Isaiah 66

The Faithfulness of God.

“As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the Lord. ­– Isaiah 66:22 NLT

This is a difficult book, filled with messages of doom and images of destruction. It portrays the unfaithfulness of mankind in glaring detail and shows how even those who call themselves God’s chosen people can turn that relationship into nothing more than ritual and casual compliance. It is a book filled with warnings about disobedience and spiritual adultery. It gives us a picture of God that is sometimes disturbing, revealing His “dark” side that some of us don’t like to see. But God sent Isaiah with his message of coming judgment in order to call the people of God to repentance. It was a warning of what was to come if they refused to repent and return to Him. But woven throughout the book are reminders of what was to come to those who remained faithful. God was going to bless. He was going to keep His promises. He was going to keep His Word. God would remain faithful in spite of man’s unfaithfulness. Jerusalem would be restored to its former glory and prominence. A descendant of David would one day sit on his throne, ruling in righteousness. But that day has yet to come. It still lies unfulfilled. Jerusalem has no king. The people of Israel do not occupy the land to its full extent. God is not worshiped there. Where the Temple once stood is a Muslim mosque. The city of Jerusalem is more secular than sacred. The people of Israel put more faith in their military might and political muscle than in Yahweh. But one day, God is going to change all that. Why? Because He is faithful. Not because the people of Israel deserve it. He says, “I will give Jerusalem a river of peace and prosperity. The wealth of the nations will flow to her. Her children will be nursed at her breasts, carried in her arms, and held on her lap. I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child” (Isaiah 66:12-13 NLT). That event lies in the future. God is not done yet. He has more to do and we can rest in the fact that He will do it – because He is faithful.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:1-4 NLT

In spite of man’s sin, God is faithful. In spite of our rebellion, God is faithful. In spite of our unfaithfulness, God is faithful. He will finish what He began. He will do what He has promised. We can count on Him.

Father, You are faithful and true. You are reliable and trustworthy. Never let me forget that. Never let me doubt it. Don’t let me judge Your faithfulness based on my circumstances. I can’t see what You can see. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that You hold the future. You are in control. You are faithful. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 64-65

The Ignorance of Ignoring God.

“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.” ­– Isaiah 65:1-2 MSG

Ignoring God can be dangerous. And we can do it without even knowing we are. Sometimes we just take Him for granted. We figure He must be there because He’s God and God is everywhere. Other times we simply forget all about Him. We get busy with our lives and just don’t even make Him part of the equation. He becomes an afterthought, someone we think about only if things go wrong or we need something we can’t get on our own. But regardless of how we do it, we all ignore God at times. Which, if you think about it, is a really stupid thing to do. That’s like having electricity available in your home, but living by means of kerosene lanterns and cooking on an old coal stove. A source of power and energy is available to us that would make our lives so much better and easier, but instead we determine to do things the hard way. God told the Israelites “when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned – before my very eyes – and chose to do what you know I despise.” (Isaiah 65:12 MSG). These people willfully disobeyed and disregarded God in their lives. But we do the same thing. God calls us through His Word. He speaks to us constantly through the Spirit-inspired pages of Scripture. But even when we read it, we often choose to ignore what it says. Other times, we simply choose to not read it at all. But that doesn’t change the fact that God has spoken. It doesn’t let us off the hook. We can’t plead ignorance. We can only confess that we have ignored what God has said in His Word.

God warned the people of Israel that He was going to destroy them for ignoring Him. He had had enough. He was going to repay them for their sins. But He would not destroy them all. He would preserve a remnant – a small portion of His people who had remained faithful to Him. He would one day restore them to their land and will one day make them residents in His new heaven and new earth.  But what about us? What happens to us when we ignore God? Are we destined for destruction if we fail to remain faithful? The good news is the Good News. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, I no longer have to face condemnation and destruction for my sins – if I have placed my faith in Him as my sin substitute. If I have acknowledged Him as my Savior, I am saved from even the sin of ignoring God. But the real question is why I would ever ignore a God who loved me so much. Why would I not listen to someone who has done so much for me? Why would I ever prove unfaithful to one who has proven Himself nothing but faithful time and time again? Why would I not listen when He speaks? Why would I not obey what He tells me to do? Why would I not answer when He calls? Why would I not eagerly want to seek someone who sought me out when I was still a sinner and sent His Son to die in my place?

Ignoring God can be dangerous. For believers it will not end in destruction, but it can end in disappointment, disillusionment and defeat. It can leave us living lives that are nothing like what God has promised. We end up missing out on the joy, peace, contentment and power that God has promised. All because we choose to ignore Him in our daily lives. But we don’t have to ignore God. We can make Him a vital part of our daily lives. We can give Him the prominence and importance He deserves. “For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways” (Isaiah 64:4-5 NLT).

Father, forgive me for ignoring You so often. I can so easily leave You out of my day. I can leave You out of my planning and decision-making. I can get so busy living my life that I forget that I would have no life without You. Keep me in Your Word because that is where You speak to me. Help me to listen when You speak and obey what I hear You say. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 62-63

Pray Like You Mean It.

“O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord. Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.” ­– Isaiah 62:6-7 NLT

What role does prayer really play in our lives? Is it a last-resort measure we take when all else fails? Do our prayer lives improve only when things take a turn for the worse? Do we pray half-heartedly and unexpectantly? Do we pray with power and passion? How much does praise factor into our prayers? This mornings readings in Isaiah 62 and 63 were a well-needed reminder of the multifaceted and non-negotiable nature of prayer. It is NOT an option, but a necessity for living the Christian life. Prayer should be like oxygen to the life of the believer. We can’t exist without it. Isaiah seemed to know that. He said, “Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch” (Isaiah 62:1 NLT). While Isaiah had the unenviable job of prophesying about Israel’s coming judgment, it didn’t mean he enjoyed it or relished the idea of Israel having to suffer discipline at the hands of God. He didn’t look forward to seeing Jerusalem demolished and the Temple destroyed. So while he was busy prophesying, he also prayed. And his prayers were motivated by love. He loved the city of Jerusalem and the people of Israel. So he prayed. He couldn’t help but pray. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. And he wouldn’t stop praying until he was able to see Jerusalem restored. His prayers were motivated by love and persistent.

Isaiah reminds us, “Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work” (Isaiah 62:7 NLT). But the truth is, we get tired of praying. We grow impatient waiting for God to do something. When He doesn’t answer according to our requirements or based on our timeline, we give up and move on. But Isaiah said that we should remain persistent and patient. Keep praying. Don’t give up. Pray for God to do what He has promised to do. Prayer is NOT just about getting God to do something we want done. It is about asking God to do what He has already said He is going to do. It is about desiring to see God reveal His power and salvation in our lives. It is about wanting to see God display His power and presence in our lives. God reminds us, “It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!” (Isaiah 63:1b NLT). God alone has the power to save. God alone has the power to preserve. God alone has the power to bring salvation to His people. How badly do we want to see those things? How desperate are we to see God’s power and presence revealed in our lives and in our world?

Another part of prayer that gets overlooked is the praise factor. We tend to relegate prayer to asking God for things. We try to turn Him into a glorified Genie in a Bottle, a cosmic vending machine dispensing what we want and satisfying our every desire. But a big part of prayer is praise. It is acknowledging who God is and what He has already done. “I will tell of the Lord’s unfailing love. I will praise the Lord for all he has done. I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which he has granted according to his mercy and love” (Isaiah 63:7 NLT). Sometimes in our zeal to ask God for more or demands to ask God to do something new, we forget to praise Him for what He has already done.

A big part of prayer is the motivation behind it. What drives us to prayer? What makes us turn to God and seek His help? Sometimes it is the sense of loneliness. We feel like He is nowhere to be found. We feel deserted and alone. In verses 11-13, the people of Israel repeatedly cry out, “Where is the one?” They want to know where God is and why He is not doing something about their situation. He doesn’t appear to be acting on their behalf like He did in the past. That sense of isolation drives them to plead for God’s presence. They call out to God, “Lord, look down from heaven; look from your holy, glorious home, and see us. Where is the passion and the might you used to show on our behalf? Where are your mercy and compassion now?” (Isaiah 63:15 NLT). They plead for God to see their circumstances and intervene. Sometimes it takes a sense of aloneness and impotence to get us to cry out to God. Our desperation causes us to become more dependent on Him.

How desperate are you to see God work in your life today? How dependent are you on the power and presence of God to make it through this life? Or are you satisfied with your situation and smugly self-sufficient in living your life on this planet? God wants to hear from you today. He wants to reveal His power in your life. He wants to show You just how powerful He is. Do you long to see His power on display? Are you willing to plead and persist until it happens? While you wait, are you willing to praise Him for what He has already done in your life? Pray – persistently, patiently, pleadingly, expectantly, and accompanied with praise.

Father, forgive me for my prayerlessness. I tend to pray when I need something or I have run out of other options. My prayers too often lack praise. I rarely plead and seldom persist. I too quickly run out of steam and patience. I can tend to be self-sufficient, trying to solve my problems in my own strength. I make prayer a lost resort rather than my first response. May I continue to learn that prayer is non-optional, and a vital part of my relationship with You. It needs to become as natural as breathing, as life-sustaining as oxygen or water. May I discover through prayer not just answers, but the God behind the answers. May my prayers make me aware of You and Your power. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 59-61

Perfect Timing.

“At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” ­– Isaiah 60:22b NLT

Chapter 59 describes the litany of sins committed by the people of God. Murder, lying, corruption, dishonesty, violence, injustice, oppression, to name a few. Isaiah says, “Our sins are piled up before God and testify against us” (Isaiah 59:12 NLT). But the chapter ends with the encouraging words, “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins” (Isaiah 59:20 NLT). Chapter 60 then goes on to describe the future glory of Jerusalem after the Lord does return. The glory of the Lord will shine on Jerusalem again, the Temple will be rebuilt, God will replace His anger with mercy, their days of mourning will come to an end, and the presence of God will shine brighter than the sun and moon combined.

But these events have yet to happen. The people of Isaiah’s day didn’t get to see them fulfilled. And they have yet to be fulfilled even now. But God says, “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” That’s a promise from God Himself that He will do what He has promised. He always has and He always will. Chapter 61 opens up with the familiar words, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NLT). These are the words read by Jesus Himself when He stood in the synagogue in Nazareth. After reading them, He handed back the scroll, sat down and said, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day” (Luke 4:21 NLT). God had made it happen. He had done what He said He would do. Jesus had come, bringing comfort to the brokenhearted, proclaiming release to those captivated by sin, and telling those who mourned that the time of the Lord’s favor had come. He had brought it. Galatians 4:4 tells us, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son.” His timing was perfect.

But God is going to send His Son again. The disciples were told that Jesus would one day return just the way He left. “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:11 NLT). He would come again in the clouds. “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26 NLT). He is coming again, but we don’t know when that day will come. Jesus told the disciples, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Mark 13:32 NLT). Jesus didn’t even know the day or time. But He went on to warn the disciples, “since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! (Mark 13:33 NLT). Be ready. Be expectant. It is going to happen. At the right time, God will make it happen. He will finish what He began. He will complete what He started. He will make right every wrong. He will restore righteousness to the world. He will fulfill every promise He has ever made. We can count on it because God has said it. He will make it happen.

Father, Your word is faithful and true. You do what You say You will do. We can count on it. So thank You that one day You are going to make it all happen. You are going to bring an end to sin and sorrow. You are going to right every wrong and extend Your righteousness around the earth. You will redeem and restore Your people. You will establish Your kingdom forever. Your Son will reign and rule from Jerusalem. The enemy will be defeated once and for all. You will make it happen – in Your perfect timing. Give me patience to wait and an attitude of anticipation and alertness to remain ready. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 57-58

Pretentious Piety.

“Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” ­– Isaiah 58:1-2 NLT

“They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people – law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side” (Isaiah 58:1-2 MSG). These words could very well be describing the state of the church today. We’ve turned busyness for God into an art form. We wear ourselves out doing things for God. We attend weekly worship services, take part in a small group, go to Bible studies, listen to messages on CDs and podcasts, serve, give, read our Bibles on occasion, and when necessary, pray. Then we turn to God and ask, “Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice!” (Isaiah 58:3 NLT). We wonder why all our actions and activities for God don’t seem to be scoring us any points with Him. But God makes it clear. He points out the problem – pointedly and painfully. We are inherently selfish and self-centered. All our pious-looking activities are marred by wrong motives and hidden agendas.

God told the Israelites that their fasting was useless if it was accompanied by fighting and quarreling. Their religious rituals were worthless if they were not coming from right hearts. Their fasting had all the outward indications of humility and sorrow for sin. They put on sackcloth and sad faces, but all the while they were abusing their employees and acting unrighteously. “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?” (Isaiah 58:5 NLT). Isn’t that what we do? We go to church, we serve, we pray, we sing, we worship, we give, we put on all the outward trappings of religious zeal and spiritual fervor, but all the while we wrestle with secret sins, selfish hearts, hidden agendas, and wrong motives. God isn’t impressed and He certainly isn’t fooled by our charade. He knows our hearts. He calls us to true fasting. He doesn’t want pretense and show. He wants true heart change that shows up in acts of righteousness that impact our everyday lives. “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families” (Isaiah 58:6-7 MSG). God wants to see our faith impact our lives. He wants to see our religion make a real difference in the way we relate to the world around us. Bible study that doesn’t result in a heart for the lost and a desire to make a difference in our world is ultimately useless. But if in our study of God’s Word we are getting to know Him, we will develop a heart like His. We will want to reach out to the hurting, help the hopeless, share the Good News with the lost, and bless others because we have been blessed by Him.

God calls us to “get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins” and to be “generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out” (Isaiah 58:9-10 MSG). The Gospel is life-changing. It is transformative. It should change the way we think, act, live, and relate to others. It is powerful and real, impacting our lives in such a way that we become salt and light, agents of influence and change to the world around us. He wants us to shine brightly in the darkness. He wants to bless us so that we can be a blessing. We are His hands and feet. We are His ambassadors. We are to be rebuilders of walls and restorers of homes (Isaiah 58:12). Let’s get busy doing what He has called us to do.

Father, forgive me for my false piety and religious showmanship. Give me a heart for the things that burden Your heart. Open my eyes so that I might see the world the way You do. I want to be a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes, making a difference in the lives of those around me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 54-56

Exclusivity Without Exclusion.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk — it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.” ­– Isaiah 55:1-2 NLT

This is an invitation from the God of heaven, issued to any and all who will accept it. It is exclusive, in that it is only available through His Son. There is no other way to enter into a right relationship with God than through the shed blood of Jesus. He is not one of many ways. He is the ONLY way. But this invitation is not exclusionary. It does not discriminate. It is not for the spiritual elite or one particular people group. It is is an invitation that is extended to all. God says, “Is anyone thirsty?” The only qualifier is a recognition of need. If you are thirsty, then come – even if you have nothing to offer in exchange. In fact, your inability to pay and admission of it is essential. Because what God offers is FREE! It is a free gift freely offered to all.

We live in a world where exclusivity and exclusion are everywhere. Prejudice and discrimination are all around us. It is a part of life. But in God’s kingdom, the door is open wide to any and all who express faith in His Son as their sin substitute and Savior. No one gets excluded because of race, economic status, physical features, or their degree of sinfulness. God says, “Make sure no outsider who now follows GOD ever has occasion to say, ‘GOD put me in second-class. I don’t really belong.’ And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, ‘I’m damaged goods. I don’t really belong.’ For GOD says: ‘To the mutilated who keep my Sabbaths and choose what delights me and keep a firm grip on my covenant, I’ll provide them an honored place in my family and within my city, even more honored than that of sons and daughters. I’ll confer permanent honors on them that will never be revoked.'” (Isaiah 56:3-5 NLT).

God’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t think like we think. He is not hampered by our petty prejudices and partisanship (Isaiah 55:8-9). His love extends to all. His invitation is open to any who will listen and respond. “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel” (Isaiah 56:8 NLT). God has included you and me in His invitation. He has made His offer available to us. Our only qualification? Thirst. We have to come to Him. We have to come through His Son. The path is exclusive. But the offer is anything but exclusionary.

Father, thank You for including me in your offer. Thank You for extending an invitation that did not exclude me. You invited me and offered me a way to quench my spiritual thirst. My inability to pay was not a problem for You. My need did not exclude me. It qualified me. I am so grateful that Your ways are not like our ways. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 52-53

The Sinless Sin Substitute.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” ­– Isaiah 53:5-6 NLT

Chapter 53 of Isaiah is amazing. Written hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, it accurately foretells His coming, and the role He would play as man’s sinless sin substitute. It painstakingly portrays His rejection, suffering and death at the hands of the very people He came to save. He would be the suffering Servant – the innocent lamb led to slaughter – all so that He could provide a way for us to have a restored relationship with God the Father. But even as I read these familiar words from my vantage point on this side of the cross, it amazes me that God chose to save the world in this way. It reminds me of the more recent Christmas song, Strange Way To Save The World. It talks of how bizarre this whole salvation plan must have been to Mary and Joseph, as they contemplated their role in God’s redemptive plan.

Sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
‘Cause never in a million lives
Would he had dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger
He saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come to life
And Joseph said…

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world
Why here, inside a stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world

To think of how it could have been
If Jesus had come as He deserved
There would have been no Bethlehem
No lowly shepherds at His birth
But Joseph knew the reason
The love had to reach so far
And as he held the Savior in his arms
He must have thought…

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world
Why here, inside a stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world

Why me? Why Him? Why here? Why her? Why did Jesus have to be despised and rejected? Why did He have be acquainted with deepest grief? Why did He have to be unjustly condemned? Why did He have to be struck down in the prime of life? Why was it the Lord’s good plan to crush Him? This is such a strange way to save the world. But it was God’s way. It was His plan. “And because of His experience, my righteous servant with make it possible for many to be counted righteous; for he will bear all their sins” (Isaiah 53:11 NLT).

Isaiah 53 makes it clear that Jesus died for my sins and in my place. He was struck down for the rebellion of His people (Isaiah 53:8). He bore all our sins (Isaiah 53:11). He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels (Isaiah 53:12). He carried our weaknesses. It was our sins that weighed Him down. He was pierced for our rebellions, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be whole, whipped so we could be healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). What a strange way to save the world. But I am so glad that God chose to do it that way. The price for my sins could have been paid no other way. My debt to God could never have been satisfied any other way. My sin deserved death and God miraculously, mercifully, lovingly provided a substitute to stand in my place. He paid the price for my sins with the life of His own sinless Son. What a strange and yet amazing way to save the world!

Father, thank You for Your plan. It all sounds so strange, and at times, unbelievable. But I believe it any way and I am grateful that You chose to do it just like You planned it. Thank You for Your Son. Thank You for coming up with a plan that could provide a way for me to escape eternal condemnation and death. I know I deserved it and I also know I could never have paid off the debt I owed. You took care of it for me. Even though I never deserved it. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 51

A Longing For God.

“Wake up, wake up, O Lord! Clothe yourself with strength! Flex your mighty right arm! Rouse yourself as in the days of old when you slew Egypt, the dragon of the Nile.” ­– Isaiah 51:9 NLT

When you watch the news on TV, check it out online or listen to it on the radio, do you ever find yourself longing for God to do something? Does all the bad news ever make you wish for a bit of good news, some righteous intervention by God on behalf of His people and a world suffering under sin?  The prophet Isaiah had the job of warning the people of Judah about God’s coming judgment. He was surrounded by sin and a people who had lost their moral compass. They had turned away from God and were committing spiritual adultery – proving themselves unfaithful to the One who had done so much for them. Every day Isaiah had to bring a message filled with doom and gloom to the people of God. And he saw few respond to what he had to say. So in the midst of all the negativity, he cried out to God. He longed for God to “wake up” and do something. And while we know God never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4), from Isaiah’s perspective it appeared as if God had fallen asleep on the job. Things appeared to be going from bad to worse. So he called out to God. He asked Him to do something, to flex His muscles and intervene on behalf of the people of God. Isaiah wanted to see God do something spectacular like He did when He parted the Red Sea. Isaiah wanted a good, old-fashioned miracle to happen. He longed to see God do His thing. He rhetorically asked, “Are you not the same today, the one who dried up the sea, making a path of escape through the depths so that your people could cross over?” (Isaiah 51:10 NLT). He knew God had not changed, even thought their circumstances had. He was just as powerful, merciful, gracious, loving, patient and kind. So Isaiah asked God to do something great. He wanted to see the God of the universe do what only He could do to solve their predicament.

Do you long to see God work? Do you fully understand that He alone is the solution to all of our world’s problems? God reminds you and me of our need for Him, just like He did the people of Isaiah’s day: “Listen to me, my people. Hear me, Israel, for my law will be proclaimed, and my justice will become a light to the nations. My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations. All distant lands will look to me and wait in hope for my powerful arm.” (Isaiah 51:3-4 NLT). This has and always will be about God. This is His show. He alone is the central actor in this play called life. The universe revolves around Him and not us. He alone can do something about the mess we find ourselves in. But how bad do we want to see Him work? How desperate are we for God to intervene? How bad does it need to get for us to finally wake up and realize that it is we who are asleep, not Him? Rather than long for God, we have learned to long after all kinds of replacements for God. We long for wealth, health, ease, pleasure, recognition, comfort, power, possessions, fame, fortune, popularity, friends, peace, and a wide range of other things that are little more than poor substitutes for God. God wants us to long for Him. He wants us to call out to Him. He wants us to turn to Him and wait eagerly for Him to reveal His power on our behalf.

God assures us, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?” (Isaiah 51:12 NLT). So go ahead, watch the news. But don’t panic. Don’t fear. Don’t worry about all the evil you see taking place around you. God is in control. He can and will do something about it all. You can count on it.

Father, I long to see you work. I am tired of seeing what men can do. I am sick of watching how my own scheme turn out – usually for the worse. So I want to see Your power revealed in my circumstances. I want to watch as You do what only You can do. Flex Your might right arm! I watching and waiting. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 49-50

Our Deliverer.

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.” ­– Isaiah 50:10 NLT

Let’s face it. We live in dark days. Sin surrounds us. Immorality is everywhere. Every man and woman does what is right in their own eyes. The world-wide economy is in a shambles, godly leadership is in short supply, entertainment is the drug of choice, numbing us to the reality of the world around us. For those of us who are Christ-followers it can sometimes feel as if we are not making a difference – as if any light we give off just gets absorbed by the darkness that surrounds us. But these two chapters in Isaiah were words of encouragement to the people of Israel that should provide just as much hope for us. They speak of the Messiah, God’s chosen servant who would one day come to earth to accomplish God’s will. “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again” (Isaiah 49:8 NLT). Jesus came “at just the right time.” He came as the suffering servant, the lamb of God, who gave His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. When Jesus came the first time, it had all the appearances of a non-successful venture. “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward” (Isaiah 49:4 NLT). Jesus’ earthly ministry ended in death, not victory. He was crucified as a criminal. He left just a handful of followers. But God was not done. He died, but that was not the end. He rose again and He sits at the right hand of God the Father, and one day He is going to return to finish what He began. His mission did not stop at the cross or in the tomb. His followers, though few in number, took His message of God’s grace and forgiveness and spread it around the world – to both Jews and Gentiles alike – just as God had said would happen. “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6 NLT).

This message from God to the people of Israel concerning His Servant came at a time of great darkness. They were being told that their sins were going to be punished by God. They were surrounded by the enemy. Their hopes were dim and their prospects for rescue few. Yet Isaiah reminds them that God is not done with them. He has a plan. He has not forgotten them, no matter how dire the circumstances may look. God promises to one day restore His people to their land. He will bring them back from exile and dispersion. They will once again flourish and enjoy all the abundance the Promised Land has to offer. And only the Messiah, God’s Servant will make that happen. He came the first time as the Suffering Servant, but the next time He will come as the Conquering King. He will return to earth to restore the world to its original splendor and to settle accounts with the unrighteous. The plan of God will not be complete until the work of the Messiah is done. But we must trust the Lord. We must stand on His promises and His character. He is trustworthy and faithful, loving and merciful. He will finish what He began. “Who out there fears GOD, actually listens to the voice of his servant? For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in GOD. [Lean] on your God!” (Isaiah 50:10 MSG).

Father, You are not done yet. Your plan is far from finished. Messiah’s work is not yet finished. Give me the ability to trust You even when things are dark and I can’t see enough to take even the next step. Your plan is perfect and You will accomplish it. I can rest on that promise. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 47-48

The Furnace of Affliction.

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” ­– Isaiah 48:10 NLT

Suffering. We despise it and can see no good reason for it. We avoid it like the plague and when in it, do everything in our power to get out of it. Which is only natural. But as Christ-followers, we are encouraged to have a different perspective on suffering – to see it from God’s point of view. Not all suffering may be God-caused, but it is all God-used. In the case of the people of Judah and Israel, God had brought upon them the suffering they were experiencing. And for good reason. They were rebellious and unfaithful. In spite of all that God had done for them, they had rejected Him. Isaiah described them this way: “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). So God had predicted what was going to happen. He told them that He would discipline them. But they refused to listen. And God knew why. “For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze. That is why I told you what would happen; I told you beforehand what I was going to do. Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it. My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’” (Isaiah 48:4-5 NLT). God told them exactly what He was going to do and then did it. He predicted their punishment, and it happened just like He said. He allowed them to suffer so that they could see and understand that He alone is God. He did it to get their attention. Suffering has a great way of improving our prayer lives and destroying our sense of self-autonomy. It has a tendency to drive us to God. As the old saying goes, “There are no atheists in fox holes.”

God refines us. He is out to purify us. And that sometimes requires heat. The flames of affliction have a way of burning off all that does not belong. When silver is refined, heat is used to burn away anything that is impure or foreign, so that all that is left is pure silver. But God says He does not refine us in that way. If He did, there would be nothing left. If God burned away all the impurity in our lives, we would be consumed. Instead, He takes us through the fires of affliction, not to consume us, but to remind us of our need for Him. He does it because He loves us. He wants us to turn to Him and sometimes it takes suffering and pain to make us do just that. The writer of Hebrews understood that concept. “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, ‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.'” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NLT).

God’s discipline always has a purpose. He has a reason behind everything that happens in our lives. It’s hard for us to see it when we are going through it, but we must trust that He loves us and has our best in mind. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11 NLT).

God is always teaching us. He is constantly trying to get our attention in order to show us that His way is the best way. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18 NLT). God’s discipline is not punitive, it’s instructive. He is teaching us. He is revealing Himself to us in the midst of our suffering. He wants to show us His power in the midst of our weakness. He wants to restore and bless us. But first we have to turn to Him. We have to trust Him. We have to rely on Him. Suffering has a way of making us do just that.

Father, I have to admit that I don’t relish the fires of affliction. And it is because I don’t fully understand or trust Your love for me. I disobey because I doubt. But You discipline because You love. Help me to understand that. I want to trust You more. I want to be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering because I truly believe You are there and You never leave me or forsake me. Help me to understand that the suffering I experience in this life can be a reminder of Your love. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men