Isaiah 33-34, Jude 1

To Him Who Is Able.

Isaiah 33-34, Jude 1

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 ESV

One of the difficult things about reading the book of Isaiah is how it mixes together events that will take place in the not-so-distant future and those that have yet to take place. Within a single chapter you will have prophecies concerning the coming destruction of Judah at the hands of the Assyrians, and predictions of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. There would be more immediate fulfillments of many of the prophecies contained in the book of Isaiah. But some of them would be partial in nature, to be fulfilled in their entirety in the end times. God’s divine plan has an end to it. There is a final aspect to His dealings with mankind and the people of Israel. And yet, He is operating in time and space, all along the way, orchestrating events in such a way that all things will culminate on His predetermined schedule. God told Isaiah, “Now I will arise…now I will lift myself up, now I will be exalted” (Isaiah 33:10 ESV). There is a day coming when God will implement the final phase of His great plan. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8 ESV). The difficult we face is our inability to see what God has planned out into the future. We are limited in our perspective. So God told us what would happen. He gave us a glimpse into the future. He provided us with an assurance that He has it all taken care of and there is nothing for us to worry about.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The people of God would find themselves falling victim to the attacks of Assyria and Babylon. The northern kingdom of Israel would end up destroyed and living in captivity in Assyrian. Not long afterwards, the southern kingdom of Judah would fall to the Babylonians and end up in living in exile for 70 years. But God was not done yet. He would eventually restore them to their land. He would keep His promise to Abraham and allow them to return to the land of Canaan. He would miraculously provide for them so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem, restore the walls that surrounded it and reconstruct the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. But they would find themselves without a king. Over the next centuries, they would be relatively powerless and helpless, unable to defend themselves against outside forces and constantly ending up the pawns of more powerful forces. But God was not done with them yet. He would eventually send His Son to be born as one of them. He would grow up among them. He would preach a message of repentance to them. But they would eventually reject Him, demanding His death. But again, God was not done with them. God’s ultimate plan for His people, the Jews, involves a yet-to-be-fulfilled event that still looms out in the future. Isaiah is given a glimpse of that yet future event. “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty” (Isaiah 33:17 ESV). “Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, not will any of its cords be broken. But there the Lord in majesty will be for us” (Isaiah 33:20-21 ESV). How easy it is to judge the faithfulness of God based on our limited perspective. How quick we can be to jump to conclusions and question God’s sovereignty or doubt His love. But we must always remember that God is not done yet.

What does this passage reveal about man?

As God’s people, this world will always be a place of difficulty and confusion. This world was never intended to be our permanent home. We should not allow ourselves to get too comfortable here. But because we have limited perspective and are unable to see very far into the future, we can find ourselves becoming infatuated and enchanted with what this world has to offer. We can end up expecting all of God’s blessings to show up here and now, forgetting that His plan involves the hereafter. God has an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Our greatest challenge is to keep our eyes focused on Him and not what we see happening around us. We must cling to His promises concerning the future. But the world will want us to see this life as our preferred destiny. We will find ourselves tempted to try and get all we can get now, to live for the moment. But God wants us to live for the future. So He has provided us with glimpses into what is going to happen. He has made it clear that there is a day coming when His Son will return and the final chapter of the story will be written. In this life, we will find ourselves surrounded by those who would tempt us to follow their lead, discounting the activity of God in our lives and dismissing the inevitability of the life to come. They will infiltrate the people of God, disguised as one of the flock, but with evil intentions and motivated by wrong motives. Jude described them in very stark terms: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 ESV). He goes on to say that they “defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones” (Jude 1:8 ESV). “These people blaspheme all that they do not understand” (Jude 1:10 ESV). They are “grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires, they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16 ESV). Basically, these people are worldly and devoid of the Spirit. He compares them to hidden reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves and wandering stars. In other words, they can’t be trusted.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But there is one we can trust: Jesus Christ. He is able to keep us from stumbling. He is able to keep us in the love of God and protect us, even when we find ourselves surrounded by those who would deceive and distract us. Isaiah found himself surrounded by those who would reject not only his message, but his God. He had to be reminded that God was not finished, that He had a plan. God would prove Himself faithful. The test for Isaiah would be whether he would remain faithful to God as his world seemingly collapsed around him. He would have to trust God while his contemporaries continued to live in open rebellion to God. He would have to continue preaching his message of repentance when no one seemed to be listening or responding. Jude told his readers, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21 ESV). We must remain faithful. We must trust that God will be faithful and send His Son to finish what He began. In the meantime we are to “have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire, to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23 ESV). 

Father, You are trustworthy. I can rest in the knowledge that You have a plan that You are working and there is no one who can stop it. I must not let the presence of those who would distract or deceive me disturb me. You told me there would be those who would try to sneak in and take my focus off of the reality of Your sovereign plan and Your Son’s eminent return. Help me stay faithful even if those around me decide to follow their own sinful desires. I want to remain blameless and true, dependent on You and determined to stay the course until the end. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 31-32, 3 John

When Righteousness Reigns.

Isaiah 31-32, 3 John

Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:16-17 NLT

So much of what Isaiah had to say to the people of Judah dealt with their coming judgment at the hands of God. They had refused to remain faithful to Him and has instead forsaken Him for other gods. They had put their trust and hope in other nations, seeing them as the answer to their problems. With Assyria breathing down their necks, they decided to make an alliance with Egypt, rather than repent and return to the Lord. But God warned them, saying, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1 ESV). What they didn’t understand was that the very presence of the Assyrians and the looming threat of destruction at their hands was from God. It was His doing. He was bringing the Assyrians against them because of their many sins. He was preparing to punish them because they had failed to live according to His laws and in keeping with His commands. But God kept calling His people to repentance. “Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel” (Isaiah 31:6 ESV). God wanted His people to come back to Him in order that He might bless them. But they would prove to be stubborn and hard-hearted, refusing the call of God and falling victim to the unforgiving Assyrian army.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But as has been the case all throughout the book of Isaiah up until this point, God’s message of coming destruction is intertwined with a promise of future restoration. God continued to tell them that, while they could not manage to be faithful, He would be. He would fulfill all of the promises He had made to Abraham and David. He would one day do for them what they could not do for themselves. It is the same message He conveyed through the prophet Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV).

They had broken their covenant with God. So He was going to make a new one. The result of this new covenant would be that obedience to His law would be internally driven, not externally. Their obedience would be made possible because He was going to change their hearts. Their relationship with Him would be motivated by love and they would finally be the people of God He had always planned for them to be. And God gave Isaiah a glimpse of what was going to make this all possible. “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice” (Isaiah 32:1 ESV). They would have a new king – the Messiah. Their would be a new kingdom, the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. His kingdom would be marked by righteousness, justice, peace, quiet and “trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man’s ability to live in keeping with God’s righteous standards is extremely limited. We can try, but we ultimately fail. Because of indwelling sin, we can never seem to stay faithful to God’s call on our lives for very long. Which is why He sent His Son to die for us. Paul tells us, “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:5 NLT). He repeats this theme in his letter to the Romans. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). God had to do for mankind what mankind could not do for itself. No man can save himself. The Israelites couldn’t keep themselves from forsaking God. They couldn’t remain faithful. They tried, but always failed. So God would have to do it for them. And the day is coming when He will do just that. God will do for them what He has done for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. We have had our hearts transformed by the Spirit of God. We have had our sins forgiven and the punishment for our rebellion fully paid for by Christ’s death on the cross. We have the Spirit of God within us, providing us with the inner motivation to obey His will and apply His Word to our lives. As a result, we have the inner capacity to walk in the truth. John commended his readers for doing just that. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4 ESV). The Greek word Paul uses for “walking” carries the meaning “to walk about.” It conveys the idea that they were to live their daily lives in the truth of who Christ was and what He had done. It is the Spirit of Truth within us that makes this possible. In this life we are surrounded by lies and all kinds of deception. We will be tempted to turn to other sources of help and hope. We will find ourselves quick to listen to the lies of the enemy and accept his alternative sources of salvation. But we must walk in the truth, constantly recognizing that our salvation comes only from the Lord.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John told his readers, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11 ESV). Our relationship with God, made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, should change the way we live. We have the capacity to live righteously, even in the midst of all kinds of unrighteousness. We can experience the rule and reign of the risen Christ in our lives even now. We don’t have to wait until heaven. We can experience the peace, security, quietness and rest of His righteous reign in our lives, even as we wait for His return. Paul puts all of this into practical perspective in his letter to the Colossian believers. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV). When we let Christ reign in our lives, it changes everything. It improves our relationships. It alters our behavior. It impacts our character. It influences the world around us.

Father, You are not only my Savior, You are my King. You are to be the Lord of my life. And when I let Your righteousness reign over my life, things change. Good things happen. Thank You for reminding me that I am completely dependent on Your help for living the life You have called me to live. You have given me Your Spirit and equipped me with all that I need to live and walk in truth in this life. And for that I am grateful. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 29-30, 2 John

Our Patient, Merciful God.

Isaiah, 29-30, 2 John

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18 ESV

In the midst of all of Israel’s rebellion and stubborn refusal to honor God, God repeatedly called them to repentance. “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15 ESV). He made it clear what they had to do to receive rest and restoration. All He asked them to do was repent and return to Him. If they would simply be still and place their trust in Him, He would bless them. He would show mercy to them. But verses 15 goes on to say that they were unwilling. Rather than trust God, they relied on their own plans. “‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt’” (Isaiah 30:1-2 ESV). They were like children “unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:9 ESV). They refused to listen to what the prophets were telling them. They preferred to be told lies. It sounds familiar. Paul warned Timothy that this same scenario would exist in his day. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3 ESV). Paul described a day in which the sins of the people of Israel would be lived out again – in the life of the church. “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about God?

The very fact that this planet still exists and the human race has not been completely obliterated by God speaks volumes about His patience, faithfulness, mercy and grace. He continues to watch as even those who call themselves by His name reject His will for them and refuse to acknowledge His sovereignty over them. In Isaiah’s day, God accused the people of Israel of going through the motions spiritually – “…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). Jesus would quote this very passage when speaking to the religious leaders in His day. “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you…” (Matthew 15:7 ESV). God was not interested in religious rituals and acts of pious posturing. He wanted His people to show Him love through their faithful obedience to His commands. He wanted them to trust Him and to rely on His plan for them. Obedience is not just a matter of going through the motions. It is to involve the heart. It is to include the will. God had repeatedly told His people: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 ESV). But in spite of the disobedience of His people, God has continued to show patient, faithful endurance. He has continued to pour out His grace and mercy. And He will faithfully fulfill each and every promise He has made to the people of Israel and to His Church.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Our capacity for stubbornness and disobedience is astounding. After all of God’s blessings, the people of Israel still could not bring themselves to remain faithful to God. They even believed that they could hide their disobedience and unfaithfulness from Him. “Who sees us? Who knows us?” (Isaiah 29:15 ESV). God accused them of turning things upside down – of reversing the roles – making themselves the gods of their own lives. “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say to its maker, ‘He did not make me’; of the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16 ESV). The apostle Paul would echo this thought in his letter to the believers in Rome: “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20 NLT). What arrogance and pride we can exhibit as God’s creation. How easy it is to forget the one who made us. How quickly we can forget the grace and mercy of God that led us out of darkness into the light. Peter reminds us: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV). Like the people of Israel, we owe all that we have to God. Our very existence as His people is due to His love, kindness, mercy and grace. And yet, how easy it is for us to return His unmerited favor with disobedience, stubbornness, and a willful rejection of His will for our lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In John’s second epistle, he commends his readers for “walking in the truth” (2 John 4 ESV). He encourages them to continue obeying the command of Christ to love one another. He wanted them to live out their faith in real life, even in the midst of false teaching and daily difficulties. God had been faithful to them and he wanted them to remain faithful to God by abiding in the teaching of Christ. As Christ followers, we must never forget that God has showered us with His mercy and grace. He has placed us into His family and made us His children and heirs. He has promised us an eternity with Him free from sin, pain, sorrow and death. All He asks is that we remain faithful to Him while we wait for the final fulfillment of His plan. He tells us the same thing He told the people of Israel in Isaiah’s day: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 NLT). While we wait on Him, we must rest in Him. He must trust Him. We must abide in Him. He calls out to us, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV). He knows what He is doing. He is patiently, graciously working out His plan. And we must patiently, faithfully trust Him.

Father, forgive me for abusing Your mercy and grace. Forgive me for taking Your mercy and grace for granted. I would be nothing without You. I have no right to question Your authority over my life. I have no reason to question Your faithful love and sovereignty in my life. Help me learn to continually return to You and find my rest in You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 27-28, 1 John 5

Our Precious Cornerstone.

Isaiah 27-28, 1 John 5

…therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’”  Isaiah 28:16 ESV

God’s dealings with His people in the Old Testament can sometimes be seen as somewhat strange and difficult to understand. Even Isaiah acknowledged that God’s activities could be viewed as a bit odd. “For the Lord will rise up … to do his deed – strange is his deed! and to work his work – alien is his work! (Isaiah 28:21 ESV). There were times when God poured out His blessings on His people. There were other times when God was forced to bring judgment and extreme punishment. But God always had a reason for whatever He did. There was a method to His seeming madness. God’s discipline was purposeful. When He brought destruction, it was always so that He might eventually bring restoration. The people of Israel and Judah were guilty of turning their backs on God. Rather than depend on Him for their hope and help, they had made treaties and alliances with foreign nations. When God raised up the Assyrians to come against the northern kingdom of Israel, rather than turning to God in repentance and dependence, they turned to Egypt. They made a “covenant with death” (Isaiah 28:15) marked by lies and deception. But God would annul their covenant with death by bringing the Assyrians against them. Egypt would prove useless as an ally and powerless as a help against the Assyrians. The people of Israel had convinced themselves that they could avoid the coming calamity by working out a deal with Egypt. “…when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter” (Isaiah 28:15 ESV). But they would learn the hard way that there was only one secure source for salvation. God was going to show them that their faith was best placed in Him and in no one or nothing else.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In the middle of chapter 28, God gives Isaiah a glimpse of God’s future blessing. “…therefore thus says the Lord God, ’Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: “Whoever believes will not be in haste”‘” (Isaiah 28:16 ESV). Years later, Jesus would speak similar words in reference to Himself. “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42 ESV). Jesus would go on to tell the people of Israel in His day that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:42 ESV). Because the Jews would eventually reject Jesus as their Messiah and have Him crucified for claiming to be the Son of God, the Gospel would be made available to the Gentiles. God would fulfill His promise to Abraham and use one of his descendants (Jesus) to bless all the nations of the earth. In the book of Acts, we have recorded the words of Peter as he spoke to the Jews immediately after the miraculous events of Pentecost. “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12 ESV). Paul would also write concerning the Jews, “They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 9:32-33 ESV). Peter would later revisit this topic, telling His Gentile readers, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (1 Peter 2:4-6 ESV). As strange as it may seem, God used the rejection of His Son by His own people as the means by which the Good News would be made available to the nations of the world.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have a difficult time understanding God’s ways. And when God’s ways don’t make sense to us, we tend to come up with our plan. We develop our own strategy for survival. The people of Israel turned to Egypt. Abraham and Sarah turned to Hagar. King Saul turned to the witch of Endor. Jacob turned to trickery and deception. Over and over again in Scripture, we see the people of God turning to someone or something else other than God – all because they could not understand what God was doing or because they didn’t like the way His plan was turning out. But God’s ways are not our ways. His plans do not make sense to us. The Jews of Jesus’ day could not understand how their long-awaited Messiah could show up in the form of a common peasant who had no army, no weapons, and no hope of ever defeating the Romans or any other enemy of Israel. Jesus didn’t fit the bill. He didn’t look like a Messiah. He didn’t talk like a Messiah. He didn’t act like a Messiah. So they rejected Him. But God had a plan in mind. He had a purpose for their stubborn rejection of the very one who would prove to be the precious cornerstone, a sure foundation, and their future hope of salvation and security. .

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In his gospel, John wrote of Jesus, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12 ESV). Because the Jews rejected Jesus, I was given the opportunity to hear the Good News and become a child of God. What a strange, alien plan. But what a wonderful, fantastic and amazing plan. It is because of what accomplished through Christ that we can have a right relationship with God the Father. John wrote in his first letter, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV). And the amazing thing is that God is not done with the people of Israel yet. He is not finished fulfilling all His plans for them. There is a day coming when God will restore His people to favor. He will rescue a remnant of His people and restore them back in the land and place His Son as their King. “In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate” (Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV). Jesus Christ, the very one whom they rejected, will become their Savior and Lord. He will rule as their King sitting on the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem. As strange as it may seem, God will use the rejected One to be their redeemer and righteous ruler. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcome the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God!” (1 John 5:5 ESV).

Father, I am so grateful that Your ways are not our ways. I am so glad that Your plan doesn’t have to make sense to me in order for it to be right and true. I don’t have to understand it to benefit from it. I just need to trust You. Your Son is the solution to all of mankind’s problems. He is one to whom all men must turn to receive hope, help and healing. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 25-26, 1 John 4

Perfect Peace.

Isaiah 25-26, 1 John 4

And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  1 John 4:17 NLT

While a large part of the book of Isaiah is about the coming judgment of God on His people for their sin and unfaithfulness, it also contains powerful reminders of God’s long-term plans for them that were to include some pretty incredible blessings. One of the things God kept trying to tell them was that, while their love for Him was imperfect, fickle and unreliable; His love for them would prove to be unfailing. He kept reminding them of “that day.” Their assessment of their current circumstances was to always include His future dealings with them. God continually reminded them to keep their eye on the prize – the end times – when He would complete His plans for them as His people. There was a day coming when they would be able to say, “For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:6 ESV). In that day, they would be able to say with confidence and from personal experience, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV). When God completes His plan, they will be able to look back and see that He was an everlasting rock, a stronghold for the poor, a shelter from the storm, shade from the heat, and a righteous, reliable God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

There was much that the people of God in Isaiah’s day did not know. Like most human beings, their focus tended to be somewhat myopic and short-sighted. They had a hard time seeing past their current circumstances. But God is eternal and is not limited by the constraints of time. His perspective is everlasting and because He is omniscient, He is fully aware of all that has and will take place. He knows how the story ends. Even during the days of Isaiah, God knew that He was going to send His Son one day. It was all part of His plan. He had told Abraham that He would bless all the nations through Him. The ultimate fulfillment of that promise was going to be the Messiah – Jesus Christ, the God-man who came to earth, lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death on the cross in order to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind and satisfy the requirements of a just and righteous God. God revealed to Isaiah future events that would include the people of Israel. There would be a great banquet – “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (Isaiah 25:6 ESV) – for all people. At that time, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isaiah 25:8 ESV). There was much that had to happen before those days could take place. In fact, there is still much that must happen before the final phase of God’s plan is completed. And none of it was going to be possible without the coming of His Son. John reminds us, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14 ESV). Jesus had to come. But He also had to die. Then God raised Him from the dead, as a testimony to the acceptable nature of His sacrifice. And because Jesus rose again, He is also going to come again. His first coming will be followed by a second coming. The events portrayed in Isaiah 25-26 were all dependent upon Jesus’ first arrival on earth as an innocent baby, but they were also dependent upon His second coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). 

What does this passage reveal about man?

John gives us a great word of encouragement as we strive to live with a future-focus in the midst of our current circumstances. He says, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV). His readers were facing difficult circumstances. They were under tremendous pressure, from the outside, but also from the inside. They were being tempted to doubt the promises of God. They were struggling with assurance of their own salvation and wondering about the reality of eternity. So John had to remind them to keep their minds focused on God. He knew that difficult times and pressing circumstances were going to distract them. So he pointed them back to one undeniable truth: God’s love. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 ESV). It is an awareness of the love of God that must constantly compel us. It is an understanding of His love for us that motivates our love for one another. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11 ESV). How easy it is to forget just how much we are loved by God. We can find ourselves focusing on how difficult things seem to be in this life, and forget that God has provided us eternal life through His Son’s death on the cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The hard thing for us to do is to recognize God’s love when things are not going so well. It is so easy to become distracted by the cares and concerns of this life and lose sight of what God has in store for us in the future. Isaiah gives us the key: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV). We have to keep our minds focused on God. We have to constantly remind ourselves of His steadfast, unfailing love. He sent His Son to die for us. And one day He is sending His Son to come back for us. We don’t have to fear the present or the future. We don’t have to doubt God’s love for us. Like Isaiah, we should be able to say, “O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them” (Isaiah 25:1 NLT). God has done great things. He is doing great things. And there are great things yet to be done. But we must never forget that all of God’s plan are reliable and based on His unfailing love. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:16-17 ESV).

Father, help me to truly believe that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV). Continue to help me trust You, rely on You, and see You as my rock, fortress, stronghold, Savior and faithful God who will accomplish all You have promised – in this life and in the one to come. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 23-24, 1 John 3

Victory Over Sin.

Isaiah 23-24, 1 John 3

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  1 John 3:8 ESV

The people of Judah were well acquainted with sin. They were guilty of it and surrounded by it. God was punishing them for their sin and rebellion against Him. He was using sinful, godless nations as His tools to bring about that punishment. Greed, corruption, gross immorality, selfishness, perversion, apathy, idolatry, and every other form of sin was evident in the lives of the people of God and among the nations of the world. But God had called His people to live holy, set apart lives. He had consecrated them for His use and called them to be His chosen people. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV). He had provided them with the Law as an objective standard for righteous living. But He had also provided them with the sacrificial system as a means of receiving forgiveness and reconciliation for the sins they were bound to commit. The Law revealed their sin. The sacrificial system provided forgiveness for their sin. But rather than rejoice in the holiness of their God and bask in the amazing mercy and grace He offered them, they turned elsewhere. God indicted them for their unfaithfulness. “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13 NLT). Like the rest of the world around them, the people of God were living in disobedience to and showing disregard for God. So God warns of the day of coming judgment. Over and over again, Isaiah uses the term, “in that day.” He warns of a coming day when God’s judgment of man’s sin will be complete and comprehensive. It will include all mankind and even impact the earth itself. As in the days of Noah when sin had infected the earth, God will “empty the earth and make it desolate” (Isaiah 24:1 ESV). “The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word” (Isaiah 24:3 ESV). It will be a time of sorrow and suffering, devastation and despair. But even in the midst of the darkness, God’s light will shine. He will spare a remnant who will “lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west” (Isaiah 24:14 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

There is a day coming when God will deal with sin once and for all. He will wipe the earth clean from all the residual remnants of sin. Isaiah speaks of the coming day of the Lord, when Jesus Christ will appear a second time on the earth, but this time He will come as the Lord of lords and King of kings. He will come as a warrior dressed for battle to wage war with Satan and to destroy the last vestiges of sin on the earth. John reminds us that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. The apostle Paul gives us a comprehensive list of the “works of the devil” as manifested in the lives of men and women. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). Jesus came to destroy those works. And when Jesus died on the cross, we’re told His last words were, “‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 ESV). Jesus’ death paid for our sins. Not only that, His death made possible our justification. We stand before God the Father as sinless and righteous, because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Our sins are paid for. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV). But sin still impacts our lives. We still struggle with indwelling sin. Sin surrounds us every day of our lives. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for sin, once and for all. He finished that part of His assignment. But there is one last thing He has to do. And the day is coming when He will complete that task as well. We read about it in Revelation 19:5-6: “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.’” On that day, when “the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 24:23 ESV), Jesus will have dealt the final death blow to sin and Satan.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Sin is inevitable. Like a cancer, it continues to spread throughout the planet, infecting not only the lives of men and women, but the creation itself. Yet, as God’s children – those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior – while we are far from sinless, we do have the capacity to sin less. Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, we have the power to live righteous lives here and now. “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5 ESV). As a result of that reality, John is able to provide us with some stunning good news.  “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). We have a new nature. We have the Holy Spirit of God living within us. Our redeemed nature cannot and does not sin. But we do have a sin nature, and it is alive and well. Paul gives us a vivid picture of these two forces doing battle within us. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT). As long as we live on this earth, we will face the daily reality of sin’s power and presence in and around our lives. But we do have the capacity to live righteously. We do have the power available to live as children of God rather than as children of the devil. We can love. We can live sacrificially and selflessly. We don’t have to sin, but far too often, we choose to. We must constantly remember that Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil in our lives – here and now. But we must also live with the hope that He is coming again, and when He comes He will eliminate sin from the earth and from our lives once and for all.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The story of mankind’s redemption is not yet finished. God’s divine plan is not yet complete. There is still one more thing that must happen. His Son must return. He must judge sin and Satan one final time. He must eradicate the last vestiges of sin from the earth. He must judge sinful man. He must right all wrongs and establish His justice over all the earth. And while I live on this earth surrounded by sin and daily putting to death the sin nature in my own life, I must keep my eyes focused on the end of the story. John reminds me that this world is not all there is. “And this is the promise that he has made to us – eternal life” (1 John 2:25 ESV). I must live with that promise in mind.

Father, it is finished, but it is not yet done. Jesus has paid the penalty for sin, but He has yet to destroy it from the planet. It is evident all around us. I can see it’s influence in my own life. But the day is coming when sin will be no more. The day is coming when death, disease, sorrow, pain, hatred, greed, selfishness, and every other manifestation of sin in the world will be completely eliminated and Your Son will say, “It is done!” I look forward to that day. Give me the strength to live in light of that day and in the power of Your Spirit until it comes. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 21-22, 1 John 2

Love of the World.

Isaiah 21-22, 1 John 2

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  1 John 2:15-16 NLT

Our love affair with the world comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. Sometimes we simply love what the world has to offer – its pleasures and attractions, promises and appeals to our pride. Other times we reveal our love of the world through our tendencies to turn to it for deliverance from difficulties and salvation from life’s sorrows. The people of Judah were guilty of forsaking God and replacing His role in their lives as their Savior, Lord and King. They had made a habit of turning to the world as the solution to their problems. Not only did they put their hope in foreign nations, they actually worshiped the false gods of those nations. The people of God in Isaiah’s day were addicted to and craved physical pleasure. They were driven by their senses. And they took tremendous pride in their own accomplishments and material attainments. But just as John warned his readers that “the world is passing away along with its desires,” so God warned the people of Judah that their world of false idols, replacements gods, and psuedo-saviors were going to be done away with. Babylon was going to fall. So would Edom and Arabia. Even the city of God, Jerusalem, would eventually fall at the hands of outside forces in 586 B.C.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God never intended for man to love this world. Even when the creation was free from the effects of sin, it was intended to remind mankind of the one who created it. In Romans, Paul makes it clear that man was never intended to worship the creation. “So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 1:25 NLT). We are to love the Creator God, not the creation of God. But when John refers to our love affair with the world, he is not speaking of physical creation, but he uses the Greek word, kosmos. In this context, he seems to be referring to what Strong’s Concordance refers to as “the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.” There is nothing inherently wrong with earthly goods, riches, or pleasures, but when we treat them as gods, we allow them to replace the one true God in our life. We expect from them what we should only expect from God Himself. The people of Judah had come to expect salvation from foreign nations. They had learned to seek pleasure from false gods and the immoral religions associated with them. They had made a habit out of seeking pleasure rather than holiness. They were driven more by their sensual desires than by spiritual appetites. And God was neither pleased nor tolerant. John so starkly reminds us, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 ESV). 

What does this passage reveal about man?

When we love the world and the things it offers, it manifests itself in desires that come from our sin nature, rather than the Holy Spirit. It shows up as a insatiable lust for things we see and can’t seem to live without. It also reveals itself in an unhealthy pride in our possessions. We tend to become what we own. Our identity becomes wrapped up in the outward accouterments of life. In other words, the phrase, “the clothes make the man” becomes a form of truth for us. We believe we are what we own, what we have accomplished and how we are perceived by the outside world. But God would have us remember, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). God is not impressed with our exterior. He is not swayed by what we wear, drive, or live in. He looks at the condition of our hearts. Even so-called religious acts do nothing to impress God if our hearts are not in them. Later on, in chapter 29 of the book of Isaiah, God will declare of the people of Judah, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13 NLT). Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that the outside is far more important than the inside. We have allowed ourselves to fall in love with the world’s version of the truth. We have listened to the lies of the enemy and bought in to his convincing offers of hope, healing, satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness. But God’s people are designed to turn to Him as their only source for all their needs. He alone can deliver what they are looking for.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John goes on to remind us, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28 ESV). We are to abide in Christ. That word, abide, literally means “to remain in” or “to be held, kept.” It carries the idea that we are to stay focused on and at rest in the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are to seek our satisfaction in Him and no one or nothing else. It is He who keeps us and sustains us in this life. The world will constantly offer false hope and a form of pseudo-salvation, but it will always disappoint and fall short. John would encourage us to remember that not only can we abide in Him now, we will be able to abide in Him for all eternity. “So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” (1 John 2:24-25 NLT). Our hope is in Christ, right now and for eternity. We can abide in Him. We can rest in Him. We can find all that we need in Him. There is no need to love the world or the things it offers. Those things will pass away, but our relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son is eternal and everlasting, and worthy of our total trust and commitment.

Father, the world can be a pretty enticing place. The things of this world can be a huge distraction and cause us to lose our focus on You and Your Son. Help us to remain in You. Help us to find all our help, hope, happiness and ultimate satisfaction in Your Son and His saving work on the cross. There is nothing this world can offer that Christ has not already provided through His sacrificial death on my behalf. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 19-20, 1 John 1

Walking In Darkness.

Isaiah 19-20, 1 John 1

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:5-6 ESV

The people of Judah had a bad habit. When they found themselves facing times of difficulty, it seems that their first response was to look for an immediate solution to their problem. And their natural impulse was to look for help through human means. When the Assyrians were breathing down their necks, it only seemed natural to turn to some other powerful nation for help. The logical solution to their problem seemed to be a military alliance with a powerful nation-state like Egypt or Cush. But God warned them that these sources of help would prove to be insufficient. He was to be their salvation. He was to be the one to whom they turned when times got tough. But in those dark moments of our lives, when things appear overwhelmingly difficult and we find ourselves in despair, it is so easy to make unwise decisions. We can find ourselves making matters worse for ourselves by focusing our energies, efforts, hopes and hearts on the wrong things.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The apostle John described God as “light.” He is unadulterated light “and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV). Light speaks of God’s very nature. He is without darkness or sin. He exposes sin in the lives of men. He is pure and holy, completely truthful and provides those who turn to Him with the “light” they need to take the next step safely and securely. John goes on to say that “if we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6 ESV). The people of Isaiah’s day claimed to be in fellowship with God, but continually found themselves walking in darkness. Their lives were marked by sin and disobedience to the very one with whom they claimed to have a relationship. And when God disciplined them for their sin, rather than turn to Him in repentance, they groped around in the darkness for help. They turned to nations darkened by sin rather than turn to the light of God. Turning to God would require repentance. God was going to demand that they turn from their love affair with darkness and walk into the light of His glory and holiness. In their minds, turning to Egypt would bring them salvation without repentance. They could remain just as they were. No repentance required. No change necessary. But that wasn’t God’s plan. That wasn’t what God expected of them. So God would have to show them what happens when they refuse the light and turn to the darkness. He would destroy their sources of false hope. “The idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them” (Isaiah 19:1 ESV). “I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a fierce king will rule over them” (Isaiah 19:4 ESV). Judah’s “savior” would end up needing salvation.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Fellowship with God involves intimacy. Having a relationship with Him requires coming into His presence and becoming exposed to His light and glory. His holiness exposes and reveals our sinfulness. The closer we get to Him, the more clearly we see our own deficiencies. But John provides us with hope. He reminds us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). One of the benefits of living in the light is that it exposes darkness (sin). When God reveals the sin in our lives, it is not to condemn us, but it is in order to transform us. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8 ESV). As God exposes the sin in our lives, we have one of two choices. We can either acknowledge it and confess it, or we can simply deny it. But when we deny the very sin that God reveals, we are calling Him a liar. We are refusing to accept His divine assessment of our lives. That was the very problem the people of Judah had. God was punishing them in order to get them to acknowledge their unfaithfulness. He wanted them to see the error of their ways and repent. But rather than repent, they sought out other sources of salvation. Rather than admit their sins, they simply looked for other “saviors.” But it’s interesting to note that their choices would prove disappointing. Not only would Egypt be unable to save them, they would ultimately need saving by God. Isaiah prophesied about a time to come when God would rescue the Egyptians and cause them to turn to Him as their God. “When they cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering” (Isaiah 19:20-21 ESV). The day is coming when God will send a savior, His Son Jesus Christ, to rescue and redeem even the Egyptians and the Assyrians. That day has not yet come. It will take place when Christ establishes His millennial kingdom on earth.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Our man-made solutions are always draped in darkness. Our human saviors are always flawed and marred by sin. God is the ultimate solution to mankind’s problem and man’s greatest problem is sin. The people of Judah had a sin problem. The people of Egypt had a sin problem. The people of Cush had a sin problem. The people of America have a sin problem. You and I have a sin problem. And the solution is Jesus. John wrote, “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.  We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy” (1 John 1:1-4 NLT). Jesus Christ was the Word of life. He is the source of eternal life. He is the means by which we can have fellowship, a restored relationship with God the Father. He came to pay the penalty for our sins. But He also came to set us free from the indwelling presence of sin in our lives. In his gospel, John describes Jesus as the light and says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:4-5 NLT).

Father, thank You for sending the Light into the world. Thank You for sending the Light into my life. I am grateful that His presence in my life continues to expose the sin in my life. His holiness continually reveals my sinfulness. Not to condemn me, but in order to allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work of transforming me into the character of Christ. You are slowly, steadily making me the light You have called me to be. But there is always the temptation to run back to the darkness, to turn to something or someone else for answers to my sin problem. Help me understand that You alone are the sole source of help and hope for my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 17-18, 2 Peter 3

The Danger of Forgetfulness.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge… Isaiah 17:10 ESV

The northern kingdom of Israel had made an alliance with Syria in order to come against the southern kingdom of Judah. Not only were they planning an attack on their own brothers, they were turning to a foreign nation to help them do it. They were placing their trust in men rather than God. And at the heart of their decision to place their trust and hope in men was a failure to remember that God was the source of their salvation. As a result, their efforts to sow seeds of faith in pagan idols would prove unfruitful. Their alliances with other nations were just not diplomatic and military in nature, but they also formed spiritual alliances, turning to the false gods of those nations as a source of help and hope. But God warned them, “In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense” (Isaiah 17:7-8 ESV). A day of judgment was coming. At that time, the people of Israel would learn to turn to their God and to abandon their false gods, made with their own hands. They would receive a powerful reminder of the danger of forgetting God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Isaiah 17-18, 2 Peter 3

Ultimately, God is in control. Mankind may forget or even ignore Him, but He does not go away. He does not cease to be God. Our refusal to acknowledge Him does not alter His reality or diminish His capacity to rule and reign. God is sovereign over all. Repeatedly in these chapters, we see the words “in that day” and “at that time.” There is a day of judgment coming. God has planned a time of payback, when He will deal righteously and justly with the sins of mankind. We can read in the Old Testament the countless times in which God fulfilled His warnings of coming judgment on the people of Israel and Judah. He had warned about the coming of the Assyrians against the northern kingdom and it took place. He later warned the people of Judah that the Babylonians would come, and they did. He has provided ample warning of yet-future judgments to come that will involve the entire world. And those days will come just as He has said they will. “For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). God will do all that He has planned to do, and no one can stand in His way. It doesn’t matter whether we believe it or not. It doesn’t make any difference if we agree with it or not. God’s will will be done.

What does this passage reveal about man?

There will always be scoffers. Peter reminded his readers of that reality. “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” (2 Peter 3:1-4 ESV). There were those in Peter’s day who were denying the return of Jesus. They scoffed at the idea. Warren Wiersbe describes a scoffer as “someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.” These individuals took a look at the world around them and concluded, “From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:4 NLT). In other words, they believed that the world would simply continue to go along just as it always had, because God was not involved. Jesus was not coming back. There was no need to concern yourself with right moral standards or holy living. But Paul reminded his readers that these scoffers “deliberately overlook this fact” (2 Peter 3:5 ESV). They choose to ignore the reality that God has intervened in the affairs of the world on a variety of occasions, including at creation and during the world-wide flood in the days of Noah. God is not aloof and distant, simply watching the world from afar. He is intimately involved and has a divine plan for its ultimate redemption and restoration. Peter assured his readers that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). It will come unexpectedly and suddenly, catching everyone unawares and unprepared. But he encouraged his audience to be ready – to not forget the God of their salvation and their rock of refuge. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God wants us to be ready. He wants us to live as if we truly believe in the return of His Son. We are to live in anticipation of “day of the Lord” as if it could be any day. We should desire to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14 ESV). There will be those around us who scoff at His return and live as if it isn’t even going to happen. They will refuse to live their lives in preparation for His coming. But we must be ready and “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15 ESV). The longer He delays, the more people have the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation made available through His Son. While we should long for and pray for His return, we should also see each passing day that God delays that event as a sign of His grace and mercy on mankind. And in the meantime, we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter3:18 ESV). Rather than forget Him, we are to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Father, You are our Savior. You are our rock of refuge. Never let me forget that. It is so easy to turn to someone or something else other than You. But those things always prove insufficient and incapable of delivering what they offer. Only You can rescue and redeem. Only You can save and sanctify. You are in complete control and Your plan is unstoppable. No matter what I see taking place around me, I can know that You are intimately involved in the affairs of men and diligently working Your plan to perfection. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 15-16, 2 Peter 2

The Truth About Falsehood.

Isaiah 15-16, 2 Peter 2

They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 2 Peter 2:19 ESV

The Israelites were always surrounded by options. When they faced difficulties and trials, there were plenty of places they could turn to for help and hope. If one nation threatened to come against them, there were always other nations with whom they could form alliances and treaties, in the hopes of averting disaster and destruction. But the only problem was that God had intended for them to turn to Him alone for their salvation. They were His people and He was their God. In the book of Isaiah, we see God pronouncing a series of warnings against the nations surrounding Israel. Some of the nations included in God’s oracles were Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Cush, and Egypt. There were nations that would prove to be threats to the safety and security of the people of God through conquest. But there were also nations whose main danger came in the form of false hope. They would prove to be tantalizing tests of Israel’s faith, offering them false hope when they found themselves faced with threats to their national security. God wanted the people of Israel to know that He was to be their only source of security. They didn’t need to fear the likes of Babylon. But they also didn’t need to turn to potential allies like Moab. None of these countries could be trusted because they were God-less. Yes, they had their own gods, but they failed to worship the one true God. They were marked by pride and arrogance. They were characterized by self-sufficiency and had their own stable of man-made gods to which they turned. But God makes it clear that “The people of Moab will worship at their pagan shrines, but it will do them no good. They will cry to the gods in their temples, but no one will be able to save them” (Isaiah 16:12 NLT). So why in the world would the people of God every turn to a nation like that for help? 

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is sovereign and all-powerful. That is one of the primary points of the book of Isaiah. In this list of oracles pronounced by God on the nations, we get a clear picture of God’s sovereign hand over the nations. He is more powerful than Babylon. He is more trustworthy than Moab or Egypt. He is greater than the greatest enemy of Israel. In fact, God uses these nations to accomplish His divine will. Not a one of them operates outside of His sovereign plan for mankind. In their pride and arrogance, they envision themselves as free-will agents operating on their own initiative, but they are nothing more than pawns in the hands of God. Isaiah knew of Moab’s reputation all too well. “We have heard of the pride of Moab – how proud he is! – of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; as his idle boasting he is not right” (Isaiah 16:6 ESV). But he also knew of Moab’s of fate: “the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude and those who remain will be very few and feeble” (Isaiah 16:14 ESV). God would cut Moab down to size, just as He would do to Babylon. There was no reason for the people of God to trust in Moab. That nation would prove to be a false source of hope and help. God was to be their salvation. He was the one to whom they were to turn in times of need.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But the temptation will always exist to seek out false sources of salvation. God’s people will always find a steady supply of alternative forms of help and hope. It was as true in the early church as it was in the days of Isaiah. Peter reminds his readers that in the Old Testament “false prophets also arose among the people” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). But then he adds the warning, “just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). In the Old Testament there were always plenty of false prophets who made a habit of offering alternative forms of “truth.” They claimed to speak for God, but were actually contradicting the very words of God. They offered false hope. They gave faulty advice. And in the early days of the New Testament church, there were plenty of false teachers who were guilty of doing the same thing. Peter described them as being driven by sensuality, marked by greed and false words, insatiable for sin, irrational, despising authority, and destined for destruction. He calls them “waterless springs and mists driven by the storm” (2 Peter 2:17 ESV). They are false sources of sustenance. They can’t provide what they claim to offer. And yet, there is always the temptation to turn to them as sources of help and hope. Yet Peter warns: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The world in which we live is full of false hope. It offers up a steady diet of false forms of help. As the people of God we are to seek Him only. We are to turn to Him in our times of need. But there will always be the temptation to find other forms of salvation. Peter warns us that those who offer up falsehood “entice unsteady souls” (2 Peter 2:14 ESV). They prey on those who are not grounded in the truth of God. Those who don’t know the truth will always be susceptible to falsehood. They will always be easy targets for those who offer up counterfeit gods and alternative sources of hope. That is why Peter spent so much time warning his audience. He wanted them to understand the dangers. He wanted them to seek God alone. In fact, he reminded them, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9 ESV). We must never lose sight of the fact that God is our sole source of salvation. He is the only place we can turn to for truth. We are surrounded by lies and constantly offered up false forms of hope. But we must place our trust in God alone. He alone can rescue. He alone can save. He alone can provide the help we need as we live out our lives on this planet. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NLT).

Father, You are my help and hope. Never let me seek salvation from another source. I know I do and for that I ask forgiveness. Keep me coming back to You. Help me to learn that You alone can be trusted. You alone can save. You alone can provide what I need to live the life You have called me to live. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org