And so now we encounter some of the most familiar words in the Bible: “Seek Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.“ This does not imply that somehow God is not present or is hidden. But there are special times when his presence is more keenly felt.
There was a day when I had drifted far from God. But he had never left me. I drifted from him. He orchestrated circumstances, slowly working towards a flashpoint in my life. In that moment I was more keenly aware of God’s presence than ever. I had been brought close to him (not him to me); that I might see him, find him; that I might know him. Lord, you found me where I was and called me back to you. Thankfully I did not squander that moment in 1968.
I am often arrested by the imagery of Scripture. I am halted, at times for days, wondering the meaning of it all (turquoise, sapphire foundations, pearl & ruby gates, mortar made of precious jewels). What splendor for mere men to imagine. Many, smarter than I, have speculated their meaning.
What splendor there is for a shipped wrecked Israel as she repents and discovers again God‘s heart for her. What Splendor awaits the church triumphant in the millennium (Rev 21:9-21). But most of all, what splendor awaits my wandering heart when times of refreshing come to me. Thank you Lord, for your splendid gifts to my repentant heart.
It is true that Jehovah God briefly turned his back on Israel because of her unfaithfulness (vv7,8). But this brief moment is in contrast to his promise of everlasting love and mercy (vv9,10).
This is the solemn promise of God: he would never again turn his back on his people. They would see the grander of great mountains dissolve before their eyes (see pigs fly) before God would ever again turn on his people.
As it has been for Israel, so it is for his church. Persecution, calamity and troubles may come. But God’s fierce love and devotion for his people will never be, shall never be, derailed nor gone missing. Lord, you have never forsaken this elder sentry; been forever faithful to me.
Coming down out of the clouds of the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, Isaiah jubilantly exhorts Israel to break into triumphant songs of joy. She had been cut off for her unfaithfulness. Like a woman unable to have children she had been shamed. But now God would show her favor as a woman blessed with many children.
Israel’s mourning over captivity and shame would be changed to joyful singing. She would be set free. Her shame and unfaithfulness, she would remember no more. And so it has been for this old sentry. Lord, you have blessed me since my days of repentance – the sins of my youth have been forgotten and I exult in my Redeemer.
The prophecy of Isaiah 53 continues here to describe the oppressive and unrighteous nature of the Redeemer’s shameful treatment and trial. Yet, this Redeemer, under great duress, said not a word of complaint. He surrendered as a lamb led to the slaughter, as a sheep before his shearers. He saw it through to the end.
The debt of sin, death, was called in. The Redeemer patiently, meekly and quietly suffered oppressive treatment and the unrighteous proceedings of incited leaders and an angry mob. He was charged for acts he never committed. He was cut down, sharply canceled out, before ever he might have a single heir in this earth (v10 informs us that he would ultimately have many spiritual heirs). For the sins of the people this righteous man, we now know as Jesus, The Christ, was struck down violently and suffered in our place.
The Redeemer, falsely accused, died a criminal’s death. The Jews would have buried him dishonorably along with the two thieves or the malevolent but sparred Barabbas. However, the Romans handed his body over to Joseph, the Aramathaean – a “rich man.” Why? Because according to the Scriptures, “His actions were [truly] prompted by pure love and his speech consisted of unclouded sincerity and truth.“* This honorable burial would inaugurate his glorification to come, noted in v10,12.
Barnes assesses this passage beautifully: “How strikingly and literally was this [prophecy] fulfilled in the life of [Christ]. It would seem almost as if it had been written after he had lived, and was history rather than prophecy. No other person ever so entirely accorded with the description of [Christ] by the prophet.“**
O how great is the enormity of this old sentry’s sin. How sufficient is the wonderful matchless grace of my Redeemer-Prince (Jesus the Messiah). He forgave all my sin and gave me life eternal. All he asks in return is that men would “believe the message” and trust in him (v1). The way I thank him and honor him is by believing and following him.
“By his stripes we are healed.“ Grasp the context here. Our Redeemer didn’t just represent man in redemption from sin. He literally took our sin AND all their consequences into his own being. All our weaknesses (the result of sin), all our sorrows, our troubles, our rebellion, our sickness and disease (all the results of sin, increasing his pain exponentially), he absorbed in his own body.
O, the anguish of our Redeemer’s soul. It was unspeakable, bearing ALL our sin and their consequences. His “stripes“ were literal. They painfully represent his horrible, unspeakable death. ALL that sin is and represents – the disease of certain and eternal death (were there NO redemption) – our Redeemer died for and provided for us complete wholeness and healing. We are healed, saved, from the curse of sin and ALL its consequences.
I am staggered and left without words, how to respond. The Lord tells me in verse one my only necessary response. Simply “BELIEVE the message,” receive and follow Jesus.
When I think of my fallen self and how desperately wicked can be my heart, I think of my risen Savior who has borne my sin and shame and redeemed me to himself.
The sin, which does so easily beset me, has its end in the cross of Calvary. It drives afresh the nails into my Savior’s hands and feet. My besetting sins do not go unaccounted for. These…
…my sins of commission – to lie, to lust, to speak ill/criticize, to waste time;
…my sins of omission – to disobey by not going when moved, not speaking when prompted, not helping when urged;
…my sins of disposition – envy, pride, anger, evil desire;
All these my sins, and more, go painfully under the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
My unmerited righteousness in Christ does not come without a price. I cannot flee the failure of sins committed, but I can, in Christ, flee from the sin not yet committed before it besets me. AND EVERY SIN FROM WHICH I FLEE IS THAT MUCH PAIN RELIEVED IN MY SAVIOR’S BODY. FOR EVERY SIN RESISTED IS A SIN FOR WHICH HE DID NOT HAVE TO DIE.
Where sin has abounded in my heart without confession, my precious Savior is left to suffer. For lack of confession is unbelief in his atoning sacrifice, his faithfulness to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9). My confession acknowledges and accepts his sacrifice.
If he did not want to forgive us he would not have died so horrible a death. So believe. Do not carry your burden of sin. He has borne it.
Confess it and do not mourn any longer. You are forgiven and accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6).
(Note: the following is from Valley Of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)
“…if I sin not I should thank thee for it;
“…if I do sin I should be humbled daily under it;
“…I should mourn for sin more than other men do, for when I see I shall die because of sin, that makes me mourn; when I see how sin strikes at thee, that makes me mourn; when I see that sin caused Christ’s death, that makes me mourn;”
“…Thou has taught me that faith is nothing else than receiving thy kindness; that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him, a love clinging to him as a branch to the tree, to seek life and vigor from him.” [To mourn no longer]
“…I thank thee for showing me the vast difference between knowing things by reason, and knowing them by the spirit of faith. [Job 42:5,6]
“…By reason I see a thing is so; by faith I know it is.
“…I have seen thee by reason [head knowledge] and have not been amazed.
“…I have seen thee as thou are in the Son [by faith] and HAVE BEEN RAVISHED TO BEHOLD THEE…
“…I bless thee that I am thine in my Savior, Jesus.” [Mourn no longer]
… And so the Lord calls upon Israel to “get up and get out” of Babylon, her captors of 70 yrs. She is set free by her deliverer, Cyrus of Persia (a type of Christ). Israel is commanded also to take time to purify herself. She is to prepare to remove the sacred things of worship from Babylon, taken as booty by this blasphemous brood (2Ch 36:18).
God himself will lead Israel out of Babylon like a general leading his troops. He will be their rear guard as well. Just so, every believer is commanded to “COME OUT“ of a world of sin and shameful things and be separate from all that is unholy (2Co 6:16-18; Rev 18:4). Thank you Lord, for leading this old sentry out of the unholy places in my life; for always being my rear guard as well.
When comes the deliverance of the people of God, men will cease to blaspheme his name. His people will see him for who he is and come to know his power. Deliverance is on the way. Salvation is on the way. So says “the messenger.“ “The God of Israel reigns!“ Let the party begin.
All the nations will see God‘s power and victory. Redemption has come. His people are comforted. All the ruins of the fallen holy city will break forth into joyful song. Even the sentries, the watchmen on the walls stand down, leave their post and join the celebration of the return of God’s people. [Angels too, celebrate the return of lost sinners to God – Luke 15:10]. Lord you have given this sentry great reason to celebrate – the Lord has come!
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!
Unlike me, the Redeemer–shepherd, Jesus, always listens to God. He is obedient to the Sovereign Lord (note Jhn 5:19). He seeks God‘s wisdom. He awakens to God’s call and understanding. He hears God’s voice because he puts himself in a position, in a mindset to listen.
So when the Redeemer’s humiliation comes he is able to stand steadfastly. His face is set to do God‘s will. The Sovereign Lord will sustain him in his hour of need. The Sovereign Lord is on his side and will put to shame those who mock his Redeemer. But those who put their trust in the Redeemer will walk in the light (1Jn 1:6,7). Lord, awaken this sentry early to your word and your will. I eagerly wait for you to speak.
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.
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.
When the Spirit of God comes to rest in those who have trusted Christ as Savior, they will rejoice to call him Lord. They will enthusiastically speak as a witness for him. They will not condemn those around them. But they will convey the truth, that God loves the broken and fallen sinner. They will share the truth and God will do the rest.
That is what Peter, the disciples and the 120 did at Pentecost. The Spirit in-dwelt them. They preached the truth and invited others to follow Jesus. 3,000 people accepted the King’s invitation (probably more). Lord, when this sentry opens his mouth and shares Christ, seeds of faith are planted. Your kingdom will increase.
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.
Idols: they are, at once, both ironic and absurd. Men forging idols out of wood or metal to worship, are incongruent, contradictory and nonsensical. The Lord scoffs at those who create idols with their own hands. They manufacture images to be worshiped out of wood and metal that the Holy one created.
Crafters cut down trees, use them for fire wood to cook or warm themselves. Then, with what’s left over, they carve out images to prize and worship. Really? Is that not foolish, absurd? None of these handcrafted idols can reveal, redeem or restore anything. But the Holy One, he can and he will. Lord, I come with assurance to the Holy One of Israel. I trust no other.
Sad to say, though God makes his case for his love and mercy, still Israel rejects his call to return to him. Do the words RECALCITRANT, DELETERIOUS, mean anything? Instead of offering sacrifices of praise to honor God, they offered the best of their sinful trash. They flaunted the worst of their disobedience before God. Shameful. Am I any better Lord?
Yet, still, God offers his absolute mercy and forgiveness for sins committed against him. Why? For his own sake. For the sake of his name, his love. God says repentance (getting rid of the trash) will lead still to the pouring out his Spirit on Israel’s descendants and his blessing on their children. The people of God will once again be proud to claim God’s name over them. Lord, put within this aged sentry a surrendered and willing heart.
“O Israel (O America), do not fear.” When judgment comes upon her, God will not destroy her completely. God will ransom his own, call them by name to himself. Through deep waters, difficulties and oppression, God promises to be with her (1-4).
“Do not fear.“ God will deliver his wayward people through the fire of judgment. Those who have trusted, as well as those without understanding – all will see that I, the Lord, I am able to deliver from captivity (5-13).
God says, “I am about to do a new thing” (v19). My chosen ones will be refreshed (see also Acts 3:19). They will once again honor God. Lord, through tears (of repentance) may I seek times of refreshing from you, I have everything to gain.
America – can we not see with our own eyes and hear with her own ears what is right? How long shall we refuse righteousness and ignore what is right before our own eyes and ears?
If God did not withhold judgment on his own people, Israel, how will he not withhold judgment on the nations that reject and ignore him? America has turned her back on God. She, like Israel of old, is the target of God’s fury…yet she refuses to understand. She refuses to learn her lessons.
Consider just the past 18 months: COVID pandemic, “George Floyd “– riots, grotesque racial division among us, out of control forest fires, inflation that threatens our economy, earthquakes claiming thousands of lives, inept national leadership foisted upon us and the demise of our national/international honor, pride and global influence.
Father, open the eyes of this great nation to your love, mercy and forgiveness. May she repent while there is still time and turn back to you. Begin by breaking the heart of this old sentry, Lord!
Could there be any more consoling words than those spoken here by God to Isaiah. The prophet is told to speak tenderly to his people who will face punishment for their sin. Isaiah is to speak words of comfort and pardon for sin.
Oh sinner, rebellious child of God, the sovereign God‘s heart breaks for you. No God like the God of heaven bears his heart to sinners and rebels like our God. Lord, this sentry is in debt for your pardon of my sin and your heart towards me and all who have sinned against you.
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.
My peace with God comes as a result of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for my sins. In the Levitical law it is shown that the bloodline of man was infected with sin through Adam’s rebellion (Lev 17:11). So now, the shedding of innocent blood provides renewal of the life of God in me. (In the Old Testament the blood of an innocent lamb was shed for the forgiveness of sin; in the New Testament Jesus Christ was that innocent lamb removing man’s sin [Jhn 1:29]).
Forgiveness and eternal life comes through Christ to all men and women who put their faith (trusting the truthfulness of God) in him to redeem them. Christ was/is the only means of redemption. Christ came in the flesh to shed blood for the remission of sin. Though I was alienated from God, I am now reconciled because I have received by faith new life through the blood of Christ.
I may take stock here, that the land of Edom WILL fall, be decimated by the Lord of Heaven‘s Armies. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s twin brother – a son of Abraham). The Edomites were bitter enemies of Israel (Jacob).
Edom is a symbol of all who oppose God; stand against God. Their judgment will be severe and without end (v10). If you stand against God there will be no place to run, no place to hide. In the day of your judgment you will know only disaster and decimation. Lord, may I remain centered on you, live always for you.
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.
Is there such a thing as an unforgivable sin? Yes, there is. This is it, pure and simple. When God calls a people to weep and mourn, to be ashamed and sorry for, remorseful of, sin (to repent) and instead that people just “PARTY ON!” ignoring, even scorning, God’s plea; that is the sin for which there is no forgiveness. How can there be?
The ultimate and unforgivable sin is the sin of rejecting God‘s love and mercy. Oh that I may never run aground of sin and unrepentance.