Isaiah 20-22

Isaiah 20-22…Pride

The Valley of Vision was another designation for all of Judah, and this is a record of judgment against it. Foreign nations had suddenly besieged the country just as the prophets had foretold, and yet the Jews were not ready. In response to the attack, they did all they could to defend themselves. They built ditches around the city, fortified it with walls, and made preparations as best they could; some even ran away in cowardly fear. But through it all they refused to turn to the only defense that could really save them: God Himself.

Isaiah 22 is a rebuke to the Jewish people for not turning to the Lord in times of difficulty and for not taking the judgments He brought against them seriously. When danger came, the Jews did not stop and consider their sin and repent before the Lord. Instead, they allied with foreign nations, refused to own their guilt, and denied that they deserved the trials they were forced to endure. If they had made such a confession, they would have humbled themselves before the Lord instead of eating and drinking, and quoting worldly proverbs such as “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

When their enemies attacked, the Jews should have turned immediately to God for assistance. But they didn’t. Instead, they did everything that was humanly possible to stop their enemies. But it wasn’t enough.

They should have humbled themselves and admitted that they deserved to be punished. But the dangers they faced only hardened them in their obstinacy and their contempt of God. Not one of the Jews remembered the Lord in the midst of their distress. As a result of such hardness of heart, the Lord ceased to protect them.

We have before us an example of extreme pride. When people will not repent after having received many chastisements through trial and suffering, they have shown themselves to be devoid of all conscience. Instead of doing what we wish, living for the moment in feasting and revelry, we should be obedient to the ways of God, living in sober service to Him. And when we have been warned and chastised, we ought to repent. It should not take many stripes to cause us to turn, but we should learn quickly like a child who needs only a firm rebuke to set him straight. Make the measure of your spiritual life your capacity to quickly and honestly repent of your sin.

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Genesis 42-44

Genesis 42-44…Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt, they return home and then go back to Egypt, and Joseph plants a silver cup on Benjamin.

Joseph was hard on his brothers, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had treated him harshly as well, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes can seem similarly harsh with those he loves, and can bring about difficulties for His children.

Joseph decided that one of them should stay, and the rest go home and bring Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, “I fear God.” This assured them he would do them no harm. With those that fear God, we can expect to be treated respectfully. We should examine ourselves to be sure that we do fear God. To be clear, this is not the kind of fear a prisoner has for his tormentor, but rather, the fear that a child has for his father. This fear involves respect and love, and deep desire to please. It can be implied from Genesis 42, that treating others disrespectfully shows we do not fear God.

In Genesis 43, Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt. They show great respect to Joseph, and his previous dreams were fulfilled more and more. Joseph showed great kindness to them in return, and this is another example of a Christ-type in the Old Testament. Joseph was a sinner, and is not our savior, but the Lord uses examples like him as well as Noah and Moses and David as a picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph makes his brothers see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees fit, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as a preview of what he further intends for them. Christ does the same with us.

Though all of the brothers show repentance for the way they had treated Joseph when they kneel before him (Genesis 44:14), it is Judah who stands out as the godliest of them all. Only the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit can explain such a transformation in Judah’s life. It may have taken years to get him to this point, but the Spirit’s sanctifying work, seen in its beginning stages when Tamar convicted Judah of his selfishness (38:1–26), shows its profound results in the face of danger in Egypt. Having been humbled and put in place by Tamar, Judah now willingly puts himself last, revealing a self-sacrificing love that will give up everything so that his father, who might never love him as he does Benjamin, will not grieve. Truly, as Matthew Henry writes, Judah surpasses all his brothers “in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family.”

Malachi 2:10

Malachi 2:10…”Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?” God’s plan of salvation has always included a people living together, displaying His glory. The mark of His people, which should differentiate them from the world, is holiness. This was true of Israel, and is the point of this verse. When God’s people struggle with unity, it comes from unbelief, pride, and selfishness. We need to remind ourselves of the gospel, and actively pursue faith, humility, and selflessness. A right understanding of our deep need for Jesus because of our sin and God’s holiness will inevitably breed unity and peace in our church. Where there is a right view of sin, there will be unity. Where Jesus is highly esteemed, there will be love flowing out of humility. Where there is humility, there will be holiness, as we run to Jesus in repentance and faith increasingly.

Acts 16:4-5

Acts 16:4-5…”As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” The churches grew in both quality and quantity of disciples as a result of submitting to their leaders. When godly and wise leadership are in place at the local church level, spiritual growth happens by God’s grace.

Two potential reasons you may not be growing spiritually:

1) Your pastors/elders are not wise/godly men in accordance with the qualifications laid out in scripture (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Be very careful in choosing a church, because false teachers are not easily recognizable. False teachers will produce false converts, and false converts are like a little bit of yeast in the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:7-12). Also, if the spiritual health of your church is a secondary interest of your pastors/elders, its time to find another church.

2) You are not submitting to the authority of your church leaders. So, are you obeying your elders/pastors as described in the verses above? One way to do this is to join a church. How are the elders/pastors to know who they are leading unless there are clearly people who are willing to submit to their authority in a covenant community with each other? This is part of being a disciple, and is part of God’s blueprint for the church.

Acts 15:41

Acts 15:41…”He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Paul took Silas, and went around building up the brothers and sisters in the faith at these churches. So, what did that look like? It certainly included preaching the gospel to them, but also likely involved some practical exhortation to holy living as well. This should be the goal of every Christian. Is this something you think about? What are you doing to spiritually strengthen the other members of your church? This is not difficult, but does require a willingness to give up your time. This is the beauty of the vision God has for His people. A variegated group of people, united by one common goal and interest: glorifying Him, through love for and submission to His Son, as well as a concern for the spiritual well-being of His people. Do you have an interest in the spiritual well-being of the members of your church? According to Jesus (John 13:35), this is a great litmus-test question to see if you are one of the elect:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Acts 7:51

Acts 7:51…”You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Stephen uses the example of the hard-heartedness of the Israelites to show the Sanhedrin their own sin. It’s easy to read this passage and to quickly gloss over applying it to our own hearts. However, we all are stiff-necked, rebellious, and resistant to the Holy Spirit. All of us are in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness. Our hearts and ears need to be softened and humbled increasingly. Therefore, we should pray for a better understanding of our smallness and God’s bigness.

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 46:10…”He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” All our pride, worries, concerns, stress, selfish motives, and fear in this life are put to rest if we believe this verse is true. If we really believe God is sovereign, and if we fight to have an eternal perspective, then we’ll enjoy Him and His dealings with us, regardless of our circumstances. He will be exalted, even if we can’t see that clearly now. Jesus will return, and He will reign, and sin and death will be no more for His people. We need to spend more time being still, and reflecting on God’s sovereignty. We need to meditate on His holiness in order to better understand our sinfulness. We need to reflect on the great chasm that exists between our utter sinfulness, and His perfect holiness, so we’ll esteem Jesus more. We need to rest in His love, which was set on us before He created the world. We need to grow in holiness to have assurance that we are His, and to show the world what He’s like. Ephesians 1:4-10 describes how God will be exalted among the nations through His plan of salvation:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Psalm 46:7

Psalm 46:7…”The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” The God of Jacob is the God of Election. This is extremely comforting to the believer, as we have had God’s affection set on us in eternity-past, and protection in eternity-future. Jacob supplies us with the clearest and most unmistakable illustration of God’s sovereign choice to be met with in all the Bible. His dealing with Jacob gives the most emphatic refutation to the theory that His choice is dependent upon something in the creature—something either actual or foreseen—and shows that the eternal election of certain individuals unto salvation is due to no worthiness in the subjects but results solely from His sovereign grace. The case of Jacob proves conclusively that God’s choice is entirely arbitrary, wholly gratuitous, and based upon nothing save His own good pleasure. “When Rebecca also had conceived by one, even our father Isaac (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calls;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:10-13).

Proverbs 21:4

Proverbs 21:4…”Haughty eyes and a proud heart – the lamp of the wicked – produce sin.” We have very high views of ourselves. A great example is the high standard we have for the way we want to be treated, which we don’t typically follow in the way we treat others. Even depression is a form of pride because we don’t like that our lives haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go. Interestingly, despite the ease of life and abundant wealth in the US, Americans are some of the most depressed people in the world (In fact, if you’re a woman living in the United States, you’re six times more likely to be depressed than a man living in China according to a recent study by Bromet et al, 2011). We need to put away the secular language of “improving self-esteem” and realize that ours is too high, and is the foundation of our discontent. Our hearts desire self-glorification in place of God, which means that we try to sit on His throne and rule in areas where submission to Him and trust in Him are needed. This is what guides the unbeliever (i.e. the lamp of the wicked), and produces sin. For the believer, we need to see our own high view of ourselves, repent from pride, and pursue a humble submission to the Lord in all we think, say, and do.