“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” – Acts 7:49-50 (ESV)
These words, spoken by Stephen to the Jewish Sanhedrin in defense of his faith. Stephen was a deacon in the truly first church in Jerusalem and became the first Christian martyr. Stephen quoted Isaiah 66:1-2. It is a reminder for us to remember church is not a building, in grand or simple architecture and the size and does not make a place a church. When emphasis is on the structure, we tend to limit God to that building. Because of His majesty no one can build a house for Him to dwell in (1 Kings 8:27); God is the Creator of all things – especially all things used to build the grand and beautiful church buildings. What He values above His inanimate Creation are people who are humble and contrite (Isaiah. 57:15) and who follow His word. God desires to dwell in the hearts of persons who takes His Word so seriously that it produces humility, broken spirit, and trembling in the presence of His Word. ““But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2b
“And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”” – Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)
These words by the prophet Isaiah are found in the book with his name. Much can be learned from this passage and this verse expresses what happens when we encounter an exalted view of God and His holiness. We see a clear view of sin and a realistic view of ourselves. We understand that Isaiah may have been satisfied with his personal holiness until he saw this vision of the Lord God in His unspeakable glory. If we have a diminished view of God we will have a reduced concern for sin and an inflated view of self. Truly, it is impossible to worship God and remain unchanged. Isaiah’s encounter with holy God made him immediately and keenly aware of his own lack of holiness and of the sinfulness of those around him. God does not want us to be conformed to a sinful world seeking its pleasures and attracted by temptations that are traps and snares to unholy living. God desires in us a clear difference between ourselves and the world. God wants to sanctify us, to make us holy as He is holy. That is a promise made to every faith believer.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NASB
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High;” – Luke 1:31-32a (NASB)
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21 (NASB)
The birth of Jesus was known before God created the earth and humans. During this season, we sing about the message which the angels told to the shepherds near Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. But today’s verses tell us that before that, God predicted through His prophet Isaiah the birth of the “Son of God.” God had sent the angel Gabriel with the message about the birth and name of Jesus to Mary who was chosen to be His mother. Gabriel made a visit later to Joseph who was to be Mary’s husband. Gabriel revealed why God had chosen the name Jesus for the child who was to be born. It was because He would save His people from their sins. The prophecy of Isaiah is repeated in Matthew 1:23. These messages, given to the world before the child was born, are important to us. Jesus was coming in order to be our Savior. We should rejoice today that God sent His Son to save us. It was an important message given before He came. It is just as important today. God promised to provide a way for us to be saved and Jesus is that Way.
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” – Isaiah 35:3-4 (ESV)
Through His prophets, God spoke to His people and gave them instruction and encouragement. He also warned them what would happen if they did not believe and the blessings for those who did believe. We have considered the promise of God that He is our eternal source of encouragement and today’s verse shows us a way we are encouraged. An anxious heart comes from fear. Fear comes from not trusting in God’s promises. These words are interesting because they mention feeble hands and knees that give way. But it is also clear that weak hands and shaky knees are caused by fearful hearts. So, what the Lord promises us is that He will come and He will strengthen our hearts so that we do not need to fear. When we trust him to help us not be afraid, that will make our hands and our knees strong. When we have needs like this in our lives our God is aware of them and He promises to come to help us. If we know that God will respond in this way, it encourages us to depend on Him and press on, whatever is ahead in our path.
“I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.” – Isaiah 45:23-24 (NASB)
God, in today’s words is giving to His prophet the very words that He wanted written down and delivered to His people. We call the Bible the Word of God and we know that its teachings come from our creator. In this instance Isaiah received the Word of God directly from God. God predicted here what people would say about Him, God not Isaiah. Today there are many who do not know the Lord God and reject Him as their Savior and Lord. There are even some who carry an attitude of anger toward God and those who do believe in Him. But there will be a day when every person will bow to God, some in shame. As we walk close to the Lord in our Christian life we can know what God predicted we would say. Yes, as we walk with the Lord we find that He is the source of our ability to live right. We find His righteousness keeps us in the straight way. It is how we find the strength to do what we need to do by walking close to the source of the promised strength, let’s commit to doing that today.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” – Isaiah 40:11 (ESV)
The picture this verse draws for us is first one of God’s omnipotence. The context here is the prophecy of the Jews begin scattered over all the earth. Subsequently, God will overcome their oppressors and gather His people together and care for them. Are we familiar with the picture of our Lord as a shepherd caring for his sheep? It is an image used to show God’s relationship with His followers. We are so glad that He considers us a part of those who can depend on His care every day. As we read this verse today these words are especially impressed on our hearts: “carries them in His bosom” – meaning He carries them close to his heart. These special words remind us of God’s promise and His great love for us. He wants us to feel this and He wants us to respond to His love. Then let us remember that to be held close to the heart of the shepherd made it possible for a lamb to feel the heartbeat of the shepherd. So it is for us. When our Lord carries us close to his heart, we can sense His love for others and for ourselves.
“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” – Isaiah 42:16 (NASB)
Remember observing how a blind person manages their way around their world? It’s amazing what one can do when it has to be done. In a very real sense we are all blinded by different things at times in our lives. We who believe in Jesus also need help understanding finding the right path in our lives. When we encounter strange paths God promises to help us. In the dark places He promises to guide us and He turns on the light we need. We all face situations which are new and different or are problematic and we especially need wisdom to navigate our decision process. Now and then we just can’t see a way out and we need God to guide us, He opens our eyes and chases the darkness away. Our Father God promises to smooth out rough places and show us where to step. He promises to be our guide through times that are difficult, lonely, sorrowful, frightening times and when we have simply lost our way. During times of personal loss or when evil threatens us, God is with us. He will not forsake us. He is a lamp for our feet in the dark.
“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4 (ESV)
Isaiah’s words remind us again today of the greatness and love of God and how singular He is in this universe. These words were true in Isaiah’s time nearly 2600 years ago. He declares that since the beginning there has been only one God who would respond to the needs of the human race. And during all these years since Isaiah wrote these words, there has been no other God – although many have tried to create them. God’s judgmental manifestations are unique. No one has witnessed the likes of His awesome works on behalf of His own. In 1 Corinthians* Paul adapts words from this verse to speak of direct revelation of God imparted to His apostles and prophets and pertaining to mysteries hidden from mankind before the birth of the church. What a joy to know that we do have a God who acts on our behalf when we turn to Him. We can trust in the promise that He acts on our behalf. This is the one and only God and He is our God, our heavenly Father who is near us every day.
* “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—1 Corinthians 2:9
“For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall.” Isaiah 25:4 (NASB)
Life is not a bed of roses they say. If it was we’d all be pricked by the thorns too much. Yet there are thorns that stick it to us anyway. The prophet Isaiah knew the wonder of God and what He did for His own who were in need. This verse gives us four ways that God promised to provide for those in need in Isaiah’s day. For those oppressed God is our defense against oppressors. Our Lord God also is our defense when we are in need. He is a refuge and we can look to Him when we feel threatened and when we wonder how things will work out for us. When our life is beset by stormy weather we find shelter with our Lord. And if our situation creates a lot of heat like the desert we can find relief from the heat. Sometimes we face people who have us up against a wall – we can trust and know God is with us to help us. So, let’s allow the words of our verse to remind us today how full sufficient our God is to be there and meet our every need.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.” – Isaiah 12:2 (NASB)
Yesterday we learned from God’s Word through His prophet Isaiah that perfect peace is available to those whose mind is steadfast and unwavering in their trust in God. Today’s promise gives us the attitude of fearlessness. The idea of ‘No Fear’ is presented to us in many different ways: the No FEAR Act of 2002; as a brand for lifestyle clothing; and even as a translation of old English literature such as Shakespeare into modern English. God knows we all are tempted to be afraid and desire to have no fear. He has given us this guide – the Bible – which promises what He will do for us in these times. We can affirm that God is our salvation. When we can confirm that our salvation from the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) is ours by faith in God, we can trust Him without fear. Isaiah confirms his own standing – he trusts because the Lord God provides strength to do so. It is a strength that calms our spirit and gives us a song of praise. We have this promise: when we trust in God, He becomes our salvation and we abide in Him for the rest of time and beyond.