Monday, September 29, 2008

The Coming of the King cont. - Isaiah 63

Continuing with chapter 63…The Lord declares that He is coming with vengeance in mind. Again I will excerpt from my journal in Isaiah.

Is. 63:3-4 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.

This chapter of Isaiah speaks of the Lord coming from Edom/Bozrah. This makes a lot more sense when we realize that He is coming in vengeance and defense of His people who have been sheltered there. He is so covered in blood that His garments appear to have been dyed red or soaked in the juice of the grapes from the winepress. Isaiah 34:5-6 indicates that the Lord will have a great slaughter in the land of Edom.

Is. 34:5-6 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.
(Note: Idumea = Edom)

We know that this is the Lord because in verse 1 He identifies Himself as the One that speaks in righteousness and is mighty to save; only the Lord can be identified as righteous. We (Christians) are righteous only because He has imputed His righteousness to us. Also, verse 4 speaks of His day of vengeance, and vengeance belongs to the Lord according to scripture.

Rom. 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Another identification is made of the Lord in verse 4 as the Redeemer who is identified as the Lord many places in scripture.

Is. 47:4 As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.

Is. 60:16 Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Confirmation of His identity is given in the book of Revelation where description is given of the time of His return to planet earth as King of kings.

Rev. 19:11-16 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Father has assigned all judgment to the Son, and in verse 3 He makes it clear that it is He alone who has the right to respond with righteous anger (see quote from Revelation above).

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

The reference to a day and a year indicate a specific point in time according to God’s specific plan.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Coming of the King - Isaiah 63

In chapter 63 the prophet begins to describe the return of Jesus, the conquering King. It’s interesting to note that He is described as coming from Edom, an area that is today part of Jordan, and specifically from Bozrah, the capital of Edom that is directly linked to the city known as Petra, the capital city of the Nabateans who eventually ruled Edom. I think another excerpt from my journal in Isaiah is appropriate here.

When I began a personal in-depth study of prophecy, this verse was confusing to me. I think I was hung up on the expectation I had established in my mind of the Lord returning in glory with His first touch being on the Mount of Olives. As I considered the scripture and began to research, I realized that understanding to be flawed. I credit Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s article, “The Campaign of Armageddon,” with giving me a clearer understanding of the events comprising this campaign.

Zechariah tells us that there will be a remnant of at least 1/3 of the Jews that will come through the tribulation (see journal on Daniel 9 for explanation of this time) and will come to saving faith in the Lord.

Zech. 13:8-9 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

These verses in Isaiah, along with the following verses in Micah and Daniel, point to many Jews being spared in the Bozrah or today’s Jordan.

Dan. 11:41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

Mic. 2:12 I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.

Moab (descendants of Lot) and Edom (descendants of Esau) were neighboring countries. In Isaiah 16:4 the people of Moab were urged to be kind to the outcasts of Israel.

“Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.” (to be cont.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Israel - A Nation of Honor

In this post we pick up in chapter 60. The prophet is again hammering home the message that God will restore the nation of Israel to a place of blessing before Him and before the nations. In fact, the nations will shower the people of Israel with wealth, and any nation that chooses not to serve Israel will not survive.

Is. 60:11-12 Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

The Lord is clear that once Israel is restored in fellowship with Him, they will never again experience suffering at the hands of other nations. In fact, God declares that He will “make thee an eternal excellency”; they will experience the blessings of God forever. I think it is important to note that God declares that His people will possess their land, the plot of ground on planet earth known as Israel, forever.

Is. 60:21 Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.

What is the primary reason that they will be redeemed and restored to a position of blessing and honor? To bring glory to God. He had made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though their descendants had rejected God in rebellion and had required judgment, they would not thwart His purposes. It will be clear as events unfold, that it is God’s almighty hand that accomplished His purpose and declare Him as the One True God.

The prophet continues the message of the restoration of Israel in chapter 62. He declares that they will “be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” (v3) They will also be called “The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD… Sought out, A city not forsaken.” (v12)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Coming Messiah cont.

In this post we continue to focus on God’s amazing gift of love in sending His Son to provide our salvation.

Is. 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

“gone astray” = deceive, (cause to, make to) err, seduce, (make to) stagger, (cause to) wander, be out of the way.

As I look at the first two clauses in this verse, I get a picture of two different kinds of sheep. The first one wanders off from where he should be because of deceit, or bad judgment, or seduction, or physical impairment. The second is making a deliberate choice to go off on his own and choose his own path independent of the shepherd. These directly relate to the sinners and transgressors in the previous verse.

“laid” = to impinge, by accident or violence, or (figuratively) by importunity:—come (betwixt), cause to entreat, fall (upon), make intercession, intercessor, intreat, lay…

“impinge” = To fall or dash against; to touch upon; to strike; to hit; to clash with; — with on or upon.

More often than not, the Hebrew sends my mind spinning in many directions. YHWH, God the Father, laid our sin on Jesus, His Son. Paul declared this truth in his letter to the Corinthians. As I read through the different translations, I wasn’t really satisfied with any of them. I think you need a couple of them to get the complete picture.

Complete Jewish Bible - 2Cor. 5:21 God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”
New International Version - 2Cor. 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In my mind it is important to recognize that in becoming our sin offering He became our sin. He was there in our stead. This is something the Jews who lived under the sacrificial system of the law understood much more completely than do we who live under grace.

By laying our sin on Jesus, God the Father effectively created a separation between Himself and His Son that had never before existed.

Matt. 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

In our mind I don’t think we can adequately picture how violent and terrible this was for Father or Son. It wasn’t just my sin, or your sin; it was the sins of every person who has ever lived or will ever live on planet earth. His sacrifice was for all.

Rom. 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

1Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

After willingly and obediently becoming our sacrifice, Jesus became our intercessor before the Father.

Heb. 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Is. 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Oppressed doesn’t sound so bad; the Hebrew gives a clearer picture—He was driven like an animal and tyrannized. He was afflicted; the Hebrew included humbling oneself and submitting. No matter how unjust or cruel His treatment, He endured it without complaint or fighting back. He is pictured as a lamb being taken to slaughter and as a sheep being taken to have its wool shaved off—completely submissive.

And then the most amazing truth of all—

Is. 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

“it pleased the LORD” – This is a hard phrase for me to digest. God the Father was pleased (desired and took delight) with the bruising (beating to pieces, crushing) and grief (pain, weakness, wounding) of His Son. I can hardly see through the tears even as I type this. It’s easier for me to put the focus of His pleasure on the obedience of His Son—His Son’s desire to do the will of His Father over His own will. The thing is—the Father would never have put such a plan into place were it not for my sin. I know my heart; I would never have chosen such a selfless act of unconditional love and sacrifice involving my son. God's love is so amazing! The lengths to which He has gone to have a relationship with me as His child is totally beyond my understanding. I know how many times I have failed Him—sometimes ignorantly, but more often than not by willful choice. I feel so unworthy, yet He considers me of great value, a special treasure. This is one truth I’m not sure I’ll ever understand—even in heaven.

Jesus was both our complete sin and trespass offering (described in Leviticus 4-6). Again, the Jewish people understood this far better than we. The main difference being that the offering of Jesus was sufficient once for all.

“he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days” – I had to stop and think about this phrase quite a while. I finally realized that the word his was throwing me; it is not in the original. It doesn’t matter so much with the first phrase as it does with the second. Jesus would see his seed, His offspring; that is a reference to His spiritual offspring—not physical. “He shall prolong days” I think is a reference to the time that the Father would allow for the offspring to be a great multitude. As I was reminded when reading through one commentary, to have many children was considered a special blessing to the Jews. The Father wants to greatly honor His Son.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Coming Messiah - Isaiah 53

Though this series of blogs is primarily focused on the prophecies yet to be fulfilled as recorded by Isaiah, I cannot leave out the amazing prophecy of the coming Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God, found primarily in Isaiah 53. At the end of chapter 52 the prophet directs our attention to one who is identified by God as “My servant.” God declares that though this servant will be highly exalted, He will first suffer to the point that He will be disfigured beyond recognition (v14).

In chapter 53 we are told that this servant will “grow up…as a tender plant,” in other words, He will come to earth as a child and grow into manhood. In fact, He won’t be an especially attractive man (v2). He will be “despised and rejected of men,” and will experience sorrow and grief as a result.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I am going to use some excerpts from my journal on this chapter.

Is. 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

“borne” = lift, suffer, carry (away), forgive, pardon, wear -- Webster: Carried; conveyed; supported; defrayed..........“defray” = 1. To pay or discharge; to serve in payment of; to provide for, as a charge, debt, expenses, costs, etc. 2. To avert or appease, as by paying off; to satisfy; as, to defray wrath.

“griefs” = anxiety, disease, sickness, weakness

I thought the definitions from the Hebrew and Webster were especially helpful. The word borne not only included the idea of carrying and suffering, but the idea of forgiveness and pardon. The word defray was particularly specific. Jesus averted God’s wrath from us by paying our sin debt and satisfying God’s justice. As I continued to think on this verse, I realized that our griefs, anxieties, diseases, sicknesses, weaknesses and sorrows are a result of sin. This thought immediately led me to a verse in 1Peter.

1Pet. 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

By baring our sins in His body on the cross, He was also baring our griefs and sorrows. The main point being—Christ died in my stead. He sacrificed Himself to give me an abundant life.

Although I am making personal application (which I can’t help but), I am reminded that Isaiah is speaking to the Jewish people specifically. The Jewish leaders and all those that supported them in their determination to crucify the Lord felt justified in their actions. They assumed that He was getting His just punishment and judgment from God.

“esteem” = “to plait or interpenetrate, i.e. (literally) to weave or (gen.) to fabricate; figuratively, to plot or contrive (usually in a malicious sense); hence (from the mental effort) to think…”

This certainly wasn’t what I expected when looking up the Hebrew for esteem. This seems to paint a very descriptive word picture of what was going on in the minds of the Pharisees in particular as they sought to get Jesus killed. They were weaving a fabricated story with malicious intent to bring about the death of an innocent man. In doing so they positioned themselves as defending God by judging the One they considered a blasphemer.

Is. 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The wounding, bruising and stripes are all physical inflictions upon the body of Christ before He ever got to the cross. The Hebrew for bruised was very graphic—to beat to pieces, break in pieces, crush. Transgressions are acts of willful rebellion and disobedience to God; iniquities are a reference to the moral evil and wickedness that are a result of our sin nature.

Chastisement speaks of reproof, instruction, correction, and discipline; Webster goes on to add punishment through the inflicting of pain. I thought the second definition from Webster was very applicable—“To reduce to order or obedience; to correct or purify; to free from faults or excesses.” Christ was punished to bring us to a position of obedience and purity—to make us righteous, free from faults. Because of His sacrifice, we can have peace (safety, happiness, health and prosperity). Because of His sacrifice, we are healed (spiritually). This again brings to mind the verse from 1Peter referenced above.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Israel - The New Garden of Eden

In chapter 49 Isaiah’s declares a message from God to the “isles” and “people from far,” in other words, to the rest of the world. He makes clear that although Israel had been chosen to a privileged purpose among the nations, God’s salvation was to extend to the Gentiles, to “the end of the earth.”

As the message continues, the prophet again declares God’s intention to gather all the people of Israel back to the land of Israel. When they return, they are going to multiply to the point that they will need more land (v19). He even declares that the Gentile nations will treat the Jewish people with great respect and facilitate their return to the land.

As we continue reading on to chapter 51, the Lord declares that He will cause Israel to blossom like the Garden of Eden. (I personally believe that this is where the original Garden of Eden was located.) He also declares that Israel will be a land of joy, gladness, thanksgiving and song. The Lord continues to declare that He will provide salvation for His people and that His salvation will be forever for all those in whose “heart is my law.” He reminds them that this prophecy is as sure as the fact that “He divided the sea” (v15 - in reference to the parting of the Red Sea when He delivered His people from Egypt). Yes, it is true that God has caused His people to experience the wrath of His judgment, but He will just as surely turn in judgment upon those who have persecuted them, most often without just cause.

Chapter 52 declares that the time is coming when no one will be allowed to enter Jerusalem who is “uncircumcised and unclean.” This is a phrase that references those who have rejected God as Lord and are unclean due to unbelief. I decided to look at a couple of Bible dictionaries and thought Eerdman’s comment was to the point.

“That which is clean or pure is in its proper place, whereas that which is unclean or impure is disgustingly out of place. The clean is limited by its opposite, the unclean, for dirt automatically pollutes or contaminates what is clean. In order to restore something or someone to a state of purity, the dirt must be removed.”

Scripture is clear in that the only way the “dirt” can be removed from our lives is to accept the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ that clothes us in the righteousness of God.

2Cor. 5:20-21 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Serving God or Idols

It is important that we note from chapter 48 that God declares to His people that prophecy is His unique ability, and it is meant to testify to the truth of His message. Verses 4-5 are very specific in this regard.

Is. 48:4-5 Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

It is truly amazing to me how man is so willing to attribute the power and authority of “God” to idols rather than the one true God. If we are honest as we look into our own hearts, it can’t be denied that pride is at the root of that tendency. To accept the one true God is to recognize that we should be submissive and obedient to His message. In turning to idols one is free to indulge in the desires of the flesh without restraint; one’s propensity to sin is encouraged without thought of guilt or consequence. We would much rather declare allegiance to an impotent false god that doesn’t infringe upon our actions than to yield to the all powerful one true God who asks for our obedience in faith. The one true God has established guidelines for us to live by that are for our benefit and protection as we show honor to Him through obedience. We, however, tend to view them as unfair restrictions to our enjoyment of all that life has to offer. We refuse to recognize the truth that guided Moses so long ago.

Heb. 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season….

Isaiah goes on to emphasize that God wants to bless His people.

Is. 48:17-18 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

In His righteousness and love, however, God will not let our sin go unpunished.

Heb. 12:5-7 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

This leads directly to the closing verse in this chapter: “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Babylon's Destruction

In chapter 47 Isaiah’s message from the Lord is directed toward Babylon. God is declaring that He will exact vengeance on Babylon because her actions toward Israel showed “no mercy” (verse 6) even to the elderly. He is declaring that their excessive pride would result in humiliation. There is a direct connection between verses 7-8 and Revelation 18:7-8. (Revelation 17-18 are specifically about Babylon.)

Is. 47:8-9 Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.

Rev. 18:7-8 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

History records that this is not descriptive of the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians or even subsequently to the Greeks. It appears to reference a time yet future in context with the message of John recorded in Revelation. This appears to be another one of those sections in which the prophet is addressing events as a whole that will come to pass in “sections” so to speak, where the prophecy's complete fulfilment includes a great gap of time.

I think it is also interesting that the prophet makes reference to the use of sorcery and enchantments as reason for the complete destruction of Babylon. This area has been associated with the works of Satan since its beginnings under the leadership of Nimrod. It is the birthplace of false religion as recorded by John.


Scripture also records that the works of Satan in the kingdom of Antichrist will be characterized by miraculous works and lying wonders.

Rev. 13:11-14 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast….

2Th. 2:8-10 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

In spite of the apparent miraculous abilities of her leaders, God declares through Isaiah that they will not be sufficient to protect them from the destroying judgment of Almighty God.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thyatira, Ephesus, Sardis and the Church in America

A brief detour from Isaiah - As I was reading through Revelation again, the letters to the seven churches really made a connection in my heart. By the time I finished reading the letter to the church at Thyatira, I couldn’t help but start making application to the “church” in America today.

The church at Thyatira is really active in doing good deeds, showing love to others, exhibiting strong moral convictions, and demonstrating commitment and dependability. This church gives the appearance of having members that are mature Christians in love with their Lord. Truth is that they are lacking in spiritual discernment to the point that a false prophetess is openly operating in the church and has generated quite a following. She is evidently arrogant and full of pride as she is intent on ignoring the truth of God’s word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in pursuit of her own purposes. She is in league with Satan.

Since I first completed this journal, the “church” in America has made great headway in transforming itself into just such a church. I want to be careful not to be judgmental, but discerning. In my opinion, there seem to be more and more pastors of very large churches with national influence who are more interested in leading their congregations into “Christian” service than in teaching them the whole word of God and investing in their spiritual growth. Their stated motives are identified as reaching the unsaved, which is an important ministry, but the body of believers are spiritually malnourished. I believe God’s word teaches that the church is supposed to strengthen and edify the faith of believers first and foremost. Scripture is clear that the teaching of the word is the primary source of providing the spiritual food necessary for that growth. The whole of Psalm 119 is devoted to the importance of God’s word.

1Pet. 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

Paul goes on to emphasize that there is more than milk in the word of God.

Heb. 5:11-14 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In his letters to Timothy, his young protégé, Paul emphasizes the importance of teaching the truth of God’s word.

1Tim. 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
1Tim. 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
2Tim. 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

It is through the ministry of the word of God in our lives that our lives are sanctified and purified.

Eph. 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Christians who are nourished through the word and edified through the Spirit working through the body of the believers to minister to one another will naturally produce Christians who will then go out and win others to Christ through sharing the gospel and showing the love of Christ in service to those in need.

1Th. 2:13 ¶ For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

It struck me that the Ephesian church had gotten so busy in ministry that it had become focused on what it was accomplishing and was investing no time in fellowship with and worship of the God in whose name they were serving. They were not, however, spiritually malnourished; they were still showing spiritual discernment and evidencing an understanding of God’s word since they were able to identify false apostles and hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The church at Thyatira is a mirror of the Ephesian church in their focus on serving others, but they evidence no spiritual discernment or understanding of God’s word. The Ephesians are called to repent from leaving their first love; in other words, they had given definite evidence of their salvation. In Thyatira, however, most of the church is caught up in the false teaching and adulterous ways of the prophetess. They too are called to repent, but that repentance is from a way of life that is leading to death. The amazing thing is that there are evidently some true believers in the church at Thyatira who are encouraged to hold fast to their faith in spite of the false teaching surrounding them. This makes me think of those today who have probably grown up in the church or just have so many friends and/or family in the church that they hang in there hoping they can make a difference. In that regard they are similar to the true believers in the church at Pergamos.

The church at Sardis is also very active doing “Christian” things, which make them appear to be spiritually alive, but that is a false impression. Their works are not “perfect” before God; they are evidently following their own will—not God’s. They are self-motivated, not God-motivated. They cannot, however, claim ignorance as an excuse for their choices. They are encouraged to “remember” the truth they had “received and heard” and repent.

It truly is amazing that most people seem to prefer investing time in their own works rather than investing time in fellowship with and worship of God and resting in the work of His Son. Our actions should be a response to our fellowship with and worship of the Lord as led by the Holy Spirit. It is through fellowship and worship that we are attuned to the leading of the Spirit to serve others according to God’s will and not our own. That leading assures us God’s empowerment and provision through the Holy Spirit and will always glorify the Savior—not the servant.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our Great God cont. - Isaiah 45 & 46

Even more declarations from God as He declares Himself to His people.

Is. 45:21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

In this verse God is urging the nations to get their idolatrous friends together and give an example from even one of their “gods” of a prophecy comparable to those that God has declared. God has made prophecies from ancient times and many have been fulfilled to the letter. Some are yet to be fulfilled, but the future will prove them to be just as accurate. YHWH is declaring that He is the ONLY God; there is no other god, no other being capable of declaring the future, who is always just, and who is able to be a Saviour to His people. (see verse 15)

Is. 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Based on the evidence, God is urging all the peoples on the earth to turn to Him in faith for salvation. God has singled out Israel as a nation of privilege among the nations, but His desire is that ALL men come to repentance.

2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

This is the sixth time in this chapter alone that God has repeated this truth—I AM God and there is no other (verses 5, 6, 14, 18, 21 & 22).

Is. 45:23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

There is no power greater than God to swear by, so He swears by Himself. He is the greatest witness to His own truth. The things that He declares will happen are true and will come to pass just as He said without fail in every detail. This is another prophecy that is yet future—“That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” that He is God and there is no other (is the implied message as I read it). This prophecy is repeated in the New Testament in reference to Jesus—another declaration of the Father and Son as One.

Phil. 2:10-11 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is. 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Again, God reminds His people of their history. He has proven Himself to them in so many miraculous ways. Their scripture is full of testimony to His mighty acts. The evidence declares that there is no other GOD, no other being that can compare to YHWH.

Again, He reminds His people of His unique ability to prophesy the future. In fact, He has declared things from ancient times that are yet to be fulfilled. Still, He can confidently declare that every part of His plan and His purpose will be carried out to the smallest detail.

Is. 46:12-13 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

It’s always intriguing when God references time from His point of view. What will be thousands of years in earthly history are but a short time in God’s economy—near, not far off.

God is speaking to His stubborn, rebellious people—a people evidently deeply involved in practicing sin (far from righteousness). God is going to bring Israel to a position of righteousness and salvation (cf 45:8), and in God’s economy of time that time is near. Not only that, their salvation will happen according to His plan, on schedule—He will not procrastinate or delay past the appointed time (from the Hebrew for tarry). Emphasis is made that the salvation of Israel is connected with the restoration of Zion/Jerusalem. Emphasis is also made that the fulfillment of God’s plans for the nation of Israel are for His glory—not theirs. They are the benefactors and will be blessed abundantly to the glory of God.

As I’ve continued on in these past few chapters, I am amazed at God’s consistency of message and patience in presenting it. God knows the end from the beginning. Still He makes every effort to get His people’s attention and get them to turn back to Him in repentance and faith.

He does the same with us today. I can’t help but personalize this more with my nation—America. We are just as blind and deaf as the Israelites seemed to be. The headlines are screaming the truth of the Word of God, and we are oblivious (or at least pretend to be). We are eager to question why God would allow bad things to happen to our people even as we continue to deny His truth and reject His authority. We want to experience all of His blessings without having to acknowledge Him as the source of those blessings. The body of believers in America need to claim the prayer of 2Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name (Christians), shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If the body of believers would unify in a passion to love the Savior and serve Him according to His Word half as passionately as those who follow false religions, we could change the world.