Understand God’s Word as Good News not bad news (Isa 64:5-7). #GreatestLoveStoryEverTold #GodLovesYou
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Isaiah 64:1-5a extols God‘s goodness and awesome deeds. Then in verses 5b–7 we hear that God is angry with us – what horrible sinners we all are. Yet, surprisingly, “No one calls upon God for help or mercy. So God simply allows our sin to run its course in our lives.“
Why is it that we only hear the bad news, “God is angry,“ and fail to hear the Good News, “God is full of mercy?“ The country song troubadour sings, “I just want to read Bible verses and not the Bible versus me.“
The mournful troubadour only hears the Law and knows he can’t measure up. But he keeps trying. He does not hear and know how God loves him and died for his sin. It is not the Bible vs. Me. It is Sin vs. Me (Titus 3:11). “God did not come to condemn the world but to save it (Jhn 3:16,17).
Yes, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “But,” Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Father, I want the world to see your love, mercy and grace through me. There is hope for the country troubadour.
Remain dedicated always to God (Isa 63:7–10). #HandInTheCookieJar #SinWillFindYouOut #CantFoolGod
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
God’s people – so prone to wander, rebel and commit grievous acts against his Holy Spirit. Israel did this, in spite of God‘s great love and mercy. The church in America and elsewhere, has done the same. I myself have wandered, rebelled and committed grievous things against the Spirit of God. In my best moments I am capable of sin against God.
God has no choice but to become an adversary to Israel, the church, to me. God’s people often act like foolish children. They think they can snatch a cookie and God won’t notice (NOT!). Hence, God‘s hand of discipline will come against the erring child. His purpose? In love, to correct and instruct. Lord, thank you that you never give up on this old sentry. You won’t give up on America either.
What is God’s “Holy Mountain“ and how does one enter into that mountain? The “Holy Mountain“ of God is literally Mt Siniai (Mt Zion). It is the place where God spoke to Moses. Spiritually it is the heavenly Jerusalem, the place where the living God dwells. It represents the presence of God.
Who can enter into that holy place (Psm 15:1–5; 24:3)? the answer is, those who set themselves apart for God, who trust in God, who worship God with genuine sincerity and a contrite heart. What will one find in God’s “Holy Mountain”? The answer is, the presence of God, joy and the perpetual listening ear of God, who will hear and answer prayer. Oh, my Lord, may this old sentry be found worthy to daily enter into your “Holy Mountain.“
Men may think that they must have fame, wealth and power to have influence. At times men may feel they deserve to be heard. That is pride and arrogance speaking. But when one comes to God, listens to God and follows God‘s counsel, that one, whether great or small, from humble beginnings or advantaged beginnings, may have great and godly influence.
Why is this so? Because God is the one who exalts the individual, in his way, in his time (1Pe 5:6). He does so in meager surroundings and in sufficient to substantial surroundings. For God, it is not about being the best IN the world. It is about being the best FOR the world. I must examine first the one standing in the one square foot of space I occupy.
Lord, you have allowed this old sentry opportunity for godly influence; first in my family, then in my circle of friends and associates; in my realms of life. I could ask for nothing more.
“Why spend your money on food that won’t give lasting nourishment?” We have to eat, but that is not what God is asking here. The real question is, “Why do we spend time, talent and treasure trying to purchase happiness?“ There is not enough money in the world to buy happiness.
What will satisfy man’s deepest desire for real peace and joy? Only God can fill the voids in life. Real peace and joy are found in him. Listen to God. Act on what he says. Then you will know the perpetual favor of God. Receive, love and serve God and you will know the unfailing love of God. Lord, you have never failed to fulfill your promises to give true peace and joy in my life.
Isaiah Chapter 55 flows from Redemption‘s story (Ch 53) through the assurances of Redemption‘s victory (Ch 54) and into a grand and glorious invitation to Redemption‘s offer of God’s free gift of life everlasting (Ch 55). Isaiah says, “Anyone thirsty? Come drink freely. Are you hungry? The finest food is available, free.”
Jesus probably had these verses in mind when he said, “and from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (Jhn 7:37,38).“ John the Apostle writes from exile, “He [who sits on the throne] said, ‘I will give water of life to the thirsty…freely’“ (Rev 21:6). So The thirsty soul may drink long and often from the well of perpetual life giving water (Jhn 4:13,14). Lord, there could be no clearer invitation in the Old Testament for this thirsty sentry to bring his unquenchable thirst/hunger to you. You will not fail to abundantly satisfy.
Just as God predicted and delivered Israel from 70 years of captivity in Babylon, he will deliver his church from the grip of this world. There will be a new world order when Christ returns. There will be a glorious new City of God, the New Jerusalem, from which he will reign.
The City of God will be constructed of precious stones. Children will learn and live in righteous peace under God’s tutelage. Any who take up arms against God’s people will be crushed. No weapon forged against his people can or will prevail against them. No charge will be brought against his people. God has said it. It shall be!
Lord, you have given even the weakest watchman the spiritual armor to stand against the evil one (Ephesians 6). No spiritual weapon used against me will succeed, because of your might.
Who is this loving overseer of Israel’s destiny? He is none other than the creator of all things, the Lord of Hosts is his name. He is Israel’s great provider and lover, the holy one of Israel and God of all the earth. He was the one who authored Israel’s genesis. He called her back to him
This is the same God who calls us back from our unfaithfulness, just as he called Israel, with compassion and tender mercies. With an everlasting love he compels a response of adoration, honor and respect. Lord you have loved me at my worst. My sincere humble obeisance is the least gift I can give.
Reading Isaiah 53 reminds me of one of the great irrefutable evidences of the veracity of God’s word: the fulfillment of prophecy. We see in the life of Christ and his suffering on the cross for the sins of mankind the fulfillment of Isaiah 53.
Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies. There are still some yet to be fulfilled… That is, those related to Christ’s return. Fulfilled prophecy is just one evidence of the inspiration and trustworthiness of Scripture. Lord, This aged sentry has fully trusted in your word for many years. Your Word has never failed me.
May your spiritual passion for relationship with God be restored (Acts 2:42–47). #PassionForGod
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The new Christians in Acts DEVOTED themselves to the teachings of the apostles, fellowship, worship, prayer and witness. They were DEVOTED, PASSIONATE, in these things. These are the things I too ought to be passionate about. But somehow I lose my passion. I get complacent and/or apathetic. I lose my passion when the things I do become rote or mechanical. Things become all too familiar.
What is passion? Passion means “to be moved,” by something. “Spiritual Passion” means to be moved by God. To lose my passion is to no longer be moved by God. I become distracted by all the mechanics and preparations to teach, fellowship, worship, pray or witness. Or, I am just distracted by all the mechanics of life and living. Lord, I desperately need a recalibration of my focus on knowing you. I need to focus on you, not as a means to an end, but focus on you as the end itself.
Lord, reignite the flame of spiritual passion in this old sentry.
I have often wondered at the success of my call and work when everything around it may seem to have failed – at least according to the measure of men; when things fell short of my expectations. Well, here I learn that my friend and Redeemer – Jesus, felt the same way about his ministry. He says, “To what purpose have I come Lord? My work seems useless. But, I leave it in your hands Lord, Jehovah.“
Jesus’ mission, ending in a criminal crucifixion, may have seemed like a failure by men’s standards. However, Jehovah God was/is pleased with Christ’s work. But for a much different reason. His work would ultimately bring salvation to all men. Lord, my acceptance with you is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross and my faithfulness to your call on my life.
If you need me Lord, I’ll be here at my sentinel’s post as ordered.
Every now and then one has to stop and take stock of all God is doing; take into account the bigger picture. It enables the prayer sentry to pray with understanding. I had one of those days yesterday. Here is what God showed me.
The story of Israel, the Jewish race, is the story God’s redemption. God chose to reveal himself to mankind through the Jewish race. They would be the chosen seed, the chosen light pointing men to God. However, they failed to do that as a people. They were persistently disobedient and rebellious toward God. Yet, God seems somehow to always be the protective father, letting his favored child continue in disobedience. Why does God continually protect them? I find myself wondering, “Why does God seem to always put up with Israel’s waywardness and incorrigibility?” “Why did he choose them?”
The Old Testament reveals that God does discipline his chosen people throughout the course of their national life. But Israel, as a whole, never seems to get it. They just seem to be a constant disappointment to God. At one point God does seems willing to start over. But then Moses steps in to protect them. He asks God not to destroy Israel completely and God relents (Exodus 32:1-14).
The questions to me seem to be: why did God choose Israel? Would there not have been another people group who would have shown themselves to be more faithful? The answer to that questions is, “Probably not.” Why did God find it necessary to choose some outlying race of people anyway?
Certainly, greater minds than mine have pondered these questions for, no doubt, ages. But here is my simple and feeble assessment. I think the answer to why God chose Israel, the Jewish race, as his chosen people, lies in the omniscient plan, character and love of God. In the beginning God set out to redeem mankind from their fall into sin. God’s omniscient plan called for a Redeemer and a sacrifice for sin. This is seen in the first blood sacrifice of an animal out of the Garden of Eden. God performed the first sacrifice. Instead of killing Adam for his sin (for the wages of sin is death-Rom 6:23), God took the life of an animal (shed its blood as a substitute, propitiation for sin) and used the skin as a “covering” for Adam and Eve. Thus, God covered the sin of man (Gen 3:21).
Back to the nation of Israel. God didn’t choose the Jewish people because of their superior moral character or their religious devotion. In fact, God never chooses any of us because we are so righteous or so good. In fact, to the contrary, Scripture says there is no one righteous, not one (Rom 3:10). But I digress.
The Jewish race was chosen because God is sovereign not because they were superior. He could have chosen any people group. Through this chosen seed, God would institute and implement symbols of worship, sacrifice and redemption. This structure in the Jewish sacrificial system would be, has been and is, sufficient to forecast or foretell God’s Redeemer and the sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice would be the ground of redemption for all who would believe.
Israel was and is no different from any other people group. They were, we all are, sinners. But what God needed was a human ancestry, a lineage, a seed from which a Redeemer-sacrifice would emerge, from which his GRACE would extend to all men. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was that Redeemer–sacrifice. Jesus would be the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption. He would be God’s sacrifice, God’s instrument of GRACE to all men for their sin. The Jewish nation was selected by the sovereign plan of God to bear witness to and be the seed and instrumentality of that redemption. She was not selected not because she was perfect but because God is sovereign.
Further, God chose the Jewish race knowing full well in advance that they would be prideful, disobedient, obstinate, stiff-necked, rebellious and hard hearted. God knew in advance that this people would break his heart over and over again. God would discipline and or punish their sinful rebellion, but he would not completely destroy the ancestry, the lineage, the seed from which his Redeemer would eventually emerge. In fact, God would go to extravagant lengths to protect his people…even if it was only a small remnant.
So, the story and history of God’s chosen people is really the story of all men. Just as God showed mercy and grace to a sinful, stubborn and rebellious people of Israel, so he shows mercy and grace to all people. The story of God’s longsuffering with me is reflected in the story of God’s longsuffering with Israel. They deserved nothing. He gave them everything. So, it is with me as well.
All men everywhere are indebted. Not indebted to the Jewish race, but to God, for choosing a people (a people like me, no different from me) to reveal his Redeemer, Jesus Christ. There were no perfect people from which to choose. There are still no perfect people. Never has been. What we do have is a perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ, whom God was pleased to sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Just as Israel was chosen by GRACE, sustained by GRACE and saved by GRACE, so we to are chosen, sustained and saved by GRACE.
There are none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
But God demonstrates is own love for us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Next time you think that God is unfairly and forever longsuffering with the Jewish race, his seed of redemption, think about how longsuffering he has been and is with you as well. So we should be towards others.
Men with fleshly attitudes will always rail against God’s plans. It is true from time immemorial. Man stood in opposition to God in the garden and in the days of the Kings of Israel. They stood against Christ in his birth and in his life. They stood against the spread of the Gospel. They have stood, times without number, against revivals led by the Holy Spirit. How’d all that work out?
Men of the flesh act like clay in the potter’s hands telling the potter, “You don’t know what you are doing. Your hands have no skill.“ No matter, God continues his program of mercy and Redemption. There will be no refuting God’s work among men. Those who refute God will be dishonored. “The Lord of Heaven‘s Armies has spoken!“ Lord you are my Creator, my Deliverer, my redeemer. Mold my life according to your will – I yield to your skilled hands.
God clearly explains why he summoned, called and equipped the Persian, Gentile, pagan king, Cyrus. Because he knew his people would need 1) a deliverer from the coming Babylonian captivity, 2) a hope in the midst of tragedy and darkness (God is the God of both dark times and good times – v7) and 3) he would use this prophecy to later reveal himself as the One who fulfills his redemption promises. The entire world would know that he is God.
Lord, it is clear to me that you are always working behind the scenes on my behalf. Nothing happens by accident. You give me hope when all hope seems gone. I am never without hope.
Someone has said, “When you pray, pay attention to what happens next.” In other words, God will answer. Be alert to circumstances around you. Don’t be oblivious. The same is true of prophecy, the prophetic word of God. When God’s prophets speaks, pay attention to what happens next.
God says, “Pay attention, O Jacob.” Your sins are swept away. God has paid the price to redeem you. “Return to me,“ the Holy One says. Shout for joy…break into song, for it is done. The Lord predicted it. He says, “I will rebuild my Holy city. I will restore the ruins.” The prophets of God do not lie. Father, knowing your history of redemption, knowing the price you paid at Calvary for my sins, I have every reason to be secure in your future redemption.
Such a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Messiah (vv1–9). He will bring justice. He will not crush the frail reed or snuff out the last flickering light of a candle. He himself will be a light to guide the nations. He will open blind eyes, deaf ears and set free captives held in bondage to the enemy, the evil one.
God’s chosen Messiah, Jesus, is worthy of praise (vv10-17. He will lead blind Israel on a new path, smooth their road. He will not forsake them, though they have failed him time and time again. Lord, you deal justly with my sin, but you do not crush me. Though I so often fail you (vv18-25), you never fail me. Grace is greater than all my sin.
The Lord is calling me to temporarily step away from my post as a prayer sentry.
For many years I have come daily to my Morning Watch post, to read God’s word, to consider His ways and his message. Then to write, to journal my thoughts and to pray in earnest for the many souls in my books of prayer.
“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” – Psalms 45:1 NKJV
Although I struggle to set aside the duty of my post, the Lord reminds me that he himself had to take times away from the crowds to find refreshment. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”–Luke 5:15-16 . This is not the first time the Lord has led me in such a way.
When I served in Vietnam it was required that every soldier take a time of respite. So a short leave from the rigors of battle was not just granted but required. The purpose was to refresh and renew.
So for the next month or so I will take this sabbatical time to seek the Father, to refresh my soul in Him who loves me and to find renewal for my sometimes weary heart.
I will not quit praying for my family, my friends and my country. I’m just temporarily stepping away from the regimens I normally follow.
With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK] the Lord your God…[your shepherd].“ Our God is holy, just and fierce against our enemies. But he is also a gentle pastor–shepherd to his people.
Men with all power tend to corrupt their power. But God, with almighty and eternal power will visit his people, not with the self-serving vicissitudes of power, but with compassionate, merciful and forbearing care. It is not just God’s self-restraint. He is holy yet “gentle and lowly” – that is just who our God is (Mat 11:29). Lord my feeble and wandering heart you mercifully embrace.
*For a beautiful impression of God as our shepherd see Barnes’ Notes on Isaiah 4:11.
With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See your God as coming. See him as coming to deliver you from your troubles. See him coming with magnificent power and strength. See him as the mighty ruler that he is.
“Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See him as the restorer of that which was lost by sin and the devastation of captivity. See him also as Messiah who comes to save to the uttermost. See him as the reward of heaven itself. Lord, may I have a vision of you as mighty in power and able to save to the fullest; my reward of restoration.
How quickly public opinion changes. But God‘s word never changes. Men make promises and do not keep them. But God‘s word is true and he keeps his promises. Men are like grass that withers and flowers that fade when the heat and drought comes. But the word of the Lord stands forever.
God keeps his promises to deliver this ancient people. He kept his word to send a deliverer in Christ Jesus. He came to deliver men from the curse of sin. He will keep us until the day of our salvation. God’s word will never fail. Oh Lord, you are faithful even when we are not faithful. You are utterly reliable.
Here we enter into the preparations of a great Monarch to forge a path through hostile desert places, perilous/treacherous mountain passes and murky low places, serpentine pathways and impassable routes. Why? So that the Monarch may be with the people of his/her kingdom.
“The Voice?“ A crier, lowly and hidden by the royalty and glory of the Monarch. The crier leads a great procession, legions of crews and engineers, to remove every obstacle hindering access of said Monarch to the people. Jehovah God, the Monarch, will move to deliver his people from the baneful hand of Babylon.
Just so, John the Baptist was a “voice” in the wilderness crying out, “Make way [clear the way] for the Messiah [our Monarch].” He is the deliverer of all men from sin (Jhn 1:23). The Lord Jesus has come to deliver us in these modern times and epochs from the curse of sin. Open the highway to your heart. Lord, may I tear down every obstacle that hinders the work of the most high God in my life (1Co 10:5).
“I have learned how to be content…“ This is a parenthetic statement given in the midst of a gratuitous statement of deeply felt thanks to the Philippian church for their financial provision to Paul. Paul’s joy (expressed so often and so well in this letter) informed his sense of contentment.
Joy is detached from circumstances. It comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. So contentment is detached from other inner desires for more and for abundance. It comes from the One who alone gives us strength and courage every day. Therein lies the secret of joy and contentment. Fully rely on God for EVERY need. Lord, fill me with your joy and contentment today.
I learned this lesson long ago from, Beggar At The Banquet, the story of Hong, Woo Joon. He, his parents, brothers and sisters were severely and unspeakably persecuted Korean Christians as communism took over Korea in the 1920s-40s. Hong’s story is told by Donald B Sheley.
The book opens with this quote from Hong. “Life is like a banquet in a strange land. Great expectation preceeds some of the [banquet] dishes while caution hinders the complete enjoyment of others. As the guest, one is expected to taste and experience each course. Some of the courses are delightful, and others are not, but all are given by a concerned host [the Lord] and must be received and appreciated. That is my philosophy of life, a philosophy which I have been practicing at life’s banquet for 52 years. Some of the courses have been wonderful, others have been bitter.”
The love and admiration between Paul and the Philippian church went both ways. He loved them and they loved him. They did not need coaxing to help Paul financially. It was and is what friends do. Help each other in times of need. They stood with Paul and his mission work like no other church.
Paul views their generous financial help as a sweet smelling sacrifice, pleasing to God. This same God will continue to supply all their needs, and his. We serve a God who is able to provide for every task to which he calls us.
Lord, I can never out give you. You supply my every need, allowing me to give generously to the cause of Christ. Thank you also Lord, for my church and it’s generous mission work.
This is not rocket science. If you always want to be full of joy (v4), contentment (v6) and know God’s peace (v7), do this: focus on the soon return of Christ (v5), spend time with God in prayer (v6) and exemplary living (v8) – enthusiastically embrace the truth and what is honorable; embrace what is ethically right and morally pure; embrace amiability and virtuous living; embrace an attitude of praise for all it is excellent.
Give attention to these things, study them, practice them. All of these things practiced consistently will lead to a life of joy and contentment and peace. It ain’t rocket science. Lord, I recognize that true joy, contentment and peace are not out of the grasp of even an aged old sentry.
Having noted several divisions and disagreements in the church at Philippi, Paul moves to some more practical instruction. “Joy“ being a major focus of this letter, Paul begins there. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; again – rejoice!”
“Joy” is not happiness with no gloom. It is the victory of faith, the confident assurance of the soul secure in Christ Jesus. It is often related to and/or out of times of affliction.
Joy “In the Lord“ – God himself is the ground and object of the believer’s joy (Neh 8:10). This joy is like a storm cellar in the midst of a storm; safe, secure, from the tempest outside. Lord, be my joy, my source of strength in turbulent times; at all times.