Friday, November 2, 2012

I am afraid of my past.

I saw redemption today in the grasp of a hand. It made tears fill my eyes, and it will every time. I know how dear it can be. There are times I have felt hopeless. I have felt so defined by circumstances or choices there seemed to be no way out.

For a long time I didn’t fully understand redemption. I understood who Christ was and I understood what He did. However, redemption was a foreign thing as far as I was concerned. I defined myself by what I did, and I lived in fear of being found out. I worried if someone learned choices I had made in the past it would overrule how they saw me now.

Truth be told, for some people it would. It's what I did for a long time. What I had done could not be outlived. I couldn’t do enough to make it go away. I simply didn’t understand. I didn’t have to do anything to make it go away. Christ already did that. A simple concept. One I have shared with others. How is it there is a difference between knowing and believing? Or maybe I simply understood the best I could, and more has been revealed. I don’t know, but I am grateful.

My past no longer haunts me as it once did. I also no longer hear the voices to try harder to make up for what I have done. Now I simply trust my Lord. He has redefined who I am. He sees me as His child, and I am learning to do the same.

What about you? Do you grasp who Christ is, but haven’t fully grasped who you are in Him? I pray God will reveal to you exactly how redeemed you are.

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The fear we will never be free from our past.

Isaiah 54:4
Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

Chapter 53 in Isaiah is about the suffering and exaltation of Christ. Chapter 54 is about how that affects His people. Some who have gone before see the chapter to deal with only the Israelites in exile, while others see it in relation to the Christian church. While these points are worthy of study to understand what is being said, my goal has been how we can use God’s Word in our everyday life to fight fear.

The Israelite nation had become something of a laughingstock to the nations which overtook it. They had been completely and totally disgraced. They had lost what God had given them, their land and nationality, because of their infidelity in previous years. When looking at the Hebrew words for disgrace, humiliated, shame, and reproach the one word which was repeated the most to define the other words was “disgrace.”

Many times we find ourselves in a place of disgrace. We have either lost favor with people, or we have brought shame upon ourselves because of our own actions. When this occurs we are left wondering how we can clean up the mess and restore things to how they once were.

While apologies and amends can be made, what we have to understand is the One who truly redeems us is Christ. And He will.

Question 1: Do you have choices in your past which you are shamed of? Isn’t it time you released that to the east and west and allowed Christ to forgive you and forgive yourself? He alone is capable of making you into something new. Seek Him and He will make you a new creature free of the shame of your past.

Question 2: Are you currently living in the midst of consequences? Whether they are from your own actions, or you are collateral damage from the actions of another, remember that Christ can take you to a new place. He will remove the reproach from others, and cover you in His love.

Dear Father
We try to make things better
But you are the only one who can make things new
Help us to rely on You alone
Remind us of your grace, mercy, and love
So we can have hope in tomorrow because of You
Regardless of what today holds

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Exiles' Fear

The last “Do Not Be Afraid” in Isaiah. I can imagine how much comfort the exiles needed. Small groups, alone, away from their homeland: I would have been fearful. Even if you had taken Isaiah’s earlier advice and made a home in the new country you found yourself, you wouldn’t ever quite belong. I’m sure the faithful remnant looked back at their past and their current situation and wondered if there was any hope.

Isaiah 54 4
Will there ever be a time when we are not so separated and alone? Will we ever be able to stand together again? When we move among these people they see the difference. I see their stares. We are not like the others. We worship the great Jehovah. They worship all or nothing. And we are the minority, so we are the ones left to feel shamed and wrong. They want us to be like them. They want us to not be separate anymore. Some days this burden is too heavy for me to bear alone.

Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.

Lord, I know we deserve this. Our fathers did as these do. They refused to follow hard after You alone. Please forgive us for this. You say we will not suffer shame or be humiliated, but how can we ever live down what we have done? You created us, and yet we chose to walk in our own way.

You will forget the shame of your youth

Is it possible to live in a way where our past doesn’t face us each day? When will that happen, Lord? Look at where we are: desolate and alone. We have been isolated in other counties. Not that we don’t deserve it, but how will we ever forget our shame as long as we are living the consequences?

And remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

Lord, I don’t know how that will happen. I can’t yet see the road before us, but I have a choice just as my ancestors did. I can either choose to follow you, or myself. Oh Jehovah, You are our hope even now. I trust what you say is true, and I wait for your deliverance and redemption.

Isaiah 54:4

Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. (NIV)  
Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame. For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not [seriously] remember the reproach of your widowhood any more. (Amplified)

fear disgrace - kalam - to be disgraced
humiliated - happar - to feel dismay, be disgraced, be humiliated, be in confusion
shame - boset - sham, disgrace, humiliation
reproach - herpa - disgrace, contempt, scorn, insult

Reformation Study Bible: shame of your youth - Israel's infidelity led to its oppression by Egypt and Samaria :: reproach of your widowhood - represents the Babylonian exile

Matthew Henry: it is promised that [Jerusalem] should be replenished and the country peopled again. God will again be a husband to them, and the reproach of their captivity, and the small number to which they were them reduced, shall be forgotten.

Barnes notes: In the abundant increase and glory of future times, the circumstances of shame which attended their early history shall be forgotten. The captivity of Babylon, when they were like a woman bereft of her husband and children.

Bible Track: In Isaiah 53 we saw the suffering Messiah. Now we transition from suffering to the result of that suffering - deliverance for Israel. In vs3 we see the Messiah's work with Gentiles and vs5 identifies the work of the Messiah at his return; he'll rule the whole earth.

Fausset: Israel converted is compared to a wife put away for unfaithfulness, but now forgiven and taken home again.

Avraham Gileadi: We know, in fact, that there is shame or is humiliation before exaltation. That is something that the Jews have suffered in exile, and by analogy with them, any other people of the house of Israel who are of ethnic lineage, or who will remain faithful to the covenant even if they are not ethnic lineages. They suffer shame an humiliation because they always seem to be picked on by the rest of society for being different, for being righteous, for being the covenant people. But in the end they will not be confounded or disgraced. Being cut off from God's presence, being divorced from her husband, having no children. In other words, not living in blessed circumstances as they could or would have been if they remained faithful and lived int he Promised Land all those years.

John Gill: As the former chapter is a prophecy of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, of his sufferings and death, and the glory that should follow; this is a prophecy of that part of his glory which relates tot he flourishing estate of his church, as the fruit of his death, and explains and enlarges upon the promise of his having numerous seed.