Out of the shadows of our past, into the light of His future

Micah 5:1-7:20; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Proverbs 21:17-26

God wipes out the shadow of our past – He “pardons sin” (Micah 7:18). He shines in the light of His future – “We will be “clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:4). From this standpoint of privilege, we are called to fulfil our responsibility: to be soldiers of Christ (Proverbs 21:22).
The ministry of Isaiah calls for reality, for transformed lives. this renewal of our lives can only be achieved through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t have the power to change ourselves. It is in Christ that we become “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This great Gospel blessing gives us much reason for praising the Lord and giving thanks to Him (Psalm 105:1-2).
“Those who are left … will be called holy” (Isaiah 4:3). “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The Lord is calling His people to holiness. They are not to be in bondage to the world and its way of living. Even though the Lord’s people are “few in number”, they have this encouragement – they are protected by the Lord: “Do not touch My anointed ones, do My prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15).
“The holy seed will be the stump in the land” (Isaiah 6:13). God preserves the faithful remnant, the remnant of faith. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all”(Isaiah 7:9). What or who can keep us firm in the faith? – “Immanuel (God with us)” (Isaiah 7:14). In the face of much opposition, we could easily become discouraged, “But God … comforts the downcast” (2 Corinthians 7:6). To those who turn to Him, God brings His comfort. To those who turn from Him, He sends His judgment (Psalm 105:28-36).
Who is Jesus Christ? What has He done for us? God’s answer to these questions is found in Isaiah 9:6 – “He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” We have true riches when we know God: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).
Jesus Christ was filled with “the Spirit of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are to live for Christ. As we give ourselves to the Lord in service, our first priority is “to honour the Lord Himself.” We do this as we “show our eagerness to help” (2 Corinthians 8:19). We, who have been so richly blessed by the Lord, are to live in obedience to Him out of joyful gratitude to Him, our Saviour (Psalm 105:42-45).
Christ came to destroy the evil one, Satan – to bring him “down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-14). Satan seeks to impoverish our lives. God, however, is very different. He gives us His “surpassing grace.” This is given to us in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:14-15). God’s gift of grace is so great that it surpasses our capacity for praising Him – “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praises?” (Psalm 106:12).
Much of the “oracle concerning Egypt” (Isaiah 19:1) speaks of the negative aspects which are associated with the nation of Egypt. Nevertheless, there is a Word of hope at the end of this oracle (Isaiah 19:18-25). In 2 Corinthians 10:15-16, Paul expresses the hope that “our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you.” It is so important that we do not write people off, that we do not give up hope, that we continue to believe that God can turn things around for His glory and for the salvation of men and women. The story which is told in Psalm 106:16-29 is one which makes us wonder, ‘Can this situation be turned around? Is there any hope?’ In Psalm 106:30-31, we catch a glimpse of hope, it is hope “for endless generations to come.”
The people of God live in a situation of conflict. We are at war with the enemy. Nevertheless, we need not be afraid. The enemies of the Lord will be brought to nothing: “Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!” (Isaiah 21:9). “Look at the land of the Babylonians, this people that is of no account!” (Isaiah 23:13). There will be “false apostles”, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). We must not become discouraged. We must not say, “There is a lion outside!” or “I will be murdered in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13). We must remember that “the Lord … frustrates the work of the unfaithful” (Proverbs 22:12).
“Lord, … all that we have accomplished You have done for us” (Isaiah 26:12). “I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised for ever … “ (2 Corinthians 11:30-31). The way of pleasing God is the God-centred way of living. The way of angering the Lord (Psalm 106:32) is the way of self-centredness. The words of Psalm 106:32-39 are full of self – “they … they … they.” It’s all about them. The only references to God  are descriptions of their refusal to do God’s will (Psalm 106:32-34).
Isaiah 28:29 contains a great description of God – “The Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.” Paul speaks, in 2 Corinthians 12:7, of “surpassingly great revelations.”  Whenever God reveals an increased measure of His wonderful counsel and magnificent wisdom, He wants us to remain humble, resting only in His grace and power (2 Corinthians 12:9) and not in any supposed achievement or attainment of our own. He wants us always to say, from the heart, “Praise be to the Lord” (Psalm 106:48).
“In repentance and rest is your salvation” (Isaiah 30:15). Repentance is an ongoing part of our Christian experience – 2 Corinthians 12:21 emphasizes the need for continuing repentance. We have been saved. We continue to sin. We must seek, by God’s grace, to maintain our repentance. Rest is part of our redemption in Christ. To be “redeemed from the hand of the foe” (Psalm 107:2) means the beginning of rest, the beginning of deliverance from the oppressor. This does not mean that the perfect state has been reached. Still, there is “wandering in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle” (Psalm 107:4). In Christ, we have entered into our rest. Still, however, there is restlessness – a God-given restlessness – as we continue to hunger and thirst (Psalm 107:5) for “a city where they could settle” (Psalm 107:7), a heavenly city that is permanent, and not merely transient.  In His faithful love, God assures us that He will lead us to this heavenly city where we can settle forevermore (Psalm 107:7), rejoicing in “His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men” (Psalm 107:8) and praising Him who satisfies our hunger and quenches our thirst.
What a transformation there is when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:14-15). The blessings which God pours upon us are well summed up in 2 Corinthians 13:14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” How are these ongoing blessings communicated to us? – These blessings come to us through “true and reliable words” (Proverbs 22:21). These blessings come to us from the God of perfect wisdom. His teaching is both present and personal – “I teach you today, even you” (Proverbs 22:19).
Isaiah 35:8 speaks of “the Way of Holiness.” Isaiah 35:9 stresses that “only the redeemed will walk there.” This is also the teaching of Paul in Galatians. We must be redeemed by the Lord if we are to walk in the Way of Holiness. Any attempt yo walk in the Way of Holiness as a means of earning salvation is “ a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all”, a perversion of the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). Only God – and not ourselves – can break the chains of sin. “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” (Psalm 107:15-16).
“For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 37:32). In a time when many people are turning away from the Lord, God is still preserving His own people for Himself. He keeps us for Himself so that we might be used by Him to bring others to Him. In response to His revelation, we are to preach His Gospel among the Gentiles (the unbelieving world) (Galatians 2:2), so that they, with us, may “exalt Him in the assembly of the people …” (Psalm 107:32).
“The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the Temple of the Lord” (Isaiah 38:20). Saved by the Lord, we are to give ourselves to Him in worship. This worship is to be in the Spirit (Galatians 3:3). we are to be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). As we worship in the Spirit, God Himself will turn “parched ground into flowing springs” (Psalm 107:35). As His Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will yield “a fruitful harvest – He blessed then, and their numbers greatly increased” (Psalm 107:37-38). May the Lord look upon us in mercy. May His “fruitful harvest” be our future, and not the tragic situation described in Psalm 107:39 – “Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow.” At the end of Psalm 107, we have this challenging exhortation: “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43).
The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Christ – “Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1). He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament hope: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14). Proverbs 22:28 says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.” Jesus Christ may be ancient, He is still the boundary stone, set not only by our forefathers but by our Heavenly Father. He is the Rock of our salvation. He is the criterion by which the boundaries are set. We are not to move the boundaries because modern man has become impatient with a faith that is based on the Bible. In this generation and every generation, we are to set our feet firmly on the Rock of ages, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose Gospel is old yet ever new, ancient yet constantly relevant.
What a majestic description of God we have in Isaiah 44:6 – “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty; I am the First and I am the Last; apart from Me there is no God.” This is the God to whom we pray, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let Your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 108:5). He is exalted, but He is also the God who draws near to us; “God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).
“I am the Lord, and there is no other” – This truth is repeated several times over in this part of Israel (Isaiah 48:5-6,14,18,21-22; Isaiah 46:9). The contrast, in Isaiah, is between God and the gods. The contrast, in Galatians, is between Christ’s salvation and other ways of salvation (Galatians 4:25-26; Galatians 5:1). There are always contrasts between what is godly and what is ungodly, what is Christ-centred and what denies Christ. In the face of such conflict, we have God’s own promise: “With God we shall gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 108:13).
The God who says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other”, also says, “I will not yield My glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). The uniqueness of the Lord is directly related to the glory of the Lord. God is unique, the one true God. We are to give glory to Him alone. How do we glorify God? – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). The way of the flesh brings judgment (Psalm 109:1-20). The way of the Spirit is the way of “inheriting the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21-24).
“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 51:11). “May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Our boast is in the Lord who has ransomed us. We rejoice in Him. He has given us a new song of joy. We no longer sing the world’s song. Now, we are singing the Lord’s song. The world’s way is always there to pull us away from the Lord. We must “always be zealous for the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 23:17).
“’With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8). “In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5). This loving kindness has its origin in the heart of the eternal God. It continues for all eternity as we are brought into our full enjoyment of “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). It is to this everlasting love that we make our appeal when we call upon the Name of the Lord: “Out of the goodness of Your love, deliver me … Help me, O Lord my God, save me in accordance with Your love” (Psalm 109:21,26).
Following the promise of grace (Isaiah 55:7), we have this great declaration by the Lord, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘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). God’s grace is so great that it will continue for all eternity (Ephesians 2:7). The God of grace will be triumphant over all His enemies (Psalm 110:2).
“’Here am I,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 58:9). “Here am I”, says Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8). Our “Here am I” only has meaning within the context of God’s “Here am I.” It is because He is ‘the God who is there’ (Francis Schaeffer) that we can draw near to Him – “You did not wait for me to draw near to You …” (Mission Praise, 969). When we come to Him with the prayer, “Here am I”, we come with a commitment to service: “Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). We are sent into the battle, but we have this encouraging Word from the Lord – He has gone ahead of us to prepare the way for us. “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head” (Isaiah 59:17). Through this encouraging Word, we are “strengthened in the inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). – “His power … is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). “He has shown His people the power of His works, giving them the lands of other nations” (Psalm 111:6). This is the victory of the Lord.
The grace of God is very great and very precious. Through His grace, we are “called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord” (Isaiah 62:12). We are “urged … to live a life worthy of this high calling” (Ephesians 4:1). Following “the right path” is always a matter of the heart. We must “keep our hearts on the right path” (Proverbs 23:19). This means giving attention to “truth … wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).
The cry of God’s people: “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down … to make Your Name known to your enemies” (Isaiah 64:1). The promise of God’s blessing: “I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me” (Isaiah 65:1). Those who have come to know God through Christ “must no longer live as the Gentiles do” (Ephesians 4:17). The way of fearing the Lord is the way of blessing. It is the way of “no fear”, the way of triumph (Psalm 112:1,8).
We are to “drink deeply” from the “overflowing abundance” of God (Isaiah 66:11). We are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This fullness of the Spirit leads to praise. “Praise the Lord” (Psalm 113:1,9). As “servants of the Lord”, we are called to praise His Name “both now and forevermore” (Psalm 113:1-2).
“Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). In all the vows we have promised to keep, we must remember the strength of the Lord: “Be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10). When we are trusting Him for strength, He will turn “the hard rock into springs of water” (Psalm 114:8).
“The Lord God is with you. He is mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17). The God of salvation is with us, not only here-and-now but for evermore – “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). As we are led on by the God whose purpose is “to save to the uttermost all who come to Him through Christ” (Hebrews 7:25), our lives will be “filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:4).
The true and living God must not be reduced to the level of man-made gods. The challenge goes out from God’s Word: “Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?” (Jeremiah 2:28). There is no comparison between God and the gods – “Our God is in heaven … But their idols are … made by the hands of men” (Psalm 115:3-4). The New Testament affirms the sovereignty of God by proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ: “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name …” (Philippians 2:9-11).
From my One Year Bible