Who Are The Ones God Looks On With Favor? (Isaiah 66)

Pictorial Overview: Chart of the Book of Isaiah.
Previous post: What do you really want? What is your ultimate hope? (Isa 65:17; 40:31)

Isa 66:1-24 explains that though the worship of God is violated now, in the future falsehood and hypocrisy will be judged, true worship will spread, and God will be honored forever. True worship will last forever.

God Hates Religious Hypocrisy (Isa 66:1-6)

God is greater than the institutions he has authorized (Isa 66:1), and he will never be manipulated by them. Yet God looks with favor on "those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at (his) word" (Isa 66:2). God despises proper outward worship without a trembling heart before him; it's as bad as outright sin (Isa 66:3,4). Such false worshipers self-righteously despise true worshipers (Isa 66:5). God will judge and repay them as they deserve (Isa 66:6).

The Certainty of Future Blessing (Isa 66:7-14)

Our doubts cause us to fear that God will not prove faithful to all his promises to his helpless people (Isa 66:7-9). But the certainty of future blessing calls for joy in the present (Isa 66:10-14); this underscores the comfort proclaimed to his people who were exiled in Babylon (Isa 40:1).

Fiery Judgment Contrasts God's Declaration of His Glory Worldwide (Isa 66:15-17; 18-24)

Eternal punishment via the final judgment by fire is promised to the religious hypocrites and the rebellious (Isa 66:15-17), while the time will come for God to declare his own glory through his chosen faithful remnant (Isa 66:18-20), and the "unclean" Gentiles will carry out the calling of "holy" Israel (Isa 66:21). Despite his people's rebellion and sins (Isa 1:2,3), God would renew the endless worship of his new people (Isa 66:23,23). God's final unending judgment is a sharp and terrifying contrast to the apparent success of the wicked in this present life. Yet it is a comforting assurance that God will judge the wicked and wickedness forever (Isa 66:24).

Practical Application: The gospel is good news to the contrite but bad news to the hypocrites and the rebellious.

How should one live?: With a humble contrite heart that trembles at God's word (Isa 66:2).

What's next? Zephaniah 1:1-3:20.

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God Will Create New Heavens and a New Earth (Isaiah 65)

Previous post: Do you understand your depravity--4 ways Isaiah describes our sins? (Isa 64:6)

God's Eagerness is Snubbed by His Own People, but Welcomed by Outsiders (Isa 65:1-12)

Isa 65:1,2 anticipate the drama of the book of Acts and the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 28:17-28; Rom 10:20,21). God is patiently pleading with his obstinate people with outstretched hands, but to no avail (John 1:11; Isa 65:3). They were not atheists but religious people who claimed God in self-righteousness, traditional formalism and hypocrisy (Isa 65:4,5; Luke 18:9-14). God could not but deal with them according to his justice and righteousness (Isa 65:6,7,11,12), while preserving a remnant (Isa 65:8-10).

The Joy of the True People of God in their Eternal Home (Isa 65:13-25)

After excluding the outwardly religious Jews, God welcomed responsive open-hearted Gentiles to their eternal home (Isa 65:13-16). Isaiah then paints a magnificent poetic picture (Isa 65:17-25), far beyond anything the world has ever seen or known, to describe the joys of the world to come, the "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa 65:17, 66:22; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), which will be fulfilled by the 2nd Coming of Christ. This invites all believers to yearn for that day, while playing our role as the story unfolds to its glorious end (Isa 2:5).

Practical Application: What is your ultimate hope? To get what you want now? Or to wait and renew our hope in the Lord (Isa 40:31)?

Food for Thought: There is no such thing for a believer as having his/her best life now, for the best is yet to come.

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Look Down From Heaven and See (Isaiah 63:14-64:12)

Previous post: Is God's sheer delight over you your utmost joy? (Isa 62:5)

The Prayer of Faith (Isa 63:15-64:12)

1) Look down from heaven and see (Isa 63:15-29)

Isaiah claims God's love for his people, even though they have drifted from their ancestral faith (Isa 63:15,16; Gen 15:6, 22:12, 26:5). Isaiah asks, "Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?" (Isa 63:17) not implying that God forced them to sin, but that in discipline, God gave them over to the power of their sins (Ex 4:21; Deut 32:4; Job 34:10; Isa 6:3,10; Rom 1:24,26) until they were trampled and defeated (Isa 63:18,19).

2) Oh, that you would rend the heavens and...come down to make your name known (Isa 64:1-12)

Isaiah begs God to step down into this world (Isa 64:1,2), as he had done awesomely in times past (Isa 64:3), for there is none like God (Isa 64:4), who alone reveals himself (1 Cor 2:9). This is nothing but undeserved grace, as Isaiah describes our sins with 4 similes: "like one who is unclean," (a leper) "like filthy rags," (even our righteousness is disgusting) "like a leaf," (decaying) "like the wind" (overwhelming power of sin) (Isa 64:5-7). God could rightfully abandon us, but Isaiah appeals to God to save us as the sovereign Father and a potter who is in control of clay (Isa 64:8,9). Sin devastates us as the Babylonian invasion devastated Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (Isa 64:10-12).

Practical Application: Always remember and acknowledge that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isa 64:6).

Spiritual Understanding: When we understand our utter depravity by the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), we know we have absolutely no legitimate claim on God whatsoever (Gen 18:27). Then we can humbly work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

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As a Bridegroom Rejoices Over His Bride... (Isa 62:1-63:14)

Previous post: Is God's renewal of the world your ultimate hope? (Isa 61:11)

Isa 62:1-12 explains why the future of Zion, of God's redeemed people, is so very bright. God's redemption (of Israel) is through wrath (upon Edom) (Isa 63:1-6). How sweet it is to always recall the mercies of God upon us (Isa 63:7-14).

God will Delight in His Redeemed People of God (Isa 62:1-12) [God Will Not Be Silent For the Sake of Zion]

Everything God does is "for Zion's sake" (Isa 62:1), that is, the redeemed people of God. God will glorify himself through the renewed and increased glory of his people. The world will see God through them, their "new name" (Isa 62:2), their renewed restored relationship with God. God will make them beautiful (Isa 62:3), reverse their situation of being forsaken (Isa 62:4, 60:15, 49:14), and rejoice over them "as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride" (Isa 62:5) as part of God's great plan of salvation. "Watchmen" (Isa 62:6), the prophets, will watch and pray until God "establishes Jerusalem" (Isa 62:7) by his merciful restoration that is not based on the curses of the old covenant (Isa 62:8,9; Lev 26:14-39; Deut 28:15-68; Judg 6:1-6). This blessing of salvation, which is to become a part of Zion and be called "the Holy People" and "the Redeemed of the Lord" (Isa 62:12) is extended to everyone (Isa 62:11). Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matt 5:12, which quotes Zec 9:9, may also have alluded to Isa 62:11.

God, who is Mighty to Save, is also the God of Vengeance, Wrath and Anger (Isa 63:1-6)

Edom (Isa 63:1), the unbelieving nation S-E of Jerusalem, typifies the world in its contempt for the promises of God (Gen 25:29-34,27:41; Isa 34:1-7; Lam 4:21,22; Eze 35:1-15; Joel 3:19; Mal 1:2-4). She will face God's vengeance, anger and wrath, while Israel will be redeemed (Isa 63:1-6). God's redemption always involves wrath.

Recalling God's History of Mercies (Isa 63:7-14)

God is so good to his people and even suffered with them (Isa 63:7-9). "Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit" (Isa 63:10, 1:2, 66:24; Ps 78:1-72; Acts 7:51). {In Eph 4:30 Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit.} Yet God was faithful to restore them (Isa 63:11-14).

Practical Application: God's joy over us is our strength for our life.

I Can Only Imagine: Can we ever fathom the delight of a bridegroom over his bride on their honeymoon? Can we imagine that God delights in his people in such a way? (Isa 62:5)


Jesus, The Word, The Lamb of God (John 1:1-2:11)

Jesus is the Incarnate Word (John 1:1-18)

The prologue, John 1:1-18, declares that Jesus is the eternal, preexistent, Incarnate Word (John 1:1,14), and the Son of the Father, who is himself God (John 1:1,18). In the history of salvation, God gave the law through Moses (John 1:17), dwelt among his people in the tabernacle and the temple (John 1:14), sent the forerunner John the Baptist (John 1:6-8,15), and culminated His revelation and redemption in and through Jesus. The author also introduces the following major themes, such as Jesus as the light (John 1:4), life (John 1:5-9), truth (John 1:14,16,17); believers as God's children (John 1:12,13), and the world's rejection of Jesus (John 1:10,11).

Believing (John 1:12) is not merely intellectual agreement with some facts about Jesus, but implies personal trust, and welcoming and submitting to him as God in a love relationship. God's supernatural work alone causes one to be a child of God, not physical birth, ethnic descent or human effort (John 1:13). Saving faith, which is also God's supernatural work, precedes becoming a child of God, a member of God's family.

John 1:14 means that God, without ceasing to be God, took on humanity (Phil 2:6,7). This is the most amazing event in all of history: the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person.

The 1st Week of Jesus' Ministry (John 1:19-2:11)

In Jesus' 1st week of ministry, John the Baptist hails Jesus as "God's lamb" (John 1:29,36), his first disciples come to him (John 1:37-51), and Jesus performs his first sign by turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11).

Jesus had to be a sacrificed lamb to save us. Why? Only Jesus' sacrificial, substitutionary death and his appeasement of the divine wrath by way of the atonement for sin (propitiation; Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10) "takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29; 1 Pet 2:24, 3:18).

Practical Application: Only Jesus, who is God who became a Lamb for our sins, is worthy of all of our love, worship and devotion.

Some Names of Jesus: The Word, The Lamb of God, The Son of God, The King of Israel, The Son of Man (John 1:1,2,14,29,36,49,51).

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The Renewal of the World (Isaiah 61)

Previous post: Can you imagine that one day there will be no more sorrow? (Isa 60:20)

The Year of God’s Favor/What Only The Messiah Can Do (Isa 61:1-3)

Notice the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity in Isa 61:1 (Spirit, Sovereign Lord {Father}, me {Son}). The Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, the ultimate Preacher, the Redeemer declares that He will create a new people by his Spirit-empowered preaching (Isa 61:1-3, 11:2, 59:21). This is what he will do:

  • Preach good news to the poor
  • Bind up the brokenhearted
  • Proclaim freedom for the captives
  • Release prisoners from darkness
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. This is a new era of blessing (Isa 34:8, 63:4; 2 Cor 6:2), which is the same as “the day of salvation” (Isa 49:8) and “the year of my redemption” (Isa 63:4).
  • Proclaim the day of vengeance of our God. When God delivers his people, he also pours out his wrath on those who oppose him. Jesus closed the book before reading this portion of Isaiah’s oracle (Luke 4:18-20), for the time of healing belongs to Christ’s 1st coming, while the time of judgment awaits Christ’s 2nd Coming (Isa 5:25-29, 63:1-6; Acts 17:31; 1 Th 1:10; Rev 6:15-17).
  • Comfort all who mourn
  • Provide for those who grieve
  • Bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes
  • Bestow the oil of gladness instead of mourning
  • Bestow a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair

This oracle proclaims freedom from Babylonian exile. Ultimately, it declares the spiritual freedom from the oppression of sin and Satan. Those estranged can find peace with God when the gospel is preached all over the world (Eph 2:12,13, 3:5; 2 Tim 1:10).

God Enables His People to Bless to the World (Isa 61:4-11)

Through the Messiah, the people of God, though poor, will restore the ruins in this world of death (Isa 61:4). God’s people will fulfill their role as priests of the Lord among the nations (Isa 61:5-7; Ex 19:5,6; 1 Pet 2:9), not because they are able to, but because of God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenant promise (Isa 61:8,9). He does so through imputed righteousness (Isa 61:10,11), which is the essential heart of the New Covenant. When a penitent sinner recognizes that he can’t achieve his own righteousness by works (Ro 3:19-22; 2 Cor 5:21; Php 3:8,9), and repents and calls on the mercy of God, the Lord covers him with His own divine righteousness by grace through his faith.

Practical Application: By his faithfulness, God will establish his priests for the world.

What only God can do: "The Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations" (Isa 61:11).

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How Are You Helping Others to Grow, Excel and Be Self-Motivated?

This post below prompted me to evaluate how I, as an older Christian, have been helping and motivating others in church. Seth Godin identifies 3 ways/methods that we all use, and may be still using. I agree with him that the first 2 ways may work in the short term, but not in the long run. Read and ask yourself: Are you truly helping others to excel and grow for a lifetime?

Mon, Jan 24, 2011 [You're getting this note because you subscribed to Seth Godin's blog.]

Three ways to help people get things done

A friend sent me a copy of a new book about basketball coach Don Meyer. Don was one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, apparently. It's quite a sad book—sad because of his tragic accident, but also sad because it's a vivid story about a misguided management technique.

Meyer's belief was that he could become an external compass and taskmaster to his players. By yelling louder, pushing harder and relentlessly riding his players, his plan was to generate excellence by bullying them. The hope was that over time, people would start pushing themselves, incorporating Don's voice inside their head, but in fact, this often turns out to be untrue. People can be pushed, but the minute you stop, they stop. If the habit you've taught is to achieve in order to avoid getting chewed out, once the chewing out stops, so does the achievement.

It might win basketball games, but it doesn't scale and it doesn't last. When Don left the room (or the players graduated), the team stopped winning.

A 2nd way to manage people is to create competition. Pit people against one another and many of them will respond. Post all the grades on a test, with names, and watch people try to outdo each other next time. Promise a group of six managers that one of them will get promoted in six months and watch the energy level rise. Want to see little league players raise their game? Just let them know the playoffs are in two weeks and they're one game out of contention.
Again, there's human nature at work here, and this can work in the short run. The problem, of course, is that in every competition most competitors lose. Some people use that losing to try harder next time, but others merely give up. Worse, it's hard to create the cooperative environment that fosters creativity when everyone in the room knows that someone else is out to defeat them.

Both the 1st message (the bully with the heart of gold) and the 2nd (creating scarce prizes) are based on a factory model, one of scarcity. It's my factory, my basketball, my gallery, my church, and I'm going to manipulate whatever I need to do to get the results I need. If there's only room for one winner, it seems these approaches make sense.

The 3rd method, the one that I prefer, is to open the door. Give people a platform, not a ceiling. Set expectations, not to manipulate but to encourage. And then get out of the way, helping when asked but not yelling from the back of the bus.

When people learn to embrace achievement, they get hooked on it. Take a look at the incredible achievements the alumni of some organizations achieve after they move on. When adults (and kids) see the power of self-direction and realize the benefits of mutual support, they tend to seek it out over and over again.

In a non-factory mindset, one where many people have the opportunity to use the platform (I count the web and most of the arts in this category), there are always achievers eager to take the opportunity. No, most people can't manage themselves well enough to excel in the way you need them to, certainly not immediately. But those that can (or those that can learn to) are able to produce amazing results, far better than we ever could have bullied them into. They turn into linchpins, solving problems you didn't even realize you had. A new generation of leaders is created...

And it lasts a lifetime.

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God Will Be Your Everlasting Light, and Your Sorrows Will End (Isaiah 60)

Previous post: What Can Remove Your Radical and Recurring Sins? (Isa 59:16, 53:12; Rom 5:7,8)

The final glory of God's people unites all humanity in knowing the true God.

God's Glory/Beauty Attracts the Nations (Isa 60:1-9; 10-14)

Addressing Zion (Isa 59:20, 60:14), "the glory of the Lord rises" (Isa 60:1, 4:5, 40:5, 58:8; Mal 4:2; Jn 1:14; Rev 21:11), in contrast to the rest of the darkened world (Isa 60:2). Zion's light attracting the nations (Isa 60:3,4, 2:2-4, 11:10) has been fulfilled by the coming of the gospel (Ac 9:15, 11:18). God's people become the predominant culture of the world (Isa 60:5-7). The nations see in the beauty of God's people "the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 60,8,9), as God fulfills his ancient promises to Abraham (Isa 60:10-14; Gen 12:3).

God Reverses the Failures and Sorrows of His People (Isa 60:15-22)

God promises his people: "Although you have been forsaken and hated...I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations. You will drink the milk of nations. ...you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer... I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler" (Isa 60:15-17). Salvation and praise become dominant traits (Isa 60:18). "The Lord will be your everlasting light" (Isa 60:19,20) means that God's presence is with his people (Rev 21:11,23; 22:5). The fulfillment of these promises does not await favorable historical conditions but depends directly on the act of God. "I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly" (Isa 60:22).

Practical Application: Only the beauty and the glory of the Lord transforms our hearts.

Promise of God: "The LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end" (Isa 60:20).

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What Can Wash Away My Sin? (Isaiah 58,59)

Previous post: Is your heart lowly and contrite? (Isa 57:15)

Repent of Hypocrisy and Find Your Joy in the Lord (Isa 58:1-14)

God's people said and did the right things "as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God" (Isa 58:2). But God saw their hypocrisy (Isa 59:1), and commanded Isaiah to confront them (Isa 58:1). They fasted, but it was selfishly motivated to get things from God (Isa 58:3), while they acted oppressively (Isa 58:4). But God spells out what true piety is (Isa 58:5-7), and the true blessing of God that follows (Isa 58:8-14). If they truly repented of their hypocrisy and humbly and justly cared for the weak, the hungry and the afflicted, God promised, "then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob" (Isa 58:14).

God was Appalled That There Was No One to Intervene (Isa 59:1-21)

What was their problem? "...your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa 59:2). Isa 59:3-8 expresses how they were bent on living in sin. Paul describes the depravity of all mankind with Isaiah's language (Rom 3:15-17), implying that even God's people will sin as badly as anyone when they live as they please. Though they confess their sin and misery (Isa 59:9-13), they were helpless in their sin, so that only God can redeem them (Isa 59:14-21). "He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him" (Isa 59:16). God, who is the One offended by man's sin, took it upon himself to save his people through the intervention of the Suffering Servant (Isa 53:12; Rom 5:7), who is the Messiah. Through Him, people through out the world will respond rightly to God by fearing Him (Isa 59:19).

How do we come to know this? "My Spirit, who is on you...and my words that I have put in your mouth" (Isa 59:21, 32:15, 44:3; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 37:14; Zech 12:10). The Spirit works "by and with the Word in our hearts" (Westminster Confession, 1.5).

Practical Application: What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Assurance: “'The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,' declares the LORD" (Isa 59:20).

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Idolatry Destroys, The Contrite is Comforted (Isaiah 56,57)

Previous post: Whose Ways and Thoughts are Higher? God's or Yours? (Isa 55:9)

The prophesies of Isa 56:1-66:24 addresses the exiles who still suffer from idolatry, hypocrisy and indifference, after returning from Babylon before the rebuilding of the temple in 520 B.C. These prophesies also guides God's people of all ages to live out the promises of Isa 1:1-55:13, in order to prepare for the salvation and renewal to come.

Isa 56:1 serves as a summary of Isaiah, Isa 1:1-55:13. "Maintain justice and do what is right" echoes the ideals of Isa 1:1-39:8, where God warns of his impending judgment through Assyria. "For my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed" sums up the promises of Isa 40:1-55:13, which are addressed primarily to the exiles in Babylon.

The True People of God receive God's salvation (Isa 56:1-8)

Those who inherit the promise of God for salvation include foreigners and eunuchs, for despite their outward apparent disqualification (Isa 56:3), hold fast to his covenant and his Sabbaths (Isa 56:2, 4-8).

Self-Serving Leaders and Idolatry Destroy the Nation (Isa 56:9-12; 57:1-13)

Self-indulgent false prophets and irresponsible leaders lead God's people astray (Isa 56:9-12). Though the righteous perish, they die in faith and enjoy their eternal reward (Isa 57:1,2; Rev 14:13). When the people gave in to idolatry, they deceived themselves into thinking that their idolatry renewed their strength (Isa 57:3-10), while losing the fear of God in their hearts (Isa 57:11-13).

The High and Holy God Lives with the Contrite and the Lowly (Isa 57:14-21)

In contrast with the threats of judgment for idolatry (Isa 57:3-13), God gives promises of blessing to the lowly and the contrite, creating a spirit of repentance, and bringing comfort, peace and healing (Isa 57:14-21).

Practical Application: When our hearts are contrite and lowly, God revives our spirit and our heart (Isa 57:15).

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Is "I Did it My Way" the Way to Go? (Isaiah 54,55)

Previous post: Are Your Wounds Healed by His Wounds? (Isaiah 53:5)

Frank Sinatra's theme song "I did it my way" appeals to and rings true for so many. But what is the outcome of those who did it their way? Isaiah speaks of a way that is higher.

Sing, Enlarge, Stretch Out, Don't Hold Back (Isa 54:1-3)

Though in exile and dispersion (barren) because of their rebellion against God, they should sing, enlarge, stretch out, lengthen, spread abroad (Isa 54:1-3), for God promises to accomplish his purpose in the future (Gen 22:17; 28:14; Ex 34:24; Dt 9:1; 11:23).

Fear Not, Your Maker is your Husband, Redeemer (Isa 54:4-10)

"Fear not" (Isa 54:4), or "Do not be afraid," is repeated 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. God loves us, not because we are good, but because of who he is: Husband, Redeemer (Isa 54:5). God's love for us is not dependent on us, for we are like a wayward wife (Isa 54:6). Though God disciplines us in his wrath for a brief moment, his steadfast unfailing love is far, far greater (Isa 54:7-10).

God Establishes His People in Righteousness (Isa 54:11-17)

Unlike their tragic past record of sin and rebellion, their future is bright only because God assures them that his grace will guarantee their allegiance to his word (Isa 54:13; 50:4,5; Jer 31:31-34). God would establish them in righteousness and vindicate them (Isa 54:14,17).

Come, All who Thirst, Seek the Lord (Isa 55:1-13)

The invitation, "Come" (Isa 55:1), is urgent in tone and universal in scope. Thirst is every man's deep spiritual longing and opportunity to "seek the Lord while he may be found" (Isa 55:6). Nothing in the world can ever truly satisfy a man (Isa 55:2; Jn 6:32-35). No man can ever figure life out, because his ways and his thoughts are too limited (Isa 55:7-9; 64:6). Only God's revealed word truly liberates and illuminates man (40:6-8; Ezek 37:1-14; 1 Cor 2:9; Eph 3:20; Rom 11:33), and gives man joy and peace (Isa 55:10-13).

Practical Application: If you feel unfulfilled, are you not looking for love in all the wrong places?

Think and Remember: For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:8,9).

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The Opportunity to Fail (and then to Fail Again and Yet Again)

The short post below might be especially relevant for the hesitant, the calculative, the timid, the fearful, the self-doubting, the self-distrusting, the unassertive, the lazy, and the coward. I guess I liked the post because there is a sense of challenge and utmost urgency in it.

Ecclesiastes 11:1 comes to mind: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." One interpretation is to take a calculated and wise step forward in life (The MacArthur Study Bible). This always feels too risky and uncomfortable, it feels like dying, and it might even fail. But unless we take the plunge, and grab the bull by the horns, and stare death in the face, we'll never ever know.

Perhaps, if you will consider it, Jesus took the biggest risk of all by leaving the best place and coming to the worst place. Though the cost was too great, yet he felt that it was worth it; it was worth every last drop of his blood. And by losing all, he gained all (John 12:24).

Mon, Jan 17, 2011 Subject: Seth's Blog : Cashing the check

Cashing the check
A check in your wallet does you very little good. It represents opportunity, sure, but not action.
Most of us are carrying around a check, an opportunity to make an impact, to do the work we're capapble of, to ship the art that would make a difference.

No, the world isn't fair, and most people don't get all the chances they deserve. There are barriers due to income, to race, to social standing and to education, and they are inexcusable and must fall. But the check remains, now more than ever. The opportunity to step up and to fail (and then to fail again, and to fail again) and to continue failing until we succeed is greater now than it has ever been.

As Martin Luther King Junior spoke about a half a lifetime ago,

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late."

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By His Wounds We Are Healed (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

Previous post: Beautiful Feet That Bring Good News (Isa 52:7)

Isa 52:12-53:13, the 4th and final and most memorable of the Messiah/Servant Songs (Isa 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-9), gives incontrovertible proof that Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. The details are so minute that no human could have predicted them by accident and no impostor fulfilled them by cunning. It is frequently quoted or referred to in the NT (Matt 8:17; Lk 22:37; Jn 12:28; Acts 8:30-35; Ro 10:16; 1 Pet 2:22-25), or alluded to without being quoted (Mk 9:12; Ro 4:25; 1 Co 15:3; 2 Co 5:21; 1 Pe 1:19; 1 Jn 3:5). It explains how the Holy God can bless sinful people: Only the sacrifice, suffering and triumph of the Servant removes the guilt of sin before God. In this passage "I" is the Lord, "he" the servant, and "we" the servant's disciples, who themselves need the servant to bear their guilt (Isa 53:4-6).

1. The Servant was Disfigured and Marred beyond Human Likeness (Isa 52:13-15)

Isa 52:13-15 is a summary and preview of the humiliation and exaltation of the Servant, described in more detail in Isa 53:1-12. In his passion, Jesus underwent inhumane cruelty by being beaten into a shocking mass of wounded flesh, where he no longer looks like a human being. But in his disfigured state, he will perform a priestly work of sprinkling the nations and made them clean, and glorified God.

2. The Servant was Despised and Rejected (Isa 53:1-3)

3. The Servant Bore the Sins of Many (Isa 53:4-6)

The wounds that caused his death has brought salvation to those for whose sins he died (Isa 53:5; 1 Pe 2:24).

4. The Servant Dies in Silence and Innocence (Isa 53:7-9)

"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth" (Isa 53:7).

5. The Servant was Crushed but Victorious (Isa 53:10-12)

Practical Application: Only Jesus' wounds can heal us (Isa 53:5).

Humble Acknowledgment: "The punishment that brought us peace was upon him" (Isa 53:5). "The Lord makes his life an offering for sin" (Isa 53:10).

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How Beautiful are the Feet that Bring Good News (Isaiah 51:1-52:12)

Previous post: Do you Know the Word that Sustains the Weary? (Isa 50:4)

God Comforts Zion (Isa 51:1-23)

Isaiah gives 3 incentives for obeying the voice of the servant: (a) God can revive and transform barren Zion to joyful Eden (Gen 2:8; Eze 28:13; 31:8,9), just as God made a great nation from a barren couple Abraham and Sarah (Isa 51:1-3). (b) God's truth and justice will go out to the nations (Isa 2:2-4; 42:1-4,6; 49:6) with a saving power that will outlast the universe (Isa 51:4-6). (c) Though believers are reviled, they will be eternally vindicated (Isa 51:7,8).

Though God appears to be asleep (Isa 51:9,17), he is not, as he assures his people of his salvation (Isa 51:12-16). God says, "I, even I, am he who comforts you...For I am the Lord your God...the Lord Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand" (Isa 51:12,15,16). Though God used Babylon to reveal his wrath and rebuke for Israel's idolatry and unbelief (Isa 51:17-20), God would turn his cup of wrath upon their oppressors (Isa 51:21-23).

God Brings His Salvation to Zion (Isa 52:1-12)

Zion was conquered by Babylon and brought shame upon God's name (Isa 52:1-6; Rom 2:24), which is the most disastrous consequence. But God would turn the despising of his name into rejoicing as the gospel of God's grace spreads over the world through the beautiful feet of those who bring good news (Isa 52:7-10; Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15). God will purify and guide his people into his everlasting kingdom (Isa 52:11,12).

Practical Application: Be the beautiful feet that bring the good news (Isa 52:7).

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The Servant Sustains the Weary with His Word (Isaiah 50)

Previous post: A Light To The Nations (Isaiah 49).

Isa 50:4-9 is the 3rd of 4 Servant Songs which anticipates the Messiah (Isa 42:1-9; Isa 49:1-13; 52:13-53:12).

The Servant Suffers to Sustain Others (Isa 50:1-3, 4-9, 10,11)

God did not fail, for Israel sinned their way into exile (Isa 50:1), refusing to respond to God's word (Isa 50:2,3). God's title, "the Sovereign Lord," appearing 4 times (Isa 50:4,5,7,9), shows that God expresses his power not by being a ruling dictator, but taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6,7). This servant is a scholar, well schooled and responsive to the Word (Isa 50:4,5), a gentle healer (Isa 42:3), a patient worker (Isa 49:4), a wise comforter (Isa 50:4), yet he was greeted with abusive opposition (Isa 50:6). The Servant's rejection intensifies as the Servant Songs progress (Isa 49:7; 50:6; 52:14-53:9), not because he was a victim nor because he was guilty (Isa 50:9). Indeed, he willingly chose his sufferings (Isa 50:7), and knew that God would vindicate him (Isa 50:8). Thus we trust him (Isa 50:10), not our own wisdom (Isa 50:11).

3 Questions:

  1. Have you been rebellious (Isa 50:5)?
  2. Do you "know the word that sustains the weary" (Isa 50:4)?
  3. Do you know of One who was disgrace, mocked and spit at for you (Isa 50:6)?

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The Servant is a Light for the Nations (Isaiah 49)

Previous post: Peace Like A River (Isaiah 48)

The Servant is a Light for the Nations (Isa 49:1-13)

Isa 49:1-13 is the 2nd of 4 Servant Songs describing the Messiah Jesus (Isa 42:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). Jesus:

  • calls to the world (Isa 49:1),
  • conquers with the truth of his word (Isa 49:2, 11:4; Rev 1:16, 19:15,21), unlike Cyrus,
  • glorifies God and succeeds where Israel failed (Isa 49:3,4),
  • redeems not only Israel, but the ends of the earth as a light for the nations (Isa 49:5,6),
  • conquers the nations by his sufferings (Isa 49:7; 50:6; 52:14,15),
  • triumphs worldwide, is vindicated by God (Isa 49:8-12), and inspires unprecedented joy (Isa 49:13).
God will Save his Despairing People (Isa 49:14-26)

The Jewish exiles felt forsaken by God (Isa 49:14). But their despair is offset by divine grace, like a mother who cannot forget her child (Isa 49:15,16). Though Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians (Ps 74:3; 102:14), God will rebuild Zion (Isa 49:17,18; 44:26,28), and miraculous growth, expansion and recognition will result with ease (Isa 49:19-26).

Practical Application: Listen to what God will do for the nations through his Servant: "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth" (Isa 49:6).

God's Repeated Self-Declaration: "I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (Isa 49:26).

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Your Peace Would Have Been Like A River (Isaiah 48)

God Puts Up with His Stubborn People for the Sake of His Own Glory (Isa 48:1-11)

"Hear," "Listen," are the repeated imperatives (Isa 48:1,12,14,16) designed to lead deaf and blind Israel (Isa 48:6,8; 42:18-20; 51:1) to recognize their hypocrisy (Isa 48:1-5), and what God would do (Isa 48:6-8) for his own glory. God would defer his anger (Isa 48:9) not because they don't deserve his full wrath, but in order to display his own glory in his persistent compassion (Isa 48:9-11).

God Will Free His People from Babylon Through Cyrus (Isa 48:12-22)

God reaffirms his plan to use Cyrus for his own redemptive purpose (Isa 48:14,15). Christ, the servant of the Lord (Isa 42:1-13; 49:1-6), appears to be speaking in Isa 48:16b with a reference to the Trinity: "And now the Sovereign Lord (the Father) has sent me (the Son) endowed with his Spirit (the Holy Spirit)." When we resist God's word by not listening (Isa 48:17-19), idolatry prevails, which never profits (Isa 44:9). "Peace...like a river" is not seasonal but perpetual; it is not experienced by the wicked (Isa 48:22).

Practical Application: "If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea" (Isa 48:18)

Truism: There is a transient evanescent peace that comes from the world (John 14:27), but we have real peace when we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

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The Gods and Idols of Babylon are Doomed (Isaiah 46,47)

Babylon, representing worldly kingdoms in contempt of God (Rev 18:1-24), are destined for defeat and destruction.

God's Purposes Always Prevails (Isa 46:1-13)

Bel and Nebo (Isa 46:1), the 2 chief gods of Babylon can't save them when Cyrus came to take them into captivity (Isa 46:2). Only God is able to save his remnant (Isa 46:3,4). God cannot be compared to anything in creation (Isa 46:5), not to gold or silver that can never save anyone (Isa 46:6,7). So, God says to his people, "Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind" (Isa 46:8), and "Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted" (Isa 46:12), for our natural thoughts gravitate to idols and resist the truth about God. Only God is God whose purposes always prevail (Isa 46:9-11,13).

Babylon is Doomed to Humiliation (Isa 47:1-15)

As judgment descends upon Babylon (Isa 47:1-3), God is the only place of refuge (Isa 47:4). Though God used Babylon to discipline his people, as he said he would (Dt 28:49,50), God still held Babylon accountable for her abuses (Isa 47:5-7), and her self-deifying autonomy (Isa 47:8,10). She will suffer sudden loss of children and widowhood (Isa 47:9), disaster and ruin (Isa 47:11-15).

Practical Application: "Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels" (Isa 46:8).

Remember: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isa 46:9).

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The Lord Alone is God (Isaiah 44,45)

Despite his people's superficial worship, unrepentant hearts (Isa 42:22-24, 26-28), and persistent idolatry (Isa 44:9-20), God declares his deity (Isa 44:6-8), and promises to bless and pour out his life-giving Spirit upon them (Isa 44:1-5), for his own sake (Isa 42:25).

Besides Me There Is No God (Isa 44:1-45:13)

God is committed to his people because he choose them ("Jeshurun" means "upright one"). They became thirsty and dry because of their rebellion, but God would pour our his Spirit upon them and the Gentiles (Isa 44:3-5, 32:15; Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:38,39). Like God, Jesus affirms his deity by calling Himself the First and the Last (Isa 44:6-8; Rev 1:17, 2:8, 22:13). Because the Lord alone is God, it exposes all our useless worthless idols that make us stupid by deceiving our deluded hearts (Isa 44:7-20). God alone can redeem us (Isa 44:21-24). God, who is sovereign over all things, names Cyrus the Great as the one through whom he will restore postexillic Jerusalem (Isa 44:24-28, 45:1-13; 1 Ki 13:1-3; 2 Ki 23:15-17). With no financial incentive for Cyrus, his support of the rebuilding of the temple had to be of God (Isa 45:13).

There Is No Other God Besides Me (Isa 45:14-25)

God hiding himself (Isa 45:15) does not mean that God is evasive, but that he is counterintuitive. Though his people were exiled and felt abandoned by God, yet God was always with them, and God would save and deliver them (Isa 45:17). How do we know? Because God alone is God (Isa 45:14,21,22).

Practical Application: Idols never save (Isa 44:9-20), only God alone saves.

Food For Thought: "Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all." St. Augustine

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Through God's Chosen Servant, God Glorifies Himself and Heals the World (Isaiah 42,43)

Isa 42:1-25 Don Carson's Daily Devotional. This servant song is divided into three parts.

  1. In Isa 42:1-4 God addresses Israel and introduces the Servant, who will bring “justice” to the nations.
  2. In Isa 42:5-7, the Servant himself is addressed (note Isa 42:6: “I the LORD, have called you [sing.] in righteousness”), and Israel is allowed to overhear what is said. Here the God who gives breath to all people (Isa 42:5) now makes this Servant “to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles” (Isa 42:6), undoing all the degrading effects of sin (Isa 42:7).
  3. In Isa 42:8-9, the Lord again addresses Israel, once again summarizing the mission of the ideal Servant and insisting that these are “new things” graciously announced in advance.

Isa 42:1-9 is the first of 4 Servant Songs, fulfilled in Christ (Isa 49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). "The servant of the Lord," sprinkled through out ch. 40-55, is a title for the people as a whole (Israel, the church), but at times the servant is a specific person who is distinct from the whole.

God's Chosen Servant (Isa 42:1-9; 10-17; 18-25)

God's Servant is the only Savior of the world (Isa 42:1; Mt 12:18-21). The key word "justice" (Isa 42:1,3,4) means fulfilling mutual obligations (forgiveness) consistent with God's moral law to individuals and the world. Unlike human rulers, like Cyrus (Isa 41:2-4,25-29), the Lord's quiet servant will not crush but defend the weak (Isa 42:2,3; 11:4; 40:11). God will fulfill his covenant promise to his people and heal the nations (Isa 42:4,6,7), for he is the Creator and Sustainer God (Isa 42:5), who will glorify himself (Isa 42:8,9). Because of the Servant's work of redemption, the world will sing a new song, with unprecedented praise to God (Isa 42:10-17; 1 Pe 2:9). Though Israel is God's chosen instrument and servant, they, like the blind (Isa 42:18-20) on account of their disobedience (Isa 42:22-25), need God's word (Isa 42:21), and God's salvation themselves (Isa 42:6-9).

Israel's Only Savior (Isa 43:1-28)

For his own glory, God reassures his people that he, their Savior (Isa 43:3,11), Redeemer, Creator and King (Isa 43:14,15), will ransom and restore them from their enemies (Isa 43:1-7) through a new exodus (Isa 43:16-21). Why would God save them? In order to be witnesses to God's exclusive reality as God to the world (Isa 43:8-13). Yet they failed to honor God, and burdened God with their sins (Isa 43:22-28).
Memorable Verses: "A bruised reed he will not break" (Isa 42:3); "I will not yield my glory to another" (Isa 42:8); "Sing to the Lord a new song" (Isa 42:10); "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you" (Isa 43:2); "I created for my glory" (Isa 43:7); "I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior" (Isa 43:11); "See, I am doing a new thing" (Isa 43:19).

Application Verse: "The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness' sake, to maginify his law and make it glorious" (Isa 42:21).


2010: the year of the Gospel; 2011: the year of Grace

Happy New Year! In brief, I pray that 2011 may be the year of Grace--my weakest attribute amongst too many--as some of us prayed for 2010 to be the year of the gospel--the matters of 1st importance (1 Cor 15:3,4). I pray that 2011 may continue our gospel-centered, cross-centered, Christ-centered focus (1 Cor 9:16; Acts 20:24), which can be summarized as Grace.

A Weak Ministry Results from the Rule of Law

I believe that what weakens our Christian influence and Christian ministry is a deviation from grace, however subtle. When Grace is weak, the Law prevails: "Just obey. Just pray. Just repent. You should be thankful. You should work harder and sacrifice more. You should be mission-centered, not family-centered. You're proud. Etc." These statements may be true. But they do not transform the heart. As Paul Zahl, an evangelical Anglican and author, said, Grace alone achieves what the Law demands.

An Unjustified Accusation Against Preaching Grace

Many have made the accusation that preaching grace produces apathy, negligence and laziness--that is "cheap grace." But I'd say that preaching imperatives, such as "make disciples" (without sufficient grace) produces legalism and arrogance among the initiated, and despair, despondency and indifference among the rest. But grace, properly and repeatedly expounded and expressed by the Spirit, leads to the best result. The apostle Paul says it best: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Cor 15:10). So....

So, What's the Problem?

  • If someone is lazy, it may be because I failed to expound on grace sufficiently that produces hard work (Phil 2:12,13).
  • If someone is proud, it may be because I have not expressed the real humility that can only come from grace (Eph 2:8,9).
  • If someone is lustful, it may be because I have not displayed the grace of Christ that reveals the beauty of the Lord (Ps 27:4), and the king in his beauty (Isa 33:17).
  • If someone is disobedient, it may be because I failed to manifest Christ's gracious obedience unto death (Heb 5:8,9).
  • If someone is selfish, it may be because my grace and patience shrunk in proportion to my perception of their selfishness.
  • If someone has no spirit, it may be because my spirit lacks the grace, freedom and liberation that comes from the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:17).
  • If someone is unthankful, it may be because I forget the grace that causes thanksgiving to overflow from within me (2 Cor 4:15).
  • If my ministry is not growing, it may be because I am like the angry legalistic older brother who cannot tolerate despicable failures and ingrates (Luke 15:28-30), rather than the gracious father who loved the ungrateful failure (Luke 15:20).
May God have mercy on me to practically live out in 2011 the truth that "Grace alone achieves what the Law demands." May 2011 be the year of Grace.

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