deceptive assumptions

June 2015 (30)Isaiah 53:1-5

1 Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of Yahveh been revealed? 2 Because he grew up like a stalk before him, and like a root from dry ground. He had no form and no majesty that we should consider him, and no appearance that we should take pleasure in him. 3 Men despised and rejected him, a man of suffering, and knowing sickness, and people hiding their face from him. He was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard. 4 However, he was the one who lifted up our sicknesses, and he carried our pain, yet we ourselves assumed him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the beating which brought us wholeness was placed upon him, and by his wound healing happened for us.

deceptive assumptions

Isaiah’s people were a despised lot. No one would have expected the Son of God to make his appearance among men as one of the Israelites. But that is exactly what Isaiah predicts. And just to show that God rejects all our deceptive assumptions, Isaiah predicts that when the Messiah does show himself, he will be despised and rejected by those same people. He will appear weak, struck down and afflicted. But this beating he would take would be as a substitute for the transgressions of the world.

Before we run off with this idea as it relates to Christ, and his suffering on the cross, we need to see the message from Isaiah’s standpoint. He was speaking to a group of people who had deceptive assumptions about themselves. He was trying to encourage them to stop believing those lies. The truth is, God did want to work though them. Example: the Messiah himself would be seen as a beaten, condemned criminal. But God would work in that reality to save us all.

What deceptive assumptions cloud your vision? What keeps you from trusting God? Remember that God has chosen you, so stop doubting that.

LORD, give us the vision to see through the deceptive assumptions.

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the disturbing one

June 2015 (29)Isaiah 52:11-15

11 Turn around, turn around, get out of there! Do not touch any unclean thing. Get out from the middle of it, keep clean, you who carry the vessels of Yahveh. 12 Because you will not go out in a hurry, and you will not go escaping, because Yahveh proceeds you; and the God of Israel is your rear guard. 13 Watch, my servant will achieve success; he will be exalted, and he will be lifted up, and he will be very high. 14 Just like many were appalled at you—in the same way his appearance was beyond human disfigurement, and his form beyond the sons of Adam—15 so he will disturb many nations; because of him, kings will shut their mouth. Because they will see what has not been told them, and they will contemplate what they have not heard.

the disturbing one

Isaiah calls his people to stop cowering in defeat under the oppression of their foreign emperor. He challenges them to turn around, lift their heads high, and watch. Coming soon there will be a change in the scenario. A servant is going to arise who will disturb the nations. He will appear disfigured when he is lifted up, and will disturb many nations. He will change reality forever, forcing the proud and superior to rethink things.

Isaiah did not live to see the fulfilment of this prophecy. But you and I know that time itself was rattled and deeply disturbed by what happened on a hill in Jerusalem a few centuries after Isaiah predicted it. Christ can set you free, but first he will disturb you deeply, and get you to thinking.

LORD, disturb us, until we recognise you for who you are, and allow you to change us.

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feet and voices

June 2015 (28)Isaiah 52:7-10

7 How well fitting on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God is reigning as king.” 8 The sound of your watchmen! They lift up that sound; together they sing for joy; because they see Yahveh’s return to Zion clearly. 9 Break forth, sing for joy together, ruins of Jerusalem, because Yahveh has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 Yahveh has bared the arm of his holiness to the eyes of all the nations, and the whole land will see deliverance from our God.

feet and voices

The word translated “beautiful” – describing the feet of those bringing the good news of God’s deliverance – has the connotation of fitting well. I am reminded of my wife, who has the most difficult time finding footwear that fits right. We spend lots of time in stores, where she tries on pair after pair. Isaiah uses a word that speaks of feet fitting in appropriately. He then goes on to describe voices which harmonize together. The idea behind both these metaphors is that the news of deliverance just feel right.

The LORD has some good news for us in Christ. When we finally hear that our sins have been forgiven by Christ’s death on Calvary, it feels great. We want to kiss those beautiful feet who brought such good news to us.

LORD, help us to be the well-fitting feet who bring good news of your deliverance to others.

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he is the reason

June 2015 (27)Isaiah 52:1-6

1 Get up, get up!; put on your strength, Zion! Put on the clothes that show your beauty, Jerusalem, city of holiness; because the uncircumcised and the unclean will not keep entering you any longer. 2 Shake yourself free from that dust! Rise up; sit, Jerusalem! Free yourselves from the bonds around your neck, captive daughter of Zion! 3 Because this is what Yahveh says: “You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without money.” 4 Because this is what the Lord Yahveh says: “My people went down to Egypt in the beginning, to live as aliens there, and Assyria oppressed him for no reason. 5 And now what do I have here?” Yahveh declares, “because my people are taken for no reason. Its rulers howl,” Yahveh declares–“and my name is being despised continually, all day. 6 For this reason, my people will know my name, for this reason, in that day, that I am the reason. Look at me.

he is the reason

Isaiah’s people could look in their past and see all kinds of events that happened for no apparent reason. He assures them that the LORD was about to do something for a reason, and the LORD is the reason.

Many bad things have happened to you – or are maybe now happening. I cannot promise you that all those things are going to work out for your good unless the LORD is in your life. But if you are a believer in Christ, I can promise you that God wants to do something extraordinary with your life. He is the reason. Surrender to his desire for you.

LORD, come and make a permanent difference in our lives. We need you.

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false hopes replaced

June 2015 (26)Isaiah 51:17-23

17 Get yourself up! Get yourself up! Stand up, Jerusalem, you who have already drunk from the hand of Yahveh the cup of his wrath; you have drunk the glass, the cup of staggering; you have drained it out. 18 There is no one who guides her of all the children she has given birth to, and there is no one who holds her by the hand among of all the children she brought up. 19 Two crises have hit you –who cares about what you experience?– devastation and destruction, scarcity and sword—but who will comfort you? 20 Your children have passed out; they lie at the head of all the streets, like an antelope in a snare, those who are full of the wrath of Yahveh, the rebuke of your God. 21 So hear this now, afflicted and drunken one (but not from wine). 22 Thus says your Lord, Yahveh, and your God pleads the cause of his people: “Watch! I have taken from your hand the cup of stumbling. You will not drink again from that glass, the cup of my wrath; no longer. 23 And I will put it in the hand of your tormenters, who have said to your soul ‘Bow down so that we may walk all over you!’ And you have made your back flat like the ground, and like the street for those who wanted to walk all over you.”

false hopes replaced

Isaiah’s Jerusalem had trusted in two false hopes, which have led to disaster for them. First, they had assumed that if they did what the neighbouring nations did, it would lead to peace. No, peace does not come from that kind of unity. Peer pressure leads to sin, and sin leads to judgment. Secondly, they had assumed that no matter how corrupt this generation becomes, there would always be strength to recue them in the next generation. Wrong again. Jerusalem ended up bereft of an entire generation of would-be rescuers.

Isaiah tells this beaten down people to look up. There is still a true hope to replace those false hopes. It is God himself. He will rescue his people from the consequences of their own sin and short-sightedness.

LORD, we see all around us evidence of the devastation caused by our assumptions. Forgive us, and rescue us. We choose to trust in you.

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four looks at God

June 2015 (25)Isaiah 51:12-16

12 I — I am He — your encourager, Who are you — and you are afraid of man? he dies! And of Adam’s son — he is made of grass! 13 And you forget Yahveh your maker, who stretches out the skies, and creates the land, And you are continually afraid all day long, because of the fury of your oppressor, because he has gotten ready to destroy you. But where is the fury of that oppressor? 14 The exile is in a hurry to be set free, and he will not die in the dungeon, and his bread will not be lacking. 15 And I am Yahveh your God, calming the sea, when its billows roar, Yahveh of Armies is his name. 16 And I put my words in your mouth, and with the shadow of my hand have covered you, to plant the skies, and to establish the land, and to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

four looks at God

Isaiah sees a cowering, discouraged people, and urges them to look at their LORD. Yahveh is their encourager, their maker, their God, and the mover of armies. If he can just get his people to concentrate on who God is instead of seeing only the things they are choosing to fear, he knows that they can be released from the paralysis of fear.

We have been told by so many people with good intentions that theology does not matter. When we are in bondage to fear, theology matters. What we know about God, and how we view God makes a vital difference in our ability to rise above our problems and have hope for a different future. Study theology. See who God really is, and it will make a difference.

LORD, give us the wisdom to look closely at who you are, so that we can overcome our discouragement and fear.

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the really permanent things

June 2015 (24)Isaiah 51:6-11

6 Lift your eyes to the skies and stare at the ground under you; because those skies will disappear like smoke, and that ground will wear out like clothing, and those who live on it will die just like that; but my deliverance will be permanent, and my righteous ones will never have to worry. 7 Listen to me, you who are aware of that righteousness, you people who have my instruction in your heart; don’t be afraid of those human critics, and don’t worry about their disrespectful words. 8 Because a moth will devour them like clothing; a worm will devour them like wool, but my righteous ones will be permanent, and my deliverance will last through all generations. 9 Wake up! wake up; get strong, arm of Yahveh! wake up like you did in the old days, those generations a long time back! Are you not the same one who cut Rahab in pieces, the one who pierced the sea-dragon? 10 Are you not the one who dried up a sea, huge deep waters, the one who turned the deep sea into a road for those you rescued to cross over? 11 In the same way, the Yahveh’s rescued ones will return, and they will come to Zion with singing, and with permanent joy resting on top of them. Joy and gladness will reach them, and sorrow and depression will run away!

the really permanent things

Isaiah’s countrymen thought there were three things that were permanent: skies above, the ground below, and the disrespect of the nations around them. But he told them to look again. The skies will not last. The ground will wear out, and those powerful nations will some day have to take back their criticism. Because God is going to rescue his people, once again – the way he rescued them from Egypt. One day the rescued will return to Zion singing and with their joy restored – permanently.

Isaiah’s challenge is for us as well. The Lord wants us to take another look at all the things we think are permanent in this age. The really permanent things are God’s word and his will. Some day everyone will know that. But you and I are challenged to live it today.

LORD, we wait for your permanent rescue, and we refuse to believe in all these temporary things. We choose to trust you and your word.

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look to that rock

June 2015 (23)Isaiah 51:1-5

1 “Listen to me, you who are pursuing righteousness, who are seeking Yahveh. Look to that rock from whom you were hewn, and to that deep pit from whom you were quarried. 2 Pay close attention to Abraham your father, and to Sarah; she brought you forth. Because I called him when he was one but I blessed him and made him numerous.” 3 Because Yahveh will comfort Zion; he will comfort all its sites of ruins. And he will remake its wilderness like Eden, and its desert like the garden of Yahveh. Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and a sound of song. 4 “Listen attentively to me, my people, and my nation, listen to me! Because an instruction will go out from me, and I will cause my justice to rest for a light on peoples. 5 My righteousness is near; my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge peoples. Coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they wait.

look to that rock

In the Ben Affleck movie Paycheck, the hero of the film wakes to find his memories erased, and people are out to get him. His only help is found in a package he has sent to himself, with a bunch of odd trinkets and clues. But these clues are his way out of his problems. I could not help but think of that when I read today’s text. The Israelites are in terrible danger of defeat and destruction. Isaiah tells them that their only hope is the one thing they have left – a relationship with God. Their heavenly Father brought them up from one man, whom he called to himself and made into a numerous nation. Now, he is asking them to trust in him. He is asking us to do the same thing.

LORD, give us the wisdom to use the one thing we have that cannot be taken from us, to pursue your righteousness and deliverance.

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walk in the flame

June 2015 (22)Isaiah 50:6-11

6 I surrendered my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from their insults and spitting. 7 The Lord Yahveh will help me; so I have not been disgraced; so I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 The One who vindicates me is near. Who will oppose me? Let us stand up together. Who are my enemies? Let them challenge me. 9 It is the Lord Yahveh who will help me; who will convict me of guilt? They will all wear out like a garment; the moth will consume them. 10 Who is among you, fearing Yahveh, listening to the voice of his servant, who has walked in dark places, and there is no light for him? Let him trust in the name of Yahveh, and lean upon his God. 11 Watch out all of you fire starters, lighters of torches. Go ahead, walk in the flame of your fire, and among the torches that you have lighted! This is what you will get from my hand: you will lie down in torment.

walk in the flame

Isaiah describes those who condemn his prophecies as fire starters, lighters of torches. They do not have time for God’s words, and offer this great prophet nothing but abuse and insult. But Isaiah sets his face like flint, determined and resolute. He will stay true to his mission in spite of their rejection. God will vindicate him, and those opponents will be humbled and lie down (die) in torment. These words are also recognised as foretelling the suffering and humiliation Jesus experienced. Both Isaiah and Jesus could suffer in this life, knowing that they would be eventually vindicated by God.

When we face unfair treatment – when people choose to ignore or misrepresent our message – when we are abused and humiliated – we need only remember that those who choose to walk by their own flame will one day regret it. On that day those flames will consume them. Only those who walk by God’s light will avoid judgment and death in hell.

LORD, give us the wisdom to walk by your truth, even when others despise and persecute us for it.

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teacher’s tongues

June 2015 (21)Isaiah 50:1-5

1 This is what Yahveh says: “Where is your mother’s divorce document with which I divorced her? Or to which of my buyers did I sell you? Pay attention; you were sold because of your sins; because of your rebellious acts I divorced your mother. 2 Why does no one challenge me when I visit? Why does no one respond when I call on you? Is my hand really too weak to deliver you? Do I lack the power to rescue you? Watch; with a mere shout I can dry up the sea; I can turn streams into a desert, so the fish rot away and die from lack of water. 3 I can dress the skies in darkness, and cover them with black mourning clothes.” 4 The Lord Yahveh has given me the a teacher’s tongue, so that I may know how to help the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakes me up– wakes my ear to listen attentively like disciples do. 5 The Lord Yahveh opened my ear for me, so I did not rebel — I did not turn back.

teacher’s tongues

Isaiah was not like some other “prophets” of his day. They considered themselves prophets because they said what people wanted them to say. The people wanted to complain about how God had arbitrarily divorced their mother, and sold them into slavery. But God had some other words he wanted to say. He looked for a prophet who would speak those words. Isaiah was willing to pay attention to what God wanted to say. God gave him a teacher’s tongue because he had opened his ear to the truth.

Today the LORD is looking for people who dare to pay attention to his words as well. If we take the time to regularly listen to what he has said in his word, the Bible, he will give us teacher’s tongues. We have no guarantee that our generation will listen to us. But we will know that those who do listen will find rescue and rest.

LORD, give us ears to listen to your words, and tongues to speak them.

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