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.
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.
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.
This is not rocket science. If you always want to be full of joy (v4), contentment (v6) and know God’s peace (v7), do this: focus on the soon return of Christ (v5), spend time with God in prayer (v6) and exemplary living (v8) – enthusiastically embrace the truth and what is honorable; embrace what is ethically right and morally pure; embrace amiability and virtuous living; embrace an attitude of praise for all it is excellent.
Give attention to these things, study them, practice them. All of these things practiced consistently will lead to a life of joy and contentment and peace. It ain’t rocket science. Lord, I recognize that true joy, contentment and peace are not out of the grasp of even an aged old sentry.
Paul is here warning the believers in Philippi to put no confidence in the works of the flesh for salvation. Whereas, devout Jews considered Gentiles as “dogs,“ he flipped the table on these so-called Judaizers. He calls them, “dogs.” They taught that for a gentle to become a true believer one must be circumcised. NOT SO! It could not be said any stronger.
These Judaizers were nothing short of evil to perpetrate such a lie. The only effect of circumcision on salvation is a “mutilation of the flesh.“ True believers put no faith in such works of the flesh. True believers rely only on what Christ did at the cross for salvation. Lord, keep this old sentry alert to anything that would lead him away from the truth of salvation by grace alone.
The message here is to represent well the exalted Christ. Let your teaching, counsel [all your conversation] be ordered by the wisdom Christ gives. Let your worship and singing reflect a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done. In all you do (everything) honor the name of Christ. Lord, may I always bring honor to your name.
TRIBUTE: I used to tell my children, there were two rules in our house. One, you’re a Hollar you belong to me. Two, you’re a Christian, you belong to Christ. Honor both names wherever you go and in whatever you do. They are now grown, married and have three children each of their own. As far as I know they have always honored the Hollar name and the name of Christ. They still do.
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.
Our union with Christ (v10) is exemplified in the signs of circumcision and baptism. Circumcision signifies that the old sinful nature is dead (v11). In baptism, having died to sin, this union is pictured as a spiritual burial and resurrection unto new life.
Baptism pictures one being buried (down into the water) with Christ into a “water grave.” Then, by God’s transforming power, that believer is raised (up out of the water) with Christ in his resurrection onto new life. Neither circumcision nor baptism saves us.* They merely picture our spiritual transformation from death to new life. Lord, I shall trust fully in the transforming power of Christ and my union with him.
* Some believe that one must be water baptized in order to be saved. It follows then that they ought also to be circumcised in order to fulfill Paul’s complete analogy. Don’t see anyone standing in line for that. Just sayin’.
In these verses, and those that follow, Paul addresses the primary heresy threatening the church in Colosse: Gnosticism that denied the deity of Christ. Paul makes it clear and uncomplicated. All the fullness of God dwells in Christ. He was/is the Son of God in human form. His humanity did not/does not diminish in any way his headship and authority over all creation.
Furthermore, the union of every believer with Christ is absolutely complete. In Christ my reconciliation with God is fully complete, my sins are forgiven and my future is eternally secure. God of Heaven’s Armies, the duty sentry has no greater assurance than that in which he/she has put their trust, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We came to Christ by trusting the truthfulness of God (that’s “faith”). So when we are confronted with all the philosophies of the world we reject them and continue to trust in him and his word. His word is true, it will lead and guide me.
We must sink our roots down deep into Christ. That is, we draw nourishment from him and let his teachings inform our way of living. We must not be derailed by human reasonings. Do this and the truth in which we believed/trusted God in the first place, will grow strong within us. We will be overwhelmed by thankfulness. Lord, this old sentry would never trade new life in Christ for the world of human reasoning in which he used to live.
Paul must have felt tremendous responsibility for the church in Colosse and Laodicea. He did not found these two churches. Others who had come to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10) found these churches (Epaphras in Colosse – v7). Paul may have thought, “I hope I have adequately discipled these converts and that they may stand strong in the face of adversity and false teaching.”
Paul agonizes for their steadfastness in faith. He encourages them and reminds them of the truth they believed in Christ. He does all he can to continue pointing them to that truth. Lord, I have felt the responsibility of mentoring others in ministry. I have agonized over ministry plants in places near and far. To train and disciple is a joy. It is also a weighty responsibility. Father, may I always take such work seriously.
When Paul declares that Jesus was/is the supreme, preeminent one in life and in the universe (v15) he meant clearly that Jesus was the head, the first. He existed ahead of the beginning (v15). So everything begins with Jesus (v18), and it ends with Jesus – he is the author and finisher of our faith.
God himself became the God-man. “He was pleased in all his glory to live as a human in Christ Jesus” (v19). By this glorious manifestation he was able to reconcile men, make them right with him. What God chooses to do that? None. Only Jehovah God. My God. Lord, I exalt you as my Supreme and preeminent Leader in life. I owe all to my redeemer God.
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.
When Paul prays for the strength of the Colossians, coming from God’s power to them, he expects to see three results:
1) Their PATIENCE – the persistence to pursue the goal of following Christ in spite of any difficulty;
2) Their ENDURANCE – the virtue of quiet determination in the face of vitriol. It will not retaliate, but shows mercy and forgiveness;
3) Their JOYFULNESS – joy fuels patience and endurance. Joy is often seen In contrast to afflictions. It is the confident assurance of the soul, a state of mind, that rests fully in Christ. Even in the worst of circumstances.
Lord, the duty sentry depends fully on you to deliver unto him/her the patience, endurance and joy I need for every circumstance of life.
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.
Your faith is affirmed by God’s word and the testimony of others (Col 1:3–6). #GodsGraceForAll
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with an affirming tone. Paul is genuinely prayerful and thankful for these believers. Why? Because of their faith in Christ and their love for all God’s people. He affirmed the root of that faith and love: a confident hope in the coming kingdom of Heaven; a certain assurance that comes with the Good News (the gospel of Christ).
These are the truths in which they believed and by which their lives were changed. This Good News was spreading to everyone everywhere, even to this very day. It was then, and is now, bearing the same fruit in the lives of many. It changed my life too. God’s grace is for everyone. These words affirm my faith in Christ too. Lord, may I use every opportunity to affirm the faith of others.
The “Yellow Brick Road“ leading to the Emerald City in the land of Oz, is fraught with hapless characters and dangers on every side. But the “Highway Of Holiness“ leading to the City of God in the land of Zion* is a protected road, reserved only for the joyful and redeemed traveler.
The “Yellow Brick Road“ ends in disappointment at phony excellencies. But the “Highway Of Holiness“ ends in a place of singing and everlasting joy. There will be no disappointment, only gladness and singing. My sentinel duty is to point men and women to the “Highway of Holiness” and to pray for their perseverance as fellow travelers.
* Zion is a symbol of God‘s ultimate place of redemption and hope; the prophetic new Jerusalem.
Be it known to all men says the sovereign Lord. “I am placing a foundation stone [a cornerstone] in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone.“ The stone is a promise and a threat. This cornerstone is reliable to keep and to save all who put their faith in it as God. It is also reliable as a plumbline and level to test those who oppose and reject it.
The stone is Jesus (Rom 9:33; 1Pe 2:6). He is reliable to save to the uttermost. He is the reliable plumbline and level to prove righteousness and judgment. Failure to trust in this promise of God will bring about a bitter judgment. Father, I choose to build my life on The Foundation, The Cornerstone which is Christ Jesus.
Here the Lord when he says, “Be quiet and rest, silent and still, listen and reflect.“ But his people would not. Elsewhere it says, “[God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him” (Isa 26:3). “Ask for the ancient way and walk in it. Travel that path and find rest for your soul. But his people would not” (Jer 6:16). “Come to me and I will give you rest“ (Mat 11:28). But God‘s people, we, who always have something to say, fill the silence, his quiet rest, with our own babbling.
Someone once said, “Blessed are those who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it.“*
God’s people disregarded God’s Word as trivial, nonessential and elementary. They boasted the great plans made of men. They, so liberated and free, will find God‘s Word to be the stone upon which they will stumble, fall and be broken in pieces. It will be the snare that traps them. Oh Lord, like Job, I have nothing to say. I have everything to gain by closing my mouth and waiting on you to speak (Job 42:1-6).
*Dobie, J. Frank, Cow People, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, (1964, 1984 – pg. 85)
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.