Tag Archives: Isaiah

Morning Thoughts (Isaiah 2:2)

Isaiah 2:2, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."

This morning, misguided ideas and improper priorities rule the common thinking of society.  Consider the common ideas today that were taboo and shameful just a handful of decades ago.  Just in my lifetime, the idea of homosexuality has gone from taboo and shameful to complete acceptance.  Today people try to shame you if you are not tolerant and accepting of what was once barely whispered in the community.  The same thing has happened in other moral questions as well.  In the not too distant past, stealing another man's wife or having a child out of wedlock were grounds for community shame.  Now, major portions of society and various communities do not bat an eye at such behavior and think it strange that someone would be so "old fashioned" as to have a problem with it.  Sadly, the misguided notions and misplaced priorities have spilled over into areas besides morality.  Many people today have different ideas of spirituality and religion than were commonplace a few years back.

How many people today have the right idea and priority on public assembly in a real church of the Lord Jesus Christ?  How many people today even believe that there is really that much difference between different "churches?"  Most people today believe that "church" is just a place that you choose to go regardless of what is believed or taught there, and to most of them, attendance is the most optional thing that they have to do that week.  Sadly, there are more and more people that I talk to that say some version of this about the "church" that they attend, "Well, I go to such-and-such church, and I really don't like everything they do.  But, that's where we go, and I guess we'll keep going there."  When I invite them to attend services with us, they immediately object as we "don't have anything for the kids."  When I tell them that makes us no different from where they go (if they do not approve of everything where they are, why should they object to not approving of everything we do), they generally just exit the conversation.

In addition to the great dearth of zeal and energy in the community for public assembly some even have the misguided idea that there are things that can either replace or equal the spirituality of church worship.  Some believe that attendance is of equal value to simple Bible reading or study, private prayer, or even "enjoying God's creation" while being out in nature.  Now, it is undoubtedly true that one can get a feeling of grandeur on the infinite size of God based on the beauties of creation.  If creation is so much larger than we are and He so much larger than His creation, how large and great His essence must be!  Private prayer and devotion is something that should be done perpetually, and regular, consistent Bible reading and study is necessary for our daily discipleship.

There should not be any question – to the reasonable thinking disciple of Christ – that all of these misguided "substitutes" for worship in God's house are important in their place, but there is no substitute for church worship in God's house.  No doubt, but we could term viewing grandeurs of natural creation, private devotion, and Bible study "mountaintop experiences with God."  I remember standing on top of Pike's Peak where the air was quiet and still and finding myself listening to catch the breath of God, and I can still "hear" by faith the sweet words of peace that God has bestowed upon the face of my soul during those quiet moments with Him in prayer, study, and meditation.  These are mountaintops in my life that I would not want to trade for all the finery of the world's pleasures.  However, none of them can possibly be an acceptable substitute for church worship.

Notice our text specifically says that the Lord's house is not just in the mountains, but it is in the top of the mountains.  This means of all the rich experiences we could ever have with God in this life, the highest of all those moments is reserved for the House of the Lord/the Church of the Living God.  The reason that these experiences are richer, fuller, and higher is similar to the reason that the tabernacle or temple of the Old Testament was a more manifest time with the Lord.  Recall that the glory of the Lord would descend upon the tabernacle in the wilderness, and smoke came out from the altar in Solomon's temple to signify the Lord's presence with them.  The Lord's glory was more apparent there than anywhere else, because that was where He chose to make Himself the most known and seen.

So it is today in God's house.  God has set His church in this world to be not only a beacon of light for the poor and afflicted as a city set on a hill, but He has also established it to be where His richest glories in this world would be seen and felt.  While I have by faith experienced His sweet whisper of peace to my soul in private times, there is no comparison to the majestic power of the gospel and the utterance of the spirits of just men made perfect that has caused my face to look up and get glimpses of His presence unlike anywhere else.  He has felt closer, He has sounded clearer, and I have seen purer in the top of the mountains in the Lord's house than anywhere else.  It is such a rich time with the Lord that I have never found the words to adequately express what it is like.  To invite someone, I am left with the simple "Come and see" that the disciples used.  Come and see Christ in richer beauty than anywhere else, and to come and see the beauties of His glory more than any other peak can offer.

How long ago was it that most people in the community went to "church" somewhere?  How about now?  In my lifetime, I have seen (depending on the locale of course) the community's church attendance slip from somewhere between 60-65% to about 33%.  These days, I talk to two people that do not attend anywhere or attend regularly for every person I meet that does.  It means less and less to people in the regular activities of life than it did before.  Friends, this is the highest we can get in this world.  I remember an older minister from my youth that has now gone on to be with the Lord.  He was one of those older men that kept his sense of humor about things that many in his age group just grumbled about.  He said, "When people ask me if I want to get high or feel good, I tell them I don't need anything since I go to church every week."

Paul equates our attendance in the worship service as doing honor and service to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  In Hebrews 10:25, he first encourages us not to forsake it, and in the verses that follow he equates forsaking it to crucifying the Son of God afresh, counting His blood that sanctified us an unholy thing, and doing this despite unto the spirit of grace given unto us!  If the situation of not being there is as dire as Paul asserts that it is – and because it is inspired Scripture we have no reason to think otherwise – then consider the contrast.  Paul equates slack attendance to a poor attitude towards Christ to be met with some of the sorest punishment and chastisement that God metes out to His children.  However, the contrast is that church attendance is met with the highest, richest, and choicest of God's blessings.  Friends, there is no other place like the mountain of the Lord.  She sits as the ultimate peak, and she is the joy of the whole earth.  May our devotion to God be found first and foremost in that glorious place where the glory of the Lord comes so manifestly to His people, and may our other mountaintops of life be in their place so that things do not ever get misplaced or misguided.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Isaiah 49:16)

Isaiah 49:16, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."

This morning, very few things occur in the world that fill the heart with peace or swell the soul with joy.  Because sin and its effects ravage the world in which we live, confusion and sorrow are more indicative of the events around us.  Therefore, for us to be filled with peace and swelled with joy, our hearts and minds must seek ground of a nobler sense and higher plane from day to day.  Considering that loss is another indicator of sin and its effects, what can we direct our minds to that is lossless?  Scripture consistently and faithfully affirms that God is a lossless Being that does not come short in any regard.  Just one chapter over from our study verse in Isaiah 50, God asks a rhetorical question about whether His arm is shortened that it cannot save.  The reason that the question is rhetorical is because spiritually sane thinking realizes that God's hand is never shortened that it cannot save.

Our study verse gives some wonderfully illustrative language to highlight God's work that He has just contrasted with man's work.  In the preceding verses, God asked whether a mother could forget her small, infant child.  Much is declared in the world today about a mother's love, and truly, it is not something to belittle or deny.  Yet, taking the highest order of love that the world could recognize or agree upon, God's love trumps even that in the grandest fashion.  How inconceivable is it that a mother would forget her child?  Yet, it happens.  Recent history shows the recurrence of this incomprehensible activity.

How does God's love compare with that?  Though we marvel at a mother's love for her child, the sacrifices that she makes for the child, and the seemingly unfathomable amount of energy that she can exert for the child, God shines supreme above it.  Mothers make mistakes, and mothers at times can neglect their children or fail to take care of them as they should.  None of these things will ever apply to God or hinder His care and keeping of His children.  He never forgets.  To illustrate that point, God utters the language we find above in our verse.

While we desire to mainly consider the second phrase of the verse, let us briefly consider the first phrase.  In years past, I made a common mistake in the way that I viewed and applied that phrase.  The reason that I call it common is that many others have made the same mistake in their speaking, preaching, or writing.  If memory serves, I wrote a piece on this verse many years ago, in which I misapplied the thought accidentally.  Quite often, the verse is analyzed as if a word is inserted into the language.  How often do we hear the phrase, "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands" applied as if the verse read "I have graven thy names upon the palms of my hands?"  Truly, our names are in His book, and He knows those names down to the very last one.

Yet, the phrase speaks of something more powerful than that.  This is not some illustrative analogy of our names being with Him and on Him.  Rather, it is representative language that shows our very persons are represented by our dear Lord on His hands.  We think of hands being not only a body part but also used to illustrate the exercise of labour.  Whether a man engages in physical labour or not, we call his vocation the "work of his hands."  It may be the mind that is exercised or literally the feet, but the term "hands" depicts the labour in a more generalized sense.  So, we are graven upon the hands (works) of our Lord.

In a more literal sense, His hands were pierced while suspended on Calvary's cross.  As our representative, we were graven (not figuratively in name but in actual representation) by Him through that work and sacrifice.  By Him undergoing that work for us, the end result is as if we had actually done the work ourselves.  In God's eyes, that work was imputed to our account, and the books were balanced for us.  We are graven on His hands.

However, we mainly desire to speak of the second phrase this morning.  The phrase "thy walls are continually before me" should bring up connotations of joy, peace, and comfort.  While things in the world change and come to ruin, here is something that never changes or passes away.  Notice the word "continually" in the phase.  The word denotes perpetuation.  Nothing in life is truly perpetual – or lasts forever.  Here is something God says lasts forever.  What is it that lasts forever?

Our walls last forever before Him.  In olden times, the word "walls" brought up the idea of defenses.  Many times, a city's defenses depended largely on the strength and security of the walls of that city.   Many battle scenes in the Old Testament show the conquest of one army over the other by the destruction of the walls of that city.  Nehemiah and others spent quite a bit of time restoring the city of Jerusalem, and the effort in restoring the walls with their assorted gates took up considerable space in the book of Nehemiah.  The walls were important for the city's success and durability in the face of danger.

Our defenses that God Himself raised are perpetually before Him.  As the Watcher over those defenses, none can pry us away from Him.  So, not only does He not forget us, He has hedged in a place that cannot be undone.  For someone or something to get to us in the place that has set us in, that person or thing would have to break through a defense that is continually before God.  Since He never sleeps nor slumbers nor shall fail or be discouraged (Isaiah 45:4-5), that work could not be undertaken at a time when one knew that He would not be paying attention, nor could the work meet with any success as He cannot fail or be overthrown.

Too many times, we hear the statement that Christ loves you and died for you, but that statement is followed up by some command to ensure that the ones that Christ loved and died for will end up with Him.  Should that statement be true, then we would have to divorce these two clauses in our study verse from each other.  Since we are represented by Christ in His work and in His hand, why should we expect our defenses and secure position to be undone?  Those that Christ represented and died for will all remain secure forever before His loving and tender eyes, and the position is completely unassailable by every enemy.

One final extended thought is another wall that is continually before the Lord's eyes: His church.  While we understand that local bodies do sometimes vanish away or disband for one reason or another, the Scripture fully supports the perpetuity of the church here on the earth till the Lord Himself returns to take us home. (Matthew 16:18) Therefore, those walls are continually before Him, and no matter what the enemy may do or think, the flame of truth shall never be extinguished from the earth.  Someone might then inquire, "If those walls are continually before Him, then how do local bodies die?"  The answer is simple, yet powerfully humbling.  Local church death occurs when saints leave the city of Zion, not when God forgets to watch over Zion's walls.  When people depart to the degree and time that God removes the candlestick from them, His action is simply a declaration that the group has completely absconded from the walls of the city.  Therefore, the light of the city no longer dwells with them.

Though life changes and sometimes our lives are marked by chaos, may we thank God perpetually for the continuous gift of keeping that He shows unto us.  Not only did He see fit to take our place and represent us, He continually sees fit to preserve us to that great land above.  He has further seen fit to bestow a portion of that blessing (earnest of our inheritance) perpetually in this earth.  Truly, no thought of comfort could equate or compare with this.  The highest order of love and care men know and have for each other pales in the light of the glory of God and His work for and to us.

In Hope,

Bro Philip