Scripture: from verse 3
…listen well, that your soul may live.
Observation: This passage is an open invitation from God: whatever our needs, we should come to God and be satisfied. He offers us food and drink “without money and without cost.” He asks only that we come and receive.
I’m trying to learn to be quiet and listen to God more. We’re so quick to rely on our own understanding, and I never seem to remember to ask God for His plan before coming up with my own. It causes a ridiculous amount of unneeded stress. I need to listen, because when I listen, I find rest for my soul.
Application: Listen well.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your offer of goodness. Thank you for sharing answers as fast as I remember to ask for them. Please help me to come to you before my soul gets tired. 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 24
…a slave-brand instead of beauty.
Observation: The women of Israel were being very proud (and greedy and vain and slutty, by the sound of it) and this was to be part of their punishment, along with being stripped of everything else they were proud of.
And it strikes me as interesting because God said in Leviticus that His people are His slaves. God owns us. 1 Corinthians says that we were bought with a price.
I don’t have any real proof of this, but I think our beauty is a sign of God’s ownership. He made us, and He made us beautiful. Ephesians 5 says that God is preparing us to be His bride, pure and without defect.
All of us are owned by God, if we accept His grace. All of us bear the beauty that is the mark of His ownership. And if God is our beauty, we don’t have to be afraid.
Application: Ask the Lord how He made you beautiful. Stand strong in that knowledge.
Prayer: Yeshua, you have marked me with beauty, inside and out. Help me to share that beauty with others and not to hide it. Amen.
Scripture: verse 16
So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Hodesh or Shabbat.
Observation: “So” implies that the previous passage laid the groundwork and gave the reasoning for this statement. The previous passage is about how Yeshua triumphed over earthly authorities and wiped away our bill of debt and freed us from sin.
Therefore, because you have been freed from sin and bondage to human tradition, don’t let humans pass judgement on you. (And, one would assume, don’t pass judgement on others.)
This doesn’t say that the traditions around these holidays are bad. They aren’t, and God calls some people to follow them at various times and for various reasons. But that’s between you and God and maybe your family.
How others worship is not my business. I do like to ask, because it’s really cool to learn about all the different things God has us do and how we’re all designed differently, but it isn’t my place to say someone is doing it wrong. It never has been.
Application: Don’t judge others for things that aren’t clearly sinful. We all do life a little differently. That’s cause for celebration, not criticism.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for being flexible, for meeting me where I am and with what I need instead of demanding that I conform to some model that I can’t fit. Help me to celebrate with other people and not be a stumbling block (Rom 14:13) to them. 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: from verse 8
Human tradition…accords with the elemental spirits of the world but does not accord with the Messiah.
Observation: For a while I read the blog at MMSL, because I thought he had some interesting thoughts about relationships and the monogamous sexual dynamic. I really like some of his ideas, but I eventually found it distasteful (though, I must admit, not necessarily false) that he assumes that the only real motivations we have are sex and fear.
These are the elemental spirits of the world. The need to survive, the need to leave a legacy and a family and know that we will not be entirely forgotten. The need to be loved and accepted by others. The need to be safe from the unknowns of the universe. Sex and fear.
And so we have human tradition and human culture, which stems from these things. And they create some amazing and wonderful things: family, and music, and law. There is truth and love and light mixed in with the darkness. But they still have that unspoken agreement with the fears that drive us as humans.
And then there’s Messiah. Who brings us life, and life abundantly (John 10:10). Who says that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6). Who promises that in all these things we will be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Who gives us perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
We don’t have to be afraid anymore.
I’m not saying we should reject all of human tradition. That would be impractical as well as unnecessary. But human tradition shouldn’t rule us, because parts of it no longer make sense. If we are in Messiah, we don’t have to be afraid. And if we aren’t afraid, we are free to choose what will bless us and those around us.
Application: Watch out for that fear. It doesn’t accomplish anything good. Ask God for guidance as you decide how to live.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for removing my fear. Thank you for shedding light into the darkness. Help me to choose to live in the light. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 10
You are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants…everyone is to return to his family.
Observation: The fiftieth year was Jubilee – debts were wiped away and land ownership reverted to the family who originally owned it. God points out in verse 23 that they are all leasing land from Him anyway.
What struck me is that everyone was to return to his family as part of the year of freedom. Jubilee was meant to be a year of reconciliation and reconnection as well as a time of rest and returning to God. The debts to be wiped away were not just financial but also the emotional debts that can stress families so badly.
God wants us to be at peace with others, because emotional debts keep us from knowing God’s freedom. Old slights and arguments and angry spirals stay in our hearts if we don’t deal with them, and pop up just when we wish they wouldn’t.
Just as God is the ultimate owner of everything we have, we also need to let Him mediate our relationships with those around us. He knows their hearts, and He is working in their hearts, just as He knows and is working in our hearts. He will create justice and life and order; we don’t have to. All will be well.
Application: To the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people. (Romans 12:18)
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for being my Peace. Thank you for offering Peace to everyone I know. Help me to stay in that peace and extend it to others. Amen.