Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 119

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 119

The Lord has been promising Israel a day when she will have rest from all her enemies. God's people have traveled through this world just as they traveled through the desert to the promised land but as always God supplied their needs along the way. "The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them."

In that day the earth will flourish like Eden. "I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it." (Isaiah 41:18-20) Who but the Lord could make the dry desert produce streams of water and burst forth into bloom? Isaiah used similar imagery in Chapter 35, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God." (vv 1-2)

The Lord tells us these things beforehand so that, when they happen, the whole world will know that they are His doing. But what of the idols? Have they ever predicted anything? Have they ever pronounced a prophecy and have it come true? Have they ever possessed the power to create or to change the world? "'Present your case,' says the Lord. 'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King. 'Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.'" (Isaiah 41:21-23) Bible commentator David Guzik says of this trial of the idols in God's courtroom, "God is fair. He will not condemn idols, the false gods of the nations, and those who worship them, without a fair trial." 

The Lord gives these false gods their day in court. I can't help but picture a literal courtroom with the Lord dressed in His magnificent judge's robe, a robe which Isaiah once told us had a train so long it "filled the temple". In ancient times the kings wore very elaborate robes with long trains. Every time the king defeated another king in battle, he cut off a portion of the conquered king's train and added it to his own. The length of the train indicated the king's power, so that the king with the longest train wins any argument regarding who is greatest. The Lord, as King of kings, had a robe so long it nearly overflowed Solomon's temple, which the Bible tells us was sixty cubits long which equates to about ninety feet. It would be pretty much impossible for a human king to drag a ninety-foot robe behind him, but nothing is too heavy or too difficult for the Lord. So He sits in the courtroom wearing this robe which symbolizes His authority and power over all kings and authorities, over all idols, and over the entire creation. 

The false gods are standing woodenly behind the defendant's table facing the Judge and King, but they are useless and mute, unable to even blink an eye or lift a finger. They cannot answer the Lord's questions. Finally the Lord says, in what I imagine to be a sarcastic tone, "Do something, whether good or bad! Amaze us!" Still they stand there like the impotent gods they are. I picture the courtroom erupting with shouts from the idol worshipers, pleading with their various gods to speak up, to perform a sign or wonder, to open their carved lips and defend themselves. But nothing happens, so the Lord concludes, "But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable." (Isaiah 41:24) The idolaters had to carry their idols into the courtroom and stand them in place and, if they choose to continue serving idols, they will have to carry them back out. They are faced with a choice. Do we serve God, the One who tells us things to come? Or do we serve idols who can't even speak up to defend themselves? Whoever chooses to pick his idol back up and carry it out is "detestable" in the Lord's eyes. The Webster's dictionary defines detestable as something or someone "arousing or meriting intense dislike". The Thesaurus likens the word detestable to being "abhorrent, accursed, degenerate, heinous, monstrous, offensive, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, vile and worthless". The Lord is saying that whoever chooses a detestable idol over the living God is just as detestable as that idol. The author of Psalm 115 pointed out the fact that those who serve idols will be just like them: with mouths that cannot speak, eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, noses that cannot smell, hands that cannot feel, and feet that cannot walk. Serving idols causes the server to become as powerless and ineffectual as the idol he serves. 

In some portions of the world there are still folks bowing down to literal idols, but here in the United States our idols are less tangible but none the less detestable. The more sophisticated the culture, the more sophisticated the idols, for Satan adapts his tactics to the times and places. But the Lord Jesus said we must love and value Him above all other things and relationships or else we cannot be His disciple. (Luke 14:25-27) We can be His fan if we don't put Him first, but we cannot be a disciple. And if we are not His disciples, how much can we do for the kingdom of God? How can we draw others to Christ? Mediocre faith leads to mediocre living but in these last days, with people all over the world starving for love and acceptance, mediocre faith won't cut it. We need to be all in, fully persuaded and fully committed, so that in Christ we can accomplish all that He has called us to do. 

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