ISAIAH 55:1 – 57:21 and HEBREWS 12:1–29
The prophetic Word is addressed to those who have a real thirsting for the presence of God. The presence of God and the associated blessings that come with it cannot be purchased with money. It all comes down to desire. As created beings we have an inward desire that seeks to be satisfied. How do we fill that longing and what are the things that create that hunger? God is looking for people who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The promise to such people is that they will be filled and satisfied with His goodness (Math 5:6). This is one of the keys to experiencing the fullness of the feast of Tabernacles.
Joh 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
Joh 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Do our hearts long after the courts of God; do we have a longing to only want to be in His presence? The invitation is given but our response will be determined by what is within our heart. This was one of the primary purposes for the wilderness journey for Israel. God wanted to see what was within their heart to see if they would serve him or not (Deu 8:2). This should help to give perspective into some of the ways of God. God wants all of our heart and He makes the promise of great abundance to those who heed His invitation. The promise of the sure mercies of David is also given to those who heed (vs 3). This is the blessing that passes on from a father to His spiritual seed. That which David came to know can be realized through his seed. The Lord allowed David to be an example and witness to his generation and it is a promise that can be given to us as well. Paul was a pattern of long-suffering which spoke to the church of his day as well as ours. The standard for the last day church is a high one and it requires a people who have a deep longing and hunger for the things of God.
The call to nations is expressed in verse 5 where the gospel message goes out to nations that do not go looking for God. This is the blessing and privilege given to a missionary who ventures forth into foreign territory. The Lord’s desire from the beginning is that there would be fruit that goes over the wall as a token and blessing to all nations. There is the sobering reminder of seeking the Lord while He may be found. We must never take for granted that we can seek after the Lord anytime we want. The Lord lamented the missed opportunity that Israel had during the time of His ministry (Luk 19:41, 44). There are several mentions in scripture of where the Lord speaks of “Today, if you hear his voice” (Psa 95:7, Heb 3:7, 4:7). Imagine the regret of those who come to the place of knowing they missed their moment without hope of recourse. This can even speak of believers who realize they missed an opportunity that the Lord had apportioned for them. They will see a measure of grace that they did not avail themselves of resulting in a missed opportunity. In verse 7 we see one of the prerequisites for repentance. First, it is only God who chooses whether one can obtain forgiveness and repentance. Secondly, on man’s part there needs to be a forsaking and absolute turning around from sin and wrong doing. It is when the Lord can extend mercy and pardon. God is ever seeking to restore man who has fallen but He has a limit. We must never ever take the presence of the Lord for granted.
The familiar theme of God’s thoughts and ways as being higher than ours are enumerated in verses 8-9. This is something we can easily know theoretically but can we make personalized application to situations in our own lives? God desires to bring us out of the narrowness of our self and raise us up to His heights and depths. This allows for us to see things as God sees them. This will result in an increase of His Faith to believe for the impossible. The other part of this verse makes clear that God’s ways are oftentimes much different from our own. This was a truth that Moses came to know and it distinguished him from the rest of Israel (Psa 103:7). We come to know the ways of God through spending time with God. It comes from a desire in knowing who He is and what He is like (Isa 55:1, Exo 33:13, 18, 34:6).
In verses 10-11 we have what I like to call the circuit of Faith. The Word of the Lord goes forth like rain coming down from heaven (Think of the parable of the Sower). The Word does not return to the Lord as rain it returns to Him as fruit. The rain waters the earth and causes it to bud and bring forth seed. This seed is then planted for the purpose of giving bread to the eater. That which goes forth as rain returns to the Lord as fruit; His Word does not return unto Him void but it produces something that in the end brings glory to God. Our role is to cast our bread unto all waters and allow the Spirit of God to do His work.
Ecc 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
The result of embracing the Word and work of the Lord will be the privilege of going forth with great joy and rejoicing. It seems like the mountains make way for the believer while the trees of the field clap their hands in response to one’s obedience to God. The Bible speaks of God’s creation longing for the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom 8:19). His creation responds to people who walk in harmony with the creator. The earth today is suffering under such violence as a result of sin; not because of environmental issues (Isa 24:5). The time will come when the earth will respond to the majesty of God and his people in choir like praise.
There is an appeal to seek after righteousness especially as the time of the Lord’s salvation is at hand. It is good to do a study of events surrounding significant moves of God. Our lives should always be circumspect before the Lord but when God is moving the standards become elevated. Remember, what God did to Israel at Ai with the sin of Achan (Jos 7)? Israel had just crossed over the Jordan and had the great victory at Jericho. Israel was judged due to the sin of one man. Do you remember Ananias and Saphira when they held back part of the purchase price for a property? The Bible says they lied to the Holy Spirit and were immediately judged (Acts 5:11). Here the Word of the Lord exhorts the people to seek His righteousness and to do justice. This was true in the Old Testament; it was true at the time of Christ and certainly will be true at the culmination of the church age.
In verses 2-5 there is the promise to eunuchs who were previously excluded from the congregation to seek the Lord provided they do the things that please Him (Lev 21:20). This can be a verse that would encourage those who have felt from the Lord to not get married or to not have children. Jeremiah will later affirm this truth.
Jer 16:1 The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
Jer 16:2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
God is gracious in being able to ensure a spiritual seed in such situations. In verse 6 there is the promise of strangers joining themselves to the Lord. In the Old Testament many of the enemies of the Lord could not be a part of the congregation of Israel up to the 10th generation. The purpose was to retain a godly seed. The ones who were disqualified under the Old Testament law can align with the church through the power of the blood of the New Covenant. These verses are looking forward to a New Testament reality. In verse 7 there is an emphasis on God’s holy mountain which of course speaks of Zion. It is a picture where people will congregate at the mountain of the Lord (Micah 4:1-3 and Isa 2:2-4).
In the closing verses of 9-12 we see an indictment upon the blind shepherds of Israel. It is a picture of what Jerusalem is going to look like right to the time they are taken into captivity. In reading through these verses I cannot help but see many similarities to our day. May the Lord have mercy on us.
The opening verse speaks of how some righteous and merciful men pass prematurely before their time. The Lord knows the end from the beginning and sometimes in His Mercy He chooses to spare them of a tragic event. This was the case at the time of the flood in Noah’s day. The oldest living man (Methuselah) was taken just prior to the flood. In fact, his name means “at his death shall the going forth of the waters be”. Lamech was taken about 5 years before the flood. It could have well been the Lord’s mercy to spare them of this peril. Regardless, we need to always be aware that the Lord is faithful and just in all His ways. We may not know the reasons why certain events happen but we can be assured of His faithfulness and that He does all things well. We saw in chapter 55 that God’s ways are not man’s ways and this is one such example where this can be seen.
The Lord now addresses the wicked and adulterous ones where He condemns them of their ways and actions. He makes the case very plain that He has no choice in bringing them into judgement for the way they serve idols and practice the mentioned abominations. How can He not help but respond to their way of life? They have rejected the many overtures that God sought to bring their way. The Lord had given many chances to turn and repent but they turned a deaf ear. They not only indulge in sinful practices but they make an open show of it (vs 8). They looked to heathen kings for relief by presenting to them perfumes and ointments. In other words, they sought to court these wicked kings instead of seeking the God of their fathers. In doing this they have brought themselves to the gates of hell (vs 9). Even though they were wearied in continuously seeking help from different kings they carried on while not choosing to seek God (vs 10).
God is now left with no recourse but to judge, yet in judgement He offers them the opportunity to return unto Him. The coming captivity in Babylon will ultimately, in light of eternity, be for their good (Jer 29:10-11). The Lord speaks that the time will come when Israel will cry out to the nations they have trusted in but it will be to no avail. The so called friends will also flee in the time of judgement. Only the Lord can save and in that day when the Lord is sought it may be that He will be found. The prophet is exhorting the people to put their trust in Him now so that they can be brought to His holy mountain. If we learn to put our trust in the Lord He will make a way for us and take away every obstruction that the enemy seeks to put in the sojourners way (vs 14). The key in being able to come to the Holy Mountain is humility and a contrite heart. The Lord is the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity and His nature is one of holiness. If we are to abide and dwell with the Lord in His desired habitation, we then have to seek after these qualities. The prerequisites are given in Psa 15 and 24.
In verses 16-18 there is a further description given of the Lord’s heart. He will not contend with His people forever; there is a limit with God and a time where He will hide His face from those who are disobedient. Yet, in the midst of their judgements if they turn back from their ways, He will heal and restore them from their mourning. In verse 19 the Lord speaks of those who are upright and have the fruit of peace in their lips. This is in contrast to another group mentioned in verse 20-21. They have no peace, their hearts are continually troubled and their torment will only intensify. This is one of the eternal judgments to the wicked. They know no peace and as a result become like the prince of darkness themselves. This is a contrast that will be seen in the last days where the church will divide. There will be those who have a hunger and thirst for righteousness and holiness while others who seek to live and serve God on their terms. The question is which of these two streams will we be flowing in?
Rev 22:11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
The Christian life is a race that needs to be run with great patience. The objective of the Christian race is that one finishes and finishes well. There is a course that God has established and laid out before each of us. It is a tailor-made circuit that has a uniqueness all its own. No two courses are the same but the objective of finishing the course remains. Paul had this very much in mind especially as he was nearing the end of his life.
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul makes the point that we have wonderful examples of people we can draw from. This was highlighted in chapter 11 through the lives of the men and women of faith. Their example should encourage and inspire us. The next issue he speaks of is in regard to any besetting sin. This is crucial because if not dealt with a besetting sin can hinder and stunt one’s growth in the kingdom. How do we get at besetting sins? It is by allowing the truth of the New Covenant to be become a reality in one’s life. This means allowing the Law of the Lord to be written and established within one’s heart. This entails the axe being laid to the root of where all sins originate which of course is in the heart. Why is it that many people fail in being able to hit the mark for their lives? I feel it is primarily due to not allowing God to address sin issues of the heart. If we minimize the Word of God, minimize the message and work of the Cross while placing an out of balance and redefined emphasis on grace we will fall short. A besetting sin may never come to the light if the true message of the Cross is not applied.
Another key is that we look unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the Alpha and Omega. How did He succeed in hitting the mark the father placed before Him? It was for the joy that was set before him. This is instructive for us especially if we are going through an extreme trial. The joy of the Lord is a fruit of the Spirit and it can be the means for us to help get through a difficult period. The Lord was also able to hit the mark through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Heb 9:14).
There is a battle that a true believer will endure and it often takes place in the mind. Even from within the church there can be many different contradictions and doctrines that people contend over which can result in great weariness. The Book of Hebrews, if understood would go a long way in addressing many of these concerns.
The greatest battle that the Lord endured would have to be when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here where his “human” will came into conflict with the will of His Father. The battle was so intense that Jesus literally sweated great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). It was here where the sinless Lamb of God became the sin offering. Never was there any greater contrast known to man. In verses 4-11 Paul addresses the subject of the chastening of the Lord. It is clear that chastening is never pleasant but when weighed against eternity it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness. A true minister of God endures great pressures and seasons of suffering. He takes on responsibilities involving the lives of people. There are times when the minister will need to administer judgements that are not pleasant but result in a long term benefit. The chastising’s of the Lord are viewed from an eternal perspective even if there is short term pain and anguish. One of the issues that will arise is that of misunderstanding which only adds to the problem. If we understand the Book of Hebrews we will better understand the ways of God which will help us to see God’s chastening’s in its true light.
In verse 14 we are told to have peace with all men which is first predicated on having peace with God. The Peace of God should serve like an umpire in our hearts letting us know if we are in proper alignment with God or not. If we have true peace with God, we then can relate to men in a peaceable way. The same principle is applied when speaking about love. If we learn to love God with all our heart, mind and strength we then can allow that love to be expressed to man. The peace of God can only be maintained by way of an obedient heart. Once there is disobedience there is the forfeiture of peace resulting in an inability to grow. If this continues then there is no ability in coming into a position of holiness. Paul spent considerable time earlier in this chapter speaking about the chastening’s of the Lord. Paul wrote earlier that the Lord Himself learned obedience through the things that he suffered (Heb 5:8). The work of holiness takes time; it is produced by learning to yield and say yes to the Lord. The prophet Balaam made an interesting “spirit inspired” statement when he said that he would behold the Lord but not nigh, meaning He shall be seen at a great distance. Balaam did not practice or live a life of holiness but was filled with idolatry and mixture (Num 24:17).
Perhaps the keynote verse in this chapter and one of the most important in the whole of the Word of God is seen in verse 15. If we fail of the grace of God, we cannot grow. How does this happen? If we allow our hearts to become bitter or hardened it prohibits any entrance of God’s Word. If the Word of God does not find a place within the heart, there is no ability for faith to arise. If there is no faith it is impossible to please and carry on with God (Heb 11:6). The Bible exhorts in so many places to make sure our heart is tender and open, having the ability to hear and respond to His voice. The grace of God is His enabling power to accomplish His will and pleasure. If we fail to grow in grace, we will fail in our walk with God. Our heart will become hardened and indifferent to the things of God. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. Let us endeavour to keep a healthy and merry heart at all times. An example of one who took lightly the sacred things of God was Esau. Are we prone to sell our birth right and inheritance for something so inferior? Esau did it for a quick temporal appetite fix. Let us not think we are immune from the same folly.
The two mountains of Sinai and Zion are contrasted in verses 18-23. It is the Mount of Zion that we are called to. The giving of the law was at Sinai but was never meant to be the final destination for Israel. The Law of God points the way to Zion. This mountain speaks of Rest and it speaks of the dwelling place of the Lord (Psa 132:13-14, Psa 87:2).
Paul alludes to a great shaking that is going to come to the earth and the church in the last days. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken and tested. The veneer that covers many works, churches and lives is going to be peeled away to reveal what is truly inside. We must allow God to do that work of judging and circumcision now while He may be found. The dealings and chastening’s of the Lord can be sobering and unpleasant however it represents the mercies of God. If we prohibit this work to be done; if we hide or fail to acknowledge the Truth today, we will later pay a much greater price. Paul finishes this chapter by highlighting God as a consuming fire. Moses turned aside to see a burning bush that was not consumed and in doing so he came into the presence of a Holy God. He did not run away but he stayed, he heard the heartbeat of God while being commissioned to be God’s deliverer. Moses allowed the wilderness experience to come into his life which enabled Him to come face to face with God as the consuming fire. Let the vision and call to holiness provoke us to seek the Lord fervently while He can be found.