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ears-to-hear

In our previous verse, we saw that God left a remnant or Israel would have been annihilated like Sodom and Gomorrah. Because we often refuse to see ourselves as we really are, Isaiah 1:10 says,

“Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.”

Wait what?  You are them.

Israel was no longer walking in God’s ways. That’s a position of opposition. Love speaks truth and does not leave people dying in their sin. It speaks the whole counsel of God; the whole Gospel of Christ which frees us from sin. John the Baptist and Jesus both called some religious leaders a brood of vipers. (See Matthew 3:7, 23:33.) Many churches today would probably not invite them back.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 let’s us know that a time will come when rather than accumulate teachers in accordance with God’s Word, people will accumulate teachers in accordance to their own desires. They stand in opposition to God’s Word, but find teachers to say they’re okay. That pile of teachers sounds like a brood of vipers.

I’m so thankful God tells us the truth.  Apart from Him, we are not okay. We are sinners in need of a Savior. All of us. I thank God for the day He revealed to me that I was like Sodom and Gomorrah, a sinner targeted for His wrath. It was His love that told me the truth and caused me to run to the cross for salvation. It’s the day I fell in love with Jesus for dying to save me. I’m so thankful the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Lord, give us ears to hear!

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Isaiah has revealed the desolation that comes from turning from God to our own ways. Isaiah 1:9 goes on to say,

“Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.”

Unless the Lord.

Can you imagine where mankind would be if the Lord were not merciful and full of grace and compassion? Can you imagine where we would be if there were no Savior? Psalm 127:1 shares the bottom line,

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.”

Unless the Lord.

If we are not desperate for Him, to walk with Him, to love and obey Him, to see Him glorified, then we are lacking understanding. There is nothing good apart from God. Israel could have been justifiably wiped off the map like Sodom and Gomorrah. But God watches over His plan to perform it. It was prophesied that the Savior of the world would come through the nation of Israel. And so He did, because God left a remnant.

I deserve to be wiped off the map, because of my sin. Unless the Lord had sent Jesus to pay for my sin and shield me from God’s wrath, I would be like Sodom and Gomorrah – targeted for God’s wrath. Unless the Lord had given His only Son, we would all be lost.

“For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

If you haven’t repented of your sin and received Christ as Savior, I pray that today will be your day! Lord, open our eyes to see how things really are, to see our need for a Savior, and to receive the precious gift of salvation in Christ and eternal life with You.

Unless You, Lord…thank You.

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Think of a nation once blessed by God; a nation meant to reveal His glory. Then think of that same nation rejecting His goodness to walk in their own wisdom. It will eventually look something like this:

“Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire,
Your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.

The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.”
Isaiah 1:7-8.

Today we’ll use Psalm 23 (in bold print) to represent those whose Shepherd is the Lord. We will then compare that with those who reject Him from our verses above (in italics). Please ask the Lord to speak to you as you compare and contrast those who follow the Lord with those who reject Him.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

Your land is desolate,

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

Your cities are burned with fire,

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His names’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

Your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.

Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

There is just no comparison. Oh, Lord, that we would choose life. Oh, Lord, that the nations would choose Christ!

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“Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick,
And the whole heart is faint.

From the sole of the foot even to the head,
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts, and raw wounds,
Not pressed out or bandaged,
Nor softened with oil.”
Isaiah 5-6

We already saw how Israel ended up in this unhealthy condition. They had abandoned, despised, and turned away from healing care when they abandoned, despised, and turned away from the Lord. So they were continuing in their rebellion. There was nothing sound in them. Nothing.

God would have tended to their wounds, bandaged, and softened with oil, if they had turned to Him in repentance. But they refused Him. In fact, as we continue in Isaiah, we will see that they did not even realize they were sick! It’s as if they were intoxicated on the sin of rebellion; the rebellion of sin. Proverbs 23:35 says,

“They have struck me, but I was not hurt;
They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

They may not have been feeling it, but they were in some serious hurt. So God was telling them how it really was.  And He is speaking through Isaiah still today.

In John 5:6, Jesus didn’t heal a man without first asking if he wished to get well. Not everyone does. Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear how things really are. Give us a desire for You and Your ways, that healing and refreshing may come to our lives, families, and nations. Give us a desire to be healed by the only One who can; a desire to be healed that we might get up in the light of truth and serve You with gladness.

“Repent therefore and return,
that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…”
Acts 4:19

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The role of Israel was to glorify God. By walking in His ways, they would be a successful nation that showcased His wisdom before the other nations. And so it is with believers. A successful life is one that glorifies God. Let’s learn from what got the nation into this wayward and unsuccessful state from Isaiah 1:4,

“Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the Lord,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.”

1) They abandoned the Lord.

I’ve watched in my own country as more and more the culture seeks to abandon God’s wisdom instead of holding fast. But it’s not too late to repent and turn back! Deuteronomy 13:4 says,

“You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him,
and keep His commandments and obey His voice;
you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”

2) They despised the Holy One of Israel.

They despised the only One who is kind, holy, wise, full of love and compassion; the giver of salvation and only good gifts. It’s what happens when people want to be their own god instead of submitting to Him. So we will hold to Deuteronomy 6:5,

“You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your might.”

3) They turned away from Him.

We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We all turned away from Him in sin, so He did the only thing that would allow us to approach Him and enjoy Him forever. Isaiah 53:6 says,

“All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.”

Jesus Christ is always the answer; the key to success.

ox-an-donkey

We continue our study with the words God spoke through Isaiah,

“Sons I have reared and brought up,
But they have revolted against Me.”
Isaiah 1:2b

Any parent who has loved and raised a child who wandered knows the heartache. “They have revolted” is the Hebrew pâshaʻ meaning to break away from just authority. A revolt is an attempt to put an end to the authority of another through rebellion. The absurdity of rebelling against God is made clear in Isaiah 1:3,

“An ox knows its owner,
And a donkey its master’s manger,
But Israel does not know,
My people do not understand.”

Even the ox and donkey don’t make this hard. Yet human hearts are prone to wander from what is good, or exalt our own ways and wisdom above God’s. Rather than submit, we want to rule. In a world that tells us to follow our heart, we better heed God’s warning from Jeremiah 17:9,

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”

We need the Lord. Apart from Him, we don’t have a clue. This proclamation in Isaiah was not good news, but it was true. This book of Isaiah will declare that God counters this bad news with the best news ever told. Israel’s only hope and ours was in Christ, so He came to save us through the cross; to give us a new heart. He loved us while we were still sinners and made a way for we rebels to return to His indescribable Lordship; a way to come home. That is mercy. That is grace.

It’s so simple. Those who have come to God, cleansed from sin and rebellion through the blood of Christ, are His children in right standing. All outside of Christ are still in rebellion.

“But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.”
John 1:12-13

feasting-on-gods-word

Isaiah shared a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem in a specific time period. Yet Isaiah 1:2 starts out like this,

“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth;
For the Lord speaks,”

Be still my heart. If God is speaking I want to hear Him. This vision is being proclaimed to heaven and earth. These are words they needed then, and words we need now.

Before we dive into what God said, let’s nail down how important it is to feed on His Word; to hear Him. Deuteronomy 8:3 says,

“He humbled you and let you be hungry,
and fed you with manna which you did not know,
nor did your fathers know,
that He might make you understand
that man does not live by bread alone,
but man lives by everything
that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Do we understand that?

If you are a believer and you are not daily in God’s Word, desperate to hear from Him, then something is wrong. Like someone who is too ill to eat, that condition is not spiritually healthy. Ask God to give you a hunger for His Word, then read the Bible prayerfully seeking to hear from Him. How else we will serve Him, if we are not listening to His direction? How else will we know His plan? Spiritually hungry sheep misrepresent the good care of our Shepherd. Ill-fed sheep don’t bring God glory.

So let’s eat!  Ask for that spiritual hunger, but hungry or not, let’s feast and chew on His Word knowing the discipline of Bible reading to hear Him is vital to our faith. If we’re not feeding, we’re not going to have the strength to provide spiritually for others.  Lord, make us desperate and hungry for everything that proceeds out of Your mouth.

If we’re not hearing God, the loudness of the world will creep into our thinking. That’s what had happened to Israel.

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