Saturday, November 12, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 137

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 137

I know we've read a lot about idolatry in the book of Isaiah and there are times when it may seem repetitious to us, but God put these passages in the Bible for a reason because "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The words of the book of Isaiah are just as beneficial for our times as they were in the times before Christ. In Isaiah's day the people of Judah were going through a period of spiritual revival but the prophet knew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that dark spiritual days were coming. Only one good king would rule the land after Hezekiah and the fortunes of the entire nation were on the downswing. 

It may seem odd to us that God would send the people of Israel into pagan Assyria and the people of Judah into pagan Babylon. By the time they are taken captive, they will be neck deep in the worship of Canaanite gods, so why discipline them by sending them to foreign lands filled with even more pagan idols? I have an inkling it's because they needed to sit in the dark in order to see the light. Prevalent as idolatry became among the twelve tribes of Israel, there was still some light of God in their lands. There was still the temple at Jerusalem. There were still faithful prophets and faithful believers. They were still occupying the promised land that, somewhere in the back of their minds, they had to acknowledge God had given to them. And yet in spite of all His blessings and mercy they turned from Him in a land of plenty. So He banished them to a land of spiritual darkness where He could shine so brightly compared to the false gods of Assyria and Babylon that the people would be drawn back to Him. 

Have you ever been at a location that felt spiritually dark? It might be a building or a piece of land where wickedness has been allowed to run rampant and Satan has gained a foothold. Missionaries will tell you that when going into a land where the name of Christ has not been preached, the spiritual darkness of those locations presses heavily down on them. There is a sense of having to push back against something that does not want them there. This is the type of atmosphere into which God allowed His people to be carried so they would understand that though an idol itself is nothing and is incapable of helping them, hidden behind the idol is something demonic. The spirit that tempts mankind to turn from the living God to false gods comes from the devil himself. Just as the Lord sent Saul of Tarsus stumbling into sudden blindness on the road to Damascus, He also turned the lights out on His people by flinging them headlong into dark lands. This radical act was an act of mercy, for God's power shines most brightly when compared with the darkness of trusting in anything else. 

"With whom will you compare Me or count Me equal? To whom will you liken Me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles." (Isaiah 46:5-7) The idol makers were doing a brisk business because sin has always been a big moneymaker, at least for some. Just stop and think about the type of music, movies, and books that top the charts these days. Aren't most of them full of illicit sex, foul language, drinking and drug use? Sin has always made money for some of the people. And sin has always robbed money from some of the people. Sin has robbed people through addictions to gambling, drugs and alcohol, sex, pornography, and every other carnal weakness you can think of. Sin has robbed people not only of their money but of their families and homes and reputations. Idolatry always costs somebody something and as we have already learned, idolatry takes a different form in our modern times but at heart it's still the same old thing. When we get to Chapter 55 we will find the Lord asking His people why they would be willing to trade the free pardon of God for losing everything they have to sinful idolatry. "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:1-2a) God freely offers us that which will satisfy us all the way to our souls and we won't need to bring Him our gold and silver to buy our way into salvation. Christ paid our way in and all He asks is that we bring ourselves to Him. 

"Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.'" (Isaiah 46:8-10) I think this election year has wearied us all. We've heard a lot of promises from a lot of candidates and we know from experience that no leader is ever able to accomplish all that he or she has vowed to do. But God's purpose will stand for eternity. He will never break a promise. He will never go back on His word. In an uncertain world, here is Someone we can fully trust in, and what a relief that is! 

In addition, God sets up leaders and removes leaders according to His purposes. "From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do." (Isaiah 46:11) This is another reference to King Cyrus of Persia, a pagan leader whom the Lord will use to set His captive people free. Often we are puzzled at the Lord's choices. He doesn't always choose the most righteous man or woman to lead a nation, but we can be absolutely sure He has a good and valid reason for His choices. It remains to be seen what our new President-elect will do, or whether God has raised him up to do us good or to us ill and therefore discipline us for our waywardness, but either way God is always actively involved with the nations and the leaders He allows to rise or fall. Cyrus was not a godly man by Israel's and Judah's standards and the people may have been offended at the idea of him being God's chosen servant, but God said in verse 10, "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." I'm not here to talk politics or endorse any particular candidate. Quite frankly, they both frightened me. I'm here to lift up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, our only righteous Leader. It's not my business who you voted for and I love you whether or not we voted for the same candidate or whether you felt so disgusted this year you didn't even go to the polls. I just hope that all across America we can band together in prayer for our nation. God is the only One who can bring revival on our land.

"Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from My righteousness. I am bringing My righteousness near, it is not far away; and My salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, My splendor to Israel." (Isaiah 46:12-13) Captivity and hardship were coming because the people were getting farther and farther from God's righteousness. But even in this, we find His everlasting love and mercy. God was still going to grant them righteousness. They weren't going to be able to earn it by good works. because as Isaiah will say later on of himself and all the people, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6a) There is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy and perfect in the eyes of a holy and perfect God. He knows that and has made a way for us to be granted righteousness through faith. He has brought His salvation near to us through Jesus Christ the Lord. Through Him, God is able to grant us salvation and He can now bestow His splendor upon us. Why waste our hearts and minds and money and energy on that which cannot satisfy when the Lord freely offers us this indescribable and undeserved gift?

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