Tag Archives: humility

Isaiah 58

Scripture: from verse 9

take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness…

Observation:  The chapter is about how God doesn’t want to be served with mere religious observances, but with service to others and compassion on the poor and needy.  He promises great blessings if we will take Him seriously and be kind to others.

What caught my eye here is the bit about taking away pointing fingers from our communities.  Certainly Scripture also calls us to (gently and carefully!) keep each other accountable, but we point fingers an awful lot.  A lot of the time it’s wiser to mind our own business and trust God to guide other people His way.

Application: Be generous

Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are the way and the truth and the life.  I thank you because you made me and love me and have a plan for me, and you made and love and plan for every other person I know.  Help me to help your plans and not hinder them.  Amen.

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Isaiah 41:1-16

Scripture: from verse 14

Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord

Observation:  “I’m nobody!  Who are you?”  (Emily Dickenson)

Israel was nothing special.  They were not large, not powerful, not rich.  There was no reason for them to be anything but afraid, given the objective facts of their situation.

But God told them not to fear.  Not because of who they were, but because of who He is.

Like Israel, we are nothing special.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m nobody.  But I don’t have to be bigger than I am.

Emily Dickenson found comfort in being nobody, because it meant she could hide.  But God isn’t calling us to hide.  He’s calling us to wield His strength.

I am nobody, but I bear His name.  Instead of keeping our heads down and hoping the world will leave us alone, God tells us not to be afraid.  We are called to battle, or to parade, or to sing, or to dance, or to write, because we bear His name.  Because He helps us.

We don’t have to be somebody to do something.  We bear His name, and that is everything.

Application:  Do things.  Don’t try to do them on your own.  Don’t be afraid.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because your life is a joyful and carnival and powerful life, because you are brilliant and powerful.  I praise you because you call us to battle, not to the milky fastidiousness that the social psychology course seems to be promoting lately.  Thank you for having a plan for me.  Help me to walk in it.  Amen.

Isaiah 38

Scripture: from verse 15

I will go humbly all my years,
remembering how bitter I was.

Observation:  The chapter begins with King Hezekiah getting sick, and God sending Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that he was going to die.  Hezekiah prayed and wept, and God sent Isaiah again with the news that God had changed His mind and Hezekiah would live after all.  Once he had recovered, Hezekiah wrote about the experience, and how difficult it was to have no control over his body or his fate, to be weak despite trying to be strong, and to know that God could end his life at any time.

C. S. Lewis pointed out that we have all sorts of funny notions about ownership: we think we own our bodies, and our time, and all sorts of things.  We have very little control over our bodies, and often even less over our time, and the little bit of control that we do have was given to us by God.

I would have blogged this chapter yesterday, but I found the whole incident bewildering: why would God make Hezekiah sick if He planned to heal him as soon as he prayed?  Rereading Hezekiah’s poem today gave me the answer: because Hezekiah was trying to do things under his own power.

I don’t know exactly what Hezekiah was doing, and as none of us are royalty I don’t suppose it matters.  But we all try to do things on our own.  We all try to talk ourselves out of temptation instead of asking God for aid.  We all try to be courageous on our own instead of asking for peace.

Our willpower is less our own than we think.  Studies show that willpower runs out – experimental subjects who had to use self-control for one task will have less self-control in the next task.

So we who are in God should rely on Him as the Source of our willpower.  He is the only one who never runs out, who does not get tired from making decisions.  He is the one who sees the bigger picture, who can number our days and see our eternities.  And I don’t really know how we do this, but I don’t have to.  I just ask Him.

Application:  Ask God where you need to be relying on Him more.  (And drink some juice – apparently glucose boosts willpower.  Brains are weird.)

Prayer:  Father, thank you for making me.  Thank you for making our brains as such strange and wonderful machines.  I praise you because you have none of my limitations.  You are never overwhelmed, never tired, never low on blood sugar.  Help me to turn to you when I am.  Amen.

Isaiah 37

Scripture: from verse 7

 he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land…

Observation:  God is promising Israel that the general attacking them will fall without any action of theirs: he will hear a rumor and return home, where he will be killed.

It just draws such a strong contrast between God and humans.  On one hand we have the general, who has to make decisions with the best information he has, and as a result he is swayed by every rumor and whisper that comes to him.  On the other hand we have God, who not only knows exactly what is happening (and therefore has no need to wait for rumors to trickle in) but knows what will happen, without even trying.

And we have the general, relying on people who bring him information in return for money or power or favor, so that he can never be quite sure who is telling him the truth and how much they know.  And we have Israel, relying on the Maker of the Universe, who cannot be bought or and is not deceived and knows everything, who tells us what we need to know freely.

Remind me again why we insist on relying on our own understanding?

Oh, that’s right.  Because we’re human, and humans are awfully silly sometimes.

Application:  We can’t stop being human, and we’re probably not capable of never being silly, but we can choose to make the wise decision for now.  Ask God to tell you what you need to know.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you are Truth and you will never let me be deceived if I ask you for insight.  Please help me to do so.  Amen.

Isaiah 4

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.

Isaiah 3:1-13

Scripture: verses 4 and 5

I will put children in authority;
capriciousness will govern them….
The young will be insolent toward their elders,
the insignificant arrogant toward the respected.

Observation:  More punishments: God will chastise His people by removing the support system of wise leaders and advisers.

I don’t really want to get into culture-bashing here.  Modern Western culture is fairly awful in places, but so are most other cultures I’ve come across, so take your pick.

But.  The insignificant are arrogant toward the respected.  The people who don’t know much insist that they know better than the experts.  The people who have little experience deny that they could use advice from people with more experience.  It happens all the time.  And it’s a really dumb thing to do.

We are not all experts in everything.  We have not all done everything and tried every option.  We can’t predict the future.  And when we insist that we are and have and can, we are ruled by caprice and whim.  And we get in trouble.

It takes humility to seek advice from others.  But we have to know our own limits.  We can’t survive otherwise.

Application:  Respect your elders.  Know your limits and get help when you need it.

Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for creating your community, so that I have people I can ask for help.  Thank you for creating cause and effect.  Thank you for creating a world where things can be known and knowledge can be useful.  Help me to know it and correct it when when I’m being an idiot.  Amen.

Isaiah 2:12-22

Scripture: verse 17

The pride of man will be bowed down,
the arrogance of men will be humiliated,
and when that day comes,
Adonai alone will be exalted.

Observation:  Matthew 24 says that heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord will stand.

Humans are astonishingly bad at long-term thinking.  We think the fluctuations we see today are global trends that will lead to catastrophe or prosperity for all time.  (Some of them are, of course, but we’re very bad at spotting which ones.)  And the things we think aren’t changing and aren’t changeable usually are changeable and are changing.  We just can’t see it.

All of our guesses and predictions and ideas for new world orders will end someday.  God will be revealed and very little of what we have done will stand up to His light.  But some of it will: if we choose to seek His help now, we can do things that last.

Sooner or later, God will stand glorified.  Sooner or later, we will acknowledge our own weaknesses.  But when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor 12:10).

Application: Don’t stand on false pride.  It won’t last long anyway.

Prayer: Father, I praise you for being the Rock that is higher than I.  I can rely on you when I cannot rely on myself.  Help me to see my own weakness and turn to your strength.  Amen.

Colossians 3:16-20

Scripture: from verse 16

let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you

Observation:  …which is kinda funny, since Messiah is the Word made flesh (John 1) and it gets all paradoxical.  But when you’re talking about the Ultimate Source of Everything, a lot of words and titles start to get interchangeable.  It’s all Him.

Anyway, Paul clarifies in the next verse that this means (at least in part) that everything we do or say should be done in Messiah’s name, acknowledging that God is our ultimate authority.

But that’s a lot of richness.  The Word of Messiah is what created the universe out of nothing, after all.  It is the Source of Sources and the Energy that fueled the first photons and the Knowledge of all the ages.  I don’t think it’ll fit, to be honest.  I’m not that big.

But the verse doesn’t say I have to try to cram all of that inside me.  It says I have to let it live in me.  I just have to make it welcome.  I just have to make room, and acknowledge that my energy and my knowledge are flawed and incomplete.  He’s the one who will come in and pour His riches over my poverty.

I don’t know how the Relevant Entity can possibly live in me.  But apparently He wants to.

Application: Acknowledge that you don’t have it figured out.  Allow Him to fill in the blanks.

Prayer:  Yeshua, your richness is welcome in me.  Thank you for helping me grow and teaching me to think more clearly and live more peacefully.  Amen.

Leviticus 27:22-34

Scripture: from verse 29

No person who has been sentenced to die, and thus unconditionally consecrated, can be redeemed; he must be put to death.

Observation:  Something that was unconditionally consecrated was holy to Adonai; it could not be redeemed or sold or otherwise un-consecrated.  This included people sentenced to death for crimes against God or the community.

When we were discussing God’s commanded wholesale slaughter of various people groups in the Old Testament, my mom once pointed out that God wasn’t necessarily condemning them all.  He was simply making it so He could deal with those people individually.  By preserving His plan for His people, He made it possible to offer grace to those people through Yeshua, the culmination of that plan.

What we see is not all there is.  Executing criminals also meant putting them in God’s hands, where they could be dealt with with perfect justice and perfect love.

Obviously today we don’t go around stoning people.  But we can acknowledge that God is dealing with people and we can’t always see it.  Sometimes we are called to leave others to Him.  We want to teach and correct and remind and push, but that may not be what we’re called to do.  Other people are also holy to God, and we should let Him deal with their faults in His time and in His way.

And the truth is that we too are condemned to die.  We were dead in our sin (Eph 2) and had no hope.  We are unconditionally consecrated to God.  And we cannot be sold or transferred, because we are especially holy to Him.  He has plans for us.

Application:  Trust God to be teaching others.  Let Him teach you.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for making it possible for me to have grace.  Thank you for making me holy.  Help me to trust your plans.  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.