Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 61-63

61:1 - This is Isaiah telling us what he has been commissioned by God to do as a Prophet, yet it is also a call to those of us who are born-again Christians. While the Spirit of God in the Old Testament was reserved for specific individuals set aside by God, because we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we all have access to the Holy Spirit. That means the calling of the Holy Spirit of God is similar in our own lives: we should be bringing Good News to the people around us, helping the poor, setting captives free, working to make the name of the Lord great in this world. That is the mission that we are on as Christians...that is what we should be doing every day.

61:3 - "Oaks of Righteousness" - That name for those who have been made righteous by God has such a feeling of strength and permanence to it...I really find it powerful. Because we have been made righteous by the grace and sacrifice of God, we should every day make the choice to live out that righteousness. Though the world around us may be screwed up and things may be falling apart...we can dwell in the love of God and stand firm as an example of true strength to the rest of the world. Christians should be God's oaks of righteousness in this world.

61:4 - The Forsythe family motto is "Instaurator Ruinae" which means "rebuilder of ruins." None of you guys may care, but I think this verse applies powerful meaning to our family motto. God-followers can raise up the broken and devastated things of this world and bring redemption which springs from the redemption we have received in God.

61:10/62:5 - Here we have some really powerful bride imagery. God has dressed His people in righteousness and salvation, so that they are able to stand out as shockingly beautiful in a fallen a bride on her wedding day. In Revelation 19:6-7, John describes the beautiful end times scene when the bride of Christ (The Church) is finally reunited with the Lamb (Jesus). It says that the Lamb will return to the bride when she has had time to make herself ready and that the pure white garments she wears are a gift from God. God has given us the gift of forgiveness for free...we simply have to choose to put it on and wear it proudly.

62:12 - We are the sought, not the forsaken...never forget that.

63:6 and 7 - How do these two images work together? Are they not in direct opposition to one another? First we have a picture of a proud warrior spattered in the blood of the enemies He has just crushed (A picture of God that is horribly offensive to many unbelievers)...but that verse is immediately followed by a call to remember the steadfast love of God!? How do you reconcile these images? God has to go to war against sin in the world...even against the sins of His own people. Who else is going to do it? There is no one righteous enough...there is no one except God that doesn't deserve sin...He must be the righteous warrior. This picture may seem brutal, but think about it like this. What is an American G.I. from WWII appeared at the gate of a concentration camp...covered in grime and the blood of his enemies? Would the Jewish prisoners look at him with disgust? No - they would see him as their savior...the warrior who had fought so that they might be set free. That is what God is doing for all the peoples of the world...He is willing to do what needs to be done no matter what to set His people free. So the blood spattered warrior is driven by love...His steadfast love never changes because God Himself never changes (Malachi 3:6).

63:17 - Here we must ask? What is Isaiah saying - that God has forced His own people to turn their backs of Himself? I don't think that is the case. I believe that Isaiah is crying out to God with the complaints of the Jewish people...they seek to blame God for their rebellion, but we know that it is not God who has pushed them towards this as we read Isaiah 65:1, which says that God is ready to be sought out by those who need Him. God has not pushed the people away, in fact, He is waiting for them to figure out how desperately they need Him!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 58-60

58:1 - This is a great verse for worship. A heart of confession should be in place in the midst of every worship service. Worship is crying out to God...refusing to hold back because of what people around you will think - you don't care about cry out, pouring out your failure and sinfulness to God and He pours out His love and forgiveness in return. Is this a part of worship for you? It should be.

58:5ff - Isaiah calls out the people because they are fasting for all the wrong reasons. They were fasting as a means of getting God to give them what they wanted...that is not what fasting is all about. Isaiah explains to us the purpose of fasting. It is about humbling yourself before God and understanding your absolute reliance on Him. Fasting is about connecting with God and being driven to serve those who are around you in need. The core of fasting is about God and others, not about ourselves.

58:10-11 - When you make it your business to put others before yourself...when you look around the world with the eyes of God see the hunger, pain, brokenness around you and try to do something about will find out what true fulfillment feels like. As you give more and more of yourself away, you are filled with more and more of God and you will blossom like a watered garden.

58:13-14 - The Sabbath is a day of rest, but it is actually a day of resting in God. A Sabbath day is not about having a day to do whatever you want to do to serve yourself, it is about connecting with is about relying on God...understanding that you can take a day off from "to do" lists and work, and the whole world will not fall apart because God is in control and God desires to be with you. Isaiah tells us that if we take our Sabbath rest in God we will delight in Him and we will ride on the heights of the earth. I think so few Christians experience that kind of delight and joy in a relationship with God because so few Christians actually take the time to rest in Him.

59:9-10 - So many times we say we want the light...we say we want to walk in God's have a relationships with sit in His presence, but we refuse to get out of the darkness. We go to church and we say we want God...we say we want change, but we walk right back into the dark places of this world searching for answers and searching for our worth. We are stumbling around blind looking for answers is achievement, money, entertainment, pleasure and anything else we can find...when the answer has been right there with us to the whole time. Stop stumbling and step into the light...step into the forgiveness of God...step into His purpose for your life.

59:17 - Wow - that is vivid and powerful imagery right there...that verse gives me chills. Isaiah paints for us a picture of God as He faces off against the unrighteousness and evil of this world. I read those words and I definitely want to be on His side! How terrible and wonderful is the righteousness of God!? He is motivated by pure righteousness and He goes to war against evil with the purpose of bringing about salvation, but He is also zealous that justice will be measured out to those who have rejected the purpose for which they were created. Do I live my life as a reflection of God's nature described here? Do I work each day to bring justice and righteousness to the world and to fight against evil and oppression? I should.

60:1-2 - This is a cal to all Christians...a call to all God-fearers! Arise...arise and shine the glory of God into this world. Rise up! Shine! Walk through this world as the sons and daughters of the Most High each day as a person who is doing their best to display the image of God we were created to carry. When we as Christian do this, the world will see God through our lives. This is a call to missional living...each and every day no matter where you are, you are called to the be the missionary people of go into the world and make His name great through the lives you live.

60:9 - Why will the people of this world be drawn to the lives of Christians who are living out their faith on a daily basis? Why - because God has made us beautiful. We do not draw people to God because we are physically attractive or because we have magnetic personalities, but because of the grace and mercy of God that hangs around our lives like a cloak.

60:14 and 19 - I read these verses and see them as heavenly images. In God's time, all the proud and arrogant people of the world who used their time on this earth to mock and abuse those weaker than them will be brought low themselves. In the end they will understand where true strength lies and they will be humbled before their God. In eternity we will have no need of the light of the sun and moon because we will be basking in the perfect light of God...God will be our glory and we will shine!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 55-57

55:1-2 - Come all you who thirst and drink deep from the living water...allow God to fill your needs...stop chasing after the things of this world that leave you empty and thirsting for more...quench your thirst in God...let Him fill you...let Him transform you...drink.

55:8-9 - There is no way that you or I are ever going to be able to fully comprehend God. We love to question and fling judgment upon God based on things we've seen from our perspective of the world...but there is no way that we are qualified to question the perspective of an omniscient God who loves and cares for every individual on the planet and has the best interest of the world at heart. His thoughts are not our thoughts...we have to trust that the God who has brought redemption and transformation to our lives is working to bring the same to every life.

55:12 - Do I approach each new day with this kind of joy and praise? No. Why not? Every day is a gift from God...the salvation that has changed my life and set me free is a gift from God...the peace He brings to my soul is a gift...His love is a gift - God is good and the knowledge of that truth should pour out of my being on a daily basis.

56:1 - There is going to be a time when God comes back and restores justice and righteousness to all of creation...the Bible teaches on it...Jesus spoke of it will be a future reality. Christians need to make sure in the time they spend on earth that they are living out God's justice and salvation for all to see. While we are living in these mortal shells we call bodies, we must be living for eternity.

56:3-5 - "Foreigners/eunuchs" - These were groups of people who were considered outcasts in the Jewish world. They were not allowed by Jewish Law to participate fully in the worship of God. Yet we see here that God will welcome them in and offer them his love and inheritance as well as the Jews. Scripture consistently shows us God's heart for the rejected and we as Christians show the same heart to the world?

56:12 - Isaiah paints a picture of people living here as if they have forever to live. They drink and do whatever else they want, because they think tomorrow is going to be just like today...they think that their lives will go on indefinitely. This reminds me of the beliefs of the false teachers in 2 Peter chapter 3:4 - those teachers thought the end would never come and people could live as they wanted to. It is dangerous for us to live our lives as if we have all the time in the world to make amends and get serious about faith. We never know when the end is going to come, whether that be through the 2nd coming of Christ or through the end of our lives. As Christians we must live each day as if it is the only one we have left.

57:5 - I know this verse sounds strange, but these are both examples of pagan cult rituals. For some fertility festivals, people would go into the forest and have sex with anyone they was also common in ancient middle eastern pagan worship to have child sacrifice taking place to appease the "gods." The Israelites were buying into the practices of the cults around them and this is part of the reason that God is pouring out His judgment on them.

57:13 - Isaiah taunts the people who worship false "gods" saying, "Cry out to your "gods" when you are in trouble - see how that works out for you!"

57:15 - Let this mess with your mind for a little while...God inhabits eternity! How cool is that. God lives in a state of eternity...He is eternal and this is something we will never understand until we are living it out in His midst. He is unchanging...eternal...perfect...infinitely high above us, yet His heart is for the oppressed and downtrodden of the world. How incredible is that?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 52-54

52:1 - We need to wake up each day remembering exactly who we are. Think about it - who are you? You are the redeemed of God. You are the captive that has been set were enslaved to you sin and have been offered freedom by God. Remember who you are and live like it. Don't put on the lies of this world...don't put on the worries...don't chase after the meaningless trinkets of this life - you are not dogs fighting over scraps. We are the sons and daughters of the Most High God! Clothe yourselves in the strength of the Lord - live with purpose!

52:10 - I believe that Christians today serve as the "holy arm of God." This doesn't mean that we cast judgment on means that we serve as God's hands and means that we live to make a difference...we live to make God's name great. Are you and I living lives that declare God's salvation to the world?

52:2-3 - This is prophetic scripture about Jesus. He did not "wow" the crowds with a regal/handsome appearance. God came to earth in the form of a humble man, with a humble appearance (He probably didn't look much like the blonde haired, blue eyes Swedish Jesus we see in most depictions). Instead of being heaped with the honor and glory He deserved as the God/man Messiah - he was rejected and abused by the very people He had formed during creation.

53:5 - Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins...think about what that means. He was beaten, bloodied, mocked, destroyed because of the sins you and I have committed. He took the punishment that you and I deserved so that we might have peace with our Creator. In the most "unjust" act in all of history...God gave is life for us, when we were the ones that deserved death. That is the picture of the compassionate heart of God.

53:7 - Jesus is the sacrificial lamb - the blood offering poured out for my guilt. Think about the picture of humility and love displayed when the God/man Jesus with limitless power at his disposal, allows himself to be led by the people he created to his death - like a lamb to the slaughter.

53:11 - Out of the compassion of his heart Christ took our unrighteousness upon himself, so that you and I might become righteous! He bore the sins of the world for all time...he interceded on our behalf...he laid his life down for ours. Do we honor his love and sacrifice by doing everything we can to reflect his compassion and love into the world?

54:5 - Our maker is calling us to Him like a husband calls upon His bride. He is our redeemer...He is the God of everything - holding everything in existence together, yet He is also in love with each and every one of us individually! How incredible is that?

54:8 - When we choose to reject God and sin, we often have to deal with the consequences of our actions. God allows us to experience the brokenness that our actions have brought, but that does not mean that His love and compassion are taken away. In fact, it is often through the suffering of consequences of rebellious actions that we are led back to throw ourselves on God's mercy.

54:10 - No matter what changes on this earth...the seasons...the mountain ranges...coastlines...empires rising and falling - God's love will never change and it will never come to an end. God has made a covenant of peace with us through the blood of Jesus Christ and that covenant cannot be broken. Praise God!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 49-51

49:6 - Throughout the Old Testament we see that God is not just focused on the Israelite people...again and again we see that His plan has always been for worldwide salvation. He has called the Israelites, His chosen people, to be a light for all...not just an exclusive group that stick to themselves. Christians...the same is true for us. We are God's people through the blood of Jesus Christ and we care not called to hang out in churches with other Christians all the time...we are called to be a light in this world.

49:13 - This verse instantly took my mind to the times I have spent hiking through national parks...when you have the time to walk through and drink in God's uncorrupted creation it just seems to sing the praises of God. Man-made architectural beauty just pales in comparison. The creator of such beauty and intricate detail is also the one who knows ever hair on your head...God knows everything that is going on in this world and knows the cries of the afflicted. Take comfort in the fact that the God who put so much care into creation puts even more care into His plans for humankind.

49:16 - This is powerful imagery of God's love...He has engraved His people on the palm of His hand. I like to wear wrist bands that remind me of missionaries I am praying for and causes I am supporting, so that they will be in the forefront of my mind. Your hand is always there, right in front of your face...we are being told through this verse that God always has us on the forefront of His mind...that is really comforting.

49:25 - Even though the situation can seem dire and hopeless...God contends for us...God fights on our side and there are none that can stand against Him.

49:26 - When God brings salvation to the poor and oppressed, the world takes notice of His power. Again we see that the focus of God is always missional. In all the things that God does in the world, the focus is always on bringing help to the helpless and bringing salvation to the world.

50:1 - When the people of Israel turned away from God and towards false idols it was like they were committing adultery. They broke the covenant they had agreed to with God...they broke their vow like a wife cheating on her husband. Isaiah compares God's judgment on the Israelite people to a man that has presented a divorce certificate to his wife because of her adultery. God sent them away, but because of His infinite mercy, He is willing to take the people take the adultereres back. That is love!

50:5-6 - Isaiah heard the truth of God's love and could not deny it...Isaiah could not turn away from the path of God no matter how violently he was persecuted.

50:8-9 - When God is with us, who can stand against us? Do you allow this truth to permeate your drive away you inspire you to live out your faith boldly?

50:10-11 - When you trust in the name of the in His way and becomes a fire that buns within your soul. The truth of God becomes a burning light of hope that offers guidance and life.

51:1 - To be righteous is to be "right" with the God that created be functioning in the fashion that you were created to function. If you want to be what you were made to be by the His truth - as beings created in the image of God we were sculpted from God's "DNA." God is the rock that we were hewn from and we will never be ourselves if we are not seeking t be like Him.

51:6 - Do not trust and worship the things of this world...they are passing away - it is the salvation of the Lord that lasts forever.

51:7 - If you have experienced the righteousness that comes from God and burn His laws onto your heart, it will not matter what other people in this world think or what they do to you, because you will know the beautiful reality of the TRUTH.

51:17 - WAKE UP! Have we not drunk enough of the failure and pain that comes when we choose to reject God and choose our own path - seriously!? When will we much suffering are we going to have to put ourselves through until we see that the way of the Lord is the way of life? We need to turn away from sin and turn back to God.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 46-48

46:6 - Most human beings spend their whole lives working hard for money that they can then spend on other man made things. Instead of pagan images...our "gold and silver" are turned into phones, cars, tvs, houses, etc. These things become our idols. These material goods become objects of obsession for us and they distract us from truly worshipping God. Our form of idolatry is just as absurd as the kind that was taking place in ancient Israel. 2 Peter chapter 3 talks about what the things of this world will be worth in the end...they are fuel for the fire of God's judgment. The only things that last through eternity are the righteous and godly choices we make and words we speak. Don't waste the short time you have on this earth chasing after meaningless life as an act of worship and choose to make an eternal difference in the lives of people around you.

46:12-13 - We are usually so mule-headed that we wallow in our sins and push ourselves further and further away from God. We tell ourselves that we are so messed up that we could never approach God with our "issues," and this passage tells us that we are right! The only difference is that we are told here that God brings His righteousness to us (He brought it through Jesus Christ). He draws near to us with His righteousness, so that it is always within our grasp. It has nothing to do with us being good enough and everything to do with God being good enough for both of us.

47:6 - Because God was angry that His people, the people He has specifically chosen and saved, broke the covenant with Him...He was willing to profane His own heritage...He was willing to allow His name and His character to be mocked and denigrated by the world so that His people could be disciplined and would return to Him. The Babylonians did not have a more powerful god...they were simply used by the one and only God as a tool of discipline for His people.

47:12 - This passage is dripping with sarcasm..."Babylon, go ahead, keep trusting in your POWERFUL spells and enchantments...keep trusting in the crazy bald priest with the face-paint and the freaky rituals, I'm sure those will protect you. I'm sure those incantations will allow you to be successful against the creator of the universe...oh wait..."

47:14 - The might of Babylon is nothing compared to the power of the Most High God. Everything the Babylonians have...every victory they have won is because God has allowed it to take place. Isaiah assures them that they are about to find out just how meaningless and ineffective their pagan sorcery really is.

48:4 - Because God knows how stubborn and ignorant His people are (All people are in fact), He is willing to let them experience pain and suffering so that they will be refined and so that they will become who they have been called to be.

48:10-11 - The key part of the refining process that the Israelites are going through is that God's name will be made great in the world. People were created to be in connection with God...we were created to worship in His midst...when God allows us to go through hard times and to go through trials, the excess in our life is stripped away and we are actually freed to worship Him in an unhindered fashion. His discipline always has a is to bring His people back to what they were supposed to be doing all along. Allow the sufferings of this world to drive you into the presence of God, not away from Him.

48:12-13 - What about God is not worthy of worship? Nothing. He is everything we need, and we will not be whole...we will not be complete until we acknowledge and understand that truth. There is nothing you can do in this world that is greater than simply worshipping God with your life. That is the highest form of good...worship God and the rest will fall into place.

48:22 - Those who never turn to God...those who never allow themselves to be transformed by His righteousness, will never be whole. They ill never truly be at peace.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 43-45

43:2 - As I read this, though I know this is salvation imagery that Isaiah is using (pertaining to the suffering they will pass through to be brought back to God), my Christian perspective sees beautiful correlation to baptism. When we pass through the waters...when we are purified from sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can finally be with God. The flames of the Holy Spirit of God, the all-consuming fire that rages within believers, do not burn and destroy...they temper and strengthen.

43:6 - Again, while I know Isaiah is talking about the gathering of the dispersed Jews, through my NT Christians perspective this is an uplifting passage about God's heart for the whole of the world. We know that there is only one God and we know that He has formed us all...we are all, everyone on earth, His sons and daughters...we were all created for His glory, and He is calling us all into His kingdom.

43:11 - There is nothing that can save you apart from God - nothing. You cannot ever be good enough or smart enough or strong enough to save yourself. There is no one else that can save you; do not put your faith in people. There is nothing in this world that can save you; do not live for power or posses ions or success. There is only God...throw yourself on His mercy.

43:14 and 28 - These verses seem to be in total opposition of one another. Is God the redeemer of Israel or the destroyer of Israel - which is it? My answer to that question would be - yes. God knows that it is through the punishment and suffering that He is going to inflict upon the Israelites that they will return to Him for the salvation they so desperately long for. Similar to a parents willingness to discipline their children in the NOW to help them become well-adjusted human beings in the FUTURE.

43:18-19 - It is our obsession with the past - past successes and past failures - that keeps us from seeing the new opportunities that God is putting before us day in and day out. Don't try to relive old glories - God makes all things new...God is doing a new thing in your life your eyes and see what He has in store for you. Don't allow yourself to be crippled by mistakes in your past - God is our redeemer and restorer and He has created a new path for your life if you choose to take it.

43:23-24 - The people should be offering praises and sacrifices to their faithful God but instead they choose to offer something else to God. They have chosen to shame God by offering Him their sinfulness...they live boldly in their sin before God. They have chosen to offer Him their complaints...over and over that arrogantly question whether God knows what He is doing in the world. Make sure that you don't make the same mistake - offer God your heart...offer your life as a living sacrifice, instead of just offering Him your complaints.

44:6 - He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and He is the end. Before God there was nothing. There is no such thing as "after God." There are no gods besides our one true Lord. Trust in his truth.

44:16-17 - Here Isaiah does an awesome job of describing the absurdity of idol worship. He says, "People take a tree and they cut it down. They chop up half of the wood and burn it to cook their supper. They carve the other half into and idol of a false god who they then worship. Do you expect the wooden god who is only good for fueling your fire to do something for you. The wood you carved that idol from was made by the one and only God. That is madness!" It is easy for us to look back on ancient idol worship and see the absurdity of it...we think to ourselves, wow, those were some really simple and delusional people. But take a moment and think about the things that current day people in our culture worship. Celebrities! Come on - there are few people on earth that are less worthy of our worship than spoiled, self-indulgent, promiscuous, drug/alcohol addicted celebrities - they don't need our worship they need our prayers that they can find salvation through Jesus. What else do we worship - sports (They are games!), money (Paper made from trees like the idol described above!), material goods (What is that flat screen gonna do for you when your dead!)...our form of idol worship is just as mad as theirs.

44:25 - This passage reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. The wisdom of the world is proved foolish over and over when held up to truth of God.

45:1-8 - God calls the future king Cyrus to be His instrument of judgment in the world. Whether or not Cyrus knew that he was called it does not matter - God is in control. How amazing is it that a prophet from a powerless little country like Israel would be able to predict which world powers would crush God's people (Babylon) and which ruler would save His people (Cyrus)? In 45:3 - Isaiah says that Cyrus will come to acknowledge that God has called him and chosen to use him eventually. Check out Daniel 6:25-28...King Darius acknowledges that Daniel's God (The one and only God)is the "living God." Daniel was allowed to prophesy during the reign of Darius and his successor CYRUS, which means that Cyrus understood who God was at least in part and saw himself as an instrument of God. Prophecy fulfilled - YAY!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 40-42

40:3 - This is a verse that is prophesying the coming of John the Baptist as confirmed by Matthew chapter 3 in the New Testament.

40:5 - The glory of the Lord shall be revealed...the glory of the Lord came down in the human form of Jesus. Jesus lived his life and showed us a standard of living that is unattainable by ourselves. As God made flesh he showed us the beauty inherent in actually living as God intended us to live all along. If we choose to let ourselves be transformed by the Spirit of God, our very lives can reflect the glory of the Lord into this world.

40:8 - Again, Isaiah reminds us to not put our trust in the things of this world. Everything that is of this world fades, dies, losses its meaning, yet the Word of the Lord and the truth of the Way of God endures forever. Why do I get so distracted?

40:12-15 - These verses sound a great deal like passages from the Book of Job when God answers Job out of the storm (It would have been quite terrifying I believe). See, when people choose to question God they really have very little ground to stand on...honestly, what do we know? I can only see what it going on in and around my individual life...God is sustaining and caring for every form of life that exists all the time. I think He might have a better perspective on how to run the world than we do.

40:27 - The people then sound a lot like us today don't they? They whine and complain to God. They say, "God, do you see what's going on in our lives? Are you even listening? Do you even care about me? God what about my rights...what about the things I deserve?" People seem to be born with an innate sense of entitlement. We seem to forget that what we really deserve is punishment for denying what our creator made us to be...and yet as we will see in the next couple of chapters, what He offers us is grace and mercy.

40:28ff - Isaiah answers back to them...oh, you think you know a better way to run the that right? Did I forget to mention to you who this God you dare to question is? He is the everlasting God. He doesn't rest like you have to. Doesn't grow weak...doesn't grow weary...He is. He is in control...He is full of power...He is the life and strength giver. (These verses are also the inspiration for a great song we sing at church called "Everlasting God"...almost word for word)

41:5-6 - Even the pagan peoples from the coast have seen the Lord at work and have begun to fear Him. Here we have more proof that God has always been working in the rest of the world as well as Israel. The fear of the Lord drives the people to draw together in brotherhood and community...this is what happens we people humble themselves before God. Everyone understands that they are all in the same boat...there is no one superior to another because everyone is vastly inferior to God. The fear of God brings humility and peace.

41:17 - God always hears the cries of the thirsty...He sees them...He understands their plight...they are not alone...He will not forsake them. Christians - we are the hands and feet of God in this world...we are the ones who need to be bringing hope and water to everyone in the world in the name of God. Don't let those people be forsaken because we chose to ignore their plight.

42:1-3 - Here we have more Messianic prophesies. Jesus did not try to raise up an army and lead a revolution of violence and oppression...he led a revolution of love through his death. He faithfully brought for justice for everyone in the world by dying in our place. But that doesn't seem like justice does it...the innocent God/man was slain while the sinful masses were set free. The justice comes because the price of our sin was paid. Things were made right. God made the choice to take things into His own hands and right our wrongs.

42:6-7 - God took the old covenant and tore it up, and then He chose to hold up both ends of the covenant Himself. He knew we could never hold up our end of the relationship and so He paid both prices...He blessed us, loves us, sustains us and He died to set us free from the prison of sin and death we'd enslaved ourselves in.

42:20 - How often has this been me - seeing the tings going on in the world around me, but not really seeing them. Not really being moved to do anything about it. Hearing the cries of the lost and broken, but not really hearing. What is it gonna take for me to see with God's eyes and hear with God's ears.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 37-39

37:1 - Finally when faced with insurmountable odds and scared out of his mind, Hezekiah does not run to the Egyptians or try to muster his own forces...he does what he should have done from the very beginning - he throws himself and his people on the mercy of the Lord. Too often, our first instinct is to "fix" everything ourselves or find someone who will, but we need to create a pattern of faithful living where our first instinct is to go to God.

37:3 - Through all the turmoil and destruction that God has allowed to come to the Hebrew people - they have grown, developed and become more dependent on Him. God has used His judgment to get them to the place they need to be...kinda like the pain and pressure a baby feels when they have to go through the birth canal. The Jews in this passage are at the cusp...they are ready to be born again as God's faithful people, but they need His help - like a doctor reaching in to help the baby. Interesting picture of God's faithfulness...sometimes He allows us to go through pain to get us to the place we need to be to ask for His help, but He has been there all along.

37:7ff - The Assyrian general talks a good game, but God effortlessly turns him away...he returns to his king, Sennacherib, who has been fighting in northern Africa and they go back to Israel with the entire Assyrian army. At this point the Jewish people have got to be wondering what God is up about "out of the frying pan into the fire!" It is often pretty hard to see the big picture of what God is doing in the world around us, but we have got to trust that He knows what He is doing...what other hope is there?

37:20 - This verse tells us exactly what God is doing...He is going to use this situation as a way to make Himself known to the people of the world. This is why the nation of Israel exists...this is the mission of the people of be a light and a beacon of truth tot he rest of the world. The Jews were not called to be separated so that they could be a closed community...they were called to be a holy priest nation so that they could lead the rest of the world by example. We as Christians are not called to sit around in "holy huddles" and only interact with people who believe the same things we believe...we are called to be God's holy people...we are called to lead in this world by example.

37:26 - God's will...Will. Be. Done. This verse confirms for us that God has been guiding the path of the Assyrians all along...He has been using them as a tool to bring about His will. We know that God is guiding the events of the world to bring about His greater plan.

37:29 - Just as God brought the Assryians to the doorstep of the Jews...He can also turn them right around. God used the Assyrians to bring the Hebrew people back to Him...and when that happens, when they choose to trust God once again, He offers them salvation - He drives the Assyrians away. This fits with the theme we have seen throughout Isaiah, that God will allow His people to go through pain to bring about joy and faithfulness in the end.

37:36 - Multiple historical accounts outside of the Bible verify that something described here happens to the Assyrians army. Some historians believe it was a plague...possibly cholera caused by unclean drinking water, because the Hebrews had the clean sources of water within the city. God has clearly chosen to work through natural disasters in other parts of the Bible, and the angel of the Lord here may have chosen to use and epidemic as his sword of justice. It just excites me to see another example of archeaological evidence backing up the biblical narrative. (Interestingly enough in the Assyrian account "The Sennacherib Prism" the whole event is painted in glowing terms for Sennacherib (naturally) says that the Assyrian army ravaged the Israeli countryside and surrounded Hezekiah trapping him like "a caged bird" in Jerusalem. Sennacherib never conquered Jerusalem, just as the Bible says...and his account happens to leave out the fact that his army was decimated by God. Political spin has existed as long as there has been politics.)

37:38 - Just as Isiaih prophecied earlier, Sennacherib died by the sword in his own lands. His sons butchered him in the temple of his false God. This is a picture of the way that the world is not about honor, but about power and decpetion and destruction and selfishness. The Israelites were called by God to show that there was a different way to live - the way of God, yet they often allowed themselves to follow in the path of the world. As Christians we must do everything we can to present ourselves as followers of Christ...showing that world that there is a way of hope and truth. We cannot allow ourselves to buy into the selfish, self-destructive nature of the way of man.

38:5 - Do you really need more proof that prayer is powerful and effective? Well, here it is. Though we know from other passages of Isaiah that God has an eternal plan that He is working out in the world, there are plenty of biblical texts - like this one - that show that He is willing to change events and tweak small aspects of His plan for the sake of His faithful. How cool is that? Our prayers make a difference! Our prayers matter! Never forget that.

38:19 - The living thank you. We should be thankful every day for the gift of life that we have been granted. Every day it is a new and special gift from God. My heart is still lungs are still brain synapses are firing - all gifts! Do I approach each day with a spirit of thankfulness, offering myself as a willign servant of God ready to make His fathful goodness known to my the world? Do you?

39:2 - Similar to 2 Chronicles chapter 32 (Another telling of this time in Israelite history) - Hezekiah allows his pride to bring doom upon the people of God. Every time we allow our pride to make decisions and drive our actions, we invite desctruction and pain into our lives. Hezekiah proudly shows the Babylonians everything he has to impress them...and they are so impressed, they return in a few years to destroy the Kingdom and enslave God's people. Because the Jews once again place their trust in the wealth and strength of the world, they will once again be brought to their knees in judgment.

39:8 - His lack of care about future generations just breaks my heart. When told that the Babylonians will crush his kingdom, the king rejoices to know that at least it won't happen on his watch...that is just sick. What would have been different if the rulers of Israel had chosen to do everything int heir power to leave behind a legacy of faith generation after generation? Do you live to leave behind a legacy of faith for your children and for their children?