Salvation from Judgement.

I see a castle, a huge castle, soaring up into the sky, projecting higher than the rolling cumulus clouds, the sun catching its turrets. “The king is in his castle”, is going over and over in my mind.

“I am not that sort of king – a king that has walled himself off behind fortified walls, who has separated himself from his subjects. They need to book an audience with him to be able to come near enough to hear him speak. When he speaks it is a one-way conversation. I am not like that, I have come down to meet with My subjects, to move between them, to communicate in a two-way conversation. To feel what they are feeling. My word is not like a wall that has been written on to keep you on the other side, only seeing what is written. My word is a gateway to Me. It is the means through which you can communicate authentically with Me. To see, feel, smell, taste everything about Me – so that you can explore My full riches. It is meant to draw you close to Me – so come here, so that I can envelope you with My Spirit and My love.”

Isaiah, chapters 4 & 5 are in my view today. While individual sins are carefully enumerated, it seems to me the that the underlying problem is pinpointed in 3:8b. Jerusalem and Judah’s sin is that their words and deeds show that they are “against the Lord, defying His glorious presence”. So while sin may manifest itself in many ways, there is an underlying disregard and rejection of God and His kingship. I think this is worth meditating upon. How often are we guilty of that? Even in a small way.

The picture then moves to a court room, 3:13 as the Judge takes His place. the Judge is identified as “the Lord” (Yahweh). I see also that the initial focus of His judgement is on the leaders, who are accused of ruining His “Vineyard”. Remember that we need to contextualize this as the “Church” today. While individuals may “drift away”, it requires the leadership to steer the whole ship in the wrong direction. There is, as I understand it, a continued spiritual attack on the leadership of all denominations as well as each individual church. Friends, the leadership should constantly be in your prayers.

Then we see an interesting repetition of the phrase “in that day”, (3:7; 18; 4:2). This is an expression used many times in the OT. It clearly reflects God’s warning that there will be a specific day when He will pronounce His judgement. No Zuma tactics will work. But when will this day be? Well, in the lives of the people that Isaiah was addressing it was coming soon, as the people were about to be taken as slaves and carried off to Babylon.

That was only a forewarning of the real judgement of God, which in a way has already come with Jesus. In Jesus’ death God has judged. Those who refuse to acknowledge Him will be eternally separated and those who acknowledge Him will be saved. The final “Day of he Lord” has not yet come and will only happen when Jesus comes again and the curtains of history are finally drawn. Remember we live in the “now but not yet”.

It is important to consider and understand that when Jesus died on the cross it was both an act of judgement as well as introducing his mighty act of salvation. That awareness should make us that much more grateful for our salvation than ever. The picture in the second half of Ch 4 is a beautiful forecast of what that day will be ushering in for those who have responded to God’s love. Notice at the end of ch 4, the picture reminding of God’s presence with His people during their travel through the desert. This points to God’s immediate presence with us today. Of course, through Jesus, who replaces the smoke and fire.

What is Jesus saying to me today? This is the same God who is still present today. No amount of denying or disregarding will reduce His power, holiness and purity. We must continue to fight for Him every day, even though the battle has already been won.

Has the Church forsaken God?

I have been eager to meet with you. I have been eager for you to recognize Me and the preciousness of our relationship, by spending time alone with Me. I have enjoyed your eagerness in coming to Me. I am most glorified when you are enjoying Me most – so it warms My heart when you come out of a sense of love and not out of a sense of duty, out of a sense of wanting to spend time with Me, not because you are desperate or hoping for relief. Yes, recognizing your need, is the first step to seeking Me, but your greatest need is simply to open your eyes to what I have already given you, to open your eyes to Me and My presence and My love and what that means to you. So, remember “you are My beloved Son, in you I am well pleased”, that is because you are “in Jesus”.

Now as we come back to Isaiah, ch 1, bear with me while I do a rough summary of what he has written in that chapter. Before we apply it to ourselves though, we need to bring it into a contemporary context. The prophecy is directed at the Israelites, who are identified as “God’s children” in vs 2. So who are “God’s children” today? Not South Africa, not the Afrikaners who trekked up North and their descendants, not the American South. It is the Church. We are regarded by God as His children. So we need to apply the accusations from Isaiah, to the church as a whole in SA, to our local church and to each one of ourselves, individually as members of God’s church.

The main accusation, which underlies al the other is in 4(b). “They have forsaken the Lord, they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned their backs on Him.” There are huge problems in God’s “church” in SA. How much of that is due to the fact that they have lost contact with the very One, whom the church is all about? What can I do to make sure I don’t lose contact with God through Jesus? Can we do something about the general state of the church in SA? Well maybe even if we can redouble our prayers for the wider church. We can make sure each one of us however, lives according to His gospel and not by the law.

What are the symptoms of this loss of contact? Corruption vs 4. He speaks of evil deeds and doing wrong v 16 & 4, which seems to be shown by a lack of justice and a neglect of the oppressed, fatherless and widows. Much more will play out as we read further in Isaiah. But the result is really frightening. All their religious rites and acts have become an abomination before God. He declares He will NOT hear their prayers, no matter how much they pray vs 15. Just stand back and think of the many church services, with all sorts of rituals and rites, being held around the country. How much are all these things directed at building the people’s relationship with God and their brothers and sisters? I think there is a massive slide into nominalism.

Is there no hope? Well the well-known vv 18,19 shout out there is real hope from a merciful God. These vv will be played out to a greater degree later as he starts writing about the “Servant Songs” from ch 40, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah who will be the one through whom this cleansing will occur.

Then later from vv 24 onward, he speaks about a cleansing judgement from God in which many will be broken and perish but, and here is the good news, there will be remnant who repent V 27 a. This is a theme of Isaiah (and the whole OT). The theme of a chosen remnant, from whom the Messiah will arise.

So how much of what is happening in SA today is part of God’s judgement against His church, who has lost contact with Him? Becoming taken up with all sorts of other issues, changing the bible to suite their own desires and needs? Remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4 17 “For it is time for judgement to begin with family of God”. It places so much urgency on sharing the true gospel of God, to begging people to repent and to pray for all this with a greater level of understanding and fervency.

Listening To Jesus, Through Isaiah.

Ian you have been trying to share your location. (I had been trying to send a pin drop to someone, without success before I turned to the Lord). You need to know you never have to do that with Me. I was here before you, I am here now and I will still be here when you leave. I am so completely part of your life. So let go of those things that are holding you back, let them go and remember, concentrate on the power and the presence of My love, which surrounds you. It is only when you let go and place your trust fully in Me, that I can take you and lift you up to fly like an eagle. I can restore your youthful eagerness, fulfil your expectations and take you far beyond that. So let your mind imbibe the fact of My presence so that you can experience lift-off.

So friends, welcome officially to 2022. I have decided to dig into Isaiah for a time. The challenge is to continue to listen to what Jesus is saying through this prophetic book. It is roughly in two parts. I will tackle ch 1-39 and then have an interlude somewhere else before coming back to the rest.

Just a few words of introduction, to orientate ourselves. Isaiah prophesied in Judah during a time of relative prosperity. The people of Israel had drifted away from God. He highlights two main problems: formality in their religion and adoption of heathen practices. Later when faced with danger, they rather relied on the help of pagan nations for help than Yahweh Himself.

Just to give you a beacon to hold you on course, the key vs in Isaiah is 40:5 “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” This verse is spoken at the commencement of the second part, which starts withthe “servant songs” which point to Jesus. Put that together.

The introductory chapter 1 spells out the problem. It is pretty self-explanatory, but let me highlight a few things. Vs 3 b says Israel does not know, nor understand. This is maybe the key to their backsliding? Why do I say this? Because the lack of knowledge and understanding comes with the loss of contact with God. “The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom”. Sometimes prosperity does exactly that. It leads to complacency and self reliance. So religious acts are continued, but they are merely outward performances. Other practices are introduced to “enhance” religious experience.

Now here comes my message for 2022. It is from 1:10. “Hear the word of the Lord….listen to the law of our God”. That brings us back again to he very reason for this blog. To encourage us to LISTEN TO JESUS. Put that together with Isaiah 40, which is pointing forward prophetically to a new way in which God is going to speak to the people. That means reading God’s word with more than just a literary interest in it. But taking it to the next step. Combining it with a desire to hear Jesus speaking to you. With an attitude of expectation of God speaking to you personally. Of asking Him, through His Spirit to make His word come alive to you. Of ending every time of devotion with “What do You want me to hear today? How must I respond?” This is sometimes a bit harder in the Old Testament than the New. So lets help each other as we read through Isaiah together.

So won’t you read Isaiah 1, before Monday and try and apply it to our contemporary situation. Then we can chat about it Monday’s blog.

God’s Steadfast Love.

As I contemplate the presence of the Lord, which He has revealed to us in so many ways in His creation – His power, revealed in the thunder and lightning and lashing rain of storms, crashing waves against the ocean shore, winds ripping through forests tearing down mighty trees, volcanoes erupting – He speaks to me.

“I have revealed so much about Myself in My creation, but much is still shrouded in mystery – My ways are so much higher than your ways. It is not only My power that is revealed in creation, but My love and compassion. Think of a warm summer’s day clasping you in its embrace, the birds and animals showing their care and love for their offspring. My love and care is all around you if you look; but nowhere as great as the presence of Jesus who is with you now. I will never leave you nor forsake you – no matter how difficult this path is – I will always surround you and protect you. You have my promise, which never fails, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and everywhere you may go in this New Year.

Now we return for a last time to Psalm 103. We started with the theme of worship and praise. The question is what is it that we should praise Yahweh for? What is worthy of our whole inmost being , our souls being swept up in praise for Him? Well we saw initially that David said we should praise Him for His benefits. The psalm then expands on those. However, the question is, why has He given us these benefits? So there is a thread running through the whole psalm, which would perhaps be more obvious and powerful if we could read the Hebrew.

The word which is repeated four times is “chesed”. vv 4,8,11 and 17. Can you still remember the importance and origin of this word? We first found it in Exodus 34:6 where God re-introduces Himself to Moses. Here in v 8 David uses almost the same wording as Exodus 34:6. “The Lord slow to anger and abounding in “chesed”. This word not only describes the steadfastness and reliability of God’s love but its intimate connection with His covenant (V 18). The Passion Translation gives this rendering of v 8; “Your love is like a flooding river, overflowing its banks with kindness”. So David is so taken up by the thought, the fact of Yahweh’s steadfast love that he wants to praise Him with his whole soul.

Now, to demonstrate the vastness of this “chesed”, David shows how we can see and experience it. The main way is in His forgiveness of our sins, which are so far removed from us as where the sun rises and where it sets. Friends, this is such a timely reminder of the importance of this work which was the purpose of Jesus’ coming to live among us. He was moved to do this because of His compassion. (V8,13 – twice). I found it particularly interesting from my perspective, that He shows this compassion because in vv 14-16, He understands our very frailty, transience and mortality.

Of course we need to remind ourselves that these promises will only find their reality in Jesus and His ministry. But the attitude of God has always been behind that.

As I read this psalm on Saturday again, I was struck by this transient nature of our lives. It came with a huge sense of relief as I considered the bumbling, feeble efforts I seem to be making in many ways, as I live this life. God understands. He really does and has taken it into consideration continually in the way He deals with me. It humbles me even more and makes me long to express my praise and worship to him.