God’s Promise

Isaiah 57:16-18. 

16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.

18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.

 

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God explains here that if He would contend with man in anger very long the human frame could not stand up to it–a person’s powers would fail and his strength decay, his spirit sinking into destruction. For this reason, God dealt lightly with Israel; He was angry with Israel (Jacob) for  his covetousness, smote him, and permitted him to go forward in the way of his own heart while He, Himself went into retirement. He now promised to heal Judah, lead him, and restore comforts to him and to those who were godly and mourned for the nation. 

I was confused about this passage until I realized that God was talking about the original Israel, the man Jacob, who contended with God and was left with a lame hip to remind him that he had lost that battle. All of my sources were in agreement on that, so I’m confident to present it to you. Makes sense, doesn’t it?  The sin, covetousness, and willfulness of one man was passed onto his sons and all his descendants.  Our sin nature is a fact of life. We are foolish to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

His Name is Holy

Isaiah 57:15.
15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 

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Before I dig into this amazing verse, I want to stop for just a few minutes and talk about our attitudes toward this high and holy God.  A grammar rule that I taught for  years was to always capitalize any noun or pronoun that refers to God. Why?  Because it shows respect and honor to the Holy One of Israel; it puts God in the pre-eminent place He deserves.  It also, by the way, clears up a lot of questions in passages that use the pronoun he frequently. As I’ve written for these six or more  years about God’s Word, I have found it immensely helpful to identify which he refers to God, and to capitalize it and any others. It clarifies.  It explains.  It gives honor to Whom honor is due. 

Now for this verse. The High and Lofty One:  There is no other God before Him.  He is the only  High and Lofty One. No one, nothing, is above Him. He is supreme, and He is sovereign. 

Inhabiteth eternity: God always was. He had no beginning, for that would mean someone or something had to begin Him.  He has no ending, for no one or nothing can destroy Him. He calls Himself “I AM” because He inhabits eternity past, eternity present, and eternity future. 

Whose Name is Holy:  It is His Name!  It is His primary attribute (holiness).  It identifies Him, and no one else. He is the ONLY One Whose Name itself is HOLY!

I dwell:  God dwells where He chooses.  He dwells (lives, abides, makes His home) in the high and holy place.  Amazingly, He also dwells with those who have a contrite and humble spirit, He revives the spirit of the humble, and the hearts of the contrite. 

Do you want God to dwell with you? Then be contrite (sorry, regretful of sin, regretful of offending Holy God) and be humble (not elevating yourself, not boasting, not proud, not seeking the spotlight, acknowledging your sin nature, being thankful that God loves you anyway and provided a way of salvation for you through His Son). 

God will encourage you, revive you, dwell with you when you acknowledge Who He is, and who you are.   

Blessings on the Righteous

Isaiah 57:13-14. 

13 When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain;

14 And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of My people.

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“When you finally cry out to Me, ” says the Lord, “then let all your idols and all your idolatrous and adulterous friends help you, because all your works, alliances, and trusts will fail you, and the wind will carry them away.

“But those who have remained true to Me, and trusted Me, they will inherit the land that I have promised you, and they will possess My holy mountain.”

Is it hard to remain true to the Lord when it seems everyone else is choosing a broader path? Liberalism is not just political.  It is infecting our churches, too, and many of them have accepted the world’s ideas of what is good, forsaking God’s clear message.  Should we follow them, hoping to win them by being more tolerant of sin? 

Not by any means. That’s an old argument, and it’s no more justifiable now than it ever was.  If God says NO!, then I choose to follow Him.  All our human rationalizing, acceptance of worldliness in our churches and in our homes, is not going to please Him; nor will it benefit us. 

No believer should ever be a stumblingblock, for other believers of for the unsaved. 

What we need in America is personal and corporate (church) revival, and a return to His path, His way. 

Thou Fearest Me Not

Isaiah 57: 10-12. 

10 Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.

11 And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?

12 I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

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This passage clearly shows a grieving God Whose people have turned their backs on Him. He tells them, “You have tried one alliance after another and exhausted all efforts to be happy through wealth, pleasure, and self. These seem to meet your every need. You have been satisfied with your life and not grieved or brought to a point of hopelessness. You have lied and lived in fear of many; you have forgotten Me; and your efforts will yet be in vain.

“I have held My peace for a long time, and this has made you bold to sin and go further from Me, without fear of punishment. I will now declare your righteousness and works that they will not profit you.”

I know I’m being repetitive, but I can’t help comparing the Judah in this chapter to my America. A day of reckoning is coming.  It does not matter how often we sing God Bless America when our hearts are cold toward Him. 

Christ, the Lord!

Luke 2:9.  “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”

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I’m taking, perhaps, a somewhat whimsical approach this morning.  I didn’t have anything in mind to write about, really, except that it’s the Christmas season, so I chose to write about the Christmas story in Luke 2, verse 9 because today is December 9.

I was delighted to see that it was one of my favorite parts in the story.

The  “they” in verse 9 refers to the shepherds who were camping out in the fields, protecting their flocks of sheep during the night.

These were not the educated elite of Israel who wore fine garments and held themselves away from the rabble so they would not be made unclean.  They were men of the earth, of hard work, of sometimes long cold nights watching over a bunch of smelly sheep. Of course, they were used to the smell, so I’m sure it didn’t bother them.

So all was normal.  The sky was star-filled, and I’m sure some of the shepherds were wrapped up in their cloaks trying to get some sleep while the others kept watch for predators or thieves. Just sitting there, perhaps warming themselves at a fire, wishing the long night weren’t quite so long as they knew it would be.

If those who study these things are right, it was much more likely that Christ was born in the spring, more around the time of the passover. Our tradition is a combination of pagan celebrations and church tradition, but let’s put all that aside for now.  It is true that we do not know the exact date, and I believe God arranged that we would not.  The main thing is not the date, but the event.

The event changed the history of the world, and was the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, Messiah, The Holy One of Israel, Yaweh, Elohim, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings!

And who got the message directly from the Angel of the Lord that night?  Poor shepherds, that’s who.  Of course we know the Magi were on their way from their lands in the Orient, but  the shepherds had no knowledge of that. And they would not see the Magi by the manger.  That incredible privilege was reserved for the poor, hard-working shepherds, who would be in company with Joseph the Carpenter, his young wife Mary,  an amazing infant, and  whatever animals were there to help warm the air.

But before they went to Bethlehem, they experienced the awesome, unearthly, holy light that accompanied the angel, and was the glory of the Lord. This overwhelming light “shone round about them,” illuminating the fields in a way I can’t even imagine.

Think about it.  How often do you suppose they had seen a real, gorgeous, brilliant angel?  Never!  I think they were struck speechless.  And, the Bible says, they were sore afraid.

Yes. They were terrified.  I don’t blame them.  I can’t imagine what they must have thought about during those moments.  Maybe they were too terrified to think.

Dipping into the next two verses, the angel said “Fear not.”  Right.  I wonder if they immediately stopped being afraid.

But then they heard the wonderful news that all Israel had waited to hear for centuries:  “Unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” And the angel made it clear that this was not just for the Jews, but for ALL PEOPLE!.

Christ, the Savior, is born!

Debased unto Hell

Isaiah 57:8-9

8 Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 
9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
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In verse 8, God likens Judah to one who has been tempted away from him by  false lovers, to whom he has  “discovered” himself,  or made himself naked. He has publicly committed acts of idolatry and adultery, loving the beckoning of adulterous women to their beds.
Verse 9 describes alliances made with idolatrous nations and practices adopted to conform more completely with the harlotry of idolatry, even to hell (sheol in this verse, the unseen world of departed spirits). In other words, Judah debased herself even unto the depths of hell. Especially, she debased herself to other nations, looking for alliances with those who have no knowledge of God.
You can almost hear the despair in the voice of the prophet in these verses, and especially in the ones to follow.  This nation, this people, who had the most, debased themselves to become the least.  What a tragedy.
America, too, has had the evident blessing of God; we are in danger of replacing it with the approval of other nations, and losing our sovereignty to them.  What a tragedy.

Public Idolatry

Isaiah 57:7. “Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.”

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This reveals the publicity and grossness of such idolatry. There was no effort to conceal the adulterous and idolatrous practices. Not only was this public and shameless, but also practiced in the homes. Even the furniture was designed and the daily habits revised to reveal the idolatry of the people in general.

Years ago, my pastor said, “Sin will always take you farther than you intended to go.”  I think this is what happened over and over in Israel down through their history. What started simply, like maybe bringing a small idol into the home, spiraled into adopting and adapting to  the  idolatrous, immoral practices of the surrounding nations.  Sin took them a lot farther than they intended to go.