Tag Archives: money

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 48:12-22

Scripture: from verse 17

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit…

Observation: “Profit” is the Hebrew word ya’al, which is a root word meaning to gain, to profit, to ascend, etc.  With a very slight tweak it becomes the word ya’el, which means mountain goat.  (Yael (usually spelled Jael because Hebrew transliteration conventions are stupid) is also the name of a woman in Judges 4 who killed the commander of the Canaanite army.)

So we’ve got two images for what the Lord teaches us.  He teaches us to profit, meaning to gain good things.  Following His rules, our finances prosper.  No law of economics or business can counter the presence or absence of His blessing.  And He also teaches us to be nimble and safe like a mountain goat.  We can move freely in dangerous and rocky terrain, knowing that He is between us and the drop.

In Matthew 6, Yeshua tells us that if we make seeking God a priority, all other blessings (such as food and clothes) will be given to us.  In Matthew 11, He says that He will give us rest for our souls.

We are safe.

Application:  Follow Him.  Find rest.

Prayer:  God, I praise you because you are the one who teaches us how to profit.  I praise you because you are the only one who can see the whole of our world and how its elements interact, to make poverty and to make wealth.  Thank you for leading me.  Help me to trust you, and to let my soul be at rest.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:14-25

Scripture: from verse 14

“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you…saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’”

Observation:  There’s a few places where God promises that the wealth of those who do not follow God will be given to those who do.  It’s a bit of an odd promise, because it has to be held so lightly to be safe: we’re warned against the love of money and commanded not to covet what others have.  We’re also reminded again and again to be generous to the poor and not to judge others by what they have.  And yet we’re also promised wealth.

The problem, of course, is that we don’t really believe these promises.  If we did, we wouldn’t worry nearly as much about money.  We may read these promises and acknowledge that they are truth, but when we picture the future, we rarely incorporate these promises.  Our heart trusts the evidence of our eyes and our experience much more than it trusts God’s promises.  We can’t quite really picture them.

But God is in us, and there is no god besides Him.  God is categorically different from what we can see and what we have experienced.  God is the overriding factor in all our calculations.

Application: I wish it were as simple as saying “believe in His promises.”  But it isn’t.  I don’t really believe them either.  So we’ll work on that together.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, thank you for giving me faith, even if I haven’t figured out how to access it yet.  I praise you for knowing truth beyond everything I understand.  Please help me believe your promises.  Amen.

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.

Isaiah 32

Scripture: verse 20

Happy are you who sow by all streams,
letting oxen and donkeys roam freely.

Observation:  Someday God will reign as King, and He will be what each person needs in the place that they are, and those who need healing in body or mind will get it, and everyone will be righteous and “the effect of righteousness shall be peace” (verse 17).

And then there’s this bit: they will sow by all streams and let their animals wander freely, implying that both crops and herds would no longer be owned and managed by individuals, but by whoever was around at the time.

In other words, the hippies had it right.

Now, the hippies had it wrong, too.  Their communes failed because humans are sinful and the world is not safe.  This passage speaks of a time when righteousness and justice win.  Peace and communism are the result of righteousness, not the other way around.

Application:  Seek first the kingdom of God, and all things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for bringing peace.  Thank you for making it possible for humans to love each other and work together.  Thank you for giving us beautiful ideas, even if those ideas are not for who and where we are.  Help me to seek you first. Amen.

Isaiah 15

Scripture: from verse 7

Therefore they carry away their wealth,
everything they have put aside

Observation:  Now Moab is getting punished.  At least God is an equal-opportunity smiter?  Okay, not really.

Anyway.  The river is full of blood and the fields are dead, so the people are fleeing, carrying the scraps of wealth that they have in portable format.  These days much of our wealth is portable (not our houses, of course, but other things) but back then their land was their wealth and their history and their anchor, and leaving it left them devastated.

The statistics on people’s saving habits these days are pretty terrible.  We don’t save.  We don’t put anything aside.  I’ve been reading a lot about behavioral economics lately (I’m auditing the fabulous Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior) and one of the things they study is why we make these decisions.  And what we learn is that people don’t think rationally.  We think of our future self as a stranger, unconnected to ourselves.  We figure that the decisions we made should be repeated, that our instincts are reliable, that the current trends will continue.  As soon as a decision gets complicated, we just go with the default option – which is usually doing nothing.

There’s a reason God tells us not to rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3).  It’s pretty terrible.

So here we have people who have been relying on their own understanding, and they are experiencing the consequences of it.  Not only is God punishing them, but their fallback plan is also flawed, because they haven’t been listening.

Application:  Listen to what God says.  Know your biases.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for my husband, who is really good at financial planning stuff.  It is a great relief to know that we can work together on those things.  Help me to know where I’m making foolish decisions.  Amen.

Isaiah 7:13-25

Scripture: verse 23

When that day comes,
wherever there once were a thousand grapevines,
worth a thousand pieces of silver,
there will be only briars and thorns.

Observation:  “That day” is a day of rebuke and humiliation, not actual destruction – but it’s still vastly unpleasant.

Psalm 50 says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  In Greek mythology, that sort of thing was usually straightforward: the cattle on an island were directly owned by a god or goddess, and the idiots who ate them (and there were always idiots who ate them) suffered divine retribution.

But God doesn’t have special hills set aside for His property.  He doesn’t have very much use for cows, after all.  He doesn’t have bank accounts or investments or deeds in His name.  Instead, He just owns everything.  The only things that God does not own are the people who have chosen not to belong to Him.

The thousand grapevines belonged to God.  He made them, and He made them grow, and He provided the sun and rain and soil to support them.  Humans helped, of course, in the pruning and tending, but if God removes His support there is nothing humans can do to keep a plant alive when it is dying.

God owns everything we have.  We can’t diversify or hedge our investments to protect ourselves from Him.  He owns it all and supports it all and holds all things together.  All we can do is be grateful, every day, that He gave it to us.

As the fanfic* disclaimers say, it’s His world.  We just play in it.

Application:  Be grateful.  God sustains our lives, moment by moment.

Prayer:  Father, please forgive me for the times when I do not remember that everything I have is your gift to me.  I praise you for all that you have built around me and used to teach me.  Help me to use it wisely.  Amen.

(* Fanfiction, or fanfic, is stories written by the fans of a work that incorporate characters or other elements of that work.  Many authors begin with a disclaimer acknowledging that they do not own those elements.  If you are interested in reading fanfic, I recommend AO3 – you can browse for works related to almost any work you can name, and you can find the things I’m working on under the username ladyphlogiston.)

Isaiah 5:1-15

Scripture: verse 8

Woe to those who add house to house
and join field to field,
until there’s no room for anyone else,
and you live in splendor alone on your land.

Observation:  The message here isn’t that surprising: if you spend all your time and energy on getting rich or powerful, you won’t have any friends.  But I like the way it is phrased, and I like the image of the riches expanding to squeeze other people out.

I had a friend once that I wanted to smack sometimes because he tended to assume that earning lots of money was the primary definition of a good husband.  When discussing his work hours or his commute or how he used his free time, his response was always geared towards how it affected his finances, not his time.  Admittedly this was while he was engaged, not married, and marriage has a way of teaching firm lessons.

And I do the same thing.  Most of the things I am good at are not monetizable, or at least not obviously so.  And I don’t feel I should be working – we have no need for it and I don’t think God is calling me that way – but I worry sometimes that I am inferior because of it.

But if I’m seeking splendor, it ought to be God’s glory.  Always.

Application:  Don’t squeeze people out.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for making me the way you have made me.  Thank you for building castles in the air with me.  Help me to welcome other people into your glory.  Amen.