Friday, July 31, 2009

Never Resting Watchmen - Isaiah 62

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet....
On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have appointed watchmen;
all day and all night they will never keep silent.
You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves;
and give Him no rest until He establishes
and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
(vs 1, 6-7)

Isaiah is a long book. It's a long book because Isaiah was a faithful, consistent, and diligent prophet. For Zion's sake he did not keep silent. For Jerusalem's sake he did not keep quiet. For the sake of the church this prophet persevered in preaching and in prayer. Our shepherds of today need to do the same. I for one am thankful to be married to a man who strives to persevere - even against the unbelievable odds that daily bombard him.

Verses 6-7 tell us a little bit about the duties of those watchmen whom God has appointed to keep an eye out on and for our souls.

1) Notice that they have been appointed. "I have appointed watchmen." True watchmen don't take this office upon themselves, it is placed upon them. Here is an inference to the importance of ordination to office. Scripture speaks not only of an internal call ("If a man desires the office of elder it is a good thing" - 1 Tim 3:1)) but also of the external call ("you...appoint elders in every city," - Titus1:5, "with the laying on of hands by the presbytery" -1 Tim 4:14)

2) Notice that it is no cushy, one hour a week job. "All day and night they will never keep silent." Again, I'm married to a watchman and I see much of the behind the scenes. I see the 60, 70 and sometimes 80 hour work weeks that sometimes arise. The faithfully executed office of watchman is 24/7.

3) Notice that it is a self-sacrificing position. "Take no rest for yourselves." Anyone who desires to be a watchman for what it will afford him has missed the picture and purpose of the office. A watchman puts his head on the chopping block for others. Just as Christ, the suffering and sacrificing Servant did for us. It is not a self-serving position it is a selflessly serving position.

And what exactly is this duty that they are to take no rest from? They are to not keep silent regarding the proclamation of God's truth. They are to warn us of the wolves that lie without and within and they are to point us to Christ - the Great Shepherd. And, they are to always be about this business, lest we be carried away by sin, self, and Satan.

Matthew Henry puts it this way:
"Ministers must do their duty as watchman. They must take all opportunity to give warning to sinners, in season and out of season. They must never betray the cause of Christ by a treacherous or cowardly silence. They must never hold their peace at the throne of grace, but must pray, and not faint."
Our pastors, elders, overseers, shepherds have a daunting task before them. May I encourage you 1) to pray for the watchmen that God has placed over you and 2) to listen to them when they come to you, faithfully holding forth the Word of God as a scalpel to your soul.

May God grant His church's watchmen that will not keep silent, nor be quiet until her righteousness goes forth like brightness.

Praying for my watchman and thankful for his labors,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Liberty to the Captives - Isaiah 61

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has annointed me
to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
and freedom to prisoners;
to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn."
(vs 1-2)

Looking to the gospel of Luke (4:18-19), we find Christ teaching in the synagogue and declaring that this passage of Isaiah refers to Him. There's no doubt who Isaiah is speaking of because Jesus Himself tells us.

In this messianic text we learn much about our Lord.

1)He is qualified for His work because the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him.

2) He is not only qualified but is directly appointed for the task because the LORD has annointed Him.

3) He has been sent as a preacher to bring good news to the afflicted.

4) He has been sent as a healer to bind up the brokenhearted.

And 5) He has been sent as a deliverer to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.

In His acts as preacher, healer and deliverer we see Him fulfilling His role as prophet, priest, and king. I doubt that we dwell enough on the three offices of Christ. These three roles should make us stand in wonder and awe of the Lord Jesus and should make us walk in humble obedience and thankful submission to Him.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that Christ executes the office of a prophet "in revealing to us, by His Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation." It goes on to say that He executes the office of a priest "in His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us."

Now I must admit that while the roles of prophet and priest are immeasurably dear to my heart, this morning I was particularly struck regarding His role as king in these verses. When asking how Christ executes the office of a king, the Westminster Shorter Catechism says this:

"Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies." (Q.26.)
Isaiah 60:1-2 gives us a good picture of Jesus as the subduing, defending, restraining and conquering King. Christ proclaims liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. He proclaims the favorable year of the Lord to His friends. Here is Christ the King subduing us to Himself. He is a wonderful Deliverer to those who seek refuge in Him. BUT He is at war with His enemies and should be viewed by them as a frightening foe. If God is for us, who can be against us? But if God is against us - woe to us! To His enemies, Christ will proclaim the day of vengeance of our God. Sobering!

In this declaration of the day of His vengeance we see His promise to restrain and conquer all His and our enemies. Which side do we fall on? Are we His friends or His enemies? The words of Psalm 2 ring true -"Kiss the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"

There is refuge in King Jesus. He has promised to comfort all who mourn. "Those whose hearts are broken for their sin and who are truly humbled under the sense of guilt and dread of wrath are furnished in the gospel of Jesus Christ with that which will make them easy and silence their fears." (Matthew Henry). Come to the only qualified and appointed preacher, healer and deliverer. Your Prophet, Priest and King awaits. What are you imprisoned by? Flee to the King of true freedom.

A grateful and willing bondservant,


Monday, July 27, 2009

Arise, Shine - Isaiah 60

"Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth,
and deep darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will rise upon you,
and His glory will appear on you,
and nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising."
(vs 1-3)

I have only a very short and simple thought this morning from these words in Isaiah 60. Isaiah declares that the light has come. Christ, the Sun of Righteousness has come into this world and has boldly and clearly shone forth the glory of God to us. He is the Light of the World, the Bright Morning Star. He has come and if, in mercy, His light has shown upon your darkness then you have a responsibility. That responsibility is to "arise, shine; for your light has come."

Christ is as the sun, we are like the moon. We are to reflect His light in the darkness of this fallen world. O Church of the Living God, are you shining? "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Arise, shine; for your light has come!

Praying to shatter the darkness with His light,


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Separation -Isaiah 59

"Behold, the LORD's hand
is not so short that it cannot save;
neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins ahve hidden His face from you,
so that He does not hear."
(vs 1-2)

There are times when God seems distant. The all-seeing God just doesn't "seem" to be seeing us. The all-hearing God "seems" to be deaf. The ever-present God "seems" to be far away. "Seem" isn't always "so", though. At times, God is pleased to withdraw the light of His countenance from us, though He is always truly present with us. He does this in order to teach us, test us, and ultimately to conform us more and more to the image of Christ.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, in its chapter of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation says this:

"True believers may have the assurance of their salvation is divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitue of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethrenn, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which ,by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair." (18:4)

Here is the TRUE believer, "feeling" forsaken by God, sensing a "shortening" of His arm and a "dulling" of His ear. The Westminster Confession, echoing the words of the Bible points out several things that may be at the heart of the matter: negligence of the means of grace, sin, temptation, Satan, even God's all-wise decision to lead us into a dark place momentarily (that we might love Him all the more when the veil is torn asunder).

In Isaiah 59 the cause of their separation is spelled out. Their iniquities and sins have put up a wall between them and have hidden God's face from them. Sin NEVER has any good consequences. We ought to hate it, yet we foolishly love it and continually return to it as a dog does to its own vomit.

When God seems distant we tend to blame Him. That's what the Israelites tried to do. However, Isaiah doesn't allow them that privilege. "The problem was not owing to God. He was still as able to help as ever. His hand is not shortened, His power is not lessened. God can reach as far as ever and with as strong a hand as ever. He was still as ready and willing to help as ever in answer to prayer."

God's ear is not so dull that it cannot hear. "If your prayers be not answered it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer but because we are weary of praying. It is not because His ears are heavy when we speak to Him, but because our ears are heavy when He speaks to us." (Matthew Henry)

Does God "seem" distant? Check yourself first. See if there is a sin within that is building up the wall of "seeming' separation. We are the ones who are prone to wander. God is an unmoving Rock. We are like shifting sand. He is a sure foundation. If you find that you have wandered, repent, believe, and watch and pray (Lk22:40,46).

God's hand is not short. His ear is not dull. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. In due time you will reap a harvest - a good harvest - if you will rest in and rely on Him. Don't grow weary in well-doing and trust that His grace is sufficient and that His timing is always perfect - no matter how things "seem".

Waiting, walking, and trusting

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Glory of the Lord's Day - Isaiah 58 part 3

"If because of the Sabbath,
you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure
on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight,
the holy day of the LORD honorable,
and shall honor it,
desisting from your own ways,
from seeking your own pleasure,
and speaking your own word,
then you will take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth,
and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
(vs 13-14)

Another "if"/"then" is before us. This time it is the "if"/"then" of the blessings of walking in obedience to the fourth commandment - "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." LORD's Day observance has blessings and benefits attached to it - wonderful blessings and benefits - and I fear that one of the reasons modern Christendom is so weak, wounded and wobbly goes back to her disdain and disinterest in a faithful practicing of this gift of God to His people.

While many of the 10 commandments are scoffed at by the world, this one seems to be scoffed at by the church. Repeatedly I find my brothers and sisters in Christ referring to the conscienable observance of this day as legalism. That breaks my heart. Friends - is being seriously mindful of not murdering or not committing adultery legalism? Is it legalistic to honor your father and mother? How about having no gods before Him or taking His name in vain? Are those legalistic practices? How many commandments are there - 9 or 10? I fear we have done a cut and paste job on the tablets from Sinai and have chosen either to toss number 4 out all together or have so rewritten its meaning that we have no concern of breaking this one. Whatever the case, the fourth commandment seems either to be a source of contention among believers or a topic of absolute disinterest and assumed irrelevancy.

I'm no fan of legalism. Anyone who knows me well will vouch for that. No doubt, particular members of the body of Christ have held forth Sabbath observance in a very legalistic fashion. Just read "Little House on the Prairie" and see the misery that Sunday brought to the Ingels home! So often we focus all of our attention on the "thou shalt nots" of the Word and never stop to meditate on the "thou shalls." That's why I love Isaiah 58. It is a glorious and grand symphony of Sabbath blessing. It makes me want to dance and sing. It makes me want to drink deep of this gift of God to His people. It is rich and full and overflowing with promise. It is an awesome "if"/"then".

First, the "if":

"If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word..."
Here's the breakdown. 1) Turn from your own pleasures. 2) Call the Sabbath a DELIGHT. 3) Honor it. 4) Desist from your own ways. Matthew Henry sums it up this way. "On the Sabbath we must not walk in our own ways, nor find our own pleasures, nor speak our own words, for we must make religion the business of the day. We must speak of divine things as we sit in the house and walk by the way. In all we do and say we must put a difference between this day and other days."

Here's an honest question for you - what are you thinking as you read these "ifs"? Do they rub you the wrong way? Do they make you mad? Do you bristle up? If you do, may I ask you why? Is it not that at the bottom of it all you'd rather have your own pleasures than yield them to the things that God says we should delight in. Notice that we are to turn from our own pleasures to the DELIGHT of the Sabbath. Delight is not a bad word. It's not a sour/dour word. Hello, we're talking DELIGHT! :)

Who knows best what we need most - God or us? Where is the place we must turn for truth on the goodness of a thing - our hearts or God's word? Trust Him in this dear one. On this day, turn from seeking your own pleasures, from doing your own thing, from speaking your own word. Turn from these things to His things - here is a day to delight, whole-heartedly with your God, your Creator, your Savior, your Father, your Friend. What could compare? What thing, pleasure, desire, subject, could be better?

There's the "if". Here's the "then".

"Then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father..."
What great return on a one day a week investment. Look at the rewards of Sabbath keeping. They are great. They are full. They are more than worth laying ourselves aside for 24 hours!

1) Delight in the Lord. A serious observance of this day will develop in us a greater delight in our God. What better thing is there to delight in? This is our chief end - "to glorify and enjoy Him forever". And clearly from these verses this day is inextricably linked to the achievement of that end. Through the purposed practice of denying ourselves and taking up His cross on this day He will make Himself more manifest to us and will increase our love, joy, communion, and delight in Him. Christian, is not He ultimately the one thing you want and seek? Then seek Him in this day. Seek Him in the corporate worship of this day. Seek Him in all your activities on this day. Use this day as a vacation from the world. Use this day as a foretaste of heaven. Use this day to make your friends and family envious of the privileges that are ours in Christ. Use this day to taste and see that the LORD is good. The promise is that you will delight in the LORD. The question is, are you delighting?

2) I will make you ride on the heights of the earth. A second promise is that the honoring of this day, which brings about the honoring of God, will result in the honoring of the observer. Do you at times lament the fact that the church seems to have so little an impact upon society. Friends, we are not riding on the heights of the earth and I firmly believe one of the reasons is that we have ignored the "ifs" that lead to this particular "then". Seek Him and not yourselves on this day. Here is a day to fill your tank to overflowing that you will have the necessary fuel to soar successfully in the world. Do you desire to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Will you trust Him with this day? Will you let this day be a catalyst for this promise? "If" you will turn from seeking your own pleasure and call the Sabbath a delight "then" He will make you to ride on the heights of the earth.

3) I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. Here is the promise of the covenant laid out for us. In keeping the Sabbath, in calling it a delight, in practicing the self-control of the Spirit, there is blessing not only for us but for our children. God will feed us with a godly seed as we seek His face on this day. As we are seeking Him, we will be teaching our children to seek Him. As we are delighting in Him, we will be teaching our children to delight in Him. How many of the church's children have walked away from the fold? I honestly wonder how much of that is because we have either called this day a drudgery in our words and actions or have called it unimportant. Christian, the LORD's day has promises attached to it for your offspring. If you love your children, then love this day!

These are not just words, they are divine commands. Isaiah 58 ends with this declaration: "For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." He has not been silent on this issue. He has spoken and He has spoken to us with a self-sacrificing "if" that will lead to a grand and glorious "then".

In closing, let me say that I was once among those who considered the LORD's day observance to be legalistic. Sure, I went to church and enjoyed my time there greatly. I had a LORD's "hour" practice, but the rest of the day was still part of MY weekend. Several years after Phillip and I married we were challenged on this issue by Dr. Joseph Pipa, both by his personal admonition to us and through the written words of his book "The LORD's Day." I'm thankful that we were and I highly recommend that book to you. His first chapter is an exposition of these very verses and they are filled with joy and blessing. Dr. P's reproof to us has had a life-changing effect on us. Hear me, we do NOT keep the Sabbath perfectly. Let us not think for a moment that we will ever be able to keep any of the commandments perfectly. We are sinners in constant need of the Savior's grace and mercy. We don't keep it perfectly, but we are seeking to keep it with His help. And the more we seek the more we find!

May He cause us all to call the Sabbath a delight.
"We must call it a delight, not a task and a burden. We must not only count it a delight, but call it so. We must call it so to God, in thanksgiving for it. We must call it so to others, to invite them to come and share in the pleasure of it; and we must call it so to ourselves, that we may not entertain the least thought of wishing the Sabbath gone that we may sell corn." (Matthew Henry)
Seeking to delight,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If and Then Again -Isaiah 58 part 2

"Then your light will break out like the dawn,
and your recovery will speedily spring forth;
and your righteousness will go before you;
the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
the pointing finger, and speaking wickedness,
and if you give yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in darkness,
and your gloom will become like midday.
And the LORD will continually guide you,
and satisfy your desire in scorched places,
and give strength to your bones;
and you will be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."
(vs 6-11)

Isaiah has been told to cry aloud and in verse 2-5 he has done just that. Isaiah has thrown down the gauntlet. He has honestly and earnestly confronted their transgression and sin. He points out that they have a form of godliness but that it is all for self and for show. They are white washed tombs full of dead men's bones. They are clean cups outwardly, but inwardly they are covered with slime and grime.

He speaks of their formalism and false piety. He uncovers the heart attitude that accompanies their physical fasting. He calls them on the carpet for their congregational strife and calls them to repent of their false profession. That loud cry brings us to verse 6. IF they will heed Isaiah's warning THEN there are some wonderful promises awaiting them.

These folks have faced serious affliction, and rightfully so. Their sins have brought them a great deal of suffering. God has seemed absent. The light of His countenance has been withdrawn. But, IF they will return to the God of mercy THEN He will receive them as the prodigal son's father did.

Here are God's "THEN" promises to them:

1) "Then your light will break out like the dawn." - Just as they have walked in darkness in the midst of their sin, so shall they walk in light when they turn to walk in God's ways. True repentance makes for a radical change - as radical as a light coming on in a dark room.

2) "The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard." - There is a security found in turning to Christ. The righteous are safe on all sides. The LORD is their defense and if He is for us who can be against us?!

3) "Then you will call and the LORD will answer, you will cry, and He will say 'Here I am'." - While in their rebellion God's ear was turned from them - sin affects our prayers. Now that they have turned from their sin back to their God, His ear will be fine tuned to them. He will hear and He will answer His people.

Sin separates, repentance unites. Sin makes us selfish, repentance makes us servants. The change that it brings is described in verse 10. Those who had been takers will become givers. They will give themselves to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted. And, as they give so shall they receive. God will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

"While we are here, in the wilderness of this world, we have need of continual direction from heaven" (Henry). God will grant that to His servants. He promises to guide us, to satisfy our true needs, to strengthen us in our weakness, and to make us like a never failing spring.

Quoting Henry once more, "As a spring of water, though it is continually sending forth its streams, is yet always full, so the charitable man abound sin good as he abounds in doing good, and is never the poorer for his liberality." The Christian life is an amazing circle. God gives to us that we may give for Him. As we give for Him, He continues to supply us with more that we might continue to give more. Therefore, give that it might be given to you, good measure, pressed down, and running over!

I suppose the question is, are we the folks of verses 2-7? Are we takers? Are we religious formalists? Are we self seeing hypocrites? If so, we need know that our "then" will not be a pleasant one. But if we are the folks of verses 8-11, if we are givers because He has first given to us, "then" we have precious and imperishable promises. Who are we living for ourselves or our Maker? What "if" are we? What "then" shall we receive?

Striving to die to self and live for Christ,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cry Loudly - Isaiah 58

"Cry loudly, do not hold back;
raise your voice like a trumpet,
and declare to My people their transgression,
and to the house of Jacob their sins."
(vs 1)

Before Christ saved me, I spent a short but rather intense stint as an atheist. Part of that period was during my first year of college. In His merciful providence, God was pleased to put several Christians in my path. One in particular took me very much under her wing. I really liked this gal and noticed immediately that there was something different about her. But, I thought she was a fool to believe in God and did everything I could come up with to cause her faith to falter. (In my twisted mind I thought I'd be doing her a favor to get her to forsake such religious folly.)

For a year she was a faithful friend. She loved me despite my railings. She didn't turn her back on me nor judge or condemn me in my stubborn and rebellious condition. However, she didn't simply wink at my sin. She openly talked to me about it - very openly - incredibly openly. There was no doubting where she stood both in her love for God and His word and in her love for me. She faithfully pointed me to what God said about my sinful condition and pointed me to Christ who alone could take care of it.

We had many long talks and she consitently spoke to me and wrote to me of the character of God, the condition of fallen man, the person and work of Christ and the hope of the gospel. Honestly, there were days when I'd get a letter from her that contained entire chapters of the Bible in response to my obnoxious statements and scoffing questions. Quite often her "Bible speak" was a bit annoying, but God was pleased to use it as it was accompanied with her tenacious love for me to remove the scales from my blind eyes. Becky Haddon Wise cried loudly and didn't hold back. She raised her voice like a trumpet and declared to me my transgression and sin. Like the rain that brings life to a parched desert land, God took His Word as proclaimed from her lips and life and it did not return empty. I am eternally grateful.

As I read this opening verse of Isaiah 58, I think of Becky. I also think of many other saints who have stood against the tide of their times and have trumpted the truth of God to perishing people - John Knox, Richard Cameron, John Huss, Martin Luther, ad infinitum. Many have given their lives for crying loudly. Many have not held back, not even when death stared them in the face. Yet, how often do we - do I - bite my tongue for fear of having someone get upset with me?

Isaiah 58 is a chapter that will offer much comfort to those who will flee to God in faith and repentance. It is a chapter full of promise and hope. But prior to the giving of that hope we have these words: "Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their trasgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins."

Throughout the next 6 verses Isaiah will do just that. He is about to point out the religious hypocrisy, selfishness, covetousness, lack of mercy, contention, pride and rebellion of these people. He is going to tell them just how sinful they really are. Isaiah is shooting straight. Becky shot straight and praise God she did, for I would have never seen the salvation of my God had I not heard of my need for it.

Matthew Henry says this: "Conviction must prepare the way for comfort. God had appointed His prophet to comfort His people (40:1); here He appoints him to convince them and show them their sins. He must tell them how bad they really were. He must deal faithfully and plainly with them. He was not to flatter them, but show them their transgressions, what sins are committed by them which they do not acknowledge to be sins.... He must cry aloud, and not spare, not spare them, though he get their ill-will by it and get himself an ill name, yet he must not spare."

Are we sparing? Why? Is not our very sparing a sobering reminder of the horrible hold that sin still has on us? We love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbor. May God have mercy on us and embolden our tongues while still granting us great humility. Did someone cry loudly to you? Did someone hold forth the water of life to you while you were perishing? Truth is the most loving thing we can offer to anyone. Go forth dear ones, go to those around you, go as one who was lost and perishing and has been plucked out of the muck and mire of sin's slough, go and "cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins." As we go, may His Spirit go with us and may there be much rejoicing in heaven and on earth for each sinner that repents.

Thanks Isaiah. Thanks Becky. Thanks be to God who sends servants to point the way of salvation to sinners. Soli Deo Gloria!

In His glorious grace,

Friday, July 17, 2009

High and Holy, Near the Lowly - Isaiah 57 Part 5

"For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
'I dwell on a high and holy place,
and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
in order to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"
(vs 15)

Just one simple verse this day - but Oh, what a verse! Here is a picture of the transcendent and imminent God. Here is the portrait of the afflicted child and the presence of the compassionate and fixing Father.

Notice what this one verse tells us about our God.

He is "the high and exalted One." There is none so great and mighty, nor so high and lifted up as God. There is no one like Him. He alone is God - above and beyond all things.

He "lives forever". He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the eternal past, present and future. He is the immutable God who does not grow old and wear out like a garment. He is the great I AM, the Ancient of Days, the One who was and is and is to come.

His "name is Holy." Not only are ways holy, but even His name. Holiness is so inextricably united to His being that it is the title by which He is known. He is a God without sin. Righteous in all of His thoughts and actions. This very prophet grabbed a glimpse of this holiness in Isaiah 6:

In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the LORD of hosts."

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs. And he touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven."

His name is holy and we are undone apart from a touch of His holy grace.

This high and exalted, eternal and holy God "dwells on a high and holy place." He is transcendent. He is far above us, beyond our abilty to reach, and separate from us. Yet, He is "also with the contrite and lowly of spirit." He is imminent. He is close to the brokenhearted and will bind up their wounds. What a glorious God. "He that dwells in the highest heavens dwells in the lowest hearts and inhabits sincerity as surely as He inhabits eternity!" (Matthew Henry)

The thought of these things blows my mind!! Here is the practical application of another of God's names: Immanuel, God with us! Christian, do you realize the privilege that is yours? Other parts of chapter 57 have contained honest language for the scoffer and the idolator. They have spoken plainly to the one who would trust in himself and in his own formed and fashioned gods. They have declared the ultimate outcome of hard-heartedness. Oh, but here we see good news - here is the result of broken-heartedness and is it not beyond our wildest imaginings?!

"I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit. In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." As is so often the case, I turn to Mr. Henry's comments.

"In His grace and mercy, He has a tender pity for the humble and contrite. If they be His people, He will not overlook them though they are poor and despised and trampled upon by men. He will have tender regard to those, who being in affliction, accommodate themselves to their affliction. With these God will dwell. He will visit them graciously and will converse with them by His Word and Spirit, as a man does with his own family."

Beloved, see the God who is in the furnace of affliction with you, He who is high and exalted, He who is eternal and holy. Oh, contrite one, He who is power beyond measure and wisdom beyond description is He who is with you. Fall upon His breast. Lean upon His everlasting arms. He is with you "in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Do not despise the Lord's chastening. In His rod is relief. "Blessed is the man whom Thou dost chasten, O LORD, and dost teach out of Thy law; that Thou mayest grant him relief from the days of adversity. For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance." (Psalm 94:12-14).

This great God is your Father - flee to Him with a humble heart and find rest for your weary souls.

In His glorious grace,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Real Refuge - Isaiah 57 part 4

"Of whom were you worried and fearful,
when you lied, and did not remember Me,
nor give Me a thought?
Was I not silent even for a long time
so you do not fear Me?
I will declare your righteousness and your deeds,
but they will not profit you.
When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you.
But the wind will carry all of them up,
and a breath will take them away.
But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land,
and shall possess My holy mountain."
(vs 11-13)

Hard heartedness never prospers us yet, it seems so common to us. Here the Israelites have found themselves worried and fearful and in the midst of it they have lied to themselves and forgotten their God. When in a mess of a predicament they remember Him not. They have hardened their hearts so much that He isn't even in their thoughts.

We have just seen in verses 3-9 the depth of the sin they have entered into. They have become scoffers and idolators and when trouble comes they no longer run to Him but to the world. They are proud and arrogant and have become their own arbiters of truth.

So, they want to overcome their situation in their own strength, wisdom and morality. Well, God's going to let them try to do it. "I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you." Go on Israel, stand in YOUR righteousness and YOUR deeds. But know this, they will bring you nothing. No help, no aid, no increase. Our righteousness is but filthy rags. Our deeds are worthless - even the best of them. It is in Christ alone that we can stand and apart from Him we will all fall.

They have turned to idols. Let their idols save them. "When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away." Just as our righteousness has no profit neither do the gods of our imaginations. They are as worthless as feathers in a hurricane. There is nothing stable or secure or safe about them. A mere breath shall scatter them.

"BUT he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land, and shall possess My holy mountain." Here is a big "but". Jehovah God is all-sufficient. In Him is shelter and safety from all of life's storms. Matthew Henry writes:

"He that puts his trust in God and in God only, shall be happy both for soul and body. Those that trust in God's providence take the best course to secure their secular interests. They shall possess the land, as much of it as is good for them. Those that trust God's grace take the best course to secure their sacred interests as well. They shall possess His holy mountain. They shall enjoy the privileges of the church on earth and be brought at length to the joys of heaven."

There's no comparison between dead and dumb idols and the living and true God. If it is real refuge you are seeking from the worries and fears that you face there is but one strong and lofty tower to run into - Christ. Seek safety not in yourselves. Seek security not in the god that your mind has formulated and contrived. Seek salvation in the Rock of Ages. Are we in distress? Jehovah is our help! He who puts his trust in God shall never be disappointed.

"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
and though the mountain
slip into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains quake
at it swelling pride.
There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy dwelling places
of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her,
she will not be moved;
God will help her
when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar,
the kingdoms tottered;
He raised his voice,
the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob
is our stronghold.
(Ps 46:1-7)

Monday, July 13, 2009

What's On Your Doorposts? - Isaiah 57

"But come here, you sons of a sorcererss,
offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.
Against whom do you jest?
Against whom do you open your mouth
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not children of rebellion,
offspring of deceit,
who inflame yourselves among the oaks...
who slaughter the children in the ravines...
and behind the door and the doorpost
you have set up your sign....
And you have journeyed to the king....
(vs 3-9 selections)

In chapter 57, God gives an honest charge against the wicked covenant breakers of Israel. Several things are worthy of noting in these first 9 verses.

1) Their terrible title. In verse 3 some scathing names are given to them. "But come here, you sons of a sorceress, offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute." There is nothing nice about sin. Look at what God is says about it through what He says about those who live in it. Sin is sorcery for it is a dealing with the devil. Sin is adultery for it is cheating on the Great Kinsman Redeemer. Sin is prostitution for it is selling ourselves to destruction and utter ruin for the fulfillment of a fleeting lust. "For a drop of pleasure we would drink a sea of wrath." (Thomas Watson).

We are either called by these names or by His name. We are either the sons of sorcerers, the offspring of adulterers and the daughters of prostitues - ie. children of wrath. Or we are the adopted sons and daughters of the Great Triune God and therefore a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God's own possession. Each of us has a name. By nature and by birth, we all begin with the former. But if in repentance and faith we have fled to Christ then He will give us a new name and will write that name in the Lamb's book of life where it can never be blotted out. What name is yours?

2) Their despicable deeds. Not only do they have nasty names but their actions are awful. Three specifics are noted in these verses.

a) They are scoffers - vs 4. "Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue?" They jest with God. They stick their tongues out and scoff at their Maker. They strive with God. They laugh at His Word. Foolishly, they fight against omnipotence. Where do we find ourselves this day? Are we railing against God or are we enlisted in His army, fighting His enemies, and using His weaponry? No weapon formed against Him shall ever stand and none that fights for Him will ever be disappointed.

b) They are given over to idolatry - vs 5-8. This sin is rampant among them. So much so that their idols are found everywhere. They are inflamed with them. They slaughter their children for them. They worship trees and rocks. They have idolic shrines on the mountains, in the valleys, by their beds, behind their doors. They can't get enough of them, they must have more of them. Their idolatry is an addiction - and understandably so, for the things of our creation and fancy will never satisfy.

One thing strikes me particularly regarding their idolatry. It is found in verse 8. "And behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign." Deuteronomy makes mention of the doorposts of our home as being an important tool in the teaching of our children.

"You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Here is the proper use of the doorposts of our home. Upon it God's law and precious promises should be written that we may ever see His rule over us and care for us. In our every going out and coming in we should find ourselves walking in and through and with the Word of God. But the wicked will not have the Word of God written on their doorposts. No, they will set up their own gods and their own laws as the frame of their lives. Henry writes, "Where the law of God should be written, they set up the remembrance of their idols to show to others how mindful they were of them, and to put their children in mind of them." What's on your doorpost? What "god" rules and reigns in your life?

c) They seek shelter in the seemingly strong things of this world - vs 9. In their time of need, since their idols couldn't help them, they ran to their neighbors. They allied themselves to the gods of this world, to the kings of the nations rather than running to the God who created this world. They flee to men. "They debased themselves by truckling to their heathen neighbors, and depending upon them, when they had a God to go to who is all-sufficient and in covenant with them." (Matthew Henry). Where are we running for shelter this day? To the powers of this world? Do we seek safety in our country, government, family, friends? Or is our ultimate source the safety of the lofty Strong Tower - Jehovah God?

There are doorposts surrounding each of our lives. There are convictions and beliefs that we hold dear and we live our lives within the framework of those things. What title is on your doorpost - sorcerer? adulterer? prostitute? Or sinner saved by grace? What deeds are on your doorpost - scoffer? idolator? worldy ally? Or humble worshipper walking and resting in Christ?

Choose you this day whom you will serve knowing that the choice is carved upon your doorpost for you and all the world to see. As for me and my house we will serve the LORD.

In His glorious grace,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Duties of Saving Mercy-Isaiah 56

"Thus says the LORD,
'Preserve justice, and do righteousness,
for My salvation is about to come
and My righteousness to be revealed.
How blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who takes hold of it;
who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil."
(vs 1-2)

God informs His people that He is coming to them in mercy. His salvation is about to come and His righteousness is going to be revealed. And when He comes to us in mercy "we must go to meet Him in a way of duty." Saving mercy is never a license to sin and the imparting of righteousness does not free us to rebel. God has expectationa of His people and some of those expectationa are spelled out in verses 1-2 of Isaiah 56.

Three duties are brought to our attention. Matthew Henry lists them as follows:

1) We are to "be honest and just in all our dealings. God is true to us; let us be so to one another." Preserve justice and do righteousness.

2) We are to "religiously observe the sabbath day. We are not just if we rob God of His time." Blessed is the man who...keeps from profaning the Sabbath.

3) We are to "have nothing to do with sin. Blessed is the man who keeps his hand from doing evil, any evil to his neighbor, in body, goods, or good name - or, more generally, anything that is displeasing to God and hurtful to his own soul."

Henry writes further that "the best evidence of our having kept the sabbath well will be to keep a good conscience all the week. It will appear that we have been in the mount with God if our faces shine in a holy conversation before men."

Have you been visited with the salvation of God and the righteousness of Christ? If so are you serious about the duty that has been entrusted to you. Are you just? Do you love the Lord's Day - not simply the Lord's hour? Do you hate sin? May the mercy that has saved us be the mercy that accompanies us in our daily walking. And may it be said of us that we are blessed people whose lives have clearly been conquered by the salvation and righteousness of God and who are humbly walking in the duty that He has ordained.

Striving to walk,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Never Returning Empty - Isaiah 55 part 4

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there without watering the earth,
and making it bear and sprout,
and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
it shall not return to Me empty,
without accomplishing what I desire,
and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."
(vs 10-11)

God's Word is both powerful and effectual. The writer of Hebrews says that it is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." That's pretty powerful! The psalmist declares that the Word of God is capable of enabling us to keep our way pure. Undeniably, sin is strong and temptation great. Yet, the Word of God is stronger and greater and through it we can obtain the victory. Christ shows us the power of the Word in Matthew 4 when He does battle with Satan. He doesn't pull out the omnipotent powers of deity in His hour of temptation - though He could have. No, as a model to us, He clings to the truths of the Word of God and Satan flees from Him. The Word truly is the sword of the Spirit and we would be wise to love it and to live by it.

Not only is the Word powerful, but it is also effectual. God declares that truth very clearly in these verses. He draws us a picture by using the description of rain and snow. When God sends moisture from heaven it always accomplishes something. When rain falls, when snow settles, things get wet! You can't have precipitation without wetness! Won't happen. The two go hand in hand. Isaiah 55 puts it this way: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be which goes forth from my mouth...." Rain pours down, snow blankets the ground and the result is the settling in of H20 that is absolutely necessary for seeds to grow and fruit to form.

God's Word is compared to this. "So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Matthew Henry writes: "These promises of mercy and grace shall have as real an effect upon the souls of believers, for their sanctification and comfort, as ever the rain had uppon the earth, to make it fruitful. Christ's coming into the world, as the dew from heaven (Hos 14:5), will not be in vain."

God has sent His Word forth, just as He has sent forth the rain and snow. God has His sovereign purposes in the sending forth of that Word, and those purposes will come to fruition. For some, the purpose is conviction of sin. For others, the purpose is that they will be without any excuse on the day of judgment for sin.

This powerful and effectual Word has gone forth. What purpose is it manifesting in your life? What fruit is being produced in you through its falling out upon you? Are you walking in this powerful Word or are you running from it? You'll never outrun it and it will either be a lamp unto your feet in this dark world or a light to expose your unrighteous deeds in the next. We all deserve the latter. God has graciously offered the former through the redeeming work and righteous merit of Jesus Christ!

And finally, if the Word - through the gracious illumination of the Holy Spirit - is a lamp unto your feet, may I ask how often you are using it as you converse with others. (I'm not speaking of being a Bible bashing bully but of loving the Word so much that it dwells richly in you and that its truths naturally flow from you in conversation. There is a difference between the obnoxious Bible thumper and the humble Word lover.) Christian, it is His word, not our words that people so desperately need. It is His word that has promises attached to it. Don't be ashamed of that which is so powerful and effectual. Hold it forth in humble boldness trusting that it will accomplish what He desires and succeed in the matter for which He has sent it.

Loving the Lamp,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Gracious Offer of the God of Higher Thoughts- Isaiah 55 part 3

"'Seek the LORD, while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
and let him return to the LORD,
and He will have compassion on him;
and to our God,
for He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways', declares the LORD.
'For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"
(vs 6-9)

Isaiah is full of the gospel and here is another offer of it. In these verses God holds forth the hope of peace and pardon to sinners if they will seek His face, call upon His name, forsake their wickedness, and submit to His all-wise Lordship. We need to hear these words today. If we are already in Christ we need to remind ourselves of the beauty and doctrine of the gospel. If we are not in Christ we need to heed the gracious offer and walk in its path.

God tells us to seek Him while He may be found. "Now is the day of salvation." Tomorrow is not promised. Therefore, while it is still called today let us flee to the mercy seat where we shall find grace sufficient for our every need. God holds Himself out to us in these verses. "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." Sinner, cry out to God. Seek His face. Call upon His name in prayer. When the Spirit is striving with us we have great need to respond.

God bids us to seek His face and to call upon His name. When that is truly done, the result is repentance and reformation in our lives and in our thoughts. The passage puts it this way, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD...." In seeking God, we need to realize that He will not be found on our terms but on His and His terms involve a turning from our sin and turning to His righteousness. We are to forsake our ways for His ways and our thoughts for His thoughts. In true repentance our actions, heart and mind are all affected. Not only are we to turn from the outward corruptions of our lives but even from the secret musings of sin that so often invade and roll around in our hearts and minds. Repentance is radical. It involves a 180 from the way in which we have traveled to the way in which He has called us to go. We turn from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. We leave the path of sinners to walk in the path of saints. Are we willing to take the plunge?

I hope so, for the promise is glorious. If we walk in the path He has carved instead of our own, we will find Him to be compassionate and full of tender mercy. "And He will have compassion on him...for He will abundantly pardon." By nature we have all lived as rebels and traitors against our Maker. We have sinned in a manner of high treason and deserve nothing from Him but His wrath and displeasure. Eternal execution is what is fair. Yet, see what He offers. "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Compassion and pardon!

Sound to good to be true? Sound crazy? Sound incomprehensible? Sure it does. It sounds beyond our ability to grasp because He is not like us nor are His thoughts like ours. He doesn't treat His enemies as we treat ours. His thoughts towards them are totally opposite of my thoughts toward my enemies. No, God declares that while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. While I was still His enemy He gave His Son to die in my place. I would never have thought of that! The grand chasm of difference is well summed up in this passage. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways... for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

Listen to Matthew Henry's thoughts on these verses. He is speaking particularly in regards to the encouragements given to us to accept this grand and gracious offer of God to sinners. "If we look up to heaven, we find God's counsels there high and transcendent, His thoughts and ways infinitely above ours. The wicked are urged to forsake their evil ways and thoughts and to bring their ways and thoughts to comply with His; for, says He, 'My thoughts and ways are not as yours. Yours are conversant only about things beneath; but Mine are above, as the heaven is high above the earth; and, if you would approve yourselves true penitents, yours must be so too, and your affections must be set on things above.' "

He continues, "Sinners may be ready to fear that God will not be reconciled to them because they could not find in their hearts to be reconciled to one who should have so basely and so frequently offended them. But, says God, 'My thoughts in this matter are not as yours, but as far above them as heaven is above earth.' We think God apt to take offense and backward to forgive - that, if He forgives once, He will not forgive a second time. Peter thought it a great deal to forgive seven times (Mt 18:21), but God meets returning sinners with pardoning mercy. We forgive and cannot forget; but, when God forgives sin, He remembers it no more."

O sinner, He is not like us and isn't that the greatest news! Are your ways wicked this day? Are your thoughts unrighteous? Seek Him while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Turn to Him, and know that in turning to Him you will be turning from sin. Return to the LORD and you will find Him to be compassionate and both willing and able to abundantly pardon. Turn to the One whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Only He can provide the pardon and peace we so desperately need.

In His glorious grace,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Spend on Things That Won't Satisfy? - Isaiah 55:2-3

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
and your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
according to the faithful mercies shown to David."
(vs 2-3)

Recently, I have found myself thinking a good bit about how we spend our time. As I watch others, as I watch myself, I realize that we spend a large amount of our time and resources on things that truly don't matter worth a hill of beans. We spend our money on things that are gone in a few months, weeks, days, perhaps even minutes. We invest our time in that which is quickly fleeting and fading. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, follows up on the heels of "Ho! Everyone who is thirsty come" with this very thought. He asks us: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and yor wages for what does not satisfy?"

Here He has just offered us living water - yea, more than that - living wine and living milk. He has offered it to everyone who thirsts. He has offered it to us freely by paying the price with His own blood. Take and drink. Yet, how rarely we do take and drink. Instead of taking that which He has freely offered to us, we go and dig and claw and scrape and scrap and spend our money and our lives on counterfit bread and absolute non-satisfaction. The Rollling Stones knew it was true in their hearts - "I just can't get no satisfaction." We are so foolish!

The all-wise Creator speaks to we fully-foolish creatures. He says, "Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make and everlasting covenant with you." We would be wise to listen to Wisdom! Here God earnestly presses us, reasons with us, and compassionately reaches out to us. Listen carefully! Don't eat stable droppings - eat of His good bread. Don't fill up on frivolity - delight in abundance. Our wages, the things we naturally earn by our works don't bring life. (The wages of sin is death...). But His free gift is life (...but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.) Listen that you may live!

Don't listen to your self. Listen to Him. Incline your ear and come. Come and live. Come and enter into and eternal covenant with this God who has paid it all.

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity joined with pow'r; He is able, He is able, He is willing doubt no more; He is willing doubt no more.

Come, ye needy, come and welcome, God's free bounty glorify; true belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh, without money, without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy; come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden, bruised and broken by the fall; if you tarry till you're better, you will never come at all; not the righteous, not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call; sinners Jesus came to call.

Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream; all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him; this He gives you, this He gives you, 'tis the Spirit's rising beam, 'tis the Spirit's rising beam.

Lo! th'incarnate God, ascended, pleads the merit of His blood; venture on Him, venture wholly, let no other trust intrude; none but Jesus, none but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good, can do helpless sinners good.

(Joseph Hart, 1759)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ho! You Thirsty Ones - Isaiah 55:1

"HO! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost."
(Is 55:1)

Are you thirsty? Is your soul parched? Do you need a spiritual drink? Here is the call to come and belly up to the bar of living water and drink freely. This is the universal call of the gospel. "HO! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters."

This one verse is quite full, but should we expect anything less than fullness from a clarion call? Several things strike me particularly. First, the call is universal - it is to everyone - "all are invited - Jews, Gentiles, maimed, blind. The gospel covenant excludes none that do not exclude themselves" (Matthew Henry). The call is to everyone however, there is a bit of a qualification attached. The call is to everyone who thirsts. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, who your parents are, what your socio-economic status is. It only matters that you are thirsty. We must thirst if we are to drink.

"What is the qualification? They must thirst. Those that are satisfied with the world and its enjoyments, those that depend upon the merit of their own works for a righteousness, these do not thirst. They have no sense of their need, are in no pain or uneasiness about their souls. But those that thirst are invited to the waters, as those that labor and are heavy laden are invited to Christ for rest. Where God gives grace, He first gives a thirsting after it. Where He gives a thirsting, He will grant relief." (Henry)

So the pressing question is, do we thirst? Do we thirst for righteousness? Do we see how great our need is and long to have our desert-like condition slaked? The call is held forth - Ho! Everyone who thirst, come to the waters. O, thirsty one, will you come? Don't just look at the water. Don't just think about how nice it must be, how good it would taste, what refreshment it would bring - don't just stand there, come! Christ said, "If any man is thirsty; let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." (Jn 7:37-38). Through the prophet Isaiah, God calls us to come AND to eat. We must not simply look at this gift, we must take it as our own. We must injest it. Beloved one, take it in!

The offer is held forth and it is a free offer. If you are thirsty come and drink. You don't need your checkbook. You don't need a big bank account. You don't need to take out a loan. Come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. It will not cost you a penny.- It cost the Giver who paid the debt for us. "Our buying without money intimates 1.) That these gifts are invaluable and such as no price can be set upon. 2.) That He who offers them has no need of us, nor of any returns we can make. 3.) That the thing offered has already been bought and paid for by Christ's blood."

Are you thirsty? Come and freely drink.

The offer of this thirst quenching gift is offered to everyone who thirsts, and it is offered freely to everyone who thirsts. Will you not come and drink? If you will, you will find much more than you imagined possible. The thirsty ones come to the waters and there discover a much grander drink than they could have hoped for - wine and milk.

"Wine and milk, which will not only quench the thirst but nourish the body and revive the spirits. Christ outdoes our expectations. We come to the waters, and would be glad of them, but we find there wine and milk, which were the staple commodities of the tribe of Judah. We must part with our puddle water, nay, with our poison, that we may procure this wine and milk. " (Matthew Henry)

I love Henry's statement: "Christ outdoes our expectations." Yes, He does. Come expectantly, all you who are thirsty. Come expectantly, all you who are weary. Come expectantly, all you who are weighed down with guilt and sin and shame. Come to Christ - everyone who thirsts. He will far surpass your hopes. Come!

In His glorious grace,