“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Isaiah foresaw a day when people from all nations would be adopted into the family of God. He saw salvation reaching beyond the borders of Israel to the uttermost parts of the earth. Seven hundred years later Jesus entered into the temple and saw the outer courts turned into a marketplace. Instead of people being encouraged to to come to God they were being hindered. The religious leaders for the sake of financial gain and status among the people were actually keeping people from the Lord. At some point a sign was placed on the entrance of the temple warning Gentiles not to enter under the threat of death. When Jesus saw the actions of the leaders He was outraged. He began to overturn the tables and drive out those who were buying and selling. It was at that point that He quoted from this passage,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
It is worth noting that Jesus was enraged when people stood in the way of others coming to God. We know it is the desire of God for all men everywhere to be saved. We know that a person is saved when they put trust in Christ as their savior and we know that people come to trust Christ through the witness of others. We should be seeking to live lives that properly represent Christ so that others will be drawn to Him rather than repelled from Him.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
It seems as though people have always had “bucket lists.” In ancient times a man put together a list of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was like a travel guide for the wealthy, of things needed to be seen before they died. Things have not changed much. People still have their wish lists of the sites they hope to see before they are too old to enjoy them. Of all the beautiful things we could see I don’t imagine anything more amazing than seeing a person who has come to our rescue. Imagine being abandoned on a remote island and seeing a Helicopter, or being held captive by an assailant and seeing the prison doors burst open and police have come or being under siege by an enemy and the cavalry has appeared. Of all the beautiful sites their are to see none can compare to seeing the one who has come to set us free.
Isaiah speaks of the beauty of one who will go forth with the message of hope for a lost world. The person who will risk their own comfort in order to bring the message of salvation to others. Think back to the one who shared Christ with you. How thankful are you that they were willing to risk relationship to bring you the message of Christ. Paul spoke of being in debt to the whole world because of what Christ had done for him. He felt the only way to pay the debt was to tell everyone he could about the salvation that was found in Jesus.
I think it is time we saw ourselves as those who have been given the key to rescue men and women from captivity. We need to be willing to take risks and bring the message of Christ to others. Once a person receives Christ they will see the beauty in the message we declare.
“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.”
Back in the stone ages, when I was in middle school, it was common for the guys who “liked” a girl to write her name on their notebook or on the side of their shoe. I remember liking a girl named Carol, but being afraid to really admit it, so I wrote her name on the soul of my shoe. It didn’t take long before her name wore off (and the relationship didn’t last much longer than that). I am so glad when I read that God has inscribed our names upon the palm of His hand. What a beautiful description this is of the love He has for us. The word “inscribed” in its noun form means lawgiver. It speaks of the one who inscribed His word on tablets of stone. His love for us is as unchanging as His word.
Jesus declared that though heaven and earth will pass away, His word will never fail. There is no force in heaven or on earth that is powerful enough to break the promises of God, and the same is true of His love for us. Our names are permanently inscribed in the palm of His hand where He can see them and show them off to others.
Take comfort this morning in immeasurable love of God.
“They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble.”
In Isaiah’s time, it was a common practice, among the people, to fashion gods out of metal, wood, or clay. These little idols formed by their hands, were a reflection, not of the God of Scripture, but rather of the imaginations of men. Their idols were designed to bring them comfort in times of trouble. When things became difficult, they might hold their idol close like a small child with a stuffed doll. The problem, of course, was the comfort these idols brought was merely psychological. These graven images could not heal a sickness, provide during times of need, deliver from oppression, or give eternal life.
Today, it is just as common for people to create gods who will give them comfort and ease their anxieties. The problem is, these manmade gods really provide nothing more than the comfort a child derives from a favorite blanket or a teddy bear.
Instead of fashioning a god to satisfy our emotions, wouldn’t it be better to get to know the God who created the heavens and the earth? He alone is the One who has what is necessary for us to make our way through life and into eternity,
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”
Life is filled with opportunities to minister to hurting people. Sometimes these hurts are caused by the unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances, other times they are self inflicted. Regardless of the cause we are all surrounded with opportunities to “strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.”
In the midst of his pain filled trial, Job gives an insight that will help each of us do a better Job “comforting the fainthearted and upholding the weak.” He pleads with his friends to show him kindness.
One of the chief character traits in the life of Jesus was his compassion. He was not quick to be judge and jury of a person’s actions but to show forth His loving kindness and care. We see this on multiple occasions. We observe Him stretching forth His hand to touch a leper, providing food for the hungry masses and extending mercy to the woman caught in adultery. It is clear that although Jesus knew their sin, He wanted to emphasize His grace.
Imagine what it must have been like for Job. He lost his family, livelihood and health. His wife who had been his companion is so overcome with grief that she begins to become filled with bitter anger. Now his friends who came to comfort him put him under the microscope and begin to examine his every action. Instead of seeking to come alongside and build him up they determine their role is to correct his actions.
While I understand there is a time for correction and even for rebuke it is also important to remember it is the task of the Holy Spirit to convict and correct and the role of the believer is to love. The more we show kindness to the hurting the greater chance they will have of being freed from the miry clay that is bogging them down.
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.”
Haman’s problem with Mordecai and the Jewish people as a whole was not that they were lawless, insubordinate, unruly or even rebellious. His problem was that they lived by a higher law and as a result were not easily swayed by the changing tides of culture. As a result he determined to rid the landscape of all those who named the name of YHWH. As a follower of Christ we should seek not to be lawless but to live by a higher law. When the apostles were being threatened they responded “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
A careful examination of the commands of Christ teach us that believers are to love God with all their heart, love others with a self sacrificing love, take the low place and serve one another, turn the other cheek when mistreated, give without any expectation of return, pray for those who mistreat us, seek to win people over with words of grace and truth, behave with patience, speak words that are edifying, forgive when wronged, and the list goes on and on. What is it about those behaviors that is so unpalatable to the world we live in? I think the answer to that question is that the person living under the law of Christ is not swayed by the changing tides of culture.
If we live for Jesus we cannot avoid opposition from a world that is floating in another direction, but we can be sure that the opposition is not because we are failing to rightly represent Christ.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
Praise is pretty common. If you have ever watched a sporting event you will hear it. One team goes ahead in the final seconds and the arena bursts forth in praise. Sometimes however the opposing team hits the final shot at the buzzer and the crowd is stunned into silence and the praise evaporates from the room.
Often we approach God in the same way. If all is well in the world we offer him praise, but as soon as things become difficult we have nothing to offer except complaint. We base our praise on our emotional condition rather than basing it upon who God is and what He has done. Regardless of what our day is like God is worthy of praise. Rain or shine, blessing or buffeting, joy or sadness, God is still the one who loves us, saved us and promises to work in and through us. If we are in the midst of a difficult season of life it is important that we do not lose sight of God or become consumed with our grief. Whatever hardship we are facing Jesus is still alive from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, sending forth His Spirit to work in our lives and preparing a place in eternity for us. While we cannot always celebrate our circumstances or our emotional condition we can certainly celebrate the amazing great and unending love of God who promises to be with us as we walk through the fire.
2 Chronicles 12:5
“Thus says the Lord:‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak. ’”
A few years ago I was traveling to West Africa to speak at a conference for pastors and church workers. Most of the preparation for the event took place on the ground in Africa leaving me to only be responsible for my own travel needs. Three documents are necessary for entrance into Ghana. First like all countries a passport is necessary, second Ghana requires a visa and finally an immunization card showing that I have received an inoculation against Yellow Fever. Having been to Ghana before I knew of the requirements, planned my trip and headed toward the airport. About fifteen miles into my drive I had an urge to check my documents. I pulled over and dug through my bag to find that I had a passport and visa but had left my immunization card behind. I was forced at that point to turn around and go get it.
Judah under Reheboam had forgotten the Lord. Their prosperity had made them comfortable and in their comfort they had neglected God. It wasn’t until things began to go bad that they realized they had left behind the most important aspect of traveling through this life. They had neglected the Lord. The solution was the same for them as it is for us. They must turn around. Stop going in a direction that led them away from the Lord and start moving in direction toward Him.
Perhaps you have been neglecting the Lord, perhaps you have been busy but have not been busy doing the things that will bring about eternal reward. Stop moving in a direction away from God, turn around and get busy following Jesus.
“Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.”
The psalmist exhorts us to enter with the congregation of God into the presence of the Lord. He tells us that we should lift our hands as we bless the Lord. I find it interesting that it is possible to bless God. I understand how richly and continually He has blessed me but to think that I am a blessing to Him is sometimes beyond my comprehension. As amazing as it may seem, scripture makes it clear that worship is a means by which we are able to be a blessing to God. He loves when we take our eyes off ourselves and focus them upon Him. He loves when we realize His nature and His actions and we extol Him for all He has done. Part of the reason worship is such a blessing to God is because of the way it will impact us. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we will see Him as He is and we will see our lives in light of His tremendous love and amazing grace. When this happens it will not be long before we begin to lift our hands and surrender all.
Questions for Psalm 134
1. This psalm is about the temple watchmen who took their job seriously, reverently, and responsibly. Are you doing everything with reverence to God?
2. Are you honoring him with the quality of your work?
3. What is the meaning of Zion
“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,”
Difficultly is part of the journey for the people of God. Israel as a nation has been under constant scrutiny and attack since its inception and at the same it is true of the child of God. The moment you publicly proclaim the name of Jesus you will become the object of the world’s attack. Most of the positive things that are done in the name of Christ are overlooked, ignored or forgotten while anything and everything the church or the individual Christian does wrong is paraded as a proof that Christians are no different from the world.
After a recent attack at a gay night club by a person with radical Islamic roots the attention soon turned to the church as though this was somehow caused by the Bible’s position that homosexuality is a sin. Soon the news channels began to report on a church in California where the pastor declared that the victims of the attack deserved what happened because of their lifestyle. I was shocked not only to hear that a person would say such a foolish thing but that the media was able to ignore what was being said and done in thousands of churches across the nation and find one church that held this opinion and make it the news. What about the millions of Bible believing followers of Christ who gathered with their congregations to weep for the victims and pray for their families. What about those who made their way to Orlando to pass out food and water as a way to say they were sorry for the tragedy and to condemn the actions of a violent and godless man? The reality is the world has always opposed the followers of God and put them under scrutiny and attack. Jesus put it this way,
John 15:18-25 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”
As believers we should do all we can to change the world’s perspective of Christ and the church. When a person attacks Christianity they should have to second guess themselves because of your actions. They should find themselves making generalities about Christians while having to rethink those statements because of your life, love and faithfulness to the word of God. We cannot ever compromise the message of the cross but we should be willing to lay our lives down for others to hear it, see it and know it.