Sunday, October 23, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 117

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 117

We continue on this morning in Chapter 41 titled "The Helper Of Israel". Of course, we know without being told that God is Israel's true helper, but yesterday we noted that God often calls others into the work of helping His people. He was going to raise a man of Persia to power who would set the captives free almost two centuries after the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah.

God orchestrates events on the earth in such a way that mankind can participate in the deliverance of His people. The Lord has often helped me through my Christian brothers and sisters. People have come up to me in church or in public to say, "The Lord put you on my mind to be praying for you." They had no idea what troubles were going on in my life but they knew, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, that I could really use some prayers. When my deliverance from troubles came, these people felt like they had a stake in the outcome. Their faith was strengthened because the Lord allowed them to participate in my circumstances. The Lord calls others in to help us not because He needs help but because the faith of our fellow man grows when they labor alongside us in prayer and see those prayers answered. When God comes through in a mighty way for someone you've been praying for, don't you have more faith to ask big things of Him? Don't you have more confidence He will work things out in your own life? He's so gracious to allow His children to work together in this way, comforting and encouraging each other.

Today the Lord talks about the fact that He has revealed Himself to mankind ever since the creation of the world. God is a personal God and He has interacted and intervened in many ways. But not everyone who has had a glimpse of His glory has responded correctly. Some responded by choosing other gods, pagan idols, and they encouraged their fellow man in the worship of false gods who cannot save. "The islands have seen it and fear; the ends of the earth tremble. They approach and come forward; they help each other and say to their companions, 'Be strong!' The metalworker encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer spurs on the one who strikes the anvil. One says of the welding, 'It is good.' The other nails down the idol so it will not topple." (Isaiah 41:5-7) The nations surrounding Israel and Judah forsook the awesome power and comfort that was available to them through a personal God and chose instead to fashion household idols, personal little icons that posed no threat to the way they wanted to live their lives. They wanted gods they could take out of the box when needed and ignore when not needed. They wanted gods who would be on their side because they had followed a short set of rules or had brought a specific offering. They didn't want a God who commanded righteous living, who wanted their love and respect, who would accept nothing less than a personal and ongoing lifelong relationship. 

By the time of Isaiah's writings, the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen before the enemy because she had fallen to her knees before idols. Judah too was prone to waywardness. The reign of the good King Hezekiah was when Isaiah apparently performed the majority of his ministry, but after Hezekiah there will only be one more godly king out of the remaining seven kings. The other six will be idolatrous and wicked men. It's a steep slide into decay from here on out for the southern kingdom of Judah. But all is not lost because the covenant God made with Abraham still stands. The twelve tribes of Israel, scattered though they may be, will never cease to exist before God because He never breaks a promise. "But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham My friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are My servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you." (Isaiah 41:8-9) 

The citizens of Israel and Judah must have wondered in their hearts whether God had rejected them. After being conquered by Assyria and being dragged captive to that foreign land, Israel must have wondered if it was all over for them. When Isaiah penned these words we study today, Babylon was a friend of Judah, but the days were coming when a new a powerful king would rise in Babylon and would come to take everything away from them, including their citizens and the royal family. The days were coming when the people of Judah would say, "By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?" (Psalm 137:1-4) 

Weeping at the riverside, the captive citizens of Judah must surely have wondered whether the Lord was through with them. But long ago God made a promise to a man who rejected the false gods of his hometown of Ur, a man who turned his back on the wealth and comfort of his own nation to serve a God his ancestors did not know. Abraham was so convinced he had met the one true God that he rejected all the riches that could have been his in Ur and set out for a land he had never laid eyes on, trusting that the God who promised this land to him would keep His promise. This elderly and childless man and his elderly and childless wife trusted that the God who called the universe into existence out of nothing could call a child out of their frail bodies, a child from whose descendants a great and chosen nation would arise. There are some covenants that are unbreakable, which depend only on God's performance and not on man's performance, and this is one of them. Not all of Abraham's descendants were faithful to God, but God was still faithful to Abraham. In making an unbreakable promise to King David, when He promised that the kingly line would always endure, the Lord displayed another example of a covenant that depends solely on His own power. Not all of David's descendants were faithful to God, but God was faithful to David. The Lord preserved the people of Judah in Babylon, raising up a king of Persia who would come and conquer the nation and set the captives free, and David's line continued on down to a carpenter named Joseph and a young maiden named Mary in Nazareth. Both of these were descended directly from King David, giving the Lord Jesus both legal title (through His adoptive father Joseph) and spiritual title (through His mother Mary) to the throne.

If all these things happened because a man named Abraham had the faith to reject the idols of his nation and the lies of false prophets to follow a God whom he was certain was the one and only God, what might the Lord do for our own families and descendants because of our faith? There is much value in intercessory prayer! The Lord invites us to participate with Him this way in the lives of others. We sometimes feel like we have prayed and prayed for someone until we don't have the strength to pray any more, but we can't assume God is not working just because we haven't yet seen visible results. I know of godly men and women who have already been in the presence of the Lord for some time now, but their grandchildren and great grandchildren are coming to Christ and becoming great leaders in the church and becoming wonderful examples of how to walk by faith. Even though their godly forebears didn't live to see these things happen, I believe their intercessory prayers lived on after them. God heard their prayers while they lived and, in response to their faith, has done magnificent things in answer to those prayers. Who knows what awesome things the Lord will do in the future as a result of our prayers today? We mustn't faint or grow weary. We mustn't lose heart. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16b) To our mortal eyes it may seem as if not much is happening when we pray, but if only we could see into the spiritual realm we would see mountains shaking and being moved! We would see deep waters being parted! In our frail flesh we may feel like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling but in the spiritual realm, God is on the move!

Our worship song link for today is below and it's an upbeat, faith-affirming song about the works of God on behalf of those who call out to Him.

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