Isaiah 28-30; Obstinate

Obstinate: Stubbornly adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, argument, or persuasion. (Mirriam-Webster)

Someone close to me began accepting the so-called “progressive” view of religion. When I tried to engage in conversation about spiritual truth I was told, in effect, that they would not talk to me about that because, “You are not going to  change my mind.” (those words haunt me yet today)

God, through Isaiah, says:

Woe to the obstinate children… to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin. (30:1)

As I read Isaiah I pray that God will speak to me about my own walk with him here in 2018. When Isaiah speaks about enemies, I am reminded Satan is mine. When Isaiah says, “Woe to…” I want to be sure that if he’s putting a finger on sin in my life, I’m quick to repent.

Today I’m asking myself if there are things I’m stubbornly holding on to that God is asking me to change. Are there things He wants to teach me, ways in which He wants to grow me, but I’m being obstinate while holding on to what I’ve always done or thought?

In verse 10, when talking about children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction, Isaiah says:

They say to seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!” Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.”

Now I know this is a problem in our society, rampant in many churches, and it would be easy to shake my head and lament over the state of things in our world. But God isn’t interested in talking to me about the world. God’s not asking me to change the world. He’s demanding to change me.

So I ask myself, when I open His Word, am I sincere about being taught? When I go to church do I want to be uplifted or broken? Do I want to hear the truth, or am I looking to hear only pleasant things? Because often the truth hurts. Growth hurts. Conviction is never pleasant.

Now there is one thing I will adamantly adhere to: that is the Truth of Scripture. The Bible is like no other book. It is God breathed, and therefore 100% trustworthy. It’s not my opinion. The Bible proves itself over and over.

Last night in Prayer Meeting, the pastor shared that recently he was sharing the Gospel with someone who wanted to know what the pastor thought about abortion and homosexuality. The pastor was quick to tell this person, “My opinions are only opinions. Let’s look at what the Bible says.”

Can you say the same? Or are you obstinately holding on to your opinions as some kind of truth, with the attitude, “You’re not going to change my mind.”

I’m not just talking about conversations with loved ones. I’m talking about your quiet time, every time you open the precious pages of God’s Word. Are you teachable? Are you pliable? Moldable?

Or obstinate?

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Isaiah 24-27; Perfect Peace

On a scale of 1-10, where would you put the level of your peace of mind? How would you rate the peace you have deep in your soul, even if life is challenging right now? Listen to what Isaiah tells us in 26:3:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (emphasis mine)

Do you wonder what perfect peace really is? Oh, you might have peace about your eternity as a born-again child of God. You might even have a general sense of peace knowing God is in control, and that He does all things well.

But what about that broken relationship? Or the sin you know you should repent of? Or that heavy decision you have looming over your head? Do you have compartmentalized peace, or perfect peace?

Isaiah says perfect peace comes from a steadfast mind. To me that means focus, intentionality, not getting side-tracked by people, or doubts, or fear. I think a steadfast mind is a choice involving Bible study and prayer, resisting temptation, seeking first the kingdom of God.

If I lose my focus on God, and begin to look at circumstances, or people, or sin I’m like Peter who walked on the water until he took his eyes off Jesus, and noticed the water. (Matthew 14)

Isaiah doesn’t just tell us where perfect peace comes from, he tells us how it can be ours. “…because he trusts in you.” Do you trust God? Really?

Peter didn’t just trust God from the boat. He got out of the boat, walked toward Jesus, with his focus on Jesus. That’s the picture I get from this verse in Isaiah.

Perfect peace comes from the Prince of Peace. It’s a gift for those who trust God, and whose minds are steadfastly focused on the Savior. Perfect peace is supernatural, not attached to circumstances, health, wealth, lack of war. Perfect peace is God Himself.

And it’s perfect!

Isaiah 20-23; Polar Opposites

Scripture constantly reminds us that God’s ways are polar opposite of what the world thinks and does. There are so many examples in these chapters in Isaiah of this truth.

It seemed logical to the king to join forces with his neighbors against their mutual enemy. But those neighbors were idolators, unbelievers. The unequal yoking between God’s people and the ungodly neighbors resulted in more problems for Israel than just an invading army.

Shebna is an example of material wealth, political power, and pride that was lauded by the world. He had everything… except God. And his life of “self” ended badly for him. His riches and power, even those people who idolized him, could not stop God’s judgment on him.

Look at what Isaiah had to say about Tyre’s wealth, the intellect of its people, the glory of that city among nations. The city here is reduced to rubble because of their sin.

But Tyre gets a second chance. And so do we.

We’ve all sinned. None of us measure up to God’s standard. I love what Matthew Henry says:

“We must first give up ourselves to be the holiness to the Lord before what we do, or have, or get, can be so.” (p 859; Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961) (emphasis mine)

In other words, who we are before our Holy God is the catalyst for what we do, not the other way around. We must first give up our “selves,” recognize sin and accept the Savior Jesus as our own. Not a popular concept according to the world.

We can only become the holiness of God if we are wearing Jesus’ holiness, through the blood He shed on the cross. No amount of good works, sacrificial giving, compassion for the poor, even church-going can render us holy.

That’s not how the world looks at it. We hear them say (even from the pulpit of a royal wedding) that all we need is love. All we need is activism on behalf of the needy. All we need is ourselves, our determination to love one another. But is that God’s way?

Please don’t forget that Jesus went to the cross because of love. Jesus’ love dealt with your sin, not your love. The world would have us concentrate on love, and ignore sin because, of course we shouldn’t judge, right?

Dear one, your love is meaningless without the cross. Your love is a filthy rag in God’s sight unless you have first confessed your sin and accepted God’s grace.

Like I said, God’s ways are polar opposite of the ways of the world.

 

Isaiah 16-19; Never Too Far Gone

It is God’s will that no one die without Him. Throughout the Old Testament we see example after example of God using Israel to reach out to lost people, to reveal Himself as the One True God, the Righteous Judge, and Savior of the world. Sometimes people listened and were saved, like the people of Ninevah in Jonah’s day. Sometimes they refused to bow and were destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. But don’t miss the many ways God tried to get their attention.

In the chapters I read today, Isaiah is throwing out warning after warning to people who have rejected God; Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt. The prophet, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is clear when he tells how God judges His enemies.

But I love how chapter 19 ends. “In that day…” when God’s enemies repent, God forgives and embraces them as His children. “In that day…” God’s former enemies become His people, His handiwork, His inheritance.

In this case, “In that day…” was fulfilled when the Messiah came and did what He came to do. The apostles preached the Gospel, and people of every nationality were saved. It is believed that it was Mark who started churches in Egypt, just like God told Isaiah would happen. This is good stuff!

Has God laid someone on your heart, but deep down you think that person is too far gone; that he or she would NEVER accept Jesus as their Savior? Don’t you believe it. Keep praying. Keep living Jesus.

I see Scripture assuring us that as long as a soul inhabits the living, it is never beyond what God can do to save them.

Isaiah 12-15; Waiting AND Watching

Isaiah penned these words when the Israelites were at a very low point in their history. God had allowed hardship and captivity to come to the Jews as a result of their disobedience. Isaiah gave them hope.

“This won’t last forever,” he seems to tell them.”Those who abuse you will be destroyed.”

Matthew Henry tells us the Babylonians were destroyed. The things God told Isaiah were going to happen happened. But not for another two hundred years. The people who first heard God’s promises never lived to see them fulfilled. Many were born and died in captivity.

I am reminded God’s timing is not always our own. But even in our darkest hours, God does not leave His children without hope.

Chapter 15 begins with a prophecy concerning Moab’s defeat. Henry tells us this particular prophecy was fulfilled only three years after Isaiah wrote the words. I love that. God allowed His people to see concrete proof that He keeps His word, that faith in Him is not misplaced. It wasn’t everything He promised. But it was something.

I think God would remind us He hasn’t changed. Some verses come to mind:

We know all things work together for the good for those that love God… (Romands 8:28)

Is any among you in trouble? Let them pray… (James 5:13)

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. (Psalm 102:17)

Scripture tells us over and over to put our faith in God, and He will never let us down. He hears and answers prayer. You can count on it.

But sometimes it seems like we’ve been waiting two hundred years for an answer, doesn’t it? Reading Isaiah today reminds me that I can trust God with everything, including the timing of answered prayers. He’s reminding me that praying is not the same as rubbing a magic lantern and immediately being granted three wishes.

Reading Isaiah today also encourages me to watch in the meantime; to pay attention to the other answers to prayers along the way; to recognize God’s hand in other areas of my life. Because God wants me to know I can trust Him, And He’ll prove I can trust Him every day.

Reading these chapters in Isaiah strengthens my faith in my God. It helps me know that He is my hope, and I can trust Him with today, and tomorrow. It reminds me that I can pray, put my requests at His feet, and know that He’s got this. And it convicts me to take a step back, and let God be God.

He’s actually pretty good at it.

 

 

 

Isaiah 8-11; Radically Changed

Isaiah talks about Jesus. Some of these verses are very familiar prophesies about the coming of the Messiah. So beautiful!

I pulled out Matthew Henry and read his take on these passages. Then I reread the chapters in Isaiah to see if I could see what Henry saw. I absolutely love what the prophet shares about what Christ brings to us, what Christianity is all about. God changes human nature when that nature is laid at the foot of the cross.

In chapter 11, Isaiah uses word pictures to describe the person who encounters Jesus. He speaks of wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, calves and lions… all living in harmony. The most vicious of animals no longer vicious. Cobras without venom, harmless vipers when the world is full of the knowledge of the Lord.

Or, when your world is full of the knowledge of the Lord.

Henry says this:

“This is fulfilled in the wonderful effect of the gospel upon the minds of those that sincerely embrace it; it changes the nature, and makes those that trampled on the meek of the earth, not only meek like them, but affectionate towards them.” (Commentary in one Volume; Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; p 845)

Has God radically changed you? Or is there still a bit of that wolf, that leopard, or that viper in you? Embrace the Gospel. Let Jesus transform you into that person who loves like Jesus loves, who has compassion and kindness toward others.

Would it change your family dynamics if you did that? How about your workplace, your neighborhood, your church? Would it effect your prayer life? Your Bible study? Would it effect how you view yourself?

The radical change that comes from a right relationship with the Messiah is always, ALWAYS change that is good!

Isaiah 5-7; My Vineyard

Did you read these chapters and see what God has to say to you today about your walk with Him? I did. When I read chapters 5-7 I realized I am the vineyard Isaiah is talking about. As a Jesus follower, God established me on rich, fertile ground. He did all the work to clear that land when Jesus died on the cross.

What He offers me is pure, perfect, and prepared in advance for me to produce good fruit. (Ephesians 2:10) He gifted me with abilities to serve Him. He built a hedge of protection around me to guard my heart. He is the watchman who protects me from Satan’s arrows. He gave me everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then God turns over the vineyard to me, and waits for me to start producing good fruit. After all, He did all the hard work to get it ready for me so that I can go and make disciples, so that I can be a light to the world, so that I can share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls. The potential is endless!

But it didn’t take long for me to feel the sting of conviction today. Verse 2b: but it (me) yielded only bad fruit.

Then God asks, What more could I have done? The answer sadly is, Nothing.

Verses 4-7 are sobering when you consider yourself as the vineyard who isn’t producing fruit. God won’t stay where He’s not wanted.

I hope you read the “Woe to’s” in chapter 5 and let God speak to you about choices you make, attitudes you have, whether you tolerate sin in yourself and ignore it in others, whether or not you think you have all the answers apart from God.

When Isaiah came face to face with Jesus he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips…”

Now I don’t know what kinds of problems Isaiah had with what came out of his mouth, but this is what spoke to me this morning. Look at 8:6-7. When Isaiah confessed his sin of speech, God sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips! God met Isaiah at the point of his need. Isaiah confessed a sin. God forgave that sin.

Another thing I see is, that cleansing hurt. Most of the time, it takes a broken heart to repent, turning from sin is not always easy. Sometimes it really does hurt to admit you’ve sinned, to humble yourself, to accept grace. And sometimes separating yourself from that sin means giving up some things and people you really like. Ouch.

I think God wants us to know that as we read His Word, asking Him to speak to us about our walk with Him, He’ll point out sin. He’ll reveal things to us about our hearts’ condition before Him. He’ll talk to us about our vineyard.

Don’t forget this: If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! (I John 1:9)

Every. Time.

So, read God Word and allow Him to put a finger on the problem. Confess. Repent. Allow Him to cleanse you. Then go back to the vineyard and get to work. Turn that precious property into something beautiful, and useful in God’s kingdom.

Isn’t God’s Word amazingly personal and relevant? I love it!