Archive for August, 2020
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more” (Isaiah 54:4).
Shame, humiliation, disgrace…all are negative, debilitating, and self-abasing emotions utilized by Satan to keep one hostage to the past; to cripple the joy of your redemption. This the enemy accomplishes between your ears, even when God’s word has declared to your heart the mercies of God that have removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and has cast them into the deepest parts of the sea (Micah 7:19). The life of faith was never intended to be a stifling self-preoccupation with ourselves nor our past, Instead, it is to be a fearless and unfettered outward pursuit of the purposes of God and a manifestation of the Spirit’s ministering presence in the world.
“For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you” (Isaiah 54:7).
That God would forsake his own is unsettling, difficult to hear and, yet, it was a reality experienced even by Jesus on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). Unlike Jesus, God’s people did not ask their prophet why; indicating they knew why and, thus, no explanation was necessary. Even so, grace abounds in that his abandonment was but a brief moment and not an eternal condition. Not even our rebellion, and God’s momentary abandonment, can thwart the eternal purposes of God.
“Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. (Isaiah 54:2-3).
When all that has been known is barrenness, the agony of loss, abandonment, abuse, and injustice, it has a way of diminishing dreams and stealing away the energy necessary to imagine any kind of possibilities beyond the harsh realities of today. The words of the prophet offer an inspired alternative to the people of God. Instead of expecting a future that only perpetuates the problems of the present, we should anticipate a future based upon the past promises of God that will be surely fulfilled.
“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman, says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1).
Without naming the barren one by name, Isaiah harkens his hearer’s back to their birth as a people, and the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. To shout joyfully in the absence of favorable circumstances is an act of defiance. It is the ultimate expression of faith to proclaim the end of barrenness when barrenness is all you ever known. While not just Sarah and the grief of an empty womb, it is a message of hope to all that have known barrenness; that for the people of God, there is always reason to celebrate, shout, and sing.
“But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10).
The portrait of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 is made all the more confounding by the fact that Yahweh not only gives assent to the suffering, but willed it to be so. Any attempt to explain, theologize, theorize, or categorize it is inadequate, and fails to capture the mysteries of God that defy human rationalization. Even so, it offers forth the conviction of the inspired biblical writers that no accident is just an accident; that life is not random, but moving forward to a Providential end. It is a worldview that offers, strangely, a comforting assurance.
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12-13).
Context, circumstances, experience, and one’s station in life are all factors to better understanding the truth of God’s word and the guiding of the Spirit. Just as teachers do not tell all they know in one lesson, or as pastors do not seek to offer the full counsel of God in one sermon, or as a parent doesn’t teach all a child needs to understand in one lecture, neither does the Spirit seek to offer all truth in one baptismal event. Life has a cumulative effect and as these events are experienced the Spirit is able to guide us to a place of providential understanding.
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).
In an academic environment testing is utilized to measure one’s proficiency in a particular field. Sometimes it is necessary to employ a tutor to help achieve the desired objective. In the realm of the eternal the Law plays the role of tutor, not to achieve proficiency in matters of religious performance, but to lead us to faith that the sufficiency of Christ is made known. In solving the question of salvation, don’t be fooled by the trick equation of faith + something else. The correct answer is always faith + nothing else.
“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple” (Isaiah 50:4).
In a world fueled by negative rhetoric and filled with despairing souls, the followers of Christ are uniquely postured as a sustaining voice of hope. This type of influence becomes reality, however, only when our relationship to Christ is constantly before us; in both our laying down and rising up, along with an unwavering awareness of God’s call upon one’s life throughout the day. It is then we have the eyes and ears to see and hear things differently than everyone else; to interpret all things hopefully instead of negatively, fatalistically, or conspiratorially.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law” (Isaiah 42:4).
The human spirit is crushed by the prevalence of injustice that hangs over this world. That there is injustice for any means injustice is problematic for all. Thus, injustice is ever before us as a constant reminder that the hope of God’s people never rests upon the circumstances of this present life. Our language of hope is the anticipation of a coming victorious future day when the redemptive purposes of God, fulfilled in Christ Jesus, will be consummated upon his return and the ushering in of the new heaven and new earth. Justice is always on the horizon and a constant pursuit of God’s people for all people.
“But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6b).
That a cross is the symbol of our faith makes it all the more perplexing why so many professing Christians interpret suffering as something unexpected and an affront to the life of faith. At what point did we ever come to think that the fulfillment of God’s plan and purposes would mean the absence of suffering. A biblical understanding of life on this earth teaches otherwise. Certainly, God had a plan and purpose for the likes of Stephen (stoned to death), Paul (thorn in the flesh), and Peter (crucified upside down), but the plan and purposes of God were not accomplished apart from suffering. It doesn’t mean God caused the suffering but it was, nonetheless, part of their experience, and it will be part of yours. A biblical, and more redemptive, perspective on suffering is to view it as a sacrifice and witness of one’s faith, and a testimony of hope to a broken world.