Friday, July 29, 2016

"What does the future hold?"

Day #212

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 18-22 ...

As you and I live in this world we all have our frustrations.  Some of them are minor things, while others occupy our minds and hearts and weigh heavily upon us.  It seems that life is filled with unexpected events and we get easily stressed by what we perceive to be injustice in the world.  Security is an illusion as we watch the world around us spiral into chaos.  You may experience stress and insecurity at work or in your personal relationships with others, even in your family or in the church.  So how can you be optimistic about the future?  Many try to pretend and to produce a measure of hope for the world, but they rely upon a change in the thinking and behavior of people and there is no evidence that such a change will take place.

Trying to predict what the future holds is like trying to predict the weather!  James writes, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).  Life is truly unpredictable.  All around you there are people who are looking forward to some difficult times in their lives with regard to their health or their finances or their family situations.  Terrorism can disrupt our lives at any place and at any time.  Where can you and I turn for hope?

At first glance, it is NOT Isaiah 18-22!!  These chapters, along with most of Isaiah 1-39, pronounce judgment on nation after nation, indeed, as we will see in our next reading, upon the entire planet!  There is not much encouragement in these chapters.  In fact, the word "terror" and words like it are used several times.  Judgment is going to fall even on Judah, and God says why:  "You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall.  You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago" (22:10-11).  And several times Isaiah writes, "The LORD has spoken!"  It is set.  It is going to happen.  The One who controls the future as He has the past will bring all these things to pass.
As I watch the world scene and hear the reports of what is happening among some of the most prominent nations in the world, I often think about what the future holds - perhaps the near future ... and in one word, it is judgment.  God's wrath is even now being poured out in so many ways upon the peoples of the earth, yet they refuse to acknowledge the reason for their misery.  And here, in what is arguably the most outwardly blessed nation in the world, people in record numbers ignore the God from whom all blessings flow.  God has said that He will not share His glory with other “gods,” yet even in the visible church there are false teachers and those who promote other religions and by doing so reject the Gospel that proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal Son of God, come in the flesh, who died and rose again and ascended into heaven.  They deny that He alone is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and that no one comes to God except through faith in Him.

Judgment is coming on this world - GOD's judgment!  It must come because He has said it will.  As Isaiah pronounces judgment on the nations around Israel in his day some of what he predicted was for the near future, but most of it was for the days yet to come.  This is not just Old Testament “judgment talk!”  God is at work in our world today to save the remnant that we heard Isaiah talk about earlier, but He will not hold His wrath forever.  It will be poured out as certainly as Jesus will return to rescue His Church, His Bride.  And here is where we find hope.  Justice WILL come and those who look to themselves or the world or other gods for escape will not find it.  They will perish in their sin and endure the horrible judgment of God for all eternity.

Those who believe otherwise need only listen to Jesus.  Isaiah pronounces judgment on those who come against God’s people and who scorn the God of Israel.  In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, Jesus reveals the scene when He returns and gathers the sheep and the goats before Him.  To those who have believed in Him and who have shown love for His “brothers” (specifically, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and believers in Christ), Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  But to those who have not believed in Him and who have not shown compassion and love to His “brothers,” Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

As certainly as Isaiah predicts the judgment of God upon the nations, Jesus taught about the reality of God’s judgment upon all those who reject God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His sacrifice on the cross, the shedding of His blood, the perfect Lamb, the perfect offering.  Only Jesus, true God and true man, could pay the debt you and I owe to Almighty God.  Peter declared in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

OUR hope is in the LORD, the Great "I AM," the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  While people try to unite all mankind into one global community and seek to establish a "religion" where each person is free to believe what they want about "god," or a "higher being" ... or not to believe at all ... God is not mocked.  Everything Isaiah predicts will come to pass just as God says it will.  Where do YOU find encouragement, comfort and hope?  Isaiah found his in the one true and only God (you may want to look ahead to Chapter 40).  You can find comfort in the same place, for in knowing Him there IS hope ... for today, for tomorrow ... for forever!!

"Father, today is a gift from You, to be used for You.  Help me, today, to give my life to You and to find in You my hope, my strength and my JOY!!  For in you my future is secure.  In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!"

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