Zephaniah closes his prophetic words to the nation of Judah with a clear message of hope and rejoicing. “On that day,“ the day of deliverance from their enemies, being “gathered” together is mentioned several times. It is God who does the gathering. The word will go out to all who have been mocked, shamed, ridiculed, oppressed, expelled and disbursed. “Come home!”
“Come home!” The enemy is defeated. It is the remnant, God’s faithful ones, who will rejoice and come together again. They will be honored as favored ones. Their good name and fortunes will be restored. God has said it. It will be and it was so. God’s word is full of hope for those faithful to him. Lord, may we see such a revival, such an ingathering, as this today.
May the nations and people of our world humbly surrender their hearts to God (Nah 2:11-13). #FallOfANation #RepentenceOfTheNations
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The great city of Nineveh, the great Assyrian empire, will be no more. She roamed about the earth fearing no one – all feared her. But she was ravenous for power and shredded without mercy everything on her way to it.
Assyria’s mighty military would be decimated by the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. She would never mercilessly plunder the nations again. Her voice will be utterly silenced for the ages.
Lord, pity the nation steeped in raw power, mercilessly and brutally overthrowing other nations. May we know the goodness of nations that are surrendered to God.
• The sentry cries out: I am no prophet. I am no judge. But nations in our world who brutalize their own people and the people of other nations will suffer mightily. Will Russia suffer the consequences of her brutal attacks on Ukraine? God will be the judge.
May you be arrested and inspired by God‘s word (2Ti 1:1,2). #FamousLastWords #WordsToLiveBy
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
“I (state your name), being of a sound mind, do hereby publish as my last will and testament…“ What follows next is crucial information to the heirs of said testator. Paul’s opening words in 2 Timothy begin his last testament letter to Timothy and to the Church. “I Paul, chosen by God, an apostle of Jesus Christ…am writing to my dear son, Timothy.“
Are you listening? Are you paying attention? Is your conscious mind piqued to hear? One of the most influential men in all of Christendom is about to reveal his final thoughts to his most beloved son in the faith, Timothy; consequently to the Church at large. Lord, I want to hear from your word the profound truth and inspiration for life.
Be grateful for whatever spiritual heritage you may have; create a spiritual legacy for those who come after you (Isa 64:10-12). #Steadfast #LeaveALegacy #RememberTheGodOfYourYouth
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Isaiah is here looking ahead some 150 to 200 years and speaking prophetically, as if exiled from the homeland of Israel. He looks back from the future affectionately at worship in a beautiful temple unto the most high God, which has now been destroyed. He recalls the places in that homeland where children grew up and played, now overgrown and wild. He remembers revered ancestors who went before him, who are now all gone. Speaking prophetically as an exile he models a plea to God to deliver Israel from the peril in which she finds herself, in that prophetic future.
I often have affectionate thoughts of the old church in which I was raised (pictured). I can still recall the smell of musty wooden floors in my “primary“ Sunday School class (windows to that classroom on the right side). I remember my pastor, Dr. Northrop; my music minister, Shelly Knowles (he led worship with a trombone in his hands). I was saved and baptized in that old church some 70 years ago. I can’t imagine that place as gone. Destroyed, burned to the ground. But such was the prophetic vision of Isaiah to the people of Israel. If Israel can see it, perhaps she will repent and avoid such a future calamity.
Too often we don’t know what we have until we have lost it. Lord, thank you for calling me back to my Christian heritage. May Isaiah’s words continue moving me to gratitude for my Christian heritage; to remember the God of my youth; to remain steadfast in my faith and pass it on.
Somewhere around 650 BC Isaiah penned this prophecy. 700 years later a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, named Jesus, stood and read these words in temple worship…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him“ (Luk 4:18f).
In the middle of verse two he stopped and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing“ (Luk 4:21). Everything about that day in worship was normal until Jesus stopped here and laid claim to these verses for himself as the Anointed One, the Messiah of Israel.
Nothing would ever be the same again. Not the for Jesus, not for the nation of Israel nor the rest of mankind. History was at a pivot point. Three years later Jesus would die on a Roman cross to forgive the sins of mankind and open the door to eternal life. Lord, my faith and belief in you is affirmed. I will follow you to the end as the faithful fulfillment of this prophecy.
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.
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.
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.
Paul shifts his thoughts in Colossians from what we know and understand about Jesus (correcting false teaching) to how we are to live for Jesus. So we, having “died” to our old sinful nature, transformed by the cross of Christ, are united with him in spirit and in life. Our perspective now is to “set our sights on Christ and the realities of heaven.”
This has to do with our gaining a totally new perspective on life; a “quantum foot view,”. The shift is from a previously base, banausic, and materialistic point of view of life to an honest, uncorrupted, exceptional and eternal perspective. Christ has given us a vastly expanded view of the scope, purpose and understanding of life. Lord, allow me to respond to the daily events of life always with your point of view in mind.
Who exactly is this agent of light Paul speaks of? Who effects man’s rescue from the empire of darkness and transfers us to the Empire of Light. It is here, beginning with Christ, that Paul begins his rebuttal of two philosophies that threaten the early Church, Syncretism and Gnosticism.* It is here that Christianity gets its most complete explanation of Christ’s singular deity above all others (Sōlus Christus).
Modern movements today that would reflect syncretistic or gnostic attributes might be The Jesus Seminar (est 1985). It does not accept the physical manifestations of the miracles, virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. Another would be the New Age movement (est 1970s). It is an amalgamation of many humanistic self-actualization beliefs and spiritual views.
But Jesus is the only and undisputed Champion of redemption. He is the exact image, manifestation, of the living God. He is the preeminent and sovereign Lord of all and over all. His life, teachings, miracles and resurrection are rooted in historical fact. May Jesus be elevated in all things concerning my life today and always.
* Syncretism in religious terms merges multiple religious belief systems, traditions and practices into one new system.
*Gnosticism is a religious movement claiming that, 1) salvation is acquired on some mystical higher plane of secret knowledge, not from Scripture; known only by a few; 2) all matter is evil and the spirit is good. Anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only. Vis-à-vis, Christ in human form could not be God. Gnosticism was perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries.
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 30 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that my family and friends might pray earnestly to you and wholeheartedly seek you.
Herein lies one of the most clearly stated promises of God in the whole of Scripture. God fills this space with incredible assurance of his work on our behalf. God says to his people, “You will have troubles. But, I will deliver you…I have the plan…It’s a good one, filled with hope for your future.”
God further states, “When you pray, I WILL LISTEN and act. When you look wholeheartedly for me, YOU WILL FIND ME. I will lead you home again.“ My take away from this passage of scripture is that anyone who seeks God with a sincere heart, will find him. If we pray, God will listen and act.
Lord, you were faithful to your promises in the ancient of days. You have been faithful to me and to every sentry through time who has ever stood watch.
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.
What does this world have in common with the ancient Athenian culture at Christmas?
I read in Acts 17 that the Athenians were worshipping an “unknown god.” They of course didn’t want to accidentally leave out some god whom they did not know and thus offend the divine. This is political correctness at its best (maybe worst) in ancient Athens.
“So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’”
Satan, the god of this world, has led our contemporary culture down the same path of political correctness. Soon, there will not be much left of the historic meaning of Christmas. We are left with simply a hollow “winter holiday,” devoid of the Christ, devoid of its true meaning.
This is our challenge: As fewer and fewer people understand the true meaning of Christmas, we who know this God, like Paul, must declare Jesus, “whom they do not know” (Acts 17:23).
The world worships at the altar of the “holidays god,” whom they do not know. So, we must proclaim Jesus to them who do not know HIM and we must do so with joy at the opportunity. We say with Paul,
“This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.”
Christmas is a time to share the greatest message on earth; the message of the one true God. “Behold the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, meaning, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). He is, “The son of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
He is God who can be known
He has a name
His name Is Immanuel
The God who is with us
Scripture says that some laughed and derided Paul. But others said, “We want to hear more…[and] some joined [Paul] and became believers.”
It is clear that Isaiah‘s view here is apocalyptic and messianic. “In that day,“ is the Day of the Lord. “In that day,” the Lord will rule in richness and abundance. Death will be banished, a thing of the past. Elections? No bearing.
The cause of all tears will be eliminated – hurt, pain, suffering, sickness, persecutions – GONE! God has spoken! The people will shout, “YES! This is the One [Jesus Christ] in whom we have trusted. Finally, every enemy of God will be forever gone. Vanquished. Done. Elections? No bearing.
Lord, my rejoicing and confident heart does not even begin to express my inner excitement at the outcome of your promised return. Elections? No bearing.
Praying through the ancient prophecies of Isaiah regarding all the godless nations surrounding Israel and Judah. Not an easy read. I was considering the fact that EVERY PROPHECY over every nation has been FULFILLED (Isa 14-23).
God is a sovereign, who providentially works his will through all the affairs of men. I have every reason to believe that the prophecies of the future (Isa 24-27, New Testament, et al.) will be fulfilled, just as they were in those ancient of days. My sentinel faith rests in an eternal Commander who seeks the ultimate good and will destroy all evil.
In the closing days of Israel and Judah‘s national lives the prophet Isaiah dominates their collective conscience. But he speaks also into the conscience of other nations as well. These nations, though used by God to discipline his people, are caught up in the evil of their own ends. There is nothing righteous about them.
God’s message, through Isaiah, to the nations of the earth is certain judgment for their hostile and pagan attitude toward God. Isaiah’s prophecies were all fulfilled. “Let God be found true and every man be found a liar“ (Rom 3:4). Lord, you are certain to carry out every word of prophetic judgment against all evil in this world.
The cry in the midst of an American cultural war, when tearing down historical monuments is vogue, has been to preserve our history?
Herein lies OUR HISTORY. In 1937, JP McBeth wrote these words in his commentary on Romans (8:22):
“Creation is faulty from the ruins of man. Man has defiled whatever he has touched. Man’s sin put thorns on the roses.
HISTORY is but the sin of the nations and the record of the ruins of man. HISTORY is little more than a war record.
CRUMBLING CITIES ARE THE MONUMENTS OF MAN’S HANDS. Wherever man has labored there are seen the heaps of ruins in his memory. There is nothing so pure on earth but that it has been polluted by man’s corruption.
Soon after [man] saw the morning light of creation, midnight darkness terrified the fallen souls. And those who [should have] graced the beautiful garden [of Eden] became homeless, murdered and murderer, and vagabond in the earth; and sorrow and sin began to multiply exceedingly.￼￼” This is our HISTORY AS MAN
McBeth explains our hope for the future (8:24):
“BUT LET NONE DESPAIR, for hope is in the very nature of our salvation – we were saved in hope. We were not saved upon the grounds of what we could see but in faith [in Christ] as we trusted the word of God. We are saved in hope, the saved are sustained by hope and they are living for hope.”￼￼
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. – Jesus