Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 28 September 18:
1. Isaiah 48:1 – “…who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.” God knows the motives behind words and deeds. Many claim faith, and many do good deeds. However, often the motivation is self-righteousness and self-glorification rather than selfless love for God and for others. People are often deceived, but God isn’t.
2. Isaiah 48:6-20-21 – God wants His people to be a witness to the world of what He has done to save His people.
3. Isaiah 48:9-11 — “For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it.”
– We tend to read the Bible with a self-centered perspective – “What does this mean to me and my life? What does God have in store for me?” It is not about us; it is all about Him. When God blesses or curses, the main point is His glory, not the quality of our lives. How often do you pray about what you want rather than for God’s will to be done on earth for His glory, regardless the cost to you? Read carefully the Lord’s Prayer, and see that Jesus is calling for a focus on God’s glory and will rather than fulfillment of personal needs and desires. Focus on serving God, and trust God with your circumstances. Yes, God wants you to pray for your personal concerns, but within the context of His ultimate will. As we saw earlier, Hezekiah prayed for his health for self-centered reasons, and this was a curse.
– Glory belongs to God and to Him alone. No one can share it.
4. Isaiah 48:16 – “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.” God wants you to know His purposes. The first step is to draw near to Him, the to listen.
5. Isaiah 48:17 – “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.’ The Holy God loves you so much He has redeemed you, making it possible for you to have salvation.
6. Isaiah 49:1-5 – “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.’ And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength….” Serving God does not promise any earthly reward but rather may cost you everything, which is what is normally expected of any servant.
7. Isaiah 49:1-16 – God calls people to mission as He shows them to work He is about to do.
8. Isaiah 49:15 – “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” From Henry T. Blackaby — God never becomes preoccupied or neglectful toward one of His children. God said it would be more likely for a nursing mother to forget the infant at her breast than for Him to forget one of His children! The nursing mother has a keen sensitivity to her baby. Even if the infant is in another room the mother’s senses are in tune with her child. The mother knows when it is time to feed and care for the child. The mother never becomes so preoccupied with other things that she neglects the needs of her child. It is fitting that God chose this imagery to describe how He looks after His people, for He is more sensitive to the needs of His children than even the most loving mother. He anticipates every cry for help. Even before we can call out in need, God is responding with His answer (Isa. 65:24). This is one of the most comforting promises God has given to us: that He will never forget us. Don’t let the difficult circumstances you are facing convince you that God has forgotten you. Don’t ever assume that God is more concerned with the needs of other, more significant, more spiritual people than He is with yours. Scripture teaches that God looks upon you with the same love, interest, and concern as a nursing mother would look upon her infant. It should reassure you to know that your Father loves you like that!
9. Isaiah 49:6 – “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” God gives God-sized mission tasks.
10. Isaiah 49:7 – “Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’” God’s plan always included Jesus saving the Gentiles.
11. Isaiah 49:9 – “…saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture….” The Good News sets captives free.
12. Isaiah 49:11 – “And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up.” God warns those who trust in self rather than in Him.
13. Isaiah 49:15-26 – God is constantly showing His love to you.
14. Isaiah 49:19-21 – “Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land— surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’ Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?’” Even during time of trouble and exile, God blesses His people. Can you see God’s blessings through your trials is a way that gives you unshakable joy?
15. Isaiah 49:23 – Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” God wants you to know Him personally and to have no shame in acknowledging Him to others.
16. Isaiah 49:26 – “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” God’s purpose is to glorify Himself to the world.
17. Proverbs 28:5 – “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” There is no justice outside of God’s laws.
18. Proverbs 28:7 – “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” Gluttony is ungodly.
19. Proverbs 28:9 – “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Don’t bother praying if you are willfully not obeying.
20. Proverbs 28:13 – “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Hiding sin avoids responsibility and the subsequent discomfort of humility which motivates change of behavior. You cannot fix what you are not willing to be honest about.
21. Hebrews 12:1-4 –“Run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
– Sin is compared to extra weight carried by an endurance runner – it sucks the strength out of you and makes you a loser. Abandoning sin and worldly distraction is an act of faith by someone focused on Jesus. A follower of Jesus is ready to suffer and has no shame. A faithful Christian is a runner ready to win the endurance race of life.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — Sin is our most persistent, determined, and pernicious enemy. Sin seeks to rob us of every good thing God has designed for us. Paul tells us that sin brings death (Rom. 7:11). Yet it is very subtle. Sin creeps into our lives when and where we least expect it. It packages itself so attractively that we are lulled into thinking that it cannot really harm us (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Sin stealthily and relentlessly entangles our lives. We will never be able to run the race marked out for us as long as we are entrapped in sin. We free ourselves from sin’s only if we recognize it for what it is. If we call sin a “mistake,” a “bad habit,” or a “weakness,” we will never escape its grasp. We must not blame our sins on others. We must not allow pride to convince us it is too humiliating to admit the sin in our lives. Sin can blind us to its presence. It does not always command our attention but rather, it subtly and pervasively robs us of the spiritual power and victory that could be ours. The good news is that there is no extent to which sin can entangle us that God’s grace does not abound still more to free us (Rom. 5:20). Has sin robbed your joy? Has it prevented you from being the best husband, wife, son, daughter, or friend you could be? Is it keeping you from spiritual maturity? If you have become entangled with sin, God can release you immediately, no matter how desperately entangled you may have become!
– Do you have godly joy? Joy (not happiness or pleasure) enabled Jesus to endure the cross. The author of Hebrews reminds us that our struggles against the temptations of sin are nothing compared to what Jesus joyfully suffered on our behalf. If we are struggling to resist sin, we have a joy problem which is, at its roots, a love problem. John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) If we find His commandment s to be burdensome, we need to examine the condition of our heart.
22. Hebrews 12:6 – “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” From Henry T. Blackaby — There is a tendency among Christians to view anything unpleasant that happens to them as the result of “spiritual warfare.” When a difficulty arises, many immediately ask God to remove their distress. The problem is that their predicament may have nothing to do with Satan or with spiritual warfare. It may appear far more glorious for us to explain our hardships as Satan’s determined attacks against us, rather than admitting that we are merely reaping what we have sown and are being disciplined by our heavenly Father (Gal. 6:7). What is often mistaken as Satan’s attack may actually be chastisement from our loving Father. If you have neglected your role as spiritual teacher to your children, God may allow them to fall into sin. If you have been dishonest at work, God may correct you by letting you face the consequences. It would be foolish to pray that God would ease your discomfort. God is disciplining you in order to gain your attention and bring necessary change to your life. How tragic never to make the connection between your problems and God’s discipline. God’s discipline will not help you if you dismiss it as Satan’s doing or spiritual warfare. Not every hardship you face is the chastisement of God, but Scripture indicates that God will discipline you. If you misunderstand God’s chastening, you may actually blame Him for not answering your prayers or failing to protect you from Satan. Meanwhile, God is warning you of the danger you face because of your sin. Are there difficult circumstances in your life? Could it be the discipline of God? God, whose nature is perfect love, will correct you because He has your ultimate good in His heart.
23. Hebrews 12:7 — “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” The Bible gives you a completely different perspective on suffering and says that we should be thankful for it. Let the suffering God is allowing you to endure teach you and grow you to be more like Jesus.
24. Hebrews 12:8 – “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Some who claim to be followers of Christ are illegitimate. How they treat those who mistreat them is the proof of their faith.
25. Hebrews 12:10, 11 – “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” God intends for your suffering to build you up in holiness and righteousness, but not everyone is willing to be trained by the pain of suffering.
26. Hebrews 12:12, 13 – “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”
– No more pity parties. Quit whining and focusing on how hard your life is. Toughen up and stop complaining about what God has allowed to happen to you. Get moving, and start serving God.
27. Hebrews 12:14 — “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” “Strive” is a powerful word that implies maximum effort. How badly do you want to see the LORD? God wants you to work hard to get along with those who are hard to get along with and to seek holiness that you would truly fellowship with Jesus, truly know Him.
28. Hebrews 12:15 – “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” From Henry T. Blackaby — Bitterness has a tenacious way of taking root deep within the soul and resisting all efforts to weed it out. Bitterness occurs for many reasons. It might come from deep hurts you received as a child, hurts you cannot forget. Time, rather than diminishing the hurt, only seems to sharpen the pain. Bitterness can result from the hurtful words of a friend or coworker. Often the person who hurt you is unaware of the extent of your bitterness. You find yourself rehearsing the offense over and over again, each time driving the root of bitterness deeper within your soul. Bitterness can derive from a sense of being unjustly treated. Bitterness is easy to justify. You can get so used to a bitter heart that you are even comfortable with it, but it will destroy you. Only God is fully aware of its destructive potential. There is nothing so deeply imbedded in your heart that God’s grace cannot reach down and remove it. No area in your life is so painful that God’s grace cannot bring total healing. No offense committed against you is so heinous that God’s love cannot enable you to forgive. When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can free you. If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you. Bitterness enslaves you, but God is prepared to remove your bitterness and replace it with His peace and joy.
29. Compare Hebrews 12:16 with Proverbs 25:28
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 Sep 18: Practice suffering and enduring maltreatment, returning only forgiveness and love as an act of worship and love for Jesus. Allow suffering to further conform you to the image of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12)