Sunday, August 14, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 47

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 47

Isaiah's prophecy against Damascus is equally a prophecy against Israel whose king has allied himself with the king of Aram. Chapter 17, though titled A Prophecy Against Damascus, is also an indictment against Israel for turning from her God.

"In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation." (Isaiah 17:9) When Israel entered the Promised Land, she defeated many tribes of the Canaanites who abandoned their cities. Israel took over these cities and lands and became a great nation. But Isaiah is warning Israel that her cities will meet the same fate as that of the Canaanites. Assyria will overthrow the nation and claim the land as its own.

The reason for this coming calamity is explained here, "You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain." (Isaiah 17:10-11) The charge the Lord brings against His people is that they have forgotten Him, the One who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, the One who went before them into battle, the One who took twelve sons of Jacob and made them into a wealthy and formidable kingdom. Because they have forgotten Him, nothing they do will satisfy them, not even the food they try to grow in the fields, because they are going about their lives in their own strength rather than in the strength of the Lord.

Yesterday we spoke about the things in our past we are ashamed of, about the way we lived before we came to know Christ. We may have had some worldly successes but they didn't satisfy our souls, did they? We may have had the admiration of others and lots of friends hanging around us all the time. We may have had many things going on in our lives that the world praises. But there was an emptiness in our souls. The Lord has not said we can't achieve worldly success without Him, but He has said we won't accomplish anything with eternal and satisfying fruitfulness without Him. Just think of how many celebrities possess all the wealth and fame they could possibly want yet are miserably unhappy, addicted to drugs or alcohol, with several of them tragically dying of accidental overdoses. Wealth will never satisfy us unless Christ is at the center of our lives. Neither will any amount of success at work, or recognition in the community, or possessions, or relationships, or anything else. We can best enjoy these blessings if our hearts are right with God because we will know for a fact that our security is in Him and not in anything the world gives us. 

It's interesting that the Lord says here that the people may plant the finest vines in their fields but they won't bear fruit because the people have rejected Him. It reminds me of when the Lord Jesus compared Himself to a vine, with us (as believers) as the branches of the vine. Unless we remain connected to the vine we cannot bear worthwhile fruit, just as a branch in the garden that's cut off from the vine cannot bear fruit. "Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5) As Christians we are intended to be connected firmly to the vine at all times. It is from this vine we receive our nourishment and it is vital we do not cut ourselves off from it. If we drift in our relationship from the Lord we will stop producing fruit that will be worthy of reward when we stand before Him someday. We may still be good at our jobs and we may still receive praise of our fellow man for accomplishments, but these will be hollow victories. At our hearts we will feel empty. We might even turn to the wrong things to fill that emptiness instead of turning back to the Lord and repairing our relationship with Him. Apart from abiding in the vine, in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can do nothing that is of eternal value. When we stand before our Lord on the day He judges our works, we will only be proud of those things which we did in His strength and for His glory. 

It's not only Israel who has failed to acknowledge the Lord. Next we find Isaiah pronouncing woe upon the nations who do not revere God as Lord, and especially upon the nations who have plundered Israel: the people of God. "Woe to the many nations that rage---they rage like the raging sea! Woe to the peoples who roar---they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when He rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us." (Isaiah 17:12-14) The Lord is about to use Assyria to discipline His people Israel, but this doesn't let Assyria off the hook for her atrocities. Assyria will be overthrown by Babylon in the same manner in which she overthrew Israel. Throughout history, all who have plundered Israel have ended up plundered themselves, for God is faithful to His promises.

I think today's passage is very applicable to our modern lives. Yesterday I was thinking about how I spend my whole week working a full-time job and plus doing all the work it takes to keep the household running, and all week I'm looking forward to my two days off on the weekend. Then when the weekend comes it feels kind of blah, like I'm unsettled and unsatisfied, not sure how to fill my time. We can become burned out from our daily lives and even feel depressed and sort of discouraged when we start thinking about how we have to do the same old things over and over, day in and day out. We can lose our joy and the simple pleasure of daily living. And I think it's in those times the Lord is urging us to spend some extra time with Him. I think He wants to draw us in for a big comforting hug. In Christians, that feeling of temporary discontent doesn't necessarily mean we've got unconfessed sin in our lives, but it can be a symptom of just needing a little extra nourishment from the vine. I feel like right now the Lord is telling me I need to draw in a little closer to the vine, that this particular branch could benefit from more time spent sitting at His feet. There's something about that extra time in the presence of the Lord that tends to make everything around us look fresh and new. Burnout can happen to any of us but as Christians we know the source of our help. We know who can give us fresh energy and a new outlook. So on this Sabbath day let's draw in closer to the precious vine that sustains us. "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31) 

Below is our worship song link for this Sabbath day, a song of praise to the source of our strength.

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