Tag Archives: God’s preparation

Isaiah 54:1-3

Scripture: from verse 3

…your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.

Observation: Isaiah 53 covered Yeshua’s death, and now God gets to talk about the redemption of His people.  I gather it makes Him happy.

He begins by promising that those who have no families will have families, that we will spread and grow and sing for joy together.  What struck me here is the promise to people the desolate cities.

Cities don’t (usually) become desolate at random.  A deserted city represents the failure of some venture, or the inability to adjust to new innovation.  In the 60s, Detroit churned out cars with the expectation that every family would replace their car every two years.  When the economy shifted and buying patterns changed and foreign manufacture improved, Detroit began to get smaller and smaller.  And not every deserted place is a city: Borders went out of business a few years ago, when it couldn’t adapt to the online marketplace, and that guy who started a company that mails glitter to your enemies couldn’t keep up with demand and sold his website, and Kickstarters fail every day because the product didn’t generate enough interest.  Ventures fail.  Circumstances change.

But God’s redeemed will occupy the deserted cities.  God is the Source of Sources, and He can provide the inspiration or innovation or chance meeting or extra funding or whatever it takes to make a failed venture succeed.  God can make the desert bloom.

Application:  I can think of several possible things to put here, but none of them feel right.  So I won’t.

Prayer: God, I praise you because you can see what makes a thing fail and what makes it succeed.  I praise you because your resources are infinite.  Thank you for preparing a place for me.  Help me to walk in your plan.

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Isaiah 6:8-13

Scripture: from verse 9

Yes, you hear, but you don’t understand.
You certainly see, but you don’t get the point!

Observation:  This is the message God sends to Israel: that they are misunderstanding or refusing to understand who God is and what He wants.

I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction lately (meaning fans writing stories about the Harry Potter characters which may or may not fit into the plot of the books) and a couple of my favorite stories are in the “Sevitus” trope, meaning they are stories in which Professor Snape becomes Harry’s mentor or guardian.  The well-written ones are very heartwarming.  (“Severitus,” on the other hand, means that it turns out Snape is Harry’s biological father, and those are usually terrible and squicky.  Now you know.)

Anyway, this verse reminded me of a scene in one such story, where Harry is remembering a typically horrible lesson with Professor Snape and, in retrospect, realizes that behind Snape’s insults was the desperate hope that Harry would figure out what he needed to learn, because it would save his life.

The point here is not that Snape necessarily meant that (since I’m not sure he did, in canon) or that God is like Snape (I am very thankful He isn’t) but that sometimes we seem to be in a similar situation with God.  God isn’t always nice.  He isn’t safe.  He doesn’t provide beds of roses and bonbons to eat.  Well, not often anyway.

But even when He has to put us through difficult situations, His thoughts towards us are not hateful or angry.  He’s hoping we’ll figure out what we need to learn, because it will save our lives.

We’re all facing a battle.  We’re all saving the world.  We are all the Chosen One.  That God isn’t always nice doesn’t mean He isn’t good.  He will save our lives.

Application:  Ask God for understanding, instead of assuming He doesn’t have anything useful to say about difficult things.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for saving my life.  Thank you for teaching me everything I need to know.  Help me to understand what you are showing me.  Amen.

Leviticus 20:15-27

Scripture: verse 21

If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is uncleanness; he has disgraced his brother sexually; they will be childless.

Observation:  The penalties for sexual impurity varied depending on the offense, sometimes without any obvious reason.  Sometimes the offenders were killed, sometimes they were exiled, and sometimes they weren’t punished by the community, but by God.

This reminds me of the story in 2 Samuel 24.  David does something idiotic (David was good at that.  But then, who isn’t?) and God gives him a choice of punishments: three years of famine, three months of war, or three days of plague.  David chooses the plague, because he’d rather be punished by a gracious and loving God than fall into the hands of men.

Which is not to say that marrying one’s sister-in-law is a good plan, of course.  Sin never is.  But I’m glad that I can trust God with my heart and know that even His correction is loving and as gentle as possible.  That God sees me and knows me and is working in me and won’t break me.

Sometimes it’s scary, walking the path that God sets out.  Sometimes I have to tell things to my friends or my husband that I’d rather keep private.  Sometimes He asks me to do things that make me feel vulnerable.  But I know that I’m safe.  That He holds my heart, and that He is my shield.  And if I’m going to trip and fall (and I’m definitely going to trip and fall sooner or later) there’s no safer place to do it than in Him.  Because even His discipline is full of grace.

Application:  Trust God with your sin.  Trust Him to know how to fix you.  Better wounds from a Friend than kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).

Prayer:  Father, it scares me sometimes that you can see all my sin.  Thank you for being patient and gracious and calling me righteous when I’m not perfect.  Please help me to trust you as you guide me.  Amen.

Leviticus 1:10-17

Scripture: from verse 13

He is to wash the entrails and lower parts of the legs with water

Observation: Speaking of burnt offerings here: the offering (sheep in this section, bird in the next few verses) was to be slaughtered, the blood drained onto the sides of the alter, and then it was to be cleaned before being burned.  The yucky parts of the sheep got washed with water, and the bird’s crop was to be removed.

Now, obviously you would do this to animals you were going to eat, but it’s kinda weird to do this to a sacrifice when it’s just going to be burned to ash anyway.  It’s not like God will be sickened by a little dirt.

So possibly it’s for the benefit of the person bringing the offering, to continue to be involved in each step of the process.  He doesn’t leave it all to the priest, but continues to prepare the sacrifice himself.  Just like Yeshua is our sacrifice, but we continue to work with Him to enter into God’s grace.

(Or, possibly, it was for more practical reasons – could there be anything that would make people sick if it got into the smoke?  I doubt it, but it’s possible.)

Application: Don’t assume your job is done once you’ve accepted His sacrifice.  There’s still a lot of cleaning to be done.

Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for cleaning me.  Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me even when I’m covered in mud and worse.  Help me to stay under your waterfall of forgiveness.  Amen.

Ephesians 4:21-25

Scripture: verse 23

…you must let your minds and spirits keep being renewed…

Observation:  This is generally translated “you must be renewed” and the verb tense caught my eye.  So I used blueletterbible.org to look up the Greek, to the best of my ability.

The previous verse, which commands us to strip off the old nature, is in the “aorist reflexive” tense.  Reflexive is easy enough – it’s something you do to yourself.  I don’t quite get “aorist” but it looks like it means an action that started at a specific point in time and continues to the present.  (Or it can mean an action that continued and then stopped at a specific point in time, or just an action that happened at a specific point in time.  Like I said, I don’t quite get it.)  So the stripping off is something that happened at a point in time – when we were saved, presumably – and continues in the background today.

“Be renewed,” on the other hand, is in the present passive.  It’s something that still happens today, and it’s something that happens to us, not something we can do.  God renews us, and without His Spirit, nothing happens.

Application:  So.  The old nature was put to death.  Our job is to keep it dead.  God’s job is to renew us, and our job is to let Him.  There’s nothing we can do on our own – He has to do all the work on our shiny new natures.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, thank you for renewing my mind and spirit.  Help me to listen to the patterns and thoughts you are teaching me instead of my old habits.  Amen.

Ephesians 2:6-10

Scripture: from verse 10:

We are of God’s making, created…for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.

Observation: I like the idea that God has picked out and planned good deeds for me to do.  I was thinking earlier today about street evangelism, which I am terrible at.  At least, I’m reasonably certain I would be, if I ever tried.  It’s all well and good to say it’s just a matter of striking up a friendly conversation and bringing up God when it seems appropriate, but that’s because you’ve never seen me try to strike up a friendly conversation.  I manage it occasionally, but usually by accident.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that I don’t have to spend a great deal of time and energy worrying about it.  God has prepared things for me to do.  I do my best to make myself open and available, and to act on opportunities as they come.  I’m not required to do anything else.

Application:  Relax.  If I’m supposed to do X, God will prepare me and create the opportunity.  If I’m not supposed to do X, God probably has someone else in mind for the role.  Rushing around trying to force the issue just wastes energy that could be spent doing something more productive.

Prayer: Father, thank you for planning good deeds for me to do.  Thank you for preparing me for them, for creating opportunities for me to learn and work and speak, for using me as I am and not as I think you wish I were.  Help me to listen when you tell me what my next step is.  Amen.