The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God that changed his life. In Isaiah 6 he saw God high and lifted up on His throne and the regal robes of His glory filled the temple. He also heard the Seraphim cry holy, holy, holy, felt the posts of the doors shake, and perhaps even smelled the smoke that filled the house. When Isaiah saw God in all of His holiness all he could say was: “woe is me, for I am undone”. Isaiah was a greatly used prophet of God. He served God faithfully, but when he saw the absolute holiness of God he became keenly aware of his own sinfulness.
“Woe is me, for I am undone” is not a phrase we hear a lot today. We are more likely to hear people say something like: “wow is me, for I am someone”. Self-esteem is so rooted in our culture it is almost a cult. We hear it in our schools and see it put into practice in children’s athletics where everyone is a winner. When we keep telling ourselves that we are so wonderful and so awesome we do ourselves a disservice. We need to see ourselves as we truly are; a sinner that is in desperate need of a Savior. Isaiah tells us what happened next. He saw one of the Seraphim take a live coal from off the altar and touch the prophet’s lips. Then his iniquity was taken away and his sin purged. The coal on the fire is a symbol of God’s cleansing power. The greatest need in our lives is not a pat on the back it is forgiveness in our heart.
Before we can embrace the good news of God’s amazing grace and stand upright clothed in His righteousness we must first understand that we are nothing more than miserable sinners. Our transformation is complete when we confess our sinfulness and embrace God’s wonderful forgiveness in Christ. Let’s replace our boastful “wow is me” with an honest “woe is me”.
The children of Israel were instructed by the Lord to possess the land of Canaan. He was going to use them as an instrument of judgment on the wicked inhabitants of the land. God miraculously dried up the overflowing Jordan River and they crossed over on dry ground. Before they began the war of conquest God instructed them to build a memorial of that wonderful event. They were to erect a pile of 12 stones near the banks of the Jordan to remind them and future generations of the wonderful intervention of their God on that day.
As our nation celebrates another Memorial Day we too need to take a look at the memorials we have placed around our country. Many of these memorials commemorate the bloody wars fought to retain our freedom. Some memorials forever encapsulate the great accomplishments of our nation’s heroes. When we take our children and grandchildren to visit these hallowed places we help ensure that the hard fought lessons we learned will not be forgotten.
I can think of three valuable lessons from Israel’s pile of stones on the Jordan River and our nations stone memorials scattered around our country. The first lesson is that freedom is costly. Wars would have to be fought and blood would have to be spilled to ensure peace and freedom. The land of Canaan had walled cities and a few giants that stood in the way of God’s people enjoying their Promised Land. Another lesson we can learn from the memorials is prosperity takes hard work. The children of Israel learned that on the day they crossed into the Promised Land that God’s supernatural supply of manna from heaven dried up. They would no longer receive free bread. They would have to eat from their own efforts. Our nation became great because of the hard work and industry of our forefathers. We need to remind the next generations that prosperity and free bread doesn’t fall from the sky. Finally, the memorials should stir us to see the mighty hand of God in our past. Israel knew that if it wasn’t for God they would still be slaves in Egypt. I wonder if we have forgotten the providential hand of God in the founding and building of our own nation. Look around America, our stones still speak.
A tornado is a weather phenomenon that causes great destruction and fear. I remember moving into a farmhouse with my family in rural northern Iowa. The next night after our move was a scary one for me and my little family as tornado warnings went out over the radio and television. The old farmhouse shook violently that night as a tornado hit nearby and took out the neighbor’s grain bin.
The prophet Isaiah describes another house that shook. Isaiah had a vision of God in His holy temple. He tells us in Isaiah 6:1-4: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke”. Isaiah must have felt the overwhelming power of those words that shook the temple. I have never heard a Seraph, but their voice must have been powerful. However I feel that the house didn’t shake because of the decibel level of the angel’s voice. I believe that what shook the temple was the truth of what was said: “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts”. It was the truth of that statement that shook things up.
We who speak for God have a unique privilege. When we preach or teach the Word of God it is wonderful when God shakes up a heart and we see a lasting impact on someone’s life. But I am keenly aware that when we see such a shaking it doesn’t come because of the power of the preacher, or the cleverness of the stories. When God shakes the house it is all because of the power of the truth. There is life shaking power in the Word of God.
The playground was filled with little ones enjoying the various age appropriate equipment. Each of the children accompanied by their parents seemed to be having the time of their life. One of the kids looked at her dad and cried out: “look at me!” That seemed to start something as many of the children also chimed in: “look at me!” Joy on the playground seemed to be enhanced for these children when someone was noticing what they were doing.
What is perfectly acceptable on the playground is not so good in life. We who are children of God are called to enjoy an exciting life of service for our wonderful Lord. God calls us to be a bold witness for Him. We need to be spending time in fervent prayer and increasing in our knowledge of the Word of God. We should also fellowship with God’s people and give offerings to the work of God. Yet these and other spiritual disciplines are not an end in themselves. They are only ways that we can get to know our Lord better and to honor Him by living a life of obedience.
Jesus often spoke of the Pharisees as examples of how not to behave. He said in Matthew 6:5,6: "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”.
Church can become like a playground with all the children crying out: “Look at me, I am doing something spiritual, notice me and praise me”. May we learn to honor our Lord by serving in secret. May we say to the other kids on the playground: look at Him, not look at me.
The 2016 Olympic Games will be in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. However there seems to be a major problem with the water events. The water in the Guanabara Bay, where the competition for rowing, sailing and triathlon swimming will be held, is polluted. According to news reports, human feces, condoms, ramen noodle wrappers, plastic bags, and chocolate milk cartons are some of the debris found floating in the water. Test after test has shown the water is filled with pathogens. Viruses and bacteria levels from the water are so high that those who come into contact with the water are likely to get infected. As a matter of fact the US rowing team went to train in Rio and eleven of them got sick just rowing in it. Officials in the city may not be able to clean up the water in time for the Olympic Games.
I certainly would not want to be exposed to the possibility of getting sick from the polluted water in Rio. However there is a pollution much more dangerous than the sewage floating along Rio’s shores. Sin pollution is all around us. It is in our popular culture, our government institutions, our cities, our marketplaces and universities. It also can be detected in our churches, our homes, and as close as our own heart. What can we do to clean up this pollution before its disease-causing viruses prove hazardous to our souls?
We cannot isolate ourselves in some sin-free village. We cannot avoid the pollution since it is everywhere. We need to be cleansed from within. The Bible tells us that the only thing that can eliminate the infection of sin is blood. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins (1 John 1:7). When we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Savior, God removes the tragic consequences of sin from us. And as we draw near to our Lord, study His Word, grow in Christlikeness, and walk in the Spirit the daily pollution of sin has less effect on us. We may not be able to clean up the sin pollution all around us but we can have a clean heart within us.
I believe that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs on earth. Other jobs may require more physical strength or demand more mental prowess but no other job can compare with being a mother. No other role can take your heart on the wild roller coaster ride of raising children. A mother’s heart is carried to the heights of joy and to the depths of sorrow. Her body is stressed with the sleepless nights of caring for a sick or fussy child. Her emotions are tested with the rebelliousness of her precious teenager.
In the Bible we find evidence of this toughest job on earth. The Old Testament mother Hannah prayed desperately for a child and God graciously answered her prayer. However when young Samuel was still young she let him go to learn the ways of God with Eli the priest. Letting go is one of a mother’s toughest responsibilities. Letting them go to that first day of school, or off to college, or to get married is not easy on a mother’s heart. I think of another tough role that many mothers have to face. Mary the mother of our Lord was told by an angel that a sword would pierce her heart. Of course this refers to the unimaginable sorrow that would pierce her heart when she watched her son die on the cross. Many mothers have to witness their children go through situations that are unbelievably tough. She often feels Mary’s sword pierce her own heart. I think another tough job for mothers is found in 3 John 4. The verse says: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”. John was referring to his children in the Lord and the great joy he had when they continue to follow the Lord and His Word. If a mother’s greatest joy would be to have her children walk in truth, perhaps her greatest sorrow would be when they are not walking in the truth. Yet those faithful mothers still pray, still love, and still trust God for their children.
Being a godly mother is not for the faint of heart. Just as it is the toughest job on earth many would tell us it is also the greatest job on earth.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation