Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 3

As we stand before the word of the Lord in Isaiah 58 as standing before a mirror to see clearly (btw, there is no other way to come to scripture that will change your life), we are given a picture of spiritual life among the Israelites in Isaiah's day. These people had a strong sense of connection to the God of their father's, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom they had received a covenant and laws unlike any other people on the earth. In their midst was the temple that Solomon had built unto the Lord to facilitate worship, house the Ark of God's Presence in the Holy of Holies, offer sacrifices to maintain right relationship with God, and to promote the teachings/word of God through the generations. If you were a visitor to Israel, and especially Jerusalem, you would be strongly impressed by what appeared to be a faith/religious- centered culture. 

And if you had observed these people of God in the day described by Isaiah in chapter 58 as they were seeking God through their fasting, you would have been even more impressed. You would have seen people laying on the ground in various places, especially around and in the temple courts. You would have seen them laying in ashes with some of the ashes thrown on their heads and smeared on their faces, looking sad and humbled. You would have noticed their bodies wrapped not in normal clothes, but very uncomfortable (and ugly!) sackcloth. You would wonder what it must be like to have that scratchy material against your skin, rubbing you every time you move. You would have been impressed by the level of suffering, humility and hunger they were enduring to be seen and heard by their God. They are not even lifting up their heads toward heaven, but are bowed down and bent over. You would have thought to yourself, "These are very righteous people, they want their God to come to them and bring justice and more of His glorious works in their midst. Oh how they love their God to go to such great lengths of service, suffering and sacrifice! Look at how they are calling upon their God with groans and tears!"

In fact, that is how these Israelites saw themselves! But God had a different opinion about them. Can I tell you that this is one of the most profound, life-changing revelations that a person can embrace in their life-time: No matter how I see myself and the value of what I am doing, our Father Who created us and rules over all, He has a different opinion? And He is always right. He is never deceived nor can be, as we so often become. As the prophet Isaiah had told these people previously, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts....For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways....For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:7-9). Until we grasp this and adjust our whole lives to this reality, we are grossly out of alignment with heaven's truth and life.

I am sure that when Isaiah spoke those words to these Israelites there were some who said to themselves that he must be talking to somebody else because he referred to the wicked and the unrighteous. But we are never the judge of what is wicked or unrighteous, only God is. And we would like to look at all the spiritual things we might be doing to feel better about ourselves and be seen as righteous in God's eyes. But what did God say to these people? Your ways and your thoughts don't line up with Mine. There is a big and awful gap. What God was revealing is that when we do not really know our God's heart, His thoughts, His words, His desires, His plans, His motivations, His views, etc, and our own heart is not seeking after these, all that we do produce through our own thoughts and choices will not come close to what God esteems as righteous and good.

This is a moment of recognition that Holy Spirit longs to bring each person to. And sometimes it is a moment of crisis where I come to the end of trusting in myself. I begin to realize as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:25, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." He also added in 16:2, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives." Can you see the real problem we are up against from within ourselves? Can you see that until we let Holy Spirit confront our own self-deception, self-reliance and selfish desires, our relationship with Papa God, His throne, His plans and His blessings will always have a breakdown. And we will blame God for it!

And this is what Isaiah was addressing with the people in Isaiah 58. As we read it now, as standing before a mirror, all these centuries later, can we hear the confrontation that comes from His love and desire for us? "Behold, on the day of your fast you find your own desire" (v. 3). "Is it a fast like this which I choose?....Will you call this an acceptable day to the Lord?" (V.5). ""Turn your foot from doing your own pleasure....desisting from your own ways and speaking your own word....delighting in the Lord" (vs. 13-14).

As we stand before 2018 to focus on what really matters and what will release heaven's blessings on earth, let us take a profound moment today to humble ourselves before the Lord and acknowledge there is a most likely a gap between our thoughts, desires and ways and His. And that we need help in this. What if in this year we gave our hearts completely over to knowing the heart and desire of Father God? That our hearts became so transformed unto the very heart of Jesus, the Son, who said that His very food was to do the will of His Father Who sent Him and accomplish His work (John 4:34). At the end of a 40 day fast (a real one with no fruit juices), Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread as a practical answer to solving His hunger issue. But even then Jesus declared, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). He was saying, "I don't want the results of my words, only my Father's perfect and amazing words". May God grant you and me such a heart change in this year that will allow us to be trusted with Heaven's best to set the captives free and release a glorious reformation, such as the world (and the church) has never seen!

No comments:

Post a Comment