Well, summer is over now that Labor Day is passed, at least that’s the rule of thumb in New England. Some of the leaves are beginning to turn; fall is coming. Now might be a good time to look back over our reading regimen and consider how much more you know at this point than you did at the beginning of the year. Why? Sometimes our spiritual growth is subtle, and marking where you’ve been and where you are now can be eye opening and motivating.
So — ready to grow some more? Let’s take a look at what Isaiah will say to us today.
“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy–everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” Isaiah 4:2-6 — The is one of those “remnant” passages that I mentioned yesterday, and this one has its emphasis less on return from exile and more on the church, the new Israel. In this glorious time of the “Branch of the LORD”, the Messiah, sins will be washed away and sin itself purged from Israel’s midst. In sin’s place will be a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, a metaphor recalling the Exodus, the honeymoon of Israel with God. The cloud and the pillar of fire represents the very presence of God. What a wonderful promise and reality for God’s people, God’s presence and protection. This, after a fashion, is a prophecy about the God’s Spirit indwelling the LORD’s people! “AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17-22, NAS95.
““So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard….” Isaiah 5:5 — Parables are not the exclusive property of the New Testament. There are a few scatter through the Old Testament, too; and this is one of them. The upshot of the parable is that God, like a vinedresser, has planted a vineyard (representing Israel) and given it every advantage to succeed. But instead of succeeding, the vineyard utterly fails. God, in deep disappointment and frustration, talks about what He rightfully will do in ways that any farmer of the day would understand — take away its protection and let the ground go fallow. And there’s real significance for God’s people of today, too. If God would punish His first covenant people for producing worthless grapes, would he hesitate to punish His second covenant people? Paul answers it, “Quite right, they (Israel) were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” Romans 11:20, 21, NAS95.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink,” Isaiah 5:20-22 — Does this sound like the modern day’s crossed-up moral confusion, or what? The more things change, the more they’re the same. Morality’s standards, without definite standards,,always slides and drift. And it should emphasize to us how much we need to constantly compare what we believe to the Scriptures.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 — This record of the transforming vision of Isaiah (vv. 1-8) is one of my favorite in the Bible. It’s the powerful telling of the story that many of us are personally familiar with — an almost blinding realization of who God really is, who we’ve been neglecting and offending, and how much “trouble” (a serious understatement of the facts) we’re in. And then, out of the clear blue, not because of anything we’ve done or earned, He offered to cleanse and purify us. What are we, therefore, to do, when He calls for someone to send, but to say, “Here am I, send me!” What will you do? Don’t tell Him that there’s enough folks doing this — when He calls, you volunteer and go.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.