In the shelter of the Most High
Sunday morning in church we were looking at Luke chapter one and my attention was drawn to verse 35. The angel said to Mary, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”1
This phrase brings us to Psalm 91 verse 1: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “
If we go on and read the entire Psalm. We have some serious food for thought regarding the present situation we are in regarding COVID.
“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease” (v. 3).
“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (v. 6).
“No plague will come near your home” (v. 10).
“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me” (v. 14).
There are many other promises in this powerful Psalm but the one regarding disease and plague stands out. These promises are contingent on sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty.
So does this mean no true believers in the Almighty will get COVID? We know this is not true. Many believers have contracted COVID and been healed—100% recovery rate. Some recovered on this planet in this time and space and others are now experiencing the ultimate recovery and healing—instant healing—in eternity. In thinking of a friend with COVID, he will be healed; it is a confirmed fact, one way or the other he will be healed. The Almighty has said so—Psalm 91 ends with the final and ultimate shelter: “and give them my salvation”.
So what does it mean to shelter in the shadow of the Almighty? To me sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty means being always conscious of God’s presence and “shadow” around me. He is always there and by faith, I see His shadow. He has said, “I will never live you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah put it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God in the eternal Rock” (Is. 26:3-4).
To abide in the shadow of the Almighty means to have our heart, minds, and faith fixed, fastened securely to the promises of the Almighty. Not fixed ultimately on medical science, our insurance policy, the government, our diet and health regiment, a vaccine, but fixed on the Almighty.
My prayer for all of us this season will be that we are sheltering under the Almighty—not mainly sheltering in place but under the shadow of the Almighty.
1 Using the New Living Translation for all of this.
Pervasive Peace through the Second Advent
In Christmas, we celebrate the advent or coming of Christ. The first coming enabled a way for peace to be realized. Humans can, through Christ, have renewed fellowship with God. Yet, as Jesus Himself said, in the world we will have trouble and tribulation.
So, if that’s the case, if in the world we will have difficulty and distress, then how can we have peace? This Sunday I get to preach on the “Pathway to Peace” from Isaiah chapter 11. I’m excited and thankful to be able to do that.
I, however, have too much material. So, I thought I’d share here, part of how that peace is possible.
First, Isaiah paints a beautiful and powerful picture of peace (see Isaiah 11:1-9). A little baby can play with a king cobra without fear (v. 8). How is this possible?
Isaiah 11:9 tells us: the knowledge of God is intimately experienced. And so: nothing will “harm nor destroy on all [the Lord’s] holy mountain.” Instead of harm, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The Messiah will make it so not only the knowledge of the LORD is pervasive but intimacy with the LORD is too. Knowledge in the Old Testament is not merely head knowledge, but it is experiential (When Adam “knew” Eve, Genesis 4:1, it was not mere cognitive knowing, it was experiential).
Also, we should ask, how is it that the waters cover the sea? The waters cover the sea by filling it to the fullness of capacity. God and His goodness will be experienced and known to maximum capacity! We will have the strength together with all the saints to comprehend and know “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and we will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19).
Look at what’s going to happen when Jesus reigns on earth!:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Of peace, there will be no end!
Justice and righteousness forevermore!
Of course, this is not yet a reality. First, Christ came as a Lamb to be slain. Next, He’s coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Revelation 5:5).
In that day, when perfect peace comes upon the earth, the LORD says, “my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Is. 65:22). The most precious moments that we experience on earth—whether that’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful sunset, or being lost in a song or prayer of praise—will be multiplied infinitely.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How ironic, how sad, that the Rejected One, is the One who brings renewal of the whole earth.
Fellow Christians, please share the message that is so needed in these days of distress. And pray for your neighbors, that they would have peace that surpasses understanding.
Please pray that the Rejected One, the one alone who brings perfect and pervasive peace, would no longer be rejected.
The Joy that Awaits
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Some times people paint with colors and at other times they paint with words. Isaiah here is painting with words and what a wonderful picture he paints.
He starts by saying that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad” (Is. 35:1). The groaning world, the world bent with the Fall, shall be made right. Even the earth shall be glad. The barren desert, filled with dust and sand, shall beautifully blossom. It shall “rejoice with joy and singing” (v. 2). The whole of the world will unfurl and be in a state of spring. Yes, the desert shall blossom like the crocus (v. 1).
The redeemed shall see the majesty and “the glory of the LORD” (v. 2). Our eyes as of now have a shutter over them, we see through a fog, or as through dirty glass dimly, but then we shall see. We shall see the full wonder of the LORD’s glory and beauty. We know the whisper but we shall hear the wondrous roar!
Woe to the wretched, me included!
Isaiah was a gifted preacher. He went around graciously telling the people of Judah to repent. We see an example of the way he called the people to repent in Isaiah 5.
Isaiah announces six woes upon the people of Judah (cf. 5:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22). Isaiah says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (v. 20). “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes” (v. 21). “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine” (v. 22).
After seeing the sixth “woe” we look for the climatic seventh woe. However, that seventh woe doesn’t come in chapter 5. Where is that seventh woe?
The seventh woe comes in the next chapter. Isaiah says, “Woe is me!” (6:5). Isaiah saw that the LORD is “holy, holy, holy” (v. 3) and so he saw his own dire need. He said, “I am lost.” When we see the LORD in His glory we see that we are all in need of grace. We must all be humbled before God.
Ultimately we see the ground is level at the foot of the cross. The problem isn’t just out there within someone else, the problem—sin—is within all of us. We all deeply need Jesus.
We must remember that we were separated from Christ, outsiders to the promises of God, and we had no hope. But now, in Christ Jesus, we who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (cf. Eph. 2:12-18). There is nothing inherently better or good about us more than anyone else. It is Christ Jesus that gives us hope and brings us near to God.
Woe to the wretched, me included!
to deep darkness the Light
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.”
An Anthology of New Creation
The place is forsaken,
the populous city deserted. (Is. 32:14a cf. 2:11; 5:21)
In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places, there will be desolation.
For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;
therefore, though you plant pleasant plants
though you sow and toil,
yet the harvest will flee away
in a day of grief and incurable pain. (Is. 17:9-10 contrast Ezek. 47:1-12)
Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field. (Is. 32:15a)
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Is. 32:16, 17, 18a)
The nations shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. (Is. 2:2 cf. v. 3b, 4)
In that day the LORD will say, “Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” (Is. 19:25 cf. vv. 21-25)
The LORD will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for Him;
let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Is. 25:8-9)
For the LORD comforts Zion;
He comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Is. 51:3)
Our Messiah brings good news to the poor,
binds up the brokenhearted
the Anointed proclaims liberty to the captives,
opens the prison to those who are bound
He gives beautiful headdress instead of ashes
the oil of gladness instead of mourning
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. (Is. 61:1-4)
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in My people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress. (Is. 65:17-19 cf. 4:2-6)
There shall be no more a brier to prick or thorn to hurt. (Ezek. 28:24a)
Before My people call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all My holy mountain. (Is. 65:24-25)
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is. 62:3-5)
Zion’s righteousness goes forth as brightness,
And her salvation as a burning torch. (Is. 62:1)
The name of the city from this time on shall be, “The LORD Is There.” (Is. 48:35)
For, the LORD is King. (cf. Is. 33:22)
The government shall be upon His shoulders,
and His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over His kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Is. 9:6-7 cf. 42:1-4)
Every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance. (Is. 45:23 cf. 49:7; 66:23)
You shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (Is. 60:16)
Our LORD says,
“Come, everyone who thirsts.” (Is. 55:1a)