Category Archives: Isaiah 1-10

Isaiah 10:18-34

Scripture: verse 25

For in but a little while, My fury will end;
and My anger will have destroyed them.”

Observation:  Israel was being Israel, so God manipulated the Assyrians into attacking Israel as a form of discipline.  But Assyria, being Assyria, figured they were in charge and they could annihilate Israel if they wanted.  God is telling Israel not to be afraid of Assyria, because He wouldn’t be angry for long now that Israel is relying on Him again, and His anger would destroy Assyria before it ended.

This isn’t really in line with my understanding of how things should work, I admit.  I’m not particularly bothered about all the people who died in the process – God and I have already been through that and I think I kinda get how it works – but this seems like a really weird way of handling anger.

After all, I wouldn’t discipline my child through a third party.  And while I might blame the third party for getting out of hand, I wouldn’t forgive one person I was mad at and destroy the other.  Well, I don’t think I would.

I don’t really get why God did this the way He did.  One part – and it’s a big part – is that Israel turned to the Lord and Assyria did not.  Presumably God would not have destroyed them if they’d stopped attacking Israel.

But I know that the Lord is a strong tower, and those who run to Him are safe (Proverbs 18:10).  I have to trust Him to make the call that will protect us.

Application:  Trust God to protect you, even when you know you’ve messed up.  He still loves you.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for forgiving me when I turn away from you.  Help me to rely on you as I should.  Thank you for protecting me.  Amen.

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Isaiah 10:1-17

Scripture: from verses 6 and 7

I am sending [Assyria] against a hypocritical nation,
ordering him to march against a people who enrage me…
That is not what Assyria intends…
they mean to destroy nation after nation.

Observation:  Israel was proud and corrupt, so God was sending the Assyrians to attack them and destroy much of their wealth.  Assyria, however, thought they were using their own power and planned to conquer all of the known world.

Humans are constantly trying to get more control over our lives.  We try to control ourselves and our bodies, we try to control the people around us, we try to control our circumstances.  None of it works terribly well.

We make decisions and form plans and take action, but the results are rarely what we predict they will be.  The possibilities that we choose from are limited by our data.  There’s always one variable we had failed to consider (or never knew about).  The future is a chaotic system, and there is no was to predict it.  We have far less agency than we realize.

At the age of sixteen, Hero knew that he would grow up to marry me and work in computer hardware design and live in our area.  So he went to college for computer hardware design and kept dating me and here we are, ten years later.

But for most of us, life isn’t that simple.  Our colleges and our jobs and our homes and our families are influenced by hundreds of tiny decisions and thousands of factors and influences and variables.  We may think we chose our school or our career, but in reality it was heavily influenced by chance.

But God controls chance.  God knows how the thousands of influences will converge.

So we have a choice.  We can keep pretending we know what we’re doing, keep assuming that every trend we see now will continue forever.  Or we can let God do what He does best: teach us the truth.

Application:  Talk to God before making plans.  He’s better at it.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for having a plan for me.  I praise you, because you understand how the world works, and how every piece of it interacts with every other piece.  Help me to know when I think I know more than I do.  Amen.

Isaiah 9:11-20

Scripture: verse 12

Yet the people do not turn to the one striking them,
they don’t seek AdonaiTzva’ot [Lord of Hosts].

Observation: So Israel is being Israel (idolatrous, prideful, etc) and God has been doing some smiting to bring them back into line (by way of the Assyrians, this time) and He is hoping that they will turn to Him.  They don’t.

Which isn’t very surprising, from a human point of view.  Humans don’t like discipline.  We try to avoid it.

But God doesn’t want us to be thinking like humans.  He wants us to turn the other cheek, to bless our enemies, to lend without demanding a return (Matthew 5:39, Romans 12:14, Luke 6:34).  We are to be different, because He is different.

And we know that, when bad things happen, it isn’t blind chance or implacable persecution.  We know that God controls it, because God controls everything.  We know that He will work it to our good (Romans 8:28).  We know that what we see is not all that is.

It’s easy to forget that God is there.  It’s easy to assume that He can’t be bothered to help your little problems.  But that isn’t the truth.

The truth is that He sees us fall.  The truth is that He keeps our tears.  The truth is He loves us.

Application:  Don’t be afraid to turn to God.

Prayer:  Father, please help me when I forget to come to you.  Thank you for knowing me and loving me.  Thank you for rescuing me when I need it.  Amen.

Isaiah 9:1-10

Scripture: from verse 2

They rejoice in Your presence
as if rejoicing at harvest time,
the way men rejoice
when dividing up the spoil.

Observation:  Back in chapter five, God rebuked those who are “skilled in drinking wine, and heroes in mixing strong drink,” which incidentally is a great insult.  Never say God can’t talk smack.

Anyway, what struck me here is that we have the same attitude in two groups of people.  The godless party animals and the people of God are both rejoicing and laughing and getting drunk.  (You cannot tell me they didn’t get drunk at harvest time.)  The difference is not the action, but the motivation and attitude.  The godless people have made pleasure their goal, and they don’t notice anything else that happens around them.  You could probably storm their houses without them noticing, rather like the final scene of Hamlet with slightly less angst.  The godly people, on the other hand, have been focused on God and waiting for God, and when He shows up, they can party.

I’ve been struggling lately (as everyone does) with the knowledge that parts of my life are not submitted to God.  And I don’t really want to submit them.  I like daydreaming when I should be focusing on other things.  The farthest I’ve gotten is that I know that if I do submit them, the joy I will get in the end will be far greater than what I have now.  That’s still head knowledge and not heart knowledge, but it’s better than nothing.  All I can do is give God permission to change my heart.

Application:  Believe in the joy God has promised.  He doesn’t ask us to sacrifice anything that He won’t give us in abundance later.

Prayer:  Yeshua, you know where I’m struggling.  You know that right now I don’t really want to change.  But I am choosing to believe that you have something better for me.  So please help my unbelief.  Amen.

Isaiah 8:11-23

Scripture: verse 16

Wrap up this document, and confine its teaching to those I have instructed.

Application:  I’m not certain how much of the preceding passage is “this document,” but probably just the last few verses, which are about how the secular worldview is completely different from the godly worldview, and God is present among His people to be a shelter for those who seek His worldview and an obstacle for those who don’t.  He’s present so that they cannot sit on the fence or pretend to be neutral.  There isn’t a third option.

I’m not sure why the teaching had to be concealed.  Admittedly one does not tell people about the trap one is planning, but I would think that they people who rejected God weren’t listening anyway.  Perhaps God is also trying to avoid a Pascal’s Wager sort of situation.

I hate it when knowledge is deliberately withheld.  Even when there’s a good reason for it, it really bugs me.  Most of the time that’s probably a good thing.

But…there’s a time to stay silent.  God told Isaiah not to broadcast this teaching, and there are other times He gave similar instructions.

My mom said once that God once gave her the Scripture “do not awaken love before love’s time” (Song of Songs 8:4) for one of her children, meaning that she needed to sit back and let God work on the child quietly, rather than pushing for right behavior.  I don’t know the details of that situation, but I can think of times I have needed to let God work rather than try to push myself.

And recently I’ve been part of several conversations about confronting others about their poor behavior or challenging others about their beliefs, and I keep coming away feeling that in many cases we need to be quiet and pray instead of expecting the issue to be resolved on the human level.  We’re too prone to let in anger and bitterness, and minds that are closed to God aren’t going to be listening anyway.

I don’t really know what to do with this.  I don’t want to be copping out, avoiding conflict because I dislike it.  I admit I find it much easier to pray than to talk.  But I also see plenty of times when I have forced myself to speak up and it has just backfired, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.  And maybe it did some good anyway, underneath the surface, but maybe I should have waited until God gave me words.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spirits and principalities (Eph 6:12).  Flesh and blood are right in front of us, but too often that’s the wrong way to attack.

Observation:  Ask God for guidance, I guess.  He knows we need it.

Prayer:  Father, make me an instrument of your peace.  Teach me to pray or speak or be silent as needed.  Amen.

Isaiah 8:1-10

Scripture: from verses 9 and 10

Listen, all of you from distant lands:
arm yourselves, but you will be shattered;
devise a plan, but it will come to nothing;
say anything you like, but it won’t happen;
because God is with us.

Observation:  God is the Overriding Factor.  I usually talk about Him being the Source, which He is, but this is a different facet, a different end of the equation.

Humans like trying to guess the future.  We like spotting patterns and gathering data and identifying important variables.  We come up with signs and lucky tokens and ways to keep the juju flowing.  We’re surprisingly rotten at it, actually, but we keep trying.

But none of those things matter when God is involved.  He’s the Game Breaker and the Invincible Hero, and He’d be the God-Mode Sue if He weren’t, you know, actually God.

According to The Hobbit, “it does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”  And that’s exactly what we do.  We forget that God is able to override and overcome all of our pat little plans for how life is going to be.

We also forget that God is able to overthrow all the plans of the Enemy to destroy us.  That the bureaucracy or the bully or the impossible situation that stand in our way are nothing to Him.  He made them, and He knows the way through.

Application:  God is the Overriding Factor.  Don’t leave Him out of the equation.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for simplifying the mathematics of chaos so easily.  Thank you for being the one variable that actually matters.  Help me to pay more attention to where you are and less to where I think I am.  Amen.

Isaiah 7:13-25

Scripture: verse 23

When that day comes,
wherever there once were a thousand grapevines,
worth a thousand pieces of silver,
there will be only briars and thorns.

Observation:  “That day” is a day of rebuke and humiliation, not actual destruction – but it’s still vastly unpleasant.

Psalm 50 says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  In Greek mythology, that sort of thing was usually straightforward: the cattle on an island were directly owned by a god or goddess, and the idiots who ate them (and there were always idiots who ate them) suffered divine retribution.

But God doesn’t have special hills set aside for His property.  He doesn’t have very much use for cows, after all.  He doesn’t have bank accounts or investments or deeds in His name.  Instead, He just owns everything.  The only things that God does not own are the people who have chosen not to belong to Him.

The thousand grapevines belonged to God.  He made them, and He made them grow, and He provided the sun and rain and soil to support them.  Humans helped, of course, in the pruning and tending, but if God removes His support there is nothing humans can do to keep a plant alive when it is dying.

God owns everything we have.  We can’t diversify or hedge our investments to protect ourselves from Him.  He owns it all and supports it all and holds all things together.  All we can do is be grateful, every day, that He gave it to us.

As the fanfic* disclaimers say, it’s His world.  We just play in it.

Application:  Be grateful.  God sustains our lives, moment by moment.

Prayer:  Father, please forgive me for the times when I do not remember that everything I have is your gift to me.  I praise you for all that you have built around me and used to teach me.  Help me to use it wisely.  Amen.

(* Fanfiction, or fanfic, is stories written by the fans of a work that incorporate characters or other elements of that work.  Many authors begin with a disclaimer acknowledging that they do not own those elements.  If you are interested in reading fanfic, I recommend AO3 – you can browse for works related to almost any work you can name, and you can find the things I’m working on under the username ladyphlogiston.)

Isaiah 7:1-12

Scripture: from verse 4

…stay calm and unafraid; don’t be demoralized by these two smoldering stumps of firewood…

Observation:  The book of Isaiah was written during the time that Israel was split into two countries: Israel and Judah.  In this chapter, the son of the king of Israel and the king of Aram (one of their pagan neighboring countries) teamed up and attempted (unsuccessfully) to attack Jerusalem, which was the capital of Judah.  The people of Judah were understandably frightened, and this verse is part of Isaiah’s word of encouragement for them.

I liked the description of the two men as smoldering stumps.  All of their “blazing anger” was unable to conquer anything while God stood against them.  They could burn and rage as hot as they wanted, but all it accomplished was to make themselves weak.  Without God, they were just lumps of wood.

I mean, I can see the appeal.  I find it quite easy to get angry about the foolish decisions of others.  Being angry means I don’t have to think clearly (because everything is already perfectly clear) and I don’t have to worry about the other point of view (because obviously there isn’t one) and I don’t have to love.

But that anger accomplishes nothing.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I suppose it entertains me for an evening, and if I’m not careful it irritates my husband when I’m *still* talking about that.  But it certainly doesn’t change the situation, and it only makes me weaker.

If I want to change the situation, the only way I can do that is by stopping and praying and asking God what to do.  He generally tells me to stay out of it, of course, and if He does tell me to do something it is generally loving and mild and certainly not in line with what my anger was hoping for.  But if I’m not moving with God, I’m about as useful as a lump of firewood.

Application:  Stay calm in the face of anger – your own or others’.  Ask Him what to do instead of doing what makes sense.  Emotions like fear and anger tend not to give very good advice anyway.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for taking away my fear and giving me a spirit of power and peace and a sound mind (1 John 4:18, 2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me learn to move with you instead of against you.  Amen.

Isaiah 6:8-13

Scripture: from verse 9

Yes, you hear, but you don’t understand.
You certainly see, but you don’t get the point!

Observation:  This is the message God sends to Israel: that they are misunderstanding or refusing to understand who God is and what He wants.

I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction lately (meaning fans writing stories about the Harry Potter characters which may or may not fit into the plot of the books) and a couple of my favorite stories are in the “Sevitus” trope, meaning they are stories in which Professor Snape becomes Harry’s mentor or guardian.  The well-written ones are very heartwarming.  (“Severitus,” on the other hand, means that it turns out Snape is Harry’s biological father, and those are usually terrible and squicky.  Now you know.)

Anyway, this verse reminded me of a scene in one such story, where Harry is remembering a typically horrible lesson with Professor Snape and, in retrospect, realizes that behind Snape’s insults was the desperate hope that Harry would figure out what he needed to learn, because it would save his life.

The point here is not that Snape necessarily meant that (since I’m not sure he did, in canon) or that God is like Snape (I am very thankful He isn’t) but that sometimes we seem to be in a similar situation with God.  God isn’t always nice.  He isn’t safe.  He doesn’t provide beds of roses and bonbons to eat.  Well, not often anyway.

But even when He has to put us through difficult situations, His thoughts towards us are not hateful or angry.  He’s hoping we’ll figure out what we need to learn, because it will save our lives.

We’re all facing a battle.  We’re all saving the world.  We are all the Chosen One.  That God isn’t always nice doesn’t mean He isn’t good.  He will save our lives.

Application:  Ask God for understanding, instead of assuming He doesn’t have anything useful to say about difficult things.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for saving my life.  Thank you for teaching me everything I need to know.  Help me to understand what you are showing me.  Amen.

Isaiah 6:1-7

Scripture: from verse 3

More holy than the holiest holiness
is AdonaiTzva’ot [Lord of Armies]!

Observation:  Holy means set apart, and different, and other.  It means outside the box.  It means not in the normal category.

And then there’s God, who is so far beyond apart and different and other that we don’t even have words for it.  All we can say is that He’s beyond everything else we don’t understand.  God is Not Like Us.

Which is just as well, really.  The Greeks and Romans had gods who were like us, and as a result they all kept getting turned into things or cursed or saddled with ridiculous wars because some prince or other was an idiot.  (Paris, I’m looking at you.)  We may fear God, but at least we don’t have to fear the pettiness and resentment that a powerful human would inflict.

But we should fear God.  Because we don’t understand Him, so we can’t control of manipulate or bargain with Him.  He calls all the shots and makes all the rules.  There is no higher power or rulebook to appeal to, because He is the Higher Power.

We are blessed, then, that He bends the rules in our favor.  That He has made promise after promise to bless us and give us life.  There’s no greater power for Him to promise by, of course, but He promised by Himself (Hebrews 6).

We don’t understand God.  We can’t control Him.  But we don’t have to.  He blesses us anyway.

Application:  Don’t assume you’ve got God figured out. You don’t.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you for being far beyond what I can imagine or understand.  Help me to keep from making assumptions about what you want and how you work.  Thank you for blessing me and keeping me safe and teaching me truth beyond what I could figure out on my own.  Amen.