Category Archives: Isaiah 31-40

Isaiah 40:21-31

Scripture: from verse 21

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Observation:  The passage is about the order of the universe – God on top, controlling everything, and all of us playing in His world.  This is foundational knowledge.  It comes instinctively, rising from the soles of our feet.  Knowing it is not so much about learning something new, but about unlearning all the illusions that are in place to mask it.

My family sometimes jokes about “breathing through the holes in the soles of your feet,” a phrase we got from a relaxation tape recommended by my brother’s doctor.  Despite its silliness, it can be an effective way of relaxing: imagining pulling calmness through your body, aware of every inch of yourself.

This feels similar to me.  The idea of knowledge of God being in not just your mind but in your body, something that all of me knows and all of me responds to.  God knows every inch of my body, and every inch of my body knows Him.

Application:  Allow yourself to know who God is.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you laid the foundations of the earth.  The core of the Earth and every layer of the mantle knows you, just as the rocks and trees know you and praise you.  Help me to allow myself to know you and be rooted in you.  Amen.

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Isaiah 40:9-20

Scripture: from verse 12

[God] has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand…

Observation:  There’s a vlogbrothers video that points out that humans are really terrible at wrapping our heads around things that are far bigger or far smaller than we are.  If you ask me how much space five marbles will take up, I have an immediate intuitive sense of that, quite aside from whatever experience I may have in holding marbles.  Five marbles will fit in the palm of my hand.  If you ask me how much space a million marbles will take up, I have no idea.  I know they will not fit in the palm of my hand.  But whether they will fit in a bucket, in my car, in my house…I’m just not sure.

And then there’s God.  I can make some rough calculations and estimate how much space the marbles will take up, after all, even if I can’t picture it.  (Apparently I’m going to need around 250 5-gallon buckets to store them.  I think they would, technically, fit in the house, but I doubt my husband would be pleased.)  And God is even bigger than that.

God is so big that we can’t even comprehend the metaphors used to describe how big He is.  The hollow of a hand is easy enough to understand, but using one to measure all the water of Earth is impossible.  If the entire mass of water on Earth was pooled together, it would apparently make a giant ball the size of Spain.  I cannot imagine a giant ball the size of Spain, even with a picture to help me.  And this image of God is a couple orders of magnitude beyond that, and God Himself is even bigger than this image.  The mind boggles.

But God likes our minds boggling.  He likes that we try to understand Him, and He steps into our world to make Himself known.  He notices us and loves us, which realistically is kind of like us taking an eager interest in the life and concerns of an amoeba.

The physics alone boggles the mind.

Application: Still boggling, sorry.

Prayer:  God, you are pretty amazing.  By which I mean considerably more awesomely amazing than I can even begin to describe.  Thank you for giving us pictures of you, so that we can begin to understand who you are.  Amen.

Isaiah 40:1-8

Scripture: from verses 4 and 5

Let the uneven places be made level
and the crags become a plain.
Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed…

Observation:  I’d often rather assumed that this passage was talking about the work that has to be done to prepare people for the glory of the Lord – how we need to be disciplined and perfected and polished and so on.

The problem with that theory is that this instruction is given after God says to comfort His people, because their sins are washed clean.  So this is a time of preparation that comes after all the hard heart-changing stuff and before the glory of the Lord arrives.  I’m not even sure who is meant to do the work here.  It might be directed at the people of Israel, but it might be a proclamation to the Holy Spirit and the armies of the Lord.

In any case, this seems to be a time of work without pain.  A time to collaborate and come together to accomplish something because it is fun, not because it is the penalty for getting it wrong.  This is a time of working towards a goal that isn’t in sight yet, but will come and delight everyone.

It doesn’t happen right away.  There’s a space where nothing seems to be happening, except perhaps easier travel.  Just like there’s times when nothing seems to be happening in our lives, except for our children getting older and the pile of half-attempted ideas getting bigger.  But we keep going, because the glory will come.

Application:  Keep going in those empty times. There’s rumblings in the deep.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for letting us help build your kingdom and accomplish your work.  Help me to stay focused and trusting during these times of collaboration with you.  Amen.

Isaiah 39

Scripture: from verse 8

“There will be peace and security in my days.”

Observation:  I’d say that Hezekiah was an idiot if it weren’t for the fact that we all do this.  So humans are idiots.  Hezekiah, after a salutary reminder that everything he is and had and could have was a gift of God, and after promising to remember his lesson and be much more humble in the future, promptly forgot the entire incident.  Messengers arrived from Babylon to congratulate him on not being sick anymore, and Hezekiah showed off all of his wealth and strength to them, apparently forgetting that he was remembering that those things were God’s and none of Hezekiah’s doing.  When Isaiah told Hezekiah that this had been a mistake and would eventually result in Babylon conquering Jerusalem and capturing Hezekiah’s descendants, Hezekiah figured this was good news because at least his reign would be peaceful.

It’s just so deliciously human of him.  As soon as the revelation loses relevance, he forgets about it.  He reverts to assuming that his things are his, that he has some control over his destiny, that what he sees is what there is.

That’s why God sent to Holy Spirit to be with us, to remind us of what we already know.  We get glimpses of eternity to remind us of the truth.  We get new eyes and new hearts because the old ones are broken beyond repair.

Application:  Don’t let revelations fall by the wayside.  Ask the Holy Spirit for the truth.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, I praise you because you see things as they are and you do not change.  I thank you for giving me access to the truth.  I praise you because your memory is reliable and I know mine is not.  Please help me to remember what I already know, and forgive me when I forget.  Amen.

Isaiah 38

Scripture: from verse 15

I will go humbly all my years,
remembering how bitter I was.

Observation:  The chapter begins with King Hezekiah getting sick, and God sending Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that he was going to die.  Hezekiah prayed and wept, and God sent Isaiah again with the news that God had changed His mind and Hezekiah would live after all.  Once he had recovered, Hezekiah wrote about the experience, and how difficult it was to have no control over his body or his fate, to be weak despite trying to be strong, and to know that God could end his life at any time.

C. S. Lewis pointed out that we have all sorts of funny notions about ownership: we think we own our bodies, and our time, and all sorts of things.  We have very little control over our bodies, and often even less over our time, and the little bit of control that we do have was given to us by God.

I would have blogged this chapter yesterday, but I found the whole incident bewildering: why would God make Hezekiah sick if He planned to heal him as soon as he prayed?  Rereading Hezekiah’s poem today gave me the answer: because Hezekiah was trying to do things under his own power.

I don’t know exactly what Hezekiah was doing, and as none of us are royalty I don’t suppose it matters.  But we all try to do things on our own.  We all try to talk ourselves out of temptation instead of asking God for aid.  We all try to be courageous on our own instead of asking for peace.

Our willpower is less our own than we think.  Studies show that willpower runs out – experimental subjects who had to use self-control for one task will have less self-control in the next task.

So we who are in God should rely on Him as the Source of our willpower.  He is the only one who never runs out, who does not get tired from making decisions.  He is the one who sees the bigger picture, who can number our days and see our eternities.  And I don’t really know how we do this, but I don’t have to.  I just ask Him.

Application:  Ask God where you need to be relying on Him more.  (And drink some juice – apparently glucose boosts willpower.  Brains are weird.)

Prayer:  Father, thank you for making me.  Thank you for making our brains as such strange and wonderful machines.  I praise you because you have none of my limitations.  You are never overwhelmed, never tired, never low on blood sugar.  Help me to turn to you when I am.  Amen.

Isaiah 37

Scripture: from verse 7

 he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land…

Observation:  God is promising Israel that the general attacking them will fall without any action of theirs: he will hear a rumor and return home, where he will be killed.

It just draws such a strong contrast between God and humans.  On one hand we have the general, who has to make decisions with the best information he has, and as a result he is swayed by every rumor and whisper that comes to him.  On the other hand we have God, who not only knows exactly what is happening (and therefore has no need to wait for rumors to trickle in) but knows what will happen, without even trying.

And we have the general, relying on people who bring him information in return for money or power or favor, so that he can never be quite sure who is telling him the truth and how much they know.  And we have Israel, relying on the Maker of the Universe, who cannot be bought or and is not deceived and knows everything, who tells us what we need to know freely.

Remind me again why we insist on relying on our own understanding?

Oh, that’s right.  Because we’re human, and humans are awfully silly sometimes.

Application:  We can’t stop being human, and we’re probably not capable of never being silly, but we can choose to make the wise decision for now.  Ask God to tell you what you need to know.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you are Truth and you will never let me be deceived if I ask you for insight.  Please help me to do so.  Amen.

Isaiah 36

Scripture: verse 7

If you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not He whose high places and altars King Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”?

Observation:  “Me” in this quote is an officer of Assyria, sent to demand Israel’s surrender.  This is a very crafty piece of gaslighting (making false or misleading statements in order to make the audience doubt their own knowledge.)  The high places and altars Hezekiah destroyed were for the worship of other gods, and it was the Lord who commanded his people to worship at His altar in Jerusalem.  But most people (being only human) did not have the clear understanding of God’s law that would combat this deception, and as a result I am sure that many of them did begin to doubt in God’s support.

Satan played the same trick in the Garden of Eden, twisting God’s law to pull Adam and Eve away from the truth.  (Admittedly Adam and/or Eve helped out in that case.)  He played the same trick when he tempted Yeshua.  He plays the same trick today.

So what do we do?  We stay close to the truth.  Experts dealing with gaslighting sociopaths take notes or recordings of their conversations, and keep a record of what has happened, so that they can clearly see the contradictions that present themselves.  We can do the same thing, by keeping God’s word and God’s truth in front of us, so we can see clearly.

Application:  Keep reading His Word.  Recognize lies for what they are.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I thank you that your are the Source of Truth.  I thank you that you will never lie to me and you will always defeat lies that try to hurt me.  Please help me to remember your truth and not be confused.  Amen.

Isaiah 35

Scripture: from verse 7

The sandy mirage will become a pool…

Observation:  This is one of the “when the Lord reigns everything will be wonderful” chapters.  I know two different songs based on verses from it, which is not a record but still pretty good.

Mirages are false promises.  They seem to offer relief and refreshment and a whole new life, and then when we turn towards them they vanish.  Over and over and over again.

But God doesn’t make false promises.  His world does not contain things that seem to be and are not.  What He offers is real, and we can trust Him.

Someday we will be able to trust our renewed senses.  We will know the truth instinctively, and it will not vanish as we approach.  God promises life and life abundantly.

Application:  Trust in the Lord.  He doesn’t vanish.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because you are Truth and you do not change.  Thank you for being willing to reveal truth to me, and to guide me to real refreshment.  Help me to trust you and not my own guesses.  Amen.

Isaiah 34

Scripture: from verse 16

…none will be lacking a mate.

Observation:  Yet more death and destruction.  Edom will be razed to the ground and burned and filled with wild animals, none of whom will lack a mate.

I find this kind of amusing because the only other instance of that phrase that I can think of is in Song of Songs, in which the lover tells his beloved that she has beautifully white teeth like freshly-washed sheep, none of which are lacking a mate.

The beloved in Song of Songs is often said to symbolize God’s people, washed and made perfect and presented to Him as a bride (Ephesians 5).  So whether God is perfecting His people or destroying Edom, not a detail is left undone.

Application: Trust God with the details.  He’ll get to them in time.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you do not overlook or forget things.  You will do your work in your time.  Please help me to be patient with your schedule and not try to change other people or myself on my own power.  Amen.

Isaiah 33

Scripture: from verse 6

…the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Observation:  I was thinking about this and couldn’t really come up with a good meaning.  Fear of the Lord is an emotion or a choice or perhaps a pattern of thoughts, not a possession.  It works better in my head if I use a more evocative phrasing: “the fear of the Lord is Zion’s Precious.”

Gollum may have been a creepy, corrupted little sneak, but he knew how to treasure a thing.  He kept the One Ring with him always (well, until it made him sick), constantly taking it out to look at it and stroke it, constantly referring back to it and devoting his life to recovering it when he lost it.  He was devoted to something that made him evil, but he was devoted.

In return, the ring lengthened his life and allowed him to be invisible, though at a horrible cost.  God, not being evil, offers similar return when we treasure Him: long life and blessing and being hidden in Him from all who would accuse us.

So we are to be like that with our relationship with the Lord.  Always thinking about Him, always remembering who He is and the things He has done and will do.  Turning His name over in our heads.  Always returning to our Precious.

Application:  Treasure the fear of the Lord.

Prayer:  God, I praise you because you are worthy of being treasured.  I praise you because it would take a very long time indeed for me to finish listing good things about you.  Thank you for shielding me when I turn to you.  Help me to remember you, to treasure you as my Precious.