Monday, July 11, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 20

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 20

The Lord has been telling Isaiah that for those who trust in Him, He is a shelter. But for those who reject Him, He is their enemy. In The Message Of Isaiah by Barry G. Webb, the author says, "Before passing on, we must pause and reflect here, because something profoundly important has been happening in the second half of this chapter. There has been a marked sharpening of the demarcation between the faithful and unfaithful within the visible community of God's people, between those who respond to the word of God with obedient faith and those who do not, between the true and the false. This will happen more and more as the book runs its course until it becomes the a major strand of its message in the final two sections." Judgment is coming on the nation and the Lord is in the process of separating the wheat from the tares, taking note of who is faithful and who is not. So He provided a word of warning in the passage that we studied yesterday that He is a holy place and refuge, but also a trap and a snare. He is a hiding place for the faithful but the stone that causes the rebellious to stumble.

After giving these words to Isaiah, the Lord says, "Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God's instruction among My disciples." (Isaiah 8:16) Those of you who studied the book of Revelation with us may recall we had to rely heavily on the book of Daniel to interpret Revelation. The Lord gave Daniel visions of the end times, things that Daniel couldn't possibly understand in his day, because they were "sealed". When the Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, He gave John visions of the end times which were "unsealed", meaning they were able to be understood right then. The revelations the Lord gave John also unsealed the book of Daniel because it can now be understood in light of Revelation. Today the Lord tells Isaiah to "bind up" this testimony, not seal it, because the people need to hear and understand it now. Because Isaiah is going to need to refer to this same message over and over for all the years of his ministry, the book of prophecy needs a protective covering over it. He is to bind it so it will hold together for a long time, just as in our day we print our books with covers on them to protect the words inside. 

The Lord tells Isaiah to "seal up God's instruction among My disciples" and this refers to the sealing of God's word in the hearts of His prophets. They are to hold fast to it, to keep it, and to cling to it for dear life. The message itself isn't sealed because it's for the current time, but the men preaching the word of God are to make it a part of their very hearts, to hide it there and contemplate it day and night. As the author of Psalm 119 says, "I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You." (v. 11) 

In the United States we have the freedom to own a Bible and confess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and assemble together for worship. But what if a time of persecution comes when we won't be allowed to do these things? What if we can't pick up a Bible or go online to access the word of God? We will need to have enough of His word sealed up in our hearts to see us through. Perilous times were going to come upon Israel and Judah during and after the lifetime of Isaiah and the other prophets. Men and women of God were going to need to have the truth firmly settled in their hearts. They were going to need to know God's promises so they could find their hope in them. I don't think many would deny we are living in perilous times now. It seems like every day we turn the TV on only to hear of another shooting in our country, another terrorist attack either domestic or foreign, some new virus to be concerned about, some new failure of our government leadership, and on and on. How will we get up every day and face these things without the confidence that comes from having the truth of God's word sealed in our hearts? How will we find hope to face the future? Where will we summon the strength to keep marching on? 

The Bible is clear that in the last days "perilous times shall come". (2 Timothy 3:1) The Apostle Paul was writing these words to his brother in the faith, warning him of conditions that will deteriorate more and more as time goes on. Because perilous times were coming, Paul instructs Timothy, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:14-15) Timothy knew what he believed because he had sealed it in his heart. In his day the church was coming under severe persecution and it was going to keep getting worse, but he had been taught the Holy Scriptures from infancy. This set the stage for him coming to Christ under the preaching of Paul and now God's word is such a part of Timothy's character that Paul has confidence this young friend in Christ is going to make it all the way through. 

I don't know of anything else other than the gospel that will get us through this life with an unshakable hope. Whoever wins the presidential election won't be able to fix what's wrong in our nation. No human leader anywhere will be able to fix what's wrong in this world, because it's a problem of the heart that only Christ can repair. We are living in perilous times and these will continue to the end. The Bible tells us there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and other upheavals of nature, disasters both natural and man-made, the pestilence of diseases, and economic woes. But the biggest bail-out since time began is the incredible rescue the Lord Jesus pulled off when He became flesh and dwelt among us, taking on our sin and shame and punishment, going to the grave in our place, then rising victorious having conquered sin and death and hell. This is the truth sealed in our hearts, the truth that will take us all the way home.

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