Monday, July 31, 2017

Isaiah 46:9b-10
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

The gods of this world are designed and created by people. People carry them. People sustain them. People protect them. Yet somehow, they trust them. They create safe gods that can be controlled and manipulated. It is hard for us to identify with this passage. In 21st Century America we do not carve gods and bow down to them. We do not worship gods of wood and stone. Yet, we do worship at the altar of manmade gods. The gods we serve are our philosophies, science, reason, passion, and emotion, just to name a few. These are all gods that we somehow think define us, protect us, or order our lives. Yet them are man-centered and man-made.

Our gods cannot sustain themselves. We sustain them. Our gods cannot protect themselves. We protect them. Our gods cannot predict or determine the future. They are creations of the created. Yet we allow them control and power in our lives. We laugh and ask why ancient people would bow down before a piece of wood or stone, and them we kneel at the altar of our own man-made gods.

The gods of our own design morph, change, or disappear at our whim. God is God. He never changes. He is always there. Whether we believe in him or not, whether we acknowledge him or not, whether we yield and submit to him or not, he is always there. He sustains himself. He protects us. He knows “the end from the beginning” (Is 46:10). He is God.

For the believer, this comforts in the midst of pain. It encourages where there is no outward sign of hope. It fosters peace in the face of danger and uncertainty. Knowing that God is God is what transformed Peter’s life from one controlled by his emotion to one who preached powerfully at Pentecost, and kept preaching even when James was put to death and he was imprisoned. Knowing that God is God is what prompted Daniel’s friends to remain firm in their faith when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Knowing that God is God is what has sustained countless Christians in the face of opposition, persecution, and martyrdom over the past two-thousand years. It is what sustains us today.

Whether you are facing religious persecution, physical ailment, emotional pain, or spiritual opposition, remember that God is God. Isaiah records God’s words for us, “I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay (Is 46:13a). While the world carries its gods, our God promises deliverance. The God who made us, the God who holds all things together, the God who is self-sustaining, and who determines the end from the beginning promises deliverance. We are in his hands. There we find comfort, strength, rest, and peace. “I am God” he says, “and there is none like me” (Is 46:10).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Isaiah 45:5-6 (ESV)
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

This chapter has so much in it, but there is one overarching truth that runs through the entire chapter. Isaiah 45:5 expresses it like this, “I am the LORD, and there is no other.” In this chapter Isaiah names Cyrus as the king that God will use to protect and bless his people. Cyrus is unknown in Isaiah’s time. He will not show up in history for another 150-200 years. Yet God is calling him by name. Only God knows the future from eternity past. Only God hears and answers his people. Only God can call out a pagan king 150 years before he is born and use him to protect his people even though he has no relationship with God. Only God works his purposes without fail.

How does one respond to a God like that? First, don’t question him. That is not to say that you never ask why. God is a God of mercy. He understands when we are confused. But there is a difference between asking why and challenging the authority of God.

Isaiah 45:9 (ESV)
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Art never questions the artist. The pot never challenges the potter. Creation should not second-guess the creator. God knows what he is doing. He allows his creation a certain amount of freedom. As Romans observes, “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom 1:28). The result? “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:12). Creation should not second-guess the creator, and yet we have.

We should not question God. Second, we should trust him.

Isaiah 45:2 (ESV)
“I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
 I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,

God will keep his promises to his people. We should trust him. Even when we cannot see, hear, or sense the presence of God, he is there. He never abandons his own. He always accomplishes his purposes, even if he has to use pagan kings to do so. He never promises to preserve our present way of life. He never promises to make life pain-free and easy. But he does promise to always be there. He does promise to work all things together for good. He does promise to set all things right in the end. He does promise to bring about justice and peace. We should trust him.

We should not question God. We should trust God. Third, we should turn to God.

Isaiah 45:22-23 (ESV)
“Turn to me and be saved,
 all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”

There is hope in no other god, philosophy, system, or power. At some point “every knee shall bow” before God. We can choose to bow before him now in faith, or bow before him later in grief and regret, but “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Is 45:23). Stop questioning God. Turn to him. Trust him. He is God. He will keep his word. He is a good God. He is the only real God. He is “the LORD, and there is no other” (Is 45:5). Turn to him. Trust him. Rest in him.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

 Isaiah 44:6-8 (ESV)

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”

God is God. That seems fairly obvious, but it is not. The world is filled with gods, every one manmade. Isaiah describes the process of creating a god. A man cuts down a tree. Part of it is used for heat and cooking. Part of it is used to fashion an idol to which he bows down in worship. It is a god fashioned by his own hand, but he is blind to this reality. Every philosophy, theology, or belief system that does not recognize God as God is manmade. Just because we may use the same words to refer to God does not mean that we recognize God as God.

God is the God of the Bible. He is the God who created all things. He is the God who promises to protect his people even in the dark times. The real test of which God is true come in verse 7. “Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen” (Is 44:7). God is the God who not only brought all things into existence, but he is the God who knows the future from the past. Nothing catches God by surprise. It is not just that God has the power to accomplish his purposes. That it true, but it is more. He not only can and will carry out his plans, he knows what will happen before it occurs.

No block of wood can do that. No philosophy of man can do that. No god, force, power, or spirit can do that. Only the God who is God knows the future. He sees all. Fortune Tellers have tried to imitate him. Spirits have tried to emulate him. Philosophers have tried to outdo him, undo him, or explain him away, but God hasn’t gone anywhere. He “frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners. (He) turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish,” (Is 44:25). Further, “He confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers” (Is 44:25). As evidence that God is God, he names Cyrus and the rebuilding of the Temple well before Cyrus is born or the Temple destroyed. He is the God who knows the future from the past. Let’s see a block of wood do that.

God is God, and God’s people are under his care. We tend to fear what we do not understand. We fear the gods of the world. We fear the philosophies that deny God. We fear the governments that reject his power and authority. We live as though God is just another god. That raises the question of the day: Do we really believe that God is God? If we truly believe that, then we have nothing to fear. It is time to stop playing religious, and ask ourselves what we truly believe. We give lip service to a living God and act like he is just another block of wood. God is God.

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...