Monday, May 29, 2017

Isaiah 40:1 (ESV)

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Isaiah 40:28-29 (ESV)
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It speaks of the awesome greatness of God. But that is not its point. The chapter starts with “Comfort my people, says your God” (Is 40:1). The first eleven verses speak comfort to the People of God who have been told repeatedly that God’s discipline is coming. After eleven verses of comfort, the chapter moves into a powerful description of the greatness of God.

Isaiah 40:12 (ESV)
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?

One of my favorite lines is this section is, “the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales” (Is 40:15). God is going to use the nations go discipline his people, but ultimately, they and their gods are nothing. The text moves from the greatness of God to the impotence of the gods. They are nothing by man’s creations. “He does not faint of grow weary” (Is 40:28), but “He gives power to the faint” (Is 40:29). He ends the chapter with the promise, “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength” (Is 40:31).

Isaiah 40 ties the comfort of his beleaguered people to an expression of his own greatness. He does not awe them with a description of his power to intimidate them into submission. He speaks of his power to assure them of his protection and comfort. The security of the People of God is tied to the greatness of the God they serve. “Comfort, comfort my people” (Is 40:1).

The nations are nothing to God. The gods of the nations are less than nothing. Even if we cut down all the forests of Lebanon for firewood, and brought every animal of the forest for a sacrifice, it would not be enough to honor the magnitude and majesty of God. And yet, he speaks comfort.

As the People of God, we can know that even in the blackest, darkest nights of our soul the great God of all creation holds us in his hand, loves us deeply, and renews us faithfully. He can be trusted. Discipline may come; consequences for sin and disobedience will fall; bad things will happen; but the God of all creation loves us. He speaks comfort, gentleness, love, and restoration. Perhaps we hope too little, worry too much, and rest too seldom because we have too small an understanding of the God we serve. Reflect on Isaiah 40, and find peace.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Isaiah 39:1-2 (ESV)
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

This is a troubling chapter to me. After crying out to the Lord and being healed, Hezekiah makes a grave error in judgment with the Babylonian king. Worse still, in my mind, is Hezekiah’s response. Isaiah tells him that because of his actions, there will be a day when Babylon will take away everything and make Hezekiah’s sons eunuch’s in the Babylonian court. Hezekiah’s response? “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days’” (Is 39:8). He does not seem to have concern for anyone but himself. “Terrible things are coming? Oh well, as long as they are not in my day, it’s all good.”

I had a conversation yesterday with someone who described two different churches. One church is in Brooklyn. It was planted fourteen years ago. It costs them thousands of dollars a month to rent a small place to meet. After fourteen years they have just over a dozen people attending, many of who are not yet believers. The other church is in rural Wisconsin. In its short life it has purchased land, built a large building, is debt free, and has hundreds of people attending. Which church is in more danger?

Like Hezekiah, the church in the most dangerous position is likely the church in Wisconsin. They can easily be tempted to think they have it all figured out. Based on their success, they might even write a book about how to plant churches. The church in Brooklyn knows their dependence on God. The church in Wisconsin is likely to forget that truth. Sickness drove Hezekiah to grief and prayer. Health led him to poor judgment. Sometimes our pain is a blessing. It is a constant reminder of our need for God. Sometimes what we call God’s blessings easily become stumbling blocks. The tempt us to think we have it all figured out. “Thanks God! We’ve got it from here.” That is always a dangerous place to be.

Hezekiah’s real problem, though, was not sickness or healing. It was selfishness. When he was sick, his prayer was not for his people, but for himself. When he was healed, his concern was not the glory of God, but his own glory which he showed off to the king of Babylon. When he was warned by Isaiah, his concern was not for his children, but for his own personal peace. He had fifteen years ahead of him, and nothing bad was going to happen until after he was gone. He could live with that.

Whether in despair or delight, too often our focus is on us. I mentioned two churches earlier. The truth is that either church is in danger if they take their eyes off Christ. If the church in Brooklyn starts comparing themselves to other churches it could easily lead to despair. If the church in Wisconsin delights in their success instead of delighting in the Lord it could lead to pride, apathy, or division. Self-focus never leads to the glory of God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace

Helen Howarth Lemmel

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Isaiah 38:13-14 (ESV)
I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
from day to night you bring me to an end.
Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!

In Isaiah 38 King Hezekiah is told to set his house in order because he is going to die. His response is to cry out to the Lord in deep grief. God responds by sending him a message through Isaiah that he will extend his life fifteen years. Half of the chapter, verses 10-20, is made up of a song Hezekiah wrote in response to his healing. It is, “a writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness” (Is 38:9).

I find it fascinating how different Hezekiah’s song is from what one would expect in 21st Century American culture. If we were healed from a serious sickness, and our life was extended, our song would be filled with praise, gratitude, and celebration. We would hear about the greatness of God and the blessing of life. Hezekiah’s song is centered mostly on the pain and despair of facing death. Praise is the culmination of the song, but it actually makes up a small part of it.

Our culture has increasingly moved toward denying the pain of grief. We don’t want funerals, we want memorial services. We don’t want to weep over loss, we want to celebrate life. We don’t want to think about what we are missing, or the pain of death. We want to focus on the hope of life after death. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1Thess 4:13). Notice that he did not say, “…that you may not grieve.” He said, “…that you may not grieve according to the same manner or degree as those who have not hope.” Our little word “as” is the translation of the Greek word kathos. It means “according to the same manner or degree as.”

I fear that we read Paul and assume that he is saying that believers should not grieve. But every loss is a grief. The loss of a job is a grief. The loss of health is a grief. The loss of mobility is a grief. The loss of a loved one is a deep grief. You don’t just get over that because you are told not to grieve, or because you know you will see them again someday. It is still a loss. You may see then again someday, but you will not see them for a long time. That is a grief.

The pain of loss is real. Some cultures deal with that better than others. I had a Native American funeral several years ago. The family grieved the whole day and night before the funeral with loud wailing and tears. She was a believer and several of her family were believers, but they wailed at their loss. I read a story recently of a man who returned the ashes of a loved one to her home country to be buried. When he entered the house the entire family wept and wailed over their loss. There is deep loss, and with loss is grief and emotion.

As believers, we do not grieve to the same degree as those who have not hope, but that does not mean that we do not grieve. Even in Hezekiah’s healing, he grieved his sickness and his close call with death. Perhaps we would be more emotionally and spiritually healthy as believers in Jesus Christ if we were more honest about our own emotions and griefs. Denial does not lead to health even if it looks healthy from the outside. It simply causes the grief to be delayed and deferred. It ultimately comes out somehow, usually not in a good way.

Jesus wept at Lazarus grave. I can hear church people today clucking their tongues at him. They are thinking, “Doesn’t he know that Lazarus is in a better place? Doesn’t he know that death has no power over the believer? Doesn’t he know that death is just a doorway to a better life? What is wrong with him?” Yes, Jesus knew all those things. He also knew the deep pain of loss. He also knew that people we not created to die. Death is not a good thing. The sting of death was removed at the cross, but the loss is still real. Perhaps we should take a lesson from Jesus and Hezekiah and learn to grieve better. Deep grief leads to hope when we know God. Hezekiah grieves deeply and then ends with these words:

Isaiah 38:19-20 (ESV)
The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
your faithfulness.
The LORD will save me,
and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the LORD.

“Joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5), but if we never acknowledge the darkness we will never fully appreciate the light. Grieve well. Grieve deeply. Then rejoice in the hope of Christ.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Isaiah 37:6-7 (ESV)
Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’”

The Enemy’s primary weapon is not power, but deceit. The Enemy’s primary ploy is fear. Isaiah sent word to King Hezekiah, “Do not be afraid” (Is 37:6). For all the Assyrian king’s bluster and braggadocio, he ended up dead at the hands of his own sons while worshiping his god. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, put on a good show of force. He even presented evidence to substantiate his power. “Look at the other nations that have fallen to me,” he said. “Their gods could not save them. How do you expect your god to save you?” But he underestimated God.

Hezekiah’s response to Sennacherib’s threat was three-fold. First, he ran to God in honest prayer. “And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD” (Is 37:15). His prayer was raw and honest. He said, “Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands” (Is 37:18). Second, he remembered the power of God. “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (Is 37:16). He remembered that the gods of the fallen nations were only “the work of men’s hands, wood and stone” (Is 37:19). Third, he prayed not for his own glory or comfort, but for the glory of God. “So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD” (Is 37:20).

Hezekiah had never read Ephesians 6 where Paul talks about the armor of God, but he instinctively knew how to respond. A proper response to the Enemy’s bluster is not to try and be strong. Nor is it to respond to intimidation with intimidation. The proper response is prayer and faith. The king of Assyria look intimidating and frightening until Hezekiah remembered who God is. So often our fears loom so large, our Enemy sounds so powerful, our challenging circumstances feel so insurmountable that they fill our vision and cause us fear. Deceit, intimidation, and fear are the tools of the Enemy. Prayer and faith are among the armor of the believer. “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:16, 18).

Don’t buy into the lies of the Enemy. He may touch our body, like Job’s. He may breathe fire, like the creatures in Revelation 9:17. He may threaten and intimidate like Sennacherib. But, he cannot touch our spirit, for as believers in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of the living God indwells us. He is the “LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim,” the God who “alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; …made heaven and earth” (Is 37:16). He will not share his glory, and he will not let his children go. We have nothing to fear.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Isaiah 36:4-5, 18 (ESV)
And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?
Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

We see the essence of spiritual warfare in these verses. Assyria sent a messenger to Israel with a forceful presence. The messenger sought to undermine Israel’s faith by challenging the object of their faith and belittling their God. “Look how powerful we are,” he said. “No one has ever been able to stand against us. No other god had been able to withstand our power. Your God will be no more successful. We are the champions! Don’t resist, give in. The outcome is obvious.”

These are the words the Enemy whispers in our ears, “You’ve never been able to withstand before. What makes you think you can withstand now? Just give in.” He suggests that God is distant while he is present and powerful. He reminds us of our failures. He tries to impress us with his power. But for all Assyria’s bluster, Jerusalem never fell to Assyria. Their God was indeed present and powerful. They didn’t believe the lie.

The Enemy’s primary weapon is not power, but deceit. Jesus said that “when he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). Satan believed his own lies about his own greatness. That is what led to his fall. He lied to Eve in the Garden. He lied to Job through Job’s friends. He lied to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. He lies to us every day. He tries to convince us that the world offers life, when in fact it offers only death. He tries to convince us that temptation is too difficult to overcome. He tries to convince us that God is not present and active. He tries to convince us that our past sins are not really forgiven and removed. He tries to convince us that God is never quite pleased with us. “He is a liar and the father of lies.”

Eve tried to reason with the Enemy and she gave in. Israel’s response to Assyria’s challenge is better. “But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, ‘Do not answer him’” (Isaiah 36:21). Jesus quoted scripture and refused to listen to his lies. The lies of the Enemy cannot be bargained with. Lies are refuted by truth. No matter how much bluster he demonstrates, our security in in the blood of our Savior. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). We can trust him. The Enemy’s lies are just that. They are lies. Don’t listen to the lies. Embrace the truth. Rest in the truth. Trust the one who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). He wasn’t just talking, he was speaking truth. Don’t listen to the liar. Trust the truth teller.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV)
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

These verses were referenced by Jesus when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). He told John’s disciples to go back and tell John, “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Mt 11:5). Jesus isn’t directly quoting Is 35, but he is certainly referring to it.

What do you speak to a people facing devastation and captivity? You speak hope. It is interesting that American Evangelicalism doesn’t really know what to do with hope. We sing, “My hope is built nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” We talk about hope. Our aches and pains as we age causes the joy of Heaven to look better and better. Yet, we often act as though our real hope is in the government, Democracy, and the Constitution. Let’s be honest, that is misplaced hope at best, and possibly idolatry. Living in relative ease, comfort, and freedom our hope is too often built on America. When our freedoms are threatened slightly we panic.

Contrast that to a group of believers who have never known our freedoms, yet they live in hope. They are attracted to hope like iron to a magnet. Those in ease tend to focus on their pain. Those in pain tend to focus on their hope. Just look at some of the old Negro Spirituals. They are filled with hope even though they were written and sung by slaves. In Isaiah 35 God’s people are facing destruction, devastation, and captivity. But God gives them hope. There will be a day when the dangers of life are gone. There will be a day when the lame will walk, the blind will see, and the deaf will hear. There will be a day when there is a highway of holiness that even the fools don’t wander off and the lions don’t threaten (see Is 35:8-9). There is hope.

When our hope rests on manmade, earthly stuff like governments, prosperity, and power, we face loss. When our hope is found in Christ alone we find real hope. There will be a day when pain is gone, oppression is done away with, and God’s peace reigns. “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Mt 11:5). Here is the interesting thing. Jesus says that that day is already here. It’s coming, but it’s here. Where Jesus is, there is peace. Our hope is in Him.

Whatever we are facing, there is hope. For those who live in relative safety and health, there is a hope that goes beyond your comfort. For those who live in hopelessness, there is hope that goes beyond your pain. Helen H. Lemmel wrote these words in 1922. They still stand true today:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Isaiah 34:2, 8 (ESV)
For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.

For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

Those who say that the God of the Old Testament is a mean, angry God often refer to verses like these. In doing so, they fail to take two additional truths into consideration. First, they fail to understand the depth of mankind’s sin that brought God to this point. The judgment of God is a natural and appropriate recompense for the violence, bloodshed, and depravity of those he is judging. The nations have devoted their own children to destruction in false worship. They have violently invaded other lands. They have raped, murdered, and destroyed. The language of this chapter indicates that God is pouring back upon their heads the very thing they have done to others. It is just recompense.

Second, people fail to see the balancing truths of Scripture. The chapter ends with these words:
Isaiah 34:15-16
There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
Seek and read from the book of the LORD:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the LORD has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.

Notice the gentleness and care of this “angry” God. It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt 6:26). This “angry” God of the Old Testament is also a gentle God who guards, protects, and provides for the owls and the hawks. He is angry at the sin and destruction of the nations, but he is gentle and caring concerning his creation.

We must be careful not to paint a one-dimensional portrait of God. Throughout the Bible God is always a God of both gentleness and justice, judgment and mercy. He takes sin seriously. He loves and cares deeply. Both are true from Genesis to Revelation. How should we respond to a God like that? Submission and faith, repentance and trust, brokenness and healing. He is a God to take seriously, and to love deeply. Therefore, we take sin in our own lives and communities seriously, yet we live not in fear, but in faith. He is the loving disciplinarian. He is the gentle judge. He is God.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Isaiah 33:14-15 (ESV)
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,

God promises, in this chapter, that the destroyers will be destroyed and God’s people will be restored. Before that happens, however, God’s people will experience terrible things. How can they survive? First, they are to call out to God. “O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble” (Isa 33:2). Second, they are to trust God. “The LORD is exalted, …and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isa 33:5-6). Third, they are to walk righteously, speak uprightly, and live honestly (see Is 33:14-15).

First Isaiah writes, “O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you” (Isa 33:2). Let’s be honest, we don’t do this very well. Waiting on God is not our strong suit. We’re impatient. We want instant answers just like instant oatmeal, instant coffee, and instant microwave meals. We don’t like to wait. We want God to answer, and we want him to answer now. To cry out to God and to wait is foreign to us. We are more likely to complain to God and then run out to find a solution, much like Israel in the wilderness, or Judah running off to Egypt instead of waiting for God’s deliverance from Babylon.

Deliverance from Babylon first meant experiencing the destruction of all that they loved and were familiar with. It meant being carried off into captivity. It meant waiting seventy years until God’s time to restore his people. Egypt looked better, but it was not God’s solution and it did not fix their problem. We don’t like that solution so we look for our own, but our solution never works. We need to learn to wait.

Second, God’s people were challenged to trust him. Trusting is hard when we can’t see the solution. But then, if we see the solution it is not really trusting. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is trusting God when we cannot see the answers. It is believing that he is in control when everything feels out of control. It is knowing that God is God even when we cannot see him. As their city was burning, God called Judah to trust him.

Third, they were to walk righteously, speak uprightly, and live honestly. This is a life of grace. It is only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that this is possible. We cannot lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We cannot change our ways on our own. This is why Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. This is why Jesus promised to send “another comforter” (Jn 14:16). This is why “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Pet 1:3). This is not something we can do on our own. For the Jews, it meant living by the law. For the New Testament believer, it means keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). This is what walking righteously, speaking uprightly, and living honestly looks like. It is love, joy, and peace, not dissatisfaction, blame, and selfishness. It is patience, kindness, and goodness, not taking things into our own hands, and taking advantage of others. It is faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, not impatience, manipulation, and self-interest.

This is what sets believers apart from the world. It is not about whether we eat lunch in a bar, listen to music with a beat, or let our children go to public school. The thing the world notices is when the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives when everything around us is burning. They sit up and take notice when we call out to God and wait on him, trusting him, and walking righteously, speaking uprightly, and living honestly no matter what. May that be the reflection of Christ in our lives today. “He will be the stability of your times” (Is 33:6).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Isaiah 32:14-17 (ESV)
For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

This is the message of Isaiah 32, “The palace is forsaken….until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high.” God’s discipline of his people is for the purpose of restoration. Often in the midst of the pain we cannot see the promise. But God is faithful. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

How can this possibly work out for good? I don’t know. I can’t see the future. I can’t see the plan of God. The pain is sometimes so dark I can hardly see to take another step. Yet I can trust that God is there in the darkness. He has not abandoned us. God says to his people, “Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut 31:6). Those words found again in Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” These words are from the same God who said that he was going to judge his people. He will discipline them, but he will never abandon them.

What hard things are you facing today? I have friends who have lost a child. I have friends who live with constant, debilitating pain. I have friends who see no hope for their future. I have friends facing cancer. I have friends dealing with the pain of abuse and rejection. I have friends who struggle with addictions every day of their lives. I know people who wake up every morning to another dark, dreary day lived in the shadow of hopelessness and helplessness. I don’t understand why, but I know that God has not abandoned them.

Whether darkness is the result of sin, or the result of living in a broken world, pain is still pain. Yet God is there in the midst of the pain. God is there in the darkness. He has not abandoned you. Know that in the blackest, darkest night when you can feel nothing but the dark, God is still there. One day the place forsaken will become the place where the Spirit of the living God is poured out and you will find his peace.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Isaiah 31:1, 4-5 (ESV)
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the LORD!

For thus the LORD said to me,
“As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey,
and when a band of shepherds is called out against him
he is not terrified by their shouting
or daunted at their noise,
so the LORD of hosts will come down
to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.
Like birds hovering, so the LORD of hosts
will protect Jerusalem;
he will protect and deliver it;
he will spare and rescue it.”

Isaiah uses picturesque language in this short chapter to express the failure of God’s people to trust him, and the faithfulness of God despite their failure. Israel has done a lot of things wrong, but their primary failure was a failure to put their trust in the right place. They trusted Egypt with its horses and chariots rather than the Holy One of Israel. They trusted an ungodly source of apparent safety instead of the unseen God who had called them out from the nations.

What are we trusting? Even when we no longer trust politicians, we still act as though our hope is in politics. No president can save us unless God chooses to save us. We talk as though our security is in the Constitution of the United States, the rule of law, a stronger police force, or better laws. But these things cannot protect us unless God is in it. We live as though our security is in our retirement savings and Social Security, but these things will fail us unless God chooses to use them.

Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Daniel’s friends, when facing the fiery furnace, said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver….But if not, …we will not serve your gods” (Dan 3:17-18). Even if God chose not to spare them, they would still trust him. That runs so contrary to our modern concept of worship.

Worship has become about us. It has become about how we feel. It has become about what we can get from God. Years ago I bought a book on prayer. It was called Getting Things from God. But worship, service, and prayer is not about getting things from God. It is about faith. It is about recognizing and believing that whether God calls us to hard things or easy things, our hope is in him, and in him alone.

Aaron Shust recorded the following lyrics written by April Geesbreght, Ed Cash. They reflect the heart of Job, and Daniel’s friends. They express the kind of faith God is calling Israel to in Isaiah. They speak of the faith to which God is calling us as Christians. God is our refuge and hope. We can look nowhere else.

I will wait on You
You are my refuge
I will wait on You
You are my refuge

My hope is in You, Lord, all the day long
I won't be shaken by drought or storm
My hope is in You, Lord
All the day long I won't be shaken by drought or storm

A peace that passes understanding is my song
And I sing my hope is in You, Lord

What is your hope today?

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...