Tuesday, July 31, 2012


If only You would tear the heavens open [and] come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence—as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil—to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence!  When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down,
and the mountains quaked at Your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1-3 HCSB)

Prayer reaches up to heaven and brings heaven down to earth.  It moves the hand of God.  True prayer can do anything God can do, for it unleashes the power of the Almighty. John Wesley said, “God does nothing, but in answer to prayer.” In His sovereignty, prayer is God’s chosen method of bringing heaven to bear on humanity.

God invites, “Call unto me, and I will answer you.”  It is an invitation—as Henry Blackaby says—to join God in His work.  It isn’t that He needs us, for He is God and so needs nothing and no one, rather that He in His infinite wisdom and grace permits us to be in partnership with His purposes.  Amazing grace, this!

When Israel spurned God and made a golden calf to worship, God threatened to exterminate them, but Moses prayed and Israel was spared. Samson had his strength sapped by sin, but as the Philistines mocked him, he prayed and his power was restored.  Elijah held a nation in the palm of his hand because of his knees bent in prayer. He prayed and the heavens were shut up for three and a half years. He prayed again and it rained. Daniel read in Jeremiah’s prophecy that in seventy years the Jews would be released from captivity. He prayed and God moved the heart of a pagan tyrant to free the exiles. The Disciples prayed and the Spirit came.  They went out in that power and turned the world upside down. That’s praying heaven down!

Isaiah prayed like that.  His prayer in chapter sixty four sets the pattern.


If only You would tear the heavens open [and] come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence…” (v.1)

The prophet is fervently entreating God to manifest Himself. It was an hour in which the people of God had plunged into iniquity. The consequence was that Holy God withdrew His glory. The heavens were sealed and silent. There was no response from the Lord.

Indeed, the Lord's hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear. But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide [His] face from you so that He does not listen.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)  The deadly cancer of sin was draining the life of the nation. Isaiah called upon the Divine Physician.

America is a dying nation, having the same malignancy of evil.  We don’t need another government program, we need God’s power. We don’t need more laws, we need the Lord. We don’t need a better economy and better education we need the Eternal One. We don’t need more programs in the church and more human activity, we need power in the church and heaven’s activity!   With Isaiah, let us cry, “Tear the heavens open and come down!”


If only You would tear the heavens open [and] come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence—as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil—to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence!  When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down,
and the mountains quaked at Your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1-3)

Notice what happens when God shows up! The mountains quake—whatever the spiritual obstruction is—mountains of unbelief, impurity, indifference, selfishness, all must go and will crumble before the Holy One!

A voice of one crying out:

Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.  Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see [it], for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

The way of the Lord is prepared, as in the days of John the Baptist. Your life becomes a highway in which God can move.  Heaven comes down on that thoroughfare!

Not only are the mountains removed, but the fire is rekindled. Hearts once cold, now burn with zeal for God. There is a fervent testimony that issues from a flaming heart.   Recall what happened to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They encountered the glory of the Lord in His resurrection.  As He taught them the Word and revealed Himself, their hearts burst into spiritual flame!

When heaven is prayed down, and Christ walks in the midst of His church, the enemy will be confounded and the nations will tremble.  Such people, immersed in such praying, are found in the first-century church:

When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.  And since they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in response.  After they had ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they conferred among themselves,  saying, ‘What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign, evident to all who live in Jerusalem, has been done through them, and we cannot deny it!  However, so this does not spread any further among the people, let's threaten them against speaking to anyone in this name again.’

So they called for them and ordered them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it's right in the sight of God [for us] to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’  After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them, because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done; for this sign of healing had been performed on a man over 40 years old.

After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  When they heard this, they all raised their voices to God and said, ‘Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them.

You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things?

The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers assembled together against the Lord and against His Messiah.  For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.   And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.’

When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness.” (Acts 4:13-31)

Such praying is birthed in the womb of THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD’S PRESENCE.

When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains quaked at Your presence.” (v.3).

See the past tense, “You did…You came down,” as the ignition of a passion for God to do it again.  We are not only motivated by the revelation of what might be, but by the recollection of what has been. They had known great blessing before—beyond their greatest hopes and dreams. Now, in their time of desperation, they believe that God can do it again.

Don’t doubt it!  God is still able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think.  He hasn’t changed!  All that has changed is our lack of fervency in prayer and faith in His promises.

Israel had witnessed these miracles in the past. Not only were they released from Egypt, but they carried away their wealth as well. He not only opened a way through the Red Sea, but closed it on their enemies. In the wilderness He fed them bread from heaven and gave them water from the rock. The unchanging God who has moved in revival during dark days in history can do the same today!  Holy men and women of God have prayed heaven down!  Why not us?  Why not now?

If we do, we will find THE REVELATION IN GOD’S PRESENCE.

From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4). 

We are most familiar with this verse from Paul’s quotation of it in 1 Corinthians 2:9.  Perhaps, you have heard it as referring to the incredible experience of heaven that awaits the eternal state. Certainly, there is an application, but the context there and here shows another, primary interpretation. God reveals these wondrous things not in the sweet by and by, but in the nasty now and now!   It is the experience of heaven alright—but of heaven come down to earth and enjoyed here, not just hereafter!  When revival comes, we’ll sit back in amazement, for God takes the field.

The requirement here is waiting on the Lord.  That isn’t passivity--that’s prayer!   It is actively engaging eternity.  Will we wait upon God?  The early church prayed for ten days, preached for ten minutes and three thousand were saved.  We pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days and hope that three will be saved!  The difference is the early Christians waited on the Lord in prayer.  They prayed heaven down!

Such praying is costly—confronting our self-centeredness and convicting our sinfulness.   It calls for THE REPENTANCE IN GOD’S PRESENCE.

You welcome the one who joyfully does what is right; they remember You in Your ways.  But we have sinned, and You were angry.  How can we be saved if we remain in our sins?  All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.

No one calls on Your name, striving to take hold of You. For You have hidden Your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity.” (Isaiah 64:5-7).

To experience God’s powerful presence demands the barrier of sin be broken down.  When sin is confessed and forsaken, the expectation is forgiveness. Thorough repentance demands honesty and humility. We are brought to conviction, contrition and confession for we see the hideousness of our sin against God. This is what Paul called a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Do you want to know how rotten sin is? Look at the horror of the cross; evaluate what it cost God to obtain your forgiveness.  If we take sin lightly, we show that we understand little of Calvary. We can be certain we have not encountered God’s glory.  All those in Scripture who did, fell on their faces in fear before God: Abraham, Jacob and Job, Peter, Paul and John.  Confession was wrung from their lips.  Isaiah himself documents his own encounter with the Everlasting God in chapter six.  It will always be that way.  Trivialize, minimize, rationalize sin and heaven will remain silent—our prayers unanswered.

But, if we get right with God then we can have THE RESPONSE OF GOD’S PRESENCE.

Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.  Lord, do not be terribly angry or remember [our] iniquity forever.
Please look—all of us are Your people!  Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.  Our holy and beautiful temple,
where our fathers praised You, has been burned with fire, and all that was dear to us lies in ruins.

Lord, after all this, will You restrain Yourself?  Will You keep silent and afflict severely?” (Isaiah 64:8-12).

We can be sure that such praying gets heaven’s attention. The revival prayer God responds to is one appealing to His mercy as our Father (v.8a). If we, human fathers, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit in power to those who ask Him?

Heaven comes down in supplication, when we bow down in submission.  It is at the place of full surrender that we can know the fullness of God.  We may have made a mess of our lives, but He is the potter who will break down the clay, and reshape us into a vessel He can use (v.8b).

Praying ascends to God’s heaven when praying appeals to God’s honor (v.8c). Isaiah is essentially saying, “God, look at us—what a mess!  People are mocking You because of us!  Do something!”  The quality of handiwork reflects upon the craftsman.

Real praying casts us upon the grace of God (v.9). It is an appeal to His glory to be sure, but also to His gracious character.  God wants to walk with us!

God responds to a prayer of urgency (v.10-11).  Isaiah knew that Divine intervention was all that could change their desperate situation. 

Finally, praying heaven down means we rest our case with the righteousness Judge (v.12). Abraham did.  He pled with God and believed, Won't the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25b)  He always does the right thing.

What might happen in our life, our home, our church, our nation, indeed, in our world, if we would pray fervently and faithfully Isaiah 64?  Heaven would come down!

Monday, July 30, 2012


“The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1 HCSB)

A group of deacons were complaining about their preacher.  Here is a letter they received:

“Dear Board of Deacons,

This is a chain letter. The result of a computerized survey indicates that the perfect preacher:

  • Preaches 15 minutes
  • Condemns sin; but never offends anyone
  • Works from 8 till midnight including janitorial work
  • Makes $60 per week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car and gives $50 per week to the poor
  • Is 28 years old and has been preaching for 30 years
  • Wonderfully, perfectly handsome
  • Has a burning desire to work with teenagers but spends all his time with the older folk
  • Smiles with a straight face because his sense of humor keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.
  • He makes 15 calls per day on church family, shut-ins, hospitalized, while evangelizing the lost
  • He is always in his office when needed.

If your preacher does not measure up to this chain letter, send this letter to six other churches who also are tired of their preacher. Bundle up your preacher and send him to the church at the top of the list. In one year you will receive 1,643 preachers. One of them should be perfect.

WARNING: Keep this letter going. One church broke the chain and got their old preacher back in six months.”

I am not a perfect preacher.  Based on these criteria, there are none.  But, according to God’s standard—and that’s what matters—there is One.  His name is Jesus.

When our Lord went into the synagogue of Capernaum and preached His first recorded sermon, He unrolled the scroll and took Isaiah 61 as His text.  He declared that this was fulfilled by Him.  The prediction of a perfect Preacher had come to pass (read Luke 4:16-30).


“The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me…” (Isaiah 61:1a HCSB)

In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil, setting them apart for their sacred service.  Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus fulfilled all those sacred offices as Christ—the Messiah—literally, “the Anointed One.”  He was anointed by God to feed the flock of God the Word of God as their Prophet.  He was anointed by God to bleed for the flock of God as their Priest offering Himself as the sacrifice for their sins.  He was anointed by God as their King to lead the flock of God—to protect and provide for them under His rule.


“to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of our God's vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him.” (Isaiah 61:1b-3 HCSB)

Isaiah foretold that Jesus had been appointed to a three-fold task.  Jesus lived under the Divine mandate of having been “sent” into the world to do His Father’s will.

Jesus had been appointed as preacher so THE SINFUL WOULD HAVE GRACIOUS HOPE.

““to bring good news to the poor.” (Isa.61:b)

Certainly those who were materially impoverished were eager to hear Him.  Their desperation drove them to His compassion.  Since earth held little promise for them, they were very open to hear of the hope of heaven.

But, spiritually, every man and woman, regardless of their socio-economic status, are morally bankrupt.  Destitute of righteousness, debtors to sin, they pay the price in everlasting fire unless someone settles the debt.

Jesus said, “I have good news!”  His preaching told them that was why He had come!  The riches of His grace are available!  Forgiveness of sin is possible!  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

Jesus had been appointed as physician so THE SORROWFUL WOULD HAVE GRIEF HEALED.
“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…” (Isa.61:1c)

Death is a result of sin’s curse.  All humanity is subject to it.  Before this day is out, across this wide world, there will be a million or more people who gather at a grave to grieve.  We all know the pain of a broken heart.  Jesus came to end that grief.  He has the cure of sin and death.  The Great Physician gives us the comforting promise of eternal life through faith in Him.

Jesus had been appointed as purchaser so THE SLAVES WOULD HAVE GREAT HELP.

“to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor…” (Isa.61:1d-2a)

Jesus was speaking about the year of Jubilee.  Under Mosaic law, the end of the cycle of seven sabbatical years (49 years) would culminate in the Year of Jubilee—the fiftieth year being a time for debt to be forgiven and slaves to be freed.

The fundamental enslavement is to sin.  We are held in its bondage.  But, Jesus came into the slave market of sin and purchased us.  He redeemed us with the payment of His blood and set us free!  Jesus is our Jubilee.

This is what the perfect Preacher had to say.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a perfect Preacher?  Apparently not—the congregation tried to kill Him—their violent reaction to His sermon!  People are not content with even a perfect Preacher!  In fact, the more holy His life and the more faithful His preaching, the more despised he may be.  Most folks don’t like to be confronted by their sin.  It is an uncomfortable thing.  If they don’t agree with the message, they will attack the messenger.

This helps explain why Christ would stop His Scripture reading in the middle of a verse.  His first advent would lead to His rejection and the hateful hands of those who heard Him, would eventually hand Him over to be crucified.  They sought to silence Him after only one sermon by casting Him off a cliff!  He would not die that day in Nazareth—it was not the time, nor the way—but He would, in a little over three years, die on Calvary.  This was His first advent—appointed as a sacrifice for sinners.

The remainder of the verse (and subsequent verses) points to His second advent.

“and the day of our God's vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.  And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  Strangers will stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners will be your plowmen and vinedressers.  But you will be called the Lord's priests; they will speak of you as ministers of our God; you will eat the wealth of the nations, and you will boast in their riches.

Because your shame was double, and they cried out, ‘Disgrace is their portion,’
therefore, they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs.

For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and injustice; I will faithfully reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their posterity among the peoples.  All who see them will recognize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.

I greatly rejoice in the Lord, I exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth produces its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:2b-11 HCSB)

When Christ returns He comes to judge the world and establish His kingdom.  Israel will be redeemed and through them all the earth will be blessed.  They will finally fulfill their destiny as a Kingdom of Priests who will teach all humanity the ways of God.  How we long for that day!  As surely as the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus, the latter portion will be as well.  Count on it!

As Israel is called to be an extension of Christ’s anointed priesthood, so are we.  Peter describes the church this way:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9  HCSB)

Jesus is our model.  He said, “’As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’  After saying this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21b-22 HCSB)  We are appointed to the same service and anointed by the same Spirit!  We will not always do it perfectly, but our goal is to do it better progressively.  God’s Spirit will equip us powerfully!

Do you know any sinners who need to hear the good news of forgiveness?
Do you know any sorrowing needing a broken-heart healed by love?
Do you know any slaves, who are in bondage to sin, enslaved by alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, fear, greed and such who need freedom from these vices?

Sure, you do.  We all do.  They are everywhere.

Jesus is in us, waiting to continue His work through His body, the church. Let’s get busy!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


"Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David." (Isaiah 55:3 HCSB)

Political promises--what an oxymoron!  It is election season--a time when promises are spread like manure on a fieldoften yielding a bumper crop of disappointment.  But, there is a Kingdom where the promises are steadfast and sure.  The Leader of that land never fails--He cannot! The Lord of Heaven makes an everlasting covenant with the citizens of the Kingdom of God.  He promises eternal life to any and all who will bow to Him.

God made promises to David in a covenant of grace.  Ultimately, all these would be fulfilled in David's descendant and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  While, we are not recipients of those promises directly, we are blessed by the One who is the Promise.

God has made an everlasting covenant with us.  Jesus said, "For this is My blood [that establishes] the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28 HCSB).

The fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah focuses on several features of this most precious of all the promises--the Promised One and the everlasting covenant He seals with His blood.  He is the Son of David and His Kingdom is eternal.  So, is the life He brings to His subjects.


"Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!  Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.  Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.  Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples, so you will summon a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you will run to you.  For the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel, has glorified you." (Isaiah 55:1-5 HCSB)

All that is of this world can only gratify temporarily--to thirst and drink is to thirst again, to eat and be full is to hunger later.  We spend our money on stuff with no enduring value, and when purchased, we soon want a newer toy or a more novel trinket.  But, by contrast, what is from heaven will satisfy eternally--drinking to never thirst again (see John 4:14) and to feed from Him is to hunger no more and live forever in the nourishment of that Bread (read John 6:47-58).

But, you can't buy it.  It is too valuable a commodity.  All the wealth of the world cannot purchase it.  The good news is that it is already paid forthe poorest of men may have it freely.  Eternal life was purchased as a gift for us at the cost of Christ's blood.

God gives a gracious invitation.  He bids us, "Come!"  We are not forced. It is our choice.  But, why would we spurn so generous an offer?  To do so is to thirst forever in a waterless place of fire and to gnaw the tongue in hunger with no chance of satisfying that craving.

So, how do we respond to this exquisite offer?

By faith, we receive Christ.  We simply take Him at His Word.  It sounds too good to be true, but it is the promise He has made.

There are two dimensions to this faith--two sides of the same coin: an acknowledgment of our poverty and of His plenty.

Our Poverty is expressed in the word, "thirsty."  If you try to satisfy the hunger and thirst in your soul, you will never do so.  In our pride, we don't want to stoop to be beggarsto admit that we can't merit salvation.  Religion calls us to earn our bread, but Jesus said that we must ask for it.  Only those who admit their spiritual bankruptcy can have the riches of His grace.  You can only have the priceless if you have nothing to buy it with.

His Plenty is emphasized in the word, "satisfy."  In the heavenly city there is a crystal clear river of life flowing from the throne of Godyou could never drain it dry.  There we find the tree of life, and can eat and eat, and there is fruit enough to feed every nation to the full.  In fact, Isaiah records the witness--a summons to the nations who do not know Him, to run to Him--to come quickly to the banquet and sit at the marriage supper of the Lamb!  Access to that inexhaustible supply, this everlasting satisfaction, is given through Jesus.  This is the promise; He is the promise.

There is not only the offer of satisfaction: a gracious invitation, but THE OPPORTUNITY OF SALVATION: AN URGENT DECISION.

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive.
‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’  [This is] the Lord's declaration.  For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:6-9 HCSB)

Our Response is an urgent imperative.  We must "Seek the LORD while He may be found..." indicating a time when He will be obscured and "call to Him while He is near" implying a time when He will be departed.   Recall how God warned through His servant Noah of the judgment of the flood.  The door of the ark remained open for a period of time.  When God closed the door, it meant that Noah was safe, secured inside, but it also meant that none could enter.  When the rains came pouring down the door could not be pried open.  Opportunity was gone forever.

It is presumptuous and pompous to say, “I know I need to be saved, and I intend to give my life to Christ—but, not now.  I will someday.”  You do not know.  Someday may never come.  Without Christ you are a heartbeat away from an eternity of despair. 

Our Repentance is an uncompromising imperative.  There is no negotiation.  God's terms are unconditional surrender.  Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will all perish as well." (Luke 13:3b)  We must have a change of mind—that is literally what repentance means.  We must turn from our wicked ways to the Lord’s way of salvation.  Compassion and forgiveness is God’s desire for us, but we must turn to Him and trust in Christ.

We have seen the offer of satisfaction: a gracious invitation and the opportunity: an urgent decision, but there is more--we note THE OPERATION OF SCRIPTURE: A TRANSFORMING PROCLAMATION.

“’For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it [to do].’

You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap [their] hands.  Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for the Lord as an everlasting sign that will not be  destroyed.” (Isaiah 55:10-13 HCSB)

The promise of salvation rests in the Power in God's Word.  It is the seed of eternal life.  As the Gospel message finds fertile soil, it bears fruit unto salvation.  We never know when or where—that is God’s business.  Our duty is to sow the seed.

The promise of salvation results in the Peace in God's Will. It is the source of everlasting joy.  When we experience salvation, we are promised peace with God.  What a joy to know that walking in His will leads us onward and upwardhome at last.

It is a thrilling possibility that I will preach tomorrow and the Spirit of God will speak through the Word of God to bring a soul to God!  His Word always brings resultsand fulfills the purposes of Godwhether we see them or not.

There will be 100% response to the invitation following the sermon.  Some will say, Yes and some may say, No but all will make a decision.  It is urgent that when God bids you, Come that you do not delay!

Friday, July 27, 2012


But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)

He stands in the shadow of the cross—stretching back seven hundred years before Christ walked this planet and hung on that tree.  Isaiah, the prophet, describes the earth-shaking events that would transpire on that skull-shaped hill, as though he is standing beneath the cross of Jesus.

He gapes in shock at what he sees.  Isaiah is looking for the Messiah to come, just like the nation of Israel in Christ’s day—this One, however, is not like what they expected David’s heir to be.  There was HIS STARTLING APPEARANCE. 

See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.  Just as many were appalled at You—His appearance was so disfigured
that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being—so He will sprinkle many nations.  Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard. 

Who has believed what we have heard?  And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to?  He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground.  He didn't have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.  He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him.” (Isaiah 52:13-53:3 HCSB)

The man of God shakes his head—hard to believe what he has witnessed in

this vision.  Christ’s appearance was so humble in His life.  Whereas, Isaiah would have expected Him to be born in a palace, He is like a tiny plant growing from desert ground—just a green shoot and not even a fragrant flower to adorn it.  There is no halo on His head.  He wears no royal robes.  There was nothing attractive in His appearance.  None of the winsome charm of a David, none of the wealthy carriage of a Solomon—but, born in a stable, raised as a peasant, living in obscurity, working as a carpenter—His claims would be rejected.  The religious leaders who examined Him would brand Him a fraud.  The government authorities who evaluated Him would find Him a disappointment.

Isaiah sees more—not just His humble appearance in life, but His horrifying appearance in death.  Beneath the cross of Jesus, the prophet looks up and feels a wave of nausea sweep over him by the visage gazing down at him.  At least, he thinks that the Crucified Man is looking at him—hard to tell—for His eyes are merely slits, swollen virtually shut.  His face is ravaged by the violent hands that plucked His beard, and the strong fists that bruised His face. 

I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard.  I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6 HCSB)

Isaiah sees the nose disjointed and lips puffed out, the jaw hanging sidewise as He gasps for breath—likely broken; teeth missing.  That bowed head is covered with blood from the crown thrust upon it with its long desert thorns hammered in by rods with which His captors beat Him.  He looks like a monster, and not a man!

Those Isaiah overhears, as he stands beneath the cross of Jesus, are mocking Him.  They are scorning the possibility that this Man could be the Messiah.  He is shunned like a leper.  He has no more value than a slug.  Their inspection leads them to brand Him, “Rejected!”

Beneath the cross of Jesus, Isaiah ponders and learns there is more to this Man than meets the eye.  The suffering of the Savior is not for His sin, but for ours!  This is HIS SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT.

“Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.  We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6 HCSB)

Note the repeated emphasis of the personal pronouns—our, we, us—what He did was for us.  He took the sin He did not commit and carried it Himself.  He suffered the pain He did not deserve—drinking the poison cup of the curse we should have drained to the dregs.  He died the death we rightfully merited for our wicked ways, not because of His crimes.  He went to hell in our place so that we might enter His place in heaven—the Substitute whose blood atones for our sins—covering them over, hiding us from judgment—beneath the shadow of the cross!

How He suffered!  The scourge lashing His back into red-ribbons of flesh, the spikes driven through His hands and feet pinning Him in agony to the wooden beams—and the separation—this, the most incomprehensible, indescribable pain of all—which brought out the agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  We can scarcely imagine.  We cannot comprehend.  Even if we went to hell we would not know—for we would be suffering rightfully, and only for ourselves.  He did for us—and for all, especially those who would believe in Him!

From the endless eternal ages, the Son had unbroken, unbounded fellowship with the Father—a love relationship that was unbridled—intimacy where they were one.  Then, in the days of His flesh, not once did the Son disobey—no unworthy thought, no impure motive, no defiant act, no vile passion—sterling, stainless, sinless.  Yet, beneath the cross of Jesus Isaiah sees Him as a Cursed Man—that is what Scripture pronounces of one who hangs on a tree.  It was true—He suffered the consequence of the curse—thorns, sweat, tears, sorrow. “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor.5:21)

Isaiah is invited to witness Christ’s final hours—centuries before they occurred.  He sees Him praying in agony in the garden, taken by that violent mob while His followers run like frightened rabbits.  It seems certain that He views Him as He is roughly treated—tortured in fact—by those who were supposed to be just judges who placed Him on trial.  Throughout that dark night which the prophet previews, he hears Him say virtually nothing—there is HIS SILENT ACQUIESCENCE.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.  Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth.  He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?  For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people's rebellion.

They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.” (Isaiah 53:7-9 HCSB)

He met His fate with resignation—but not as a helpless victim, for He might have called legions of angels to His rescue had He chosen.  The Man who spoke a word of authority and commanded a storm to cease, demons to flee and a dead man to rise, would not lack power to destroy His enemies.  But, He did not come to condemn.  He came to save.  That would require His silence.  They taunted Him, “He saved others, let Him save Himself!”  But, He could not save others if he had chosen to save Himself.

So, he didn’t demand a defense attorney.  He would not beg for the court to have mercy.  He didn’t protest the miscarriage of justice.  Christ is the Lamb of God—and He dies as one led to the slaughter.  Pilate was perplexed at this.  Herod thought it a joke.  The Pharisees took full advantage of their opportunity to hire witnesses to perjure themselves although He who was Truth Incarnate “had not spoken deceitfully.”  The crowd was whipped to a frenzy, screaming, “Crucify!  Crucify!”  This, despite the fact, that He “had done no violence.”  The Lamb’s response?  Only a snippet of speech—a few sentences occasionally—He surrenders silently.

In the slaughterhouse, the cattle are bawling, the hogs are squealing, the sheep—they watch in silence as their blood drains out—and they die.  Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)  He is silent.

He dies “with the wicked” as Isaiah stands beneath the cross of Jesus noting two criminals hanging on either side of the Lamb.  The prophet observes a “rich man”, Joseph of Arimathea, who begs for the body and tenderly wraps it and places Him in his own expensive tomb.

Jesus is dead—truly dead—His limp, lifeless corpse locked in a sepulcher of stone, sealed with a massive rock and guarded by soldiers.  The shadow of the cross falling on Isaiah is so dark—so demonic—he is at the point of despair—when the ground begins to quake and a burst of light blasts away the stone!  Awe, terror, joy, wonder—worship, yes, worship—as Christ emerges alive, carrying the keys of death, hell and the grave!

Isaiah is privileged to see through tears of joy the breathtaking beauty of the glorified Lord in HIS SATISFYING ACCOMPLISHMENT.

Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.  When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see [His] seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the Lord's pleasure will be accomplished.  He will see [it] out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.  My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities.

Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.” (Isaiah 53:10-12 HCSB)

God was satisfied.  “It is finished!”  The debt was paid in full.  Every demand that a Holy God required as payment for sin had been met.  The wrath of God had fallen on the Son.

Christ was satisfied.  He had done all that He could do.  He had been utterly faithful.  Looking back to the saints who lived before Him, stored securely and serenely in Paradise, the payment was made to now usher them from the bosom of Abraham and into the presence of God.  Christ descends into the world of the dead and declares His victory!  He leads the triumphal train to the place with golden streets via a crimson road.  “It is finished!”  He is the Way—and none come to the Father but through Him—still today, and as long as the Door of opportunity remains open for repentant sinners to receive grace He will ever be the only Way.

We are satisfied.  Those who trust Christ need do nothing else.  We cannot.  “It is finished!”  Then one day we will receive the full measure of our promised inheritance, and will be satisfied in His glorious Kingdom with the Lamb, His love and in His light, basking eternally in joy and peace.

All will be satisfied—heaven and earth made new.  Jesus will be crowned as King of kings and Lord of lords.  “It is finished” and He shall reign forever and ever!

Isaiah was beneath the cross of Jesus.  Are you?

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.” (Elizabeth Clephane)

Can you join me in singing this?  Is it a reality that you have seen with eyes of faith?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


He says, ‘It is not enough for you to be My Servant raising up the tribes of Jacob
and restoring the protected ones of Israel.  I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:6 HCSB)

We cannot save ourselves—like a drowning man who cannot swim, as a woman falling from a cliff who cannot fly, as a person trapped in a fire that cannot escape, as one who is terminally ill and there is no cure.   It is hopeless.  We are helpless.  We must have a Savior!

God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves and has done it in such a manner as to manifest His supreme glory.  He sent His Son to become a servant bearing our sin that we who are servants of sin might bear God’s image as sons!

Isaiah’s focus in a section of his prophecy, stretching from chapter forty nine through fifty seven, is on this Servant of Yahweh—the Lord Jesus Christ.  Chapter forty nine presents to us the salvation the Servant has secured for us.

There was His INCARNATION.

“Coastlands, listen to me; distant peoples, pay attention.  The Lord called me before I was born.  He named me while I was in my mother's womb.” (Isa.49:1)

All the world needs to hear; the most distant peoples need to be told.  He could only save us by becoming one of us—and would be tempted at all points as we are, yet without sin.  Through the miracle of a supernatural conception in a virgin’s womb, He would be born fully human and yet wholly divine, with the flesh of Adam’s race, but untainted by the sin of Adam’s nature.  Before His birth, the Servant was named—Jesus: “Yahweh is Salvation” and Immanuel: “God with Us.”

Paul puts it this way concerning Jesus,

who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.  Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.  And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 HCSB)

Isaiah also points to His DECLARATION.

He made my words like a sharp sword; He hid me in the shadow of His hand.
He made me like a sharpened arrow; He hid me in His quiver.” (Isa.49:2)

He would be the Living Word—the ultimate revelation of God.  In all He expressed by life and lips He declared the Word of the Lord.  Those who heard Him marveled that no one had ever spoken like He did.  His words would be like a sword—the Sword of the Spirit—by them routing the forces of darkness, penetrating to the depths of men’s souls, laying bare their hearts. 

He was hidden for a time, until He would be revealed at the precise moment in history that God decided to manifest Him as His Servant.  The Apostle Paul said,

When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 HCSB).  To see Jesus is to see the Father; to hear His voice is to hear the voice of God.

Isaiah shares His SUBMISSION.

He said to me, ‘You are My Servant, Israel; I will be glorified in him.’” (Isa.49:3)

Christ is so identified with His people that He is called by their name—and we might add that His people are also called by His!  He was the fulfillment of all that the man Israel ought to have been but could never be; the servant the nation Israel was chosen to be and failed to be.  From Adam, downward, all had fallen short of the glory of God.  None attained the standard of perfect submission which man was created to live under—ever-abiding in the will of God—that is, until this model Man and perfect Servant came.

Jesus lived as man was meant to live.  Although God in the flesh, He lived in the flesh as a Servant—only doing what the Father said—utter reliance, utmost obedience marked His every moment.  He came to do His Father’s will.  Zeal for it consumed His every thought, desire and action.

Then, the prophet describes His REJECTION.

But I myself said: I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and futility…” (Isa.49:4a).

Such zealous servants are branded by the carnal as fanatics.  They are rejected by those who do not understand them and are made uncomfortable by them.  None would ever be more disturbing than Jesus. 

His family thought Him insane.  The religious leaders branded Him a devil.  The nation at last evaluated Him and said He was only worthy of death.  John phrased it like this, “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him,
yet the world did not recognize Him.  He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:10-11)

At His birth He was rejected from a place in the inn and was given a manger in a stable.  In His ministry, He was driven away and despised—no place to pillow His head, though even foxes had their dens and birds their nests.  He prayed in Gethsemane in such agony—no man cared—His closest disciples were sound asleep, until He was seized by an angry mob and then they deserted Him.  Betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, He was in the darkness of a dungeon awaiting His death—rejected, alone.

But, the story doesn’t end there.  Isaiah speaks of His VINDICATION.

yet my vindication is with the Lord, and my reward is with my God.” (Isa.49:4b)

Rejected in His crucifixion, He would be vindicated in His resurrection!  Because He was crowned with thorns, He would ultimately be crowned in triumph!

Look again at the passage in Philippians:

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.  For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (2:8-11)

In His incarnation, there was His declaration, submission and rejection which led to His vindication.

Isaiah goes on to add that this culminates in His DOMINION.

And now, says the Lord, who formed me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him so that Israel might be gathered to Him; for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God is my strength—He says, ‘It is not enough for you to be My Servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel.  I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 

This is what the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, says to one who is despised, to one abhorred by people, to a servant of rulers:Kings will see and stand up, and princes will bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel—and He has chosen you.’” (Isa.49:5-7)

He has ascended, and will one day return to earth in power and glory—the Servant who will be Sovereign.  Christ will gather Israel under His dominion and all Israel shall be saved.  He will rule over the nations—every Gentile bowing under His scepter.  The Light of the World will illuminate the globe with the glory of God.  This will be the consummation of His salvation—His redemptive work complete!  Behold, He makes all things new!

Isaiah looked forward to these wondrous events.  He was earnest to predict them.  We can look back at all the Servant has done and anticipate the climactic moment of His return.  We should be eager to proclaim Him!

This is the practical point Paul makes in the aforementioned text—the second chapter of Philippians.  The mission of the Servant is to be embraced by us.  As He was sent into the world, so we have been sent as the Body of Christ—willing to suffer, to stand alone if need be, in order to be rewarded with the welcome to heaven some day, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  There we will reign with Christ!

The Apostle Paul puts this message between two bookends.  On one side stands the foundational appeal, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus…” (Phil.2:5) and on the other the fundamental application:

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to desire and to work out His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing,  so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” (Phil.2:12-15)

Let your light shine!