Michael and Hershey Lanier (Nov 21, 2015)

Romantic 6 minute video: The Wedding of Michael and Hershey Lanier.

Here's the context about the snippet of my wedding address at the beginning of the above video, especially for those who were not present.

Right before the wedding began, Mary Ann, a Filipino pastor's wife, told me that Filipino weddings are full of chaos as this wedding was. So when I gave the wedding address I extemporaneously expressed that chaos, usually associated with confusion, is in this case associated with peace, joy and the kingdom of God because it is the blessed wedding of Michael and Hershey!

"Imagine a man so focused on God that the only reason he looked up to see you is because he heard God say 'that's her.'" Unknown.


Soar Like An Eagle (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah 40 introduces the major section of Isaiah 40-55. The question of God's trustworthiness has been thoroughly answered in Isaiah 7-39 despite man's failure and sins. Now the questions are:
  • What will motivate the people of God to trust him and become the servants they were called to be?
  • How is it possible for sinful Israel to become God's servants?
  • What is to be done about the sin that has alienated them from God?
Isaiah addresses these questions in the future context of the coming Babylonian exile, when he anticipates the questions the exiles will be prompted to ask in that crisis. Isaiah 40-55 answer the questions in two parts:


(Isaiah 39)

Isaiah 39:1-8; 2 Kings 20:12-19

Merodach-Baladan (Isa 39:1) was twice able to make himself king of Babylon in defiance of the Assyrians (721-710 and 705-703). He was ousted by Sennacherib in 703 and escaped to Elam (modern Iran) where he continued to plot against the Assyrians until his death. That he heard about Hezekiah's illness and recovery suggests that he had a good intelligence system and that communication between various parts of the ancient world was good.

Hezekiah was glad to receive the envoys (Isa 39:2a), because a great world leader was paying attention to little Judah. Surely he felt flattered. What is dangerous about such notoriety is that one can easily succumb to the temptation to convince the important person that he is worthy of the attention given to him. Sadly, Hezekiah falls to this temptation.


(Isaiah 38)

Isaiah 36-39 stand in relation to Isaiah 7-12 as a kind of mirror image. Ch.7-12 show the consequences of Ahaz's refusal to trust God and instead trusting the nations, in particular Assyria. The result was near destruction at the hands of the very nation he trusted. But these chapters (7-12) conclude on a hopeful note because God will not break his promise either to his people or to the house of David. God will send a Davidic Messiah to restore his people and rule them in peace and justice (Isa 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1-16; 12:1-6). But ch.36-37 reverse the picture. Isaiah's prophecy has come true, and Judah has been devastated by Assyria. However, Hezekiah, Ahaz's son, does put his trust in God and does not surrender to Assyria. As a result God proves his trustworthiness by keeping his word and delivering Judah from Sennacherib.


(Isaiah 37)

Some scholars believe that 37:9-38 to be a second account of the same event narrated in 36:1-37:7. But a particular difference is that the challenge has moved to focus exclusively on God's ability to deliver, and that Hezekiah's own commitment seems much more forthright and direct, and that the oracle from God is much more forceful and direct. A plausible explanation of the facts is that Hezekiah, encouraged by Isaiah's words in Isa 37:6-7, has moved beyond a hesitant faith and responded to the field commander's challenge with the assertion that the Lord will deliver Jerusalem (Isa 37:10). Thus, Sennacherib's letter is a response to Hezekiah, and Hezekiah's prayer is indicative of his now-total reliance on God.
  1. Hezekiah's Prayer (37:8-20).
  2. God's response to Hezekiah's Prayer (37:21-38).


The Ultimatum (Isaiah 36)

Isaiah 36-39 forms the last section in ch. 7-39 called "Lessons in Trust": Shall we put our trust in God or in the nations?
  • Isaiah 7-12: Ahaz gave the wrong answer to Isaiah.
  • Isaiah 13-35: Isaiah explains why trust in the nations is so foolish.
    • Isaiah 13-23: All people/nations are under God's judgment by the Holy One of Israel.
    • Isaiah 24-27: God's judgment of all nations of the earth will bring history to a close with the redemption of the faithful of all nations, as well as his own people.
    • Isaiah 28-35: Isaiah speaks forcefully against the folly of trusting Egypt instead of God in the specific circumstances leading up to the attack by the Assyrian Sennacherib in 701 BC.
  • Isaiah 36-39: After the above lessons in trust, the test as to whether to trust God or the nations is administered once again, this time to the son of Ahaz, Hezekiah. These chapters are the climax of the whole argument of Isaiah to this point. Isaiah asserts over and over again that God can be trusted. But is that all just rhetoric? No, everything Isaiah said is true in his specific historical context and significance. The main question is whether anyone is listening or not? In brief, it is a short-term "yes" but a long-term "no."


Salvation (Isaiah 35): A Highway Will Be There

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it" (Isa 35:8, NIV).

In Isaiah 28-35 the central issue was the stupid advice of the leaders for Judah to trust Egypt, instead of God. Isaiah 34 poetically expresses that trusting in the nations results in a desert, while Isaiah 35 shows the drastic and dramatic contrast when one trusts God. In brief, God will turn the desert into a garden (Isa 35:1). "The burning sand will become a pool" and the places "where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow" (Isa 35:7). This is in sharp contrast to the desolation that endured from generation to generation (Isa 34:10, 17). Even such desolation can be changed by God if we let him. God will reveal his glory by making them as rich and abundant as the forests on Lebanon and Carmel or the grasslands of the plan of Sharon (Isa 35:2; 33:9). When the rains of God fall, a barren waste springs into splendorous color almost overnight.


Judgment (Isaiah 34): Listen, Look into the Scroll

"Come near, you nations, and listen: pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!" "Look in the scroll and read..." (Isa 34:1, 16a)

Isaiah 34-35 offer a conclusion not only to chs. 28-33, but more largely to all of chs. 13-33. Throughout chs. 7-39 (entitled, "Lessons in Trust") God through Isaiah has been showing the people of Israel why they should trust God and not the nations. Now in ch. 34-35 the alternatives are depicted in glaring contrast. To trust the nations is to become a desert (Isaiah 34), but God can be trusted so that even if we have chosen the nations, God can make the desert burst forth with flowers (Isaiah 35). The singular point is clear: Trust God!


See the King in His Beauty (Isaiah 33:17-24)

"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; you will see a vast land" [a land that stretches afar] (Isa 33:17, HCSB).

33:17-24 concludes Isaiah 32-33 by stressing the beauty of the divinely provided leader (Isa 33:17). He is the opposite of their drunken, blind, and confused leaders who secretly oppose God's intention (Isa 28:7; 29:10, 15; 30:1). This King is the gracious promise for which they long and wait (Isa 33:2). This promise was fulfilled in multiple ways (in at least four different historical settings) throughout Israel's history.


Be Our Strength Every Morning (Isaiah 33:1-16)

"Lord, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning and our salvation in time of trouble" (Isa 33:2, HCSB).

Isaiah 33 continues the description of the kingdom of the true messiah. It is introduced by the 6th and final woe in this section that began in Isaiah 28. But this woe is not addressed to the people of Israel or its leaders, but to the enemy of Jerusalem, almost certainly Assyria. The true king is the one who can bring about the deliverance that the drunken blind leaders cannot. 33:1-16 has two parts:
  1. The woe and an appeal to God (1-6).
    • the woe (1).
    • an appeal to God (2), which is based on
    • God's character and power (3-6).
  2. Deliverance to come from God (7-16).
    • the hopelessness of the situation (7-9).
    • a promise by God to take action (10-16).


Quietness and Confidence Forever (Isaiah 32:9-20)

Isaiah 32:9-20

"The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence (trust, assurance) forever" (Isa 32:17, NIV).

32:9-14 and 32:15-20 seem unrelated. But they show a consistent train of thought as they address the issue that everything in Isaiah 7-39 ultimately goes back to: Trust and Security. 32:9-14 condemn women who are "complacent" and "secure" (Isa 32:9), apparently because of a good harvest. Isaiah says that their complacency is terribly misplaced, for in only one year, all that will change (Isa 32:10). They should start mourning now (Isa 32:11-12) because of the agricultural disaster about to come on them. "Thorns and briers" (Isa 32:13a) speak not only of a mere physical disaster, but speak also of the spiritual condition of the nation (Isa 5:6; 27:4). "Merriment" and "revelry" will soon cease (Isa 32:13b), and all the places where strength and rule could be expected will be abandoned (Isa 32:14). All the false trusts will have failed. But this does not mean that God has failed.


Good Leaders Rule With Justice (Isaiah 32:1-8)

Isaiah 32-33 (32:1-8; 9-20; 33:1-16; 17-24)

"See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice" (Isa 32:1, NIV).
  • Isaiah 28-29 spoke of false leaders.
  • Isaiah 30-31 spoke of false counsel.
  • Isaiah 32-33 speak of the true leader and the characteristics of his reign. This section can be divided into:
    1. The nature of true leadership (32:1-8). His reign is characterized by righteousness and justice (Isa 32:1).
    2. The Spirit as being necessary for true leadership (32:9-20).
    3. The necessity of divine intervention on Judah's behalf explained (33:1-16).
    4. A graphic illustration of the rule of the King (33:17-24).


Trusting Egypt Doesn't Work (Isaiah 31)

Isaiah 31

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!" (Isa 31:1, ESV) "Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against" (Isa 31:6, NIV).

The major theme of this section--chs. 28-33--is "Woe to those who do not trust (wait on) God" with Isa 31:1 being the key verse; it is also the 5th woe in this section. To recap:


A Different Gospel

(The Gospel Gap-2 Peter 1:3-9. Sermon at West Loop on 11/8/2015 by Rhoel Lomahan.) There are many "different gospels" that Christians may mistake as "the gospel." Here are a few of them:

Formalism. Formalism is blind to the seriousness of my spiritual condition and my constant need for God's grace to rescue me. It is replaced by church activities, meetings, conferences and gatherings. There is nothing wrong with participation simply as one healthy aspect of a good life. The gospel is reduced to participation in the meetings and ministries of the church. One friend told me a told me he was a slave of formalism. Whenever his members didn't attend a meeting, he didn't ask how they were doing, but rather he would say in an angry tone, "Why did you miss the meeting?"


God Graciously Waits (Isaiah 30)

Isaiah 30 (1-7, 8-18, 19-26, 27-33)

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it'" (Isa 30:15). "Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him" (Isa 30:18, NKJV).

Isaiah 28-33 can be titled "The Folly of Trusting the Nations" (or "Woe to those who do not trust or wait on God"). Isaiah pronounces "woe" [the funeral word] six times in this section (Isa 28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1), because the refusal to trust God will only lead to destruction.


Love by C. S. Lewis

The will. "Christian love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will." "Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion.  It is a state not of feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people."

Feeling after acting. "The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.  If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."


Bad Leaders Produce Unacceptable Worship (Isaiah 29)

Isaiah 29 (1-8, 9-14, 15-24)

"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'" (Isa 29:13, NIV).

Isaiah 28-33 continues the discourse (which begun in Isaiah 7) of the foolishness of trusting the nations instead of the Lord, by dealing particularly with the specific political situation in Judah: Would Judah trust God or not? The same approach was seen in ch. 13-27 where particular nations were addressed (13-23) before addressing the world as a whole (24-27).