Archive for October, 2006
As humans it’s so easy to rely upon ourselves. Throughout history, people have gone in cycles, depending upon God until they get back on their feet, then slowly drifting from God until they end up flat on their face again.Certainly the book of Isaiah is packed full of examples of this cycle. In verse 1 of today’s chapter is the famous reference to trusting in chariots:
1 Destruction is certain for those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their cavalry and chariots instead of looking to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.
In my own life, I struggle with the cycle. I try to depend upon Him in the good times and the bad. I try to praise Him through the difficult times and the times of blessing.
Why is it such a struggle?
I suppose our flesh, which has a goal of death, is something we, as spiritual beings, will always struggle with. That’s why He calls us to die to ourselves daily by taking up our cross and following Him. I’ve found that a good place to start is in the morning.
How do you start your day? I used to sleep until the last possible minute, then rush around to leave on time. Once I got to work, it was rush around some more until some time later in the day, after I’ve had a difficult day, I realized that I never even thought of my God.
I’m finding that my new routine, getting up just a bit earlier, taking just a few minutes to talk to Him and read a chapter in His Word, makes a world of difference. There are still trials and difficult times, but knowing that He is with me, I no longer have to trust in my own chariots and calvary – for the Lord is with me!
1 “Destruction is certain for my rebellious children,” says the LORD. “You make plans that are contrary to my will. You weave a web of plans that are not from my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. 2 For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt to find help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh for his protection. 3 But in trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated and disgraced. 4 For though his power extends to Zoan and Hanes, 5 it will all turn out to your shame. He will not help you even one little bit.”
Look how they responded to God:
10 They tell the prophets, “Shut up! We don’t want any more of your reports.” They say, “Don’t tell us the truth. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. 11 Forget all this gloom. We have heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’ We are tired of listening to what he has to say.”
The life of a prophet is not an easy one. The people’s response must have been the ultimate frustration. They blatantly admit they no longer want to hear the truth. They want lies. They just want someone to say things to make them feel good.
Does that remind you of anyone in today’s culture?
- “I don’t want to hear about the consequences of sin – just tell me about God’s grace.”
- “I don’t want to hear about tithing or giving, but could you do that ‘God has plans to prosper me’ thing again?”
Well, here’s what God says is coming for those with that kind of attitude:
12 This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel: “Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies, 13 calamity will come upon you suddenly. It will be like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down. 14 You will be smashed like a piece of pottery – shattered so completely that there won’t be a piece left that is big enough to carry coals from a fireplace or a little water from the well.”
The good news is like the rest of this chapter. God will come to your rescue and bless if you turn from your complaining and turn back to the truth. If you turn back to Him, he will shower you with love and compassion.
Thank You, God, that You love me too much to just leave me on my own. Thank You for Your discipline and concern for my growth.
I love the first part of this chapter where Isaiah refers to the church as God’s vineyard:
2 “In that day we will sing of the pleasant vineyard. 3 I, the LORD, will watch over it and tend its fruitful vines. Each day I will water them; day and night I will watch to keep enemies away. 4 My anger against Israel will be gone. If I find briers and thorns bothering her, I will burn them up. 5 These enemies will be spared only if they surrender and beg for peace and protection.” 6 The time is coming when my people will take root. Israel will bud and blossom and fill the whole earth with her fruit!
I found it interesting how the church’s enemies (Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Pharoah) are referred to as Leviathan (or dragon):
1 In that day the LORD will take his terrible, swift sword and punish Leviathan, the swiftly moving serpent, the coiling, writhing serpent, the dragon of the sea.
The explanation of God’s redemption of His church in the remainder of this chapter makes so much sense. He has punished Israel (church) for her rebellion, but “just a little” compared to how He will deal with those who have persecuted her:
7 Has the LORD punished Israel in the same way he has punished her enemies? No, for he devastated her enemies, 8 but he has punished Israel only a little. He has exiled her from her land as though blown away in a storm from the east. 9 The LORD did this to purge away Israel’s sin. When he has finished, all the pagan altars will be crushed to dust. There won’t be an Asherah pole or incense altar left standing.
It just goes to show His love for His people – you and me. There are consequences for our choices. Sin cannot go unpunished. However, God’s judgement towards His beloved is for the purpose of redemption and restoration (mercy and grace). His judgement towards those who tear down the church is devestating and complete for the purpose of punishment and justice.
When I think about how this applies to my own life, I can only cry out to God with thanksgiving and praise. Where would I be without His love and grace? His correction is sweet and His judgement is merciful towards those who love Him.
The really good news in light of all this, is that He will crush our enemies. He will fight for us. We only need to trust and obey. There will be no dragons in our garden!
In Isaiah 26, we find the people singing to the Lord a song of thanksgiving and praise. I thought I’d just include the entire song to show what it looks like when people cry out to God in praise:
1 In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is now strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. 2 Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. 3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! 4 Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.
5 He humbles the proud and brings the arrogant city to the dust. Its walls come crashing down! 6 The poor and oppressed trample it underfoot. 7 But for those who are righteous, the path is not steep and rough. You are a God of justice, and you smooth out the road ahead of them. 8 LORD, we love to obey your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name. 9 All night long I search for you; earnestly I seek for God. For only when you come to judge the earth will people turn from wickedness and do what is right. 10 Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good. They keep doing wrong and take no notice of the LORD’s majesty. 11 O LORD, they do not listen when you threaten. They do not see your upraised fist. Show them your eagerness to defend your people. Perhaps then they will be ashamed. Let your fire consume your enemies.
12 LORD, you will grant us peace, for all we have accomplished is really from you. 13 O LORD our God, others have ruled us, but we worship you alone. 14 Those we served before are dead and gone. Never again will they return! You attacked them and destroyed them, and they are long forgotten. 15 We praise you, LORD! You have made our nation great; you have extended our borders! 16 LORD, in distress we searched for you. We were bowed beneath the burden of your discipline. 17 We were like a woman about to give birth, writhing and crying out in pain. When we are in your presence, LORD, 18 we, too, writhe in agony, but nothing comes of our suffering. We have done nothing to rescue the world; no one has been born to populate the earth. 19 Yet we have this assurance: Those who belong to God will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For God’s light of life will fall like dew on his people in the place of the dead!
20 Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide until the LORD’s anger against your enemies has passed. 21 Look! The LORD is coming from heaven to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will no longer hide those who have been murdered. They will be brought out for all to see.
Lord, I praise You today! Thank You for rescuing me from my afflictions and hiding me under your wings. You are a great God!
In today’s chapter, we find Isaiah, the prophet, raising up thanksgiving to God on behalf of the church. My heart was glad as I read it:
1 O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. 2 You turn mighty cities into heaps of ruins. Cities with strong walls are turned to rubble. Beautiful palaces in distant lands disappear and will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore, strong nations will declare your glory; ruthless nations will revere you.
I really like verses 4 and 5 because they speak of how God so gloriously rescues the poor and needy people:
4 But to the poor, O LORD, you are a refuge from the storm. To the needy in distress, you are a shelter from the rain and the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall, 5 or like the relentless heat of the desert. But you silence the roar of foreign nations. You cool the land with the shade of a cloud. So the boastful songs of ruthless people are stilled.
The remainder of the chapter refers to the day the enemy is vanquished and Jerusalem is celebrating God’s provision and salvation. I’m not sure if it’s referring only to how God’s angel routed the Assyrians or the rescue of the Jewish children from Babylonian captivity. But, I got the feeling that it may (also) be speaking of a time yet to come: when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Look at verse 9:
9 In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God. We trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
Today, I’m reminded in Isaiah 23 that our first priority should be to bring glory to God.
It’s easy to get caught up in the accomplishments of man. Just look at the advances in technology, science and medicine in the past 15 years. If you just think for a minute, you can think of 3 or 4 major advancements in just about any industry.
The city of Tyre was an ancient city of great wealth. Situated on the ocean, it was widely celebrated for trade and merchandise – the Wal-Mart of ancient times. Yet, Isaiah had a message to this great, strong city from God:
8 Who has brought this disaster on Tyre, empire builder and chief trader of the world? 9 The LORD Almighty has done it to destroy your pride and show his contempt for all human greatness.
Remember, faithful ones, our main purpose on this earth is not to be famous, accumulate wealth or possessions. Our main focus is to bring glory to God. Without Him, there is no lasting purpose. Stop and think for a moment of any wealthy people you know who do not know God. I know several who continue to amass riches and possessions in their journey to find fulfillment. They try and try to fill that “God-shaped-hole” inside them, but the things they attempt to fill it with leave them wanting more and more. As a result, they remain unfulfilled and conflicted.
God tells us that even our best is as filthy rags to Him (Is 64:6). Like the people of Tyre, there are those who have become so proud of their accomplishments they no longer pursue God. That’s why God says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Lu 18:25). It’s not that being wealthy is a bad thing – God wants us to prosper. It’s just that when men have so much money as to be self-sufficient, human nature tends to not “need” God. That’s why you hear of stories of people who suddenly lost everything, turn back to God.
The point of all this is that God wants our hearts. He put us here to worship Him. When we get off track and pursue our own selfish desires, He sometimes has to make a course correction – like the people of Tyre. They were crushed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the army of the Chaldeans. But 70 years later, they returned. Do you think they turned back to God then? No.
Lord, I ask You to help me learn from my hard lessons. I recognize that I was created to worship You and I want everything I do to be with that in mind. I am nothing without You, Lord. Everything I have is because of You. I need You. May my life glorify You today!
1 In the year when King Sargon of Assyria captured the Philistine city of Ashdod, 2 the LORD told Isaiah son of Amoz, “Take off all your clothes, including your sandals.” Isaiah did as he was told and walked around naked and barefoot.
Isaiah, God’s man in the region, was asked to remove his clothes and walk around barefoot and naked as a symbol of the terrible troubles that God was about to bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia.
As strange as this sounds, I’m not at all surprised. In order for God be shown in all His glory, He frequently does “interesting” things. Remember Balam’s donkey? Think how Mary must have felt when the angel told her of God’s plan to bring Emmanuel into the world.
God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes, His plan is difficult to comprehend. That’s where faith comes in. He seems to be asking, “Do you trust me?”
It took quite a bit of trust and flat-out obedience for Isaiah to trounce around in his birthday suit. He was at risk for ridicule and health issues, but he trusted God.
Consider what you’d be willing to do if you heard God’s call. Perhaps it’s as big as putting yourself at risk for ridicule or injury. Perhaps it’s as small as being obedient reading God’s Word every day or praying.
Today’s reading is about God’s message to the nation of Egypt through the prophet Isaiah. The chapter is basically in two parts: one describes the terrible judgement that is about to come upon the people of Egypt and the other describes Egypt’s turning to God.
Isn’t it interesting to consider how God would tell them that they’re about to receive a terrible judgement, only to turn their eyes off their idols and on to Him. He even went as far as to day they will even speak the Hebrew language. This is somewhat remarkable since the Egyptians were a very advanced culture in linguistics.
18 In that day five of Egypt’s cities will follow the LORD Almighty. They will even begin to speak the Hebrew language.
I know several times in my life where I had taken my eyes of the Lord and began to depend upon myself for everything. Suddenly, everything fell apart and my world caved in. I lost everything, causing this stuborn heart to turn back to God. However, each time, this resulted in a deeper, much more intimate relationship with Him. That’s all He wants with each of us. That’s all He wanted from the Egyptians:
22 The LORD will strike Egypt in a way that will bring healing. For the Egyptians will turn to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas and heal them.
Thank You, Lord, for how You love each of us. You love us too much to just leave us alone in our wicked ways. Thank You how you lovingly intervene just when we need it most and demonstrate our need for You and Your love for us. Praise Your Holy Name!
3 When I raise my battle flag on the mountain, let all the world take notice. When I blow the trumpet, listen! 4 For the LORD has told me this: “I will watch quietly from my dwelling place – as quietly as the heat rises on a summer day, or as the dew forms on an autumn morning during the harvest.” 5 Even before you begin your attack, while your plans are ripening like grapes, the LORD will cut you off as though with pruning shears. He will snip your spreading branches.
God delivered this message to the nation of Israel through the prophet Isaiah. There is some question as to which enemy this chapter refers to, even though some translations (NLT, for example) say it’s Ethiopia.
The point is that God will protect His people. This must have stirred up confidence and comfort to Israel, as it should for us today. I’m reminded of the passage in Isaiah 54:17a:
17 But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you will succeed. (NLT)
Be bold, warriors, for God’s got your back!
Have you ever heard of the term “foxhole faith”? This refers to someone whose life is falling apart around them and in desparation, they cry out to God to save them. The term actually comes from the wartime, when men who have had nothing to do with God or religion suddenly find themselves in a foxhole with the bullets flying past their head and they cry out to God to save them. “If you get me out of here alive, I’ll serve you, God,” might be something they’d pray in the face of death.
This kind of foxhole commitment rarely ever lasts beyond the rescue. Once the person has returned to safety, the promises fade and life without God eventually returns until the next time they face danger.
In today’s chapter, Isaiah talks a about a different kind of foxhole faith:
7 Then at last the people will think of their Creator and have respect for the Holy One of Israel. 8 They will no longer ask their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made. They will never again bow down to their Asherah poles or burn incense on the altars they built.
Isaiah is bringing a message from God to the people of Damascas. After the ruin of that city, there will only be a few of them left, “like the stray olives left on the tree after harvest.” These few remaining will realize the vanity of idol worship they’ve been participating in, and they will suddenly turn to their Creator. They will suddenly have respect for God.
Reminds me of that famous passage found in Phillipans 2:
11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Clearly this kind of faith is not focused on God. It is focused on self. This kind of foxhole faith is actually idolatry itself because it’s about putting God on a shelf until you need Him. True faith trusts God in the good times and the bad.
How’s your faith today? Are you able to honor Him in the good times, or are you like these people from Damascas who turn to their own pleasure and carnal pursuits until crisis hits. Are you able to trust Him in the bad times? Do you have faith to know that the Creator of all things will be there for you no matter what happens?
The encouragement today is to trust Him. Have faith that God will rescue you from your enemies at just the right time.
This chapter closes with a word of encouragement for the faithful:
12 Look! The armies rush forward like waves thundering toward the shore. 13 But though they roar like breakers on a beach, God will silence them. They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind or like dust whirling before a storm. 14 In the evening Israel waits in terror, but by dawn its enemies are dead. This is the just reward of those who plunder and destroy the people of God.
Thank you, God, for your protection. Increase my faith, Lord.