Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 33:10-36:22; Galatians 5:13-26; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 23:23
Although God allowed Assyria to destroy Israel and taunt Judah, that did not mean He condoned their behavior. He allowed them to do this for Israel and Judah’s own good. But then He destroyed Assyria because of their actions (Isaiah 33:10).
God lets people make decisions. More often than not, those decisions are terrible, selfish decisions that hurt other people. But God uses that evil to discipline another person or group of people. Then He will discipline those who did the evil by allowing evil to be done to them. All of life is a brilliant plan of God to bring people into a relationship with Him that is fueled by human being’s sinful nature – an inexhaustible fuel source.
God’s plan is never to ultimately destroy. All discipline is followed by restoration (Isaiah 35). Whether it is after Israel’s defeat by Assyria or Judah’s defeat by Babylon or even after the Great Tribulation (which is still to come) God will restore. God does not get a kick out of bringing disaster into our lives. He knows that our lives on this earth are temporary and, from an eternal perspective, meaningless. We will spend virtually all of our existence in eternity. And that is God’s priority. Not our health. Not our wealth. God is concerned about those things. But He is not more concerned about them then He is about our eternity.
I like the picture of the Highway of Holiness in Isaiah 35:8-10. Becoming “holy” is a process, not an event. It takes time – a lot of time – to travel that road. But notice that the road has a toll booth. To get on this road you must belong to God. You must accept Jesus Christ as your savior. That is the only way to get to the ultimate destination God has for us and enjoy the many blessings along the way.
Isaiah 36 begins a section by the prophet Isaiah in which he gives a historical account of what was going on in Judah at the time he gave all these prophecies. We’ve already read this account in 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 32.
Just like the commander from Assyria, Satan will use deceptive logic to get us to do something we should not do. Satan’s words always have a bit of truth to them – he was right that Judah should not rely on Egypt (Isaiah 36:5-6). But Satan only gives us a bit of truth to draw us into his subsequent web of lies. The only way to know what is true is to know God’s word and rely on Him 100% of the time. He is the only one who has our best interests in mind.
One of the criticisms against being saved by grace is that it creates a license to sin. If God has forgiven all my sins, why not just keep on sinning? Paul addresses this question in our passage in Galatians today.
Certainly we have the freedom to sin – we’ve had that freedom since the day we were born – but once saved we no longer have to live that way. We now have the freedom to live unselfishly, as Jesus did (Galatians 5:13). Jesus had more freedom than anyone who ever lived. Yet He didn’t use that freedom to serve Himself (which is essentially what sin is). He used His freedom to serve others.
The way we achieve this is to let the Holy Spirit direct us (Galatians 5:16). Only born-again believers have the Holy Spirit (who is God in the 3rd person of the Trinity) living in them. By following the leading of the Spirit we can truly love others more than we love ourselves.
Notice that the Holy Spirit gives us desires that are contrary to our human nature (Galatians 5:17). We will live a never-ending battle on this earth – constantly torn between the sinful desires of our natural self and the holy desires of the Spirit. We can choose which we will follow.
Anyone who intentionally chooses to follow the flesh will not enter heaven (Galatians 5:19-20). Obviously, as sinful people believers will screw up on occasion. Based on the verb tense of the original Greek, Paul is not talking about such a lapse in judgement. We all follow the flesh at times. What Paul is talking about is having an ongoing attitude that says “If God is going to forgive me I might as well sin”. Such a person is not truly saved, is not a child of God, and therefore has no claim to God’s inheritance.
One of the great things about the Bible is that we can all relate to it. In Psalm 62 David is under tremendous verbal attack from his enemies who entice each other to harm him. We’ve all been there. Its painful. David experienced this pain too. His response was to talk to God about it (Psalm 62:1). God will protect us (Psalm 62:7).
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