Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11, ESV)

The Lord [through the pen of Isaiah] lays out two options at the end of Isaiah 50 for us to walk by.  We can trust in the name of the Lord (vs. 10) or we can do what our verse says and light our own lamp and walk by our own light.  The sure outcome if we light our own way is that we will lie down in torment. We will get exactly what we deserve.

We know from Proverbs that God calls us to move forward by trusting in him even when it doesn’t make sense to us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV)

Trusting in the Lord leads to the comfort of straight paths, walking by our own light leads only to sorrow. You would think that this would be an easy decision for us, by our inclination is to lean to our own understanding and not trust in the Lord.

 

“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. ”
https://ref.ly/Is49.14-15;esv

  • The Problem: God’s people were afraid that God had forsaken them. This is a lament and it is set forth in honesty and despair.  Will God forsake his people?  Has he forsaken them?  It’s an all too common issue and anyone who has read a missionary biography or understands church history knows that this is an issue that comes up again and again. God, for purposes that we don’t fully understand, seems to appear to abandon his own people from time to time, to danger and difficulty.  Israel was going to be judged for her idolatry, would God abandon his people forever?
  • The Response from God:  I will not forget you. God’s response is given in a solemn promise and both God’s character and history itself demonstrate that what God promises here is true and he will do it.  He will not forget his people. The ESV Study Bible entitles this section: “Human despair is more than offset by divine grace.”

    Sit back in your chair and breathe in that truth for a minute.  God will not forget his people. This is his promise.  This is his oath. This is his character.  Kings will not cause him to abandon his promise. Time will not cause him to abandon his people.  Opposition, danger, and difficulty are hand maidens to our sovereign God and no more stand in the way of his promise here than a bunny rabbit could block an elephant.  God has done what he promised in the past; he will do what he has promised in the future.  He will not forget his own people.

 

“Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; ”
https://ref.ly/Is48.17-18;esv

If we aren’t careful, we might assume that God is the best business partner ever [which in a weird way he is, but not according to this verse].  The Lord himself says: I am the Lord your God who teaches you to profit.  The Complete Word Study Bible says of the word “It is used most often figuratively of spiritual benefits from the Lord.” The profit envisioned here is not of farmland and animals, crops and orchards, but of spiritual benefits which will help us grow in faith towards God himself.

Notice here that what God asks [spiritual growth] he himself provides.  This reminds me of a song lyric by Sandra McCracken:

This grace gives me fear,
and this grace draws me near
And all that it asks it provides

When you sit and ponder this [as I do now with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean rolling ashore in endless waves] it cannot cease to amaze.  God doesn’t just tell us what to do and send us forth on our way in the vague hope that we actually accomplish his will, he gives the tools to do the very things that he wants us to do! We get the help that we need, God gets the glory he deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria

Oh…and for your listening pleasure, here is Derek:

 

 

“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.” ”
https://ref.ly/Is46.12-13;esv

God’s message to his own people who were slowly straying away from Him in pursuit of other so-called gods.

Their primary problem was that they had stubborn hearts.  The Complete Word Study Bible says that the word “stubborn” means in part: “When used to describe a person or a person’s heart, it normally refers to a strength independent of or opposed to God.”  So they had a strength that was independent of God and this led them into idolatry and away from God.

We need to watch carefully that we ourselves do not follow this same pattern.  Our hearts are prone to try to take over and go our own way and have a strength that is not dependent upon God because we do not like to be dependent people, even though it is in our best interest.

The amazing thing here is that, despite their idolatry, God will bring his righteousness near and his salvation will not delay.  What is this if not grace in action? God’s people don’t draw near to salvation, God brings salvation near.  This is exactly what transpired at the cross.

 

 

“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” (Deuteronomy 14:28–29, ESV)

This is referring to a second tithe that God commanded for the Israelites which was to be used to support the Levites–they had no land because their purpose was to serve the Lord–and the stranger/sojourner, orphans and widows.  Obedience to this command was met with the promise that God himself would bless their labors and make them prosper.

We see here God’s heart of compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable in society.  We know that supporting widows and orphans and strangers/foreigners did not stop in the New Testament, it was just as important to followers of Christ as it was to Jews under the Old Covenant.  There are many things in the Bible that are difficult to understand and not particularly clear; this, however, is not one of them.  We know with absolute certainty that if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, then we have the duty and privilege to minister to the most vulnerable members of our society.  We start with those in the church around us who need help, but then look outward to those in society who need help. This honors God.

Hast thou not known, Hast thou not heard、 That The God of age-past time— Yahweh、 The Creator of the ends of the earth、 Fainteth not、 neither groweth weary、— There is no searching of his understanding:” (Isaiah 40:28, EMPH)

This is one of my favorite verses in my favorite chapter in the Old Testament and second favorite in the entire Bible (after Rom 8).  What struck me when I read it this time was this: There is no searching of his understanding.  Powerful words, these.

This expression is translated various ways:

  • There is no limit to his understanding – HCSB
  • His understanding is unsearchable – ESV
  • No one understands his thoughts – GNB
  • No one can measure the depths of his understanding  – NLT

I kind of like the translation by The Emphasized Bible because it implies that, no matter how much we try and how great our desire might be, his understanding is beyond us, we cannot search out the depths of it.

This is easy to grasp because the more we know about nature, the greater God appears to be.  Who invented quantum physics with its spooky action at a distance?  Who hung the stars in the sky with just the right amount of force to keep the universe from flying apart in a meaningless mass of individual atoms?  Who created the animals with their ability to adapt and produce such a profusion of differing types within each species? Who created the ever smaller particles that make up our universe?  Who gave them laws and made each particle serve Him according to the law by which it was created?  Who made Man with the ability to search out and explore his world and discover his Creator?  How true it is that no matter how carefully we look there is no searching of his understanding.

We cannot search out his understanding, but we can fall to our knees and worship, and we should.

“Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be befooled,—and ye turn aside、 and serve other gods, and bow down to them. So would the anger of Yahweh kindle upon you、 and he would shut up the heavens、 that there should be no rain, and ||the ground|| would not yield her increase,—so should ye perish speedily、 from off the good land, which Yahweh′ is giving unto you. ”
https://ref.ly/Dt11.16-17;emphbbl

Moses [speaking on behalf of God] lays out one requirement here for judgment to come down hard on God’s people: idolatry.

The people are encouraged to be careful because their heart might be deceived [befooled] and they be led astray.  The word that we translate “deceived” can mean “to entice, deceive, be gullible, be naive.”  Someone who is led away from the true God to worship a false god certainly qualifies as gullible and naive.  Yet God understands the human heart and the hearts ability to wander away from Him to the worship of any and everything else, be that the form of a god that people have made up, be that animals, or nature, or even Man himself.  John Calvin wrote somewhere that our hearts are idol factories cranking out one thing after another to pursue rather than God himself.

God understands full well that idolatry is an existential sin.  He warns them that they would “perish speedily,” if they fell into the trap of the pursuit of false gods.  This sheds light on how strong his punishment will come down if [when] the Israelites turned to idolatry.  The very harsh measures were designed to shock people out of their idolatry and back to the worship of God himself.  In those sense they were good and loving measures.  It is hardly loving to allow a child or friend to rush headlong down the pathway that ends in death without trying to intervene in the strongest way that we possible can.  Why should we expect God to do anything less?

We’d like to think that these days since we worship God, that we are not as prone to idolatry as the Israelites, but of course we are.  When we worship a god of our own imagination [“my god would never do X”], when we saturate ourselves with materialism, when we entertain ourselves endlessly with mindless popular media; these are all idolatrous, just as bad as what the Israelites pursued.

May we pursue the Creator himself over and above anything and everything that he has created.