God Seeks After Broken Hearts

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For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.

I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.

Isaiah 57:15-18

In this chapter the Lord is continuing this theme of mercy that goes back to at least chapter 55. He invites the thirsty to come and drink and then, in chapter 56, shows us that His mercy is not just for the Jews but also for men of all nations, peoples, and tongues. Here we see that He is the God of the contrite.

As Jesus said, He came not for the healthy but for the sick. But until a sick person is willing to admit that they need help they will not listen to doctors nor seek their aid. The Lord cannot do anything for, or with, a person who is not humble enough to realize that they need God’s healing. We will not experience the power of God in our lives as long as we believe we are healthy, as the Pharisees believed.

There is a lie from the Devil that is quite pervasive and it leads us to believe that God is harsh and oppressive, if not apathetic about our plight. When we believe the lie we think that the Lord is uncaring and has no interest in helping us. He is like a instructor in basic training who is always yelling at us and telling us we are doing it all wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth and we can thank God the revelation of His compassion and mercy throughout the scriptures.

David understood that God was after those who were broken and contrite. We read in Psalm 51:17:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

In Psalm 34:18 we read:

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

In Isaiah 66:1,2 we read:

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Going to the gospels, in Luke 7:47-48, we read:

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

The woman who was a sinner had brought her alabaster box full of perfume to anoint Jesus and to wash His feet with her tears. Our Lord perfectly explains that such a heart is so pleasing to God because it draws us to Him in gratitude, appreciation, and love. We are no good to God and His kingdom if we have not been forgiven much because then there is not much love in us. The greatest servants in the kingdom know that God has freed them from a tremendous burden. It is for that reason that they have so much love for the Lord and His people.

If you want to do great things for God then never forget the work of redemption He did in your life. God can do great things through you when you are broken because that is when your heart is soft and malleable. When you are soft then He will mold you into the image of Christ, and that is the beginning of a powerful ministry.

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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.

 

 

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.

God Is Not Finished With You

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Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Isaiah 50:1

God’s faithfulness is a source of comfort and hope and a reason why we praise Him. It is also a very difficult and painful lesson to learn. The reason it is so painful is because you realize how much God will allow you to endure and it will be more than you ever considered.

He will take you through the worst case scenario and let you spend more time in it than you want. You will go past what you think is your breaking point and then some. All the while, though, God is making His arrangements for you. Soon enough you see His hand at work through a major breakthrough.

This part of the prophecy in Isaiah is for Israel in exile but was written when they were still in the land and dwelled carelessly. They did not trust God and they had yet to go through the painful lesson to learn that God is faithful. For the Jews in Babylon who were desperate for a reason to be hopeful this was a prophecy that was too good to be true. It sounded nice but it was just unbelievable.

Nevertheless the prophet was hopeful and his faith was based on the passage in Psalm 22:27-29. God comforts those who are being scorned as they continue to serve Him faithfully, as did the remnant under Babylonian rule. He reminds them, and us, that He will have the last laugh and we will be rewarded for enduring to the end.

You will know you’re trusting God because it feels like your life is unraveling. Nothing is happening the way you had planned or hoped. You may even be greatly suffering. God has not forgotten you and, in fact, He is preparing something glorious for you. As with Daniel in chapter 10 of his book, there may be a delay in answering the prayer that was immediately heard but it’s only a delay. The more bitter the pain the more sweet the victory.

God Is In Control

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Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

Isaiah 44:24-28

I noticed that when God is talking about His sovereignty He often points to creation to remind us that all of this is here because of Him. I have to admit that I often pass over this because I take it for granted that I am here living in this world. Over time my capacity for wonder has diminished so that I often miss the significance in such seemingly trivial things. If we can begin to recapture that wonder then we will see that this is strong evidence in support of God’s claim to absolute power over all things.

The fact that God is in control can either be a source of comfort or resentment depending on your attitude. Sometimes I feel both at some point during the day. I often give in to worry and frustration because of where I am in life. It feels like I am playing basketball while wearing a straightjacket because I am enslaved to circumstances beyond my control. I’m pinned down and I can’t move. I know that God can change everything in the blink of an eye at the moment He desires that to happen—and I resent Him for not doing it. Why does He tarry and allow me to languish? How can He just sit there and watch? Then I realize that I haven’t been in prayer and I’m holding back and hiding from Him.

As I resist the Devil in prayer my heart softens and my attitude changes. I remember that the most important thing in my life is God’s work of redemption in my life. That is the story of my life and nothing else matters. When I want more than that life gets complicated and I suffer under the stress. If I lose everything else I will still have the everlasting life that God has given me by His grace. My attitude starts to change even though my concerns are there in the back of my mind. I can voice those concerns now because I know that God wants me to say what I feel in my heart, especially when I am in despair. As I am talking about it in prayer God is working on me by lifting the burdens of my cares right off my shoulders. There is never any condemnation of shame that I feel because God isn’t looking for the “right answer.” He wants us to be honest with ourselves and with Him.

In the end what God wants is what God gets. He has the final word and the last laugh. He is always victorious. No one can thwart His plans. Life is not random. It is unfolding according to God’s purposes and ultimately He will be glorified. If you are walking through pastures then you need to reflect on this now because it will get you through the dark valley. If you are in the valley then you need to fall back on this because not only is it comforting but it is actually true. You can spend a lot of time in the valley, years even, as Joseph did. If you forget what your life is about then you will not endure. God is true and His promises give us a hope that enables us to live and wait for His return—or our homecoming.

You Can’t Impress God

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At the heart of the gospel is salvation by grace alone. God redeems us for His sake and not because of our own merits. It is an amazing grace that fills me with tremendous gratitude and comfort. It is reassuring to know that I do not have to perform for God. This isn’t a job with a performance review at the end of a probationary period. Yet, I often abuse that grace and try to make up for it by earning God’s favor rather than asking for forgiveness and repenting.

This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.

Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.

Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

Isaiah 43:21-25

Israel is a perfect example but we can substitute ourselves to clearly see the problem. They are God’s chosen people to be His witness to the world but they do not acknowledge Him as their king. When the Lord says that He has not burdened them with sacrifices He is referring to their 70-year exile during which they did not make such offerings. However, He says that Israel burdened Him with their iniquities. It’s a raw deal for God, always. He wants their heart but they keep Him at arm’s length and abandon Him. They continually forget that He wants to bless them. They also forget that He didn’t choose them because they were so impressive but because it pleased Him.

We can easily bring this down to a personal level. God has created me for His glory and praise and yet I often fail to remember His grace towards me. I often betray Him by going off and doing what I want to do and ignoring Him. That line in the hymn says it perfectly: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I am so easily beset by sin and tempted to remove my guilt by doing something to deserve God’s grace again. But God isn’t interested because He blots out my sins for His own sake. He made that choice on His own, not because I was able to sweet-talk him.

There is a risk that people will pervert this truth by using it as a license to sin and Paul explains why that’s wrong in Romans 6. We don’t have to sin in order to experience the wonder of God’s grace. The longer you live the more humble you become as you realize how many transgressions God has forgotten. It fills you with wonder to know that the Lord is so willing and eager to forgive and move forward.

Every Christian’s Purpose In Life

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?

(Isaiah 43:10-13)

Prior to this passage Isaiah is prophesying about God delivering Israel from exile. As a result of this deliverance Israel is supposed to be a witness of God’s work of redemption to the world. They will tell the world that their deliverance was prophesied to them long before it ever happened, which is precisely what they did with Cyrus when they showed him that they were expecting him. The Lord is reassuring them of His faithfulness by doing what none of their idols can do. He proves that He alone is their savior and no one else.

As Christians we also have a unique testimony of God’s redemption in our lives. We are witnesses for Jesus Christ in this world and we are meant to tell others of what He has done for us. We were also living in exile, under the oppression of sin, and He delivered us from the grip of Satan. And Jesus definitely made it clear that there is no other savior besides Him, no other remission for sins than the shedding of His blood.

Our ultimate purpose in life is to be a witness of God’s saving work in our lives through Jesus. In verse 7 of this chapter God says that we were created for His glory. There is no higher purpose we could ever fulfill but to bring glory and honor to The Lord for saving us. Everything else is superfluous, unnecessary. It’s background noise. This is the only thing, and it is everything. Life only gets complicated when we forget this and try to move on from it. We start to think more about what we don’t have and complain. The pressure of meeting goals that God never set for us bears down on us and we may run to God to help us live a life He never intended for us. If you’re beat down and struggling to endure then come back to this basic principle: Jesus died to atone for your sins and justify you before God.