Streams in the Desert

God’s retribution is coming for people who have opposed Him. His salvation is coming for weakened and unsteady believers. “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool and the thirsty land, springs. In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs, their will be grass, reeds, and papyrus” (Isaiah 35.5-7).

This is a picture of the future Millennial Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. This age is marked by fulfilled promises made to Israel. Among them is the text above. God will come at the end of the Tribulation, a period of seven years of great trial for Israel and the rest of the world. Jesus will return and reward the faithful with this great kingdom. He will also deliver retribution to those who opposed Him and His children.

Water will spring forth into a once arid wilderness, a desert so desolate that only jackals lived there. Instead, a transformed wilderness will become a place of verdant pastures with plenty of water. 

All people are made in the image of God. All people continue to reflect that image to some degree. We are not so depraved that we fail to love, tell the truth, sacrifice, or feel empathy and compassion. Many have not succumbed to temptation or paralyzing addictions. However, we also do not give God a thought. All people are by default alienated from God at birth. We are a dry desert spiritually. We do not seek Him much less strive to please Him or honor Him. We rise to the throne of self and govern are own lives. We are without God in the world. 

The Gospel changes all of that for us. Streams of mercy and grace have come into our dry, dusty, and purposeless lives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Streams in the desert. 

This gives us hope when we look to the future. All the nations and kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of the Lord Jesus Christ. The barren world will become a fertile, vibrant kingdom of God. The whole of the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord even as water covers the sea. God will comfort Israel and all the nations. Joy and gladness will be found in the garden of the Lord (Isaiah 51.3). 

But hope deferred makes the hear sick. As we live our lives in the new week ahead, let us remember that the spiritual wasteland around us will become well-watered by the knowledge of God. All will know Him. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ. May God grant us mercy and grace to experience joy and gladness in our own spiritual drought. We belong to Him. We know Him. How thankful we ought to live as kingdom citizens even now. 

He Will Save You

“Strengthen the weak hands, steady the shaking knees! Say to the cowardly: ‘Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God; vengeance is coming.’ God’s retribution is coming; he will save you” (Isaiah 35.3-4). 

I have physically worked to the point where my hands have become so weak and cramped that I could no longer use them. Illness has taken my ability to stand steady at times. Extra stress and mental exertion makes it hard to publicly speak at times. My knees shake. This is but a picture of how difficult spiritual battle is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. David struggled spiritually in Psalm 38. He said that he was faint and severely crushed (v. 8). He groaned because of the anguish of his heart. He said that his pain was constantly with him – a deep and abiding spiritual pain (v. 17). 

We cannot continue to work as hard as we once did. We are certainly unable and too weak to carry our spiritual burdens. The enemies we face are too great. We even entertain the idea that God has somehow left us alone, twisting in the wind. We see clearly our hypocrisy. We know well that resolutions and renewed spiritual activity have led us only to a greater degree of disappointment and sometimes bitterness. Are we not weak, shaky, and cowardly? 

We need the LORD to strengthen our weak hands and steady our shaking knees. We need comfort that only He is able to give us. We need to become His channels to grant strength and comfort to others. “Be strong; do not fear!” What cause do we have for strength and courage? God is coming. His vengeance and retribution are coming, and He will save us. 

When we fear, we must see the whole lay of the land. We must know what God is about to do. He is coming to finally save us from this wicked world. It’s not that He may come; He is coming. It’s not that He will probably deliver us; He will save us! God strengthens the weak but judges those who are seemingly so strong, those who stand defiantly and independently from their Creator. I cannot offer encouragement to people like this. God is coming, but they do not believe it. He is coming to save us and destroy them. You have to be sick in order to go to the doctor. You have to be lost in order to go to the Savior.

The Great and Terrible Judgment

“Come near, you nations, to hear; and heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world and all things that come forth from it” (Isaiah 34.1). 

The LORD is angry with the nations. He will come to judge them. One day “all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll” that the LORD has finished reading (Isaiah 34.4). Jesus taught that “immediately after the tribulation of those [yet future] days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24.29). 

The LORD is patient and longsuffering. He doesn’t want anyone to perish but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9). But His patience will run its course. He will destroy this world by fire one day. All rebellion against Him shall cease. 

If people reject the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for their sins, they themselves will be sacrifices to God. All who fall short of the glory of God will face judgment and eternal destruction. Those who have arrayed themselves against Israel, the apple of God’s eye, will face the consequences of a great and terrible judgment. 

So many people continue through life unaware of this judgment. They simply do not care. They live here as if they will never stop living. When I read about such terrible future judgement, it is terrifying. But I have humbled myself before God. I have called out to Him to save me from judgment for my sins. Jesus died and suffered the wrath of God for my sin. A person must decide to trust in the once and for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross for sin or they will continue to trust in themselves and live on exalting themselves. Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23.12).  Either humble yourself or God will humble you.

I Am So Lame!

“Your ropes are slack; they cannot hold the base of the mast or spread out the flag. Then abundant spoil will be divided. the lame will plunder it, and none will say, ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity” (Isaiah 33.23-24).

Whose ropes are slack? Whose ship is dilapidated and run its course? It’s the ship that belongs to the enemies of Israel. It is the nations of this world and their abundant spoil. This shall belong to the weak and vulnerable one day. The lame or Israel will plunder it. They will live in that day completely free from disease and sickness. All their sins will be forgiven because Christ their Messiah died for them as He did for us. 

The longer I live, the more apparent my weakness and vulnerability become. What good I have known, I have forgotten. But if I daily look to God for help, I am able “to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.18-19). God doesn’t call many who are mighty, noble, and wise. They don’t see that they are vulnerable and lame. God chooses people like me so that He might receive the glory as I reflect His character to the world around me. 

I am undeserving of God’s daily mercy and grace as well. I feel anemic and weakened spiritually. But how I feel and how I am apart from Christ doesn’t change the truth that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is perfected in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12.9). When I am weak, then I am strong. The grace and mercy of God through Christ strengthens weak people to do great things that endure forever. I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me!

Even my ability to trust God is severely hampered and lame. But even faith that is the size of a mustard seed flourishes with vibrant growth in the hands of my heavenly Father. If I believe, nothing shall be impossible. Even mountains and their foundations are cast into the midst of the sea. My salvation doesn’t find its basis in the strength of my faith. I simply believe and cling to Christ. This is enough. Simply put: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3.36). 

One day I shall reign with Christ. I am a man who is lame in so many ways right now. However, I am a child of God. Not one hair falls from head that escapes His notice. He will strengthen me and lead me through the darkness into His marvelous light. One day, I shall walk briskly and steadily down streets of gold, forgiven of my iniquities and glorified in the presence of my Savior. To God be the glory!

The Lily of the Valley

“Look at Zion, the city of our festival times. Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful pasture, a tent that does not wander; its tent pegs will not be pulled up nor any of its cords be loosened. For the majestic one, our LORD, will be there, a place of rivers and broad streams where ships that are rowed will not go, and majestic vessels will not pass. For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King. He will save us” (Isaiah 33.20-22).

Isaiah 33.22 was often quoted by the Puritans as the basis for an ideal form of government. The Mayflower Compact recognized God as the ultimate authority and not a human king. Therefore, the LORD is the head of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. We see this in our own government; however, God is no longer recognized as the ultimate authority in our country today. 

When Jesus sets up His reign in Jerusalem, He will be Judge, Lawgiver, and King. His kingdom begins after He returns in great glory. It continues for 1,000 years, culminates in a final judgment, and then continues throughout eternity. The promises made will be kept, brought to fruition by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once government no longer recognizes God as the highest authority, everything unravels in society. As our nation faces danger politically and economically, we no longer see the LORD as our salvation. This is why Christians understand the limitations of human government. It will not save us. It cannot defend us. Only God is able to do both. Right now, Jesus is building His church not a nation or a government. His government is yet to come. 

The LORD is our Judge, Lawgiver, and King. The United States will one day go the way of all other nations. It may even be defeated and subdued by another nation. We may suffer with her as individuals. But the LORD is our great protector. The Supreme Court makes poor decisions. Congress passes inane laws. Presidents lack wisdom to lead. But our safety rests not with human government. We rest in quiet confidence as we depend upon our Lord Jesus. 

Puritans named their ship The Mayflowerbecause they were inspired by lily of the valley. Jesus is the Lily of the Valley. As the hymn-writer put it:

The Lily of the Valley- in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay,
He tells me ev’ry care on Him to roll;
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the greatest of ten thousand to my soul.
– Charles Fry

An Enriched Understanding

“There will be times of security for you – a storehouse of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure” (Isaiah 33.6).

The fear of the LORD is the principal part of wisdom. It is the awareness that God is near. It is both convicting and comforting for the believer. Truly divine wisdom expands a believer’s intellectual capacity. It also informs a life that pleases God.

The Word of God is illuminated by the Spirit of God for the glory of God. To glorify God is to reflect His character. Before we came to Christ, we were satisfied with external reformation and the ever changing moral standards of society. Once we come to Christ, our standards are intensified to the level of thinking. We know committing adultery and murder are wrong. We also know looking and lusting along with anger and hatred are also wrong. As a matter of fact, Jesus taught that to look and lust after another who is not your husband or wife is adultery. Anger directed toward another is murder. 

Now that we have the promises of God in the Word of God, we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7.1). What is filthiness of the flesh? It is pride, envy, discontentment, covetousness, and all the other thinking-level sins. We seek higher level thinking. 

The truth is in Jesus. So, we take off our former way of life, the old self “that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.” We put on the new self, “the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (see Ephesians 4.22-24). 

Indeed, the fear of the LORD is our treasure. It is a storehouse of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. We were poor, blind, wretched, and hungry. Now we are rich, discerning, privileged, and filled. Is this not sanctification? Is this not a quiet confidence …a blessed assurance? Yes, godliness with contentment is great gain. 

Tethered to the Temporal

“There will be times of security for you – a storehouse of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure” (Isaiah 33.6).

Many people know many things. But the skill of taking what is known and forging it into skillful living is wisdom. Edward Young wrote, “Wisdom is the true and correct evaluation of things, whereas knowledge is the true recognition of what things are. [Knowledge] emphasizes the objective, whereas ‘wisdom’ brings to the fore the subjective aspect.” 

Proverbs teaches that the fear of the LORD is the lion’s share of wisdom. The fear of the LORD is an awareness that He is near. He sees me. People who live with an awareness of God’s presence are said to be trusting in the Lord. They are believers because of this conscious awareness. 

Truly divine wisdom expands intellectual capacity. The world considers godly wisdom foolishness, a sign of a weak mind. A man might know more about current events, scientific theory, or economic models. But a person who is granted godly wisdom has more true understanding and lives a far more fulfilling life. The worldly man does not live with eternity in mind. He lives for this present world. He calls evil good and good evil. The wise man is taught by God and keeps an eternal perspective. What God teaches me in Christ is my storehouse of wisdom. Everything else I learn on an earthly level might open temporal doors, but the most important door is eternal. Only God opens that door of wisdom. 

Many times, the intellect is tethered to the temporal. A person becomes so earthly minded (temporal things) that he is no heavenly good (eternal things). A person cannot truly becomes so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good. The more aware one is of heaven and of God’s purposes and plan of redemption, the more useful that person is to the world around him. May God grant us heaven’s perspective as we work and labor to put what we know into practice.

Quiet Confidence

All is barren “until the Spirit from on high is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will be like a forest. Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. The result of righteousness will be peace; and the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever” (Isaiah 32.15-17). 

When I first trusted in Christ back on July 17, 1990 something happened that I didn’t fully understand at the time. God the Holy Spirit indwelled me. That is, He made His home within me and I became a temple of God. A period of time followed my salvation that could be characterized by a hunger and thirst for righteousness and peace. Subjectively, I felt at peace and the world around me seemed “strangely dim” as the hymn writer put it. Objectively, I had peace with God because of the work of Christ on the cross for me. His death for my sin; His resurrection for my righteousness (a right standing before God). 

All was barren until the Holy Spirit was poured out on me. All these years later, the Holy Spirit is still with me. He never left me. He comforts me and convicts me. He is ever faithful even though I have quenched His work in and through me. I have grieved Him in so many ways with my thoughts, words, and actions. Where does this leave me today?

I desire that the Holy Spirit control my thoughts, words, and actions each moment of each day as long as the Lord gives me breath. When the influence of the Holy Spirit is strong in my life, He is filling or controlling me. The waxing and waning of the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life demonstrates my desire for a holy, righteous, and just life or my desire to hide in the darkness of sin. I struggle between these two. This struggle is the experience of every true Christian (see Romans 7). The Bible teaches us that we either live life controlled by the Holy Spirit or we are carrying out our own sinful desires (the flesh). “I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5.16-17). My responsibility is to walk in the Holy Spirit. That is, I must live a daily life oriented by the Word of God and ignited by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is the fuel for the ignition of the Holy Spirit. I am energized as I feed on the Word of God with a conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s ministry of giving me right understanding and right desire.

“The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.” I know that the Holy Spirit is working in and through me when I am settled with a quiet confidence. Trust in my Lord Jesus yields fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in my life: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The results of fleshly living are clear all around us: adultery, fornication, unclean news, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath (anger), selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (see Galatians 5.19-23). 

It is true that I participate in fleshly living and live contrary to the position I have in Christ and the privileges granted me by the Holy Spirit. But while I give into the desires of the flesh, I lose my quiet confidence. I lose the assurance given to me by the Holy Spirit. I am participating in the practice of fleshly living. I am doing the same things that unbelieving people around me do. There is no holiness or distinctive Christian living. I don’t lose my identity as a child of God. God never forsakes me. However, I do lose the power and strength I need to reflect the character of God to the world around me. This is the purpose for which God has left me here all these years. Therefore, I lose quiet confidence and find chaotic anxiety and chastening from God until I repent. Once I come back to Him, He graciously and mercifully restores my confidence and assurance.

Father, give me the desire of my heart as I delight myself in You this morning. Help me to live in such a way that I bring your honor and glory. Holy Spirit, let people around me see the effect of righteousness in my own quiet confidence. Fill me with Your fruit so that I might bring honor to the Lord Jesus. Dearest Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for my privileged position in the Kingdom of Your Father. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Fully rescue me from the presence of this sinful world. 

Chariots and Horses or Lions and Birds?

The world is fraught with danger. Some trust in human strength and endurance to overcome. Others succumb to anxiety and fear. If Jerusalem had trusted in the LORD of Armies, He would have protected her and rescued her (Isaiah 31:4-5). But Jerusalem’s inhabitants chose to trust in Egypt for her deliverance. So, they found only terror and destruction …fear and exile. 

“As a lion or young lion growls over its prey when a band of shepherds is called out against it, and it is not terrified by their shouting or subdued by their noise, so the LORD of Armies will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill” (Isaiah 31.5). The point of this imagery is that the LORD strikes fear and is not stricken with fear. If any dare oppose Him as He defends His people, He will destroy them. Indeed, if God is for us, who can be against us.

“Like hovering birds, so the LORD of Armies will protect Jerusalem; by protecting it, he will rescue it; by passing over it, he will deliver it” (Isaiah 31.5). Hovering birds protect their young from predators. They are persistent and ever vigilant. Even so, the LORD has protected His people at every turn. He has be an ever present help in our time of need. At every dangerous turn in life the LORD is there hovering and providing protection underneath His mighty wings. 

I am often tempted to lean on my own understanding and strength for deliverance in life. I do not rely solely upon the LORD. I must constantly learn that I cannot lift up my eyes to the hills of fleshly deliverance. My help comes from the LORD. I must look to Him. My confidence is found in the sure fulfillment of the promises He has made to me. The cause of anxiety, whatever it is, grows strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. It really is impossible for me to trust too much in the LORD of Armies. 

“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD, their refuge in a time of distress. The LORD helps and delivers them; he will deliver them from the wicked and will save them because they take refuge in him” (Psalm 37.39-40). I am never disappointed when I take refuge in the LORD. How thankful I am for what the LORD does for me! There is nothing to fear as I trust only in Him. 

So, I realize that if He delivered up His own Son for my sins, how shall He not also freely give me all things? Jesus absorbed the wrath of God for me. His wrath is what I feared most. Jesus died in my place so that I might be reconciled to God, my Creator. And not only this, He gave me eternal purpose in this life and eternal bliss in the life to come. So, I must boldly approach the throne of grace for confidence today. I must be submissive and find my rest in Christ alone. “I will see your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be satisfied with your presence” (Psalm 17.15). 

Quiet Confidence or the Cacophony of Rebellion

“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence” (Isaiah 30:15). 

Rebellious children are always deviously scheming and planning. The opinions of their friends are more important than the opinions of their parents. They pile sin on top of sin, will not ask their parents for advice, and much less take parental directives. The very people they often value will be the cause of their shame. The people they go to for help can’t help. They are good for nothing but shame and disgrace. Israel was just like rebellious children. “They are a rebellious people deceptive children, children who do not want to listen to the LORD’s instruction” (Isaiah 30.9). 

Rebellion is awful. A rebel wants all authority out of the way. “Rid us of God! Get out of the way” (Isaiah 30.11). But rebels are a high, buckling wall with crumbling gaps of iniquity and sin. Collapse is imminent. Still, the Lord GOD is near offering an invitation to return and find rest. There is quiet confidence instead of the cacophony of rebellion waiting for the rebellious. But all too often, they are not willing. 

What can be done for the rebel? The LORD is waiting to show mercy, rising to show compassion. I find that mercy and compassion day by day. “All who wait patiently for him are happy” (v. 18). The day is coming when Israel’s rebellion will cease. They will listen to their Teacher in that day. Their eyes will see Him. When He commands them, “This is the way. Walk in it” (v. 21), they will follow leaving behind their idolatry and the filthy rags of their sin. “The moonlight will be as bright as the sunlight, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter – like the light of seven days – on the day that the LORD bandages his people’s injuries and heals the wounds he inflicted” (v. 26). 

Father, keep us from rebellion. Thank you for Your new mercies this morning. We return to You. We rest in You. Our strength lies in our quiet confidence in Your sovereign power. We are willing. We are submissive to the Way and ready to walk in it. Lord Jesus, teach us.