The nation of Judah faces 70 years of captivity for her sins and her rejection of God. She will feel the full fury of her God. Her sin will lead her to absolute desolation and famine, destruction and war. Those in her midst who guide and comfort her will be exposed as frauds, leaving her devoid of help.
But in the end, her God will defend and deliver her. In repentance she will again find joy in her God and know peace. God will then turn his fury on her arrogant oppressor and trample them into the dust. I understand that it is never a good day to be a disobedient child; never a good day to be the instrument of chastisement in God’s hands. Lord, soften the hearts of your sentries towards you and towards others.
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.
Verses 6 & 7 bears the mention of one further thought. Jehovah here reveals the importance of the Redeemer’s task. The restoration of the people of God back into relationship with him as paramount. But it was a small thing compared to being the light to all men.
It was far more important that the message of Redemption be spread to the ends of the earth. (Note Mat 28:19,20; Acts 1:8). It is to this end that believers in Christ are commissioned, called, to “Go and make disciples.” Lord, there could be no higher calling than to be a witness to others of the redemption story of Christ.*
Jesus, my redeemer–friend, wonders in his humanity at the outcome of his earthly work and ministry, as perhaps ineffective. (He also stopped and prayed three times over the certainty of God’s plan in the garden before his crucifixion – Mat 26:36-47.) He has no hesitation in trusting his life’s work into the hands of Jehovah God (v4). Isaiah 49:5-7 explains why.
Our Redeemer is confident in the source, strength and certainty of his life call and work (v5).
He is assured that nothing he did on earth will be lost. It will ultimately be used to point ALL men to God (v6).
Finally, he is assured that “rejection,“ or apparent failure, is not the measure of success in God’s eyes. God is faithful (v7 & 25:1).
Lord, I can learn lessons from Jesus in trusting you completely with the outcomes of the work to which you call me.
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.
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)
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.
“I [God] create good times and bad times.” Am I to understand here that God is the author of evil in the moral sense of sin? No! No! No! This statement is made in relation to the providences of God. He raises up prosperity, peace, pure religion and the like. He also calls forth adversity, calamity, ignorance, et all…but not evil, in the moral sense of sin. He gives us light. Darkness ensues because the light is withdrawn.*
When God withdraws his hand, bad things happen. But when God puts his hand of blessing on something (as here with Cyrus) good things happen. God’s point here is his complete and absolute superiority over all the things in heaven and on earth. He providentially works in the affairs of men. This is as true today as it was in the days of Cyrus.*
America may not want to hear this, but God says, “[I am he who] builds up nations, and [I am he who] destroys them. [I am he who] expands nations, and [I am he who] abandons them” (Job 12:23 NLT – see vv 13-24 for context https://bible.com/bible/116/job.12.13-24.NLT).
Lord put it into the heart of every prayer sentry to seek truth and learn from you in the good times and in the bad times. May every sentry standing on the wall speak with conviction and with compassion. May your Spirit not be withdrawn from our midst.
Here is seen one of God’s most incredible prophetic accounts. God declares through Isaiah, by name, that “Cyrus,“ the Persian, shall be God’s “shepherd“ king, “anointed one,” to deliver Israel out of Babylonian captivity.
Why so incredible? Because this prophecy was delivered by Isaiah 150 years before Cyrus was born. Further, he is the only pagan, Gentile king referred to by God as “anointed one.“ Cyrus is, in this sense, a type of the greater Anointed One, Redeemer of Israel and of all men, Jesus Christ. God chooses whom he chooses for his work of redemption. Lord, you alone are mighty to save. I put my trust in you.
Paul Clarifies what he expects as his deliverance, his vindication, as a result of prayers and God’s guidance (may be quoting Job 13:18). Paul’s earnest, eager, expectation* and hope (ignoring all other interests, straining to see beyond his circumstance) is not so much his release but that he unashamedly continues to exalt Christ.
Prayer is not about getting my own way. It’s about getting God’s way, worked out in life. For Paul, God’s will is accomplished whether he lives or whether he dies. Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thy will be done“ (Mat 6:10; Luke 2:42). To live is Christ, to die is gain. One is as good as the other. Lord, may I not be so preoccupied with my circumstances that I preclude the glory of Christ.
* Martin, Ralph P., Philippians, Tyndale NT Comentary (1959), suggests this may have been a word coined by Paul himself.
We could spend all our time bemoaning our circumstances, thinking, we are better than this or that; thinking we deserve more, better. We sometimes compare ourselves to others. We ask God why “those people“ have all the good fortune.
Paul, writing from prison no less, for simply preaching the Good News, doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t spend his time criticizing and judging “those people.“ Those preachers, whose egos are bigger than life, who are free to go where and when they want. No. Paul sees the bigger picture. He trusts God completely to care for, guide and use him. Lord, I surrender my circumstances to you. May I not complain, but stand in faith and rejoice in knowing that you are always at work for my good and your glory.
For this I came, to suffer any hardship for the cause of the Gospel. Paul clearly understands his call from God. That is, to proclaim the message of Christ – it is now no mystery. Christ came in human form. He died a real death, that all men might know the riches of the glory of God.
“Christ lives in you.“ Paul and every Christian are called to tell others of Christ’s love and forgiveness. It is up to me to use every resource God gives me in life to carry out this call. Lord my call is clear, “Do the work of an evangelist – influence men for Christ.“ Lord, with your strength, I will strive to fulfill my call, all the way to the end.
When Paul says, “We have not stopped praying for you…“ he is not making some impromptu, casual remarks. He intends with all earnestness to point the Colossian church to the great God of all creation. Prayer is not a bargaining chip, an after thought or a therapeutic exercise in meditation. Prayer is the means by which God achieves his purposes in this world.
Paul speaks in the tradition of Jesus who instructed his disciples to “pray earnestly” (Luke 10:2); who taught that “men are always to pray and not faint” (Luk 18:1). Lord, prayer and the reading of your word is essential to sentry’s growth and effectiveness as a follower of Christ; to the advancement of the Gospel in this world.
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.
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.
Following a ship wreck and three months delay, Paul and Luke, along with fellow prisoners, travelers and soldiers, left the welcoming island upon which they were stranded. Fairwinds delivered them to Sicily. Then up the coast of Italy to Puteoli. There they stayed a week, hosted by believers of “The Way.” Later, other believers met Paul in route to Rome – Paul was encouraged by them. When he arrived in Rome he was allowed his own private lodging – though guarded by a soldier. One would hardly guess that Paul was a prisoner, save the guard assigned to him.
Paul – falsely accused, incarcerated, shipwrecked and snake bit – so what hinders me? Whatever shackles appear to bind me will never impede the forward progress of God’s work. My circumstances do not dictate the forward movement of God. I can trust God to lead me on his mission for my life. Lord, I trust you to overcome the shackles, any hindrances in my life, to the progress of the gospel, the ministry of the word and the encouragement of others.
Upon the island, near where Paul was ship wrecked, lived a man named Publius. He was a chief official of the island. He hosted Paul and the others in his villa – another gracious provision of God.
Publius’ father was sick with dysentery. Paul was used by God to heal him. The result was that many on the island came to Paul and we’re healed. Paul ministered healing by God’s power to these islanders for three months. They showered Paul and Luke with much love and affection.
God chose Paul and called him to be his voice to the ancient world. Paul was a man surrendered to God. Another such man is Billy Graham of the 20th century. God could reveal himself in these men in powerful ways. Here, because of Paul’s surrendered life, I see yet another display of God‘s presence, provision and power.
Lord, you call each one to serve you in many different ways. Oh, how you love to bless through chosen ones surrendered to you. Lord, may this sentry’s heart know such surrender.
The island in the Mediterranean Sea upon which Paul’s ship was wrecked was Malta. It was a populated island and Luke reports that the people (Phoenicians) were kind and hospitable towards the ship wrecked visitors (vv1,2). They assisted the survivors (in the rain), building a fire.
When Paul had laid wood on the fire a poisonous snake bit him on the hand. When Paul shook it off and did not die, the people thought he was a god. But no, he was just a man…a man on a mission for God. God once again delivered Paul, his man, carrying his message. God preserves safe those who love him and are called according to his purposes. Lord, you have preserved this old sentry for a purpose. You shall preserve me to the end.
From my watchtower you can hear singing in the Morning Watch, those aged words…
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; [His] grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”
The ship in which Paul sailed was driven aground on a shoreline shoal. It was being smashed to pieces by furious breakers. Soldiers, fearing the consequence of losing their own lives if any prisoners escaped, wanted to kill them. Julius, the Roman soldier in charge, stopped them. Julius trusted Paul and wanted to spare him. Ultimately every prisoner swam safely to shore (as did the entire ship’s company).
God had a plan. He can and will bring deliverance from the most unlikely of sources. When God’s plan and mission is at stake he will use any and all resources at his disposal. Lord, it has been my experience of almost 75 years of life (whether family, parenting, ministry, relationships), you have seen me through every mission to which you have called me.
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.
Many a ship, crew and cargo have been lost because of decisions made by men to ignore the facts at hand. Paul pleaded with the ship’s officers to wait out the winter storms in a place called Fair Havens. But the ship’s company thought Fair Havens an incommodious place. They decided, against better judgment, to set sail for the more commodious port of Phoenix.
How often we wish to leave the Fair Havens of life, thinking to outrun the storms ahead. We look to the more favorable places to set anchor and harbor. We ignore the signs of tragedy ahead. We ignore the counsel of God. We leave the Fair Havens given by God and set sale for our own desired comforts. Lord, I pray this aged old sentry has finally learned to trust you and grow and serve where you plant me?
After Paul had made his defense, Felix, the governor, stopped the hearing. He determined to delay his verdict. He put Paul back in custody. No evidence, no charges, no verdict. Paul was held in custody for two years before Felix was replaced (v27). Two years. We read no record of complaint by Paul. What we do read is how very often Felix, the governor and his wife Drusilla, a Jew, would call for Paul and talk to him about the “Way“ (v22).
Paul was forthright in his witness and did not back away from calling out sin. For two years it seems Paul was put on hold. But he used this time to witness for Christ to a Roman governor and likely many others. At times I may feel abandoned by God, set aside. Yet, God has a flip-side, an up-side, for every circumstance. Lord, may I always look for opportunities in life‘s setbacks to honor and glorify you.
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.
When God calls a person to a mission – He called Paul to a mission; said he would go to Rome to preach the gospel message (Acts 23:11; 25:12) – God will see that it is carried out.
Because of the threat against Paul’s life, his journey to Rome begins secretly in a night passage with an armed Roman escort out of town to Caesarea. Two hundred soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen would bring Paul safely to the governor, Felix, for trial.
Paul is safely delivered, including a letter explaining the allegations against him (vv26-30). Felix agrees to hear Paul’s case when formal charges were filed (v35). I may not always understand the means by which God works, but I may always trust God. He will go to any lengths to enable the obedient servant. The task of the prayer sentry is to faithfully follow.