Scripture: from verse 17
Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
and instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
instead of stones, iron.
Observation: In the wake of 9/11, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn pointed out that at least two leaders quoted from Isaiah 9:10, swearing to rebuild stronger than ever. This was a rather foolish thing to do, as Isaiah 9 is about people who ignore the Lord’s warnings and rely on their own strength to rebuild.
But here, God is promising a similar rebuilding. The rebellious leaders promised to replace fig trees with cedars; God promises to replace wood with bronze. They were going to replace brick with dressed stone; God promises to replace stone with iron.
The difference, of course, if that God is the source of this new strength. We can try to create our own strength, using the best ideas and materials available to us, but our efforts will never work as well as if we’d relied on God in the first place. His ways are higher than ours. His Spirit can amplify our strength in ways we would never have predicted.
Application: Rely on His strength, now your own
Prayer: Father of Light, I praise you because everything that has been made was made by you and for your purposes. I praise you because you created this world and allowed me to play in it, like a child in a sandbox. Thank you for taking delight in the castles I create. Help me to rely on you to accomplish what I cannot. Amen.
Scripture: verses 10 and 11
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
Observation: I was praying with my someone this weekend, and we came to the conclusion that we had created a false yardstick by which to measure ourselves, and we needed to lay it down. I commented that humans like to think we are good at measuring, but we never take into account the nonlinearity of everything.
We have this notion that we can help ourselves. We think that we can strive towards our goals and measure our own progress and accomplish things and that will please God. The problem is that we are uniquely bad at measuring things, and our whole purpose is to build castles in the air (whether they are art or stories or songs or logic or discoveries or engineered structures) that reflect God’s glory. We have inverted our purpose.
And when things look difficult, we rush around in circles, determined to fix the problem ourselves. But we can’t even see the whole problem – not properly – and we can’t fix it. That’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to trust in the name of the Lord.
Application: What problems are you determined to fix? Are you lighting your own torches when you should be praying for light?
Prayer: Father of lights, I praise you because you will always have a way out of the darkness. I praise you because you have a plan and a purpose for every darkness that I go through. Thank you for walking with me. Help me to rely on your light. Help me to value my castles in the air the way you do. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 6 and 7
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations…
to bring out the prisoners…who sit in darkness.
Observation: God is telling Israel that He called them and took them and shaped them to a covenant for the rest of the world, to bring light and freedom to those who are trapped.
I haven’t the faintest idea how a people (or a person) can be a covenant. A covenant is an agreement or a promise, neither of which is easily embodied in human form. But if we are both the sign of the covenant and one of the tools used to fulfill it, I guess that’s close enough?
So this is our calling: to create freedom and light where there was neither. To wield the power of God to do what He has promised.
I’m taking a social psychology class online, and one of the assignments is to spend a day being as compassionate as possible. The whole assignment has been bugging me, because many of the professor’s forms of compassion seem to be paralyzing: eating vegetarian and avoiding televised sports, violent movies, and sexist music. This is the flipside of compassion: going to war in the spirit on behalf of others, and breaking what traps them in darkness.
God is a powerful God. I don’t have to sit and worry, because I am called to go to war.
Application: Pray for others – bring them before God so that He can free them.
Prayer: Father, I praise you for being strong enough to give me your strength. I praise you for being light in the darkness and bringing freedom to captives. Help me to work alongside you. 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.