Isaiah 46-48

Isaiah 46-48…Creator and Sustainer.

God is Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Isaiah 46:4 says, “I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” The biblical view of providence involves a right understanding of God as the primary cause of creation as well as the primary cause of the continued activity of the entire universe.

While historic Christianity has always held that God is the ultimate cause or the ultimate source of all effects, modern man has drifted from this truth, focusing on secondary causes to explain how things happen. For example, a hurricane ravages Florida. The modern man’s only explanation for the cause of this event is scientific—wind currents, low and high pressure systems, etc. The idea of a Divine hand acting upon this situation is totally out of the question. Our culture focuses solely on the secondary causes—the wind and the pressure systems. We refuse to look beyond the secondary to the primary cause of all things—God Himself.

Because God is the Creator, He sustains and preserves all things, bringing about His will through historical circumstances. He sustains His creation by giving it life and existence. God alone has the power of existence within Himself, and only by His power are we kept alive, only by His power do we continue to exist. It is in God that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Because God is self-existent, He is not dependent on anything else for existence. We, however, are dependent on something else, and that something is God Himself.

God not only sustains His creation by giving it existence, but He governs it. God is the sovereign King over all His creation, and His government cannot be overthrown. This government is a monarchy in which God is the sole authority to whom we must submit. While many may see this as a harsh dictatorship, we must remember that God is a loving, perfect, and holy King. We are totally dependent on Him for everything, and it is our duty to honor Him, obey Him, and worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

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Isaiah 37-39

Isaiah 37-39…Hezekiah’s prayer.

Hezekiah’s intercession (Isaiah 38) shows the power of prayer before our sovereign Creator, which is also confirmed in today’s passage. This record of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, Isaiah 38:6 reveals, took place before the events recorded in chapter 37. (Biblical authors sometimes do not order their accounts chronologically.) Therefore, the promise Isaiah gave in 37:5–7 was not the Lord’s first pledge to deliver Jerusalem from Assyria. In His grace, God repeats His promises to us, increasing our confidence in His Word.

Unlike his father, Ahaz, who lacked faith to ask for a sign from God, we know that Hezekiah asked for a sign of his recovery and Jerusalem’s rescue (2 Kings 20:8). God granted this sign, healing Hezekiah and adding fifteen years to his life (Isa. 38:4–6).

God’s granting fifteen more years of life to Hezekiah does not mean He changes His mind like we do. Instead, such accounts show us that the Lord has a real relationship with His people in time and responds to our prayers and actions. Hezekiah did not know how God would answer His prayer for healing, but the Lord did. Similarly, God knows how He will answer our prayers even before we offer them, but that must not keep us from interceding for ourselves and others.

Isaiah 23-36

Isaiah 23-36…Patience

Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that one fruit of the Spirit is patience. This is no surprise, for Scripture contains many exhortations to wait on the Lord (Ps. 27:14; Hab. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:9–10). At the same time, however, we must admit that patience ranks among the most difficult fruits of the Spirit for us to cultivate. Our timing is rarely God’s timing, and we often think He has forgotten us when He does not act according to our schedule.

When the Lord seems slow to act, we rarely ask whether He is actually waiting for us to seek Him truly, dependent on His grace, before He moves in power. Yet as Isaiah 30:18 teaches, we should ask whether God’s apparent inaction is due to His waiting for us. The background to this verse is Isaiah’s warning to the people of his day not to trust in Egypt (vv. 1–7). As Assyria moved ever closer to Jerusalem, it became clear that many in Judah’s leadership lacked faith. Fearing that God would not keep His promises, these leaders took matters into their own hands, turning to the pharaoh and his army for assistance (2 Kings 18:1–21). But what Judah’s leaders did not realize was that in turning to Egypt, they were delaying the Lord’s intervention, not hurrying it.

Today’s passage illustrates the folly of not trusting in the Creator for deliverance but seeking earthly saviors instead. When God’s people do not lean wholly on Him, He often purposes to hold off on delivering them. The Lord will not save an impenitent people, so if He has chosen to save a certain group, He will not bring them into salvation until they acknowledge and forsake their sin, turning to Him for forgiveness. What seems to be God’s delay is actually His patience toward us, for He is not willing that any of His elect should perish (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord will wait to deliver His people for as long as it takes for them to realize their complete dependence on Him and their need to forsake all idols. He waits to be gracious, He waits to show mercy, until we reject self-reliance and believe that He alone can redeem us (Isa. 30:18a; Gal. 2:15–16).

When we “wait for Him”—when we persevere in faith, refusing to trust other would-be “saviors,” we can rightly expect great blessing. This is because “the LORD is a God of justice” and must therefore keep all His promises (Isa. 30:18). But our Creator will not rescue us as long as we do not forsake our sin, just as He did not rescue Hezekiah and Judah from Assyria until they returned to Him (2 Kings 18:13–19:37).

Song of Solomon 5-8

Song of Solomon 5-8…The love of Christ.

Yesterday, we looked at the reality that Song of Solomon is not exclusively about Christ and His church. Today, we’ll consider how this book does point us to Jesus, and that love outside of the context of our relationship with Christ will always be distorted.

First, we need to dispel the myth that emphasizing what a text says about humanity is a man-centered approach. If we rightly understand what the Bible says about mankind and the actions demanded of us, we are being Christ-centered even if Jesus is not mentioned explicitly. Our Lord and Savior said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), and His commandments are found throughout Scripture because Jesus is divine and the Bible is God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16–17). When we base our thoughts and actions on God’s holy Word, we are obeying Jesus and are therefore centered on Him.

That being said, there are two other ways the Song of Solomon points us to Jesus. First, it helps us understand the strength of His love for us. The climax of the Song of Solomon, found in today’s section of scripture, tells us that love is like “the very flame of the Lord” in its intensity (Song of Solomon 8:6). Given the strength of the love of a bride for her groom and vice versa, it is no surprise that Scripture compares the relationship of God and His people to marriage (Isa. 62:5; Rev. 19:6–10). If the love between man and woman is as intense as the Lord’s fire, imagine how great the Almighty’s love for His people must be. Though we are undeserving, He is passionate for His own (Zeph. 3:17).

Secondly, the Song of Solomon encourages us to long for Christ. As noted, the Song depicts love and marriage in an idealized form. Yet every married couple knows that no matter how strong their relationship is, it still cannot fulfill their every need, much less always reach the heights depicted by Solomon. Even the best marriages have their bad days. This imperfection makes us long for a love that satisfies us wholly. Such love is found only in Christ (Rom. 8:38–39).

Song of Solomon 1-4

Song of Solomon 1-4…The gift of marriage.

The Song of Songs, also called “Canticles” or the “Song of Solomon,” has a history of controversy. It is clearly a song about love between a man and a woman, including the physical dimension. Indeed, it celebrates the joys of the marital relationship. Some have questioned whether it belongs in the Bible. It does not seem to be spiritual enough to be included in the canon of Scripture; indeed, some of its intimate language seems downright embarrassing. Early Jewish expositors decided that the Song was really applying romantic love to the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. According to them, the marriage of the Lord and his people was set forth in the book as an allegory. Early Christian expositors continued to look at the book allegorically, seeing in it a symbolic description of Christ’s love for his church, and hers for him. But, while certainly the Song can be applied in a general way to the relationship of Christ to his bride, there is no reason to believe that such a symbolic application is the book’s primary focus.

One of the worst influences of pagan philosophy on the early church was the idea that sexual love is always tainted with evil. Perpetual virginity came to be prized more than marriage. This departs from the Bible, where virginity is a gift to be given to the beloved on the wedding night. Many in the church came to believe that sexual expression, even in marriage, is sinful and should be endured only for the sake of having children. Naturally, the Song of Songs, which celebrates the joy of physical love, had to be reinterpreted by those whose view of sexuality was so narrow. According to the Bible, however, the marital relationship in all of its aspects, including the physical, is a great gift of God. It is not to be despised, but enjoyed. Genesis 2 explicitly says that it was “not good” for the man to be without a wife. From the biblical perspective, marriage is good, including sexual union within marriage. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find a book in the Bible that celebrates this benefit of God’s grace to his children.

Ecclesiastes 7-12

Ecclesiastes 7-12…A short life.

Death is certain for all. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “The living know that they will die.” For some of us that day is closer than we think. The sensible person faces up to the fact of death and makes provision for this final episode of his earthly life.

There’s only one way to prepare for eternity — trusting Christ as Savior. Those who come to God through Him will enter heaven when they have drawn their last breath. But for unbelievers, that fateful moment will seal their never-ending doom.

Are you ready for the inevitable? Jesus said, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24). Live today with an eternal perspective, and store up treasures in heaven. The earthly things that occupy our affections are fool’s gold, but God is our lasting treasure, and loving Him is so much more satisfying.

Proverbs 11-13

Proverbs 11-13…Our words matter.

The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.

Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?

So, put the “knife” away and use your words to help and heal.

Psalms 128-130

Psalms 128-130…A song of ascents.

Psalm 130 is a “song of ascents”–a worship song intended for use on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It can be divided into four couplets. The first is a cry for God’s mercy. The second conveys that though we stand justly condemned, we can rely upon His forgiveness and love. The third couplet describes an intense period of waiting for forgiveness, and the fourth admonishes all Israel to trust in God in this same way.

By “waiting,” we don’t imply that God is toying with our emotions. “Waiting” in this case means waiting with eagerness and hope–not wishful hope but sure hope. God will answer, His mercy and forgiveness will arrive, and the joy of fellowship will return. The psalmist is like a watchman waiting for a certain sunrise (cf. Isa. 52:8; Lam. 3:25–26).

Today or sometime soon, make room in your schedule for an extended time of confession before the Lord. Make sure you choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Take your Bible and perhaps some notes with you, and resolve to “do business with God.”

Psalms 119-120

Psalms 119-120…Contemplating the Lord.

Scripture tells us time and again that the practice of meditation involves not forgetting the Word of God (Josh. 1:8), reading it, and contemplating it so that it might penetrate our hearts and sanctify us by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 4: 12–13).

Many of the Old Testament verses on meditation are found in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 119, which extols the virtues of the Lord’s inspired teaching that makes up the canon of Scripture. Verses 97–104 of this psalm are particularly pertinent for giving us a more thorough explanation of the kinds of things we should think upon as we meditate on God’s Word. In speaking of the blessings of the law of God, the psalmist gives us some insight into the practice of meditation.

First, we are told that the commandments of the Lord make us wiser than our enemies (v. 98). It is appropriate, then, as we are meditating on God’s Word, to consider why the passage before us is superior to the accepted ways of the world. Furthermore, the psalmist links the continual presence of the commandment with him to the wisdom it provides (v. 99); thus, mulling over a portion of Scripture should include asking how we can make its teaching a perpetual part of our lives.

Second, there is an emphasis in today’s passage on hating “every false way” and avoiding evil in order to understand and keep the Word (vv. 101, 104). Achieving the right meaning and application of a text as we meditate on it requires attention to personal holiness. A refusal to repent of known sin and a complete failure to put into practice that which we already know from Scripture will guarantee that we miss the point of what the Spirit wants to teach us in the text.

Finally, meditation should also include a consideration of the text in light of the new covenant in Christ. Since the Word of God gives us wisdom and understanding (vv. 98–99), we profit from it only if we read it with an open eye on Him who is the incarnate wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18–25). By the Spirit and in communion with the church, Jesus gives us the meaning of His Word.

Psalms 101-118

Psalms 101-115…Christ in the Old Testament.

“What do you think of the Christ?” In guiding the Jerusalem leaders to contemplate this question of eternal weight, Jesus turned to the authority of what is written “in the book of Psalms,” specifically Psalm 110 (Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:40– 44), and asked a question childlike in both simplicity and profundity, the answer to which plunges one into the unfathomable wonder of the incarnation of God: How could David refer to his son as Lord? This probing question was but the application of what Jesus would later declare, that He Himself is the object of all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, summarizing their threefold division in Luke 24:44 as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” with the Psalms standing as the summary representative of the Writings.

That much of the Psalms concerns “the Christ” was (and is) commonly accepted; the New Testament’s glorious proclamation is that Jesus is this Christ, the long-expected “Anointed One” of whom these Scriptures speak. And so we read of Peter, who, after quoting two psalms, declared to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost: “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). We read of Paul, too, who reasoning from the Scriptures (again, the Old Testament), demonstrated that the Christ had to suffer and rise again, saying, “This Jesus, whom I preach to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:2–3). The apostles, to be sure, drew heavily from the Psalms for their inspired testimony regarding the person and work of Christ. The book of Hebrews, for example, is woven together by psalms, showing us that Jesus is the “son of man” of Psalm 8 who was made “for a little while lower than the angels” through the incarnation but now has been crowned “with glory and honor” through His resurrection and ascension (Heb. 2:5–9). Matthew’s gospel unveils the Psalms as key to Jesus’ own self-understanding, Satan quoting Psalm 91 to Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6) and Jesus, upon the cross of agony, sifting His suffering through the sieve of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). That He meditated often on the Psalms, and upon what they spoke concerning Himself, is evident in how Jesus summarized His suffering and exaltation with the lines of Psalm 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Matt. 21:42; see also Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7).

Thus, the New Testament continually uses the book of Psalms to fix our gaze upon the excellencies of Christ, upon the majesty, beauty, and glory of the One who through His humiliation and exaltation reigns over the nations, leading them to the heavenly Mount Zion so that, lost in wonder, love, and praise, they may proclaim eternally the glory of the triune God.