Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 6-7:25; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33; Psalm 54:1-7; Proverbs 23:1-3
Isaiah tells us about the moment when God called him to be one of His prophets (Isaiah 6:1). Isaiah actually saw the Lord. What a humbling experience! Isaiah immediately admitted his own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). There can be no other reaction when a sinful human being comes into the presence of the Almighty God. God is so pure and holy that our sin becomes obvious to us that we cannot deny it.
A born-again believer has had a similar experience to Isaiah. We became aware of how deeply defiled and sinful we are and we confessed. Those people who die without being born-again will come to this realization immediately after their final heartbeat when they enter the physical presence of Jesus. At that point, though, it will be too late to repent.
God was looking for a willing person He could send with a message to Judah (Isaiah 6:8a). Isaiah offered himself (Isaiah 6:8b). Notice that God called Isaiah even though he was a sinner. God doesn’t need you to be perfect before using you to do something great. All he needs is you to be willing, like Isaiah was.
By the way, notice a couple of subtle references to the Trinity in this chapter. In Isaiah 6:3 the seraphim call out “Holy, holy, holy” – one “holy” for each member of the Trinity. Then in Isaiah 6:8 God refers to “us” (similar to Genesis 1:26). These verses can be used to refute those who deny the Trinity.
When we read Kings and Chronicles earlier this year we learned about all the kings of Judah and Israel. In the books of the prophets we will revisit many of the events in these historical books with the added information about the warnings issued to them by God.
King Ahaz was an evil king of Judah; one of the worst kings Judah ever had. At this point he was being attacked by a Israel-Syria alliance. God’s message to Ahaz was not to worry – the attack would fail (Isaiah 7:3-9). If Ahaz believed God, he would be successful. If not, then he would have trouble (Isaiah 7:9).
We know from our earlier reading that Ahaz did not trust God and got involved in the conflict. This only brought him problems.
So God gives Ahaz signs of His trustworthiness, power, and love. There would be a child born of a virgin who would be called Emmanuel which means “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). This is one of the most famous prophecies in the Bible about Jesus. Also, Israel and Syria – of whom Ahaz was afraid – would be destroyed (Isaiah 7:16). Finally, God tells Ahaz that Judah itself would be destroyed by the very nation whose help it sought, Assyria (Isaiah 7:17-25).
Paul defends his credentials as a spokesperson for Christ in 2 Corinthians today. He recounts the many difficult situations his work for Jesus has put him in, including shipwrecks, beatings, and being put in prison (2 Corinthians 11:23-29, 32-33).
There have always been Christians who were persecuted for their faith. A current example is Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who is currently serving an 8-year sentence for being a Christian in Iran’s Evin prison, one of the country’s most notorious. He has been tortured numerous times over the past year, even being near death at one point.
The world looks at Paul and Pastor Saaed and see weakness. They don’t believe that a godly person would go through these things. But that is not true. What the world considers weakness, God considers strength. Hence, we can boast when we go through such things (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Being a follower of Christ is not a comfortable activity. It does not include room service or a big bank account. It comes with difficulty and hardship. The perseverance of people like Paul and Pastor Saaed is how the world can know that God really exists and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No one suffers like that for a lie.
Speaking of persecution (isn’t the Bible so consistent?), Psalm 53 was written by David as he was being attacked by his enemies. He could stand tall through it because He was confident in God (Psalm 53:4). This the same assurance that carried Paul and will carry Pastor Saaed.
Please consider praying for Pastor Saaed: http://savesaeed.org/
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