Scripture: from verse 6
Look what happened to the people
to whom we fled for help…
How will we escape now?
Observation: In this chapter, God had Isaiah walk around naked and barefoot for three years. Never let it be said that God is especially worried about dignity 🙂 He did this as a warning: the people of Israel were relying on Egypt for help and protection, but Egypt would be stripped of their power and glory and led away naked. Israel would be dismayed because the source of help they were relying on had been destroyed.
Israel’s mistake, of course, was relying on Egypt to save them in the first place, when God was bigger and closer and considerably more willing and able to deal with the problem.
We can’t stand on our own. The world is too big and too unpredictable for any person to be truly self-sufficient. The only question is where we will turn for help.
When we turn to humans we generally feel that we are retaining some dignity. They are our equals, after all, and we each have something to bring to the table. Asking God for help requires considerably more humility: the knowledge that He is above and beyond anything that we can offer. We don’t get to pretend that we are capable of forging our own way and protecting ourselves when we turn to Him. It’s hard to do.
But in the end, all humans will fail. We have no dignity and no strength except for what God has given us. So we might as well get the hard part out of the way and rely on the Source of Sources.
Application: Ask God for help rather than humans. He’s more reliable.
Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me help when I need it. Help me to know when I am relying on human power when I should be turning to you. Amen.
Scripture: verse 25
For in but a little while, My fury will end;
and My anger will have destroyed them.”
Observation: Israel was being Israel, so God manipulated the Assyrians into attacking Israel as a form of discipline. But Assyria, being Assyria, figured they were in charge and they could annihilate Israel if they wanted. God is telling Israel not to be afraid of Assyria, because He wouldn’t be angry for long now that Israel is relying on Him again, and His anger would destroy Assyria before it ended.
This isn’t really in line with my understanding of how things should work, I admit. I’m not particularly bothered about all the people who died in the process – God and I have already been through that and I think I kinda get how it works – but this seems like a really weird way of handling anger.
After all, I wouldn’t discipline my child through a third party. And while I might blame the third party for getting out of hand, I wouldn’t forgive one person I was mad at and destroy the other. Well, I don’t think I would.
I don’t really get why God did this the way He did. One part – and it’s a big part – is that Israel turned to the Lord and Assyria did not. Presumably God would not have destroyed them if they’d stopped attacking Israel.
But I know that the Lord is a strong tower, and those who run to Him are safe (Proverbs 18:10). I have to trust Him to make the call that will protect us.
Application: Trust God to protect you, even when you know you’ve messed up. He still loves you.
Prayer: Father, thank you for forgiving me when I turn away from you. Help me to rely on you as I should. Thank you for protecting me. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 4 and 5
When Adonai washes away the filth of the women of Tziyon…with a blast of searing judgment, Adonai will be over the whole site of Mount Tziyon and over those who assemble…for the Glory will be over everything like a hupah (wedding canopy and shelter).
Observation: This chapter is only six verses, but it has some major mood whiplash going on. It starts by describing the disgrace of the prideful women of Israel, and their desperation to hide from it, and then states that in that day Israel will suddenly be blooming and glorious.
The pattern repeats in this section – searing judgement followed closely by glory and love and protection. But I think the key is that their filth is truly washed away this time. Instead of insisting that they are still in the right, the pride of Israel is finally humbled and they are asking to be rescued. God is happy to rescue us as soon as we call.
Francis Schaeffer pointed out that humans have spent the past millenia trying to figure out how to fix mankind, and concluded recently (in the 70s or so) that mankind either isn’t broken, or is supposed to be broken. Modern society tends to say that humans are the way they are and that’s a good thing.
Humans are prideful and selfish and broken. As soon as we recognize that, we can ask God for help. As soon as we ask God for help, He covers us in His Glory and we are safe.
Application: Ask for help. Know you are broken.
Prayer: Father, I need your help. I am not able to be good on my own. Thank you for covering me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 6
I will give peace in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone.
Observation: The passage lists the blessings that will result from walking in God’s ways, as well as the punishments that will result from refusing to do so. I liked this one – a promise that God would remove wild beasts and protect them from attack, so they would be able to lie down and sleep unafraid.
In that time, all common sense argued against sleeping in the open. Someone could attack you or rob you in your sleep, or you could be hurt by a snake or scorpion or lion or wild dog, or if you avoided those fates, there was still the hot sun to burn you during most of the year.
But in God, we can defy common sense. His peace includes protection from people and animals and even the elements. If we follow where He is leading, we don’t have to worry.
We tithe, and let Him protect our finances. We reach out to others as He shows us, and trust Him to guard our hearts from being hurt. We remain chaste, and trust Him to arrange our sex lives. He provides for all our needs according to the riches of His glory (Phil 4:19).
Application: Lie down and sleep in peace. Ask Him to handle the things that are causing you anxiety.
Prayer: Father, thank you for protecting me. Thank you for reversing common sense so that I can rest. Thank you for covering all my anxieties. Amen.
Scripture: verse 27
When a bull, sheep or goat is born, it is to stay with its mother for seven days; but from the eighth day on, it may be accepted for an offering made by fire to Adonai.
Observation: The passage is about acceptable sacrifices: animals offered had to be without defects or deformities, etc. I’m not sure why a newborn animal had to stay with its mother for seven days, but I’m guessing it was for the good of the flock. It seems quite possible that losing a baby too early caused distress in the mother.
I could be wrong, of course, but there’s a number of places where God gave instructions that make more sense now than they did then. Washing your hands under running water after touching a sick person would prevent the spread of disease and reduce the risk of infection. The commandment that slaughtered meat be eaten within two days makes plenty of sense when you consider that they were in a hot climate with no refrigeration and limited resources for preserving it. (They had access to salt, admittedly, but it was expensive and probably not widely used.)
And I like that we can trust God to know what He’s doing. That even the most arbitrary rules will probably make sense when we have access to His knowledge of how things work. He knows the plans He has for us – and they are plans for good (Jer 29:11). He knows enough to help us stay safe.
Application: What you see is not all there is. Trust Him to know more than you do.
Prayer: Father, I praise you for knowing everything there is to know. I praise you for understanding the mysteries of the universe, and for sharing your knowledge with us. Help me to trust you to keep me safe. Amen.
Scripture: verse 8
If the person with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, the latter is to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water; he will be unclean until evening.
Observation: This passage is discussing the uncleanness of someone with a bodily discharge: anything they touch is unclean and needs to be washed and/or quarantined. This passage sounds less like a matter of divine judgement and more an attempt to introduce basic hygienic practices to control the spread of sickness. (They didn’t have soap, of course, but washing with water alone is considerably better than nothing.)
(Huh. The internet says that ancient Egyptians did have a soap-like substance, after all. I don’t know whether the Israelites would have used it. Probably not.)
I mostly picked this verse because I was amused by the image of the sick person terrorizing everyone around him with the threat of being spat upon – or, possibly, offering to spit on a friend who is looking for an excuse to take a bath.
To the people who heard this, these laws were just as irritating and arbitrary as the ones about mildew and leprosy. They didn’t see the point. Nowadays we know about germs and infection and contagion and incubation rates, and keeping away from someone who is contagious is just common sense.
Which raises the question, of course, of the other rules that seem irritating and arbitrary to us today. God knows more than we do. He may have some mystical reason for telling us to do or not do certain things – or He may just want to protect us from getting spat on by sick people.
Application: Trust God’s word. He knows more than we do, and He’s not trying to hurt us.
Prayer: Father, thank you for protecting me. Thank you for making secrets for us to discover and delight in and use. Thank you for giving me eyes to see and a brain to think with, and for keeping me safe while I do it. Amen.