Thursday, September 15, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 79

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 79

We've been reading about a people who were going through the motions of religious service without feeling anything in their hearts. Isaiah has made some woeful predictions about discipline for such a sin, but now he looks forward to a brighter day. A day is coming when people will not shut their eyes or cover their ears to the truth. 

"In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest?" (Isaiah 29:17) The Lord has been telling the people they have things upside down, thinking they are in charge, believing He doesn't see their sins or hear their thoughts. So He is going to turn things upside down. Lebanon was known for its forests and its prized cedar trees of extraordinary height but it is going to become like a fertile field. Some commentators believe this has to do with the calling of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Earlier in our study of Isaiah we studied the words of the Apostle Paul who said that since Israel rejected her King, the Gentiles would accept Him. But a day is also coming when, through the Gentiles, Israel will accept her King. The Gentiles were fertile ground in which to plant the seed of the gospel. This ground is so fertile that the seed that springs up will be mighty, like a forest. Israel believed God was her God alone but He is about to do something unexpected: He will bring the gospel to the Gentiles and will be their God as well.

"In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see." (Isaiah 29:18) In Matthew's gospel we find something which reminds me of this verse, "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16) Matthew was quoting from Chapter 9 of Isaiah, referring to the ministry of Jesus in the Gentile areas of the land. And like Chapter 9, today's chapter is looking ahead to a day when Christ will reign and the world will be filled with His justice and righteousness.

"Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down---those who with a word make someone out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice." (Isaiah 29:19-21) This world has seen a great deal of injustice and it's usually the poor and needy who suffer most. A time is coming when the innocent will look around for his accuser and not find him, for his accuser is no more. Those who had no regard for the plight of the widow and orphan will not be found. Those who plotted wickedness against their neighbors will vanish. Those who bribed judges and secured unlawful rulings will disappear. The Lord has His eye on the humble and the needy and He will plead their cause. As King Solomon warned, "Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; He will take up their case against you." (Proverbs 23:10-11) 

The Gentiles will accept the gospel but so will God's own people Israel with whom He made a covenant. At heart, we are all poor and needy, Jews and Gentiles alike. We are all sinners who need a Savior. The spirit of pride in us wants to say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." (Revelation 3:17a) But the Spirit of the Lord says to us, "You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17b) We must become humble before we can rejoice in the Lord. We must recognize our state of need. We must acknowledge our guilt before the One who can relieve us of our guilt. A day is coming when God's people will turn to the One they rejected and then He can say, "Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob: 'No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. When they see among them their children, the work of My hands, they will keep My name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction." (Isaiah 29:22-24)

The "children", the descendants of Jacob, will honor the Lord and we are given the image of Jacob looking down through the millennia and being proud of his children. No longer will he look upon them with shame because they have turned from the Lord, but he can take pleasure in a people who honor God. They won't be willfully blind. They won't be willfully deaf. They won't be stubborn or prideful. They will have humble hearts that welcome instruction and understanding. 

The salvation of these people is the Lord's doing, "the work of My hands". The God who redeemed Abraham did it with His own hands. Abraham was not saved by works. The God who redeemed the Gentile believers did it with His own hands. We did not obtain salvation by works. And the God who redeems Israel does it with His own hands. They will not find salvation by works. Abraham was saved by faith just as we all must be saved by faith in the One who offers us a better way. What a pressure is taken off us when we realize it's not up to us! What a welcome relief! What a deliverance from failure and despair! God did all the work and our job is simply to believe and accept on faith that Christ took our punishment upon Himself, dying in our place for sins, tasting death for every man and woman, and that He rose again proving He had conquered sin and death and hell and the grave. Our faith is in the One who overcame death, not in ourselves. Our salvation is in Him, not in our own works. Good works will flow from our closeness to Christ as the outward proof of what has taken place on the inside, but the only works that save us are the works Christ did on our behalf. As the Apostle Paul proclaimed, "We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) First we are created in Christ Jesus, and then we can do good works acceptable in the eyes of God. We become new creatures through faith in Christ and our changed attitudes and actions are the proof to those around us that a transformation has taken place. 

The beauty of the gospel is that it is offered to everyone. We can all become the work of the Lord's hands, new creatures, transformed from darkness into light. We can all become the children of the living God, redeemed by His Son, filled with the Holy Spirit who guides and instructs us. In humbleness of spirit we can come to Him and admit we need a Savior, that we are sinners, that we are broken, that we have made mistakes. We can hand over our old life in exchange for a new life. 

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