The intentions of the heart

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 10:5-27 (day one)  “But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy” (vs 7)  Isaiah is certain that judgement is coming to Judah at the hands of the Assyrians.  This cruel nation would be God’s instrument of wrath, and then later judged by God for their part in the destruction of Jerusalem.  Is this fair?  How may God use the Assyrians and then later hold them accountable for their actions?  Isaiah’s answer is that God will judge their motives–that they intended to hurt, intended to destroy.  The New Testament has the same thought.  “Wait until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5)  He is an amazing God!  He looks past what we do. He sees the intentions of the heart.

I saw. . .I said

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day seven)  “I saw the Lord. . .and I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ ”  (vs 1, 8) Isaiah is different than we are.  Different historical moment.  Different gifts.  Like every person,  He is (was) an uncopied creation of an infinitely creative God.  No one is exactly like him. (No one is like you either)  In another way, however,  Isaiah is very much like us.  He gets afraid.  He needs reassurance when things get uncertain. As we prepare for worship today, will reflect on Isaiah’s experience  as a template for God’s work in your own life? ” I saw the Lord.”  “I cried, ‘I am ruined.’ ” I said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’ ”  I said, ‘ How long, O Lord?’ ”  There is great benefit in the stories of the saints gone before.  What does an encounter with a Holy God look like?  Isaiah’s story provides us with answers and inspiration. May God give us grace for the journey!

What angels teach us

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day six)  “With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying” (vs 2)   Men ancient and wise used to say that the Seraphim had six wings, “two that they might not see, two that they might not be seen, and two that they might flying immediately to the task commanded of them by God”.  Interesting thought.  Excellent subject for reflection.  All three purposes would be expressions of humility before God.  We must be careful when we have a desire to be seen, a need to be the center of attention.  It is an evil thing.  John the Baptist said, “He must increase, I must decrease”.  Those who consciously or unconsciously seek to draw attention to themselves have not learned the lesson that even angels know.  “If my people who are called by MY NAME will humble themselves and pray. . .I will heal their land.”

What angels see

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day five)  “And they were calling to each other: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory’ ” (vs 3)  It is unexpected.  A foreign thought, actually.  The WHOLE earth is FULL of His glory.  Perhaps Heaven is FULL of His shining radiance,  but earth? the WHOLE earth?  Does that include the home where abuse is happening?  Is God’s glory there?  Do the angels see God in a church that is divided and angry?  A nation torn by war?  Yes!  Something only spiritual eyes can see.  Even in the worst situations of a sinful planet, the Spirit of the Lord is near.  In the light and the dark His redemptive love shines.  “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)  The angels know the answer.  There is no place on this planet where God isn’t.  The whole earth is full of His glory.

The Volunteer

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day four)  “Then the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?’. . .  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!’ ” (vs 8)  It is the sure sign that the human heart has been softened by the Spirit.  We volunteer.  Our wills bend to His.  We desire to do His will.  Having seen God and having been convicted/cleansed of sin, Isaiah takes the next step.  He volunteers for service.  Paul asks the same question. (Acts 22:10)  Jesus always had this characteristic. (John 4:34)  Psalm 110:3 says ” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of your power”.  God does not force us to love Him.  He does not force us to serve Him (ultimately these two are the same).  He declares His purpose and waits for the softened heart to volunteer for usefulness.  “Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blessed”–Fanny Crosby.  No credit to us, just a sign that we have seen God.

Our unsung song

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day three)  “Above him were seraphs. . .and they were calling to one another:  ‘Holy,holy,holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory’ ” (vs 2-3)  When Isaiah SAW the Lord, he HEARD seraphs.  Seraphs are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.  Perhaps an order of angels.  We really don’t know.  What impressed Isaiah was their words.  Part song, part statement the seraphs spoke of God’s unique identity and worth.  To do so was a high, holy privilege.  Perhaps this explains Isaiah’s conviction of sin– particularly sins of the lips.  Unclean lips are those which, unlike the seraph’s, are used for every other purpose but speaking OF  God, FOR God.  Unclean lips are those that speak of sports and family and doctor’s appointments and presidential elections. . .but somehow in it all,  stay silent about the one subject that truly matters.  The seraph’s  words convicted Isaiah of sin.  Lord, open our eyes, open our mouths!

Hard start–great finish

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day two)  ” ‘Woe is me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips’ ”  (vs 5)  A real encounter with God is much harder than we normally think.  For all the promise of eternal life and mind-boggling peace, a friendship with the Holy One comes with a cost.  When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, his first feelings were of danger and vulnerability. The temple shook and filled with smoke–like an earthquake or a house fire.  Disturbing!  He also experienced guilt.  Peter felt the same in his first encounters with Christ. (see Luke 5:8)  Painful?  Yes!  Life-giving?  Yes, yes!  Jesus said, “The way is DIFFICULT that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14)  Perhaps we should read it “The way is difficult that leads to LIFE”   No discouragement here.  Just honest truth.  Walking in friendship with God is hard start, hard assignment with a great finish!

Was blind but now. . .

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 6 (day one)  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (vs 1)  Our scripture this week is a testimony.  In some respects it is extraordinary.  In others, it is so familiar that it is almost common.  Through a series of gracious events, a person who doesn’t see God, can’t perceive eternal reality or obligation, suddenly does!  Blind eyes see.  The Isaiah particulars may be unique but the story is same for Paul, Martin Luther, John Newton. . .When a person finally realizes that “God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6)  salvation and a life of service are the result.  Referencing his own experience the Apostle Paul will later write, “I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened”  (Ephesians 1:18)  It is my same prayer for us all.  Amazing grace. . .

When pleasure is the priority

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 5:1-13, 18-23 (day seven)  “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks. . .but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord” (vs 11-12)  It is so common it almost seems normal (not the same thing) –people who make life choices based on pleasure.  Alcohol is only one example.  Just as easy to surrender life to mood or recreation.  The central characteristic of such a life?  Avoid pain!  Seek pleasure!  Be happy!  Life like this (2800 years ago and today) has no regard for the deeds of the Lord.  (Please note! It is not pleasure that is the problem, but pleasure as the priority of life)  Somehow, there is never time or motivation to wait on the Lord or consider His purposes.  The end of this life is woe (grief, sorrow, loss).  Pleasure is a mistress not a wife.  The higher life is not found following our feelings, but in following Christ.

Loved but not changed

RE Verse reading–Isaiah 5: 1-13, 18-23 (day six)  “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done?” (vs 4)  One argument that God has against the human race is that despite His goodness, we have not learned to love/trust Him.  It is a sad and honest report.  God HAS been good to us (life, freedom, resources, scripture, Spirit, friends, teachers. . .a long list of His kindness) but we have not changed.  Many still fear and cling to control of our own lives (the illusion of it, anyway).  This is deep illness.  To receive so much and yet stay so selfish, to accept His help but never address the anxiety and pride that really controls us is to finally leave God no other option.  He will let us go because there is nothing else to do.  At some point every man must decide.  Will I be loyal to my illness/my fears or loyal to the God who has loved me?