Isaiah 51. God Will Turn Deserts into a Lush Garden.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 51.

Again, words of comfort and the assurance that God will set things right for those who obey Him. The people of Israel, and us by way of Jesus, are chips off the block of Abraham. Just like the great Jewish patriarch, we can also be called a “friend of God” as we remember our roots (see Isaiah 41:8).

“Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God. Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. Yes, ponder Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. Think about it! One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied. Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins. I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden, her moonscape into the garden of God, A place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs.” (v1-3, MSG).

Who wants a home filled with exuberance, laughter, thankful voices and singing? I do! Isaiah reminds us, that we can be transformed! If you’ve traveled to Israel you might recall the moonscape of the lands around Masada. Those will be reborn into lush gardens. He did it. He does it. He will continue to do it.

“My salvation will last forever, my setting things right will never be obsolete… Pay no attention to insults and when mocked don’t let it get you down. Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden. But my setting things right lasts! My salvation goes on and on and on!” (v6-8, MSG).

This echoes what the Psalmist says: “When I was really hurting, I prayed to the Lord. He answered my prayer and took my worries away. The Lord is on my side, and I am not afraid of what others can do to me.” (Psalm 118:5‭-‬6, CEV).

We can trust completely in the delight of God. This is a promise the people of Israel hold on to every day. It is a promise we can cling to as well!

Be comforted today in the beautiful transformational work God is doing in you, in each of us! You may feel like a wasteland or a desert. But God sees you as the Garden of Eden! Hear the singing and laughter. Experience His joy!

I love the word picture described here: “On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”(Zephaniah 3:16-17, NLT).

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Abraham, a true friend of God. My friend too!

"Count the stars, Abraham. That's the number of your descendants!"
“Count the stars, Abraham. That’s the number of your descendants!”

My name is Abidah. Believe it or not, I have been a servant of Abraham for over 100 years now. No one has been with Abraham as long as I have been, not even his wife Sarah.

He was a wealthy, wealthy man. Always has been as long as I’ve worked for him. He hired me when we left Haran. I was number 1 of 318 servants. It was a joy to serve this great, great man.  You know, he had more sheep and cattle and camels than anyone in the entire region, maybe more than anyone on earth. Of all his possessions, he truly cherished one thing more than anything else: the gift of his son Isaac.

He made sure everyone knew that God made a promise to him. The promise went like this: God said “I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous, you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” Abraham always told us stories of his personal encounters with God. I don’t know anyone who knew God like Abraham knew God. And everywhere we went, he built an altar to the Almighty.

Yet, early on, while Abram owned many things, I would hear him arguing with God. “What good are all these things if I don’t have any children to pass them down to?” he’d say shaking a fist at the heavens.  And I’d say Abram had every right to question God’s promises, as he was an old man, and Sarai’s womb was closed.

One night, the Almighty took Abram outside and said to the man: “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!” And the man believed. He believed God. And because he believed, God called him his friend. My master? A true friend of God! Amazing!

Yet even though he was God’s friend, Abram’s troubles didn’t magically cease. Ten years after we left the Land of Ur, Abram and Sarai were still childless. They decided God might need man’s help in bringing to fruition all these “star children.” So Abram slept with the much younger, and much more beautiful Hagar, Sarai’s servant. It was Sarai’s suggestion. Can you believe it? And Hagar gave birth to a son. They called him Ishmael.  But God wasn’t too pleased and Ishmael caused more problems than Abram ever dreamed of. Even though he sinned, Abram still had this tight relationship with the Father.

Thirteen years later Abram is out tending the sheep when God shows up in power. The way Abram tells the story, one more time God reminds the man of the Almighty’s promises and tells him that he’ll have a huge family. Abram says he fell flat on his face. The next day he announces that we are all to start calling him Abraham. No longer is he merely “Father,” he is “Father of Many Fathers.” We joked with him, because by this time he was 99 years old! And Sarai, who we were to now call Sarah, was 90!

While we laughed, something about Abraham changed. He set a covenant between God and himself… and all of us male servants were dedicated to God that very day!

And just as God promised, about a year later, little Isaac was born. Isaac. The name means “laughter.” And we all laughed with his new parents, for they were so old.

While this was a joyous time, it wasn’t the end of Abraham’s struggles… but he remained faithful to God. Oh so faithful. No one in all the land was as faithful as this man. Sarah died some 27 years later.  And that old man? He passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 175. He lived a long, joyful life! We just came back from burying him next to Sarah in the land of the Hittites. He has seven children. 13 grandchildren so far. All those star children are just getting started!

Abraham. The father of many fathers. A friend of God. He was my master and my dear friend as well.

 

My interpretation of some of the key points of Genesis, Chapters 12-25, the life of Abraham.

(c)2015. Rich Ronald.

Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Abraham

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

Abraham was called “Friend of God.” You too are God’s friend!

The story of Abraham begins at the end of Genesis 11.  He was the son of Terah, who Scripture tells us was at a minimum an idol worshipper, possibly a man who made his living as an idol maker. He lived in Ur, a thriving metropolis, a place full of the excitement of a city.  And it is on this stage where we hear God’s call.

Genesis 12:1-3 (The Message):

God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.

 I’ll make you a great nation 

      and bless you. 

   I’ll make you famous; 

      you’ll be a blessing. 

   I’ll bless those who bless you; 

      those who curse you I’ll curse. 

   All the families of the Earth 

      will be blessed through you.”

 And then, verse 4: “So Abram went.”

Just like that.  He left the only city he ever knew.  He took his things and his wife and left.  And he journeyed through the wildernesses of the land of Canaan.

And next, verse 7:

God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.

First, have you noticed that Abram, and a lot of the people of the Old Testament, built altars to God… to worship Him… to acknowledge that God moved supernaturally in their life at a certain point? I believe it is important to remember to do that regularly. If we do nothing else when we go to a church building on Sunday morning, my prayer is that the time spent there is a time of remembering and thanksgiving — worship!

Continue reading Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Abraham