In the last chapter of Isaiah’s book, we read what God has been saying since the beginning of time: “My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word. But those who choose their own ways— delighting in their detestable sins— will not have their offerings accepted… When they burn frankincense, it’s as if they had blessed an idol.” Again we see that God acknowledges our ability to make choices. He will also be faithful and deliver the consequences of our choices.
He is the One who rewards, and He is the One who executes judgment; a time is coming when this will all be clear. Everyone will see the LORD’s hand of blessing on his servants— and his anger against his enemies. So far, that final judgment time has not yet come. That means we have today to choose to humble our hearts and serve the God who created everything. We can seek Him and be blessed, or we can choose to delight in the detestable and meet God as an enemy. The end of the Story tells us that God’s enemies do not stand a chance against Him. Isaiah was a brave prophet and we would be wise to learn all that God wrote through this man of integrity. Isaiah himself announced early on that he was a man of unclean lips. God cleansed him and used him mightily. God can do the same for us.
Isaiah 66:2-3, 14b NLT
Isaiah’s prophecies are coming to an end, and as in earlier chapters in God’s Story, we see that His desire for redemption continues. Listen to the hope that Isaiah recorded as the Lord spoke: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all… So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes… They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.”
Those of us who are the Lord’s servants are the descendants of the Lord’s blessings. We’re blessed because the people who came before us were blessed. We are blessed to be a blessing. And the blessings don’t stop! There is no reason to fill our days mindlessly doing busy work when we can actively live and move and work in the God of truth. Jesus tells us to know the truth for the truth will set us free. Real freedom comes only through Him.
Please continue to pray for the young women in the Thai juvenile detention center. Great freedom has been given to teach God’s good news to them and hearts are changing. Some of the girls have begun a probation period and are starting fresh lives as nannies at an orphanage run by Christians. As these young ladies embrace God’s forgiveness and see how their lives can be different, may they forget their former troubles and thrive in the blessings of the Lord of second chances.
Isaiah 65:8, 16, 23 ESV
Years later when Jesus was in Nazareth teaching in a synagogue, He read a portion of the scroll from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” I picture Jesus pausing and lowering the scroll to look out at those He had been reading to with eyes of deep compassion. He then said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to say, “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” May God’s glory shine in our lives. Yahweh the faithful One, loves justice. He will reward His servants, His ministers with garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. “Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” God’s Story has amazing continuity. His theme to bless excites and encourages and energizes all at once! Fill me Lord, so I can go forward as a blessing. Amen.
P.S. What a joy it was to prayerfully read this entry in my own copy of The Blessing Book onboard a plane heading for Singapore, four years after leaving Asia. I pray that the excitement of being in a certain place leads us to a heightened sense of hope to yet again go forward as a blessing. God, bless Your children to bless no matter where in the world you have us. Amen.
Isaiah 61:3, 9 NLT
God’s blessings are extended beyond His people Israel to even foreigners! I have lived more than half of my adult life as a foreigner and now that I’m back in the US, it is not a surprise that I seem to be drawn to people from other countries. Sophie’s plane from Africa was several hours delayed. So while waiting in the international terminal I watched weary people arrive from around the world. I wanted to have a cooler filled with bottled water and a big sign and a hug to welcome everyone coming to Houston for the first time. I think it would make God smile, for He too wants to bless and rescue the foreigner.
This is what the Lord says: “Be just and fair to all. Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you. Blessed are all those who are careful to do this. Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong… For this is what the Lord says: “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me”… “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.”
God, bless the foreigners among us. May we honor You by how we treat others, those that are similar to us and those that are different. Your desire is for all to know and love Your name and to wholeheartedly worship You, for in doing so we are blessed. Amen.
Isaiah 56:1-2, 4, 6 NLT
Looking back on the faithfulness of the Lord increases our faith; as we reflect on God’s goodness, we gain courage to live in the present and have real hope to face the future. Isaiah encouraged King Hezekiah as he sought the Lord and reminded the king of God’s promise of a nation that was to come out of one couple. “Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain. When I called him, he was only one; I blessed him and made him many.”
God made a nation for Himself out of one man and woman, and through the years led this nation into the land He promised. But again, God’s people were in hard times brought on by their own rebellion and sin; they needed a wake-up call to God’s mercy. “For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. Because of God’s benevolent faithful love we have hope. This is a call worth answering with thanksgiving.
Isaiah 51:2 HCSB; Isaiah 54:10 NLT
Let me list a few more blessings from the prophet Isaiah allowing the blessings to flow and to show God’s faithfulness. Then the LORD will bless you with rain at planting time. There will be wonderful harvests and plenty of pastureland for your livestock… how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free… For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. God cares about the things we need and He wonderfully provides.
Chiang Mai, the city our children call home, is nestled in the mountains of northern Thailand. For about nine months out of the year I find the weather to be perfect, but then comes the extremely hot, dry, smoky season. Pollution from burning the remains of the harvested crops lingers in the valley, making it challenging to breathe, and a thick haze blocks the mountains from view. Vegetation wilts and browns, and all of God’s creation anticipates the coming rains. Distant thunder brings hope, as year after year God faithfully provides what is needed.
We do need rain in due season (or whatever equivalent is relevant to our present day livelihood) and we need the Holy Spirit poured out. God, please pour out Your blessings upon us, the Thai people and those all over the earth, just like rain clouds pour the rain. I pray that we would take in Your Word the way a thirsty land absorbs the showers. Amen.
Isaiah 30:23 NLT; Isaiah 32:20 NIV; Isaiah 44:3 ESV
Israel, the nation, was not healthy. Her founding fathers held to godly principles but they were not valued in Isaiah’s time and this abandonment was having its due effect. Scoffing, arrogant evil plotting, and outright lying dominated the times and people of authority perverted righteousness. God said to the people of Israel, hold on. In God’s timing justice will come. “My people will no longer be ashamed or turn pale with fear. For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Israel. They will stand in awe of the God of Jacob.” God extends hope that the wayward and the confused and the complainers will gain instruction and understanding.
Is He still waiting all these years later for humanity to humbly come to Him? So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are all those who wait for his help. God waits for us. We are not fully grown spiritually. We often demand immediate justice; we do not want to wait for God to administer it. But when we wait, trusting Him, we are blessed. Stand in awe and recognize God for His many blessings; wait for Him to deliver justice and with open hands and hearts receive His compassion.
This is easier to write than to do, but life is better when individuals and groups are restored to a vibrant and healthy relationship with Holy God. Because growth is a process, restoration takes place on one level, and that new rebuild then prepares us to see where more renovation is needed. Our hearts are complex and our faithful God is compassionate. Let’s keep growing, for He is willing to help us.
Isaiah 29:22b-23 NLT; Isaiah 30:18 NLT
When Russell and I first got married and before the babies came, we read the book of Isaiah aloud together. It was my first exposure to this book. Isaiah’s writings cover many warnings and blessings over a wide span of years and he wrote of prophecies that have now been fulfilled and of prophecies that offer future expectations. He remains Russell’s favorite prophet and it was easy for the two of us to agree on “Isaiah” as the name of our only son, an early Christmas gift given to our family in 1992. I love remembering how his two older sisters, who were quite young themselves, held their baby brother with great care. In order to keep up with them, Isaiah was walking on his first birthday and since then, I have prayed that he would walk with integrity.
A man of great integrity, Isaiah the prophet, told it the way it was during the dark times for God’s people. Isaiah also offered hope for that period as well as hope for the future. Isaiah said that God would destroy death forever and that He would wipe away the tears from every face. In that day people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings! For the Lord’s hand of blessing will rest on Jerusalem.”
Sometimes the blessings we read about are for the future and our anticipation grows when we think about what is yet to come. Justice will prevail. God indeed has a hand of blessing. And this is not the only time we will read about His hand wiping away all tears. There is a lot of good yet before us! Bless God!
Isaiah 25:9-10a NLT
The most evangelistic prophet of all times was perhaps the prophet Isaiah. Used by God for over forty years, Isaiah spoke truthfully about the sins of the people Judah, and the severe punishment that will follow those choices. He offered hope that people would realize they can change and return to the Lord. Isaiah lived during the times of many kings and he witnessed first-hand the need that all have for a Savior. After nineteen chapters of warnings, Isaiah talks of a day of blessing. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” This is an interesting alliance but we will find that true peace comes only when we are aligned to the Lord.
I love how in the minority area of China, where we lived, there was a man who became like the prophet Isaiah. This “Tai Isaiah” knew there needed to be more than idols and he was thrilled to learn about God’s plan for abundant life through Jesus. But why had the Christians in the area neglected to share this good news with his tribe? The answer is much like how it was in the time of Isaiah: God’s people had turned inward and they did not offer His blessings to others so more could be blessed. Russell and the Tai Isaiah pressed on, reaching out to others who had never heard God’s Story and challenging those who knew God to share His goodness. As more people align to God, His hope and peace can change hearts and nations.
Isaiah 19:24-25 ESV