Personal Worship Guide – When God’s Word Pours Down Like Rain
God’s Word is like the rain. It fulfills God’s purpose of causing life to flourish. It comes from beyond us. We can’t control it. We only receive it… much like this invitation to feast at God’s banquet of grace.
Isaiah 55:1-13 reminds us that God’s Word inevitably succeeds… in what it offers, in what it requires, and in what it promises. It offers us a lavish banquet of grace (vv.1-5). It calls us to a lifestyle of repentance and faith (vv.6-7). It promises us life-giving renewal and transformation. Our salvation includes within its scope the whole created order. God promises to renew everything.
Here’s a personal/family worship guide for your use to internalize more of the above. You may only use the Scripture memory verse or one of the quotes or a song or the catechism question. But, let me urge to be intentional about your own personal worship of the Lord.
In my studies this past week I came across a helpful insight from a commentary written by John Oswalt that covers Isaiah chapters 40-66. The focused Scripture of his comment is Isaiah 66:5 which says:
“Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy;’ but it is they who shall be put to shame.”
Oswalt reminds us that becoming a worshiper of the true God does have a cost. He writes:
To be wholly given over to God, to make his ways the very focus of one’s life, is to become an embarrassment to those who will not choose that way. It is to become fanatical, unbalanced, afflicted with tunnel vision, and a host of other epithets. It is to be shut out of the centers of power. It is to take the way of the cross… In many ways, this pain is the more intense because it is supposed “brother and sisters” who inflict it… those with whom we share a similar tradition and outlook.
Remember Jesus came to his own and they did not receive him (John 1:11).
In the Fellowship of the Ring, the ominous Nazgul ride into the peaceful Shire on huge black horses pursuing Frodo and the other hobbits looking for the ring of power. This graphic scene portrays what oftentimes happens in our lives: All is peaceful, happy, and simple. Then the black horse of affliction rides into our lives.
Charles Spurgeon writes: Be thankful for the providence which has made you poor, or sick, or sad; for by all this Jesus works the life of your spirit and turns you to Himself. The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction. Jesus uses the whole range of our experience to wean us from earth and woo us to Heaven. Christ is exalted to the throne of Heaven and earth in order that, by all the processes of His providence, He may subdue hard hearts to the gracious softening of repentance.
Let us praise our Lord that He is a God who extracts such mercies out of miseries!’ (from John Flavel) and He will do the same with us.
When we forget this about our Lord, we question, rail against, and complain to the Lord in times of trouble and travail. Why us? Why not us? Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that there is a message from God in every sorrow that befalls us. There are no lessons so powerful as those learned in the school of affliction. “No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous–nevertheless afterward it yields peaceable fruit.” (Heb. 12:11.) The resurrection morning will prove that many of the losses of God’s people were in reality eternal gains.
Young people, how easy it is to consider a long life as an inalienable right and guaranteed certainty! You never know what a day may bring forth. The strongest and fairest are cut down and carried away in a few hours. Six University of Alabama students died in the deadly tornado of April 27th. Are you personally prepared to meet God? Are you putting off doing business with Christ? Are you living like you are ready to depart at any moment?
Why is it that I can confidently assure you that the Lord’s mercy will arrive in your time of affliction? Jesus was afflicted to end all affliction. Jesus died so that death would die. The prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”
If you are a church-goer, for much of your life you have come to church and been slain with guilt. Churches can so quickly become sepulchers of shame, blame-shifting, and hostility rather than sanctuaries of grace.
The Catholic apologist and contemporary of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers’ writes about the oft-embraced view that the church has of God:
“He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment; He is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by mean of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He like to be truckled to (submitted to slavishly) and is always ready to pounce on anybody who trips up, or who is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary” (Creed or Chaos, p.21).
Contrary to this oft-embraced view of God, the prophet Isaiah offers us this simple, beautiful picture of how our God views us and his relationship with us.
Isaiah 62:5 — As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.