws, and brings it to the climax of hiring a priest who is breaking just as many laws. At the end he believes God will bless him because he knows that only Levites can serve as priests. It’s like someone who says I’m super rich (because of fancy houses, cars, clothes, etc) but it reality is deeply in debt. Micah is living a lie, even to himself.

Are we doing this? At my church we are reading the book not a fan. by Kyle Idleman. In this book, he asks us to take a serious look at our relationship with Christ. He wants us to realize that we want to be followers, not fans. So I ask this question of all of us today, are we really with Christ or do we think we are? Do we think we are Christians because we go to church on Sunday, be involved in ministries, or listen exclusively to Christian music? Do we think that reading the Bible for a few minutes every-so-often is helping us become deep followers of Christ? Are we living the lives God has called us to through His Son, or are we living a life that just looks like one?

These are the questions that we must ask daily to remind ourselves of what it means to be a Christian. Simply because we have a label, or repeated a prayer, or got some water splashed on us does not mean that we are following. Don’t be fooled like Micah. Know that you are doing the right thing and living a life according to God’s Will.

“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” –Proverbs 16:2, NLT

Related Article

 

Also in this series

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 78