Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 148

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 148

The Messiah is still speaking in the following passage, "Hear Me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken My instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But My righteousness will last forever, My salvation through all generations." (Isaiah 51:7-8) The approval of others is a fickle and temporary thing. We must never compromise our principles in order to be popular. The Lord never promised us the unbelieving world would admire us, but instead He said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first." (John 15:18) 

Usually, as Christians, those who like us most are other Christians. We were never promised we would be loved by everyone. Even Jesus, perfect and holy Son of God, was betrayed and abandoned by men who were His closest friends. So we might as well live in a way that's pleasing to our Lord, for we can't please everyone anyway. It's useless to violate our principles to gain the admiration of man; our neighbor might love us today but betray us tomorrow. It's pointless to live like the world to gain popularity. Will any of our fair weather friends be able to stand up and defend us before God someday? If we have a few good and trustworthy friends in this life who value us for who we are in Christ, we are blessed. But we should never fear the scorn of others or worry about whether they will still like us if they find out we are Christians. As David said, "The Lord is my light and my salvation---whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life---of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1) We are to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, being His witnesses, living in a way that honors Him, so that perhaps those around us will be drawn to His light. We will have no authority or testimony as Christians if we don't live according to the word of God. The world is watching us and will take note if we behave as hypocrites.

The people respond to the words of the Messiah and they respond appropriately, "Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe Yourself with strength!" (Isaiah 51:9a) They are saying something like, "Yes, Lord! May Your salvation come now! Let Your deliverance come in our times!" This is similar to what the Holy Spirit and our own redeemed spirits cry out in Revelation 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" When we hear the voice of the Savior and our hearts respond appropriately, the cry of our hearts can only be, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. We long for Your appearing! Let Your deliverance come in our times!" 

"Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not You who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through? Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?" (Isaiah 51:9b-10) The word rahab means "pride" and it's often used as a synonym for Egypt. The people look back on the powerful works of the Lord in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt, taking them across the Red Sea on dry ground, and delivering them to the promised land. They say, "Do great things like these again, Lord! You are the same God. Do in our times the mighty deeds you did then!" Passages like these always remind me of the words of the prophet Habakkuk, "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2) Habakkuk knew he and the nation were deserving of wrath because of their sins and idolatry, but he also knew the Lord is merciful. He says, "Do in our times what You did for our people in the past. Deliver us from the slavery of sin. Bring us through the deep waters of our failures on dry ground. Redeem us from our mistakes and lead us into the promised land of redemption."

After looking back on the many ways God delivered them in the past, the people now look forward in faith, believing that the Lord will bring them out of captivity. "Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 51:11) This is a twofold prophecy. It looks forward to the return of the exiles to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, but it also looks far into the future to the kingdom of the Messiah, when Israel will at last be at rest from all enemies, when peace will reign and wars will cease, when all the believing Jews and Gentiles of the world will be one family in the household of God.

Our section today is appropriate for Thanksgiving week. It's a time for looking back on all God has done for us. We have experienced dark days of grief when we felt like we'd never be ok again, yet here we are by the grace of God, still breathing. We have been in circumstances where it looked like there was no way out, yet here we stand, free. We have had bills to pay and not enough money in the bank, but God came through, and I expect all of us reading this blog today have some clothes on our backs and something to eat in our kitchens. Some of us have had broken marriages restored, wayward children brought home, and serious illnesses healed. Most of all, we have received in Christ the redemption of our souls, for we were dead in our sins, without hope and without God in the world. What miracle could be greater than this? We were as dead as if we were buried in the ground, hopeless, broken, unable to help ourselves. Yet Christ bought us back from the dead and gave us a place at the Father's table and Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11) How, then, dare we be ashamed of Him? Let's proclaim His saving grace all the more! Let's live joyfully in this world so that unbelievers will want this same joy for themselves. Let's live by His holy word, so our testimony will have the power of God in it. And most of all, let's be thankful for all that our mighty God has done and for all that He's going to do.

We will be taking a break from the blog until Monday because I'm going out of town today for the Thanksgiving holiday and won't be able to write until I get back. I wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving and I especially wish blessings on any of you who feel lonely at this time of year. I wish I could give you a great big hug, but since I can't reach all of you, I'm asking Jesus to make His presence and comfort so real and so great that you can't possibly feel alone. I ask Him to fill your hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Peter 1:8) When we are alone or when our family circumstances are not as we would wish at this time of year, it can be hurtful, but I promise you Jesus would love to sit down at the table with you. You are never alone as long as the One who gave His life for you is with you. He loves you more than anything. He thought you were worth paying any price. He will never betray you, never leave you or forsake you. We are thankful for Him above all else.

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