When God Does Not Hear Your Prayers

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But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

Isaiah 59:2,3

As I read through the chapters of Isaiah I am increasingly impressed with the development of this multi-layered prophecy. In chapter 54 the Lord reveals the future glory of Zion. In chapter 55 He invites the thirsty to taste the waters of eternal life. In chapter 56 He foretells the salvation of the gentiles. In chapter 57 He indicts the wicked and identifies with the contrite in spirit. In chapter 58 He calls His people to abandon their false worship and to draw near with their hearts. Now He tells them that their false worship does them no good.

More often than not you will hear people emphasize the importance of praying because God does hear your prayers, and that is true. But we want to be clear that it is not unconditional and absolute. The exception here is that the people were given over to all sorts of evil amongst themselves and so God withholds His protection and blessing.

The word “justice” is used in this chapter in two senses: one has to do with men doing the right thing and the other has to do with God’s judgment of Israel’s oppressors. The people neglected the former and thus God withheld the latter.

I believe this passage in verses 1-15 shows that the main challenge to approaching the Lord is our own evil nature. People are not battering the gates of heaven with passion. They are running to evil at full speed. We are the obstacles to our own reconciliation with God and He has to overcome our sinful natures in order to restore fellowship.

If you want to have your sinful cake and eat it too then do not be surprised when the Lord does not answer because He will not. In 1:15-17 of this book God warns the people that they are lifting up blood-stained hands in worship to Him and He will not even look at them. In Micah 3:4 God again says that He will not hear prayers from those who do ill. James also tells us that a double-minded man who prays will not receive anything from God.

This is a good time to mention that the problem is not so much what the people did not do but what they did do. Their prayers were not answered because they did evil, not because they did not do amazing things. God was not turning away because He was not impressed but because He was repulsed by their wickedness. These are the conditions under which you should not pray. The solution is simple: confess and repent and you will see the Lord reveal His power.

What is holding you back?  

 

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What Does It Mean To Be God’s Wife?

Altar wedding

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

Isaiah 54:4,5

One thing that we can always count on in life is that people will let us down whether they mean it or not. We are just not capable of keeping our promises. Fortunately, we cannot say this about God but yet we need to be reminded.

The Devil is extremely effective in convincing us that we have no hope of reconciling with God but the Lord graciously shows us that He is merciful and eager to receive us. This passage reminds me of Hosea 2:16:

And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.

The Hebrew meanings behind ishi and baali are interesting for what they illuminate. Baali is the word for lord, or sir, and refers to the order within the marriage wherein the husband is the head and the wife is placed under his headship and authority. Ishi (my man, my husband) is related to the word, isha (my woman, my wife), which Adam used of Eve and it connotes a relationship that is much more intimate. God is condescending to our level and seeking an intimate relationship with His people in which they are face to face.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Romans 7:4

Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by showing us that He is the bridegroom for the church, His bride. We also are one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. The relationship will then reach its ultimate stage when He comes back to get His bride for the wedding banquet that will never end.

 

 

7 Parallels Between Isaiah 53 And Jesus

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Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:1-9

1. The first parallel that comes to mind is the birth of Jesus. It was a challenge for Joseph, Mary, and others to believe that Jesus was the messiah that was foretold in the scriptures. Later, during His ministry, we also see plenty of examples of people who struggle to accept that He was the one that Israel was expecting to deliver them.

2. When I read in verse two and three that the servant had no beauty and was rejected by men it takes me to Matthew 13:54-57 where the Jews were offended by the idea that a man as lowly as he, of no repute, could do such miraculous works and speak with such wisdom. This is where Jesus says that a prophet is not honored in his own country.

3. The parallel in verse four is much more explicit and we get it from the text itself in Matthew 8:17. The crowds brought their sick and demon-possessed and Jesus healed them all. We read that this is a fulfillment of the prophecy that God’s servant “would take up our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.”

4. In verse five we see that well-known text which explains what Jesus was doing on the cross to offer us salvation. He was beaten, tortured, and whipped for our sakes and because of that we receive healing. We are healed by His wounds.

5. The scene of Jesus’ scourging comes to mind as I read verse seven. He took His punishment, even though it was unjust and abusive. He did not fight back either. There was never a man as innocent and undeserving of any punishment as Jesus.

6. Verse eight relates to the scene in the Temple and in Pilate’s palace after Jesus’ arrest. He did not try to avoid the punishment because He knew this is why He came and that the Lord would give Him the grace to endure. He did not dispute the charges but He did fill His accusers with guilt and shame as they realized that they were putting an innocent, if there ever was one, to death.

7. We know from the narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection that verse nine indicates the burial tomb that was provided for Him by a wealthy man. He was unlike any man who ever lived and yet His body was laid to rest as if He was just another criminal who failed to throw off Israel’s Roman oppressors.

Think Globally Act Locally

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Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:10

This verse is one reason why I have come to see Isaiah as an important transition point in the redemptive history of man. We see here that God putting into place a sequence of events that will lead to the arrival of the Messiah who will not only redeem Israel but bring in God’s people from all over the world. In these latter chapters of Isaiah God talks a lot about the gospel that would be taken to the gentiles. God was the first one to think globally and act locally.

The seed, or offspring, that Jesus will see is us, His church and He has enjoyed the fruits of His success for thousands of years. These days we see people are consumed with pursuing “success” but it is usually within the context of some career ambition. We also see many people who are trying to figure what to do in light of their failure to achieve or find any fulfillment in life even after they have succeeded. Jesus teaches us some profound lessons about what real success looks like.

Not only has Jesus benefitted from His sufferings until His death on the cross but we also enjoy those benefits. This chapter describes some of those blessings. We have been healed and justified by the Son after He suffered the punishment of our iniquities. He exchanged our sin for His righteousness and made us one with Him. Hallelujah.

We see a clear summary of this in the New Testament:

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Hebrews 2:10

Do you belong to this number? Are you part of His seed?

The Suffering And Exaltation of Jesus

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Isaiah presents God’s servant as one who goes from the most extreme suffering to the highest exaltation. He truly rises from the bottom to the top, from the last to the first. Jesus reaches these extremes when He goes to the cross to be sacrificed for the sins of the world and then upon His ascension when He went to the right hand of the Father.

In the wake of His exaltation the revelation of who He is and what He has done will spread throughout the world. That is exactly what happened as His disciples took the gospel to every kingdom and made disciples of the nations. Beginning with Pilate, we see how rulers are faced with the power of Jesus and amazed at His righteousness and wisdom. The same would happen with Paul in his trials during his ministry.

Gentiles, in particular, have much to be thankful for because they now have the knowledge of that which was only known to Israel. And it was because of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and ascension that we can know fully what prophets and kings in the past have sought to discover. It’s easy to forget what a privilege it is to know what we know and to have direct access to the throne of grace.

Can The Pope Assure Atheists Into Heaven?

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Pope Francis has caused another controversy last week due to answer he gave to a journalist’s question about whether nonbelievers can be forgiven. Part of the Roman Pontiff’s response:

You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience…

Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.

The more you read the Pope’s response the more confusing it sounds. While I do not think he went so far as to say that atheists can be forgiven apart from faith I do still take issue with how he misled the public about the nature of sin. He watered it down so much that it does not seem very serious, which then raises the question of why it’s even a big deal. It’s important to keep in mind that he wrote a long letter and the part that is getting the most attention is only a couple of sentences long, so we need to reserve judgment until we know what the context is.

If all we had to go on were these remarks then it wouldn’t be much help. It’s too ambiguous and vague, and there’s good reason to be concerned about just that. But I don’t believe that the press is misrepresenting the Pope because he has made the same point in more direct language in the past. Here is what he said last May in a homily:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”.. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

It seems that the Pope believes in something of a social gospel in which your good works are given such weight that it overshadows doctrine. Throughout the centuries the pendulum has swung from one to another and many people create a false dichotomy between doctrine and behavior. Sound biblical doctrine teaches us that what we believe and how we treat others are equally important and must be balanced.

When we read 1 John we see that there is a threefold test to distinguish true believers: confessing your sins and walking in the light; love for the brethren; and confessing that Jesus is the Son of God who has come in the flesh. Truth and love cannot be separated and made to stand on their own.

Of course, most important of all is that the Bible teaches us that only those who believe in Jesus Christ will have everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven and they are saved by grace through faith alone, not by their works. So, just because an atheist does good works does not mean that he will then enter the kingdom. That is because the problem with mankind is that we are enemies of God and we are in need of redemption. Our problem is not fundamentally a moral one but a spiritual one.

God Will Have Mercy, Not Sacrifice

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Thus saith thy Lord the lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again.

Isaiah 51:22

Note: I wasn’t able to get some time in to study in the morning so here is the aforementioned thoughts I had promised last night on the Facebook page. If you haven’t been there please check it out: https://www.facebook.com/bibliablogger. You’ll see all of the posts here on the webpage but also extra good stuff that is not on the blog. There you will see links to interesting articles I find from around the web, among other things.

I think understanding this part of Isaiah was as much of a challenge for the people in Isaiah’s lifetime as it is in ours. For them this was the unthinkable, the worst case scenario. For us, it is an obscure historical reference that is so distant it does not seem relevant. Its meaning was significant to the Jews living in exile.

This message is as much for those who were in Babylon when they read this as it is for anyone. They needed the reminder that God knew this would happen and that He is in control even in the most desperate of times. They also needed the hope that His promise of deliverance would bring.

He threatened to punish the people for their disobedience and He did exactly that. Being the merciful God that He is, now the promise is to take the cup that His people drank from and give it to their oppressors. I believe that God does this, in part, because He does not get glory from destroying His people but from showing that He has the power to deliver them who trust in Him.

Jesus quotes Hosea 6 in Matthew 12 when He tells the Pharisees that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. As long as we draw breath God’s hand of redemption is stretched out. Religious people think they do not need God’s help but those who truly know Him know that He wants them to take His hand. We are restored when we remember God’s nature and put our lives into His hands, as did the prodigal son with his father.

It is only a matter of time before you find yourself away from God’s presence. The funny thing is that we do everything we can to deal with the guilt and shame before we finally give up and repent from it. We can save ourselves the heartache by remembering that the Lord wants us to immediately turn back to Him.

The Lord is already running to meet us with open arms. He is not waiting or expecting us to fix ourselves up before we go back to Him. Never forget that He is pleased with us for Christ’s sake and not because of our own merit. We do not have to earn His favor because we already have it.

Christians Should Consider The Cost In Syria

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Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

Luke 14:31,32

This verse has been on my mind as I have watched the news about the war in Syria. We read this in the context of Jesus teaching us to consider the cost of disciple when we decide to follow Him. He is telling us not to just jump into something without thinking ahead about whether we are willing to make the commitment. I think the illustration about a king going to war can have some relevant applications for us.

So far the American people have not been convinced by the arguments President Obama has made to justify military strikes in Syria. While he is not calling for a war I think it still behooves us to think about what costs an engagement like this entails. Christians should ask themselves, and their elected officials, to lay out the plan and describe the objectives of this endeavor.

I think it is also important to mention that there is no biblical answer to this question about whether to strike. God knows the intentions of the president and will judge his actions accordingly. The Bible does say that Wisdom is justified by her children so we will have to see how things play out before we realize the prudent decision.

The events of the world are ordained by God and fit into His plan of redemption for mankind. We have to learn to trust that these are not just random tragedies without meaning. God is watchful and is actively at work in this region and He keeps His own counsel. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we can understand why but we are limited in our understanding. We can take comfort in the fact that this is nothing new and we have the opportunity to put our trust in the Lord, unlike so many of the Israelites of the Old Testament, and not let the fear and concern that this news can inspire choke out our fruit.

What Does The Bible Say About Income Inequality?

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And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Matthew 25:15

I wanted to take a detour from my journey to discuss something that has been on my mind regarding the nexus between the Bible and economics and morality. This will happen often so do not be surprised or puzzled.

The parable of the talents is a story that I have always looked to for an indication about what the Bible says about income inequality. I believe it shows that it is not the problem that people make it out to be. However, I think that the Bible does show that it can be a symptom of a problem that we do need to resolve.

Our theologically and/or politically liberal friends view income inequality as a social injustice that must be rectified. They have been very successful in that it seems natural for us to view such inequality as unfair. We believe in the equality of men and that no one is inherently entitled to more than anyone else because of their birth, race, gender, other arbitrary characteristic. But there is one fatal flaw in the argument.

The problem with this perspective is that it confuses equity with equality. It says that inequality is necessarily, and inherently, wrong. Since all men are created equal they must all be equal in terms of material wealth. While we would like everyone to enjoy a quality of life that meets certain basic necessities and provides some physical comfort the Bible does not go as far as those on the Left go.

This parable shows, among other scriptures, that God does not distribute His gifts equally to all His people. We are not equal in many respects. Everyone is not equally skilled in athletics, academics, art, or strength. And not everyone is equally wealthy. We can easily think of examples of Godly men and women who were both wealthy and poor. Abraham and Solomon were very rich and Jesus and John the Baptist were poor.

We must keep our focus on a person’s spiritual condition. For those who do not believe the most pressing issue is their salvation, more important than their physical needs. Among believers the main concern is whether we are using the gifts that God has given us to be fruitful and produce a return on His investment. God also shows us that our tendency is to neglect the vulnerable among us which include the poor, orphans, and widows. To deny them justice and even to take advantage of them is an evil that God will avenge.

Jesus taught us to seek the kingdom first, and His righteousness, and trust that God will provide for our physical needs. He may call us to a life in which we are blessed financially or He may call us to a life of poverty. We have to be willing to follow the Lord in either scenario and be content. That is by no means an easy thing to do but the Holy Spirit enables us to do the will of God and please Him. And by pleasing Him we discover our true purpose and joy in this life.

Are You Listening To God?

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The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Isaiah 50:4,5

This chapter in Isaiah gives us a multi-faceted look at Jesus and I want to highlight this aspect of Him as the child prodigy. He is the perfect disciple because He completely trusts and obeys the Lord God. That faith enables Him to hear and learn from the Father everything that He must do to serve Him.

Most Christians would probably say that they want to know the will of God but the same number probably cannot say that they are listening to Him. Yeah, God has a plan for us but we’re really concerned about accomplishing all of our goals. We already have a list of priorities that dictates our decisions.

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 12:49,50

Jesus did not pursue His own agenda in life. He did not make decisions based on what made sense. He did not pursue a career. He did not waste His time learning who He was. The Father already had a purpose and plan for Him and Jesus pursued it. Moreover, Jesus understood that obeying God’s will was much better than doing His own thing.

Do you trust that God’s will for your life is worth all of the sacrifices you will have to make? Or would you rather be “successful?” You do not have to find a purpose in life because you already have one. The only question is: when will you stop rebelling and start fulfilling it?

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 8:29

That is not hyperbole. Jesus always did that which pleased the Father. Not most of the time—all the time. That is what we must work towards in our life. We won’t know what real living is until we start to live for God’s pleasure.