BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND FOUR LEGGED NEPHEWS AND NIECES!
(if any of the four legged ones are reading this, WELCOME! This is our first interspecies Bible study!)
Today’s readings are Isaiah 45-48
Diving right in…
The next couple of days notes are going to be a bit hard to swallow at times. Let us brace ourselves, hold tight to Him, and treasure His truth above all. It is not my intent to offend and I’ve tried to soften my notes when possible in hopes of avoiding that.
Isaiah 45 Let’s talk about Cyrus
It is important to note that this prophecy of Cyrus was written about 200 years before Cyrus was born – and YHWH did call out his name, more on that in a minute.
Cyrus successfully conquered many lands and was able to maintain his hold on them. This is largely attributed to his tolerance for the religions of whatever land he conquered.
You see, in this time, when a kingdom conquered another, it was generally thought that this meant their gods were stronger than those in the land they had conquered. So the people who had been overtaken were expected to worship the gods of the new kingdom they now fell under and most of the time this was strictly enforced. Cyrus, being one who worshipped multiple gods himself and holding no allegiance to a single god at any point in his lifetime according to records available, allowed people to continue practicing whatever faith they had always practiced.
In fact, he made a promise that he would never force someone to change their faith. This avoided a great deal of conflict and regardless of the motivation, was a great political move which served him well. Historically, he is considered a respecter of human rights and a wise king. However, it must be noted that if he ever worshipped YHWH, it was certainly as only one of many gods he declared to worship. We see no reason to believe he ever worshipped any god exclusively, not even the one true God.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
YHWH made it a point to declare Cyrus by His name and explains why.
I declared them to you from old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say “My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.” Isaiah 48:5
So, obviously, He knows us well. He has seen, time and again, His miracles be attributed to luck, our own work, other people, or even other gods and idols in our lives. This is as if the Father were saying –Look, I’m going to tell you exactly what is going to happen two hundred years before it does- and I’m going to name names and everything, that way you’ll know better when you give MY credit to others. You’ll still do it, because you have the attention span of a gnat, but you won’t have an excuse for it and at least those who actually read my word will know better.
I know when we see things like “carved image” and “metal image” and “idol”, we don’t equate them to ourselves. Most faiths in the western world do not have idols that they pray to, statues or images that they bow down before as if they were a form of or symbolic of a god or even of YHWH. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if that statement is true. While we may not think of our symbols as talismans and our statues as idols, I do see Believers sometimes treating them as such and I confess that in the past I’ve done so myself. Unfortunately, we are prone to this so I try to remain on guard in my behavior with that in mind. Keep in mind that idols don’t have to start out as idols to become such. I’ve seen people kissing the feet of statues as they pray to whatever saint that statue is declared to be (though YHWH never gave us permission to do such and actually warned against it as a form of adultery against Him). I’ve seen people kissing crosses and putting them up on walls as they bow down before them and say prayers with their eyes firmly fixed on the gleaming gold or hand hewn wood. Are these idols? If we say they represent YHWH, does that make it okay? Recall that Aaron declared the golden calves to be representative of YHWH. These are things for us to consider and I’m not making a statement either way because in some cases they may be and in some cases they may not be – I am not equipped nor am I appointed to judge. This is for each of us to examine on a case by case personal basis with the Father. I know that anyone who does these things will surely declare their intent noble and innocent, as I myself have done. But at the end of the day, the important thing to ask ourselves is not how we see it but, how does YHWH see it?
Blessedly and through even more outpouring of His grace, the Word acts as a purifier, and the Father is always seeking to refine us by shining a light on things we do that separate us from Him. So we, as His children seeking after His heart, should partner with Him in that process. Part of this is searching our lives for things that are or have become idols. And honestly, something can become an idol overnight. Work can become an idol, acclaim, social life, anything that we figuratively bow down to or orchestrate our lives to chase after at the expense of our ongoing refinement or relationship with the Father. Anything that we look to for hope aside from Him. Relationships can be an idol, hobbies can become an idol.
We just have to ask ourselves each day “Who or what comes first in my life today?”
As I mentioned a while back, the question I’ve found that changes any situation and really helps me put my focus back on the Father when it has gone astray is “How can I serve my King?”
- How can I serve my King in this moment?
- How can I serve my King in this day?
- How can I serve my King in this job?
- How can I serve my King with this Facebook post?
- How can I serve my King with this email?
- How can I serve my King with this housework?
- How can I serve my King with this car ride?
And so on. This has become a great tool for me that I find myself using often.
Again in Isaiah 45:9 we see reference to the clay trying to form or instruct the potter. I know we see a lot of parallels between our time and these passages, which is by Divine design, but I have to wonder if this concept of the clay trying to give orders to the potter, which we’ve seen repeatedly lately, was as prevalent with them as it is in our time.
We are constantly remolding, recasting, and rebranding the Father to make Him more appealing, to make churches more attractive. We are casting the net broader and broader, removing all that we feel would turn people away, adding in bells and whistles and trends, to make the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob look more and more like the world in order to attract the world.
But in the end, does this just make the potter see us as a lump that has gone bad, irrelevant in His hands and unsuitable for His use? (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
When the Father moves to form and refine us into a worthy vessel and we turn and attempt to form and refine Him instead, we are that clay that has turned things upside down. (Isaiah 29:16)
I am YHWH your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea… Isaiah 48:17-18
This is a wonderful passage but it is one we read with regret because it is past tense. If only we had paid attention, then our peace would have been…
The goal, then, is to make this passage present tense:
You are YHWH my God, who teaches me to profit, who leads me in the way that I should go. I will pay attention to your commandments. Then my peace will be like a river and my righteousness like the waves of the sea; my offspring will be like the sand, and my descendants like its grains; their name will never be cut off or destroyed from before you.
There. Now that is something to strive for.
Group Challenge: Write that present tense declaration on a card or piece of paper, share a photo of your work in the comments today, and then tuck it in the front of the Bible to read each time you come across it.
Also of note, the original word for peace in this is the transliterated word Shalom. We’ve talked about that many times before but just know that it is a wholeness of peace that can only come from the Father. This is further reiterated at the end of this chapter in verse 48:22
“There is no peace (shalom)”, says YHWH, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 48:22
This is personal. He is calling for us to follow Him. Let us leave behind all that is not of Him and do just that.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!