The Fast Jesus Chooses

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 57-59

“Is such the fast that I choose…Is not this the fast that I choose…” – Isaiah 58:5, 6

God is speaking in Isaiah 58. God asks, “Is this how I want you to fast?” Then God asks, “Is not this how I want you to fast?” For there are two ways to fast, one of which is truly pleasing God.

Verse 1 indicates that God is speaking to Jacob, which typically represents God’s people who are lacking the Spirit. In verse 2, we read that the house of Jacob seeks God daily and delights to know his ways. They ask God for righteous judgments and want to draw near to him.

In verse 3, the house of Jacob says, “Why have we fasted, and you see  it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”

The house of Jacob is abstaining from food, fasting, to draw close to God. In ancient near-eastern cultures, to fast was to abase, or to afflict, one’s self. The motive behind this fast was to show how the house of Jacob had humbled itself. Psalm 35:13 says, “I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.”

But, despite their fasting, the house of Jacob knows that God is not acknowledging their self-abasement. They wonder why God does not see and take knowledge of how they are denying their physical body of food in a show of humility.

In verse 4, God answers, “Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”

Whoa. Wait a minute.

The house of Jacob is asking God why he doesn’t see how they have humbled themselves through fasting. And, God answers that they only fast to quarrel and fight? Why did God say that?

The first time the Hebrew word for fast is used is in Judges 20:26-27, which says, “Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there  before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord.”

So, Israel went to Bethel, which means the house of God, and wept, which is to say they cried out to the God. When they went before the Lord, they fasted as sought him for an answer.

But, what was the question Israel wanted answered by their fasting?

In Judges 20:27, Israel asked, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?”

Israel fasted to know if they should go to war against one of their own tribes, their own brothers. Therefore, in Isaiah 58:4, God said, “Behold you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.”

Indeed, in Isaiah 58:3, God said the house of Jacob fasted to seek their own pleasure. Therefore, fasting was not truly about humbling one’s self but about seeking one’s own pleasure, satisfying one’s own pride by having done something for God.

In Isaiah 58:4-5, God says, “Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?”

In other words, is denying yourself food really what God has asked for? Is this really the way to show your humility?

In Luke 18:10, Jesus says, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” They went to the temple, just like Israel went to Bethel, the house of God, in Judges.

In verses 11-12, Jesus  continued, “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Jesus shows that for this Pharisee to fast is to make a show of humility. And, the Pharisee’s fast was symbolic of how he stood by himself and against everyone else. In this sense, the Pharisee’s fast about seeking his own pleasure, to quarrel and to fight, just like God said in Isaiah 58.

In Isaiah 58:5, God also asked if this type of fast was really a day acceptable to the Lord?

A day acceptable to the Lord.

That’s an interesting statement. One that starts to bring to mind Jesus and what he was sent to do.

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In Luke, Jesus announced this at the start of his ministry. But, what Jesus said he came to do is somewhat reminiscent of the fast the God chooses in Isaiah 58.

If it is not the mere abstaining from food, then what is the fast God chooses?

Isaiah 58:6-7 says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

The house of Jacob fasted by denying itself food, but it was a seeking of one’s own pleasure. God says the fast that he wants from you is to deny yourself the means by which you get your pleasure – binding others by wickedness, putting others under a yoke, and oppressing others – and actively doing things – feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and clothing the naked – that relieve the very burdens put on others to fulfill our own pleasures.

The fast that God desires in Isaiah 58:6-7 is exactly the same as what Jesus says those who know him, those who inherit the kingdom will do.

In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, i was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

Do you see the similarities to what Jesus says those that inherit the kingdom will do and the the fast that God chooses?

  1. “I was in prison and you came to me” vs. “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free
  2. “I was hungry and you gave me food” vs. “is it not to share your bread with the hungry”
  3. “I was a stranger and you welcome me” vs. “bring the homeless poor into your house”
  4. “I was naked and you clothed me” vs. “when you see the naked, to cover him”

Do you see what Jesus is saying?

Those that inherit the kingdom are those that serve Jesus. Those that serve Jesus are those that do the fast that Jesus chooses.

The fast that Jesus chooses is not abstaining from food.

The fast that Jesus chooses is freeing the burdened, oppressed, and imprisoned, feeding the hungry with our own bread, bringing the homeless into our own home, and clothing the naked with our clothes.

So, the real question becomes, am I doing the fast that Jesus chooses?

Why Are God’s Thoughts and Ways Higher than Ours?

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 53-56

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Why?

That is the all important question.

Why is an important question. It is a particularly important question in regards to these verses because these verses are a favorite of Christians.

I have heard Christians use these verses to justify the violence attributed (wrongly I might add) to God in the Old Testament. When I have asked if God would really have women raped, babies dashed against the rocks, or whole cities and everything in them burned to destruction, I have had Christians respond, “Well, God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. So, yes, God can do whatever he wants and he really did those things.”

And, because many Christians believe God’s higher ways and thoughts can be used to justify a violent God, they then use God’s higher ways and thoughts to justify a God that would torment someone in hell in flames forever.

But, these Christians have completely missed the reason why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

Why are God’s thoughts and ways higher than our thoughts and ways?

All we need to do to know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours is look at the previous two verses. Indeed, that is what the word “for” at the start of verse 8 is telling us to do. The “for,” which also means because, is telling us to look at what we just read to know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours. For (linking back to what I just said), there is a very specific reason why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” – Isaiah 55:6-7

Why are God’s ways and thoughts higher than our ways and thoughts?

Pardon.

Which is a synonym for forgiveness. In fact, the Hebrew word literally means to be indulgent towards, to forgive.

But, not just forgiveness.

Abundant forgiveness!

God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts because of of one very specific reason – God’s abundant forgiveness!

Therefore, the reason God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours is actually just the opposite of the way many Christians use God’s higher thoughts and ways to justify a violent God maiming, torturing, slaying and destroying whomever he wants.

At least one of Jesus’ parables reveals that God’s abundant forgiveness was the reason God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered Peter, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Some translations say seventy times seven.) While Peter thought seven times would be enough forgiveness, Jesus told Peter to forgive so much that you would lose count of how many times you had forgiven. In other words, Jesus told Peter to be life the Father, to make his thoughts and ways like God’s by practicing abundant forgiveness.

In the parable itself, Jesus showed how God’s abundant forgiveness, his thoughts and ways, is dramatically higher, higher as the heavens above the earth, than ours. In the parable, the king completely forgave the debt of the servant, which was an incredibly high amount that the servant could only have paid back if he had lived thousands and thousands of years. However, when the servant left the king’s presence, having received his forgiveness, he wouldn’t even forgive the relatively tiny amount that a fellow servant owed him.

So, Jesus revealed God’s abundant forgiveness in the parable of the wicked servant, but the Hebrew word for forgiveness tells us something about God’s abundant forgiveness as well

The Hebrew word for forgiveness is salah. According to the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, the only individual in the Old Testament that is the subject salah, to forgive, is God. In other words, God is the only one the Old Testament associates with the capability of forgiveness. That right there shows that it is forgiveness that makes God’s ways and thoughts higher than ours.

The root word salah occurs 50 times in the Old Testament. The number 50 is significant because it was the year of Jubilee.

Deuteronomy 15:1-2 says, “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this it the manner  of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.” Israel was commanded to release, or forgive, the debts of their neighbor every seven years because God’s release, or forgiveness, had been proclaimed.

But, God magnifies this idea of the seventh year in Leviticus 25. Leviticus 25:8, 10 says, “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years…And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” In the 50th year, all debts were completely forgiven and liberty proclaimed to everyone.

Of course, this is linked to the day of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Jesus was crucified. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from Joel 2 that God was pouring out his Spirit on all flesh. This pouring out of the Spirit was a result of Jesus having been exalted because of his crucifixion.

And what is the supreme revelation from Jesus on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34

On the cross, while we were maiming, torturing, slaying and destroying Jesus, the innocent and perfect man, the son of God, Jesus was revealing God’s abundant forgiveness. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he was revealing exactly how God’s ways and thoughts  were higher than ours.

Also, tt was Jesus’ crucifixion, the moment of revealing God’s abundant forgiveness, that brought about our jubilee, the canceling of all our debts.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14

Why are God’s thoughts and ways higher than ours?

Forgiveness.

The forgiveness of all our trespasses.

Now that we know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours – abundant forgiveness of every sin, every debt, complete and total – how is that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours?

How is such abundant forgiveness possible?

“God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

God’s abundant forgiveness is possible because God is love.

How do we know God’s love?

Consequently, how do we know God’s forgiveness?

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”- 1 John 3:16

We know God’s love, and therefore his abundant forgiveness, which reveals God’s ways and thoughts as altogether higher than our ours, because Jesus Christ laid down his life on the cross.

And, what does Jesus tell us about God’s love?

“But i say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:44-45

God’s love is indiscriminate. God gives his love to all, deserving or not, just as the rain and sun fall on every person, deserving of their blessings or not.

And, if God’s love is indiscriminate in its nature, and God’s forgiveness flows from his flow, then God’s forgiveness is indiscriminate too.

Notice that on the cross Jesus put no qualifiers on who he was praying forgiveness for. Jesus simply prayed for “them.”

How marvelous is God’s forgiveness, the very reason his thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

What a wonderful revelation from Jesus.

In That Day, Here I Am

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 50-52

“‘Now therefore what have I here,’ declares the Lord, ‘seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,’ declares the Lord, ‘and continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore, in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.” – Isaiah 52:5-6

Here again we come to the phrase “that day” in Isaiah. I have written about “that day” in That Day Sin Was Taken Away, That Day: The Preservation and Inheritance of Life, A Signal for the Peoples, and Egypt, Assyria, and Israel in That Day.

I mention this “that day” in Isaiah 52:6 because it stands apart. It is the only time Isaiah uses “that day” in the second half of the book, from chapters 40 to 66, which are of a different character than the first half and speak more directly to what the new creation that Jesus ushers in “that day.”

According to Isaiah, in “that day,” which I believe specifically refers to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, God’s people will know his name, they will know that it is he who speaks, and they will know that it is God who speaks says, “Here I Am.”

When Moses was called by the Lord to lead Israel out of Egypt, he asked God what was his name in case Israel asked Moses this same question. Exodus 3:14 says, “God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”‘”

It was actually the angel of the Lord that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. This appearance of the angel of the Lord, who declares, “I Am Who I Am,” is actually a picture of Jesus. See my post Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush.

Now, the Hebrew for “I Am” in Exodus 3:14 is not the same as the Hebrew for “I Am” in Isaiah 52:6. However, it seems to me that we should see the linkage between these two. Especially when we consider I Am in the light of John’s gospel, which is the gospel that reveals Jesus as the son of God.

John makes use of “I Am” in regards to Jesus repeatedly. The most direct and bold use is in John 8. In this chapter, the Jews ask Jesus if he is greater than their father Abraham. Jesus’ final reply to that question, in John 8:58, is, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus declared right then and there that he was “I Am,” the God who met Moses in the burning bush. And, the Jews knew that this was exactly what Jesus meant for they immediately picked up stones to stone him to death for blaspheming the name of God.

So, Jesus declares boldly, “I Am.” He has come to witness to who the Father is and he declares that he is the same as, one with, the Father by taking his name “I Am.”

And, throughout the John’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly declares the name of God so that Israel will know that he is speaking, “Here I Am.”

  • I Am the bread of life – John 6:48
  • I Am the light of the world – John 8:12
  • I Am the door – John 10:7
  • I Am the good shepherd – John 10:11
  • I Am the resurrection and the life – John 11:25
  • I Am the way, the truth, and the life – John 14:6
  • I Am the true vine – John 15:1

John’s gospel features these seven I am statements, seven being the number of spiritual perfection, to reveal Jesus as the son of God, the I Am.

But, there are a number of instances, six to be exact, in John’s gospel where, the English translation, Jesus says, “I am he.” But, in everyone of these instances, the word “he” is not found in the original Greek and has been added in English, supposedly to aid in our understanding. But, by adding “he,” the translators have taken away the force of what Jesus is saying.

Notice how the following passages read without the “he” that is not in the Greek. I will bold the I Am that doesn’t have the “he” in the Greek.

“‘I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I Am you will die in your sins.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in Him.” – John 8:24-30

“I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes places, that when it does take place you may believe that I Am. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” – John 13:18-20

“So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I Am.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I Am,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I Am.’ So, if you seek me, let these men go.'” – John 18:3-8

Without the “he,” Jesus’ statements become much more forceful and powerful. And, all of these I Am statements fulfill the scripture, “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

Draw Near to Jesus for Peace

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 47-49

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”

Jesus has a way of giving peace. The world has a way of giving peace. The two are not the same. The peace that Jesus leaves and gives is not the same as the peace of the world.

The world attempts to bring peace through war, violence, and the power of ruling over others. This false and temporary peace is brought about by forced subjection and fear.

Jesus said his peace that he is giving is not like that. So, what is it like?

Isaiah 48:14 says, “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.”

God is calling all people together to listen to him. He asks those who gather to answer the question “who has declared these things?”

God had declared that Cyrus, the pagan king of Medo-Persian empire, would deliver Israel from its exile in Babylon. God is asking what idols or which wise men and astrologers told you this.

On the surface, this passage is about Cyrus. But, is Cyrus truly the one the Lord loves? Is Cyrus truly the one performs God’s purpose?

Beneath the surface, “The Lord loves him” is actually speaking of Jesus. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit rests upon him, the Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is the one the Lord loves.

Therefore, in Isaiah 48:15, the Father says of Jesus, “I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.”

I believe that the speaker shifts in verse 16. This is clear in many translations as Isaiah 48:14-16 are in quotation marks, giving the impression that this is all one speaker, the Father. And, the last part of verse 16 – “And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit” – is not in the quotation. Therefore, it is supposedly Isaiah saying that he has been sent by God.

Isaiah 48:16 says, “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there. And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.”

I believe this verse is speaking directly of Jesus.

In Matthew 3, Jesus was baptized and the Spirit fell upon him. At this time, Jesus was sent by God and the Spirit. After Jesus’ encounter in the wilderness with Satan, Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

Then, Matthew 5:1-2 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying.” Crowds have drawn near to Jesus to hear him. Here, from the very beginning, Jesus is not speaking in secret.

And, what is Jesus speaking?

Well, many things. But, here are some key things related to peace that Jesus spoke clearly from the beginning in the sermon on the mount.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God…You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

From the beginning, Jesus spoke clearly that his people were to be about making peace. And, they would make peace by loving their enemies, praying for the enemies, blessing their enemies. Those who make peace in this way are the sons of the Father in heaven.

In Isaiah 48:18, the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, who is Jesus, says, “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river.”

Jesus is saying, “If only you have listened to my commandments to make peace by loving, praying for, and blessing your enemies.”

This makes me think of Jesus’ lament in Matthew 23:37 where he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus drew near the crowds to hear his commandments, his laws of love, by which he would leave and give his peace. He pleaded for the people to listen. But, they weren’t willing. And, because they weren’t willing to follow his way of peace, Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem. Not that Jesus was going to cause this destruction, but the destruction would come because Jerusalem would attempt to have peace according to the world’s way of peace – violence, war, and power.

But, Isaiah 48:22 says, “‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.'”

The wicked are those do not follow the commands of Jesus to love their enemies. This is how God loves. This is how Jesus loves. And, it is how his disciples are to love.

When we love our enemies, we draw near to Jesus and have peace. But, there is no peace for those who aren’t willing to draw near and listen to Jesus.

Does God Create Darkness?

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 44-46

“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7

Does God create darkness?

Perhaps you think I just asked a really stupid question given what Isaiah 45:7 says. But, I’m seriously asking the question.

Why do I ask this?

I was in discussion once where I was claiming that God was good and only good, that God never did anything evil or bad, and that God never destroys. I claimed that every evil act, every destructive act was a work of Satan.

I could see one person go to the concordance of their Bible. This person then read to me Isaiah 45:7 – “I form light and create darkness; I make well being and create; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” This person then said that, paraphrasing, “See, it says right there that God brings about darkness and calamity, bad things and destruction.”

My response was simply, “I don’t think you know what creates mean.”

This person was assigning the cause of darkness and calamity to God. Therefore, God creates it. In our minds, to create something is to get your hands on it and bring it into existence. But, this is not how the Bible uses the word create.

God is the only one that creates in the Bible. Period.

To create is to give purpose and function to something.

Let me show what I mean.

Isaiah 45:18 says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it, he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

In this verse, we have the words create, form, and make. We tend to think of these words as synonymous, as basically meaning the same thing, but they are three different words in the Hebrew. And, create (the Hebrew word bara) has a different meaning from the words for form and make. We can see this in the context of this verse.

Let’s look at what God does to the earth. He formed the earth and made it. The word for form basically means to form, fashion, forge. The word for make basically means to make, manufacture, do. These words imply getting your hands on something and shaping it, forming it, making it, and bringing it into reality. Just like if I was going to take some wood, some glue, some nails, some fabric and make a chair.

But, God did not create the earth empty. This harkens back to Genesis 1:2, which says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” If something is without form and void, then it is empty, without purpose. But, God did not create the earth empty. He created the earth, God gave it a purpose.

What was the purpose God gave it?

He formed (he Got his hands on it and did something with it) to be inhabited.

Later in Genesis 1:27, it says that God created man., which is to say he is giving man a function. Then, in verse 28, God says what that function is – to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth, etc. Genesis 1 is all about the function of creation.

But, then Genesis 2 tells us how God made man. Once he had given man a function, God then had to form man to function the way that he wanted. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

So, the Bible shows that there is a difference between creating and forming. Again, creating is about giving a purpose or function to something.

So, Isaiah 45:7 says that God forms light and creates darkness, makes well-being and creates calamity. I believe what this is really saying is that God gets his hands on, shapes, fashions, forms, and brings to fruition light and well-being. He is actively involved in bringing those about.

However, when it comes to darkness and calamity, God gives them a purpose or function. God doesn’t cause darkness and calamity. God doesn’t bring about darkness and calamity. However, he does cause them to have a purpose.

You may think I am trying to split hairs and make the Bible say something that it does not. You may think that I am trying to pick and choose what I want to believe about God. But, the New Testament states, in different words of course, everything I have just said.

And, all we have to do is to look to Jesus to see that.

John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John says that Jesus is the light of men, the light of the world. Jesus, and therefore God, is light. John says exactly this in 1 John 1:5, which says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

God is light. It is not that God’s acts are light or that he does light. No, God is light. And if you are something, then you cannot do the opposite of that. If you are light, then you cannot do, act, form or make darkness.

So the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. God forms the light, Jesus, and he shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome the light, meaning that the light removes the darkness. The darkness was given a purpose, which is to show the brilliance of the light.

Good exposes evil. Light exposes darkness. But, one who is light cannot make darkness and evil. Jesus said in John 3:19-21, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Perhaps we should look at a real example of this. John 9:1-7 says, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We just work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

The man was blind. Therefore, he was in darkness. The disciples want to know who caused this man to be in darkness. Who is responsible for this? Who made it happen?

But, Jesus answered in a way that said it is not important who caused the darkness that his man was in. And, Jesus is most certainly saying that God did not cause or make this man in the darkness from his birth.

However, this man was in darkness “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man’s blindness, his darkness, was going to be given a purpose, which was to display the works of God, specifically God’s light. We must notice how Jesus works into his answer “I am the light of the world.” This passage is about light and darkness.

So, what does Jesus do?

He spits on the ground, makes mud, puts it on the man’s eyes, and makes the man to see. Do you notice how this refers back to Genesis 2:7 when God formed Adam. God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. God and Jesus took dust and the ground. God breathed into the dust and Jesus spit into the ground. God’s work made the man a living being and Jesus’ work made the man to see, or have light.

Jesus formed light in this man, giving his darkness a purpose. Or, as Isaiah 45:7 says, “I form light and create darkness.”

All of this is exactly what Romans 8:28 is getting at. The verse says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God does not cause all things. God does not cause the evil things in our life. He does not cause darkness in our lives. However, God works all things together for good. He gives the darkness, our blindness, a purpose. Therefore, God creates darkness. He works it together into good.

Romans 8:29-30 says that purpose, that good, is that we will be conformed to the image of Jesus and be glorified.

So, does God create darkness?

Only if we understand God’s creating as giving a function or purpose to darkness, which is that his works, his light, might be displayed.

Therefore, “Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Jesus Has Created It – What Is “It”?

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 41-43

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water. and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the place and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” – Isaiah 41:17-20

We know that the Holy One of Israel is Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, in Luke 1:35, the angel told Mary, “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” In Luke 1:49, Mary sang, “Holy is his name.” And, in John 6 many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and stopped following him. So, he asked the twelve if they wanted to leave him too. In John 6:68-69, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

In addition, we know that this passage is about something that Jesus does because the Holy One of Israel created. In Jesus: The Creator, I wrote that God is the only subject of the verb bara, to create. And, in the New Testament, we see the power of creating is identified with Jesus. Everything was made by and through Jesus.

So, we know that this passage speak to Jesus creating. He creates it.

But, what is it?

What is Jesus creating?

In this passage the poor and needy are seeking water. And, God says he is going to bring a bunch of water and trees. So, are we to understand that Jesus is creating physical water and physical trees in answer to the thirst of the poor and needy? Is this what the poor and needy “may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this?”

Or, is the passage speaking to something much deeper, something beyond the physical, something spiritual?

I believe when you study the the word bara, to create, you will find that it does not really have to do with the physical creation of something. Rather, it has to do with the giving of purpose, how something functions.

Consider David’s plea to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Was David asking for God to physically create a new heart within him? Of course not. David was asking that his old heart, which functioned in the manner of lies and murder, would be created clean. That is, David wanted his old heart, which did the wrong thing and functioned in the wrong way, to be given a new purpose and new function, one that was clean, by God. This is just one example of many in the Old Testament where the word bara speaks to function and purpose and not physically making something.

So, what is it that Jesus has purpose and functioned?

We know that the poor and needy are thirsty, seeking water, and that Jesus will answer them and not forsake them.

This brings to mind Jesus’ encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman. In John 4:13-14, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

It also brings to mind what Jesus said in John 7:37-38. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

Jesus said drinking physical water will leave you thirsty. So, he is giving a different kind of water, spiritual water, that when you drink it you will never thirst again. This spiritual is a spring of water is eternal life. And, when we come to Jesus and drink this spiritual water, it will flow out of hearts like rivers of living water.

Back to the passage in Isaiah, we can then understand that the poor and needy will not be forsaken by Jesus. Jesus will open rivers and fountains and make pools and springs. In other words, there are those that will be desperate for life and Jesus will give it to them.

We know that when Jesus is speaking of the water that he gives that he is speaking of eternal life. But, more specifically, he is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour out my water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Here the water Jesus gives is equated with the Holy Spirit and the thirsty and dry land with people.

But, notice there are four types of water and places mentioned in Isaiah:

  1. rivers on the bare heights
  2. fountains in the midst of valleys
  3. a pool of water in the wilderness
  4. springs of water in the dry land

So, whether it is a high place or low, whether it is the grassy plain or the desert, Jesus is going to fill these four places with water, not physical water, but spiritual water.  But, the number four symbolizes the entire creation in scripture.

So, what is Jesus creating here? What is he purposing? What is he “functioning”?

I believe this is a picture of Jesus filling the earth, all creation, with his Spirit, with the knowledge of himself.

Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The same words are found in Isaiah 11:9, which says, “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

So, we seeing Jesus pouring out his Spirit to give knowledge of the Lord to the whole earth, all of creation. Jesus said that this was the reason the Holy Spirit would come – “he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” and “when the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” and “he will glorify me.”

So, what is the effect of the pouring out of the Spirit who fill the earth with the knowledge of God?

According to our passage in Isaiah, trees will sprout up in the wilderness and desert. But, all throughout the Bible, trees represent people. And notice the number of types of trees that will come forth:

  1. cedar
  2. acacia
  3. myrtle
  4. olive
  5. cypress
  6. plane
  7. pine

Seven types of trees will come forth from all this water filling the creation. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection.

So, when we combine all these pictures, what we see is that Jesus gives purpose and function as he pours out his Spirit upon the whole creation, and it is this pouring out of his Spirit that spiritually perfects mankind as he is filled with eternal life.

This is it.

This is what Jesus created.

This what the poor and needy “may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this.”

It’s not about physical trees and water that Jesus is creating. Ultimately, this does nothing for the poor and needy. Rather, Jesus is creating life and spirit within all creation and mankind.

Jesus said in John 6:63-64, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Jesus: The Creator

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 38-40

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator  of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” – Isaiah 40:28

As we have read through Isaiah, I have noted the repeated use of the phrase “that day” in reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In That Day: The Preservation and Inheritance of Life, I observed that the phrase “that day” occurred 44 times in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah and just once from chapters 40 to 66.

This is interesting because almost every scholar and theologian has noted that the book of Isaiah seems to be divided in two with the dividing point coming between the 39th and 40th chapter. Chapters 1-39 seem to represent the Old Testament while the chapters 40-66 seem to represent the New Testament. Coincidentally,the Bible the majority of Christians use today has 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament (a total of 66 books).

In today’s verse quoted above, God, Yahweh, is called the Creator. Creator is translated from the Hebrew word bara, which means to create. This is a very special word in Hebrew as God is the only subject of the verb create. That is, God is the only who ever creates in the Old Testament.

The root word bara occurs 50 times in the Old Testament. The number 50 is the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:11). In the 50th year, all debts were forgiven, everyone returned to his land, and the fullness of the land was enjoyed. And, Christians are probably most familiar with the number 50 in relation to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh in fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2. Therefore, in regards to creation and the 50 uses of bara, we understand that when the creation is complete all debts will be forgiven, the fullness of the land will be enjoyed, and the whole earth will be full of the Spirit.

Now, one would think that since Genesis 1 is the account of God’s creation and that since Genesis is the book of beginnings Genesis would have the most occurrences of the word bara. But, this is not so. In fact, bara is found most often in the book Isaiah. Therefore, we could say that book of Isaiah is the book of creation more so than the book of Genesis.

Bara is used 21 times in Isaiah. The number 21 represents a period of distress. I wrote about this in That Day Sin Was Taken Away. The number 21 is also 3 x 7. Three is the number of divine perfection while 7 is the number of spiritual perfection. Therefore, the 21 uses of bara in Isaiah show us that when creation is complete all distress is taken away and the whole creation will divinely and spiritually perfect.

In regards to the division of the book Isaiah into two halves mentioned above, it is interesting that bara occurs only one time in the first 39 chapters while the other 20 uses of bara are concentrated in the last 27 chapters of the book. Notice how this is exactly the opposite of the phrase “that day,” which speaks to the crucifixion of Jesus, that occurs 44 times in the first part of Isaiah and just once in the second.

Therefore, in a sense, we can see the first part of Isaiah continually referencing to and speaking of the crucifixion of Christ while the second part of Isaiah speaks to the result of the crucifixion. And, the result of the crucifixion is that a new creation is ushered in by the one who was crucified, Jesus. Distress will be brought to an end and the creation will be full of joy and gladness, full of the Spirit.

Indeed, the last three uses of bara in Isaiah point to just this. Isaiah 65:17-19 say, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”

The New Testament is all about the fulfillment of these verses through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And, specifically, it is Christ crucified that it is the seed of this new creation.

And, just like in Old Testament, there is a singular word for create in the Greek that stands out above all others. The Greek word for create is ktizo. Just like bara, there is only one subject of ktizo. That subject is God. More specifically it is Jesus. Jesus is the Creator spoken of in Isaiah 40:28 at the beginning of this post.

Consider everything that I have written so far in light about what the New Testament says about Jesus and the creator and his creation.

While he does not use the word ktizo, John says in John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-16 says, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

Hebrews 1:1-3 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God [Jesus, not the Bible], so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible.”

Jesus is the Creator!

Then note Jesus as the creator relates to us.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in [or by] Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:14-16 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Ephesians 3:8-11 says, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ [note that in Isaiah 40:28 it says the Creator’s “understanding is unsearchable”], and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rules and authorities in heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 4:20-24 says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

We are created in, or by, Jesus for good works, to bring peace by becoming one new man, Jew and Gentile, to make the manifold wisdom of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ known to the rules of the world, really all creation, and to bring forth true righteousness and holiness.

The result of Jesus’ creating us is that we become the sons of God. And, it is the appearing of the sons of God, the fruit of Jesus’ creation, that brings about the end of distress and weeping that Isaiah speaks of.

Romans 8:19-24 says, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved.”

Jesus is the creator.

What is creating?

Sons of God.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

All of creation waits for the revealing of these sons of God. For, it is through these sons of God that Jesus’ new creation comes to completion. Therefore, when the sons of God are revealed the manifold wisdom of God will be known and there will be an end to distress and weeping. Hence a new heavens and a new earth.

Jesus is the creator!

Seeing Jesus in Hezekiah and Sennacherib’s Conflict

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 35-37

On the surface, Isaiah 36 and 37 contain a story of a historical conflict between Hezekiah, the king of Israel, and Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. But, underneath the surface, Jesus can be seen in the deeper meaning.

Isaiah 36:1 says that this conflict took place in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign. The number 14 symbolizes deliverance and salvation throughout scripture. Israel was delivered from Egypt on the Passover, which took place on the 14th of the day month. In Acts 27:27, it was on the 14th night after the storm arose that sailors of the ship Paul was on suspected they were nearing land. And, it was on the 14th day of the month, on the Passover, that Jesus was crucified, which set us free from our bondage to Satan and the powers and idols of this world.

Depending on the source, Sennacherib means bramble of destruction or the moon god Sin has increased the brothers. Bramble is a thorny bush. In Judges 9, bramble is the tree that desires to rule over the other trees.

Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh to deliver a message to Hezekiah. Rabshakeh means chief cupbearer. Since the Rabshakeh was coming on behalf of Sennacherib, he was bearing the cup of destruction.

Hezekiah means Yahweh strengthens or the strength of the Lord. Here Hezekiah is a picture of Jesus. Jesus was strengthened by the Father. And, Christ crucified is the strength or power of God.

The Rabshakeh told the people of Jerusalem to not listen to Hezekiah. He said that Hezekiah would not be able to deliver them. Instead, the people of Jerusalem should make peace with Sennacherib, who is a picture of Satan. If they make peace with Sennacherib, they will have their “own” vine, their “own” fig tree, water from their “own” cistern, and your “own” land.

There is very reminiscent of how Satan deceived Eve. Satan told her if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that she would be like God. But, she would have to disobey God, turn her back on God, to do so. This is just what Sennacherib is doing here. Through Rabshakeh, he told the people of Jerusalem to not trust in Hezekiah, Jesus, for deliverance. God could not really provide for them. But, he would give them everything they desired.

At one point during the conflict, the Lord told Hezekiah through Isaiah that Sennacherib would fall by the sword in his own land. In other words, it would be by his own power that Sennacherib would be destroyed.

Also, Hezekiah went up the house of the Lord to pray. The conclusion of his prayer was, “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

The end of Hezekiah’s prayer reminds us the end of Jesus’ prayer the night before he died. In John 17:18, 20-23, Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Just like Hezekiah, Jesus is praying that the whole world, all the kingdoms of the earth, would know God the Father alone is the Lord.

In this story, we also see a picture of Jesus drinking a cup of destruction for this is what Sennacherib to Hezekiah through the Rabshakeh. Jesus committed to drinking this cup in the garden so that we would not have to drink it. But, ultimately, the cup of destruction could not destroy Jesus.

Once already in the story the Lord said Sennacherib would by fall the sword in his own land, or by his own power. But, twice more something similar is said. Isaiah said that the Lord has spoken concerning Sennacherib, “I will turn you back on the way by which you came.” And, “By the way that he came, by the same he shall return.” That the enemy will destroyed by his own weapon or be turned back by the way he came is a recurring theme throughout the scripture.

This is exactly what Jesus did to Satan on the cross. Jesus did not destroy Satan with a sword or with strength or with power. Instead, Jesus defeated Satan with his own weapon. Jesus sent Satan back by the way that he came.

How did Satan come?

By death. He was a murderer from the beginning.

So, how did Jesus defeat Satan by the way that he came?

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Jesus defeated Satan, the one who had the power of death, through his own death. Jesus used Satan’s own weapon against him. No force or violence was required.

In the story under consideration, this was symbolized in that “the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.”

Why 185,000?

The number 185 is never mentioned in scripture. But, it is interesting that the number 185 has only two divisors – 5 and 37. These are the only two numbers that you can multiply together to get 185.

Most know that the number five symbolizes grace. But, not many know what the number 37 means. A close study of scripture will reveal the number 37 is found all over scripture. But, I will give just one example for know. Using one type of gematria (the ordinal type where the letters have a number based on their place in the alphabet), the value of the Hebrew word for wisdom is 37. All throughout scripture we can see that the number 37 symbolizes wisdom or truth.

So, what could this number 185,000 represent?

That the angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian camp with grace and truth. John 1:16-17 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If we look by the Spirit, then Jesus is all over the conflict between Hezekiah and Sennacherib.

A King Reigns in Righteousness, Princes Rule in Justice

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 32-34

“Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.” – Isaiah 32:1

When Israel was threatened by Assyria, they looked to Egypt for help. In Isaiah 31, Isaiah says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel of consult the Lord.”

Like Israel, we are quick to run to the world for help for it appears to be strong and powerful. Strength, power, force, and violence, seem like the solution to our problems. They will get us out of trouble.  But, woe to those who do that instead of turning to the Lord.

We should not turn the world for help because “in that day” there will be a king who reigns in righteousness and princes who rule in justice. This king is Jesus, and the princes are his people.

Righteousness and justice have become confusing terms for many of us. Our western minds have turned them into words of morality and legality. But, that’s not really what these words are about.

Righteousness is about being communally faithful or beneficial. It is about loyalty and being faithful to a covenant. This is contrast to moral perfection, which seems to be what most of us think of when we think of righteousness.

Justice is about the administration, the doing, of what is righteous. This is in contrast to a legal sentence or punishment, which is likely the first thing most of think of when we heard the word justice.

Regardless, whatever we think of the words righteousness and justice, whatever the Hebrew words mean, Isaiah gives us four pictures to demonstrate it looks like when a king reigns in righteousness and his princes rule in justice.

  1. Like a hiding place from the wind
  2. A shelter from the storm
  3. Like streams of water in a dry place
  4. Like the shade of a great rock in weary land

Jesus calmed the winds. He was a shelter in the storm. And, Jesus as the great rock provided shade in a weary land. Notice that these three things provide protection.

To reign in righteousness and rule in justice is first and foremost to provide protection.  Jesus continually showed that this protection was to be given to the weak, the poor, the abused, the fatherless, the disadvantaged, the helpless. The protection is from the wind, which can blow you anywhere, the storm, which can destroy you, and the heat, which can burn you up.

Notice that the protection righteous king and just princes provide is likened to a hiding place, a shelter, and shade. Therefore, this king and these princes must stand between the wind, the storm, and the heat and the poor, the weak, the helpless, etc.

Like the vast majority of the time there is a list of four in the Bible, three of the things are similar and one is different. While the focus of this list is protection, the fourth thing a righteous king, Jesus, and just princes, his people, are is like streams of water in a dry place. In other words, they give life where there is no life.

Jesus is the living water for those who are thirsty.

Notice what happens when Jesus reigns in this type of righteousness and his people administer his righteousness.

“Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention. The heart of the hasty will understand and know, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.” (Isaiah 32:3-4)

It’s when protection is provided and life is given that people see and hear. It’s at this time that hearts are changed and people truly confess the Lord. As God’s people, if we want to lead others to the kingdom, then we should first be about protection, standing between the oppressor and the oppressed. And, while doing that, we give the waters of life. Then the oppressed see and hear Jesus. Their hearts will be changed. And, they will declare the goodness of God.

Verses 5 through 7 give a contrast to Jesus’ reign of righteousness and his princes’ rule of justice. Isaiah calls these rulers fools. They speak folly, are busy with iniquity, practice ungodliness, and utter error concerning the Lord.

What is the result of the rule of fools?

They leave the hungry unsatisfied. They deprive the thirsty of drink. They ruin the poor with lying words. Instead of providing protection and life, the rule of fools denies those very things “even when the plea of the needy is right.”

The Teacher Reveals His Way

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 29-31

“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, ‘Be gone!'” – Isaiah 30:20-22

A teacher that was hidden is now seen, or made manifest. But, the teacher calls from behind you, “This is the way.” Therefore to go the way of the teacher you have to turn or repent. Having repented, it is then that you get rid of your idols and no longer worship them. Instead you worship the teacher.

This passage of scripture immediately called to my mind Jesus. He had been working all through history, but he was hidden. Then, the word, the son of God, became flesh. He was manifested. He could be seen. And, when he was manifested, Jesus showed everyone how he could be seen in all the scriptures, the law and the prophets.

This passage of Isaiah also brought to my mind the scene in Revelation 5. John is looking for one to open the sealed scroll. John could not find anyone in heaven, on earth, or under the earth to open the scroll. So, he wept.

But, John heard an angel cry out, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” When John looked he saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.”

John heard about the Lion but when he turned to the throne he saw a slaughtered lamb standing. John knew of the Lion of Judah. This lion was like the teacher that was hidden. But, when John turned to the throne to see the lion, the truth was revealed. Instead of a lion, he saw a lamb. The teacher that was hidden was now revealed.

It was as if John had heard a word behind him, “This is the way.” Our way forward, our way to victory is the lion, which implies strength, power, force, violence. To us, to progress forward and bring the kingdom of God to the earth is the way of the Lion.

But, we have to hear to the teacher, who is behind us. He calls from behind us saying, “This is the way.” And, when we turn to see who is calling, we see not a lion, but a slaughtered lamb. Instead of force, power, strength, and violence, we see that the way, the true way to bring the kingdom of God to earth, is sacrificial suffering – love.

It’s fascinating that this way of love is behind us. The truth is 180 degrees the opposite of what we expect, what our natural mind tells us.

The true lion, the king of beasts, that slaughters is actually a slaughtered lamb.

True reigning is serving.

True power is weakness.

True living is dying.