Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
Our Verse of the Day has a very insightful message for us: God Himself is the One who teaches us! He knows what is best for us, and He instructs us in the path that we should take for our lives. After all, He is the One who created us! So why do people ignore Him? Why do people resist the Holy Spirit? (Cf. Acts 7:51) In Isaiah 48, the prophet expounds on the matter in great detail. You can click on the link to read the full chapter.
Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)
16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”
The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Cf. Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective in mind: God is our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. Yet, it is evident that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) We can see our lives and the people of our nation are in desperate need of redemption. The question is: “Will we heed His instructions? Will we walk in the direction He has shown us?” The Lord pleads with us to keep His commands so that our peace will be like a river – our well-being like the waves of the sea!
Our Verse of the Day reminds me of the purpose for which we study the Word of God and endeavor to follow its wisdom and instruction. His Word teaches us what is best for our well-being; offers us wisdom to guide our decision-making; and affords us the knowledge to experience peace and blessing in our lives. Yet sadly, we can see the great lament God expressed over the unwillingness and disobedience of His people: “If only you had paid attention to My commands….” And what did Israel experience for her disobedience? What should those who disregard the Word of God expect in our own generation? I wonder, “Will our nation receive the same judgment as ancient Israel for its unrighteousness and disobedience?” The following confessions of the Prophets should awaken our own hearts:
Jeremiah 3:24-25 (NIV)
24 From our youth, shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth until this day, we have not obeyed the Lord our God.”
Jeremiah 44:20-23 (NIV)
20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? 22 When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed Him or followed His law or His decrees or His stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”
Daniel 9:3-19 (NIV)
3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
So, I pray we will take their admonitions to heart this morning. I pray we would examine our hearts and carefully consider the instruction of God for our lives. I believe our Lord Jesus wants those who abide in Him … His Body … to declare the instruction of God and to disciple people in the direction He has commanded for us to go. What is best for us? What is the direction He leads us to go? Well, first and foremost, Jesus instructed: “The work of God is that you and I believe in the One who He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) And Jesus affirmed: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) Likewise, the Apostle John affirmed this message in his Gospel record:
John 3:16-26 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
In light of this solemn message, and what I believe the Holy Spirit has taught us, I want to offer up a prayer of repentance not only for myself, but for our nation as well:
O Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame – the people and the generations before us are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. We have not wholly kept your covenant … we have not worshipped you in the Spirit and in Truth. In our nation, we have bowed down and worshipped the idols of ourselves with all forms of greed and covetousness. Our people have exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. (Cf. Romans 1:25) We have shed innocent blood for our own sinful desires, and sacrificed our children on the altar of convenience. We have oppressed the destitute and ignored the afflictions of the widow and the fatherless. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way of iniquity. (Cf. Isaiah 53:6) But Lord, you have said: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) And so, we your people humble ourselves before you Lord; and we ask for your forgiveness on our collective sin. Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash away all our iniquities and cleanse us from our sin.For we know our transgressions, and our sin is always before us. Against you, you only, have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Create in us pure hearts and renew steadfast spirits within us. (Cf. Psalm 51:1-4, 10) In Your Name, Lord Jesus, I pray for our nation to repent and return to you. I pray we would keep your laws and statutes and commands. Yes, I pray our people will repent, renounce, and remove all wickedness from within our hearts and cleanse all iniquity from this great land you have given us. And I ask for our governmental leaders and those in authority to repent as well, and to administrate righteousness and to legislate with justice in accordance with your Word. Like Daniel, I plead: Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because of your people who bear your Name. In Your Mighty and Holy Name, I pray. Amen.