Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 134

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 134

The Lord has been foretelling the good He will show His people. Captivity is coming but it is for their good, to discipline them for their waywardness. Freedom is coming and it is for their good, to allow these revived people to return to their land and rebuild. The Lord even reveals His plan to bring the Gentiles into the family of God, "This is what the Lord says: 'The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and those tall Sabeans---they will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you, coming over to you in chains. They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying, 'Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.'" (Isaiah 45:14) These chains do not represent literal chains of slavery, but a bonding of the Gentiles to the nation of Israel, with all of them becoming one family under one God. The wealth of the nations will be willingly and voluntarily brought to Jerusalem to honor the King of kings someday when He rules from David's throne. The peoples of the world, both Jews and Gentiles, will make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to see His face. Bible scholar Barry G. Webb puts it beautifully, "Although the imagery is commercial and military, what is ultimately in view is a conquest that is intensely spiritual in nature, the final triumph of the truth about God."

Every time I see the Gentiles referenced in the Scriptures, I can't help but stop and praise God. My ancestry is Gentile and my forebears bowed down in ignorance to pagan gods. My predecessors did not know the God of Israel. But the Lord looked down through time and saw me and called me by name into His family. And He called you too. How great is His mercy!

"Truly you are a God who has been hiding Himself, the God and Savior of Israel. All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced; they will go off into disgrace together. But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting." (Isaiah 45:15-17) I consulted a number of commentaries on this passage to see what Isaiah means by "a God who has been hiding Himself". Opinions on the meaning of this are all over the map. The first theory is about God being invisible, according to Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Hebrews 11:27, so in that sense His appearance is hidden from us. But I highly doubt this is what Isaiah means because the Lord does not hide Himself from those who seek Him, for there are more passages than I can reference which urge us to seek the Lord. Here are a couple of my favorite verses, "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29) "God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us." (Acts 17:27) God is not far from any of us, standing ready and willing to help us when we reach out, wanting to be known by us, desiring a close relationship with us. 

The hiding which Isaiah mentions could be a reference back to verse 14 and its declaration of salvation for the Gentiles. At that time in history, the God of Israel was largely unknown to the rest of the world, but Isaiah foresaw a day when the Gentiles would hear of this God and come to Him in faith. So in Isaiah's time we could say God was hidden from the Gentiles. 

Yet another explanation could be that, during the years of captivity, God's people felt He had hidden Himself from them. Isaiah promises that a time is coming when He would show His awesome power on their behalf, returning them to their homeland and allowing them to rebuild a city to which the whole world will flock in the distant future. 

We may not know exactly what Isaiah meant by this hidden God, but we can understand what he means by the makers of idols being shamed and disgraced. When God's glorious power is revealed to mankind, idolaters will be ashamed of the useless idols. They will slink away in disgrace, knowing they trusted everything to a lie, forsaking the Lord who created them and loved them and wanted to help them. And those who have harbored a spirit of anti-Semitism throughout the ages will be equally ashamed when God vindicates the people of Israel. The people of Israel will be saved "with an everlasting salvation" (v 17) because God has loved them "with an everlasting love". (Jeremiah 31:3) 

Nothing will ever change God's plan for Israel or break His covenant with the descendants of Abraham. And nothing will ever change God's plan for the church or break His covenant with those of us who are in Christ. I don't know about you, but I've experienced quite a few broken promises here in this world. The hurt goes especially deep when someone we love and trust makes a solemn vow to us and then breaks it. In this election year in the United States, we have had a lot of promises made to us and we have no way of knowing whether any or all of them will be kept. But God's word will never fail. He loves us with an everlasting love! He saves us with an everlasting salvation! And He gives us everlasting life! No matter who has betrayed us in this world, whether friend or foe, whether politician or president, we find in the Scriptures the sure promises of God. Our King is someone we can get behind wholeheartedly. We can safely put our trust in Him. He is going to see us through all the way to heaven and all the way through time everlasting.

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17) 

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