Isaiah


Isaiah 7-11 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through our trust in Him, He will cause us to stand firm

A few years ago I was attempting to change a less-than-pleasant diaper on my one-year old grandson.  Doing what little ones do at this age, he was kicking up a storm and trying to turn over, and I realized that Jett was not as focused on the task at hand as I was.  I caught his eye and said, “Work with me here, baby boy, work with me,” and he stopped long enough to give me one of those smiles that lights up my world and then went back to kicking.  I knew my only recourse was to provide a distraction and handed him one of his favorite toys.  With that, the kicking and turning stopped, the diaper was changed and I was victorious.  Let’s hear it for Nonna!

In Isaiah’s day, Judah was facing the threat of attack by Assyria, and its king was struggling with it, turning this way and that, seeking help from everyone but God.  Isaiah was sent by God to make the change in Judah’s focus, but it sure wasn’t easy. 

@ Isaiah 7
As Judah’s King Ahab struggled in his decision with whom to join forces against the invading army – Israel and Syria or Assyria itself – Isaiah came with a message from God encouraging Judah to ally with God, to trust in Him. “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (9)  In essence, God was saying something similar to, “Work with me here, Judah, work with me.”  God could not help Judah stand firm against the enemy unless Judah would place its faith and trust in Him. 

@ Isaiah 8
Isaiah shared God’s message with Judah, calling them to change their focus, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.  Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear.  He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.’” (11-14)  Don’t get caught up in the struggle of it all, focused on who did what and when, but change your focus to the One who will help you and keep you safe. “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!  People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (20)

Whether we are focused on the struggles of our nation or the struggles in our own personal lives, God’s word to Judah is powerful to us as well.  Through His Word I believe God is saying to each one of us “Work with me, dear one, work with meI can’t help you stand strong in your struggle unless you put your trust and faith firmly in me.”  We have to give Him something to work with and not struggle against Him or turn from Him.

God warned not to think like everyone else does, focused on the struggle and the advice of those who do not know Him, but rather be distracted by His instructions and teachings in His Word.  Keep focused on God’s Word and His counsel, and, in fact, remind others of it, “Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.” (16)  This is how we perpetuate faith and trust in God to those who are watching our lives, our children and those near to us, through our focus on God’s Word in the time of struggle.  At the end of the day, we will be victorious!

Moving Forward: I’m focusing on God and His word, giving Him something to work with, so that I will stand firm through any challenge I may face today.

Tomorrow @ Matthew 3-4

Isaiah 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He cleanses our hearts so that we may sit in His presence

“I saw the Lord! I saw the Lord! He was high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple, He was high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. The angels cried, ‘Holy!’ The angels cried, ‘Holy!’ The angels cried, ‘Holy is the Lord!’” When I was just a little girl of five or six years old, I remember my pastor walking to the microphone singing this song. I’ve always thought this song with its several verses was a spontaneous outflow by my pastor from Isaiah 6 following personal time he had spent with the Lord.  Today, I’m not really sure who originated the song, but I know it was someone who had an encounter with God.

Even though he had been a missionary, an evangelist and was then the pastor of our church, my Pastor was like Abraham or Moses to me.  Like all the youth and children in our church, I sat spellbound as I listened to his messages.  I didn’t understand a lot of what was being said, but he spoke with an authority, an anointing, that could only come from someone who had experienced an encounter with the Lord similar to that of Isaiah. 

@ Isaiah 6
The life of a prophet was not easy during Israel’s disobedient years, and this was true for Isaiah.  His prophecies to Israel, Judah and the surrounding countries were dismal and spoke of devastation, but nestled in between his declarations of judgment was a little bit of heaven.  “I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!’” (1-3)  Often when our hearts are heavy from the sin and disregard for God that we see all around us, the Lord offers us an oasis in His Holy presence.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord…” Perhaps a tribute by the Seraphim to the Trinity, the Hebrew meaning of Holy implied to Isaiah that God was unapproachable and separate, exposing his sin and he cried, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, ‘See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.’” (5-8)

To be sure, an encounter of this magnitude with the living God could only humble us, but our loving God would not leave us wallowing in our sin and separation as Isaiah feared.

No, He offers the coal, the fire of the Spirit, the blood of the sacrificial Lamb from the altar to remove our guilt and sin.  And just as He asked Isaiah, the Lord asks us, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” (8)

So the question for us from Isaiah’s encounter with God is whether or not we will separate from our busy lives and step away to His presence where He will purify us and where we will receive the words, the songs and prose He wants to give us to touch our world.  Even more sobering, if He asks us, will we go? 

Moving Forward:  Stepping away to sit in His Holy presence, I’m so very thankful for His cleansing.  I’ll wait to receive all that He has for me today. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 2

Isaiah 62-66 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His faithful disciplines lead us to eternal life with Him

A few years ago I watched my daughter follow through on a warning of punishment when her three-year old, my sweet angelic granddaughter, did not obey her.  This was hard on me.  As Giana’s defense attorney, I mumbled something outside of her earshot about her being very tired, stretched to the limit, blah, blah, blah, but her mom would have none of it.  No empty threats in this household, mom followed through with what she had promised.  Of course, I respected her for this because she had been raised in this way, but I just want to let it be known that because I’m not the one raising my grandbabies, they will only get kisses, hugs and cookies from Nonna!  I’m good with that.

Serving in youth ministry for so many years, I saw the end result of children raised with empty threats – “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to…When we get home…Wait until your father gets home…” but no follow-through.  I also observed that some children received the discipline they needed, but still lived out their lives in rebellion.  Raising children is difficult at times even for the best of parents.  God understands our challenge.  Because the children of Israel would not respond to His disciplines, judgment was at hand.  In our reading today, God makes good on His promise to punish Israel for their disobedience to Him.  Father was in the house. 

@ Isaiah 65
The ending chapters of Isaiah give us a good summary of God’s dealings with Israel. Here He pronounced His judgment, “All of you will bow down before the executioner. For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned—before my very eyes—and chose to do what you know I despise.” (12)  Some have questioned how a loving God would discipline His children in such a harsh manner, but through our reading of the Old Testament to this point, we understand that God was patient beyond measure, more so than any child should expect.  As any good parent would do, God explained throughout the chapter why they were being punished and only through discipline could any good come out of it all.

Out of the punishment came a remnant of Israelites that understood that He was not a God of empty threats, and they responded to Him and listened to His voice. (8-10)  And with them were others, other nations, who responded to the voice of God, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.  I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.’” (1)  The Lord was referring to Gentiles who knew nothing of God and His love, but responded when He called as quoted by Paul in Romans 10:20.

To this combined remnant, Isaiah prophetically offered a glimpse into their future, our future.  We look forward to a millennial reign with long and joyful lives, fruitful labors, protection and the blessing of God on all that we do, “I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (24)  Sounds a lot like heaven on earth.

What better incentive to live for God than this glorious reminder of our future with God.  Should we falter on our way, I say, “Bring on the discipline, make good on your warnings, Lord!”  Because yielding to His disciplines with repentance and obedience will deliver us from judgment and secure our place in this amazing future that He has planned for us. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful that He hasn’t raised us to be unruly children, but loves us enough to discipline us. He had me at “The Lord is my Shepherd” but so thankful that I get Heaven too! 

Tomorrow @ Mark 3-4

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, 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 on 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 help to know and to understand 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 for our friends to 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 greater 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 teaches us what is good 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 give directions for my life unless, of course, God chose to use it for that purpose.  Many wonderful scripture-based Christian sites are uplifting and 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 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/smart phones 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

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