The consequence of ignoring the dangers of aberrant weather has now caught up with the crew of Paul’s ship headed to Rome. A dangerous storm of hurricane force engulfs the ship. The sun, moon and stars are no longer visible for navigation. They are driven some 300 miles off course. They will surely shipwreck. The crew works feverishly. They bind the hull with ropes for strength. They cast off all the cargo and ship’s gear to lighten the ship. All, to no avail. There is terror on board. All hope had gone out them.
When we find ourselves on the horns of a dangerous dilemma we will exhaust ourselves trying to fight our way through. Having ignored God from the start, we may continue to do all but listen to God…until finally, all hope is gone. Then, just maybe, we will stop, look up and seek God’s help. Oh Lord, may I be delivered from insisting on my own way and trust you sooner than later.
At the conclusion of Paul’s defense, Governor Festus blurts out, “Too much study has made you crazy [Paul].” Paul says, “Not really. It’s just the truth.” Paul then turns to King Agrippa and presses him for a decision, “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Agrippa says, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul says, “Yes, I really wish I could.” The two sarcastic remarks (Festus, v24 and Agrippa, v28) are designed to cover how they really felt. Paul was getting through.
Sarcasm can reveal a whole range of emotions (interesting field of study*). Sarcasm is usually a cover for how someone really feels. The best response to sarcasm however, is to focus on the content of a sarcastic statement and not on the tone. Paul’s response to their sarcasm is neither mean-spirited nor defensive. Paul is genuine, self-confident and understanding (vv25,29). Lord, may I possess such sincerity and compassion in my witness for Christ.
Paul’s example and appeal is clear. When faced with an opportunity to share the gospel be respectful, tell the truth and share your personal story. These will be your best defense of the gospel. Explain that Jesus came to save those who would turned to him. He died and resurrected that men may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are irrefutable facts in history. A personal testimony is an irrefutable fact in history. Simple truth and reason will bring men and women to a point of decision. The rest is up to them to accept or reject. Lord, lead this sentry to speak the message you give, when you give it. The rest is up to you.
(Ezk 3:27) But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.
Day 33 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that the seed of the Gospel take deep root in the hearts of my family and friends.
When the gospel seed is sown, spread, broadcast, it will fall where it will. Some will not get it (vv18,19). Some will join, then lose interest (vv20,21). Some will be too busy, too involved, to stay connected (v22). Some however, will truly receive the gospel message with much enthusiasm – they will go on to produce much good fruit (v23).
Those who truly receive the gospel seed, live by its message, will continue to grow and be energized by it. They will, through the years, influence many others for Christ. Lord, may the seed of the gospel continue to take root in my heart and produce good fruit.
Father in Heaven, America is in great need of the Gospel seed to take deep root. She is in deep need of embracing the message of the Gospel. I pray she not reject, ignore or overlook your message of grace and forgiveness. May she let that Gospel seed go deep into rich fertile soil. May she yield in repentance. May that seed then sprout forth in a bountiful harvest of good fruit.
Day 23 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my family and friends be quick to seek God in repentance.
In Psalm 51 we find king David’s prayer of repentance for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11&12). No one, not even the greatest among us, is immune from sin. There are times without number that I have myself failed in so many ways. Yet God, in his grace and mercy, saw and heard in me a contrite, broken heart and he forgave me (v17).
It is no stretch to think that I may ask God to create (do something new) in my heart and renew in me a spirit of joy and faithfulness toward God. Jesus said in John 6:37 that all who come to him will never be rejected. Lord, you have never once denied this sentry the renewal, the refreshing, I have needed to remain loyal to you.
Day 17 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lead my family and friends to reject Satan’s lies that corrupt our hearts.
When I repented of my sin and Jesus became my Lord, I turned my back on the old Sin master. I turned in the opposite direction and swore my allegiance to a new master, King Jesus. But the old nature still lurks around, tries to convince me I’m still a reflection of my old self.
Satan wants me to believe that nothing has changed in me. But that is a lie. I may fail in my obedience to Jesus from time to time, but I am definitely not a reflection of the person I used to be. When I confess my sin to God, I agree with him that he has changed me for the better. He continues to cleanse and to forgive me. Without you Lord, my life would be an intolerable mess.
Paul is rounding off his third and final missionary journey through Asia to preach the Gospel. He is headed to Jerusalem, anxious to arrive by Passover (a time of celebration). His desire is to deliver an offering collected in his travels, for the Jerusalem church; a very poor and needy church due to persecution and famine.
Paul’s stop near Ephesus begs a meeting with church elders from there. He reviews with them the importance of the Gospel – “Turn from sin, turn to God, put faith in the Lord Jesus.“ Paul had suffered much to preach this message to all people. I can do no less. Lord, it is ever the mission this sentry to, “Influence Men For Christ.“ May I never shrink from my mission.
One final lesson learned from Isaiah’s Shebna/Eliakim prophecy. The office of Prophet often used real life situations to mimic future events (note Hosea and Gomer, Jeremiah and the Potter). God will always reveal to us what he expects and what will happen if we obey or not. The point? God honors his word. He keeps his promises.
God has been clear about man’s sin and the Messiah. He would come [has come] to take away all the sin of the world. Those who accept God‘s forgiveness will receive eternal life. Those who do not, choose for themselves eternal death and hell. The prophets have all spoken. Jesus, the Messiah, son of God, has come. He paid the price for sin on the cross. Yes, “the Lord, has spoken.”
Today if you hear God’s voice do not ignore him (Hebrews 3:15). Lord, I believe what you say is truth.
Scripture does not reveal Isaiah’s purpose for singling out Shebna, the king’s steward (secretary). But he was extremely prideful. So highly did he think of himself that he was preparing his grave high up on Mt. Zion. Shebna considered himself worthy of the burial of kings (2Ch 32:33).
But according to Isaiah, God will coil Shebna up into a little ball. He will hurl him into a far away barren land (presumably Assyria). He will disappear, never to be heard from again. Pride, the abuse of power and influence, will not stand with God (2:11,12). Lord, may humility over rule any pride in my heart and in the hearts of our leaders.
In the closing verses of this prophetic section of Scripture Isaiah finishes what he began to say in verse one. “What sorrow awaits you O destroyer“ of my people. The reference here is to Assyria, a pagan nation used by God to bring his people to their knees in repentance (vv7- 9,14,19).
When repentance comes, redemption and forgiveness comes. God encircles his people, his church, as if he were a wide river no enemy can cross. Ships of malicious intent will be permanently disabled, broken asunder (sails fall limp on broken masts with useless tackle). All the treasures of the enemy will become the possession of God‘s people. O Lord, you are the Mighty One; my judge, my king, my redeemer. All of this sentry’s devotion is due the God of Heavens Armies.
An enemy brings destruction, God’s discipline for his wayward, prodigal people. What sin has beset you, O man or woman of God? But now, having been broken over your own (my own) sin and humbled in repentance before God, he turns on the rod of his discipline.
By God’s mighty power he smashes the rod of his discipline. He breaks it asunder. He consumes it in flames and it is scattered irreverently, as ashes into the wind. To all the nations of the mighty, are you listening? Are you paying attention to the demise of the enemies of God? None will escape the destruction of God for sins committed. O Lord, you have shown me that there is no benefit in standing against you. Though frail, broken, weak and sinful, the sentry stands with you Lord.
What does it mean to come to the end of self? Isaiah answers by pointing Israel (pointing me) to symbols of failed earthly treasures. Treaties for security with powerful earthly kings turn to bitter disappointment. Lebanon, known for its stately cedar trees, wither and die. Sharon, known for its very fertile land, become a barren wilderness. Bashan, known for its abundance of grain and cattle, is plundered. Carmel, known for its thick forests, is utterly defoliated. Earthly resources collapsed around them.
When every earthly ally fails; every earthly resource withers, becomes barron and plundered; everything once thought to be mine by entitlement, deserved or taken for granted, is stripped away, I have come to the end of self. Now I am ready to listen and receive from God.
TESTIMONY: Oh, the battle scars of this aging sentry. They run deep and they run long. But they are every day reminders to me of the grace and the mercy of God in my life. It makes me tremble and weep. But the scars prove the worth of that final death blow to self, to the man I used to be. The scars embedded deeply in my conscience give evidence of battles won by my high and glorious Commander, The Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I must come before you today Lord, in humble repentance for trusting in anything other than you.
Russ Taff beautifully depicts this death to self (pictured in believers baptism) by this song Water Grave.
God will be merciful at the end of the discipline of his people for their rejection of him (vv2-6). But for now, they will weep and mourn. They must, and will have to, come to the end of themselves. They, as we, must realize that we have no righteousness, no goodness in and of ourselves.
It is of paramount importance that God’s people depend upon and trust in God alone who saves to the uttermost. Again we say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (Job 13:15). Lord, the end of myself is the beginning of my new life. This old sentry must die daily to the old self that he may be resurrected a new man in Christ. The man I used to be has finally died. Baptism is a picture of this.
*Russ Taff beautifully depicts baptism as symbolic death to self in the song, Water Grave.
It would be depressing if the words of Isaiah were ordered by an angry dispassionate God. But they are revealed by a God of love and compassion who is not willing that any should perish (2Pe 3:9). A day will come when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all men. Indeed his Spirit has already come and indwells every believer.
There will also come a day, at the end of time, when God’s Spirit will be poured out like never before (Joel 2:28f). The promises to Judah to restore justice and righteousness to the land, peace, quietness and confidence to the people of God, is also a promise for the coming kingdom of God. Lord, I stand in the promise of an outpouring of your Spirit on all men like never before.
If the women of Judah are at ease, smugly resting in the security of their homes – thinking all is well, they should think again. Because of Judah’s rejection of God, complacent attitude and careless lifestyle she will suffer at the hands of Assyria. She should repent before God (vv11,12). But she won’t (vv1-8).
So the bounty of the countryside farms and the good life of the cities and towns will be suddenly decimated. The time was short. Assyria would conquer Judah (v10). Only a full-scale national repentance could reverse that. Sadly no one heeded Isaiah‘s warning.
Is America listening today? Her rejection of God, her sin, is no different than Judah’s. Lord, I pray that America might heed the warnings and turn fully to you in a national repentance. Send awakening Lord.
I am reminded of my Sentinel Orders to Stand Faithfully, Watch Vigilantly, Pray Earnestly, WARN CLEARLY.
But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths (Ezk 33:6).
The nation of Judah was facing a crisis (Assyrian conquest). For her sin of rejecting God she stood at the threshold of destruction. The prophet Isaiah clearly identifies the character of men and women who disdain and reject God (vv5-7). America needs to wake up, for her bulwark reveals similar vulnerabilities.
This is America’s National Disgrace. It is clear to the discerning eye. From Isaiah 32:5-7: Those who are ungodly and foolish are seen as heroes. Dishonorable men are exalted and respected. Fierce zealots make plans to further their own ends. They practice ungodliness; ridicule and marginalize those who trust in God. They make plans for their own self interests but they deprive the disenfranchised of basic needs in life. Smooth talkers appear honest/earnest, but mix sense with non-sense, scheming to mislead. They lie to convict the powerless, even when their is just cause. Can we see any of this in America today?
THERE IS HOPE AHEAD!
Isaiah speaks of a Redeemer who will come. Judah had suffered under unjust rulers and leaders, but “A righteous king is on the way. Honest princes will prevail under him.” Although Judah would be destroyed and taken into captivity, still there were many who act according to “generosity” (v8). They were hungry for a righteous ruler. That ruler, that “righteous king” would be Jesus Christ, who has already come and he will come again to rule.
WHAT WILL THE HOPE OF THIS RIGHTEOUS KING LOOK LIKE?
The coming Christ will provide, “Shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm.” His rule will be “like streams of water in the desert or the shadow of a great rock in a parched land.” In Christ’s rule “everyone who has eyes will be able to see the truth and everyone who has ears will be able to hear it. Even the hotheads will be full of sense and understanding. Those who stammer will speak out plainly” (vv1-4).
Lord, it excites the heart of this aged sentry to know the assurance of my once come, and coming again, righteous king. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Today would be as good a day as any to pray for a national repentance in America. That she would once again celebrate the Christ-child; the Savior of the world.
Lord, would you give the leaders of America a humble heart of repentance. I pray that they would no longer compare themselves to each other but see themselves in the light of a holy God.
Lord, would you begin the work of repentance and healing within the one square foot in which I stand this morning. Do a work of repentance and healing in my household. Do a work of repentance and healing in and among my neighbors, whom I know very well.
I pray for the leaders, the pastors and ministers in my city. I pray for those officials who carry out the will of the state in my county. I pray for the leaders of my state and the leaders of my nation.
From my house to the White House, Lord, may we have a humble heart of repentance. May you once again receive the honor and majesty due you in America.
Lord, this is a prayer from the heart of the sentry standing watch today. I join the sentinel call to prayer.
Because of God’s devotion to his people, Isaiah calls again for Judah to repent, return to God; renounce all idolatrous behavior. Even greater reason to turn back to God is his promise to annihilate Assyria by the sword of God (note 37:36).
God is devoted to his rebellious people and he promises to not only defend his people, but to lay waste their enemies. God’s assurance of love and protection should alter the behavior of his people toward him. Lord, you have captured and delivered my heart. I am yours.
Repentance in America begins with the person in the mirror.
The people of God have only to look to the history of how God works in the Old Testament on their behalf. He is devoted to his people. He will discipline his people and he will deliver his people. The example of this is seen repeatedly, as in this passage.
Because God loves Judah he disciplines her, harshly if necessary (vv12-17). His devotion to Judah is unquestioned (vv18–22). Finally, his deliverance comes as Judah turns to him in repentance. His deliverance is utterly complete. Lord, your past deliverance gives this old sentry great hope for today and for the future.
Even in the midst of suffering God is not far from his sinful rebellious child. He stands by to teach us, to instruct us by his voice. When once we have surrendered to him it will be clear the way in which we are to go (vv19-21).
The way which we choose will reject all other gods. We will be happy to destroy the idols in our lives and put Jehovah God at the center. In response God will heal his people and cure them from the wounds he gave them. If this sentry is to know daily renewal then certainly he must daily surrender afresh to God.
If my beloved country is to know renewal and spiritual awakening then she must turn in repentance to the God of her fathers.
It is nothing short of naïve for the prodigal to think he/she can stand against the furious love of God. In verse 11, prodigal Judah says to God, “Butt out of my life.“ God says, “Thanks, I’ll take that challenge.“ Collapse will soon follow (12–14). The only way out is to turn back to God.
If you think you can out run God you do not understand his swiftness. He will batter your prideful self-will and make of you a tattered banner on a lonely hill. Then he will wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. God loves you. He will wait. Turn while there is yet time.
Lord, many years ago, this aged sentry was that tattered banner on a lonely hill. Ironically, I was on sentinel duty in a guard tower high above the Saigon River in Vietnam (Dec 28, 1968). It was in the early morning watch, in that guard tower, that my prodigal heart was turned to you. I haven’t heard from that wayward heart since. You are faithful.
To run to “Egypt“ is to run back to bondage. The people of God may expend great wealth at great personal risk to satisfy their own fleshly pleasure in “Egypt” and ignore God. But in the end, “Egypt“ will deliver nothing. What is this “Egypt” of the soul but a, promise much and do nothing, land of enchantment.
The prophet and the word of God stands as an eternal witness against the stubborn prodigal. But the rebel heart says, “Shut up about doing ‘what is right’. Don’t be so narrow-minded. Do not speak to me of the ‘Holy One’.“ Oh, how such words break the heart of God. Lord, would you give the sentry on duty an ear for the truth of your word.
Lord, please intervene into the life of America with grace and mercy. Bring her out of her blind stupor for the things of “Egypt.” May she be alert to the danger ahead, repent and return to God. I pray that truth, righteousness and the love of/and for God would rise up in her soul.
The threat of the Assyrian empire to Judah and Israel was real. Fear was driving God’s people to look to other world powers for their salvation. In their sin they were acting like rebellious children. They were frantically seeking a way out of the discipline that was coming, as promised by God.
Instead of running to God they were running away, into the arms of a crumbling nation. Their ill-advised alliance with Egypt would be powerless to save them. They would be shamed and disgraced. There will be suffering when God’s children make plans not directed by his Spirit. Lord, may this sentry always say, “When I am afraid I will trust in God alone“ (Psm 56:3).
When once the wayward, rebellious, child of God surrenders, his/her whimpers of repentance are heard from on high (v4). Then, like the father greeting the prodigal home from the far country of sin, God is first on the scene to help. This is the message of the prophets.
The enemies, the attackers, God had used to discipline his child will be crushed. Their course of pain and suffering will come to a sudden end. They will be driven away by heaven’s armies. They will “vanish like a vision in the night.“ It is God‘s greatest delight to vanquish the enemy of the child of God. Thank you Lord, for hearing in the night this sentry’s prayer of surrender so many years ago.
FOR AMERICA: Lord, I pray that my beloved nation may surrender her heart fully to you. May she know the fires of revival & spiritual awakening from sea to shining sea. May the power of heaven’s armies be used to deliver her from the enemies that would seek to destroy her.
While God is a God of love and long-suffering, he is at the same time a “no-fool-around“ God. He is a loving God who is jealous for his people. He will do whatever it takes to bring his people back into a loving relationship with him.
God will become your fiercest adversary if necessary, to call you back to himself. Disaster may come your way. Pain and suffering may come your way. There will be no rest, only distress and unease. There will be no voice to console or guide. Take it from one who has been down that road. Lord, keep the dutiful sentry in a thriving, never fading, love relationship with you.
At the center of the Jewish faith is the temple in Jerusalem and the worship of Jehovah God. At the center of the Christian faith is the temple of the Holy Spirit (my body – 1Co 6:19) and the collective worship of God by believers in union together with Christ (Jhn 4:23,24).
The call has always been to worship God in spirit and in truth. But we see here that rote ritual, rules and observances had supplanted sincere worship of, and devotion to, God. It was indifferent and deceitful. It happens today as well. This brings the holy ire of God on dead lifeless religion. Father, may this sentry worship & serve you with a whole heart, given in spirit and in truth.
Lord, would you bring America to a place of sincere worship and devotion to you. Would you intervene and give her a whole heart for you. Would you sweep our land in renewal, revival and spiritual awakening.
The day will come when the terrible swift sword of the Lord will fell the horrible evil monster of sin. Every abuse and rebellion known to man will be struck down. The wicked will know the swift and certain justice of God.
God will restore his people, those who suffered for their own rebellion against God (5:5-7). His people will produce fruit again and f Bt. V l nothing will overcome them. Salvation will come to those who turn to God for help and make peace with him.
“Now [today] is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation“ (2Co 6:2). “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts“ (Heb 3:15). May the Lord grip the heart if America in repentance toward him. Lord, may the heart of this old sentry remain tender and repentant toward you.