Thursday, February 20, 2014

"The God of Israel is GOD!"

Day #55:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - February 21st

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 40 - 44 …

That those who reject the Bible as the Word of God would be unsure if there IS a God or wonder which of the many "gods" devised by men is the "real" one, or declare that God is whoever or whatever you want "him/her/it" to be, is not surprising.  What IS sad is to hear so many who CLAIM to be Christians, who may even be teachers in the church, agreeing with them and acting as though we cannot know the one true God who has revealed Himself in His creation, in His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ.  I have shared before that I grow weary of those who act so ignorantly and who accuse those of us who, by God's grace, KNOW HIM … who accuse US of being arrogant!  What could possibly be more arrogant than to deny what God Himself has revealed, as though you know better.  These false teachers claim that all religions must unite, respecting each other's beliefs about God and even the "beliefs" of those who claim there is no God.  I read this "garbage" from the lips of men in our local newspaper every week and it angers me to no end and moves me to declare with greater zeal that the God of Israel is God!

Now, that needs to be explained, because most of the people living in the nation of Israel either do not believe in God or believe in the God of the Old Testament, but reject Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, as the promised Messiah.  Therefore, when I say, "The God of Israel is God," it is necessary to explain that I mean what the Bible means:  that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who reveals Himself in His Word, the God who changed Jacob's name to "Israel" and who kept His promise to make of him a great nation … THIS God is God.

Isaiah 40 - 44 begins the second part of Isaiah's prophecy.  The first part, the first thirty-nine chapters, pronounced God's present and coming judgment with certainty, not only upon an idolatrous nation who had rejected God, but on all the nations of the world.  At the same time, Isaiah offered glimpses of a future where God would gather a remnant from Israel and from the nations to be His people.  All this would be fulfilled in Christ.

In the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, Isaiah speaks more often of the future glory of Israel and of God's plan to send His "servant" to bring salvation.  From the destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the first century, throughout the nations of the world, most people who studied the Bible found no possibility of the restoration of Israel as a particular people.  They interpreted God's specific promises to Israel as applying to the Church of the New Testament.  Many, if not most, continue to do so today.

But in 1948 everything changed.  The establishment of the nation of Israel in the very land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob displayed the truth that had been recorded by Isaiah and other prophets centuries, even millennia before:  God is the God of Israel and the God of Israel is God.  There is not time in this brief blog to go into all the specific promises referring to these people and to their God.  There is not time to talk about what is about to unfold on the earth in fulfillment of these promises.  It is enough to state that the God who is the Creator of all things and who called Abraham and who made His covenant of grace with him and with his descendants is God, and that the Jewish people and the nation of Israel play a specific role in what lies ahead.  God will keep every promise, including the conversion of those in Israel at the return of Jesus Christ.  God said it … He will do it.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (40:8).  Listen to Isaiah's words:  "'Do not be afraid, O worm of Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,' declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (41:14).  "I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them" (41:17).  There will come a time when Jesus will come to defend these people.  There are too many passages in God's Word that declare this truth to ignore.  If God is unfaithful to His promises to Israel because of their sins, then what of us?  Have we not sinned against Him?  Will He keep His promises to us who believe in Him, who call out to Him today, and yet forget His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  For the glory of His name He will fulfill every promise, for the God of Israel is God.

He is the God who sent His "servant" (42:1), who will bring justice to the earth.  He will triumph over the nations of the world.  No one can stand against Him.  We have seen and are seeing the fulfillment of some of these promises in recent years, since 1948:  "I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made" (43:6-7).  "I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King" (43:15).  "This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:  I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God" (44:6).

God has shown who He is repeatedly throughout history, yet only those who are given eyes to see can and will understand.  This God said of "Cyrus," more than 150 years before he became king of the Persian empire, defeating the Babylonians who had taken the bulk of the Jews into captivity … "He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt,' and of the temple, 'Let its foundations be laid …'"  (44:28).  God sent His Son to become a man to redeem His people and Jesus speaks about His returning to Jerusalem (Matthew 24; Luke 21).  John's "Revelation" and Paul's letters to believers speak about these same things.

There is one, true God, the Creator of all things, and He IS the God of Israel.  By faith in Jesus Christ you and I can be "grafted in" to the "root" (Romans 11).  The promises of Isaiah are precious to those who know Israel's God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Do not ignore them; do not explain them away; do not interpret them in ways that change their obvious meaning.  God will do what He says, and for those who acknowledge that He is God and who know His Son, this is a great comfort.  Thus, Isaiah's words, as he begins this second part of his long message:  "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (40:1).

"LORD God Almighty, from everlasting to everlasting YOU ARE GOD!  There is no other.  I praise You today for Your wisdom, power and glory, and give You thanks for opening my eyes to see You as You are, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … and by Your grace through Your Son Jesus Christ and the work of Your Spirit in my heart and mind … MY God!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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