8/17/17 “Let Me Talk with You about Your Judgments” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 12-14)

“Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth but far from their mind” (Jeremiah 12:1-2).

Have you ever questioned the decisions or judgments which God makes? Many of us have probably questioned why God gives certain commands which we find in the Scriptures. God’s judgments do not always “make sense” to us. In the opening verses above we see Jeremiah saying to God, “let me talk with You about Your judgments” (Jeremiah 12:1).

Jeremiah was struggling to faithfully serve God. He says, “But You, O Lord, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You…” (Jeremiah 12:3a). Yet, as the opening verses above show, he struggled with understanding why God apparently allowed the wicked to prosper and be happy (Jeremiah 12:2). He wanted God to harshly judge them now: “…Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, "He will not see our final end” (Jeremiah 12:3b-4).

God’s response to Jeremiah’s questioning His judgments is interesting. God’s tells Jeremiah, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5). Greater challenges were ahead for Jeremiah than simply enduring seeing some wicked people prosper. Jeremiah was going to have to face a conspiracy against his own life from within his own family. The Lord tells the prophet, “For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you” (Jeremiah 12:6).

Furthermore, God tells Jeremiah that the prophet has no idea of the pain God experiences in having to render His judgments: “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies. My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; It cries out against Me; therefore I have hated it. My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; the vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour!” (Jeremiah 12:7-9). It was painful for God to have to allow other nations to devour His beloved Israel.

However, God judged this was the way to get His people to repent and turn back to Him. God would then render punishment against the nations who had harshly treated His people: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Against all My evil neighbors who touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit--behold, I will pluck them out of their land and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. Then it shall be, after I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back, everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land” (Jeremiah 12:14-15).

As I consider Jeremiah’s questioning God’s judgments, it is humbling because I know I am tempted to do the same. Rather than questioning God’s decisions, I should trust that He will always act righteously in His judgments. Today, I will strive to accept God’s judgments and not question them!

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

8/16/17 “Glorying in the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 9-11)

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Do you give glory to God? I believe most of us as Christians give glory to God regarding the awesomeness of His creation (Psalm 19:1) and His love for us (John 3:16). However, as the opening verses above state, do we give glory to God not only when he exercises His mercy and lovingkindness, but also when He exercises His judgment and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:23-24)?

In the 9th chapter of Jeremiah God speaks about His terrible judgment which is coming upon Jerusalem because of her sinful rebellion towards God. God states, “Who is the wise man who may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why does the land perish and burn up like a wilderness, so that no one can pass through? And the Lord said, ‘Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,’ therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. And I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them’” (Jeremiah 9:12-16).

Can you imagine how hard it would be to live during the times of Jeremiah hearing God’s message of the impending doom upon your nation? Furthermore, can you imagine challenging the task would be if you had to be the one to deliver such a message to your fellow countrymen whom you loved? This is the position of the prophet Jeremiah. He describes the difficulty he felt in having to deliver such a message: “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for travelers; that I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men” (Jeremiah 9:1-2). He wanted to go and hide somewhere!

However, as the opening verses describe, we are to glory that we both “understand” and “know” the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Understanding the Lord, does not just mean we understand and know those attributes that are more easily embraced such as His love, grace, and mercy; it also means that we accept and embrace those characteristics of His that are good and right, but are not as pleasant upon which to dwell, such as His coming judgment and punishment of those who persist in sin. Because God’s justice and punishment for sin is not always enjoyable about which to think, it has led some to deny such Biblical teachings as one having to spend an eternity in Hell as punishment for sin if one refuses to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

I want to both “know” and “understand” the Lord. This means I will glory not only in His love, grace, and mercy which He has shown me in great abundance, but I will also glory that I know, understand, and respect that He is righteous when He judges and executes punishment for sin. Today, I will give glory to the great God I serve!

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

8/15/17 "Is There No Cure for Those I Love?" (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 5-8)

“For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22).
Have you ever been grieved in seeing those you love doing things which hurt themselves? Have you questioned why God doesn’t answer your prayers to help them turn from their harmful ways? If so, you are not alone. As the opening verses above show, the prophet Jeremiah was torn by this as well (Jeremiah 8:21-22). He did not coldly deliver God’s message to Judah without any feeling. Instead, he agonizes over delivering God’s Word because he loves his people Judah; but, he also loves God. 
God had also agonized over Judah. He loved her. That is why He sent Jeremiah to prophecy to her. He wanted to heal them from their hurt caused by their own sins. However, things were so bad in the land that God could not find anyone who sought righteousness. He tells Jeremiah, “"Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places If you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1). God’s people had given themselves over to wickedness to such an extent they no longer felt any shame for their sin: “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. ‘Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13-15).
As God reached out to them through prophets such as Jeremiah, they rejected God’s pleadings to them to return to his paths so they could find the rest he desired to give them. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls’. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'” (Jeremiah 6:16). God’s people were determined as a war horse rushing into battle to continue in their evil ways. Jeremiah wrote, “I listened and heard, but they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turned to his own course, as the horse rushes into the battle (Jeremiah 8:6).
As powerful as God is, He is not powerful enough to heal someone who rejects His efforts to heal them! God gave man the freedom of choice. Man can use that freedom to accept God’s embrace as God reaches out to the man struggling with the guilt and weight of sin; but, man can also use his power of choice to push God away as he stubbornly rushes headlong to the destructive results of his own sin. Jeremiah’s heartbreak over seeing his people use their freedom of choice to reject God is a powerful reminder to us today of how stubbornly rebellious we can be towards God.
Today, I recognize that I too must be careful not to stubbornly resist God. I will strive to embrace God’s effort to heal me of my sin. As I reach out to others who are struggling with sin, I recognize the reason there is no recovery for the spiritual health of some people is because each of us retains the power of choice. There is still God’s healing balm in Gilead! The Great Physician is still at work!
“When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” ‘For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Matthew 9:12-13).
 

8/14/17 "I Will Heal Your Backslidings" (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 1-4)

“A voice was heard on the desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel. For they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the Lord their God. ‘Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.’ ‘Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God’” (Jeremiah 3:21-22).
Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet”. He prophesies to the people of Judah during the last days of Judah as it is about to go into Babylonian captivity because of her sins and rebellion against God. He is a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. Despised and persecuted by his countrymen, Jeremiah bathes his harsh prophecies in tears of compassion.
As Jeremiah begins prophesying to the southern kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel had already gone into Assyrian captivity because of her sins. Unfortunately, Judah refused to learn from seeing the northern kingdom of Israel go into Assyrian captivity that awful judgment awaits for those who persist in rebelling against the Lord. Yet, as the opening verses above show, through Jeremiah, God calls out to the northern kingdom with an offer to “heal your backslidings”.
What were their “backslidings”? They had forsaken God and began to follow the other nations and engaged in trusting in idols. Through Jeremiah, God said, “‘For pass beyond the coasts of Cyprus and see, send to Kedar and consider diligently, and see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,’ says the Lord. ‘For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water’” (Jeremiah 2:10-13).  
Forsaking God’s fountain of endless living waters and hewing out cisterns which are broken and do not hold water is something many of us, who call ourselves God’s people, still struggle with doing today. Satan tempts us to forsake trusting in God as our source of life and encourages us to begin trusting in wealth, physical beauty and strength, education and our own abilities, or even other people. These are the idols the devil tempts us to trust in today. However, they are broken cisterns that hold no water. Wealth runs out. Beauty fades away. Strength grows weak. Others let us down.
Yet, in spite of His people’s failures and backslidings, God reaches out to them, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings”. To the northern kingdom’s credit, Israel is pictured as responding, “Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 3:22).
As I contemplate God’s message to the northern kingdom of Israel and his offer to heal their backslidings, I am reminded of God’s incredible faithfulness to His people and His offer to heal our backslidings today. It is a great challenge to remain faithful to God when Satan is constantly seeking to devour us. It is difficult to continue to resist him by remaining steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). Because of this, backsliding is far too common among God’s people today. However, God’s plea to “heal your backslidings” is still made to us today as it was to Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Today, I acknowledge my struggle with sin and realize how easy it is for me to backslide, but I rejoice that God still loves me and is the One who can heal me when I fall!
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
 

8/13/17 "Trembling At God's Word" (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 63-66)

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word’” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
Throughout the book of Isaiah, God expresses His frustration with His people Israel, because of their rebellious attitude towards Him: “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves, and spend the night in the tombs; who eat swine's flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day” (Isaiah 65:2-5).
As a result of such a rebellious attitude towards His Word among His own people, God’s judgment was coming upon them, just as He had warned them throughout His Word which He communicated to them through His faithful prophets such as Isaiah. However, as the opening verses indicate, God would spare those in Israel who had a “poor and contrite spirit” and who trembled at His Word (Psalm 66:1-2). To these faithful souls God said, ““Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word: ‘Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name's sake, said, “Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.” But they shall be ashamed.’ The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies” (Isaiah 66:5-6)!
As I consider these verses from the prophet Isaiah, it reminds me of the profound respect God expects us to show Him regarding His Word. God’s message to us, as revealed in the Scriptures, is not something which is to be taken lightly. After all, we are going to be judged based on whether or not we followed His Word: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Jesus Himself said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
Do I tremble at God’s Word or do I treat it lightly? Note the psalmist attitude towards the Scriptures, “My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments” (Psalm 119:120). In addition, does it bother me when those around me rebel at God’s Word or have I become comfortable and cozy with the sinful behavior of others? Again the psalmist wrote, “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136). Furthermore, the psalmist adds, “I see the treacherous, and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word” (Psalm 119:158). 
I am not suggesting that we should spend all of our time in judgment of others. God will take care of that in the last day. However, our hearts need to be pricked when we see God’s Word not being heeded not only by others, but especially by ourselves. Today, I rejoice in the guidance God gives me through His Word. I am blessed to live in an age where I can have my own copy of the Scriptures. As I study the Bible and God’s message to me, I will tremble at His Word!
“I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:63-64).
 

8/12/17 "Healing The Brokenhearted" (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 60-62)

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s people were about to suffer great hardship as they were going to be carried away into Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 39:5-7). They would feel great shame for 70 years while suffering in captivity because they would be continually reminded it was because of their own sin and rebellion that they were suffering this captivity. In captivity their hearts would be broken; they would experience great mourning; and, they would suffer great poverty and destitution. 
It would be comforting for them to know the day was coming when God would punish their enemies and deliver them from this terrible captivity. It would be “good tidings” to their ears to hear of their deliverance. Their broken hearts would begin to be healed (Isaiah 61:1). They could stop hanging their heads down as they mourned over their past failures which had brought about this captivity upon themselves and embrace God as He consoled them giving them “beauty for ashes”, the “oil of joy for mourning”, and the “garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).
However, this passage was not just applicable to the people of Isaiah’s day. It was also a prophecy regarding things to come. The above verse was quoted by Jesus at the very beginning of His ministry when He went into a synagogue in the city of Nazareth. As He was in the synagogue he was handed a copy of the book of Isaiah. He opened the book to the above passage and told the people there, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21). Thus, began the wonderful ministry of our Lord which continues today to preach the good tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, and to proclaim liberty to those who have been held captive by sin.
As I read this passage, how true this passage is regarding sin and the deliverance Jesus came to bring from it. Sin holds those who practice it in bondage (John 8:34). It breaks our hearts with guilt and shame when we consider the mess we create in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in our relationship with God because of our failures to stand up against sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin weighs us down with guilt and a “spirit of heaviness” as we think about our weaknesses to fight it. 
However, Jesus came to deliver us from the terrible bondage of sin. He brought “glad tidings” of how we can be delivered from the bondage of sin. He said, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). That truth is Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins by giving His life for us (John 3:16) and we can experience freedom from sin when we commit our lives to Him by obeying the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15-16) by believing in Him to be God’s Son and confessing Him as our Lord whom we will follow (John 3:16; Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10), repenting of our past sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), and being baptized for the remission of our sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38), and living faithfully unto Him the rest of our lives (Revelation 2:10).
Today, I greatly rejoice that I have had the opportunity to experience that great deliverance from my sin and God gives me the privilege to have a part in sharing the “good news” of Christ with others!
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
 

8/11/17 “Why Is God Hiding From Me?” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 57-59)

“Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Have you ever felt God was hiding from you? There are times we may feel God is hiding from us when in fact He is not. For example, we may be going through a great trial in our lives and do not see how God is helping us through that trial. During such times, we may feel God is hiding from us. As one reads the book of Job, we see Job felt God was hiding from him as he was afflicted with great pain and suffering. Job cried out to God, “Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). However, God was not hiding from Job. God knew exactly what was happening to Job and he loved and esteemed Job as His faithful servant. God had allowed Satan to afflict Job to show Satan that Job was a great servant of the Lord who would remain faithful in spite of the pain Satan afflicted upon Job (Job 2:3-6).

On the other hand, as the opening verses above show, God may actually be hiding His face from us because of our sin and rebellion (Isaiah 59:1-2). God’s people of Isaiah’s day were refusing to repent of the sins which they had committed. In fact, they had become so ensnared by sin that they simply accepted it as a part of their lives. Notice how far God says they had become enslaved in sin: “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity” (Isaiah 59:3-4).

Hypocrisy had become a routine part of their lives. They would sin as they wished and then come to worship God as if everything was alright. God refused to be manipulated by people with hardened hearts towards sin. He told Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?' In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers” (Isaiah 58:1-3).

There may be times when we are going through terrible trials and feel God is hiding from us when, in fact, He is not. He is simply allowing us to go through this trial so that our faith in Him may grow (James 1:2-4). During such times, God keeps His loving eye upon us (Matthew 10:28-31). On the other hand, I need to be mindful that if I allow sin to take root in my life to the point that I simply accept it and embrace it as part of who I am, God will hide His face from me. God will not be mocked by those who choose to persist in sin (Galatians 6:7). Today, I acknowledge that I struggle with sin. However, I will not choose to accept and embrace it as part of who I am. I am not powerless to resist sin. God has equipped me to fight sin (Ephesians 6:13-19). I will look to God for strength to battle against Satan as I seek to resist the temptations he constantly places before me. I praise God because I know when I do occasionally loose a battle to Satan and succumb to temptation and sin the Lord will always be there to pick me up when I turn back to Him in repentance!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

8/10/17 “Seek the Lord While He May Be Found” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 54-56)

“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; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

As Isaiah continues to comfort God’s people following their being carried away into captivity (Isaiah 39:6-7; 40:1), not only does he remind them of their coming redemption from Babylon (Isaiah 48:20-22) and of the coming Messiah Who would come to deliver them from the greatest captivity of all, the captivity of their own sins (Isaiah 53:1-12), but then, as the opening verses above show, God pleads with them to restore their relationship with Him by seeking after Him (Isaiah 55:6-7).

As humans we tend to always be seeking after something to satisfy our needs and wants. We seek gold in caves. We seek knowledge from books. We seek love in relationships. We seek forgiveness when we have committed wrong. Solomon spoke about seeking out the meaningful purposes of life. He wrote, “And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). However, we can spend our time and effort seeking in the wrong direction. God’s people of Isaiah’s day had spent their time and effort seeking answers and guidance from idols. Through Isaiah, God said to them, “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 let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).  

Instead, God pleads with His people to seek after Him: “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you-- The sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3). Unlike seeking satisfaction from idols, the satisfaction that God gives does not come at a great cost for us: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

When one seeks after God, finding Him is not difficult. Seeking after God, doesn’t require great effort on our part like searching in the deep darkness of a cave or scaling the far reaching heights of a mountain. God has not placed such barriers to those who seek Him. Although we might think finding God is some mystery that we must use great effort to discover, God has provided a much easier path for those who seek Him. God says, ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says 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’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God has revealed Himself to us through His Word that we might find Him and understand Him. His Word is fully sufficient to accomplish this task for those who seek Him: “"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

As I seek out purpose and meaning in my life, I rejoice that I don’t have to go through great effort or cost to find these. I can easily find this in God. God has revealed Himself to me through His Word. I can discover Who He is and what His Will is for me by simply opening up the Bible and studying it. Today, I will seek God by studying and contemplating His Word!

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

8/9/17 “The Lord Has Laid On Him the Iniquity of Us All” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 51-53)

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

As Isaiah continues to comfort God’s people following their being carried away into Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 39:6-7; 40:1), he now speaks of how God would accomplish not only their deliverance, but the deliverance of all men from the greatest captivity of all, the captivity of their own sins (Isaiah 53:1-12). In His infinite love, grace and mercy, God would accomplish this redemption by having His Son pay the price for our sins, the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). As the opening verses above indicate, this passage speaks about Jesus’ suffering on our behalf (Isaiah 53:4-6).

First, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is powerful as it speaks about our rebellion against God: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). All of us have sinned and fallen short of the standards that God wants us to live by (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

Second, this chapter speaks about our rejection of our Savior: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4). Jesus came to save us from our sins, yet, as the ugly scene at the cross indicates, as sinful men, we rejected His love for us by cruelly nailing Him to a cross (Matthew 27:27-50).

Third, this great section of Scripture speaks about the Savior’s resolve to fulfill God’s mission for Him to suffer on our behalf that we may have the opportunity to be saved from our sins: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Fourth, this chapter speaks of our redemption which the Savior accomplished. Jesus’ sacrifice pleased God, not because God rejoiced in seeing His Son suffer, but because God so loved the world that His Son’s suffering and death would satisfy God’s justice for the penalty of our sins: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief…” (Isaiah 53:10).

Finally, Isaiah 53 speaks about the Savior’s reward. God would give His Son a kingdom, the church: “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

I never tire of reading Isaiah 53. It is incredibly humbling as I read about what my Savior did for me and how my sins caused Him to have to suffer. However, Isaiah 53 is also marvelously uplifting for me as it forcefully reminds me of God’s amazing love for me that He would go through such measures to save me from my sins. Today, I rejoice that Jesus bore my iniquity to redeem me!

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

8/8/17 “The Savior Prepares To Suffer” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 48-50)

“The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:5-7).

As Isaiah continues to speak words of comfort to God’s people who being carried away into Babylonian captivity because of their sins (Isaiah 39:6-7; 40:1), not only does he remind them of their coming redemption from Babylon (Isaiah 48:20-22), but he also reminds them of the One who would come to deliver them from the greatest captivity of all: the captivity of their own sins (Isaiah 53:1-12). However, in order for this redemption to be accomplished, Jesus would have to pay the price for their sins, the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). As the opening verses above indicate, Isaiah shares with us the Savior’s mindset as He faces this suffering on our behalf (Isaiah 50:5-7).

First, as He faced this certain suffering, Jesus submitted Himself to God. He was not rebellious to God’s Will, but humbled Himself before God and allowed God to open His ears to make known His Will for Jesus (Isaiah 50:5). As He faced arrest, trial, and the cross Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, but, nevertheless, submitted Himself to His Father’s Will as He said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39).

Second, Jesus not only submitted Himself to God’s Will, but He was willingly to carry out God’s Will despite the shame, humiliation and physical pain it would bring to Him (Isaiah 50:6). He gave His back to those who struck Him such as when Pilate had him scourged (Matthew 27:26). He endured the soldiers spitting on Him as they mocked Him (Matthew 27:30).

Finally, as He prepared Himself to suffer, Jesus strengthen Himself by relying on God’s help to be with Him as He began His suffering and on God’s promises to give Him the victory following His suffering (Isaiah 50:7). In Gethsemane, Jesus sought God’s strength through prayer (Matthew 26:36-42). Although the thought of the cross was incredibly painful to bear, Jesus looked forward to the victory of the resurrection and His ruling at the right hand of God following the death He was about to suffer (John 17:1-5). Relying on God’s help and promises strengthen Jesus to set His face to go to Jerusalem and face certain death to accomplish God’s Will (Isaiah 50:7; Mark 10:32-34).

As I consider Isaiah’s words about the mindset of Jesus as He prepared Himself to suffer for me, I am greatly humbled at what Jesus had to go through on my behalf. However, I also greatly rejoice at His incredible love for me to endure such things to redeem me from my sins. Today, I will challenge myself to be willing to have the same mindset as Jesus when it comes to following God and showing my love for Jesus by obeying His commandments (John 14:15). I will submit myself to God’s Will even though I may have to experience pain and humiliation from others as I do so. Like Jesus, I will rely on God’s help and look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises for me when I am called upon to suffer for the cause of Christ (2 Timothy 3:12).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

8/7/17 “I Will Carry You” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 45-47)

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3-4).

Following the pronouncement of God’s judgment against them and the surrounding nations (Isaiah chapters1-39), God has Isaiah comfort His people (Isaiah 40:1). Isaiah will comfort God’s people by speaking to them about the Messiah to come. He also consoles them by reminding them of God’s redemption of them. Furthermore, as the opening verses above show, in comforting God’s people, Isaiah reminds them of God’s care for them and how He had “carried” them (Isaiah 46:3-4).

It is ironic how God describes the foolishness of His people who had engaged in idol worship. They had worshipped idols which they had to “carry”. Instead of the idol god helping them or “carrying” them through challenges they faced in life, God’s people had to literally “carry” their idols which were completely helpless to assist them: “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.  They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands; from its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble” (Isaiah 46:5-8).

Before we too quickly judge Israel for their foolishness in carrying their gods, each of us should ask ourselves, “Do I try to carry God?” In other words, do I rely on my strength or on God’s strength? Do I rely on my good works and my ability to do everything perfectly right or do I place my faith in God, trusting in His power to pick me up when I repent after falling into sin, and obey His Will out of a whole-hearted expression of my love to Him (John 14:15)? Let’s not be guilty of trying to “carry” God.

When my children were little, I used to carry them on my shoulders or on my back as they rode on me like a horse. It was relatively easy to bear their light weight at that age. However, it would be very difficult to bear a full grown adult. Yet, in the opening passage above, God says He had carried Israel from the “womb” even to “old age” and the times of “gray hairs” (Isaiah 46:3-4). God carries us through our whole lives from the day we exit the womb of our mothers to the day we enter the grave.

Many of us remember the song made popular by The Hollies: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”. It is a beautiful song about carrying a friend or brother through hard times. As I think about these verses in Isaiah about God’s carrying us, that song comes to my mind. God carries us through times in our lives when the load is too heavy for us to bear alone, when we have been weakened through trials and need help to shoulder the load, and even when, because of our own foolishness, we have gotten ourselves into a lot of trouble and are now burdened by our own weight of sin which we created. God carries us during such times. He does not find us to be a burden. He carries us because He loves us. He says to us, “You Ain’t Heavy. Your My Child!”

Today, I rejoice knowing that God carries me! He carries me through my trials that I face. I rejoice that Christ carries the greatest weight of all. He carries a weight that was far too heavy for me to bear, the weight of my sin!

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

8/6/17 “I’ve Been Redeemed” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 41-44)

“Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:21-22).

The first 40 chapters of Isaiah ring with God’s harsh judgment upon Israel because of her sins. God’s people had left Him and turned to worshipping idols. God chastened His people in an effort to correct them and encourage them to turn back to Him, but they rebelled against His correction (Isaiah 42:23-25). Punishment for such sin as idolatry is necessary in order for God to be just.

However, God longed to comfort His people and show them His love (Isaiah 40:1). As the opening verses above indicate, God pleads with His people to return to Him and He would redeem them from their sins (Isaiah 44:21-22). God assures them He will redeem them from the Babylonian captivity: “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not keep them back!' Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5-6). God encourages His people to forget the past judgment of them because of their sins and to pursue the path He has made on which His people may return to Him: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

As they endure the trials before them, God encourages His people not to fear because He will redeem them: “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” (Isaiah 41:8-10).

Ultimately, God would accomplish the opportunity for all men to be redeemed from their sins through His Son Jesus Christ: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth" (Isaiah 42:1-3). Furthermore, regarding the Messiah God says, “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6-7).

As I consider God’s redemption of Israel from their sins, I am reminded that God has redeemed me from my sins. So many songs we sing remind us of God’s redemption of us as Christians. Rightly we sing such lines as, “Angels are singing redemption’s sweet song”, “How I love the Great Redeemer Who is doing so much for me!”, and “I’ve been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb”, because these lyrics remind us of both our need for redemption from our sins and of the One Who redeemed us! Today, I will rejoice in my redemption and in my Redeemer!

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

8/5/17 “Our God is Like None Other” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 38-40)

“To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains.  Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:18-22).  

After pronouncing judgment upon Israel and the surrounding nations for their wickedness, God says, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” (Isaiah 40:1). Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord is now going to speak words of comfort to His people in the 2nd half of the book of Isaiah by speaking to them about the Messiah to come (Isaiah chapters 40-66). The section begins with a prophecy about John the Baptist who would prepare the way for Christ: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3).

Following this, God comforts His people by reminding them of Who He is. As the opening verses above indicate, God asks them a simple question: “To Whom will you liken Me?” (Isaiah 40:18). In the past, Israel had engaged in idol worship and had foolishly likened God to an idol made by the hands of men (Isaiah 40:19-20). Like many people today do who search in vain for another means of how things came into existence, they had failed to reflect that it was God who made all things andrules the world in which we live (Isaiah 40:21-22). The Lord reminds them: “‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see Who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:25-26).

Not only does God remind them of His power in creating the world, but He reminds them of the fact that He never grows faint or weary: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28). Furthermore, He reminds them of how His power can work in their lives and they can be strengthened through Him: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isaiah 40:29-30).

God’s people had found themselves powerless and weak as they were trampled upon by the nations which surrounded them because of their sin and rebellion against God. Following this, God loving spoke words of comfort to them by reminding them of His unfailing love for them and the power they could find through Him by turning back to Him. They could rest assured in this because God had promised this to them through His Word which endures forever: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

I am amazed at how awesome God is! He comforts us when we go astray. He gives us strength when we are weary. Today, I will rejoice that I serve a God like none other!

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

8/4/17 “God’s Zeal for Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 35-37)

“And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 37:31-32).

The Scriptures point to the zeal we need to have for God. The Christians at Corinth were commended for the zeal they showed in repenting of having tolerated one among them who had his father’s wife (2 Corinthians 7:10-11; cf. I Corinthians 5:1-13). On the other hand, the Christians at Laodicea were warned because they were lukewarm and lacked zeal. Of them Jesus said, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

While, as Christians, we are to be zealous for God, have you ever wondered, “What about God? Is He zealous for us?”? Later in the book of Isaiah, God’s people are pictured as crying out to God and questioning God’s zeal for them: “Look down from heaven, and see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength, the yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?” (Isaiah 63:15).

Have you ever questioned God’s zeal for you? I must admit there have been times when I wondered about God’s zeal for me. However, this is because of my own struggle with doubt and not because God has failed to show His zeal for me. The Scriptures plainly point out God’s zeal for His people.

On the one hand, God had been zealous to carry out His justice to punish His own people because of their sins: “'Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest upon them, and I will be avenged; and they shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it in My zeal, when I have spent My fury upon them” (Ezekiel 5:13). On the other hand as the opening verses above indicated, (Isaiah 37:31-32), following this period of chastening, God was zealous to avenge the adversaries of His people as He sought to restore His people following their repenting of their iniquity (cf. Isaiah 59:17-20).

Furthermore, in His zeal, God sent Christ into the world. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The ZEAL (emp. Mine, JDM) of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7). When Jesus came, His disciples watched Him act with a zeal for righteousness as they saw Him drive out the moneychangers from the temple (John 2:17).

I find it reassuring that God is just and is zealous to see righteous judgment carried out even though that reminds me it is important for me to walk within the boundaries of His law. It is comforting for me to know that He is zealous for His people who are striving to serve Him and who repent and turn back to Him when they go astray. It is encouraging to know that because of His zealous love for me God sent His Son into the world to save me from my sin. Today, I will remember not only do I need to show zeal for God, but, more importantly, I will rejoice that He has a great zeal for me!

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

8/3/17 “Longing for God’s Gracious Justice” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 32-34)

“O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. At the noise of the tumult the people shall flee; when You lift Yourself up, the nations shall be scattered” (Isaiah 33:2-3).

In the first half of the book of Isaiah, the prophet has been pronouncing God’s impending judgment against the wicked in Israel and in the surrounding nations. However, there has been a faithful remnant in Israel who has continued to faithfully serve God. This faithful remnant has had to live in the midst of all the wickedness which surrounds them. As the opening verses above describe, Isaiah describes their longing as they look forward to the justice God was going to bring.

God had promised them better days when there would be justice in the land: “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice” (Isaiah 32:1). The Lord had promised them a time when the inhabitants of the land would not be full of rebellion and wickedness, but would repent and be forgiven of their sins: “And the inhabitant will not say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity” (Isaiah 33:24). But when would these better days come?

The faithful remnant are longing for God to bring this justice. Isaiah describes God’s readiness to execute His justice: “‘Now I will rise,’ says the Lord; ‘now I will be exalted, now I will lift Myself up. You shall conceive chaff, you shall bring forth stubble; your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be like the burnings of lime; like thorns cut up they shall be burned in the fire. Hear, you who are afar off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might’” (Isaiah 33:10-13). As He punishes the wicked both in Israel and the surrounding nations, God was executing vengeance on behalf of the remnant of His people who had remained faithful to Him: “For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8).

I can only imagine what it must have been like for Isaiah to have lived during the times in which He did. Many among God’s people had given themselves over to wickedness. Yet, a faithful few remained. The faithful few longed for the day when God would fulfill His promises to bring His justice to punish the wicked and those who had oppressed God’s people and to reward the saint who clung to God’s precious promises. As I read these passages regarding God’s response to His people, it is encouraging to note that God does heed their cry and is intent on carrying out His justice.

I have to admit, at times, I get discouraged as a Christian as I look around and see so much wickedness and injustice in the world. It is not easy to see evil people get away with things because they have people in high places that help them “get off the hook”. Like Isaiah and the faithful remnant of his day, I long for God’s gracious justice. However, while wickedness does bother me, I remember that I also have had times in my life when I engaged in wickedness and rebellion against God. Sometimes, it is tempting to forget this. Praise God that He showed me grace by sparing my life long enough for me to turn from my evil ways. I know that God is still showing longsuffering to the world by holding off on executing His gracious justice to give them a chance to repent as well (2 Peter 3:9). Today, while I long for God’s justice, I will rejoice in the grace He has shown to me!

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:10-11).

8/2/17 “The Patience of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 29-31)

“One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill. Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:17-18).

During Isaiah’s ministry to Judah, God’s people had forsaken the Lord. Their hearts were far from God. God described His people’s condition: “Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden" (Isaiah 29:13-14).

Through Isaiah, God was trying to reach them to encourage them to come back to Him. Even as they were being threatened by another nation, Assyria, they still refused to heed God’s message to them. Of them the Lord said, “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us’" (Isaiah 30:9-11).  

Under the Assyrian threat, God had lovingly encouraged them to return to Him and He would gladly deliver them: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not” (Isaiah 30:15). But, instead of seeking God, they devised their own schemes for deliverance from Assyria by doing such things as foolishly turning to the Egyptians for help: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation’” (Isaiah 30:1-3).

As the opening verses above indicate, God wanted to be gracious to His children, the nation of Israel, and show them mercy (Isaiah 30:18). But God also executes justice. So He could not be gracious and merciful to His children while they continued to act rebellious towards Him. Therefore, God would have to wait until the Assyrian persecution of them. Following this, God’s people finally would come to their senses and turn back to Him. Then the Lord could show them the mercy and grace He longed to give to them (Isaiah 30:19-22).

As I consider God’s patience with His people in having to wait for them to come to their senses so He could show them the grace and mercy He longed to give to them, I am awed as I consider God’s patience with me. Over the years of my life, like Israel, there have been times when I act in stubborn rebellion against God. When I do so, I prevent God from being able to show me the grace and mercy He longs to give me because of my rebellious actions towards Him and His Will for me. I praise God for His patience to “wait” for me to come to my senses. Today, when I stray from God’s Will, I will strive to practice repentance towards God and not try His patience by persisting in rebellion!

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

8/1/17 “Staying My Mind on God” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 26-28)

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

Do you ever find your mind wandering off in a thousand different directions? Sometimes, our minds get distracted by things which may be innocent, but which simply pique our interest. They may be no harm in this. At other times, we get diverted by harmful things such as worries that add misery to our lives. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:31-34).

I know I often have a hard time keeping focused on the things that are important. Too often I allow my mind to wander off in directions it should not. In the opening passage, Isaiah mentions a song that God’s people would sing when God had delivered them from their enemies which had oppressed them (Isaiah 26:1-2). Even in the midst of the oppression they were experiencing, Isaiah says that God would help them experience “perfect peace”. This was because they had kept their minds “stayed” on God. In other words, instead of getting distracted by their enemies and the oppression they were experiencing from them, these servants of God kept their focus on God.

A great example of keeping one’s mind stayed on God is seen in Jesus. Even as a teenager Jesus had this focus. When his parents Joseph and Mary were looking for Him and found Him in the temple, Jesus said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). During His ministry, Jesus describes how He kept His mind “stayed” on God as He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34). As He neared the end of His ministry and was about to face a cruel death on the cross, Jesus shared with His disciples the struggle in His heart, but also the focus of his life: “"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Jesus’ mind was “stayed” on God and He enjoyed “perfect peace” even in the midst of knowing the death that awaited Him. As he was about to be arrested and led away to be crucified, he told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I want to have that “perfect peace” that comes to those who keep their minds “stayed” on God. How can I keep my mind “stayed” on God? There is no “secret formula”. Actually, God’s Word gives us guidance on how to keep our minds “stayed” on Him. First, the Bible teaches me that I need to meditate on God’s Word by studying it and reflecting upon it throughout the day. The psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways” (Psalm 119:15). Second, I can keep my mind “stayed” on God by praying throughout the day. David wrote, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). Today, I will strive to keep my mind “stayed” on God by meditating on His Word and seeking Him continually in prayer that I may enjoy that “perfect peace” that only He can give!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

7/31/17 “Wiping Away All My Tears” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 22-25)

“He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:8-9).

Pain and heartache are a part of life. None of us can escape the times of sadness that life often brings. To pretend that because we serve God every waking moment of our lives will be filled with great joy and we will never experience hurt and heartbreak is simply to not live in the reality of life.

As the prophet Isaiah is proclaiming God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel, he was overwhelmed at the thought of other nations overtaking God’s people. He experienced great sadness over this: “Therefore my loins are filled with pain; pangs have taken hold of me, like the pangs of a woman in labor. I was distressed when I heard it; I was dismayed when I saw it. My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me; the night for which I longed He turned into fear for me” (Isaiah 21:3-4). Here was a faithful servant of God describing to us the incredible pain and heartache he was feeling over what was about to happen to his beloved Israel. He was struggling with pain, fear, and, yes, even doubt!

Can you relate to this? Have you ever struggled with the fact God is bringing everlasting punishment on “good, moral people” who, nevertheless, refuse to obey the gospel of Christ? The Bible states: “…in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)? Do you struggle with doubt trying to understand why God is going to send such people to an everlasting Hell?

Furthermore, have you felt pain as you have seen a brother or sister in Christ fall away from serving Christ and go back into a world? Does it bring you heartache knowing that such will face God’s impending judgment? God’s Word points out: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Like Isaiah, I can relate to struggling with pain, fear, and even doubt as I contemplate God’s impending judgment that is coming upon people I love who have either never obeyed the gospel of Christ or who have fallen away from Christ and turned back to Satan and the world. It is heartbreaking to think on such things. It brings tears to my eyes. However, I cannot hide my head in the sand and pretend that God’s judgments on these matters are not a part of His truth because they are. To deny such is to deny God’s Word and attempt to not live in reality.

How can I handle thinking about these things? As the opening verses above describe, I need to give these matters over to the Lord and “wait for Him” and His salvation. Even though Isaiah struggled with pain, fear, and doubt, he still clung to His faith in God. He looked forward to the day when God would save His people and wipe away the tears from their eyes (Isaiah 25:8-9). I praise God that He has not asked me to be the judge of the world. That is His job and I trust He will do it righteously according to His Word (John 12:48). He asks me to keep my faith in Him and look forward to the day when He will come again bringing salvation and wiping away all my tears!

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

7/30/17 “How Shall We Escape?” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 18-21)

“Then they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation and Egypt their glory. And the inhabitant of this territory will say in that day, 'Surely such is our expectation, wherever we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?'" (Isaiah 20:5-6).

Isaiah has been prophesying against the nations surrounding Israel. He now turns his attention to God’s judgment against the land of Egypt (Isaiah 18-19). When Israel was threatened by the nation of Assyria, Hoshea, the king of Israel, turned to Egypt for help (2 Kings 17:4). As the opening verses above indicate, God told Israel that the day was coming when they would be ashamed for having looked to Egypt for assistance to help the overcome the Assyrian threat (Isaiah 20:5-6).

Israel should have turned to the Lord for deliverance from the Assyrians. God rebuked them for doing this: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation” (Isaiah 30:1-3). As the judgment against Egypt that God pronounced through Isaiah indicated, Israel was foolish to turn to Egypt for help (Isaiah 18-19).

To demonstrate, His bringing judgment against the Egyptians notice what God had Isaiah do: “In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it, at the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the Lord said, ‘Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt’” (Isaiah 20:1-4). God had Isaiah walk around naked and barefoot for THREE YEARS as a sign of how in 3 years the Egyptians would be led away naked as captives of the Assyrians. This would cause Israel to be ashamed of ever having looked to the Egyptians as a way of escaping the Assyrian threat.

As I consider this, for one I am thankful I was not a prophet like Isaiah who had to walk around naked for 3 years as a sign to God’s people to prove a point that God was trying to make to them. More importantly, this passage does get me to thinking: “Do I turn to others, besides God, as a means of deliverance from the trials I face?” When a great trial is in front of me (cf. such as being overrun by another nation like the Assyrians), it is very tempting to seek immediate help elsewhere instead of waiting patiently in faith for God’s deliverance. It is tempting to begin trusting in the power of money, the strength of other people, or even in my own abilities and ingenuity during such times. God forbid that I should do this instead of trusting in Him. Today, I will strive to turn to the Lord and trust in Him and His power as my Deliverer from any trials which may come my way today. The Lord alone is my way of escape!f trusting in Him. Today, I will strive to turn to the Lord and trust in Him and His

“While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:2-5).

7/29/17 “Looking to My Maker” (Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 15-17)

“In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars” (Isaiah 17:7-8).

As Isaiah has been pronouncing judgment on nations such as Babylon (Isaiah 13-14), Moab (Isaiah 15-16), and Syria (Isaiah 17:1-3), he now turns his attention to God’s people Israel. They will not escape God’s judgment. God will cause them to experience loss, hardship and want as well as the other nations: “‘In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, and reaps the heads with his arm; it shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,’ says the Lord God of Israel” (Isaiah 17:4-6).

Why was God doing this to His Own people? He was removing His blessings from them because they had forgotten Him. They would go out and work hard planting their seeds and nourishing their crops, but their harvest would not produce what they hoped because God’s blessing was not upon it: “Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow” (Isaiah 17:10-11).

Unfortunately, as the opening verses above indicate, in order for God to gain the attention of His own people, the Lord would have to let them suffer hardship (Isaiah 17:7-8). It was only then that they would stop and “look to their Maker” and respect Him. It was only after they suffered the loss of glory they once had as a nation and individually began to have difficulty in finding daily food for their own nourishment that they would stop patting themselves on the back for their own accomplishments and look up to God and realize their need for Him!

As I consider this passage from the book of Isaiah, it gets me to thinking: “What does it take for me to look to my Maker? What does it take for me to not dwell on the things which I have made or on the accomplishments which I have performed?” This is not a new problem for us. Mankind has been struggling with remembering to look up to their Maker from the beginning of time. Of the Gentiles, the apostle Paul wrote: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).

Unlike the nation of ancient Israel, I don’t want to have to experience the removal of God’s blessings from my life before I will show respect to Him. Today, I will strive to “look up to my Maker” and acknowledge Him as I look around and see the manifold ways in which His blessings have flowed into my life!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).