Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 164

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 164

The Lord has been taking the people to task for their unfaithfulness. Like a wayward wife, they have forsaken Him and committed adultery with false gods. He tries to reason with them. Why have they turned from the One who loves them?

"Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have not been true to Me, and have neither remembered Me nor taken this to heart? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear Me?" (Isaiah 57:11) We should value God and His opinion above all others. So what if our fellow man ridicules us for our faith? Man is not whom we will stand before in the judgment. We will not give an account of our lives to our fellow man but to a holy God. There is no one we should reverence more than our Creator. 

The Lord's speaks of having been silent, but He isn't referring to a lack of words. He has been sending prophets to the people ever since they came into the land of Canaan. I think the silence He means is the lack of a heavy hand of judgment. He has entreated them with reasonable words like a man trying to woo his wife back, but they have not listened. He has shown them love and grace, but they have run on swift feet to other lovers. Because God has been merciful in giving them time and space to repent, they believe He will not bring discipline. Their punishment has not yet materialized and they think it never will. They have stopped fearing Him because they feel He is speaking empty words, like a parent who keeps threatening to put a child in time out for bad behavior but never does. They do not realize the mercy they have been receiving is the mercy of a Father who finds it painful to discipline wayward children, who can honestly say, "This hurts Me more than it hurts you."

Deep down in their hearts, the people realize they are living contrary to God's word, but they have pushed such thoughts to the back of their minds. They have become comfortable in their sin and have convinced themselves they are okay. But God will reveal what's in their hearts. "I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you." (Isaiah 57:12) Even if God dragged out every good work we ever did and laid them before us, these deeds would not be enough to save our souls. Works will never save us. As the prophet Isaiah said, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) To us our deeds may look pretty nice and we may feel we are putting on a good front, but to the eyes of a holy God we look and smell like a ragged wino by the dumpster. 

And let's assume we could live lives without any sin, keeping every commandment and every law Would we be able to brag about ourselves then? Not according to the Lord Jesus, who says even if we did all we were commanded we would still be unprofitable servants. (Luke 17:10) If we performed all that we are commanded, we have still added no value to ourselves; we have simply done what it was our duty to do. The Lord didn't tell us these things to beat us down but to raise us up. He wanted us to understand that when left to our own devices, at best we are unprofitable and at worst we are like a smelly old beggar who knows he's lived a life of debauchery but has no intention of changing. But when we honor and fear our Savior, making Him the Lord of our lives, we are dressed in robes of righteousness. The stink of the world is removed from us and we are anointed with the fragrant oil of gladness. 

The Lord predicts a day in which the idols will fail their followers. It's easy for the people to trust in lies when times are good, but when the invader comes, what use will their idols be then? "When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away." (Isaiah 57:13a) As so many of us have done at one time or another, the Lord's people ignored Him when things were going fine. They tucked Him away in a little box and didn't bother their heads much about Him. They didn't consider His kindness when the economy was good and their bellies were full and their nation was secure. During those years they flirted with other gods and ran after false religions that could be customized to suit their own lusts and weaknesses. Because they ignored the Lord during all the decades He tried to reason with them, when trouble comes He says to call on their idols for help. They should call on the ones they have so energetically served.

But the Lord also has a word for those who have clung to His name, who have not believed lies, who have not been unfaithful to the One who loves them. "But whoever takes refuge in Me will inherit the land and possess My holy mountain." (Isaiah 57:13b) The Lord said of idolaters through the prophet Hosea, "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7a) There is no substance to their religion. It's nothing but a lot of hot air and when times get tough the idols get going...in the other direction. They will be as useless as the dead blocks of wood they are carved from. But those who sow their faith in the Lord will reap blessings. He will be their Father and they will be His children. He has an inheritance for those who love Him. To whom does a father give an inheritance? To those who hate him? To those who reject and scorn him? To those who do not belong to him? No, a father leaves an inheritance to his children. It's the children who will possess all that the father has. And this is what is promised to those who love the Lord and are His children in Christ. A beautiful inheritance is ours and all it requires of us is faith. Christ did everything else for us to secure us a place in the Father's house.

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