8/22/17 “I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 28-31)

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice’” (Jeremiah 31:3-4).

Much of the book of Jeremiah is unpleasant to read because it describes Israel’s rebellion against God and His chastisement upon them by His allowing the nation of Babylon to carry Israel into captivity because of their sins. However, the book of Jeremiah also speaks of God’s encouragement to His people to hope for a better future as He will bring them back from captivity: “‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the Lord, ‘nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished’” (Jeremiah 30:10-11).

It pained God to have to chastise His people because of their rebellion and sin. However, His focus was not to punish them forever, but to redeem them following this period of necessary affliction. He loved them with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Through Jeremiah he encourages them: "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.' For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10-11).

While they were experiencing captivity, Israel would bemoan herself for her foolishness in rebelling against God: “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; restore me, and I will return, for You are the Lord my God. Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth'” (Jeremiah 31:18-19). Although downcast because of her own sins, God reminds Israel to have hope regarding her future: “Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border’” (Jeremiah 31:15-17).

Throughout His challenges with the rebellion of His people, God continued to love them with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:20). The days were coming when God would make a new and better covenant with them (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Today, I rejoice that even though I fail God because of my own struggle with sin, God continues to love me with an “everlasting love”!

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

8/21/17 “The Challenge of Accepting God’s Judgment” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 24-27)

“I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, ‘Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?’” (Jeremiah 27:12-13).

What do you think in regard to Hell? Do you believe it is a place where God will send the wicked for eternity (cf. Matthew 25:41; Revelation 21:8) or is the thought of Hell so terrible that you have difficulty accepting that a loving God (cf. John 3:16) could render such harsh judgment for evil men?

These questions challenge our thinking and demonstrate that it is not always easy to accept God’s judgments. As the opening verses above describe, through the prophet Jeremiah, God was trying to get His people to accept His upcoming judgment regarding their sin and rebellion against Him. The Lord was bringing Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, to conquer God’s people because of their sin. The people of Jeremiah’s day had great difficulty in accepting this harsh judgment from God.

Though His people had sinned and would have to endure God’s judgment of them by serving the king of Babylon, God wanted to them to see that by their willingness to embrace this judgment of God and by their submitting to serve the King of Babylon for a while, they would actually make their sentence easier. To illustrate His point, God even has Jeremiah tell the surrounding nations to “Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck” and thus submit themselves to the rule of the King of Babylon, who is going to be God’s instrument of judgment (Jeremiah 27:1-11). Then to His own people, God encourages them to by saying, “Bring you necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live!” (Jeremiah 27:12). If they refused to do this, they would not live, but would die by sword, famine, and pestilence (Jeremiah 27:13).

This was not a message God’s people wanted to hear. They did not want to accept God’s judgment of them. Instead, false prophets arose who lied and told God’s people this would not happen. For example, the false prophet Hananiah went so far as to take the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck, break it and falsely say, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years’” (Jeremiah 28:10-11). God warned His people not to listen to such false prophets: “‘Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon,” for they prophesy a lie to you; for I have not sent them,’ says the Lord, ‘yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you’” (Jeremiah 27:14-15).

Sadly, God’s people refused to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings and encouragement to submit themselves to God’s judgment in the form of being ruled by the King of Babylon. They rebelled and thus suffered horrible destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:13-19). It broke Jeremiah’s heart to see this happen to his people: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lamentations 2:11).

As God’s love is something we should celebrate (cf. Romans 5:6-11), even so His judgments for sin are terrible and should be feared, respected, and accepted by those who call themselves His people (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). Today, I celebrate God’s love, but I will fear and accept His judgments!

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

8/20/17 “I Cannot Hold Back God’s Word” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 20-23)

“O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, ‘Violence and plunder!’ because the Word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

Have you ever struggled to speak God’s Word to others? God’s Word can be difficult to share with those around us because we feel God’s message may be difficult for them to hear. As the opening verses above indicate, at times Jeremiah struggled with speaking God’s truth (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

Jeremiah had gone through a lot as he strove to faithfully proclaim God’s Word. He was even arrested for being God’s faithful spokesman to His people: “Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 20:1-2).

When Jeremiah is released, he courageously tells Pashur God’s message to him: “And it happened on the next day that Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, ‘The Lord has not called your name Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib. For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and slay them with the sword” ’ ” (Jeremiah 20:3-4). Even after being persecuted, Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God’s Word!

However, this doesn’t mean these events didn’t take a toll on Jeremiah. As the opening verses above indicate, like many of us, Jeremiah struggled with discouragement at the things which happened to him (Jeremiah 20:7-8). He gets so depressed, he curses the day he was ever born (Jeremiah 20:14-18). He is even tempted to stop speaking God’s Word: “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name’…” (Jeremiah 20:9a). However, despite his own struggle with discouragement, Jeremiah could not bring himself to do this to God: “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jeremiah 20:9b). At this low moment in his life, Jeremiah turns to God in faith: “But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten. But, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous, and see the mind and heart, let me see Your vengeance on them; for I have pleaded my cause before You” (Jeremiah 20:11-12).

As I study the life of Jeremiah, I appreciate him keeping the faith in the midst of such great adversity. He continued to speak the truth of God’s Word to His fellow countrymen about whom he cared deeply. Although he battled with discouragement and even depression, he did not allow these obstacles to overcome him. He stayed true to God! He is one of the faithful servants of God I long to see in heaven. Today, I will strive to stay true to God and to sharing God’s message to those around me. I will strive to remain faithful to Him and His Word even when I struggle with discouragement!

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life” (Psalm 119:92-93).

8/19/17 “In the Potter’s Hands” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 18-19)

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the Lord. ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!’” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

How often have we sung the lyrics, “Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still”. These lyrics were written by Adelaide A. Pollard. In 1902, Adelaide A. Pollard, a hymn writer, was hoping to go to Africa as a missionary but found herself unable to raise the needed funds to make the journey. Greatly discouraged, she attended a prayer service one evening and as she sat there, she overheard an elderly woman say "It really doesn't matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your own way with our lives." The elderly woman inspired Pollard and she contemplated the story of the potter from Jeremiah 18:3 and, upon her return home that evening, wrote all four stanzas before retiring for the night. Her song reminds us that as God’s servants we are to submit to His Will.

God had Jeremiah go down to a potter’s house and observe the potter at work to illustrate a point the Lord wants to make regarding His relationship with His people. “Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:3-4). As the opening verses above indicate, through Jeremiah God reminds His people that He is the Potter and they are the clay (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

Nations are described as being clay in God’s hands. God describes how He is able to fashion them in His hands. “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it” (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

God warns the nation of Judah of His plans for her because of her sins. “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says the Lord: "Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good" ' " (Jeremiah 18:11).

Sadly, God people rebel at his offer. “And they said, ‘That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart’" (Jeremiah 18:12). In the next chapter of Jeremiah, God will have Jeremiah dash a hardened potter’s vessel to illustrate God’s people’s hardening their hearts against Him, God’s upcoming punishment of them, and following their destruction no one would be able to put them back together, just as a potter’s vessel cannot be put back together after it has hardened and been broken (Jeremiah 19:1-15).

God is the Potter. I am the clay. I will learn the lesson from God and His people of how important it is for me to keep my heart soft towards God so He can continue to mold me and make me a vessel to His honor and glory. Today, I will sing, “Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o'er my being absolute sway. Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me!”

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments” (Psalm 119:73).

8/18/17 “God’s Prophet Is Called…To Repent” (Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 15-17)

“I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone because of Your hand, for You have filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:17-18).

Who needs to repent of sin? Is it just those who are in a state of continuous rebellion of God and who refuse to submit to Him? No, all men are called to repent (Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3).

As the opening verses above show, Jeremiah proclaims his own faithfulness to God (Jeremiah 15:17). Furthermore he adds, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

He then pours out his complaint regarding the adversity he faces proclaiming God’s message to a rebellious people. Jeremiah states, “Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent for interest, nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me” (Jeremiah 15:10). He then adds, “O Lord, You know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In Your enduring patience, do not take me away. Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke” (Jeremiah 15:15). As he voices his complaint before the Lord, he then turns on God, “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:17-18). He accuses God of being unfaithful or being “unreliable”.

Jeremiah had crossed a line. It is one thing to be frustrated and complain to God about our struggles. It is another thing entirely in our frustration to begin accusing God of being unfaithful to His promises. God knew Jeremiah’s heart and it wasn’t right. Later God says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). God calls on Jeremiah to repent: “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me; if you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you must not return to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible’” (Jeremiah 15:19-21).

Jeremiah faced some great challenges as he served God. Unfortunately, like each of us, he did not always succeed in serving God faithfully during these challenges. Like everyone one of us who strive to serve God, he struggled at times with his own doubts. As the instance in his life shows, he doubted God’s faithfulness. Because of this, he needed to repent. This reminds me that many times I struggle with my faith and I am tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and accuse Him of being an “unreliable stream”. When I do so, like He did with Jeremiah, God lovingly calls me to repent (1 John 1:7-9). Today, I celebrate that God is always faithful to keep His promises. Whatever trials may come my way this day, I will remember that I can always lean on God because He is reliable!

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ (Hebrews 13:5-6).

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).