Scripture: verse 1
Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at Your presence
Observation: Seth Godin recently blogged about the difference between confidence and certainty. He concludes that insisting on certainty – in yourself or in others – is a mistake. It tends to be a way of drowning out fear by ignoring possible negative outcomes. He’s primarily talking about business situations, but at the moment it rings true for faith as well.
I’d like to be certain. I’d like to know exactly what God is going to do next. I’d like Him to rend the heavens and come down so that I don’t have to think anymore.
God doesn’t seem to work like that, though. He wants us to be confident in Him, but He rarely gives us certainty. He might promise to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28) but He doesn’t say how long that will take or how He will do it. He promised to be with Jeremiah and rescue him (Jeremiah 1), but that doesn’t mean nothing bad happened. At one point Jeremiah got thrown into a cistern to die (starvation, dehydration, blood poisoning from standing in muck – take your pick) and God sent a sponsor to plead with the king and get Jeremiah out. There was rescue, but not certainty.
God says that He will be found by those who seek Him (Jer 29:13). But I’m not at all sure that we ever stop seeking. There is always more of God to find.
Application: Act on confidence. Don’t be discouraged when things are not certain.
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you are God. I praise you because you are the only certainty. Thank you for blessing me. Help me to be confident in the future you have planned for me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 2
you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
Observation: It’s not like the names God’s people already had were especially bad. The verse before uses “Zion” and “Jerusalem” which mean “landmark” and something like “peaceful hills,” respectively. The name “Israel” isn’t especially clear, but when it was given in Genesis it was accompanied by the description “you have struggled with God and man (or possibly gods and powers, the Hebrew is complicated) and have prevailed” so that name is probably a good one too.
But God has a new name planned for His people, one which He will give when the time is right. A new name and a new identity and a new understanding of who they are.
He has a new name for me, too. The names my parents gave me are also pretty good – my English first and middle names mean “judged pure by God,” and my Hebrew names mean “bride” and “little bird.” My current identity and my current sense of myself are pretty good. But God has a better name waiting. He wants to teach me a whole new way of seeing myself, one that I only get hints of now. His truth about me is way bigger than mine.
Application: Seek His truth about yourself.
Prayer: Father, I praise you because you made me who I am. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I will take it on faith that your work is marvelous. Thank you for having new knowledge for me. Help me to trust that you understand me better than I do. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 5
…another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord‘s’…
Observation: The passage is about the future redeemed Israel, and how the people will identify themselves as belonging to the Lord. It’s interesting that I got this verse today, because today I also prayed for a friend who is going through a difficult time and is questioning her self-worth. And the word I got for her was very similar: that she would go into her meeting with God’s name on her brow and his brand on her heart.
Our first identity is that we belong to the Lord. That means that He is the only one who can judge our worth: neither my friend’s supervisors nor my own self-doubts have any say over who we are and how we are doing. They make their opinions known, of course, but their words are just words. God’s words are eternal.
It also means that we take His glory when we take His name. The hymn says that “God the Just is satisfied/to look on Him and pardon me.” Accusation and criticism could attack me easily enough, but as long I am wrapped in Him, they can’t get to me. They bounce off Him, because I bear His name.
There’s no guilt here, no condemnation. He matters so much more than I do.
Application: Take His name. Rely on it.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for finding me and giving me your name. I praise you because all power and all consolation and all glory flows from you and in you. Please help me to hide in you when I am not enough in myself. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 8
For you used to be darkness; but now, united with the Lord, you are light.
Observation: This is in the context of our behavior: we are to speak words of truth and thanksgiving instead of coarseness, gossip or obscenity; and we are to imitate God and live a life of love instead of pursuing immorality or greed. The writer is saying that our behavior needs to change because our nature has changed.
Darkness is nothing. I’m reminded of the verse in chapter four that said that the pagan ways of thinking are sterile. Darkness can’t accomplish anything, because it has nothing of its own. It is simply the absence of light.
Light, on the other hand…light can do anything. It can heat things, and cut things, and reveal truth and guide people home and make us safe. It never stops going, and it distorts the world around it if it needs to.
Without God, we are nothing. Empty and destitute. With God, we can dazzle and guide and color and focus and illuminate. With God, we will never run out of energy because He is the Source of all energy. With God, our nature changes and we have something to offer.
Application: Light accomplishes very little until it hits something. Even a laser sent through space isn’t visible unless it hits dust along the way. So we need to have move in the confidence of our changed nature. We need to be willing to bump into things.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for making me light. You are the Father of Lights, and I am honored to bear part of your power. Help me to use it as you want me to. Amen.