Isaiah 58

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.


Isaiah 57:11-21

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.

Isaiah 57:1-10

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.

Isaiah 56

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.

Isaiah 55:6-13

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.

Isaiah 55:1-5

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.

Isaiah 54:11-17

Scripture: from verse 14

In righteousness you shall be established…

Observation:  God is talking about the heritage of His people, which includes peace and wealth and stability and knowledge and righteousness.

This week God and I have been talking about faith some more, and some of my thoughts seemed to really click into place in a way that works for me.  The following day, I kept getting these thoughts about how the earlier revelations were stupid and not as powerful as I thought and it couldn’t be that simple and and and….  Eventually I caught it and realized that Satan was attempting to steal what I’d learned.  He’s a liar and a thief and it’s only to be expected.

I know that I can get things wrong.  I know that I can be misled by my own pride or fear or desire for life to be easy.  But God promises to establish me in righteousness.  He promises to correct me when I get it wrong.  I don’t have to let the fear of missing the mark prevent me from taking a shot in the first place.

All I have to do is keep asking for the truth.  And kick Satan out of my head, because he’s not allowed to be there.

Application:  Keep asking for the truth

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you are the Source of Truth.  Thank you for keeping me safe, for keeping my feet from slipping and establishing me in righteousness.  Help me to keep asking for truth.  Amen.

Isaiah 54:9-10

Scripture: from verse 10

My covenant of peace shall not be removed

Observation:  The phrase “covenant of peace” is only used a few other times in the Bible.  In Numbers 25, God gave His covenant of peace to a priest named Phineas, in recognition of His dedication to preserving the righteousness of God’s people.  (Admittedly that dedication took the rather unusual form of killing two people while they were having sex, but that’s a discussion for another day.)  Phineas’ family would have a perpetual priesthood, because of the covenant of peace.  Israel is promised a covenant of peace in Ezekiel (chapters 34 and 37), which means that God will protect them in their land and they will live securely.  They will have peace with God, peace with the surrounding nations, and peace with their environment – even the wild animals will be kept back from them.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it encompasses much more than simple peace.  It includes health and wholeness and safety and friendship and restoration.  God has entered a covenant to give us those things, and His promise will not be shaken.

God recently gave me a new piece of shalom – He healed an old hurt I only recently realized existed.  The effects have been fascinating.  It might not appear dramatic, but I can tell that I’m more whole and better integrated than I was.  Yesterday I picked up a dozen things without feeling stressed or worried or compelled to keep working.  Today I made a phone call to customer service without worrying that I would say the wrong thing.  It wasn’t momentous, either – I can just do it now.  God wove the torn neural patterns back together.

Application:  Ask God to fix what isn’t whole

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you can see the whole of creation and you know how it is supposed to fit together.   I praise you because you can integrate all things seamlessly into your plan.  Thank you for giving us shalom.  Help me to come to you for help when I need it.  Amen.

Isaiah 54:4-8

Scripture: from verse 4

…you will forget the shame of your youth…

Observation:  More of God’s blessings for His redeemed people.  He promises to wipe out the things that we look back on with shame.

I have plenty of things from my youth to be ashamed about.  Some of my journal entries are mortifying, though of course that’s a small thing.  Some of my actions were not so small, and much more shameful.  Some of those things were sinful.  Some were just thoughtless.  Some were rooted in the anxiety I didn’t realize I was experiencing, which means they probably shouldn’t really be a source of shame, but there it is.

And it will all be gone.  God is wiping the shame away, as if it never happened.  Poorly-chosen words and thoughtless actions and all the times I forgot to shower (which was more often than it should have been, during my teen years) and choices made out of anger or jealousy or pride….all gone.

I can’t imagine it, to be honest, but that is still God’s promise.

Application:  In the immortal (and seemingly endless) words of the song, let it go.  Don’t keep hanging on to shame that God has already erased.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because you are Truth.  Thank you for changing who I am.  Help me to walk in the freedom you have given me.  Amen.

Isaiah 54:1-3

Scripture: from verse 3

…your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.

Observation: Isaiah 53 covered Yeshua’s death, and now God gets to talk about the redemption of His people.  I gather it makes Him happy.

He begins by promising that those who have no families will have families, that we will spread and grow and sing for joy together.  What struck me here is the promise to people the desolate cities.

Cities don’t (usually) become desolate at random.  A deserted city represents the failure of some venture, or the inability to adjust to new innovation.  In the 60s, Detroit churned out cars with the expectation that every family would replace their car every two years.  When the economy shifted and buying patterns changed and foreign manufacture improved, Detroit began to get smaller and smaller.  And not every deserted place is a city: Borders went out of business a few years ago, when it couldn’t adapt to the online marketplace, and that guy who started a company that mails glitter to your enemies couldn’t keep up with demand and sold his website, and Kickstarters fail every day because the product didn’t generate enough interest.  Ventures fail.  Circumstances change.

But God’s redeemed will occupy the deserted cities.  God is the Source of Sources, and He can provide the inspiration or innovation or chance meeting or extra funding or whatever it takes to make a failed venture succeed.  God can make the desert bloom.

Application:  I can think of several possible things to put here, but none of them feel right.  So I won’t.

Prayer: God, I praise you because you can see what makes a thing fail and what makes it succeed.  I praise you because your resources are infinite.  Thank you for preparing a place for me.  Help me to walk in your plan.