For any who would take a solemn pause in their life of sin and rebellion; for those who would resolve to leave a life of sin and return to God, there is full pardon. True repentance will invoke the forgiveness of God.
Imagine a call to inmates in prison – “If you would like a pardon, please see the warden in his office now.“ What inmate would ignore such an invitation? None! The invitation from God has been made. Come now for forgiveness of sin. Lord, thank you for your pardon of my sins and transgressions. I am set free.
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.
God’s people now plead with him to ready himself for battle and save them. They reflect back on God‘s mighty deliverance from Egypt. “Do it again Lord,” they cry. Replace our sorrow with joy.
God reminds them that their coming captivity in Babylon is of their own making, for they have trusted in men and idols, but NOT GOD. “Whose your daddy?” When we cease fearing man and begin fearing God again, he will come as the Mighty Warrior of the heavens. He will hide his people in the shadow of his hand. He will not deny his people.
Our troubles are often of our own making. We have set our eyes on the things of earth. Return home to your God. Oh Lord, may we daily reflect on God’s goodness and trust in him alone. HE IS OUR DADDY!
Isaiah 40–48 is concerned with the future hope of Israel being restored by the Persian king, Cyrus; after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Isaiah 49–55 is concerned with the future hope of all men in the coming Redeemer-shepherd: Christ, the Messiah.
Here God reminds all Israel, #1) their calamity was not due to the caprice hand of God. No. It was, #2) due to their own sin. They sold themselves into slavery. #3) in their captivity to come Israel will ask, “Where is our God? Has he no power to save?“ God answers, “Oh, I have the power, but not the will to save. I see Lord, that my disobedience will lead to my discipline, my judgment, without remedy. Until you are ready save.
Lord, may the heart of the sentry stay surrendered to you.
Isaiah chapter 48 could be summarized, “You did not listen.“ A theme that is repeated often in God’s word is “listen” to what God is saying. That is not the same thing as hearing. I may hear my father speak, but not “listen.” To listen implies understanding, acknowledging and obeying. If you hear an authority figure give an instruction and you say, “Whatever!“, then you’re not “listening.”
Israel’s problem was she was not “listening” to God; she was like, “Whatever!” The result was devastating – 430 years in Egyptian captivity, 70 years in Babylonian captivity. Had Israel listened and obeyed, verses 18,19 say much grief would have been avoided. Father God, give this sentry a heart to listen and the determination to carry out your instructions. Yes Lord! “Hooah!” *
* According to Stars & Stripes (military news paper) – “HOOAH” (or “huah”) is unique to the Army [“OORAH” – Marines]. Some say it stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.” It is shouted by a troop following an order given. It expresses determination to act as ordered. It expresses the Army spirit. (See also Jan 8, 2021 post, “HOOAH!”, this blog)
What happens when God delivers men from a drought of blessing, goodness and righteousness? What happens when revival comes, when awakening comes? Having lost their sense of worship for God in captivity, what would deliverance mean for Israel? What would it look like for us today.
The heavens will open wide with showers of blessing pouring down on the people. The skies open up and rain down righteousness on all men. Just as a parched land is watered and renewed, so the parched souls of men will sprout forth the beautiful fruit of salvation and righteousness. Such is the deliverance of Israel from her captivity. Such it will be for all men who repent and put their trust in God. Lord, pour down revival and awakening in our day on the parched souls of humanity.
Paul turns his attention to two women in the church at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche. Their harsh disagreement comes as a bitter pill for Paul to swallow. First, because of his love for this church and second, because of their previous effective hard work sharing the good news with Paul and others.
Perhaps Paul recalls his own falling out with John Mark and Barnabas (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). When it comes to the Christian life before a watching world, it is time to mend fences and resolve to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14,15). Lord, lead me to correct any unresolved conflicts in my life.
We have the written word of God to guide us. But faith is more than a book of code to follow. How that “Code“ is followed, lived out, is also important. Therefore, we have examples to follow. Paul says, “Follow my example” (follow me as I follow Christ – 1Cor 11:1). Paul says we may also follow the example of others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus).
I have had a lifetime of examples to follow – parents, teachers, pastors, mentors, associates, friends – many godly examples of the “Code,” the word of God. I in turn am an example to others of that “Code.” I have witnessed the “Code” at work In others. Lord, may I honor and live out the sentry’s “Code” for others to see.
What kind of person would be motivated to preach the Gospel to make someone else miserable? Who would be so malevolent as to use preaching as a cudgel to hurt someone else? Who would guess that ministers/preachers would be so jealous, so envious of another as to use their ministry to somehow cause harm to another minister and his/her ministry?Paul here identifies some as just that.
These jealous, envious preachers were standing in judgment of the apostle; using Paul’s imprisonment to cause him pain (we’re not told how) and advance their own ministry. Ecclesiastes 4:4,5 says the envy of others will only lead to ruin. In Philippians 2:3,4 Paul will exhort to do nothing out of envy. In the meantime Paul is content to lean on the prayers of others and the careful guidance of God.
Someone has said, you won’t make your candle shine brighter by blowing out somebody else’s candle. Father, give this old sentry a heart of genuine love.
The message here is to represent well the exalted Christ. Let your teaching, counsel [all your conversation] be ordered by the wisdom Christ gives. Let your worship and singing reflect a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done. In all you do (everything) honor the name of Christ. Lord, may I always bring honor to your name.
TRIBUTE: I used to tell my children, there were two rules in our house. One, you’re a Hollar you belong to me. Two, you’re a Christian, you belong to Christ. Honor both names wherever you go and in whatever you do. They are now grown, married and have three children each of their own. As far as I know they have always honored the Hollar name and the name of Christ. They still do.
Here, Paul moves from the ideal of “death to self“ (v3) to the practical working out of that principle in reality, in the believer’s daily life. Every day this body of flesh will challenge the right of God to be in control. This is nowhere seen more clearly than in sexual sin, immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. All of these sins of the flesh say, “SATISFY ME!”
Self is obsessed with itself, the adoration and worship of itself. This is what brings God’s displeasure. These sins will not only be judged in eternity, they will also incur their own judgment here and now. Who has not felt that condemnation? Father, I rely upon your strength to turn from sin to you. I reserve the “right to refuse” service to self.
Paul tells us we are to resist the temptation to feel condemnation for how we express our worship of God; the things you do or don’t do in worship. How we worship is not as important as who we worship. For all the traditions of worship are mere shadows that point to Christ himself.
Those who condemn us for how we worship are just not honoring God in Christ. They are too loud and too proud. Their worship practices have become the ends not the means of worship. They have totally missed the point and are certainly not surrendered to God in any way. Lord, may always exalt you and not the rituals of worship.
The “Book of the Lord“ is God’s book of promises and prophecies written down. Why? Because it is no hidden writing. It is open for all to see. What is written, is open for all to search and to find truth. What God has written shall be revealed as truth to all who have eyes to see (2Ti 3:16; 2Pe 1:19-21).
The prophecies given of God reveal and foretell the complete destruction of God’s enemies [Edom]. No one need guess, no one need wonder. For the plan of God is written for the ages. All may see it and all may be informed by it. Father, your word, your promises and your prophecies inform me of truth. I have seen truth come to life with my own eyes. Your Book is my book. I receive it and I pray it so for others who come after me.
God is not a compliant enabling father. He knows just when and how to discipline. He knows the limits of our ability to withstand testing and trials (1Co 10:13). Discipline is always an option (Heb 12:10,11). It is clear that God is always prepared to discipline his people to purge them from sin (though not every trial is for sin-Jas 1:12; 2Co 12:17; Rom 5:3–6).
In the end, like a loving father, God will come to his own and comfort them. You can count on that. The end result of God‘s discipline is to return to him, to love and worship him. Lord I have known your loving discipline and your comforting embrace. I look to you for the correction and reproof that I need.
Be alarmed and turn your wayward heart back to God (Isa 28:18-22). #TurnToGod #RepentTowardGod #ForeWarnedIsForeArmed
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
It ought to cause the people of God to shudder, to hear and to know that God is willing to trample his own when they continue headlong into sin and the rejection of his word. Instead they think they have outsmarted the coming judgment. But God will strike out, cancel, the deal his people have made with pagan forces to avoid judgment. The bed his people have made to lay in securely is wholly inadequate. The bed blankets are too narrow to cover them.
Just as God defeated the Philistines (Jos 10) and the Amorites (2Sa 5), so he will deliver a defeating, crushing blow to his own people. God’s people ought to be jolted into a repentance and surrender to Jehovah God. But they are not and time has run out. Oh Lord, awaken your people (awaken me) to the disaster ahead if we continue to trust in our own schemes and ingenuity. Bring this old sentry’s heart into alignment with your will and purpose.
Father, would you bring the heart of America into alignment with your will. Would you send revival into the church of America. May your people be alarmed and jolted at the high stakes at risk when there is no humble repentance toward God. I pray your Spirit to awaken the sleepy heart of America from her long slumber. May we we see a sweeping renewal of hearts toward God.
At times the people of God do not want to hear from the “intolerable moralist“ among them. They have become overconfident in their religiousity. They mock the man or woman of God and so, the message of God is also made a mockery. Such was the reaction of Israel and Judah towards the prophet Isaiah
How does that feel? I once told a brother that his lack of spiritual concern about some circumstances would lead to a bad outcome. I was told that my comments were simply an overreaction. They were not welcomed. Sadly, it turned out I was right. It took several years for that brother to recover.
To the religious know-it-all, God’s correction is all just baby talk to them – they do not wish to hear such repetitious and condescending gibberish. So God will oblige them. He will speak to them in another language. The language of an oppressor; the language of judgment. Perhaps then they will listen. Lord, may I always have an open and willing heart toward you.
Isaiah laments the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The pride of her capital Samaria has shaken off the reins of a loving but holy God. Now she faces only sorrow and heartache. Her end will come at the hands of a mighty army. It will come suddenly as a “mighty hail storm and torrential rain.“ It will “burst upon [them] like a surging flood and smash it to the ground.“ It will be “trampled under the enemies’ feet.”
Let the southern kingdom of Judah be warned. Because of Israel’s pride, her once great beauty will fade into oblivion. She has arrogantly shaken her fist in the face of God. She unwittingly brings God’s wrath upon her. Lord, how sin does pervert the human heart. How the sin of pride dismantles good sense. Lord, may my oft wayward heart find its way quickly back to you.
When a nation flaunts its sin, judgement is not far behind. May the wayward heart of America, my beloved country, humble itself, repent and turn quickly back to God.
When pagan, godless Assyrian settlers took over the land of God (Israel) they dishonored him by worshipping other gods. God sent a judgment of wild animals on them. It was recognized as such. When the Assyrian king heard about it, he sent one of the captive priests of God back to Israel to teach the new settlers how to worship the God of the land, Israel.
This would not qualify as full on repentance to God. But it does qualify as a step toward God. It shows that the temporal, remedial judgments of God can get the attention of even a pagan King. But, unlike the nation of Israel, he sought to find peace with God. Reconciliation with God is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus (Rom 5:1,2). Father, give me a heart to know that any temporal, remedial judgment in my life is your loving call, you talking to me, to repent.
Within three days of his arrival in Rome, Paul calls together a meeting with local Jewish leaders. His goal? To get acquainted with them and explain why he has been incarcerated by Roman authorities. He wishes to share with them what he believes is the hope of Israel – Messiah has come.
They know nothing of Paul’s trouble with the Jews in Judea. What they do know is that “the movement,” Christianity, is “denounced everywhere.“ There are many in Rome who have believed in Jesus. There Faith is denounced – “CANCELED.” These Christians were seen as a threat, as they believed in God as a higher authority, higher than Caesar.
Under Nero many Christians were murdered, tortured and burned alive. Today in many parts of the world Christians are tortured and murdered. Father, I pray for persecuted Christians around the world. May I have courage myself to stand for Christ if and when called upon to do so.
Acts 27:1–12 describes the beginning of Paul’s journey by sea to Rome. Dr. Luke and Aristarchus accompany him. The journey is recorded by Luke, the author of Acts. The pronoun, “we,“ gives us that clue. Paul and some other prisoners are put under the charge of a Roman officer named Julius.
At the first stop on their journey, Julius allows Paul, his prisoner, and the two travel companions to leave his charge. They were allowed to go ashore, meet with friends and pick up things Paul will need for the journey. This is truly amazing, because Julius put his life and career on the line for Paul to leave his charge in such a way. What a tribute to the character of Paul. Father, may the life of this sentry in your service be characterized by such honor and trustworthiness. In this, even those who oppose me will trust me.
“Cancel Culture“ is nothing new. Jesus was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” Weak politicians enable a culture that seeks to silence whatever does not fit their agenda or narrative. Two Governors, Felix and Festus, sought to appease the Jews of Palestine (a religious special interest group). They sought to “Cancel” the apostle Paul. Now King Agrippa would join in to silence, to cancel, the claims of Christianity. The goal was to shut down Paul’s revolutionary message of grace.
What does the Christian do when politicians and special interest groups seek to silence the gospel message? The Christian does what Paul did. He was relentless in sharing the message of Christ. No “Cancel Culture” will stamp out the gospel message of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17). Lord, enable sentries in the watchtowers to always, in every way, rise above the “Cancel Culture” of the day.
Politicians have more often than not pandered to the loudest voice, the largest contributor or the most powerful voting bloc. Just so, Festus, a new ruling Roman governor, panders to the interests of the Jewish ruling class in his territory. But there are those who refuse to bow a knee to injustice when truth and honor are at stake.
Festus tries to get the apostle Paul to agree to a trial that would certainly and unjustly condemn him to death. However, two years in Roman custody has not weakened Paul’s resolve to prove his innocence. To their chagrin Paul’s tenacity appeals to a higher authority. As a citizen of Rome, Paul appeals his case to Caesar. Lord, may this sentry always stand firm for truth and justice when called upon to do so.
A plot by Jewish leaders to kill Paul was foiled, as Paul was in custody and moved to Caesarea. Five days later the high priest himself, a lawyer and other Jewish leaders traveled to Caesarea, to file their charges and have Paul killed. The charges were, 1) Paul was a troublemaker, 2) a ringleader of a “cult“ (Christianity) and 3) he attempted to desecrate the temple (vv1–9). Pretty weak.
These allegations were all trumped up charges and Paul refuted each point. Furthermore, there were no witnesses to corroborate the charges (vv10–13). Paul also managed to speak in defense of his faith in God (vv14-16). His words were well chosen and effective. Lord, may the steadfast sentry trust that you will always be his/her defense at times when faith is misunderstood or maligned.
While in the city of Caesarea the prophet Agabus foretold of the apostle Paul‘s imprisonment if he went to Jerusalem. Paul’s friends begged him with many tears not to go. Paul understood. He knew it would be an upstream battle. But he would not be deterred by loving friends.
Oh, how well-meaning friends and family may turn us away from any hard mission to which Jesus calls us. I thank God for a Spirit-filled wife who supported me in my departure from real estate in the 1980s, to enter into full-time ministry. In the 90s she stood with me again as I entered into prison ministry. Pity those who do not know such support.
Lord you have blessed this sentry with great and encouraging friends and family. May all who follow Christ be so fortunate in their mission.
In the movie, “The Guardian,“ Kevin Costner plays Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall. He is the legendary “Guardian,“ one who protects those lost at sea. His protégé, Jake Fisher (Ashton Kutcher), asks Senior Chief Randall, “What’s your number?“ (How many did you save at sea?) Randall replies, “22.” Not many for the legendary guardsman. Then Randall says, “That’s how many I didn’t save. That’s the only number I kept track of.” In the end, Randall gave his own life to save one.
The Apostle Paul was an ancient “guardian“ of the lost souls of men in a sea of humanity. Used of God, he would give his all to save some. Paul is a real life legend who has inspired believers through the ages to give their all for Christ, that none should perish (2Co 9:22; 2Pe 3:9). Lord, I am inspired in my life by your word to give all, that I might save some. May I not fail at that task.
Inspiring notes follow on Paul, as a “guardian” over the lost souls of men: