September 29

Isaiah 57:15–59:21

In Isaiah 57:1 the LORD identifies Himself as the High and Lofty One who inhabits Eternity, it’s just who He is, and yet this God of the universe stoops down to our level and is willing to dwell with us, even revive us.

As we read about the way He deals with Israel, we identify with the way He deals with us. How many times has our Father had to discipline us? How many people in the church have slipped for a season, backsliders among the brethren. God could have easily given up on us – but He doesn’t. Here we read twice that the Lord is willing to heal us from our backsliding (our tendency to go the wrong way) (Isaiah 57:18-19).

In Isaiah 58 the Lord rebukes His people for their superficial religion. The people were wondering why they weren’t getting their way when they had supposedly sought God daily and fasted sacrificially.  God informs tells them why:

Isaiah 58:3 (NLT) “‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ ‘I will tell you why!’ I respond. ‘It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.’”

Under the Old Covenant the only fasting mandated by God was the Day of Atonement, which took place once a year. This is not to say that fasting could not be offered up to God, or free-will sacrifices as He led His people, but if it was, it had to be done from a heart of obedience. God had spoken to Saul back in the day, a principle for the ages:

1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) “’Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.’”

The “fast” (the denial of the flesh) that the Lord wanted was/is for us to love the people, to lighten the load, to consider the poor, the hungry, the homeless. If we can understand  that God is more interested in this type of tangible Christianity than He is with external religious rituals, our light will grow bright, healings will happen, God’s guard will be greater, and the Almighty will answer our prayers in ways maybe we’ve never experienced.

It’s okay to fast. Jesus even told us that the day would come when His followers would fast (Mark 2:20) but we need to make sure we don’t end up like most of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day; they had their religious routines, but they didn’t know God or love people. (John 5:42; Luke 11:42; Matthew 6:16-18)

Isaiah 59 begins with an explanation of why the Lord wasn’t answering their prayers and helping them out. It wasn’t that God had bad ears, or short arms, it was just that their iniquities had separated them from each other.  I think sometimes we forget God is a holy God. If we want our prayer life to be effective we can’t live in unrepentant sin.

Psalm 66:18 (NIV) “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

As we read through Isaiah 59 the list of sins are heart-breaking. Murder, lies, perversity, people eager to do evil, eager to shed INNOCENT blood…there was no conviction, no justice in their ways. 

If anyone tried to get right they didn’t know how, they didn’t know the way, they were blind and dead in their sins – salvation was far from them (Isaiah 59:11).

But God…sent salvation their way. How many times did He rescue Israel? How many times has He rescued us? Isaiah 59:16-21 reveals the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ who would save the day. God intervened.

Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV) “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.”

The enemy comes in like a flood, but the Spirit of the LORD will blow him away. The Redeemer will restore any and all, who “turn from transgression” by simple faith in Him.

I cling to Isaiah 59:21 when I think of my children, and their children in future generations, should the Lord tarry.

Isaiah 59:21 (NKJV) “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”

Philippians 1:1-26

Paul writes the book of Philippians from a Roman prison, and yet the letter is filled with joy! Paul sees God’s hand in it all, that even though he’s locked up, the Gospel isn’t chained, it continues to go out and save souls, and for this…Paul rejoices. 

He’s also blessed by the Philippian church to whom he is writing. They had sent a financial gift to support his ministry and Paul was eternally grateful and encouraged by this.

There may have been drops of division beginning to develop in the church at Philippi, which Paul had planted (see Acts 16) and he will deal with that in the epistle, but overall, it’s a lovely letter of joy to a church that blessed his heart.

Paul begins with an expression of gratitude upon every remembrance of the Philippians, and he prayed for them with joy. Philippians 1:5 speaks of their fellowship in the gospel, and this is most likely in reference to the way they gave to the ministry, financially. Some Bible teachers even suggest that Lydia, who was a seller of purple and a part of the church, was a wealthy and perhaps generous donor (Acts 16:14).

What a beautiful promise we have in Philippians 1:6, how God will finish the work He has begun in each of our lives! How many of us have projects we’ve started and never completed? We get distracted, disinterested, have a change of heart; thank God He’s not like us!

Philippians 1:9-11 would be great to memorize as we pray for our loved ones – for more love, knowledge and discernment; to approve those things which are excellent. It’s easy to discern the difference between good and bad, but what about good and best? We should be engaged in the best things, in excellent things for the glory of God. Ma He help us to be real (sincere), holy, and fruitful…all that is part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.

As Paul was imprisoned, he wanted them to know the reality of Romans 8:28 – that God was working it all out for good! The guards knew it was God. The Christians knew it was Christ, for various reasons it gave boldness to the brethren…they were preaching the Word without fear. Paul was so blessed that the Word was getting out, that even though he knew not every preacher had pure motives, more and more people were hearing the gospel…and this brought him joy.

Not only was Paul praying for the Philippians, but they were also praying for him (Philippians 1:19). Paul was confident that God would answer their prayers for his deliverance. This brought up an interesting dilemma. Paul admits that he’s hard-pressed between the two options, to live or “die.” Would you rather live here on earth, or be home in heaven? As citizens of heaven, the longing of our hearts is to depart and be with the Lord, but we trust in God’s will and timing. God will keep us here as long as there is work to do, there will be fruit from our labors, it will be helpful to others. One day we will finish our race (2 Timothy 4:7). Our prayer is that God will be glorified in our life and in our death.

Philippians 1:21 (NKJV) “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

What a wonderful summary for the saints.

Psalm 71:1-24

The Psalmist is desperate and at the same time, desperately in love with the Lord.

He’s asking for protection, for deliverance, for salvation from his enemies. We can trust God from the womb to the tomb. I’ve always loved Psalm 71:6 – it’s probably my favorite birthday passage:

Psalm 71:6 (NKJV) “By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You.”

The Lord is the one who’s taken care of us since the day we were born; He’s taught us since our youth (Psalm 71:17). All this prompted a prayer for continued deliverance that would be followed by the testimony of praise.

The Psalmist vowed to tell and declare of all God had done for him, day after day, even all day long.

Psalm 71:15 (NKJV) “My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits.”

Psalm 71:17 (NKJV) “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works.”

Not just words, but worship – songs of praise – there would be music with a message, all about God and what He’s done for us, for me…personally.

If we’re blessed with more years, and get “up-there” in age, we can know that God will not forsake us, even when we’re old and “gray headed.” (Psalm 71:18)

Proverbs 24:9-10

Proverbs 24:9 (NKJV) “The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.”

As we noted yesterday, the doing of any evil is always sin, but planning, plotting, and devising that evil makes that sin even worse. At that point they’re not just a sinner, they’re a schemer, and even a scoffer – scoffing at God, daring Him to judge them while they go into sin with eyes wide open.

It’s an abomination to God and even to the godly.

Proverbs 24:10 (NKJV) “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”

Have any of you ever fainted? Just curious.

It can happen spiritually.

It’s important to realize that some days are worse than others. Notice what we read in this Proverb that there is a “day of adversity.” It’s called the “evil day,” in Ephesians 6:13. Some times are more difficult than others, because we’re under attack.

The devil and his demons are our adversaries who oppose us every step of the way. If we faint in this war, it’s only because we’re fighting in our own strength, which is small. Some people split, they quit, they tap out, drop out, cop out, you name it. Yes, even a “saint” can faint, if he or she is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

But – if you’ve fainted, it’s not over my friend; consider Jonah’s prayer!

Jonah 2:7 (NKJV) “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

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