Isaiah 56-61 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has anointed us to bring Good News

Several years ago I was waiting in my car for my daughter to finish her music lesson and reading my scripture portion for the day that happened to be in Isaiah.  I was going through a difficult time, dealing with some minor health issues and also with some ministry challenges, and I remember saying, “Lord, can’t we do better today than Isaiah.  Come on!”

While Isaiah seems to be mostly about judgment, my reading that day happened to include Isaiah 61.  As I began to read the first verse, I felt His Spirit fill my little car, and before I knew it, I was singing the Word, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  He has anointed me to preach Good News, Good News. To bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to deliver the prisoners from darkness and to comfort those who mourn.”  I sang it over and over again until my spirit was soaring with His.  I believe He gave me a song that day to highlight His mission and to remind me of my mission. 

@ Isaiah 61
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come…” (1-2)  These words in Isaiah repeated by Jesus in Luke 4 sent a shock wave through those gathered in the synagogue of Nazareth in Jesus’ day when, “He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’” (Luke 4:20-21)  This was how Jesus announced His earthly ministry.

Jesus did not complete the scripture in Isaiah which continued, “…and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” (2) Most feel he stopped because the day of God’s judgment had not yet come, and the next time He came to earth would be the Day of Judgment.  Today we are living in the time of the Lord’s favor, the time the Lord has given to save the lost, the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of Jubilee!  This was His mission.

What did Jesus come to do?  Anointed by the Spirit of Adonai Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord, His mission was clear:  He came as Prophet to preach the good news, the gospel of the Kingdom, to all those who would humbly listen.  He came as Priest to heal the brokenhearted, all those who were broken and sought healing for body, soul and spirit.  He came as King to deliver, as only a king could do, all those who were held captive by sin and sinful enemies.  He came as Comforter to comfort all those who mourn.

This was His mission, and so it is ours as well. As Jesus was leaving this earth, He told His followers, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)  Isaiah prophesied that those who accept the One who sends us will receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (3, KJV) How can we help but share this good news!

On that day so long ago when the Lord gave me His song, He was reminding me of His mission, my mission.  He was encouraging me to not get bogged down with the challenges or heaviness of the mission, but to allow Him to breathe on me and receive help from His Holy Spirit.  We are not alone in our mission; He has anointed us to bring Good News. 

Moving Forward: All I can say today is, Holy Spirit, breathe on me and pour on the oil of joy. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 1-2

Isaiah 51-55 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals His thoughts and ways through His Word

When author Dr. John Gray wrote his book several years ago, Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, his goal was to help men and women understand each other, to help them understand why their mates think the way they think and do the things they do.  Kudos to Dr. Gray for attempting the near impossible!  However, according to Isaiah 55, this challenge is a piece of cake, as they say, in comparison to understanding the thoughts and ways of God.  It’s not a matter of different planets – we’re talking beyond the Universe! 

@ Isaiah 55
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord.  ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” (8-9)  So how in the world, no pun intended, are we ever able to know and understand our God?

When I begin a new computer program or application, I approach the instructions and guidelines with fear and trepidation because understanding computerese is not my gifting.  I must admit that it’s somewhat demoralizing for me to read the instructions and then find it necessary to Google for instructions on how to understand the instructions, but I’m always thankful for the help.  And fortunately, God has not left us without support to know and to follow Him and His ways.  He has given us His Word.

Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word was written by holy men to help us understand our Creator, our God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)  Just like we desire that our friends know and understand us, God desires that we know and understand Him.  He, on the other hand, knows us better than we know ourselves

God’s Word is intentional.  Just as an arrow leaves the bow on an unaltered course, God’s Word whether heard or read cannot be retrieved – it will reach its mark. “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”(10-11)

I recently heard the story of a young boy who attended a Sunday School class one time and heard one scripture read by the teacher that day.  The boy grew to be a man, never attending church or hearing God’s Word again.  But one day 40 years later, one God-appointed day when the man needed it most, that scripture came back to him.  Because of it, he gave his heart to the Lord and has a great testimony to share today.  God’s Word restores, renews and replenishes just as faithfully as His rain produces fruit.  Whether in reading it ourselves or in sharing it with others, God’s Word is powerful in our lives, and its potential is far more significant than we can imagine.

Created to be in an intimate relationship with God, I can’t think of a single reason to miss reading God’s Word each day.  It is Holy Spirit inspired to help me understand the heart of God whose thoughts and ways cannot be comprehended without it, and it is intentional in touching my life in a very personal way.  Reading His Word every day?  It’s a no-brainer. 

Moving Forward: Without excuse and full of desire, I gladly read His Word today so that I may know Him and know His heart.  The added bonus to my reading – “You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! (12)  Let the music begin!

Tomorrow @ Matthew 26-28

Isaiah 45-50 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He provides the best guidance for our lives

It seems like almost every day I run to the Internet for answers that I need immediately – what did I do before Google? Guess at the answers?  The internet offers us an answer to every possible question within seconds just by one quick little Google click.  It gives guidance and directions based on information handcrafted by man.

I love the 30 different German Chocolate Cake recipes I immediately had at my disposal to choose from today. Well, I may allow it to give me directions for a cake, but there’s not a chance it will provide instructions for my life unless, of course, God chose to use it for that purpose.  Many wonderful scripture-based Christian sites are uplifting and are great ministry tools, but ultimately I turn to the Source of all knowledge for His guidance and direction.

Just as we are sojourners in this life on our way to Heaven, the Israelites were captive sojourners in Babylon.  They were struggling to keep their faith grounded in the true and living God and were tempted by the idol worship of Babylonian gods going on all around them.  In Isaiah 46, God reminded His people of the origin of these idols, “Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move!  And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” (6-7) I’ve known more than a few individuals who treat their computers/smartphones like an idol…pour out their cash to buy it…carry it around all day…and nearly worship it. Help!

As sojourners, we are surrounded by idols crafted by the world and capable of pulling us away from the true and living God.  Besides the distraction the internet offers, we can find advice and counsel from television talk shows and news programs on just about every subject imaginable.  Most of the information sources available to us today are helpful, but they are fallible and often derived from ungodly resources.  Would we really want them to direct our lives? 

“Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (46:10) While our enemy would like us to think that he knows the future, he does not and only spews out what he wishes to be the future.  Basing our direction on this false information is just as useless as man’s handcrafted devices.  There really is only one Source that can be trusted.

“I am the Lord your god, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” (48:17) While this is amazing in itself, God reveals the intimacy of His love for Israel and for all those who love Him, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (49:16)  Incredible!  Why would I ever look to anyone or anything else for guidance in my life! 

Moving Forward:  It’s you, Lord, the one whose direction I seek, no one other than you. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 23-25

Isaiah 40-44 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’…He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (40:9,11 nkjv/nlt)  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah have been rugged with prophetic judgments on the nations, but the tone of the prophet Isaiah changed in Chapter 40 as he reminded Israel of who God really is:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (43:2) I am thankful that because of Jesus, I am part of this promise to Israel.  As I go through rivers of difficulty in my life, He is with me and will not let me drown. Sometimes the waters feel like they are right at my neck, but somehow He supports me and keeps me afloat through the difficulty.  I look back at situations in life and see myself as though I was almost walking on water rather than drowning because of God’s grace.

This is the God that Isaiah was encouraging Israel to remember and to follow.  One of the most beloved and quoted scriptures is found here in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” And they just may walk on water…

These chapters in Isaiah remind me of Who ultimately controls the outcome of powers, governments and kingdoms and their deeds.  In Chapter 41:2 and again in 44:28, Isaiah prophesied about a king from the east, 150 years in the future, who would deliver Israel out of Babylon captivity, someone God called into His own service to do His bidding. King Cyrus of Esther and Nehemiah fame, a pagan king, sent Israel back to their homeland simply because God willed him to do so.

I think of the events in more recent history where powerful men and nations chose to carry out their evil imaginations causing death and destruction, but their actions soon brought their own demise.  Out of the rubble of World War II, an evil regime died and Israel once again returned to its homeland, a nation stronger than ever, with a friend by its side, a strong friend and ally, the United States.  My prayer is that we remain a friend to Israel, for our own sake as well as for theirs.

Because heartless leaders and zealot groups around the world have met their doom, the gospel is now being preached and churches established in an area of the world where they were once forbidden. I am ever convinced that God will use the acts of all powers, governments and kingdoms to ultimately bring about His good.  Yet, so personal is He that He feeds little me, carries me in His arms when needed and guides me along life’s path.  I declare with Isaiah, Behold our God!  There is none other like Him.

Moving forward:  God is in control – I will remember this today regardless of the news alerts and headlines.  I’ll remember that He is with me through my difficult moments of life as well.  He’s got this! 

Tomorrow@Matthew 20-22

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with the hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, school shootings and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path.  As long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19

Isaiah 29-33 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, our thoughts are turned to those we love and the ways we will express our love.  Capitalists that we are, we have turned this sentiment into a multi-billion dollar enterprise – chocolate, flowers, diamonds…and again I say chocolate!  In step with this focus on love, television programming is filled with love stories to touch our hearts and to remind us of our own love story.

A familiar story is one of unrequited love where the dear young man desperately loves the young woman who seeks after the more dashing or successful men in her life and ignores his adoration.  Or another story is where the young woman, listening to her biological clock, becomes impatient in waiting for the right man to come along and almost marries Mr. Wrong.  Fortunately, with television movies of this nature, love sweeps in at just the right moment and everybody lives happily ever after. (Sigh) In our reading today, Isaiah talked about God’s unrequited love for an impatient nation, a love deeper than Hollywood could ever imagine. 

@ Isaiah 30
“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.  They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’” (15-16)  As the advancing Assyrian army threatened Judah, God asked them to rest in Him, and in due time He would deliver them, but Judah was impatient.  Time was ticking away, and they considered an alliance with Egypt. This response reminds me of an impatient young woman, her biological clock and unfortunate alliances.

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (18)   Here was a compassionate God waiting for Judah to fall in love with Him, to stop looking to others for love and protection.  Unrequited love.

If they would once again fall in love with God and not turn to others, He would love and protect them beyond their wildest dreams. “He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…he will still be with you to teach you… Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (19-21)   Their gracious God who loved them so dearly would answer, teach and guide if they would only turn to Him, forsaking all others.

And what a great message for us in the climate that we live in today!  Instead of turning in panic to unknown sources for our answers and help, God asks us to patiently wait for Him to respond to our hearts cries.  He will be gracious if we will ask for help.  He will respond to our cries and teach us along the way as we wait on Him.  He will direct our steps on the very best path and at the perfect moment in time.

When we are tempted to turn to others first for help, He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love and compassion to us and be gracious to us.  A sovereign God, so full of love, created us to be the recipients of this great love – He only has eyes for us!  How can we resist so great a love?  How can we make Him wait? 

Moving Forward:  As I patiently wait on Him today, I’ll listen for His voice right behind me, directing my path.  I love Him so. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 14-16

Isaiah 23-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He keeps our hearts in perfect peace when we trust Him

Like most everyone, I’ve passed through some difficult moments in my life.  When I look back over those times, I see how rough and rocky they truly were, but in the midst of them, they didn’t seem so troublesome. There was an undergirding strength, a peace that I can’t explain, but I know it was from God. In our reading today, Isaiah prophesied about a peace that not only permeates all of heaven but also sustains us on our journey to heaven. 

@ Isaiah 26
Amidst all the terrible judgments to come on the nations of the world, Isaiah threw in a little oasis from it all with his prophecy about heaven.  When circumstances in life seem to be at their darkest, we have the hope of heaven and all that awaits us there.  Right now we are on a pilgrimage to that Holy place where God’s presence and peace abide; and while we travel some rough roads at times, we are not alone on our journey – the Peace of Heaven is with us even now.

“But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” (7)  Often in our walk with the Lord, we see where the Lord has gone ahead of us and smoothed out the path – the job is waiting for us, the house has sold and reports are good – and we praise Him for His goodness.  These steps may not require as great a faith or trust in the Lord from us because we quickly see His handiwork and our hearts are at peace.  However, sometimes we look at our path, and we certainly see steep and rough, a view that can rob us of our peace.  It’s in these moments that we need to focus, not on the difficult path, but on the Lord.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” (3)  Perfect peace in the Hebrew here means shalom, shalom or peace, peacePeace on top of peace – oh, I want that!  However, we’ll never experience this peace, peace as long as we think about how rough the road is. When we fix our thoughts on Him, the eternal Rock, we travel that rough road without realizing how rugged it really is and verse 7 becomes our reality by faith even in the midst of the struggle. It’s supernatural!

David expresses this supernatural walk this way, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23)  Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Peace, peace! 

Moving Forward:  Should I face some bumps in the road today, I’ve decided to keep my focus on the one who holds my hand and who provides supernatural peace.  Peace, peace! 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 11-13

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