Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Isaiah 5:18

As I have read and re-read this passage, This one verse just keeps jumping out at me no matter which version I read it in.

18 What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them
with ropes made of lies,
who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!

Can you picture it, person after person passing by pulling behind them a cart full of sins, tied to them by cords of lies. Carts piled high with bitterness, rage, malice, stolen goods, a murdered body or two. And the cords are made of "self incrimination, self deception, words of deceit, and tied tight to the cart with the very lies of Satan. Lies that refuse to free you; and all that sin that keeps piling up in the cart.

If we could just see with Spiritual eyes, what would we see passing us by? Would it cause us to have hearts full of compassion for the lost, for those who have no clue what they drag behind them and what ties it to them. Would our hearts be moved to tell them of Jesus, of the one who came to set them free of all the sin the carts are full of. Or would we just close our eyes because we don't like what we see? Would we not be willing to approach out of fear or out of "religious superiority". How much better to show them where they can pull those carts, to the foot of the cross, empty their contents and leave them there. Set free finally of the stench and bondage of sin.

Open my spiritual eyes Lord to the lost around me, help me to guide them to you!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Isaiah 5

There is so much in this text that I think I’ll take it in two parts, Verses 1 – 7 today and the balance of the text tomorrow.

Isaiah 5: 1&2
1 Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
2 He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Throughout Scripture the “Vineyard” is used many times in teaching. In the New Testament we are encouraged to remain “in the Vine” and to produce good fruit, and pressed even further to produce much or abundant fruit.

John 15:5 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Here in Isaiah the Vineyard story goes sour. The vineyard Owner spends much time preparing the way for the vines, clears the stones, selects the choices of vines to plant his vineyard, fences it in, places a watch tower in the middle to keep the wildlife out that might try to come and rob the fruit as it grows. But something strange happens, how do choice vines planted in the riches of soil become “wild (sour) grapes”?

Isaiah 5:5-7
5 Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
6 I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it.
7 The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.

"O you that profess to be his people, what more could Christ have done for you? What more could the Holy Spirit have done? What richer promises, what wiser precepts, what kinder providences, what more gracious patience?" Has it been so with us? Have we rewarded the Well beloved thus ungratefully for all his pains? Have we given him hardness of heart, instead of repentance; unbelief, instead of faith; indifference, instead of love; idleness, instead of holy industry; impurity, instead of holiness?" (Spurgeon)

The grapes in Isaiah’s prophecy are the people of Israel who resisted the hand of the God. They chose their own way over His, they chose rebellion and idols over the love and protection of God Most High. When God created us He gave us hearts that could make choices, and minds that could reason because He wanted a people who chose to love Him, chose to obey Him. He didn’t create robots. Though He gave them the best that He had to offer, God eventually gave them what they wanted; to be set free to do as they will, and in that freedom the selfish heart lost its original beauty, and its luster and fragrance He had given it. The wild (sour) grapes that they became were pungent and foul before Him. And seemingly once again the garden/vineyard He created would in essence be shut down.

Throughout Scripture God provides an environment to have a relationship with His people, and time and time again we muck it up.
• The Garden of Eden; shut down and locked up, Adam and Eve cast out.
• The world He created then populated, turns to evil and not to the God who gave them life, Noah and his family are ushered into an ark along with two of every kind of animal, the rest, lives are taken in a flood.
• He travels day and night with the people of Israel in a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, eventually instructs them to build a temple so He can dwell with them forever, and once again the relationship is cast aside for SELF, and God takes His Cherubim and heads back to His throne in heaven.
• He comes in the form of a baby, grows to become a man who would walk among us, give His best in the way of miraculously healing the sick, feed the hungry, teaching the Truths of His Father, and He would be despised and rejected, hung on a cross by the ones He came to save.
• Over and over He pursues us for relationship, offers us Himself, the best of the best. The choices of intimacies, and continually the ones He created reject Him.

He is willing to prepare the soil (our heart), to plant the choicest of vines there, (the salvation gift of Christ) to place a watchtower in the very heart of us (the Holy Spirit) and prune us so that we produce abundant fruit. (Sanctification). What will become of our vineyard? Will it produce good and abundant fruit? Or will we muck it up with our rejection of the Master over the vineyard?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Isaiah 4

(from the Message)
2-4And that's when God's Branch will sprout green and lush. The produce of the country will give Israel's survivors something to be proud of again. Oh, they'll hold their heads high! Everyone left behind in Zion, all the discards and rejects in Jerusalem, will be reclassified as "holy"—alive and therefore precious. God will give Zion's women a good bath. He'll scrub the bloodstained city of its violence and brutality; purge the place with a firestorm of judgment.
5-6Then God will bring back the ancient pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and mark Mount Zion and everyone in it with his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence, and shade from the burning sun and shelter from the driving rain.”

Whew finally something good! The first three chapters of Isaiah were pretty rough and here we have a sweet promise that God will restore that which He purged, He will give them a lush land and feed them from the abundant produce! He will cleanse them and call them ‘holy’

From David Guzik’s Commentary:
“ but in the days when the Branch of the LORD reigns, the distinguishing mark of all, including the daughters of Zion, is that they shall be called holy.
i. Holy does not mean "super-spiritual." It does not mean sinless perfection. It does not mean spiritually superior and obnoxious. It means a life, a heart, a mind, and a body that is genuinely separated unto the LORD. It is a life lived apart from the thinking and heart of this world, this flesh, and the devil, and lived apart to the LORD.
If we are really born again, we want to be washed, have the presence of the LORD, and enjoy His protection. Many people only want the LORD's constant presence and protection. But He doesn't grant those apart from His cleansing.”

I want to be called Holy, I’ve been called a lot of things in my past; bitter, angry, resentful, and vengeful. But my heart longs to hear “you are Holy as Christ has made you holy”. What first had to take place is that I willingly submit all of these things I just listed. Give them over to the one who came to purify me, to wash me and cleanse me so that I could be made Holy. His promises can never be mine if I’m not willing.

I find Guzik's statement that we want His presence and His protection, but don’t touch my sin, my idols, my right to do what I want to, so very true. We as a people who call ourselves His have fallen so far off the mark. Maybe it’s time we fall on our faces before Him, and with outstretched hands finally give over the part of us that we have not wanted to relinquish, that final idol that keeps us from completely worshiping Him in truth.
Come… be washed by His purifying fire like never before, give over all your sin, hold nothing back and know that in the end He, the Branch of the LORD will call you Holy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Isaiah 3

Matthew Henry's Commentary on Isaiah 3 states - "a warning to all nations not to provoke God; for if they make him their enemy, he can and will thus make them miserable."

Yesterday my focus was on the very splendor of God, that if we could only see Him in our minds eye, our awe of Him only would keep us at His feet and away from the very desire to collect idols that we adore.

In this chapter I see Him as Sovereign, as The LORD of Host who is our stay and our foundation. He is our bread of life and our living water, and yet here in this chapter He talks about removing the very physical sustenance we depend on.

vs 1 See now, the Lord,
the LORD Almighty,
is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah
both supply and support:
all supplies of food and all supplies of water

He is not just the Lord, but “the LORD”, ruler over all and ruler of all; Sovereign. Because of sin; The LORD allows for calamity, famine, leaders to fall, young to rise up and use profanity against the elders.

vs 5 People will oppress each other—
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the base against the honorable.

It’s not too far of a stretch to see our society today right here in this text. We as a country have turned our backs on the very God who is our stay and our foundation. Just as there were a few who were righteous and Gods words of protection are over them, so I pray that His protection is over those righteous in Christ Jesus today.

vs10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

If God is who He says He is, and He will do what He says He will do, if this Truth was spoken over Judah and Jerusalem, we can surely know that He will not wink at our sin either. Not as a Nation and not as those who say they belong to Him. God seemingly had no problem clearing the decks in this text for a people He had called His own. He willingly removed from them food, water, leadership, and direction because of their sin, their desire to live in a state of Sodom, where their will and their desires became the god. Not the God who called them His own.

There is no box big enough that contains our God, we cannot just equate Him with love; and remove from His character Justice. Or only see Him as our provider and not see Him as the one who also takes away. He is a jealous God who will do whatever it takes to bring our focus and our adoration to Him. He loved Judah and Jerusalem enough to remove everything else from them so that they would look up and see the one who loved them more than they ever understood.

What could it be in my life or yours that brings us to our knees to see Him High and Lifted Up, to know Him in all His fullness. To know him as LORD.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Isaiah 2

Twice in this chapter a very powerful statement is made that caught my eye. It is first stated in vs 19

Men will flee to caves in the rocks
and to holes in the ground
from dread of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth

then again vs 21

They will flee to caverns in the rocks
and to the overhanging crags
from dread of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth
(Emphasis mine)

I don’t know about you, but the awe of this statement fills me with a true fear of the LORD. When a statement is repeated like that it means we best sit up and take notice, obviously the writer is wanting us to know it’s importance by repeating it.

This passage reminds me of Ezekiel 10 where the Spirit of God departs the temple. The majesty that is described in the text, how God’s Glory Filled the place, and the pomp and circumstance with which He left. I don’t think we get just how awesome He is.

Or in
Daniel 7:9
As I looked,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.

I don’t think we spend enough time focused on just who God is. Or on the place of Honor in which He resides, or that we water down the importance of the very Throne of God. That statement “and the splendor of His majesty when He rises to shake the earth”, gives me such a picture my mind can barely comprehend. Close your eyes for just a moment, go there with me…

Can you hear the crackle of the throne all ablaze as the Ancient of Days, the God above all gods, rises from His throne, as He stands with eyes full of judgment to “shake the earth”. Time after time He has plead with us to rid ourselves of sin, to no longer allow the idols of this world to grab our hearts away from Him, the only true God who deserves our worship and adoration. As He extends His hand to shake the earth, where will you be? Running for the caves or safe in Christ.

I challenge you to take the time to pour over the word, search it for places that describe Him in all His Glory, Power and Majesty. Take a look at yourself in view of Who He is, and if you come away unchanged, then I suggest you start running for the caves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Isaiah 1

This morning I started reading through the Book of Isaiah. God has impressed this on my heart as of late and so I began. I have now read chapter 1 in five different translations and read through Matthew Henry’s Commentary. I am struck dumb with the heaviness and disgust God feels for our sin and our practice of religion. Each translation I read the verbiage was strong and struck a hefty punch with its pungent tones. A few examples

Isaiah 1 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
13 Stop bringing useless offerings.
I despise [your] incense.
New Moons and Sabbaths,
and the calling of solemn assemblies
I cannot stand iniquity with a festival.
14 I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals.
They have become a burden to Me;
I am tired of putting up with [them].

Isaiah 1 (New Living)
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

And this is just two of the translations. These are some pretty hard words from our God. He wants nothing to do with our religious practices. He longs for hearts that love Him, that desire to be in relationship with Him. Forget the brunt offerings, and the incenses, they are a noxious stench in His nostrils.

This coming Sunday the Body of believers I belong to will walk through the process of a Solemn Assembly, one of the things in verse 13 that God says He despises when done for the mere practice of a religious festival. Preparing my heart for this, allowing for a contrite spirit, one that has been softened by Him, ready to participate in the repentance process of corporate and personal sin, has been a very difficult process.

Last week I began “tanning” at a tanning booth as my husband and I are going on a tropical vacation in just a few weeks. If you’ve ever been in a tanning booth, there is not much to do in there. So it seemed to me a good place to pray. I will tell you that my experience in the tanning booth, standing before God, unclothed, with my hands placed in handles above my head has been the most intimate of prayer times. I have spent time laying prostate before God in prayer and yet this was something so much more. My heart was prepared for the Leadership Retreat we had as we prepare the way for the Solemn Assembly.

It is my utmost desire to relinquish ALL forms of religious practices and lay my heart bare before Him, to trade my crimson robes for His that are as white as wool. I like what verse 27 has to say and it is what I long for: 27 Zion will be restored by justice; those who repent will be revived by righteousness.
Looking forward to being revived by His righteousness!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"I'm Ready"

Yesterday we heard on the news about Upper Big Ranch Mine in West Virgina that had collapsed trapping many miners and killing 25 instantly. One of the many who’s life ended was Benny R. Willingham. Benny was just five weeks from retirement. His daughter, Michelle McKinney, says he was looking forward to a Virgin Island cruise, but was also prepared for death.

"He talked about it all the time. He said if the Lord come and got him, he's ready," she said Tuesday as she clutched a photo of her parents and their youngest grandson. "He was a family man and he loved the Lord. We know where he's at, but we still want him to come back."

Just five weeks till he retired; and possibly a Cruise of a life time! I know my parents didn’t start traveling until my dad was near retirement age. They had 6 daughters and a home to care for; there was never any extra funds to take such a vacation. This may have also been true for Benny.

Yesterday I heard an interview that aired on K-love; it was Benny’s daughter Michelle and what wasn’t in the quote that the paper carried was that he wasn’t living “for” retirement, He lived for the one who loved Him more then he could ever love the thought of retirement. Benny’s words say it all; “If the Lord come and got him, he’s ready”

Matthew 19:16-24 (Today's New International Version)
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."
18 "Which ones?" he inquired.
Jesus replied, " 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' [a] and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' [b]"
20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Here we have a rich man who’s interest is peaked about heaven and what Jesus is offering. He seems hungry to know; “What must a man do…” but as Jesus relays to him what he can do, I can in my minds eye see this rich man’s heart sink, “sell what I have and give to the poor” Now Jesus didn’t tell Him he had to give it all to the poor, but just to give to the poor. This rich man couldn’t handle the “sell what you have” part, so he never truly heard what Jesus had to say, in the end he can’t walk away from all that he has to follow Jesus, so he walks away from Jesus.

Benny’s statement made me think of this passage as here we have a coal miner who willing put his life in dangers way each day to provide for his family and evidently his local church. And maybe it’s that danger that helps him understand that life is not what you accumulate; or that nest egg for retirement, or that long awaited vacation. Life is today, today am I ready if Jesus should decide to come and get me? Would I say “please not yet Jesus… I want to see my son grow up, or my grandbabies graduate, or maybe your close to retirement like Benny, and Lord please let me enjoy my “golden years I’ve prepared and planned so well for this.

What is it your living for? Jesus? Or all that you have and hope to accumulate or do? I want to be like Benny and say “If the Lord come and get me, I’m ready!”