Isaiah, part six

Today I am closing out this two week long look at the book of Isaiah. What started out as a very challenging book for me ended up being one that I very much enjoyed. There’s a big chunk of verses in chapter 48 that I want to look at today. This is from the Message translation, and first I just want to read them together and then we’ll do some deeper study.

Isaiah 48:1-13  “And now listen to this, family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name Israel:
Who got you started in the loins of Judah,
you who use God’s name to back up your promises
and pray to the God of Israel?
But do you mean it?
Do you live like it?
You claim to be citizens of the Holy City;
you act as though you lean on the God of Israel,
named God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
For a long time now, I’ve let you in on the way I work:
I told you what I was going to do beforehand,
then I did it and it was done, and that’s that.
I know you’re a bunch of hardheads,
obstinate and flint-faced,
So I got a running start and began telling you
what was going on before it even happened.
That is why you can’t say,
‘My god-idol did this.’
‘My favorite god-carving commanded this.’
You have all this evidence
confirmed by your own eyes and ears.
Shouldn’t you be talking about it?
And that was just the beginning.
I have a lot more to tell you,
things you never knew existed.
This isn’t a variation on the same old thing.
This is new, brand-new,
something you’d never guess or dream up.
When you hear this you won’t be able to say,
‘I knew that all along.’
You’ve never been good listeners to me.
You have a history of ignoring me,
A sorry track record of fickle attachments—
rebels from the womb.
But out of the sheer goodness of my heart,
because of who I am,
I keep a tight rein on my anger and hold my temper.
I don’t wash my hands of you.
Do you see what I’ve done?
I’ve refined you, but not without fire.
I’ve tested you like silver in the furnace of affliction.
Out of myself, simply because of who I am, I do what I do.
I have my reputation to keep up.
I’m not playing second fiddle to either gods or people.

12-13 “Listen, Jacob. Listen, Israel—
I’m the One who named you!
I’m the One.
I got things started and, yes, I’ll wrap them up.
Earth is my work, handmade.
And the skies—I made them, too, horizon to horizon.
When I speak, they’re on their feet, at attention.

Now I know this was specifically directed at the peoples of Israel and Judah. Truthfully, one of the struggles I had with this book was trying to learn how deeply I can hold to some of these words since they were directed at a specific group of people at a specific point in history. However, certain sections just felt way more open and applicable to me than others and this was one of them.

Early in this section of scripture, God asks two questions. He says that people say they follow Him and pray to Him and live for Him. But then He asks this. Do you mean it? Do you live like it? I can tell you that without a doubt I spent the majority of my adult life saying I followed God and yet there wasn’t a single speck of evidence that supported it in my life. At that point in my life, unless I just decided to tell you one day that I was a Christian, you wouldn’t have had any idea. You probably would’ve thought I was an okay dude, but there was zero evidence of Jesus in the way I lived.

Something just occurred to me that I want to share. If you were mute, like if you couldn’t speak at all, would the people around you on a daily basis know that you were a follower of God? Anyone can proclaim God, can say that they’re Christian, a majority of our country does that very thing. But what if you couldn’t speak those words? How evident is your devotion to God and His teachings in your day to day behavior? How evident is it in the way you treat others?

Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

You know, we get so bent out of shape by verses like these sometimes. “How dare you judge me! You don’t know my heart!” Yeah bro, I don’t know your heart, but I am your friend and I spend a lot of time with you and I have eyeballs and I can see that there’s not much spiritual fruit being produced in your life. You know what? I desperately wish someone had said that to me when I was wandering through life aimlessly in my 20’s. I wish someone would’ve shaken the crap out of me and told me to wake up, reminded me of these words from Jesus, reminded me that I may proclaim His name but do I mean it? Do I live like it? We’re so scared to offend these days that we just sit and watch people we love walk right off of cliffs and right into traffic because we don’t want them to think we’re judging them, we don’t want them to think we’re holier than thou. I’d contend right now that it’s not judging them, it’s loving them, and that I’d much rather overstep a little with a concerned word that’s not well received than to sit back and watch a brother or sister in Christ flounder and struggle in life. I invite everyone I know to overstep into my life if you think I’m not on the right path or if you think I’m struggling with something, and I encourage you to extend that invitation to other believers in your own life. Receive concerned words for what they are, a sign of love. Maybe they’ll be wrong, and you can gently tell them “nope, I’m actually all good, but thank you for your concern” or maybe they’ll save you from yourself, save you from a behavior or habit or sin that was hurting your walk with God. Either way, it’s only a bad situation if you allow it to be, if you decide to be offended by it.

Okay, there’s one last thing I gotta touch upon before wrapping up because it’s near and dear to my heart. You have all this evidence, confirmed by your own eyes and ears. Shouldn’t you be talking about it? One of my dearest friends encourages me to always share with others what God is doing in my life. Sometimes I worry that it comes off as braggadocios (it’s a real word), like “hey, look at all the cool stuff God’s doing for me, look at the cool stuff I’m doing for God” but at the end of the day, God wants us to TALK ABOUT IT. Did He move in a big way in your life? TELL SOMEBODY. Answered prayer? TELL SOMEBODY. Give you strength and boldness to pray for a stranger? TELL SOMEBODY.

Mark 5:18-20  As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Psalm 22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

I’ve developed some very special friendships in which we just have this open, ongoing conversation about all the things God’s doing in our lives. I run back to those conversations when God makes a move in my life, so excited to share. Sharing builds them up, reminds them that God’s at it again, out there spreading love and freedom. And when I’m struggling, maybe when I’m a little down? I go to the conversation, and when I see and hear what God’s doing in my friends lives I am inspired and encouraged, reminded that just because I didn’t have a great day doesn’t mean that God didn’t make great and mighty moves.

We have all the evidence, have seen and heard. Shouldn’t we be talking about it?

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, thank you so much for all the people you bring into our lives.  I ask you today that you make us a people who are difficult to offend, and make those around us bold enough to speak into our lives if they sense we’re not bearing spiritual fruit.  Give me the boldness to speak it into the lives of those around me even if it might hurt their feelings or be ill received.  I will trust that if it’s on my heart to share, you put it there, and so the word is going to accomplish what you need it to accomplish.  And Lord, help us to share the things you’re doing, help us to tell all about what we’re seeing and hearing you do.  Your word tasks us to go and speak of you all across the world, so make us a bold people who can’t stop speaking of your absolute and amazing goodness.  I love you Lord, and I’m so thankful for you today.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

I love you guys.  We’re just about at the weekend, so I hope you all have a safe and relaxing weekend.  If you work weekends, then my wish for you is that your very next day off will be one of wonderful relaxation and fun.  God loves us all so much more than we can even imagine.  It’s a crazy kind of love, and I just can’t get over how much it transforms you and builds you up if you let it.

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