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BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 24 REFLECTION (ISAIAH 55 – JEREMIAH 22:30)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 24: AUGUST 15

ISAIAH 55 – JEREMIAH 22:30

The book of Isaiah, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly over the past few days, has Jesus written all over it. Most of the book is about Jesus as God’s servant. The final few chapters of Isaiah in today’s reading are more about the fruit of Jesus’ labours, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth, otherwise known as spiritual Zion, the holy mountain, and spiritual Israel. These are all the same place, and their establishment was foretold in scripture, including and foremost in Isaiah.

If you’re born-again, you live in God’s Kingdom on Earth (i.e., spiritual Zion, the holy mountain, spiritual Israel). Establishing this Kingdom is what Jesus came to accomplish by offering himself as the final and perfect redeeming sacrifice. He aced it, and is now seated at the right hand of God, ruling over us born-agains as our King and High Priest. Being redeemed enables us, as Jesus’ followers, to have the same relationship with God as he had, and as Adam once had (before the fall), and as all true prophets have had throughout the ages.

  • Isaiah 61:1-2 is the famous verse that Jesus quoted in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth when he came out as the Messiah. In case anyone in the synagogue was dozing off that day, Jesus forcefully and unequivocally stated that he was the fulfillment of that scripture. He left no room for misinterpretation.  Then he went on to castigate the hometown crowd for their spiritual blindness and lack of faith, and in so doing incited a lynch mob against him. But Jesus just calmly walked through the midst of them and left.
  • In this reading, the “Great Invitation” that was initially given only to the children of Israel is being extended to everyone else who chooses God’s way over the world’s way. What we essentially see here is God petitioning for new believers outside the 12 tribes of Israel. At the same time, Isaiah gives us a run-down of why God is looking for new spiritual blood – the spiritual leaders are blind and greedy and leading the people astray, and the people themselves are unrepentantly following the demon-worshiping practices of the heathens around them. This, as we’ve seen in previous readings, is nothing new for the children of Israel, but God has reached the end of his patience. If his chosen don’t want what he’s offering, maybe someone else will. As for his children who reject him, “the Lord God shall slay [them] and call his servants by another name”.
  • Hence, “Christians”.
  • I’m sad to see the last of Isaiah in this read-through. I could scour that book every day, never tiring of it and still finding something I hadn’t noticed before, still hearing an echo from something written elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus, I suspect, knew Isaiah by heart. It was, after all, his script. Note that it even mentions the kings, the shepherds, and the angels (Isaiah 60:1, 2 and 3, respectively) coming to worship him. God laid it all out for Isaiah, and Jesus soaked it up.

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  • Jeremiah is considered by some Jewish historians as a “failed prophet” solely because his warnings failed to turn the children of Israel (particularly Judah) back to God. But that’s not the job of a prophet, to force people to worship God. A prophet speaks God’s Word; he/she doesn’t twist arms and coerce people into doing what they don’t want to do. Even God doesn’t do that. Is God, then, by the measure of these same Jewish historians, a failed God?
  • Jeremiah is anything but a failed prophet (and God is anything but a failed God!). On the contrary, and even despite being imprisoned for preaching God’s Word, Jeremiah never swerved from speaking God’s Truth. There were other prophets also prophesying at the time who lied to the people and told them “everything’s going to be OK”, but Jeremiah warned the Israelites that unless they turned back to God wholeheartedly, “OK” was the last thing everything was going to be.
  • For me, Jeremiah’s is the voice of this present age. I think the times we’re in now, with so-called formerly Christian nations collectively turning their backs on God and adopting demonic lifestyles and laws, is much like Israel just before the destruction of Jerusalem and their captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah was singular in his message, but pretty much universally ignored, as are all people who speak God’s Truth today. In fact, speaking God’s Truth today can get you arrested, just like in Jeremiah’s day.
  • I particularly relate to Jeremiah’s lack of a bedside manner. When there’s plenty of time, you can be soft-spoken, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya; but when time is almost up, you speak plainly and bark orders. Those who want what God is offering will gratefully accept it; those who object to how the message is being delivered are lost anyway, so don’t waste your time on them. Let them go.
  • It might be helpful to take note of the kings under which both Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophesying (you can check the list of kings in 2 Chronicles, towards the end of the book). Isaiah prophesied mostly under kings who “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord”, whereas Jeremiah was stuck with the short stick, except for Josiah. After Josiah, all the kings Jeremiah endured “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”. This in large part explains both the trouble Jeremiah had (arrests, imprisonment, etc.) and also the spiritual disaster state that was the children of Israel. We get the leaders we’ve earned through our thoughts and actions, and the Israelites at that time had earned some real doozies. So have we.

What are your thoughts about the final chapter of Isaiah and the opening chapters of Jeremiah? Do you object to Jeremy’s lack of bedside manner, or do you find it refreshing? He certainly doesn’t mince his words, and those who prefer to see themselves as victims rather than as getting back what they put out would obviously object. This is so much like today’s society, where perceived (that is, false) victimhood has been elevated to a new form of secular sainthood by the social justice crowd. Don’t give into them and don’t go along with them. Be like Jeremiah, who stood alone on God’s Truth

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For a full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH, click on the links below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 23 REFLECTION (ISAIAH 17 – 54:17)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 23: AUGUST 14

ISAIAH 17 – 54:17

I mentioned a few days ago, when we were doing the Solomon readings, that I had to skim through most of the proverbs because the material was so dense. Each line really required a study in itself, which isn’t suited to our current “quick ‘n’ dirty” read-through mode.

Today’s reading is likewise dense, but O Mama! There was no way I wasn’t going to slow down and savour every morsel of what God is feeding us through Isaiah. So instead of the anticipated few hours I’d scheduled for this reading, I took the whole day. Sometimes you just gotta.

  • Jesus, as I said before, is all over Isaiah. We can see from today’s reading why Jesus favoured this prophet and also why he chose to read a passage from Isaiah at the synagogue in Nazareth when he outed himself as the Messiah. God revealed to Isaiah more about Jesus and the Kingdom than he did to anyone else, and Isaiah also wrote more eloquently about Jesus and the Kingdom than did anyone else. Even in a translation of a translation of a translation, the power of God’s Word is so forceful, it’s at times overwhelming. I always come away from a reading of Isaiah completely exhilarated and with a deeper insight into Jesus and spiritual Zion.
  • Along with descriptions of Jesus and the role he would play as Messiah, Isaiah also gives us a run-down of what will happen to those who either fight against Israel or defy God. It isn’t pretty. Reading the passages about what will ultimately happen to Israel’s enemies (even though in the interim they seem to prosper in their evil and get away with it), I couldn’t help but think of those who say they believe in God and yet give only part of themselves to him, holding the rest back. I couldn’t help thinking that these people, by holding part of themselves back, are essentially defying God and are enemies of spiritual Israel. Do you think that people who hold part of themselves back from God, giving it to the world instead, will secure a place in Heaven? That is not a rhetorical question; that is actually a “yes” or “no” question, and the answer is a resounding “NO!”. We’ll read later in Acts what happens to people who claim to love God and follow Jesus but hold part of themselves back. They end up no different than God’s enemies.
  • God told Isaiah to get naked and barefoot and walk that way FOR THREE YEARS as a sign against Israel’s enemies, and he did it. We need to be as willing as Isaiah to do whatever God tells us and for whatever length of time. The alternative is losing our place in Heaven. If it means getting naked and walking barefoot for three years, we get naked and walk barefoot for three years, but only if GOD tells us to do it. Personally, I don’t think God will ask any of us to do that. Just before I was reborn, God gave me the choice to forgive or not to forgive, making it very clear that choosing to forgive was the right choice and would lead to the better outcome. What I’m saying is that God didn’t ask me to walk naked and barefoot for three years. That was just for Isaiah. But God might give you the “to forgive or not to forgive” choice, because God doesn’t answer the prayers of people whose hearts are hardened by resentment.
  • I’m looking forward to the Isaiah grand finale tomorrow and the start of the book of Jeremiah. Jesus also quoted extensively from “Jeremy”, as you’ll see as we make our way through the book over the next few days.

So what are your thoughts on Isaiah? Do you find the scripture exhilarating, or are you stuck thinking what’s up with God that he made Isaiah walk naked and barefoot for three years? God made his prophets do a few bizarre things (wait until we get to Ezekiel!), but everything was for a purpose and a sign, and was meant either to get his people back on track or to warn their enemies, or both. God knew the more outrageous the sign, the more impactful it would be.

Has God made you do anything crazy yet? If not, watch out for it. The more you say you want to give everything to God, the more he’ll test you to see if you really mean it. As Mary, at the wedding in Cana, said of Jesus: “Whatever he says to you, do it”. Just make sure it’s God you’re hearing from, not some other spirit.

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Click on the links below for a full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF.

FROM HORROR TO LOVE: The Story of King Manasseh

Being under the power of Satan can lead you to do some horrible things.

I knew this intimately before I was born-again because I did horrible things myself, and now, since my rebirth, I see those horrible things being done by others.

But some take the horror to extremes, like Manasseh, King of Judah.

We know from scripture that Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. He co-reigned with his dad from the age of 12, and then became king upon Hezekiah’s death. We also know from scripture that Hezekiah did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but that Manasseh did that which was evil, overturning, for a time, all of Hezekiah’s reforms.

If you don’t know the story of King Hezekiah and his son Manasseh, please take a few moments to read through 2 Chronicles 29-33:20.

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God is patient. Even in the face of extreme evil, God gives people time to repent of the horror they inflict on others. God has also promised to look after the children and children’s children and children’s children’s children of those who love him and keep his Commandments.

The prophet Isaiah was related to Manasseh on his mother’s side. Some sources claim that Isaiah was Manasseh’s maternal grandfather. Isaiah was a very great prophet in the eyes of the Lord and also greatly beloved by Jesus. In fact, Jesus quoted a passage from Isaiah when he publicly came out as the Messiah in his home synagogue in Nazareth. Isaiah’s prophecies speak intimately and personally of Jesus.

And yet Manasseh, while under the spell of evil, had the prophet Isaiah, his grandfather, sawed in half with a wood saw.

Let that sink in for a moment.

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God is patient. He was with me and still is with me. But God was also patient with Manasseh, even despite all the horror he unleashed on his people, including his grandfather. As a reward for his evil, Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and imprisoned.

While in prison, weighed down by heavy chains and the full horror of his sins, Manasseh cried out to God, and God heard him. Manasseh then repented of his evil, and God forgave him.

As a token of his forgiveness, God released Manasseh from the Assyrian prison and reinstated him as King of Judah. Manasseh then spent the remainder of his reign undoing all the evil he had done, faithfully keeping his promise to God and showing the sincerity of his repentance.

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The story of King Manasseh is intertwined with the story of the prophet Isaiah, his grandfather, and the story of King Hezekiah, his father. It starts out as a horror story, but then turns into a love story showing God’s great mercy and forgiveness. We don’t hear much about Manasseh’s conversion from evil to good, but we should. It’s a reminder that God looks after the children and children’s children and children’s children’s children, and so on, of those who do God’s will and die in God’s grace. It is also a reminder of God’s great mercy even to those who do profound evil to those who die in God’s grace.

As a final gesture of humility, King Manasseh requested that he be buried in the grounds of his own house rather than in the City of David, where kings traditionally were buried.

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I know that if I make it home to Heaven, I will find Manasseh there among the living, and that all the horror he did before his conversion will have been forgotten by everyone there, including God, just as what I did will be forgotten. Here on Earth, we still read about the horrors inflicted by Manasseh before his conversion because we need to learn from his mistakes, just as we need to learn from the mistakes of others and (hopefully) from our own. At the same time, we need to take hope in how Manasseh found forgiveness through sincere repentance, and how he made good on that repentance for the rest of his life.

Manasseh’s is a horror story that turned into a love story with a happily-ever-after ending. I pray that our stories – however they started out – will end the same.