Thursday, March 28, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET -2

The revival of a Great Prophet- 2

Meditations from Isaiah Chapter Six


Problem-solving or renewal and revival?

When the people of God forgot their Creator and Redeemer and lived erratically and in passivity, God visited them in a special way by sending His salvation in the form of great men of God (like Isaiah whose name means the Salvation of our Lord) to revive and renew them. Isaiah started his ministry by declaring woe unto the people unless they repent which is seen throughout the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah. God has warned repeatedly, but the people were nonchalant and cold-hearted. They seemed to have left their first love for their Lord.  It was at the time of the pinnacle of their backsliding that God touched the nation by removing their powerful and efficient king. The usurping of the king to perform priestly duties is clearly an indication that the people and their king have become hot-headed.  When the king was removed from the scene in a dramatic way, it seemed to have touched the prophet himself to rethink and so he goes to the presence of the Lord. Here we see the prophet stops to preach and goes in for a shock treatment in the presence of the Almighty.

Of course, the prophet goes to God with a backpack full of complaints, fears and apprehensions about the fate of the nation. He had a craving for God and a realization that God’s presence is the only solace for him to depend upon for answers to his concerns and fears. He had no other place to go and he was driven to the wall with no space to manoeuvre.

It seems the prophet expected to have a usual encounter with God and lodge his petitions and then to come back. But God overwhelmed him with His mighty presence. God filled Isaiah’s eyes with a vision of Himself to comfort the prophet and to give him renewed courses of action. There he experienced strength and encouragement which he and the people so badly needed. He was filled with the power and protection that only the presence of God could provide in his most difficult circumstance. He was exposed to the glory of the Lord and seemed to be lost in its wonder and awe. He became a true worshipper rather than a usual complainer and petitioner. He found his Lord a far greater source of power for him to continue with his ministry than ever before.

The forgetfulness of the prophet

As Isaiah entered the temple of the Lord, he saw the Lord in His glory and seated on the Throne and highly lifted up, perhaps to the extent to which he could envisage with his human eyes. The Lord in His lifted up position shocked Isaiah as he realized that He was far above all the problems he and his people were faced with. Here is the Lord showing Himself to be in total control of all of Isaiah’s situations. From the Throne, a powerful message comes to Isaiah that He was in control of all that seemed to be in disarray. He declares His power to rule and overrule from that Throne. He makes known to Isaiah His sovereignty and that He has all the authority to do whatever He wanted to accomplish. His Throne is shown to be above all the thrones on earth and seen as capable of resolving all instabilities and failures of His people. The vision of the Lord sent the most powerful message to Isaiah to declare that when Uzziah’s powerful throne is gone, the Lord is still on the Throne to rule over everything and everyone. By being seated above everything, the Lord declares to Isaiah that he needed no anxiety or phobia about his situation because the Lord is on the throne and that He is capable to clear every doubt and to comfort every anxious soul. He tells us today that He is still on the Throne and that He has a message to everyone everywhere to be calm and that His people confide in His power in all situations.
  
It is interesting to realize that Isaiah is in the Throne Room of his Lord. Isaiah now seems to have forgotten all his problems, fears and apprehension and is lost in the glory of the Lord and focusing on the person of the Lord. He experiences the all-pervading power of the Lord to make all his concerns vanish and vaporize in the glory of the Lord. He finds that the Lord’s glory overshadows everything in and around His servant and makes him like a sheep being calm in the presence of its shepherd.

No room for the baggage

As Isaiah enters the Throne Room of the Lord and saw His glittering glory filled the temple, he realizes that there is no room for him to place his baggage of complaints, problems, apprehensions, and fears (6:1). The train of the Lord filled the temple. He could no longer claim that he came after preaching his heart out to the people because there was no room in the Throne Room of the Lord for his achievements, experience, expertise, prestige, prominence, ordination, oratory, eloquence and scriptural knowledge which he brought in with him. He realizes that all of what he was as a prophet has drained out and that he has become so empty when he saw and experienced the glory of the Lord. In essence, the prophet could only say, “Just as I am, without one plea”. He realizes that no matter how great a prophet he might be, he is absolutely nothing and totally empty of himself and all that he has when he saw the glory of the Lord.

The unfolding drama

In the presence of the Lord, Isaiah was overwhelmed to see a number of awesome events which were all focusing on the glory of the Lord. The Lord’s all-encompassing robe of glory, the relentlessly worshipping seraphs with perfect concentration, the thunderous sound of the outcry of the glory of the Lord from the throats of the seraphs, the superlative speed of the flights of the seraphs, the smoke that fills the temple, the shaking of the doorposts of the temple, the burning coal at the altar, a tong, an angel ready to cleanse the servant of God and a sound of the Lord speaking were all experienced by Isaiah in great power. All of these unfolding movements were the ways by which the Lord was speaking to the prophet to shake and wake him up to the reality of responding to the glory of the Lord.

It’s all for the prophet

The interlude of Isaiah Chapter 6 in the book of Isaiah is not for God to focus on the death of Uzziah. It is not to show how seraphs worship and travel fast to declare the glory of the Lord. But it is to focus on the spiritual and emotional needs of the great prophet. But the scene centered on Isaiah’s unworthiness, his detestable environment, the sinful hearts of the prophet and the people of God, the sheer emptiness in his heart and then move on to true repentance. It then moved on to the revival and renewal of the prophet so that a changed Isaiah could go back and preach a thunderous message on the need for a revival among God’s people. We are reminded of the fact that if the prophet is not right with God, the people will not be right with God.  If the prophet is not truly repentant, the people will not be able to listen to the Word of God which comes out of his mouth.  The iniquity in their hearts would otherwise shut their ears so as not to hear the voice of the Lord.

It is likely that the prophet who was fully immersed in preaching didn’t have time to see the Lord in His glory on a regular basis and listen to Him. But God was not going to make him a repetitive preacher, but one with new experiences in His presence to become a passionate preacher. This was possible by giving him newer visions of His glory to revive and renew him. So in Isaiah Chapter Six, God speaks to him through the elegance of His presence, His being the lifted up Lord above all situations and circumstances and through His servants (Seraphs) who were totally and absolutely sold out on Him and His glory in their commitment to serving the Lord. The vision was thus a great reprimand to the prophet to renew and revive him for the mighty work that lies ahead for him to declare the ‘Salvation of our Lord’ to the people of God. 


The vision which Isaiah received is a great challenge for us to re-examine our commitment and loyalty to our Lord so that we would be useful instruments in His mighty hands in the days to come. The vision of our Lord through the pages of His Word demands our adherence, repentance, commitment and loyalty as we are renewed by His Spirit to shape us for His use.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

COUNSELOR'S CORNER: WEATHERING STORMS IN MARRIAGE

Weathering storms in Marriage
Dear Uncle:

I hope you will patiently read the story of my marriage and offer me help to keep going. I am going through a difficult time in my marriage and family life and do not know what to do.

Professionally I am a nurse. I got married 9 years ago to James who is a business executive in our city. We have two children, aged 7 and 4, both girls. As we both earn well, we have a good life. I am a born again and baptized believer. James is a believer and he hails from a good family and his parents are involved in the assembly. My parents are also believers and active in the church. 

 We started our married life quite happily. We communicated well with each other and attended church regularly. We also have a number of professional and family friends and we visit many of them on a regular basis.

Of late, I found James not showing any interest in spending time with me. He comes from work late. Sometimes he comes after his dinner from some restaurant or a party. As soon as he comes home, he spends his time on the mobile phone, checking WhatsApp and calling some friends. Then he goes to bed without family prayer. I called him initially for family prayer on several evenings, but he then gets irritated and excuses himself by saying that he is tired and sleepy. He doesn’t spend time with the children and they miss him much. When they go to him, he gets angry and responds with outbursts, and so children become scared and run away from him with tears. One night I woke up in the middle of the night and found him watching some strange things on the mobile phone (possibly movies or wrestling) and he quickly hid it from me. I am sorry to see that James has changed totally. He always looks depressed and is in a bad mood. Nowadays he is not showing any interest in going for meetings. Added to that, our spiritual friends who used to visit us stopped coming because James doesn’t show any interest in visiting them or welcome them to our house.

I told his parents about him, but they seem to be helpless and ask me to pray. I am praying for him for quite some time. But there is no visible change in him. Our spiritual happiness and peace at home seem to be lost. Of late, he doesn’t seem to bother to buy food materials for the house. I do not know what is happening to my husband and my family because of these visible changes in him. I am helpless and am deeply frustrated.

Uncle, please help me to find out what is wrong with our family and how we can regain the joy that we lost. I am a broken-hearted woman and I am desperate for your help.

Yours sincerely in Christ
Josephine



Dear Josephine

Thank you for frankly sharing your burden about your husband and family with me. I am glad that you are a praying woman. Rest assured that the Lord will answer your prayers and that He will give your husband and family back to you as it has been before.

Going through your narratives about your husband and your family life, I feel that there is serious spiritual backwardness in his life. This seems to be the reason why he has lost interest in family prayer and in going for assembly meetings. It seems he is not even reading Bible daily, but much interested in WhatsApp and watching ‘strange things’ on the phone and the Internet.

From your email, it is not clear as to what has led him to such spiritual backwardness. But it is likely that his spiritual backwardness is linked with his cold relationship with you. But we do not know which started first. I also wonder if he has some job-related issues which made him frustrated and subsequently depressed. Perhaps he is into bad friendship circles.

No matter what his problems are, the key to bringing him back to normal behavior and attitude to the Lord and to you rests with you as you commit him in earnest prayer. Your patient, loving, concerned and considerate approach and sympathetic attitude to him should slowly change him and draw him back to you and the children. You may take maximum effort to try to spend more time with him. Instead of complaining or nagging, be kind to him and try to understand his spiritual difficulties. If overuse of mobile phone and watching movies and other strange things on it persists, see how you can occupy his mind with spiritual things and loving conversation. Try to see if you can call him up a few times a day and inquire about him and work. Tell him how much you miss spending time with him. But your conversation with him may be, as much as possible, non-irritating, soft, friendly, warm and courteous. Your facial expression, body language, the tone of voice and gestures are important. Ask him how you can together plan family time for you and the children. Tell him that you are praying for him for his work situation. Lovingly persuade him to sit for family prayer, but never rebuke or find fault with him or fall for verbal abuse of any sort. Tell him how much you value him in life and how you and the children miss him. Ask him to speak to you openly about any of his problems, but never put pressure on him. Your patience, maturity, and prayerfulness will be the tools through which the Lord will bring him back to Him and to yourself and your children.

Please be much in prayer and ask the Lord to give James back to you. Prayerfully claim him for Jesus and for you. When he sleeps, try to touch and pray for him. All day, as you work, let short prayers rise up from your heart for James and your family. Ask your parents and his parents to pray for him, but please tell them not to make any complaints about him. It is a good idea if both the parents make occasional visits to your home and stay for a few days at a time. When the parents visit, it will possibly be good for them to show love and concern and to encourage him to sit for family prayers. On such occasions, they may softly try to make him read the Bible and sing songs with you all. You could all go for some of the meetings of the assembly also when the parents are around. But please remind the parents about the need to carefully deal in all these matters and not to pick up any arguments with him.

It is also good to check and see if James has any addiction in behavior or actions and if he has any element of depression or stress due to the work situation. If so, he might need serious counseling.

Let me remind you of the fact that James needs help now and you should not wait till it becomes very serious. It is better to attempt to help him resolve his difficulties before his heart is hardened. It is also important to guard your children against getting affected by the behavior of James. Please continuously, but softly counsel them and sit and pray with them.

I am praying for you, James and your children. Please don’t be discouraged, but trust the Lord to change your situation and make it as happy as it used to be. Please read Psalms 42:5 and meditate on it and find comfort in the promises of God.

Yours sincerely

Oommen Philip

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET - 1


The revival of a Great Prophet-1

Meditations from Isaiah Chapter Six

Let’s meet Isaiah in the valley of life

Many servants of God had their share of the valley experience of their life and ministry. More often than not, we are given very little details of those experiences and inroads into their brokenness. So we are unable to dive into those valleys to learn what they have learned and how these can be applied in our own lives. Brokenness is rarely shared with anyone and so the pain, shame, misery, tears, groaning and griping accompanied with it are left in oblivion.

Prophet Isaiah is an exception to this. He received the grace to articulate every detail of his experience of brokenness for God’s people to learn great lessons from it and apply in scores of lives. He was willing to expose himself and the lowest point in his life for others to see as a testimony to God’s grace and mercy towards him. Isaiah has already been a preacher and prophet for years as we come to Chapter Six of his prophetic book. His ministry has powerful and penetrating all the while. His words were bold and expressions were focused in order that the people of God would experience a revival in their souls. Like Paul, Isaiah did not hide from God’s people anything that the Lord had laid on his heart. He was not at all concerned about the consequences of the message he was entrusted with to preach because it was not his message, but the Lord’s. He recognized that his life was first and foremost the Lord’s message to the people among whom he dwelt. Of course, his utterances were equally his life in a message, but he felt that his life and words must complement each other to make it credible and powerful. He knew that the message of the Lord will not come back without result and so he preached his heart out and lived his life out. He used words like that of John the Baptizer. But as he continued to preach, he became more and more aware of his own needs for a revival, dynamism and greater spiritual revolution.

One would normally not expect the preacher to experience revival and feel that the people need it badly. But the experience of Isaiah brings home to our hearts the truth that the preacher needs revival in his soul more than the people who listen to his message. The Prophet’s message has to be his life itself and unless it is broken, rebuilt, revitalized and exposed to the people, the message he preaches will be conceptual and not practical. So it was the divine plan that early in his ministry, prophet Isaiah had to be exposed in the height of his brokenness. So God uses contemporary situations to grant the experience of brokenness in the life of His choice servant Isaiah.

Preliminary considerations

Isaiah Six teaches us that even as we continue to preach and minister unto the spiritual needs of God’s people, we need to feel a craving for continuous brokenness and revival in our souls so that our messages will be sharper than ever before. Isaiah’s experience asks us as to whether we desire a fresh visitation from the Lord to do something in our souls that has never happened before? Do we have pant for a fresh experience with the risen Lord in all His glory? Are we ready to be exposed openly when our only cover will be the Lord and His glory and not our eloquence, expertise, experience, and exuberance? 

It is at this juncture that Prophet Isaiah comes alive in front of our eyes as we open the book of Isaiah and go to the vision he received which is elucidated in Chapter Six. His experience was primarily for him to be cleansed and revitalized. But it is a model for every Christian believer, to take a hard look at the brokenness of this great preacher and prophet, and profit from it for him to start with and for the Lord’s people. If Isaiah needed such an experience, modern day preachers and servants of God need it all the more.  

Let’s understand the context of Isaiah’s Prophecy

Isaiah was permitted to minister unto the people of God to show them that even when kings come and go one after the other (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah: Isaiah 1:1), the Word of the Lord remains unchanged in its power, glory and sharpness as it is eternally secured in heaven (Psalms 119:89). The message comes through the seraphs, the servants of God, who are made instruments for a ministry unto the prophets of the old and the new. Their responsibility it is to have action-oriented preaching in its seriousness. Through it all, God shows Isaiah that He is the preeminent God who rules over all other forces and speaks through them all.

Isaiah acknowledges at the beginning of his book that God speaks to the wind and the sky (Isaiah 1:2). This is because nature and all of the creation listen to and obey God unquestionably. It is also a reminder to the people that God still speaks even when the man doesn’t listen, obey or take God’s commands seriously. There is an alluding question as to whether the prophet himself listened to God. The answer to this question is seen in Chapter Six.

Through the life of King Uzziah, God wanted Isaiah to understand that no matter how powerful man is and how sustainable he thinks he is, God will remove him from power if he is not willing to abide by God’s commands and His Word.

The events leading to the death of King Uzziah is a situation of the end of an era of national stability, growth in technology, industrial and agricultural development, enhancement of commerce and military power which make Uzziah’s kingdom invincible by the enemies. His success in multifarious sectors made Uzziah proud and arrogant. He took God’s law of worship for granted and acted like a priest which was against God’s law. Uzziah had to be dealt with by God for this violation. Through the removal of Uzziah from power, God taught Isaiah and the people of God that if they break God’s commandment, they will be handled by God in His own way. 

The overall situation of the division of the kingdom because of the quarrel and fight among the brothers was another pitfall among God’s people. There was also no separation from the sinful life of the Gentiles around them. There was competition, rebellion, jealousy, and idolatry among God’s people. God dealt with all of these offenses of His people sternly which remains as a warning for us today. 
  
At His perfect timing, God withdrew Uzziah from the scene and sent bewilderment and apprehension to the hearts of people about their future. They didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming kings. Israel was ultimately captured by the enemies in 721 BC. Judea was captured by Sennacherib. God’s people as a nation experienced national confusion. There were fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty everywhere.  Little did they realize that not too far from there the foundation for the upcoming Roman Empire was being laid as a great power which will be another threat to Israel in the future? This is the setting of Isaiah Chapter Six. 

It was a time like that of our present world and the state of the church of Jesus Christ today. Abrahams are in the tents, but Lots live in bungalows! (Genesis 13:18 & 19:2). Many of our families are taken captive by the world, flesh and the enemy and there is no one to go and fight to release them from its clutches! (Genesis 14:12-15).  Our Youth have fallen in this desert of the world, with no one to lift them up and give them water of life! (Genesis 21:18). Our Gahazys, Demases and Baalams have all gone back to the world and its riches! The enemy is hiding and living in the secret chambers of the assemblies, as in the times of Nehemiah! (Nehemiah 13:7). Our Jeremiahs, Peters and Pauls are in the pits and in shackles in prison cells! Our Jonahs have gone their way to Tarshis rather than obey the call to go to Nineveh to preach revival and repentance! (Jonah 1:3).


Just as in the case of Isaiah, it’s time our preachers and elders renew their visions and get a new vision of the Lord and His true and majestic glory. They need fiery tongues and eyes to preach a more powerful and sharper message. They need a change of attitude and heart to receive and preach a timely message through their renewed tongues. Then and then alone will the people catch the fire of repentance and experience revival and renewal in their souls. This is why God made Isaiah go through the experience of the altar and the fiery cleansing of his tongue. If Isaiah needed brokenness and cleansing, we need it many more times. If he needed a new tongue, we need it all the more. We need to be convicted of sins in our lives and must move forward with true confession and repentance so that God can renew our messages and revisit our people in a fresh manner. If Isaiah needed to cry aloud for renewal, we need it in a greater manner. Then we will get a new zeal. Yes, prophets, preachers and pastors need revival and preach with a broken heart and eyes overflowing with tears. Then we will all see the vision of our Lord and experience His power. It will follow on to change us to passionate preaching and obedient living.