Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Category: Isaiah

When we don't learn God's lessons

Hard times are called that for a reason…they’re hard to deal with.  But the author of Hebrews gave his readers a better perspective on how to handle the difficult times in life:

Hebrews 12:7, 11
Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.  For what son is there that a father does not discipline?...No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

And yet I wonder…What happens when we don’t embrace God’s discipline?  What happens when we refuse to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us?

When we look back in Scripture, we find this theme of God instructing His people repeated, over and over.  Below is just one example of what He said to the Israelites after they had spurned Him and His ways.  In Hebrews, the end result of God’s teaching is the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Keep an eye out for that here:

Isaiah 48:17
This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says:

I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your benefit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.

If only you had paid attention to my commands.
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been as countless as the sand,
and the offspring of your body like its grains;
their name would not be cut off or eliminated from my presence.


God says His teaching would have resulted in peace as steady and calm like a river, and righteousness that is as massive and powerful like the waves of the sea.  What a beautiful (almost paradoxical) comparison…imagine your life…where you handle any/all situations with calmness and peace, and your life’s actions are so undeniably in tune with God’s plan for living that you move with power as your righteousness positively affects the people around you.  A life like that would be a huge comfort to us personally and even more so to those around us.

But let’s be honest…we know that we cannot grow to that level on our own.  So God offers to intentionally teach the Israelites how to be this way – how to reflect Him to the world.  It’s the same offer in our Hebrews passage, where God is training us to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Teaching, training, and developing His people was God’s intention for the Israelites – both individually and as a nation.  It’s also His intention for us – both individually and as the church. 

But, like the Israelites, we are
hard-headed
stubborn
selfish
slow to trust God
slow to learn
prone to really messing things up
afraid

The Israelites rebelled so many times and ran so far from God, that He allowed their nation to be overtaken and plundered by other nations.  By the time they got to that point in their history, they certainly were not experiencing peace or righteousness themselves.  In addition, God says the course of the following generations was also affected – their families’ descendants and offspring were heavily impacted by the foreign invasion, to the point where family names and bloodlines were cut off or eliminated.

And when we look objectively back at the times we’ve stiff-armed God, trying to keep Him at arm’s length, we can still see some of the lasting effects in our lives and the lives of our family.  Perhaps we even say to ourselves like what was said about the Israelites: if only I had payed attention to God’s commands.  Regret and depression are heavy burdens…and we are unable to undo the past.  What do we do now?

Look back at the Isaiah passage.  Right at the top, how does God describe Himself?

Your Redeemer.

He is the one who buys back, delivers, and protects those who cannot do so for themselves.  The ones who have messed up beyond what they could ever fix or repay…they find rescue in Him. 

Yes, there were heavy consequences for how far the nation of Israel ran from God – but He did not abandon them.  Yes, God disciplines His church – but we’re still part of His family.  Our loving father is also our redeemer.  He loves us enough to show us how to live rightly, how to live well.

Even if we don’t get it right the first time.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

House of prayer (part 2)

Jerusalem was abuzz with news of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into town.  The next day Jesus shows, in dramatic fashion, that the nation’s idea of being religious was in need of reform:

Mark 11:15-17 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple.  He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the complex.

Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?

Note that when Jesus was correcting the people, He referred them back to God’s Word.  In this case, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah.  The people present, especially the priests and scribes, would have instantly recognized Jesus’ reference:

Isaiah 56:1-3,6-7 This is what the Lord says: Preserve justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed.  Happy is the man who does this, anyone who maintains this, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.  No foreigner who has converted to the Lord should say, “The Lord will exclude me from His people”…

And the foreigners who convert to the Lord, minister to Him, love the Lord’s name, and are His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it, and who hold firmly to My covenant – I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

God’s plan for His temple was to include those from other nations.  Foreigners who submitted to the Lord didn’t need to worry about being excluded from fellowship with God just because they weren’t Jewish.  Instead, God makes this incredible promise to them:

I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer.

God assures the believing foreigners that He will personally lead them to His temple, accept them and their sacrifices, and include them in the worship given by His chosen people, Israel.  This was a huge blessing for God to give to those born outside of His covenant with Israel.  As a result of this promise, there were many believing foreigners in Jerusalem at Passover.

With the religious economy the Jewish leaders had instituted within the temple complex, they were hindering the foreign believers from participating in worship at God’s house of prayer.  The Jewish leaders were standing in the way of God’s promise to foreigners – no wonder Jesus was flipping tables and chairs!

In our own church gatherings, do our religious activities point others toward God…or do we hinder others from meeting with God? 

If a foreigner came to us, would they recognize our church gatherings as God’s house of prayer, or something else?

Keep Pressing,
Ken