Monthly Archives: July 2014
I think that we sometimes feel a little bit threatened when there is dynamic change. We don’t like it when what we have always known is thrown into turmoil. In Isaiah 60, we have this idea that the Gentiles are also going to be responding to the Gospel, and I wonder if that made the people of Israel nervous.
Isa 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Isa 60:2 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.
Isa 60:3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Isa 60:4 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.
I have to believe that since Israel spent so much of their early history being threatened at all sides by other nations, this might have been a frightening prospect. God had always delivered them and preserved their people, but as a general rule, it seems as if foreign relations were not necessarily a strong point for the nation of Israel.
All of a sudden, everyone is going to have the potential to become brothers and sisters in Christ. That trumps your nationality. We all became one family through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
This is a major change, and change is never easy. It was a change of perspective for the people of Israel. They were still the chosen people, but God was also going to open His family even farther. Obviously, it is a very positive thing, but it would have been a change. However, when God is in charge, we don’t need to be afraid of times like this. Even if it might force us to change our perspective, if God is behind it, that is a good thing.
I know that there is sometimes a major divide in the church between those who would believe in Calvinism, Arminianism or something in the middle. I still haven’t entirely figured out where I come down on it, but as I was reading Isaiah 59, we hear a little bit more about this division between God and man and why it is there.
Isa 59:1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Isa 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
Isa 59:4 None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
Isa 59:5 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.
Isa 59:6 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.
Isa 59:7 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.
Isa 59:8 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.
I know that there were a lot of verses there, but I found this passage incredibly interesting because in terms of basic formulation, it begins a lot like the general problem of evil. People ask if God isn’t powerful enough or not aware enough to prevent evil. We have kind of a similar question here. Is it not possible for God to save the people, or does He not realize that the people need saving?
It seems as if the problem is the choices that the people have made. For example, in verse four, they end up trusting in vanity. They are running to evil, and there has been destruction. At least to me it seems that we are talking about some dimension of human choice here. It is not that God cannot provide the deliverance they are looking for, but the people have made a choice to do other things, and God is allowing them to have the outcomes they are chasing.
Obviously, I am still processing this entire concept in my head, and I seem to go back and forth quite a bit, so this isn’t meant to be my definitive position. However, I found it very interesting that they formulate this argument very much but the problem of evil. God is more than able to provide deliverance, and He is certainly a personal God who knows what is going on around the world. Nevertheless, sinful people have made their choices, so they are being allowed to follow that path as well.
We are good at talking about what is wrong with the world, and we are quick to complain about it. However, we don’t always work on that change. It seems like that was what was happening with Israel in Isaiah 58. At the beginning of the chapter, they are thinking that they are righteous, but they are really not doing what God had wanted. He set them straight near the end of the chapter.
Isa 58:6 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?
Isa 58:7 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?
Isa 58:8 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.
Isa 58:9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
Isa 58:10 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 noonday:
Isa 58:11 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.
It seems to me that it isn’t just going through the motions that pleases God. He doesn’t tell the people of Israel not to fast, but He tells them that they were doing it wrong. They don’t have the right attitude while doing it, and they are not reaching out and helping their neighbor.
We can fall into this routine pretty easily. We go through the motions and we do the things that are supposed to do. We read the Bible, we go to church, or we have our daily devotional time. Those are all great things just like fasting was for the Israelites (and is still done by people today). However, it is possible to do all of that and still not to be doing what God wants you to be doing. There should be some evidence of our relationship with God in our lives.
I think that it’s kind of interesting to think about the idea of peace. I know that we have a chorus that talks about letting the peace of Christ rule in your heart. It seems as if peace is something we get from having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and today in Isaiah 57 we see that reinforced negatively.
Isa 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Isa 57:21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
I think this is interesting though because there are plenty of nonbelievers who will say that they have peace. They are comfortable with who they are, and they are in general satisfied where they are in life. Contrarily, there are some Christians who seem to be anything but peaceful. They don’t seem to have the kind of comfort that we are talking about here.
What is this peace then? It is something that Christ can give us, and it is something that the wicked do not have. However, it is also something that Christians have the potential to have, but we don’t always live like we have ithaven’t.
I think that we ought to go to the primary passage in question.
Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Interestingly, it seems as if this is something that we can’t necessarily understand but is also undeniably there. It also seems to come through prayer on some level. It seems to come after we have given our problems to God. In other words, we don’t have to handle our problems entirely on our own.
I think that that makes some sense on some level. There are a lot of things in our lives that can be hard to deal with. I don’t know where all of you are coming from, but I am willing to guarantee that your life is probably not perfect. How do we find peace in these kinds of circumstances? If we have to do it all on our own, we will just keep fighting. If we give it over to someone else, we don’t have to bear the burden alone. God can help us, but we also have to be willing to let it go.
Isaiah 56 gives hope to those who didn’t feel like they were “eligible” to worship God. Remember that we are still talking about prophecies concerning Jesus Christ here, and this is a prophecy of what the church is going to be.
Isa 56:3 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.
Isa 56:4 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;
Isa 56:5 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.
Isa 56:6 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;
Isa 56:7 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.
Isa 56:8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
I think that there is something interesting to take note of here. God said that His house is going to be called a house of prayer for all people. That is true. Anybody can come to God, but notice that there are conditions.
The people who are going to be brought are the people who are doing the things that God wants them to do. I am trying not to emphasize works-based salvation, but I also want to respect the fact that Christianity is not just fire insurance. God doesn’t need our works, but the evidence of a transformation that comes through a relationship with Christ will manifest and demonstrate that power of God.
Yes, there is no doubt that anyone can come to God. There is no one that is beyond forgiveness, but it needs to be a choice you commit to. You can’t continue in all of your sin according to this passage. Sure, you might sin occasionally because no one is perfect, but reading these verses made me think about how you don’t just put on the name. You put on a new life.
I think that Isaiah 55 has one of the least popular Bible passages in history in it. Nobody will say that it is their least favorite passage, but in our secular, self-worshiping society, I think it is implicit that we don’t like this concept.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We are a culture that wants to know things. We like to pursue knowledge, and we want to learn everything. On some level though, we are never going to be able to know everything. This certainly doesn’t mean that we stop pursuing knowledge. We should research, and we should learn everything we can about this universe. I don’t want any of this to sound like a learning is in and of itself a futile exercise.
However, God’s mind is indeed beyond the known universe. We cannot scientifically understand something such as that. To be honest, we can even entirely comprehend the human mind yet, so it is hardly even worth considering something that goes beyond the bounds of where science is even valid.
Let me put it this way. We live in the universe that has regularities. There are certain things that we know will happen in our universe because honestly that is the way it is. Gravity works, and we have laws that describe how gravity works. We can study that through the scientific method, and we have studied that quite a bit over the years.
God, as defined by the Bible, is beyond the universe. He is greater than the universe, and He is consequently beyond the universe. As a result, we don’t know if the regularities we observe within the universe apply outside. Perhaps they do, but perhaps they don’t.
As a result, we come back to the verses I mentioned. We can’t know everything because the thoughts of God are not our own thoughts. He has a different perspective, and we really are not in a position to know what an infinite God is thinking. It is basically like comparing apples and oranges. We have this universe that we are trying to comprehend with our finite minds, and we are making progress. However, we will never fully be able to comprehend the infinite God, and that definitely irritates people. It proposes that there is something beyond human comprehension and we are not the top of all the universe as we often times want to be. From a naturalistic worldview, this is incredibly difficult to accept.
In most of the Old Testament, it seems as if God is only concerned about the Israelites. In general, it seems as if He is involved with them because they are the chosen people. Of course, there are definite exceptions to this rule such as Melchizedek, but Isaiah 54 points out a major one that would be coming in the future.
Isa 54:2 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;
Isa 54:3 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.
Isa 54:4 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.
Isa 54:5 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.
If you recall from yesterday, Isaiah 53 was referring to Jesus coming as the Messiah, and now that we have a tent becoming larger. God had always been the God of the entire earth, but after the Messiah, it would becoming known that He was.
You can see that with the rise of Christianity. Obviously, Judaism was almost exclusively tied to the Jewish people before Christ. Once Christianity begins to have influence, the idea spreads around the world. Even the initial disciples were spreading the Gospel from India to Ethiopia to Rome.
The death of Jesus Christ and the salvation provided through Him was for the entire world, and now we see Christianity as a major world religion.
Again, this must have been a radical prophecy at the time. I am continually struck by the prophecy in the Old Testament. They were earth-changing.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most popular prophetic chapters in the Bible. I am sure that you have heard it a million times, but sometimes I think that we can forget the implications of this type of prophecy.
Isa 53:2 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.
Isa 53:3 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.
Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5 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.
Isa 53:6 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.
Isa 53:7 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.
I think that if I were reading Isaiah at the time he wrote it, I would have said, “I wouldn’t miss the Messiah. You say that we are going to despise Him, but I know that I will recognize and worship Him.” This was not necessarily a positive prophecy. The coming of the Messiah is definitely a great thing, but I wonder if it was slightly embarrassing for the people.
How often do we do this kind of thing? We say that we follow Jesus. We say that we will listen to His call in our lives, but we simply miss it. This is kind of like all of the people who read Isaiah but didn’t recognize Jesus for who He was. They would say that they were trying to follow the law and followed God, but they missed out when God was acting in their lives.
I think that is something we can work on today. Our God is an active God, and our recognition of His actions can always be refined. I think that our minds would surely be blown away if we truly saw everything that God does.
I know that God is love, and I know that His understanding is infinite. However, I have to imagine He has a very difficult job. In Isaiah 52, we hear about the people of God being in captivity, and God hears all of their complaints.
Isa 52:5 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.
Isa 52:6 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.
God certainly understood that it was not easy for the people of Israel to be in captivity. He heard the people who were upset, and He heard even blasphemy.
However, all of that being said, God had a plan to deliver them. Despite all of these things that were going on, God would bring the people of Israel out of captivity, and they would know that He was God.
I think that we can get tripped up in this sometimes. We are in a difficult time for whatever reason, and all of a sudden we blame God, and we pretty much decide that we are going to move beyond Him. That is pretty much where Israel was at many times in their history. They started to follow other people or other gods.
I hope that that doesn’t happen to us. It is no secret that we can run into difficult times, but that does not mean that God doesn’t care, and it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us. He hears us, and when we are in these times, we might not understand, but there is a plan that will be done.
I think that as Christians we often times forget that while we certainly do live on earth, this is not all there is. There is a salvation that will last forever, and we hear about that in Isaiah 51.
Isa 51:4 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.
Isa 51:5 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.
Isa 51:6 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.
In this passage, we are receiving a little bit of prophecy about Jesus. Salvation is going to come out from heaven and from God. That salvation will be forever. It is not as if heaven is going to be a vacation where you have to come back to our earthly reality eventually; it is going to be a relocation forever.
I was reading an interesting argument a little while ago from CS Lewis. He was pointing out that it is interesting that we are always surprised by how fast time seems to go by. However, he wonders why we are surprised. All we know is the relationship of past, present and future, so 35 years ought to feel like 35 years. We ought to be used to the element of time, but somehow it continually surprises us. Perhaps that indicates that our souls were created for a timeless existence. If we weren’t actually designed to be confined by the limits of time, time very well might surprise us then because we are out of the element that we were designed for.
I don’t think we always live like we believe this eternal salvation. It is kind of off somewhere in the distant future that doesn’t really matter too much. However, the fact that the matter is that it does matter, and Lewis made a solid point. Maybe we are surprised by time because we are not designed for it. In fact, we are all going to live eternally, but we need the salvation mentioned earlier in the passage if we want to spend that eternity with God.