Scripture: from verse 9
If you make yourselves stupid, you will stay stupid!
If you blind yourselves, you will stay blind!
Observation: This passage is about the people of Israel who pay lip service to God but mostly live as if He doesn’t exist or can’t see them. God later compares them to a pot saying that its maker didn’t make it and has no discernment. It’s not that they don’t know about God – they just don’t really think He sees them and knows them and is relevant to their plans.
The result is situations of dramatic irony. If they asked God for guidance and relied on His wisdom, they could make really good choices. But as it is, they make the best choices they can with the information they are willing to acknowledge, and God is left sitting helplessly like the movie audience watching the ditsy blonde walk into the creepy building. She’s the only one who doesn’t know it’s a bad idea, but she does it anyway.
Application: Assume God has useful input. Ask for it. Don’t wait for Him to prove that He’s stronger than you (as God says He will in verse 14) as that’s often a rather unpleasant process.
Prayer: Father, I praise you for having far more wisdom and knowledge than I have. Thank you for guiding me when I ask you to. Help me to follow you, and bless me. Amen.
Scripture: verses 5 and 6
On that day, Adonai–Tzva’ot [Lord of Hosts]
will be a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem
for the remnant of his people.
He will also be a spirit of justice
for whoever sits as a judge,
and a source of strength for those
repelling enemy attacks at the gate.
Observation: God is beauty and glory and wealth for the people who have turned to Him after lots of war and hardship and desolation. They have no dignity left, so He is their dignity for them. At the same time, He is also Justice and Wisdom for those who are making hard decisions, and Strength for those who are fighting a hard fight.
In other words, when we turn to Him, He is exactly what we need.
He is rest when we are tired and wisdom when we are confused and direction when we are lost and beauty and interest when we are bored. We tend to assume that God is good at fixing a certain set of problems, but that for some things we’re on our own. But just because God is propping up the entire universe doesn’t mean He can’t also take the time to help me figure out how to teach my daughters to share their toys. (Not that I’ve succeeded in that one, but I think we’re getting better. At least a bit.)
Praying about everything isn’t a cop-out. It isn’t a way of dodging the real issue or hiding my head in the sand. (Well, I suppose it might be, if I’m also avoiding doing what I know I’m supposed to do.) It’s the best and most reliable course of action. For everything.
Application: What haven’t you asked Him about yet?
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are everything to everyone. Your identity is not limited to one set of attributes or problems. Thank you for providing for all of my needs. Help me to see where I haven’t asked for help yet, and to turn to you. Amen.
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: from verse 3
In our natural condition we were headed for God’s wrath, just like everyone else.
Observation: I’m nothing special. We’re nothing special. We’re just like everyone else.
Salvation isn’t natural. Of course, neither is air conditioning, but it’s hot outside and I’m awfully grateful for the air conditioning. God gave us a way to change how we’re made, to change our destiny, and I’m grateful for it.
Really, it’s a story Hollywood loves. Except with one key difference: we aren’t the ones doing the work. God is, because we can’t do it. It takes practice to accept that insult to our competence, but it’s still true.
Application: I’ve found in recent years that the more upfront I am about what I am willing and able to do, the happier am about life. Voicemail, for example, was a major issue for years, because I hate listening to it so much. The fact that I’m a terrible auditory learner didn’t help anything. Then some time ago I accepted that I’m never going to stay on top of my voicemail, so I changed my greeting to say that I don’t listen to it and they should text me.
Same deal with God. If we struggle and strive to get it right, we only get tired. If we give up and ask Him to do the work, He will. Easy. Humiliating, but easy.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for knowing that I can’t do anything on my own. Thank you for letting me be just like everybody else. Thank you for offering me help before I ever ask for it. Amen.