Friday, March 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Isaiah 51-55

Today’s Bible reading begins with an exhortation for the Jewish people in Babylonian captivity to remember God’s covenant promises to “Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” (Isaiah 51:2).   God had not forgotten His people or His promises, although the Jews were captives in Babylon and the city of Jerusalem and Temple were in ruins!

Isaiah 52 predicts the stirring of the Jewish people to return to their land and rebuild the city of Jerusalem (“Zion” is one of the hills upon which Jerusalem is built – 52:1).   After years of captivity, Isaiah prophesied the Jews would rejoice as they left Babylon to return home (52:7-12).

Isaiah 52:13-14 is a portrait of not only the character of the Messiah [“my servant”] fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but also the astonishing physical suffering He would face when we read… “His visage [appearance; face] was so marred [disfigured] more than any man, and His form [appearance] more than the sons of men” (52:14b).

Isaiah 53 continues the prophetic portrait of God’s suffering “servant” begun in chapter 52 and fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s sorrows (53:1-3), suffering (53:4-9), and sacrificial death on the cross (53:10-12).

Following the prophetic portrait of a suffering, dying Savior in chapter 53, Isaiah 54 opens with a call for the people of Israel to “break forth into singing” (54:1).  Using the familiar marriage portrait of a husband and wife, the LORD is pictured as the husband and the barren wife as Israel in this chapter.  With her years of tears and sorrows in captivity fulfilled, the LORD invites Israel to return to Him, assuring the nation her influence would be enlarged to include the Gentile nations (54:2-3).

Isaiah 55 begins with a glorious invitation from the LORD to the Gentile nations.  The “servant” of God Who suffered and died in Isaiah 53 is revealed to have offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world in Isaiah 55.   In chapter 54,  Israel is invited to break forth into singing, but in Isaiah 55 the invitation is given to “every one that thirsteth” (55:1).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in all scripture.  “Seek the LORD”, turn to Him confessing your sin before it is too late (55:6).  Repent, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).  Only fools presuppose their thoughts and ways are right apart from God’s revelation (55:8-9).

I close with an observation concerning the power and preeminence the Word of God is given in Isaiah 55:11.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

Some reading this devotion may be numbered among those faithful teachers who have taught God’s Word to children or teens year after year.  You might even be in the midst of a slump wondering if your labor has made any difference. Take heart my friend, God has promised His Word “shall not return…void” (55:11a).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith