Thursday, October 28, 2010
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
A God who waits on His creation is a completely foreign idea in the minds of ancient men. God is the sovereign, omnipotent creator, holy and worthy of worship, service and sacrifice. One of such authority and sovereignty is above waiting on the needs of men.
And yet, we have a God who has humbled Himself, taken on flesh and become a servant even to the point of death (Phil. 2:5-11). This type of love is unimaginable for the most noble of men yet demonstrated by the One to whom this type of sacrifice is actually due.
How sad it is however to see how far our society and many "religious" people have gone in their view of God. Humanism has brought us to the idea that man is the pinnacle and center of the universe and that we are so great and good that any God who might exist should be pleased to please us. When life does not go our way, we believe that God should bend the universe to appease our greedy eyes and fill our hungry stomachs. Sin is no longer breaking the moral law of God and offending a righteous and just divine ruler but not quite living up to our potential. In which case, God must understand and overlook our miss-steps; after-all, we're only human. Punishment for sin then becomes unimaginable and God is rendered a benevolent, weak-willed, unjust and confused creator.
If we are to be awed by a Creator who waits on the need of His creations, we must be awed by the nature and character of that Creator first. He is just. He is Holy. He is powerful. He is wise. He is intentional. He is sovereign. He is true. He is merciful. He is vengeful. He is gracious. He is jealous. He is terrible. He is loving. He is so much more that what our feeble minds can comprehend.
God - bring me to know You. Open my eyes, unstop my ears, soften my heart, enlighten my mind. Remove all of my self-centered theology from me and help me to understand You. Amen.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year of my redemption has come.
I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm worked salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
Here in Isaiah 63, God puts together two seemingly opposite concepts into one theology. When we think of redemption and salvation we think of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love. We don't often think of vengeance and wrath or judgment. We like to think of God brushing away our sins, overlooking our offenses or turning a blind eye to our iniquity. This is not what happened on the day of salvation.
On that great day of redemption when God's only Son went to Calvary, He not only bore the weight of the cross and the pain of the whips, fists and nails, but also our sin and the vengeful wrath of God toward the sins of the world. Punishment was not withheld... only withheld from us. This was the price paid by Jesus to redeem us from condemnation, from slavery to sin and eternal separation from Him. This is a picture of that great year of Jubilee when a relative was permitted to buy back a family member in bondage or slavery (Lev. 25).
So when we think of our salvation and redemption, we must remember the cost. We cannot forget the weight of our sin, the severity of the punishment, the sacrifice of our redeemer and satisfaction accomplished at the cross. We cannot have redemption without wrath.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the LORD,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
The Walls of Jerusalem at night. The Tower of David overlooking Joppa Gate and the Western wall.
The Western wall.
Jerusalem is the city of God. He has established her walls, raised her towers and fortified her gates (Isa. 54:11-15). He is her foundation and she is His love (Psalm 87:1-3). In His love and provision, the Lord has established watchmen over the city to both proclaim and petition. To the people the watchmen proclaim a warning of eminent danger, attack or weakness in the walls. To the Lord, the watchmen petition for grace, mercy, protection and provision. To rest or refrain from proclamation and petition would be to leave the walls vulnerable and the people in danger.
In the days of Isaiah, the prophets were such watchmen who warned the people of sin and the destruction that follows as well as petitioned the Lord on behalf of the people.
Today the watchmen are the pastors, shepherds, leaders and teachers who have been appointed over God's church. To those who have been given this sacred trust, the Lord says, "You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth."
In Psalm 122:6-7 He commands,
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels."
The command is to proclaim and petition on behalf of the church until the Kingdom of God is established and He sits on His throne in His Holy City which He loves. The command is to guard the walls, to protect the city, to plead with the Lord to preserve His people until His Kingdom come.
How bold am I as a watchman in God's kingdom? How ready am I to identify sin and the danger it poses to the church and God's kingdom? How diligent am I to pray and petition God for His people and those who will be brought into His gates? How relentless and restless am I to watch over the people of God?
Lord make me more diligent to do the work You have set before me. Strengthen me to pray without ceasing and to proclaim boldly. Let me not rest until I find my rest in You. Amen.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor."
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him (Jesus). Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."Jesus was not cryptic about His identity. Early on in His public ministry He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, stood in the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah. The prophesy He chose was not random. Isaiah 61 is a messianic prophesy concerning the salvation of the Lord. The proclamation of the Lord's Spirit and His anointing clarify that this prophet is more than just a prophet. Only kings and high priests were anointed. These two offices would be responsible for such things as liberating prisoners and proclaiming Jubilee yet only the messiah (literally "anointed one") would be qualified for both, being both priest and king (Psa 110 & 2).
The interesting thing about Jesus proclamation is that He stopped half way through the prophesy. Jesus knew that His mission would be split in two halves. The re-establishment of Zion, vengeance to His enemies and restoration of His kingdom would have to wait until his second coming.
Lord prepare me for Your return. Let me be found ready and busy doing Your will. Amen.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the LORD will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
John 1:4-9 says of Jesus,
4"In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men.
5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."
Jesus said in John 8:12,
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Again in John 9:5 Jesus said,
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
And again in John 12:46,
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
Then in Revelation 21:23 (also written by John the apostle) it says of the New Jerusalem,
"The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."
I love it when Scripture ties together.
I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this passage as He claimed to be the light of the world? I wonder if John gained his love for the imagery of light from Isaiah 60?
Without question, Jesus is this light. For a season Light had come into the world but men loved darkness. Now the Light of God shines in the hearts of men who have come to receive Him. One day, the Light of the Lamb will shine so bright that there will be no need for sun or moon nor any other lamp.
Does this light live in me? If so...
Have I obscured this light from shining from me?
Have I hidden my light from a blind world living in darkness?
What could I do today to let His light shine from me?
Lord, let me be Your light today. Amen.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
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.
Why is it that when things do not go our way, when prayers seem unanswered and obstacles in our lives are not moved we blame God? Why do we suppose that He is not loving enough to act, just enough to intercede, powerful enough to move or merciful enough to understand?
What separates us from God and His blessing is not God nor any lack in His nature but our own sin and our sinful nature. Even our thinking is broken so that we cannot see or understand our predicament.
Therefore God in His rich mercy and love, demonstrating divine justice and infinite power, reaches into our world and accomplishes salvation by His own hand.
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
In love He extended His own arm. God sent His Son Jesus to be the intercessor and Savior or the world.
In mercy Jesus placed Himself beneath the wrath of God, our substitute.
At the cross the justice of God was fully satisfied being fully paid by Jesus Christ on our behalf.
At the grave His power was demonstrated; proving that He has the power to not only raise His Son from the dead, but us as well.
The Lord's hand is not too short not His ear too dull.
He has already removed every barrier from between us and patiently waits for us to receive His gifts of love, mercy, justice and power.
Have you received these gifts? Have you received the gift of Jesus?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Fasting is not about afflicting our souls and neglecting our bodies in order to contort the will of God around ours. Fasting is not denying our needs for a season just to gorge ourselves later. Fasting is not an appearance righteousness nor a display of piety (Matt. 6:16).
Fasting is about contorting our will around God's. It's about denying ourselves so that we may bless others. It's the acts or righteousness and the display of humility; Christ-likeness.
So when I fast, my hunger or desire should remind me of the needs of others and guide me to satisfying them. When I fast I should not simply skip a meal, but provide it for another. When I deny myself sleep, I should actively provide rest and comfort for another; providing shelter or blankets for the homeless. When I skip a luxury I ought to find my way to a hospital or prison to comforting the afflicted.
When I fast it is about contorting my will around the will of God; to reorder my priorities according to His. To set myself aside, sacrifice my rights and serve fully for the sake of Christ and the edification of others. This is true fasting.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
"High, lofty, eternal, holy... these are the words that describe God. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). Yet, in His wisdom and justice and mercy He has chosen to dwell among humanity, to inhabit an earthly tent (Eph. 2:22) and minister to us. His ministry is not to those who are high and lofty in the eyes of men, but those who are lowly and humble in the eyes of God (Psa. 51:17). To those who are broken in spirit, meek and tender, God revives the spirit and strengthens the heart (Matt. 5:3-10).
What does it mean to have a humble heart, a broken and contrite spirit? Humility is more than a right view of God. It's not simply an understanding of the hierarchy of holiness. It is not a posture of piety. Humility is a theme that one lives by. It is the rhythm of one's life. It is tone of one's relationship with God and the melody of one's interactions with others. Humility is harmony, all else is discord. It is extending preference to the most lowly, forgiveness and peace to the most despised, just as God has done for us. Humility is not only the words we choose, but the thoughts behind them.
Humility is not easy. Humility is resisting our flesh, denying our sinful nature. Humility is reversing our human thinking, choosing to live counter-intuitively. It takes sacrifice and courage to set aside the strongest instincts inside our hearts and heads. But His promise is to revive and strengthen those who strive to live according to His calling. It is possible by His Spirit.
Lord, humble me and give me a contrite spirit before You and others. Let my life be a beautiful melody to You and harmony with others. Keep me from discord and teach me to set aside myself. I want to honor You. Amen.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Here in Isaiah 55, God contrasts our thoughts with His. Our thoughts are wicked and evil. They are in need of mercy and pardon. His thoughts and His ways are not ours. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. His thoughts are expressed through His Word which will not be futile like ours, but will be powerful and effective in accomplishing His will. Like rain that waters the earth, His Word will cause growth. It will parch dry ground. It will quench thirst. It will not only satisfy, but change the landscape of our world.
Far too often I get stuck in "stinking thinking." I allow myself to believe that I am right, that my thoughts are legitimate and accurate and even justified. Instead, my thoughts are selfish, greedy, prideful, narcissistic, mean, immature and destructive. Too often I let my human emotions direct my mind instead of letting God's Word direct it. My emotions change, His Word remains the same forever. My emotions are sinful, His Word is Holy. My emotions are deceptive, His Word is clear. My emotions are destructive, His Word is effective.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When I let God's Word direct my thoughts, He separates my sinful emotions and stinking thinking from His will and His way. It's painful at times to allow the sword of the Spirit to divide me, but far less painful than the results and consequences of my own ways. Allowing God to divide and direct my thoughts begins will humility. Humility is being willing to admit that I am not "all that" and that my thinking is most likely wrong. Eventually my own demise will teach me this however after a while, I must learn to think this before I shoot myself in the foot. Humility gives way to confession; asking God for forgiveness. Forgiveness is like watering a dry plant. It quenches and satisfies and restarts the growth process. Forgiveness is like a reboot of the mind and enable to Holy Spirit to once again speak and be heard. The Holy Spirit will remind us of the Words of Jesus and will be our counselor according the the mind of God (John 14:26). The ultimate result of allowing the Word of God to direct our thoughts and ways is found in the last two verses of Isaiah 55.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."
Father, renew my mind (Rom. 12:2). Divide my thoughts and emotions. Cut away whatever does not honor You and edify others. Forgive me for being selfish, immature, prideful and mean spirited. Humble me, forgive me and bring me to forgiveness with others also. Open my ears to Your Holy Spirit and let me again hear from You. Keep me from stinking thinking and guard me from myself. Amen.
Friday, October 15, 2010
For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
No only does this passage speak of the Messiah's divine nature, but it also confirms His heart for His people. He reveals Himself as a husband; bound in everlasting covenant to provide for, protect, embrace, comfort and care for His bride. While we are unfaithful, He is faithful (Hosea). While we fragile and vulnerable, He is strong and courageous (1 Peter 3:7). While love is not inherent in the contemporary understanding of marriage, it is in God's definition.
Deuteronomy 7:9 - "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands."
Jeremiah 31:3 - "I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness."
Hosea 3:1 - "The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes."
1 Kings 10:9 - "Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel."
Nehemiah 1:5 - "Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,"
While this imagery begins in regard to God and Israel, it finds its fulfillment in Christ and the church. Jesus is the divine redeemer and loving, covenant-keeping husband of Isaiah 54:5.
He reveals as much in his parable of the ten brides maids in Matthew 25:1-13 ("At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.")
Paul reinforces this Old Testament imagery in Ephesians 5:31-32, ""For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."
With Christ as my loving, covenant keeping, faithful, provider, protector and husband, I am forced to ask myself, "how I am doing in keeping my covenant and demonstrating my love for Him?" Have I been unfaithful? Have I given my love to another? Have I shamed His name? Have I been less than passionate toward Him? Have I withheld myself from Him?
Jesus, forgive me for withholding my love. Forgive me for shaming your name with bad attitudes, for conducting myself in a manner unworthy of those who belong to You. Forgive me for not depending on You for my provision, protection, comfort and care. Restore my intimacy with You and rekindle my love. Teach me again to be the bride you deserve, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, but wholly devoted to You. Amen.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You 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.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most beautiful messianic passages in all the Bible. I've been dwelling on it for some time and trying to pull out some of the deep theology and implication for my life.
It pleased the Lord to bruise and grieve and punish His seed, His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. At first read this is a puzzling passage, maybe even problematic. How could it please God to wound an innocent, righteous man? This sort of injustice could never please a just and righteous God.
However, when Isaiah writes of God being pleased, it does not refer to His enjoyment of Jesus' suffering. There was no smile on the face of God as His Son suffered at the hands of Roman torturers and endured the cross. On the contrary, God displayed his own grief as Christ hung on that tree by darkening the sky and taking away His light.
Instead, the pleasure of Isaiah 53:10 is God's satisfaction with the sin offering of His Son. God's demand for justice was served and his wrath was averted from humanity through the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He stood in our place and bore not only the sins of the world but also the wrath of God.
This sacrifice so pleased the Lord that the life of the One sacrificed (of His own volition) would be prolonged through the resurrection. And it truly pleased the Lord to offer Him an eternal kingdom where those things that truly please the lord, put a smile on His face, would prosper.
So what are the implication of this for my life. To start, God's wrath (punishment) has been averted from me. My penalty has been paid and my punishment achieved by Christ. There is nothing left for me to pay. Furthermore, the wrath (anger) of God has been turned to pleasure through the substitution and sacrifice of Jesus. I am no longer His enemy (Romans 5:10) but have been given the right to be called a child of God (John 1:12). Finally, because it pleased the Lord to receive Jesus' sacrifice, I can please the Lord with my life. Because my sin has been paid for, my offering, my worship, my service, my life can put a smile on the face of God.
Thank You Father for Jesus Christ. Thank You for the cross that has averted Your anger and wrath and my punishment. I pray that my life would put a smile on Your face. May my sacrifice truly please You. Amen.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
"Your God reigns!”
There is really nothing beautiful about feet that tread through the rocky desert dirt. However the beauty is not in the feet, nor the messenger, but in the message. Here Isaiah envisions a messenger running from the battle front, over mountains and obstacles, to pronounce to those who have not heard that the King has been victorious. Our King has conquered sin and has established peace. He has set the captives free and has punished the enemy.
So what news do my feet bring? To what extent will I go to proclaim victory over sin, peace with God and His reign?
Far too often I let molehills become mountains and persuade me to remain silent or unsent. I worry about perception, opposition, objection and rejection. I'm often too busy boasting of myself than of God, my victories rather than His.
Recently I learned of the life of Thomas Bilney, evangelist and initiator of the Reformation in England. He left behind no great office nor library of works. Instead, he left behind a list of converts that includes some of the most influential reformers; Arthur, Thistle and Stafford at Cambridge as well as Latimer, Barnes, Lambert, Warner, Fooke and Soude. Without such men, the English reformation would probably not have succeeded.
Such an movement was not begun in the academy or the church but in the public proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Father - make me passionate to preach, to share, to should of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
The image here is one of victory. The Lord leads the train of captives set free, prisoners ransomed, lost people found, hurting people healed. Their sorrow is turned to joy and their sighing turns to singing. As they enter Jerusalem, they are crowned and restored to their proper identities as children of the king. The walls are strong and the gates are majestic and their security is everlasting. They are fully, irrevocably and eternally ransomed.
This is the promise for all who call upon the Lord.
I can't wait to be in this processional.