Tag Archives: human nature

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.

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Isaiah 27

Scripture: from verse 5

unless it takes hold of My strength,
in order to make peace with Me

Observation: Very confusing passage.  God is talking about His vineyard (presumably His people) and says that He has no anger against it, but if it grows weeds and thorns He will destroy it, unless it takes hold of His strength to make peace.  Another translation turns these three states (at peace, growing thorns, and making peace) into three different possible futures, which seems a little more logical but isn’t necessarily right.

It rather reminds me of Genesis 32.  Jacob was alone and worried all night, and he wound up wrestling with a man who turned out to be God on the riverside.  The man asked to be let go, and Jacob said that he would not let go until God blessed him.  God changed his name to Israel, saying that Jacob had struggled with God and man and had won.

We hear a lot about the need to be meek and submissive before the Lord.  But every so often we get these hints that God doesn’t mind the occasional shouting match, as long as we are directing our energy towards Him.  Sometimes it’s okay to have thorns, as long as you are clinging tight to God.

Application:  Focus on God, even when you are angry.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because you are strong enough to allow us to challenge you.  Thank you for offering your strength and your peace.  Help me to cling tight to you, even when I’m being thorny.  Amen.

Isaiah 19

Scripture: verse 24 and 25

On that day Israel will be a third partner
with Egypt and Assyria a blessing here on earth;
for AdonaiTzva’ot [Lord of Hosts] has blessed him:
“Blessed be Egypt my people,
Assyria the work of my hands
and Israel my heritage.”

Observation:  This chapter started out with yet more death and destruction, this time for Egypt.  But it ends with this promise.  We’ve had chapter after chapter of God promising devastating punishment for Israel, Egypt, and Assyria.  They would be conquering and decimating each other in turn (they are, after all, traditional enemies), and in between God would be hitting them with plagues and famine and confusion and in-fighting.

But God promises something that’s an even greater miracle than fighting and death: He promises peace.  He promises that we who have rebelled and continue to rebel will be brought close to Him.  He promises that these people groups who have had millenia of conflict will work together and friends and equals to serve the Lord and bless the world.

I did not have the best day today.  I made a critical remark that may have been overheard by the wrong person, and I taught a children’s class that included a boy who is more difficult than average.  Neither of these things is especially surprising – in fact, they are common enough that they have their own pages on tv tropes, which I have linked to.  And God is using these things to point out places where I am not loving people the way He loves them.

But God’s promise is here: that someday, at the end of all the bad days, we will all stand together as friends and equals and servants of the Lord.  Someday the staid leaders and the rebellious children and the slightly-crazy intellectual women like me and all the rest of everyone will be a blessing on the earth.  Someday God will be bigger than all of our differences.

Application:  Love other people, I guess.  You’ll end up there in the end anyway.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for loving me even when I am not loving to others.  Thank you for promising harmony in the end.  Thank you that everything really will be all right.  Please help me to love others the way you love them.  Amen.

Isaiah 9:11-20

Scripture: verse 12

Yet the people do not turn to the one striking them,
they don’t seek AdonaiTzva’ot [Lord of Hosts].

Observation: So Israel is being Israel (idolatrous, prideful, etc) and God has been doing some smiting to bring them back into line (by way of the Assyrians, this time) and He is hoping that they will turn to Him.  They don’t.

Which isn’t very surprising, from a human point of view.  Humans don’t like discipline.  We try to avoid it.

But God doesn’t want us to be thinking like humans.  He wants us to turn the other cheek, to bless our enemies, to lend without demanding a return (Matthew 5:39, Romans 12:14, Luke 6:34).  We are to be different, because He is different.

And we know that, when bad things happen, it isn’t blind chance or implacable persecution.  We know that God controls it, because God controls everything.  We know that He will work it to our good (Romans 8:28).  We know that what we see is not all that is.

It’s easy to forget that God is there.  It’s easy to assume that He can’t be bothered to help your little problems.  But that isn’t the truth.

The truth is that He sees us fall.  The truth is that He keeps our tears.  The truth is He loves us.

Application:  Don’t be afraid to turn to God.

Prayer:  Father, please help me when I forget to come to you.  Thank you for knowing me and loving me.  Thank you for rescuing me when I need it.  Amen.

Leviticus 22:1-16

Scripture: from verse 9

The cohanim must observe this charge of mine… I am Adonai, who makes them holy.

Observation:  The passage orders that any priest who is unclean (whether because he had sex, or touched a bug, or interacted with an unclean person) is not allowed to eat the holy food until he is clean again.

I doubt that God structured this so that His priests would starve, but it was still a pretty stringent regulation.  It doesn’t seem fair that they would be cut off from their jobs so frequently.

But God was the one who made them holy in the first place.  The sacrifices belong to Him, not to them.  He could insist on holiness because He was the one giving it.

Humans aren’t holy.  We don’t belong in God’s presence.  We can’t survive it.  That’s why Yeshua became our holiness – our wisdom and our righteousness and our redemption are all Him (1 Cor 1:30).  We have nothing except what He gives us.

Praise God He gives it freely.

Application:  Look to Messiah to be your righteousness.  There’s no other way in.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you so much for being my holiness.  Thank you for saving me when I was beyond help.  Help me to remember that you are my covering, and all I have to do is seek your face.  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 10:12-20

Scripture: verse 16

Then Moshe carefully investigated what had happened to the goat of the sin offering and discovered that it had been burned up. He became angry with El‘azar and Itamar, the remaining sons of Aharon…

Observation:  So we had the sacrifices to consecrate the priests, and then the priests were sent into the tabernacle to hang out with God for a while, and two of them did something stupid and prideful and got killed for their trouble, and Moses dealt with the bodies…and went right back to checking up on the sacrifices.  Which had also been screwed up.  (Most of the goat was supposed to be eaten.)

Which seems kinda hard-nosed, really.  We don’t typically expect people who recently lost a close relative to function normally, especially when the death was sudden and unexpected and traumatic, as this was.  Admittedly Moses had instructed them not to mourn, but after all, they’re only human.  (That was pretty much Aaron’s defense when Moses got angry, actually.  Moses accepted it.)

For that matter, Moses just lost his nephews, though admittedly being raised in Pharaoh’s court probably meant he wasn’t as close to them.

I’m not sure which direction to take this.  I don’t know whether Moses was being too demanding or not.  On the one hand, we are called to be holy and that means not being normal.  On the other hand, we’re only human, and Moses maybe needed to recognize that.

Really I think those are both true.  We are called to be holy, and that’s a standard we cannot reach.  But God loves us, and knows our weaknesses, and that’s why He gave us a way to be holy anyway.  Yeshua is the Way to the Father.  We can’t get there otherwise.

Application:  Strive to be holy – and also cut yourself some slack.  Most of all, rely on Yeshua’s righteousness and not your own.  His is better anyway.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for being the Way for me.  Thank you for lifting me up when I fall down.  Amen.

Ephesians 6:6-10

Scripture: from verse 9

Remember that in heaven both you and they have the same Master, and He has no favorites.

Observation: This is part of Paul’s advice to slave owners: treat your slaves well and respectfully, because in God’s eyes you’re no better than them.  Thankfully we no longer have slavery in most of the world, but this is far from irrelevant.

This sums up the core of how believing communities and relationships should function.  God knows me and God loves me.  God also knows and loves my husband, my sister, my neighbor, my rabbi, and even the woman who keeps implying that I need to do a better job of keeping Beauty’s curls under control.

So I can share my heart, confident that God will protect me.  (Of course, sometimes He protects me by letting me know I shouldn’t share my heart.  It’s not like my brain is turned off.)  And I can extend grace to people who annoy me, because I know that God loves them and He is fitting them into where they need to be.  And I don’t have to fix people, because God has already planned out their trajectory.

If I use on God’s wisdom, I don’t have to rely on my own.  Considering how flawed I am, that’s a relief.

Application:  Treat others with respect and love.  At the End of the Day, we’re all just people.  And God loves us.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for seeing our hearts and not just our appearance and our actions.  Thank you for taking the time to know me.  Thank you for not having favorites but for meeting each of us where we are.  Amen.

Ephesians 4:11-15

Scripture: from verses 14 and 15

We will then no longer be infants tossed about by the waves and blown along by every wind of teaching, at the mercy of people clever in devising ways to deceive.  Instead, speaking the truth in love…

Observation:  It shouldn’t be a surprise that we all start as infants.  It’s not human nature to discern truth instinctively; we need to be taught.  The previous verses were about the structure God set in place to make sure His people got the teaching they needed – emissaries, prophets, proclaimers, shepherds and teachers.  This isn’t something God takes lightly.

And it isn’t something we should take lightly either.  There’s a warning in here, against being too content to be an infant, and against insisting that we can figure it out on our own, without teachers and shepherds.  If we don’t seek out those who speak the truth in love, we are vulnerable to those who seek to deceive.

Application:  Listen to those who speak the truth in love. Listen to people who know more than you.  This isn’t confined to theology, either, given some of the medical quakery out there.  It isn’t fun to listen to truth, but it’s much more rewarding than watching the equivalent of those Baby Einstein movies all day.

Prayer: Yeshua, help me to grow to full knowledge in you.  Lead me to the teachers you want me to learn from, and help me to listen to them.  Thank you for being Truth, and therefore reliable.  Amen.

Ephesians 4:1-5

Scripture: verses 2 and 3

Always be humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with one another in love, and making every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit gives through the binding power of shalom (peace).

Observation:  The Spirit of God binds us together.  He brings peace, wholeness, unity, and harmony.  Our job is to not screw it up.

We do this by being humble (by having a clear understanding of who we are and what we deserve – which apart from God, is no one and nothing), by being gentle (by moderating our behavior and our reactions to what is beneficial for the community) and by being patient (by choosing not to be angry or demanding, but instead of wait and let God work.)  This…is not particularly fun.  At least not always.

I’m especially not good at gentleness.  I don’t know if I’ve gotten worse over the years, but there’s been a couple times recently where my sisters have deliberately cut me off to substitute their own gentler interpretation of the topic at hand.  I suspect I’ve just gotten more outspoken, but that’s irrelevant.

On the other hand, the mutual support and fellowship among people who put up with each other out of love is pretty awesome.  I’m glad that God gives us unity in the first place.

Application: Be gentle, just like I tell Beauty when she decides to snuggle Kitten.  Don’t do things that upset her, as I tell her when she squishes Kitten.

Prayer:  Yeshua, help me to love others properly.  Help me to see things gently.  Amen.