Bondage to Blessing

Pastor Terry Inman

2-19-12

 

BONDAGE TO BLESSING, ISAIAH 40

Last week I began with a confession. I have clearly communicated our mission, (our purposes) but I haven’t done as well with vision. The bible says, Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. Prov. 29.18 (NIV)

Today we are going to take a journey from Bondage to Blessing. The prophet Isaiah was laying out a comforting vision of Israel’s freedom from Babylonian captivity. The centerpiece of this chapter is a verse that has captured my attention sense the beginning of the year.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) I believe this is a vision statement for this year.

Now before we take a closer look at this whole chapter. I want to elaborate on some translations of this familiar proverb on vision. Why do we need spiritual vision, where do we get it and what happens if we don’t.

Without prophetic vision people run wild,but blessed are those who follow God’s teachings.  Prov. 29.18 (GWORD)

“Running wild” is a vision but not a good one. Too many Christians are out of control and doing their own thing. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. Prov. 12.15 (NKJV)

If people can’t see what God is doing they stumble all over themselves but; but when they attend to what to what he reveals, they are most blessed. (The Message) With out vision we are feeling our way in the dark. Jesus said, “if the blind lead the blind they will both fall in the ditch.

Now here’s one that will get your attention…Without vision people are naked, but keeping the law, is his happiness!  (Young's Literal Translation) 

Now that’s an image we probably don’t want to think about. In the book of Revelation the affluent but lukewarm church of Laodicea had lost vision and was aimlessly running half naked. God wanted to spit them out. It is a prophetic snapshot of western Christianity today. Here’s the message…

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Rev. 3.17 (NIV)

God told them to buy real gold, and healing oil for their eyes so they could see. He portrays himself outside the church knocking on the door wanting to come in and have fellowship. Rev. 3.14-22 (NIV)

It’s like the fable of The Kings New Clothes. His tailor convinced him he was strutting down the street pompous and pretty in regal robes but the poor peasants all saw him foolishly naked.

Last week I talked about Saul. He thought he had his mission down pat. Get rid of this weird Jesus cult for God’s sake! In route to another roundup he was exposed by a heavenly vision brighter than the sun. Jesus turned him around. His identity was changed. Paul the Apostle was given a new vision. That “light” guided the rest of his life!

Vision is a spiritual exposure to the future. It creates expectation and alignment. When we line up with God’s vision we are blessed. That’s a biblical term for success or favor! So how and where do we get vision?

Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. Prov. 29.18 (NIV)

What is the law? It is the revealed word of God. David said, “Yourword is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Psa. 119.105 (NIV) The best way to get a spiritual vision for you life is to get into His word.

Several times in my life God has given me a word. That guided my life. Near the end of my first year at Bethany University I was struggling with why I was there. I was falling in love with a beautiful young woman named Mary but feeling way to young to make any lifetime commitments.

At 2 am one morning I couldn’t sleep. I got in my Volkswagen, drove into the redwoods above Scotts Valley, parked and prayed for some answers. The moon roof was lighting up the bible laying open in my lap.

My tears were falling on a prophetic scripture in Psalm 45.7 “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

God was giving me a life scripture and a shepherd’s calling. The same chapter also talks about marrying into royalty. Mary and I were at Saddleback Church in Southern California a few months ago. We met Pastor Rick Warren. He looked at Mary and said, Terry you married up!

 

I gained a little more understanding about my life verse from Isa 61. You have heard me reference it many times. I have preached it all over the world. I have seen it confirmed in so many lives. It’s the ministry of Jesus.

 1      The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,

                  Because the LORD has anointed Me

                  To preach good tidings to the poor;

                  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

                  To proclaim liberty to the captives,

                  And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2               To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,

                  And the day of vengeance of our God;

                  To comfort all who mourn,

3               To console those who mourn in Zion,

                  To give them beauty for ashes,

                  The oil of joy for mourning,

                  The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

                  That they may be called trees of righteousness,

                  The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Is. 61.1-3 NIV

Over the years God has sharpened my vision with more clarity and definition. In 1989 in Vallejo I was fasting praying for a fresh vision for the new year. I asked what we should be doing. I was led to Matthew 25.

He told me “do what you are going to be judged for”. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matt. 35-36 (NIV)

That passage has defined what I do, where I go and how I allocate my time and recourses. It’s a passion with me!

In 1990 we went to North Hollywood on a short-term assignment to help revitalize a declining and aging congregation. Again God spoke to me though his word. I was impressed by with Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. Experts told me the church was dying but God was saying, “these bones will live”.

They rattled and rolled. They came back together. They recovered, and came back to life “like a mighty Army”! (gifted force) I believe God was giving me a vision of a refreshing revival that was coming to His church.   

When the renewal impacted this church early in 2000. There was a lot of rattling, rolling and falling. I ask the Lord what was going on. He led me to the book of Acts. A disabled beggar was healed. He was dancing and shouting at the gate. Peter preached the gospel to the amazed crowds.

He said, Repent, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3.19 (NIV)

Refreshing is a word for recovery of breath or revival! Spiritual vision generates and sustains revival! The ancient Greeks used the word as a medical term to describe exposing a wound to fresh air! The last few years God has birthed many restoration ministries in our congregation.

That brings me back to this years verse. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11(NIV)

Isaiah 40 is one of the life messages God has allowed me to share around the world. I shared it with Jim Bakker when he was in prison. God told me to comfort him and tell him that his imprisonment was coming to an end. Two weeks later he was released! He wrote about it in his book.

I was reading this passage in Isa 40 at a small bible school in Budapest Hungry soon after communism fell and they had their first taste of freedom. Students began falling out of their desks in tears.

I shared this word with a large crowd massed in the dirt in Serra Leone Africa. They were recovering form ten years of horrible atrocities committed by the resistance army. I told them their oppression was ending and God was going to vindicate them and give them righteous leaders. Just a few years later a Christian was elected President. The warlords have been arrested and are standing trial in the world court.

This passage begins with comfort for God’s people who were living under Babylonian domination. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”    Is. 40.1-2 (NIV)

Two generations had been sentenced with hard labor under their Babylonian taskmasters. There was no hope for their future! But God was preparing a freedom march though the desert to their promised destiny.

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Vs. 3-5 (NIV)

Vision creates a pathway out of bondage. We move from failure and futility to blessing and favor!  No more meandering though life with out purpose or direction. The crooked places in our character and brokenness in our relationships get straightened out. Obstacles (mountains) are removed and missed opportunities (valleys) are raised and reclaimed. 

Then the prophet is told to cry out about the real condition of humanity.  “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.” (vs.6-7) 

We may be fragile,vulnerable and temporal; we may fail but God’s word (His vision) will always come to pass. “Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (v.8) That’s why we need a spiritual vision to stay alive and productive.

Next the Lord tells the messengers to break out the good news of God’s intervention and justice. “You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” (vs. 9-10)

This has prophetic overtones. It is a vision of the arrival of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ!  The next verse is the centerpiece of the vision. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

We are all on a journey from captivity to freedom, from bondage to blessing, from futility to favor! He comforts us, he speaks tenderly to us, he gathers us, he embraces us, he heals us, he feeds us, and he leads us!  

Our first purpose is to Rescue the missing and gently guide them to safety in Christ. Last week I talked about lambing season in Montana. The lambs have to be kept close to the mothers or they will die.

If they get separated for any length of time the mothers won’t bond with them and they are rejected. In Montana they spray paint identifying numbers on the lambs and the mothers to keep them together.

Jesus holds lambs and gently leads those with young! For the rest of the chapter Isaiah contrasts the awesome power and faithfulness of God with the weakness and fragility of man. Israel had been complaining that God had forgotten them.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  (v.28-29) 

The vision ends with this promise. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:30-31(NIV)

Soaring is supernatural. Running is challenging but walking is what we do everyday. A spiritual vision invigorates and re-energizes us to reach destiny. It paces us. It motivates us. It sustains us and it refreshes us!   

I got an email last week from my friend Tom Mc Coy. He said, Pastor I just finished listening to your messages on the four purposes. There seems to be a very fresh fire powering your sermons. But you need a fifth “R”. Refresh.

Once “released”, down the line we sometimes forget to rely only on the Lord, and default to relying on ourselves and then we run out of gas. We think that the Lord cares about our effort and deeds, when in truth He cares more about our relationship with Him.  

Even the most mature and steady require spiritual tune-ups. As we grow in Christ he also gives us power-ups as our territory expands and Satan tries to back us off.

The email was signed, Tom (from the Holy Spirit garage and refreshment center). Well, we may not create a fifth “R” but without a fresh vision we are running wild. We are blind and bare without His covering. But where there is spiritual vision there is awesome blessing!