Thursday, October 31, 2019

Isaiah 35

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 cause 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 a magnet to iron. 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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Isaiah 34

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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Isaiah 33

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).

Monday, October 28, 2019

Isaiah 32

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.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Isaiah 31

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 and 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?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Isaiah 30

Isaiah 30:1-3 (ESV)
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.

God promises, near the end of this chapter, to restore his people if they will just cry out to him. In the meantime, they are trying to protect themselves from the threat of Babylon by running to Egypt for help. They do not realize that Babylon is God’s hand of discipline. It cannot be escaped. Egypt is not God’s source of protection. It cannot help.

What do we look to for our security and safety? Our careers? They will fail us. Our credit rating? That becomes meaningless in a crisis. Our friends? God says his people will be like a lone flagpole on top of a mountain. Friends cannot replace God. When God’s judgment falls, people flee in fear from the smallest threat. “A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain” (Isaiah 30:17) There is no security apart from a gracious God.

If God is so gracious, why does he judge? It is for the same reason that truly caring parents discipline their children. Because they love them. God’s people are chasing after false gods. Is God a petty, envious god? That is hardly the point. The gods of the world that they are chasing after are gods of immorality, violence, and even child sacrifice. This is not how God created his people. His discipline is not vengeful punishment. It is loving discipline. There is a difference. It is for their own good.

So, we come back to the question of what we are trusting for our security. If we receive discipline and turn to God, we will find that we are secure in him. If we resent the discipline and try to resist it, we will find that the very thing we turn to for safety becomes the thing that harms us. A credit card might get you through a rocky financial moment, but it leaves you enslaved to the credit card company until you have paid it all back with interest. The very thing we look to for help becomes our enemy.

God will not share his glory. He knows that in a broken world, everything we look to for security will fail us. He wants us to know the security of trusting him even in the darkest moments of life. He is there. When we look to quick fixes, people, or things as the primary source of our security we are like the one described in Amos 5:19, “A man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.” There is no safety apart from God. There is no threat too dangerous when we are trusting God. Where is your security today?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Isaiah 29

Isaiah 29:8-10 (ESV)
As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating
and awakes with his hunger not satisfied,
or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking
and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
that fight against Mount Zion.
Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).

Israel, for all their sense of safety, is not safe. She will “stagger, but not with strong drink!” She will awake from her sense of safety to discover “the multitude of all the nations…that fight against Mount Zion.” It makes me wonder how often we, as believers, have lulled ourselves into a false sense of security? How often have we believed that because we are not like the world, bad things won’t happen to us. It makes me wonder whether our faith is truly in God, or in the systems we have put in place to protect us from the uncleanness of a broken world. All the while, we totally miss what God is doing in the world and we revel in our own self-righteousness.

Perhaps the bigger question is why they were so blind. “For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).” Why? Why would God blind his own people to the truth? Why would God close the eyes of the prophets? Why would God pour out on his people “a spirit of deep sleep?” Doesn’t God want his people to see? Doesn’t he want them to hear, repent, and submit? Why would he do this?

The answer comes three verses later. And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13). Therein lies the problem. Their hearts are not centered on God. Their fear of God is simply “a commandment taught by men.” Their religious activity is just that, religious activity. They are not worshiping God, they are going through the motions of worship. They are not approaching God in awe. They are simply doing religion.

God will not put up with that forever. There comes a time when he says, “Enough is enough! If you will not hear me, then you might as well be deaf. If you will not see me, then you might as well be blind.” But his discipline is not the angry outburst of a petty god who has his feelings hurt. His discipline is for the purpose of restoration. Discipline leads to brokenness and humility. The ruthless and the scoffer have nothing, but justice comes to the meek and the poor.

We “turn things upside down” (Is 29:16). The Creator turns things right side up. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18). Why does God blind his people? Because they refuse to see. The good news is that he will one day restore their sight. It reminds me of the day Saul (Paul), who thought he saw clearly, ended up blind on the road to Damascus. The result was that he saw clearly for the first time. God blinded him to open his eyes to the truth. Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” God is our friend.

He loves us enough to discipline us when we are not listening. His discipline is prompted by his love. Let’s listen to him today.

Father, give me ears to hear
and eyes to see.
If it takes blindness to bring sight,
then blind me.
Let me be one who listens well to Thee.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Isaiah 28

Isaiah 28:9-11 (ESV)
“To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.”
For by people of strange lips
and with a foreign tongue
the LORD will speak to this people,

This is a fascinating chapter. The people of God were more interested in self-satisfaction, partying, and play than they were in hearing God, yet God will be heard. To whom will he speak? To children and foreigners. He will communicate his truth patiently, persistently, and progressively to those and through those whom the people of God would never expect. People don’t listen to children and foreigners, yet those are the ones God will use.

It is interesting that Jesus did not choose disciples from the spiritual elite. He chose them from the uneducated blue-collar workers of his day. He chose fishermen. He chose them from the dangerous political extremists of his day. He chose Simon the Zealot. He chose them from among the unethical social traitors of his day. He chose Matthew, the tax collector. Why did he chose these men rather than those well trained in theology and practice? There are probably several reasons, but a key reason is that they were teachable. The Scribes and Pharisees were comfortable in their own self-righteousness. They were not willing to learn from Jesus. They were more interested in making sure he fit neatly into their own religious boxes.

It is no different today. We are comfortable with our religion. We are comfortable with our self-righteous legalism. We are comfortable with our neat, clearly delineated boxes that define who is in and who is out, who is righteous and holy, and who is not, who we can listen to and who to avoid. In the process, we become more and more fascinated by minutiae of religious or textual detail, but fail to meet God in the text or the ceremony.

Our faith has become about us. And so, God chooses to use people we would never expect in order to accomplish his mission. He uses a recovering addict who presents the gospel all wrong. He uses a child who has no understanding of orthodox theology. He uses a socially awkward individual to express God’s love and truth. And we don’t get why he is not using us.

What if we listened like we really cared what God has to say, rather than simply justifying our own self-righteousness? What if we were more interested in being conformed to the image of God’s Son (see Rom 8:29), than in enjoying our wealth? What if we were more interested in glorifying God than in experiencing peace and prosperity? What difference might that make? Hmm, maybe we should try it. God will speak, but will he speak through us?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Isaiah 27

Isaiah 27:2-4 (ESV)
In that day,
“A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
I, the LORD, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
Lest anyone punish it,
I keep it night and day;
I have no wrath.
Would that I had thorns and briers to battle!
I would march against them,
I would burn them up together.

Isaiah 24 speaks of a day when Israel’s enemies are destroyed, and she is called home from exile. “And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Isa 27:13 ESV). There is coming a day of reconciliation and restoration.

This was originally written on Resurrection Sunday. The risen Savior is the guarantee of God’s victory. 1Thessalonians 1:9-10 speak of God’s deliverance for those who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The wrath of God and the love of God come together at the cross. Romans 5:9 encourages us, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

We could spend a lot of time answering the question of why God is angry. The answer to that question starts with God’s created order and our destructive choices. The solution is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

We see that same love of God in Isaiah 27:4-5. Isaiah writes, “Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together.” But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on with an invitation to move from destruction to protection. “Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” This is the invitation God holds out to a broken world. “Let them make peace with me.” How is that peace made? “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

Is God upset with what we have done to his creation? Absolutely! Will he judge the world, pouring out his wrath against it? Yes. Is that wrath inevitable? No, not on a personal level. That is the Good News. He holds out to a broken world the open invitation, “Let them make peace with me” (Is 27:5). The solution is in Jesus Christ who carried our sin to the cross, left it in the grave, and rose to give New Life. The wrath of God and the love of God come together at the cross. That is the Good News of Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! Trust him and celebrate!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26:1-2 (ESV)
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.

This is a song of hope. It is a song of expectation and anticipation. It is a song of grace and mercy. It is a song of redemption and restoration. It is a song about “that day.” That day is coming when God’s people will experience his salvation. That day is coming when righteousness will be the norm instead of the exception. In that day, “your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy” (Isaiah 26:19)! In that day, “the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain” (Isaiah 26:21). In that day all things will be set right.

How does one live in a broken and scary world until that day? Every day the paper records an assault, a school shooting, a bombing somewhere, or an attack against Christians in some part of the world. Every day the news records another threat to humanity, an act of injustice or violence, or a natural disaster that devastates lives. Every day someone is angry, someone is hurt, someone loses a loved one, or someone gives up hope. How does one live in a broken and scary world until that day?

Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Perhaps these verses hold the key. The truth is, our minds are stayed on us. Our eyes our fixed on our broken world. Our attention is given to the threats and dangers of our world. We are looking at the threat. The one experiencing peace is looking at the savior. We experience God’s shalom, his peace and wholeness, when our minds are stayed on him.

The word “stayed” means to lean, lay, or rest. Think of John at the Last Supper leaning back on Jesus, resting in him. He is our peace as we learn to rest in him. He is our wholeness as we learn to trust him in the darkest moments. He is our shalom as we turn from the danger, pain, and threats of life to be fully taken by him.

Think of a little child lost in a crowd of unfamiliar feet and legs. She is surrounded by people she doesn’t know. She doesn’t recognize the faces looming around her. Fear grips her soul, and then she sees Daddy. All the fear dissipates and the world is again safe. She is not alone. He is the one who wipes away all the tears. He is the one that makes the scary things retreat. He is the one she clings to. As long as she can see him she has peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (Is 26:3). Where are you looking today? Where are you resting? On what are you leaning as you face an uncertain day? “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Is 26:4). One day will be “that day” when all things are set right. Until then, trust him.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25:3, 4, 8 (ESV)
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.

These verses are, of course, speaking about God. Several chapters in Isaiah have been dealing with judgment against the enemies of God’s people. Now the prophecy turns to God’s promises for his people. Her enemies will be brought down. She will be restored, and flourish. The world will be changed forever. “He will swallow up death forever…the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isaiah 25:8).

People of faith understand and rest in the reality that now is not all there is. There is a future hope. No matter how bad things get here and now, we live in the anticipation of a better day coming. Whatever happens in this world… Whatever pain we live with… Whatever benefit sin seems to offer, it is short lived. To use King David’s words, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps 30:5), or to quote the prophet Jeremiah, “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (Jer 31:13).

Hope has always been the unique privilege of the people of God. Circumstances seem unendurable but, God’s “grace is sufficient for you” because his “power is perfected in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9). In the midst of the pain, life sometimes feels like an eternity, yet Psalm 144:4 reminds us that, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” There will come a day when looking back we will realize that what seemed like an eternity was in fact but a moment. We live in the hope of a better day coming. Esther Kerr Rusthoi wrote the following lyrics to express this great hope:

Sometimes the day seems long,
Our trials hard to bear.
We’re tempted to complain,
To murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear
To catch his bride away!
All tears forever over
In God’s eternal day.

It will be worth it all
When we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
When we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face,
All sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
Till we see Christ.

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...