Friday, September 2, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 66

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 66

We begin Chapter 26 today and, like Chapter 25, it is a song of praise. The King has come and is ruling the world in righteousness. All oppression has ceased. Tears have been wiped from all eyes. 

"In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: 'We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts." (Isaiah 26:1) Isaiah tells the people this vision during a time when Judah's king is considering an alliance with Egypt against their common enemy of Assyria. Soon in the book of Isaiah, the prophet will pronounce woes upon the foolishness of expecting help from Egypt and not expecting help from God. But in the day when the Messiah and King reigns from Jerusalem, He himself will keep the peace. Man will never again look to heavily fortified walls or to weapons or soldiers for defense. The city will be strong because the King within her is strong. His salvation protects her on every side.

Because God's offer of salvation is extended to every tribe and nation, all who have received Christ are welcome in the strong city, from every corner of the world. "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith." (Isaiah 26:2) When God looks down from heaven on His faithful ones, He doesn't see us as Americans or Europeans or Africans or Middle Easterns or Asians. He doesn't see us as Jews or Gentiles. He sees us as "the righteous nation", for we are "all one in Christ Jesus". (Galatians 3:28b) 

Next we find one of the most profound and most comforting verses of the book of Isaiah, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You." (Isaiah 26:3) The first time I heard this verse in a sermon it was from the ESV, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." What an awesome promise! God never said we would feel peaceful if we look around us at the world or if we watch the news or read the paper. More and more these days, I find the news makes me unsettled and anxious. The Lord also didn't say we would remain peaceful if we concentrate on our circumstances. If we focus on our circumstances enough, they will soon seem bigger to us than our God. But He keeps in perfect peace the one whose mind is focused on Him. This verse always reminds me of the Apostle Peter who had the faith to step out of the boat and walk toward Jesus on the water. He was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked around him at the raging sea and blustering winds. That's when he began to sink. That's when his circumstances started to look bigger than his God. We've all done it at one time or another: spent more time thinking about our troubles than thinking about the awesome power of our God. That's why we sometimes sink into discouragement and begin to doubt God is going to intervene or that He is going to bring something good out of our trials. When we realize this is happening, we must do what Peter did. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" We have to cry out, "Lord, save me from my doubts. Help my unbelief. Remind me of who You are and how small my troubles are compared to You."

"Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal." (Isaiah 26:4) Amen! He is the eternal, immovable Rock! Anything built on Him will stand. Life can be uncertain and insecure but we have a Rock that can never be removed or shaken. He is our security in a scary world. 

The people again rejoice in their Deliverer, just as they did in Chapter 25, because He has conquered every enemy and laid low every nation that oppressed them. He has humbled the proud spirit in man that boasted in himself rather than in the Creator. "He humbles those who dwell on high, He lays the lofty city low; He levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust. Feet trample it down---the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor." (Isaiah 26:5-6) This is when the meek inherit the earth. The ungodly proud ones who trusted in idols and in the work of their own hands are no more. Those who trusted in their riches, gained by dishonest dealings, are no more. The judges who accepted bribes to rule against the orphan and the widow are no more. The grand cities and monuments that man built to honor himself are inherited by the meek and lowly. 

"The path of the righteous is level; You, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth." (Isaiah 26:7) I like to picture this path as one of dirt or sand, completely straight and level, swept clean of any pebbles that could possibly cause a person to stumble. "My steps have held to Your paths' my feet have not stumbled." (Psalm 17:5) "You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way." (Psalm 18:36) "In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:6) "I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." (Proverbs 4:11) Isaiah, along with King David and King Solomon, are not promising us an untroubled life, but they are promising us that if we keep our eyes on our Redeemer, He will lead us in the way we should go. We are to walk in His footsteps, guided and directed by Him, in all that we do. When guided by His word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped to make correct decisions for ourselves and our families. 

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of Your laws, we wait for You; Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." (Isaiah 26:8) There's nothing better we can do with our lives than desire the name and renown of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do this with our words, our actions, and our attitudes. We are His ambassadors in this dark world and it's important we shine a light on Him, living lives of integrity that honor His name, loving our fellow man as Jesus has commanded. If people don't find something honorable and attractive about the Christian life, how will they find something honorable and attractive about Christ? We are to live in this world with Jesus' name and renown being the desire of our hearts so that people will find their way to Him and be made whole. This is a matter of life or death for their souls and it should be the most serious and most important goal of our lives: to lift up Christ so that men and women will be drawn to Him. 

What a mighty Savior we have! What a Rock! What a Redeemer! How can we not feel the urgency of leading others to the salvation and the peace we ourselves have found in Him? How can we not want the whole world to experience this love and mercy? 

Lord, help us to desire Your name and renown above all other things. Help us to live in such a way that people want to know more about You, that they will want the joy and peace we have in You. Give us a heart like Yours for the lost and hurting. Help our fellow man to see You in us. In the beautiful and precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

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