Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
During my quiet time with the Lord, I am currently finishing up the incredible Book of Isaiah. I just love the major prophets, and while I have always declared Jeremiah my favorite, I have newfound love and respect for the inspired writings of Isaiah. In my journaling Bible, I am filling up page after page of notes that seem to simultaneously pertain to ancient Israel and our modern world.
It seems that I cannot get enough of Isaiah! And Chapters 44-50 are piercing my heart with recognition of our national sins. But even through the stark reminders of captivity and loss and rejection of God, there runs a vein of restoration and hope, and that's what I cling to, and that which is a balm to my soul.
Chapter 44 gives us affirmation that the Lord will not forsake Israel, even though they chase after foreign gods and make graven images for gods, following their prideful hearts. Verse 9 says: All who make idols are nothing, and what they treasure does not profit. Their witnesses do not see or know anything, so they will be put to shame. I can't help but see our nation in this description. We have turned from God and made idols of all we see -- our leaders, our celebrities, our stuff, our families, our churches -- yet none of it will profit us in the Kingdom to come. But the sad thing is that we don't see it; nor do we even know we are doing it. And that will be our shame. Verse 18 reiterates this disparaging state: Such people do not comprehend and cannot understand, for He has shut their eyes so they cannot see, and their minds so they cannot understand.
Yet, in the midst of this sad state of affairs, Chapter 44 is a prophecy of future restoration and the forgiveness of sins. The end of this Chapter and the beginning of Chapter 45 gives us a prophecy of God using a Muslim (King Cyrus) to accomplish His will. (Tune in tomorrow for an interesting take on this concept). But what I love about Chapter 45 is that it is one continuous homage to the Lord as Creator, and Savior of Israel and the world. He emphatically declares that He is the One True God ... "There is no other god" is a recurring them. Hallelujah for that affirmation!
Yet while we receive comfort that God is in control and He will use even those who don't know Him to bring about His will and purpose for those He calls His own, we have today's verse as a stark reminder that all the world's false gods and idols cannot save. And the saddest part of this verse is that they have no knowledge of the One who can save them! I shudder at how completely bereft of comfort and deliverance they will be on the Day of the Lord. It saddens me to know that they had every opportunity to know him -- to be in relationship with the Holy One of Israel; the One who could fill all those empty spaces in their soul -- yet they chose an empty, hollow, and lifeless substitute.
Chapter 46 finds the people attempting to make their gods of vanity and uselessness equal to my Lord, but He makes it quite clear that these gods offer only empty, barren promises. Chapter 47 reveals that the people love living in Babylon; and what was once the cherished woman, has now become a harlot, and God has allowed her to indulge in her lusts. (It cannot be denied that we have followed that same path). So God announces that loss and destruction are coming upon her for her worship of false gods, and from turning from her Redeemer. There is no salvation except in Jesus! All of the harlot's counsels and prophets and merchants cannot save her. Oh, how I wish we in 21st Century America would heed this warning!
Chapter 48 continues the lesson for the modern world. God declares that He has shown Israel His might and His sovereignty, so that they could not claim the gods they had made had done the work, but still they chose to abandon Him. So He declares that for His Name's sake, He will bring discipline upon them; to refine and purify them in a fire of chastening to preserve His purpose for them ... to glorify His Name! Is there still time for us? Or is He completely through with us?
Chapter 49 gives us a beautiful picture of Jesus's mission, and it still reverberates today. His mission was, is, and will be to defend Israel and to preserve their purpose of leading the world to Christ. He will also be a light unto the Gentiles, who will help restore Israel to their land (happened in 1948), and He will destroy those who seek to destroy His chosen. Both those living in the current nation state of Israel and those in the Gentile nations should pay heed to this declaration. I contend that just because the state of Israel exists, it does not mean that every Israelite is God's chosen or remnant; nor that every Gentile is on board with His plan. But His plan will prevail!
And finally, the opening verse of Chapter 50 breaks my heart: This is what the Lord says: Where is your mother’s divorce certificate that I used to send her away? Or who were My creditors that I sold you to? Look, you were sold for your iniquities, and your mother was put away because of your transgressions. The Lord did not abandon Israel, nor did He sell them. They left Him and sold themselves. It almost seems hopeless. Except .... Jesus still helps those who hear Him and seek Him. He still speaks to those who wish to serve Him. And so I take great comfort with the opening lines of our Scripture today .... Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! WE are those survivors! We are the ones who hear Him, and understand what He says to us! He will reach down and rescue us from the destruction that is coming upon the idolators and the harlots. Praise Him for His Mercy and Faithfulness!