Saturday, August 6, 2016

"Israel, Jerusalem ... a new heaven and a new earth!"

Day #220

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 62 - 66 ...

As we live in a world set on "self-destruct" and watch the nations of the world jockey for position, power and prestige it is easy to get caught up in our daily activities and to ignore what GOD says about where all of this is headed.  Isaiah and the people of Judah were facing the judgment of God.  Jerusalem would be destroyed.  All would appear to be LOST ... but God had a plan then and He has a plan today and in the future for this nation, for this people, for Jerusalem, for Israel, for the Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with whom He made His Covenant of Grace ... and you and I can either be part of His plan or we can be part of a world that goes on its way, headed toward the winepress of God's wrath and judgment.

Zion was another name for the city of David, Jerusalem.  It is said that Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim Jerusalem as their "Holy City."  Here's the truth:  Jerusalem is GOD's city ... the God of Abraham, ISAAC and JACOB!  That excludes the Muslims, the descendants of Ishmael.  And what most do not understand is that Christianity is the fulfillment of true biblical Judaism.  Jerusalem holds no special significance for people who do not confess Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, as Savior and Lord.  But for those who do, both Jews and Gentiles, this city is the focus of God's attention, and should be of ours.

God says that He will rejoice over Jerusalem, "as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride" (62:5).  The opening verses of Chapter 63 describe the return of Jesus as He treads the winepress of God's wrath (63:2; Revelation 19:15). Notice that God's vengeance and His redemption come to pass at the same time (63:4).  When Jesus comes He will bring salvation to those who believe in Him, but judgment upon the rest of the world.  Those who think of God only as a God of love, as one who loves everybody and ignores sin, will be horribly surprised.  Those who believe that Jesus is only the Lamb that was slain and not also, at the same time, the Lion of Judah, who will bring judgment on His enemies, will face the justice of a jealous God.  This is where our world is headed.

How thankful we must be for God's grace!  Our prayer must be that of Isaiah in Chapter 64, verses 8-9:  "O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever."  Only because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross can we who believe in Jesus today confess our sins, ask for forgiveness and trust that in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, our debt is paid.  Deliverance is ours!

God sent the Gospel "first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles" (Romans 1:16). There have always been some from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who have believed, and through the testimony of Christians over the past century, perhaps more than ever before.  Still, there is a future glory for Jerusalem and for the physical descendants of Jacob:  "I will not destroy them all.  I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live" (65:8-9).  God will always do what He says He will do.

In this world we face trials, suffering and persecution, but God is at work in the nations and in the lives of His people, those who believe in Jesus, whom He has chosen for Himself.  When we feel overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated or defeated, we need to think on these things!  God says, "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. ... For I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more" (Isaiah 65:17-20).  If this sounds familiar, it is repeated in Revelation 21:1-3.  Before the Apostle John saw these things some sixty years after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, God had already revealed the same thing to the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier.

There is a glorious future for those who know the LORD, the God of Israel.  God blesses those who humble themselves before Him.  "This is the one I esteem:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (66:2).  People do not realize that to reject the one true God is the epitome of pride.  To believe that you have the right to choose your own "god" displays the foolishness and sinful rebellion of those who want to determine their own fate in their own way by doing their own thing.

The God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is not finished with Jerusalem.  In Chapter 66, verses 6-8, Isaiah describes the re-birth of a nation ... May 14, 1948.  And then he "fast forwards" again to the final countdown:  "For with fire and with His sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men and many will be those slain by the LORD" (66:16). The God of love is also a just and holy God who is "storing up His wrath" (Romans 2:5).  That day will come, perhaps very soon.  Then, "They will proclaim my glory among the nations.  And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord" (66:19-20).

And finally ... finally, "As the new heavens and the new earth that I will make will endure before me, so will your name and descendants endure" (66:22). God has said it and He will do it.  Where is your hope today?  Are you living with one ear to the things that are going on in the world and watching for the signs of His coming?  They are all around us.  Put your trust in the Lord, the only true God.  Draw near to Him through faith in Jesus and know that in the end ... all will be well for those who know the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  After Jesus rules for 1,000 years in Jerusalem, the heavenly city of Jerusalem will descend to a new earth and God will dwell with His children forever!!

"Oh LORD, our God, we come to You confessing our sin and resting in Your grace, Your mercy and Your forgiveness through Jesus, Your Son.  Thank You for Your love in sending Him to pay my debt, to suffer Your wrath in MY place, that I may live with You now and anticipate living with You forever in Your new heaven and earth.  Oh LORD, MY God, I praise You!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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