Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opposed For Our Well-Being - Isaiah 53 part 3

"He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
so He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
and as for His generation, who considered
that He was cut off of the land of the living.
For the transgressions of my people
to whom the stroke was due?
(vs 7-8)

This morning I honestly do not own words to speak of the grandeur of these things. Thankfully Mr. Henry does.

"Though He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth, no, not so much as to plead His own innocency, but freely offered Himself to suffer and die for us.

"This takes away the scandal of the cross, that He voluntarily submitted to it, for great and holy ends. By His wisdom He could have evaded the sentence, and by His power He could have resisted the execution; but thus it was written, and thus it behoved Him to suffer.

This commandment He received from His Father, and therefore was led as a lamb to the slaughter. As a sheep is dumb before the shearers, nay before the butchers, so He opened not His mouth, which denotes His cheerful compliance with His Father's will. By this will we are sanctified, His making His own soul, His own life, an offering for our sin.

"The consequence of this to us is our peace and healing. The chastisement of our well-being was upon Him. He is our peace (Eph 2:14). Christ was in pain that we might be at ease, knowing that through Him our sins are forgiven us. Hereby we have healing; for by His stripes we are healed.

"Sin is not only a crime it is a disease, which tends directly to the death of our souls and for which Christ provided the cure. By His stripes He purchased for us the Spirit and the grace of God to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls, and to put our souls in a good state of health, that they may be fit to serve God.

The dominion of sin is broken in us and we are fortified against that which feeds the disease."

He willingly did this for us. He willingly did this for Lori - for the transgression of my people for whom the stroke was due? The wages of sin is death - He took my death upon Himself. "He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised up because of our justification." (Rom 4:25)

How I needed these words this morning. Apply them to my soul and my mind O Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Needful of continued healing,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stricken, Smitten, & Afflicted - Isaiah 53 part 2

"Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
yet we ourselves esteemed Him
stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
and by His scourging we aer healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
to fall on Him."
(vs 4-6)

Christ suffered for us. Christ suffered for me! Throughout Isaiah 53, the gospel narrative is laid out in uncanny prophetic proportions. We see that Christ came - lived among us, lived as one of us - and we see that He suffered in our place. Are there more precious words in all of the Old Testament? Is this not the ultimate theme of the whole counsel of God?

As I meditate on Isaiah's words this morning my mind is also carried away to Paul's:

"...Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Ph 1:5-8)

Christ suffered. Christ, unlike us did not suffer for ANYTHING that He did. Instead, He suffered for EVERYTHING that we did! "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

I will rely much on Matthew Henry this day for His words have been sobering to my own soul.

"Christ had griefs and sorrows. He bore them, and blamed not His lot; He did neither shrink from them, nor sink under them, but persevered to the end, till He said "It is finished." He had blows and bruises; He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. All along He was smitten with the tongue, when He was contradicted, put under the worst of characters, and had all manner of evil said against Him. At last He was smitten with the hand, with blow after blow. He was scourged, not under the merciful restriction of the Jewish law, which allowed not above forty stripes to be given to the worst malefactors, but according to the usage of the Romans. Pilate intended it as an equivalent for His crucifixion, and yet it proved a preface to it. He was wounded in His hands, and feet, and side. He was wronged and abused: He was oppressed, but our Lord kept possession of His own soul. He was taken from prison to judgement. He was proceeded against as a malefactor, He was apprehended and taken into custody, and made a prisoner; He was judged, accused, tried, and condemned. He was cut off by an untimely death from the land of the living. He made His grave with the wicked (for He was crucified between two theives, as if He had been the worst of the three)."

These sufferings, these griefs, these afflictions were born by the sinless Son of God. These sufferings, these griefs, these afflictions were born on my behalf! Christ suffered and died for me!

I continue with Mr. Henry.

"It is natural to ask with amazement, 'How came it about? What evil had He done?' His enemies esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Because they hated Him, and persecuted Him, they thought that God did. (It is true that He was God's smitten and afflicted, but not in the sense in which they meant it.)

"He never did anything in the least to deserve this hard usage. Whereas He was charged with perverting the nation, and sowing sedition, it was utterly false; He had done no violence, but went about doing good. And, whereas He was called that deciever, there was no deceit found in His mouth. He never offended either in word or deed. The judge that condemned Him owned that he found no fault in Him, and the centurion that executed Him professed that certainly He was a righteous man."

It was not His sins but ours that brought about all of these things. "It was for our good, and in our stead, that Jesus Christ suffered. It is certain that we are all guilty before God. We have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God: All we like sheep have gone astray. Every particular person stands charged with many actual transgressions. We have gone astray like sheep, which are apt to wander, and are unapt to find the way home again. That is our true character; we are bent to backslide from God, but altogether unable of ourselves to return to him. We turn aside everyone to His own way, and thereby set up our own will, in competition with God and His will, which is the malignity of sin."

"Our sins, our sorrows, our griefs. Our Lord Jesus was appointed and did undertake to make satisfaction for our sins. For the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. The laying of our sins upon Christ implies the taking of them off from us; we shall not fall under the curse of the law if we submit to the grace of the gospel. Our sins were laid upon Him. None but God had power to lay our sins upon Christ, both because the sin was committed against Him, and because Christ was His own Son, who Himself knew no sin. It was the iniquity of us all that was laid on Christ, for in Christ there is a sufficiency of merit for the salvation of all, and a serious offer made of that salvation to all, which excludes none that do not exclude themselves."

Oh, my suffering Servant, my grief bearing God you have taken my sins, griefs, and sorrows upon yourself, help me not to foolishly attempt to pick them up again! Our sin is great, Your grace is greater!

In His glorious grace,

"Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree! 'Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, 'tis He, 'tis He! 'Tis the long expected Prophet, David's Son, yet David's Lord; by His Son god now has spoken: 'tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, was there ever grief like His? Friends thro' fear His cause disowning, foes insulting His distress; many hands were raised to wound Him, none would interpose to save; but the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin so lightly nor suppose the evil great here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load; 'tis the Word, the Lord's Annointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of teh lost; Christ's the Rock of our salvation, His the name of which we boast. Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt! None shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built."

Thomas Kelly, 1804

Monday, April 20, 2009

Christ, the Suffering Servant - Isaiah 53

"Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately fomr or majesty
that we should look upon Him,
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men.
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised and we did not esteem Him."
(vs 1-3)

It is impossible to pick and choose a few verses to meditate on from this chapter. Isaiah 53 is one of the most beautiful, glorious, and heart stirring passages in all of the Old Testament to me. This passage shows my Savior - His person, His works, His heart, His humility, His patience, His sacrifice on my behalf.

Chapter 52 ended with the reception Christ would receive from the Gentile world. He would be exalted and many nations would be sprinkled by the blood of His grace. Chapter 53 begins with the stubborn unbelief of the Jewish nation regarding this same Christ -the very Messiah the prophets had foretold for generations.

"Who has believed our message?" Sadly very few of them. Christ did not meet their expectations and therefore they heaped great contempt and condemnation upon Him. "This can't be the Messiah - look at Him!!" He came from a humble home. His earthly father was a mere carpenter. His birth had been the lowliest of the low. Jesus came up from "parched ground" and surely the Messiah would come forth from the most fertile of soil!

There was nothing in His physical appearance that set him apart from other men. Saul was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. David was ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Lord Jesus Christ had "no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." He was not homely, per se - He was simply normal. Matthew Henry puts it this way,

"It was expected that He should have some uncommon beauty in His face and person, which should charm the eye, attract the heart, and raise the expectations of all that saw Him. But there was nothing of this kind in Him; not that He was deformed or misshapen, but he had no form nor comeliness, nothing extraordinary, which one might have thought to meet in an incarnate deity."
There was nothing particularly pleasant in His life that would make men flock to Him. He was not the class clown nor mister happy go lucky. No, Christ was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Again I will turn to Mr. Henry's words.

"It was expected that He should live a pleasant life, which would have invited all sorts to Him; but, on the contrary, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His condition was, upon many accounts, sorrowful. He was unsettled, had no where to lay His head, lived upon alms, was opposed and menaced, and endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. His spirit was tender, and He admitted the impressions of sorrow. Grief was His intimate acquaintance; for He acquainted Himself with the griefs of others, and sympathized with them."
Men "hid their faces" from Him. They still do. "He was despised." How often He still is. "And we did not esteem Him." Regularly we don't!

For the Jews of this day there was no beauty to be found in Him. What beauty is there in poverty, normality, and sorrow? They couldn't see His beauty, for the ultimate beauty of Christ is found in the beauty of His holiness and it takes spiritual eyes to catch a glimpse at that glorious sight.

Lord Jesus, would you rend the veil that so often covers our eyes and allow us to see You in the glory and majesty that Your Word reveals. The very fact that the King of kings and the LORD of hosts willingly came into this fallen world and took upon Himself poverty, sorrow and shame that we might be relieved of their burden is a portrait of the most beautiful design!

Gazing upon the beauty of His humiliation,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Git!!" - Isaiah 52 part 3

"Depart, depart, go out from there,
touch nothing unclean;
go out from the midst of her,
purify yourselves,
you who carry the vessels of the LORD.
But you will not go out in haste,
nor will you go as fugitives;
for the LORD will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."
(vs 11-12)

Lovely feet have brought good news to Israel. Their peace, happiness, and salvation is at hand. Their God reigns and their cruel captor is about to fall. What are they to do with this good news? Get out of Dodge!

I loved Matthew Henry's words on these verses this morning. "When liberty is proclaimed, let the people of God hasten out of Babylon with all convenient speed: Depart, depart, go out from the midst of her; be gone. Babylon is no place for Israelites. And it is a call to all those who are yet in the bondage of sin and Satan to make use of the liberty which Christ has proclaimed to them. Let them take heed of carrying away with them any of the pollutions of Babylon: touch no unclean thing. Let them depend on the presence of God with them and His protection of them in their removal: you shall not go out in haste. They were to go with a diligent haste, but not with a difffident distrustful haste, as if they were afraid of being pursued. God will both lead their van and bring up their rear."

Lord, help me not to linger in Babylon but to walk diligently and continually in the light of Your law and by the power of Your grace with my face set as flint towards the Celestial City!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Beautiful Feet Bringing Good News - Isaiah 52 part 2

"How lovely on the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who announces peace
and brings good news of happiness,
who announces salvation,
and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'
(vs 7)

Looking for a good pedicure? Here it is - let your feet bring the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world! "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news."

The gospel is a blessing to all who will hear and recieve it. It "announces peace." It brings to us the terms upon which peace with God can be accessed. By nature we are "children of wrath" and "enemies of God." But the good news of the gospel changes all of that. It makes us children of God and heirs of heaven!

  • "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity...thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." (Eph 2:13-16)

  • "He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 4:25-5:1)

  • "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Christ, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, i say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach." (Col 1:19-22)
The gospel "brings good news of happiness." True happiness comes from holiness and from no other fount. If I am to be happy I must be made holy. I can only be made holy through the imputed righteousness of Christ. This word happiness, in the Bible, is not a self-centered glee and giddiness as the world so often portrays it. Throughout the scripture it is often translated "blessed" or "joy" rather than "happy." It is probably best laid out to us in Christ's own words in the Sermon on the Mount when He begins his discourse with the beatitudes. Here he describes the happiness that the gospel brings to a life.

"And opening His mouth He began to teach them saying,

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kind of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

The happiness that the gospel brings is totally contrary to the counterfeit happiness of the world. It is a blessing and a joy despite our outward condition. It is true contentment in any storm. It is, as Jeremiah Burroughs puts it "that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." Only the gospel can bring about that type of peace and happiness.

The gospel "announces salvation." It is through this proclamation that salvation can be ascented to in the mind and owned in the heart. To be believed it must be held forth.

  • "Whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whome they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom 10:13-15)

The gospel "says to Zion, Your God reigns!" It declares the Lordship of Christ to the world which He owns and governs. It declares His sovereign power to free those who are bound in their hellish chains if they will bow the knee to Him. And it declares His sovereign right to judiciously condemn all those who treacherously cling to their sin and rebellion against His rightful authority.

Matthew Henry says that the gospel "is a proclamation of peace and salvation; it is gospel indeed, good news of victory over our spiritual enemies and liberty from our spiritual bondage. The good news is that Jesus reigns. Christ Himself, brought these tidings first (Luke 4:18, Heb 2:3) and of Him the text speaks. How beautiful are His feet, His feet that hung upon Mount Calvary!"

My Great Savior, thank you for having your feet pierced for me. Thank you for pursuing me with the gospel. Thank you for sending ambassadors into my life with beautiful feet. Make mine lovely as I seek to hold forth this glorious peace giving, happiness granting, salvation offering good news of You - King Jesus!

In His glorious grace,


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wake Up and Get Dressed - Isaiah 52

"Awake, awake,
clothe yourselves in your strength, O Zion;
clothe yourselves in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem the holy city.
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
will no more come into you.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion."
(vs 1-2)

Chapter 52 flows naturally from the contextual thoughts of chapter 51. Israel is frightened. Israel is despairing. Israel has fainted in the midst of these perilous times. She is overwhelmed by her circumstances and overcome by her troubles. She has passed out in her fears and needs to be awakened from the slumber of hopelessness.

The cry is sounded. The alarm goes off. "Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; clothe yourself in your beautiful garments." I need to hear this alarm clock and I need to wake up!!

Perilous, difficult times fall upon us all but in the midst of them we need not fall into a doze of discouragement. No! We need to awaken and when we do we need to put on the robe of our God's strength and beauty. My own garments are filthy rags. They are tattered and torn. They weigh me down, wear me out, and quite honestly, they stink! Praise God I don't have to wear them instead I need to wear Him! I need to be clothed in Christ! I need to lay aside the garments I have made for myself and "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Rom 13:14).

Where Christ is worn flesh won't fit. His presence and His strength will bring about reformation in our lives. The garment of light will shatter the cloak of darkness. When clothed in Him "the uncircumcised and the unclean will no more come into you." Here these words and wear these robes. "Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion."

O LORD, awaken your people from the slumber of despondency, clothe us in your strength and beauty, chase away the unclean things that linger within, raise us from the dust and loose the chains that so often tie us down. Help us to wake up and get dressed!

In His glorious grace,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Felling Fear by Faith -Isaiah 51 part 2

"I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
and of the son of man who is made like grass;
that you have forgotten the LORD your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens,
and laid foundations of the earth;
that you fear continually all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
as he makes ready to destroy?
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The exile will soon be set free,
and will not die in the dungeon,
nor will his bread be lacking.
For I am the LORD your God,
who stirs up the sea and its waves roar
(the LORD of hosts is His name).
And I have put My words in your mouth,
and have covered you with the shadow of My hand..."
(vs 12-16)

Does God know us or what? (Rhetorical question by the way!) Over and over in this book He looks right into the hearts of His people and gives them exactly what they need most. Quite often it seems that what we need is an infusion of faith to quell our fears. That is what unfolds again this day.

In verses 9-11 Israel has cried out to God in the midst of her timorousness. She looks around and all is not well - from her perspective. Is God asleep? She cries out in a desperate prayer "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations long ago." She reminds the never-forgetting God of all the miraculous delivering works He has done for her in the past and of all the promises He has made regarding her future. (While the omniscient God does not need to be reminded, we often do and thus these words should serve as a rallying cry for Israel's faith.)

She calls upon God to bear His arm of strength. He answers her by bearing the compassions of His heart. It's a good starting place, for the love and compassion He has for His children undergirds all of His Kingly acts on our behalf.

"I, even I, am He who comforts you, who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who is made like grass...?" How does God comfort His knocking-kneed children in the midst of their greatest fears? By lovingly pointing out the foolishness of their current wordly fears and pointing them to the great antidote - love for and faith in their God.

The Israelites are consumed by the fear of man. No doubt they are in a serious situation and there is real need for an honest evaluation of their circumstances. However, their evaluation is anything but honest at the moment. It is one-sided and it is bogged down on the side of man. There are two sides to every coin. They have stared long and hard at the "tail" of man. It is time to flip the coin and see the glory of its "head" - their Living God!

Who is this that they are so fearful of? The great man - Babylon. Yet this mighty nation is still made up of mere men - mere dying men! Matthew Henry says, "It is absurd to be in such dread of a dying man. We ought to look upon every man as a man that shall die. Those we fear we must look upon as frail and mortal, and consider what a foolish thing it is for the servants of the living God to be afraid of dying men!"

You know, it really does boil down to a perspective problem. My vision is blurred. My thinking is fuzzy. My hearing is stopped up. How often do I find myself, a "servant of the living God" being absolutely paralyzed by the fear of "dying men"?

My fears are ultimately grounded in my forgetfulness. "Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass; that you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth...?" Refocus Lori!! Remember girl!! Look to the LORD your Maker - the Creator of the heavens, the Former of the foundations of the earth. He is for you - who shall be against you?! He is from everlasting to everlasting - they are from ashes to ashes and dust to dust!

God not only mercifully chides His children for their forgetfulness of Him but also for the all-consuming nature of their fears. "Who are you...that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor..." "It is absurd to fear continually every day. Now and then a danger may be iminent and threatening and it may be prudent to fear it; but to always be in a toss and to tremble at the shaking of every leaf, is to make ourselves all our lifetime subject to bondage." (Matthew Henry)

Christ came to set us free from this fearful prison. Why are we so prone to flee back into it's dark dungeon? Just as Christian and Hopeful forgetfully wandered off the path to gaze momentarily at "greener pastures" and found themselves suddenly whisked away and imprisoned by Giant Depair in Doubting Castle - so are we. We wander off from the remembrance of our all-consuming God and find ourselves overcome by our all-consuming fears. Christian had the key in his breast during his entire captivity, he had forgotten it. Once he remembered he was able to escape. Beloved - Christ has given us the key that enables us to flee freely from our fears and it is revealed in these next verses.

"The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). And I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"

Here is the covenant promise. He is our sovereign - we are His servants. He is our omnipotent Father -we are His needy children. He is our God - we are His people and our God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Our God will provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves. He will break down the prison bars. He will provide the manna from heaven. He will calm the raging sea and soothe the savage storm. He has told us these things in His Word and it is to that infallible, inspired, all-glorious Word that we need to flee in our times of fear. ("And I have put My words in your mouth, and covered you with the shadow of My hand.") Am I fleeing to the faith which comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17) or am I floundering in the fear that naturally comes from listening to the howling winds that often surround me?

  • "If Thy law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Thy precepts for by them Thou hast revived me." (Ps 119:92-93)

  • "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word." (Ps 119:105-107)

  • "Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Thy precepts." (Ps 119:133-134)

  • "Trouble and anguish have come upon me; yet Thy commandments are my delight. Thy testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live." (Ps 119:143-144)

O my fearless Father, I am prone to falter and to stumble and to find myself bound behind the bars of doubting castle. My forgetfulness of You and of your promises to me often leads me to foolish fears. Lord, faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, a mind to comprehend, and a heart that beats for the glory and by the grace of God above all else. "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved." Make me a faithful fearer of You alone and make me to walk in obedience to the light of Your law no matter how dark my days may be.

Thankful to be safe in the Son,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Moth Eaten Garments, Grub Groveled Wool and Eternal Salvation - Isaiah 51

"Lift up your eyes to the sky,
then look to the earth beneath;
for the sky will vanish like smoke,
and the earth will wear out like a garment,
and its inhabitants will die in like manner,
but My salvation whall be forever,
and My righteousness shall not wane.
Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
a people in whose heart is My law;
do not fear the reproach of man,
neither be dismayed at their revilings.
For the moth will eat them like a garment,
and the grub will eat them like wool,
but My righteousness shall be forever,
and My salvation to all generations."
(vs 6-8)

We live in a world where things don't last forever. Change is the one certain thing. One day turns into another. We age. We die. Things rust, rot, and ruin. As hard as we try to make things stay the same, they don't. However, in the midst of all of this there is One who is above and beyond our finite realm - the Infinite and Immutable God.

In Isaiah 51 we see that while worldly things eventually wear out and fade, heavenly things do not. Particularly addressed in these verses are God's righteousness and His salvation. What a great comfort! The eternal things are the unchanging things - that's what really matters. "Just as the [gospel] shall spread through all the nations of the earth, so it shall last through all the ages of the world" and throughout all eternity!

The sky will one day "vanish like smoke", the earth will "wear out like a garment", all of its inhabitants will one day "die in like manner." Those are just the facts - and we see the truth of those facts playing out before our very eyes each day. There are other facts too, though. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord shall stand forever." The things of God are eternal, everlasting, unfading, unchanging, certain, steadfast and sure. What things am I relying on for my comfort? In what things do I find my identity? Where is the root of my happiness, peace, and joy? "Those whose happiness is bound up in Christ's righteousness and salvation will have the comfort of it when time and days shall be no more." (Matthew Henry)

Our Eternal God, in these verses, reminds us of His eternal gifts to us - righteousness and salvation. They are ours forever. They can't be stolen, swiped, or soiled. In light of that reality, He calls us to stand strong and not be fearful of the "reproach of man" nor be "dismayed at their revilings."

How easily we are discouraged. How quickly, like Peter, we lose sight of Christ and begin to sink in the waters of the world. This should not be!! Christian, we must take our eyes off of the water and place them on the Word. We must plug our ears from the reproaches of mad men and tune them to the glorious promises of our God. We must not wallow around in the dismal dirt of our adversary's revilings but must rest in the revelation of the Omnipotent King - our Father and Friend!

The "moth will eat them like a garment, and the grub will eat them like wool. But [His] righteousness shall be forever, and [His] salvation to all generations." The insults and mockery that are often hurled at our faith are nothing more than the flapping of moth eaten garments and grub groveled wool. Do not pay them any attention. They will be silenced and we need not fear them. Instead, fear the LORD for that fear leads to wisdom and life!

  • "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life: whom shall I dread?" (Ps 27:1)
  • "Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments.... For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. He will not fear evil tidings, his heart will be steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries." (Ps 112 selected)
  • "The LORD is for me, I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Ps 118:6)
Clothed in His eternal righteousness and salvation,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Faithful Fear, Flickering Firebrands, & Forever- Isaiah 50 part 2

"Who is among you that fears the LORD,
that obeys the voice of His servant,
that walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.

Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who encircle yourselves with firebrands,
walk in the light of your fire
and among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand;
and you will lie down in torment."
(vs 10-11)

Here in these verses, God has laid out for us the difference between those who are His children and those who are children of wrath. The believer and the unbeliever are contrasted. The characteristics of the righteous and the wicked are spelled out. In these verses we find a portrait of the grand antithesis between the faithful fear of God and the foolish love of the world!

In verse 10, Isaiah speaks of the righteous man. First of all, that man fears the Lord. ("Who is among you that fears the LORD?") "A child of God is one that fears the LORD with a filial fear, that stands in awe of His majesty and is afraid of incurring His displeasure." (Matthew Henry). The Christian knows who his God is, knows what He is like and is filled with respect and reverance for his Creator and King. He loves his God and doesn't want to do anything that would disappoint his Daddy!

Secondly, this good and holy fear of the Lord causes the righteous man to obey the Lord. ("That obeys the voice of His servant.") He is one who is willing to have God's Word as his only rule of faith and practice. If the way of his life is found to be contrary to the Word's way, he will change his way - post haste! Christ is his Prophet, Priest, and King. He will be ruled by none other than King Jesus. He will heed the voice of the faithful ambassadors whom the King has sent and he will willingly be transformed by the renewing of his mind to the wonderful words of life.

Thirdly, let it be known that the one who fears and obeys the Lord is not guaranteed a bright and cheery path but a firm and faithful God. ("That walks in darkness and has no light.") God doesn't promise us pleasure but perseverance. There are times when the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to falter. There are times when all seems sunny in the land of the lost and when violent storms seem to surround the land of the living. Be reminded that things are not always as they seem. God is more interested in our holiness than in our supposed happiness. He knows that which will bring true and lasting peace and joy and He loves us enough to see that we gain the real thing rather than the counterfeit. Darkness and storms have divine purposes in God's economy. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. However, the rain will ultimately bring eternal and everlasting benefit to only the redeemed.

Finally, though dark may be his road, the righteous man has the Light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness as his guard, guide, and friend. ("Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.") The dark path only makes him love and trust the Bright and Morning Star all the more. "He shall find God all-sufficient to him" (Henry). He shall learn that "even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day." (Ps 139:12). Outward darkness shall always be scattered by heavenly light! Beloved, the Son is always shining even in our darkest nights.

In verse 11, Isaiah redirects his portrait and sketches out the marks of the wicked for us. The colors of the pallet change. These are dark and shadowy and the real light that previously pierced the darkness for the righteous man can not be found on this section of the canvas. The unrighteous man seeks to make his own light. "Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand; and you will lie down in torment."

Mr. Henry sums up this section quite well. "Presuming sinners are warned not to trust in themselves. They kindle a fire, and walk in the light of that fire. They depend on their own righteousness, and burn their incense, with that fire (as Nadab and Abihu) and not with the fire from heaven.

"They compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling. As they trust in their own righteousness, and not in the righteousness of Christ, so they place their happiness in their worldly possessions and enjoyments and not in the favor of God. Creature-comforts are as sparks, short-lived and soon gone. They are ironically told to walk in the light of their own fire. Those that make the world their comfort, and their own righteousness their confidence, will meet with bitterness in the end." The wicked will "lie down in torment" and "meet with bitterness in the end." It is not a pretty picture. It was once my picture and I am beyond finding words to express my gratitude at God's merciful intervention in redrawing the lines, colors and theme of my own personal portrait!

There you have it: faithful fear or flickering firebrands. Forever hangs in the balance of these scales. Here is the gospel laid before us. Are we seeking to live by our own mustered up light? A light that may momentarily snap, crackle and pop like the sparks of a campfire. It makes a loud noise but then is no more. Or are we seeking to live by the light of the One who is Light eternal and unchanging? The darkness is as light to Him and His flame never dies.

"A godly man's way may be melancholy, but his end shall be peace and everlasting light. A wicked man's way may be pleasant, but his end will be eternal darkness." (Matthew Henry)

Walking in Light,


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sustaining With a Word - Isaiah 50

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples,
that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens me morning by morning.
He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple."
(vs 4)

Verse 4 gives us an awesome picture of one of the things every disciple of Christ should strive to be about - "sustaining the weary one with a word."

God has given us tongues that we might use them. Those tongues should speak words that build up, not tear down. Our words should be seasoned with salt (a preservative in a rotting world) and full of light (giving guidance in a dark land).

We are to "let [our] speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person."(Col 4:6). We are to "let no unwholesome word proceed from [our] mouths, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29). Our tongues, used properly, should be life-giving tools! How is my tongue?

But notice the last part of this verse. If my tongue is to speak strengthening words to the weary then my ears need to be listening to the God from whom all strength flows. "He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple."

If I am going to speak as a disciple, I better be listening as a disciple or else I will be tongue tied and my words will weaken the weary even more.

Lord, help me to make the most of listening to you each morning that I might glorify you and build up my fellow man throughout the day!

In His glorious grace,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Inscribed - Isaiah 49 part 3

"But Zion said, 'The LORD has forsaken me,
and the Lord has forgotten me.'
'Can a woman forget her nursing child,
and have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you
on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me."
(vs 14-16)

There are times when the circumstances of life make us question the presence and the mindfulness of God in our life. "Lord, have you forgotten me?" This temptation is, as all temptations are, common to man. Here in chapter 49 Israel is questioning God's remembrance of them. "But Zion said, 'The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me." David had these moments as well:

  • He says to himself, "God has forgotten; He has hidden His face." (Ps 10:11)
  • I will say to God my Rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (Ps 42:9)
  • Has God forgotten to be gracious? Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? (Ps 77:9)
  • My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Ps 22:1)

We are prone to feel forsaken. We are apt to feel forgotten. Feelings do not equal reality and our circumstances can NOT be the determining factor as to whether or not God sees, knows, and cares about us. As has already been seen in Isaiah - often the trials of this life show us just how much God does see, know and care. The refining fire is a good thing as is the loving Father's rod and reproof. He sees, knows, and cares enough to make me better and more beautiful. He loves me enough to not leave me in the things that will destroy me. If I am feeling forsaken this day due to my circumstances, perhaps I should stop and ask what dross these God-ordained trials are graciously seeking to burn off. Let me "take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ" and labor as a thankful aid to the flames rather than as an angry adversary of them.

We often feel forgotten and forsaken - but, O Christian, we NEVER are. Dozens of verses come to my mind even as I type those words. Today I will mediate on Isaiah's confirmation of this neverchanging fact.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me."

I am a Christian, my salvation has been birthed by God. It is He who conceived me. It is He who plucked me out of the miry pit. It is He who saw my desperate need and loved me enough to send His Son to propitiate for my sins. It is He that began the good work in me and it is He who will carry it on to the day of completion. I am the apple of His eye. I am His chosen child. I am His eternal heir. I am His and He is mine! The Faithful and Omnisicent God has not forsaken nor forgotten - it would be impossible for Him to do so. Take your thoughts captive O ransomed and redeemed sinner!

Matthew Henry says: "Zion's suggestions were altogether groundless. God had not forsaken her, nor forgotten her, nor ever will. "You think that I have forgotten you. Can a woman forget her sucking child?" A mother cannot but be concerned for her own child; for it is a piece of herself, and very lately one with her. Yes, it is possible at times in this sinful world that she may forget. But, says God, "I will not forget you!"

"He has constant care of His church and people. He has engraven them upon the palms of His hands. This alludes to the custom of those who tie a string upon their hands or fingers to put them in mind of important things - things they never wish to forget. It also points to the wearing of a signet or locket ring in remembrance of some dear friend. God's setting them thus as a seal upon His arm denotes His setting them as a seal upon His heart, and His being ever mindful of them and of their interests."

I am EVER on His heart and mind. My days are ordained. My paths are carved. And all of them will fall out in the perfect faithfulness of my good and gracious, loving and merciful, sovereign and holy, never forgetting and never forsaking God.

Lord, You will not forget. Make me to remember!

Eternally inscribed,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peaceful Passage Provided - Isaiah 49 part 2

"Saying to those who are bound, 'Go forth,'
to those whoare in darkness, 'Show yourselves.'
Along the roads they will feed,
and their pastures will be on all bare heights.
They will not hunger nor thirst,
neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down;
for He who has compassion on them will lead them,
and will guide them to springs of water.
And I will make all My mountains a road,
and My highways will be raised up."
(vs 9-11)

Several times throughout this wonderful book of Isaiah we have seen that Christ is the One who breaks the bars of the prison and sets the captives free. He did that physically for Israel in loosing them from Babylonian captivity. He does that spiritually for us in breaking the bondage of sin and guilt and transporting us to the land and law of liberty. It is Christ who tells us to "Go forth" and "if therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." (Jn 8:36)

Christ commands His freed children to "Go forth!" and the road to which He calls us to go upon He Himself is building. All along the way He is providing. And at the end we shall see Him face to face!

Matthew Henry's comments sum things up well. "He shall provide for the passage of those whom He sets at liberty to the place of their happy settlement.... The world leads its followers by broken cisterns, or brooks that fail in summer; but God leads those that are His by springs of water. And those whom God guides shall find a ready road."

I once traveled the "way that seems right to a man" and it left me battered, bruised and broken. The water from its springs were muddy and the water from its pools was stagnant. The sun burned me, the winds chapped me, the rocks along the way made me constantly stumble. That way "ends in death." This way is life!

Lord, thank you for redirecting my path. Help me to walk this day and all the remaining days of my life on this marvelous highway of holiness that you have carved. Your provisions for me have been and always will be bountiful, and my heart aches for the day when I reach my journey's end!

A pilgrim,


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Words to a Weary Shepherd - Isaiah 49

"But I said, 'I have toiled in vain,
I have spent My strength
for nothing and vanity;
yet surely the justice due to Me
is with the LORD,
and My reward with My God."
(vs 4)

My husband is a pastor and he's a good pastor. He is a faithful teacher of God's word and he strives to be a faithful Shepherd of God's flock. I love him with all my heart and I respect him more than words can ever express. Phillip loves the ministry - I do too. Yet, the ministry is at times incredibly wearying. While there are many moments of sheer delight as you watch the sheep of your flock growing in grace and truth, there are also many moments of watching sheep be sheep! (I am sheep myself, so I can say the following things because they are true of me as well.)

Sheep are at times dumb, naive and foolish. They will follow the crowd right over the cliff's edge, bleating happily and ignorantly all the way. Suddenly disaster strikes and the sheep are mortally wounded! When the sheep stumble and fall, when they are injured and in pain, when they are on the brink of death and destruction it grieves the shepherd's heart greatly.

Sheep are also stubborn. They don't always want to listen to the shepherd's voice, his warnings, or even his kind and heartfelt concerns. Sheep often want to do things their way or no way. They, like us, are not by nature submissive creatures but rebellious ones. Stubborn sheep make the work of the shepherd twice as hard.

Sheep are vulnerable. In their stubborn rebellion they don't want to believe it, but it is true. They don't have any real means, within themselves, of fending off the wolves - and the wolves are often prowling about seeking whom they may devour. The shepherd can, at times, find himself worn slap out from the continual battle that he must engage in (sometime all alone) to protect his sheep from sin, self and Satan. Shepherding is not an easy task and it most certainly, when done properly, is not a one hour a week gig!

Sheep often weigh heavy on the heart of their loving shepherd!

On top of all these things, the enemy of the sheep despises the shepherd of the sheep vehemently. If that wicked old wolf, the Devil, can discourage and destroy the shepherd - if he can exhaust the shepherd so that he is unable to care for his flock - then he has accomplished an enormous and dastardly feat. It is a feat that can have dire consequences upon the shepherd and upon his entire flock. I suppose that is why Paul exhorts them in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to "not grow weary in well-doing." Pastors are prone to "fainting spells." God the Father understands that - God the Son knows it first hand. Here in Isaiah 49 there are wonderful words given to weary shepherds. This post is for my precious husband who labors so faithfully and gives himself so fully to others. My dear Phillip, hear Matthew Henry's words of encouragement this day. Listen to these words from a text spoken of Christ the Great Shepherd Himself - and "do not grow weary in well-doing."

"Then I said with a sad heart, 'I have labored in vain; those that were careless and strangers to God, are so still: I have called, and they have refused; I have stretched out my hands to a gainsaying people.' This was Isaiah's complaint. The same was a temptation to Jeremiah in which he almost resolved that he would labour no more (Jer 20:9).

"It is the complaint of many a faithful minister, that has not loitered but labored, that has not spared but spent his strength and himself with it, and yet to many, it is all in vain: they will not repent and believe.

"But here it seems to point to the obstinancy of the Jews, among whom Christ went in person preaching the gospel of the kingdom, laboured and spent His strength, and yet the rulers and the body of the nation rejected Him and His doctrine. Let not the ministers think it strange that they are slighted when the Master Himself was.

"He comforts Himself under this discouragement with this consideration, that it was the cause of God in which he was engaged: Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, who is the Judge of all, and my work with my God, whose servant I am.

"His comfort may be the comfort of all faithful ministers, when they see little success of their labours. They are with God, and for God; they are on His side, and workers together with Him. He knows the way that I take; my judgment is with the Lord, to determine whether I have not delivered my soul and left the blood of those that perish on their own heads.

"Though the labour be in vain as to those that are laboured with, yet not as to the labourer himself, if he be faithful: the Lord will justify him and bear him out, though men condemn him. The work is with the Lord, to give them success, according to his purpose, in His own way and time."

My Great Shepherd, I thank you for Phillip and for his faithful shepherding of my own soul. Strengthen him in his labours and may obedience to You and a passionate desire for Your glory be his chief aim and highest delight.

Standing in the gap for my beloved,


Monday, April 6, 2009

Listening to the Word of God - Isaiah 48 part 3

"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel;
'I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like the sand,
and your offspring like its grains;
their names would never be cut off or destroyed
from My presence.' Go forth from Babylon!
Flee from the Chaldeans!
Declare with the sound of joyful shouting,
proclaim this, send it out to the end of the earth
'The LORD has redeemed His servants Jacob.'
And they did not thirst
when He led them through the deserts.
He made water flow out of the rock for them;
He split the rock, and the water gushed forth.
'There is no peace for the wicked,' says the LORD."

God had promised deliverance for His people. Here he is beckoning them to draw near and hear His words. Several things jumped out at me this morning.

1) God, through His Word, teaches us profitable things. Matthew Henry pointed out that "He that is their Redeemer will be their instructor: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit," that is, teaches thee such things that belong to thy peace. Whom God redeems He teaches; whom He designs to deliver out of their afflictions He first teaches to profit by their afflictions. He "leads you in the way you should go." He not only enlightens their eyes, but directs their steps." God's word contains "all that is necessary for life and godliness" (2 Pe 1:3). It teaches me what to believe, it tells me how to live. My God has spoken to me in His word and all that He has spoken is for my good and for my growth.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17)

"The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure enlightening the eyes.... The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward." (Ps 19:7-11)

2) God has spoken, I should listen. If He has taken the time to give me this glorious word which is for my profit then shouldn't I heed its wisdom and warnings? "If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea."

Hear Mr. Henry's application of this to ancient Israel. "God assures them that, if they had been obedient, that would not only have prevented their captivity, but would have advanced and perpetuated their propserity. "Your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteosness like the waves of the sea." You should have enjoyed a series of mercies, one continually following another, as the waters of a river which always last. Such should their righteousness have been that nothing should have stood before it; whereas, now they had been disobedient, the current of their prosperity was interrupted, and their righteousness overpowered."

God's Word is good for me! I need to walk in it! He has given it to us that we should keep it diligently (Ps 119:4) and we should keep it diligently so that we will not stumble and falter along life's highway. "Your word is a lamb to my feet, and a light to my path." (Ps 119:105)

3) Listening to God's Word will not only affect me, but also my children and my children's children. Here again is beautiful covenant language. Just as my sin never affects just me but has consequences on and in my children, so my obedience has benefits to them. I do not live in a vacuum. Every action of mine will have a reaction on Joshua, Elizabeth, their children, their children's children, etc. etc. Kind of puts a different light on how I live, eh?!

"Your descendants would have been like the sand, and your offspring like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence." I fall one final time to Henry's words. "The rising generation should have been numerous and prosperous; whereas they were now very few, as appears by the small number of the returning captives (see Ezra 2:64). The honor of Israel should still have been unstained, untouched. Their name should not have been cut off, as now it is in the land of Israel, which is either desolate or inhabited by strangers; nor should it have been destroyed from before God's presence. This should engage us (I might say enrage us) against sin, that it has deprived us of the good things God had in store for us."

Hear those words again: "This should engage us (I might say enrage us) against sin, that it has deprived us of the good things God had in store for us." Sin always gives birth to sin, "and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." (Ja 1:15). Sin looks good at first glance but "there is a way which seems right to a man but its end is the way of death." (Pr 14:12). Sin always and only steals from us!! We need to listen to God's Word and we need to walk in God's Word that it may go well with us and with our children!

4) There is no peace apart from listening to this Word. God provides for His people what they need most. Just as "they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts," just as "He made the water flow out of the rock for them" just as "He split the rock, and the water gushed forth," so He shall continue to care for the true needs of His people - at times from the most unlikely of places. Abiding in His Word brings security, safety and peace. But, "there is no peace for the wicked," says the LORD."

Lord, teach me to profit by Your Word as I listen to Your Word and grant peace to me, to my children, and to my children's children.



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Refined By Him & For Him - Isaiah 48 Part 2

"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver'
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
for how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.
Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
I am HE, I am the first, I am also the last.
Surely My hand founded the earth,
and My right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them, they stand together."
(vs 10-13)

Israel is obstinate. They always have been. Just think back to their time in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt. Just peruse the pages of the Old Testament. This is a stubborn, stiff-necked, rebellious, hypocritical people. They sound alot like us! Well, at least they sound a lot like me!

Chapter 48 began with God's calling them out on the carpet for their hypocrisy. These folks continually fall back into idolatry. They continually want God on their terms rather than on His. Again, it all sounds way too familiar.

In verse 3 of this chapter God, once again, beautifully paints for them how foolish it is to trust in dumb idols. What graven images have "declared the former things long ago?" What created gods sent prophecies "forth from [their] mouth, and proclaimed them?" What man-made idols "acted and they came to pass?" Not a single one! They can't even speak, much less speak prophetic truths and bring them to fruition. Yet, this is exactly what Jehovah has done. Not a single major event happened in the life of Israel that was not foretold by God - their captivity in Egypt, it's length to the day, their wandering in the wilderness, the positioning of their tribes, their current captivity, their future release through Cyrus. Dumb, created idols can do none of these things, but the Living and True God can. It would be wise to listen to Him.

Israel has found herself in trouble. She's a captive, she's a prisoner, all seems lost and hopeless! But light is about to shine upon the dark backdrop of frowning providence. That shining light will come through the revealed knowledge of God's purposes in their difficult days and through His declared end to their difficult days.

Israel is in bondage because of her stubborn sin. God was disciplining His people for their iniquity. They have been "rebels from birth" (vs 8), "obstinate" (vs 4), and stiff necked as iron (vs 4). Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us in our sin and therefore He sends refining fire. "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you with the furnace of affliction." They were corrupt and crooked, but God would make them pure and straight. He would fit and fashion them for the service He had created them for. Is that not exactly what He does for us today? The trials and distresses I am facing are part of his Fatherly love and discipline to straighten that which is crooked in me, to burn off the dross, and to make me beautiful and useful.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Pe 1:6-7)

God is refining us into gems and jewels of infinite worth. And why? Not because of any intrinsic value He sees in the lump of coal that I am, but "for the sake of [His] name...for [His] praise...for [His] own sake." Again, life is about Him - as well it should be for He alone is holy, righteous, good and beautiful. We only own and exhibit holiness, righteousness, goodness, and beauty when, by the refining flames, we being to reflect Him. That is the purpose of Israel's trials - to make them holy as He is holy, to make them lovely as He is lovely. That is His purpose in my trials. Do I trust Him enough to take the necessary refining heat?

That is the reason for their captivity, next Isaiah holds forth the certain hope of their release. Israel was held by a strong man. Babylon was no weak nation. This was a great and powerful land. Yes, they were held by a strong man, but they were loved by an omnipotent God! That omnipotent God is my God too!

"Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am first , I am also the last. Surely My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together." God could do what needed to be done - He is God! He's the God who founded the heavens and the earth. He's the God who created Babylon and every single individual in it. He is the God who's "right hand spread out the heavens" and "if the palm of His hand has gone so far as to stretch out the heavens, what will He do with His outstretched arm?" (Matthew Henry)

God's arm is about to be outstretched. Israel need not fear. Israel needs to trust. So do I. I am an adopted child of the King of Kings, the LORD of hosts is my Father, the Sovereign Creator of the heavens and the earth is in covenant with me. He loves me more than I love myself. He is refining me into a glorious creation. Why should I fret and fear? My Father's hand will never cause a needless tear.

Losing a little dross each day,


Friday, April 3, 2009

In The House of Hypocrites - Isaiah 48

"Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel
and who came forth from the loins of Judah,
who swear by the name of the LORD
and invoke the God of Israel,
but not in truth nor in righteousness.
For they call themselves after the holy city,
and lean on the God of Israel;
the LORD of hosts is His name."
(vs 1-2)

"Hypocrites! Nothing but hypocrites - all of 'em." I often hear similar words sail past my ears - in the coffee shop, in the library, in the grocery store, pick a place. The cry of religious hypocrisy is the mantra of the unbeliever, the excuse of the "backslidden", and the boast of the rebel who despises the organized church. In years past I was one of the loud "criers" of this accusation. Hypocrisy is nothing new and its not going to go away until heaven and earth pass away. Hypocrisy came in with the fall - and we are all affected by it from time to time.

In these first words of Isaiah 48 we see the Old Testament church battling with it as well. Their profession of religion and their living of religion don't line up. "How high their profession of religion soared and what a good face they put on a very bad heart." (Matthew Henry)

There is nothing new under the sun. Over the past few weeks I've been in the midst of some wonderful and honest conversation with several non-christians who are truly bugged by the loud and obnoxious profession they are hearing from "Christian" co-workers. Their profession of religion is soaring high and proud. They are outwardly white washed tombs. They talk alot about their God and about His Son to everyone's face and then they talk alot more about their co-workers behind their back. Outwardly these folks are white-washed tombs but inwardly they are full of dead men's bones. Something stinks inside the tomb! They have put a "good face" on a very "bad heart."

In all honesty, are we any different? I pray that, by and through the mercies of Christ, we are different on most days. No doubt, I am still a sinner and could be rightly accused of much wrong doing. Yet I suppose the thing that separates a truly saved sinner from a hypocritical and still condemned sinner is the acknowledgement of our faults, flaws, and failings accompanied with a fleeing to Christ to save us from them rather than a prideful covering up of transgressions in order to look good to the world.

Several things are brought out here that characterize the hypocrite. It's a good check list for me to examine my own heart, actions, and motives. If I walk away bruised by the blows I trust that my gentle Healer will bind up the wounds and make me more like Him by the lancet of surgical sanctification!

1) Hypocrites may have their name on the rolls of the visible church. "Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel and who come forth from the loins of Judah." God is speaking these accusations of hypocrisy to the "house of Jacob", the "name of Israel", and the descendants from the "loins of Judah". This was the physical, visible body of believers in the world at the time. While the pews of the visible church may be occupied by hypocrites this side of heaven, the invisible church - that congregation of true believers - will contain none. Heaven's gates will only be opened to the sincere who are honestly resting in Christ and His finished work as the root of their salvation and who by virtue of that are bearing the fruit of salvation. Being a member of the visible church doesn't make one a true believer anymore than, as Keith Green used to say, being a regular patron of McDonald's makes one a Big Mac! Please don't judge the whole bushel by a few rotten apples. Please don't judge the whole bushel by me.

2) Hypocrites talk the religious talk. "Who swear by the name of the LORD..." They outwardly own Him to be their God. They talk of Him. They swear by Him. They talk but do not truly walk. They are blowing smoke and their blasphemous swearing will be an eternal thorn in their side. Well should they heed the words of James : "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no: so that you may not fall under judgment" (Ja 5:12). Their yes was no and their talk would come back to haunt them. Lord, make me different and make my talk sincere.

3) Hypocrites play religious games. "And invoke the God of Israel." These were the Old Testament Pharisees who prayed to be heard by men and could care less if they were heard by God. We need to beware of them. "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full" (Mt 6:5). False religious games are one of the things that have given true religious exercise such a bad name. Woe to us for seeking the applause of men over the glory of God.

4) Hypocrites claim the promises while ignoring the responsibilities. "For they call themselves the holy city, and lean on the God of Israel; the LORD of hosts is His name." They are quick to claim the precious promises of the covenant of grace for themselves. They want God to be their sugar daddy in the sky and give, give, give to them. They want the peace, hope, and joy but not the dying to self that produces it. They want salvation and sin. They want the "fire insurance" but without any premium payments. They want what they want and expect God to grant it without any conditions. We must realize that faith and works are joined with true salvation just as light and heat always accompany a true fire. Faith without works is dead and a dead faith has no part in obtaining a living inheritance!

"These people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me." (Mt 15:8). This sin is crouching at the door of every one of us, seeking to devour and destroy both us and those who are watching us.

Beloved, "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked, who can understand it? (Jer 17:3). My proud and selfish heart, left to itself will always run home to the house of hypocrites. Only God can see it for what it is and make it what it should be. How I need His help and grace to evict me from that wretched residence. LORD God, please make my lips and heart to converge at the cross of Christ that I may both speak and act for your glory and not my own.

Needful of protection from my own hypocritical heart,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Proudly Playing God - Isaiah 47

"Now, then, hear this, you sensual one,
who dwells securely, who says in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one beside me.
I shall not sit as a widow,
nor shall I know loss of children.'
But these two things shall come on you
suddenly, in one day:
loss of children and widowhood.
They shall come on you in full measure
in spite of your many sorceries,
in spite of the great power of your spells.
And you felt secure in your wickedness and said,
'No one sees me,'
Your wisdom and your knowledge,
they have deluded you;
for you have said in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one besides me.'
But evil will come on you
which you will not know how to charm away;
and disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone,
and destruction about which you do not know
will come on you suddenly."
(vs 8-11)

These words were piercing to me this morning. They are heavy on my heart and they have forced me to my knees on behalf of the many who still dwell in the captive land of self and sin which was once my own abode! I am thankful to be free from these chains, by God's grace. Sin and selfishness still REMAIN in me, but they no longer REIGN in me. Soli Deo Gloria!

Matthew Henry begins his commentary on this chapter with the following thought: "In these verses God by the prophet sends a messenger to Babylon, like that of Jonah to Ninevah: 'The time is at hand when Babylon shall be destroyed.' Fair warning is thus given her, that she may by repentance prevent the ruin." Fair warning is given, but Babylon does not listen. There is much to be heard and heeded in what follows.

Babylon has foolishly made God her enemy through idolatry and cruelty and therefore, the just and holy God will come in just and holy vengeance. Babylon has mercilessly held Israel captive and this God, whom they've gone to war with is "the Holy One of Israel." He is Israel's "Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name." He is the omnipotent One and Babylon is not strong enough to hold back the LORD of hosts. He is the just One and Babylon cannot bribe Him into letting them off the hook. Babylon is in "heap big trouble."

Apart from the imputation of Christ we are in "heap big trouble" too! Our sin has rightly made us enemies with the Holy One of Israel. We have gone to war with the Just and Righteous LORD of hosts. Because of the divine perfections of His character, He will not simply wink at our sin and let us off the hook either. He can't - for then He would cease to be who He is - Holy and Just and Righteous! Someone must pay the price for our treason and it will either be the sinner or the Savior. How thankful I am for the work of Christ in whom the Just became the justifier of the elect! Christ's redeeming work has paid the debt I could not pay and has freed me from the hell that I fully deserve. My sin - His righteousness! His righteousness - my sin! By grace, through faith in Christ I am no longer God's enemy but am now His child!

Babylon's enmity with God is the backdrop of what's happening in this chapter. As I was reading along this morning, my eyes froze at the words of verse 8. Babylon says, "I am, and there is no one besides me." Whoa! Wait a minute! Babylon says this about Babylon! What proud and arrogant people they are. Right here in Isaiah 47 Babylon says of herself the very words that God has declared to be true of Himself alone. "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me." Remember, these were words that pointed to God's self-existence, absolute power, infinity, eternality. These are the words that make God God and Babylon is claiming them for herself. How cocky! How haughty! How blasphemous! How foolish!

Yet, it is not only ancient Babylon of whom this is true. This attitude is the undergirding structure of every unbeliever in the world. "I am, and there is no one besides me." By nature we are just as cocky, haughty,blasphemous, and foolish. Self is our God - self-gratification, self-service, self-preservation, self-seeking, self-worth, me, me, me. Apart from Christ, even our service to and for others is, at the heart, about us. "It makes ME feel good to do that for someone." "If I do good for them it'll come back around to ME at some other time." "Maybe someone will notice and give ME a pat on the back." Babylon cries out "I am, and there is no one beside me." How often in our actions and motives do we practically cry out the same thing? O how we all need Christ to free us from ourselves!

Take note of Babylon's irrational boasting in these verses and learn from it. "I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know loss of children." She considered herself above and beyond tragedy. Tomorrow and forever will be just as today is. Babylon thought she was safe and secure. She thought her sins were beyond finding out. "No one sees me." And if no one sees her then no one will call her on the carpet for her actions. O, but One does see and nothing can be hidden from Him. "If I say, 'Surely teh darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day." (Ps 139)

God responds to her with "your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you." None are so blind as those who look only to themselves as the fount of wisdom and knowledge. None are so eternally dehydrated as those who refuse to drink of the water of Life. Fair warning has been repeatedly offered to them. They would not look and listen. They would not take and drink. Now all their boasting is about to fall upon them in a ruinous heap of destruction. Look around, are we really any different? How many in our own ranks live as if they will never die, spend as though the money will never run out, and continually presume upon the mercy of God as if He were not there and as though He could not see?

Isaiah came. Isaiah called. Babylon would not listen and the very thing they said would not and could not happen is the very thing that is just about to happen. "But these two thing shall come on you suddenly in one day: loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure in spite of your many sorceries, in spite of the great power of your spells." God will not be mocked. He particularly will not be mocked by those who through sorceries, astrologies, witchcrafts, and spells make a deal with the devil and seek counsel from the father of lies. They trusted in wickedness as their wisdom and it failed them. It always does. It always will. Let us gain understanding from their foolishness and let us heed Isaiah's words.

They thought they were so smart. They were in fact stupid! "Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; for you have said in your heart, 'I am and there is no one besides me.'" David reminds us that "the fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God." His son, Solomon, acknowledges that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." They were not knowledgable wisemen as they proudly assumed, they were deluded fools and their foolishness would lead to their undoing.

"But evil will come on you which you will not know how to charm away; and disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone, and destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly." This was the judgment of Babylon, a just judgment falling from a Just God- a God who had repeatedly warned them and a God who had been so very patient. It was a judgment for which they could not atone. Their pride brought about their fall and no magic spells, no magnetic personality, no magnanimous imaginations could spare them. No atonement would be found on the selfish, self-deluded path that they were traveling. Babylon fell and fell hard into utter ruin, exactly as God, through the prophet Isaiah said they would.

My heart aches as I meditate on these things. How many around me are deluded by their feigned wisdom and knowledge? How many are deceived by pride and self-seeking? How many are living as though no one sees and as if no day of reckoning will appear? How many, whom I love so dearly are living and thinking as though "I am, and there is no other besides me." How many are rushing headfirst into misery and self-destruction? We all need atoning. We all need a "fixer upping". But, none of us can "fix" or atone for ourselves, there is but One sure atoning sacrifice - the LORD Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners.

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. " (Rom 3:21-25)

They and we arrogantly proclaimed : "I am, and there is no one besides me." The truth of the matter is: I am NOT God and there are a multitude of people just, exactly, like me - specifically "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." God alone is God and there is NO one like Him. Wisdom and knowledge do not dwell in me, but in Him. "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col 2:3). I was once a foolish Babylonian, at times I still find myself momentarily wandering back to their ways. I am so humbled and thankful that Christ, the Atoner, knocked down the high towers of deluded arguments that I had built for myself and rescued me from my own Babylonian captivity.

LORD - in Your marvelous mercy would You do the same for the many whom I love so dearly that have built their lives on the shifting sand of self?! Would you grant them to know that You "are the LORD, and there is none else...there is no other God besides [You], a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except [You]."

Free at last,


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Never Failing / Never Changing - Isaiah 46

"Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
and all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been born by Me from birth,
and have been carried from the womb;
even to your old age, I shall be the same,
and even to your graying years
I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
and I shall bear you ,
and I shall deliver you."
(vs 3-4)

Two things are made clear in the first 4 verses of Isaiah 46. First, false gods fail. Second, the true God doesn't!

The chapter begins with a clear declaration that two of the celebrated idols of Babylon, Bel and Nebo, will be captured and taken as spoil and booty when Cyrus conquers the land. They tottered and fell at Cyrus's coming. "They could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity" (vs 2). Some gods!

Verse 3-4 point to the true God as the absolute antithesis of the false. Throughout chapter 45 it was shown that Babylon's gods were made, created, formed. They were idols that had to be moved from place to place. How could they ever carry our burdens when they can't even carry themselves? But here is Israel's God, here is our God - the Creator, the strong and mighty One, the One who has made us and who daily bears us and our burdens. "You have been born by Me from birth, and have been carried from the womb." As David says, "It is He who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance; be their shepherd also, and carry them forever." (Ps 100:3, Ps 28:9). Our Great Shepherd, our Glorious Creator, our Loving Father is not like Babylon's idols therefore we can "cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us." (1 Pe 5:7).

Matthew Henry writes: "The true God will never fail His worshippers. He formed them into a people and gave them their constitution. Every good man is what God makes him. "You have been born by Me from birth, and have been carried from the womb." And as God began early to do them good He had constantly continued to do them good: He had carried them from the womb to this day. We have been carried in the arms of His power and in the bosom of His love and pity. Our spiritual life is sustained by His grace as necessarily and constantly as our natural life is by His providence.

"We have been born from His belly, nursed when we were children, and even to our old age He shall bear us. Israel was now growing old and they had hastened their old age, and the calamities of it, by their irregularities. But God is still their God, will still carry them in the same everlasting arms that were laid under them in Moses's time. He will now bear them upon eagles' wings out of Babylon, as in their infancy He bore them out of Egypt.

"This promise to aged Israel is applicable to every aged Israelite. "Even to your old age," when you grow unfit for business, when you are compassed with infirmities, and perhaps your relations begin to grow weary of you, yet I am He, the very same by whom you have been born from the belly and carried form the womb. You change but He remains the same. "I will carry you," will bear you up and bear you out, and will carry you home at last."

How good to know that in this ever changing / ever failing world, we have a never changing / never failing God. Bel and Nebo have fallen yet our God reigns forever, and ever, and ever. AMEN.

Carried all the days of my life,