Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 20 September 21:
Isaiah 40:3, 9, 10 — A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” …. 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. 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.
Isaiah 41:22-24 – [The Futility of Idols] 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.
Isaiah 40 and 41 proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ and the choice everyone will make in their lives, whether they realize it or not: Follow Jesus, The Son of God, The KING of Kings, the Good Shepherd, or follow an idol, a powerless substitute for God, the figment of a self-centered imagination, a foolish hallucination which offers no security, hope, or future. I would encourage you to spend extra time today meditating on today’s readings and praying that God would use them to further encourage you to rest on His sufficiency, remove any idols you might have in your life, and share the Gospel with others today and every day from this day forward – “Herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”
You might recognize the statement in Isaiah 40:3 as having been referenced by John the Baptist as he prepared the people for the revelation of Jesus Christ – “He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.’” (John 1:23; see also Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4) Jesus Christ is the “glory of the Lord … revealed” in the flesh as “the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5) Jesus Christ is “the Word of God” everlasting – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.” (Isaiah 40:8; John 1:1) Jesus is the One and Only Son of God — “Behold your God!” (Isaiah 4:9) “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
Jesus is the Good Shepherd –
- 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. - John 10:11, 14-18 -- I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
“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?” (Isaiah 40:12) The answer is Jesus: “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:2, 3)
“Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel?” (Isaiah 40:13) The Father, Jesus, and the Spirit are One: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 RSV)
“Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:14) Jesus is the Path of Justice and the Way of Understanding: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6) “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:28)
“All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:17) Jesus is the King of Kings: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16)
Isaiah 41 continues to proclaim the assurance we have in God’s grace and provision through Jesus — “I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you’…. I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel…. Fear not…. And you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.” (Isaiah 41:9, 10, 13, 14, 16)
Isaiah 41 closes by reminding us of the futility of idols, those powerless things in which we are tempted to place our hope and to serve ahead of God, those things which we tend to honor and oblige instead of devoting ourselves entirely to God and trusting Him completely. Though the proof of God is more than apparent (revealed in His creation, our conscience, His works, and His word) as well as the proof of the powerlessness of all man-made idols, God knows His people still need a constant reminder; God knows how prone we are in our sinful condition to be fearful and prideful and to turn to idols rather than to Him, to walk in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 6:16 — What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
- Luke 16:13 — No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
- 1 Corinthians 10:14 — Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23) Today, our idols are not likely represented by statues; instead, they are revealed in what motivates us and influences our behavior more than God and His word; they are what we really prioritize each day ahead of God. These are they which cause us to say things like, “I just don’t have enough time today to really study my Bible, pray, and share Jesus with others,” or which prevent us from giving our time, talents, and resources to the church and to people around us in need. Just like the word is spelled, idolatry begins with “I” – “I want…. I deserve…. I think…. I believe…. I fear….” The heart of idolatry is self-centeredness, which is the original sin – “But the serpent said… You will not surely die…. You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5) Idolatry replaces “Thy will be done,” with “My will be done,” and adds sorrow and pain to what God intended to be blessings – work, relationships, provisions, belongings, etc: “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.” (Psalm 16:4) “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.” (Psalm 32:10)
When the powerless idol of self lets us down, we can become more fearful, prideful, bitter, angry, joyless, and isolated from God and from others; or we can repent of our sin and return to the Lord so we may experience love, peace, rest, and the fullness of joy in Him. Perhaps you needed Isaiah’s reminder this morning, “Behold your God!” Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Cast out your idols today by denying self, taking up your cross, following Jesus, obeying Him, and trusting Him through all circumstances. Christ is sufficient.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 September 21: Today, consider whether knowing and sharing Jesus is really your priority today (your focus, your motivation, your desire, your goal) or something else. Consider your idols, and pray that God will help you serve only Him as Master.