Scripture: verse 12
For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Observation: God is speaking of redeeming and freeing His people. I think this is a callback to Exodus, when they did depart in haste. In Exodus God’s people had to endure ever worse working conditions until Pharaoh finally had enough of a moment of weakness to let them go, and then they had to pack and leave quickly, in the narrow window before he changed his mind.
But God never quite repeats Himself, and our spiritual redemption does not work the way our physical redemption did. We are not refugees in God’s kingdom. We are sons and daughters, who came in because it is our right to do so. We did not time our escape for a moment of weakness; instead Yeshua freed us by His abundant strength. We walk tall.
Application: Relax. You’re much freer than you think you are.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because your life has overcome death. I praise you because you have made sin and death irrelevant to who I am in you. Thank you for redeeming me. Help me to walk in my new identity. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 5
unless it takes hold of My strength,
in order to make peace with Me
Observation: Very confusing passage. God is talking about His vineyard (presumably His people) and says that He has no anger against it, but if it grows weeds and thorns He will destroy it, unless it takes hold of His strength to make peace. Another translation turns these three states (at peace, growing thorns, and making peace) into three different possible futures, which seems a little more logical but isn’t necessarily right.
It rather reminds me of Genesis 32. Jacob was alone and worried all night, and he wound up wrestling with a man who turned out to be God on the riverside. The man asked to be let go, and Jacob said that he would not let go until God blessed him. God changed his name to Israel, saying that Jacob had struggled with God and man and had won.
We hear a lot about the need to be meek and submissive before the Lord. But every so often we get these hints that God doesn’t mind the occasional shouting match, as long as we are directing our energy towards Him. Sometimes it’s okay to have thorns, as long as you are clinging tight to God.
Application: Focus on God, even when you are angry.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are strong enough to allow us to challenge you. Thank you for offering your strength and your peace. Help me to cling tight to you, even when I’m being thorny. Amen.
Scripture: verse 6
Yet gleanings will be left,
as when beating an olive tree —
two or three olives at the very top,
four or five on its fruitful branches
Observation: God is, once again, reaffirming that He will not destroy Israel entirely, no matter how disobedient they get. There will always be some left.
Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young; now I am old; yet not once have I seen the righteous abandoned, or his descendants begging for bread.”
Genesis 16 says that God is called “God Who Sees Me,” because we are never beneath His notice.
We are never abandoned. We have never crossed the line and become unforgivable and unredeemable. We are always safe in God’s hands. We may not like it, I admit, but we are always safe.
Application: Trust Him, and don’t despair. You are never alone.
Prayer: Father, thank you for seeing me. Thank you for preserving us, no matter what. Thank you for being faithful to your own promises. Amen.
Scripture: verses 4 and 5
I will put children in authority;
capriciousness will govern them….
The young will be insolent toward their elders,
the insignificant arrogant toward the respected.
Observation: More punishments: God will chastise His people by removing the support system of wise leaders and advisers.
I don’t really want to get into culture-bashing here. Modern Western culture is fairly awful in places, but so are most other cultures I’ve come across, so take your pick.
But. The insignificant are arrogant toward the respected. The people who don’t know much insist that they know better than the experts. The people who have little experience deny that they could use advice from people with more experience. It happens all the time. And it’s a really dumb thing to do.
We are not all experts in everything. We have not all done everything and tried every option. We can’t predict the future. And when we insist that we are and have and can, we are ruled by caprice and whim. And we get in trouble.
It takes humility to seek advice from others. But we have to know our own limits. We can’t survive otherwise.
Application: Respect your elders. Know your limits and get help when you need it.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for creating your community, so that I have people I can ask for help. Thank you for creating cause and effect. Thank you for creating a world where things can be known and knowledge can be useful. Help me to know it and correct it when when I’m being an idiot. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 15 and 16
He is supreme over all creation, because in connection with him were created all things — in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities — they have all been created through him and for him.
Observation: Most powerful things have gained power. The environment gains energy from the sun or from gravity or from whatever craziness is going on at the core of the earth. People start as babies, and gain power through intelligence or popularity or apparently random chance. And so on.
But Yeshua’s power is different. His power is inherent. He didn’t gain power by manipulating the universe. He created the universe by being who He is.
That’s why Yeshua’s power isn’t a zero-sum power that leaves us with nothing. His power is not taken from us. Instead, His power is to give us life and power of our own. He is the Source, not just the user, of power.
And we can rest in that. We don’t need to participate in the rat race of local power struggles, because we have a direct line to the Source of all power and authority. We can be nothing and nobody because He is everything. We can follow His ways instead of leaning on our own understanding. It’s not like that works out well anyway.
Application: Rely on Yeshua’s power. There is no need to get it elsewhere.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you for being the Root and Source of all things. Please help me to rest in your power and not be anxious about my own. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 24
He is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.
Observation: The verse refers to anything that was obtained deceitfully, whether stolen, extorted, “borrowed,” lied about, etc. The person who took advantage of others is guilty, and a dual restitution is demanded: the guilt offering to be restored to harmony with the Lord, and returning the stolen money or item plus a fine, to be restored to harmony within the community.
God cares about the people around us. God cares that the community of believers lives in harmony. We can’t ignore the people around us and expect to be in God’s will. He loves them too.
Application: Consideration for others tends to be one of my shortcomings, though at least in practical matters like this I think I’m getting a better. (Considerate and positive words tend to be a little tougher for me.) But, easy or hard, keep the peace. Work to stay friends with others unless there’s a very good reason not to. Build the community, don’t tear it down.
Prayer: Father, thank you for loving the people around me. Help me to love them too. Help me to notice when I am hurting others and find ways to restore the relationship. Amen.
Scripture: verse 1
Children, what you should do in union with the Lord is obey your parents, for this is right.
Observation: Having spent half a chapter explaining how our new identity in Messiah should be reflected in marriage, Paul goes on to discuss how it changes other relationships, including parent-child and owner-slave.
When I was little, I was apparently fairly resistant to most of the normal forms of discipline, so my mom would sit me down and explain, quite rationally, that God had created communities to work a certain way for the benefit of everyone who participated and that children obeying their parents was part of how authority worked. Apparently, it worked.
We are called to obey authority in unity with the Lord. Our new identity – being one flesh with Messiah – does not take us out of community or out of normal human relationships. Instead, unity with Messiah helps us to fit into community more strongly than ever. We become a pillar of strength for the people around us, by doing our job and fulfilling our calling.
Being with God doesn’t mean ignoring humans. It means taking people more seriously than ever, because they are also part of God’s body.
Application: Obey authority. Support the community. Dedicate time and energy to pursuing relationships with others. Enter your calling in unity with the Lord.
Prayer: Father, thank you for calling me to be where I am. Thank you for making me a wife and mother and daughter and sister and friend. Help me to take those relationships seriously, and to reach out with love towards those who need it. Amen.
Scripture: verse 1
It is a consequence of this that I, Sha’ul, am a prisoner of the Messiah Yeshua on behalf of you Gentiles.
Observation: “This” refers to the second half of the previous chapter, about how Yeshua’s death makes the Gentiles welcome in the kingdom of God. God crowdsourced the kingdom of heaven, and He assigned Paul to help people get signed up.
The word that caught my attention is “prisoner.” Not worker, not employee, not even servant. Prisoner. One in chains.
The thing about being a prisoner is that there’s nothing else to do. Food and clothes are provided, your schedule is set for you, and there’s no point in worrying about impressing others because it’s not like you can date or be promoted anyway. (Well, that’s probably not as true today as it was then.) Paul set aside everything. He let God make all the decisions, and he rested in that.
Application: Not sure prison is for me, exactly 🙂 But it’s worth remembering that God is willing to handle all the hard stuff if I’m willing to obey Him.
Prayer: Father, thank you for being my warden, the one tasked with taking care of me. Help me to trust your judgement over my own. Help me to rest in the framework you’ve set up for me. Amen.