Sunday, November 6, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 131

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 131

Yesterday we looked at a discourse about the foolishness of idolatry, about the folly of believing anything our hands have made can save us. Now the Lord brings the attention of His people back to Himself, for He alone can save. He reminds the people who He is and He reminds them who they are: His covenant people.

"Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are My servant. I have made you, you are My servant; Israel, I will not forget you." (Isaiah 44:21) What unmerited grace this is, that He would not forget those who have forgotten Him! These are the people of whom He said, "Yet My people have forgotten Me, days without number." (Jeremiah 2:32b) These are the ones who scorned Him in favor of idols, about whom He said, "All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations---a people who continually provoke Me to My very face." (Isaiah 65:2-3a) God would have been within His rights to write these people off and turn away from them, yet He offers grace. He could have left them in their sins and waywardness but instead He offers redemption.

"I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." (Isaiah 44:22) Who is able to sweep away our offences except the One we have offended? Who can extend forgiveness to us but the One we have sinned against? God, as sovereign lawgiver and judge, has the right to make a means of redemption for us if He so chooses, to offer up a sacrifice on our behalf that makes us clean. The forgiveness God offers His people in verse 22 is not based on anything they have done for themselves; it's based on what God is going to do for them. Our salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ is based on His work, not ours. Before we came to Christ we were every bit as wayward and willfully blind and deaf as God's people in the book of Isaiah, but He reached out to us in grace and mercy anyway. He offered us the terms by which we can be made right with Him and our only participation in this awesome work was to accept and believe.

Being the receivers of such undeserved mercy ought to make us break into song, "Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, He displays His glory in Israel." (Isaiah 44:23) The very heavens and all creation rejoice in God's plan of redemption. How can we, who are made in God's image, hold back our praise? If even the mountains and the trees sing to His glory, how much more should we? I don't know what made God love us so, but the very thing that glorifies Him most is the salvation He wrought for us. His mercy and forgiveness display His glory like nothing else can. The most stunning miracle ever performed is God's saving grace on our behalf. The creation of the universe and everything in it was like child's play to someone of His awesome power, but the act of redemption cost Him dearly. 

"This is what the Lord says---your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Myself, who foils the signs of the false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of His servants and fulfills the predictions of His messengers," (Isaiah 44:24-26a) This God is a God we can safely trust in. Why trust in an idol? Why trust in anyone or anything without the power to save? The God who made all things will keep His word. He will not break His covenant promise to Israel and He will not break His covenant promise to the church.

In Isaiah's day the people of Judah feared Assyria would lay their nation waste as it had so many nations surrounding them, but by inspiration of the Holy Spirit Isaiah told King Hezekiah that it was Babylon who would rise and overthrow Judah. Captivity is coming several generations down the road but, seventy years after that, freedom is on its way. The God who made everything that exists gives this solemn promise and is the One, "Who says of Jerusalem, 'It shall be inhabited,' of the towns of Judah, 'They shall be rebuilt,' and of the ruins, 'I will restore them,' who says to the watery deep, 'Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,' who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt,' and of the temple, 'Let its foundations be laid.'" (Isaiah 44:26b-28) 

The Lord calls Cyrus by name nearly two hundred years before he will set the captives free and allow them to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. God calls this man by name so that, when the prophecy is fulfilled, the people will understand that no idol predicted this. God alone raises up kingdoms and pulls down kingdoms. God alone decides the fate of nations. No idol named a man not yet born as the deliverer of God's people. In addition, God even gives Judah a hint of Cyrus' battle strategy in attacking Babylon, for he and his army will dam up the Euphrates to make a place where they can cross over into the country. They will take the nation by surprise after dark while the king and all his officials, believing they have securely guarded every point of entry into the nation, are celebrating drunkenly in the palace. God foresaw the ingenuity of a man named Cyrus through whom He would say to the river, "Be dry, and I will dry up your streams." 

A God who can predict events centuries into the future and who can call His servants by name hundreds of years before they are born is the God I want to follow! He can be trusted to care for me. The God who keeps the planets spinning in orbit and who maintains the boundaries of the seas and whose eye is on the sparrow is the God I want to serve. The God who worked out a plan of redemption for me, even though I could never have done anything to deserve it, has my loyalty and devotion. He won it. He earned it. Even the rocks and the hills and the tree shout His praise; dare we do any less? Let's glorify His name together! 

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