Open as PDF
Of all the rich treasures of truth given to God¬ís people in the holy Scriptures few can be compared with the writings of Isaiah, the prince of prophets.
Isaiah¬ís "Book of Comfort" (chapters 40-66) is one of the clearest and the most detailed declarations of God¬ís purpose for His people to be found anywhere. A man¬ís spirit must be sick unto death if he is not moved, as God through His prophet announces His redemptive intent in Christ....
What God decrees is already done! History may grind out the events at what is, from man¬ís viewpoint, a snail¬ís pace, but God¬ís relentless pursuit of His goals is not so much concerned with chronology as with redemptive certainty.
History, Heritage and Hope
In our present critical period of history it is good to encourage our hearts repeatedly with God¬ís own assurance that He is moving toward the fulfillment of these decrees. The course of world events could easily divert our eyes from the end in view, focus them upon the agonizing process--a device of the enemy of our souls--and replace hope with utter despair. It is not necessary to call attention to this despair. It is so apparent that even many of God¬ís elect are being consumed by it.
Too frequently men are tempted to look upon denominational antecedents or creedal documents as being commensurate with this God-given heritage.
Such thinking can be a soul-destroying fallacy. Let the prophet give his own dimension to his words: "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord..." (Josh. 54:17).
Isaiah, speaking for God, does not allow for any distinction between history, heritage or hope. In God¬ís economy these three factors amount to the same thing. Our earthbound minds cling to the concepts of past, present and future because it takes faith to break out of this terrestrial perspective.
Today¬ís social upheaval demands the discernment which sustained Paul: "We look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." When current events tend to fill us with fear, "looking after those things which are coming on the earth," it is time to accept Isaiah¬ís invitation to scrutinize and embrace our heritage.
Freedom From Fear
First, he invites us to join in the song of world redemption (54:1-3). Barrenness has yielded to the intervention of resurrection life. Enlargement, expansion--irresistible growth, fruitfulness --these are now the quality of life for those who comprehend their heritage.
Much as we deplore the morbid pessimism which has gripped many, we dare not allow ourselves the luxury of irresponsible optimism. Faith is not optimism. It is accepting the redemptive victory God has given us in Christ and pursuing our responsibility of being God¬ís people, the Body of Christ, whatever our period of history may offer us as a chilling deterrent.
Second, this Scripture is an invitation to discover and maintain freedom from debilitating, soul-destroying inward fear (54:4-10). It is impossible to exhort or even to recommend an attitude of fearlessness to the natural man. Admonishing a person not to be afraid in the chaos of world affairs in Isaiah¬ís day or ours, is tantamount to asking him to stop breathing! Inward peace does not imply pretending that all is well because God is in heaven. Inward peace is not conditioning the mind with escape tactics nor deadening it with the synthetic relief of drugs.
Inward peace comes from an intelligent consideration of the truth of God¬ís Word and a volitional commitment to its validity. Fear enters in when unbelief is permitted to challenge this commitment. If our Maker is our husband, if our Lord is the God of the whole earth (verse 5), if God¬ís decreed goals are certain and we can with hope wait patiently for the dependable outcomes (verses 8-10)--then fear is that emotional reaction which allows the temporal to overcome the eternal in our lapses into unbelief.
God¬ís Spiritual Goal
Third, the prophet invites us to believe that our personal encounter with history is an opportunity for the development of maturity--the beauty of holiness (54:11-14). In the eloquent language of Isaiah the individual is addressed as God¬ís own possession. The man consumed with personal turmoil, the churning spirit, the heart filled with the restlessness of exile, the mind bewailing that the pilgrimage is too rigorous to be endured--this man hears the prophet, speaking for God, say that such human exigencies are His occasions for shaping His children into something of great value in His eyes.
This Old Testament portion would seem to be the birthplace of Peter¬ís bold philosophy of suffering (1 Peter 1:6-9). There comes a point in religious experience where one must choose between creature comforts with tranquility of spirit and the fulfillment of God¬ís spiritual goal to conform him to the image of His Son.
The Wrath Of Man Can¬ít Confound God¬ís Purpose
Fourth, Isaiah invites God¬ís own people to the unshakable assurance that the wrath of man can never alter nor confound the purpose of God (54:15-17). The concerted effort of evil men to destroy the purpose of God by rebellion, lawlessness and rioting and by atheistic and amoral pursuits will not succeed.
Though they may dominate, yea, even gain control for a season, they cannot abrogate the outcome declared by Almighty God.
Man¬ís efforts to take that which God created for man¬ís good and use it against God and man will not prosper. Man-made legislation which would seem to destroy or deter God¬ís purpose for His people, will come to naught. We must believe that or be swept under the increasing tide of evil. This is our heritage! The gates of hell shall not hold out against the work of Christ! What God has done in Him is eternally wrought. Our heritage is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." Man cannot touch it; it is the work of God.
If these truths have become vague; if they seem unreal, impractical, they are nonetheless our heritage. They must be rediscovered, cherished and personalized if we are to be overcomers in Christ.