Thursday, August 4, 2016

"All the world will see the salvation of our God!"

Day #218

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 51 - 55 …

As you look at the circumstances of your life and at the turmoil in the world around us you might be moved to ask, "God, what are You doing??!"  Why is it that even those who don't believe in God or know what God has revealed in the Bible want to blame God for all the "bad" stuff going on in the world, yet at the same time want to take credit for anything good that might happen?  The truth is, of course, that it’s the other way around.  All the good things you see are God's doing, even through those who don't know or believe in Him, while all the evil in the world is the fruit of mankind's sin and rebellion against our Creator.  It is easy to become disillusioned and to ask why God doesn't do something to correct things without realizing that if God were to remove His presence and power from this planet for a moment everything, including the planet itself and the people on it, would cease to exist.  We continue by the permission of His will, nothing more and nothing less.  

Even those who claim to know God sometimes doubt and question God … as if He has to answer to us!  So it is important to know that God HAS done and IS doing something and that He WILL do all He has promised.  Reading God's Word reveals more than enough about what God HAS done, IS doing and WILL do to give hope and peace to those who believe in Him and who receive the Bible as His revelation of Himself and of His plan for all mankind, indeed, for the entire universe, which He created by the power of His Word.  The one true God is totally and completely in control of even the evil deeds of those who live in rebellion against Him.  Satan and his demons rebelled against God and were cast out of His presence, and they can do only what God allows them to do.  In one way or another virtually every question people ask can be answered by studying God's Word.

In Chapter 51 Isaiah  reminds us that God created the world and that this world, as we know it, is only here temporarily, for God's purposes.  “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies.  BUT my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (51:6).  That knowledge alone should cause each of us to examine our lives and to seek to understand God's purposes, rather than living every day focused on the minute and seemingly insignificant details of our own lives.  The amazing thing, when you come to know God, is that even though He holds the entire universe in His hands, He knows your name and knows the number of the hairs on your head.  Your life is important only in the context of His plan.

Throughout Isaiah’s long writing, God makes it clear that His purpose is tied to Zion, Jerusalem, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God will destroy those who attack Jerusalem.  “The ransomed of the LORD will return.  They will enter Zion with singing” (51:11).  “I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people ...’” 51:16).  God gave Isaiah a message that declared the truth about God’s reign over all things:  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Our God reigns!’” (52:7).  "The LORD will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God" (52:10).  It is our privilege as believers today to declare this good news! (52:7).  It is, indeed, good news to some … and bad news to others!

How will God accomplish His purpose to "redeem" His people?  Through His "suffering servant" (Isaiah 53).  A clearer description of the sacrifice of Jesus and what He accomplished through His suffering on the cross can only be found in the letters of the Apostle Paul to believers following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.  Our sins were laid on Jesus and "by His wounds we are healed" (53:5).  This was God's plan before the world began, for we were chosen in Christ "before the creation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).  “It was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” (53:10).  “For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:12). This was and is God’s plan to gather for Himself a people who will live with Him in the new heaven and earth that He will create following the return of Jesus Christ, and this world exists today, at this moment, only because God's plan to save His people has not yet reached its completion.  What you see and hear on the news is almost entirely the death throes of a world in rebellion against its Creator … a world awaiting His judgment when Jesus returns.

In Chapter 54, God promises that He will establish Jerusalem above all the nations:  “Your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities” (54:3).  “For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is His Name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer” (54:5).  So God sends out His invitation:  "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon" (55:6-7).  God's Word will not return without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it.  Contrary to what some believe, His Word accomplishes His purpose simply by being proclaimed, whether people believe or not!  Paul says in II Corinthians 2:15-16 that God's Word brings salvation and pronounces judgment at the same time.  To those who receive it as truth and believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ, He gives salvation.  To those who reject His Word and His Savior, the Word pronounces judgment and eternal death.

Which group are YOU in?  Are these words good news to you in the midst of life in this world?  Have you placed your hope in the One who gave His life, who suffered in your place?  God will do what He says He will do and all the world will see the salvation of our God!

"O LORD, our God, to You I come with the joy of salvation, believing Your Word and trusting Your promises.  You have declared Your purposes throughout the ages, that we might know Your plan and have hope as we live in this world today.  Help me to seek You always and to serve You without fear as I wait for that day when I will live in Your presence!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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