Saturday, October 29, 2005

My Spirit shall remain: Is 59:21

‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says the Lord: ‘My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring,’ says the LORD, ‘from now and forever.’” (Isaiah 59:21)
When studying the Old Testament, one must determine weather the scripture is speaking to those under God’s old covenant with the nation of Israel, to those who would live under the new covenant initiated through Jesus Christ, or to both. For example, there was a worship song that was popular in some Christian churches during the 1990’s. It was taken from Psalm 51. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Psalms 51:10-12) While it was a beautiful song and expressed our desire to be holy before the Lord, it wasn’t accurate for the covenant we live in now. This scripture from Isaiah reminds us that God has promised not to take His Holy Spirit, or His word, away from us. David cried out to God not to take His sprit away from Him because he had seen God do such a thing. He saw what happened when God removed His spirit from King Saul. “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.” (1 Samuel 16:14) Under the old covenant, God’s Holy Spirit was given to an individual for a specific purpose and with no guarantee that His Spirit would remain forever. This, however, is not the case under the new covenant. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) God has also given us a new heart, a clean heart. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

We need to be careful not to confess who we were before we were accepted into the new covenant. We need to confess the promises of the new covenant and not the judgments of the old covenant. Even when Christians say that they are sinners saved by grace, they neglect the fact that the scriptures testify of then that they are a new creation. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We used to be sinners, but not any more, we have been created anew. We need to learn to confess who Jesus says we are and not who we feel like we are.

David Robison

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jesus Puts on the Armor of God: Is 59:17

He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.” (Isaiah 59:17)
The armor of God is not something that Christians alone wear. Jesus Himself wore such armor when he came to set mankind free. Where we are told to put on the armor of God, we are to don the very armor that Jesus Himself wears. Paul describes the armor of God, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

I have heard teaching on the armor of God that encourages us to put the armor on each morning before we start our day. I have heard others say that during their devotional time with the Lord they pray over the armor and “put it on” one piece at a time. However, the armor of God is not some mystical piece of hardware that we put on in the morning and take off at night. We put on the armor of God when we allow the things of the Kingdom to become part of our life. As we live the Kingdom life, the fruit that it bears in our life becomes armor to protect us from the wiles of the enemy. Notice that this scripture says that Jesus, “put on righteousness like a breastplate.” He did not put on a spiritual breastplate, rather His righteousness was like a breastplate over His heart and protected His heart from the darts of the enemy.

Do you need a breastplate? Then learn to live righteously. Do you need a belt to hold up your robe so that you can be unencumbered in life’s race? Then let truth be the guide and rule in all you do. Do you need a helmet to protect you from the lies and temptations of the enemy? Then allow His spirit to renew you in the spirit of your mind, let the hope of His salvation be the foundation of all your understanding. The armor of God takes more than prayer to put on, it requires us to live the Kingdom life. It requires that we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us body, soul, and spirit. Putting on God’s armor requires that we become like Him. Therefore, let us lay aside our old self and our old ways and take up the life and ways of the Kingdom of God. In doing so, we will find that we have armor that is able to withstand any attack of our enemy.

David Robison

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Jesus to the rescue: Is 59:9-20

Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, but behold, darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.” (Isaiah 59:9-10)
Isaiah, prophesying the Word of the Lord, gives a fitting summary to man’s experience on the earth. For sure, there have been some shinning moments, yet mankind’s six thousand year history has left much to be desired. Despite his high platitudes of peace on earth and the universal brotherhood of man, mankind has failed to produce any lasting peace and any real unity among the nations. We may have technology and wealth, yet morally and ethically, man is still the same sinner he was some six thousand years ago. Mankind is on a spiritual journey downward. Jesus, speaking of the later days, describes an age when the sins of man would increase to the detriment of all. Jesus said, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

To make matters worse, not only is man on a downward spiral, but he is unable to stop his downward progress. “Now the LORD saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede.” (Isaiah 59:15-16) Mankind had become a slave to the sinful nature within him, and try as he may, he himself was unable to break free from his bondage. God looked to see if there was anyone who could bring about the salvation of mankind, anyone who could intercede on their behalf, yet He found no one.

Therefore, God decided to come Himself, to deliver mankind from their sins. “Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle… ‘A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 59:16-17, 20) God accomplished what we could not, He came and paid the price for our sins and rose from the dead to secure our freedom from slavery. The name “Jesus” means, “Jehovah saves”. Jesus has saved us from our sin and has set us free from our sinful nature. What we could not do, Jesus has done.

David Robison

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The least common denominator: Is 59:3-8

““No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquityÂ… Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Isaiah 59:4, 6-8)
We are all very different in many ways. Our personalities, our abilities, our upbringing, and our experiences are all a part of what makes us unique. God has created each one of us different, even down to our fingerprints. No two fingerprints, or two people, are the same. When we consider all the ways we are different, there is one way, however, that we are very much the same, we are all sinners. Paul quotes the psalmist David saying, ““There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) Paul concludes, ““There is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23)

This truth should come as no surprise, it is testified to throughout all the scriptures, but how often we forget this simple fact. We tend to gravitate to one of two deceptions when it comes to the truth of our sinful natures. One deception says that man is basically good, although he occasionally does bad things. His sins are usually a result of conditioning by his environment or a result of oppression by institutions and authorities in his life. The second deception separates good people from bad people and, when it comes to us, we are the good people. Even among Christian circles, we tend to distinguish between the righteous (those in the church) from the unrighteous (those outside the church). Neither of these deceptions is accurate. The truth is that we are all sinners. This one fact unites all mankind as one. None of us is better than anyone else, none of us is born more righteous than anyone else, we are all sinners in need of salvation. Wreckont recon with the fact that the sinner is our brother.

While our sinfulness unites us, it also qualifies us for the greatest gift ever offered. ““It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners , among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15) We may be sinners, but being sinners qualifies us for GodÂ’s salvation. All have sinned therefore all are qualified. Thanks be to God!

David Robison

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Separated from God: Is 59:2

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
When God first created Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden He gave them this simple command, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17) How could Adam and Eve have understood what it meant to die? Until then, nothing had ever died. In their understanding, death was not annihilation, but rather, death was separation. Joshua told the people, “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth.” (Joshua 23:14) Joshua was not going to cease to exist, but he was going to Sheol, the place of departed souls. Joshua was going to be separated, or cut off, from the land of the living, but his soul was to remain very much alive. James makes this even more clear when he said, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead.” (James 2:26)

On the day that Adam and Eve took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they died, not physically but they died spiritually. They were separated from God because of their sin. Once they enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God and the next moment they were afraid of God and hid themselves from Him. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8)

All of us have sinned, and our sins have separated us from God. Our sins have become a wall between God and us, keeping us from God and keeping His blessings from us. We cannot be reconciled to God without first dealing with our sins. But how can we atone for our many sins? Thankfully, we don’t have to, Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:13-16) The law testifies against us of our sins and condemns us to death. Jesus came and, by His life, fulfilled all the law. Jesus was perfect and sinless. Then, after living a perfect life, He died to atone for our sins. He died so that all who would put their faith and trust in Him would be forgiven of their sins and reunited with God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The good news of the Gospel is that we no longer need to be separated from God. We can be reunited with the Father. This reconciliation is not based on any good works that we might do but is a free gift from God to all who may choose to accept it. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)

David Robison

Thursday, October 13, 2005

If because of the sabbath: Is 58:13-14

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
I have often wondered about the role of the sabbath day in the life of a Christian. Some people believe that it is essential for Christians to keep the sabbath, while some are not that strict. Some believe that a Christian should celebrate the sabbath on Saturday, while others prefer Sunday. This scripture clearly promises a blessing on those who keep the sabbath. So, how does a Christian keep the sabbath?

Paul, in the Book of Hebrews clearly identifies that, under the old covenant, God set aside the seventh day and declared it holy. “For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: ‘and God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’” (Hebrews 4:4) For six days God worked and created the heavens and the earth. On the seventh day, He rested. God therefore declared the seventh day to be holy and a day of rest. God had rested and, on the seventh day of each week, He invited men to share in His rest. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Geneses 2:3) God had given the Israelites a day of rest that they may rest from their labors just as God had rested from His labors. God had given a promise of rest, yet because of their unbelief, the children of Israel failed to enter into His rest. “For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘as I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter My rest,’ although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (Hebrews 4:3) The Israelites, living under the old covenant, were unable to enter into God’s rest. Therefore, when God established the new covenant, He once again made a promise of rest. “Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’” (Hebrews 4:6-7) What Paul is saying is that, under the new covenant, God has established a new day as the day of rest, and that day is “Today”.

For the Christian believer, their sabbath is “Today”. Each day we live with God by faith we are living in the sabbath rest of God. So what is a sabbath rest? “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10) When Jesus died on the cross, He cried out, “It is finished!” On the cross, Jesus brought and end to the power of sin in our lives. He brought an end to the demands of the law in our life. He brought and end to our own labors to live righteously. When we enter into God’s sabbath rest, we cease from our own works. This is in essence what this scripture in Isaiah is saying. The true sabbath rest of God is when we turn from our own pleasures to receive the joy and blessings of the Lord, when we turn from our own ways to live according to the ways of God, and when we cease from speaking our own words and fill our mouths and ears with the word of God. It is time to cease from our own labors and by faith enter into the rest of God. “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:9, 11)

David Robison

Monday, October 10, 2005

Then your light will break out: Is 58:8-12

Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’… Then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:8-11)
All of us want to abide in this place of abundance with God, and it is God’s desire to bring us into this place of blessing. Jesus came that we might experience abundant life and it is this abundant life to which we have been destined. “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground… The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand… The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath.” (Deuteronomy 28:11-13)

While God desires to bless us, some of His promises are conditional; they are dependent upon our response to His grace in our life. Our attitudes, beliefs, and actions can actually keep the blessings of God from coming our way. After Israel’s captivity in Babylon, God restored them to their land. Over time, however, they became more and more self-centered. Each one looked to the repairs of their own house while the house of the Lord remained in ruins. To get their attention, God withdrew His blessings from them and challenged them, “‘You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the Lord.” (Haggai 1:6-8) Their life of selfish pursuits limited the blessings of God. In this passage in Isaiah, God counsels the Israelites to do three things:

“Remove the yoke from your midst” (vs. 9): The yoke speaks of oppression. Sometimes oppression is overt, for example, the use of verbal and physical abuse as a means to control others. Other times, however, oppression is more subtle, it is more implied than direct, for example, we can place a yolk on one another by our unreasonable expectations of each other. I have seen this in the case of pastors where members of the church hold them in bondage to their unreasonable expectations of how perfect they believe he should be. Pastors are not gods, they are just men like us. They are not perfect but rather they share in our imperfections and weaknesses. We need to release people from our expectations of them. We need to let them grow to be the people God has called them to be, not the people we want them to be.

“Remove the pointing of the finger and the speaking of wickedness” (vs. 9): This scripture refers to our judgment of others. God has not called us to be our brother’s judge. It is not our job to bring accusations against our brothers and sisters. There is one who accuses, but he is not on God’s side. “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10) When we stand to accuse our brother, we are engaging in the work of the devil, we are partnering with him for the destruction of the kingdom. May it never be that we should partner with the devil in our words and actions. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted” (vs. 10): This scripture speaks to our self-centeredness. It is so easy to become wrapped up in our own problems and circumstances that we loose sight of everyone else around us. We can become so self-absorbed and so focused on our self that we do not see the suffering of others. In speaking of the Body of Christ, Paul says, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) From the original Greek, this scripture could be translated to say that we should have the “same distraction” for one another. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to distract us from ourselves that we may see the needs of others. A funny thing happens when we begin to minister to other people, our problems seem to grow smaller. When we focus on our problems, our problems are magnified in our eyes. When we focus on others, the Lord becomes magnified in our eyes.

This scripture in Isaiah begins with a wonderful word, “Then.” If we give ourselves to the kingdom of God, if we set our hearts to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, then God will truly open a window in heaven and pour out a blessing that we will not be able to contain.

David Robison

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Is this not the fast I have chosen? Is 58:1-7

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The people of Israel asked God this question, “Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?” (Isaiah 58:3) The Israelites were in an interesting predicament, they were practicing their religion yet God was not responding. They would fast and pray, yet God was not answering or taking notice of their situation. Why was God not answering them? It was because of their hypocrisy. “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God.” (Isaiah 58:2) God acknowledged that they were seeking Him, but they were seeking Him as a pretense to hide their sins. They sought the Lord, but not with their whole heart. God’s judgment of the people was “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13) The people fasted but it wasn’t from the heart, they were merely fulfilling their religious duty. It is possible to live a religious life and still be hard of heart. For the Israelites, their fasting had become all about themselves and they cared little for God or their fellow man. “Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers. Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.” (Isaiah 58:3-4) Even in their times of fasting, their thoughts were on themselves and what they wanted rather than on God.

While fasting is a valuable spiritual discipline for the Christian life, fasting in itself is not what God is seeking. God is more concerned with our heart then how many times we fast a week. If we fast simply as a religious obligation, then all we are doing is skipping meals. That is why God asked, “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?” (Isaiah 58:5) Fasting is not about what we do. Just because you fast three days does not mean that God is three times more likely to answer your prayers than someone who fasts only one day. God does not judge our fasting based on how much we suffer, rather He judges based on the condition of our heart. If our heart is wicked, God will not hear us regardless of how long we fast.

So, what kind of fast does God want? What is it that God wants from us? “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7) In God’s eyes, He would much rather see us live a godly life than a religious life. God would rather that we did the things of the kingdom that to do religious things, such as fasting. To do religious things, yet continue to live an unchanged life, is hypocrisy. When the Pharisees came to be baptized by John, he rebuked them and said to them, “So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.’” (Luke 3:7-8) If you are not living a Christian life, don’t bother fasting. First, begin to live a life that gives demonstration to a heart that has been changed by the power and love of God. Then God will hear you and He will notice you when you fast.

David Robison

Monday, October 03, 2005

The wicked are like the tossing sea: Is 57:20-21

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” (Isaiah 57:20-21)
Have you ever known someone whose life was in continual turmoil? They stumble through life from one disaster to another. They look for good but find only mud and refuse. In their life there is no peace, only trouble, confusion, and despair. This is the life of the wicked, those living without God and following a path after their own making.

How can such a storm tossed person find safe harbor for their life? There was a time when the disciples of Jesus were sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had stayed on the other side to spend the night praying. As the sailed, a great storm came up and tossed them violently. As they rowed hard against the storm, Jesus came to them walking on the water. The disciples were first afraid, but soon they were glad to have Jesus aboard with them. “Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished.” (Mark 6:51) As soon as they received Jesus into the boat with them, the wind and the storm ceased and the sea was calm.

When our lives are turbulent and storm tossed, we need to invite Jesus into our “boat”. The presence of Jesus in the boat with the disciples was enough to calm the storm, and the same is true in our lives. When we allow Jesus to come in, and when we surrender our lives to Him, He calms our storms and restores peace to our lives. Jesus becomes our rock of strength and our tower of refuge. “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:17-20) The hope Paul is talking about is our hope in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When we place our hope in Him, our hope becomes an anchor to our souls, an anchor to hold our life steady and firm, regardless of the storms that may come our way. Is your life like the storm tossed of the waves of the sea? If so, invite Jesus into your boat and let Him calm the storm.

David Robison

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Comfort to his mourners: Is 57:17-19

‘Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him.’” (Isaiah 57:17-19)
Most of us have seen a movie or read a book where the moral of the story is that we should “follow our heart.” If our hearts were pure and completely sanctified, this would not be bad advice, but unfortunately, none of us has reached the place of complete sanctification. God is still in the process of renewing our minds and our hearts, a process that will last until we shed this flesh and ascend into the presence of God in heaven. Jeremiah reminds us that, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Sometimes the deceit is so deep that we are not always aware of the reasons and motivations behind our behaviors. This is why we need the Word of the Lord to judge our hearts, because “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Do you know anyone who, due to their following after their own heart and desires, have begun a process of turning away from the Lord? Sometimes we become unsatisfied with the way that God has chosen for us, so we turn from that way and begin to pursue our own way. In our own mind we may justify ourselves saying that we still love the Lord, but our walk and our pursuits are not after Him but after other things. For a time, God may be willing to let us wander after our own way, like the father of the prodigal son, but in the end, He will move with compassion and mercy to draw us back to Himself. We may wander from God’s ways, but we can never wander from His love.

This scripture gives encouragement not only for our own lives but also for the lives of those we love. Most of us know at least one person who is dear to us who is at a place in the life where they are pursuing things other than the Lord. To watch someone wander can be very painful, especially for parents. Many children go though phases in their life when they test the boundaries of their parent’s faith. It is a time when they are deciding if their parent’s faith will become their own faith. As a parent, this can be very painful to watch, yet God gives all parents great hope. In speaking of the wandering one, God gives these promises.

I am watching: God says, “I have seen his ways.” Even when our children are out of our sight, God is still watching over them. Our children may fool us, but they cannot fool God. God sees what they are doing, He knows and understands their hearts, and He is orchestrating a plan to draw them back.

I will heal him: There comes a time when you have said all you can say. Our words can become the foundation upon which God may build in their lives, but our words can never replace power of a personal touch from God. It can be hard watching God work in our children’s lives, knowing there is little else we can contribute, but when God works, His work will stand forever. God is committed to the healing and restoration of those we have entrusted to Him. God promises, “I” will heal!

I will lead him: God has a way of leading us back to Himself. He has a way of turning the desires of our hearts to be more in agreement with His heart. God will use other people and even difficult circumstances to lead us back to Him. Jesus said this of the Holy Spirit, “He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13) God has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us, and not only us, but all those whom He has chosen.

I will comfort him: In the Psalms, David said to, “Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.” (Psalms 149:1) The “new song” that David is talking about is our praise to God for all He has brought us through. When God brings us through difficult situations, or when He corrects us and restores us, our heart’s natural response to God is praise. Praise for His loving kindness towards us. Praise for His ever lasting love and care for our lives. We find that we are able to praise God in a new way because of the new things God has done for us.

I will comfort his mourners: King David said, “He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalms 126:6) Parenting is not always easy, in fact, sometimes it hurts. We sow seeds into our children, sometimes with weeping, and hope for a bountiful harvest. We sow our seed and trust the Lord for the harvest. Our hope is that, in the end, we will have joy with the Lord in the work He has done in the lives of our children. John said, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) When God restores the wayward ones, what great joy will be ours.

I have written this primarily in regard to a parent and a wandering child, but the promises of God are not limited to this relationship. Anyone who is longing for someone dear to them to return to the Lord can take great hope in His promises. What God has said He will do, He will do!

David Robison