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James 5:12

Speak with Integrity

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.


This passage echoes Jesus' words in Matthew 5:33-37. It was a custom in those days to swear by various objects. Such a custom still exists today. I am certain that my readers have heard the expression, "I swear on my mother's grave, etc." It is also customary in our court systems to ask people to raise their hand and swear on the Holy Bible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The swearing of oaths is a sin.

James sincerely believed that, as he wrote, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not!" Then, he itemizes with a list that includes all things. Do not swear by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath. This rule should be first among all the things that govern your life. Do not swear!

The reasons for this should be obvious. Just as we read in James 4:13-14, "Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." The swearing of an oath is the same as making a plan without knowing the future.

When we swear to do this or that, or to pay such and such amount by a certain date, or even to tell the truth, we do not know whether or not we will be able to do that which we have sworn to do. The Apostle Paul wrote, "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." If every man is a liar, how do you know that you will not be tempted to stretch the truth a little or flat out tell a lie?

"...but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay." If we maintain our integrity among our family friends and associates, it should never be necessary to go so far as to swear an oath. Let your "yes" mean, "Yes!" Have a reputation for being responsible and for doing everything possible and within you means to keep your word. When people trust you, they will not require an oath from you.

"...lest ye fall into condemnation." Christians do not fall into condemnation. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1) A better translation would therefore be, "Lest ye fall into hypocrisy." An oath is a very emphatic, "Yes!" It is something that others can depend upon and trust in. A broken oath is the word of a hypocrite. It can upset the life of those who trust in it and can even turn them away from the faith, if the hypocrite claims to be a Christian.

Before The Throne:

Pray that your word would be honored among men. Ask the Lord to help you maintain your integrity and to keep you from promising things that you might not be able to do or give. Ask Him to make every word that comes from your mouth bring honor and praise to Him. Pray that you might find a way to make amends for the broken promises of the past.

For Further Study:

(v.12)
** above. 1Pet 4:8; 3John 1:2; ** swear not. Matt 5:33-37; Matt 23:16-22; ** but. 2Co 1:17-20; ** lest. Jas 3:1-2; 1Cor 11:34;

James 5:11

Endure

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.


"Behold we count them blessed." This reminds us again of Jesus' words, "Blessed are you when men persecute you..." However, James adds another element to it with the word, "endure." He is once again encouraging the church members to be patient and to endure the wrongs, which they perceived to have been done to them.

As an illustration he chose to point to the patience of Job. Job was a righteous man, but Satan was allowed to test his faith. In the events that followed, Job lost all of his worldly possessions. Then Satan murdered all of his children and covered Job's body in large painful boils. Job's wife nagged him, telling him to curse God and die. Meanwhile, his friends counseled him by telling him it was all his fault and that he needed to change his ways. Nevertheless, Job's faith never wavered. He refused to lay any fault on the Lord.

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also [shall be] my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him." (Job 13:15-16) Those were Job's famous words to his friends. He was perhaps the most faithful person in the scriptures. The fact that James used Job as an example to be followed is strong evidence that Job was a real person.

"Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord;" James reminded his readers that they had not only heard of the patience of Job but that they had also seen how the Lord rewarded his faith in the end. "The end of the Lord is a Hebraism for the issue to which God brings any thing or business." (Adam Clarke)

The story of Job also reminds us that we serve a sympathetic and merciful God. He is aware of our suffering and of our patience. He is pleased by those who stand firm in their faith and rewards them generously.

"And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before... So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters." (Job 42:10, 12-13)

"And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Mark 13:13)

Before the Throne:

How do you respond to the attacks of the devil? Are you able to praise God through it all like Job did? Pray about that and ask the Lord to give you the patience, the integrity, and the faith of Job.

For Further Study:

(v.11)
** we count. Jas 1:12; Ps 94:12; Matt 5:10-11; Matt 10:22; Heb 3:6, 4; Heb 10:39; ** Ye. Job 1:21-22; Job 1:10; Job 13:15-16; Job 23:10; ** and have. Job 42:10-17; Ps 37:37; Eccl 7:8; 1Pet 1:6-7, 13; 2Pet 2:9; ** the Lord is. Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; 1Chr 21:13; 2Chr 30:9; Neh 9:17, 31; Ps 25:6-7; Ps 51:1; Ps 78:38; Ps 86:5, 15; Ps 103:8, 13; Ps 116:5; Ps 119:132; Ps 136:1-26; Ps 145:8; Isa 55:6-7; Isa 63:7, 9; Lam 3:22; Dan 9:9, 18-19; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Mic 7:18; Luke 1:50; Luke 6:36; Rom 2:4; Eph 1:6; Eph 2:4;

James 5:9-10

Hold No Grudge

9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.


Many misunderstandings can occur in a Christian fellowship, as could happen among any group of peoples. The difference is in how the members of the body of Christ deal with those conflicts. The problem, however, is that we do not always handle these misunderstandings the way we should.

Such was the situation in the church at Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather [suffer yourselves to] be defrauded?" (1 Corinthians 6:7)

James is expressing the same sentiment in this passage. Grudge not one against another. The Greek word, "stenazo," means, "to take in distress." In other words, not to groan or complain against one another. Be patient and longsuffering with one another.

There is another Judge who is not as far off as we might think. He will judge all things and see that His people will receive justice. If we judge one another, we might find ourselves being condemned.

James exhorted his readers to consider the prophets of old, who suffered much persecution and patiently endured until the end. Although they spoke the word of the Lord to the people of the Lord, they suffered many things at the hands of those people.

Jesus taught us in His sermon on the Mount, saying, "Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

So, instead of holding a grudge against someone who has done us wrong, we should rejoice, because the prophets were treated much worse . We are blessed when we are patiently enduring all things for the Lord's sake.

Before the Throne :

Pray for a forgiving heart. If anyone has offended you, ask the Lord to help you to be patient with them and to keep the peace. Pray for those who have in any way caused you anguish. Thank the Lord for allowing you to approach His throne with your needs.

For Further Study:

(v.9)
** Grudge not. Jas 4:11; Lev 19:18; Ps 59:15; Mark 6:19; 2Cor 9:7; Gal 5:14,26; 1Pet 4:9; ** lest. Matt 6:14-15; Matt 7:1-2; ** the Judge. Gen 4:7; Matt 24:33; 1Cor 4:5; 1Cor 10:11; Rev 3:20;

(v.10) ** who. Isa 39:8; Jer 23:22; Jer 26:16; Acts 3:21; Heb 13:7; ** for. 2Chr 36:16; Jer 2:30; Matt 5:11-12; Matt 21:34-39; Matt 23:34-37; Luke 6:23; Luke 13:34; Acts 7:52; 1Thess 2:14-15; Heb 11:32-38;

James 5:7-8

Be Patient

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.


After his warning about the oppression and fate of the more unrighteous wealthy class, James calls for the church to be patient. They were to wait for the coming of the Lord. Some older commentators took this to mean that the Lord would come to destroy Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD. Since this epistle was written around 61 AD, it would have been very reasonable for James to say that the coming of the Lord was very near. Although He did not physically return in 70 AD, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is considered to be the work of the Lord.

Others believe that this refers to the last days when the Lord Jesus will physically come for His saints. This seems to be the true intent of the passage, because the Christian Jews would have drawn no satisfaction from seeing their city and temple destroyed.

So, James encouraged them to be patient and wait. The husbandman (farmer) had no problem waiting for the seed, which he had planted, to produce the precious fruit necessary to sustain him and his family. He would patiently wait for the early and the latter rains.

The rainy season that began in October or November was called the early rains. The farmer would wait until that time to plant his seed, knowing that it would be well watered and would grow well. The spring rains normally began around April and were called the latter rains. These would come just in time to water the crops as their fruit was beginning to fill out and ripen. Once the farmer had planted the seed, the utmost patience was required until the crop was ready for harvest.

Thus, the church was encouraged by James to endure the oppression from those who had wealth and power. Jesus taught this same lesson in the sermon on the mount, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain... Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" (Matthew 5:38-41, 43-44)

By loving their enemies and praying for them, by being patient and waiting on divine providence and by keeping their affections on the things above they would establish their hearts. Then they would be strong in their faith and would overcome the things of this world.

Of course, the whole foundation for such faithful patience is the fact that the coming of the Lord is near at hand. We will either join Him through the death of this body or by seeing Him coming in the clouds and being gathered together with Him. Certainly this is far more precious than the garden's fruits and worthy of an even greater and longer lasting patience.

Before The Throne:

Some people are afraid to pray for patience, because they say the Lord will send them greater tests to endure. This is nonsense. Patience is a godly virtue, and the Lord is not going to send any unnecessary afflictions on those who pray for it. However, we do not know what the future holds and we do want to have the patience to be ready for it. Pray for patience and, if you should be tested, praise the Lord for answering your prayers. Ask the Lord to bless your enemies with the knowledge and salvation of Jesus Christ. Thank Him for giving you the wisdom to understand His ways.

For Further Study:

(v.7)
** Be patient. Luke 8:15; Rom 2:7; Rom 8:24-25; Rom 15:4; 2Cor 6:4-5; Gal 5:5; Gal 6:9; Col 1:11; 1Thess 1:3; Heb 6:15; Heb 12:1-3; ** unto. Matt 24:27, 44; Luke 18:8; Luke 21:27; 1Cor 1:7; 1Thess 2:19; 1Thess 3:13; 2Pet 3:4; ** until. Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24; Hos 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zech 10:1;

(v.8 ) ** ye also. Gen 49:18; Ps 37:7; Ps 40:1-3; Ps 130:5; Lam 3:25-26; Mic 7:7; Hab 2:3
Rom 8:25; Gal 5:22; 1Thess 1:10; 2Thess 3:5; Heb 10:35-37. ** stablish. Ps 27:14; ** for.
Jas 5:9; Phil 4:5; Heb 10:25-37; 1Pet 4:7; Rev 22:20;

James 5:4-6

Weep for Your Miseries

4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned [and] killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you.


There are several more reasons why wealthy oppressors should weep for the miseries that are coming upon them (See verse 1). These entire six verses are based upon one fact... God knows what you are doing.

This first one should be an eye opener for our very own government officials and businessmen. It begins with the violation of the Law as stated in Leviticus 19:13, "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob [him]: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning." (Also see Deuteronomy 24:14-15) Defrauding or robbing your neighbor in relation to the work that he has done for you means that you do not underpay him. Top executives, who are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars every year but are paying their workers a wage that is insufficient to support a family, should take a look at this verse.

It has become common practice to make an employee work for two weeks before receiving his/her first paycheck. The business world has many good sounding reasons for this... bookkeeping, bureaucracy, providing an extra weeks pay when the employee terminates etc.. However, this is an unmerciful hardship on a family man who has been out of work perhaps for months. He needs money right away. Thus the law says that he should be paid daily.

Then, the government requires that the employer withold income taxes, FICA and other fees from the employee's paycheck. Taxes, which are not due until the end of the year and on which no interest is paid to the worker for the money that he has overpaid, are wages that are held back by fraud.

These employers and government officials should weep and howl, because God has heard the cries of those who are suffering under this system. Nothing but misery awaits them.

Weep, because "Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter." They lived a life of such luxury and self-indulgence that it was literally disgusting. There are at least two acceptable interpretations of the second part of this. It might refer to the way people acted during the feast days when animals were slaughtered or sacrificed and everyone ate until they were filled. Or, the more likely understanding would be that they were fattening themselves up like animals ready for the slaughter.

Howl with misery, for "Ye have condemned [and] killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you." There are many examples in the bible of powerful men who condemned or killed the just for their own gain. The best known example might be that of King David's desire to have Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. Uriah was as loyal and faithful as any man could be. "And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent [it] by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die." (2 Samuel 11:14-15) Likewise, there are many today who have done similar things, but God knows their every secret.

We live in a hostile world, populated by wicked and powerful men who abuse the precious gifts with which God has blessed them. Nevertheless, if we feel oppressed, we should not allow ourselves to hate, for God will avenge His people.

Before The Throne:

Christians are commanded to pray for our enemies and for those who bear the rule over us. Write down some of their names and, without accusing them before God, lift them up to Him in fervent prayer. Pray that God would begin to move among employers and powers that be to burden them with the immediate needs of their employees.

For Further Study:

(v.4)
** the hire. Lev 19:13; Deut 24:14-15; Job 24:10-11; Job 31:38-39; Isa 5:7; Jer 22:13; Hab 2:11; Mal 3:5; Col 4:1; ** the cries. Gen 4:10; Exod 2:23-24; Exod 3:9; Exod 22:22-24, 27; Deut 24:15; Job 34:28; Ps 9:12; Lu 18:7; ** Lord. Rom 9:29; Isa 1:9;

(v.5) ** have lived. 1Sam 25:6, 36; Job 21:11-15; Ps 17:14; Ps 73:7; Eccl 11:9; Isa 5:11-12; Isa 47:8; Isa 56:12; Amos 6:1, 4-6; Luke 16:19, 25; 1Tim 5:6; 2Tim 3:4; Jude 1:12; Re 18:7; ** been. Isa 3:16; Rom 13:13; ** as in. Prov 7:14; Prov 17:1; Isa 22:13; Ezek 39:17; Rev 19:17-18;

(v.6) ** have. Jas 2:6; Matt 21:38; Matt 23:34-35; Matt 27:20, 24-25; John 16:2-3; Acts 2:22-23; Acts 3:14-15; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 7:52; Acts 13:27-28; Acts 22:14; 1Thess 2:15-16; ** and he. Isa 53:7; Matt 5:39; Matt 26:53; Matt 26:54; Luke 22:51-53; John 19:9-11; Acts 8:32; 1Pet 2:22-23;

Isaiah 57:9-11

They Forgot About God 

And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.  10  Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.  11  And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?

 

The third sin, which God mentions in this critique of His enemies is that of forming alliances instead of trusting in God. Some scholars interpret the king (Heb: melek) in the ninth verse to be Moloch, which would make this a continuation of the condemnation of idolatry. Other commentators believe that this refers to Judah's alliance with other nations such as Assyria or Egypt. John Gill sees it as a reference to Mystery Babylon being in bed with all the kings of the earth. 

The point of the passage is not changed by any of these interpretations. To rely on idols, kings or anything else, other than God, for anything is a sin. Thus, these people had gone to others for help, enticing them like a prostitute would entice men with her perfumes and sweet smelling ointments.  

The act of asking others for help can be humiliating; it can enslave you and can lead to poverty or death. ("...and didst debase thyself even unto hell.") Why would anyone want to debase themselves in this way? Paul said, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) But. man cannot seem to comprehend that fact. There should be no such thing as a desperate Christian. Christians are rich, healthy and well protected. Sometimes we do not even recognize how well God provides for us. Sometimes we need the sickness or the danger in which we find ourselves, just like Judah needed the threat of its enemies to increase their faith. If we only will turn to God for help, he will supply all our need. 

"Thou art wearied in the way..." Getting help from the world is not always easy. Judah had to send ambassadors carrying expensive gifts great distances to enlist the help of other countries, which they never received. God was in control of their lives, whether they liked it or not. Looking for worldly help to change what He has ordained never works.  

I work in neighborhoods where there are a lot of people who know how to work the welfare system in order to live. Most of them are too lazy to work, yet, the time and effort that they put into running back and forth from government offices to church charities etc. is harder than working a full time job, and they have little to show for their efforts. They are wearied in their way. I try to teach them to commit their lives to God and to work for a living. They have no hope of getting help from God, but they trust in their evil and deceptive ways of cheating the world's system. They trust in their own cleverness. 

There are also many people who work very hard to earn a living, but they neither trust in God nor give Him thanks for the ability to work. There is little difference between them and the person who manipulates the welfare system. They both look to the world for help and have no hope in God. 

God asked Judah (v.11), "And of whom hast thou been afraid and feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to heart?" The adulteress obviously does not fear her husband or else she would not cheat on Him. To say that she is his wife is a lie, because she does not do what is required of a wife. When she needed help, Judah ran to her lovers instead of to her Husband. 

Jesus taught us, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) Because God is silently and patiently waiting for us to repent, we forget about Him and have no fear of Him. His silence makes Him unnoticeable to anyone who does not have a daily relationship with Him. Thus, they lay Him aside and try to appease the demanding world around them. They seek help where there is no help to be found, they fear the threats of mortal men and they forget about God. 

Before The Throne: 

Confess your faults to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you for every time that you have forgotten Him and looked elsewhere for your help. Ask Him to forgive you for the times that you feared other people or certain circumstances more than you feared Him. Ask Him to help you establish a better relationship with Him, so that He is always at the forefront of your thoughts. Pray for the people you know who have no hope in the Lord. Thank the Lord for waiting in patient silence for you to repent and for all of those who have not yet received Christ as their Savior. Praise Him for His mercy and grace. 

For Further Study: 

(v.9) ** thou wentest to the king: Isa 30:1-6, Isa 31:1-3; 2Ki 16:7-11; Eze 16:33; 23:16; Hos 7:11; 12:1; ** perfumes:  Pro 7:17; ** and didst debase:  Isa 2:9; Col 2:18; 

(v.10) ** wearied:  Isa 47:13; Jer 2:36; 9:5; Eze 24:12; Hab 2:13; * There is:  2Ch 28:22-28:23; Jer 2:25; 44:17-18; Rom 7:9; ** life:  Jer 3:3; 5:3; 

(v.11) ** of whom:  Isa 51:12-13; Pro 29:25; Mat 26:69-75; Gal 2:12-13; ** that thou:  Isa 30:9; 59:3-4; Jer 9:3-5; 42:20; Eze 13:22; Hos 11:12; Act 5:3; 2Th 2:9; 1Ti 4:2; Rev 21:8; 22:15; ** and hast:  Jer 2:32; 3:21; ** nor:  Isa 57:1; ** have not:  Isa 26:10; Psa 50:21; Ecc 8:11; 

Isaiah 57:5-8

Spiritual Prostitutes 

Inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks?  6  Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?  7  Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.  8  Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.

 

The second listed sin of God's enemies, the beasts that devour His people, is that of idolatry. This passage is a graphic denunciation of the practice and vividly demonstrates how God feels toward it. He has called them the children of transgression and the seed of falsehoods. Their father is the devil, a murderer and the father of lies. 

"Inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree..." The terminology is that which could be used to describe a burning sexual lust, because idolatry is adultery to our God, and also because promiscuous sex was often part of idolatrous worship. To God, the idolater is nothing more than a cheap whore. In ancient Israel, they worshipped under the trees, they worshipped the trees themselves and even cut them down and erected them in their homes, sometimes carving them and sometimes decorating them in gold and silver. (See Jeremiah 10:1-5) 

God's people often perish at the hands of idolaters. Even today, Christians in places like India, where the Hindu people have hundreds of thousands of idolatrous gods, are beaten and killed by bands of anti-Christians. Children who discover the truth of the gospel and receive Christ as their Savior are put out of the home, abandoned and disowned. 

Another practice in Isaiah's time was the worship of Moloch in which children were burned as a sacrifice to the idol. Today, we sacrifice the children to the god of convenience and to scientific experimentation, but there is no moral difference. 

The sixth verse describes how the people would look for smooth stones that could be fashioned into idols. They would then worship by bring drink and food offerings to the stones, as though such inanimate objects had more value than God Himself. There is a play on words here to emphasize that the stones are the portion and lot that the people would receive, for they have nothing else to offer. "Challaq" is the Hebrew word for "smooth" ("stones" is added by the translators), and "cheleq" is the word used for portion. Notice the emphasis, "They, they are thy lot" (goral which means "to be rough, as a stone," but figuratively means one's destiny, lot or portion). 

God asks, "Should I receive comfort in these?" Is He supposed to look at such evil practices and find a way to comfort Himself? Can any man see His bride crawling into bed with another and find some way to accept it, to be at ease with it, or to find comfort in it? What do these wicked people expect from Him? 

Henry Fielding once said, "Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil." Money is the smooth stone of our century. Men worship it and will do anything to get more of it. We can see T.V. reality shows like "Fear Factor" or "Survivor" to witness how far people are willing to go to get more money. The sky scrapers of our cities are full of men who have gone up on the high mountain to prostitute themselves and sacrifice themselves and even their families for the money god. 

"And thou shalt write them (God's Laws) upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9) However, idolaters do just the opposite. Their homes wreak of idolatrous images and evidence of their twisted beliefs. The have brought other men into their homes and have uncovered their nakedness to them. They have not only gone out to sleep in the beds of others, but have enlarged their own beds to make room for their adulterous lovers. They loved their promiscuity wherever they saw a bed.  

That is how addictive idolatry is. It comes in the form of worshipping graven images, worshipping money, worshipping crack cocaine, worshipping Cutty Sark or worshipping anything else other than God. Are you addicted to God's word? Are you addicted to praise and worship music? Is it hard for you to stay away from church? Do you spend more time watching T.V. than you spend praying and studying the scriptures? Who is your god, or are you a spiritual prostitute? 

Idolatry is just as real today as it ever was, and it will continue to plague mankind until Jesus returns. Even the end time pouring out of God's wrath will not keep idolaters from their addictions. "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries (Greek: pharmakeion, i.e. medications or drugs), nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." (Revelation 9:20-21) 

Before The Throne: 

Make your salvation certain. Talk to God about your commitment to Him. We all enjoy some worldly pleasures. I like to watch my football games and other people enjoy going to the movies etc., but when you are spending more time at these things than at godly activities you must repent and make Jesus Christ your Lord. Pray for our churches in America, so many of which have made filling the offering plate more important than doing the work of the kingdom. Pray for our missionaries who are beaten and under constant threat from the idolaters in Muslim and Hindu nations. Pray for the secret house churches in countries all over the world where Christianity is outlawed.

For Further Study: 

(v.5) ** Enflaming:  Exo 32:6; Num 25:1-2, 6; Jer 50:38; 51:7; Hos 4:11-13; 7:4-7; Amo 2:7-8; Rev 17:1-5; 18:3; ** with idols: Isa 1:29; ** under:  Deu 12:2; 1Ki 14:23; 2Ki 16:3-4; 17:10; Jer 2:20; 3:6, 13; 17:2; Eze 6:13; ** slaying:  Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; 2Ki 16:3; 23:10; 2Ch 28:3; Jer 7:31; 32:35; Eze 16:20; 20:26, 31; 

(v.6) ** the smooth:  Jer 3:9; Hab 2:19; ** to them:  Isa 65:11; Deu 32:37-38; Jer 7:18; 19:13; 32:29; 44:17-25; ** Should:  Isa 66:3; Eze 20:39: 

(v.7) ** Jer 2:20; 3:2; Eze 16:16, 25; 20:28-29; 23:17, 41; 

(v.8 ) ** the doors:  Eze 8:8-12; 23:14, 23:41; ** for:  Eze 16:32; ** thou lovedst:  Eze 16:25-28; 23:2-20; 

Isaiah 57:3-4

You Sons of the Sorceress! 

But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.  4  Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,

 

In contrast to the righteous, God, speaking through His prophet, speaks now to the sinners of the world. These are the people who did not notice that the righteous were dying and did not care. "But, draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress." God calls them to come and stand before Him as if to stand in the judgment. 

Nothing could be more insulting in that culture than to cast aspersions on someone's mother. Sorcery is primarily the art of consulting evil spirits for the purpose of divination and other magic. Sorcery is condemned throughout the scriptures, although some forms of godly divination have been divinely inspired including the casting of lots, interpretation of dreams,  divination by the Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21) and by the ephod, direct communication with God and by the prophets. 

Christians should beware, however, of anyone who pretends to work this type of divination. "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" (Hebrews 1:1-2) If we diagram this passage we find that the subject is "God" and the verb is "hath spoken." That has a strong ring of finality to it. The final words were spoken by Jesus Christ to His disciples and are recorded in the New Testament. There is to be no new revelations until Jesus returns. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."  (Revelation 22:18-19) We are told to try the spirits and to search the scriptures to be sure that what we hear from men is truly the word of God. 

These sinners are also called the seed of the adulterer and whore. They are those people who have turned toward other gods and magical arts when they are supposed to be married to the true God. It could also refer to "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." 

Verse 4 begins with the first item in a list of their sins. They mocked the righteous people of God. "To sport yourselves" means, "to be soft and pliable, effeminate, and delighted with one's self." Mocking the people of God, these sinners were sporting themselves to be their superiors. They lengthened their tongues and widened their mouths with lies, accusations, and mockeries that they could not prove or support. 

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8) 

And there will not be any in the heavenly Jerusalem. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." (Revelation 22:14-15) They will not get in, because we, the righteous of Christ, will have our peace. 

 Before The Throne: 

Are you not glad that God has promised to handle the troubles that His enemies will cause? Are you not thankful that you leave it all up to Him? Pray and give Him thanks. Ask Him to prepare your heart so that you can go out with boldness and courage to glorify His name. Dark days may be right around the corner, days when Christians in America will be tested by every devil and evil spirit. They will be days when we will have to stand for Christ or fall with the wicked. His church will be cleansed by those troubled times. Pray for the faith to bring Him honor and glory no matter what it may cost. 

For Further Study: 

(v.3) ** draw:  Isa 45:20; Joe 3:9-11; ** sons:  Gen 3:15; Hos 1:2; Mat 3:7; 12:34; 16:4; 23:33; Luk 3:7; Joh 8:40-44; Jam 4:4; 1Jo 3:10; Rev 17:1-5; 

(v.4) ** Against:  Isa 10:15; 37:23, 29; Exo 9:17; 16:7-8; Num 16:11; Luk 10:16; Act 9:4; ** sport:  Jdg 16:25-27; Psa 69:12; Mat 27:29, 39-44; 2Pe 2:13; ** make:  Psa 35:21; ** draw:  Jos 10:21; Job 16:9-10; Psa 22:7, 13, 17; Lam 2:15-16; ** are ye:  Isa 1:4, 30:1, 30:9; Eze 2:4; Hos 10:9; Mat 13:38; Eph 2:2-3; 5:6; Col 3:6; 

Isaiah 57:1-2

Ahh... Blissful Rest! 

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come2  He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

 

This chapter continues the thoughts of the final verses of the previous one. The shepherds of God's flock are greedy and neglectful, failing to watch for the invasion of the enemy. So the beasts of the field come to devour the saints, and the greedy dogs who lead them cannot satisfy their own lusts. 

Meanwhile, the righteous perish. Like the old saying, "The good die young," the righteous are killed for their righteousness. "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." (Romans 8:36) 

The same phenomenon was observed by Solomon: "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness." (Ecclesiastes 7:15) 

There are those who say that this was the state of Judah before the captivity. I cannot argue with that. Jeremiah wrote, "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it." (Jeremiah 5:1) 

And, Micah wrote, "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net." (Micah 7:2) 

However, this has been the condition of men since the beginning of time and will continue until the Lord returns. David observed it in Psalms 12:1, and the book of Revelation tells us that the people will rejoice at the death of the two prophets (Revelation 11:10). It is something of which God wants us to be aware, because "no man layeth it to heart." No one cares! If you are in ministry for the glory and fame of stardom, you are in the wrong business. The righteous will not find the masses crying over their graves. 

Why..? Why does God allow the righteous to perish while the wicked prosper and live long lives? Have you considered that "...the righteous is taken away from the evil to come?" A truly righteous man sees sin the way God sees it. It is painful for him to be around it; it is painful for him to see the way it consumes and destroys the lives of others; and it is stressful to have to keep resisting the temptations of sin and the pressures of the world. 

The righteous man should not have to endure these things. When his work for the Lord is finished, he is given the reward of peace. The sting of death is taken from him and it becomes an escape from the wickedness of this world. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? ...thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57) 

For the righteous person, the death bed is a place of quiet rest, the entry way to eternal peace. He will walk, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, before his God. His peace cannot be broken. The beasts of the field will no longer be able to invade and devour. 

"And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them... And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 14:13; 21:27) 

If you walk in the righteousness of our Lord and Savior, do not fear anything that this world can do to you. You have a place of peace set aside for you. When God is ready, you will escape to it. In all these things, we are more than conquerors, so keep the faith, remain strong and do the works of the Lord. 

Before The Throne: 

Intercede for the world around you. Pray for the wicked to be saved from their sins. Pray for the protection of God's saints, His missionaries, His pastors, His teachers and His evangelists. Thank Him for the assurance of rest that you have received from these verses. Pray for boldness and courage to do the things that He has called you to do. Then, go and make disciples as He has commanded you to do. 

For Further Study: 

(v.1) ** righteous:  2Ch 32:33; 35:24; ** no man:  Isa 42:25; 47:7; Mal 2:2; * merciful men: Psa 12:1; Mic 7:2; ** the righteous:  1Ki 14:13; 2Ki 22:20; 2Ch 34:28; 

(v.2) ** He shall:  Job 3:17; Ecc 12:7; Mat 25:21; Luk 16:22; 2Co 5:1, 8; Phi 1:23; Rev 14:13; ** enter into:  Luk 2:29; 7:50; ** rest:  Isa 14:18; 2Ch 16:14; Eze 32:25; ** in his uprightness: Gen 17:1; Luk 1:6; 

Isaiah 56:9-12

The Devouring Beasts 

All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.  10  His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  11  Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.  12  Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.

 

This is a difficult passage to understand. It seems to be out of place. Isaiah has been telling us about the blessings of the kingdom under the Messiah, then, he suddenly dumps this on us. "All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts of the forests." Is he going back to the pre-exilic period and giving us the reasons for the captivity or is he looking ahead to the days when the New Testament church will apostatize? It is impossible to be certain, but it seems like the logical flow would be to look ahead. However, the prophecy applies as a warning to the church during any period in its history.

God's church is under constant threat from the beasts of the field. Jesus warned us about false prophets, saying, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:15) He warned us about the enemies of the church, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles." (Matthew 10:16-18)

Paul also warned the elders at the church in Ephesus, saying, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)

God's enemies are both vicious and shrewd. They attack the church from without and from within. Isaiah's prophecy says that the enemy will devour us when the watchmen, the overseers, or the elders of the church get lazy and go to sleep on the job. These watchmen will be spiritually blind. I know of churches today who are governed by elders or deacon boards upon which there is not one person who appears to live for Christ, except on Sunday morning. They are spiritually blind and not keeping the watch. Some of them may actually be the devouring beasts. They are ignorant of God's word, ignorant of their purpose as Christians, ignorant of the threat to the church and even ignorant of their own spiritual condition. They serve as leaders of the church in order to pump up their own egos or to add something extra to their resumes, but not for the purpose of serving God. They are called dumb dogs, because they do not bark to warn the church of the approaching danger.

The line is blurred between what should be defined as a lazy watchman and a devouring beast. Both are there for their own profit. The shepherds of the flock are greedy and insatiable dogs, taking advantage of their positions for personal gain. Isaiah compares them to drunkards who fill themselves today and look forward to an even more abundant tomorrow.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) The only way to do that is to keep yourself immersed in prayer and the study of God's word. You must develop the ability to discern the difference between God's anointed watchmen and the devouring wolves in sheep's clothing. Do not tolerate even the slightest sin in your own life, or the adversary will take advantage of it to destroy your faith.

Before The Throne:

Pray for the leadership of your church. Ask God to prevent its infiltration by hypocrites. Pray that God will build a hedge of angels around your congregation to defend it from the wolves. Ask Him for a discerning spirit, so that you can identify the wolves. Pray for the courage to speak up against them, to be the watchman that God expects you to be. Thank Him for the assurance that you are a victor in Christ and that, in all things, you are more than a conqueror. Commit yourself to live up to His expectations.

For Further Study:

(v.9) ** Deu 28:26; Jer 12:9; Eze 29:5; 39:17; Rev 19:17-18;

(v.10) ** watchmen:  Isa 52:8; Eze 3:17; ** are blind:  Isa 29:10; Jer 14:13-14; Hos 4:6-7; 9:8; Mat 15:14; 23:16-26; Luk 6:39-40; ** they are all dumb:  Isa 58:1; Jer 6:13-14; 23:13-14; Eze 3:15-18, 26-27; 13:16; 33:6; Phi 3:2; **  loving:  Pro 6:4-10; 24:30-34; Jon 1:2-6; Nah 3:18; Mar 13:34-37;

(v.11) ** they are:  1Sa 2:12-17, 29; Eze 13:19; 34:2-3; Mic 3:5, 11; Mal 1:10; Act 20:29, 20:33; Phi 3:2, 19; 1Ti 3:3, 8; Tit 1:7, 11; 1Pe 5:2; 2Pe 2:3, 14-15; Jud 1:11, 16; Rev 22:15 ** greedy: Ecc 5:10; ** are shepherds:  Mic 3:6; Zec 11:15-17; Mat 13:14-13:15; Joh 8:43; 2Co 4:4; ** all look:  Exo 23:3; Jer 22:17; 2Pe 2:15-16;

(v.12) ** I will:  Isa 5:22; 28:7-8; Pro 31:4-5; Hos 4:11; Amo 6:3-6; Mat 24:49-51; Luk 12:45-46; 21:34; Tit 1:7; ** to morrow:  Isa 22:13-14; Psa 10:6; Pro 23:35; 27:1; Jer 18:18; Luk 12:19-20; 1Co 15:32;

Isaiah 56:7-8

 The Holy Mountain

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.  8  The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

 

There are no strangers in the kingdom of God, and He will bring every person who submits his or her life to Him into it, which he calls His holy mountain. He will gather together the outcasts of Israel and the people of every other nation together into one kingdom. "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Ephesians 1:9-10) The unity in Christ, not only of all people but also of all things, is the very purpose that God has for His creation. 

God's holy mountain is described in the book of Hebrews. "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest... But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:18, 22-24) 

This is the place where the joy of the Lord will be found, where there will be no more tears, no more suffering and no more sin. The burnt offerings and the sacrifices that shall be acceptable to God are now unified in one sacrifice, and that sacrifice is Jesus Christ. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14)  

Jesus was both the priest, the sacrifice and the altar. "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." (Hebrews 13:10) And, our sacrifices are made through Him. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name... I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Hebrews 13:15; Romans 12:1) These are acceptable unto God and are received by Him with great delight. 

Furthermore, God says that His house shall be a house of prayer. This is the passage to which Jesus referred when He cleansed the temple. To ancient Israel, this meant the temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer, but to the Christian it is the body of Christ that shall be a house of prayer. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) We need to notice that the pronouns "you" and "ye" are plural, while the body is singular. Paul was referring to the entire church body as the temple of God, and it should be a hose of prayer. 

Of course, the seventh verse ends with the qualifying phrase, "for all people." The body of Christ is a house of prayer for all people, not just the people of Israel. We have all become one body. The church is modern Israel gathered together from all nations and races of people for the purpose of making acceptable sacrifices of praise and prayer. 

This week when your congregation gathers together think about it in terms of gathering at the holy mountain of God. Enter with reverence; enter with joy; enter with the sacrifice of praise; and come prepared to pray. If all people, races, and nationalities are not welcomed there, my friend, you are in the wrong house. 

Before The Throne: 

Pray about everything before you do it. Pray for God to make our congregations look like His holy mountain with every skin color under the sun. Pray for the people to be focused on giving praise and thanksgiving. Pray for them to worship in prayerful reverence for what God has done. Pray for evey member to be filled with the unspeakable joy that only Christ can give. 

For Further Study: 

(v.7) ** them will:  Isa 2:2-3; 66:19-20; Psa 2:6; Mic 4:1-2; Zec 8:3; Mal 1:11; Joh 12:20-26; Eph 2:11-13; Heb 12:22; 1Pe 1:1-2; ** their burnt:  Rom 12:1; Heb 13:15; 1Pe 2:5; ** for mine:  Mal 1:11; 21:13; Mar 11:17; Luk 19:46; Joh 4:21-23; 1Ti 2:8; 

(v.8 ) ** which:  Isa 11:11-12; 27:12-13; 54:7; Psa 106:47; 107:2-3; 147:2; Jer 30:17; 31:10; Hos 1:11; Mic 4:6; Zep 3:18-20; Zec 10:8-10; ** Yet:  Isa 43:6; 49:12, 22; 60:3-11; 66:18-21; Gen 49:10; Joh 10:16; 11:52; Eph 1:10; 2:14-16; 

Isaiah 56:3-6

There Are No Strangers

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.  4  For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;  5  Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  6  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant.

 

In Old Testament Israel, those who "kept the sabbath" referred only to flesh and blood Israelites. God made the keeping of the sabbath an identifying sign of His people. Gentiles were, according to the law, to be treated like everyone else but they were still considered "strangers" and unclean. "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:34)

The Messiah would change all of that. "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Under the reign of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. We are all joined together in one body, which is the body of Jesus Christ. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19) All people are welcomed into the household of God as fellow citizens with the saints, if they repent of their sins and submit their lives to Christ.

The same proposition is made to the eunuchs. "Primarily and literally, a eunuch is an emasculated man...The barbarous practice of self-mutilation and the mutilation of others in this way was prevalent throughout the Orient. The religious disabilities under which men thus deformed labored under the Mosaic law had the effect of making the practice abominable to the Jews as a people. The law excluded eunuchs from public worship, partly because self-mutilation was often performed in honor of a heathen god, and partly because a maimed creature of any sort was deemed unfit for the service of Yahweh." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eunuchs)

The Law says, "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 23:1) But, the Messiah receives even those unfortunates into His kingdom, if and when they repent and receive Him as their Lord ad Savior. The big discussion about whether homosexuals and other perverts should be allowed into the church is decided right here. Even after they have had a sex change operation and have so mutilated themselves that it cannot be corrected, they are treated by God like every other sinner who repents and seeks the Deliverer.

God is love. No matter who you are or what you have done, if you will join yourself to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, and to make yourself obedient to all of His laws, you will be treated to a place in the kingdom of heaven and to a name, which are better than any son or daughter deserves or could imagine. No Christian should ever think of himself as a stranger or as being separated from the other saints in any way. No Christian should feel either superior or inferior to any other Christian, for we are all Christ.

When you become a member of the household of God, however, you become a stranger to the world. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Are you seeking that heavenly country where God is not ashamed to be called your God? Join yourself to Him today and commit yourself to His service in full obedience to His commandments. Stand before Him holy, without a fault, in love. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. No man comes to the Father except by Him. When you are there, you will find that there are no strangers in His kingdom.

Before The Throne:

Pray about your self esteem. When I first became a Christian, I was often intimidated by pastors, deacons and even my Sunday School teacher, but everyone in the kingdom of God is equal. Therefore, pray for the self-confidence that you need to fulfill God's plan for you. Learn to accept the fact that, no matter what you have done, you have been completely forgiven. You have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, which means that you are now as righteous as He is. Let the Spirit of the Lord fill you with the boldness to share His gospel with many other people.

For Further Study:

(v.3) ** the son:  Num 18:4-7; Deu 23:1-3; Zec 8:20-23; Mat 8:10-11; Act 8:27; 10:1-2, 34; 13:47-48; 17:4; 18:7; Rom 2:10-11; 15:9-12, 16; Eph 2:12, 2:22; 1Pe 1:1; ** joined:  Jer 50:5; Zep 2:11; 1Co 6:17; ** The Lord hath:  Mat 15:26-27; Luk 7:6-8; ** neither:  Isa  39:7; Jer 38:7-13; 39:16-17; Dan. 1:3-21; Matt. 19:12-30; Act 8:26-40;

(v.4) ** choose:  Jos 24:15; Psa 119:111; Luk 10:42; ** take hold:  Isa 27:5; 55:3; 2Sa 23:5; Jer 50:5; Heb 6:17;

(v.5) ** will I:  Mat 16:18; Eph 2:22; 1Ti 3:15; Heb 3:6; ** and a:  Isa 62:12; Joh 1:12; 1Jo 3:1; Rev 3:12; ** better:  1Sa 1:8; * that shall:  Isa 55:13; Rev 3:5;

(v.6) ** join:  Isa 44:5; Jer 50:5; Act 2:41; 11:23; 2Co 8:5; 1Th 1:9-10; ** to love:  Mar 12:30-34; Rom 8:28; 1Co 16:22; Gal 5:6; Eph 6:24; Jam 1:12; 2:5; ** every:  Isa 58:13; Rev 1:10;

Isaiah 56:1-2

My Salvation Is Near

Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.  2  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

 

This chapter is a continuation of the message in chapter fifty-five. Bernhard Duhm imagined that chapters 56-66 are the works of a third Isaiah who lived after the exile, but nothing seems to be farther from the truth. There is a continuity that flows throughout the entire book of Isaiah, which many modern scholars have failed to see. 

In verse six of the previous chapter, we read, "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD..." The first two verses of chapter 56 pick up on that same theme. "Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come..." They are a call for God's people to trust in the fact that the salvation of God is near at hand and to act accordingly, to live righteously. To "keep judgment" is almost synonymous with "obey the torah." 

This may be the passage that John the Baptist had in mind when he preached, "...saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) These were also the exact words that Jesus preached after He was tempted in the wilderness for forty days and formally began His ministry.  

It is a part of the gospel that is so often neglected in our churches today. The acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior must be accompanied by repentance or it is not a sincere acceptance. Many churches have ignored this part of the gospel, because it is too difficult to administer or because it limits the number of church members who would be contributing their tithes. How do we know whether or not a person has repented of his sins? We must carefully observe them. I have had two people this month whom I thought had repented of their sins and had received Christ, only to discover that the one was an alcoholic who did not want to get into any kind of recovery program and the other was a drug addict who neglects his family and goes on drug binges with their grocery money. I had to tell the first that she could not be baptized as we had planned until she repented and truly received Christ as her Lord and I have not caught up to the second one, but some form of action will have to be taken.

There will always be hypocrites in the church. We will frequently be tricked into baptizing them into the fellowship, because they are experts at deception. However, we must use our best observation and judgment before receiving them into church membership. Those who deceive us will have to deal with God at the throne of judgment. 

God speaks to us through Isaiah, saying, "...for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed." His righteousness is revealed to us in the gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

This is not a salvation of works under the law. The law subjects us to the very severe death penalty for even the slightest infraction, but the gospel of salvation frees us from that condemnation. God has obtained His justice, because Jesus died in our place, and that is where His righteousness is revealed. 

Thus, when we repent of our sins, understanding full well what cost was paid for them, we will certainly be blessed. Of course, any man who has repented of His sins and has experienced the wonderful grace of God's salvation will want to keep the sabbath holy. He will want to keep it as a day for worship and focus on what God has done for Him. 

Let me close by leaving you a word from the scriptures on which you can meditate today. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:10-14) 

Before The Throne: 

Every one of us has to deal with the fact that we still sin, but it is never too late to repent. Confess your sins and turn away from them. Make your relationship with Christ an authentic one. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness, walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. If you have been using the sabbath for your own pleasure, make a commitment to God right now to begin using the sabbath day as a time of worship and prayer.

For Further Study:

(v.1) ** Keep:  Isa 1:16-19; 26:7-8; 55:7; Psa 24:4-6; 50:23; Jer 7:3-11; Mal 4:4; Mat 3:2; Joh 7:17; ** judgment:  Isa 46:13; 51:5; Psa 85:9; Mat 3:2; 4:17; Mar 1:15; Luk 3:3-9; Rom 1:17; 10:6-10; 13:11-14; 

(v.2) ** Blessed:  Psa 1:1-3; 15:1-5; 106:3; 112:1; 119:1-5; 128:1; Luk 11:28; 12:43; Joh 13:17; Rev 22:14; ** layeth:  Isa 56:4; Pro 4:13; Ecc 7:18; ** keepeth the:  Isa 58:13; Exo 31:13-16; Lev 19:30; Neh 13:17; Jer 17:21-22; Eze_20:12, 20; ** keepeth his:  Psa 34:14; 37:27; 119:101; Pro 4:27; 14:16; 16:6, 17; Rom 12:9;

Isaiah 55:12-13

No More Thorns

12  For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  13  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

 

We have seen that God's word always accomplishes what He intends it to do. Thus, all of the promises that He had made to the Jewish people were guaranteed to be kept. And that is the foundation for the passage before us. The people were instructed to cast away their own thoughts and to surrender them to God. Their thoughts were not His thoughts and His word never returns to Him void. "The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;" (Psalms 94:11-12)

"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace." There would be no bitterness about their departure from Babylon. They would not regret leaving this place, which they had known as home for the past seventy-five years. Joy would fill their hearts as they saw that God's word was being fulfilled exactly as He said it would. The fact that they were freed and heading toward their homeland, would be good reason to rejoice. They would also be able to rejoice over knowing that they were leaving Babylon in peace and that God was leading them. No lives would have to be lost fighting for their freedom, because freedom was a gift from God. 

"Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." (Psalms 14:7) 

If the people did not rejoice, the mountains and the hills would do so by singing God's praises and the trees would clap their hands. It was a common poetic device in eastern cultures to portray inanimate objects as animate. This was a way of emphasizing the miraculous grace by which God had restored His people. 

They might have expected to find Jerusalem overgrown with thorns, a useless and difficult shrub to get rid of, but God promised that the beautiful fir tree would be growing there instead. Instead of briers, they would find the myrtle tree. 

When they saw these things, they would glorify the LORD's name. Every time they saw a beautiful fir or myrtle tree they would think about His grace and mercy.  

There are also several Messianic ways of interpreting this passage. The joy and peace could be that which is felt upon our conversion in Christ and our being set free from the captivity of sin. The mountains could be said to represent the apostles and the trees the saints. Each time another person was received into the kingdom of God, these would sing songs of joy and clap their hands with thanksgiving. 

Before our conversion, our hearts are full of briers and thorns, and our thoughts and imaginations are always evil. Upon our new birth, however, we are given new hearts where only beautiful thoughts should grow. We bring every imagination into subjection to Christ. 

This new man that is born within us is an everlasting tribute to the name of God. Only He could bring about such a miraculous rebirth. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Through Him the dead live; through Him we have new life; and through His faith we can remain strong. 

Christ loved you and gave Himself for you, so that you could have the unspeakable joy of being set free from the bondage of sin and death. Make sure that your life brings glory to Him. 

Before The Throne:

Continue to pray for Christ to take control of your every thought. Ask Him to help you live a life that will bring glory to God. Commit yourself to sing His praises and to be a living testimony to what He can do for anyone who will receive Him. In all things, give thanks.

For Further Study: 

(v.12) ** ye shall:  Isa 35:10; 48:20; 49:9-10; 51:11; 65:13-14; Psa 105:43; Jer 30:19; 31:12-14; 33:6, 11; Zec 2:7-10; Rom 5:1, 11; 15:13; Gal 5:22; Col 1:11; ** the mountains:  Isa 14:8; 35:1-2; 42:10-11; 44:23; 49:13; Psa 65:13; 96:11-13; 98:7-9; 148:4-13; Luk 15:10; Rev 19:1-6; ** clap:  1Ch 16:32-33; Psa_47:1; 

(V.13) ** of the thorn:  Isa 11:6-9; 41:19; 60:13, 21; 61:3; Mic 7:4; Rom 6:19; 1Co 6:9-11; 2Co 5:17; ** for a:  Isa 43:21; Jer 13:11; 33:9; Luk 2:14; Joh 15:8; Eph 3:20-21; 1Pe 2:9-10; 4:11; ** an everlasting:  Isa 54:10; Jer 50:5;

Isaiah 55:8-11

God's Thoughts

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  10  For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:  11  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

  

Yesterday we saw that, if the man of iniquity would put away his thoughts and wicked ways and return to God, God would pardon him. It is difficult for man to accept this generous offer of grace. I frequently meet people who think that their sins have been too numerous and too grievous for God to forgive. They certainly would not forgive someone who had sinned against them, so they cannot understand how God would be willing to do it.

Man's thoughts are all evil. "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5) How could we understand the wonderful righteousness that governs the thoughts of God? Judah was said to be in captivity, because God had warned them to change their ways and their thoughts. "Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not." (Jeremiah 11:8)

God's thoughts are not like our thoughts. His plans for us are entirely different from what we would plan for ourselves. Our plans would be destructive, while His plans are restorative and designed to permanently establish us as His children. His plans for us have a higher purpose and a divine significance. The purpose is to glorify His name and the significance is that the results of His plans have an eternal effect. His thoughts are regulated by the infinite love that He has for His creation..

Since God's thoughts are so much higher than ours, it follows that His ways would also be higher. Who would forgive his enemies or who would sacrifice his only son for another man's life? Not any man, but God would do that and more. God's ways are pleasant and His yoke is light. His ways are ways of peace, while man's ways are aggressive and offensive. Man cannot keep his promises, but God's word is always good.

"As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither but watereth the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater... So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth." The forces of nature serve as a good analogy for the word of God. When rain falls, it keeps falling. It never changes its mind and returns to the clouds. Furthermore, the rain always accomplishes its purpose. It causes things to grow, which in turn serve as food for the rest of creation.

God's word never returns to Him without accomplishing its purpose. His promises are never withdrawn for any reason. The best thing about His word is that it always accomplishes those things that please God, which are always good. Like the rain, which causes things to grow and provides food for man, God's word is the spiritual nourishment that we need to be prosperous, to fulfill His plans for us. "And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger, and then He fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did your fathers know it, so that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of Jehovah man shall live." (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Imagine how much better life could be, if you would perfectly tune your thoughts to God's. You would be working toward goals that are guaranteed to be reached. Everything you did would succeed. You would constantly experience the power of God as He worked through you. Oh, the thrill and the joy that would fill every moment of your life! You would even be able to rejoice during trying times and in difficult or dangerous situations.

Before The Throne:

Continue to pray about who will own and control your thoughts. Will you give them up to God? Will you learn to trust in His word? Pray for better understanding. Ask for a clear vision of His purpose for your life. Picture the peace and prosperity that will come from living in tune with Him and work toward it. Remember that without Christ it is impossible to live in harmony with God. On the other hand, ""You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you."" (Philippians 4:13)

For Further Study:

(v.8 ) ** 2Sa 7:19; Psa 25:10; 40:5; 92:5; Pro 21:8; 25:3; Jer 3:1; Eze 18:29; Dan 4:37; Hos 14:9;

(v.9) ** Psa 36:5; 77:19; 89:2; 103:11; Mat 11:25; Rom 11:31-36;

(v.10) ** as the rain:  Isa 5:6; 23; 61:11; Deu 32:2; 1Sa 23:4; Psa 65:9-13; 72:6-7; Eze 34:26; Hos 10:12; Rev 11:6; ** give:  2Co_9:9-11

(v.11) ** shall my:  Isa 54:9; Deu 32:2; Mat 24:35; Luk 8:11-16; Joh 6:63; Rom 10:17; 1Co 1:18; 3:6-9; 1Th 2:13; Heb 6:7; Jam 1:18; 1Pe 1:23; ** it shall accomplish:  Isa 44:26-28; 45:23; 46:10; Eph 1:9-11;