Faith Even In Death

21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. – Hebrews 11:21 ESV

Jacob, the son of Isaac, had lived a full and far-from-boring life. He and his mother had conspired to deceive Isaac in order to receive the blessing reserved for the firstborn son. Even though he and his brother, Esau, were twins, Jacob had been born second, coming out of the womb while hanging on to his brother’s heel. This is how he got his name, Ya`aqob, which means, “he takes by the heel or he cheats.”

Jacob would live up to his name, living a life in self-imposed exile after having cheated his brother out of his blessing. When Jacob left home, his father, Isaac, reiterated his earlier blessing, stating, “God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (Genesis 28:3-4 ESV).

Even while traveling to the land of Haran where his uncle Laban lived, Jacob had a dream and received a vision and a word from God.

“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:13-15 ESV

God reaffirmed the blessing Jacob had received from Isaac. In spite of the deceit and trickery Jacob and Rebekah utilized to get the blessing, God clearly affirmed it. It had been His plan all along, just as He had told Rebekah before the boys were even born.

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:23 ESV

Yet, because of the way he and his mother had chosen to deceive Isaac, Jacob would spend years of his life living in exile in a foreign land far away from his father and mother. During his time in Haran, he continued his pattern of deception and even found himself on the receiving end when his uncle repeatedly deceived him. Part of his uncle’s trickery left Jacob with two wives who each bore him children. Yet, even while in exile, Jacob was blessed by God and grew rich and prosperous. But in time, he became homesick and decided to return to Canaan and face his brother’s anger.

On his way, he had a divine encounter with God. It took the form of a literal wrestling match when God appeared in human form and confronted His wayward servant. During this epic struggle, Jacob demanded that his opponent bless him, but rather than a blessing, Jacob received a new name.

Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” – Genesis 32:28 ESV

This scene aptly sums up Jacob’s entire life because, ever since his birth, he had spent his entire life wrestling with God. Rather than trust God with the outcome of his life, Jacob repeatedly tried to do things his way. He desperately wanted his will to be done and was willing to use deceit and trickery to make it happen. Even in his physical struggle with the Almighty, it appears that he won the match because it states that God [the man], “did not prevail against Jacob” (Genesis 32:25 ESV).

But did Jacob really best God? Did he somehow manage to defeat the God of the universe? The text states that Jacob’s wrestling match with God left him with a dislocated hip joint. His struggle was not without pain and consequences. And his newly disabled hip would be accompanied by a new name. God declared that Jacob, who would now be called Israel, had “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

This was not a concession of defeat on God’s part. He was simply stating that Jacob had yet again managed to survive. The Hebrew word for “prevailed” is yakol and it means “to be able, be able to gain or accomplish, be able to endure, be able to reach.” Jacob had endured his exile. He had survived his own life of deceit. He had even managed to go toe-to-toe with God and live to tell about it. And despite all his deceit and self-empowered efforts to do things his way, he was going to gain all that God had promised. And he was going to learn the painful lesson that every blessing in his life had been God’s doing, not his own.

Jacob would eventually make it safely back to the land of Canaan, receive a surprisingly warm welcome from his brother, Esau, and have yet another visit from God.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” – Genesis 35:9-12 ESV

Jacob would father twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son and his favoritism would eventually cause his other sons to sell Joseph into slavery. Joseph would end up in Egypt where, through an amazing chain of God-ordained events, he would become the second most powerful ruler in the land. In the meantime, Jacob and his remaining sons would find themselves dealing with a terrible famine in the land of Canaan, which would eventually force them to seek out aid in the land of Egypt. This would lead to a surprising reunion with Joseph, who would end up not only forgiving his brothers but providing them with protection and land.

Thus Israel [Jacob] settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years. – Genesis 47:27-28 ESV

When the time came for Jacob to die, he asked Joseph to bring in his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, so that he might bless them. In an interesting turn of events, Joseph presented his two sons to Jacob so that the eldest, Manasseh, might receive the blessing of the firstborn. He held Manasseh in his left hand so that Jacob could easily bless him with his right hand. He held Ephraim in his right hand so that he would receive the blessing of the second-born from Jacob’s left hand.

The Scriptures tell us “Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth” (Genesis 48:12 ESV). With his head bowed, he did not see his father, Jacob, switch his hands and place his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger of the two. The passage makes it clear that Jacob’s eyesight was dim from old age and he could not see well. With his hands crossed, Jacob pronounced his blessing.

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” – Genesis 48:15-16 ESV

When Joseph saw what had been done, he tried to get his father to correct his apparent mistake. But Jacob refused, saying, “I know, my son, I know. He [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19 ESV).

You might think that Jacob, because of his poor eyesight, inadvertently and mistakenly gave the blessing of the firstborn to the wrong son. But the mention of Jacob’s poor eyesight is there to indicate that he had to trust God for what he was doing. He had received a divine directive from God to give Ephraim the blessing reserved for the firstborn. Joseph was attempting to ensure that Manasseh received the blessing of the firstborn, but the nearly blind Jacob knew that it was God’s will for Ephraim to receive the blessing. So what Jacob did, he did by faith. He had to trust God with the outcome. He did not fully understand it or know how it would all turn out, but he knew that God was in control. He didn’t need strong eyesight, he simply needed strong faith.

Jacob would die in the land of Egypt, never returning to the land of Canaan, but he trusted that God would bring his people back to the land and fulfill His promise to make them prosperous and to bless them. Jacob blessed his two grandsons, “bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21 ESV). His hope was in God. His assurance was in the promises of God. He had a strong conviction that God knew what He was doing and he willingly obeyed God’s wishes. Jacob might not have always lived his life by faith, but he ended it that way – trusting God for the fate of his family and the future fulfillment of His promises.

Jacob had learned the reality of the statement that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). His eyes were dim but his hope for the future was bright and clear.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Faith in the Future

1 Cast your bread upon the waters,
    for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
    for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
If the clouds are full of rain,
    they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
    and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 ESV

As Solomon returns to a theme he has addressed before: The uncertainty of the future and man’s inability to discern what it may hold. To a certain degree, Solomon finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He has discovered that there is nothing in this life that really brings true joy and meaningful satisfaction, and he has tried it all. He is wise beyond belief. He has wealth beyond measure. He has experimented with every imaginable form of pleasure and self-gratification. And none of it has brought any sense of purpose or fulfillment. He describes it as little more than chasing the wind or trying to catch smoke in your hands.

So, his less-than-optimistic conclusion has been that chasing after all the material things you can see and touch is ultimately an exercise in futility. Wine, women, and song are not enough. Palaces, gardens, vast orchards, and fruitful vineyards cannot produce contentment. Enough is never enough. Life, even with all its pleasure-producing pursuits, ends in death.

And that raises the other distressing issue for Solomon: Nobody knows what happens next. Death is like a door behind which lies a foreboding and forbidden future. Only God knows what awaits man at the end of life. So, he is left to experience futility in life and uncertainty in death. Back in chapter nine, Solomon shared his somewhat pessimistic view of the future.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!” – Ecclesiastes 9:3-4 NLT

For Solomon, death was an unknown. But life, in spite of its inherent problems and potential risks, was at least something over which you could have influence. This is what led him to share the proverbial statements found in the opening part of this chapter. He concludes that there are certain rewards that come as a result of living life.

Solomon was a horticulturalist who possessed many vineyards and orchards. As king, he had thousands of acres of farmland that produced abundant harvests used to feed his people and fill his treasury with gold when exported to other countries.  And he acknowledges that if you “cast your bread upon the waters”, it will eventually come back to you. In other words, if you export your grain in ships and sell it to other nations, you will eventually reap a financial reward. Your diligence to plant and harvest will come back in the form of profit.

And when you make that profit, you should invest it wisely and diversely. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
    for you know not what disaster may happen on earth. – Ecclesiastes 11:2 ESV

Diversification makes for a good investment strategy. You don’t want to have all your wealth in one place, because you never know what may happen. Disasters come. The market can drop like a rock. Be prudent. Invest wisely. And take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves.

If the clouds are full of rain,
    they empty themselves on the earth – Ecclesiastes 11:3 ESV

In other words, learn to read the signs. Plant in a timely fashion. If you misread the clouds, you may fail to plant before the rains come. If you procrastinate, you’ll miss the window of opportunity. Once again, Solomon is encouraging prudence and wisdom. You may not be able to control the future, but you can take advantage of the present situation. Plant before the rain, not after it. And don’t let the threat of storms keep you from doing what you know needs to be done. Conditions will rarely be perfect in this life. There will be few times when the stars align and the circumstances turn out just as you had hoped. So don’t delay. Yet, some of us seem to live by the tongue-in-cheek advice of Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

Solomon would strongly disagree with Mr. Twain, instead sharing the insight he gained from years of living and working on this planet.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. – Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT

If you fail to take advantage of the moment, it may just pass you by. This is what he seems to be inferring when he writes, “if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie” (Ecclesiastes 11:3 ESV). Once the tree has fallen, you can’t plant it back in the ground. Once the rain has fallen, it makes no sense to plant. If you wait for everything to be just right, you’ll never accomplish anything.

Life is full of mysteries and inexplicable situations, and there are certain things we may never fully comprehend.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. – Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

Even with all the advancements in science, we still don’t know exactly how a baby forms in the womb of its mother. We can watch the progress through the use of sonograms, but we can’t see or explain how God has ordained the process of birth, from the moment of conception all the way to delivery. Even with all our technology and scientific know-how, much of it remains hidden from us.

Solomon was wise enough to know that he would never understand the ways of God. There are things that happen in life which only God can explain, and He is not obligated to share all that He knows with us. He often leaves us in the dark, wrestling with our questions and struggling to understand His ways.

The bottom line for Solomon was to work wisely and diligently. Start sowing your seed in the morning and don’t stop until the sun goes down. Do what you can do and then leave the rest up to God. You don’t know the results your efforts will produce but rather than worry about it, do what you can to impact that outcome positively. Work hard. Be diligent. Act wisely. Use common sense. Don’t procrastinate. In some sense, Solomon is promoting the idea behind the old adage, “make hay while the sun shines.” None of us knows how long we have to live on this earth, but God does. And since He chooses not to divulge the length of our days, we should do all that we can to make the most of every moment. Moses put it this way: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NLT).

Solomon’s own father, David, also understood that man’s lifespan was relatively short when compared with eternity. So, he asked God to never let him forget the fleeting nature of his own existence.

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath. – Psalm 39:4-5 NLT

Death is an inevitable reality for all of us. David ultimately died. So did Solomon. And so will you. You can attempt to prolong your life but God already knows your expiration date. Solomon would recommend that you spend more time enjoying the life you have, rather than futilely chasing after unfulfilled dreams and desires. Find joy in today, rather than wasting time pursuing a tomorrow that may never come. Solomon is not dismissing the idea of setting goals for the future. He is not discounting the need for planning or demonizing the pursuit of unrealized dreams. He is simply reminding us that the present is all we have. We can’t change the past and we can’t know the future, so we should live with a sense of immediacy.

And even more importantly, for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, we have no need to worry about the future, because it has already been taken care of for us. Our future is secure. Our eternity is set. So, we are free to live our lives free from anxiety, focusing our efforts on doing the work for which God has created us.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Solomon had an inordinate fear of the future. He let the uncertainty of death rob him of peace. He found himself forced to find all his joy and satisfaction in this life, using the limited resources at his disposal. Occasionally, he caught glimpses of the blessings of God in the form of a loving relationship or the fruit of his labor. He was able to enjoy a good meal with a close friend, or a deep sleep after a hard day’s labor. But he lived with an unhealthy fear of the unknown. He had lived his whole life pursuing more, but the one thing he really needed was confidence in God’s sovereign control over all things, including the past, the present, and the future. What Solomon really needed was faith.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Isaiah 33-34, Jude 1

To Him Who Is Able.

Isaiah 33-34, Jude 1

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

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

What does this passage reveal about God?

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

What does this passage reveal about man?

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

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

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

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

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 11-12, 1 Peter 5

In That Day.

Isaiah 11-12, 1 Peter 5

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 ESV

Right in the middle of all the bad news that Isaiah had to deliver to the people of Israel, God gave him a glimpse into a future time when things for the chosen people of God would be dramatically improved. Isaiah was given a much-needed reminder that God’s plan regarding Israel was not limited by their sin and rebellion. His future redemption and restoration of them as His people would not be based on their worth or ability to earn His favor. Just as God had restored Israel to the land after their years spent in captivity in Babylon, there was a day coming when He “will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people” (Isaiah 11:11 ESV). In the centuries ahead, the people of Israel would find themselves scattered and dispersed yet again, but God was going to “assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah” (Isaiah 11:12 ESV). The God of Israel is faithful. He would prove Himself to be worthy of their trust. He had told them of His faithfulness. “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations…” (Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT). But what the people of Isaiah’s day needed to understand was that much of what God was going to do for them was to take place far into the future. He described a day when “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6-7 ESV). This is likely describing a future day when there will be a time of unprecedented peace. The imagery of the wolf, leopard, lion and bear all represent the enemies of Israel who had plagued them for centuries. In that coming day, there will be God-ordained peace over all the earth and “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God revealed to Isaiah that there was a day coming when “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1 ESV). There was an individual coming on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest. He would be marked by wisdom and understanding, counsel and might. He would have unprecedented knowledge and a fear of the Lord. This future leader was to be none other than Jesus Christ Himself. But it speaks of Jesus after His second coming when He will rule and reign as the rightful descendant of David from his throne in Jerusalem. The book of Revelation describes Him in all His glory. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV). Earlier in chapter 9, it was revealed how this future King would arrive on earth. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV). Luke would later record the words of the angel Gabriel, spoken to Mary about her soon-to-be miraculous pregnancy. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV). God was going to send His Son the first time in the form of a helpless baby. He would grow into manhood and eventually give His life as a substitionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind. But there is a day coming when God will send His Son again, but on that day He will come as a conquering warrior. He will put right all that is wrong with the world. He will restore creation, redeem Israel, and destroy the enemy of God once and for all. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

As we live in this world, it can be so easy to lose sight of God’s bigger plan. We can become so tunnel-sighted that we fail to recognize what God is doing on a grand scale. His long-term strategy so often escapes our notice. But Peter told his audience, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand o God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV). One of the more difficult things for us to do as human beings is to humble ourselves under God’s sovereign will. There is a part of us that wants to know, that wants to dictate the direction and control the outcome of our lives. When difficulties come or our circumstances take a turn for the worst, it is easy to forget that God is in control. Our hope is to be a future hope. That does not mean that God is not involved, at this very moment, in the everyday affairs of our lives, but we must never lose sight of the fact that His salvation has a future aspect to it. Over and over again in the book of Isaiah, we read the words, “in that day.” Those words have a future orientation. Isaiah writes, “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me’” (Isaiah 12:1 ESV). The situation at the time Isaiah was writing was less-than-ideal. The people were in rebellion. The threat of God’s coming punishment hung over their heads. But there was a day coming. Salvation from the hand of God was in the future, and when it finally came, the people were going to be able to express their thanks and appreciation to the faithful, loving God. In the very next verse we read, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2 ESV). Part of the test for the people of Israel was to learn to trust God and to see Him as their strength and salvation, long before the actual experience of that salvation was to take place.

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

Sometimes it is hard for me to see God at work in and around my life. I can find is so easy to doubt and despair, wondering where He is and what He is doing. But I must always remind myself that His plan is far bigger than what I can see. His ultimate salvation of my life has a future aspect to it. Yes, He has saved me from the penalty of sin and death, but there is also a day coming when He is going to save me from my ongoing battle with my own sin nature. He will release me from this earthly body and allow me to experience what it is like to live a sin-free, pain-free, quilt-free, doubt-free life. Paul writes, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2 ESV). Peter gives us this encouraging words to remember as we live out our lives in the meantime: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 6:10-11 ESV). There is a day coming when God will call me to His eternal glory. At that point, He will completely restore, confirm, strengthen and establish me. It is as good as done. It is a sure thing. I can count on it as if it has already happened. So in the meantime, I need to learn to live my life with that day in mind. That is my future. That is my hope.

Father, I am so grateful that You have the end perfectly worked out. You know my future and You have it securely in place for me. I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to wonder how it all turns out. All because of what Your Son, the root of Jesse, has already accomplished on my behalf. Help me keep my eyes focused on the future as I live out my days in the present. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men