Devotional on Isaiah

2003 – Colorado

No reboot necessary
Isaiah 1: If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.
If I have the idea that the prophets are all about denunciation and condemnation I need to spend some time with this passage. Yes, God is fed up with their religious charades; their going-through-the-motions spirituality; their under-the-table shady deals. The Lord says he’s going to put a stop to it. However, it doesn’t have to be with defeat, misery, and destruction. “Let’s be reasonable about this,” the Almighty says, “we can fix this, and when I’m finished things will be better than before.” All it takes is their being sensible and cooperating with God. This isn’t about having a sword hanging over their necks. It’s about grace and mercy, not justice. It’s still true today. If God wants to do away with us it’s his right and it’s just what we deserve. However, rather than hitting the “delete button” on humanity he offers restoration. This passage is filled with sunlight and hope. Plus that, it’s a genuine offer from Heaven’s Throne to each of us. Come on; let’s be reasonable about this…God can fix things, making them right between us and Him. It’s too good an offer to refuse.
Take Away: Rather than a re-start of humanity the Lord wants to restore us. That’s grace.

Devotional on Isaiah

2006 Caddo Lake, Louisiana

Moment of truth
Isaiah 6: Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted…words that corrupt and desecrate.
Isaiah’s first reaction to seeing the holiness of God isn’t reverence or ecstasy. Rather, it’s horror. In view of a holy God he realizes his own lack of holiness. When compared to his fellow citizens, Isaiah’s a good man, even a righteous man. However, when he finds himself in the presence of God he sees himself as he really is, and that vision brings him to his knees. Isaiah’s words are deeply personal and my reaction to this passage, if it’s honest, starts with me and not with what I perceive to be failure in others. Jesus touches on this in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Also, I note that Isaiah doesn’t announce that he’s now going to commence a self-improvement campaign. Instead, it’s honest recognition of his sinful ways and deep sadness as he realizes just how broken his life is. Isaiah, in just a few words, says it all: “I’m doomed because everything about me, even my words, is unclean and unholy. Now that I’ve seen God I realize the depth of my lostness. In myself I see no hope whatsoever.” The hope of Isaiah isn’t found within himself. He knows it, and the Lord knows it.
Take Away: It’s only as we’re honest with ourselves and with the Lord that the Lord can begin transforming our lives.

Devotional on Isaiah

Lost Maples State Park, TX – 2006

Staying connected
Isaiah 15: A Message concerning Moab.
Lest it appear that Isaiah has it in only for Babylon, we must note that a quick journey through this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy brings to light God’s displeasure with several other groups. There’s Philistia, Moab, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tyre and others. In other words, not only have God’s people gotten themselves in trouble with the Lord for their sin, they’re surrounded by sinful nations that would like nothing better than to wipe Israel off the map. (Somehow that sounds familiar — oh yes, we heard something like this on the news this morning!) Across the centuries God’s people have survived only by the grace of God. Their own failures have brought judgment and their enemies have posed a very real threat to their existence. Today, that’s still true for all of God’s people. We Christians believe we’ve been “grafted in” and are, by faith, children of Abraham. As his people, God holds us to a high standard and we must not forget that. Also, as did they, we live in hostile territory. For some believers, this is literally true and for all believers it’s spiritually true. We’re surrounded by that which would destroy our life in the Lord. Israel’s only hope is to reconnect with God. Today, our remaining “in Christ” is also our only hope.
Take Away: Our journey through life takes us through some dangerous territory, our only security is in the Lord.

Devotional on Isaiah

Lost Maples State Park, TX – 2006

Preaching a message people don’t want to hear
Isaiah 22: Don’t tell me it’s going to be all right. These people are doomed. It’s not all right.
Have you ever been to a hurricane party? The tamer version of it is that, with the storm knocking out all power, people dig into their freezers and have a feast of all the ice cream, etc. that won’t survive the power outage. A few years ago, when we fled a hurricane supposedly aimed for our area we took steaks we’d been saving and had a big cookout as we awaited the bad weather. We might as well enjoy the food; otherwise it’ll be lost when the electricity goes off. I wonder if that’s the thinking in this portion of Isaiah. The nation is in trouble, and no victory has been won, but Isaiah complains about the party atmosphere he sees. Apparently, someone has told him to lighten up, that things will be all right. His response is that things aren’t going to be all right. They live in a doomed nation and everything’s about to fall apart. Sometimes our message to our society isn’t the message it wants to hear. Sometimes, it isn’t going to be all right. In fact, when we look at things from the largest point of view we know that the world isn’t going to just go on and on as it is. A day’s coming with everything we know is going to melt away. While we can’t just live there, in doom and gloom, we Christians need to take a good look at the people around us. Outside of Christ, to use Isaiah’s words, “these people are doomed.” Ours is a message of hope, but it’s also the only hope of a world that’s doomed.
Take Away: Our message is one of hope, but we need to remember it’s the only hope of an otherwise doomed humanity.

Devotional on Isaiah

Lost Maples State Park, TX – 2006

This prescription works for both the farsighted and the nearsighted
Isaiah 25: And God will wipe the tears from every face.
Isaiah’s words contain a great deal of condemnation and his target is not only the enemies of Israel, but Israel, herself. I get lost in it all and am not sure whether the prophet is talking to specific people at a specific moment in history or if he’s slipped into “prophetic perfect tense” in which he speaks of the future as though it has already happened. It may be that he’s speaking on multiple levels of a near future and a distant future with the same words. At times like this, I take the easy way out and focus on my devotional reading, asking, “What’s this saying to me right now?” As I read this part of Isaiah I can’t help but think of the book of Revelation which contains almost the exact same words. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Revelator is reminded of these words even as he promises the glorious “no tears” day. My conclusion is that whether we’re thinking about the broken people of Isaiah’s day or persecuted Christians of John’s day or hurting people today that God’s message is one of comfort and hope. Some of that hope is contemporary hope: what God is about to do. At the same time some of that hope is out there in the uncertain future when the Lord wraps up history and brings a new reality into existence. I’m not sure about just who it is Isaiah is thinking about in this passage, but I do see here a wonderful theme of God’s mercy and grace.
Take Away: Yesterday, today, and forever the Lord remains merciful and gracious to his people.

Devotional on Isaiah

Garner State Park, TX – 2006

Sanctification
Isaiah 29: These children will honor me by living holy lives.
They’re such failures at being a people of God! Nothing works for them. Their worship is skin-deep, their vision of God is lost to spiritual blindness, and their relationship with their Creator is upside down and wrong side out! The Lord, through Isaiah, has no compliments for them. However, the Lord does have words of hope. It will take some doing but God’s going to make them into a holy people. He’s going to have people who worship in holiness, who reverence him as the holy God of Israel. Getting there is going to cost them everything. They’ll lose the land God gave them and, frankly, many in this generation will lose their lives. Out of the destruction, God will begin remaking them into a people worthy of his Name. Today, God’s still in the business of creating holy people. The process is, in some ways, the same. He brings us to the place where we give up everything, dying out to self. Once all else is gone he fills us with himself. This sanctification process is often painful for us as we struggle with the Lord over ownership of our lives. When we do surrender to him, though, the result is holiness; God honoring, wonderfully satisfied lives.
Take Away: The Lord is still in the business of creating holy people.

Devotional on Isaiah

Garner State Park, TX – 2006

I’d rather do it myself
Isaiah 30: Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
The salvation being spoken of in this passage isn’t “getting religion.” Instead, it’s salvation from an enemy that’s threatening to destroy them. Their effort to save themselves includes preparing for war and forming an alliance with a powerful nation that they might defend themselves. Still, there’s a spiritual element here. Their nation’s existence has always been improbable, a seeming fluke of history. Their ancestors were slaves who never had a chance of calling any land their own. Had it not been for God Almighty acting on their behalf they would have, by now, been one of thousands of forgotten people groups, a mere footnote in history. To forget just who they are how they came to be is a recipe for disaster. However, that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve removed from their lives the One who gave them existence in the first place. Now, when everything starts coming apart they’re looking for a “reasonable” solution; a solution that excludes God. Through Isaiah the God they’ve ignored tells them that they have only one chance and that chance is in him. What’s true of nations is also true of individuals. I owe my very life to him. The next breath I take is a gift of the God who has loved me and patiently worked in my life. To turn my back on him and fool myself into thinking I can handle life on my own will result in disaster. In Isaiah’s words: my “strength will come from settling down in complete dependence” on the Lord. There’s plenty of hope here, but also there’s plenty of warning.
Take Away: The Lord is our hope – our only hope.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – near Brennan, TX

Grace as far as the eye can see
Isaiah 30: Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace.
Things are a mess for the people of God. They’re living apart from the God who gave them life. Their nation is under considerable threat and they’re looking for help from everywhere but from the Lord. Things look hopeless and, if they continue as they are, that is just the way it is. Still, through Isaiah, the Almighty reaches out to them. Isaiah says “He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.” This is as powerful a vision of God’s grace as you’ll ever find apart from the cross. If the Lord is waiting for me to mess up so he can “get me” the wait would be long over. Instead, I see here a picture of God Almighty patiently waiting for me to look his way. When I do that, he doesn’t tell me I’ve been bad and that I deserve what I’m about to get. Rather, he tells me he loves me and wants to transform my life in wonderful ways. The only thing that stands between me and the grace of God is, well, me! When I bring my messed up life to him he begins to pour grace out: bucketfuls of it! How about you? Have you been afraid to come to God because you think he’s just waiting to send you to hell? If so, this passage contains some of the best news you’ll ever find. When you turn to the Lord you find an ocean sized portion of grace just for you.
Take Away: The only thing standing between you and grace is you.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Buffalo River, Arkansas

Like an eagle circling high above
Isaiah 32: Weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured out on us from above.
Isaiah is addressing the women of his society, warning them that Judgment is coming and telling them that when it comes their comfortable lives will be disrupted. The coming danger isn’t just that of invading armies but of crop failures resulting in famine in the land. Everything will be turned upside down on that day which Isaiah specifically says is just a little over a year away. With such a storm bearing down on them Isaiah says there’s just one thing to do: repent and seek God. The coming disaster isn’t some random event. It’s the Judgment of God. It’s not too late for them to change their ways and seek the Lord. Earlier, the prophet pictured God as a mighty eagle, circling high in the sky, not waiting to pounce upon some unwitting prey, but waiting to deliver. Now, he says that if sinning, God-rejecting people will repent of their sin the Lord will pour his Spirit out upon them from above. We often think of the prophets as having messages of only gloom and doom but that’s only a portion of their work. In this passage we see an abundant measure of hope for even the most God-rejecting life. To this day, the Lord waits for us to look up in repentance and trust that he might pour his Spirit out on our lives.
Take Away: Like a circling eagle, the Lord hovers over us, waiting for an opportunity to dish out abundant mercy.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Blanchard Caverns, Arkansas

Looking to the distant mountains
Isaiah 40: Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.
An illustration of how the prophets view the future is of looking from the plains up to a towering mountain range. As I look to the mountains I see one mountain in the “front range,” but at the greater distance is yet another taller and even more majestic peak. Coloradoans call the really big ones, “fourteeners,” that is, they’re over 14,000 feet in height. From my vantage point I can’t tell how far it is between the two mountains. It’s only as I actually travel through the mountains that I realize there’s a deep valley between the first and the second mountain range. As the prophets are given a vision of God’s intentions they sometimes see an act of God that’s close at hand and at the same time see a similar but even greater event more distant than they can imagine. Here in Isaiah 40 the focus of Isaiah’s prophecies is on comfort and hope. These words will become a life line for his people in a few years. All the terrible things he’s warned them of will come to pass, and in distant lands the next generation will turn to these words to find comfort in their sorrow. When I read this passage at the level of the “front range” I see that God’s broken people have hope of restoration. The Lord’s going to return to their lives as a powerful king might return to his kingdom. Isaiah’s command to them is to start preparing for this sure event by making a smooth and straight road into their lives. However, beyond that “front range” is a gigantic “fourteener,” the coming of the King of Kings to this world. Hundreds of years later this prophecy will become John the Baptist’s text and it’ll be fulfilled in a much greater way by King Jesus. As a Christian I can identify with the dual nature of this passage. That “front range” view is when I receive Jesus as King in my own heart. The “fourteener” view is when Jesus comes to this world the second time as King and Judge of all.
Take Away: Sometimes the words of the prophets of the Lord cause us to look both to the past and to the future.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Blanchard Caverns, Arkansas

On the solid Rock I stand
Isaiah 40: God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
Sooner or later everything fails us. Some failures come on purpose and can be considered betrayal. Others come by accident but are painful none-the-less. Still others come with great reluctance; such as the death of a loved one who promised to be with us always. Sometimes I make something that was never intended to be permanent into a centerpiece in my life. When the time comes for it to be taken away it becomes, spiritually speaking, a surgery rather than a simple letting go. Because of the temporary nature of this life, I must remember the truth of Isaiah’s words here. There’s only one place of absolute firm footing and that’s on the solid rock of God. He’s the only One who never fails. As I take my stand on the rock of his faithfulness everything else falls into its proper place. I can weather betrayal because One vastly greater has not betrayed me. I can survive some thoughtless, accidental failure and I can find hope even in genuine personal disasters because my hope isn’t focused there in the first place. Everything else comes and goes. If I’ve pinned my hopes and dreams on anything or anyone else, I’ll become a sad, broken man. The only stability I really have (and need) is in the Lord.
Take Away: There’s only one place of absolute firm footing and that’s on the solid rock of the Lord.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Along the trail to Dream Lake, Rocky Mt Natl Park

Buried in the deepest sea, yes, that’s good enough for me
Isaiah 44: I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There’s nothing left of your sins.
As I read these words an old Sunday School chorus comes to mind: “Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone.” As a Sunday School kid to me that was mainly just a catchy tune, although I know that it’s important to “train up a child in the way he should go….” The message here is mainly for grownups, especially for those who are troubled by the mess they’ve made of their lives. They look at their lives and see a disaster that can, in their view, never be cleaned up. You may have things in your past that are so ugly that you seldom allow yourself to remember them, and when you do, you’re filled with shame. Or there may be things that everyone knows about: broken promises, failures, and destroyed relationships. The words of Isaiah are so filled with hope that our hearts cannot hold it all. The only One who can deal with the mess that is our lives has already acted to do just that. He cries out, “Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you.” As I respond to that invitation, the words of the old chorus become mine…”gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone.”
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Hike to Mills Lake RMNP, CO

Being reconnected to God
Isaiah 49: I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me.
The man of God looks to the coming of the Messiah and his words are filled with hope. The Promised One’s coming will impact lives as nothing else could. The broken relationship that exists between the Creator and the Creation will be repaired as God comes to us in the Messiah. The greatest need of humanity is that this broken relationship be repaired. Everything that’s messed up about us is messed up because we’ve become disconnected from the Source of Life. The solution isn’t that we try harder, or figure out how to fix things, or somehow appease the Lord. While being forgiven of our sins and receiving the promise of heaven is a part of God’s intention for us, it’s only a part. We’re created to live in fellowship with God and that fellowship is broken. We broke it and in so doing, broke ourselves. Only he can provide a solution to this problem. When I receive this “Re-connecter” into my heart, cooperate with him day by day, and let him do his work in my life his mission is being completed in me.
Take Away: We’re created to live in fellowship with the Lord.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – RMNP, CO

God’s plan: my hope
Isaiah 53: We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
No one has to convince Isaiah that his people are sinners. There’s ample evidence of that. Also, no one has to convince him that sin brings death; it’s everywhere. What he needs help with is a way back out of this mess. They’re lost to the point of having no hope of returning. The way back has to be provided by God, Himself. So how can a righteous God redeem an unrighteous people? The answer is in this powerful chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. The horrible sins of his nation will be gathered up and put on the shoulders of the holy Suffering Servant. Their sins will become his sins and as the meek lamb being sacrificed in their rituals symbolically dies for their sins, he’ll literally give his all to restore them to God. God’s plan: my hope. The message of salvation was desperately needed by those of Isaiah’s day and it’s just as necessary today. The wonderful thing is that it’s all true. In spite of my sin, my rebellion, and my “wandering off” God is providing a way back through Jesus Christ.
Take Away: God’s plan: my hope.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Along Trail Ridge Road – RMNP, CO

God’s plan all along
Isaiah 53: Still, it’s what God had in mind all along.
The accuracy of Isaiah’s depiction of the Suffering Servant must have amazed the writers of the gospels. They wrote of something they had seen with their own eyes, yet their words mirror that which Isaiah saw only by faith hundreds of years earlier. However, Isaiah doesn’t only tell us of the sufferings of the Messiah. He tells us why it happened. God planned it. What happens at Calvary isn’t something that’s “done to Jesus.” Instead, it’s something that Jesus “does for us.” The Lord knew that we’d never just “get over” sin. He knew that the broken relationship between us and him was broken beyond that which could be repaired by some minor patch up job. There was only one hope of redemption and that hope was that the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, would carry our sins even to the grave. It’s what God had in mind all along.
Take Away: There was only one way to salvation and Jesus, through the cross, provided that way for all.

Devotional on Isaiah

2008 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Elkmont Campground

How wonderful to have a message of hope
Isaiah 61: The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
Through the years of his ministry Isaiah brings a variety of messages to his people. Often, his words are those of warning and condemnation. At other times, his sermons contain wonderful words of hope and comfort. That’s the kind of message we hear from him in this passage. Isaiah considers it an honor to be commissioned and empowered to preach good news to a people who are living as captives in Babylon. His message is one of encouragement to the poor and heartbroken; to those who mourn and wilt under the burden they carry. This message is so powerful that hundreds of years later Jesus selects Isaiah’s words to describe his own ministry. The message of hope is Isaiah’s and then it’s Jesus’ and now, well, now it’s mine. The proclamation of God’s favor, his healing mercy and grace, isn’t just Isaiah’s and, while it uniquely belongs to Jesus, I can lay claim on it too. For those in Babylonian captivity and for those today that are bound by sin, this is good news.
Take Away: In Christ, we have Good News for people desperately in need of some Good News.

Devotional on Isaiah

2008 – Smoky Mountains National Park

Looking back and looking forward
Isaiah 64: Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend.
Isaiah longs for God to move and bring salvation to his people. He envisions the sky splitting apart as the Lord comes in dramatic, powerful fashion bringing hope to their hopelessness and healing to their brokenness. Hundreds of years later when that coming takes place its earthshaking indeed. The Gospels tell us of that powerful event, especially at the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord. However, this passage causes me to look forward as much as it causes me to look back to the first Easter. Even as Isaiah anticipates the coming salvation of the Lord, I anticipate his Second Coming. What an event it will be as Jesus splits the eastern sky and causes the mountains to tremble. “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.”
Take Away: Never doubt it – Jesus is coming back.

Devotional on Isaiah

2008 – Blue Ridge Parkway

Greater grace
Isaiah 64: We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
My hope isn’t that God will look beyond all my failures and decide I’m still basically a good person. I’m not the victim of circumstances and my problem isn’t that I’ve been mistaken about a few things. Isaiah’s words point to the core problem: I’m a sinner. Beyond that, I’m not just a sinner by action; rather I’m a sinner by nature. I’m not a traveler who somehow wandered onto the wrong road; I’m a rebel who rejected God’s way because I preferred mine instead. Even when I try to do my best I’m a failure at it. The picture Isaiah paints is of a human race that’s rebellious, stained, and lost. Any possible hope must come from the outside. That’s where God comes in. This God specializes in mercy and hope. He doesn’t patch up my messed up life; instead he makes it brand new. Isaiah does a frightfully good job of describing my perilous condition, but he doesn’t leave me there. As great as my sin is, Isaiah reminds me of the greater grace of the Lord.
Take Away: The Lord specializes in mercy and hope.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Endicott Arm, AK

A big two-letter word: IF
Jeremiah 26: If you refuse to listen to me and live by my teaching….
On one side of the coin Jeremiah tells what’s coming, and it isn’t good. Soon his nation will fall to Babylon and with that fall terrible things will happen. Later on, Babylon itself will be judged. Even as Jeremiah preaches this message the flow of events has begun, bringing it all to pass. On the other side of the coin is God’s hope that Jeremiah’s message will cause people to consider their ways and repent. The message of the Almighty contains the powerful word “if.” What a huge word it is. It indicates a fork in the road; an opportunity to decide. It’s also a word of mercy, hope, and grace. So here we have it all before us. God intends to bring disaster but IF they listen and IF they repent he will, even at this late stage, relent. Frankly, he doesn’t expect it to happen. The Lord says, “You’ve never listened! Why would you start now?” The Lord doesn’t expect things to change, but he offers them a different path. Two thousand years ago the Lord personally came to this world to offer all humans a choice. He didn’t come to condemn, we’re already condemned even as were those people of Jeremiah’s day. Through Jesus we’re offered hope. Once again “if” becomes the operative word. He says: “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (John 8:51)
Take Away: The little word “if” becomes a big offer of hope, mercy, and grace when the Lord speaks it.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Endicott Arm, AK

Death sentence reprieve
Jeremiah 31: I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget that they ever sinned.
A few years ago I developed an itching rash on the lower right side of my back. I had some other stuff going on so when I went to the doctor I asked him about it. He took one look at it and said, “You’ve got shingles.” I thought, “Shingles? Old people get that!” Honestly, at the time, I didn’t worry too much about it. I could handle the itching. However, I had no idea of the journey I was about to take. The itching gave way to sleepless nights of burning pain. For days I was homebound, unable to get dressed. Now, at the beginning, I knew something was wrong but I thought it was going to be a minor inconvenience. Only in the mid-term of the illness did I grasp just how bad things were. I’ve seriously wondered if Job was given a full body version of shingles. When the Lord tells me I’m a sinner my reaction is something like what I had at the doctor’s office. It’s too bad; I’ll have to try harder to clean up my act. What I don’t realize is that I’ve just been given a death sentence. This isn’t just bad news; it’s the worst news possible. It’s only in this light that statements like the one I’m reading from Jeremiah carry the force they’re supposed to. Otherwise, we have God just helping us along in doing what we can pretty much handle for ourselves. When I realize that being a sinner is to be broken beyond repair; to be, for all intents and purposes dead already; and when I realize that God, in his mercy is willing to “wipe the slate clean” and to “forget” it all…well, it’s then that I begin to grasp the meaning of grace.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for his grace – without it, there’s no hope whatsoever.

Pastor Scott's Pages