Wednesday, November 14: Isaiah 56- God cares for all people and so should I.


This chapter strikes a resonant cord with me. The opening reminds me that we should keep first things first. This is what the LORD says: "Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed (1).

Maintain justice… it is so easy to devolve into life that is all about me. Me, me, me. I, I, I. To maintain justice means I have to lift my eyes from myself and scan the world. See what is happening and then do what I can to make sure everyone is being treated with fairness and justice. To maintain justice I have to look out for people who are looked past and looked over and do what I can to rectify situations and systems that are unjust.

This is not easy… to maintain justice I have to buck trends and swim upstream. In our world I have to be prepared to seem like an odd person who cares about others over self and/or over the advancement of certain privileged segments of society.

Maintain justice…

Then later in the chapter the prophet declares that God's arms are open to the eunuch. The eunuch was an imperfect person who was excluded from the house of God. Now the doors are open for the eunuch who keeps the Sabbath and covenant (4). And from this position of openness Isaiah goes on to declare for God that my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (8). This is a powerful statement and one that Jesus quotes in Mark 11:7.

As I ponder my reading I see a house of prayer for all nations connecting with maintaining justice… God cares for all… God loves all. And we, his people, need to work to see these values of God are fulfilled in this world to the best of our ability.

Lord, today help me to keep my eyes open for the needs of justice. If there are things I can do to advance justice, give me strength to do those things. Along with this, Lord, help me to willingly share Your love with all people, people from all nations and tribes and tongues to the best of my ability. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Tuesday, November 13: Isaiah 55- God's life-giving presence.

The last few days for me have been emotionally tough for me; some insecurity and anxiety consumed a bunch of my thoughts and interrupted my sleep. I bared my soul with my wife last night and met with a trusted brother in Christ first thing this am. Both were healthy steps for me to take. Then I opened the Word for my time with the Lord. Oh my, did God show up. (It continually amazes me how often my standard Bible reading provides a perfect touch from the Lord. God is good.)

Right out of the gate these words greeted me: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Immediately I could feel stress washing off me. I came... and God provided what only God can, Himself.

A few moments later I read: Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near (6). Every day when I sit with my Bible open I am seeking the Lord. Not only was God found by me, it was like the Lord was standing there all along just waiting for me to glance His way!

And just a few verses later came these words: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (9-11). More encouragement and more peace came to me.

I don't understand why I (we) go through times like I am going through, but God's ways are higher than mine. And His Word nourishes in tough times and good times. I am feeling nourished by the Lord and His Word this morning. 

Finally the following verse 12a placed an exclamation mark on God's visit with me this morning. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace...

Thank You, Lord. Bless You, Lord. You have given me exceedingly more than I could have asked for or imagined as I sat with You today. Halleluiah. Amen.


Monday, November 12: Isaiah 54- God's word moves people to action.

The word of God is alive... Isaiah 54:2 particularly the second half of verse 2, launched the modern day mission movement. William Carey, the father of modern missions, preached his world changing sermon from verse 2-3: "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

As F. W. Boreham writes*: "At length, on May 31, 1792, Carey preached his great sermon, the sermon that gave rise to our modern missionary movement, the sermon that made history. It was at Nottingham. "Lengthen thy cords' — so ran the text — 'lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.'

'Lengthen thy cords!' said the text.

'Strengthen thy stakes!' said the text.

'Expect great things from God!' said the preacher.

'Attempt great things for God!' said the preacher."

As a result of that sermon a mission society was formed and Carey offered himself to be its first missionary.  

As I think about this, I am realizing anew the power of God's Word. If we will let it into our lives it will move us to action... action which blesses God by revealing the gospel message of Jesus to others. I am reminded of Jesus in His sermon on the mount: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We are salt and light. We are God's agents in the world that through our good deeds people will see God through us.

Lord, am I shining my light as brightly as You wish or am I hiding it under a bowl? Lead and direct me, Lord. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.




Saturday, November 10: Isaiah 53- Jesus.

Reading Isaiah 53, I kept inserting Jesus' name in for all the references to 'he.' As I did this, the prophetic potency of this chapter became all the more clear to me.

Isaiah 53 with Jesus' name added appropriately into the text... Read it deliberately. Read it slowly. Read it intentionally. And read it again and again as God leads you...

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? Jesus grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. Jesus had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Jesus was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces Jesus was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely Jesus took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, Jesus was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, yet Jesus did not open his mouth; Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so Jesus did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment Jesus was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For Jesus was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people Jesus was punished. Jesus was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though Jesus had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, Jesus will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After Jesus has suffered, Jesus will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and Jesus will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and Jesus will divide the spoils with the strong, because Jesus poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For Jesus bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You. Thank You. Amen.


Friday, November 9: Isaiah 52- Good news.

The familiar ring of verse 7 invited my mediation. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (7).

Immediately I recalled Romans 10:15 which quotes this verse in the context of sending people to spread the Good News of Jesus. Yes, it is beautiful when good news is spread. This was true of Jesus, the servant mentioned in Isaiah. And it is true for every one of us who advances God's name around the earth.

Next I thought about the angelic pronouncements at Jesus' birth in Luke's gospel.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:10-14). The Good News of Jesus will bring joy to all people.

From here my thoughts bounced to another Lukan passage Luke 4:18-19 a quote from Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because Jesus has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. Jesus has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Again good news highlights the passage.

With all this about good news I sat and pondered the Good News of Jesus and all faith in Him has brought into my life. Blessings like:

Peace in times of trouble

The weight and guilt of sin lifting from my life

Never being alone in life; always knowing Jesus is with me

Guidance regularly through life

An invitation to be 'a good news sharer' with my world

Being at peace with God

I cannot imagine life without God always being present. The joy and peace promised in those words about God's Good News is true. I proclaim it. I feel it. I have experienced it.

Jesus, thank You for taking on the life of the servant and for saving me and hundreds of millions of others who confess You as Lord and Savior. In Your name Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, November 8: Isaiah 51- Are you listening for God?.

Even given their sad and disobedient history, God continues to call out to Israel. This chapter is an 'all points bulletin' calling Israel home. "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; … "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations (1,4).

As God called over and over again to Israel, God, likewise, calls to me, to you, to all… "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD… "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations.

Listen to me… am I paying attention to the Lord? Am I honestly listening to His voice or am I simply feigning interest in the Lord? Will I really follow the Lord and His word? Listening to the Lord is more that hearing His words, it is ingesting His word and following His word.

You who pursue righteousness… can that honestly and fairly be said of me? Do I pursue righteousness? Am I seeking righteousness and justice for others??? Those who know me, would they say of me, "Ahh, Bill lived for righteousness?" Would that be one of the first things they note of me????

These questions are probing. And I believe I come up wanting as I seek to answer them honestly.

Lord God, this morning's look at self is difficult. It is painful. How greatly I need a savior. How greatly, Lord, I need You. I love You, Lord God… and I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.



Wednesday, November 7: Isaiah 50- A Call to people lost.

The chapter has some natural divisions. Verse 4 marks the beginning of a new section, a song of the servant who will become prominent in the coming chapters. In the midst of the servant's words, verse 10, God extends a hand to those in darkness. Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.

Trust in the name of the Lord; yes, rely on God. God extends Himself to those who are lost, who are wandering in darkness. Trust. Rely on God.

This thought is reminiscent of Jesus' Word, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

God longs for all to know Him and find their true home in Him. So, Jesus, the suffering servant, came to seek the lost and bring them home to God, the Father.

I am so thankful this is true, because Jesus sought me and found me and led me home. As John Newton penned, I was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. (Amazing Grace).

Lord God, thank You for your amazing grace which drew me to You and saved me. I was lost but now am found... all due to Your love and Your grace and Your mercy. Through Jesus, my Savior, I rejoice in You. Amen.