Tag Archives: dance of the universe

Isaiah 41:1-16

Scripture: from verse 14

Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord

Observation:  “I’m nobody!  Who are you?”  (Emily Dickenson)

Israel was nothing special.  They were not large, not powerful, not rich.  There was no reason for them to be anything but afraid, given the objective facts of their situation.

But God told them not to fear.  Not because of who they were, but because of who He is.

Like Israel, we are nothing special.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m nobody.  But I don’t have to be bigger than I am.

Emily Dickenson found comfort in being nobody, because it meant she could hide.  But God isn’t calling us to hide.  He’s calling us to wield His strength.

I am nobody, but I bear His name.  Instead of keeping our heads down and hoping the world will leave us alone, God tells us not to be afraid.  We are called to battle, or to parade, or to sing, or to dance, or to write, because we bear His name.  Because He helps us.

We don’t have to be somebody to do something.  We bear His name, and that is everything.

Application:  Do things.  Don’t try to do them on your own.  Don’t be afraid.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because your life is a joyful and carnival and powerful life, because you are brilliant and powerful.  I praise you because you call us to battle, not to the milky fastidiousness that the social psychology course seems to be promoting lately.  Thank you for having a plan for me.  Help me to walk in it.  Amen.

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Isaiah 30:14-33

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.

Isaiah 25:6-12

Scripture: from verse 6

On this mountain AdonaiTzva’ot (Lord of Hosts) will make for all peoples a feast of rich food and superb wines…

Observation:  There’s a number of wonderful promises here: that God will swallow up death forever, that He will open our eyes to see clearly, that He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  But…I like this one.  Maybe I’m just hungry.

My family recently had our Strawberry Shortcake Day – we went out in the morning to pick strawberries, and then in the evening we had strawberry shortcake for dinner, with fresh whipped cream and shortcakes my sister and brother had made the day before.  Each year we invite some of our favorite people, and we all have our strawberry shortcake and sit on the porch and eat and talk and eat some more.

This verse is a promise of that kind of meal.  Not just food eaten to keep from being hungry, but a meal that combines the sensory pleasure of good food with the harmony and connection of being with people who love each other.  The rich cream and the soft breeze and the warm sun and the happy conversation and the long satisfying drinks of tea or wine or homemade lemonade and the knowledge that there is nowhere to go and no one to impress and I might as well just relax.

There’s no magic on earth that can make that happen for everyone, for all time.  But God can.

Yeshua said that the peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).  It’s not an arbitrary designation – by creating peace, we are doing God’s work.  Strawberry Shortcake Day would not work these days if Mom hadn’t taught us to appreciate it and work together to make it happen each year.  She started it, and now it’s our job.

And when we live at peace with those around us, we help God make this feast for all nations.  We help create the harmony that makes food into a meal.  We help Him make Strawberry Shortcake Day for everyone.

Application:  Live at peace with those around you.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for making peace.  Thank you for making harmony between humans possible, and for promising to finish your work someday.  Help me to respond to others out of peace.  Amen.

Isaiah 5:16-30

Scripture: verse 20

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who change darkness into light
and light into darkness,
who change bitter into sweet
and sweet into bitter!

Observation:  One of the things I like about God is that He is truth.  God is the fundamental Source of logic in Creation.  When tomorrow follows today in the correct sequence, it is because God is truth and He doesn’t change.  When I throw a ball and it follows a trajectory that can be calculated from the strength of my throw and the weight of the ball and the pull of gravity and a few key equations, it is because God is truth.  When I add two and two and get four, it is because God is truth.

Truth isn’t unknowable.  It isn’t relative.  The facts of a situation vary, of course, but the bedrock structural logic of the universe is true and does not change.  This isn’t always pleasant – tomorrow may be sad, the ball may hit someone in the face, and I may have been hoping that two and two would magically be five today – but it is still far safer than the alternative.

And then there’s people who say that nothing is knowable and we should rejoice in the mystery.  That humans are supposed to be nasty and brutish.  That evil is good and good is evil.  Some of them are simply confused, of course, and God has grace for that.  But for the people who look at what they know to be true and decide to believe otherwise, God has something else coming.  Because He is truth, and He will not change Himself to accommodate a lie.

Application:  See the truth.  Believe it.

Prayer:  Father, thank you or creating logic and physics and things that are true, that we can explore and study and learn about.  Thank you or creating a world that is stable and full of new mysteries for us to uncover.  Help me stay on your bedrock of truth.  Amen.

Leviticus 23:1-22

Scripture: from verses 10 and 14

After you enter the land I am giving you and harvest its ripe crops, you are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest…You are not to eat bread, dried grain or fresh grain until the day you bring the offering for your God.

Observation:  God goes first.  The first fruit from the tree was dedicated to God (Lev 19), and the first grain of the harvest was brought to God also.  This was a gesture of thanks (since God had given the grain in the first place) and faith (that God would provide more ripe grain for them to eat) as well as worship.

We no longer bring sacrifices, but it’s still important to find ways to remind ourselves that God goes first.  In our finances, in our time, in our energy.  I’m not especially good at this, to be honest.  We’ve done some things with our finances that reflect this, but that’s not necessarily something I notice.  I have gotten a bit better since starting this study – choosing to write the next post before catching up online is a form of putting God first.

God is the source of life – our physical life, but also our energy and our creativity and the order and balance of the universe.  When we remember that, the rest of our lives makes more sense.

Application:  Find ways to put God first.  Make decisions that remind you that He is your wellspring and your source.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for being the ultimate Source of energy in the universe, the foundation of logic and the crux of all matters.  Help me to remember that you are there, and make you my priority.  Amen.

Leviticus 11:24-47

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.

Leviticus 9:12-24

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.

Leviticus 6:12-23

Scripture: from verse 20

Whatever touches its flesh will become holy…

Observation:  The sin offering made things holy.  The person who was repentant and brought the sin offering became holy, of course, but the holiness doesn’t stop there.  Anything that touched it became holy, anyone who ate it became holy, and whatever objects came in contact with it (clothes splashed with the blood, dishes used to cook it or hold it) had to be treated as holy.

There is power in the blood of the Lamb.

Yeshua is our sin sacrifice.  When He touches us, we become holy.  We are put into an entirely new category, new role, new family.  We are no longer just human, but something more.  Something different.

His blood makes the desert bloom.  The desert gets very little rain, but when it comes, the plants and flowers appear overnight – the entire landscape is transformed in the blink of an eye.

The same thing happens to us, in our hearts.  Yeshua’s touch allows life to grow where there was only dryness before.  He transforms us completely.  He makes us holy.

There is power in the blood of the Lamb.

Application: …I assume there is one?  Gratitude, I guess.  The verses I’m most excited about tend to have the least obvious applications.  That’s okay.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you so much for being my Lamb.  Thank you for transforming me, for infusing me with new life and new hope.  Thank you that I don’t have to be just myself anymore, but that I can be your daughter.  Amen.

Ephesians Wrap-Up

I noticed at some point (beginning of chapter six, I think) that the phrase “In union with Him” recurs several times during Ephesians.  Which makes sense, because Ephesians is largely a “now what?” book: it covers the things that happen to us and the things that we should be doing, now that we are in union with Him.

In union with Him…

…we are set free (1:7)

…we are created for a life of good actions which God has planned for us (2:10)

…we are held together and growing as a community into a dwelling-place for God (2:21-22)

…we are all heirs in God’s promises (3:6)

…we have boldness and confidence when we approach God (3:12)

…we no longer use sterile ways of thinking (4:17)

…we are to obey our parents and other authorities (6:1)

…we grow powerful in the Lord’s mighty strength (6:10)

In union with the Lord, our identity changes first.  We are free of sin, and given a new life and a new calling.

The next thing to change is our relationships.  God moves us to live in community, to glorify Him together.  God uses the strengths and weaknesses and giftings of each person together, so that we no longer have to rely on our own abilities but have others to support us.  We are not only free, but we are also family.

Then our thinking changes.  We gain confidence and creativity and love for others.  We learn what the truth looks like, and our words and actions create life.

And finally (finally!) our actions reflect our faith – we learn love for others and humility that makes it easier to submit to authority and put others first.  We rely on God’s power and not our own.

Union with God is not to be taken lightly.  It sweeps through and changes more than we realize.  But it’s also a process, and some of the most visible signs are the ones that happen last.  The presence of sin doesn’t mean the process isn’t happening.  Making a mistake doesn’t change my identity, or my place in the community.  It just means I’m not there yet.

Thankfully, God is there already.  And He’s still holding my hand and lifting me higher.

Ephesians 5:16-20

Scripture: verse 17

So don’t be foolish, but try to understand what the will of the Lord is.

Observation: We can’t afford to be foolish – we have little enough time and energy as it is.  We can’t waste it feeding darkness and emptiness.

During the conference I was at recently, two verses kept coming to me.  The first was Hebrews 4, which is about the need to trust God’s grace and choose to enter His rest.  The other was Psalm 90:12, which says “Teach us to number our days, that we may become wise.”  I was struggling to connect them (on the assumption that God intended them to be connected) and I think this verse is the third part of that puzzle.

Our time and our energy and our abilities are limited.  Since they are limited, we have to use them efficiently, which means allowing God to determine how they are to be used.  And His will is that we trust His grace and allow Him to shape us and teach us to love Him and love others.  He is making us fitly framed for Him and for each other, creating something beautiful.

Application: Go with the flow – the God flow, anyway.  Serve God, love others, and rest.

Prayer: Teach me to number my days, Father.  Teach me to use what you have given me wisely, and to trust you to compensate for my failures.  Thank you that you have a plan for me, that I will not be wasted or overlooked.  Amen.