Week 38 – Does our Father in heaven really want ‘heaven on earth’ for us?

Intimacy is enjoyed only when we surrender our self to the One loving us.

DAY ONE – Jeremiah 1-4

If intimacy suggests something very warm, close or personal, then Yahweh God’s expressions toward Israel and Judah are very intimate. The Lord’s yearning and desire for a close relationship with these people He chose, Abraham’s descendants, cannot be missed in the messages of the prophets. There is an underlying sadness in God’s voice, a clear disappointment in His tone, over the rejection He received from His own people. As I contemplated again yesterday’s reading in Joel, God kept saying to His people and the other nations, “Then you will know that I am Yahweh (the Lord).” How is it that we can know so little when our Lord has revealed so much? Why does He have to keep proving Himself over and over, when He is Creator of heaven and earth; when He has revealed Himself from heaven by loving and caring for His chosen ones; when He has destroyed the destroyer time and again? What is it in people that makes us want to search high and low for God–in life, in religion, in human experience, in relationships–when He has come near to us to embrace us with salvation and deliverance? Why do we accept lesser gods into our life who can’t do a single godlike thing? Can any object of our own creation ever save us, or help us, or respond to our cries in the night? Can the security we attempt to put around ourselves help us when everything goes south? Why then does our Father God have to continually call out for us to return to Him, to seek Him, to serve Him? If the voice of the prophet sounds stern and foreboding; if his words seem condemning and judgmental; if he appears to be pronouncing doom over the nation, why do we say, “I can’t serve a god like that?” The nations proved over and again that the gods they served were only the ones they themselves had made!

Intimacy has been lost to many, for we are too self-seeking to surrender our self to another in a complete giving of love and devotion. Yet that is exactly the KEY to intimacy–self-giving, self-disclosure, service, respect, admiration, love, and even duty. If our human relationships beg for that level of intimacy, especially in marriage, how much more does our relationship to God ask for as much, or even more? God wants to KNOW us, and BE KNOWN by us, in an intimate manner that is close, personal and warm. Does that describe your relationship with Him? If not, consecrate yourself to the sacred quest of getting to really know Him. Whatever is needed in your task, He will provide, as He did for Israel and Judah, back in the day.

DAY TWO – Jeremiah 5-8

Religion has been criticized for its rules. We mostly don’t care for rules but understand that some are necessary to preserve order, especially as when we drive in opposite directions in our streets and highways. When God gave Moses The Ten Commandments, they came out as rules. Actually, the entire Jewish religion given by Yahweh God at the time of Moses sounds like books full of rules to be kept, and so many of them! The only rule Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was to leave alone the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which was in the center of the garden. And they couldn’t do that! So we humans don’t do too well when it comes to rules. The Lord God knows that breaking the rules is destructive, and every one of us has this rule-breaking penchant. If you are God and you desire to save humankind from destruction of self and others, you give the kind of rules that will preserve and save life. God did that. But He didn’t stop there. He offered salvation, deliverance, healing, life and blessings in exchange for keeping the rules. Even that didn’t save us. We still break the rules. He appealed to our heart, our inner sense of what is right and just. That didn’t work either. He forgave our sins and gave us a religious imperative that would extend mercy and grace to us. He offered to be our God and make us His people. And right up through the days of the kings, priests and prophets, the Lord was still laboring over Israel and Judah to make them a nation which would display the glory of God’s truth and righteousness. But they couldn’t make the grade. When humankind demonstrates that they have eyes which don’t see, ears that don’t hear and hearts that can no longer be reached, what is left? Judgment… at least the promise of judgment. That is Jeremiah’s message. It sounds harsh, but it isn’t. It sounds condemning, but it is laced through and through with offers to relent if the people will only turn from their wickedness and idolatry. Though they have broken every rule over and over again, the Lord stands ready to forgive and turn aside judgment if they will love the Lord with their heart and soul. Breaking the rules is a kind of sin–transgression of the goodness and glory of God. It defames Him and destroys His creation. Yet our God has a plan to save the world, and He continues to offer everyone a way of salvation. Israel declined and lost out when the Assyrians removed them from their land. Judah is under threat but is not responding much better. Why can’t God simply do away with the rules of right and truth? Because they are the very protection we need to keep from destroying His creation. King David, a man after God’s own heart, discovered the right way. Though he committed an egregious and heinous sin, he humbled himself before the Lord and repented of his transgressions. He pled for mercy and was heard by the Lord, who forgave and saved him. The next time you are proceeding through a green light at an intersection, thank God that the people on your right and left are waiting at the red light! That little rule is saving your bacon!

DAY THREE – Jeremiah 9-12

Was Jeremiah weeping because the people were breaking all the rules? No, the prophet was a fountain of tears because God’s people had continually broken His covenant; because their hearts had deserted Yahweh God to do all the evil that was in their hearts. Covenant-breaking is much more serious than breaking a rule, for it violates the intentions of the Lord’s relationship with His people. What God intended included salvation, deliverance and blessing. What he asked was obedience and love as a response. When love is answered with wickedness and idolatry, the broken covenant is a cause for great weeping, for it means that the cause is lost unless there is a turning to the Lord with humility and repentance. We’ve heard the saying, “Don’t kill the messenger.” Well, the people actually did kill some of the Lord’s prophets, despising and rejecting others with persecution. Jeremiah cried; he wanted to get away from the terrible calamity he saw approaching like a juggernaut. But he was constrained by the call and love of God to remain on assignment, standing as if against an entire nation. So he persisted with his messages. And sometimes he turned aside to private conversations with his Lord. This is how we really get to KNOW God, by answering His call to do life together, then turning to Him again and again to make sense of the senseless violence and destruction against which we struggle every day. It seems to never end, yet we know it will. It seems we will be swallowed whole by the tide of culture in which we live, but with God’s help we persist from day to day. God even causes us to OVERCOME evil with the good we do.

“In the beginning, God…” When this all started, the Creator God looked over His handiwork and pronounced it all good. So it will be in the end. In the end, God… our Lord will make the FINAL MOVE; He will defend His own honor and covenant; and He will bring a complete and final restoration and recreation! For He sees what we cannot; He moves with purpose and direction; and He declares what is yet to come. We are safe INSIDE His love, His covenant. Keeping His rules with our heart is no problem at all, for His Only Son, the Great Rules-keeper, ended one of His messages with this invitation:  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

DAY FOUR – Jeremiah 13-16

The meteorologist, otherwise known as a ‘weatherman,’ is a storm tracker. We pay attention to him on a rather regular basis, for it is he who is charting and predicting the extreme conditions that could have a negative effect on us. We all seem to want to know what the weather will be, although we cannot do anything about it! In a sense, Jeremiah was Judah’s ‘weatherman,’ receiving from the Lord what could and should be expected in coming days. The prophet was tracking a terrible storm, having visions of extreme conditions which would destroy Judah and change their future in an unforgettable way. This great storm had mingled within it death, the sword, famine and captivity. It was so fierce that Jeremiah wept whenever he thought about it. He kept coming back to Yahweh and questioning Him about it. He brought those same messages to the people and wondered that they made no preparations for this coming storm, this ‘great day of the Lord.’ Why wouldn’t they listen? Why wouldn’t they prepare for this storm soon to hit the land? God said the storm was because of the terrible leadership Manasseh had given the people, during which time they totally forsook Him. Had they become so unresponsive to the Lord they could no longer respond? Were they believing their false prophets who were telling them the storm wouldn’t make landfall but would blow out to sea and move on? Did they think the ‘weatherman,’ the prophet, had totally blown the prediction, that they needn’t be concerned about it? Whatever the reason, they refused to alter their course or change their ways. Even when their food and water gave out; even when the donkeys and deer sniffed the air for a hint of moisture, then birthed their young and walked away without caring for their offspring, the hard-heartedness of Judah failed to crack. Imagine the storm is so close that the prophet says, in effect, “Cancel your wedding; forget marriage; don’t have children. Why bring little ones into this terrible, ravaging storm?”  So Jeremiah continued to preach, and he continued to cry.

It would take decades to ‘clean up’ after Yahweh’s storm of judgment. Yet there was mercy and there was grace in God’s heart. His Word would continue to go forth. His prophets would emerge with deep intercession and understanding to help the people who were seeking their God. And the Lord Himself would continue to ply the nations with His sovereign plans to yet save the world from destruction. And  future blessings would extend to all the nations that would house the remnants of God’s people scattered in every direction of the compass. God is the God of the storm. May we prepare for the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ with repentance and blessing.

DAY FIVE – Jeremiah 17-20

I’ve known a few people in my day who seemed to want to be a prophet; but their chief characteristic, it seemed to me, was their anger toward others. Their ‘prophecy’ was to denounce, to condemn and to express the Lord’s displeasure–if indeed it was God’s displeasure rather than their own. Jeremiah, on the other hand, did not really want to be a prophet. God CALLED him to his service and had to continually reassure him that he was where he belonged. The visions and messages the Lord gave him for the king, priests and people were so distasteful and terrifying that the prophet cried a lot. He would dissolve into tears of sadness and yes, even fear, when he realized the proportions of the destruction that was coming. A preacher once said it in this manner: “If you are going to preach to me about hell, at least have the decency to weep while you do so.” Nobody wants to hear messages of doom and destruction; messages of rebuke and condemnation; or messages that tell you everything is wrong. People want encouragement, uplift and a reason to live. They want hope. But what if hope is cancelled? What if our way of life is so destructive to ours and others’ future, that God is resorting to extreme measures to call us back? And what if He is doing everything He knows to recapture our attention and our worship? Is that what brings Him pleasure? No, His pleasure is in our salvation and future hope. So God sent Jeremiah and others to turn a nation back to their created purpose, so that He could bless them again!

Jeremiah despaired of life and cursed the day he was born–reminiscent of Job, whose suffering appalled even his friends. The prophet cried to God to save him, to turn his enemies back, to frustrate their schemes to destroy him. At one point he even decided not to prophesy anymore. But the Lord’s words became like fire in his bones which could not be contained! He had to speak out, to fulfill the assignment given him by Yahweh God. Dear friends, the Lord’s work is going to get done; His plans are going to succeed; the world is going to be saved and returned to its Eden-like state. God will have a ginormous family of trusted friends and worshippers. They will live in an eternity of blessing and creativity. But right now hell yawns with hunger to receive any and all who resent or reject God’s Lordship over us. A tremendous cosmic battle is raging, and we are at the center. Will the Lord’s word prevail within us, or will OUR will to be autonomous prevail? Shall Yahweh God be Lord, as He is; or shall I have my own way and choose my own destiny? Study history; the right answer is in plain view.

Week 37 – Our Lord’s reputation rests fully on His Word…

“…for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.” Psalm 138:2 (NLT)

DAY ONE – Nahum 1-3

Isaiah gave us a full accounting of Assyria’s siege against Jerusalem. After what God did to the Assyrians, ending their rampage against the Lord’s people, Nahum also takes up this ‘burden’ against Nineveh (Assyria), having been a contemporary of Isaiah. In clear, cryptic language, in no uncertain terms, the prophet accurately predicts what will happen to the Assyrians in the future. Remember, ‘future’ exists in our reality, not God’s! Divine justice requires all nations and people to give account to God for the way we have treated others. The Assyrians were merciless in war, tearing and ravaging as they conquered nations. Now when Yahweh God turns against them, they will be ravaged without mercy. As they did, so it will be done to them. These messages bring comfort and encouragement to the people of Judah, because they remember what Assyria did to the ten northern tribes (Israel). Will that happen to Jerusalem as well? No, says Nahum; no, says Isaiah. God will keep them from destruction for this time. God controls the destiny of nations, which obviously causes us to wonder what will yet happen in our immediate future. Where are we in time? We see what the Lord did in history, but what about as we go forward from here? Let’s take a leap and read some of Jesus’ words, spoken over 700 years after these prophets spoke for God.

Matthew 24:1-14 – Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way. His disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “Don’t you see all of these things? Most assuredly I tell you, there will not be left here one stone on another, that will not be thrown down.” 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Be careful that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you aren’t troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name’s sake. 10 Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. 12 Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved. 14 This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. This was given to the Jews (Israel), but it is for ALL OF US. Let us take heart and serve God well.

DAY TWO – Zephaniah 1-3

We are still in the period of the kings of Judah and Israel; however, Israel had already fallen to the Assyrian king and had been deported and scattered in Assyria. The young king Josiah of Judah was beginning a purge throughout the land, of every remnant of Baal worship, leading  the people back to Yahweh their God. Imagine two classes of priests holding services in the land: 1) the descendants of Aaron established under Moses, robed and directed according to the pure religion of Yahweh; and 2) the Chenarims, a class of black-robed, ascetic priests leading the dark worship of Baal wherever they could get a following of the people. Zephaniah stepped into the milieu and sounded the strong words of God, announcing the overthrow of all that was dark and rebellious toward the Lord. So the prophet helped the king. The prophet spoke only for God. If we jump ahead momentarily to the words of the Lord Jesus given in the seven letters to the seven churches as reported in Revelation 2 and 3, each letter ends with this challenge: “Let everyone who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” Is God still speaking? Do we receive the words of our ministers as coming from the Lord? Do we recognize prophetic voices issuing a clarion call to our generations? Is. God. Still. Speaking? We must answer that question. If He is, then are we listening? If we are listening, what are we hearing Him say? If we acknowledge that He is speaking, and we affirm that we are listening, what is the message we are receiving? Yes I am being repetitive. Yes there is redundancy in the Gospel. The Good News MUST BE SPOKEN again and again in every kind of setting and in every relevant way. But it must also BE HEARD and then RESPONDED TO by every person wishing to know the Lord. If we fail of the word of God; and if we fail of discerning His voice; and if we fail to respond to His loving and clarion calls, THEN WE HAVE FAILED! Hope for our generations lies in THE LORD HIMSELF! He doesn’t need us in order to be God; but we need Him to find our identity, our hope and our future. Thank God for our prophets willing to risk everything for God’s message. Are we willing to risk everything to hear… and follow? Forsake the gods of this world and run from all that is false! PRAY TO GOD for our families and friends, and for God’s people. PRAY that we will stand, that we will hear, that we will follow Christ Jesus decisively in this world. PRAY that God’s bold message will penetrate the confusion and black arts of our culture. PRAY for His kingdom to come with power, authority and salvation. The worship of praise and thanksgiving to God ends with PRAYERS for His will to be done on earth.

DAY THREE – 2 Kings 22-23, 2 Chronicles 34-35

He becomes king of Judah at age eight. When he is sixteen he begins to seek Yahweh God of Israel. Four years later he commences a purge of the land by chopping down and/or pulverizing all the altars, poles, images and whatever other symbols were used to sacrifice to and worship the false demon gods of the people. King Josiah has inherited the spiritual DNA of his distant grandfather King David. Of him the testimony is that he served Yahweh God like no other king before or after him. And while all this was going on, a book was found in the temple during a time of repair and cleaning. It was identified as the Book of the Law, given by God to Moses. It was brought to Josiah and read in his presence. And when he heard THE WORDS OF THE LAW OF GOD, he immediately tore his clothes and began a period of humbling before God. The fear of the Lord seized him, so he sent his chiefs to inquire of God in his behalf. THIS, dear friends, is a description of revival. It lasted only during Josiah’s short life. His sons after him did evil in God’s sight. The wrath and calamity determined during Manasseh’s evil reign was about to explode on Judah and Jerusalem. History maintains a clear record of those nations that have either preserved or desecrated God’s testimony among the people. Desecration is always followed by violence which ends in destruction.

Fortunately, from somewhere in the shadows of history God’s Word always emerges, and periods of revival of religion follow. The United States was, in a sense, born in a revival of religion, as faithful worshippers looked for a place to serve God in peace without harassment from their own governments. The history of this land is replete with revivals, both regional and national. But godless and secular forces impelled by men whose pride is lifted against God eventually quash and quell the fires of revival until the hearts of the people are once again complacent toward the Lord and his eternal kingdom. And somewhere along the way, blatant evil pervades and permeates the social edifice until it is compromised and ineffective. This desecration is always followed by violence which ends in destruction. Reading through the Bible reveals the PATTERN of the world system. Religious revivals do occur; and they persist for a season before succumbing to the pull of the cosmos away from God. Good and righteous people do seek and serve God, hoping their children will do so as well. And although the future is held in God’s loving and saving hands, THE EVIL that has manifested in every generation will, eventually, bring FINAL wrath and judgment upon the world system, from which there will be no recovery. “BUT SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS…”

DAY FOUR – Habakkuk 1-3

We have all, at one time or another, had a conversation with our child in which we attempted to explain why we took a particular course of action or maintained a particular opinion; only to discover that the child did not have enough life experience to understand the explanation we are trying to give. In a sense, Habakkuk’s conversation with Yahweh God is like that. His opening question is “How long, O Lord?” In other words, God, you gave me a vision of an invading army that is so destructive I can’t wrap my wits around it. How can you do this? Why would you do this? Yes, I know Judah has become rotten and violent to the core, but the Babylonians, the people you intend to use for correction, are worse! What’s up? Why would you help the Babylonians? And God replies, Yes, this is what I am going to do; and it will be worse than you think. But in the process the Babylonians will go a step too far and think their own gods have given this success, when I actually helped them for my purposes. And then the tables will be turned on them! It’s like this, Habakkuk: People who live by violence and greed perish in the violence and greed. Whether it’s a man or a nation, turning a greedy look outward to swallow others, invites the Lord to return the evil upon their own head. Yes, Judah will be punished and corrected; but when it is over, the Babylonians’ fate will be worse yet. So God maintains His Sovereignty over men and nations, working His own plans to save the world… in His own time and way.

How should we respond? Habakkuk decided to stop talking and stand there… and wait. And when the conversation had reached an end, he prayed–not just any prayer mind you. It is one of the most heartfelt and powerful prayers of consecration ever uttered. Why? Because the prophet admits that the matter is over his head; there are some parts he won’t understand. Will he go on complaining, asking, badgering the Lord for further explanations? No. No, he has decided he will TRUST GOD to handle God’s business! And then he gives us this:  “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”  Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT) 

DAY FIVE – Joel 1-3

Picture a swarm of locusts that rises like a cloud on the horizon, covering both heaven and earth as it comes. The sky is darkened, the sun covered, by the thickness of the swarm advancing over the land. Locusts, zillions of them! Flying, swarming, crawling, covering, moving forward until they have swallowed up every green thing in front of them–they continue to come, no end in sight. After devouring the fields, the trees and plants, they invade the cities, swarming on the walls, creeping through the windows, entering houses until their fearful presence has everyone–men, women, children–paralyzed and poverty-stricken. Priests wail for the Lord’s house; everyone else cries out and mourns over their deep loss. There is nothing left behind the locust armies. This is the video Joel has seen and described. Yahweh God has led his army into Judah and Jerusalem to once again call the nation to attention, to divert them from their idolatrous and violent ways, to get them to return to their true religion and worship. When nature itself is destroyed by the violence and corruption of humankind, shouldn’t that be understood as a call to return to God? Shouldn’t we be alerted by the sheer numbers of tornadoes, earthquakes, massive fires, floods, droughts and other physical phenomena that occur annually across our land these days? Isn’t there a correlation to the violence and corruption that have pervaded and permeated every level of our social structures? And shouldn’t the high incidence of people leaving behind their faith in God and adopting the secular ideas of popular culture be a warning sign to us all?

Thankfully God tempers justice and judgment with mercy, else we would have ceased long ago. And thankfully the Lord’s vision is filled with thoughts of restoration, to bring to a conclusion that which is destroying His creation so that Jerusalem and Israel may finally realize God’s redemptive purposes, and so that all of humankind may rejoice in His plans to save the world. Our Creator sees far beyond the evil that stalks in the shadows of humanity, threatening the order and peace He intended us to have. And He has declared a time of regathering, rebuilding and restoring all to its original meaning and purpose. He has sent His Holy Spirit to administrate everything pertaining to His heaven-sent Kingdom on earth. And He WILL FINISH all He has started. It’s time for us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength… to WORK with Him and to BELIEVE His Word.

Week 36, 2018 – Five more days reading thru the Bible. It’s all about knowing our heavenly Father…

The worst king who ever lived did a one-eighty and was restored! Believe it or not…

DAY ONE – Isaiah 50-53

Why Israel, you ask? Remember that back in the Garden of Eden, God spoke to the first couple and the serpent of ‘seed’? It would be the seed of Adam and Eve that would eventually take out the serpent. Throughout the millennia following, that seed was created, nurtured and watched over by Yahweh God Himself, who called Abraham, then his son Isaac, and finally Jacob and all his posterity, whom we know today as the Jews, or Israel. That seed was preserved for such a time as “a virgin will conceive and bear a son.” So Isaiah brings forth this volume of prophetic revelation concerning God’s ‘servant,’ birthed and raised as if out of dry ground that has no life left in it. And that Servant will be Good News to Zion (Israel). Further His work will accomplish a mighty salvation and deliverance not seen before, until the Good News has reached earth’s furthest reaches. Over and over, God says to comfort His people with the news that He still reigns, that He is still sovereign over the nations, that the future is like the present to Him; and He can see the ending of it all, even as we are living in the present moment. No wonder that He asks us to believe in Him, to trust Him, to not fear the oppression of mankind. Finally we have an entire chapter devoted to the description and fortunes of His ‘servant.’ It’s not pretty. It’s filled with pathos and human suffering, yet there is a wonder about this ‘servant’ who is doing God’s will and radically changing the future of all who will believe in Him. A time will come when the ‘servant,’ crushed under the oppression, will rise to highest prominence and justify many. No one has, like Isaiah, explored the highs and lows of humanity under the dealings of Yahweh God, only to return with a report of total victory and accomplishment.

“Comfort my people,” God says. So we keep looking up, we keep looking forward. We hold each other, we laugh and cry, we attend births and funerals, we sleep, we go to work, then we do it all over again. Does it ever end? Or does it persist ad infinitum? The greatest comfort is knowing that God is there, that He loves us, that our faith in Him does and will overcome all because He overcame all. Having born our sin, having become our salvation, He is reaching to us, inviting us, watching over us, for good. “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:10

DAY TWO – Isaiah 54-58

I had a friend in Argentina years ago whose ministry was named Vision of the Future. From his vision came a plan, and from his plan came a great deal of hard work and tiring travel. Yet out of that grew a ministry that reached 50,000 people a month. Seeing, envisioning, reaching, working–this is how God’s work gets done on earth. It’s not easy, as the Lord explained to Adam when he was driven from the Garden of Eden. We get it ‘by the sweat of our brow.’ Why is life difficult?  When we finish listing all the things that make life harder, it really comes back to us–God has to get almost everything done through us! While He holds the final word on all things, He has chosen to partner with humankind so that we appreciate His Divine work among us. Here are steps that God takes in dealing with people in the real world:

  • INVITATION. We are always invited into God’s world and works. The number of times we hear ‘Come to Me,’ or ‘Return to Me’ begin to mount up as we go through scripture. Why? What does He want? He wants us, His creation, His people, His worshippers to be the carriers of His Presence and life in the cosmos.
  • CONFRONTATION. When we are disconnected and away from His Presence as a result of our transgressions and sins, He confronts our basic appetites, attitudes and actions to see if we will relent and renounce our waywardness.
  • INTENTION. Through the prophets the Lord always made clear what He was up to, what He wanted and how  we are a part of His Divine plans. He clearly revealed the present issues, the outcomes, and visions of the future. Ah, visions of the future. Some of what was penned and spoken by Isaiah still lies before us as God’s vision of the future. Glorious promises are held in reserve for the faithful; so no matter how difficult things appear to be, Yahweh God is working toward the accomplishment of His plans and fulfillment of His covenants.

Regardless our present level of comfort, or lack of it, God is at work. From His dwelling in Eternity He is looking for those who serve Him humbly and with a contrite spirit, insisting that He lives with us. Through God’s vision and His tireless efforts, we are being saved in a mighty way into a glorious and explosively marvelous future.

DAY THREE – Isaiah 59-63

Looking back on my preaching years, it is obvious that any message I gave was just that–a message. If one wanted to know what I believed and what I knew, he would have had to sit under my preaching for extended periods of time. Certain core truths and themes were repeated often for emphasis, but eventually I covered all the truth that I understood from God’s word. Isaiah’s messages were given during the reign of four separate kings–a long time. Are they repetitive? Certainly. Again and again Israel was reminded that God is sovereign, righteous, and holy. He was their Creator, their God by right of redemption and salvation. He required devotion, proper worship and right living.  And Israel BECAME OUR EXAMPLE. We learn from them to have reverence for God, to receive instruction, to conduct ourselves humbly and contritely in His Presence, and to discover His great plans for His people and the world. It also becomes apparent that idolatry and rebellion have grave consequences, as we watched the northern tribes of Israel carried away by the king of Assyria, taken from their homeland to never return. Now our reading is revealing the tenuous relationship Yahweh has with Judah and Jerusalem, the City of the Great King. Isaiah’s messages have turned toward a glorious future, visions of a restored land whose impact and influence are felt around the world; and we are reading words spoken over 2,700 years ago! Yet his messages could have been given recently and would be an accurate description of yesterday’s news! How does THAT work?

First, God lives in ETERNITY–that means that yesterday, today and tomorrow are alike to Him. Given only the past and present, we cannot comprehend that; to us there is an unknown future, but not to God. He has for the entire scope of human history repeated His instructions, promises, warnings and outcomes. He has revealed His purposes, plans and priorities. He has demonstrated His love, mercy and grace upon and through Israel over multiplied centuries, right up until today. Each generation of humans has to interface with God’s mercy and grace, deciding whether to live in loving relationship or go their own way. Then it becomes PERSONAL–I have to decide. Having read through the entire Word of God more than two dozen times, and now writing about it, I want all my friends, family and others to DISCOVER what I know–GOD HAS ALWAYS HAD A PLAN TO SAVE THE WORLD, AND WE ARE ALL WATCHING IT UNFOLD BEFORE OUR VERY EYES. The whole Bible confirms and explains what we need to know. What a great time to draw near to God, to live and move in the atmosphere of His love and salvation.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 64-66

The more we read into the Word of God, the Bible, the more we understand that something is fundamentally wrong with our world, and with us. Though Yahweh God is everything we wish to be and continuously invites us to be His children, to belong to Him, we keep our distance when we have something to hide from Him. Israel chose pagan idols and followed pagan ways whenever they walked away from the Lord God. Yet the Creator of heaven and earth, not willing to abandon His creation, has met us with mercy and grace, has moved heaven and earth to bring salvation, and has intervened when all hope was lost. Our extremity is always God’s opportunity, especially if we have come to the end of our self. God is not offering a Band-aid to cover over a massive injury. He is speaking of a new heaven and a new earth–not a renovation but a new creation. Why then, would we want a quick fix for something in us that requires total restoration and renewal? Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence… Yahweh, You alone can repair the broken places, can heal the human disease, can recreate that which is fatally flawed! Come, O Lord, help us as soon as You can. Come, restore and revive us. Come with your Mighty salvation and eternal kingdom. We abandoned you and went our own way, only to discover that our way is the wrong way. Now we are broken and contrite, confessing our sins and transgressions. We are hungry and thirsty and ashamed of what our world has become. We turn to You because our options are played out and nothing has worked. You are Creator and Lord; You know our very thoughts. We believe your Good News, so do your work in us now.

Isaiah 66:22-23  For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says Yahweh, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 It shall happen, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says Yahweh. So we turn to God and are saved. We release all to Him in order that we may gain His eternal kingdom and the future He so wants us to have.

DAY FIVE – 2 Kings 21, 2 Chronicles 33

How amazing is it that a king reigns in Jerusalem for 55 years, and yet his scriptural biography is only one chapter in each of these accounts? Is it enough to say that he sinned worse than Ahab of Israel and all the kings before him? Is it enough to report that he seduced his nation to practice every form of idolatry, sorcery and witchcraft, becoming even worse than the nations who occupied the land before Israel? Is it enough to reveal how he angered Yahweh God by erecting idols in God’s house in Jerusalem, to the point that he was bound in chains and deported to Babylon as a prisoner? The shocking truth is that, once in Babylon, Manasseh did a one-eighty, totally humbling himself before the Lord and repenting of his idolatrous ways. He entreated the mercy of God and was forgiven and restored. Back in Jerusalem Manasseh removed all the idols, restored the Lord’s altars of worship and sacrifice, and persuaded the people to cease their idolatry. It was not perfect, but it was dramatic! The evil he had practiced had caused Yahweh to declare terrible calamity over Jerusalem and Judah. Now the reform appeared to delay judgment until sometime in the future. Manasseh died in a better place than he lived. But what would become of Jerusalem?

God has His ways and means. Since He lives in the eternities, unbound by the time which restricts us, He eternally works toward His plan of saving the world from ultimate destruction. From His vantage point, knowing the hearts of humankind, the Lord also responds with an other-worldly kind of mercy which triumphs over human sin and rebellion. Always calling and inviting us to the place of repentance; always operating in a heavenly kind of love; and always willing to restore, the Father Creator deserves our utmost reverence and respect. Though we cannot see Him, we know Him by His created works and His loving influence in our world. Without Him the world would quickly be swallowed up in the blackness of evil. It was a brutal lesson, but Manasseh came to his senses. He had sense enough to cast all his idols out of God’s house and the city, restoring worship to Yahweh. Bringing offerings of peace and thanksgiving to the Lord, he returned the land to Him. How many ways can you think of today to give thanks to God and to make your life a worship to Him? Should we not explore every blessing we are receiving and then remember to thank the Lord?

Week 35, 2018 – Seasons change, but God’s Word remains the same…let’s READ!

Rocket science? No.. relationship with God is a matter of worship and gratitude!

DAY ONE – Isaiah 36-37, 2 Kings 18:9-19:37, 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, Psalm 23

We should rejoice to read the same story told by three different authors at different times. It definitely confirms that God’s Word validates itself as the truth! And the truth is, Yahweh God is sovereign over the nations, shaping history so that it accomplishes His plans. If a person knows the bridge over the hill is out and warns passing motorists, it is up to the drivers to decide whether to continue. Those who do, do so at their own risk–literally at risk of their life. So is the prophetic word of THE God who knows the future of things and warns from heaven how we should respond. The King of Assyria and his generals were VERY frank and very confident about what they would do to Israel and Judah. Samaria readily fell, suggesting that Jerusalem would be easy prey as well. But Hezekiah was a godly king who, though weak, nevertheless trusted Yahweh God. With Isaiah to inform him of heaven’s wishes, Hezekiah humbled himself, asked help from God, and waited. Help came in a strange and wonderful display–a mighty angel from God went into the Assyrian camp and overnight killed one hundred eighty-five thousand men, including generals and officers! The next day, the Assyrian king withdrew from his siege and returned home, only to be killed by two of his own sons. What part of GOD HAS THIS do we not seem to understand?

If you’re paying attention, by now you know that Israel ceased as a nation, having been removed from her land by the Assyrian king and resettled far from home. The northern tribes were mixed in with Assyrians sent to occupy their land and to live among the remnant Israelis left behind. In the future the mixed breed will be known as Samaritans. Judah is receiving help for the present because of her return to Yahweh. What a letdown from the glory days of David and Solomon when all the tribes were together and abundantly blessed! So history is replete with oscillations–highs and lows–brought about by humans who decide how they will respond to the Creator God, to whom the earth belongs, and Who has plans to RESTORE ALL THINGS to His own Will at a set time. How sensible is it to hold the Ten Commandments in front of EVERY GENERATION as a reminder that, in the end, Heaven wins and earthlings will rejoice to the extent that they have BELIEVED God and trusted Him with their very life?

DAY TWO – Isaiah 38-39, 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32:24-33

This is a story of sickness, near death and miraculous recovery. Hezekiah could not accept that his life was over, even when given the message from Yahweh God by Isaiah. Told to set his house in order, Hezekiah instead turned to the wall and wept before God with great human passion. His argument made sense, but was that God’s will? Nonetheless Isaiah was instructed to turn back and assure the king that he would live after all, given an extension of fifteen years. When a poultice was applied, he gained a miraculous recovery, which was accompanied by a miraculous sign. Shouldn’t we rejoice at his good fortune? Isn’t the Lord wonderful to respond to a passionate plea from a good king? It should seem that way, but the coin has a flip side. Here are two salient points to ponder:

  1. Having received a gift and a visit from the household of the king of Babylon to celebrate his recovery, Hezekiah–allowing his healing to lift up his pride–gave the grand tour of his kingdom to the Babylonian envoy, displaying all his wealth. No doubt that stirred up envy in the envoy. Well, God didn’t think that was so great, for Isaiah reappeared to announce that ALL OF THAT WEALTH would one day be carried to Babylon, stripped away from Judah.
  2. When Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh stepped up to the throne in his father’s place and became king, to reign for fifty-five years over Judah. A wonderful picture, yes? It should be, yes; but actually, NO. You see, Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. Do the math… when was he born? AFTER HEZEKIAH’S HEALING! The son was born during the 15-year extension given Hezekiah by a compassionate God. I want to say more, but the results appear in our next reading section, so hold that thought.

When is it appropriate to question the Lord’s will for our life? What is a correct response to God when His will seems to contradict our natural and human feelings and desires? If it turns out that God is gracious and responds to us favorably, what is our responsibility after that? What can be learned from this great story?

DAY THREE – Isaiah 40-42, Psalm 46

Are there chapters in the Bible that should be memorized? If so, Isaiah 40 is one of them. It is so powerful, so redemptive, so declarative, that to gain mastery of these words can aid your walk with God FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! It certainly has mine. Why… what is so wonderful about it? Count the ways…

  • First of all, it is YOUR GOD speaking. Remember David’s confidence–“My God”?
  • Second, everything He is saying He is relating back to those of us who live in this world.
  • Third, He is bringing assurance that the evil around us is controlled and will be extinguished.
  • Fourth, He says that all of this is GOOD NEWS.
  • He goes on to announce the WISDOM of trusting in Him and the FOLLY of practicing idolatry.  “To whom then will you liken me? Who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Isaiah 40:25
  • “Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, Yahweh, The Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might. 30 Even the youths faint and get weary, And the young men utterly fall; 31 But those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:28-31

It is futile to try to understand the workings of God, since He is the ONLY ONE who sees the future alongside the past! Living in time–moment to moment–is a disadvantage to us ONLY IF we are not trusting God’s eternal words and intentions. The rest of what is happening and what is coming is really NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. It is God’s business, and He is extremely capable of managing the nations and forcing them into a final confrontation with Him and His heavenly armies. History proves that God has wonderfully fulfilled promise after promise and insists that He will continue to do so. The prophets spoke what they were given without understanding the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of their own words. They trusted the message because they trusted their God. And that is what our Heavenly Father is asking of us in these inscrutable times. If you are following these writings you know by now that I BELIEVE GOD HAS PLANS TO SAVE THE WORLD. I also believe He will accomplish all that He intends, while saving me as well.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 42-45, Psalm 80

Someone has called Isaiah’s prophecy ‘the Gospel of the Old Testament.’ Knowing that gospel means good news, then it is truly so. It’s good because Yahweh God repeatedly affirms His Name, nature and attributes. It’s good because He stubbornly continues to forgive Israel’s national sin of idolatry. It’s good because He declares, again and again, His intentions to restore and save Israel for His own name’s sake. And it’s good because the Lord is expanding His territory, claiming jurisdiction over and salvation for all nations in times to come. God even explains how He will use a pagan king several centuries down the way, to execute His plan to return the Jews to their homeland. He goes so far as to name the king and deliver a message to him some five hundred years before his birth! “Who is like Me?” asks Yahweh. Find any god who declares, predicts and delivers, as I do. You simply cannot, and you won’t. “I am the First, and I am the Last,” says our God. And to Israel He offers this reminder: I created, formed and redeemed you; I called you by name. No matter what happens, I will be there; it you are taken, I will bring you back. Fire and flood will not overcome you. I’m there, too. So, with all of this GOOD NEWS,  why would Israel ever make and worship idols? One of the most foolish occupations ever devised is the making of idols–carved and molded images that depict ‘god’ in some physical form. Isaiah 44 graphically demonstrates the folly of idolatry–” Those who make an image, all of them are useless, And their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. 10 Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing? Isaiah 44:9-10 (NKJV) Then it creates this scenario of a man who cuts a tree, uses half of it to cook food and build a fire so that he is satisfied and warm; then takes the other half and carves the image of a god which he sets up in his own house so he can bow down to it and ask for help! He made it, and now he worships it? He asks it for help? What’s wrong with this scene?

Indeed, what is wrong? But we know the answer. A dead god produces dead results–eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, and a heart that cannot connect with the real God. So the masses go on their way, continuing to worship at manmade shrines of commercialism and materialism, trusting in a life fashioned after this world, totally missing all that is eternal and immediately invisible. No, it doesn’t make sense. But the GOOD NEWS does. It makes good sense to humble ourselves and bow before our Maker; to worship Him and seek His eternal kingdom. Those who seek find; those who ask, receive; those who knock find the open door. This is GOOD NEWS.

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 45-49, Psalm 135

“May I see your ID, please?” We do expect anyone representing an official entity to be able to produce proof of his claim–a badge, certificate or other means of confirmation. Imagine Almighty God, Yahweh, having to furnish proof of His identity to Israel or anyone else! Israel was so ready to accept the imposter gods, to fashion idols which they then set up as a connection with heaven… or as the case may be, hell! As I read through the Bible I am amazed that the Creator God has given us these 66 books of Witness to His own words and actions, offering volumes of evidence of His identity. Not stopping there He has performed innumerable supernatural acts in behalf of His people to undergird His identity and His great Name. Through the prophets and apostles He has called to our memory the entire history of mankind, demonstrating His own flawless works of creation, redemption, deliverance and restoration. So the question must be asked: Why are people so prone to accept imposters and false gods while forcing Yahweh, the True God, to keep proving Himself? And why, when we make a mess of things, are we first inclined to blame this wonderful God for the evil that persists around us? If we have such abundance of written and demonstrable proof of God’s identity and intention toward us, why won’t we trust and believe? If we struggle to believe in the God who was, is and will be, then the evil one will insist that we believe in NO GOD and will slander the very idea that God is our Savior.

There are two KEY ACTIONS that will overcome the evil that keeps us from God.

  1. WORSHIP. The first commandment God gave Moses was, “You shall have no other god before me.” Worship is not optional; we all bow to an impulse at some point in this life, even if that impulse evinces from our own ego. If we don’t worship God we will worship nonetheless. Better to bow our knee to God humbly and with contrition.
  2. THANKSGIVING. To give thanks is a natural impulse that shows appreciation. When we believe that we are entitled to more than we have or more of what we want, our thanksgiving is stifled by our self-centered ways. Life has never been easy; so learning to be thankful and show appreciation for what we have is the only way to repel the self-centeredness arising from our ego. We shall then be able to give thanks to God for everything.

This is not rocket-science. Little things will bring us closer to God, and little things will create distance from Him. Israel always had the opportunity to draw near to Yahweh, to appreciate Him and praise Him, to love Him and respond to His claims. That they did not is to their shame. That God had to bring stiff discipline is regrettable. But that He still has His eye on them for good is nothing short of miraculous! Are we getting the picture?

Week 34, 2018 – Reading thru the Bible, our Project this year! We can do this!

As summer wanes, our desire to know the Lord grows thru the INSIGHTS we find in His word.

DAY ONE – Isaiah 18-22

“Nero fiddled, while Rome burned.” And on the Titanic in 1912, as the gargantuan, unsinkable ship listed badly before plunging into the depths of the sea, its euphoric passengers continued to drink wine and dance to the orchestra that played, unbelieving even in the face of death.  Isaiah 22:12-13  At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. 13 But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep. You feast on meat and drink wine. You say, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (NIV) There is, it seems, an element of insanity that accompanies great danger, especially when a people believe that they are invincible, impregnable. A nation’s counselors and advisers will offer complete nonsense to their leaders when they have lost their spiritual and moral compass. It was so in every nation spoken of in our reading today. Egypt gave way to such civil disruption that the people destroyed themselves and each other! We must conclude that an orderly society is blessed of God even if they don’t know it; and when that blessing is removed, nothing can prevent a deterioration that may be fatal. The Lord God watches over the affairs of men in every nation, looking for those who do what is right and good. He can see the end from the beginning, as He is truly Lord over Heaven’s Armies. And He will act in a manner consistent with His plans to save mankind as stated at the inception of the Original Sin. Who is God’s friend? Moses was God’s friend. Isaiah obeyed God, even when he was instructed to walk naked and barefoot for three years! God’s friends take their cues from Him as to times and seasons, responding in an appropriate manner.

What is an appropriate response to our current season? What season do we believe we are in? What do we think the Lord is saying right now? Describe our current societal order as best you can; where does it lead? What do you hope and pray will happen? What do you think we should do?

DAY TWO – Isaiah 23-26

In the late 80’s I stopped for lunch at a café on the I-5, on my way to southern California. A picture over the counter caught my attention, and I can still see it in my mind’s eye. A lone figure is standing in a sea of rubble, looking over what must have been a nuclear landscape, not a single other soul visible. The message seemed clear enough: I am left standing; I will begin again, I will rebuild. So is the image of God within us; we are created to work together with Him to build a kingdom, to have sovereignty and to rule. But something terrible has happened. We have broken our connection with Him, we have gone our own way, and now the earth is not a glorious kingdom. Instead it is, as Isaiah predicted, reeling to and fro like a drunkard! It is shaking like a leaf in the wind. Is there a glorious kingdom? Is there hope of a world that is righteous and good? O yes, there is. At one time God intended that Israel would demonstrate the glorious kingdom on earth, but Israel rebelled against Him and came to naught. Modern Israel was raised out of the ashes by Almighty God in a series of miracles that continue to defy the proud and haughty rulers of earth. Israel is regathered in her ancient land to await the final countdown to earth’s demise. All this, in order for the Eternal Kingdom of God to come in, in order for all mankind to be saved, in order for all of our dreams to finally come true! And yet, we are hard-pressed to see real evidence of people living as if this dramatic and even cataclysmic change must come about. Do we really believe that God has declared an end to human government in favor of government in which He is again Exalted Ruler? The time referred to by this and other prophets is called “the day of the Lord,” or “the day of God.” We are having our day; surely the Creator God will yet have His day. The question is, where will we be in that day?

What do you think of these chapters? What level of credibility do you believe Isaiah has? To what degree do you accept his statements about what is obviously still to come? Israel and the modern church have some shared components; what do you think they are? What do you think the church in America should be about in our time?

DAY THREE – 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chronicles 29-31, Psalm 48

Occasionally men have risen in history to accomplish astounding feats. Hezekiah became king in Judah at age 25 and served for 29 years. Within his first year he led a revival in Judah that turned back judgment and brought renewal and longevity to the endangered nation. In a step-by-step campaign he reopened the temple, Yahweh’s house, and began a cleansing process. Summoning the Levites and priests and demanding they sanctify themselves according to Moses’ law, he reinstituted the sacrifices and rituals that had supported Israel’s relationship with God. By the time the process was complete, the religious system was restored to the extent that spiritual life, prosperity and blessings were once again normalized in Judah. Worship of Yahweh God replaced the idolatry and wickedness that had troubled several generations and left them desolate. Why Hezekiah? Why now? Was it because of the prophets and their messages? Was it because he had a godly mother? Was it because God simply was merciful to him? Probably all of these and more. Yet we must consider that Yahweh God always has a plan that will lead to the salvation of mankind, of all who will heed Him and respond to His loving ways. Hezekiah was a YOUNG man when he became king. His father was evil, yet he sought the Lord. His father worshipped idols, yet he was true to Yahweh. His father brought judgment on the nation, but he brought blessing. He restored godliness in the land, gaining the respect and admiration of the people. Those who DO GOOD bring blessing to others. Those who are courageous and stand forward in the crowd are the real change agents. Those who RISK EVERYTHING lead revivals that change history for the better.

Can we be persuaded that there are many YOUNG men and women coming up around us who are tired of wickedness, weary of rebellion, resistant to modern brainwashing of a generation at risk? Can we believe that God is calling out a new wave of young men and women to be prophets, apostles and leaders? Will we be a nation of complainers or prayer warriors? Will we criticize and reject or will we encourage and mentor? Will we hold fast to our ‘churchy’ traditions or will we seek God for dynamic and organic solutions to this nation’s ills? Will we be part of the problem or the solution? God has answers to today’s questions. Hezekiah seems to have arisen suddenly and without warning. But he led a life changing revival in his nation. God helped him. It can happen again.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 27-30

Have you ever struggled with one of your children until you almost tire of hearing your own voice, and the question involuntarily arises in your mind, “What’s the use?” Nonetheless in the heart of a normal parent there is a love that is unqualified. Your child can do nothing to earn that love or to destroy it. You will always deeply love your own, even when you are angry or at the end of your rope. Your child may bring you grief, and you will still love him and yearn over him. You will eventually ask yourself questions: Am I being too hard on him; am I being too easy on him? And you won’t know. You will in time deliver up all the wisdom and knowledge you have in dealing with that son or daughter but it won’t fix anything. You may even turn your back and walk away for a season, but THAT child will still tug at your heartstrings and consume many of your prayerful moments. If you can identify with this, then you can understand these chapters you are reading of Isaiah’s prophecy. Yahweh God, Father of all Creation, yearns to finish what was started in the Garden of Eden: to have a worldwide family of beloved children, all in relationship with Him, all enjoying the blessings of heaven without the evil that inundates our lives and messes with our peace and hope. His dealings with Israel through the prophets reveals deep love, anger, grief and all of the emotions we experience in our relationships. You see, we are made in His image, and the problems we deal with are the same problems that He has to deal with. It’s not that God is like us; WE are like HIM… except for sin; sin is the destroyer of all God’s wonderful plans. We need to deal with our sin, for our Father must deal with our sin, as He did with that of Israel. One day we will understand. We know what it is like to have a difficult child who eventually grows up and finds his way home, and we are grateful that we continued to love and support him during the hard times.

The great blessing for us is knowing that God IS God; that He controls history without controlling us; that He moves even nations into position to accomplish His plans, so that His eternal kingdom will rise until it overtakes and destroys the evil; until the knowledge of the Lord covers the whole earth and has finished His work; until His salvation is complete and we are with Him forever. Take courage and be thankful to Him. No… go a step further; worship and serve Him with all that you are.

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 31-35

Mining treasures from the scriptures first requires finding them. Here are some specific ‘valuables’ discovered by reading and rereading volumes of prophetic revelation spoken by men of God, among whom Isaiah stands out.

  • God is always working toward the accomplishment of the noblest and grandest of plans to save mankind.
  • Our Lord chose to begin with one man–Abraham–to lay out His eternal program on earth.
  • That plan began with covenant–God’s promises–to Abraham and his descendants.
  • These promises hold everything together, in spite of human faithlessness and rebellion toward God.
  • With the past and future always in view, God shapes the outcomes of human endeavor, so that His plans stand forever. And Israel, as descendants of Abraham, must always deal directly with God, especially since the days of Egypt and Sinai.
  • Every nation eventually and in some way becomes aware of or involved with Israel, choosing whether to be an ally or enemy of these people God chose to be the instrument of His eternal plans.
  • In principle, Egypt always represents a forbidden past. Idolatry always represents a hidden snare to the present and future. And Israel fails more often than she succeeds to be faithful to her God.
  • With the present judgment on Israel, and the fragile future of Judah, God begins to lay out grander plans as He speaks of a ‘day’ yet to come, in which restoration will be for all the peoples who are gathered to Him in spirit and truth. Ultimate judgment awaits those who continue to act as if mankind are in charge of their own destiny and can live without God.

To those familiar with the New Testament of the Bible, many of Isaiah’s sayings will be immediately recognizable as quotations of Jesus and the apostles in NT writings. Prophetic pictures from Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus, will be retold by Jesus and his apostles to verify God’s plans and give greater understanding of times and seasons both present and future. The inescapable reality is that ALL OF THIS IS DECIDEDLY REAL! God is real, His dealings with Israel and Judah are true history, and the times in which we live are accurately foretold in the prophecies of Isaiah and others–all of which forces us to conclude that HOW WE LIVE in our present generation is a TEST OF FAITH we cannot afford to botch. We are accountable to Yahweh, Creator and Almighty God, for where we place our heart and how we live our life. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.”

 

Week 33, 2018 – We are reading through the whole chronological Bible…wow!

Prophets, priests and kings…nations rise and fall before God Almighty…the great test continues to this day.

DAY ONE – Micah 1-4

Another day, another prophet? Not so. God’s special messengers were carefully chosen and appointed to their tasks by Yahweh God Himself. They became part of national life, woven into the fabric of society like special thread that stood out because of their message and their nature. These men were not extraordinary but did stand fearlessly before their listeners to expose those attitudes and behaviors that were in defiance of God. They condemned all forms of idolatry and evil, especially implied permissions that tolerated oppression of widows and the poor. Exploitation and greed were especially targeted in their outcries. We MUST once again give deep consideration to God Himself as He struggles with Jerusalem and Samaria, capital cities of the divided Jewish kingdom, seeking to preserve a righteous remnant through which THE KING OF THE WORLD would eventually come. Every effort to keep His people true to their calling and exalted position among the nations was met with basic human resistance and rebellion. Yet scattered among the peoples of Ephraim (Israel) and Judah were always those of good heart and simple faith, those who trusted Yahweh and were true to their God-given religion as practiced by their fathers.

God in heaven, what can you do that you have not already done? How can you persuade us to swallow our own human pride and admit that we live in constant danger of corruption? How can we be made to see that the past, present and future are always before you, that your plans will be carried out fully, with or without us? What can we demand of You without being petty or petulant, like spoiled children? Instead of stoning our prophets, may we truly humble ourselves and RETURN to You with gratitude and thanksgiving. May we acknowledge who You are and the gifts You have freely given us. Matthew 6:9-13  Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

DAY TWO – Micah 4

Locked into time, we humans endure the fact that we cannot see the future. We can read about the future, we can speculate, even predict our ideas of the future, but we cannot SEE IT. For us the future always has an element of mystery and intrigue. No wonder then, that we have difficulty connecting the present with what lies ahead. Even if we imagine a future and then work to create it, the unknown is always present. For instance, at the infamous tower of Babel, when God looked down on the works of men, He saw that their evil plans would succeed if He did nothing, so the next morning the humans discovered they were speaking a number of different languages and could no longer communicate with each other; so they dispersed and their work ceased. God KNOWS the future, SEES the future and even CREATES the future so that His wonderful plans for humankind will succeed. We know this to be true because the Bible often predicts the future and then hundreds of years later records the events as they unfold. It then continues to demonstrate the continuity from past, to present, to future.  Micah 4:1-2  But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (KJV). So when Micah says that, we can ‘take it to the bank’!

Tens of thousands of books have been written, reporting, parsing, dissecting and explaining the history of humans and nations that have walked the face of the earth for a season. The only SURE words have come from the Bible, God’s sacred revelation to mankind. Not only do they accurately predict, they accurately report human history. We do well then, to mark THIS prediction that a day is coming when God will rule the whole earth from Jerusalem, and that international relations and government will issue forth from there. Wars will have ceased, giving way to international peace. Isaiah’s prediction will be true that Jesus Christ, the resurrected God/Man, will be totally and irrevocably in charge of earth’s affairs until God’s plan to save the world is finished! If you have a problem with that, then you have a problem. We should believe what we have NOT seen, if indeed God’s Word has spoken it. That is called FAITH, and mankind desperately needs THAT kind of faith in our day.

DAY THREE – Micah 5-7

Understanding a story requires knowing the characters. In our current story there is the prophet, the people and the Lord. We must also catch the story line, which, in this case, involves the peoples’ relationship to Yahweh, and the prophet’s message concerning that relationship. Then we have the prophet himself, trying to accurately give the message while also trying to understand it. What complicates the story is the timeline. The prophet is talking to the people about their present behavior and the dire consequences that will result. But almost without taking a breath he introduces another character and another time, apparently in the future. Then he takes up his current narrative at last to finish the story. Micah 5:2  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Being small among the clans of Judah, Out of you one will come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. This is a declaration of a yet unnamed Ruler who will be born in Bethlehem in the future and serve Yahweh God as ruler of His people. While dealing with our present issues, God always has His eye on the future of things, which things He sees clearly, as if they were right now. To cast even more mystery, this ruler to be born has existed from the everlasting past! Such it is with the Lord. At this point, perhaps we should BECOME VERY ALERT to the real truth about God–HE WAS, HE IS, AND HE WILL BE. Not so with us. We came into being at a particular time and place. We are, so long as we live. And as far as we understand, when we pass we are no more, at least in earthly terms. While we live we are loved and regarded by the Lord Himself, who is eternal and self-existent, and we have a responsibility to Him.  Micah 6:6-8  How shall I come before Yahweh, And bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? 7 Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 HE HAS SHOWN YOU, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  It sounds so simple… doesn’t it?

DAY FOUR – 2 Kings 16-17, 2 Chronicles 28

The day of reckoning comes, but the unprepared say, “I reckon I didn’t see it coming!” In my opinion Ahaz, King of Judah, comes as close to being an idiot as any of Judah’s kings. His egregious behavior against God was unmatched by the kings before him. The trip to Damascus, the military losses, appeals to Syria and Assyria, erecting a foreign altar at the temple in Jerusalem, sacrificing and burning incense to every pagan god imaginable, and finally shutting up the Lord’s temple and forcing the people to worship all over the place, precipitated his untimely death. Israel invaded Judah, killed 120 thousand soldiers, and captured 200 thousand women and children! Thankfully there was a man of God in Samaria who warned them to return the captives to their homes, for the sins of Samaria were piled high before the Lord and disaster was imminent. In fact, Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria besieged Samaria for three years and overthrew the government. Those left in Israel were exported to cities all over the Assyrian kingdom, never to return. In their place Assyrians of all stripes were sent to populate the now empty cities of Israel. The DAY OF RECKONING had arrived. Israel would not return to their homeland. This was the beginning of the ten northern tribes becoming scattered among the other nations of the world and the reason why ‘Jews’ are found in communities around the globe.  2 Kings 17:7-9  All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. NIV

What should we learn from Israel’s and Judah’s experiences? What parallels, if any, can we see in our time and culture? What do you think is going to happen as we go forward? What could we be doing that might make a difference? By now, what are we understanding about Yahweh God and the nature of judgments against the nations?

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 13-17

The mighty cities of the ancient world, including Babylon and Nineveh, were referred to as “The Gates of the Gods.” Yet Isaiah took up a lament against them, hundreds of years in advance of their destruction, to dispel any myths about the prowess of kings and rulers when compared with the Almighty God. The kings of Babylon and Assyria were powerful, creative men who trampled nations and held entire populations hostage to their imperialism. Yet as our prophet has stated in cryptic detail, their rise and fall were mere incidents in the hands of Yahweh God. And as always, the true God, the Lord of heaven’s armies, weighed the mightiest nations against little Israel, the people of His choosing, because of His covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jews are perhaps the most misunderstood people of all time, and traditionally the most despised among the nations; and therefore a true riddle in the world of governments and politics. Their place in history is entwined in God’s plans to save the world and have a new heavens and earth without evil. To that end, Israel was selected to be a carrier of a Divine Seed which would result in a King and Deliverer the likes of which the world had not seen. In earlier chapters this prophet Isaiah spoke of such a person and would again as we continue our reading. We all wish our world could be at peace, could end violence and wars, and could have a future and a hope. For such we must wait until God’s timetable is complete. But while we wait we need the encouragement of another prophet whom we will read soon.  Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT) Those words were spoken to Israel, and as goes Israel, so goes the world.

We do well to see our world in the hands of Almighty God, to humble ourselves before Him, and to ask for His salvation. No other means of salvation offers a future and a hope as that of the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is presently working His plan and will finish what He has started. We do well to pray to Him always, imploring His grace and mercy over our family and community.

Week 32, 2018 – Homesick for heaven yet? Keep reading God’s Word!

Sepsis throughout, or total healing? Sometimes it becomes an either / or, with nothing in between. 

DAY ONE – Hosea 6-9

“Come…” dad’s hand is extended to his little girl who is crying over the fresh boo-boo on her knee. “Come on, let me have a look; there now… it’s not so bad… see?” And as she curls on his lap he holds her in comforting arms until the crisis has passed. Years have gone by, and she is no longer a little girl; she is a young adult, and she has been gone for a long time, and she is in deep trouble, having mixed into her life destructive companions and lifestyle. Now she stands looking at her dad as he tries to cover his pained expression with the love he feels in his heart. “Come…” he says. Only this time her ‘boo-boo’ won’t be healed in a few minutes; there is a road ahead. “Come…” says Hosea.

Hosea 6:1-2  “Come, and let us return to Yahweh; For he has torn us to pieces, And he will heal us; He has injured us, And he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, And we will live before him. We don’t know why a child goes prodigal, but the self-destruction is predictable. We can only wait to see if our invitations and pleadings will make a difference. Though we send repeated warnings about what lies ahead if there is not a turning, we cannot make it happen. Yahweh could not, either. Israel was a wandering child; Judah strayed as well, and Yahweh God sent invitations, warnings and pleadings. The entire nation was at risk, and the danger was real; would wandering Israel return? Or would she choose to lose her identity among the nations, cast out of her own land? Would this end God’s grand design to save the world, or would there be another way? Centuries later another voice would be heard, and it would have a familiar ring…

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Father God, we come to you, we return to you, we learn from you. Our own way has proved vain and empty. Heal us, restore us as a nation, that we may live before you. Thank you.

DAY TWO – Hosea 10-14

Parents struggling with a prodigal have to face the most anguished of decisions: do I keep the door open with more pleadings, invitations and support? Or do I cut off my own flesh until there is willingness to return under our family covering? The prodigal holds the key but may find himself unable to take the first step toward restoration. Israel (Ephraim) was the prodigal, and Yahweh God was the parent. God’s angst is heard in chapter 11–“I loved you when you were a child… I brought you up out of Egypt… I taught you to walk… I drew you with gentle cords… O, Israel, how can I give you up?” The Father’s grief and suffering are clearly understood by any parent who has had a prodigal in his life. When does God surrender the child to his own inclinations? When does He pull the plug? When does He initiate the restoration process? Will Israel return, or MUST I allow him to go into an extended time of captivity and scattering? O, Israel, won’t you return? Just return, and we can work this out, but you must divorce your pagan lovers and put away your foreign gods. Our family cannot coexist with them. O, Israel, what will it be?

History writes the continuing story. From our vantage point we pretty well know what happened. But… LOOK HARD at the Father in Heaven, LISTEN to His pleadings, His promises, His HEART! What does it tell us… about His love, His forgiveness, His grace and mercy? And what does it tell us about the process of consequences and judgments? From our readings of Hosea, can you discover HOW and WHY the Father dealt with Israel as He did? What do you think our life lesson is as we finish these messages from the  pleading prophet?

DAY THREE – Isaiah 1-4

Modern dragsters go over 300 miles per hour in 1000 feet in just under four seconds! That is spooky fast. The prophet Isaiah, contemporary with Hosea, came out swinging and with no lost words. God’s message: My children are rebellious. And from there he paints the dismal picture of a nation that has become septic on their own sins. If it were medical it would be called sepsis–“Systemic infection by pathogenic microorganisms, especially bacteria, that have invaded the bloodstream, usually from a local source. Sepsis is characterized by fever, increased number of white blood cells, increased heart rate, and other signs of widespread infection.” Sepsis of the soul–that’s what Yahweh God must have diagnosed as the problem with especially Israel, and also Judah. The sins of corruption had invaded Israel and touched every area of life, from religion to justice and even social life. It was a no-holds-barred match between Yahweh and a corrupted people. It was so systemic that the entire nation was at risk. As with all the prophets, Isaiah was only a messenger, disadvantaged by the scope of his understanding. While Yahweh God saw the larger picture with both ends spread before his vision, the prophet had to deal with the immediate and the unknowable future. So he pounded away at the symptoms of spiritual disease, calling for radical change of behavior and return to the ways of God as revealed in His plan from the days of Moses and onward. But would it do any good? In the advanced stages of sepsis the patient may succumb even after massive and repeated doses of the strongest antibiotics. Would Israel survive? Could God do anything at this point? It’s fascinating that pronouncements of even the most dreaded judgments were almost always tempered with visions of a blessed future; would it be so for Israel? Isaiah spoke of a ‘remnant.’ Would God leave a remnant if His rebellious nation had to be removed? Would there be future blessings for a destroyed people? The prophet’s work continued through the administrations of four successive kings. The years rolled on; the problems mounted. God’s patience became threadbare.

How should we react to the messages of the prophets? What parallels might we draw from the descriptions of their times? What ‘symptoms’ can we see that might be systemic? What options are open for us? How might we respond to God?

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 5-8

Yahweh is a great story-teller, as was His Son Yeshua. Israel is a vineyard, and God is a vineyard maker and grower. After a lot of time and energy invested in the vineyard, it produces wild grapes, not fit for consumption. So, says Isaiah, you judge, Israel; and you, Judah, what should be done with this vineyard? What would be OUR answer to that question? How would you answer God about His vineyard? Should it be saved, destroyed… or what? Before you answer, make sure you read Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter 6. I have been reading that story my whole life and I have trembled under its weight of glory. Who can answer Yahweh once His glory is seen and His words are heard? Nations are nothing… kings are weighed on His scales… armies are flies to be swatted. Yet the kings and nations rise up proud and angry to aggrandize themselves and take what they want. Syria and Israel arise together against Judah, intending to increase their own holdings and take more spoil. No matter that Yahweh holds their destiny in His hands. A whistle is heard, and Assyria prepares to amass against smaller nations and carry out God’s plan for judgment. A time is set; the countdown has started. Woe to those who transgress God’s plans, who call good evil and evil good; who set themselves against the Almighty. The clock is ticking.

At what point does mankind reject and ignore the Creator and His plan? How does the world fall prey to such evil and hardly take notice that God even exists, let alone that He is sovereign over all the comings and goings of the nations? With each new day, hope springs anew; but it must be a hope rooted in eternity. There must be a moral and spiritual foundation on which everything is built, or else it is just more of the same old thing! Israel and Judah turned their back on God and lost sight of His plan to save the world of mankind through them. Only grace and mercy marked out a remnant that would endure until the coming of Messiah. God always has the last word. What part of “love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength” do we lose sight of? And why? What if WE are now our Beloved’s vineyard? How are our grapes this season?

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 9-12

There is a distinct turning in these chapters, a compressing of history into a short span that includes days that are beyond even our own. For instance, Isaiah tells of a Child who is to be born–a Son–on whose shoulders the government will be established. His Name? “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” NO END. So right in the middle of threats of destruction is inserted this glorious promise of future blessings for the peoples of God. And that future stretches beyond our lifetimes and those yet to come. It connects to another piece of the story–“a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” He is just like God… actually He IS God. And He ushers in the day of God for earth and all of mankind. In THAT day a calm has engulfed the whole world that allows man and beast to dwell together in peace. And in that day the remnants of Judah and Ephraim (Israel) are regathered from the four corners of the earth wherein they have been scattered by Yahweh God. From this we understand that God DOES have a plan to save the world; and it encompasses the ages of human endeavor, ALL of which have failed to bring a lasting peace and salvation to earth’s inhabitants. While peace and safety have eluded mankind throughout the millennia of his existence, leaving the world weary and ravaged, God causes a bright hope to shine into the future.

Isaiah 12   In that day you will say, “I will give thanks to you, Yahweh; for though you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you comfort me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Yah, Yahweh, is my strength and song; and he has become my salvation.” 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say, “Give thanks to Yahweh! Call on his name. Declare his doings among the peoples. Proclaim that his name is exalted! 5 Sing to Yahweh, for he has done excellent things! Let this be known in all the earth! 6 Cry aloud and shout, you inhabitant of Zion; for the Holy One of Israel is great in the midst of you!”

Our Discussion Group has resumed on Wednesday evenings at First Assembly, Chico, 6:30 p.m. Room E1. First time? Join us, U R welcome!