Saturday, June 24, 2017

Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43 starts with a promise that the God who formed Israel would protect her. It ends with a warning.

Isaiah 43:27-28 (ESV)
Your first father sinned,
and your mediators transgressed against me.
Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,
and deliver Jacob to utter destruction
and Israel to reviling.

The same God who promised to protect Israel also promised to “deliver Jacob to utter destruction and Israel to reviling” (Is 43:28). The people of God, who had been created and formed by God, could be assured of both his protection and his discipline. Why? Because he is faithful even as they failed to honor him as God. This is not petty selfishness. This is proper honor dues one’s creator. The truth is, this is not just for Israel. It is for all mankind. We have all been created in the image of God, for the purpose of displaying his image through relational and representational care for his creation.

We have failed on all counts. We have failed to pursue relationship with our Creator. We have failed to represent him properly to the rest of creation. We have failed to care for his creation. There are consequences to our failure. Israel’s “first father (Abraham) sinned” (Is 43:27). Our first father (Adam) sinned. Like Israel, we have reviled the God of our creation.

Yet, there is that promise at the beginning of the chapter. It is an amazing promise. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned” (Is 43:2). It reminds me of Daniel’s friends when they were thrown into the fiery furnace but not a trace of smoke clung to their robes when they were released. It reminds me of Daniel in the Lion’s Den when God closed the mouths of the lions and delivered Daniel. I wonder if Daniel and his friends thought of Isaiah’s words as they faced their accusers. Note that there is no promise of not going through fire or flood. But, there is a promise of protection and deliverance.

What fire or flood are you facing today? It may be at the hand of God, in order to draw you back to himself. It may be at the hand of God’s enemies, in an attempt to destroy, distract, or dissuade you from following him. Whatever it is, the Enemy can do no more than the gracious hand of God allows. In the end, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, the fire will not burn you, the flood will not sweep you away, and the gracious hand of God will be with you.

You are the testimony to his faithfulness. It may not feel like it at the moment, but it is true. In the face of life’s gravest challenges we are encouraged to fall on our faces before him and worship. For he is worthy, and he promises one more thing, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is 43:25). Rest in the promise, and worship him.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Isaiah 42:1-4 (ESV)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

This is an interesting chapter. The servant of the Lord will bring about justice on the Earth. The enemies of God will be turned to him. Yet the people of God, when they experience his judgment, fail to recognize that he is the source of their pain. It is interesting that we always want to blame someone else.

The servant of the Lord will bring about justice, but what is justice? Justice seems to be defined in a variety of ways. Some people equate Justice with fairness. Some would equate Justice with judgment and law. I do not think either of those definitions is what Isaiah 42 is actually talking about. There is a little of both in the answer, but neither reach the fullness of the concept. There is injustice when the wealthy fail to care for the poor. There is injustice when human trafficking occurs and people are taking advantage of other people. There is injustice when some people have heavy fines and jail time for small crimes, while others get away with their indiscretions without consequence. There is injustice when part of the world takes food and clean water for granted while another part of the world does not even know that kind of lifestyle exists. There is injustice when certain freedoms, rights, and privileges are granted to one group of people and not another simply because of how they look, or their station in life.

Until Heaven, there will always be poor, there will always be underprivileged, there will always be those who have less. The fact that there will always be poor does not justify keeping people poor. The fact that there will always be underprivileged does not justify keeping people underprivileged, or guarding one's privilege. The servant of the Lord will bring about justice on the Earth. That is a reference to Jesus. If our Lord will bring about justice on the Earth, then should not we, as Believers and followers of Jesus Christ, work for justice also.

Unfortunately, as Believers, we have too often been more interested in guarding our privilege than in serving the less fortunate. In Isaiah 42 the people of God were experiencing his judgment and did not even recognize it. Could it be that the church today is also experiencing some of God's judgment and we cannot see it? Is that why there seems to be so little spiritual life and so much empty show in Christian circles? What if we as Believers in Jesus Christ truly had the heart of Christ for a lost and broken world? God says of his people, “He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear” (Is 42:20). It is sad that the very people who ought to be seeing and hearing clearly are blinded by their own fear of loss.

Our privilege, our lifestyle, our tradition, and culture have become more important to us than the word of God. So, we listen, but we do not hear, we have eyes to see but we do not observe what God is saying or doing. It reminds me of Jesus’ words to his own disciples, “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mk 8:17-18). I wonder how much church is done in the name of Jesus without the people of God ever really listening to him. If our Lord will bring about justice on the Earth, then should not we, as Believers and followers of Jesus Christ, work for justice also, yet we spend most of our time and effort trying to be safe and guard our privilege. God forgive us. Open our eyes Lord.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Isaiah 41:13-14 (ESV)
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
Fear not, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 40 has long been one of my favorite chapters as it reveals the greatness of God, but Isaiah 41 is a close second. The nations are gathered before God for judgment. They are looking to their gods for protection, and find none. God lays a challenge before them. Which of the gods of the world can tell the future? Their gods are helpless creations of mankind. In the presence of Creator God, they are powerless.

In the press for inclusive globalism and peaceful coexistence I find it fascinating in our day that there is little outrage when Christians are beheaded for their faith, but it is an incredible scandal when teachers, politicians, or public figures speak of their faith. There is a double-standard that makes no sense except when one realizes that this is a battle between the powerless gods of this world, and the Creator of the Universe. The gods of inclusive globalism and peaceful coexistence lose all their peaceful inclusivism when it comes to followers of Jesus Christ.

But one day…  One day the Creator will call all mankind to answer for their actions. One day the Creator will prove his truth and power in a way that will cause all others to acknowledge who he is. One day the gods of this world will be shown to be powerless. One day… In the meantime, how does a Christ follower live? The same way Judah was to live, by faith. They were to trust that God would care for them even in the darkest times. They were to trust that God is the one true God of truth and power who loves and cares for his people. They were to walk by faith.

We are nothing. We have nothing to add to God, or give to him that he does not already have. We are as worms in his presence, and yet his loves and cares for us. He says to present day believers, as he said to Judah, “I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you’” (Is 41:13). He is the true God. He keeps his word.

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...