Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 18 September 18:
1. Isaiah 27:4, 5 – “Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection. Let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” There is an old saying, “If you love flowers, you must hate weeds.” Our loving God hates sin, and sinners make themselves enemies to God. Though we all sin, God offers salvation, reconciliation, and peace through His Son, The Prince of Peace — this is the Good News of the Gospel. But the Good News is only good news to those who accept it. To everyone else, the unrepentant who reject it, it is damnation.
2. Isaiah 28:1, 6-7 – “…and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. These also reel with wine and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are swallowed by wine, they stagger with strong drink, they reel in vision, they stumble in giving judgment.” God calls people to turn to Him, His Spirit, and His Justice for comfort rather than liquid spirits of alcohol. There is no escape from pain except through Jesus. People have many forms of escapism today – food, alcohol, entertainment, even exercise. Turn to Jesus.
3. Isaiah 28:7, 12-14, 16 – God insists that His people obey His word. This is very clear throughout the entire Bible. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments…. Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” Grace frees us from the requirements of the law, which has no power to save, and gives us the Holy Spirit which not only enables us to obey but also gives us a heart to obey. Those who genuinely desire to obey do not need a law to compel them to do what they already want to do. Where you lack obedience, you don’t need a greater appreciation of the law, you need a greater appreciation for Jesus. Saul, who was driven by the law to persecute Christians, later became Paul who was compelled by the love of Christ to live for Christ, to be conformed to His image, and to obey the law of love. Focus on Jesus and follow Him.
4. Isaiah 28:10 — “For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose’; yet they would not hear. And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”
– Religion, ritual, legalism, and self-righteous are no substitutes for a genuine relationship with God filled with faith, hope, and love. The Pharisees had the rules, but they didn’t have the relationship. Their righteousness was really no righteousness at all because they were guilty of disobeying both the First Commandment and the Greatest Commandment – Have no other gods, and love God totally. Rather, ‘self’ was both their idol and their love, and what obedience they had was driven by pride and self-righteousness. In Isaiah, God warns that there can be no rest in works of the flesh (self-righteous deeds) and no salvation. Only the Stone in Zion, the “Precious Cornerstone,” Jesus Christ, can bring peace, rest, and salvation. To those who walk by the flesh rather than the Spirit, their religion is nothing but powerless, burdensome, joyless, thankless, rules upon rules that will lead them to misery and destruction. If works-based religion has left you flat, tired, and empty, turn to God for a genuine relationship that inspires the sort of true love that makes obedience a joy.
— 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
— Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
– The word used here for “precept” is the word that describes a command that would be given a small child. The word “line” signifies the line a mason uses to measure layer upon layers of bricks. It appears here that God’s people had a very childish approach to God’s word and only saw it as a bunch of do’s and don’ts rather than God’s living word intended to draw them closer to God. God calls us to have a child-like faith, not a childish faith. Grow up in Christ.
– Turning from a genuine love relationship with God to a legalistic religion that calls for duty rather than love is departing from God.
5. Isaiah 28:15 – “…we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter.” Placing your hope in anything other than Jesus is to place you hope in a lie. The inevitable result is destruction.
6. Isaiah 28:16-18 — “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter. Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;” Jesus is the Cornerstone who defeats death. Jesus brings grace but also justice. He will put an end to injustice. Whoever believes in Him will be saved. Whoever believes in Him will seek to live lives of justice, mercy, and grace in order to honor and glorify Him.
7. Isaiah 28:17-29:6 – Some people attempt to predict God’s ways, but God reveals His ways through His word, empowered by the Holy Spirit. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) However, He also says, “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” You can’t predict God’s actions, but He can reveal them if you are walking in the Spirit through loving obedience and surrender. What is God revealing to you through your Bible study, prayer, and the conviction of His Holy Spirit through daily activities and encounters? If you cannot hear God’s clear word, check your heart and your obedience. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
8. Isaiah 28:21-22 – “For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused;
to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work! Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord God of hosts against the whole land.” God’s works are strange to the sinner, and He will destroy those who mock His word and ways.
9. Isaiah 28:23-29 – Like a farmer, God knows exactly what to do and when to cultivate His harvest.
10. Proverbs 18:1 – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Friendliness is a mark of unselfishness. Unfriendliness is selfishness. How friendly are you? If you are a Christian who says, “I’m just not a people person,” you may want to check your heart and reexamine your mission from God of love and reconciliation.
11. Proverbs 18:2 – “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Instead of just relying on and venting what you think is right, stop and humbly, carefully, consider the opinions of others, not just to validate or invalidate your own thinking but also to truly understand the other person. If you are correct, your beliefs will stand the scrutiny of critique. If the other person is wrong, the important thing is not to celebrate your debate victory but rather to pursue their reconciliation with Jesus. Don’t win arguments; win souls.
12. Proverbs 18:6, 7, 21 – “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul…. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” So many of our problems are caused because we can’t control our tongues.
13. Proverbs 18:9 – “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Careless work is a sin before God.
14. Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” If, while someone is talking, you are already devising your response, you are acting both foolishly and shamelessly.
15. Hebrews 4:1-11 — Hearing God’s word does not guarantee a changed heart, a closer relationship with God, or sanctification.
16. Hebrews 4:2 – “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” The word must be believed in faith in order to have benefit. Without faith, you can’t really hear the word.
17. Hebrews 4:8 – “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.” Joshua in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ day as does the entire Old Testament.
18. Hebrews 4:12, 13 – “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
– God’s word shows you if your attitudes and thoughts please God.
– How has God’s Word penetrated your heart lately? Has the Holy Spirit used certain passages in the Scriptures to strike at your conscience? Has the Counselor revealed a place where your life is not in conformity to Christ? Are you struggling with gossip, hatred, anger, bitterness, greed, pride, jealousy, fear, ingratitude, etc? Regardless of how well you hide your sin from public view, the Holy Spirit will convict you through God’s Word. One response to the discomfort of conviction is to avoid reading the Bible; perhaps this is one reason why so many find it so hard to “find time” for Bible reading. Better to be continually washed by the Word (Eph 5:26). Others will approach the Scriptures superficially, avoiding too much painful introspection. Perhaps for them the Bible becomes “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there (Isa 28:10)” as described in our readings this morning. However, the Holy Spirit looks beyond outward actions to address the motives of your heart. Far better to approach your daily Scripture readings with the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23, 24).” Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thes 5:19). “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden you heart (Hebrews 3:7).” Be transformed “by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).” Read; respond, and walk in the Light (1 John 1:7). Let’s continue to encourage each other along the way.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — Does God’s word ever cause you discomfort? When you read the Bible does what you read make you uneasy? Do you find when you listen to sermons, that the Scripture seems aimed directly at you? You are experiencing the reality that the word of God is alive and can read your thoughts and judge your intentions. When God’s word speaks to you it is always for a purpose. God knows your heart and knows what you need to do to bring your life into conformity to Christ. If you have a problem with sinful talk, the word that comes to you will address the tongue. If you are struggling to forgive, God’s word will confront you with His standard for forgiveness. If pride has a stronghold in your life, God’s word will speak to you about humility. Whatever sin needs addressing, you will find you are confronted by God’s word on the matter…. Regularly allow the word of God to wash over you and find any sin or impurity (Eph. 5:26). Always make the connection between your life and what God is saying to you through His word. Make a habit of taking every word from God seriously, knowing that it is able to judge your heart and mind.
19. Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus represents us in Heaven, understands us, cares for us, and invites us to ask for what we need.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Sep 18: Don’t fall short of the promise you have received through the grace given you through Jesus. Despite your sin, by grace, you were made righteous through Jesus. Grace is your opportunity to walk in righteousness, to live righteously in worship to God, giving Him glory before others. Today, walk your gratitude and reflect the character of Jesus to others. Introduce others to Jesus, and encourage other Christians through your actions to walk more closely with Jesus who is our Joy, Comfort, and Peace on earth.