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 26
…and the light of the sun will be seven times stronger,
like the light of seven days [in one]…
Observation: The passage begins by pointing out that if the people of Israel want to be strong and safe, all they have to do is turn to God and rest in Him. The problem is not that God has been demanding anything especially difficult from them, but that they are unwilling to surrender agency enough to trust Him.
God says that someday they will come back and let Him heal them. Among other blessings that happen at that time, the sun will be seven times brighter than it is now.
I can’t imagine this is literal. If our sun (a dwarf star) were suddenly replaced by a subgiant star, I’m fairly certain the ecosystem would be devastated and life as we know it would come to an end fairly quickly. Of course, God does promise a new heaven and new earth someday, but this doesn’t seem to be about that.
However, the number seven generally means completion and perfection and wholeness. So what we have here is the promise of a new kind of light. Not just a new color or intensity, but something that is intrinsically and fundamentally different and more complete. Something completely outside our experience.
I don’t know what that will be like. But I like thinking about it. I suspect it will be even wilder and more mysterious than the light we have now, which is saying something. It might be able to do more than just reveal surface appearance – maybe it will be able to reveal truth or fight oppression. I’m mostly glad to know that God hasn’t run out of surprises.
Application: I cannot possibly be expected to be practical with such a cool new subject for speculation.
Prayer: Father of Light, I praise you for being infinite, for always having a new idea or a new facet or a new form to reveal. Help me to walk in your light. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 1
Woe to the land of whirring wings…
Observation: The next line identifies his target as the land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. I’m not sure what people group that was at the time, but a couple of commentaries seem to think it’s Egypt, Ethiopia, or Cush. So that’s not terribly helpful.
In any case, the point is that “The Land of Whirring Wings” is a very cool name. And despite being an enemy of God, this nation has been deriving its identity from its wildlife – which God created. The prophet later calls them “a nation tall and bronzed,” which is again both a point of pride for these people and something that God created.
We have a bad habit of taking pride in things we didn’t make and don’t control. Sometimes it’s obvious that we are doing this, as it is for this nation. Sometimes it’s more subtle, when chance and choice architecture and poorly-understood social forces have played a far larger part in an outcome than we realize. Either way, we should be spending far more time than we do being grateful for what we have been given.
It’s a beautiful world God made. We’re just living in it.
Application: Notice when God gives you things. Be grateful.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for giving me so many things. Thank you for the weather today and the birds outside and the fact that my hair is behaving well. Help me to remember that you have given them to me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 14
Within three years [and not a day more], as if a hired worker were keeping track of the time, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt…
Observation: God’s relationship with time isn’t the same as ours, so sometimes we get weird ideas about when He’s planning for things and it leads to confusion. But we can know that if God has set the schedule, then the schedule will be met. And if we are given a hard time limit like this one, it will happen.
Close doesn’t count in prophecy and cosmic portents. The shooting star that was a month too late is just a shooting star. Mind you, meteors and comets and other shooting-star-things are awesome and beautiful and reminders of God’s beauty and glory.
God knows time. He knows it inside out and upside down and backwards. He even knows it forwards, which is sometimes more than we do. He knows time because He made it. He can see it in ways we can’t.
Which means that we don’t have to doubt His timing. We know things will happen when He says they will, even if that doesn’t end up being when we think they should.
Application: Trust in the Lord. He is never late.
Prayer: Father, thank you for creating time. Thank you for giving me a space of time to live in and understand. Help me to move through time with the confidence that you are moving with me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 24
Whoever touches the carcass of [an unclean animal] will be unclean until evening, and whoever picks up any part of their carcass is to wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…
Observation: So here we have this “uncleanness” thing. Lots of things rendered people temporarily unclean, including touching dead things, giving birth, and cleaning up after certain sacrifices. It doesn’t appear to be a state of sin, since sin requires sacrifice to be cleared, but it does prevent the person affected from participating in worship and society. In many cases, this was probably a practical benefit: it helped keep germs and other contaminants from spreading, and it gave women a period of rest after childbirth and during their periods.
I’m never sure what to do with this rule. Sooner or later I have to handle the bodies of dead things (usually worms and flies and the like), unless I can get my husband to do it for me. Naturally I use a tissue, but the law doesn’t say whether it still applies if you pick it up with something. Admittedly we’re no longer condemned by the Law, but I’m still relieved whenever I discover that the worm I found is actually still alive and therefore not part of this commandment.
And that’s probably the real purpose of these rules: to remind us that the world that exists is not the world that God desires. Death is the result of sin in the world, and so is the pain of childbirth and the difficulty of making a living. God plans to redeem His creation, and once He does nothing will be unclean anymore.
So we acknowledge that this world is broken, and we are grateful that we only spend a short time on it. Our home is with Him for eternity. Uncleanness lasts until evening, but joy awaits in the morning.
Application: Look forward to eternity rather than getting swamped by this life. Our current troubles will not last. Light is coming.
Prayer: Father, thank you for building a home for me. Thank you for preparing joy and peace that I can look forward to when life on Earth is difficult and chaotic. Help me to trust you when you say the all will be well. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 12
Aharon’s sons brought him the blood, and he splashed it against all sides of the altar.
Observation: It always struck me as a pity that all that blood got splashed on the sides of the alter. (The splashing was repeated pretty frequently.) The alter was covered in brass, and I like to think it was a work of art as well as a tool of worship. At any rate, it would have been pretty and shiny if it wasn’t covered in half-dried blood all the time. But it was.
Of course, that parallels the state of life today quite nicely. I do lots of things that I think are worthwhile. Some of them have high monetary value, and some of them are creative and artistic, and some of them are flashy and shiny. But without God’s life infusing them, none of them will accomplish anything in the long run.
I need the blood of the Lamb on my life if I am to change the world. I need His covering to direct and focus and refine my efforts. And the things I do with God may not look as pretty at first, but they are so much more powerful.
When I am covered in the blood of the Lamb, I can bring life to what is dead. I can help God bring creation back into harmony.
No shiny brass toy can accomplish that.
Application: His plan and His blood come first. Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all things will be given to you (Matthew 6:33). Follow what God has, not what is pretty.
Prayer: Father, thank you for covering me with your blood. Help me to build the life that you want me to live, not the one that makes sense to other humans. Help me to do your work. Amen.
Scripture: verse 4
When you bring a grain offering which has been baked in the oven, it is to consist of either unleavened cakes made of fine flour mixed with olive oil or matzah (unleavened bread) spread with olive oil.
Observation: Maybe I’m just hungry, but this sounds…nice. Good bread and olive oil is such a wonderful food, soothing and stimulating at the same time. The comfort of the bread and the rich oil with just a hint of sharp flavor, along with maybe a little salt and herbs…delicious. It makes me happy just to think about.
Which is good, because grain offerings are about things that make us happy. There’s no blood involved, so this isn’t about atoning for sin. It’s an offering of worship, of gratitude, of trust. It’s about recognizing that God made the flour and the oil, and He’ll make more for me tomorrow. It’s about thanking Him for creating food, for making it delicious and soothing and enriching. He could have made up absorb nutrients from the air, but he gave us tongues and taste buds and all sorts of wonderful smells and flavors.
It’s probably also about communing with God. Yeshua later promises to come in and eat with us (Revelation 3:20). He wants the intimacy of sharing a meal. When God spoke these words, people had to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, but now we are not confined to a given location, but must “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
God gives us good things. He made food for us to enjoy. He wants us to enjoy them with Him.
Application: Invite God to join you in your pleasures. A good book, a long walk, a nice meal and a glass of wine – He longs to share these things with us.
Prayer: Father, thank you for providing things that make me happy. Thank you for caring how my day goes and how my food tastes and what the weather is like. I praise you for all these things are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for making them for me. 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.
Scripture: from verse 11
…according to the purpose of the One who effects everything in keeping with the decision of His will.
Observation: No, that’s not a typo – this is the verb “effect,” which means to bring about or make happen. He makes stuff happen. Not just the abstract “stuff” that we all make happen, but the actual, literal stuff that our universe consists of. Matter. Energy. Love.
The laws of physics state that matter and energy cannot be created and cannot be destroyed. (They can be turned into each other, but that’s a different story.) The laws of human nature seem to imply that disinterested love is impossible. Life should be more or less impossible, for that matter. All the things that should be limited and impossible, He does. Because He decided to.
Application: …um. I did tell you I was bad at applications, didn’t I?
Prayer: Lord, I praise you for being before the before. Thank you for making me. Thank you for making the impossible happen. Thank you for giving me the power to do the impossible also. Amen.