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.”