Scripture: from verse 17
Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
and instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
instead of stones, iron.
Observation: In the wake of 9/11, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn pointed out that at least two leaders quoted from Isaiah 9:10, swearing to rebuild stronger than ever. This was a rather foolish thing to do, as Isaiah 9 is about people who ignore the Lord’s warnings and rely on their own strength to rebuild.
But here, God is promising a similar rebuilding. The rebellious leaders promised to replace fig trees with cedars; God promises to replace wood with bronze. They were going to replace brick with dressed stone; God promises to replace stone with iron.
The difference, of course, if that God is the source of this new strength. We can try to create our own strength, using the best ideas and materials available to us, but our efforts will never work as well as if we’d relied on God in the first place. His ways are higher than ours. His Spirit can amplify our strength in ways we would never have predicted.
Application: Rely on His strength, now your own
Prayer: Father of Light, I praise you because everything that has been made was made by you and for your purposes. I praise you because you created this world and allowed me to play in it, like a child in a sandbox. Thank you for taking delight in the castles I create. Help me to rely on you to accomplish what I cannot. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 4
Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you
Observation: I am not a go-getter. I am not good at hustling up new leads, new opportunities, new people. And sometimes (frequently) I worry that God wants me to come up with these things somehow. I worry that if God is calling me to write this blog or paint a prophetic painting or give a teaching, then it is also my job to promote myself and find my venue and my audience on my own power. Which is a scary thing to think, because I’m not capable of that – at least, not without investing tremendous amounts of time and emotional energy that would be better spent in writing or painting or teaching or whatever my actual calling is.
But God says that people will come to us. That people will flow in, and bring their resources and their abilities to help. That the things I cannot do will be done by someone else, who does not consider them worrisome or difficult. While this is a logical plan, it’s easy enough to forget.
And all we have to do is lift up our eyes and see them. It reminds me of the story of Elisha and the army of fire (2 Kings 6), when God had already sent a mighty army to protect Elisha, but He also had to open their eyes to see it. God’s power already surrounds me. I just can’t quite see it yet.
Application: Ask God what tasks you’ve been worrying about that aren’t yours in the first place. And ask Him to open your eyes to see His power.
Prayer: Yeshua, I thank you that you have redeemed me. I thank you that you made me who I am and surrounded me with everything I need. Help me to trust your provision for the things I think I lack. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 15
…he who leaves evil becomes a target.
Observation: The first part of this passage is a depressing-but-accurate description of the world as it tends to be: everyone sins, most people delight in sin, and the people who aren’t as ruthless as possible become targets. We see it in the schoolyard, we see it in the corporate world, it’s everywhere.
The passage goes on to say that this angers God and He arms Himself and wreaks vengeance on those who delighted in doing wrong. Which is all well and good, but not always comforting for people who are trying to find ways of doing what is right without being victims. Despite the promises of eventual reward, I can’t say I’m finding this passage all that comforting.
Which probably means that I’m not seeing right. God sees things differently, somehow. His perspectives on time and suffering are different, and not in a large-scale, it’s-not-that-bad, He-doesn’t-care way. He’s aware of a larger truth that somehow makes it all fit together. He knows that someday, we’ll be laughing too.
Application: Hold on to hope. He’s on His way.
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you can see the purpose and the intricate integrity of everything that happens to me,even when I can’t. I praise you because you can help me laugh at trouble. Help me to trust you. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 6
Their webs will not serve as clothing…
Observation: Humans are just spectacular at producing things that aren’t as useful or as important as we think they are, aren’t we? Admittedly in this case I think the webs are meant to ensnare others rather than clothe the person spinning them, but it doesn’t sound like that will work out very well either.
Sometimes I get discouraged and impatient, feeling that I need to be doing something to make things happen, not just waiting for God to tell me what to do. And then I get reminded that we’re terrible at doing things. I could spin all sorts of webs for all sorts of purposes, but I wouldn’t accomplish anything besides making myself dizzy. Much better (though not easier) to wait for the true path.
Application: Talk to God. Every day.
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you are able to provide real covering and real food. Thank you for being my hiding place. Help me to trust you. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 9
take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness…
Observation: The chapter is about how God doesn’t want to be served with mere religious observances, but with service to others and compassion on the poor and needy. He promises great blessings if we will take Him seriously and be kind to others.
What caught my eye here is the bit about taking away pointing fingers from our communities. Certainly Scripture also calls us to (gently and carefully!) keep each other accountable, but we point fingers an awful lot. A lot of the time it’s wiser to mind our own business and trust God to guide other people His way.
Application: Be generous
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are the way and the truth and the life. I thank you because you made me and love me and have a plan for me, and you made and love and plan for every other person I know. Help me to help your plans and not hinder them. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 15
I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit…
Observation: God dwells in the heavens, and on top of the mountains, and in my house, and in the shacks of His poorest believers, and inside me. None of these places are too small, and none are too large.
I don’t think God sees space the way we see space.
And really, that’s just as well. A God who made sense to us would be woefully inadequate for the job. So it’s rather a relief to learn that He doesn’t see things the way I do. What we see is not all that is.
Application: Know that God is with you
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you are bigger and more complicated than I could ever imagine. Thank you for choosing to be with me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 1
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace…
Observation: Yesterday at the ladies’ Bible study, one of the ladies was questioning why God allows people to die young despite our prayers. One of the other women responded that maybe God was taking them away from a future that would be worse. I didn’t like that answer at the time, but this verse seems to be saying the same thing. When a righteous person perishes, he or she enters into peace and avoids the calamity that is coming.
I have no idea if that’s always true, and I’m not sure whether it’s an especially comforting thing to say, but it does remind us that God doesn’t see things the way we see them. God’s views of life and death and strength and weakness are all different and weird to us. Which is probably just as well, given how hopeless our perceptions tend to be.
Application: Believe God, even when His words don’t seem to make sense. Ask for His perspective instead.
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you are the one who sees reality as it is. You are the one who can see both sides of the coin and the other 90% of the iceberg and all the colors not in the rainbow. Thank you for rescuing me and keeping me safe. Help me to see what you see. Amen.
Scripture: from verses four and five:
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths and…hold fast my covenant…I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
Observation: God is speaking to people who may feel that they are outside of God’s blessing: eunuchs and foreigners and outcasts. God says that their circumstances will not block His blessing. If they choose to follow Him, God will gather them close, and bring them into His unity. The eunuchs should not describe themselves as “dry trees,” even though that is exactly what they are, because God is not stopped by their physical limitations.
There is no human limitation that can stop God’s blessing. He can give an everlasting legacy to a eunuch. He can give us righteousness, no matter what our past decisions have been. He can make us whole, no matter how hurt we are. He can give us health, no matter our genetics or condition or age.
Application: Speak the truth: that God has made you righteous and whole and strong. Don’t describe yourself as a dry tree.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because there is nothing that limits you. There is nothing that the powers of this world can do to stop you from blessing me. Thank you for restoring me. Help me to see your truth. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 11 and 12
My word…shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…
Observation: Yesterday I happened to read an article about the new show that Rob Bell is doing in collaboration with Oprah. During his first episode, he said that “[The cross] is a living breathing demonstration of God reconciling to God’s self, all things.”
And here we have God promising to do just that. His Word will go out and accomplish His purpose. The things God speaks will come to pass. And His purpose is that we go out in joy and be led forth in peace. God has spoken His Word to accomplish our reconciliation.
This gets crazier when you remember that Yeshua is described as The Word (John 1). God’s whole Being, bringing about our peace. He has no other purpose.
Application: Posts about things God is doing frequently don’t have much in the way of application. This is one of them.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for reconciling all things to yourself. Thank you for making a way for me to have joy and peace. Help me to follow where you want me to go. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 3
…listen well, that your soul may live.
Observation: This passage is an open invitation from God: whatever our needs, we should come to God and be satisfied. He offers us food and drink “without money and without cost.” He asks only that we come and receive.
I’m trying to learn to be quiet and listen to God more. We’re so quick to rely on our own understanding, and I never seem to remember to ask God for His plan before coming up with my own. It causes a ridiculous amount of unneeded stress. I need to listen, because when I listen, I find rest for my soul.
Application: Listen well.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your offer of goodness. Thank you for sharing answers as fast as I remember to ask for them. Please help me to come to you before my soul gets tired. Amen.