Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 16

A Humility of Heart.

Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 16

But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2 ESV

Israel’s unique position as God’s chosen people should have produced in them a sense of humility and grateful dependence upon Him. Instead, they developed an arrogance and pride that was marked by a sense of entitlement. They saw themselves as spiritually superior to all the other nations, saying, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you” (Isaiah 65:5 ESV). And yet, God viewed them as rebellious, idolatrous, disobedient, and deserving of His wrath. His assessment of them was not good. “…when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in” (Isaiah 65:12 ESV). But amazingly, there were a few who remained faithful and true to God. There was a remnant of Jews who worshiped Him correctly, exhibiting a healthy awe and respect for who He was and all that He had done for them. God refers to the faithful few as His servants. He says they shall eat, while the rest go hungry. They will drink while everyone else thirsts. They will rejoice while the prideful and arrogant are put to shame. They shall sing for gladness of heart while the unfaithful cry out for pain of heart. God describes this faithful remnant as humble and contrite in spirit, having a healthy fear of Him.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

God prefers humility over the act of sacrifice. He desires relationship over religion. For the majority of the Israelites, the sacrificial system had deteriorated into little more than a means of appeasing God and attempting to curry favor from Him. It had become self-centered and selfishly motivated. Rather than a means of worshiping God for who He was, men had made it little more than a ritual designed to get what they wanted from God. The whole sacrificial system had been intended to remind men of their dependence upon God. They stood as sinful and guilty before a holy and righteous God. They could not come into His presence because of their sinfulness. So they were required to offer Him sacrifices as a means of worshiping Him for who He was – holy, unapproachable, mighty, just, righteous, and worthy of all honor. God reminded Isaiah, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1 ESV). God didn’t need a temple in which to dwell. Even Solomon recognized that the temple he built was insufficient to house the glory of God. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). But the temple was designed as a place to which men could come in humility, obedience and repentance – acknowledging their sin and their need for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God’s grace is reserved for the humble. James would remind us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10 ESV). There is a real sense in which humility is a non-negotiable necessity for experiencing the blessings of God. Humility is a recognition that we can do nothing for God and we deserve nothing from God. It is a realization of our desperate need as we stand in the shadow of His glory. There were those Jews who worshiped God for His sake, while others did so for their own benefit. When we make worship man-centered and self-focused, we replace humility with pride and His glory with our own. Pride is one of the most powerful forces in the life of a man. It appears to be self-preserving and protective, but it is really destructive in nature. It sets self up as the center of the universe, in place of God. It attempts to make man like God, and relegates God to little more than a glorified life coach or cosmic genie in a bottle. Man begins to believe that God exists for his benefit. But God made man to bring Him glory. But mankind has made a habit of glorifying itself. Even the Israelites, the people of God, believed that they were the point of the story. They wrongly assumed that they were the focus of God’s attention and the center of the universe. Rather than live in humble awe and wonder at the very thought that the God of the universe would choose to have a relationship with them, they wrongly assumed that they somehow deserved God’s favor and were guaranteed His blessings, regardless of how they lived their lives.

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

In the end, God gets the glory. Literally, when the end of times comes, it will be God and God alone who gets the glory for what happens. He will send back His Son, not because anyone deserves it, but because God has had it planned all along. Even during the Great Tribulation, God will redeem a remnant of Jews, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah. Again, not because they deserve it. But because God, in His infinite grace and mercy, has predetermined it. God will save and vindicate Israel, but not so they can revel in the experience and pridefully gloat over their enemies. No God will redeem Israel because He has promised to do so, and His fulfillment of His promises will bring glory to Himself. Twice at the end of chapter 66, God states that in the end times, the nations “shall come and shall see my glory” (Isaiah 66:18 ESV). “…and I will send survivors to the nations…that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19 ESV). Ultimately, it is going to be about God’s glory. His redemption of man is all about His glory. His restoration of the nation of Israel will bring Him glory. His judgment of sinful man will bring Him glory. Humility is the recognition of His glory and the staggering realization of our own inability to measure up to His righteous, holy standards. Humility is man’s way of stating his dependence upon God and His divine plan for our redemption and the creation’s restoration. It is a recognition that God alone can restore this sin-ravaged world. It is to acknowledge, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7 ESV). Our humility brings God glory. Our willful dependence upon Him is a form or worship of Him. As we allow God to work through us, it brings Him glory. When we attempt to do things for God, we inevitably rob glory from God. But humility recognizes the truth behind Christ’s words, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV) and “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

Father, humility comes hard. It is not natural for us as human beings. Our sin natures make it next to impossible to walk humbly before our God. We live with our eyes focused on ourselves. We think the universe revolves around us. We even think You exist for us. But I want to walk before You humbly and dependently, recognizing my need for You and living my life to bring You glory instead of myself. Thank You for reminding me that I exist for Your glory and not the other way around. Amen

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

Isaiah 63-64, Revelation 15

A Desperation For God.

Isaiah 63-64, Revelation 15

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence. Isaiah 64:1 ESV

Isaiah had a first-row seat to the situation going on in Israel. He was a witness to the sin and rebellion of the people and the righteous judgment of God. Every day he could watch how the people neglected their God-given responsibilities to live as His representatives and act as His children. Isaiah had not deluded into believing that they were somehow innocent and undeserving of their punishment. He even included himself when he confessed that they were guilty as charged. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV). Isaiah’s assessment of the condition of the people of Israel was bleak. He concluded that, “there is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you” (Isaiah 64:7 ESV). And this was not a new problem. The people of Israel had been unfaithful for a very long time. “…in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (Isaiah 64:5 ESV). Things looked dire and desperate. From Isaiah’s perspective, things look hopeless. But it was this very feeling of desperation and hopelessness that led Isaiah to cry out, “Oh that you would rend the heaven and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…” (Isaiah 64:1 ESV). Even God knew that desperate times call for desperate measures. He had looked down from heaven and concluded, “there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me” (Isaiah 63:5 ESV). Isaiah, as a representative of the people, called out to God for help. He turned to the only one who could do something about their desperate condition. He reminded God of His role as their Father, Redeemer, and Protector. He appealed to God’s zeal, power, mercy and compassion. While they had “become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name,” Isaiah knew that God could be counted on to show goodness, compassion and steadfast love. 

What does this passage reveal about God?

Isaiah knew the rich history of his people. He was fully aware of all that God had done over the generation on behalf of the people of Israel. Which is why he could “recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 63:7 ESV). God had been the Savior of Israel on more than one occasion. He had a track record of faithfulness and mercy – in spite of all of Israel’s sin and rebellion. “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9 ESV). God had been with them through all the years. He had been an eyewitness to their sin. He had endured the personal affronts to His holiness as the people worshiped other gods. He had patiently put up with their unfaithfulness. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness. He had fed them with manna and quail as they traveled all those years. He miraculously prevented their clothes and sandals from wearing out. He provided them with the assurance of His presence through the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day. He had safely delivered them to the Promised Land and given them victory over their enemies. He had allowed them to possess “cities that you did not build and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 ESV). And then He had watched as they quickly forgot all about Him and began to worship the gods of the nations that had possessed the land before them. “They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies” (Judges 2:13-14 ESV). But whenever the people became desperate enough and cried out to God for help, He sent a deliverer. God would use His judges “who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (Judges 2:16 ESV). But once delivered, the people would inevitably turn away from God again. They would forsake God and He would be forced to send their enemies against them as a form of punishment. And when the people became desperate enough, they would cry out to God again. And He would deliver them. Over and over again.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Desperation requires dependence, and dependence is not something mankind finds attractive. We are independent creatures who want to live free from restraints and according to our own rules. At our core, we are rebellious. We tend to bow up at the idea of anyone or anything controlling us. Even the people of God can display a pronounced disgust and disregard for the very idea of His control over their lives. At the end of the book of Judges, we read one of the most revealing statements ever made about men. After years of sin and rebellion, defeat at the hands of their enemies, and desperate cries to God for help, we are told that “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV). Rather than do what God required of them, they chose to do what they wanted to do. Their deep desire for independence and autonomy stood in direct conflict with God’s desire that they be dependent upon and dedicated to doing His will and bringing Him glory. God wanted to display His power through them. He wanted to shower His blessings on them. He wanted to make His name known to the nations as He ministered to and through His chosen people. But God’s deliverance required dependence. And the state of dependence seemed to require that the people of God be brought to a point of desperation. Over in the book of Jeremiah, we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV). In the book of Deuteronomy, God had warned the people of Israel that if they did not obey and serve Him, they would end up exiled in a foreign land where they would worship false gods who could not deliver them in their times of desperation. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV). They would have to reach the point of desperation. They would have to come to the conclusion that nothing and no one else could deliver them from their predicament. In their desperation and despair, they would recognize their complete dependence upon God. “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:31 ESV).

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

The sad reality is that we never seem to understand or appreciate our complete dependence upon God until we reach the point of desperation and hopelessness. It is as if we have to finally conclude that we no longer have any other options and no other saviors to whom we can turn. When we finally get tired of doing what is right in our own eyes and suffering the consequences of our desire for independence, we will reach the conclusion that God alone is the answer to our problem. And like Isaiah, we will cry out “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” We will long to see God do what only He can do. It is sad that it sometimes takes a point of desperation to bring us to an awareness of our dependence upon God. We don’t just need Him for salvation from sin, we need Him to live in righteousness. We don’t just need Him to provide our ticket to heaven, we need Him to provide the strength we need to live on this earth. It is interesting that during one of the most difficult and desperate times that will ever come upon the earth, there will be those who cry out to God. They will recognize His power, mercy, goodness, and desire to redeem what belongs to Him. Toward the end of the Great Tribulation, as God prepares to bring His final judgments upon the earth, those believers who have been martyred during the tribulation will stand before the throne of God and cry out, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4 ESV). They say desperate times call for desperate measures. But as children of God, we should know that desperate times call for dependence upon Him. God alone can save. God alone can redeem. God alone can solve the problem that has plagued mankind since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. We live in desperate times. Which is all the more reason that we live our lives in complete dependence upon God. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV).

Father, I want to live in dependence upon You. I don’t want to wait until I reach the point of complete desperation and I have run out of other options. I truly want You to be my first and only option. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and faithful more than enough times in my life. I have proven myself to be a lousy savior and the things of this world have proven themselves to be unreliable deliverers. As we look at the events taking place all around us, may we reach a point of desperation that leads us to complete dependence upon You. Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! Amen

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

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

A Glorious Future.

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…. Isaiah 61:10 ESV

At the time Isaiah was writing the words contained in his book, the nation of Israel was still facing the prospect of their fall at the hands of the Babylonians. God had already told them that they would be defeated, their city and temple destroyed, and the majority of their citizens taken into captivity. But God also told them about their glorious future. He spoke of a coming day of salvation, redemption and restoration. And while they would experience a partial fulfillment of this promise when they returned to the land under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerrubabel, there was a greater, yet future, fulfillment coming. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of “the year of the Lord’s favor.” There was a time coming when the poor would receive good news, the brokenhearted would be comforted, the captives would be freed, and imprisoned would be released. These words of comfort spoke of something far greater than a physical salvation from poverty and imprisonment. When the people of Israel would eventually return to the land from captivity in Babylon, they would find themselves free from slavery to a foreign power, but they would still be captive to their own sin natures. They would still be spiritually impoverished, brokenhearted and imprisoned. God’s ultimate salvation was coming at a much-future date. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus Christ appeared at the synagogue in Nazareth, He was handed the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). When Jesus came the first time, He offered salvation from the power of sin. He came to provide men release from captivity to the demands of their own sin natures. Yet, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). This came as no surprise to Jesus or to God the Father. The people of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was foreseen by God and was actually necessary in order to His Son to accomplish His divine mission. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “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). He would go on to tell the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God has a plan. He is not reacting to events as they occur and coming up with on-the-spot decisions based on circumstances that have caught Him off guard and by surprise. As men, our plans are always subject to unforeseen and unexpected events that can complete derail our well-thought-out objectives. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV). God’s plans are unalterable. His will is immutable. Jesus came to die. That was God’s plan from the beginning. The rejection of His Son by His own people was not a monkey wrench thrown into the plans of God, but an integral and expected part of His overall strategy. But their rejection of the Messiah would not permanently remove them from God’s favor. Their refusal to accept God’s Anointed One would not cause God to forsake them. Instead, He promised them, “but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6 ESV). He would eventually cloth them in “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Rome, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27 ESV). God has great plans in store for His people. God promises them, “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3 ESV). Not only that, they will go from being referred to as “forsaken” and “desolate” to being called “My delight is in her” (Isaiah 62:4). God is not done with Israel. He told Isaiah to remind them, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ They will be called ‘The Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord.’ And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’” (Isaiah 62:11-12 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel did not deserve God’s favor. They had earned His wrath and deserved to suffer the consequences for their sins. And for many years, they would find themselves struggling under the discipline of the Lord. But they would also experience the unmerited favor of God. He faithfully restored them to their land. He preserved and protected them for generations. Yes, they would suffer under the rule of various nations. They would go for centuries without a king and experience the humiliation of the poverty and powerlessness that comes with  subjugation and servitude to more powerful nations. Even today, Israel finds itself surrounded by countless enemies who would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. Even during the Great Tribulation to come, Satan will go out of His way to eliminate the people of Israel. He will wage an unrelenting war against the people of God, in the hopes of destroying them, and along with them, derailing the plans of God for them. And while the Jews continue to forsake Jesus Christ as their Messiah, God refuses to forsake them. Even during the period of the tribulation, God says He will raise up 144,000 Jews, redeeming them as His own and making them followers of Jesus Christ. “These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5 ESV). These 144,000 redeemed Jews will come from every tribe of Israel. They will be witnesses of God’s salvation and of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel. Through their testimony, a great many people, both Jews and Gentiles, will come to faith in Christ even during the dark days of the tribulation. Our faithful God has tremendous plans for His people. He has much in store for them. But as in Isaiah’s day, the danger for the people of God is that we would with a myopic perspective that prevents us from living with our eyes on the glorious future God has in store for us. How easy it is for us to take a look at our current circumstances and conclude we are “forsaken” and “desolate.” How important it is for us to always remember that God delights in us as His own. Our current conditions are not a reflection of God’s love, mercy, power or ultimate plans for us.

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

The world in which we live is temporary. It was not meant to be our final destination. It’s current condition, marred by sin and filled with antagonism toward God, is a less-than-ideal place for us as God’s people. But we have been placed here by God for a reason. We have work to do. We are to live as His ambassadors and representatives, living as lights in the midst of darkness. We are people on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and model the redemptive work of God in the midst of a people living in spiritual poverty, captive to sin, and enslaved to the powers of this world. But even while we live out our lives on this planet, we are to keep our eyes firmly focused on our glorious future. This is not all there is. The pleasures of this world are but a shadow of what is to come. Any joys we experience in this life pale in comparison to what we will experience in the future God has in store for us. Our sufferings during this life, while real and sometimes devastating, won’t last forever. Paul reminds us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). He goes on to tell us, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1 NLT). What a glorious future God has in store for us. And He will bring it about – in His perfect time and according to His perfect plan.

Father, help me live with my eyes on the future. Help me to judge what I experience and see in this life through the lens of Your faithful, unfailing plan. You are not done yet. There is much in store for us as Your people. You have much yet to accomplish for the people of Israel. Thank You for reminding me of Your faithfulness and love. No matter what I see or experience in this life, I can rest in the fact that I have a glorious future in store for me. Amen

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

Isaiah 59-60, Revelation 13

God, Our Redeemer.

Isaiah 59-60, Revelation 13

and you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 60:16b ESV

From the perspective of the Israelites, God seemed to be either ignorant of their difficult predicament or unable to do anything about it. It appeared as if He was oblivious to their condition or powerless to save them. But made it clear that the problem had nothing to do with Him. It was because of their sin. “…but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2 ESV). It was their sins that were bringing about their own punishment. God was allowing their enemies to harass them, and He would eventually allow them to defeat them. The people of Israel were guilty of bloodshed, lying, iniquity, wickedness, injustice and violence. There was an absence of God’s peace or shalom in the land because there was no justice and righteousness. “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us” (Isaiah 59:9 ESV). Because they failed to extend justice to one another, God was withholding His justice from them. God’s justice comes in the form of His rule setting all things right, restoring things to their proper order. Because they refused to live righteously, they were missing out on the righteousness of God. God’s righteousness shows up in the form of His presence and power as He vindicates and delivers, fulfilling all His righteous purposes on behalf of His people. Because of their sin, the people of Israel were experiencing an absence of God’s justice and righteousness on their behalf. God was not happy with them. “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice” (Isaiah 59:15 ESV). God had intended for His people to be the conduit of His justice, mercy and righteousness. He had told them what He expected of them. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV). But they had failed. And when God looked to see if anyone would intercede, He saw no one. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede” (Isaiah 59:16a ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about God?

So God would intercede on man’s behalf. “…then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” (Isaiah 59:16b ESV). In spite of Israel’s sin and rebellion, unrepentant hearts, and stubborn resistance to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with their God, He would intervene. He would intercede. God would step into the darkness and reveal His light. This was partially fulfilled with the coming of Christ. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). God promised the coming of the Redeemer. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). But most of Israel rejected Him when He came. They refused to accept Him as their Redeemer and Messiah. But God is not done yet. His plan for Israel is not yet complete. There is a day coming when His Son will return a second time and He will establish His Kingdom on earth and rule from the throne of David from the city of Jerusalem. In chapter 60, God gives Isaiah a glimpse into the distant future, revealing the Millennial Kingdom of Christ that will be established after the days of the Great Tribulation on earth. Jesus referred to the period of the tribulation in very foreboding terms. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But even during those dark days, the light of God will shine. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1 ESV). God will one day shine His light in the form of His Son on the lives of His people. As a result, they will once again reflect His glory and radiance. God will once again remember and redeem His people. “…and you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty one of Jacob” (Isaiah 60:16 ESV). All of these things have yet to happen. They are future events still waiting to be fulfilled. But God will bring them about. He will cause them to come to pass at just the right time and according to His perfect plan.  

What does this passage reveal about man?

While the people of Israel were guilty of lying and deceit, they could trust in their faithful and true God. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ESV). God would do what He said He would do. And it might have appeared to the Israelites that His hand was shortened or His hearing diminished, God was fully aware of their circumstances and had everything under control. Even though God would allow them to fall at the hands of the Babylonians and experience the humility and despair of exile for 70 years, He would redeem them and restore them to their land. He would vindicate them and display His justice and righteousness on their behalf. But they would continue to sin against Him. They would continue to worship other gods besides Him. They would practice injustice and display their unrighteousness in a variety of ways for generations. Even when God sent His own Son to live in their midst and display His glory amongst them, they rejected Him. They refused to repent and turn to the physical manifestation of God living and walking as one of them. Even today, those of us who have been exposed to the reality of God’s Son and experienced salvation through acceptance of His sacrificial death on our behalf, can find ourselves living as if nothing has really changed in our lives. We struggle with the same sins as before. We are prone to turn to other “gods” of our own making or choosing. We rebel against God’s righteous rule in our lives and refuse to repent of the sins we so easily and regularly commit. We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but still continue to wrestle with sinful habits and behaviors. We still fight against our sin natures, oftentimes losing the battle and succumbing to our own selfish passions. But God is not done yet. There is a day coming when our sin natures will be done away with permanently and completely. We will receive new bodies. We will have our sin natures eradicated once and for all time. “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:53-56 ESV).

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

God is not done yet. He is not through redeeming me. His plan for my salvation, while completely taken care of by Christ, is not yet completed. There is a day coming when He will finish what He began. Paul tells us, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV). Elsewhere he reminds us, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV). God has a plan for His church, the body of Christ. He is sending His Son back for us some day, and when that time comes, our salvation will be complete. The ongoing process of our sanctification or transformation into Christ’s image will be finished. We will be glorified. And God is not done with Israel either. He has great plans in store for them. And while the period of the Great Tribulation remains in their future, so does His redemption. The book of Revelation tells us of God’s future plans for Israel. These include the coming of the Antichrist and a period of difficulty and intense persecution. But it also includes the redemption of God and the restoration of His people. “For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:20 ESV). God will redeem. He will restore. “I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22 ESV).

Father, Your redemption of mankind and Your restoration of Israel is not yet complete. You are not done yet. Your work is not finished. Don’t let me lose sight of the fact that Your arm is not shortened and Your hearing has not failed. You know what is going on in my life and in this world. Your salvation will come. Your great redemptive plan for mankind will be finished one day. You will do it in Your time. You have promised it and You will bring it about. Help me rest in Your faithfulness. Amen

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

Isaiah 57-58, Revelation 12

God, Our Healer.

Isaiah 57-58, Revelation 12

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:18-19 ESV

The Israelites of Isaiah’s day were marked by idolatry and spiritual adultery. Over time the numbers of truly righteous individuals dwindled, leaving a spiritual vacuum among the people. But rather than mourn the loss of the righteous, the majority of the Israelites failed to even notice their passing. They continued to practice their idolatry and forsake God. When faced with difficulty or trouble, they turned to their false gods or sought help from foreign kings. Yet they also continued to hedge their bets, turning to God in times of trouble, going through the religious ritual of fasting in the hopes of gaining favor from God. But God wasn’t interested in watching His people go through the motions of false humility. He would not tolerate their false acts of piety. “Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God” (Isaiah 58:2 ESV). They wanted God to do the right thing, but they were unwilling to do what was right in His eyes. And they couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t answer their prayers and take notice of their acts of humility. But God informed them, “Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high” (Isaiah 58:4 ESV). It wasn’t enough for them to look the part of the humble, repentant servant, wearing sackcloth and bowing down before God. He wanted to see true heart change. God wanted their fasting to be accompanied by acts of justice, compassion, kindness, and a reverence for the things of God

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. He had made it clear to the nation of Israel, that their unique status as His chosen people came with a non-negotiable expectation: They were to be holy. “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26 ESV). Their lives were to be lived according to His exacting standards, not those of the world. His people were to keep His law and maintain their moral and ethical purity through the ongoing use of His sacrificial system. But sacrifice without true repentance and sincere heart change was meaningless. Earlier in the book of Isaiah, God had declared that the Israelites were simply going through the motions: “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). They seemed to say and do all the right things, but their hearts weren’t in it. They had given their affections to other things. But God told them what His idea of true fasting and mourning looked like. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7 ESV). God had nothing against fasting and mourning, but He wanted the act to be accompanied by changed attitudes and heartfelt expressions of love for others. This kind of fasting would result in God’s favor. “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8 ESV). The psalmist expressed it succinctly. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 ESV). God told Isaiah, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

But men find it hard to express humility. Even those of us who claim to love and follow God have a difficult time coming before Him with a contrite and lowly spirit. Our pride gets in the way. We refuse to see ourselves as He sees us. We justify our sin and rationalize our behavior. We compare ourselves to others and deem ourselves somehow worthy of God’s favor. But God sees us differently. “Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if there were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God” (Isaiah 58:2 ESV). Just like the people of Israel, we can so easily find ourselves seeking God and acting as if our so-called righteous deeds somehow earn us favor with Him. We go through the religious motions, showing up at church and doing our daily allotment of pious activities that make us look good to others, but do little to impress God. All the while we fail to realize that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor or live up to His exacting standards. Holiness is impossible for us to pull off, just as it was impossible for the people of Israel. We can’t maintain a lifestyle of righteousness in our own strength. The Israelites knew what they were supposed to do, but just couldn’t muster up the determination to do it on an ongoing basis. And we find ourselves in the same boat. If we are not careful, even as believers, we will find ourselves attempting to live the spiritual life in the strength of our own flesh. We will attempt to live up to God’s standards without His help. Our own pride will convince us that we can somehow pull it off. But like Paul, we simply need to reach the point where we cry out daily, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24 NLT). We simply need to confess our insufficiency and turn to God for the help He has provided through His Son. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25 NLT).

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

One of the amazing aspects of God’s great redemptive plan for mankind is revealed in His faithful, consistent and loving interaction with the people of Israel. In spite of their rejection of His sovereign rule over their lives for generations, He never gave up on them. Even when they failed to accept His Son as their Messiah, instead demanding His death on the cross, God did not turn His back on them. While they have never been able to live up to His standards or maintain the life of holiness He demanded of them, He still has plans for them. He is still going to keep His promise to them. In the book of Revelation we get to see into the future where God reveals how He is going to redeem and restore His people. There is a day coming when He will heal them. He will do for them what they could never seem to do for themselves. Even in the midst of the Great Tribulation, when the people of Israel will suffer the most intense persecution they have even had to endure, God will be there. John is given a vision of a woman who is pregnant. She will give birth to a baby, “a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5 ESV). The woman represents Israel. The baby is Jesus Christ. After His death and resurrection, God literally “raptured” or snatched up Jesus, taking Him to heaven where He awaits His second coming at the end of the Great Tribulation. But during the last three and a half years of that great time or tribulation, Satan will wage war against the people of Israel. They will have to run for their lives. Jesus warned of this day. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22 ESV). But God will protect His own. “…and the woman [Israel] fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6 ESV). God will miraculously protect His own. He will care for them, even during one of the most difficult times the earth has ever known. And ultimately, God will bring healing to His people. He will redeem and restore them. God promises, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him,; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners” (Isaiah 57:18 ESV). God is the great healer. He is the redeemer and restorer. He will do for Israel what He has promised. He is faithful, trustworthy and true to His Word.

Father, thank You for the reassurance of Your faithfulness. You have not abandoned Your people Israel and You have not and will not abandon me. You have even made it possible for me to live uprightly and righteousness in this life. You have given me the capacity, through the power of Your indwelling Spirit, to live humbly and to practice acts of justice, compassion, and kindness – not in my own strength, but Yours. You have made it possible to experience Your healing and help in this life and You have promised me complete healing in the life to come. Amen

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

Isaiah 55-56, Revelation 11

Come to the Lord!

Isaiah 55-56, Revelation 11

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1 ESV

The invitation of God extends to all men. He offers them the opportunity to come to Him and receive what they could never find anywhere else. He promises to quench their thirst, to satisfy their hunger, to provide them with true bread, and to make an everlasting covenant with them. And He offers it all at no cost. This amazing passage is a clear prophesy of the redemptive work God offered through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Messiah was the ultimate fulfillment of this offer made by God. But to accept the offer of salvation through His Son, all men would have to accept the invitation of God to come. They would have to forsake their ways, thoughts, and attitudes. They would have to admit that God’s ways were in direct contradiction to their own. The whole idea of a single, solitary man dying as the payment for the sins of all mankind makes no sense to us. The concept of God taking on human flesh and dying a sinner’s death on a cross in order to make men right with God is impossible for us to fully grasp. But God says, “For my thoughts are nor your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV). His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. The way He works is beyond our comprehension. But we must come to Him. We must accept His ways. We must realize that His way is the only way. God would ask us, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for the which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2 ESV). Rather than take God at His word, men will go out of their way trying to find false substitutes for what God has offered to provide. They will seek satisfaction elsewhere, wasting money and time trying to replicate the blessings of God by seeking them from this world. But God continues to say, “Come!”.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s invitation will not last forever. There is a time limit to His offer and there is a day coming when His offer will be removed from the table. So God lovingly pleads with mankind, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55: 6-7 ESV). The present is the time for salvation. Yet men presumptuously put off the inevitable, delaying their response to the invitation, assuming that they will have plenty of time to accept the offer at a later date. Yet the book of Revelation makes it painstakingly clear that the day will come when God’s offer of salvation runs out. He will send His Son back to earth to bring judgment on all those who have rejected Him as their Savior. The offer made in the opening verses of Isaiah 55 will expire. But amazingly, we live in a day when God’s offer is still available to all men. His promise of both abundant and eternal life still stands. The gift of His Son is still available and for those who accept Him as their Savior, the satisfaction and salvation God offers is still accessible. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Because our ways and thoughts are so radically different than God’s, we have a hard time accepting what He has to offer. We don’t want to believe that His gift of salvation is free and available to us apart from any good works or human effort. That just doesn’t make sense to us. So we determine that there must be something more needed. We wrongly assume that we can somehow earn our way into God’s good graces by doing good things or by attempting to live a good life. Then there are others who just conclude that this life is all there is and so we should attempt to enjoy all that we can get from this life while we are alive. So we seek satisfaction from the things of this world. We spend our money on that which is not really bread. In other words, we attempt to buy fulfillment and satisfaction from those things that are merely poor replicas of the real thing. We end up working hard to get our hands on things that can never bring the satisfaction they promise. And all the while, God is offering us more. He is inviting us to enjoy life and life more abundantly. .

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

Even in the end times, as God will wrap up His divine plan for mankind, He will continue to offer His invitation of hope and healing. Revelation 11 tells us that, during the Great Tribulation that will come on the earth in those days, God will send His two witnesses. These two individuals will be sent from God and will witness on behalf of God. They will have miraculous powers. They will perform powerful miracles designed to prove their validity as God’s messengers, much like the miracles Moses did before Pharaoh. But these two witnesses will die at the hand of the Antichrist. They will be martyred and their bodies will be left in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days. Then God will raise them from the dead. He will restore them to life. And as a result, “Great fear fell on those who say them” (Revelation 11:11 ESV). God will then speak from heaven and call them to Himself, and they will ascend into heaven much like Jesus did. Their ascension will be followed by a great earthquake and the deaths of one tenth of the city of Jerusalem. But this cataclysmic event will have a dramatic impact on those who are left. “…and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13 ESV). Even in those days, God will be revealing Himself through His messengers and through His miracles. He will be inviting all men to recognize that He alone is God. He has power over death. He is almighty and a force to be reckoned with. But even then, His offer will still stand. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1 ESV).

Father, I can’t thank You enough for the offer You extended to me so many years ago. You invited me to come. You offered me the gift of Your Son. It wasn’t based on my merit. It wasn’t because I somehow deserved it. And You offered it in spite of the fact that I was seeking satisfaction in anything and everything but You up until that point. Your invitation was a free gift and I am eternally grateful for it. Amen

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

Isaiah 53-54, Revelation 10

Our Faithful, Loving God.

Isaiah 53-54, Revelation 10

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10 ESV

What is the response of a holy, righteous God to the persistent sin and rebellion of His people? He gives us the answer Himself. “‘For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:7-8 ESV). It would appear as if God had deserted them. From a human perspective, it would feel like God’s anger had caused him to abandon them. But His compassion and everlasting love for them never diminished or truly disappeared. Even His punishment was an act of love. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19 ESV). “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV). And the greatest expression of God’s incredible love would come in the form of His own Son. In order to effectively deal with man’s ongoing sin problem, God would send His Son as the permanent payment for the penalty due. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16a ESV). “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32a ESV). Amazingly, God’s plan for man’s redemption has always included His Son. His first coming was designed to provide intercession – His death in our place. It was intended to make propitiation for our sins, satisfying the just demands of a holy God. It was meant to provide salvation from the condemnation we deserved and replace our sentence of eternal separation from God with eternal life in His presence.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Hundreds of years before Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, God gave Isaiah a detailed account of what His earthly life and ministry would look like. In chapter 53 of Isaiah’s book, we have an amazing description of the Servant of God who was to come. In this passage we see the painstakingly clear picture of the suffering Savior who was to come to the earth and take all of the sins of mankind upon Himself. We are told that He would be unattractive and unimpressive in appearance. He would be despised and rejected. He would be intimately familiar with sorrow, grief and suffering. He would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He would take on all the sins of mankind and suffer the punishment of God’s wrath on our behalf. And He would do all this willingly, out of obedience to His Father’s will and out of love for mankind. God makes it clear that the suffering and death of Jesus was His divine will. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV). Yes, God fully intended for His Son to die a criminal’s death and be buried in a borrowed tomb, so that the sins of mankind could be fully atoned for once and for all. And God did all this out of love. The result of this amazing display of sacrificial love is truly incredible. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 ESV). Jesus would suffer and die, but also be raised again and see the fruit of His sacrificial love in the form of redeemed, justified sons and daughters of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

How easy it is for us to overlook and under-appreciate the love of God. Just like the people of Israel, we can find ourselves taking for granted His incredible mercy, grace and love. We can underplay our own sinfulness and in so doing, diminish the price that God paid for our sins: the life of His own Son. The biggest problem we all face as human beings is our own sin and guilt. Every man or woman who has ever lived has had the same problem: Their inherent sin nature and incapacity to do anything about it. Isaiah would later write: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). Solomon wrote, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT). All stand before God as guilty and He is fully justified in meting out the punishment of death for our sin. But instead, God came up with a plan of salvation that provided a way for His wrath to be satisfied and His love to be displayed justly and rightly. God couldn’t ignore or overlook man’s sin. He couldn’t turn a blind eye to man’s inherent sinfulness and guilt. To do so would have been unjust and unrighteous. It was out of His character as God. So He came up with a solution that made man’s salvation and His own satisfaction possible. And even though the people of Israel rejected His Son the first time He came, rejecting the very idea of a suffering Servant, God is still going to display His love to them a second time. The book of Revelation provides us with an end-of-the-story account of just how God will display His steadfast, unfailing love to His chosen people. He will keep and fulfill His covenant promises He made to them. “‘…my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10 ESV).

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

God IS love. It is not just a character quality He displays. It is His very nature. He is love all the time – in all that He does. His disciplines are an act of love. His sacrifice of His own Son on my behalf was the ultimate act of love. When He sends His Son again, it will be the consummate act of love. It will be an expression of His steadfast, unfailing love for His creation, and will display His unfailing love for His chosen people – the Jews. For a brief moment, it appears as if God has deserted them. To our limited understanding it would seem as if God’s anger with Israel has resulted in His rejection of them. But God would have us understand otherwise. He WILL show them compassion. He WILL display His everlasting love for them. His steadfast love WILL NOT depart from them. His covenant of peace WILL NOT be removed. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17 ESV). In the book of Revelation, John is given a scroll to eat. He is told, “it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9 ESV). On that scroll was contained “the mystery of God.” It was an account of the final plan of God for the world. There would be further punishments involved. There would be more judgments to come. But in the end, the love of God would be displayed as His Son faithfully fulfilled His role as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Sin and death would be dealt their final blow. Satan would be eliminated once and for all. Righteousness would reign on earth. God’s people, the nation of Israel, would be restored to favor in His eyes. All as a display of God’s unwavering, matchless, unfathomable love. The very same love He showered on me when He offered me the gift of His Son’s death on the cross in my place.

Father, thank You for Your love. I take it for granted far too often. I don’t fully appreciate it or understand it. I don’t think about it or thank You for it enough. Sometimes I just flat out miss it in all the busyness of life. When things don’t go quite the way I want them to, I can feel unloved by You. But Your love does not exist to make me happy. It exists to make me holy. You love me so that I might be like Your Son. You loved me so much that You sent Him to die for me and so that I might have His righteousness in exchange for my sinfulness. There is no greater display of love I need from You. Amen

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

Isaiah 51-52, Revelation 9

The Salvation of Our God.

Isaiah 51-52, Revelation 9

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10 ESV

Repeatedly in chapter 51, God pleads with His people to listen. He tells them to give Him their full attention and hear what He is saying. He calls them to get their eyes off of the world and their circumstances and to look to heaven from which the salvation they long for will come. In spite of all that had happened to them, God was reminding them that He was not yet done with them. He tells them, “My salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed” (Isaiah 51:6 ESV). God was going to do something incredible. He was going to do for them what they could never have done for themselves. Yes, in the short term, He would return them from captivity in Babylon and restore them to the land of promise. But God had an even greater salvation in mind. He had a much more long-term plan in store for them. And it will involve a Savior like none they have ever had before. He will be a King, but not like any other king they have ever known. He will be greater than any judge that ever delivered them in the past. He will be wiser than Solomon, more righteous than David, and He will bring about the salvation of God in a way that the people of Israel could never have imagined or anticipated.

What does this passage reveal about God?

How often God had to remind His own people, “I am the Lord your God” (Isaiah 51:15 ESV). He seemed to constantly have to remind them of His role as creator and sustainer of all things. They kept forgetting and forsaking Him. They lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety even though they enjoyed a unique status as God’s chosen people. Which is why God accused them of having: “forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy” (Isaiah 51:13 ESV). Nothing had changed about God. He was still in control. He was still all-powerful. He remained in His place in heaven, completely sovereign over all things and was prepared to reveal His power on behalf of His people. The problem lay not with God, but with the people. He calls them to “wake yourself, wake yourself” (Isaiah 51:17 ESV) and to “awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion” (Isaiah 52:1 ESV). They were like a man who had fallen asleep and found himself in the midst of a bad nightmare. So God called them to wake up to the reality of His sovereignty, majesty, power, and ever-present faithfulness. “I am the Lord your God,” He declared. God remained God whether or not they treated Him as such. They remained His people, whether or not they acted as such. God was going to bring salvation in such a way that they could no longer doubt who He was or question His ability to save. “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am” (Isaiah 52:6 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

God’s people, whether Old Testament Jews or New Testament saints, have been regularly marked by doubt and disobedience. And the same holds true today. Our faith in our God can be so fickle at times. We intellectually know that He is all-powerful, all-knowing and in control over all things. But when it comes to everyday life, we have our doubts. We fully believe He created the universe and sustains it on a daily basis, but we somehow doubt that He can handle the daily affairs of our life. We wonder whether He can save us from our particular circumstances or deliver us from the trials in which we find ourselves. But even worse than that, we fail to trust that He can provide us with what we need to make the most out of the time we have on this earth. So we turn to other things to bring us satisfaction and fulfillment. We decide that there is more to this life than a relationship with Him. We know that being His child comes with some great benefits when it comes to the future; but when it comes to the present, we seem to believe God’s will is somehow insufficient or unacceptable. We find ourselves lulled into a kind of spiritual stupor, sleep-walking our way through life, content to seek our hope and satisfaction from the things of this world. We live within the realm of the temporary, while God would have us focus on eternity. So He issues us a wake up call. These words of Paul are as appropriate now as when he first penned them to the believers in Rome: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11 ESV). Paul issued another wake up call to the believers in Ephesus: “‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:14-16 ESV).

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

We are to live with an eye on the future. The danger is that we might be lulled into a kind of false sense of security and complacency, living as if this life is all there is. The salvation of the Lord is not yet complete. His work is not yet done. The return of the Jews to the land of Canaan from their time in captivity was not to be the final chapter in God’s redemptive story for them. He still had far greater plans in store. He was going to send His Son and He was going to be rejected by His own people. Not only that, He would die a criminal’s death on a Roman cross with the shouts of the people of God ringing in His ears, “Crucify Him!” But God had this to say of His Son: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:13-15 ESV). God’s Savior would be rejected. He would be despised. He would be murdered. But He would be successful in accomplishing the will of His Father and His obedience would result in salvation for all mankind. But He has one more thing to accomplish. God’s plan of salvation is not yet complete. Jesus’ work on the cross was finished. His atoning work for the sins of man is complete. But God is going to restore His creation. He is going to put an end to sin and death once and for all. He is going to judge all those who have rejected His Son’s offer of salvation and permanently eliminate Satan as the ruler over this world. “And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10 ESV).

Father, in the book of Revelation You remind us that Your work is not yet done. But You have a plan in place that You will enact at just the right time. You will complete what You have started. You will restore what was damaged by the fall. You will redeem what was rightfully Yours from the beginning. The damage done by sin and Satan will be repaired. The injustice that mars Your world will be made right. The indifference toward Your Son will be eliminated and all men will know that You alone are God. May that day come sooner rather than later. Amen

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

Isaiah 49-50, Revelation 8

Then All Will Know.

Isaiah 49-50, Revelation 8

Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 49:26 ESV

One of the reasons God chose Israel was to reveal Himself through them. They were to have been a living example of what it looks like when men walk in a right relationship with God. They had received His law, which was intended to provide them with a code of conduct, unlike any other on earth. He had given them the sacrificial system in order to atone for their inevitable sins and to receive forgiveness so that they might continue to enjoy His presence among them. God had chosen Israel in order to reveal His presence and power among men. He had placed His name on them so that they might reveal to the world around them what it looks like when men serve God faithfully. Their lives should have been lights shining in the darkness around them. But they had failed. And God had known all along that they would do so. He was not surprised, shocked, or caught off guard. The sending of His Son was not plan B. The incarnation was not a knee-jerk reaction to Israel’s failure to live up to God’s expectations. The Messiah had been the plan all along. God had known that mankind was incapable of living up to His holy, righteous standards. They could not keep His law. They could not obey His commands. And the sacrificial system had always been a temporary and incomplete solution to their ongoing sin problem. It was never intended to absolve them of their guilt permanently or completely. Which is why they had to keep offering sacrifices year after year. It was a foreshadowing of a greater sacrifice to come.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The goal of God has always been for men to worship Him and Him alone. All of creation was intended to bring glory to God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV). “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20 NLT). Throughout history, God has made Himself known to man. He revealed Himself to Abraham. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush. He manifested His glory to the people of israel through thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai. He appeared before them as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. He spoke through His prophets. His presence appeared in the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat. God was always making Himself known. But men either failed to acknowledge Him or refused to obey Him. Israel, as a nation, never fully lived in obedience and faithfulness to Him. And yet God would use the nation of Israel as the means by which He would make Himself known to the world. He would see to it that His Son, the Messiah, would be born a Jew. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5 NLT). God’s greatest revelation of Himself to mankind would be through His own Son. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). The apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He became God in the flesh – God incarnate.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But even Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV), was eventually rejected by men. He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). God predicted the rejection of His own Son through His prophet Isaiah. “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6 ESV). In chapters 49-50 of Isaiah, God makes it clear that the day was coming when He would send His servant to redeem Israel, not from captivity in Babylon, but from captivity to sin. He would bring salvation of a kind they had never known. And as a result, they would know God. “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23 ESV). The Jews collectively rejected the Messiah when He came the first time. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). But at His second coming, Christ will come in power and glory and might. He will come as a conquering warrior and as the King of kings and Lord of lords. “Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26 ESV). At His second coming there will be no discussion or debate as to who He is. There will be no one living who will be able to reject the reality of His nature as God or the essence of His role as King.

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

The return of Jesus will be accompanied with great judgment. He will not come as an innocent, helpless baby, but as a conquering King and righteous Judge over all the earth. The book of Revelation makes it painfully clear that judgment is a non-negotiable part of His return. Chapter eight records four of the seven trumpets that will bring judgment upon the earth during the days of the Great Tribulation. There will be cataclysmic, worldwide destruction that will impact every living person on earth at that time. God will reveal Himself in devastating, non-debatable reality. And it will all culminate with the return of His Son. Men have only two options: They can choose to recognize the glory of God revealed through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, making possible salvation and a restored relationship with Him. Or they can wait and face God’s glory as revealed in His coming judgment. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). When Christ returns, no one will be able to debate His deity or reject His sovereignty. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is the Lord. They will worship Him whether they want to or not. How much more should we who have been redeemed by His blood worship Him now? We who have been made right with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross have been witness to God’s glory. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). We have seen Him. Now we must reveal Him to all those around us. We have been transformed by the Light of the world, so that we might shine like lights in the world. God is making Himself known through us. But one day He will make Himself known to all men through the return of His Son to earth. Then all flesh shall know.

Father, You want to be known by men. But You also want to be worshiped by men. You designed us for worship. You created us to have a relationship with You. But sin interfered and marred that relationship. It created a barrier over which we could not climb. It placed before a chasm we could not cross. But You sent Your Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. And one day You are sending Him again to do for the world what it cannot do for itself. You will redeem Your creation, restore the people of Israel, and bring an end to sin and death once and for all – so that all will know that You alone are God. Amen

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

Isaiah 47-48, Revelation 7

Our Blessed Redeemer.

Isaiah 47-48, Revelation 7

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. Revelation 7:12 ESV

Israel got exactly what they deserved: defeat at the hands of their enemies and a humiliating deportation and exile in the land of Babylon. God had warned them repeatedly. He had told them what was going to happen if they continued to rebel against Him and refuse to obey His commands. He would send His prophets with words of warning and calls to repentance, but the Israelites would remain obstinate and refuse to listen. So God did what He had to do. He punished them, but not without purpose or for a good reason. “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:9-10 ESV). God would protect the integrity of His name. He would not allow His character to be defamed by those who were called by His name. Their actions reflected poorly on God, but if God were to destroy them completely, His reputation would be damaged. He had made promises to Israel and He would not and could not fail to keep those promises. The Israelites did not deserve God’s redemption, but they would receive it nonetheless. “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go’” (Isaiah 48:17 ESV). They would once again experience the redemptive work of God in their lives. They would learn the reality of His power revealed in their deliverance. They would come to appreciate His wisdom revealed in His sovereign plan. They would eventually express gratitude to Him for their restoration to the land and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But because their deliverance was temporal and not eternal, they would find themselves falling back into old habits, and giving in to their sinful natures.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is the creator of the universe. He made all that we can see and all that remains unseen to the human eye. And when He had made it all, He declared it good – including man. But sin marred His creation. What God had created as good became stained by sin. The peace or shalom which originally marked His creation was shattered and the result was that sin spread like a cancer through the land, infecting man and the world in which he lived. But God, because of His character, was not willing to leave His creation in a less-than-perfect state. So God has had a plan in place, developed before He even made the first star or formed the first blade of grass. He has had a divine strategy to deal with man’s sin and its devastating aftermath. He was not surprised by man’s fall, but already knew what He was going to do in order to reestablish order and redeem His creation. All that we see taking place in the Old Testament between God and His people Israel is simply a foreshadowing of what is to come. His patience and persistent determination to keep His covenant provides us with a glimpse into His character and a reassuring confirmation of just how faithful our God is. God’s choosing of Israel as His people was so that He could one day bring about the redemption of all men through a solitary descendant of Abraham, the father of the people of Israel. God was going to use this obscure nation to accomplish His redemptive plan for mankind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel deserved God’s punishment for their sins, but they did NOT deserve His selection of them as His people. God made that perfectly clear to them. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV). God didn’t choose Israel because they deserved it. He chose them because He had a greater purpose in mind. He was interested in more than just the redemption and restoration of a single people group. He has always had the complete restoration and redemption of His creation in mind. God is a loving, covenant-keeping God. He is faithful, holy and righteous in all that He does. He always deals rightly and justly, even when He has to punish those He loves. God’s anger is never unjustified or without purpose. He uses it to teach and refine those He loves. The people of Israel loved their unique position as God’s chosen ones. They put high stock in their one-of-a-kind status as God’s people. But their relationship with Him was strained and marked by lip-service, rather than true devotion. “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and call on the God of Israel. You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isaiah 48:1-2 NLT). They were unreliable, undependable, unfaithful, and for the most part, unrepentant. But God would still redeem them.

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

The beauty of studying the Old and New Testaments together is that it presents us with the bigger storyline of God’s redemptive plan. God’s choosing of Israel had a much greater purpose than just the temporal blessing of a particular people group for a specific time period. God had a much greater, richer, and far more comprehensive plan in mind. His strategy has always been the ultimate redemption of mankind and the complete restoration of His creation. He was not interested in a temporal or partial fix, but a permanent one. And in the book of Revelation we are given a vision of just what that is going to look like. John is allowed to see what God has in store for the future. And the amazing thing is that God is not done with His people Israel. While His eternal plan involves far more than just the nation of Israel, it does not leave them out of the storyline. They will continue to play a significant role in God’s redemptive plan, even during the time of the great tribulation that marks the end of the age. God will miraculously redeem 144,000 Jews and bring them to a saving knowledge of His Son during one of the most difficult times of persecution and trial that has ever faced mankind. Those 144,000 Jews will then become His witnesses on the earth, leading “a great multitude that no one could number” (Revelation 7:9 ESV) to faith in Christ. They will evangelize throughout the world, resulting in the conversion of people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9 ESV). But all of this will be the work of God. It will be part of His grand plan, as He faithfully and methodically brings about the final chapter in His story of man’s redemption and His creation’s restoration. God will redeem 144,000 from the nation of Israel. He will redeem countless more from every tribe, nation and tongue. Not because they deserve it, but because it is part of His unstoppable, irreversible plan for the world He created. Which is why we should say, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 ESV).

Father, it is so easy to lose sight of Your bigger plan of redemption. You didn’t choose Israel and stop there. You fully intended to make Your grace, love and mercy available to men from every tribe, nation and tongue. You didn’t relegate Your plan of redemption to just one nation, but intended to make it available to all. Your plan is greater than my own salvation and bigger than my ongoing sanctification. You have something far greater in store for me and for all mankind that just a slightly better life on this earth. You have eternal life waiting for us. Your salvation ends with our glorification and the complete restoration of Your creation. May you bring Your divine plan to a close soon. Amen

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