Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 19 September 18:
1. Isaiah 29:1, 2 — “Add year to year; let the feasts run their round. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning and lamentation.” Many sinners are living in ignorant bliss, unable to see their looming destruction.
– Matthew 24:36-39 — “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
2. Isaiah 29:5-8 – “…all that fight against her and her stronghold and distress her, shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.” God can change the political reality overnight in inconceivable ways.
3. Isaiah 29:10 — “For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).” There is no spiritual vision unless God enables it. When a nation turns from God, it’s religious leaders lose their ability to discern God’s will. However, they don’t lose their jobs. They become blind guides.
4. Isaiah 29:13-14 – “And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.’”
– As people turn farther away from God, worship becomes empty ritual and tradition, void of real power. God’s pure word is replaced by interpretations of God’s word and opinions taught by men. God’s ethic (God’s rules of righteousness) is replaced by morality (what the people say is right, often in the name of religion). Jesus referred to these verses when He rebuked the religious leaders of His day – “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8, 9) Many people who go to churches on Sundays and hear well scripted, motivational sermons by very talented, popular preachers are completely oblivious to what God is actually purposing and doing. Of note, I observe that today, most Bible study groups are studying a book about the Bible as their primary tool rather than the Bible itself.
– Unfaithful religion is not only powerless, it is condemned by God. You can’t live a disobedient life and expect to have any spiritual discernment.
– “This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men… Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’…? ‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh…. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions…. ‘Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant…. For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ’In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling…. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 29:13, 19; 30:1, 2, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18) The Bible says that the Old Testament was given to us in part so that we could learn to avoid the mistakes of the past (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16) Today we should pay attention to the pattern described in Isaiah of the turning away of God’s people from God. The process is gradual, but the conclusion is swift. Isaiah describes an active church-going people whose hearts have actually drifted far from God. Rather than using God’s word to draw closer to God in a genuinely loving relationship, God’s word has become a self-help book for success, eventually replaced by more ‘practical,’ more understandable, more ‘relevant’ teachings of men. They use religion to justify their own selfish endeavors, forming a new morality. Rather than living lives for God, these pots tell the Potter to bless what they want to do. They attempt to drag God along in their pursuit of happiness and convince themselves that God is on their side. They are very busy carrying out plans that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s plan, all in the name of faith, assuming the God will bless their ‘good’ intentions, particularly if they promise to talk about God on occasion with others. To resource their un-ordained pursuit of happiness, they turn to worldly institutions rather than to God. They place their hopes in governments, economies, schools, and social groups. They prefer to company and entertainment of the ungodly; and to avoid any discomfort, they squelch anything from God’s word that disagrees with what has become sociably acceptable. They stop going to that old-fashioned, out of touch church in order to attend that very popular church that is more “in-tune” with the ways of modern society – as predicted, they “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4) This church is not characterized by “rest” and “quietness,” nor is it known for “strength.” It is loud, busy, and powerless. Like a flimsy chair, when the slightest weight is placed upon it, it will collapse suddenly. I believe we need to pay very careful attention to the warning in the Book of Isaiah.
5. Isaiah 29:16 — “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’”?
– How crazy is it that people seek to define God on their own terms. There can be no higher foolishness and arrogance.
– Again, when we live for ourselves, we place ourselves above God. Many Christians act like God exists for them rather than the other way around. Life is not about us, life is about Him.
6. Isaiah 30:1 — “’Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the LORD, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt.'” Just because you say you are doing it for God doesn’t mean God ever wanted you to do it. Many people confuse their ego with the Spirit.
7. Isaiah 30:1, 2 – “’Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!’” If your plans are not God’s plan for you, your plans are doomed from the start. If you think you will find security in society, your job, your government, or anything else other than God, you are wrong. Search the Bible and see that God almost always takes people off their planned course to lead them where He would have them go. Search the Bible and see that God always disciplines those who trust government over Him.
8. Isaiah 30:1, 9-14 — “’Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin…;’ For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’ Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel. ‘Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel.’”
– Many choose to go their own way, guided by their own desires rather than by the Spirit, and then they despise God’s word because it reveals the truth of their sinfulness. This is the path to destruction which eventually comes suddenly. We are to live our lives guided by the Spirit and the Word. There is no other way – we were created to love and serve God; it is our purpose. To live for any other purpose is actually meaningless, meaningless, meaningless – chasing after the wind.
– A sinful people refuse to listen to the truth of God’s word. For example, try to read publicly what the Bible says about homosexuality or divorce and see what happens.
– People or nations which trust human wisdom rather than God’s word are destroyed suddenly and unexpectedly.
9. Isaiah 30:15 – “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling.”
– Quietness is a mark of trust. Compare this verse with Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
– Don’t be unwilling to rest and trust in the Lord.
10. Isaiah 30:20 – “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.” The Lord often allows you to go through hard times to teach you. Your Teacher is always there and knows what is best for you.
11. Isaiah 30:21, 22 – “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, ‘Be gone!’” When you turn to the Lord, He will guide you every step of the way, and the replacements for Him you once enjoyed will be despicable to you.
12. Proverbs 19:2 – “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Think before you act.
13. Proverbs 19:3 – “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” You can’t blame God for your foolish actions and their results.
14. Proverbs 19:4, 7 – “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend…. All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him!” Money can buy friends, just not real ones.
15. Proverbs 19:11 – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” God wants you to forgive the wrongs people do to you.
16. Proverbs 19:11, 19 – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense…. A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” Over and over again, the Bible tells us to watch our tempers and to control our anger. However, many Christians are passive-aggressive. They don’t initially respond to an offense, believe themselves to be obedient to God’s commands, but they don’t immediately forgive either; so, they stew on what happened and let their internal anger fester, only to continue on with a sinful heart. Then, their future encounters with that offender are always viewed in the light of that previous offense, wrecking hope of real peace and reconciliation. Unforgiveness often reveals in avoidance and withdrawal, failing to give the offender your very best. Is there anyone who would alter your joy if they walked unexpectantly into the room? If so, seek reconciliation with them.
17. Proverbs 19:14 – “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” God gave you the person you married for a reason.
18. Proverbs 19:16-17, 22 – “Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die. Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed…. What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.” Your relationship with and obedience to God determine your life fulfilment and success.
19. Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” When you don’t correct someone who is sinning you are contributing to their destruction, and you are revealing your heartlessness.
20. Proverbs 19:19 – “A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” Your temper is the result of a heart condition that must be addressed before you can control your anger. If you don’t fix the heart, there is no control over sin.
21. Proverbs 19:22 – “…a poor man is better than a liar.” Poverty is not the worst condition in life.
22. Proverbs 19:22 – “What is desired in a man is steadfast love.” Life is about relationships. All relationships are based upon trust. Trust is based upon character and integrity. If you are a liar, you have nothing.
23. Hebrews 5:7 – “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” From Henry T. Blackaby — The life of Jesus provides the model for our prayer lives. God is seeking to mold us into the image of His Son (Col. 1:27-28). If we are to act like Christ, our prayer lives must be conformed to His. Many Christians are unwilling to pay the price that Jesus paid when it comes to interceding with God. Jesus’ prayers came with vehement cries and tears and, “because of His godly fear,” He was heard by the Father. Why then, did the Father refuse His request? It was not due to any sin in Jesus’ life, nor was it because the Father did not love His Son. The Father said no, despite the unfathomable love He had for His Son, because He knew He could not spare His Son and save a world. Likewise, the Lord cannot always spare you and your family and complete His redemptive work in those around you. Are you willing for God to deny your pleadings? Will you intercede with the Father so deeply and intimately that even in the midst of your tears you are able to say, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done?” The Father will always relate to you out of the context of His love for a lost world. Has God said no to one of your requests recently? Accept His answer. Have you been learning obedience through what you have been suffering (Heb. 5:8)? If you have, God may choose to make you a source of salvation to others even as He did with His Son.
24. Hebrews 5:7, 8 – “…he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
– Reverence affects your prayers and your obedience. Reverent disciples learn to be obedient through suffering. There is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone.
– We all endure suffering to some degree, but the good news is that through it we can become like Jesus. Are you willing to pay whatever price is necessary in order to become like Christ? There are some things God intends for your life that can come only through suffering. Even Jesus, the sinless Son of God, had to endure the suffering His Father to fulfill His purpose and to obtain His glory. If you become bitter over your hardships, you close some parts of your life from God. If you do this, you will never be complete. Some places in your soul can be reached only by suffering. The Spirit of God has important things to teach you, but you can only learn these lessons in the midst of your trials. Who throughout the Bible didn’t require days of suffering to God to build their character, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Paul? Don’t resent the suffering God allows in your life. Don’t make all your decisions and invest everything you have into avoiding hardship. God did not spare His own Son. How can we expect Him to spare us? Learn obedience even when it hurts!
25. Hebrews 5:12-14 — “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
– God expects believers to train in doctrine in order to be a worthy teacher and a priest. God expects believers to hone their skills in righteousness. It takes constant training and practice to develop spiritual discernment. Discernment is knowing good from evil.
– God expects you to grow spiritually which requires both disciplined study of God’s word as well as practice in God’s word and will. You have to both study hard and practice your faith diligently. Practice implies that you will get it wrong before you get it right.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Sep 18: Recommit yourself to discipleship today. Study God’s word, walk in God’s word with Jesus, rest in God, and wait to be guided by His Spirit, rather than simply your own judgment. Deny self, take up your cross today, and follow Jesus. Don’t live for anything other than Jesus today (and every day from this day forward). (See today’s readings)