Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 24 September 18:
1. Isaiah 40:3 – “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” John the Baptist was the voice in the wilderness preparing the people for Jesus.
2. Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” God’s word reflects God’s perfect, eternal, unchanging character and will. Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s word – The Word. Things change, but God’s word doesn’t. God’s word will be true always. God’s promises are firm. Mighty people and mighty nations come and go. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:18) “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)
3. Isaiah 40:9-10, 21 – “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him…. Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” God’s work was evident to God’s people, always has been and always will be.
4. Isaiah 40:11 – “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” God cares for the needs of his people and protects them.
5. Isaiah 40:12, 21-22, 26 – “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?… Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in…. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” God controls everything and everyone; He has created all that exists for His purposes.
6. Isaiah 40:13-14 – “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” God has no teachers or counsellors and gives you complete access to go to Him for teaching and counselling. God’s people all have equal opportunity to receive His counsel but don’t listen and follow equally.
7. Isaiah 40:15-17 – “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” Superiors on earth are powerless before God.
8. Isaiah 40:23-24 – “…who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” The reign of human despots is an eye-blink compared to God’s eternal reign over the universe.
9. Isaiah 40:27-28 – “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” God works in His timing for those He loves and so, at times, appears to be silent.
10. Isaiah 40:30-31 – “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” God’s power gives you unlimited potential in His mission but not in your efforts that are not in support of His mission.
11. Isaiah 41:2-3 – “Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod.” God directed Cyrus of Persia as he became the world ruler. God used the ungodly leader Cyrus for His purposes and is using ungodly leaders today.
12. Isaiah 41:8 – “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend.” From Abraham on, God has loved and directed the work of His servants.
13. Isaiah 41:14 – “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” The Holy One opposes evil forces and as Redeemer saves His people. Fear not.
14. Isaiah 41:15-16 – “Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.” God called Israel to work for Him in His redeeming mission. Now, He has given us the message of redemption. God’s salvation brings joy and praise to His people.
15. Isaiah 41:17 – “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” God never totally forsakes His people who have a heart for repentance.
16. Isaiah 41:20 – “…that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” God wants you to see His work.
17. Isaiah 41:22-24 – “Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.”
– Idols, substitutes for God, leave you clueless about the past and the future.
– The things we choose to place ahead of God in our lives are not good or evil but rather reveal the good or evil that is in our hearts. Inanimate objects cannot sin; they are instruments of our sin. You may have heard people say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Not so! The Bible says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Money is neither good nor bad. It is the love and craving of money that reveals someone’s departure from both the First Commandment and the Greatest Commandment. The abomination is the heart that chooses to place anything ahead of God, even for a second. Similarly, nothing and no one can cause us to sin but only reveal the sinfulness that remains in our hearts. It is our response to sin that matters. God gives us the ability to respond with freedom – we are response able, or responsible for how we respond. Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, but it was an external temptation. Jesus wasn’t tempted in his heart; therefore, he remained without sin. It is amazing to listen to the language of people as they attempt to displace the responsibility of their sin onto someone else or something else. Adam blamed Eve and God for his sin. Smaller children always say things like, “The lamp broke,” rather than “I broke the lamp.” And adult ‘children’ use the same language – “I was provoked…. I couldn’t help it…. I had been drinking…. Etc.” I believe God places difficult situations and difficult people in our lives in part to test our hearts and to reveal to us the true condition of our hearts. One of the reasons humility is so important is that it takes humility to truthfully and consistently examine our own hearts and to hold ourselves accountable rather than attempting to project guilt elsewhere. This is also why Jesus tells us to focus on the plank in our eye rather than the speck in someone else’s eye – we are responsible for our response. It is not what happens to us that reveals what is truly inside of us; it is how we respond to what happens to us. In fact, the worse the situation, the greater potential for our response to bring glory to God and to reveal the Truth of the Gospel to a watching world. The key is not to respond naturally but rather supernaturally. Do not allow yourself to be led by the flesh. Be led by the Spirit. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
18. Proverbs 24:10, 16 – “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small…. for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”
– What you really are is revealed in adversity.
– You must develop strength before you need. It during hard times, you use the strength you already have, not build the strength you need.
19. Proverbs 24:11, 12 – “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” If you remain silent while those you know walk in darkness with knowledge of ‘The Way, The Truth, and The Life – Jesus, you will be held accountable by God.
20. Proverbs 24:19 – “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked…” Let God worry about the wicked while you focus on being faithful to Him, regardless of apparent outcomes. God knows what is going on and will judge the hearts of all people.
21. Proverbs 24:29 – “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.’” Do not chase after the poisonous snakes the bite you – the poison will just travel to your heart. Let God deal with those who offend you. Just continue to follow Jesus.
22. Proverbs 24:32 – “Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.”
– God wants you to compare the actions of others to God’s word, consider the consequences of their actions, and learn from their actions, both good and bad.
– Truth is revealed every day to those with eyes to see.
23. Hebrews 8:1-7 – Earthly priests can’t give you the relationship with Jesus that only Jesus can give. Salvation doesn’t come from religious activity and following rules, it comes from a genuine love relationship with Jesus, first that He loved us and, in so doing, enabled us to truly love Him and to follow Him out of love because our heart’s desire is to be one with Him. Obedience is an act of love, not a transaction.
24. Hebrews 8:9, 10 – “…not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people….” We cannot obey God without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that enables love. Those who are not born again lack the Holy Spirit and cannot obey. Unsaved people can do “good deeds” but not in genuine, selfless love for Jesus.
25. Hebrews 8:11, 12 – “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Our relationship with God begins with His grace enabling us.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Sep 18: Don’t seek merely to be a good person today, seek Jesus. Obey Him out of love, not out of a desire for personal righteousness or out of duty. Search your heart today and consider why you do what you do. Where you find that your motivation isn’t truly love for Jesus and love for others, whom Jesus loves too, pray that God will soften your heart. Draw closer to Jesus. Seek the mind of Christ and to see all around you as He does. Deny self, take up your cross (suffer in forgiving love), and follow Jesus today. (Hebrews 8:1-7)