Perfect Peace

Today’s reading: Isaiah 23:1-27:13

My selection: Isaiah 26:2-4

2 Open the gates,

that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.

3 You keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

My reflections: The ultimate victory of the Lord God will be complete. Throughout this section, this victory is described in amazing and glorious ways. He will rule and His righteous people will be delivered. Death will be destroyed forever. All tears will be wiped away. God’s great enemy will be vanquished.

Meanwhile, His people are called to keep their minds stayed on Him, to trust in Him. To the one who does this He promises to “keep him in perfect peace”.

Lack of peace reflects lack of trust in the Lord. Worry and anxiety are not fruit of the Spirit; peace is. Could it be that the believers’ most powerful tool for witnessing is peace?

My challenge: Does peace characterize your life? Take time to refocus your trust on Him today. Seek to be at peace through Him. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 28:1-30:33

Seeing God’s Wise Providence

Today’s reading: Isaiah 18:1-22:25

My selection: Isaiah 22:8b-11

In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

My reflections: At a time when Jerusalem was vulnerable to attack, the leaders were careful to prepare for a possible siege. They closed up breaches and prepared a source of water. There was nothing wrong with that in itself. But Isaiah tells them they did all this without either looking to God or understanding His wisdom in giving them certain topographical features which made the defense of the city possible. In other words, they worked hard but ignored God in the process. They trusted their weapons and their own efforts. They neither prayed to God nor praised Him for their success.

My challenge: How many minute details in your life have been put there by God for His purposes and yet are overlooked? Today look for the evidence of His wise providence in giving you exactly what you need for your good and His glory. Then praise Him for that providence.

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 23:1-27:13

Sin Unmasked

Today’s reading: Isaiah 13:1-17:14

My selection: Isaiah 14:12-15

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,

O Day Star, son of Dawn!

How you are cut down to the ground,

you who laid the nations low!

13 You said in your heart,

I will ascend to heaven;

above the stars of God

I will set my throne on high;

I will sit on the mount of assembly

in the far reaches of the north;

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.

15 But you are brought down to Sheol,

 to the far reaches of the pit.

My reflections: Here Isaiah gives us a vivid and poetic description of the attitude which lies at the heart of all human sin, the desire to be lifted up above the stars of God and to be like the Most High. It was what made the serpent’s appeal to Eve so attractive. “You will be like God…” he told her. She thought about it. She took the forbidden fruit. She ate it. She gave it to her husband. He ate it. [Genesis 3:4-6]

Do you think of sins as merely  mistakes? “No one is perfect” and “Boys will be boys”, they say. No, it is not essential and natural to humanity in its original state to seek to become like God nor to seek to supplant God. It is essential to humanity, as originally created, to worship, serve, and enjoy God. But we are fallen, sinful, not in our original state. At the heart of sin is a desire to be lifted up above God, to be God. Isaiah prophesies of the utter destruction that will come to the one who lifts himself up. He will be brought down to Sheol. He sought to sit in the far reaches of the north, but he will be brought down to the far reaches of the pit. And so will you and I, unless we are re-created by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

My challenge: Learn from Isaiah.  He has unmasked the truth about sin. Do not dismiss sin as simple, human error. It is far worse than that. Pray that you may grasp how truly ugly and rebellious sin is. Flee, like a fatal disease, from every thought of pride and self-exaltation. Call upon God through His Son to grant you His Spirit so that you may believe in Him and repent of your rejection of Him as God.  Walk before God, contented to be what He has made you in Christ, a new creature after His image to reflect His glory (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 18:1-22:25

Thy Kingdom Come

Today’s reading: Isaiah 9:1-12:6

My selection: Isaiah 11:9

They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

My reflections: At the time Isaiah was writing, Judah faced captivity, but, woven through his prophecy, there are hopeful promises of a glorious kingdom to come. In the context here, we read of peacefulness and safety. Snakes don’t bite and bears don’t kill. Lions are pets for little children. Best of all, the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth as completely as the waters cover the sea.

In a world like that, there will be wisdom and righteousness. There will be no sin. God’s rule will be recognized and respected. There will be no end to that kingdom for there will be no end of His government. [Isaiah 9:6-7]

My challenge: Does that not give even more meaning to the prayer that Jesus Christ taught His disciples, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? [Matthew 6:7-13].

Pray it now. Pray it until it comes. It has come in part and it is coming fully.

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 13:1-17:14

Isaiah Responds to a Vision

Today’s reading: Isaiah 5:1-8:22

My selection: Isaiah 6:1

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

My reflections:

With these words, Isaiah begins his account of his vision of God. It stands along with John’s vision of the Lord in Revelation 1:9-20 as one of the most awesome, overwhelming experiences ever recorded.

It is good to reflect on who God is seen to be here: sovereign, exalted, majestic, holy. He is being worshiped by the angels. No sooner does this vision sink into Isaiah but he responds with a sense of his own sinfulness. He cries out in shame and repentance. Mercifully, one of the seraphim cleanses him and assures him of forgiveness and atonement.

After this, Isaiah is ready to respond to the call for service to the Lord.

The God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reveals Himself in holiness but also in mercy. It is necessary to grasp something of this holiness, to respond with brokenness and repentance and to accept His cleansing and atonement. Before service for God, there must be cleansing by God. Before there is cleansing by God, there must be repentance before Him that springs from a sense of His holiness and our sinfulness.

My challenge: Worship God who is holy. Seek His cleansing. Eagerly embrace His calling for you.

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 9:1-12:6

Complete Cleansing

Today’s reading: Isaiah 1:1-4:6

My selection: Isaiah 1:18-20

18 “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 like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

20 but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

My reflections: The Lord, through His prophet Isaiah, has begun to enumerate the sins of Judah and Jerusalem. They have not just forgotten God, they despise Him. As a consequence, they are oppressed and overrun. They are about to be obliterated as a people. Their sacrifices are an offense to God, because they continue in empty rituals while they commit injustice and oppression against helpless widows and orphans.

But God calls them to come to Him and to be cleansed of their sin. Judgment looms, but there is still hope. All is not lost because the Lord is able to cleanse the most sin-stained person.

My challenge: Does the stain of your sin seem impossible to remove? In Christ, the most wicked are transformed and purified. God delights in saving repentant sinners. Do not think you are beyond the power of His grace. As the old hymn goes, “His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me” (by Charles Wesley “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”).

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 5:1-8:22

Enduring Love

Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-Song of Solomon 8:14

My selection: Song of Solomon 8:6,7

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death,

jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

the very flame of the Lord.

7 Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If a man offered for love

all the wealth of his house,

he would be utterly despised.

My reflections: True love between a husband and wife must endure a lifetime of trials and stresses, many waters and even floods. Will it last? That is the question many a young person has asked standing at the threshold of adult life.

Experience shows that sometimes that apparently endless love of youth endures the trials of life and sometimes it does not. What is the difference? Mere physical attraction is not enough. The strength and beauty of youth fades away with time. Ecclesiastes 12 paints a dramatic portrait of the body wearing down and desire failing.

Commitment is the difference. The bride says “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm…” She is right to require this. Only this kind of permanent seal that affects both the heart and the body will endure until death breaks it.

My challenge: If you are in love, are you committed? Can you say, “I have set you as a seal upon my heart, as a seal upon my arm,”  that is, my heart is yours,  my body is yours. Will your love endure the flood waters that are sure to come? Do not enter into marriage without that commitment. To the already-married, I say, search your heart and determine to make this kind of commitment to your spouse, if you have not already.

Tomorrow’s reading: Isaiah 1:1-4:6

Overlooking a Curse; Forgiving an Offender

Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 7:1-10:20

My selection: Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

My reflections: Solomon says one should not be too concerned about the random comments of people. If you listen long enough you will hear the most bizarre things. Someone, who should honor you, will instead curse you. But wait, says the wise king, you have done this, too.

The point, Solomon is making, is you should ignore a lot of what is being said about you, because you need others to ignore some of the things you have said about them.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ we learn that God does not merely overlook sins, but He forgives sinners who repent. The Lord amplified this concept of forgiveness in His parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). One who is forgiven ought to show forgiveness. Forgiveness should promote more forgiveness. To overlook offenses is good but to forgive them is godly.

My challenge: Beware of taking to heart all you hear. Remember: a fool will allow anger to become “lodged” in his heart (Eccl. 7:9). Overlook. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-Song of Solomon 8:14

Disillusionment with Heroes

Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-6:12

My selection: Ecclesiastes 3:16-18

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

My reflections: The writer of Ecclesiastes, probably King Solomon, had suffered a loss of idealism, that there exists in human society pockets of pure goodness and uprightness. He no longer believed that familiar cliche “man is basically good.” His heroes were unmasked. He began to see men as no more than beasts. This is partly true, because, like beasts, men die.  But unlike beasts, men (and women) face the judgment of God.

Controversy rages today among historians and biographers over how we should view our so-called national heroes like Thomas Jefferson. Was he a great, wise, noble founding father or a despicable, immoral, exploiting slave owner? Should we admire him or denounce him? As Christians, we can neither idolize any human figure nor completely disregard God’s providence working through fallen human beings to bring about His purposes. Jefferson was more evil than some of us previously realized, but also one whom God, in His providence, used to complete His purposes in establishing our nation.

My challenge: God will ultimately judge every human being. Meanwhile, we may not excuse ourselves from accountability to Him by hiding behind someone we deem worse than us. To each of us is given a talent to use wisely for His glory and His kingdom. Use it well today. Jefferson could not hide and neither can we.

And remember, the real “hero” in human history is the God-Man, Jesus Christ, in Whom there is redemption from sin and guilt for all who believe in Him (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Tomorrow’s reading: Ecclesiastes 7:1-10:20

An Excellent Wife; A Grateful Husband

Today’s reading: Proverbs 31:1-Ecclesiastes 2:26

My selection: Proverbs 31:10-12

10 An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

My reflections: I am fairly certain that a vast number of wives who read this chapter do not feel adequate to meet the standards of this multi-talented, consistently-disciplined super woman. Probably there never has been any single woman who completely fulfilled this description day in and day out over the course of a lifetime.

My challenge: Depending on your personality, wives, you will either be challenged or frustrated by Proverbs 31. Let it not frustrate you.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, you are accepted in Him despite your imperfections. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). His mercies never come to an end, and they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Do let Proverbs 31 challenge you in a healthy way. You have His Spirit to produce fruit beyond your own ability. [John 15; Galatians 5].

I am also fairly certain that many of us, husbands, who read this passage, need to show greater honor toward our wives. Let us not use this passage as a basis for finding fault with our wives, but as a reminder of all that they do to make our lives and homes a taste of heaven. After all, the woman described here has a husband who is wise and influential in his community and that may not fully describe us either (vs. 23). Let this passage remind us that our wives deserve praise, probably more than we currently give them. Remember “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (vs. 30).

Tomorrow’s reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-6:12