Tag Archives: God’s perspective

Isaiah 59:11-21

Scripture: from verse 15

…he who leaves evil becomes a target.

Observation:  The first part of this passage is a depressing-but-accurate description of the world as it tends to be: everyone sins, most people delight in sin, and the people who aren’t as ruthless as possible become targets.  We see it in the schoolyard, we see it in the corporate world, it’s everywhere.

The passage goes on to say that this angers God and He arms Himself and wreaks vengeance on those who delighted in doing wrong.  Which is all well and good, but not always comforting for people who are trying to find ways of doing what is right without being victims.  Despite the promises of eventual reward, I can’t say I’m finding this passage all that comforting.

Which probably means that I’m not seeing right.  God sees things differently, somehow.  His perspectives on time and suffering are different, and not in a large-scale, it’s-not-that-bad, He-doesn’t-care way.  He’s aware of a larger truth that somehow makes it all fit together.  He knows that someday, we’ll be laughing too.

Application: Hold on to hope. He’s on His way.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you can see the purpose and the intricate integrity of everything that happens to me,even when I can’t.  I praise you because you can help me laugh at trouble.  Help me to trust you.  Amen.

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Isaiah 57:11-21

Scripture: from verse 15

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit…

Observation:  God dwells in the heavens, and on top of the mountains, and in my house, and in the shacks of His poorest believers, and inside me.  None of these places are too small, and none are too large.

I don’t think God sees space the way we see space.

And really, that’s just as well.  A God who made sense to us would be woefully inadequate for the job.  So it’s rather a relief to learn that He doesn’t see things the way I do.  What we see is not all that is.

Application:  Know that God is with you

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you are bigger and more complicated than I could ever imagine.  Thank you for choosing to be with me.  Amen.

Isaiah 57:1-10

Scripture: from verse 1

For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace…

Observation:  Yesterday at the ladies’ Bible study, one of the ladies was questioning why God allows people to die young despite our prayers.  One of the other women responded that maybe God was taking them away from a future that would be worse.  I didn’t like that answer at the time, but this verse seems to be saying the same thing.  When a righteous person perishes, he or she enters into peace and avoids the calamity that is coming.

I have no idea if that’s always true, and I’m not sure whether it’s an especially comforting thing to say, but it does remind us that God doesn’t see things the way we see them.  God’s views of life and death and strength and weakness are all different and weird to us.  Which is probably just as well, given how hopeless our perceptions tend to be.

Application:  Believe God, even when His words don’t seem to make sense.  Ask for His perspective instead.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you are the one who sees reality as it is.  You are the one who can see both sides of the coin and the other 90% of the iceberg and all the colors not in the rainbow.  Thank you for rescuing me and keeping me safe.  Help me to see what you see.  Amen.

Isaiah 56

Scripture: from verses four and five:

To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths and…hold fast my covenant…I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Observation:  God is speaking to people who may feel that they are outside of God’s blessing: eunuchs and foreigners and outcasts.  God says that their circumstances will not block His blessing.  If they choose to follow Him, God will gather them close, and bring them into His unity.  The eunuchs should not describe themselves as “dry trees,” even though that is exactly what they are, because God is not stopped by their physical limitations.

There is no human limitation that can stop God’s blessing.  He can give an everlasting legacy to a eunuch.  He can give us righteousness, no matter what our past decisions have been.  He can make us whole, no matter how hurt we are.  He can give us health, no matter our genetics or condition or age.

Application:  Speak the truth: that God has made you righteous and whole and strong.  Don’t describe yourself as a dry tree.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because there is nothing that limits you.  There is nothing that the powers of this world can do to stop you from blessing me.  Thank you for restoring me.  Help me to see your truth.  Amen.

Isaiah 51:12-23

Scripture: from verses 16 and 17

I have put my words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of my hand…Wake yourself, stand up!

Observation:  The passage is God pointing out that His people spend all their time being afraid of and focused on humans and human might, which is rather pointless given that humans die quickly and God is eternal.  Whether God is punishing or blessing, His actions are considerably more impactful than human ones.

God says that He has already given His people words to speak and shelter and provision and everything they need for life.  They face their attackers from a place of strength, not weakness.  They just don’t know it.

I’ve been thinking lately about the need to “fail fast,” an idea that comes from the Freakonomics podcast, The Upside of Quitting.  The Freakonomics people meant it in terms of business and life decisions: we should try lots of new things, but identify which ones aren’t working or aren’t useful early on, so that we can quit them.  Try new things, and fail fast at the ones that are wrong.

For me, failing fast has been more about choosing to have faith in God instead of faith in myself.  When I try to do things on my own strength, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  If I fail fast – if I realize early on that God can handle this and I can’t – then I rely on God and He always works.  He is abundantly efficacious.  Boundlessly potent.  Me failing fast just means that He wins sooner.

I’m trying to wake up.  I hope that I don’t have to wait until my words give out to start speaking His.  I’d like to walk in the safety of His shadow.  I don’t know how that happens, but that’s what I want.  I want to fail fast.

Application: I’m hesitant to give an application in an area where I’m still feeling out what I’m supposed to do.  But I have found that He gives answers when we ask questions.

Prayer: God, thank you for making me a superconqueror (Romans 8).  I praise you because you have already won the battles I am fighting.  Help me to enter your victorious rest.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:14-26

Scripture: from verse 18

As I live, declares the Lordyou shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does.

Observation:  God’s people are convinced that God has forgotten them.  They feel they are left alone to face their enemies and oppressors and the indifferent giants of the world.  God says that He has not forgotten them and never could, and that the very things that they look at with fear will be their ornaments.

2 Corinthians 3 talks about the veil that we wear, so that we cannot see the truth of our situation.  We wear a veil that keeps us from realizing that what we see is not all that is, that the rules we follow and the circumstances we see are limited and finite.  It isn’t until we turn to the Spirit that the veil comes undone.

Our faith is limited to what we see, and we see very little.  We can’t force ourselves to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has an answer to every problem confronting us.  We can’t force ourselves to honestly expect rescue and restoration and glory.

All we can do is take it on faith that our own perceptions are limited.  We can turn to the Spirit of God and ask Him to explain to us.  Like a student who asks for help from an expert when the book is unclear, we can ask what we’re missing.

I also notice that Israel is apparently having difficulties with perspective.  Their enemies look huge, but God says they will be used as jewelry, which means that they will fit in the palm of Israel’s hand, and be easily carried.  Something that Israel sees as a huge boulder that could crush them flat, God sees as a smallish gemstone that could be comfortably worn as a necklace.  We’re not seeing things right when we see our circumstances as big.  I’m not sure how that works (possibly the veil is made of a Fresnel lens?) but it’s worth knowing that it happens.

Application:  Ask what you’re missing.

Prayer:  Spirit of God, I praise you because you can see the true size of every element and every person.  I praise you because my worries and mountains are just jewelry and knick-knacks to you.  Thank you for showing me God’s plan for me.  Please show me what I’ve been missing, and teach me what it means.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-13

Scripture: from verse 6

I will make you as a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Observation:  Isaiah says that God has chosen him to show God’s glory.  He also says that he has worked in vain, and has accomplished nothing.  He has delivered nearly 50 chapters of prophecy to Israel, and seen no discernible result other than that nobody likes him.  He does say that God will reward him, but he’s clearly discouraged.

God, instead of responding by letting him take a break or not prophesy anymore, says that bringing back Israel is “too light a thing,” and Isaiah will now be a light for the nations.

I would guess that Isaiah was less than amused.

God does also promise that all peoples will worship Him, and that He will comfort His people and that all will be well.  But from Isaiah’s standpoint, I don’t know how comforting that was.  It must have looked (at least for a moment) like God was just giving him an even bigger task to fail at.

But Isaiah never failed at all.  He had spoken God’s words, and the result was God’s problem, not Isaiah’s.  The words God spoke through him still bless us today.

We’re not very good at knowing when we’ve failed and when we’ve succeeded.  The standards we use to measure ourselves (and each other) are badly flawed, and we are limited by our own brains and our own perspectives.  Sometimes we don’t even know what our goal should be.

But God knows.  God sees more than we can.  God knows where we’re going.  God knows what we’re good at.  So we have to trust Him more than we trust ourselves.  Because He’s the One who knows.

Application:  Trust His knowledge.  Don’t give up.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you are the One Who Knows.  I praise you because you do not get confused or blinded or forgetful.  Thank you for charting my course for me.  Help me to lean on you and not give up.  Amen.

Isaiah 46

Scripture: verse 7

they set [their idol] in its place, and it stands there;
    it cannot move from its place.

Observation:  Isaiah is, once again, mocking the stupidity of idol-worship.  They bring gold to a goldsmith, the goldsmith makes a statue, and then everyone worships said statue.  Not only can the statue not accomplish anything on their behalf, it can’t even move on its own behalf.  They carry it around, and it cannot move from where they put it.

And then there’s us.  1 John 4 says that we love because God first loved us.  Zechariah 12:10 prophesies that God will pour out a spirit that contains both grace and desire for grace: the spirit both allows us to understand that we need grace and provides grace at the same time.  (The phrase is typically translated “a spirit of grace and supplication” – the words for both grace and supplication are forms of the root “hanan,” which means grace.)  We cannot move from where we are.

My daughter has experienced a couple of panic attacks, so I’ve been trying to help her understand what a panic attack is.  She’s too young to really get it, and as a result she can’t see a way out of the panic, can’t even see that the fear isn’t reality.  So she fights me when I tell her to take deep breaths, to count slowly to ten, to picture colors in her head.

My mom says that from God’s perspective, we’re all about three years old.  We think that what we see is all there is.  We don’t see the edges and limits of our understanding.  We can’t move from where we are until God shows us that there is somewhere else to be.  And He’s the only one who can carry us there.

Application:  Ask God what you’re missing.  Let Him take you places.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you see far more than I do.  I praise you because you are the only being in existence who can move on your own initiative.  Thank you for bringing me out of darkness.  Help me to see your light.  Amen.

Isaiah 43:1-13

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.

Isaiah 39

Scripture: from verse 8

“There will be peace and security in my days.”

Observation:  I’d say that Hezekiah was an idiot if it weren’t for the fact that we all do this.  So humans are idiots.  Hezekiah, after a salutary reminder that everything he is and had and could have was a gift of God, and after promising to remember his lesson and be much more humble in the future, promptly forgot the entire incident.  Messengers arrived from Babylon to congratulate him on not being sick anymore, and Hezekiah showed off all of his wealth and strength to them, apparently forgetting that he was remembering that those things were God’s and none of Hezekiah’s doing.  When Isaiah told Hezekiah that this had been a mistake and would eventually result in Babylon conquering Jerusalem and capturing Hezekiah’s descendants, Hezekiah figured this was good news because at least his reign would be peaceful.

It’s just so deliciously human of him.  As soon as the revelation loses relevance, he forgets about it.  He reverts to assuming that his things are his, that he has some control over his destiny, that what he sees is what there is.

That’s why God sent to Holy Spirit to be with us, to remind us of what we already know.  We get glimpses of eternity to remind us of the truth.  We get new eyes and new hearts because the old ones are broken beyond repair.

Application:  Don’t let revelations fall by the wayside.  Ask the Holy Spirit for the truth.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, I praise you because you see things as they are and you do not change.  I thank you for giving me access to the truth.  I praise you because your memory is reliable and I know mine is not.  Please help me to remember what I already know, and forgive me when I forget.  Amen.