Archive for the ‘Isaiah’ Category

For whose sake?

Remember this today, brother or sister in Christ. Everything God does, everything that he orchestrates in your life is for a purpose!  It is ultimately “FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE!”  And as other passages remind us it is also for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28)!

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11, ESV)


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The “I’s” have it!

This is one of the most powerful passages on God’s sovereignty anywhere in the Bible.  Notice how many times the personal pronoun “I, me or my” appear in these three verses!  Praise God’s sovereignty!  Praise it!

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:8–11, ESV)

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Wiersbe on Isaiah 40:31

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)

This is a great reminder from Warren Wiersbe that we need Isaiah 40:31 all the time. “Wait” in this verse, by the way, doesn’t mean simply “hanging on” or just patiently and passively waiting for God to do something. It means to “wait” in the sense of expectant trust or active faith! Wiersbe says,

“As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life. It is much harder to walk in the ordinary pressures of life than to fly like the eagle in a time of crisis.”

Often times this verse is turned to in a time of great trial but I think Wiersbe is right–it’s a verse to believe and live in the ordinary pressures of everyday living.

So wait on the Lord today!

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God, the stars and you

Have you ever thought, “God has forgotten me” or “He is too busy for me” or “The Lord doesn’t really care about my situation or trial.”

That’s what the exiles in Babylon at the end of seventy years were feeling.  “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?” (Isaiah 40:27, ESV)

Isaiah reminds them of how great God is and how much He cares.

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26, ESV)

Of this text, Ray Ortlund writes in his commentary on Isaiah (p. 247),

We today, with a scientific outlook, should be even more awestruck at the greatness of God displayed in the heavens. Here we are on tiny Planet Earth. The closest star to us is, of course, the sun. The sun generates energy with the same explosiveness as a hydrogen bomb—its own continuous internal nuclear fission. The surface of the sun is a relatively cool 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the center is a toasty 27,000,000 degrees. The diameter of the sun is 870,000 miles, 109 times larger than the earth, and its volume could contain 1,000,000 earths. Its luminosity is equal to four million trillion 100-watt lightbulbs—more than you’ll find even at Home Depot. And the sun is just an average star.

Our solar system is inside the galaxy called the Milky Way. And this galaxy we live in is shaped like a spiral, a gigantic pinwheel spinning in the open expanse of space, with our solar system rotating around the center once every million years or so. We lie about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the galaxy, in what might be considered the boondocks. The Milky Way is 104,000 light-years across, containing over 100 billion stars. To count them one by one would take us over 3,000 years. And according to the latest probings of the Hubble Space Telescope, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in God’s universe!

But so what? Is all this just a big stunt? No. God wants us to see something about himself. The God who brings out their host by number every night, who calls them all by name so that not one of them is missing—this God has made a promise to us about this fifth-rate little world we live in. He has promised us himself in all his glory. Do you think this God deserves your confidence? Do you think this God who manages the universe, right down to the faintest star, will lose track of you?

It’s tempting to think that God is so great that he doesn’t have time for us.  As commentator Derek Kidner once wrote,  “The wrong inference from God’s transcendence is that he is too great to care. The right inference from God’s transcendence is that he is too great to fail!”

So friend, today be strengthened by God’s marvelous grace that flows toward you in Christ!  He cares for you!

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You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3–4, ESV)

. . . .If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’ ”” (Isaiah 7:9, ESV)

In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” (Isaiah 10:20, ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”” (Isaiah 12:2, ESV)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,” (Isaiah 30:15, ESV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1, ESV)

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17, ESV)

Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”” (Isaiah 36:15, ESV)

They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods.”” (Isaiah 42:17, ESV)

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10, ESV)

When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13, ESV)

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Who is the most loving person in the Bible?  Most of us would say, “God!”

Who is the most merciful person in the Bible?  Again, we would chorus together, “God!”

Who is the angriest person in the Bible?  We might be uncomfortable saying it, but the answer is “God!”  Now most people rarely think of God as angry, much less as the angriest person in the Bible.

So why do I say that? Because the Bible depicts God as a God of wrath! Let me explain!

In Isaiah 9, we learn about how Israel was taught by God and disciplined by God’s anger, and yet they refused to listen to Him. Here’s a phrase that occurs 4 times in Isaiah 9:12-10:4, “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).  Now God’s wrath is not mere cruelty as we often are prone to think in terms of man’s wrath. Rather God’s wrath or anger is intentional in judgment and in disciplining.   God’s wrath is his active, resolute opposition to evil.

It works in two ways:  His anger will ultimately condemn those who finally reject Him and yet His anger purifies those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:5-13).

Here’s a fuller explanation of God’s wrath as Ray Ortlund explains in his commentary on Isaiah (p. 102):

What we must understand is that God’s wrath is perfect, no less perfect than “the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience” (Romans 2:4). His wrath is not moody vindictiveness; it is the solemn determination of a doctor cutting away the cancer that’s killing his patient. And for God, the anger is personal, not detached and clinical. This Doctor hates the cancer, because he loves the carriers of the disease and he will rid the universe of all their afflictions. He has already scheduled “the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). So let’s forget our simplistic thoughts of God. The magnitude of the gospel prompts us to invent a word like “lovingangerkindness,” to come to grips with who God is.3 In his lovingangerkindness, God destroyed the guilt of sinners at the cross of Jesus. He will destroy all remaining sin in the hearts of those who take refuge in Jesus. He will destroy all injustice and suffering here in this world when the kingdom of Jesus creates a world better than our sentimentality could imagine.

This may take some serious thinking and study but don’t ever underestimate the holy wrath of God!

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Crisis management

In Isaiah 7-8, we have some principles for how God’s people should handle crisis. King Ahaz, king of Judah, was facing a big crisis in his country. The Assyrians were the superpower of the Ancient Near East at this time. This was the nation that Jonah was sent to in order to preach repentance. They were the Nazis of their day. They were edging closer and closer to a number of smaller nations like Syria and Israel and Judah.  A number of these countries thought their best hope would be form a coalition of the small guys against the big bully.  Syria and Israel had formed alliances before and this time they were doing it again and pressuring King Ahaz to join them.  He didn’t want to and they got so ticked at him that they decided they would start a war with him, depose him and set up their own non-Davidic puppet king.  Isaiah tells Ahaz, “Trust God!  Ask God for a sign and He will grant it to you!” Ahaz piously refuses and says that he wouldn’t dare test God like that.  However, he had already determined in his mind to ask Assyria for assistance which obviously not what God desired.

In the end God preserved Ahaz and Judah, even though they were invaded by Assyria eventually.

But Isaiah 8 teaches us a few lessons of how we ought live in the time of crisis as we remember that we live for Immanuel who is God with us!  Here they are just in bulletin form with accompanying Scriptural support from this passage.  Consider these the next time you face a crisis–or as you are facing one right now!

  1. Don’t be controlled by the fear of man (8:11-12)
  2. Live a God-centered life (8:13)
  3. God will be a sanctuary to some and a stone of offense to others (8:14-15)
  4. Never lose hope in God and His Word (8:16-18)
  5. Don’t consult man’s wisdom or other paths of illumination (8:19-20)
  6. Failure to adhere to God’s Word makes life hard (8:21-22)

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How great is your God?

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:9–11, ESV)

As Isaiah writes to comfort his people, He does so by giving a panoramic view of God!  What is God worth to you?  Isaiah reminds us that God is a conquering king, a wealthy benefactor, and tender shepherd!  What more could we ask for?

The Geneva Bible of 1560 comments at verse 9: “He shows in one word the perfection of all man’s happiness, which is to have God’s presence.” Behold your God today!

Let’s have the heart of Augustine today who once prayed:

“O God most high, most good, most powerful … most tender-hearted and most just, most remote and most present, most beautiful and most vigorous, stable and ungraspable, unchanging yet changing all things, never new yet never old, renewing all things … And what have we said, my God, my Life, my holy Delight? Or what can anyone say when he speaks of you? And alas for those who are silent about you … !”

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Conqueror or comfort?

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10–11, ESV)

“God’s arm is a mighty arm for winning the battle (Isa. 40:10), but it is also a loving arm for carrying His weary lambs (v. 11).”–Warren Wiersbe

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Hope for vacillating Christians

In Isaiah 36-39, we see the story of Hezekiah, who was generally speaking a very godly king.  He sought the Lord in a time of crisis. He was outnumbered 185,000 to a mere few thousand men left to defend the holy city of Jerusalem.  Unlike his predecessors who often turned to other men for help in times like these, Hezekiah turned to the Lord!  God granted him a great victory–an unprecedented one. The next day all 185,000 soldiers had been killed without a shot!  The Angel of the Lord slew them all!

You would think that Hezekiah would never again grow proud or self-sufficient. But this is exactly what happens in Isaiah 39, some years later when envoys from Babylon come to Jerusalem. Hezekiah shows them all the gold in the temple and because of this God prophesies judgment on the nation.

Can you see yourself in Hezekiah? One day you find your trust in God strong and vibrant and growing.  The next day or trial you find yourself fretting or seeking the help of others so simply not consulting the Lord.

Is there hope for vacillating Christians like us?  Octavius Winslow wrote a chapter on this in his book Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. Ray Ortlund in his commentary on Isaiah (p. 228) summarizes the instructions Winslow gives for those who are tempted to vacillate:

First, if you’re a believer, remember that your sanctification is incomplete, and every single day you need your Lord afresh. The world is distracting you. Satan is condemning you. Temptations are whispering to you. Familiar sins don’t easily go away. Is it any wonder that sometimes we buckle? Let’s remember how weak—how bad—we still are. The Bible warns us, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Let’s be realistic. We’re more evil than we know. We’re spring-loaded to fall away from God. It is a sin to fall out of love with God. It is a sin of the greatest magnitude, and it isn’t hard to do.

But, secondly, let’s be realistic about him as well. Christ loves empty, ungrateful, waffling, confused sinners. He restores our souls. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he lays it on his shoulders and carries it home, rejoicing (Luke 15:5). He awakens our repentance by his kindness.

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