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Daily Bible thoughts 797: Thursday 22nd January 2015: Isaiah 66:14-24

Isaiah 66:14-24

This wonderful prophecy of Isaiah concludes on a note of triumph. In the end God will triumph over all His enemies. However, what is a triumph for God and His people will be a tragedy for those who reject Him and worship other gods.

‘’Many may wonder why Isaiah ends his book with such a negative final verse. The reason is simple: it is the true ending for all those who rebel against God. If, after hearing all of Isaiah’s marvellous promises and terrible warnings, one still chooses to rebel against God, let that person know what his end will be. Isaiah’s book is written not so much to make believers happy as to bring unbelievers to repentance. Remember that Jesus Himself quoted Isaiah’s last verse in order to deter people from going to Hell (see Mark 9:47-48). The good news of salvation must always be combined with warnings of judgment; otherwise we will end up preaching only half the truth.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1074.

I read a story about a simple Christian man who took a labouring job. Each lunch time he took out a book of Moody’s sermons and read them. One day one of his fellow-workers asked him what he was reading. He told them, and they said, ‘Well read them to us.’ So that was what he did, every lunch time, until one day he forgot his book. ‘Then you’ll have to give us one of your own sermons,’ they laughingly told him. ‘’All right’’, he said. When a friend asked him what he said, he answered, ‘’I told them about ‘ell. They’d never heard about ‘ell.’’

It seems to me that many Evangelicals are going soft on the Bible’s clear and repeated teaching about Hell and Judgment. We have no right to re-write Scripture. A preacher’s job is to say what the Bible says. It is not to re-create the content. This last part of Isaiah is a reminder that there are two ways we can choose, and the way that leads away from God will have eternally disastrous consequences (14b). ‘’Many, oh so many, are under GOD’s sentence of death.’’ The Message. That is something people don’t like to hear and we may feel reluctant to say it. But we didn’t write the script; our job is to deliver the lines. God will bless our preaching if we honour Him and His Word.

In (19-21) Isaiah foresees the day when Jews and Gentiles will be one before God (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11. They will be a ‘’holy priesthood’’ (1 Peter 2:5, 9). He also looks ahead to when all people will ‘’bow down’’ before the Lord (Phil.2:9-11). It is good to know that a day is coming when every knee will bend before Christ and acknowledge His Lordship over the entire universe. They will not all be saved; but they will all ‘’bow’’ and ‘’confess’’.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank you for this wonderful book of Isaiah and its timeless message. Help me to never be ashamed of any part of it. Please strengthen me to always say what you say, even though it might be unpopular.

Daily Bible thoughts 796: Wednesday 21st January 2015: Isaiah 66:7-13

Isaiah 66:7-13

This final chapter of Isaiah, it has been said, deals with trembling (1-6), travail (7-13) and triumph (14-24).

Normally, there is no birth without travail; without labour pains. But (7-13) point to a rather unusual kind of childbirth, i.e. one that is pain free, and incredibly quick. Commentators seem to agree that Isaiah is looking beyond the restoration of Jerusalem, following the exile, to the ultimate coming of Christ’s Kingdom. Under Jesus’ rule there will be a ‘population explosion’. There will be multiple miraculous, supernatural ‘new’ births. Our God is the ‘God of surprises’. He does surprising things in surprising ways (8). It is clear that God is responsible for these births (9). He brings people to ‘birth’ with great ease. He also is the ultimate source of all the nurture, care, comfort, abundance and deep satisfaction that these brand new ‘babies’ are going to find in ‘’Jerusalem’’ (11-13). In this day of Christ’s of Kingdom, people should be able to find all of these wonderful realities in the church, but ultimately they come from God.

Do we look to Him for our ‘’comfort’’? (13). Do we trust Him to be to us what only He can be? God offers more ‘’peace’’ than you know what to do with (12a). It’s so deep you could swim in it. Do we live like paupers when in fact we are in a place of lavish provision? (11, 12) Do we ‘’drink deeply’’ and ‘’delight in’’ all that God so generously provides in Christ? (11). There is no need for anyone in Jesus’ Kingdom to go hungry or thirsty, or to lack any good thing.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to grasp all that is mine in Jesus. Enable me to revel in it, and draw on all these wonderful and limitless resources in Christ.

Daily Bible thoughts 795: Tuesday 20th January 2015: Isaiah 66:1-6

Isaiah 66:1-6:

This is a tale of two types of people – those who respond appropriately to God and those who don’t; those who have true religion and those who have trivial ritual

‘’What sort of house could you build for me? What holiday spot reserve for me? I made all this! I own all this!’’ GOD’s Decree. ‘’But there is something I’m looking for: a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.’’ The Message.

There is a danger of putting too much emphasis on buildings. They can take on an iconic status and be (almost) worshipped. There is no preoccupation with church buildings in the New Testament. It is clear that the people form the church; they are God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9). This is not to say that it is wrong for a church to have a building. If the church is going to meet it will be in some kind of building. But we must never think that God lives in a man-made building. God’s temple in Jerusalem was only ever a symbol of His dwelling place among men (Acts 7:48-50). People are His temple; people who humbly and receptively bow before Him and His Word (2; see also Isaiah 57:15).

However, people who respond positively to God won’t necessarily find life easy. They will be a counter-cultural group in society, and will swim against the tide. They will be opposed by others who want to go their own way. They will be on a collision course with secular society.

‘’ But listen to what GOD has to say to you who reverently respond to his Word: ‘’Your own families hate you and turn you out because of me. They taunt you, ‘Let us see GOD’s glory! If God’s so great, why aren’t you happy?’ But they’re the ones who are going to end up shamed.’’

The most fierce opposition to God-fearing people may well come from those who are merely religious. There was a lot of religion in Isaiah’s day, but the people wrapped up in it carried on living how they chose. The religious do not like humble, simple, godly people who love God and His Word and who live to obey it. They can be violently and murderously angry with them. The people described in (3 and 4) are always liable to persecute those described in (2 and 5). This is part of the cost of true discipleship. It is important to remember that in the end they will not win. God says through Isaiah that he hates merely ritualistic acts of worship (see Proverbs 15:8). In God’s eyes they are equivalent to brutality and idolatry. These things are ‘’abominations’’ to Him (3b).

‘’Your acts of worship are acts of sin: Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox is no different from murdering the neighbour…You choose self-serving worship, you delight in self-centred worship – disgusting!…You did the very things I exposed as evil, you chose what I hate.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Help me today, and every day, to humbly respond to your Word, Lord. If this means that I am despised and mis-understood, strengthen me to endure it. I want to cheerfuly carry the cross for you.

Daily Bible Thoughts 794: Monday 19th January 2015:Isaiah 17-25

 Isaiah 65:17-25

This is a remarkable prophecy. It’s theme is picked up and reiterated in the New Testament ( See, for example, Revelation 21, 22.) Although Isaiah may have had in mind, to some extent, the joy and peace to follow the restoration of Jerusalem and return from exile, it is obvious that he had in mind something greater and far more glorious; a reality that even now is obviously still future tense. The vision of the Bible is immense, and we so often scale it down. God’s purpose is nothing other than a totally renewed cosmos, free from the ugliness of sin, suffering and pain. The allusion to (11:6-9) implies that this will be brought about through the Messiah.

‘’The new is portrayed wholly in terms of the old, only without the old sorrows; there is no attempt to describe any other kind of newness. Hence the familiar setting, Jerusalem, and the modest satisfactions, largely the chance to ‘enjoy the work of (one’s) hands.’ This allows the most important things to be prominent in the passage: the healing of old ills (17b); joy (18-19); life (20…); security (21-23a); fellowship with God (23b-24) and concord among his creatures (25). The point of a hundred years old is that in this new setting a mere century is shamefully brief, so vast is the scale…all this is expressed freely, locally and pictorially, to kindle hope rather than feed curiosity.’’ Derek Kidner: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.669

Prayer: Thank you for the glorious hope you hold out to all your people,


Daily Bible thoughts 789: Monday 12th January 2015: Isaiah 65:1-17

When God ‘’called’’ to His people they ‘’did not answer’’; when He ‘’spoke’’ they ‘’did not listen’’ (12). We know from our reading of this great prophetic book thus far that if we do not listen when God speaks to us, we cannot expect Him to listen when we try to talk to Him in prayer. He calls us to turn from our own sinful ways that are displeasing to Him (12b). Think back to Friday’s notes on chapter 64 (verses 4-7 especially).

God takes the initiative in salvation (1). But so many of the people He revealed Himself to turned away from Him to idols and disgraceful practices (2-5), for no religion can be better than its gods! So the Lord was going to bring punishment upon His sinful people (6, 7, 11 and 12).

But, thankfully, this is far from being the entire story. Amidst the prevalent unfaithfulness there was a godly remnant (8-10). There were those who genuinely did seek the Lord, and He promised His blessing to them. God would take care of them. Beyond the inevitable exile there would be a new dawn; a new beginning for God’s chosen people.

This chapter is headed ‘’Judgment and Salvation’’ in the ‘New International Version’ of the Bible. It is true that both ‘options’ are ‘on offer’ here (13-17). We can turn from our sins, to the Lord, and find blessing; or we can turn from Him to our idols and have judgment. Someone observed that ultimately all God does in judging people is to confirm the choices they have already made. So be wary of what you desire for it will surely be yours. As C.S. Lewis said, in the final analysis there are only two kinds of people in this world – ‘’those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’; and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’ ‘’

Thought: What is God saying to me today? What am I doing about it? What am I going to do about it?

Prayer: Lord God, help me to approach you with a clean heart. I want to repent of all my sin so there is no blockage in the prayer channel.

Daily Bible thoughts 788: Friday 9th January 2015: Isaiah 64

Isaiah’s ‘prayer for revival’ continues through this chapter. This sort of prayer asks God to come back (63:17: ‘’Return’’ ) and ‘’come down’’ (64:1). Prayer for revival has intensity: ‘’Oh…!’’(1), and I fear that too much contemporary praying lacks this heart – cry; this anguished ‘Oh’. It also is prepared to ‘’wait for’’ God to manifest His presence and power (4). Isaiah called on God to ‘’come down’’ and make His ‘’name known’’ to His enemies (1, 2), just as He made His Name known to Pharaoh centuries earlier (Ex.14: 3, 18). God made the mountains tremble when He came down on Sinai (3; see Ex. 19:18). Revival prayer is also holy prayer. If we cherish sin in our hearts God will not listen. At (5) Isaiah pauses in his prayer and recalls how Israel continued to sin against God’s ways, and sin creates a barrier. It did for the Israelites; it will for us. If we want to pray effectively for an outpouring of God’s Spirit we must be earnest and patient, as we have seen; but also have to be committed to purity, and turning from everything wrong in our lives as God shows us what He wants us to change. It’s important to ‘keep short accounts’ with God.
In (6, 7) Isaiah confesses on behalf of his people. He is praying himself – obviously! – but he has to confess a general prayerlessness among God’s people. There is probably a need for us to do the same: ’’No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you.’’ The Message. It’s not the case that no one is praying in the contemporary church. Far from it. Yet there is such a need for a great outpouring of the Spirit of prayer. The prayer meeting is pretty ‘desolate’ in many church settings.
God is rarely called ‘Father’ in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16), but in (8-12) Isaiah pleads with God as a son with his father. It’s been said that he asks God to remember, not their sins, but their standing as His children. In (10, 11) he looks ahead and sees the terrible punishment to be inflicted by means of the Babylonians.
‘’Isaiah’s prayer ends with a question; God’s answer to the question will be given in the final two chapters of Isaiah. In many ways, Isaiah’s prayer in this chapter is a model prayer for all of us who sometimes find ourselves ‘’wasting away’’ because of our sins (verse 7). Note that Isaiah’s prayer begins in the previous chapter with praise (Isaiah 63:7);here it ends with the humble expectation of God’s answer. That’s a good beginning and ending for any prayer.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1070.
Warren Wiersbe, writing on this chapter makes the point that there is a ‘missing demonstration’ of God’s power, and it is linked to ‘missing intercession’ on behalf His people, and ‘missing submission’ among His people.
Prayer: ‘’Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend…’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 787: Thursday 8th January 2015: Isaiah 63:7-19

‘’…many good things…many kindnesses.’’ (7)

We too have experienced God’s immense blessing: ‘’Compassion lavished, love extravagant.’’ The Message. He has done great things for us and we are glad. How should we respond? a.) By telling (7a); by praising (7a), and by not rebelling (10). We surely don’t want to grieve His Holy Spirit, which is always a possibility (Ephesians 4:30). He has been so good to us, carrying us through all the days of our lives, just as He did for Israel (9). We don’t want to disappoint Him (8), or in any way turn our Divine Friend into a Foe (10).

But God’s disciplinary acts are meant to bring His people to their knees in prayer, intensely seeking Him afresh. This is what we see in (11-14). It’s a prayer for revival, or, at least, the preliminary to it. When God turned away from His people, they ‘’recalled the days of old.’’ (11). They asked, ‘’Where is he?’’ ‘Where is our great wonder-working God who visited us in such power in days gone by, and who magnificently glorified His Name?’ They longed for their God to return to them as in the past. ‘’And what happened to the One who set his Holy Spirit within them? Who linked his arm with Moses’ right arm, divided the waters before them. Making him famous ever after…’’ The Message.

At verse 15, Isaiah’s prayer on behalf of Judah begins. It continues throughout chapter 63. It is a prayer for God to ‘’Return’’ (17). That in essence, is what prayer for revival is, and there are a number of examples of such prayers in the Bible. ‘’Isaiah’s prayer reflects the feelings of a people who have rebelled against God, lost His protection and blessing, and now recognize their sin. They feel abandoned; they remind God that they are His children and He is their Father. And they ask Him to return to them as before. Many believers have uttered similar prayers, and we know that God hears them; God will never abandon His children, His servants (verse 17), who confess their sins and place their trust in Him.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1069.

Prayer: Revive your mighty work among us O Lord our God, for the honour of your Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 786: Wednesday 7th January 2014: Isaiah 63: 1-6

This bloody, but triumphant picture is one of God in His judgment of the nations. It is a portrayal that lots of people find repulsive, and even as believers we can struggle with it. But the reality is that God is the Judge of all the earth. He will only ever do what is right and just and fair. But He will judge all people. However, the prophetic books, like ‘Isaiah’, show that this will not happen until there has been ample warning. God is longsuffering and sends back His prophets repeatedly, calling people to repent. He does not close the door of the ‘ark’ until a long period of preaching has elapsed. The day of opportunity to turn to God and be saved is a long one. But it is not open- ended. It will come to a close. God is ‘’mighty to save’’ (1b), but He is also mighty in judgment. His enemies will not triumph over Him; He will conquer them.

There is coming a day when all the things in the world we wish were judged are going to be. Every wrong will be righted; each injustice will be overturned. The problem for us is that there are things we don’t want to have judged, like our sins. But they too will come under judgment if we don’t trust in Christ.

But here also is our hope, and I believe we pick up in this passage a number of echoes of Jesus. His garments are ‘’stained crimson’’ but He is also ‘’robed in splendour.’’ He trod ‘’the winepress alone.’’ He went to the cross for our sins so that we can be free from their condemnation and judgment, if we trust in Him. The cross is about salvation for all who believe because it is also about God’s judgment on sin. The cross does not overlook sin, but condemns it, showing how exceedingly sinful it is. It demonstrates both God’s justice and love. It shows that God is just and does not overlook sin. It also reveals that He is love and wants to save sinful people. It is through Christ alone that anyone can be saved (3, 5).

‘’ It is a victory obtained by the grace of God in Christ over our spiritual enemies. We find the garments dipped in blood adorning him whose name is called The Word of GodRev. 19:13. And who that is we know very well; for it is through him that we are more than conquerors over those principalities and powers which on the cross he spoiled and triumphed over.’’ Matthew Henry’s Commentary.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for your glorious triumph at the cross.

Daily Bible thoughts 780: Tuesday 30th December 2014: Isaiah 61:1-3

Isiah 61:1-3

These great words apply to the Messiah. We know this because Jesus spoke many of them about Himself at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:14-21). If the words did apply to Isaiah it was in a secondary sense. Maybe to some degree they did relate to his obviously anointed ministry. But there was a much deeper meaning and intent in them. Whatever your situation or need may be today, you will find what you require in Jesus. He has an answer. He is your answer. Verse 3b is similar to chapter 60:21b. Jesus has come to make strong, sturdy, stable people; men and women, and boys and girls who are right with God and who live right, and who, in so doing, bring glory to God.

In the first place, Isaiah was again writing about a physical, literal deliverance from exile in Babylon. The ‘’captives’’ would be freed. The ‘’prisoners’’ would come home. There was going to be a new day in ‘’Zion’’ (3). The whole atmosphere of Jerusalem would change as the city was restored. People’s hearts and lives would be transformed. That happened about 150 years after Isaiah wrote these words. But at a much deeper level, Isaiah was anticipating the coming of the Messiah who would ‘’release’’ many prisoners from darkness’’, setting them free from bondage to sin. Jesus came about 700 years later.

I think this word of explanation from Tom Hale is important: ‘’When Jesus quoted verses 1-2, He omitted the last part of verse 2 about proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God. Jesus did not come to earth to proclaim vengeance; He came to proclaim salvation – the year of the LORD’s favour (see Isaiah 49:8). However, when He comes a second time, it will be to gather his elect and to proclaim judgment (vengeance) on all the rest of mankind (Mark 13:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Christ is both Saviour and Judge. Now He is Saviour of those who believe; soon He’ll be Judge of those who do not. In a very real sense, these centuries between Christ’s first coming and His second coming can be called the ‘’year of the Lord’s favour,’’ the period during which we are offered salvation. For each person this ‘’year of favour’’ ends at death; our choice in this life will determine whether Christ becomes our Saviour or our Judge.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1066.

If Jesus needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fulfil His ministry, how much more do we need the Spirit of God for ours? We are faced with a dark, sad and broken world, full of needy people. We cannot serve them as we should, in Jesus’ Name, without being clothed with power from on high. But with the divine equipping what power we will know to see people utterly transformed.

Prayer: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; fill me anew.

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