Tag Archives: Isaiah

You See?

Insanity, it is said, is doing the wrong thing again and again, expecting better results each time.  That is also what God calls blindness and deafness.  In effect, God told His people, Israel, “Here’s how life is supposed to be lived.  Do it this way and you will be amazed at how wonderful are the results.  But, make up your own way to live, and you will eventually be in agony, stumbling about in your blindness and deafness.”  Sadly, the people didn’t listen and they couldn’t see.  Time after time they rebelled, God rescued them, restored them and gave them the same message.  Each time the improvements were short lived as the people decided they knew better.

Through Isaiah, God appealed:

18Hear, you deaf;
look, you blind, and see!

20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.”   (Isaiah 42:18&20)

Remember that choice of words as you see how God described the Messiah Who would come to fix things:

6 “I, the Lord, have called you [i.e. Jesus the Messiah] in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6-7)

So Jesus, when asked by John the Baptist if He was the Messiah, sent back this word:

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  (Matthew 11:4-5)

Jesus wasn’t simply referring to the physically impaired. See the connection?  God hopes so.  He continued speaking to His people through Isaiah with this important question for all of us:

23 Which of you will listen to this
or pay close attention in time to come?  (Isaiah 42:23)

You see?

Forever

Geoffrey Wilkinson, George Henderson and Mark Frankel.  Do you know thesse names or what they have in common?  Geoffrey was a world renowned chemist.  George, a priest and politician.  Mark was an actor who played “Leon the Pig Farmer.”  They all died 20 years ago today, September 26, 1996.  How did you do?  Me neither.  Twenty years after you die, maybe your family will remember who you were but the chances of much more of a lingering impact are slim.

Isaiah wrote:

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass. (Isaiah 40:6-7)

But he wrote those words 2700 years ago in a country about the size of Rhode Island that was on the verge of being conquered and exiled!  And you know his name and can almost certainly quote or paraphrase some of what he wrote.  Try it; fill in the blank:  “The people walking in darkness have _____________.”   Or, “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given and the government will be on __________.”    See what I mean?  What are the odds?

Of course, the reason Isaiah’s work has been preserved and is widely known is because it is in the Bible.  That’s because, over the centuries, it has stood the test.  He accurately prophesied the rise and fall of kingdoms in the Middle East (try that today!) and the exile and eventual release of the Jewish people, well over 100 years before it happened.  Most significantly, he foretold the coming of Jesus with amazing accuracy and clarity.  The only explanation is that Isaiah was writing God’s words.

Including these next lines from the quote above:

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”   (Isaiah 40:8)

Yes, it does.

A Simple Prayer

And you thought you had problems…  Looking out his window, all Hezekiah could see were invading troops, about 200 thousand of them.  These ferocious, slobbering knuckle-draggers had been stomping through Israel, picking off one fortified town after another, until only Jerusalem was left.  The people of Jerusalem were holed up inside the walls, shaking in their sandals, as the commander of the troops outside loudly boasted about how mighty they were and how weak and untrustworthy King Hezekiah and his God were.  He told them, “Give up and come out and I’ll make sure you have wonderful farms and vineyards, or stay inside the walls and wind up eating your own feces.”  And then he sent a copy of his threats directly to the king.

Maybe you thought being a king would be a pretty cushy job, with all sorts of kingly perks. But Hezekiah was definitely having a bad day.  What to do?  How would you have handled the situation?  Here’s what he did:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.”  (Isaiah 37:14-15)

I’m struck by the simplicity and humility of that act.  He took the letter, filled with threats and insults, and he opened it up  and spread it out before God.  So often, when we are faced with problems we can’t solve, if we do pray we act as though we know what is needed.  “O Lord, here’s what I think You need to do…”  Hezekiah’s action said, “Lord, I haven’t got the slightest idea about how to get through this; I’m turning it over to You.”

I’m moved by that.  How much better, when we pray, to simply share with God the details of how we see our situation.  “Lord, they said I’d probably be laid off tomorrow and I can’t imagine how I’ll make ends meet.”  “Father, the doctors have said they have done everything they know to do…”   “Oh God, I don’t know where my son is right now and I’m scared.”  Then let Him be God.

By the way, if you read through the rest of Isaiah 37, you’ll see how that all worked out.  It was pretty cool…

Full Knowledge and Consent

Who said, “…neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain…“?  Martin Luther King, Jr. He was quoting an amazing prophecy of Isaiah who had been given a peek at God’s endgame.  He saw the future we yearn for, the Day of no more tears, no disease or death.  The day when humans somehow can live in perfect harmony and peace.  

How, somehow?  Hear it straight from Isaiah as he received it from God:  

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:9)

Knowing, in Bible speak, is frequently a term for intercourse, the deepest and most intimate expression of a relationship of love. When we attain full knowledge of God, when we know Him fully, our hearts and actions will effortlessly resonate with His.  It will be the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  ​There will be real peace and joy.

Even though our capacity for knowing God, knowing Jesus, is limited, the day of full knowledge and consent is truly coming.  Isaiah saw a vision of it.  Martin Luther King, Jr. wept for it.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Your Bill

When you open your credit card bill  do you ever get a shock?  You gape in disbelief and think, “I owe how much?  Oh yeah, I forgot about that smart watch; why did I buy that thing?” 

What if you got a bill from God: how much would you owe?   No doubt you would be in for a much bigger shock.  There would be uncountable line items on that bill, ones you had long since forgotten.  I got thinking about such a bill when I read this:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.”  (Matthew 18:23-24)

We miss the point of this unless we know that ten thousand talents is a bill of roughly $6 billion!  And the guy who owes that much is a servant to a king.  Consider the vast difference in authority and status between the two.  Heap on the $6 billion debt, and then zero in on these words: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…”  There’s your bill.

You can see how inadequate religious attempts to pay the bill are.  Some require bringing a sacrifice.  Others assign various acts of penance after you confess a short list of sins.  It is literally hopeless to attempt to square accounts with God by such piddly measures, especially since the bill grows greater each day.

Although it is hard for us to fully understand, only God could settle up for us, by forgiving the debt, as the king in that parable did.  When you forgive a debt, that means you accept the cost.  God’s method to zero out our accounts was foretold by Isaiah and fulfilled by Jesus.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)
 

What’s Your Response?

Imagine a lush banquet with copious quantities of the best of food and drink.  That’s how God symbolically described the Kingdom He would establish.  Of course His people yearned for that Kingdom to arrive, especially since He also promised to wipe away tears and banish death forever.  If you are not familiar with that prophecy, I’ll print it below.  But in Jesus’ day, they knew it and yearned for it to be fulfilled.

So, when someone mentioned the Kingdom to Jesus, and He responded with a parable about a great banquet, the small hairs on the back of their necks stood to attention.  Making it more electrifying was the “servant” in the parable, who comes to tell people the banquet is ready.  One of Isaiah’s most common expressions for God’s Messiah was “the Servant.” (e.g. See Isaiah 42:1)

Here’s how He began the parable:

… “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’  (Luke 14:16b-18)

Those who had “ears to hear” sensed that Jesus was telling them He was the Messiah-Servant, sent by God to announce the Kingdom, proclaiming “everything is now ready.”  The tragedy was that most of those who had been waiting and yearning for that announcement then decided that the busyness of their regular lives was more pressing and important than the opportunity to join God in His Kingdom for eternal life.

Don’t compound the tragedy; Jesus still speaks those same words of invitation to each of us today.  “Come, for everything is now ready.”  What is your response?  Are you wanting to be excused?  Consider carefully.

Here’s Isaiah’s prophecy:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever;and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  (Isaiah 25:6-8)

As Good as His Word

Is God good for His promises?  Does He go back on His Word?  Consider this amazing promise, made 2700 years ago:

“On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:7-8)

It might seem as though this is a promise not kept by God.  But notice He says He will do it “On this mountain.”  The mountain referred to is Mount Zion in Jerusalem. the mountain on which Jesus was crucified and buried, the mountain from which He rose in victory over death.  His death and resurrection purchased life for “all people” who would believe in Christ, and it was done on that mountain.

Jesus said:

““I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Later on, God gave John a preview of the “new heaven and earth” that is on its way.  John wrote:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” (Revelation 21:3-4)

The Lord has spoken.  His Word is good.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.