Posts Tagged 'mercy'

Panic Podcast: Wait Upon the Lord, Part 5

Howdy, friends and neighbors, and welcome back to my place. Today we’ll be looking at the idea of being silent as we wait upon the Lord. Open those Bibles up to Psalm 62 and we’ll dive in!

 

 

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Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 2

hands of jail holding prison bars

It would do every Christian well to memorize Ephesians 3:20 because it says a mouthful –

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us… (Ephesians 3:20. KJV)

What that verse tells us is powerful: Whatever we need, God is able to provide it in abundance. In fact, He can provide more than we can possibly imagine. No child of God ever needs to live with any lack in his life.

Previously, we looked at Romans 5:20 with the truth of Ephesians 3:20 in mind –

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound… (Romans 5:20. KJV)

Sin may “abound” all around you, but God’s grace is more plentiful. The context of Romans 5 is peace, therefore, thanks to God’s abundant grace, we may be at peace with God and with the world around us because of the abundant peace God gives us. That means that God’s peace is without end. God has more peace than the world has strife. It doesn’t matter how much turmoil there may be in your life, God has more peace for you.

Now, let’s take a look at something else God gives in abundance: Pardon.

Let men cast off their wicked deeds; let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon! (Isaiah 55:7. TLB)

General context

In the book of Isaiah, Jesus Christ – the Messiah – is sometimes referred to as “the Suffering Servant” in the latter chapters. In chapter 53, the work of the Suffering Servant makes salvation possible.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to bruise him and fill him with grief. However, when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again, and God’s program shall prosper in his hands. And when he sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of his soul, he shall be satisfied; and because of what he has experienced, my righteous Servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for he shall bear all their sins. (Isaiah 53:10, 11. TLB)

That’s a general statement about the salvation provided by the work of Jesus on the Cross. In the next chapter, chapter 54, the invitation to appropriate this salvation is extended to Israel

O my afflicted people, tempest-tossed and troubled, I will rebuild you on a foundation of sapphires and make the walls of your houses from precious jewels. I will make your towers of sparkling agate and your gates and walls of shining gems. But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:11, 12, 17. TLB)

And here in chapter 55, this abundant salvation is offered to the whole world. That’s how God planned it, by the way. The Gospel went out first to Israel, and then to the world of the Gentiles. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote this to the Roman church –

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God’s powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way. (Romans 1:16. TLB)

The invitation of salvation is for all who hear it and respond in faith to it. God’s offer of salvation is the greatest offer ever extended to sinful man, but it’s not guaranteed. God offers it, but it must be accepted. Man’s sinful condition makes it impossible for him to seek out God. But, we read this is Isaiah 55:1 –

Say there! Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink-even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine and milk-it’s all free! (Isaiah 55:1. TLB)

Of course, we’re reading some poetic statements here. The thirst the prophet writes about is no ordinary thirst, and here’s the point. Sinful man may not be out there looking for Jesus Christ, but he may be looking for something else that draws his attention to God’s gracious offer. Jesus talked about this “thirst” in Matthew 5:6 –

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (KJV)

Man without God is not only lost, but he has a gaping, aching void that can only be filled with the Lord.

The call to salvation

As we see in Isaiah 55:1, God’s provision of salvation is absolutely free of charge. Nobody can buy salvation – not with good works or tears. Salvation is free. The words of President Benjamin Harrison’s favorite hymn come to mind:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked come to thee for dress,
Helpless look to thee for grace;
Foul I to the mountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I’ll die

The greatest gift to man is God’s free gift of salvation. It’s there for the taking. But not only is the gift of salvation free, it’s free for anybody! Isaiah’s wording is clear and precise: “Is anyone thirsty?” “Anyone” means just that. The words of John 3:16 echo this idea –

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (TLB)

Who could resist what the Lord offers? Apparently most. Sinful man is running around looking for what God is offering, but they’re looking in the wrong places.

Why spend your money on food that doesn’t give you strength? Why pay for groceries that do you no good? Listen and I’ll tell you where to get good food that fattens up the soul! (Isaiah 55:2. TLB)

Isn’t that exactly what people are doing today? Isaiah used symbolic language to describe man’s fruitless and futile search for what only God can provide. It’s a fool’s errand, looking for satisfaction outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ because you were created with that need; it’s part of who you are. The problem is, we try to meet that need with anything or anybody other that the Lord. You’ll always come up short. Hospitals, divorce courts, psychiatric wards, and prisons are full of people who searched for what only God can supply in abundance.

That reminds me of a song written by Ken Hirsch and Ron Miller. Most people are familiar with a version of the song from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that Charlene made famous. It’s a song about a woman who had lived a hard life, drifting in and out of romantic relationships looking for happiness and finding nothing but emptiness and regret in the end. What most people don’t know is that “I’ve Never Been to Me” was originally written from the male perspective, about a man on the same search. Among the lyrics, are these:

I’ve even been to marriage
Had children cryin’
for someone they couldn’t find
Never knowin’ that I was searchin’
For things I left behind

I thought my heart could wait
But I learned too late
Only love can make people free.

Regardless of which version you prefer (I prefer the male version by The Temptations), it’s a cheesy song but it captures the common experience of human beings all over the world. Just think about the years, the emotions, and the money we wasted looking for the very things that cost nothing because God gives them to us out of the abundance of His love, mercy, and grace.

George Adam Smith, writing about the Jews, could have easily written the same things about modern Christians:

Born to be priests, the Jews drew down their splendid powers of attention, pertinacity, and imagination, from God upon the world, till they equally appear to have been born traders.

Indeed. Selling our souls for what junk the world offers us, man has become a “trafficker in trivia,” not knowing the richness of God’s provision is there for those who “hear” the call.

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you, to give you all the unfailing mercies and love that I had for King David. (Isaiah 55:3. TLB)

Now, Isaiah has the final restoration of Israel in sight, but the call of salvation – the reality of God’s exceedingly abundant provision is for all people everywhere. Salvation is God’s gift to sinful man. It’s free, it’s full, it’s satisfying, and it lasts forever.

The time to repent

That’s the good news. The bad news is this: God won’t be offering this free gift of salvation for ever. It’s an offer that will eventually be withdrawn.

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call upon him now while he is near. Let men cast off their wicked deeds; let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon! (Isaiah 55:6, 7. TLB)

God’s time is always NOW. The best opportunity to take God up on His offer of salvation is NOW. Some Bible scholars think these two verses constitute the best advice in the entire Bible.  Smart thinks these two verses should be interpreted like this:

NOW is the moment of greatest opportunity. NOW God’s word is living and powerful and sounds into the minds of the community like a trumpet note. NOW God offers food and drink to the hungry and thirsty. He is near. He is ready to be found. Today he is waiting to forgive. But if his forgiving love is spurned, tomorrow there may be only his wrath that can be known, and this is what it so urgent that men should seek and call upon God and turn in repentance at once.

There will come a time when it won’t be so easy to find the Lord. This was something that weighed heavy on Paul’s heart –

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2. TNIV)

God is always available, but there are times when it’s easier to “find” Him. There is never an excuse for anybody to claim they could’t find the Lord.

for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. (Psalm 95:7 – 9 TNIV)

That’s right. A hard heart can blind a sinner to the presence of God. But for those who find Him and call on His name, He will “abundantly pardon.” The Hebrew is graphic: “He will multiply pardon.” That’s the promise, and that’s what every human being needs: pardon from sin. And because our God is never chintzy, there is more than enough pardon for every sinner. Nobody has an accumulation of sins so vast or so horrible that God cannot pardon. The one who comes to God in an attitude of genuine repentance will find pardon and full restoration.

That’s the beauty of exceeding abundantly above in regards to sins being pardoned.

 

ISAIAH, Part 1

A Great Invitation

Isaiah 1:1—20

Isaiah is the “king” of the major prophets. His writings are among the most profound of all literature, and his prophecies are the most distinctive in all the Bible. Isaiah was a prophet, a statesman, and an accomplished orator. His ministry was extensive, spanning many years and many topics, and it was far-reaching in its influence. The final 40 years of the eighth century BC produced many great men and world leaders, but the greatest of these was the prophet Isaiah. His name means “the Eternal One is Salvation,” and he often engages in a play on words using his own name to emphasize the central theme of his ministry: Salvation by faith.

The historical background of Isaiah can be found in 2 Kings 15—20 and 2 Chronicles 26—32. The first verse of Isaiah 1 gives us the vital historical information that allows us to pinpoint precisely when the prophet lived, where he lived, and, if we are the least bit familiar with Hebrew history, what the conditions were like while he lived and worked.

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

We know nothing about Isaiah’s father, Amoz, except that Amoz shouldn’t be confused with Amos, the minor prophet. What we do know is that by the time young Isaiah arrived on the scene, Israel had fallen into degenerate times. His arrival on the scene was just as timely and fortuitous as Moses’ many generations earlier. In Acts 7:20, Moses is called “no ordinary child,” and we can say Isaiah was also “no ordinary child.” In a world that had become dark with sin and rebellion, and full of despair and hopelessness, the vision that came to Isaiah came at exactly the right time. God’s time is always the right time and God always has the perfect way of revealing to human beings both their sin and guilt and His compassion and mercy. Both of these aspects of God are revealed in this chapter.

1. Their guilt

With one startling sentence, God charges His people with the sin of rebellion:

I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (verse 2b)

Even though God was addressing His people only, His message was meant to be heard by both heaven and earth. Here we see God, standing up as it were, stating His case before the whole universe against His stupid and disobedient people. God is calling all creation, terrestrial and celestial, to hear His complaint—His lawsuit.

Isaiah pictures God as a father whose children have snubbed their collective noses at Him and gone their own way and are doing their own thing without regard to what their Father wants. God had nourished them and brought them up out of the wilderness and into the land of privilege and plenty. He had given them everything and more, yet without a moment’s hesitation, as soon as they were able to, these “children” spurned their heavenly Father, turning against Him.

We as Christians have got to ask ourselves, Have we not also been the recipients of tremendous blessings, nourished and brought up in the “land of the Gospel light and privilege?” Have we also shunned and spurned God, our heavenly Father?

Let’s think about that as we look at how Israel had rebelled against God.

(1) They were inconsiderate. my people doth not consider. (verse 3b)

To be inconsiderate means to be thoughtless and thankless. The House of Israel had become just that toward Jehovah, their Owner and Provider. It is a terrible thing to become so self-centered that we cease to think about the work of the Lord and stop considering all that He was done and is doing for us. Yet “self-centered” is a very apt description for the average Christian in these days of plenty.

Think about it; what preoccupies your thought-life during any given day? Do you reserve thought about God for just before you drop off to sleep at night, before each meal, and a little longer on Sundays? You may justify that thoughtlessness by saying, God understands I have to work…raise my family…God knows how busy my life is…there are only 24 a day, you know! The thing God understands is that when you spend 95% of your waking hours thinking about your life and 5% thinking about Him, you’re inconsiderate! If you’re a husband, I challenge you offer excuses as lame as those to your wife when she confronts you about never talking to her, or engaging her in meaningful conversation.

When you start treating God as shabbily as that, you are already on your way to becoming a backslider, whether you know it or not.

(2) They left God. They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. (verse 4b)

It isn’t much a walk from treating God with contempt and presumption to leaving Him altogether. Their thoughtlessness resulted in a willful, deliberate departure from Jehovah.

When a Christian begins to take God for granted and when he treats God with an arrogant presumption that says “He’ll always be there no matter how I treat Him,” pretty soon that Christian slips into a backslidden state. This is an incredibly dangerous position to settle into, for the backslidden state happens so gradually that when one is aware of it, it no longer matters.

(3) The became perverse. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. (verse 5)

The nation of Israel had become a nation of perverts, involved in perversity constantly. From the dictionary:

Perverse: Obstinate in the wrong; stubborn; intractable; hence, wayward; vexing; contrary.

The people were living in a backslidden state, in a state of perpetual rebellion, and they were suffering terribly on account of a lifestyle that was contrary to God’s will. Now that’s perverse, and anybody who prefers to live like that is a pervert.

How that must break God’s heart. Having to chastise His people, yet His people responding with even more rebellion. Here the terrible sadness in these words:

In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravenous lion. (Jeremiah 2:30)

(4) They had become totally corrupt. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil. (verse 6)

This pitiful description of Israel was both real and symbolic. Physically, they were suffering as a result of sin and spiritually they were killing themselves bit by bit. Nothing they did could stop the national bleeding.

What Isaiah’s people didn’t comprehend was that healing only came from God. When people are right with God, spirits are healed, sin is overcome, bodies and minds restored. No pill or treatment or therapy can heal the total person apart from Jesus Christ. He is the Source of life. Therefore to shun Christ is to shun life and prefer death. That is corrupt! We know how the Lord deals with people like that:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

2. God’s offer

It all sounds so depressing and hopeless. But we serve a God of hope! We serve a God who doesn’t give up easily.

Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (verse 18)

These incredible words contain:

(1) A startling revelation.

Just when we think there is no hope; when we think we’ve committed the sin that would forever separate us from God, along comes God with this amazing offer. Israel of Isaiah’s day had fallen far but not so far as to be out of God’s reach.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

That’s how God works. He doesn’t wait for us to get right before saving us. While we were at our worst, Christ died for us. Amazing love.

(2) A strong invitation.

God’s call couldn’t have been stronger:

Come now, let us reason together… (verse 18a)

The first thing we need to understand with this statement is that God is pressing His people to make a decision. It’s an invitation, but it is also an ultimatum: repent and be forgiven.

The second thing that strikes us is God’s use of the word “us” in His call. God recognizes and declares our kinship with Himself. God does not reason with animals. He reasons with people capable of reasoning with Him.

The last thing that should be pointed out is the word “reason.” It is a legal word that means “do decide a case in court.” But instead of pronouncing judgment on guilty human beings, our Judge offers us pardon!

How easily it would have been for God to wipe Israel off the map. But He is ever patient, loving, merciful and full of grace. We may be thoughtless, but we are always on God’s mind. God’s invitation is continual; to this day His words resound: Come now, let US reason together…

(3) A precious promise. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (verse 18b)

God condemns sin and sinners, but thank God that’s not the end of the story. Scarlet and crimson were the colors of the robes worn by the princes to whom Isaiah preached. God’s promise was that, even though one’s sins may be as irremovable the stain of blood, grace could restore purity of character.

God can do that because not only is He the offended One, but He is also the Judge. God’s power is in and behind this great promise; His power can turn the sin-stained, scarlet-dyed clothes that make up our filthy rags into a the white robes of a blood-washed saint!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

(4) A condition. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (verses 19, 20)

This is God’s ultimatum. A lot of us wish God had finished speaking at the end of verse 18! This condition, or warning, cannot be ignored. That little word “IF” is most important and it makes it plain that God has honored the soul of man by giving him a part in his own salvation. Man cannot and does not initiate the call to salvation nor can he save himself in any way, but note this: God cannot forgive an unrepentant soul. A sinner must exhibit repentance—God cannot do the repenting—before God can forgive him.  That is man’s responsibility.

Human beings are always given a choice.  In our day, people don’t like to chose; we like others to make the hard choices for us.  But in the Kingdom of God, it all begins with choice.  God chooses us, and we must chose to follow Him.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

Human beings are always given the choice.  Make sure you’ve made the right one.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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