Tuesday, September 27, 2005

God dwells with the lowly: Is 57:14-16

For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before Me, and the breath of those whom I have made.’” (Isaiah 57:15-16)
The dwelling place of God is far beyond the reaches of mortal man. Paul reminds us that God “dwells in unapproachable light.” (1 Timothy 6:16) God’s dwelling place is not only high but it is also unapproachable. Should man choose, he could not, on his own, ascend into heaven and appear before God. King David asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?” (Psalms 24:3) David answers his own questions saying, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” (Psalms 24:4) But who among us can say that they have clean hands and a pure heart? No man (or woman) is good enough, pure enough, or righteous enough to approach God.

How then can man bridge the gap between God and man? The answer is that he cannot. It is impossible, yet with God, all things are possible. Though God is highly exalted, He has chosen to dwell with the lowly and the contrite. We could not come near Him, so He came near to us. “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

God has chosen to draw near to us, not for judgment, but to comfort and revive us. Even when He does judge, it is so that He may restore and revive us once again. We cannot approach God in pride or on the merits of our “good works.” We must humble ourselves and ask Him to draw near to us. If we seek the Lord in humility, we will find Him.

David Robison

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Forgetting the fear of the Lord: Is 57:11-13

Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you.” (Isaiah 57:11-12)

The “fear of the Lord” is essential to our walk with God. Here are some of the benefits of the “fear of the Lord.”

Knowledge: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7)

Wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Long life: “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.” (Proverbs 10:27)

Confidence: “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

Quality of life: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27)

Keeps from sin: “And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)

Protection from evil: “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” (Proverbs 19:23)

Riches and honor: “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

When we loose our fear of the Lord, when we loose sight of His awesomeness and majesty, when we forget that He alone is holy, righteous, and pure, we loose our solid footing and begin to drift through life. The end result of the loss of the fear of the Lord is that we loose sight of Him and forget Him and His righteous commandments. Our since of right and wrong become blurred, and we begin to convince ourselves that we are really not all that bad. Yea, we may not be as spiritual as the Apostle Paul, but at least we haven’t killed anyone. We judge ourselves by our own standard but fail to remember that God’s standard is far different from our own. The fear of the Lord reminds us that God is perfect and we are not. The fear of the Lord challenges us to judge our actions by God’s standard and not our own. Without the fear of the Lord, we will never come to know what it means to walk as children of God.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The persuit of all else: Is 57:3-10

You have journeyed to the king with oil and increased your perfumes; you have sent your envoys a great distance and made them go down to Sheol. You were tired out by the length of your road, yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, therefore you did not faint.” (Isaiah 57:9-10)
God is addressing Israel’s long-standing pattern of seeking help from everyone else but God Himself. Many times, when Israel was in trouble, instead of turning to the Lord, they would seek others who might help them and defend them against their enemies. For example, when Rezin, the king of Aram, came up against Jerusalem, king Ahaz of Judah looked to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, for help. “So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.’ Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king's house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 16:7-8) Israel was prone to forget the God who saved her and delivered her out of Egypt; the God who dispossed the nations of Canaan and gave her their land as an inheritance; the God who always forgave her and delivered her when she cried out to Him.

The problem with seeking help from the world is that there is always a cost. A great price was paid to secure the help of a neighboring nation. Often the price involved compromising what was sacred and giving away what was holy. When Assyria approached Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah, in an attempt to persuade the King of Assyria to leave them alone, King Hezekiah not only gave him the treasures of the House of the Lord but he also stripped the gold from off the temple doors and gave it to him. “Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king's house. At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 18:15-16) The pursuit of the world is costly. It can cause you to compromise your values and give away what is precious and holy in the sight of God.

When we seek help from the world first, God calls it “spiritual harlotry.” In God’s eyes, it is akin to a wife seeking after another woman’s husband. As our bridegroom, God wants to be the one who meets our needs. He is waiting with all the help and provisions we could ever need, if only we would come and receive them from Him. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Grace, mercy, and help are not found in the world, there found before the throne of God.

We should ask ourselves the following questions. When I have a problem, when I’m in need, where do I turn first? When I’m lonely, do I turn to a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse for comfort? When I’m stressed and tired, do I turn to the television first? When things aren’t going right, do I first find a sympathetic ear to vent and complain to? Am I willing to compromise your beliefs in order to get that promotion I really want? All these pursuits are dead ends. Israel tiered themselves looking for help in all the wrong places. We can search all we want, but until we come to God, we will not find what we are looking for. Paul put it this way, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:26) What Paul is saying is, if we pass Jesus by, there is nothing left for us. Jesus is the only game in town, there is no other game. There is no other savior and there is no other hope, Jesus is it. Let us learn to come to God first, not after we have wearied ourselves chasing after everything else and coming up empty.

David Robison

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The righteous perish, but who cares? Is 57:1-2

The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, he enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)
The natural progression in life is downward. Mankind, left to himself, will always progress from sin to more sin. His morals will continue to decay until he reaches the depths of depravity. Even cultures experience this kind of decay. We don’t have to look far to see societies that once prospered under a Christian influence but which now have slipped backwards into institutionalized secularism. We see this same pattern of decay though out the biblical history of Israel. They would experience a time of spiritual renewal but, over time, would inevitably regress back to serving idols and worshiping false gods. Over and over God would come to their aid, and they would repent and change their ways, only to fall away again, back into a lifestyle of sin and debauchery. Peter spoke of this decay, referring to “the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) All people and all societies, apart from the continual influence of God, are destined to decline and to morally progress downward.

This scripture speaks of such a time of decay in the nation of Israel. Righteousness was declining. Society was cleansing itself of the “trappings” of morality. There was no longer the need or want for the influence of righteous and moral men and women. As the righteous influence of God was being drained away from their nation, hardly anyone gave notice or care. Our country is experiencing this same kind of decay. The division between those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values and those who espouse secular humanism is widening. There is a growing number within our culture who actually look forward to the day when America might become a secular nation. A day when America might follow after other, older, nations who have left the confines of Christianity to find their “freedom” in secularism.

The righteous parish, but who cares? God cares! God cares for both the life of the righteous and the life of the nation. We are reminded that “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” (Psalms 116:15) God sees and He cares. Even this scripture encourages us that, for the righteous, in their death they shall find rest and peace with God. Our standing with God and our reward with Him is not dependant upon the course our nation chooses. God also cares for our nation. Many times He called back the nation of Israel, promising, if “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) There is always hope. Even in the worst of times, when the days seem their darkness, there is still hope. Let us not loose heart, let us turn to the Lord, let us entreat His mercy, and ask Him to heal our land.

David Robison

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A moral right to bark! Is 56:9-12

His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber.” (Isaiah 56:10)
God is speaking of the shepherds and prophets of Israel. God declares that they are all blind and mute. Blind in that they are unable to understand the times and the present will and purpose of God, and mute in that they are unable to warn the people of God’s coming judgment. Israel’s shepherds and prophets had disqualified themselves from being used by God to warn and instruct His people. How had they disqualified themselves? They were disqualified due to their moral defection from God’s laws. God declares that they had all become greedy and given over to pleasure. God declares of them, “The dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. ‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; and tomorrow will be like today, only more so.’” (Isaiah 56:11-12)

The moral state of the shepherds and prophets of Israel reminds me of Lot when he dwelt in Sodom. When Lot heard that God was about to destroy Sodom, he tried to warn his son-in-laws. “Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city’ But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” (Genesis 19:14) Why did his son-in-laws not believe him? Lot was a righteous man, but he had compromised his life in order to live peacefully amongst his sinning neighbors. While Lot may not have joined in with them in their sins, he had become fully integrated into their culture. He has ceased to be salt and light in the midst of great darkness. So compromised was his witness that, when he finally attempted to speak God’s word to them, they did not believe him and thought he was joking.

The story of Lot teaches us that we cannot live like the world and then expect the world to take us seriously when we speak God’s word. The world will discount our righteous words if the fail to see that righteousness in our lives. Lot had lost his moral legitimacy to preach God’s word and the same can happen to us. Paul put it this way, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16) Our deeds and our words need to be in full agreement if the world is to ever listen to what we have to say. If we want to preach of righteousness then we must live a righteous life. We must regain our moral right to bark!

David Robison

Monday, September 12, 2005

Yet others I will gather too: Is 56:8

The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, ‘Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.’” (Isaiah 56:8)
Jesus spoke something very similar when He said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16) I have heard many explanations of these scriptures. The Mormon religion claims that these verses foretell Jesus’ appearing to the Nephite people on the North American continent after His resurrection. Several years ago, I heard a woman on the television say that this scripture referred to extra-terrestrial alien life forms. However, I believe that these scriptures both refer to the gentiles. The Father and the Son were both confirming that the gentiles would be partakers of the promises made to Abraham. Paul confirms this when he writes, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in You.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:7-9) The secret is now out-of-the-bag, God’s salvation is for both the Jew and the gentile.

Some of the early Jewish believers had trouble accepting that God would save the gentiles. They were the children of promise, they were chosen to receive the law, and they were the ones from whom the Messiah would come. After returning from Cornelius’ house, some of the Jews back in Jerusalem were disturbed that Peter had preached the gospel to gentiles. “And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:2-3) Peter’s only defense was that it wasn’t his fault, God had chosen them and given them salvation and had baptized them with His Holy Spirit. “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” (Acts 11:17)

While most believers today would just as readily accept a gentile believer as they would a Jewish believer, there is still the tendency for us to become exclusive. We often make distinction between those who are on the inside and those on the outside. We speak of “our church” instead of “their church”. We see church as being for us instead of being for those around us, those currently outside the church. Even within the church we have our small circle of friends, so tight is the circle that it becomes hard for others to enter in. I have even known small groups that resisted the efforts of other to join and to become a part of their group. The gospel is inclusive and God intends that His church would be inclusive as well. How accessible is your church to those outside? How easy is it for people to come in and find fellowship? How welcome do they feel when the visit your church? Is your church a place where Jesus can bring the hurting and wounded to find acceptance and healing? This is the kind of church that Jesus is looking for.

David Robison

Friday, September 09, 2005

I will make them joyful: Is 56:6-7

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)
I love it when the Lord declares what He is going to do, “I will bring them”, “I will make them joyful.” In our walk with God, there are some things that we must do ourselves. For example, we must repent and we must believe. This is why Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) There are other things, however, that God determines to do Himself. “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me.” (Jeremiah 33:8) I am so glad that I do not have to clean myself up; it is God who cleanses me. I am also thankful that I did not have to come up with a way to atone for my own sins. God Himself decided to pay the price for my sins and sent His Son to bear the penalty I owed for my sins. God declared that He was going to do it, and He did it!

In this scripture, God declares His intention towards those who would join themselves to Him.

I will bring them.” It was not us who sought after God, but rather God sought after us. While we were off doing our own thing, God came looking for us. Even the yearning in our hearts for Him is not from ourselves but from the Holy Spirit who woos us to the Father. Jesus said of Himself, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32) Jesus is drawing us and we need only to respond.

I will make them joyful.” In the original Hebrew, the word for “joyful” can be translates “to brighten”. God wants to brighten us, to make us joyful, to lift us from our sorrow and sadness. Joy differs from happiness in that it is not dependent upon our circumstances but transcends them. Even in the worst of circumstances, we can still have joy. “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8) This kind of joy does not come from man, but is a gift from God.

In My house of prayer.” I must confess that there is a gap between this scripture and my personal experience. I cannot say that I am always “joyful” in prayer. While I believe in prayer and that God wants us to come before Him, “joyful” is not always an adjective that I would apply to my times of prayer. Given this gap, which do I choose to believe; my experience or the promises of God? I choose to believe God! I believe that God is working in my life to make me joyful in His house of prayer. I believe that there is a move of God to restore joy in our fellowship with the Father. God wants us to enjoy our times with Him. He wants our faces to be brightened as we look upon Him. I believe that in this hour God wants to make the “joy of the Lord” more than just a concept, He wants it to be a reality in our lives. Believe God for new things! Let Him draw you and bring you to His holy mountain and there, let Him pour over you His love and joy in ways you have not yet experienced.

David Robison

Monday, September 05, 2005

The foreigner and the eunuch are accepted: Is 56:3-5

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from His people.’ Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.’” (Isaiah 56:3-5)
Under the covenant God made through Moses, only the nation of Israel was invited to come near to God. God chose Israel that He might dwell in their midst, no other nation was chosen. Even among the sons of Aaron, only those who were without physical defects were permitted to come near to serve God. “For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles.” (Leviticus 21:18-20)

The foreigners and the eunuchs represent the outsiders and the unworthy. The foreigners are those who are not part of the “in crowd.” Their pedigree and upbringing are not consistent with that of the religious elite. They do not know the lingo, they are not familiar with their traditions, and the do not share the same religious history. The eunuchs, according to the law, were damaged goods. Along with the blind, lame, and deformed, they were defects, not fit for inclusion among the “perfect”. They are the broken, hurting, and wounded and they don’t fit in with our nice clean religion. However, under God’s new covenant, these are exactly the people whom God has chosen. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) It was the wise and the religious that rejected Jesus. Jesus “came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:1) Therefore, salvation was sent to the gentiles and to all those who were previously rejected under the old covenant. “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’” (Luke 14:23-24)

Have you ever felt like an outsider or an outcast? Have you ever felt unworthy of a relationship with your heavenly Father? Have you ever felt that you were beyond hope and beyond the love and acceptance of God? If so, then God is calling you! God’s desire is for you. He wants to be your Father and He wants you to be His son or daughter. Rejoice! you are exactly what God wants!

David Robison

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Don't let up: Is 56:1-2

Thus says the LORD, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed. How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.’” (Isaiah 56:1-2)
Knowing that Jesus will one day return to take to Himself His bride and to judge the living and the dead, what sort of people ought we to be and how should we live our lives? In the story of the minas, Jesus tells of a rich man who was going on a great journey. “He called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’” (Luke 19:13) While we wait for Jesus’ return, we are to be actively involved in the work of the Kingdom. This is not a time to “sit back” and to “take it easy.” This is a time to live seriously, to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV) These days are not an intermission they are the main event. We must live each day as if it counts for eternity because it really does. Jesus reminds us of the kind of lives we should live.
Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.” (Luke 12:42-46)
We must never loose site of why we are here. The servant in this story became distracted with the pleasures of the world. His concern for himself led him to despise and mistreat the other servants of his master. When we loose site of our mission and calling in God, when we take a break from the work He has called us to, we can easily be lead astray to worthless things that can harm our lives and the lives of those we love. We must keep focused on our master and His will and calling for our life. We have a job to do and a calling to answer. We must never let up! We must keep on pressing into the things of the Kingdom of God!

David Robison