Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"God has not changed!"

Day #209

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 1-6 ...

As we turn to Isaiah, we enter into a part of God’s Word where God sends His prophets to be His messengers to His people, to Israel and to Judah.  Following the reign of Solomon the nation of Israel was divided into two parts:  Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  God sent prophets to both of these to call them to obedience and to warn them of judgment.  In the words of the prophets you hear both condemnation upon those who reject God and who turn away from Him, and offers of mercy, grace and forgiveness for those who confess their sin, repent and believe in God’s promises that point to the coming Savior, the Messiah.  These prophecies were spread out over a few hundred years and reveal not only what was about to take place, but why!  They pointed to God’s work in the present and in the future, even pointing ahead, as we will see, to the second coming of Christ to establish His reign upon the earth.

While you and I don't live in the days of Isaiah, living today in what the Bible calls “the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2), two things have not changed:  the sinful state of mankind and the character of God.  As the prophets speak, God's judgment was already beginning to fall upon Israel, and would eventually fall upon the rest of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the nation of Judah.  God tells Isaiah why:  "They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him" (1:4).  The prophets spoke repeatedly of God's anger, of His coming wrath and of the inevitable judgment that would follow.  What a depressing time in which to live!  Or was it?  Was it different than our world today?  God pronounced judgment ... yet, He also offered hope in His promises to send a Savior!

In this time of salvation in which we live, beginning with the proclamation of the Gospel following Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the pouring out of His Spirit, we can see more clearly that God is loving and gracious and forgiving.  Living in this New Testament age we who believe have been given wisdom and understanding by the Holy Spirit and we have been taught that we can come to God through faith in Jesus Christ and know that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life.  "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound."  The Old Testament believers were continually reminded of their sin as they brought sacrifices, first to the tabernacle and then to the temple, time after time after time.  By faith they hoped and waited for the Messiah to come.  We know and testify that the Messiah has come, that Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of the living God, eternal God in the flesh, and that He paid the perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross, bringing forgiveness to all who put their faith in Him.  Hallelujah!!

But does that mean God has changed?  Does the God of the Old Testament no longer exist?  Such an understanding of God, of His Word, of His character, of His plan of salvation is not only inaccurate, it is dishonoring to God and misleading to millions who rely on a make-believe God to overlook their sinful rebellion.  The truth is that God HAS NOT CHANGED!!  In the first six chapters of his long prophecy, Isaiah presents the true God; who warns of judgment, who calls people to repentance and who offers forgiveness to those who come to Him.  God's pronouncement of judgment is unmistakable, but so is His offer of grace - even in the Old Testament. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (1:18).

Sin and its consequences was so widespread that Isaiah laments, “Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (1:9).  Still God promises, “I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning.  Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City” (1:26).  Amid all the declarations of judgment, God promises restoration for those who repent and a future glory for Israel.  In Chapter 2, Isaiah speaks about the future reign of Christ, when He will rule over the earth during the Millennium and then the peoples of the earth “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (2:4). 

Yet, before that happens, judgment WILL come.  The latter part of Isaiah 2, verses 6-21, describes what is a recurring theme among the prophets, the coming “day of the Lord.”  His description matches that of John’s words in Revelation 6:12-17.  But even in the Old Testament there is hope:  “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel” (4:2).  “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of His delight” (5:7). 

But for those who continue in their rebellion against God, His wrath will be poured out.  "The LORD Almighty will be exalted by His justice, and the holy God will show Himself holy by His righteousness. ... Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised" (5:16,25).  The picture of God’s holiness at the beginning of Chapter 6 is a stark reminder of the angels’ song heard by John in Revelation 4:8:  “Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come!’” Isaiah confesses his sin, then God sends an angel to touch his lips, saying, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (6:7).  And God sends Isaiah to a people whose eyes and ears and hearts are dull and closed.

God has not changed!  Isaiah’s vision of God reveals God’s holiness and our sin.  Isaiah was sent to bring a message of judgment, and yet there would be a "remnant", a "stump in the land" (6:13).  Today is the time of salvation when God has poured out His Holy Spirit and the Gospel of grace through faith in Jesus has gone into every corner of the earth.  Be assured, God's judgment will come upon all who do not repent, as certainly as it did on Israel and Judah.  But for those who come to know the God of Israel before whom the angels worship, there is hope!  OUR guilt has been taken away for our sin has been atoned for by the blood of the Lamb!!

"Heavenly Father, I acknowledge Your holiness and I thank you for your compassion, mercy and grace!  I confess my sin before You and rest in your promise to forgive through Your Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, my Savior and my Lord.  I praise You in Jesus’ name, Amen"

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