Archive for June, 2010

Isaiah 40:16

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

Isaiah 40:16

“Lebanon is not sufficient to burn” is quite a statement when you think about Lebanon and what they have been famous for throughout their history.  Lebanon has always been associated with her trees, specifically her cedar trees.  The Bible speaks of the “cedars of Lebanon” in several places.  In fact, the modern nation of Lebanon has a cedar tree on it’s flag.  And even though the strength and pride of the nation of Lebanon is her trees, God says here that it is “not sufficient to burn”.  The entire chapter of Isaiah 40 is about showing us just how powerful God is and just how weak and small we are.

The very best things we can produce are nothing to an almighty God.  The things that we take so much pride in are of no value to God.  Even all of the cedars of Lebanon, which kings and rulers have sought for thousands of years, are not even enough to God to burn.  What is it that we are taking pride in?  Is it our house or our car or our job?  Whatever it is, in the grand scheme of things, it is virtually nothing.  Again, we are reminded of the great and powerful God we serve.

Isaiah 40:17

All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

Isaiah 40:17

Once again, this chapter in Isaiah is all about how big God is and how small we are.  In verse 15, God describes the nations of the Earth as a “drop of a bucket”.  In this verse, we find that, in the eyes of God, the nations of the Earth are really even less than a “drop of a bucket”, they are “as nothing” and even “less than nothing” and “vanity”. 

Those are strong words to say that ALL nations are nothing before Him, but it is an all powerful God who can make a statement like that.  When you think about it, nations really are nothing to God.  God raises up nations and He casts down nations at His pleasure.  There have been many nations in the course of human history that have dominated the known world, but none of them have lasted.  Our own great nation has even begun to show signs of weakness.  Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will”.  To us, nations are powerful entities.  Just try to argue with the government about something and see how far you get!  But to God, they are nothing.  I like the way this is phrased in the Bible- “all nations before him are as nothing.”  And then, as if to say “wait a minute, saying that they are nothing is too much”, the Lord throws in “and they are counted to him less than nothing”.  Saying that nations are nothing is giving nations too much credit, they are less than nothing to God.  The God we serve is most definitely a great and mighty God!

Isaiah 40:15

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Isaiah 40: 15

I always find it interesting how phrases from the Bible can become part of everyday speech.  People who have never even opened a Bible have probably used the phrase “a drop in the bucket” before.  We use that phrase to signify something very small or insignificant.  God uses that phrase to describe how He views entire nations.  Whole countries, which we consider to be very large and powerful institutions, are viewed by God as nothing more than a drop in the bucket.  They are also “counted as the small dust of the balance”- not even worth being measured.

“Behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing”.  Islands are also a very small thing to God.  He takes them up without even really thinking about them.  He can pick up and discard an entire island as would pick up and discard a blade of grass.  This verse is a reminder of just what a powerful God we serve.

Isaiah 40:14

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Isaiah 40:14

The description of the greatness and majesty and power of God is continued in verse 14.  “With whom took he counsel?”  Who was it that God asked for advice?  “Who instructed him?”  Who was it that taught God something He didn’t already know?  Who “taught him judgment and knowledge”?  Who was it that taught Him right from wrong and how to make good decisions?  Who “shewed to him the way of understanding?  Who was it that was able to explain something to God?

Of course, these are ridiculous questions.  Nobody gave God advice.  Nobody was ever able to teach God anything.  God knows everything.  Nobody has ever been able to show God what is right and wrong.  God is the one who decides what is right and what is wrong. 

But how often have we lived our lives in such a way as to question God?  How often have we actually come right out and questioned something God has done?  When we question Him, what we are saying is that we know more than He does.   We are saying that we have knowledge and judgment that He does not have.  We are saying that our way is better than His. 

When you put things in that light- really stopping to think about our knowledge versus God’s infinite knowledge, our questioning Him really does begin to seem rather silly.  Why would we- vile, sinful mounds of ashes and dust, ever even begin to think about questioning an infinitely wise and all-knowing God?

Isaiah 40:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to be gone this  week.  I’ll have someone continue to post everyday, but I want be around  to respond to comments.  Everyday will be a verse from Isaiah 40.

 thanks for reading.  Ben

 

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11

 

 

 

 

 

I love all of the beautiful imagery found in Isaiah chapter forty and I thought I would write a little series on several of these verses.  The first one I would like to look at is verse eleven.  This verse gives us the image of the Lord as our Shepherd.  We, as humans, are often compared to sheep in the Bible, and for good reason.  Sheep are not intelligent animals.  In fact, from everything I’ve heard, they are rather dumb animals and they are prone to get themselves into trouble.  That describes us.  The Lord leads us and guides us and protects us.  That describes the shepherd.  But there is more to this verse.

Just about any shepherd could keep the sheep in line by whacking them with his staff every time they got out of line. He could find a lost sheep and drag it back to the flock by the back legs. A human shepherd could technically keep his sheep from harm without really caring for them or about them. A shepherd could treat his sheep roughly, as dumb, headstrong animals are often treated. But that is not how the Great Shepherd deals with us, His sheep.

Notice the tenderness shown in this verse: “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”.  The previous verse speaks of the Lord as having a “strong hand”, but He is tender enough to scoop up the young, straying lamb to carry it.   He knows when we can’t keep going on and just need to be carried. And when we stumble or stray from the rest of the flock, as lambs are wont to do, he doesn’t just roughly grab us by the scruff of the neck and drag us along: He “gathers” us in His arm and carries us close to His bosom. If that isn’t comforting, I don’t know what is.

He “gently leads those that are with young”.  He knows us.  He knows how to deal with us.  He knows exactly what we need every day of our lives.  That whole phrase speaks of the tenderness with which the Lord deals with His own.  He is our loving Shepherd and that is something in which we can take comfort!

Hard Hearted

And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they (the prophets of Baal) prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

I Kings 18:29, 38

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.

I Kings 19:1-2

In case you are not familiar with the story in I Kings 18, here is a quick summary: 1. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a showdown.  (Each would get one bullock and pray to their god or God to consume the sacrifice with fire)  2. Baal’s prophets pray and dance and cut themselves all day to no avail (while Elijah mocks them).  3.  Baal does not answer.  4. Elijah has the people dump a bunch of water on his sacrifice.  5.  Elijah prays to God.  6. God sends down fire and consumes not only the bullock on the altar, but also the “wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water” just to leave no room for doubt.  7. The people choose God over Baal.

Now that we are all up to speed, we can look at the first two verses of the next chapter.  Ahab goes back to Jezebel and tells her “all that Elijah had done”.  Jezebel then tells Elijah that she is going to kill him.

That is a picture of a person with a hard heart.  In one of the most amazing displays of divine power that the world has ever seen, God clearly proves His superiority to Baal.  Baal could do nothing.  Baal failed.  God won.  And in the face of this epic failure from Baal and epic triumph by God, Jezebel still hates Elijah, still hates God, and is still trusting in Baal.

That may seem silly to us, but how often do we continue to serve the world and the flesh and the devil despite the fact that Christ has clearly proven His superiority?  How often do we continue on our own path of self=destruction when His way has proven over and over again to be good and right?  I think we may sometimes have a little bit of Jezebel in us.  What a grim reminder of just how hopeless we really are without Him.

Yes, I Know (Hymn)

Yes, I Know
Anna Waterman (1920)

Come, ye sinners, lost and hopeless,
Jesus’ blood can make you free;
For He saved the worst among you,
When He saved a wretch like me.

Refrain

And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean,
And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.

To the faint He giveth power,
Through the mountains makes a way;
Findeth water in the desert,
Turns the night to golden day.

In temptation He is near thee,
Holds the pow’rs of hell at bay;
Guides you to the path of safety,
Gives you grace for ev’ry day.

He will keep thee while the ages
Roll throughout eternity;
Though earth hinders and hell rages,
All must work for good to thee.

I have liked this hymn for quite a while and it has always been one of my favorites.  The first stanza could easily be autobiographical.  There have been many times that I have I thought that I am “the worst among you”.  And I very well may be “the worst among you”.  But I also know that “Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean”.  And that is the only reason I can sing this song or any other.  The other verses each have good messages also, but I will let you read them and make your own applications.  This is indeed a great hymn!

Seeing and Believing

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord he is the God.

I Kings 18:38-39

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20:29

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

It must have been an awesome sight to see the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  What an amazing thing it would have been to have witnessed fire coming down from Heaven and consuming not only the offering on the altar, but also licking up the water around the altar and consuming the stones of the altar itself.  I’m sure that a sight like that would invoke a reverential fear in just about anybody that witnessed it.  It did cause the Israelites who were there to fall down on their faces and worship God.  It caused them to declare that “the Lord, he is the God”.  The Israelites believed in Him because of an awe-inspiring display of power. 

In John chapter 20, Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection and Thomas is unsure.  But when Jesus showed him His hands and side, Thomas believed.  Thomas believed in Him because he could physically see and touch Him.

We do not have the opportunity to see God literally send down fire from Heaven to consume a burnt offering.  We do not have the opportunity to physically see Jesus Christ in the flesh and touch Him.  And yet we believe.  That is where faith comes in to the picture.  Hebrews 11:1 gives us a great and simple definition of faith: “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  Faith is taking God at His word and believing Him even though we may not be able to actually see Him.  May He give us great faith to believe in Him!

The Way Home

If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy…

Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying , We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;

And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul…

Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,

And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them

I Kings 8:46-50

This is a prayer of Solomon, the wisest man ever to live.  I think there is some great wisdom in this prayer, and I think that there are some things we can apply to our situations. 

1. Our sin.
-“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,)…”  It’s not a matter of “if” I am going to sin.  It’s a matter of “when” I am going to sin.  If I am awake, I probably have some sinful thought or desire or motive that I need to deal with.  If I am asleep, I have probably just hit the snooze button for the third time and am guilty of a little bit of sloth.  We all sin.  The Bible tells us in I John that “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”.  Solomon knows that the people are going to sin.  And we know that we are going to sin.

2. God is angry with sin
-“…and thou be angry with them”.  God hates sin and is not pleased when we sin.  He knows that we are going to sin, but that does not lessen his hatred of it.  When we sin, we make God angry.

3. We must “come to ourselves”
-“Yet if they shall bethink themselves… and repent… and make supplication… saying, We have sinned and done perversely, we have committed wickedness, And so return unto thee with all their heart…”  Just like the Prodigal son in Luke, when we “come to ourselves”, we are ready to repent, we are ready to go to the Father and confess our sins and throw ourselves on His mercy.

4. There is forgiveness.
-“Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven… And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee”.  Once we come to ourselves and leave our sin behind, coming to Him, He is ready to forgive.  The Prodigal son was welcomed by the Father, and we will be welcomed and forgiven by our Heavenly Father. 

What a blessing it is to know that no matter how we sin against Him, He still stands ready to forgive, if only we will turn to Him. 

 

Fearing and Departing

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

Proverbs 3:7

As I read this verse, two things jump out at me that we are supposed to be doing: fearing the Lord and departing from evil.  But the more I think about it, the more I come to think that those two things are very closely related, almost even one and the same. 

As we fear the Lord, we will depart from evil.  The more we fear the Lord, the more we are going to depart from evil.  On the other side of the coin, we are not going to have the desire to depart from evil without a healthy fear of the Lord.

Fearing the Lord simply means believing what He says about sin and judgment.  When we understand how much God hates sin, it will give us a healthy fear and respect for Him and for His law.  This fear and respect will lead us to depart from evil.  We will want to be as far away from it as we possibly can be. 

So often, we want to dabble in the world’s pleasures.  We want to get as close to sin as we possibly can. We want to live as much in the flesh as we can and yet still call ourselves Christians.  When we adopt that attitude, we are showing that we have little fear or respect for God’s word.  The fear of the Lord will cause us depart from evil.  It will drive us far away from sin.  But, the good thing about the fear of the Lord is that it will drive us to the Saviour!