Sunday, September 3, 2017, 4:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 48 (Select vv. NASB).
Not in Truth (vv. 1, 4, & 8)
“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came forth from the loins of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the Lord
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness…
“Because I know that you are obstinate,
And your neck is an iron sinew
And your forehead bronze…
“You have not heard, you have not known.
Even from long ago your ear has not been open,
Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously;
And you have been called a rebel from birth.”
The nation of Israel, under the Old Covenant relationship with God, was in a unique position which will never again be equaled, so we can’t make exact parallels between them and any other group of people today, yet there is much we can learn from these verses which describe them at that time.
For instance, there are many people in the world today who proclaim to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ. Many of them, perhaps, had parents who also claimed to be Christians, and/or they were brought up attending gatherings of the church or church meetings in localized institutional churches. They may even have been baptized, perhaps as infants, or as adults, possibly as a means of joining a local church fellowship, and they may even be active within these local church gatherings or institutional churches in positions of teacher, elder, deacon or pastor, etc. Yet, their relationships with God, with Jesus, are profession only. Their professions of faith in Jesus Christ, in other words, are not in truth or in righteousness.
So, what does it mean to believe in Jesus in truth and in righteousness? It means that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we submit to his Lordship over our lives, we humble ourselves in confession of sin, and repentance, and we trust in our Lord, not only to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse our hearts of all unrighteousness.
It means we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We are not looking just for a get-out-of-jail-free card or merely a promise of heaven when we die, but we truly want to give our hearts to Jesus in full surrender to his will for our lives. So, by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We no longer conduct our lives according to the flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, but not in absolute sinless perfection, but in consistent and persistent walks of faith and commitment to our Lord and to his ways and to his will.
Yet, those who make a profession only of faith in Jesus Christ, in many cases, are those who are actually opposed to Christ and his truth and his ways, in many respects. For truly their hearts are obstinate (stubborn) and unrepentant, and they are just using God for what they think they can get out of him, while they have no real intentions of ever submitting to his will for their lives. They want the blessings of God in their lives, but they want to keep going their own stubborn way in living their lives however they want, for their own pleasure, and to thirst after their own sinful desires. So, they stop up their ears, and they refuse to listen (really hear and respond) to God’s Word, although many of them will pretend as though they do.
He Will Act (vv. 9-11)
“For the sake of My name I delay My wrath,
And for My praise I restrain it for you,
In order not to cut you off.
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.”
We read in the New Testament that the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise concerning his return one day, but which also includes judgment. He is very patient and longsuffering, giving time for many to repent of their sins before he comes back, and before he judges the people of the earth, because he is not willing that any should perish in their sins, but that all should come to repentance, for this is why he died and rose again.
Yet, the Lord does discipline those of us who are truly his, and sometimes because those who are his are not living like they are his, but they are temporarily straying from their pure devotion to him, and they are going their own stubborn way. And, so he disciplines them in order to bring them back into fellowship with him. Yet he may also allow difficulties, trials and hardships in the lives of those who make a profession of him only, or in the lives of those who make no profession of faith in him, and who don’t know him, and in order to bring them into genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
But, one day he will come in judgment on the people of this earth, and for the sake of his name, which is being profaned by those who give him lip service only, but whose hearts are far from him. And, many will perish in their sins. So, we need to be spreading the truth of the gospel to as many as will listen so that many will be saved before the wrath of God is poured out.
The Way We Should Go (vv. 17-22)
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
“If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
“Your descendants would have been like the sand,
And your offspring like its grains;
Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence.”
Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans!
Declare with the sound of joyful shouting, proclaim this,
Send it out to the end of the earth;
Say, “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob.”
They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts.
He made the water flow out of the rock for them;
He split the rock and the water gushed forth.
“There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord.
We, as the people of God, and we, as the people of this earth, need to pay attention closely to what God is saying, for one day we will no longer have this opportunity to heed his words and to follow his ways. We need to listen to his counsel, and we must follow his leading, and surrender to his will for our lives, for he says that if we continue in our sinful ways, and we make sin our practice, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.
We must understand that God does visit nations and peoples and even his saints in judgment or divine discipline and correction when they go their own stubborn way and refuse his counsel. And, at least some of this could be avoided if we would just heed his Words to us, and obey his commands. Yet, he does not promise smooth sailing even for the righteous and godly, but he promises we will have difficulties, afflictions, and persecutions which are to test our faith, mature us in Christ, make us holy, and to train us in godliness and righteousness. Yet, we can know his inward peace and joy, and know his strength and power in our lives through these trials, and we can be overcomers, if we just put our trust in him, and follow him and his ways.
What our Lord is saying to the people of the world today, and to his saints who are caught up in the world and who have strayed from him, is that they must humble themselves before God, turn from their wicked ways, and follow him in surrender and obedience. They must flee from sinful practices, worldliness and following their own lustful desires, and they must submit themselves to the will of God for their lives. For, he died that they might die to sin and live to righteousness, not in their own strength and power, but in the strength and power of the Lord living within them. He has given us all we need to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to him, so none of us have an excuse for living in stubborn and willful rebellion against God.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.