Isaiah

Directs You

334_DIRECTS YOU.jpg

I was watching an insurance commercial on television the other day. In it, the company attempted to explain how they could help me plan out my financial future. I watched as people on the screen followed green arrows that seemed to illuminate on the ground directing them along the path they were expected to take to achieve their financial goals. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if following our spiritual path was that easy? Wouldn’t it be great if God were to put little green arrows in our path to tell us exactly what we should do and which way we should go in life? Then we would know exactly what he wanted for us and we would be sure that we were on the path he’d chosen for us. This may sound like a fantasy, but in actuality, the Bible teaches us that God does direct us in the way we should go. Isaiah reveals these words from God explaining this truth to the Israelites, and I believe that it is just as true for us today. It says in Isaiah, chapter 48, verse 17:

“This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’”

God doesn’t expect us to figure life out on our own. He guides and directs us through the Holy Spirit living inside of every believer, the Holy Bible, and divine intervention. Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit “speaking” to you? He may have placed a clear prompting in your heart, urging you to do something, say something, or to go in a certain direction with your life. Have you ever experienced God speaking to you through the Bible? Verses you may have read time and time again may have a fresh new meaning when applied to a situation you happen to be going through at that very moment. Through his word, God may be telling you how he wants you to respond. He may be teaching you what is best for you. And have you ever had someone say something to you at just the right time, almost as if God sent them to speak to you? Or has God “spoken” to you through an external method to communicate, like a television show you’re watching or a book you’re reading? Isaiah reminds us that God does, in fact, teach us what is best for us and he directs us in the way we should go. The question is, are you listening? Are you obeying? I hope the answer to those two questions is, “yes”.   

---

Isaiah reminds us that our Lord, our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel teaches us what is best for us and directs us in the way we should go. At the time this verse was written, God used prophets to speak his words to his people. They were sent as vessels to relay God’s directives. Today, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the complete Bible, and God can also use almost anyone or anything to divinely relay his desires and directives. Our job is to walk closely with him so that we can discern when he is communicating with us. When that happens, it might even seem as if God is illuminating bright green arrows that only you can see, directing you in the way he wants you to go.

Evil For Good

329_EVIL FOR GOOD.jpg

I can remember a time when identifying as a Christian was a good thing. Even those who weren’t willing to believe in the faith understood that the values brought about by Christianity were those that most anyone would want to emulate. Parents would send their kids to church even if they didn’t go themselves because Christian values were prized as moralistically good. But things have changed. The rules have been rewritten. What was once considered good is now vilified, and what was once moralistically wrong is now celebrated. In Isaiah we find a warning for those who have chosen to conform to this ideology by ignoring the truth and becoming wise in their own eyes. It says in chapter 5, verses 20 and 21:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” 

If someone where to try to convince you that the sky was green, even though you could clearly see that it was blue, by their sheer conviction alone, they would not be proven right. Likewise, if someone where to convince themselves that the values and mandates God set in place were wrong, that wouldn’t make it true. Why, then, do we, as humans, convince ourselves of obvious falsehoods? I believe that Satan is behind this deception. 1 Peter reminds us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. And Isaiah says, “woe to those” who fall prey to him by taking the bait and calling evil good and good evil; who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. The devil is crafty. He doesn’t always boldly entice us with things that are clearly sin. He may choose to be more subtle. He may come as an angel of light, convincing us that bad things are actually good. For those who do not know God, Satan can slowly manipulate and convince them of this lie. But for those of us who know God, this tactic should neither come as a surprise, nor should it be effective. So I encourage you not to fall into this deception. For those of us who understand that the Bible is Holy, objective truth, any change in our culture should not alter our spiritual compass.

---

The evil one has put into motion plans that we can’t see with our eyes, but we can see their results in our news, our culture and in those around us. Believers should recognize his hand at work in the minds and hearts of those who don’t believe, and believers who have been deceived. I pray that you and I heed Isaiah’s warning. We should never find ourselves compromising the truth, even if doing so may save our job, our relationships or our comfort. And we should never call evil good or good evil, even if we are persuaded to believe the world’s moral compass over God’s holy word. The Bible has not changed since it was pinned, and it will never change until the return of our Lord. What was true in Jesus’ day is still true today. If we lose sight of that, we will find ourselves operating in the flesh and walking out of step with the Holy Spirit. We will become wise in our own eyes and clever in our own sight.

Enter Peace

294_ENTER PEACE.jpg

Have you ever heard the phrase, “only the good die young”? Actually, there is a bit of biblical truth to that saying. You may not have realized this, but the Bible explains that there are times when God may choose to have a righteous, upright person die. And even if we can’t understand why, through our limited human understanding, it may, in fact, be an act of Godly mercy. It may be that God is bringing them into eternal glory early to spare them from evil; allowing them to enter peace and find rest from this life. Isaiah lays it out like this in chapter 57, verses 1 and 2, which says:

“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

These verses brings to mind the persecuted church; believers who are tortured and imprisoned because of their faith in Christ. Could it be that God may give many of these believers rest from their persecution by taking them home to be with him? Right before Stephen was stoned to death for his faith, the Bible says that he “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. That sounds like an infinitely better destination than what he was about to face. And God knows that for some, bringing them into heaven before evil, such as this, can befall them is a mercy as well as a blessing, allowing them to enter into peace and find rest. So when you hear of a good and upright person dying young, consider that it might be that God is calling them home to spare them from evil. This may cause us pain as we mourn for them, but it could be nothing less than the merciful love of our God in action.

---

When faithful, upright believers unexpectedly die, it can be difficult for us to understand. We inevitably ask “why”; why did something so bad have to happen to someone so good and so young? It could be that it rains on the just and the unjust alike; that bad things just happen sometimes, no matter how righteous or good we might be. Or it might be part of God’s plan; that God’s ways are higher than our ways and for some reason that we can’t yet see, a greater good is planned to come out of such a tragedy. Or, it could be what Isaiah outlined in chapter 57. It could be that out of God’s love and mercy, he is sparing that person from impending evil, and bringing them into a place of peace and rest. In any case, God is the potter and we are the clay. It isn’t our place to question his sovereignty. Our job is to place our trust in him even in the midst of tragedy. Our job is to have faith that he knows what is best.

Nation Repent

225_NATION REPENT.jpg

I’ve been spending a bit of time in the Old Testament lately, and as I read, my heart continues break for our country. God is holy; so holy that even the Israelites had a hard time existing in his presence, and their culture had God at its center. Ours, sadly, does not. Isaiah prayed a prayer that I believe should be extended to our country as well. He prayed on behalf of the chosen people, but now that we have been grafted in, I hope that God will acknowledge this prayer on our behalf as well. Isaiah 64, verses 5 through 9 says:

“You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.”

This is part of the prayer Isaiah prayed on behalf of his people. And this is the prayer I pray on behalf of ours. We need to humble ourselves before our holy God – those of us who call him Lord. I like when Isaiah says, “do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever”. We do serve a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love, but even his patience has limits. I encourage you to pray for our country; especially for those who call themselves believers in Christ. We are God’s clay, and I believe that he can use people like you and me to spark a change in our nation.

---

I believe that we, as believers, have a responsibility to those around us. In the Old Testament, an entire nation could be judged as one group, even if some of the people in that nation were innocent. In America, a lot of godlessness has, and is, taking place. For Christians to be passive bystanders is not what I believe God wants from us. If nothing else, we should be on our knees for our country. Anyone with eyes can see where we’re headed. While it is day, before the night comes, we need to do all we can to shine the light of Christ in dark places. I encourage you to pray for our nation, and to ask God how he can use you in his master plan.

God's Faithfulness

190_GODS FAITHFULNESS.jpg

Sometimes, I think that when we are in the midst of pain or trouble, we forget how much God loves us. We may even begin to wonder if God cares at all. We forget that even though we are unfaithful, God is always faithful. In Isaiah 43:1-3, God speaks through Isaiah to the Israelites, his chosen people. I realize that this was specifically addressed to the Israelites, but remember that God never changes. And I believe that these words spoken to his chosen people apply to us as well, now that we have been grafted in to the heavenly promise. It says:

"But now, this is what the Lord says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;'"

I look at this as God’s love poem for those who love him. In verse 4 it goes on to say the he will do all of these things because, "you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,". God does indeed love us. We may not always see him in the darkness. We may think when things are hardest that we are walking alone. But remember these words and the many others that are spoken throughout the bible of God's love for us. If you have been redeemed by the Lord, that is - if you have believed and placed your trust in Christ, the bible says that you are his. And God loves you with a jealous love, like a husband who loves his wife. He is always there watching over you, ready to hear you call out to him, even when you don't see or feel him.

---

Never forget, that God loves us. In Isaiah, I read from only one such example. There are many more in that one book alone, not to even mention throughout the old and new testament. So, don't let the devil fool you when you begin to think that God doesn't love you, that he isn't listening, or that he is far away. It is just the contrary. Though sometimes we have to wait on him, make no mistake, God is aware of what you're dealing with and he cares as much as a loving husband cares about the well-being of his treasured wife.