Isaiah 40:1-15 God the Designer
Isaiah 40:1-15 NLTse “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. (2) “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” (3) Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! (4) Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. (5) Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (6) A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. (7) The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. (8) The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (9) O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” (10) Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. (11) He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (12) Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? (13) Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? (14) Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? (15) No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.
You have to love the way Isaiah begins the message in Isaiah 40. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” It’s easy to understand the first part of the introduction, “comfort my people.” The second part should be just as easy to understand but is often misunderstood. “ “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” The third past ties in the second and the forth. “Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.” The forth part of Isaiah’s introduction is what people have problems understanding. “Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
How does God comfort His people? There are many ways. In this example God is using His prophet Isaiah as an instrument to deliver a message of comfort. What God really wants is to give everyone personal comfort. God wants each individual to come to Him and listen to His words of comfort. No second guessing, no details or points missed in communication that often happen when a message is passed from one person to the next. Which is what happens when people expect religious leaders to approach God’s throne get a message and rely it to them. No mass message from religious leaders that’s supposed to solved everyone’s problems. No, God doesn’t want that. God wants to deliver His message to you on a one on one level, the Creator to the created being. God wants you to find comfort in the fact He knows about you, your problems and he cares. That is real comfort.
I have to admit, Isaiah 40 has been my favorite chapter for over 10 years. While working as a design engineer I opened some modern translation I was reading at the time and they translated a verse in Isaiah 40 using the word designer. This was getting real personal. I was reading it in the morning as I was preparing for the work day. I think it may have been the NET translation. From whom does he receive directions? Who teaches him the correct technique, or imparts knowledge to him, or instructs him in skillful design? (Isaiah 40:14 NET). Strange as it may seem, I never thought of God as a designer until that day. Then God took on a whole new meaning for me and so did my life.
I had been working a number of years doing what only a few people in this world were able to do, designing industrial paint finishing systems. This was basically designing and installing entire factories which had to be specifically designed, well balanced systems. Ever hear of human error? Ever hear the old saying, ”whatever can go wrong will go wrong?” Such was the the life as an engineer, a human designer.
I began every project with prayer asking God to give me the skill to complete the perfect project. Those projects were so large something was bound to go wrong. And it did. Mistakes took time to correct and added pressure to the job. When I saw God described as a designer it told me I had something in common with God. I looked at the whole world and how God created it with not a single error or mistake. No engineering changes, no redesigning, no wasted time. God created this world perfect the first time. I felt so humbled to think of what God has done and how I seem to create minor errors in everything I do.
There was one project I remember. I used and modified portions of a number of systems previously installed and working. Every detail had been checked and all the previous mistakes corrected. This was like a second chance to get it right. After weeks of designing, shipping, and installation we reached the last week of installation and most of the systems was test started and spot checked. There was one final component to be installed and it was a relatively simple, although huge part of the system. It was an environmentally controlled room erected inside the shop that contained the heart of the system, the paint booths. I figured what can go wrong now? The room and paint booths were provided by our best supplier. The same hour I was praising God for giving me the perfect error free project I received a phone call from our supplier in Florida. He said, “your not going to believe this. I am standing out in the parking lot looking at the box of hardware for your room. Some how it fell off the truck.” How can a box weighing close to 100 pounds fall off an enclosed trailer with the door closed? In all places, the factory parking lot? It’s impossible. But it was God’s way of reminding me to be humble. It was God’s way of reminding me, perfection is reserved only for Him. Although I thought I was doing the right thing by praising God and giving all the glory to Him, people didn’t see it that way. People would have viewed my claim to a perfect job as bragging. God saw how other people would have perceived a perfect job and He would not allow it. After all, God designed them and He knew what was in their hearts.
God did the same thing with Isaiah 40. For years I looked at this chapter as God the designer of the whole world with all those flowers, birds, animals, water, sky, sin, stars, air, and man. Every physical detail is perfect. The shape and function of the hand. The delicate pedal of the iris able to withstand heat, rain, high winds, and hail storms and retain all its beauty. But that pedal can be torn with the fingers of a child. Look deep into God’s design and see how He designs beauty into every detail. The shape of the pedal, scent, how God blended colors. Lift your eyes to the horizon during a sunset to see a combination of colors no artist can reproduce or camera capture. Blink at a sunset and the scene changes. Look along the horizon and see how one color blends with the next. See how God makes a feast of colors for our eyes with air we breath and clouds that bring rain. Everyday and moment is different. “Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!” (Job 37:14 NLTse).
One of the lessons this study has taught me is to be ready for the unexpected when listening to God’s Spirit who showed me something in Isaiah 40 I never saw until I looked at the parallel chapter the prophecy led me to. God is more than a designer of physical things. God is a designer of life itself. “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in all four gospels. It must be important. One book contains the parallel chapter while the others contain lessons to consider.
Mark 1:1-8 NLTse This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began (2) just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. (3) He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!'” (4) This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. (5) All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. (6) His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. (7) John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. (8) I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
We can see Isaiah 40 leads us directly to John the Baptist. John easily fits the mold of speaking comfortable to God’s people. Although John’s preaching was direct and to the point, it often cut at people the same way John said the ax is going to cut out the roots of the tree. John did tell the people their sins will be forgiven once they repent. Which explains the forth part of the introduction in Isaiah 40. “Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” The first punishment is the trials and lessons sin brings. The second is confession which may not be so easy for some people who have a difficult time dealing with God’s convicting Spirit.
Filling in valleys and leveling mountains and hills has a spiritual meaning explained by the Bible when we compare the prophecy to its fulfillment. Isaiah provided one of the key details. A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” Obstacles are created when people preach their own message. We see this lesson taught when we see contrasts between the philosophy, doctrines, and traditions of those religious leaders compared to the way Jesus taught and what He taught. One of the questions in this prophecy comes up in the next verse. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Notice the contrast in the message comparing people to God’s Word which stands forever. The question is, what people are represented by withering grass? It’s too easy to say the symbol applied to those Pharisees. It’s also too easy to say it applies to people who don’t believe like you. Neither one takes into account being punished twice for your sins.
Since withering grass is compared to God’s Word, would those people have God’s Word or a message of their own? Now we begin to see what valleys need to be filled, and which hills and mountains need to be leveled. Sure people may claim to have God’s Word, but think about it. They’re taking a little here and there to build up their own hills and mountains. God is saying He needs to level it all out so, “the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” Think of what’s presented here in physical terms. Material hills and mountains are being used to fill in the low spots. God is leveling the field so people can see the full view.
Someone takes a tiny portion of scripture which leaves people in a hole they can’t see out of. Then those people take that portion of scripture and build a whole new idea or concept out of it. They not only place people in a hole but build up hills and mountains making certain people can see only what they want them to see. Today we call this modern religion. Then one day when Jesus returns and He tells those people they never knew Him nor does He know them, they go to cry to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Revelation 6:16 NLTse). Revelation uses the word rocks. People need to realize there is a big difference between building on a Rock and using rocks to build a wall around you. Building on a Rock you can see around you. People piling rocks around you restricts your view. The only time in their lives they’ll see Jesus is when the look up to see Him coming in the clouds. That’s when they’ll try leveling out everything around them but it’ll be too late.
John didn’t want to attract people to himself. His role was to turn people to Jesus. There is a lot of speculation on Elijah’s power we’re supposed to see in the last days. “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLTse). But most of what you hear misses a major point in that prophecy. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLTse). To operate within Elijah’s power in the last day you’ll have to decrease while Jesus increases. Only Jesus knows what’s in people’s hearts and on their minds. Only God saw all their worries and trials long before they occurred. It has never been our role to solve problems and give advice unless we’re specifically directed by God.
After leaving Egypt God told Israel He wanted to make them a nation of priests. God wanted to work with every individual in Israel. God wanted to train those slaves from Egypt to be priests to the world. God needed each and every one of them. But they turned down God’s offer and told Moses to stand between them and God. How did that work out? How many people made it into the promised land? The Bible is filled with evidence those two people who made it to the promised land talked to God and God talked with them. So why in the world are preachers trying to copy a game plan from Israel that didn’t work?
“Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” That’s it. There’s the simple message. Tell the world God is coming. Now we’re waiting for Jesus to return. In Isaiah’s time the message pointed to Jesus’ birth. How much of the world got the message the first time? Not many. What went wrong? Did God make a mistake? Did God forget something??? The world got the message wrong because the world thought it was safe to leave communication with God in the hands of a few religious leaders. Once Jesus began preaching what did those religious leaders do? They planned to kill Jesus. What makes the world think they can follow a failed plan with different results? You can’t place a hedge of people around and expect them to see Jesus.
We know John’s role was to point people to Jesus. That’s what the prophecy pointed us to. Isaiah filled in a few details. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isn’t Jesus our shepherd as well as the Lamb of God? Now we get into my favorite part of Isaiah 40, God the Creator and designer. God held the oceans in His hand before placing them in this world. God placed them underground before sin called for a reconstruction of this world. Now comes the important part. Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?
People have been trying to physically redesign this world. They dig deep into the earth and move mountains looking for gold. They’ve been pumping high pressure water into the ground to push oil to the surface. Both those actions have been poisoning water supplies by causing more pollution than anything ever before. Some countries overlook human slavery to extract precious metals and gem stones from the earth. The world God measured in His hands. Other nations in this world support or cast a blind eye at human slavery to support their sex trade, not to mention body parts for medical use. Some people are forced to sell parts of their bodies to survive. Governments hold long meetings to create laws about human trafficking but do nothing to alleviate the real cause of suffering. Our modern day definition of a politician is a person who’ll spend billions of dollars on lies before they will help feed a single family. How are any of those world leaders going to give God advice on the design of His world and teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No one can. That would be insanity. We already have one contrast in the form of a renegade angel named Satan insisting a few changes will make this world a better place to live. Look around to see how Satan’s plans have worked to far. Now imagine where we would be if Satan was not restrained.
When we look at other gospels we see another side of God’s design which goes way beyond physical attributes. In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (John 1:1-16 NLTse).
Notice how John repeated word and light? John calls attention to a few details in the introduction of his book that link back to Isaiah 40. “They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” Once sin entered the scene, God’s physical design changed in this world. After God deals with sin He will change it back. It’s safe to assume God will handle that task Himself. The same is true with a spiritual rebirth. A human plan ain’t going to work. Along with a spiritual rebirth, John also tells us a little bit about another birth. John filled in a few details about Jesus’ birth, another aspect of God’s perfect design.
I can tell you a little about a successful design. It takes a great deal of planning. Don’t you think God gave His creation a great deal of planning before He spoke things into existence? John tells us, “God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” Don’t you think God and Jesus had long talks about how everything in this world is designed? John’s introduction brings out another facet of God’s design, the birth and ministry of His Son Jesus.
Take a moment to think about the planning and detail God went through to plan Jesus’ birth. The prophecy in Isaiah 40 is also found in Luke 3. Luke tells us some interesting details God had to plan.
Luke 3:1-6 NLTse It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. (2) Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. (3) Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. (4) Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him! (5) The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. (6) And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.'”
Luke provided us with the date showing God’s perfect timing while introducing a few of the characters. Then God placed Isaiah’s prophecy in this chapter to lead us to other details in His design of Jesus’ birth and ministry. Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli. (Luke 3:23 NLTse). Luke also shows us it took Jesus about thirty years to prepare for His ministry. How many people spend thirty years preparing for their ministries before they begin preaching? They may spend 4-6 years in school before getting a degree to teach. Quite a difference between God’s plan and this world’s idea of preparation. Luke goes back in time as he continues in his book.
David was the son of Jesse. Jesse was the son of Obed. Obed was the son of Boaz. Boaz was the son of Salmon. Salmon was the son of Nahshon. (Luke 3:32 NLTse). Here we’ll highlight a few points but imagine the stories awaiting us in Heaven when we get to meet all of Jesus’ relatives and hear their stories. Boaz has an interesting story. He married Ruth who had a history worth looking at. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband. (Ruth 1:4-5 NLTse). Jesus had a bit of Moab in Him. From some of the earlier studies in this book we’ve seen Moab was one of Lot’s sons who grew up with little or no spiritual guidance. So Moabites seemed to always be a bit of trouble for Israel even though they were distant relatives.
Judah was the son of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham. Abraham was the son of Terah. Terah was the son of Nahor. (Luke 3:34 NLTse). Abraham has another interesting history. God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live. (Acts 7:3-4 NLTse). It’s really interesting when you understand exactly where Abraham came from. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no food for the people of the land. And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldeans were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. (2 Kings 25:1-4 KJ2000). Abraham came from what was later known as Babylon. In other words, when Judah was sent to Babylon, they were sent back to where it all began. This is another part of Jesus’ ancestors we have to consider.
Luke went all the way back to Adam. Shelah was the son of Cainan. Cainan was the son of Arphaxad. Arphaxad was the son of Shem. Shem was the son of Noah. Noah was the son of Lamech. Lamech was the son of Methuselah. Methuselah was the son of Enoch. Enoch was the son of Jared. Jared was the son of Mahalalel. Mahalalel was the son of Kenan. Kenan was the son of Enosh. Enosh was the son of Seth. Seth was the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God. (Luke 3:36-38 NLTse). Luke wanted us to see how Jesus’ birth was planned since the beginning of this world.
What does that history have to do with the design of Jesus’ birth and ministry? These are all lessons pointing to God’s design. Jesus often ministered to Gentiles and pagans as well as Jews. Jesus made sure everyone understood His message, the Good News was for the world to hear. Every one of those details was important in God’s design. We see other details on God’s design when we look at the summations of the prophecy and compare it to the fulfillment.
Isaiah 40:21-31 NLTse Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? (22) God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. (23) He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. (24) They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. (25) “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. (26) Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. (27) O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? (28) Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. (29) He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. (30) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. (31) But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Are we beginning to understand God’s design? If not, these two chapters will help provide more details. Isaiah points us back to, “the words he gave before the world began.” Another reference to Luke’s account of Jesus’ genealogy. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. We can look at this in two ways. No one is like God the Creator and designer but when we look at Jesus’ birth line we see we have something in common with our Savior. We all physically came from Adam and all share spiritually with Abraham. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. Jesus shares a bloodline with some of those tribes we consider far from God and difficult to reach. Which shows how well God planned as well as how far the Good News is to spread. When we look at Mark 1 we see how Jesus followed God’s plan of salvation.
Mark 1:35-45 NLTse Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (36) Later Simon and the others went out to find him. (37) When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” (38) But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” (39) So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons. (40) A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” (42) Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. (43) Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: (44) “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (45) But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Isaiah repeated key words understanding and strength combining them with weak, powerless, tired, exhaustion, and faint. We often forget Jesus felt those emotions and physical burdens when He walked this world. Jesus grew tired as He worked endless hours healing, ministering, and teaching crowds that gathered around Him. Jesus worked three jobs for no worldly pay at all. I know what Jesus felt like having to work two major jobs from 8 AM to 10 PM for little or no pay while finding time to minister to people, read and study the Bible then finally sitting down to write. Jesus found His rest in prayer – communion with His Father. Have you had days like that? Nothing seemed to go right. Opposition lurked at every corner as it seemed some unseen force planned every little trial. Do you have days when you can’t wait to have a long talk with God asking Him why it all happened and waiting for His answer? Jesus faced opposition from religious leaders. People in His hometown doubted Him. The brothers Jesus grew up with wondered why He didn’t come to them for advice. There was the occasional confrontation with demons. At times groups of them. Day in and day out Jesus witnessed pain and suffering caused by Satan, his agents, and people claiming to follow God. Jesus heard all their excuses, “they’re different, they’re poor, they’re sick, she’s a widow, he’s and orphan, they’re suffering God’s curse, they don’t follow God in the right way like us.” Jesus suffered through an endless list of man made concepts, ideals, and beliefs. Like Isaiah, Jesus wandered through a battle field with enemies on all sides and every side taking full advantage of less fortunate people. How do you feel when you are passionate about a job while people all around you are flooding you with unnecessary paperwork, details, questions, procedures, requests, accusations, rumors, and threats? You can only account for feelings on such matters to the degree related to your income. Jesus had His life at stake as well as the future of this world.
As we can see, Jesus received instructions from His Father while in prayer. When His disciples found Him, Jesus told them what God told Him, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” God told Jesus what He had to do next and why He had to do it. Don’t you think God also told Jesus what to preach, who to talk to, how to reach them, and assured Him, God’s Spirit would be with Him to heal? I just took a break to check my Facebook account and saw a very common request. This was a request from a National Director from a major church asking for prayer. She didn’t know what to preach so asked people to pray for her. To most people this may seem normal because we often hear people making prayer requests like this. I work with a number of local pastors from all denominations. When I hear them preach, they never have notes. We talk about preparing sermons. A wise pastor once told me, “if an evangelist cannot see the what a church needs in ten minutes, they are on the wrong business.” A man of God is just that. He has to be led by God 24/7. I suddenly noticed a difference between some of the pastors on my Facebook account and those I work with in the area. Local pastors I know have full time jobs and minister full time. They don’t ask for prayer about what to say, they spend the entire week in communion with God and get the right message from God at the right time. I’ve been asked to speak at services a number of times. I don’t have time to prepare notes or a collection of scripture. Each and every time I found myself studying the same subject the preacher shared. All I could do is add to or confirm His testimony and maybe add a few details from other texts I studied during the week that came to mind at that moment. Preaching has to be a natural occurrence when it is from God’s Spirit. God confirms His messages. Jesus knew God’s messages and instructions were confirmed as He traveled about preaching. Jesus saw that confirmation on the expressions on peoples faces, when they asked questions God’s Spirit gave them. Jesus also saw confirmation by paying attention to reactions whenever He answered questions. Jesus promised to give this world God’s Spirit. Why not accept Jesus’ promises, if you have faith He can keep them.
I saw one major difference between local pastors working full time to support their families and ministries, and those pastors on Facebook drawing a salary, and calling ministry a job. Those Facebook pastors rely on others for financial support, so naturally rely on them for spiritual support. Strange as it may seem, that is the difference I see.
Working pastors share more faith and reliance on Jesus because they experience more of the trials and opposition Jesus lived through. Sure there are all kinds of degrees of faith, and we all have different strong as well as weak points. There is no hard and fast way to measure the faith of a man or woman. After all, each of us has the same access to God’s Spirit. It all depends on how hard and long we listen, how we listen, and how we cooperate with God’s Spirit. God doesn’t measure us by our education, or how much money we spent on that education, the name of the college, grades, or lack of any formal education in religion. Those can be tools to build on but none of them can ever be a substitute for a personal relationship with God’s Spirit.
Prayer is part of God’s design. We have to face facts. We can remember only so much for so long. Another point is, how can we recall what we haven’t learned? People say God works with people where they are and that’s true. But how much can God teach someone who acknowledges Him only an hour or two a week? We learn a lot from Jesus and the way He prayed. Jesus got away by Himself to pray. Jesus got away from distractions. That is the most difficult part for me when I pray and stop to listen to God’s voice. It can be a battle to keep distractions out. It’s best to pray and listen when there are no distractions. Waves of thoughts can enter your head. When that happens, I concentrate on what I’ve read or what I am studying in God’s Word that day. Then the still small voice can be heard when your mind settles in on one subject like Jesus’ ministry and how it relates to Isaiah 40. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Jesus needed a super human effort to accomplish what He came to do in three years. Look at Jesus’ answer to His disciples. “That is why I came.” God cheered Jesus on to keep Him going. Not a day or moment could be wasted. God went over details in scripture with Jesus. Details Jesus had to fulfill in a specific way at a specific time. Our lives are the same. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalms 139:16-17 NLTse). God knows your life as well as He knew Jesus’ life. God recorded your life like He recorded Jesus’ life in scripture. The only difference is, we don’t have the record of our life to read like Jesus did. Which is another reason we have to learn to listen.
One detail in Mark we should pay attention to is Jesus preaching in synagogues and casting out demons. The first demon Jesus cast out was in a synagogue. No one in the synagogue knew the man was possessed by a demon. It’s a little detail Jesus wants us to consider.
There is another detail to consider. People in Jerusalem didn’t listen to God. They also ignored God’s prophets. Without a spiritual connection with God and doubts about His prophets, Jerusalem was lost. They had no intentions of turning away from their own concepts on religion. The same was true in Jesus’ time. With no direct relationship with God’s Spirit, people couldn’t recognize a demon worshiping next to them. Other stories in the Bible tell us how people in synagogues rejected Jesus. They tried to throw Him over a cliff. They questioned Jesus’ ability to heal. They question His healing on the Sabbath. They also questioned His authority to forgive sins. All of those inside synagogues.
How much do people question Jesus in churches today? What do people do in churches? How do people choose a church? People develop their own ideas about religion then search for a church that agrees with their concept of God. It happens all the time. People want to surround themselves with people who think alike. Then they create rules in the church to keep out people who might make waves. They convince themselves their form of worship is advanced and the only correct way to worship. They build a hedge around themselves calling it a form of protection, blocking outside influences from the world. Convincing themselves all that is for their protection, they can’t see their rules, regulations, doctrines, and traditions block out God’s Spirit. They cannot see demons walking among them.
Jerusalem locked themselves inside city walls with people having the same interests which in their case was love of money and power. They had the belief the world outside could die and they would be the chosen race to repopulate the promised land. After all they were God’s chosen people – what could go wrong? Satan uses the same deception inside churches – while demons walk among them.
Isaiah told us that would happen. Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? Religious leaders have no problem telling God they have a better way to worship. Some want to wave their hands in the air while praising Jesus because He forgives everyone for everything all the time. Some people get into nothing but music. So they find a church concentrating on the same type of music they appreciate. Some hymns, others gospel, then there is what they call soft Christian rock and of course hard rock Christian music. Some people get into it so deep it becomes the center of religion while Jesus takes a backseat. Some people just like control so they find a church they can control which is usually a church made up of sheep that follow without question. Most Christians want to follow and it is not hard to find a church with a preacher who wants to make all the decisions. Too many churches want to be in control. They’ve forgotten what it means to let God’s Spirit led with Jesus as the head. Like the pastor asking for prayer on what to preach, they forgot how to listen to God’s Spirit. They forgot they have a direct path to God’s throne.
Pastors who like control are like Herod. They think they have control. They may receive a good income. But what happens when membership shrinks and funds dry up? They ask the church what to preach. That’s when pastors are controlled by members. Those pastors stagger like drunks tossed like a reed in the wind going in whatever direction their pointed to protect their income. Some are more like Herod. They like to show off their riches. But how rich are they spiritually? Did you notice how rich preachers showing off their wealth attract the same type of people? If you look at their hand chosen TV audience that’s the image they want to portray. In all likelihood those preachers prey on poor in the back ground. Who do you think their get rich sermons are really pointed to? Their TV programs are marketed using tinsel and glitter. Were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. (Matthew 11:8 NLTse).
Why did Jesus tell the leper not to tell about the miraculous healing performed? This is an important Bible Study lesson. God always provides the answer before raising a question. Looking back we see the obvious answer. But first we’ll look at the result. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. Crowds became so thick, Jesus was not able to work effectively. Now how can God’s Son be over worked and over extended? Shouldn’t God be able to control the situation? Sure, God could have done anything. In this case He is teaching a lesson. Our first lesson is learning how to look back for the answer. While Jesus was alone praying Simon and the others went out to find Jesus. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” What stopped the disciples from praying? Why couldn’t they hear the same message Jesus did? Obviously Jesus’ disciples weren’t ready for those large crowds. They were unprepared to assist Jesus. The disciples could have been a great aid to Jesus if they had learned to listen to God when they prayed. They exhibited the same form of prayer still popular in churches today. It’s seen in a lot of churches. Set aside a little time to pray thinking that’s what the church needs to do. What does that teach people about prayer? Popular prayers are far from teaching people the proper way to pray because prayer is 20% talking and 80% listening. Instead, churches teach people prayer is 100% talking and 0% listening. Does anyone have enough faith to pray in the proper way or do they practice the proper way to pray by waiting for God’s answer, share it with the church, and let people verify God’s answer? Do people have enough faith to pray that way in church or are they afraid God won’t answer? Some churches pray and share God’s message. Most other churches don’t have that ability or connection with God to pray in public and listen for His message. So those other churches point fingers at the few who do, and make up all kinds of stories and rumors to make it appear to be something totally different. I’ve heard people preach about other denominations like they are some kind of experts. Some times I ask the preacher if they were a member of the church they criticized. In almost every case the answer was, “no.” So much for being an expert.
Jesus needs people who know how to pray today as much as He needed them when He worked on His personal ministry here. Would you want other people who don’t know how to pray working on your personal ministry? Jesus worked long hard hours for no pay at all. Jesus was very serious about His job. Jesus received instructions directly from God. Jesus wanted His disciples to receive instructions in the same way. Jesus knew one day He was not going to be there to give them step by step instructions. Jesus was trying to teach His disciples how to communicate with God’s Spirit, but it takes much more than knowing it can be done. Communication with God takes time and effort. Fact of the matter is, those disciples not only disappointed Jesus but failed to reach out and spiritually support those people who went to see Jesus. Those people walked for hours and days to see Jesus while the disciples failed to spend proper time in prayer. How does all this apply to some churches today? People put a lot of time into work, getting ready for church, going to church, paying what they call tithe. Their money represents time, and what do preachers have to offer? Do preachers spend time praying? Are they getting their messages directly from God? If preachers today worked with Jesus, would He feel they were ready for the crowds Jesus faced? Would today’s preachers be prepared to assist Jesus?
Strange how someone can be a leper one day and one of the worlds greatest evangelists the next. The leper knew how to lead people to Jesus. The leper was no expert. Far from it. For years the leper was separated from society forced to associate with only people of his kind. Did the leper go tell only people he associated with? No! He went to everyone. The leper represented people who associate worship with only people of their own kind then finally see the light when they personally meet Jesus . The sad part is the leper was forced from society. Other people make their own life to resemble a disassociated leper by choice. Jesus physically healed that leper and also set him free from the restriction of associating only with people of his kind. That’s one of the lessons Jesus was trying to teach His disciples.
God the designer has patterns and formulas He wants us to follow. God not only wants us to learn those lessons, He needs us to follow those patterns. When the disciples didn’t follow God’s simple pattern of prayer, they couldn’t help Jesus when He needed them. God never changed His patterns no matter how hard men tried to come up with a better plan. God never needed anyone to tell Him what to do. God doesn’t need people constantly insisting they have a better or easier way. God just can’t work with people who insist on following their own rules to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. God’s seen more people try to help Him along with His plan of salvation than we can number. We have some examples. Some of the most prominent are Sarah’s plan to help God by giving her Egyptian slave to Abraham. There were a few more along Jesus’ family line. Then there was the early Christian church that traveled many roads God never wanted them to take. Some of the converted Jews wanted new Christians to be circumcised. Others wanted to bring in a few gods and idols to increase membership. Then of course the belief God had one choice race turned into one chosen church. The list goes on and on. The Old Testament shows us signs and explains a lot about Jesus’ ministry. The gospels recorded details of Jesus’ ministry. The New Testament explains some of those details showing Jesus’ ministry in action then copied by His disciples and other followers. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with examples showing what happens when people follow God’s pattern and what happens when they don’t.