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.
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 4
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Observation: God is telling Israel that He loves them and is with them and they should not be afraid. And then there’s this bit.
The genocides and apparent arbitrariness of the early days of God’s people bother a lot of people. Which is probably a good thing, as we shouldn’t be indifferent to others, even our enemies. This seems to be one part of an explanation: God allowed some people to die so that Israel could live.
Now, God loves everyone, because He made everyone. But He was doing a special work through Israel, and He’d promised to do it through Israel, so He had to continue to choose Israel in order to still be God.
Of course, that doesn’t make sense either, because God isn’t playing a zero-sum game. God isn’t faced with a universe where resources are limited and some people have to lose. On the other hand, God also knows that physical death isn’t the same as spiritual death, and what happens on Earth isn’t the whole story. The work God was doing through Israel allowed Him to offer grace to everyone, including those killed along the way. (How did that work? I have no idea. But it’s not really my business.)
I still can’t say I like this verse. It doesn’t seem nice. But I can’t see it the way God saw it, so I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing.
Application: Trust God. And don’t be hasty to judge the actions of others; you can’t see their situations the way they do either.
Prayer: Father, thank you for giving men in exchange for my life. I don’t really feel grateful – I mostly feel awkward about it – but you clearly did it because you love us. I praise you because you are not dealing with a zero-sum game and you can see more than I can. Help me to trust that you have chosen me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 12
[God] has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand…
Observation: There’s a vlogbrothers video that points out that humans are really terrible at wrapping our heads around things that are far bigger or far smaller than we are. If you ask me how much space five marbles will take up, I have an immediate intuitive sense of that, quite aside from whatever experience I may have in holding marbles. Five marbles will fit in the palm of my hand. If you ask me how much space a million marbles will take up, I have no idea. I know they will not fit in the palm of my hand. But whether they will fit in a bucket, in my car, in my house…I’m just not sure.
And then there’s God. I can make some rough calculations and estimate how much space the marbles will take up, after all, even if I can’t picture it. (Apparently I’m going to need around 250 5-gallon buckets to store them. I think they would, technically, fit in the house, but I doubt my husband would be pleased.) And God is even bigger than that.
God is so big that we can’t even comprehend the metaphors used to describe how big He is. The hollow of a hand is easy enough to understand, but using one to measure all the water of Earth is impossible. If the entire mass of water on Earth was pooled together, it would apparently make a giant ball the size of Spain. I cannot imagine a giant ball the size of Spain, even with a picture to help me. And this image of God is a couple orders of magnitude beyond that, and God Himself is even bigger than this image. The mind boggles.
But God likes our minds boggling. He likes that we try to understand Him, and He steps into our world to make Himself known. He notices us and loves us, which realistically is kind of like us taking an eager interest in the life and concerns of an amoeba.
The physics alone boggles the mind.
Application: Still boggling, sorry.
Prayer: God, you are pretty amazing. By which I mean considerably more awesomely amazing than I can even begin to describe. Thank you for giving us pictures of you, so that we can begin to understand who you are. Amen.
Scripture: verse 32
And what is one to answer
the messengers of the nation?
That Adonai founded Zion,
and there the poor of his people will find refuge.
Observation: We have switched from the doom of Babylon to the doom of the Philistines. They aren’t all that different, apparently. The prophet is warning them not to assume they’re in the clear because the current king of Israel has died. Once God decides a nation is His enemy, they are pretty doomed no matter what happens.
But God will always be a refuge for those who need Him. Even in the middle of dealing out death and destruction, God remembers to provide for His people. The poor and weak and needy get food and comfort and strength, because God is big enough to care for them in the midst of battle.
God is big enough to be both Father and Mother to us. (I’m not trying to get into a discussion of God’s gender here, or about human gender roles. I’m just trying to get the right image.) He’s big enough to fight and win. He’s big enough to work and create and make things grow. And He’s big enough to love and nourish and comfort and teach. All at the same time, without getting confused or distracted or letting the emotions from one activity bleed into the others.
I tend to think of God as having a huge brain – tracking all the raindrops and holding the universe together and so on. But His heart is just as huge and just as able to take care of me.
Application: Trust Him to be what you need, when you need it.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for underestimating you. I’m sure I’m still doing it, of course, but thank you for helping me get a bigger and clearer idea of you as I learn. Help me to trust you with my heart, and to run to you for shelter. Amen.
Scripture: verse 15
[He stripped] the rulers and authorities of their power… triumphing over them by means of the stake
Observation: I grew up with undiagnosed selective mutism, a form of social anxiety where the speech centers of my brain would shut down and I would become mute when I got anxious – especially if I was expected to explain or defend myself. This tended to be a problem, as I’m sure you can imagine.
So when I hear about being slaves to sin and prisoners of darkness, that’s what I think of. The paralyzing fear that made it impossible to think, but was so all-encompassing that I was in college before we realized something was wrong.
And that’s what Yeshua broke. He stripped that anxiety of its authority over me. The fear that I wasn’t good enough and would never measure up is overcome by the truth that I am His now, and He is good enough and He measures up. He’s the only one allowed to judge me now, and He says I’m perfect.
I am free now. I haven’t been mute since God miraculously broke the selective mutism about six months after I got married. I do still have some social anxiety, but it doesn’t imprison me like it used to. Yeshua died to wash away its power.
Application: Seek freedom. The things that bind you have no power anymore.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for freeing me. Thank you for making me a daughter instead of a slave. Help me to turn over to you the things that still hold me back. Amen.
Scripture: verses 1 and 2:
After the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they tried to sacrifice before Adonai and died; Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell your brother Aharon not to come at just any time into the Holy Place beyond the curtain, in front of the ark-cover which is on the ark, so that he will not die; because I appear in the cloud over the ark-cover…”
Observation: People are screwed up. We really are. Despite the extensive instruction, and despite the thunder and fire and other manifestations of God being God, the new priests figured they knew what they were doing. So they did things their way, and they died for it. God isn’t like other gods. He is Himself, and we shouldn’t assume that we can figure Him our or expect Him to make sense to us.
After those deaths, God created a new set of rules to remind the priests that they didn’t have things figured out either. God is a different God. They weren’t allowed to wander in and out of His presence. They had to follow the rules too.
And what of us? We are allowed to enter into God’s presence whenever we want to. We are told to “boldly approach the throne of grace” in Hebrews 4. Does this mean we have things figured out, that we don’t need to be reminded that God is holy? Not likely.
We aren’t welcome because we have followed the Law correctly. We aren’t welcome because we’ve gotten it right. We’re welcome because we’re family. Our actions haven’t changed, but our identity has.
That’s why Yeshua died. The rules didn’t work to make us good. We can’t serve God the way He wants to be served. So we’re not asked to. We couldn’t make it as servants, so we’re invited in as family.
Application: Boldly approach the throne of grace. Treat God like family. Tell Him things, and expect Him to tell you things.
Prayer: Hi God. Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for listening to whatever I have to say. This has been a good day so far. Thank you for making things go well, and help me deal with the things that don’t. Amen.
Scripture: verse 8
The priest who offers someone’s burnt offering will possess the hide of the burnt offering which he has offered.
Observation: This is, of course, partly a matter of practicality: the burnt offerings get skinned and the hide has to go somewhere, so it goes to the priest who did the skinning.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked. And though God had to withdraw much of His protection and blessing from them, He did give them clothes made from animal skins. He was still their father, and He was still willing and wanting to cover them.
God is giving the priest a source of income by giving them the hides of these animals, but He’s also giving them a chance to participate in His work. He’s giving them the ability to cover and shelter those who have no covering or shelter.
Which leads us on to Yeshua, of course, who is both priest and sacrifice. And who loves us enough to give up His own skin to cover us.
We don’t have to be alone anymore.
Application: Accept His covering. Accept His love. The sacrifice part already happened, after all, so it seems kinda silly not to take it. (Well, it already happened in our timeline. Yeshua probably doesn’t see time the same way we do.) And pass it on, when you can.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for being my covering. Thank you for keeping me safe and warm and sheltered. Help me to share your love with others. Amen.
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.
Scripture: from verse 9
From the sacrifices made as peace offerings, he is to present Adonai with an offering made by fire; it is to consist of all the fat…
Observation: I’m not exactly certain what a peace offering was (and a quick internet search indicates that no one else is certain either) but the word peace is from the Hebrew shalom, which means not just peace but also wholeness and completeness and everything being right.
And someone who was making a peace offering (meaning he sought peace, perhaps? or was grateful for peace?) would bring an animal and slaughter it and the fat of the animal would be burned on the altar. (I’m doing the whole chapter as one post because the chapter is essentially the same information repeated three times, with slight variation depending on the animal in question.)
The fat burning reminded me of Isaiah 58:11, which in the KJV promises that the Lord will make our bones fat. If we follow God’s will and show His love to those around us,
Adonai will guide you continually;
He will satisfy your soul in the desert,
He will make your bones fat;
so that you will be like a watered garden,
and like an unfailing spring of water.
(That’s the KJV with some tweaks to modernize the language.)
We don’t need the fat of the animals, because God is our energy. We can give up sources of strength, confident in the knowledge that He is our peace. We follow Him and He makes us whole.
Application: Don’t worry. Don’t worry about the chances you pass by or the things you have to give up. God is your shalom, and He will make all things right.
Prayer: Father, thank you for knowing what I need and arranging for me to have it. Thank you for working behind the scenes and beyond my knowledge to make me whole. Help me to trust you beyond what my eyes can see. Amen.