What happens when we try to bargain with God? Keep reading to find out…
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?