Thursday, August 29, 2013

Salvation Comes Here

Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." 

Isaiah 62:11

Salvation is found

not in a deed

or in a human gesture

Salvation is found

in God coming to man

reaching down to us with full measure

And in Jesus

comes our saving grace

and life everlasting and full

Knowing Jesus

brings saving faith

and abundant life to all who know

The reward is here

right now in Him

Who died so we can live

And the joy is now

by following Him

and surrendering all we have to give

He gives us all we need

for life and godliness

so that living is amazing today

And the reward

is in the relationship

so even in dying there is great gain

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

new clothes

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 

Isaiah 61:10

Salvation is a beautiful thing. When God redeems, renews, remakes, and adorns a life, that new creation is something marvelous to see. And it is a subject of much rejoicing. The poetic way in which Isaiah exults in God's salvation provides pictures that make my soul rejoice.

When God brings new life to the soul that comes to Him by faith, old things are exchanged for a new creation. In Christ we are made new. We are clothed again with garments of salvation. Isaiah evokes an ancient Middle Eastern wedding ceremony in which both bride and groom are festively adorned with garish new clothing. It is extravagent. The groom is at the wedding beaming under a new turban. And His bride is wearing beautiful jewels. Both of them are surrounded by the experience of full and unrestrained rejoicing in the presence of the wedding party.

That newness and joy must accompany thoughts of our salvation. If we keep it before us, the incredible event of our salvation invigorates us. It keeps us on track. It helps us stay true to the God Who saved us. Just as new garments befit the special occassion, so our salvation speaks to the newness God gives to us. And the God whose mercies are new with every morning sunrise can keep our spirits continually refreshed with the reminder that He has clothed us with garments of salvation!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

working for His glory

Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified. 

Isaiah 60:21

God does what He does for His glory. He is not selfish when He does this, because when God's glory is known and accepted among us, wonderful things happen. In the context of this verse, a very specific future is promised for the nation of Israel. In it, Israel is the premeire nation of the world. Kings and world leaders stream to Jerusalem, not just for international discourse, but to see the glory of God on Mount Zion. The world is blessed by knowing the glory of The Lord revealed in His people. This is a powerful, amazing moment.

When God's glory is known, the result is powerful change. It is real worship of God in which lives are changed. New things are done. The movement of God among His people makes the rest of the world take notice. And God is truly praised.

The principle of bringing glory to God and finding our lives made better is clear in this passage. If we will let God draw attention to Himself through us, our lives will be blessed. The blessing will not be a fixation with material blessings, but instead, we will be blessed by the worship of God in all that we do. We can fix toilets or trade millions of dollars in assets for the glory of God. We can care for children, or mill lumber, or repair hospital equipment, or work an assembly line, or play an oboe, or manufacture plastic tableware, or write a screenplay... all of them can draw attention to the glorious worship of God in our everyday lives... that is, if we will let Him be known in us right where we are.

Monday, August 26, 2013

when truth stumbles

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. 

Isaiah 59:14

When the source of all truth is rejected, a ruling truth for society is hard pressed to keep moral order. Justice fails. There is nothing upon which to build a standard for right living. There is no public commitment to truth, and those who live to please God will find themselves out of the discussion in the public square.

This was the situation that marked the lives of the citizens of Jerusalem just before God's judgment came in the fire and the swords of the Babylonian army. The people of God had long abandoned God's Law as the objective truth around which to build their society. And the chaos that ensued ultimately led to their destruction. When there is no truth, righteousness cannot be known. When truth stumbles, everyone will fall down.

It would be easy to complain that truth has stumbled in the public square. But as long as there are people of God in this world, it does not have to be that way. We can stand uprightly, and winsomely to the watching world. We can still live the truth and demonstrate the change that the gospel brings. The worst thing that we could do is resign ourselves to fallen truth, watch as injustice rules, and do nothing... comforting ourselves with theology. Instead, truth must be lived in us, even as it is rejected by others. We must love our neighbor and our God -- publically, so that truth can pick itself up and stand again!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

something more

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 

Isaiah 58:9-10

The degree to which we give ourselves to helping people is the degree to which we act as God acts. In this chapter God takes Israel to task for religious formalism that goes through the ritual external motions of worship, but is not the result of a heart that is changed by God. It is easy to fast or to repeat rote prayers, or to attend a religious service. It is very hard to give yourself to helping the needy and supporting those in affliction.

God rebuked the externalism of Israel by blatantly telling Israel he would not accept their meaningless worship. He wanted something more. He would honor hearts that would care for people like God cares for people. And they would not know God's pleasure until the joy of obedience to Him began to conform them to this love and transform individuals so that a society cared for the neediest among them. They would only know God's blessing when they longed to bless others with His love.

God, save me from formalism. I like to point my finger and ignore yokes. But just like You freed me in Christ, help me through active love to pour myself out for the hungry and to not be satisfied until the afflicted are calmed by an active, healing love that You provide through me. Amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

a humble home

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Isaiah 57:15

The awesome holy God Who is high above the heavens and Who dwells in eternal glory has chosen to live with people who are contrite and lowly. He is both the inhabitor of eternity and the present God of those who will humbly follow Him. He is beyond time, yet in the NOW. He is both above all people, yet present with His people. This is where God is.

The promise is that God will make His home with the contrite and lowly. When we turn from selfish, prideful sin and to Him, we find God right there living with us. Our home is His dwelling place. Our lives are His to openly use. The reward of the humble is the very presence of God.

This reward of the righteous is what I desire. If I want to see God, I must humble myself. I must cultivate a lowly and contrite heart. It is in that humility that the power and presence of God rests. I am a long way from being there, but I believe that in that path there is peace and joy. And I will endeavor to make a humble heart the place where the eternal God may make His home.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Now... for justice & righteousness

Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed."

Isaiah 56:1

God asked Israel to have a faith in Him that was clearly demonstrable. The covenant instructed God's people on how they should love. The social structure would be impacted by their faith. They were to "keep justice" as an action always before them. God is just. He treats nobody unfairly. And He will act in justice. As God acts, so should we. We should not be idle when injustices abound. We should be just with people even if they are not so with us.

This was one way to "do righteousness". Basically, the Jews had a codified list of what was to constitute righteousness before God in the way they lived. They knew it as The Law. And the prophets called them to renew themselves to its standards. They could repent, renew, and do what God says is good. And the change that came with that would be sweeping. It could turn the people away from the pains for the consequences of their disobedience and into the nation that existed to point the world to the greatness of The Lord their God.

There was a clock ticking with them... a chance to know the salvation of God coming to them. They would not stay captive in a foreign land forever. God would lead them back into the Promised Land as His covenant people again, and they would live in justice and righteousness. But the time to do that was not in the future. The time to do that was now! God wants us to be sure the NOW is always the time to live for Him. Today He is known. Today we live for Him so that His deliverance will be revealed.

Monday, August 19, 2013

a pardoning mercy

"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

Isaiah 55:6-7

The appealing motivation behind repentance is the compassionate forgiveness and love of God. This call to repentance is the result of the intense preaching of the prophet Isaiah brought to a personal passionate point. God loves to redeem fallen people. Any who seek Him will find Him ready to forgive and very near to them. From the human perspective, it must take a heart willing to forsake wicked ways, but when a sinner does so he finds a compassionate loving God ready to meet him at his knees.

It amazes me that God would reveal this kind of love for us. I want to be outraged over sin. I have no desire to restore a repentant person. Sin should be punished. Sinners deserve their misery. And that is why God is good and I am not. I deserve to be called to repentance for my own vindictive sense of sinful justice.

Thankfully, a holy God loves His creation. And He loves humanity. That love led Jesus to take on a body, live out the truth, and die to save us from our sin and all its consequences. It was that great love that Isaiah somehow saw in God. And it is that pardoning mercy that falls upon me in Jesus. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

God of everlasting love

"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. 

Isaiah 54:10

You make promises that are always true.

You always perform what You say You'll do.

You never turn Your back or disappoint.

You have an everlasting love.

The mountains may depart and hills be removed;

Your steadfast love still comes through.

You will do as You promise

in Your everlasting love.

Your words of peace shall not be removed

because of Your compassion on those You choose.

We are loved by character unchanging

with Your everlasting love.

You are the center; we trust in You.

You keep us stable... carry us through.

You have compassion even when we struggle.

You are faithful in Your everlasting love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

Isaiah 53:4-5

There is no more personal, no more poetic description of the work of Christ's atonement than this ancient prophecy. Early Christians saw the prophetic intensity found in the prophet's descriptions and quickly preached Jesus from Isaiah 53. And that intensity remains to this very day.

Jesus bore human griefs and sorrows with Him. He atoned for sin, but He identified with our most difficult pains and losses. We may not have known that. In fact, none who crucified Him really knew what was happening in that moment, which is why He graciously prayed, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing."

Yet Christ's death on the cross was effective for salvation. It was vicarious... He took our place. That much is absolutely clear in this passage. He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. His chastisement brought us peace. His stripes are our healing. This is subsitutionary atonement.

It is not pretty to think about Jesus suffering and dying for me. But it was necessary. And it was a love motivated sacrifice. In that sense, it is beautiful... beautiful and breathtakingly terrible. By means of the passion of Christ's sacrifice I am forgiven and saved. It is a terrible price to pay, and it is overwhelming to contemplate that He did it for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

beautiful upon the mountains

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 

Isaiah 52:7

When we spread the good news, we are beautiful. We have the chance to be messengers, swift of foot upon the mountaintops, proclaiming peace and salvation to all below us. And over it all "our God reigns".

The gospel is by pure definition the "good news". Christians have the absolute best story to tell: that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to live for us and in us. I find it the most compelling actuality of all time. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have eternal salvation. Death no longer masters our future. We have life in Jesus. Yes... that is very good news indeed!

Why then do we act reticent about sharing this? Our feet should run to the highest places and shout it out. We need to publish His peace. We need to proclaim and live out this great news of salvation. It isn't about being obnoxious. But it certainly is all about celebration. And that is very good news!


My prayer is that you give me beautiful feet. I want to climb the highest point that You have put in front of me to proclaim saving life in You. You reign in me! You reign in this world! May Your glory and the gospel be the conversation always on the tip of my tongue.


Monday, August 12, 2013

a joy that would last

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 

Isaiah 51:11

God promised His people that joy would fill them again. It would come after tragedy, devastation, and judgment; but it would eventually come to them. The survivors of the Babylonian captivity would return to Zion with joy. They would ascend the Temple Mount singing the praises of their Redeemer. They would be a ransomed people.

A joy that would last would mark their praise. God's deliverance would be full and free. They would feel it and it would fill them. They would sing the praises of a saving God. It would be a true worship from the heart.

The singing would replace their sorrow and sighing. God would give them a joyful worship that would supplant their pain. They would live in joy and gladness again. The hope of this experience would have to carry them through exile.

Friday, August 9, 2013

in need of light

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. 

Isaiah 50:10

My life can get dark

and day turns to night

I need to trust God

to have any light

The darkness around me

can give me great fright

but the strength of my God

comes with His light

He shines

I see

He's mine

I'm free

With the new brightness

I can find what is right

and walk from the darkness

into marvelous light

For this I am thankful

and with the gift of new sight

I see truth so delightful

walking in His light

He shines

I see

He's mine

I'm free

Thursday, August 8, 2013

song for the afflicted

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. 

Isaiah 49:13

The call is for the heavens and earth to joyfully sing because The Lord has comforted Israel. The suffering of the exiles would one day end for the Jewish people. They would return again to their own land and most importantly, to their own God. This would be a cause for great celebration. 

This is a post-exilic celebration promise given well before Judah even went captive to Babylon. The nation is on the cusp of collapse. Isaiah has warned them that Babylon's forces will invade. But God has also named Cyrus as the ruler who will return them to Jerusalem again. God predicts the joy of the return before even one invader's arrow has nicked the walls of the city.

God is a God of justice. And our sins will thus pain us when His justice must correct us. But He is also a God of comfort. And this passage shows us His comforter's heart. He will see us in our afflictions. He will love us. He will restore us.

This was a specific comfort to Judah. It is a general truth for God's people today. We can be encouraged by the work of redemptive history. We can find comfort and compassion in Christ. God loves us in His Son. He comforts us by the atoning work and resurrection of Jesus. He has compassion on our afflictions. And we can sing with that truth bolstering us.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

glory givers

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. 

Isaiah 48:11

God's real motivation is explained to a people who were ignoring Him. They had no interest in God, although they were His called, covenant people. They ran away from Him even as He called them to remember His love and past deliverances and to repent and return to Him. And so God would continue to bring them to Himself for HIS OWN SAKE.

God loves sinners not so much for their actions as for His own glory. He is a good God Who will save us from ourselves, even when we run from Him. And He will do it for His name's sake so that we no longer profane Him. He will not let us be "glory thieves". When He saves and when He judges, the focus is put Godward, where it needs to be.

If God were not holy and all-wise, this would seem selfish. But it is not, precisely because He is holy and the source of all things. It is the best thing to worship and give glory to The Lord. We were born to worship The Lord. And anything else is just part of that big purpose. The New Testament puts it clearly in focus: Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do... do all for the glory of God. God is not just worshiped in a religious service, rather He is worshiped by the life we give to Him every moment of every day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the Holy One

Our Redeemer - the LORD of hosts is his name - is the Holy One of Israel. 

Isaiah 47:4

Words written

to sinners

announcing the displeasure

of the Holy One

are not comforting

but convicting

the Holy One

of Israel

is the LORD of hosts

Justice coming

for His people

proclaiming the vengeance

of the Holy One

is not pleasant

but perfect

the Holy One

of Israel

is the LORD of hosts

Poetic justice

on oppressors

exalting the oppressed

from the Holy One

is not man-made

but God-ordained

the Holy One

of Israel

is the LORD of hosts

That is His name

Monday, August 5, 2013

God of the former things

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' 

Isaiah 46:8-10

Remember God. That is the call to worship to Israel in this passage. Sometimes the deepest experience of real worship is bound up in the command to remember God. What He has done is great. And when we remember His past work, it changes how we live now and what we hope for in our future.

Israel was called to remember a powerful, faithful, covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. Of course, implicit in this reminder would be the awareness that although God had always been faithful, they had sinned in rejecting His faithful love more than once. God was great... Israel? Not so much.

Life is linear. We move along a time scale that explodes into eternity. But while in "the now" it does us good to "remember" our God. The gospel is a historical memory. I trust what God did through Jesus in the past before I ever existed. The gospel shapes my present. I believe it now and it calls me to enjoy life in Christ. The gospel is my future. I must live to let it keep fashioning me to be more like Jesus (I am pathetically far from that) so that I may be with Him forever.

Friday, August 2, 2013

refreshing rain

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 

Isaiah 45:8

As I sit and watch an early morning summer rain shower, this passage seems most appropriate for this day. It captures my soul's longing. The God of heaven Who sends the rain to refresh the earth longs for His salvation and righteousness to refresh my soul. And how it is needed! In a hot dry summer, the rains that come are a welcome relief. And in a burning heat of the soul, God's salvation can replenish a parched heart.

I think about it now because there are always elements of drought ready to dry me up. They have hit me hard lately. And I have felt many of them just bake me in the last couple of months. But a soaking rain of grace can change all of that, if I will let God's goodness saturate me and feel the way His salvation pours into the dried cracks of my heart!

O Lord,

Pour down Your righteousness from the heavens upon the dry land. My heart cries out for the showers of Your grace to quench my thirst. Splash my dry eyes with Your healing waters. Flood my parched emptiness with the joy of the abundant salvation You give to me, until springs of Living Water will stream from me once again!


Thursday, August 1, 2013


Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. 

Isaiah 44:23

God calls on the universe to sing His praises. Why would God do this? What cosmic event leads the heaven and earth to shout out and break into song before The Lord? It is the restoration of Israel and the glory of God manifested in relationship with His people. God calls the universe to focus upon the apex of His creation: humanity. In a biblical worldview the natural world serves to praise The Lord and is under the dominion of humanity. That makes perfect sense with this call for universal rejoicing at Jacob's redemption.

Much current thinking challenges this view of humanity at the apex of the created order. Modernity gave us a wealth of scientific data on the universe. It is wondrous and unfathomably huge. The result is that for most people today, the universe is frightfully unknown and vast, as we are infinitesimally small. The order of things is reversed in our current thinking about man's role with the universe. We are seen as just a speck in the cosmos... barely significant. When we cut God out of any relationship with us or the universe, the sad result is that human beings are diminished in importance.

Still, God calls the universe to sing over the redemption of His people. If Jesus said that the rocks could cry out His praise, then the universe still knows its Master. We know that the angels long to look into our great salvation. There is not any corner of creation that is not enthralled at God's saving work. Humanity is uniquely loved by God by virtue of our creation in His image. That is why our redemption is such a big deal. The cursed creation awaits the day of our revealing as the children of God.