Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 27 September 18:
1. Isaiah 46:1, 2 – “Their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.” Many turn to substitutes for God to ease their burdens in life, but these substitutes only add to their burdens. On the contrary, Jesus said, “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
– Proverbs 10:22 — The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
2. Isaiah 46:1-13 – God placed exiled Israel in a crisis of belief: trust in the apparently victorious gods of Babylon or in the Almighty, Sovereign Creator. What do you do when your faith doesn’t seem to “work”?
3. Isaiah 47:6 – “I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.” God used Babylon to discipline Israel. God still uses world events for His purposes. Ultimately, He is working to refine His kingdom people as He glorifies Himself.
4. Isaiah 47:7-10 – “You said, ‘I shall be mistress forever,’ so that you did not lay these things to heart or remember their end.” The word “gebereth” in this verse can be translated as lady, queen, or mistress. The ESV version translates the word here as mistress, which seems fitting here as the word is used in current culture, though I think the intent in this verse refers to prideful haughtiness. A mistress seeks the benefits and pleasures (blessings) of a relationship without the commitment, fidelity, and selflessness of covenant or ‘marriage’ or union. Many Christians seek the blessings of God without true union with God. Many want a Savior but not a Lord and Savior. The Bible describes a Christian’s relationship with God as a spiritual marriage, and the marriage between husband and wife is intended, in part, to be a physical representation of our marriage with Christ. Some want to be ‘married’ with Christ while keeping a relationship with the world on the side – this the Bible describes as spiritual adultery and whoredom. Do you view your sin as adulterous? In a human marriage, adultery is grounds for divorce, though divorce is not required. Do you understand the grace you have received from God who does not leave or forsake His unfaithful one?
5. Isaiah 47:8. 9 – “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’: These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day.” Power and wealth acquired apart from godliness are fleeting. In their apparent success, the wicked deceive themselves into thinking they have achieved superior wisdom and self-created security – this is an illusion that will be proven false. Have you not seen this proven time and time in again in the lives of the pridefully rich and famous?
6. Isaiah 47:10, 11 – “You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.” The world’s wisdom and knowledge deceive people to trust in themselves rather than God.
7. Isaiah 47 — God treated Babylon the way Babylon treated the Jews.
8. Proverbs 27:6, 12, 13 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy…. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.” God expects us to care about people enough to tell them the truth, but He also expects us to do what we can to protect people from themselves.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — Jesus never gave relief to people who were under conviction. When Zaccheus, in remorse for his sin, shared his generous plans for restitution, Jesus did not say, “Now Zaccheus, the important thing is that you feel sorry for what you did.” Jesus brought no comfort to him as he dealt with his sin (Luke 19:1-10). Neither did Jesus excuse disbelief. We never find Jesus saying, “Well, that’s all right. I know I’m asking you to believe a lot, and that’s not easy.” On the contrary, Jesus was quick to chastise His disciples when they failed to believe Him. Jesus loved His friends too much to condone or comfort them in their sin. It is possible to be too gentle with your friends. When a friend is under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit, do you try to give comfort? Don’t ever try to ease the discomfort of someone whom the Holy Spirit is making uncomfortable! Be careful not to communicate to your friends that you find their lack of faith acceptable. You are not acting in true friendship if you condone disobedience or even if you look the other way. Kisses are far more pleasant than wounds, yet they can be even more devastating if they lull your friend into being comfortable with sin. In our attempt to appease our friends and our reluctance to share a word from God, we can actually cause great harm. If we see our friends in danger and do not warn them, God will hold us accountable for our silence (Ezek. 33:6). Are you a friend of such integrity that you would risk wounding your friends in order to deter them from their sin?
9. Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” God expects us to make each other better followers of Jesus. Is that the what you do with your friends?
– From Henry T. Blackaby — The Christian life is a pilgrimage. At times the road is difficult, and we get lonely. Sometimes we may become discouraged and consider abandoning the journey. It is at such times that God will place a friend alongside us. One of God’s most precious gifts to us is friends who encourage us and lovingly challenge us to “keep going.” According to Scripture, a friend is one who challenges you to become all that God intends. Jonathan could have succeeded his father to become the next king of Israel. But he loved his friend David, and he encouraged him to follow God’s will, even though it meant Jonathan would forfeit his own claim to the throne (1 Sam. 19:1-7). The mark of biblical friends is that their friendship draws you closer to Christ. They “sharpen” you and motivate you to do what is right. True friends tell you the truth and even risk hurting your feelings because they love you and have your best interests at heart (Prov. 27:6). Be careful in your choice of friends! Jesus chose His closest friends wisely. He did not look for perfect friends, but friends whose hearts were set to follow God. It is equally important to examine the kind of friend you are to others. As a friend, it is your duty to put the needs of others first (Prov. 17:17). Strive to find godly friends who will challenge you to become the person God desires. When you have found them, be receptive to the way God uses them to help you become spiritually mature. Strive also to be the kind of friend that helps others become more like Christ.
10. Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– Faith is total confidence in the unseen. Faith is the basis for hope, which is faith projected forward. Faith enables us to move past our human perceptions and limitations.
– Faith looks forward, not backward, forward to God’s promise and not backward to what might have been. (Hebrews 11:13-16) Faith sees God, not enemies. (Hebrews 11:27) Faith obeys God’s commands no matter the cost or practicality. Faith anticipates miracles. (Hebrews 11:29, 30) Faith is not shaken in the absence of miracles. Faith dedicates life to promises that may not be realized in this life. (Hebrews 11:13) Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) God must be more real to you than anything you can hold in your hands. You must trust Him enough to obey Him. Faith that cannot obey is not really faith. (James 1:17) How is your faith?
11. Hebrews 11:3 – “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” What you say about creation reveals your faith.
12. Hebrews 11:4-6 – “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
– Faith moves us to obedience.
– Without faith it is impossible to please God because God is always going to ask you to participate in His plans and activities which are impossible for you to understand.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — Your relationship with God is largely determined by your faith. When you come to Him, you must believe that He exists and that He is exactly who He has revealed Himself to be in Scriptures. You must also believe that He will respond to you when you earnestly seek Him. Without this kind of faith, you cannot please God. Regardless of the morality of your life, the good works you perform, the words you speak, or the sacrifices you make for His sake, if you do not have faith, you will not please Him. It can be tempting to substitute religious activity for faith in God. Christians may claim they are being “good stewards” of their resources when, in fact, they are wanting to walk by sight rather than by faith (Heb. 11:1). They may refuse to do what God tells them unless they can see all the resources in place first. You may say, “I love God, but I just have difficulty trusting Him.” Then you are not pleasing to Him. You cannot struggle at the core of your relationship with God and still enjoy a vibrant fellowship with Him! Faith does not eliminate problems. Faith keeps you in a trusting relationship with God in the midst of your problems. Faith has to do with your relationship with God, not your circumstances. Some may say, “I’m not much of a person of faith. I am more of a practical person!” Yet you will never do anything more practical than to place your trust in the Lord! Nothing is more secure or certain than that which you entrust to God.
13. Hebrews 11:11-12 – “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” Faith expects what seems impossible to everyone else.
14. Hebrews 11:13 – “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” It takes faith to do what God wants when there will be no earthly reward.
15. Hebrews 11:17 – “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son….”
– It takes faith to put everything on the line. Without faith, you will always hold something back.
– Faith fears God, not enemies.
16. Hebrews 11:29-30 – “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” Miracles should not surprise the faithful.
17. Hebrews 11 — It doesn’t take faith to do the possible; it takes faith to do what is impossible. God will call you to do the impossible to reveal Himself to both you and to the watching world.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 Sep 18: Consider where fear of man has hindered your faith. Pray that God will take away your fear. (Hebrews 11:23)