Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A life lived well? Is 66:22-24

“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:24)
This past summer I had the honor of preaching my grandmother’s funeral. At the internment, I challenged those present to look around them. My grandmother was buried at Rose Hills just outside Los Angeles, California. Rose Hills is one of the largest burial sites in the world. Within eye sight of my grandmother’s grave were literally thousands of other graves, each one representing a life, and each life having its own story. Some lived their lives well, like my grandmother, while others were to be found wanting. Looking at all those graves, and the lives they represented, made me consider my own life. One day it will be my turn to be lowered into the grave, one day others will stand around and recount my life, and in that day, what will be the sum of my life? Will it be said of me that I lived my life well?

King Solomon reminds us, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4) Recently, I have been to far too many funerals, and none of them were easy. Yet even in the house of sorrow wisdom can be found. It is good to be drawn to consider our lives. This life is mortal, it is but for a moment, but we are eternal beings. One day we will pass from this life to a life eternal. The question before all of us is where we will spend eternity? Will we spend eternity in the presence of God or will we only know eternal judgment? The choice is ours! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) The choice is our, will we believe upon Jesus and receive His eternal life, or will we reject His Gospel and suffer eternal separation from God? As for me, I have chosen to receive Him. Thanks be to God!

David Robison

Sunday, January 29, 2006

To those who have not heard: Is 66:19-21

“‘I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.’” (Isaiah 66:19-20)
We who have escaped the dominion of this world have been called to take the Gospel to those who are still held captive by its power. When the disciples asked Jesus about the signs of His coming again, He told them, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Jesus is waiting, waiting for all to have had an opportunity to hear and receive His Gospel before He comes to bring and end to all things. Jesus is waiting for all to hear and we are the ones who are to tell them. Much of the commission of God upon our lives can be summed up in one word, “Go!” After Jesus’ death and resurrection, as He was ascending back into heaven, He gave His disciples this command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) We are all called to go. For some, they are called to go into their neighborhoods and work places to share and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For some, they are called to go into distant lands and give their life amongst a foreign people that they might know His name. What ever our mission field, we are all called to “Go!”

As we go, our message is not one of condemnation, but one of reconciliation. We do not preach ourselves or our own ways, but we are sent to declare God’s glory. The same glory that Moses saw when God declared it to Him, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:6-7) God’s glory is connected to His goodness and His forgiveness. We are messengers of His glory and ambassadors of His message of reconciliation.

Who is sufficient for such things? Who is worthy of the honor of declaring His glory among the nations? God is looking for clean vessels. In Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, he hears God ask this question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah’s immediate response is “Here am I. Send me.” God has been asking this question for many thousands of years, yet we have been deaf of hearing and slow to respond. Why hadn’t Isaiah heard God’s call before? The answer is evident in the preceding verses. “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’” (Isaiah 6:5-7) Sin deafens us to the call of God. It was only after Isaiah saw his sin, repented of it, and received forgiveness and cleansing for his sin that he was able to hear God’s call. God has a tremendous mission for our lives. God has called us to labor with Him in spreading His gospel and hastening the return of His Son, but first we must be willing to expose our life to the light of His word and allow Him to cleanse us of all our impurities. If we are so willing, then we will be those “clean vessels” that will bring in the end time harvest of God.

David Robison

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Be joyful with Jerusalem: Is 66:10-17

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” (Isaiah 66:10-11)
God is speaking to those who love and care for Jerusalem, to those who morn over her sins and the calamity that has befallen her. God’s promise is that He is going to answer their prayers and bless His people. “For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.” (Isaiah 66:12) God is about to bless His people, and he will not leave out those who have cared for her and mourned over her. “Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, and your bones will flourish like the new grass; and the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants.” (Isaiah 66:14) God wants us to remember that our prayers are not in vain. He wants us to not give up but to continue in prayer and watching. We must not loose hope but trust in the Lord. God will come and bless his people and, in their blessing, we too will be blessed. Don’t give up, cry out to God for His people, and watch for His blessings that are sure to come.
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

David Robison

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A nation in a day: Is 66:7-9

“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. ‘Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?’ says your God.” (Isaiah 66:7-9)
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine established the nation of Israel on the land once promised to her by God. In a single day, a new nation in Palestine was created. Nothing like this had ever occurred before and it is unlikely to ever happen again. The creation of the nation state of Israel in 1947 was a direct fulfillment of this prophecy from Isaiah.

Who could have imagined that a nation could be born in a day? Sometimes it is easier to believe God to bring about His promises gradually over time. For example, it is easier for us to believe that God will heal us over time instead of believing for an instantaneous miraculous healing. Sometimes, the work of God take time, sometimes we are required to mix patience with our faith, but other times God brings forth His promises all at once, in a single moment. God, at times, acts in a way that is sudden and unpredictable and that changes our lives forever. It reminds me of the story of Joseph in Egypt. One day he is in prison and the next day he is standing before Pharaoh. One day he is in charge of a few prisoners and the next day he is made second in command of all of Egypt. We must never stop believing God for the miraculous. We must never stop believing God to intervene in our lives, to change us in a moment and to change us forever.

Just as God determined to give birth to a new nation, so there are things in our lives that God desires to give birth to. God had brought us to the place of new birth in our lives. We stand at the precipice of new beginnings and new experiences with God. All God is waiting for is for us to step forth in faith. “The pains of childbirth come upon him; he is not a wise son, for it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb.” (Hosea 13:13) God has brought His promises to a time of birth in our lives; all we must do is step forth into them. Now is not the time to delay. Now is the time to step forward in faith into all that God has for us.

David Robison

Thursday, January 19, 2006

To obey is better than sacrifice: Is 66:3-6

“But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog's neck; he who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine's blood; he who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” (Isaiah 66:3-4)
It is possible to hold to religion traditions and laws while at the same time letting go of God. The Israelites continued to practice their religious traditions even though, in their hearts, they had grown apostate. Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” While he was wrong in terms of religion’s influence on society, religion can become the opiate of the religious. Religion can comfort our sinful hearts and lull us to sleep with a false sense of security. We believe that we are acceptable to God because we are doing religious things, even though our hearts are far from Him.

Religion is no substitute for obedience. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) It is not enough to be a Christian; we must live as Christians. We can go to church, we can pray and read our Bible, we can even tell other about Jesus but unless we learn to obey His voice, these things are nothing but dead works. Samuel rebuked King Saul when he ignored the word if the Lord and offered sacrifices on his own. Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Religion is easy, we just have to do what others say we should do, following God can be hard, we have to listen and obey what He tells us to do. There is a price to following God. It often involves some level of personal sacrifice and it always requires the surrender of our will to His.

God is calling us to obedience. Paul, writing of his own ministry said he had “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake.” (Romans 1:5) Paul’s ministry was more than just getting people saved; he was to bring them into obedience to the Gospel. In the great commission, Jesus said to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Our churches can be full of people, but unless those who fill it are willing to surrender all and follow Christ, they are nothing more than the holding pens of the condemned. Obedience stars with us; we cannot teach what we do not do. We cannot preach obedience unless we are willing to embrace it ourselves. When it comes to obedience, we need to remember what God said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7) Don’t harden your heart, choose to obey Him!

David Robison

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A house for God: Is 66:1-2

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
What kind of house can we build for God and where is the habitation of God with man? Over the past 6000 years, man has looked to many things as “The House of God”. Probably one of the earliest references to God’s house is found in the Book of Geneses. Jacob was running from his brother Esau and, as he lay sleeping, had a dream of a ladder that reached into heaven and of angels ascending and descending on that ladder. When he woke, “He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.” (Geneses 28:17-19) The name “Bethel” literally means “The House of God.” Jacob believed that place to be the House of God because it was there that he experienced the presence of God.

Hundreds of years later, Moses would construct a “Tent of Meeting”, a place where he and the people could meet with God. “Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp… Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses.” (Ex 33:7, 9) Prior to the construction of a temple in Jerusalem, this tent was known as the House of God. It was a place where people could meet with God and hear His voice.

Fast forward many years and there was another man who sought to build a house for the Lord. King David desired to build a house fitting for the name of the Lord but, because David was a man of war, God would not have it. “Go and tell David My servant, ‘Thus says the Lord, “You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in; for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another.”’” (1 Chronicles 17:4-5) In the end, it was David’s son Solomon who would build a temple, a house, for the Lord.

But what kind of house can we build for the Lord? How can we build a place for His habitation? When Stephen was standing trial before the Jewish council and the High Priest, he quoted this passage in Isaiah and reminded us that, “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands.” (Acts 7:48) Our church recently built its own building. After many years of renting we finally had our own place. It was a blessing not to have to setup and tear down every Sunday and it was a blessing to have a place of our own to use as we pleased. However, some have come to think of the building as “God’s House”, as if the building, and especially the sanctuary, were hollowed and sacred. But can buildings built with human hands ever be “God’s House”?

Jacob understood what made a place, or a building, the House of God; it was the presence of God. A place, or a building, is only special and hollow if the presence of God is there. So where is God’s presence? He is in the hearts of those who know Him and love Him. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) We are the temples of God; God lives in us. When we are present in a church building, it is hollow because we are there and God is there in us. God’s presence does not live in a building, but in our hearts. Where ever we are, there is the House of God. We carry Him with us and we carry Him to the world. What a privilege to be a living temple of His presence.

David Robison

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Verse 8 - A new heaven and a new earth: Is 65:17-25

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness.” (Isaiah 65:17-18)
In the closing chapters of the Bible, Jesus declares of Himself, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5 NKJV) Presently, a lot of this work is being done in our hearts. Jesus is working in us to make us new in spirit and souls, but this is not all that Jesus is making new. One day He will make us new in our bodies; our bodies will be transfigured as we are ruptured to meet Him in the air. Jesus’ work of making new is not limited to us however, one day He will make all things new. One day everything of this present creation will be done away with and God will create in its place a new heavens and earth. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) Peter is not speaking figuratively, nor is he merely waxing poetic, he is speaking a truth that will literally come to pass. One day God will literally destroy the present heavens and earth and literally create a new heaven and a new earth. A simple search of the scriptures would reveal that this truth of the destruction of this world and the creating of a new one is consistent through out both the old and new testament. What sort of new world will this be?

“There will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying.” (Isaiah 65:19) In God’s new creation there will be no sorrow or sadness; there will be no need for tears. It will not only be a place where God’s people rejoice, but a place to make glad the heart of God. “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people.” (Isaiah 65:19)

“They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity.” (Isaiah 65:21, 23) Our present world is cursed with futility. We labor and work, but to what end? We make our plans for the future but far too often the future does not turn out as we imagined and our plans are frustrated and fail. In God’s new world our labors will not be in vain and the work of our hands will be for eternity.

“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24) God will dwell with His people in the His new heaven and earth. God will no longer be distant, seated in heaven. Rather God will dwell in the midst of His people and they will behold His beauty and hear His voice. We will no longer need to seek for God for He will always be with us. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” (Revelation 21:3)

“The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain.” (Isaiah 65:25) Our world is wearing old under the weight of its sins. There are many adjectives that could be used to describe our world but “upright” and “righteous” would not be among them. We long for a world free from sin and, in God’s new world, this is what we will find. All that pains us about this world will be done away with and all that is good will be found. “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)

How blessed they will be whom God counts worthy to inherit His new creation!

David Robison

Monday, January 09, 2006

Verse 7 - God plays favorites: Is 65:13-16

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. Behold, My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart, but you will cry out with a heavy heart, and you will wail with a broken spirit.’” (Isaiah 65:13-14)
We like to think of God as being fair, for He certainly “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) But there are some cases where God does make a distinction. There are the broad and general blessings of God that fall upon all mankind, the rising of the sun and the rain for the crops, but there are other blessings that God reserves for His chosen ones. For example, when God was sending His judgments upon Egypt, He made a distinction between the people of Egypt and the decedents of Abraham who inhabited the land of Goshen. God told Moses about the plague that He was about bring upon the livestock in Egypt, yet God was going to spare the Israelites’ livestock. “But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 9:4) The next day it happened just as it had been told to Moses. All the livestock in Egypt died, yet “there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead.” (Exodus 9:7) While God was poring out His judgment on some, God’s blessing was still upon His people.

In this scripture, God declares that there will be some in Israel who will suffer lack while others are blessed. Some who thought they had the Kingdom would be found outside while others, even foreigners, would possess the Kingdom of God. Why would God seek to make such a distinction between one man and another? Paul gives us a clue when he writes to the Romans, “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.” (Romans 11:13-14) Paul wanted the world to see what God was doing through him that, if somehow, some of his fellow Jews would be moved to jealousy and, out of their jealousy, return to God.

God wants to bless us in a way that other might become jealous, that they may see and desire what we have, and that their jealousy might motivate them to seek and find what we have already found. Our lives are to be a living advertisement for the Kingdom of God. People should be able to see in us the goodness and lovingkindness of the Lord. They should be able to see in us the very things they truly desire in the depths of their hearts. Our lives should make them want to be reconciled to God, to return to Him and to enjoy the benefits of fellowship with God. This is why Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16) Are you living your life out in the open? Are you letting your light shine so others may see it? Do not hide your light; let the world see it, shine it forth for all to see!

David Robison

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Verse 6 - A remnant and a Heir: Is 65:8-12

“Thus says the LORD, ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, “Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,” so I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and My servants will dwell there.’” (Isaiah 65:8-9)
As you read the history of Israel it is easy to loose sight of the greater picture. God’s covenant with Abraham was of a greater purpose than just establishing a nation. God’s purpose was that, through the nation Israel, He might bring forth a savior that would bless all mankind. “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Geneses 22:16-18) Certainly God was going to bless Abraham’s decedents, but God’s greater purpose was to bring forth a “seed”; a “seed” that would bless all the nations. Paul makes it very clear that, in this scripture, God was speaking of Jesus. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)

In this scripture, God speaks of a remnant that would be left. God promises not to destroy all of Israel, though she deserved it due to her sins, but God promised to leave a remnant. God’s promise was not based on any inherent righteousness that belonged to the remnant, but that His promise of bringing forth a “seed” may be fulfilled. God was intent that “and heir of My mountains” would come forth from Judah just as He had previously prophesied. I am grateful that God did not allow the sins of Israel to nullify His promise of a savior.

This scripture also speaks of those who would inherit the Promise Land along with His Heir. It would be God’s chosen ones, His servants, which would inherit His mountains. Peter speaks of God’s chosen ones when he writes, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) Peter is not speaking of the nation of Israel but of all who would call upon Jesus and receive His salvation and sanctification. God’s promises were no longer the sole possession of the Jews, but were to be for all who would receive His Son and walk in His ways.

The Israelites had bought into a deception that, just because they were Israelites, God would continue to bless and protect them, even if they refused to walk in His ways. However, they rebelled and rejected God, their husband, so God divorced Israel and determined to give His “promise land” to another. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) As Christians, we too can fall into the same deception, but God is clear. It is not enough to simply call ourselves children of God; we must also walk as children of God. Jesus put it this way, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21) It is time to live as the people we really are, the children of God.

David Robison

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Verse 5 - Love, provocation, and retribution: Is 65:1-7

“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts.” (Isaiah 65:1-2)
In the New Testament, we are described as being the “Bride of Christ.” As brides go, however, we are not much of a catch. When I look at the church and the people Jesus died to save, I sometimes think that Jesus could have done better. When Jesus set His heart to woe and wed us, we were not much to behold. We were not a righteous people, we were living lives of sin, and we gave no thought to seeking the Lord. While we were yet unlovely, God loved us. While we were yet undesirable, God sought us out. The Apostle John reminds us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:10, 19) The Apostle Paul concurs with John, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) How incredible is God’s love towards us! His love for us is not based upon who we are but on who He is. “God is love” (1 John 4:16)
“A people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots. Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.” (Isaiah 65:3-5)
In spite of God’s unfailing love, the people of Israel rebelled against their lover and followed a way of their own choosing. Instead of living according to the ordnances of God, they followed after their own lusts and desires. They comforted themselves that they were, after all, children of Israel and assumed that God would accept them on that basis, yet they lived like the gentiles around them. They possessed a form of self-righteousness. As Jews, they believed that they were better and more righteous than other people, yet they forgot that just having the law did not make them better than anyone else unless they actually lived according to that law. As Christians, it is easy to fall into the same deception of self-righteousness. We call ourselves “Christians” and consider ourselves to be holier than unbelievers, but far too often we live like the same unbelievers we are quick to judge. What we call ourselves makes no difference. It is how we live our lives that we will be judged.
“‘Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will even repay into their bosom, both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together,’ says the Lord. “Because they have burned incense on the mountains and scorned Me on the hills, therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.’” (Isaiah 65:6-7)
Someone once said, “The wheels of God’s justice may turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” God is long suffering, but He will not let sin go unpunished. We may think God does not see and we may assume God doesn’t really care, but God does see and He does care. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) We reap what we sow and, if we have learned and continued in the sins of our fathers, we may even reap what they sowed as well. It is not hard to see that many sins get passed down from generation to generation. For example, drunkenness, addictions, and sexual impurity are often passed down from one generation to another. With each successive generation the effect and the magnitude of these sins multiplies. Now is the time to deal with our sins and break the cycle of sin. We may have sinned but by the grace of God, these sins can end with us. We do not have to pass them on to our children; we can deal with them now. “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31)

David Robison

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Verse 4 - A cry for help: Is 64:1-12

“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.” (Isaiah 64:1)
Isaiah begins to reflect upon Israel’s present condition and the path that has led her to this place. Isaiah comes to understand that it has been Israel’s sins that has led her away from God and has brought upon her these present sufferings and afflictions.
“Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a long time; and shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” (Isaiah 64:5-7)
Isaiah confesses that not only has Israel sinned but she has continued in them “a long time.” The word picture in the Hebrew is of a “vanishing point.” This word speaks of a time past that can no longer be remembered. Israel’s sins had lasted for so long, that Isaiah could not remember when they started. It seemed as if she has always sinned and, even though Isaiah know that there was a time when Israel walked with God, he could not remember the time, it had happened too long ago. All of Israel had become unclean and defiled. The term used by Isaiah for “filthy garment” is that of a “menstruation cloth”. Israel’s defilement was not some small stain but rather was complete and abhorrent, one that could not easily be expunged. For so long had Israel shunned God’s ways to walk in her own uncleanness, that God eventually gave her over to “the power of her iniquities.” What a horrible thing to be left to the power of our iniquities. Paul wrote of those who God “gave over to degrading passions.” (Romans 1:26) When we are given over to our own sins the end result can only be death and corruption.

Yet in spite of the realities of Israel’s apostasy, Isaiah still finds hope. Isaiah calls to mind the eternal goodness, compassion, and faithfulness of God. Specifically, three things encourage him that Israel can still be saved.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) Isaiah reminds himself (and God) that we are His children and He is our Father. God has created us and He will not forever forget the works of His hands. If God does punish and afflict us it is only for our redemption and, if we turn from these things, God will abundantly pardon. The key is to learn to submit to His hands and His working in our lives. He is the potter and we are the clay and the clay must submit itself to the hands of the potter. It is only when we resist that God has to use greater force to form us into what He wishes.

“Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways.” (Isaiah 64:4-5) No matter how bleak the times may appear to be, God is never very far away. God is always ready and willing to act on behalf of those who need Him. Often what restrains God from acting is simply our own forgetfulness of God. The busyness of life can easily push God from our minds. Even in difficult times, we can become so absorbed in solving our problems ourselves that we forget to call upon God. We fall into the trap of thinking we can manage life by ourselves and forget that God hold the answers to every of life’s problems. If we need help, there is really only one place to turn, to the Lord.

“Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O Lord? Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure?” (Isaiah 64:12) The implied answer is “No!” God will not wait forever. Though He may delay, there will come a time when He will act. “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8) Sometimes faith is not enough. Sometimes faith must be mixed with patience. “[Be] imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) When we cry out to God, if He fails to answer immediately, we should not give up and loose hope for He will answer us. In my own life I have gleaned great comfort from this one thought: no matter how bad things are now, they will not last forever. In time, God will act!

David Robison