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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Not Forsaken (Isaiah 49:14-15)

"But Zion has said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."

Looking horizontally often leads to despair and discouragement. We see and hear about the increase in unemployment and foreclosure of homes, the rise in healthcare costs and the drop in our annuity or 401K. And what do we do? We join in the "Ole Time Opry" Hee Haw chorus, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all; gloom, despair, and agony on me."

Israel looks around at her situation, that of imminent captivity, and assumes she has been forsaken by God. When believers find themselves in difficult situations they often "feel" forsaken by the LORD. It is in those times that you must "faith" His presence by relying upon His word and disregard how you "feel". Believers typically respond one of three ways:
  1. They seek an emotional experience to either negate their reality or dull their pain. They "light their own fire . . . walk in the light of their own fire and . . . lie down in torment" (Isaiah 50:11).
  2. They succumb to the enemy's temptation to escape their dilemma by drowning their sorrow in some self-destructive behavior.
  3. They trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon God (50:10).
Where you run when trouble comes says everything about what you really believed before the trouble came. Just as the furnace reveals hairline cracks in pottery so the test of trouble really reveals the cracks in your faith and in your theology.

The real key to handling trouble is to know and do the last thing God told you through His word, "Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on His God" (Isaiah 50:10).

The stories of the Bible nurture faith. The stories reveal how God interacts with real people living in a real world of faith-testing and faith-building trouble. The stories enlarge my view of God as I see God work His greater good through impossible situations. In spite of all appearances to the contrary "He Himself has said "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5b-6). Our feelings are fickle but the promises of God are sure.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Isaiah 47:1-50:11
  • What attitude does Babylon possess regarding her own ability?
  • What does Babylon say (twice) that sounds like she has established herself as God?
  • How does the LORD respond to her arrogance?
  • What reason does the LORD give for prophesying Israel's captivity and His punishment of Babylon hundreds of years before?
  • Instead of captivity what would Israel had experienced had they paid attention to the LORD's commands?
  • What has God done to Himself to prove to Israel His covenant commitment to them?
  • How does Isaiah describe the coming Messiah?
  • What does God's relationship and actions with Israel teach Gentiles about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Take your doubts and despair to the LORD. Thank Him for His presence and for the refiner's fire. Thank Him for His promise in Hebrews 13:5b-6.