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?