Intro: Do thoughts of what might happen in the future concern you? Do you wonder where all the chaos we witness in our day will end? Are you uneasy because you fear you may outlive the funds you’ve set aside for retirement? Honestly, it is probably true that almost everyone sometimes feels an uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring. If so, then the text we have before us is for you! Isaiah was writing to a generation of people deeply preoccupied with what tomorrow would bring. The storm clouds seemed to be gathering over Israel. So much had already occurred; according to the prophets so much had yet to occur; the believing remnant in Judea trembled with fear. Into this uncertainty, God through Isaiah spoke a reassuring word to His people. Chapter 34 revealed to them that God would judge the nations and after that in Chapter 35 He assured them that He would open a Royal Road to Heaven for them. Though they could not understand with clarity the truths concerning Messiah’s two advents, in the three verses we have before us tonight, God let them in on the ultimate outcome: “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.” When Jesus comes again a Royal Road to Heaven will be finally opened for all who trust Him. Who will walk on that road? How will they walk on it? Where does it lead? Let’s learn together what God has in store for all who trust in Christ the Savior.
Proposition: Everlasting joy awaits all who take the Royal Road to Heaven.
(v.8) The Royal Road: A Way of Holiness – In His first advent, Jesus prepared for us a Royal Road to Heaven. It is a Royal Road because it was built entirely at the expense of our King. His finished work on Calvary completed all that is necessary to take anyone who trusts in Him all the way home to heaven and even as we speak numberless pilgrims are traveling on that road toward their promised destination. The name of this road is called, “The Way of Holiness.” Why is it called that? It is called that because:
[DOCTRINAL POINT] This highway is only for those who have been made holy.
[ILLUSTRATION] Those of us of the male persuasion are often challenged when it comes to taking advice. We wander around in circles because we’re too proud to ask for directions. We wonder what to do with the leftover parts after putting together the swing set without consulting the instructions. We “bow up” for days after discovering that our significant other’s advice on how to put up that Christmas tree probably would have kept it from falling over in the middle of the night, if we had followed it. Challenged, we are! Getting us to take advice is a “tough sell.” In just that same way…
[APPLICATION] Holiness is increasingly a “tough sell” to many Christians in our generation. The idea seems old fashioned and outdated. There are not a few people who call themselves Christian but seem unembarrassed to walk openly in ways that only a few years ago would have been hidden from sight in shame. I recall receiving a phone call many years ago now, from a single mom who wanted me to talk to her teen-aged daughter about her failure to clean up her room while mom went away for a weekend with her boyfriend. I didn’t seem to occur to mom that cohabiting without benefit of marriage wasn’t the kind of thing believers do! A few years later I talked to her daughter who was surprised to learn that as Christians sleeping with your boyfriend wasn’t appropriate behavior. Wonder where she got that idea? The idea that Christians live in ways that set us apart for God’s glory seems strange to many modern ears. This is nothing other than a failure of the gospel in our time. It isn’t that the gospel isn’t the same as always – it’s that some people who call themselves Christian haven’t actually understood and received the truth of the gospel. To walk in the Way of Holiness we must be cleansed from sin. We must demonstrate the life change that inevitably accompanies that cleansing. We must be open to receive the wisdom of God in place of our native foolishness. The Bible has not changed; its message is very clear: “Without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).” Holiness is a free gift completely accomplished by Jesus in His first advent, but you must have it to walk on the Royal Road to Heaven when Jesus comes again.
(v.9) The Royal Road: Restricted to the Redeemed - Nothing vile or dangerous can walk on this road. Its use is restricted to the redeemed – to those bought back by Christ’s precious blood. When we are bought back our enemies can no longer harm us. They may roar like lions, but they can’t ultimately touch us. They may raven like wild beasts, but we are permanently beyond their reach. The redeemed “in Christ” are kept by Christ. Jesus Himself spoke of this in John 10:27–29 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” What greater promise of security could we wish for than this? If Jesus is for us, and God the Father is for us, what enemy could possibly tear us away from God?
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Those redeemed by the blood of the lamb are secure on the Royal Road to Heaven.
[ILLUSTRATION] The story is told of Groucho Marx, who was Jewish and married to a Gentile lady, being invited by a friend to bring his family to an anti-Semitic country club. When they arrived Groucho was told that since they were Jewish his daughter would not be allowed to go into the pool. Groucho pointed out that since his daughter was only half Jewish she should at least be allowed to go in up to her knees. What Groucho and his family needed that day was more than a quick wit. They needed someone strong enough and with authority enough to overrule their anti-Semitic enemies.
[APPLICATION] Those who have received the free gift of Holiness because of Christ’s finished work on Calvary have someone strong enough and with authority enough to keep them secure on the Royal Road to Heaven. When we have been redeemed by God’s grace through faith, nothing vile or dangerous can keep us from arriving safely home. Some struggle to understand this. Why? We know we are not perfect. How then we wonder, could God accept us? The answer is that He can accept us in our imperfection because we have been redeemed by His perfect Son, Jesus. All our sins and weaknesses have been imputed to Him; all His holiness and strength has been accounted to us. We are imperfect, but we have been bought back by God perfect Son, Jesus. This is grace. Having truly entered into grace through faith we travel the Royal Road securely, convinced that Jesus spoke the truth in John 6:39–40 when He said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Our security on the Road does not depend on our perfection, but on Christ’s!
(v.10) The Royal Road: Ends in Triumph - The ransomed will follow the Royal Road into Zion, the final dwelling place of God and Man. We will enter it with singing – happy hearts. Everlasting joy will capture our minds. Gladness and joy will become our everlasting possession. Sorrow and sighing will be forever banished. This is what we are made for! C. S. Lewis noted that, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” All of God’s work in Creation, Redemption and Restoration aims at this one end: gathering an uncountable number of men and women into His presence so that we can glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. That’s all He is after. And it’s all because in His first advent, Jesus prepared the Royal Road to Heaven for you and me to walk on.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] As the ransomed of God, we are heading to triumph.
[ILLUSTRATION] “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” was a song often sung by marchers during the days of the Civil Rights Movement. Based on an older gospel song about Paul and Silas singing in the Philippian jail, the song urged the marchers to focus their attention not on the dangers and afflictions surrounding them on their march, but rather on the triumph that would be theirs when their struggle was successful. I think our friend Isaiah would have liked that song a lot! Surely “keep your eyes on the prize” is what he was telling his people, and surely it is what Jesus is saying to us today.
[APPLICATION] The Royal Road ends in triumph. We need to remind ourselves often of this certainty. It is too easy for us to become discouraged when we lose sight of our final destination. The glories of the new heaven and the new earth should be often set before the eyes of God’s struggling pilgrims. We are given these things for our encouragement. In that day, we will sing with happy hearts. In that day we will know everlasting joy. In that day our possessions will be gladness and joy. In that day sorrow and sighing will be forever banned. We have a glorious future on the Royal Road. Are you looking forward to your arrival?
“The future is your friend when Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior,” said Warren Wiersbe. All who are walking the Royal Road can say, “Amen!” Oh, yes!
Bible Reference: John 21:4–6
Translation: Good News Translation (GNT)
Bible Text: As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then he asked them, “Young men, haven’t you caught anything?” “Not a thing,” they answered. He said to them, “Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some.” So they threw the net out and could not pull it back in, because they had caught so many fish.
OBSERVATION: When you are secure in your job and have been doing it for a while, it becomes challenging to accept advice from someone else. So could this be some of the same challenges that we face when we are confident in what we feel needs to be done, and someone suggests that we seek God for His direction? Granted, that challenge becomes much more palatable when we have done all that we could, and we are left with, what seems to be, no other options available to us, other than seeking what God may direct us towards. As we meditate on this today, let us place ourselves in the disciples dilemma and honestly consider how obedient we would be.
APPLICATION: Three of Jesus’ disciples, who really struggled with believing and obedience, are now faced with a decision that many of us could very easily face each day. Having fished all night and caught nothing, they were ready to pack up their nets and call it a night. But from the shoreline a man questions them, and begins to tell them what to do. Now I’m sure that many of you have encountered professionals before, and you know what to expect from them. Often men who know what they are doing, yet they are going through times of unsuccessful results, will snap at anyone questioning, or especially telling, them how to do their job. Yet these fishermen faced this exact dilemma. Exhausted, and tired from a long night, they approached the shoreline a man begins to hand out instructions to them. Perhaps they felt like one more attempt could have no worse results than the entire night of fishing did, so the disciples decided to give it a try. Could it have been a God inspired moment? Because through obedience to the Master of the sea and of the fish, the disciples obeyed and saw marvelous results. Interesting that at this point they then realized that it had to have been Jesus on the shoreline instructing them! Could it be that often when we feel like our Christian ministry seems to have plateaued and/or become stagnant, that it might be because we have not yet invited the Master in? We are reminded here in this Scripture that just a word is enough from Him! Reminded that our obedience to His instructions could make a world of difference. Let’s invite Him in friend, and ask for His involvement and direction. Doing this right from the very beginning will achieve God-like results that will make a difference to the kingdom, because He would be in charge. Remember, our ministry is all about Him anyway, and when we include Him perhaps we would not be so centered on our personal agendas. Oh that we may let go and let God have His perfect will in our hearts and lives – for His glory!
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your grace! Thank You for Your saving power that reached into a selfish and sinful heart and showed me a better way. As my readers and I come to Your throne today, it is because we acknowledge that we cannot handle this complex, challenging, sin-controlled world that is determined to destroy Your work through us. Of ourselves, we are like the disciples who toiled all night and caught nothing. Praise God, we know the Master! We know the maker of the sea and all that is in it. We know that control of the sea and all its inhabitance is still controlled by You. The same is true with the wonderful world that You created, but which Satan has marred with his deception, lies and sinful acts. Please fill our cups Lord, and make us whole, bold and useful for Your kingdom’s sake as we walk through this dark world. May our words and deeds be used by You to impact all those we will come into contact with today, so that Your kingdom may be enriched as a result of us having been allowed to live here. AMEN!
Bible Reference: John 20:21-23
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 21 Jesus repeated his greeting, “Peace to you!” And he told them, “Just as the Father has sent me, I’m now sending you.” 22 Then, taking a deep breath, he blew[l] on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.[m] 23 I send you to preach the forgiveness[n] of sins—and people’s sins will be forgiven. But if you don’t proclaim the forgiveness of their sins, they will remain guilty.”[o]
OBSERVATION: Multiple times we see where Jesus emphasized to His disciples what their ongoing mission would be, but in our Scripture today we see where Jesus wanted them, and us, to know that our mission would be the same as His was. So one might ask: ’Well, would you kindly encapsulate that for me?’ As we meditate on these verses today, let us consider what our mission here on earth might be.
APPLICATION: I am often recognized as a son of my earthly father, because of the things that I do, or the corny jokes that I tell, or just the things that I say in general. Jesus reminds us in today’s Scripture that just as He was sent by His father, spoke only those things ordered by His Father and did only those things directed by His Father, His followers should also follow His (Jesus’) pattern in life while He was here on earth with us. I believe that establishes our direction, or mission for life, so let us seriously look into what this might be. I believe that it is important to notice right at the very beginning that the New Testament is filled with the words, actions and directions of our Savior, and the Old Testament is filled with prophecies of what would be expected of us. So the best way for us to learn, or be reminded of certain actions of our Lord, is to deliberately spend intimate, quiet, God-directed time seeking the will and direction of God each day, by studying His Word. I know, you really don’t have time to sit and read large chunks of the Bible every day – right? I understand dear friend, but please allow me to suggest to you that when you get in conversation with God again, consider replacing the words ‘I didn’t have time’ with something like this: ‘Dear God, please listen to your son/daughter who didn’t make it a priority to seek Your direction from Your Word today…..’ I bet by now you are ready to close this devotional because you feel like I am trying to lead you on a guilt trip, but friend of God, may I suggest that the ‘lack of priority’ words I used, really explains why there was not time to study God’s Word and seek His direction for your life that day? For we found it a priority to: Spend extra time in preparing ourselves for work; Spend time watching the morning news so we could be on top of our game while speaking with business leaders each day; And spend time at the local coffee bar to be encouraged by true leaders that meet there each morning. However, it was not a priority to seek the will of the Creator of this world, the One who ordains everything that will occur today, the One who could guide us to success here on earth AND to our heavenly kingdom that He has especially prepared for those who know Him. Many years ago I was prompted to accept the love and direction of my Savior. In a very deliberate act of maturity in my relationship with Jesus, I was prompted, and I followed in obedience, to make it a priority to spend time in God’s Word each day. To do this, and still leave home in time for work, I had to get up earlier. In being led to also make Nuggets From God’s Word available to the world, I deliberately awoke 2 hours earlier so that my commitment would be a priority. This information was not intended to brag to you dear friend, but instead to help you see how you might make time alone with God a priority in your busy life’s schedule. If it’s important to you, I believe that you will make it a priority. Reading God’s Word each day will lead you to pattern your life after His Son that was sent for this purpose. In our verses today, Jesus told us that He did what His Father told Him to do. As you learn from God’s Word what you should be doing each day, you will one day say like Paul: ‘follow me as I follow Christ’! Please consider making this a priority in your life precious child of God!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, You have shown us in Your Word that there was nothing more important than you giving up Your life in order that we might have life eternally in heaven one day with You and Your Father. You have also taught us many things that should be a priority in our lives so that we might pattern our after Yours. As You observe our lack of priority to spend time alone with You, but yet a glimpse of our desire to reflect You in all aspects of our life, please open our hearts to be willing to make the main Thing the main thing. In every walk of life here on earth, our lives are pulled towards every lust and material obsession that our neighbor or coworker might desire or boast of. Please help us to be leaders, by making You a priority in our life – something that will draw others towards a similar commitment and a firm desire to be a child of the King in every aspect of life. YOU are our King! May it be evident in the choices we make and the way we spend our time. AMEN!
Bible Reference: 1 Kings 15:1-5
Translation: New Century Version (NCV)
Bible Text: Abijam became king of Judah during the eighteenth year Jeroboam son of Nebat was king of Israel. 2 Abijam ruled in Jerusalem for three years. His mother was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. 3 He did all the same sins his father before him had done. Abijam was not faithful to the Lord his God as David, his great-grandfather, had been. 4 Because the Lord loved David, the Lord gave him a kingdom in Jerusalem and allowed him to have a son to be king after him. The Lord also kept Jerusalem safe. 5 David always did what the Lord said was right and obeyed his commands all his life, except the one time when David sinned against Uriah the Hittite.
OBSERVATION: Some of us may stand proud before God and brag about our faithfulness, while others will stand at a distance with heads lowered in shame because of our lack of commitment and faithfulness to our God. Our Scripture today tells of God’s faithfulness to David and his ancestors that followed, because of David’s commitment and loyalty to His God. Let us reflect on what we anticipate hearing from God, because of our own faithfulness, or lack thereof.
APPLICATION: Isn’t it interesting to consider the excuses that we make for missing the mark that we know God has established for us? It might be in the words we speak, where we quickly adapt to the ways and wishes of the crowd, but find it so impossible to try and speak words of Truth taught to us in the Word of God? I will be the first to tell you that I am not good in remembering Bible verses. However. In my grandmother’s last years of life here on earth when her sight diminished, she completed her daily devotional time with God by sharing back with Him, Bible verses that she had memorized over her lifetime. So can we memorize God’s Word? Of course we can! Consider also the things that we memorize from the world. How many jokes can you sit and tell at once time? How many stories from you childhood can you still share with friends? How often do you sit and share what you heard from friends (gossip)! So is it a matter of remembering God’s Word, or is it due to the lack of time that we spend in the Word, compared to the time spent around the television or with the unsaved? And what about our actions? When last have you stood firm for what you learned from God, while you attended a party or a work social? Do friends recognize whose you are, based on your actions inside the four walls of your church AND at all events they might find you at? Remember, just as God knew David’s heart and that David was diligent to obey all of God’s commands in every circumstance of life, except in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah, He also know our every move and the vain words that we frequently utter. David earned the title given by God as ‘a man after God’s own heart’, is that one of the titles God might give to you dear friend? A true reality check is that only God truly knows you (your heart). For you can fool those around you, seeing that they only see your ‘public’ life, but God sees you without any filters being applied. Oh that our God may be able to bless others because of our faithfulness; because of our telling the truth; because of our love for others; because we gave honestly of our income to God and His work; because our actions towards others are a result of all that God blessed us with and not because of selfish reasons or in an effort to attain recognition. God loved us because of who He is. Oh that we may do the same, love others because of who God is! Lay your cares before God today dear friend, and allow Him to have His way in and through you, so that You may serve Him with every good intention that He has in mind for you.
PRAYER: Precious Lord, please help us to do your will and be obedient to Your every command. You laid out a perfect plan for us to follow so that we could look like You, talk like You, love like You and give freely of the gifts that You bless us with so bountifully. May the Words of our mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight and be a pleasing aroma in Your nostrils precious Lord, so that You may be glorified in all the earth. May others see Jesus today, and not us in all of our weakness and selfish desires. AMEN!
Intro: Do you ever get sick of who you are? Do you ever wish that you could be changed into someone else? Someone with whiter teeth? Someone with more hair? Someone with less girth? More seriously, someone with a cleaner conscience? Someone with a brighter past? Is there anyone who lives without regrets? If you, like me, are one of those people, listen up! God has a glorious solution for our problem and the two advents of Jesus hold the key.
Proposition: Christ’s First Advent dealt with sin; Christ’s Second Advent will establish righteousness.
(v.1-3a) Christ’s First Advent – Jesus’ first advent is here described in a particular and peculiar way.
For these reasons Jesus was perfectly suited to fulfill His ministry in His first advent. What was that ministry and how did it differ from His ministry in His Second Advent? Hebrews 9:28 tells us: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Jesus’ First Advent dealt with sin; Jesus’ Second Advent will deal with righteousness.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Jesus’ First Advent prepared the way for His Second Advent by settling the issue of our sins.
[ILLUSTRATION] A number of years ago I needed surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in my finger. The whole thing would be handled as an outpatient procedure, but before the surgery could be done I had to go the hospital so that Brooke Moran could clear me for surgery. Before you can have surgery as an outpatient, you have to have a number of issues resolved to the doctor’s satisfaction. Brook had to run tests to check my heart; my blood chemistry; my general physical condition. I think she had to talk to me to see if I was in my right mind as well! Unless these issues are resolved, the surgeon won’t touch you. In just this same way, God wanted to resolve the problem of unrighteousness and fallen-ness in man and the world He made for man, but He couldn’t touch it until the problem of sin had been resolved.
[APPLICATION] In Jesus First Advent the issue of sin has been finally and forever dealt with. God now has the freedom to restore righteousness in man and the creation. He has begun the process that will finally and forever establish righteousness in His creation. Whenever anyone puts their faith in Jesus, God declares that one to be perfectly righteous with the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, His Son. All of creation now awaits the final salvation of the last soul redeemed by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on Calvary. Who will it be? When will it happen that the last one will be gathered in and the next movement of God’s plan will begin? We are not told. But this we know with certainty: as long as it is still “today” the opportunity for salvation is offered to anyone willing to receive it. Are you ready? Have you put your faith in the Lamb? What about your friends and loved ones? Are they ready for Christ’s next appearing? Maybe you’ve put your faith in Christ but have things in your life you wouldn’t want to confess if Jesus came tonight? We simply do not know when He might appear. But we do know that when He appears at His Second Advent He will appear to establish righteousness once and for all.
(vv.3b-10) Christ’s Second Advent – Isn’t it interesting how the things we are told about the Second Advent begin right in the middle of verse three without warning! This is exactly what Jesus patterned in the synagogue in Nazareth when reading from the prophecy about Him in Isaiah (cf. Luke 4:18-19 with Isaiah 61:1-2). Notice how He stopped His reading just at the point of judgment, for judgment will come at His Second Advent. What are the characteristics of His Second Advent?
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Jesus’ Second Advent will finish God’s plan to “save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
[ILLUSTRATION] Everyone loves good news! Do you remember the pictures of VJ day at the end of the Second World War? Remember Alfred Eisenstaedt famous photo of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square? The story goes that the sailor had been running down the street kissing every woman he met. As I recall Eisenstaedt chased the guy down the street to be in the right place at the right time to snap the shot of this fellow laying a sloppy one on some nurse who just happened to be passing by. Why wasn’t this man arrested? Who should be able to do that and get away with it? Far from being arrested, they made a postage stamp out of that photo! Why? Because it was a picture of joy, sheer joy that the horror was over and that the rest of our lives had begun. When Jesus comes again at His Second Advent, the horror will finally be over and the rest of our lives will begin.
[APPLICATION] Who needs to hear this? I think all of us who are getting tired of life on planet earth need to hear it! Sin has terribly damaged a world that ought to be lovely with the loveliness of God. Lives are damaged every day; families are broken; tragedies occur because sin has spoiled our world. We need to remind ourselves often that this condition will not last stand. In His First Advent Jesus prepared all that was necessary for His Second Advent to accomplish its mission. One day our world will be put right again. Encourage yourself with this truth! When everything seems darkest; when it appear that the sky is certainly falling; when it looks for all the world as if death and sin and Satan will have the last word, don’t forget! Jesus is coming again! When He comes He’s going to put everything right.
 Oswalt in “The NIV Application Commentary – Isaiah.”