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.
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.
In these verses God explains clearly that his Servant, our Redeemer, will lay down his life as the final sacrifice for man’s sin (v10). As a result, many rebels will be made righteous because of his sacrifice (v11; Rom 10:9,10; 2Co 5:21; Eph 4:22–24).
Most remarkable of all, he gave up his glory to become a man like me (Phi 2:7). He was subject to every sin and temptation, yet he himself was without sin (Heb 4:15,16). “He was counted among [identified with] the rebels (v12).“ He was like me but not me. He bore my sin and now as my Redeemer he is at the right hand of the Father advocating and interceding for me (Rom 8:34). He is my compassionate Prayer Sentry.
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.
Who would ever have thought that a scrawny kid from Nazareth, the son of a humble craftsman, would grow up to become the savior of the world. Unlikely.
Jesus did not possess all the attributes we’ve come to expect in “leaders” – wealth, power, good looks, education, large following. No, the Messiah, Jesus, had none of those things. Unlikely.
Jesus was an “ordinary Joe,” as we might put it. He was fully acquainted with the hurt men feel (no silver spoon in his mouth). Therefore, he was despised and rejected. But he was severely underestimated. Unlikely.
Men have made a drastic miscalculation to disregard the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus – the Messiah, Savior of the world. “Who has believed the message? Who has seen his power?” (V1). Lord, I have believed and have received you as Savior and Lord. I have seen your power in my life.
Filled with anticipation for the announcement of the coming Messiah-Deliverer (Isa 52:13-53:12), God announces “Good News“ (v7) to those in captivity. Deliverance is here. Judah wantonly sold herself into slavery for nothing. She will be released at no cost.
God will raise up a conquering prince, Cyrus of Persia. He will plunder Judah’s captors and in an act of mercy and justice, release God’s people back to their homeland. “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news of peace and salvation. The God of Israel reigns.“ He has done the same for me. Lord, ain’t that Good News!
AIN’T THAT GOOD NEWS
I got a robe up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a robe up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
(CHORUS) I’m gonna lay down this world, Gonna shoulder up my cross; Gonna take it home to my Jesus, Ain’t that good news, ain’t that good news
I got a crown up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a crown up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a Savior in-a that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a Savior in-a that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
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.
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.
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)
The God of Israel, which is to say, the God of our salvation, has no equal (vv3–5). The Babylonian gods, “Bel and Nebo“ (v1), are harmless against the God of Israel (Bel, chief domestic god; Nebo, god of wisdom and learning (47:10), are man-made gods (lies) that deceive men to think that they know more than God). The arrogant Babylonians will learn this lesson the hard way.
The gods of this world (power, fame, wealth, might, knowledge, et al.) lead men away from dependence upon the one true God. That is a sure fire way to lose the blessing of God. If America is to know the blessing of God once again, she needs to deny those deceitful gods of this world and return to him. Lord, deliver my heart from a “know it all” attitude. Deliver my beloved country from prideful dependence upon anything but you.
These final words in Chapter 45 are all at once magnetic, arresting and captivating. These words draw us inescapably into God‘s plan of mercy and righteousness.
Whom God chooses (here, the Persian king, Cyrus) he empowers for the task (v14). God moves in powerful and mysterious ways (vv15-17). What God says and does he does out loud, for all to hear and know. Following God is not the result of some “secret path.” He has said, “If you seek me, you shall find me“ (vv18,19). What God says he will do (vv20,21).
All men will look to him for eternal salvation. His promises are true and every knee will eventually bow before him. All will confess him and give praise to him. Those who have worked against him will be ashamed. His followers will boast in him alone (vv22–25). God’s plan of redemption is visible for all to see. Lord, I commit to remain open-eyed to all you say and do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.