Monday, September 26, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 90

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 90

Yesterday we found the Lord saying, "Now I will arise." Now He is going to do great things. The people of Judah and Jerusalem have cast about for help from everybody but Him up to this point. But as we learned in the study of the kings, King Hezekiah realized he had been wrong and he went up to the temple to pray a very sincere and humble prayer to the Lord. The Lord will now act against enemy Assyria. When He does, the Gentile nations will hear of His power and believe Israel's God is mighty. He said, "You who are far away, hear what I have done." To the citizens of Judah, both those who have remained godly and those who have grown cool toward the Lord, He says, "You who are near, acknowledge My power!"

Because they have caught a glimpse of the character and strength of the living God, those who have drifted far from Him are frightened. "The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless." (Isaiah 33:14a) When I came to the realization that I was a sinner and that there is a holy God who judges sin, I trembled. I spent many sleepless nights in terror, tossing and turning, wrestling with this revelation. When we get a spiritual glimpse of the living God and His holiness, we can't help but see ourselves as we are. His perfection shines a light on our imperfection. His righteousness reveals our unrighteousness. His holiness makes plain our sinfulness. When the Lord rose up to supernaturally deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, the godless understood that He is a power to be reckoned with. They realized that a God like this sees all the way to their hearts and knows their every secret sin, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

When the godless ones witness the Lord's power, they say among themselves, "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" (Isaiah 33:14b) The fire was kept burning twenty-four hours a day on the altar in the temple. This was symbolic of God's constant protection. It indicated His continual presence among them. As the author of Psalm 121 said, "He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (v 3b-4) The fire on the altar that never went out was intended to be a comfort to the people that their God was on the job day and night. Even while the people slept, God was awake and watching over them. A promise like this brings peace to the hearts of the faithful. But there's another side to the coin: a promise like this brings terror to the hearts of the godless. Moses warned the people not to drift away from the living God, "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." (Deuteronomy 4:23-24) The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews who converted to Christ, gave this warning, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29) We talked yesterday about how man's works will be judged by fire. The works we do for the kingdom of Christ will come through safely and we will be rewarded for them; the works we do for the flesh won't make it through and we will not be commended for them. The godless in Zion fear the One who will judge their works because they know their works won't stand up to His scrutiny. So they cry out in distress something like, "Who can contend with this God? Who can stand before Him? Who can live in His presence?"

The answer is found in this next section, "Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil---they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be in the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them." (Isaiah 33:15-16) It's important I make it clear that this is not teaching salvation by works. Keeping the rules of verse 15 is not what saves these people. They are keeping these rules because in their hearts they are already right with God. Their outward behavior reflects what has happened to them on the inside. Good works and honest living are the natural outflow of a close relationship with the Lord. The sins these people refrain from are very likely the sins which the godless ones were committing. By naming them, God proves to everyone that He is able to "judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12b) 

We can be assured that the godly in Zion were saved by faith because they are given this precious promise, "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar." (Isaiah 33:17) Who can dwell with the consuming fire? Who can stand in the presence of the King and happily behold His beauty? The one who is washed in the blood of the holy and spotless Lamb of God, who is saved by faith in Him. The One who established peace between man and God will establish peace on the earth and the whole world will be His: "a land that stretches afar".

No longer will man oppress his fellow man. "In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: 'Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?' You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible." (Isaiah 33:18-19) Israel will be free, never again conquered or taken captive by foreign invaders. 

"Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken." (Isaiah 33:20) This nation, plundered so many times, its people scattered throughout the world, will have no fear of an enemy invader. Her God is in the midst of her, seated on the throne of David, and He is her invincible Protector.

"There the Lord will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them," (Isaiah 33:21) No war ships will sail these waters. Also, we won't find the self-sufficient attitude of the maritime traders that we found in Isaiah's prophecy against Tyre. The people will depend on the Lord and not on themselves.

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; it is He who will save us." (Isaiah 33:22) If God is on our side, what more do we need? Every citizen of the world will look to Him to provide. Jesus Christ always has been, and always will be, everything we need. He will care for us as a shepherd cares for his flock, which is why the psalmist says, "Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture." (Psalm 100:3) The Lord is responsible for those who are His and He does not take this responsibility lightly. He is obligated to care for us. We are His sheep and He is our Shepherd.

"Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread. Then an abundance of spoils will be divided and even the lame will carry off plunder. No one living in Zion will say, 'I am ill'; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven." (Isaiah 33:23-24) Even though no war ships sail, and people do not depend on maritime enterprises to sustain themselves, there will be plenty for all. The Lord Himself will provide for them. No longer will man live by the world's standards which say, "Get all you can get. Look out for number one. You have to be the strongest, the smartest, and the shrewdest to get ahead. Step on the little people if you have to, because it's all about you. " In the Lord's kingdom, the meek inherit the earth. The righteous reign with Him. No longer will the strong trod upon the weak. No longer will the poor be taken advantage of by the wealthy. Everybody will have all they need and will have no desire to take what belongs to anyone else. 

What a beautiful picture we have of the coming kingdom! No wonder the Lord Jesus instructed the disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come". Everything we have ever wanted will be ours: peace and security and rest for our souls. Thy kingdom come, Lord! Come soon, Lord Jesus. 

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