Author Archives: versebyverse

Isaiah – Day 998

Scripture:  Isaiah 52:6 (NIV):  “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it.  Yes, it is I.”

Thought:  To me, God allows His Name to be broadcast through blasphemy, so that it may be rediscovered by His people.

Question:  Do I know God’s Name?

The previous verse stated, “…all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.”  Today’s verse surprises us by revealing that God arranged it to be so, and that out of negativity, His Name will become more will-known.  Indeed, God works all together for good!  (Romans 8:28)

“Therefore…”

What is this “therefore” there for?  It draws a conclusion from the prior verses.

“…my people…”

It is important to remember that all through this context, God has spoken to His own children, to Judah and Jerusalem.  This is both shocking and comforting.  It shocks because we are unbelievably amazed at how disobedient God’s people are to His commandments.  Israel was horribly rebellious.  And we can be, too.  But it also comforts because we also see how faithful our Father is to us no matter what we do; He is finding a way to rescue us despite all our rebellion.  We can rest in that great faithfulness.

“…will know my name;”

Yes, they will hear God’s Name over and over, again and again, in captivity there in Babylon as their oppressors mock God’s Name “constantly” and “all day long.”  (See Isaiah 52:5).  We can hear with our imagination how the Babylonians must have put down Yahweh and elevated their own gods, based on the fact of their military victory.

Our cultural situation is not greatly different from this situation, is it?  It is not politically correct to be a Christian; so we hear from all sides that God is dead, or Christ is worthless—that a much better “god” to worship is the god, “self.”  This is partly due to the fact that the existing “gods” of materialism and secular humanism are, so far, also in the “winning position” in our land.

But God is amazing!  Through blasphemy of His Name, His people hear His Name again and rediscover Him.  Through the death of His Son, Jesus, His people will learn afresh, via resurrection, that He is more alive than ever before.  God has a way of permitting the worst darkness and evil imaginable, only to create a starkly contrastive Light—just to emphasize His point—and His “Name.”  He has allowed Lucifer plenty of elbow room!  Some have asked why.  Why doesn’t God just destroy Satan NOW?!  But today’s verse ought to reveal something of an answer:  in permitting darkness, Light is brighter when it appears.

“therefore in that day…”

Again, there is a reason for everything.  All events combine (“therefore”) into a work fraught with purpose and deep meaning.  God plans events so that they interconnect and weave a tapestry full of color and, yes…, goodness.  Crucial to the creation of such a “tapestry” is timing.  “In that day” becomes the promise of God, doing what He will do, at just the right and perfect time.

It is so important to let God do His thing in His time, not ours.

“In that day” is the glorious day of God being rediscovered.  It is the day of realization and revelation.  (I love these “re” words!  It means something is being done again.  Maybe the first time we didn’t get it; but God brings it around again for our benefit.)  God has always been here, at work, with love, and fully intending to bring us His best.  Ezekiel 39:27-19:  “When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.  I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

“…they will know it is I who foretold it.”

God knows we will not realize certain things about Him until, and unless, we go through some trying things.  Sometimes those trials are pretty devastating.  But once through, then we will know Him better.

In addition, according to this verse we will be reminded that He indeed prophesied many, many things that have come true.

The Israelites will come to an awakening of realization, too.  They will recollect that the prophecies were given by the prophets concerning the Babylonian exile, written down, and now, realized.  The painful captivity is a fulfillment of Scripture—and they will “come to” finally, knowing what God says has come to pass.

“Yes, it is I.”

In the end, God is always lifted up and glorified.  This is just as it should be.  We ought to revisit this great truth:  what’s most important in life is none other than God.  It bears repeating!

Prayer:  God of Glory, thank You for knowing, always, just what to do, and when.  Thank You for reiterating the importance of Your Name.  Help me, LORD, to honor Your great Name, even if and when I go into situations of captivity or oppression, knowing You are still and ever at work for good in all things.  In Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 997

Scripture:  Isaiah 52: 4 and 5 (NIV):  “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  ‘At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.  And now what do I have here?’ declares the LORD.  ‘For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,’ declares the LORD.  ‘And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.’ ”

Thought:  To me, we still have the same enemies:  Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, in symbolic type today.  Will we ever learn?

Question:  Do I blaspheme the Name of God?

In verse 3 we read that God’s people, Israel, were “sold for nothing” into bondage.  Today’s verses track how this was fleshed out historically.

“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says:”

Again, as happened in verse 3, the little connector word “for” draws our eyes back to attach today’s verses to what has already been said.  And, once again, we have a declaration of authority as to Who exactly is speaking; only this time, the important word “Sovereign” is added.  This emphasizes God’s complete oversight and control of the entire passage of time involving all activities of His people in Judah and Jerusalem.  He is thoroughly unrestricted in His total control of history.

“ ‘At first my people went down to Egypt to live;’ ”

Here is Israel having to subject itself to Egyptian rule.  Why?  Because of great famine.  This is recorded history and best described in the greatest of all history books, the Holy bible.  You can read all about Israel’s descent into Egypt in Genesis, chapters 39 through 50.  This is primarily the story of Joseph who, after being sold into slavery, became a ruler in Egypt.  He stored much grain during a time of plenty, armed by God’s imparted wisdom that a long famine would follow the plenty.  The 11 estranged brothers of Joseph, plus his father, Jacob, went to Egypt to live to survive the famine, and ended up staying.  The beginnings of the book of Exodus detail for us how this turned into an oppressive situation when a new Pharaoh took the throne.

“ ‘lately, Assyria has oppressed them.’ ”

Sennacherib conquered Israel and Samaria in 710 BC.  Other oppressive Assyrian kings included Sargon II and Shalmaneser, proving Assyria was a long-time enemy of Judah.  (See 2 Kings 17:3 and Isaiah 20:1)

It’s as if the Israelites jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  First, Egypt oppressed; then Assyria attacked.

Does it ever seem in your Christian walk that you are beleaguered by one trial after another?  Do the trials intensify as you go along?  First, you are “in the world” (type of Egypt); then, oppressed by foes on all sides (similar to Assyrian attacks).  Why does this happen?

In the case of Judah and Jerusalem, their troubles came because they “rebelled against” God.  (See Isaiah 1:2b:  “…I [the LORD] reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.”  And see Isaiah 1:4:  “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!  They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.”)

But in other cases, even for the cooperative Christians today, there is still persecution and oppression, even while God is honored and obeyed.  Why is this true?  In these cases God tests your mettle in the fires of trial to determine if your faith is real, and to see how deep it goes.  This is why, even as you read through Isaiah, you will see “the remnant” of true believers coming through terrible trouble; going out free and clear on the other side—refined, deepened, wiser and so much more in awe of God Who saves them.

“ ‘And now what do I have here?’ declares the LORD.”

A third “wave” of terror comes upon Israel.  This wording comes closely alongside our own, human reaction:  “what next?!”  It’s as if God joins us in our own anxiety, questioning the very sanity of anyone who needs to experience a third wave of trouble.  “Why do I have to take you so far into struggle?”—I can almost hear the LORD asking.

“ ‘For my people…’ ”

Notice now that this is the second referral to Judah and Jerusalem as “my people.”  God is not only unashamed to continue to call the Israelites His own; but He is also obviously going to go with them into any and all troubles.  They are His people and He is their Father.  That will never change.

“ ‘…have been taken away for nothing,’ ”

The third “wave” is Babylon.  In they roll, for no other reason than to conquer new lands and widen the borders of their kingdom.  Israel has not provoked them.  They have no quarrel with them.  But nevertheless, here comes Nebuchadnezzar in full force.  This time, the oppression is worse; most of the nation is taken captive into slavery and shipped off, in exile, to Babylon.

As Christians, we can sometimes ignore or silently oppose our own Heavenly Father so effectively that He needs to send this “third wave” into our lives.  First, we found ourselves rubbing shoulders with the world in daily life; second, we found ourselves assaulted by enemies.  Now, we are imprisoned—captive in a “foreign” realm.

If we continue in sin unchecked, terrible “imprisonments” can begin to raise their ugly heads:  addictions, abuses, cycles of defeat and other seemingly “foreign” and hopeless battles may develop in our lives.  What’s saddest in all this is that, as God’s Word points out here so clearly and simply, it can all happen “for nothing”—for no good reason.  Ah, but there is a certain and basic reason:  it is sin.  But it is a needless reason.  It does not need to take place.

Oh, Christian:  do not allow yourself to be “taken away for nothing”!  Do not let sin ruin your life.

“ ‘and those who rule them mock’, declares the LORD.”

The Babylonian enemy mocks because he is proud and arrogant in his conquering power.  The pride of Nebuchadnezzar was revealed to us in the book of Daniel.  Nebuchadnezzar took credit himself for all the beauty of Babylon but God was not oblivious.  Soon Nebuchadnezzar was growing claws like an eagle and romping on all fours through the forest for seven years as God redirected his life.  Nebuchadnezzar may have once mocked Israel regarding their “god”; but in the end, he acknowledged The One, True God—the LORD God Almighty.

Satan mocks us today.  He laughs at Christians.  We who believe can “feel” his laughter as it ripples through the hearts of unbelievers and out their mouths in derision and condemnation.  Our culture is rife with it.  Christians and Christianity are openly mocked.

“ ‘And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.’ ”

Oh yes.  God is maligned.  His Name is ridiculed.  He is the butt of jokes and the source of swear words.  The world thinks they have one up on God—they are too intelligent now to admit to a Heavenly Father.  They’ve outgrown Him.  This attitude is not occasional; it is continual and goes on 24/7.

To “blaspheme” is to “speak irreverently about God or sacred things.”  Merriam-Webster also adds:  “…the act of insulting or showing contempt…for God.”  To blaspheme also carries the idea of “claiming the attributes of deity.”  Jesus was charged with blasphemy when He spoke of His equality with The Father.  And in our culture today, those who mock God are actually putting themselves up into the place of deity.  They do this automatically when they tear God down.  They replace His rule of their lives with their own rule.

Prayer:  Sovereign Father, thank You for showing us this perspective in the book of Isaiah.  We see how You are disobeyed then mocked.  Forgive me, LORD, if and when I ever sin against You and slip into the subjection of my soul under Satan.  Forgive me if and when I ever stoop to mockery of Your Name.  I pray that You would bring me out of “Egypt”, out from under the assaults of “Assyria”, and out from inside the captive prison of “Babylon.”  Heal me from sin, Father.  I pray it in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 996

Scripture:  Isaiah 52: 3 (NIV):  “For this is what the LORD says:  ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’ ”

Thought:  To me, our Redeemer’s blood is priceless.  It alone was valuable enough to cover all our evil.

Question:  Am I sold under sin or bought with a price?

The previous verse zeroed in on the freedom God wants His children to have.  He does not enjoy seeing us in bondage.  Today’s verse is remarkable!  Release costs US nothing.

“For…”

This connector draws our eyes back to the previous verse.  Therein we see cleansing, resurrection, enthronement and freedom.  These become a basis upon which God is about to speak.

“…this is what the LORD says:”

I love this phrase.  It is somewhat of a grand proclamation:  the eternally Living God is about to speak!  Pay attention!  Remember:  it is the “LORD” Who speaks.  He is “The LORD God Almighty”—the “LORD of Hosts” (hosts are angelic beings and celestial bodies).  Certainly He commands our attention.  The entirety of the Universe inspires us to bend an ear to God.

“ ‘You were sold for nothing,’ ”

God takes no profit when we choose to sin.  In fact, just the opposite:  God is deeply pained and in personal loss over our rebellion.  There is a cost and a price for sin; but we sinners do not pay it.  God pays it!  The cost is beyond money.  1 Peter 1:18 and 19:  “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ…”  Now, usually slaves are property:  bought and sold by their owners.  We ARE slaves to sin, but sin need not own us.  We were created by God; yet if we sin, we put ourselves under the ownership of Satan.  Romans 7:14:  “We know that the law is spiritual; but I [the Apostle Paul] am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”

Not even Satan gains profit when we join him in sinning.  Lucifer, the Father of all lies, lies to himself every day if he thinks it is to his profit that more souls join him along the broad road to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  Satan will only reap eternal condemnation for what he has done against God.  Revelation 20:10:  “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur…”

Who then profits when we sin?  Nobody.  Not us, not God, not Jesus, and not even the devil and all his demons.  Sin is all a lie, and like a lie, it is false, empty and worthless.  Why then are we so attracted to it?  That’s a good question, and I know the answer lies somewhere in the explanation of what the Bible refers to as “The Mystery of Iniquity.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

“ ‘and without money you will be redeemed.’ ”

Just as no money transacted when Judah (or we) went into sin, so no money will be able to redeem us.  There is no amount of worldly wealth that can be accumulated to meet the cost of our sins.  The blood of Jesus redeems us.  His blood is priceless.  1 Corinthians 6:19b and 20:  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  1 Corinthians 7:23:  “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”  1 Peter 2:9:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Revelation 5:9:  “And they [the 4 living creatures and 24 elders in heaven] sang a new song:  ‘You [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

This blood was a huge cost for the Father, and for Jesus, to pay for our sins.  How huge a cost?  Basically, the Father allowed His Son to decide if He might die for all of us; He allowed His Son to be killed in the name of love, that we might live.  No love goes deeper or is larger than this kind of love.  The penalty of sin is death.  Rather than each of us paying that penalty, Christ stepped in between us and the Father and offered to pay the cost for us.  On Calvary the cost became apparent:  Jesus experienced His Father forsaking Him for the first time ever.  Our Holy Father cannot bear to look upon or be near to sin.  Then Christ died in that forsaken state and went to hell.  We may never know, except perhaps receive a small inkling in Heaven, of what Christ experienced there in hell those 3 days before His Father raised Him back to life.  The glorious truth is that Jesus could not be held in hell by Satan:  the devil had no grounds on which to hold Him—He was purely innocent.

How does Jesus’ blood redeem us?  It atones (pays the owed debt) for all our sins and redeems us (buys us back from lostness).  How?  It is pure.  The Father accepts Jesus’ pure blood because it is untainted from evil.  It satisfies the needed cost.  God accepts the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, as worthy payment for all our sins.  Hebrews 9:22:  “…the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  And only Jesus/ blood was good enough.  This is why Isaiah could say, “Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.”  The only fully and truly just and righteous person to ever live was Jesus Christ.  He is worthy.  He alone.

Prayer:  Loving Father, thank You for Your heart that longs to redeem me from sin.  Help me to never take Christ’s shed blood lightly or for granted.  Cause me to realize the great cost of Jesus’ condescension and death by crucifixion, and to live accordingly—practicing righteousness and goodness with all people.  In Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 995

Scripture:  Isaiah 52: 2(NIV):  “Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.  Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.”

Thought:  To me, God always wants freedom and exaltation for us.  We, however, are often our own greatest obstacle to both.

Question:  Have I discovered how to be free in Christ?

This new chapter depicts the contrast of recovery in God versus being under His judgments.  The last verses of chapter 51, (17 through 23), spoke of God’s wrath, ruin, destruction, famine and sword against Israel—all His judgments as consequences of their sin and idolatry.  But chapter 52 brings the hope of recovery; if only Judah and Jerusalem will “awake!”

“Shake off your dust;”

Awakening is a stirring from sleep—a sudden shifting from one “world” to another.  God encourages His children to “awake, awake”:  in the previous verse, 52:1; but also at other times:  51:17; 51:9, 60:1; and Ephesians 5:14 to name a few.

A part of awakening is returning to alertness and lifting oneself out of a prone position back to a standing one.  Lying prone on the earth puts one in the dust!  This picture of proneness wreaks of resignation:  a lying down, giving up to weakness, and a breakdown of heart and spirit.  When down, we are infested with dust—the decayed “stuff” of earth.

God calls Israel, and all of us, to “shake off your dust.”  Get out of the doldrums of the dirty earth!  We are children of God and made in His image!  We can rise out of the worldly filth!  Though the taint of sin may cover us, we can shake it off, through Jesus.

To “awaken” is so needful, especially for Christians today.  So much of Christendom is asleep.  We have bought into the world.  We are shrouded and even buried in its “dust.”  We operate completely in our own strength and not in the power of God.  2 Timothy 3:2a and 5a:  “People will be lovers of themselves…having a form of godliness but denying its power…”  We do not even realize we are asleep.

How can we know if we are actually asleep?  The answer is really quite simple, yet like many spiritual truths, it is profoundly mysterious.  That’s why so many miss it.  We can know we are asleep if we are not consciously aware of Christ ruling our nature; that is, if we never consult Him, never submit to Him, never heed His commands.  We are asleep to God if we run our own lives, consult only our own preferences and make decisions based on our own opinions.

How then can we awaken?  Just as Judah needed to do, we must realize our waywardness, confess it, ask for cleansing, and then cling tightly to God in every way we know how; in obedience, prayer and worship.  We must abide in Christ; that is, find our only hope for true life in His cleansing blood, enter into His blood, avail ourselves of its power to remove sin, and then remain in Christ every day in every way with utter dependence upon Him.  This is the Christian walk.

“rise up,”

No longer prone in the dust, we should stand up.  We can do this in God’s strength—even if we may feel utterly weak and incapable.  Christ has come to our aid:  Ephesians 2:6:  “…God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

“But”, you may say, we are told in the Bible that dust returns to dust, and ashes to ashes.  We all die and rot away—returned to the soil of the earth.  No one escapes this.  How then can we rise to “the heavenly realms”?  You are correct to say this.  This is the fate of us all in death.  But the spirit outlives the body!  And the spirit can overcome the body; both in death and while living.  Galatians 6:16:  “So I [Paul] say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Romans 8:6:  “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;”  John 16:33:  “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  1 John 5:5:  “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

To “rise” speaks of resurrection:  returning to life AFTER being subjected to death.  In Christ, Who was the first to resurrect, we also shall “rise” to new life.

Look at Judah.  Certainly we have seen in our reading of Isaiah that the Israelites were subject to death.  Yet God promises a “rising”—a newness, a victory, an overcoming for them—if only they will “awaken.”

“sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.”

The delightful and automatic consequence of awakening to God through Christ, and “rising” with Him in newness of life, is to “sit enthroned.”  As mentioned:  in Christ (Ephesians 2:6) we are “seated in the heavenly realms.”  How amazing this is!

When we enter into Christ we get the whole package of what He offers.  This includes enthronement.  If Judah would only stick with God, they, too, would receive the blessing of enthronement, or, royal authority and recognition.  But we, so like the Israelites, tend to seek our own glory—our own way of doing things.  Our rebellion against God’s ways only reaps defeat and degradation.  But if we harmonize with God, the happy blessings lead to eventual enthronement.

Those on thrones are rulers.  They exercise control and power over others.  God intends for His children to be leaders in this way.  Those on thrones are royal.  They receive honor and respect from others.  God intends for His children to be appreciated in this way.  Revelation 1:5b and 6:  “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to Him be glory and power forever and ever!  Amen.”

“Free yourself from the chains on your neck,”

Notice first of all that this sentence is in the imperative voice; that is, the subject or doer of the sentence is understood to be “you”, in this case, Jerusalem.  God is telling Jerusalem exactly what to do.  They ought to respond and do it!  “You, Jerusalem—free yourself!”

Now, after all that’s been said about how only God, through Christ, has the power to “do” the saving, cleansing, lifting, restoring and empowering, how is it that God orders Jerusalem to “free” themselves?  How can they?  Well, in one way they absolutely cannot.  But in another way, only they really CAN free themselves.  And that “way” is this:  they must let God free them.  It is an act of the will.  They must admit they need Him.  They must confess their inability, their weakness, their sin.  The “letting” is the key:  “let go and let God.”  Capitulation is the order of the day.  That is the task of us all:  to capitulate to God.

Apparently Jerusalem is so blind they cannot grasp this whole idea.  That is why it was necessary to judge them and bring them to the brink of annihilation at the hands of Assyria, then Babylon.  Only in and through violent suffering will their souls be shocked back to reality.  And even then, only some will turn back to God—not all will “awaken.”

“The chains” on their necks were necessary, apparently.  They had to experience the awfulness of oppression and slavery before they would “come to.”  Assyria was a cruel enemy and used many unpleasant methods of torture and belittlement on their victims.  Babylon took people as slaves, removing them from their homeland.

But God’s statement brings hope.  There is freedom to be had if only Jerusalem will accept it.

“O captive Daughter of Zion.”

God is fully aware of the bondage Israel finds itself in.  We, too, as Christians, are often in bondage.  Many are victims of addictive behaviors.  Many are oppressed.  Many are in trouble.  Many are suffering.  God calls us to awaken and arise.  Will we do it?

Notice that Zion’s (Jerusalem’s) title of daughter is capitalized.  This emphasizes His Fatherhood over them.  Also His use of the word “Zion” emphasizes it is His, holy city.  They are daughters of God and He owns them as His children.  As such, they certainly do not belong in bondage.  Neither do we.  It is not what God created us for nor intended us to suffer under.  Yet here Judah was, and here we Christians are:  captives!

How we need to awaken!  How we need to shake off the dust!  How we need to arise!  How we need to be free!  John 8:36:  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Prayer:  Great Father, thank You for giving us Your Son!  In Him we can have our spirits awakened, our dirt of sin washed away, and our bodies resurrected.  In Christ we can be fully free.  Father, enable me to connect effectively with Christ, and to remain in Him, so that all You want for me will become a reality in my life.  Plant in me a deeper desire to shake off sins.  Bless me with the rich vision of my future enthronement in Heaven and my present spiritual exaltation through the power of Christ lifting me “into the heavenly realms.”  I praise and thank You that I am a “joint-heir” with Jesus Christ and that much of what I can inherit is for TODAY:  “life more abundantly” TODAY.  Praise You for this, Father!  Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 994

Scripture:  Isaiah 52:1 (NIV):  “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength.  Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city.  The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.”

Thought:  To me, the secret to the transformation of Jerusalem to Zion, and the sleeping sinner to awakened righteousness (and sustained purity), is God’s strength—not mine.

Question:  Have I discovered how to put on God’s strength?

As we open this new chapter, we remember closing chapter 51 with the promise of God that the suffering of God’s wrath (judgment over sins of idolatry and pride) will be ended for Israel and passed on to her enemy, Babylon.  After judgment comes righteousness, cleansing and splendor—as seen in today’s verse.

“Awake, awake, O Zion,…”

This is not the first time Isaiah has urged Judah and Jerusalem to awaken from their “sleep.”  Isaiah 26:19b:  “You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.  Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”  And closer to our context today these two references; Isaiah 51:9:  “Awake, awake!  Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.”  Isaiah 51:17:  “Awake, awake!  Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger.”

This is the point, isn’t it?  Israel is asleep.  They are void of consciousness regarding the things of God.

And yet, the word “asleep” has a built-in hope:  one day the sleeper must wake up!  (That is, unless the “sleep” is like that of a deep coma.  Sometimes the sleeper may not awaken but may slip straight from sleep into death.  These are sad exceptions, both in the physical world and spiritual realm.)  But for Israel, there is an awakening day—the Scriptures bear that out.  (Romans 11:25 through 27:  “I [the Apostle Paul] do not want you [Roman Christians] to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ ”)

“Zion” is God’s chosen name for Jerusalem and represents the idea of elevation, which, in a spiritual sense, speaks of Holiness.  The city, Zion, (Jerusalem), will one day become God’s Holy City and central point or headquarters housing His holiness—as seen in His saints who live there.  Interestingly, Isaiah calls Jerusalem by this name after her judgments are completed.  After judgment comes cleansing and holiness.  Sins are judged, removed, and the newly cleaned area is now fit for God’s occupancy.  Indeed, it is only fitting to rename the earthly city, Jerusalem, to its heavenly name, Zion now that this process has been completed by the power of God.

“…clothe yourself …”

How can the recently oppressed Israel find the ability to “clothe” herself?  Isn’t she stricken with weakness?  Hasn’t she just been judged unworthy by God?  How and where can she find appropriate garments?

She can only find them in God.  Isaiah 40:30 and 31:  “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Just as it is an important point that Israel lies “asleep”, so it is another important point that only in God can she, (or any of us for that matter), find the strength we need.

“…with strength.”

Literally, then, we should say, “clothe yourself with” God!  Philippians 4:13:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Isaiah 40:29:  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  Psalm 119:28:  “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”  Isaiah 35:4:  “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’ ”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10:  “But he said to me [the Apostle Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  Nehemiah 8:10b:  “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Psalm 28:7:  “the LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.”  Psalm 118:14:  “the LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”  And on and on we could go…

“Put on your garments of splendor,”

There are two ideas concerning this phrase.  One is that is refers to the more than bleached-white robes of righteousness given to us from Christ.  Jesus takes the “filthy rags” of our fleshly attempts at right-doing, plus our horribly stained garments of sin, and washes them in His blood.  We wear what He provides—not our own clothes.  And He provides perfection:  the royal robe of pure righteousness as found only in God Himself.

The second idea is that “garments of splendor” might refer to the robes of the Judaic priests now that they are members of the “holy city”, Zion (Jerusalem), and will be ministering there in the temple.

I like both ideas!  Why not?  Splendid priests bearing the twelve precious stones on their breastplates, their fingers and toes dipped in blood, and glorious believers displaying the white purity of Jesus over their sins—both are amazing and both give glory to God!

“O Jerusalem, the holy city.”

And now Isaiah calls Zion Jerusalem!  And he calls her “the holy city.”  If there ever was any doubt, this phrase clarifies the truth:  Zion is Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is the holy city.  It’s as though once the “garments of splendor” are donned, the purification is complete (even as it was for the priests in Leviticus), and the city’s transformation is complete.  Therefore we can freely call Jerusalem Zion and vice versa.  God has done it!  Isaiah 1:26:  “I [the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel] will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning.  Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.”  God does the restoring—not man.

“The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.”

This is another promise of God.  Once restored, never again will there be an oppressive invasion or battle to tear down the walls.  And the holy city will be pure.  No sinners will be found inside!  Joel 3:17:  “Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill.  Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.”   Psalm 2:6:  “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  Revelation 21:23 through 27:  “the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Prayer:  Father God and King Jesus, thank You for making this possible:  the New Jerusalem in all its glory!  Remind me, Lord, that this City is only glorious because You are there and Your Son is there.  We are simply the happy beneficiaries—You are the great Giver.  Cause me to awaken if any part of my soul lies in the dark sleep of doubt and/or fear.  Help me to take possession of Your strength as found in Christ.  It is there, Father!  I just need to tap into it!  Help me to do so, Lord.  It’s not that my weakness will be annihilated, it will still be there; but it is that my weakness is dwarfed over by Your strength.  I pray this will be true.  In Christ’s Name, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 993

Scripture:  Isaiah 51:23 (NIV):  “I will put it into the hands of your tormenters, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.’  And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.”

Thought:  To me, God’s wrath will pass away from the righteous to the wicked, but is used by God in the meantime, through our humiliation, to accomplish His purposes.

Question:  Have I ever become a doormat to someone’s abuse?

In the previous verses God promised to remove Babylon as Israel’s oppressor.  At first God had used Babylon to judge Israel; but now He is defending His people (verse 22) against them.  Today’s verse describes how God transfers His anger (and subsequent punishment) away from the Jews and into the lives of the Babylonians.  In addition, God describes the kind of torment Babylon dished out.

“I will…”

These two words begin a promise of God.  Never underestimate the scope and power of promises God makes.  They are broad, they are guaranteed, and they are pure.

“…put it into the hands of your tormenters,”

What will God put into the “hands of your tormenters” (the Babylonians)?  It is “the cup of wrath” spoken of in verse 22; the same dose of judgment, flavored with God’s anger (over sin and ungodliness), that God had “poured out” on the Israelites.  The cup is getting passed around!  Proverbs 11:8:  “The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead.”  Cups are vessels to drink from, and Babylon is about to swallow God’s wrath because He has placed the cup in their hands.

“…who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.’ ”

The Babylonians had spoken harshly to the Israelites whom they conquered.  The phrase they spoke is descriptive of a tradition known in the ancient middle eastern world wherein conquerors would establish their authority, power and ownership of the land after winning a battle.  They would subjugate the people.  To firmly establish their control they would humiliate the losing populace, sometimes stepping on their necks as they lay prone on the ground.  This was illustrated clearly in Joshua’s day when he overcame the five Amorite kings:  Joshua 10:22 through 24:  “Joshua said, ‘Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.’  So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon.  When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’  So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.”

But in today’s verse, there seems to be even greater emphasis.  Not only are the necks stepped upon, but the whole body is also “walked over.”

Remember, this is a memory of the Israelites, originally inflicted upon them by the Babylonians.   It was the Babylonians who “walked over” the Israelites.  But now, God is turning the tables.

“And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.”

Israel was humiliated by losing to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar conquered them and subjugated them.  Many he took captive as slaves, back to his homeland.  They were a broken and displaced nation!

This phrase captures the capitulation completely:  Israel laid down in total submission, and allowed Babylon to have its way, becoming like a “street to be walked over.”

Have you ever felt like you became a doormat for someone else?  If that oppression you experienced was inspired by wickedness, God will bring justice to you!  Just as He evened out the score between Babylon and Israel by turning His wrath back around against Babylon, He can turn His judgments around completely—even back upon your oppressor and your unjust punishment.  Psalm 66:10 through 12:  “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.  You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Micah 7:8 through 10:  “Do not gloat over me, my enemy!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.  Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.  Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right.  He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.  Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, ‘Where is the LORD your God?’  My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets.”

The ups and downs of battle matter little; what does truly matter is who wins in the end.  It is clear from today’s verse that Israel, who is on God’s side, will win in the end.  And so will anyone today who puts their trust in God!

Prayer:  LORD God, Almighty in battle against our enemy, thank You for guaranteeing victory!  Thank You for both our victory in the end, and the trial of our faith in the middle, because through trial we learn how great You are, how capable You are to save and rescue, and how much we needed You all along.  Thank You that Satan will be fully subjugated one day, and that You will make all Your enemies drink Your wrath (as described in Revelation).  Then it will be a time of joy as we come to realize we will never be abused by evil again.  Knowing this now, and being able to look forward to it, is our great salvation.  Praise the LORD!  Amen in Christ’s Name!

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Isaiah – Day 992

Scripture:  Isaiah 51: 21 and 22 (NIV):  “Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine.  This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people:  ‘See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again.’ ”

Thought:  To me, God may afflict His children in judgment, but He also relieves them in mercy.

Question:  Am I staggering under God’s appointed affliction?

Today’s verse 21 begins with a connector word, “therefore,” which should cause us to focus once again on the previous verses for the fully accurate meaning of what is written.  Previously we have seen God’s earnest desire to rouse Israel from their “sleep”; that is, from their deadness to God.  But as they continue in their chosen darkness, God has brought calamities to jar them awake.  Today’s verses give a bit of closure to this season of judgment.  God’s “cup of wrath” has a fullness that finally comes to an end.

“Therefore hear this,”

Because of sin and idolatry, because of judgment, and because God’s wrath has been poured out, now a new word comes from God.  All of this is a spiritual process God oversees and utilizes.

“…you afflicted one,”

God is always compassionate.  Even when He is exercising judgment upon us He is loving and caring.  God is the model of what a perfect parent should be:  always loving but never backing down on principles.  (We parents know from experience how difficult it is to maintain this balance; hence the expression, “tough love.”)  Now, had Israel never rebelled, “tough love”, via affliction, would not have been necessary.  But this was not the case.  There was rebellion.  The Father is all too aware of how badly afflicted His Jews must be because of their rebellion.

“…made drunk, but not with wine.”

Drunks fall down or often end up prostrate in bed and asleep.  Instead of alcohol producing these symptoms in Israel, God made them drunk with His wrath:  He made them fall down and go prostrate—He brought collapse to their nation and a loss of their own self-control.  They were shifted into helplessness.

I believe another way to put this is to decide what “spirit” is influencing a person:  alcoholic drinks are called “spirits” because they overshadow a person’s temperament.  God’s Spirit can do the same but in love, righteousness and holy power.  (See Ephesians 5:18).  In our context here, however, God’s wrath has overshadowed Israel.  His wrath is a very different “spirit” from His redemptive qualities!  Habakkuk 2:16:  “You will be filled with shame instead of glory.  Now it is your turn!  Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!  The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.”

“This is what your Sovereign LORD says,”

In all these actions God has been sovereign.  He is in full control, always.  Out through His overall control of the situation there now comes a new statement.

“…your God, who defends his people:”

God turns the tide.  Where once God enlisted Babylon as an instrument of judgment He now shifts and begins to offer protection to Israel FROM Babylon.  I find this very interesting.  God uses everything.  And He is able to use the same things in different ways.  He has created everything, and He will utilize whatever He can to accomplish His purposes.  Behind each of His purposes lies righteousness.  Though judgments are difficult, God achieves things through them that could not be achieved any other way.

I like this possessive pronoun, “your.”  God loves Israel, and they belong to Him.  He love is everlasting.  He will never forsake them.  It is this covenant commitment that shines forth now, moving God to turn and “defend his people.”  Whether judged or protected, God loves them the same.

“ ‘See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger;’ ”

The cup spoken of here is God’s “cup of wrath” (Isaiah 51:17).  God was responsible for bringing it to Israel, putting it in their hands, and for pouring it down their throats.  But as I have pointed out in a previous blog, there is always an end in sight to a vessel or cup—it truly has its limit—its “bottom.”  It can only hold so much.  Apparently now, God has elected for Israel’s affliction to end.

They will no longer “stagger.”  Their reeling back and forth will come to an end.  This implies they may be able to start a balanced walk.

“…from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again.”

What a relief this must have brought to Israel!  God’s Word is dependable—it is as golden and good as The One proclaiming it.  His promises are completely reliable—(unlike the weak “promises” of men.)  Here God promises that Israel “will never…again” have to swallow this kind of wrath from God.

What does this mean literally?  I believe it means that Israel will never again be led captive out of their homeland by this particular enemy:  Babylon.  It could also be interpreted to mean that this specific generation of Israelites would never again experience this kind of oppressive, exilic suffering in their life time.

Certainly history has proven that the Jews, sadly, went on to experience many more “waves” of suffering and persecution at the hands of many more enemies.  But of Babylon, God is here promising no more new oppression.  Isaiah 49:25:  “ ‘Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.’ ”

Hallelujah!

Prayer:  Righteous Father, You are over us all.  Your will and righteousness are the standard of rule, determining whether or not we deserve judgment and correction.  Help me to accept your judgments!  Thank You that when judgment is completed, Your mercy takes its place.  You are a just God!  Thank You for relief from suffering!  I pray in Christ’s Name, Amen.

 

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Isaiah – Day 991

Scripture:  Isaiah 51:20 (NIV):  “Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net.  They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God.”

Thought:  To me, when God sends judgment through His wrath and rebuke, even the best and strongest of men becomes weak and subjected before Him.

Question:  Will I be filled with God’s wrath or with God’s blessings?

As we continue to study the negative consequences of Israel’s idolatry, we have seen much calamity allowed to befall them.  Today’s verse is another description, illustrating how even the young and strong of the Jews are affected.  God’s wrath upon them is overwhelming.

“Your sons have fainted;”

As we age, we look to the younger generations to carry on with strength.  But Israel’s sons are not strong.  They “faint” in weakness, probably in large part due to famine associated with the long siege of war.  Lamentations 2:11 and 12:  “My [Jeremiah’s] eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.  They cry to their mothers, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ as they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mother’s bosom.”

War and the conquering oppression of Babylon paints an awful picture in our minds.  God’s precious people, His chosen ones, the children of Zion, are being destroyed left and right.  And the “sons”, normally called into conscription to serve as soldiers against such an attack, fail and faint.  Why?

“they lie at the head of every street,”

Looking at several different translations, many interpret the term “lie” as an indicator that the young men are “asleep.”  This fits with the context certainly as we look back to verse 17:  “Awake, awake!”  From what should they awaken?  They need to awaken from the seductive illusions of their own idolatrous sins.

The young men are congregated “at the head of every street.”  What this conveys to me is that the conquest has totally invaded all the living areas of Jerusalem.  No city street is left out.  The young sons have come out of their homes into the streets, supposedly to face the evil foe, Babylon,  but to no avail.  They are helpless against the enemy because God’s wrath is upon them.  As we discussed in verse 17, the judgment permitted by God, full of His anger (righteous indignation), pours out and has so much influence that the recipients act like drunkards.  They become intoxicated with God’s wrath.

Sometimes our use of the word “intoxicated” conveys a positive sensation such as this idea:  “I was intoxicated by the smell of the roses.”  But Israel’s intoxication is anything but pleasant.  Revelation 14:10:  “…they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented…”

“…like antelope caught in a net.”

The King James Version has “as a wild bull in a net.”  A bull is a stronger animal than an antelope!  Regardless of which animal was intended in Isaiah’s writing, the word picture is clear:  the animal is trapped—no matter how strong an animal it is.  It flails, wild-eyed to gain freedom, but the ones in control of the net have prevailed.  The animal is helpless and unable to escape.  He is held tight in this confinement.

So it is when people are subjected to God’s wrath.  No matter the strength of young, strapping “sons”, the righteous anger of God traps them.  Though they may object, shake their fists or cry out for freedom, God has control over them.  Helplessly, they must endure the outpouring of God’s anger.  Revelation 16:9:  “They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.”  Ezekiel 17:20:  “I [the LORD] will spread my net for him [the King of Israel], and he will be caught in my snare.  I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment on him there because he was unfaithful to me.”

“they are filled with the wrath of the LORD”

When a winebibber is full of drink, the effect is obvious to all.  The fullness of the alcohol eliminates the person’s self-control.  Isaiah, and, as we’ve seen in Scripture, other prophets (Jeremiah and Ezekiel), and even an apostle (John), have used this state of affairs allegorically.  God’s wrath “fills” the rebelling soul, stripping him of his own self-control.  He is “under the influence” of God’s anger.

The wrath of God is unbelievably over-powering and devastating.  Hebrews 10:31:  “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  This portion in Hebrews outlines clearly why God may resort to His sheer wrath:  Hebrews 10:26, 27 and 30:  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ ”

“…and the rebuke of your God.”

This is the second thing the Israelites are “filled with”, the first being God’s wrath.  A close look at the word “rebuke” affirms that all these calamities (Isaiah 51:19) are rebukes straight from God.  They are not scientifically produced or politically produced elements.  No, they are produced by God and by His intention to judge.

“Rebuke” is defined by Merriam-Webster this way:  “to criticize sharply.”  One who criticizes another does it intentionally with the desire to correct their reasoning.  God had sent plenty of pre-warnings, warnings, recommendations, teachings and corrections already to Israel.  Just read the prophets and you’ll see this is true.  Finally, after no messages had been heeded, God is ready to rebuke—“criticize sharply.”

It seems to me that when God is pushed to this degree, He responds with a super-strong out-pouring of rage.  In Revelation, set at the end of the ages, after centuries and even millennia of warnings, God’s wrath is collected in bowls and literally dumped or poured out on the planet.  Nahum 1:6:  “Who can withstand his indignation?  Who can endure his fierce anger?  His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.”  It is mighty power indeed that can shatter rocks!

I for one do not wish to become the object of God’s wrath or rebuke.  How about you?

Prayer:  Oh jealous Father, I bow before You!  I understand Your capacity for wrath and judgment.  Help me never to forget this side of Who You are so that my view of You is clear and balanced.  In this way, LORD, strengthen me to heed all Your warnings.  Cause me to obey Your commandments, that Your blessings—not curses—may characterize my life.  I ask these things in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 990

Scripture:  Isaiah 51: 19 (NIV):  “These double calamities have come upon you—who can comfort you?—ruin and destruction, famine and sword—who can console you?”

Thought:  To me, for double calamities God redoubles His comforts and consolations.

Question:  Who brings calamity:  God or me?

This text has featured Israel’s stupor and insensibility to God (verse 17), and the similar traits seen in her irresponsible and immature sons (verse 18).  These are both symptoms of a nation having rebelled against God, His Words, His ways and His commandments.  Today’s verse reveals the next step in Israel’s downward spiral.

“These double calamites…”

“Calamity” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss; a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering.”  One calamity would be enough, certainly; but God allows “double calamities” to come.

Or perhaps you may say God has not “allowed” this at all.  Perhaps you would say that evil has befallen Israel outside of God.  Well, if this were the case, then the next question becomes “why hasn’t God done anything to stop the horrible haphazard evils descending on Israel?”  Much of our society “makes camp” in this erroneous kind of thinking—the thought that God is completely detached from such events:  both their origin and follow-up.  When there is no counter action to the calamity they say this proves God is “dead” or not there, or doesn’t care.  There are two things wrong with this idea:  God is made out to be lacking in power to 1) oversee all of history, and, 2) crush evil outcomes.  The real truth is this:  God IS in charge and has FULL control, yet He may opt out of neutralizing “calamites” if the situation warrants it.  In His own wisdom God determines, for each instance, exactly what is just, righteous, good and perfect.  How can calamity ever be “just, righteous, good and perfect?” you may ask.  The answer is simple:  when the sinful behaviors of mankind warrant judgment, then calamity becomes the most efficient correction possible.  God’s judgments, (in which calamity has free reign), bring an outcome of justice, righteousness, goodness and perfection in the speediest way.

God has clearly decided that Israel’s vicious rebellion, filled with spiritual adultery and idolatry, betrayal and treachery, deserves to be punished.  And the fact that God allows “double” calamities is double proof that Israel needs a hard lesson.  It’s as though God knows only one trial would not be enough.

“…have come upon you—“

This wording inclines me to believe that God is permitting a natural course.  This biblical principle comes to mind:  “what we sow, we reap.”  God is not sending calamity, nor creating it like some fiendish, sadistic despot; no!  He is merely letting the reaping of what Israel has sown to come back upon them.

“who can comfort you?”

This phrase also affirms the same idea.  There really is no normal or natural comfort for someone who is reaping what they’ve sown.  No human can comfort others in the midst of calamity.  They may try, but their efforts are feeble.  Because they brought it on themselves it becomes part of a cycle that really won’t be broken.  If you throw a rock, a window most probably will get broken!  The natural consequences must and will play out.

And yet this very interesting truth becomes apparent:  God Himself chooses to “comfort” Israel!  Isaiah 51:12a (just seven verses prior):  “I, even I, am he who comforts you.”  How does He comfort?  We will see this in future passages.

God allows calamity, yes; He permits it as a disciplinary judgment.  But He also may choose to intercede when the judgment is enacted.  He may intercede, or He may not—that is up to Him.  In Israel’s case He chose to comfort.

“ruin and destruction, famine and sword—“

God’s comfort came, but only when God chose the right time for it.  He definitely delayed His comforts!  For seventy years Israel was judged!  As history reveals, Jerusalem and Judah were besieged, the city walls were broken down, and Babylon conquered Israel.  King Nebuchadnezzar took slaves and prisoners and most of the population was exiled into Babylon.

All four of these calamites (double the double!) took place at that time:  1) ruin—Jerusalem’s walls became ruins, 2) destruction—the city was ransacked, 3) famine—under siege, the citizens were cut off from supplies, and, 4) sword—the battle was severe and bloody.  Isaiah 40:2:  “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”

Lest we disbelieve that God did indeed “comfort” Israel after these things, let us also read Isaiah 51:3:  “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.  Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”

“…who can console you?”

God can.  For most of us, as for Israel in this case, ONLY God can.  And He did.  He is able to comfort and console all of us as well—no matter what the “calamity.”

Prayer:  Just Father, thank You for all Your judgments, even those that are truly heard to bear because I know that, even in the midst of Your disciplines, You comfort me.  Help me to learn how to obey You so that judgmental calamities can be avoided.  But if calamity is unavoidable, Lord, I thank You, even now, for all Your comforts!  I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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Isaiah – Day 989

Scripture:  Isaiah 51: 18 (NIV):  “Of all the sons she bore there was none to guide her; of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand.”

Thought:  To me, America, like Jerusalem, has estranged God, reaping family tragedies as a result.

Question:  Am I contributing toward good leadership?

Verse 17 is a wake-up call to Jerusalem, Israel’s central city, called “Zion” by God.  God is dismayed at Jerusalem’s dullness and apathy.  Today’s verse adds another deficiency to the list:  Jerusalem has not produced any decent leaders.

“O all the sons she bore…”

“She,” of course, refers to Jerusalem.  If we look back to Isaiah 1:1 we are reminded that Isaiah’s entire book is directed to “Judah and Jerusalem.”  Judah is the “state,” as it were, or “district”; Jerusalem the “county seat” or, better yet, the “capital city.”  Government for the entire area of Judah would be centralized in Jerusalem.

This phrase implies Jerusalem was not lacking in fruitfulness—she apparently had a good supply of “sons.”  The problem, however, is that the quality of these “sons” is less than desirable.

“…there was none to guide her;”

Isaiah 3:1 through 3:  “See now, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support:  all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the soothsayer and elder, the captain of fifty and man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.”

From the above verses we see that God Himself stripped Jerusalem of leading men.  He did this in judgment:  permitting the consequences of her own sins to return upon her.  The stripping was accomplished through Babylon’s invasion.  Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the potential young, strong leaders to absorb them into his own kingdom and keep them under his own control.  Daniel and his three companions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, are an example of this.  (See Daniel 1:3 and 4)

But perhaps even before this purge, many of the existing “sons” were weak and ill-equipped to lead; especially ill-equipped in the ways of God.  Jeremiah 5:1:  “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares.  If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.”  Ezekiel 22:30:  “I [God Almighty] looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  Isaiah 59:15b and 16:  “…the LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.  He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.”

“…of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand.”

Having mothered 5 sons, I feel the heart of God here in this statement!  You invest your life-tears, substance, sweat and strength—into these children.  How tragic when the end result produces wayward rebels, especially as you, humanly speaking, approach a stage of need for help and support in your own later life.  (God, of course, has no need of support, as illustrated in the above verses from Isaiah 59).

God is pointing out the immensity of moral slippage when a people does not walk with Him.  When the adults sin with idols, demonstrating their fickle hearts toward God, not to mention their deep betrayal of Him, the children take note.  Then they too, in turn, exercise their own free wills, and walk away into selfishness, carelessly leaving their saddened parents behind.

America has definitely participated in this kind of ethical decay.  Offspring quickly and easily abandon their elderly parents, depositing them in nursing homes and care facilities instead of keeping Mom and/or Dad with them in their home.  This phrase, “none to take her by the hand,” captures, in my opinion, the element of needed compassion.  Mom or Dad need their hand held!  They need a personal, caring touch!  They need to have the tender treatment they gave their young ones reciprocated in their old age.  It’s only right and fair.

But Jerusalem has sold out to the mores of the world.  People are too busy, too important, too preoccupied to be bothered with the possibly unpleasant task of assisting their parents in the simple acts of eating and walking.  They should!  Those parents spoon-fed them and held their little hands when they were helpless and needy.  This neglect of elders is a strong symptom of the undercurrent of rebellion against God.

Take this to a more sophisticated platform—the political or spiritual stage—and you can see how the immaturity of the so-called leaders totally undermines their ability to lead a people.  1 Timothy 1:4 and 5:  “He [an overseer, deacon, church leader] must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”  One could also add:  “…how can he take care of government?”

Walking close to God, He is able, through His precious Word, to remind us continually and day by day, what is important.  God has always honored even the very young children:  this was modeled by His Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s compassion is grounded in strong commitments that are clearly seen in the Ten Commandments, to begin with, and on down through all His biblical laws, precepts, statutes, commandments and ways.  Take away these Divine instructions and society erodes terribly.  With selfishness and rebellion becoming the order of the day, chaos soon ensues.  Jerusalem was there!

Prayer:  Loving Father, thank You for being our Father!  Thank You for inventing true love—the kind that covers every human relationship with compassion, care and grace.  Forgive me for those times I have longed to throw off Your disciplines in selfish rebellion—it only leads to familial and societal decay.  Strengthen me to not only continue to raise children and grandchildren that honor You, but also to inspire them to exercise loving kindness to their elders and leaders in return.  I ask these things in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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