This 5th Sunday of Lent I want to draw your attention to 2 verses in Isaiah 43. Why Lent? Why have an attitude of repentance and gratitude? Look at these 2 verses:
Isaiah 43:7 “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”
God calls each of us unto Himself. He has made us and created us for a purpose for His glory and our good! I love Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.“
Isaiah 43:25 ““I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.
God has the ability and the desire to forgive our sins. When God forgives, the sins are gone to be remembered no more! What is required of us is that attitude of repentance. I am reminded of 1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Both of these verses from Isaiah speak to the heart of the Lenten Season. Check your attitude today. Are you thankful for how God has made you and are you looking for His purpose in your life? Do you feel sins burden or are you free in Jesus? I pray as you worship today that you would sense a new purpose and freedom knowing and trusting God. He is good and loves and cares for you.
As we begin our journey through Isaiah, I want to talk about the man, Isaiah, so we can better understand who he was and the struggles he faced as God’s spokesperson/messenger. Isaiah 1:1 “These are the visions that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. He saw these visions during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah.” Isaiah was the son of Amoz not to be confused with the prophet Amos. It is thought that he was related to King Amaziah who was his uncle. Isaiah often had easy access to the palace and the kings so his ‘royal’ status would have helped him navigate the royal maze of things. Considering his message from God that Judah was sinning and needed to repent, he might not have been the most popular fellow in the palace. He served God during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. They reigned in Judah from 792-642 B.C. He began his ministry in the year King Uzziah died according to Isaiah 6:1 and continue for 58 years. He was married and had 2 sons which the Lord named. It is thought that he is the prophet referenced in Hebrews 11:37 “Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword.” He was thought to have been sawed in half by King Manasseh.
Isaiah came with a message of repentance as Judah had been sinning against God and definitely not walking by the 10 Commandments. They had fallen into idolatry and followed practices of the nations around them. Kings Uzziah and Jotham sought to follow the Lord but still allowed the high places and idols to remain. King Ahaz went into complete idolatry and wickedness during his reign of 16 years. Hezekiah was a godly man and sought to rid Judah of the high places with idols and bring the people back to worshiping God. He did have his moments though and Isaiah was right there seeking to point him back to the Lord. Manasseh was the final king under which Isaiah prophesied and he was totally evil. He erected idols to Baal and put up Asherah poles. He practiced sorcery, astrology, and divination. He even sacrificed his own sons to the gods. He did much to provoke the Lord’s anger during his 55 on the throne. It is no wonder that Isaiah message of God’s anger over their sin and their need to repent before Holy God was not welcomed in the palace and the nation. He foretold of their deportation to Babylon as well as the coming of a Messiah that would redeem all mankind. His messages gave hope to the later exiled Jews as they suffered in Babylon and to us as we await the return of King Jesus.
As you accept the ashes on your forehead today and look forward to a time of repentance leading up to Holy Week and Easter, may you prayerfully consider the messages Isaiah in regard to your own sin. May you look and feel his messages of hope as he speaks of the magnificence of Holy God, the only one who can save us. May the prophesies in his book lead you to a deeper faith in Jesus and His mission. Christ is the Holy one, the Only one, who can Save us.
Looking forward to this journey and what God will teach me.
You can read about these king in 2 Kings 15-21. The story goes between the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was taken into exile by Assyria during Hezekiah’s reign leaving only the people of Judah. After one more good king, Josiah, the rest of the kings lead Judah back into idolatry and they are deported to Babylon in 3 phases ending with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. You can read about this in 2 Kings 22-25.
The action of ‘putting on’ is seen in ancient Nineveh. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites. Jonah did not want to go so he ran in the opposite direction. God confronted him in the belly of the big fish and Jonah repented of his own rebelliousness and sin and went to Nineveh. Our section begins with his preaching to the Ninevites about God’s impending destruction in 40 days if they did not repent and turn to Him.
Jonah 3:4-8Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
The king of Nineveh realized his sinfulness and turned to God. He also called his people to repent. His actions saved that generation. What did his repentance look like? Scripture describes he mourned over his sin by putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes along with calling for a fast for everyone. Sackcloth was coarsely woven cloth that would have been scratchy and uncomfortable. Ashes were from the firepit and were a sign of mourning too. The idea was to make yourself uncomfortable so that you would contemplate your sins and abandon the cause-repenting. In fasting you are abstaining from food with the purpose of heightening your own awareness to your needs and then putting them aside as you focus on God and His goodness and your sinfulness. Mourning over your sins shows genuine humility and sorrow for sins committed before Almighty God. These action (sack cloth and ashes) were done to turn their thinking and desires away from self and towards God with a change of heart = repentance.
As I meditated on this today, I asked myself, what does my sorrow over sin look like? Does it cause me to dress differently, sit and contemplate in an uncomfortable place, pray fervently or am I inclined to fast? Our own mourning is personal, but as we see it needs to be exhibited in some way that causes you to be uncomfortable and show you are truly sorry for what you did. True repentance leads to turning in a new way or direction towards God. Remember, repentance of the heart is turning away from the worldly pull and its desires towards God and what he desires. Here are a few verses describing repentance for you to consider:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 Our repentance turns us away from sin towards God and salvation for then their is no grief and death.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 Our repentance leads us to find forgiveness, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and peace with Christ. Amen!
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 Our heavenly Father wants all to turn to Him, acknowledge their sin and begin anew with Christ.
Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can find repentance and full forgiveness in Christ. What does your repentance look like? Will you examine your heart today and see if there is any wicked way in you that needs to be changed. Christ makes all things possible.
Are you ready to begin your 6 week journey towards the cross? Here are some suggestions by Pope Francis that I found thought provoking and challenging. I have posted his words before and find them so right for this moment on the eve of Lent. I’ll begin my blog posts of my Lenten journey called “Put it on me Please, Lord Jesus” tomorrow. Let Pope Francis’ words motivate you as you seek to prepare your heart and mind for this time of reflection, repentance and thanksgiving.
Be prepared- pray and think about fasting from one of the above during this Lenten season. I will challenge you even more on the first day of Lent.
And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.
Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.
So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.
Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.
Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercyonwhom I have mercy, and I will have compassion onwhom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him allthings were created: things in heavenand on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; allthings have been created through him and for him.”
What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.
As we all struggle with the racism that has surfaced yet again in America, we need to seriously ask ourselves if faith matters. People are carrying signs that say “Black Lives Matter” which is so true- as all people matter. We are all precious and made in God’s image. The question I am pondering is does ‘faith matter’? If it indeed does, how is it manifesting itself in your life?
As Christians we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and God is working within us. That should make a difference in the way we see our world and the people, animals and the creation that make up our world. We should be concerned about our life and the lives of others. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them.” He created all of us and our faith brings God into us. Our faith in God allows us to work and live for Him. Many of God’s attributes are for Him alone- only He is Incomprehensible, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Sovereign and Almighty. However, many of God’s attributes are characteristics that He desires us to emulate.
If we want to be more and more like Jesus, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to develop those characteristics within us. He desires that we are kind, loving faithful, thankful, show goodness, gentleness, joy and experience His peace. If we are to mature in faith, the actual term is sanctification, the we need to work our our faith and live it. It does matter – it matters to God and it matters to me.Jeremiah 9:24 tell us what pleases God, “But let him who boast boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Through faith we can know God, and w can act in ways that bring Him glory and us good.
Just like ‘black lives matter’, so faith matters. It matters to you and to me. We need to humble ourselves and be open to God’s leading in our lives. When Solomon was dedicating the temple in Jerusalem, God promised a way to return to Him and save their land should they veer off course. “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Let us pray for our nation and humble ourselves seeking to do as Jesus would when dealing with others… Faith in God and Love are the ways to peace. Faith matters, let the light of Christ shine in and through you today.
Sin is something we all have to deal with in our lives. We were born sinners, with a sin nature. You only need to look at the willfulness of a small child to see they came that way with a rebellious, willful nature built inside. It was not something they learned. However, as we grow we learn to sin even more by fulfilling our own desires. Adam and Eve fulfilled their own desires in the garden of Eden when they willfully sinned against God by eating of the forbidden tree, the tree of good and evil.
Each of us needs to come to the realization that we are sinners and approach God with a repentant heart asking Him to forgive us through faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith in Jesus allows us to be cleansed and made whole. However, we still have that sin nature within us and we need to grow and learn about Jesus, depend upon Him and stay repentant to walk with Him by faith. Our heart’s desire is to walk with Jesus and grow more and more like him. Sanctification describes this process in our lives and it is the work of the Holy Spirit within us that enables us to grow stronger in Christ and sin less.
David knew the key to a clean and whole existence with God was to be repentant and humble, confessing his sins to God. Psalm 32 describes David’s thoughts about this:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, Repentance brings blessing. whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away Being unrepentant can cause through my groaning all day long. you physical illness. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, David resolves to repent with and I did not cover my iniquity; an openness to God. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 51:1-2, 10 David knew that God alone was able to forgive sin and lays his sins before Him. He knew he was unworthy of forgiveness but trusted God in his infinite mercy to forgive him.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
He knew God alone could create a new heart within him.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
What about you? Do you know the truth and reality of 1 John 1:9 ?“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is a promise we can claim and depend upon. God is faithful and will keep His promise to forgive all our sins. All we need to do is confess and have a repentant heart before Him.
Practice repentance daily for a closer walk with Jesus.
Lenten Sunday’s are a time apart to get recharged and worship our Savior. These last weeks I have been studying King David’s life and was brought to my knees by Psalm 51. David wrote this psalm after his great sin with Bathsheba and the ordering of the death of Uriah, her husband. David’s confession is real, heartfelt and gives us hope that God can indeed forgive all our sins and restore us. Be restored and seek God’s forgiveness as you meditate. Psalm 51: 1-4, 10-12, 17
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
David acknowledges his sin and knows God can forgive and wash him clean.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
David knows God can restore, renew and bring joy where there was sorrow over sin.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
David’s humbly offers God is his broken and sorrowful heart.
Prayer: May it be so with me too. Forgive my sins and create in me a new restored, resolved and committed heart to serve you. Amen.
Suggestion: attend a worship service really focusing on the praise and worship of God, so that you can soak in His restoring power.
Lent is a time of reflection, fasting, praise, worship and thanksgiving as we walk daily towards the cross. The number 40 is used in the Bible to signify a time of testing and trial. During your Lenten journey which is from today, Ash Wednesday, to Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross, we are to think about the price Jesus paid for our sins through His own death. How we do that can take many forms. Daily devotions with prayer and scripture, fasting for a meal or even a whole day can bring your focus on Jesus to a greater height. Or you can choose to let go of something you really like to do, say or eat as a form of penance or identification with Christ’s suffering for you and your sin. Last year, I found this quote from Pope Francis and it brought a new perspective to fasting during Lent. It isn’t just denying myself chocolate or alcohol, it is denying myself in other ways. I love his suggestions to fast from stress and pressure by being intentionally more prayerful, or letting go of bitterness and focusing on love.
Today as you think about Christ and His suffering and the price He paid for your sins- think about ways you can honor Him in the next 40 days. Each day at the end of my devotion I will have a suggestion of what you might do that day to honor Christ by doing for others in love as Christ did for you at the cross. My daily blogs will focus on what we have in Christ because Jesus died on the cross and rose again. I pray that my blogs and suggestions will help you to gain greater love and appreciation for your Lord and Savior and be prepared in your heart, mind and soul when Good Friday and Easter arrive.
Let the journey begin today in your heart as you set your mind towards the cross.
Suggestion: attend an Ash Wednesday service or spend some time reflecting on your own sins. Take a piece of paper and write them down. Then take that paper place it before you as you pray and ask God to take those sins away and fill you anew with His love and devotion. Symbolically placing your sins on the cross of Christ helps us to see that He died for me and my sins. Romans 5:8 “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Isaiah 40:1,3,4 opens the Messiah and that is where our Advent story begins.
“Comfort, comfort my people,says your God.” A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
It had been 400 years since the prophet Malachi had spoken and the people were hungry and eager to hear from God. Hundreds of years before Isaiah had prophesied that the people would be comforted by the voice of one crying in the wilderness who will proclaim the arrival of the Messiah. The one spoken of here is John the Baptist. His mother Elizabeth was Mary’s Aunt and their babies were due months apart. Zachariah, John’s father, had received visit from the angel Gabriel foretelling the birth of this forerunner of Jesus. Luke 1:13-17 “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Just as Isaiah had prophesied, John came and proclaimed a message of repentance and prepared the people for the Lord’s coming.
Isaiah also spoke of leveling the ground in Isaiah 26:7“The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.” Jesus, Messiah, would come and make way for the righteous. Jesus indeed smoothed the way for mankind to be made righteous through His coming, His death and His resurrection. All the mountains of sin that stood between God and man were made low through His sacrifice. Jesus made “every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain” for those of faith to come to God. He removed the barrier of sin between us and holy God. Jesus made the way for us to be saved.
John, the herald of Jesus, came to call Israel to repentance and faith. Let us answer his call today as we meditate on the beauty, exactness and completeness of God’s Word and the hope we have in Jesus.