Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 150

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 150

Today we begin Chapter 52. Yesterday the Lord promised His people that their time of discipline would end and their enemies would drink the cup of His wrath. Today He paints a beautiful picture of renewal and restoration.

"Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now captive." (Isaiah 52:1-2) Yesterday the people lay on the ground in the stupor of their punishment, drunk on the dregs of the cup of wrath, but today the Lord foretells a better day. The time of chastening will soon be past and they are to be bright and alert, shaking off the dust of their past failures, redeemed from their sins by the Lord. He could speak these same words to us who have been made new in Christ. He could say, "Awake! It's time to put on the new robes of righteousness. You are no longer unclean and defiled. Shake off the dust of the mistakes you made while you lived in sin. I'm doing a new thing: I'm exchanging your chains of captivity for a crown of freedom!"

"For this is what the Lord says: 'You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.'" (Isaiah 52:3) Satan rarely has to steal anything from us; we give ourselves away. We relinquish our authority. We surrender without a fight. We forget sometimes who we are in Christ and that He who lives in us is greater than he who lives in the world. (1 John 4:4) This is what God's people did when they abandoned themselves to idolatry. They forsook the One who took them by the hand and led them out of slavery in Egypt. In forgetting Him in favor of false gods, they simply exchanged one form of slavery for another. They gave themselves away, "were sold for nothing", but because they weren't sold for money, the Lord isn't going to buy them back with money. "What can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Matthew 16:26b) There isn't enough money in the world to buy back even one soul, much less pay the price for all mankind. How can an immortal soul be bought with something perishable like money or the things of this world? Such a feat requires a much greater sacrifice, something so perfect and holy and powerful that the invitation to salvation can be made to every human being for all time. And we will soon read of the price that was paid to redeem our souls, for in Chapter 52 Isaiah is leading up to the description of the Suffering Servant, the One who gave Himself for us. 

"For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'At first My people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. 'And now what do I have here?' declares the Lord. 'For My people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,' declares the Lord. 'And all day long My name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore My people will know My name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I." (Isaiah 52:4-6) Can't you just imagine the sneers of the captors as they made fun of the God of Israel? While severely oppressing His people, the enemy mocked the name of God, calling Him a God who cannot save, calling Him a false and unfaithful God who could not protect His people. Imagine how hurtful this was to the captive people! They knew why they were being disciplined in a foreign land under the rule of ungodly kings, and it had nothing to do with God being weak or ineffective. People in our own times mock the name of the Lord and jeer at those of us who trust in Him. Rather than becoming distressed and anxious, God said to His people Israel and to us today, "The world may not know Me, but you know Me, and you will rejoice in the light of My love. The day is coming when the whole world will see how much I love you. The day is coming when no one can deny that I am "The I Am", the Maker of heaven and earth, and in that day every knee will have to bow to Me. In that day every tongue, even those that have blasphemed My name, will have to admit that I alone am God."

In the meantime, there is work to do. We must get the gospel out to the whole world. "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7) It will be good news to the northern kingdom of Israel when Assyria falls. It will be good news to the southern kingdom of Judah when Babylon falls. But the best good news of all, the gospel, means the fall of sin and death and hell, the fall of Satan and his eternal punishment. It means Jesus Christ will rise in victory from the dead, holding the keys of death and hell in His hand, for He is Lord over all. Our God reigns!

"Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:8-10) In ancient times the Lord showed His strength by bringing the people out of captivity in foreign lands, and in the book of Isaiah we are about to see the strength of the Lord displayed in the Suffering Servant who frees mankind from captivity to sin. Our salvation cost God the Father the highest price imaginable and here we find Him preparing to do this great work, rolling up His shirtsleeves like a man going into a fight. Our Lord was willing to take a beating on our behalf. He threw Himself into the fray in order to take hold of us and lead us out of sin and shame into the brightness of a new life. The world will someday know that the Lord has redeemed Jerusalem and that He has loved Israel "with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3) and it will also know that the Lord has redeemed all the Gentiles who have trusted in Him, "I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you." (Revelation 3:9b) 

The day is soon coming when the captives will be delivered, and when that day dawns, "Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord's house. But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard." (Isaiah 52:11-12) When the Son sets us free, we are free indeed! (John 8:36) "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) Don't look back like Lot's wife on the city of sin, don't yearn for the pleasures of Egypt, don't think fondly back on the idols of Assyria or Babylon. The Lord is doing a new thing! He is offering a new life! There is nothing behind us worth going back for! When Christ saves us and sets us free from slavery to sin, He calls, "Depart, depart, go out from there!" 

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