Tag Archives: peace

Isaiah 60:1-10

Scripture: from verse 4

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you

Observation: I am not a go-getter.  I am not good at hustling up new leads, new opportunities, new people.  And sometimes (frequently) I worry that God wants me to come up with these things somehow.  I worry that if God is calling me to write this blog or paint a prophetic painting or give a teaching, then it is also my job to promote myself and find my venue and my audience on my own power.  Which is a scary thing to think, because I’m not capable of that – at least, not without investing tremendous amounts of time and emotional energy that would be better spent in writing or painting or teaching or whatever my actual calling is.

But God says that people will come to us.  That people will flow in, and bring their resources and their abilities to help.  That the things I cannot do will be done by someone else, who does not consider them worrisome or difficult.  While this is a logical plan, it’s easy enough to forget.

And all we have to do is lift up our eyes and see them.  It reminds me of the story of Elisha and the army of fire (2 Kings 6), when God had already sent a mighty army to protect Elisha, but He also had to open their eyes to see it.  God’s power already surrounds me.  I just can’t quite see it yet.

Application: Ask God what tasks you’ve been worrying about that aren’t yours in the first place.  And ask Him to open your eyes to see His power.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I thank you that you have redeemed me.  I thank you that you made me who I am and surrounded me with everything I need.  Help me to trust your provision for the things I think I lack.  Amen.

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Isaiah 59:11-21

Scripture: from verse 15

…he who leaves evil becomes a target.

Observation:  The first part of this passage is a depressing-but-accurate description of the world as it tends to be: everyone sins, most people delight in sin, and the people who aren’t as ruthless as possible become targets.  We see it in the schoolyard, we see it in the corporate world, it’s everywhere.

The passage goes on to say that this angers God and He arms Himself and wreaks vengeance on those who delighted in doing wrong.  Which is all well and good, but not always comforting for people who are trying to find ways of doing what is right without being victims.  Despite the promises of eventual reward, I can’t say I’m finding this passage all that comforting.

Which probably means that I’m not seeing right.  God sees things differently, somehow.  His perspectives on time and suffering are different, and not in a large-scale, it’s-not-that-bad, He-doesn’t-care way.  He’s aware of a larger truth that somehow makes it all fit together.  He knows that someday, we’ll be laughing too.

Application: Hold on to hope. He’s on His way.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you can see the purpose and the intricate integrity of everything that happens to me,even when I can’t.  I praise you because you can help me laugh at trouble.  Help me to trust you.  Amen.

Isaiah 57:1-10

Scripture: from verse 1

For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace…

Observation:  Yesterday at the ladies’ Bible study, one of the ladies was questioning why God allows people to die young despite our prayers.  One of the other women responded that maybe God was taking them away from a future that would be worse.  I didn’t like that answer at the time, but this verse seems to be saying the same thing.  When a righteous person perishes, he or she enters into peace and avoids the calamity that is coming.

I have no idea if that’s always true, and I’m not sure whether it’s an especially comforting thing to say, but it does remind us that God doesn’t see things the way we see them.  God’s views of life and death and strength and weakness are all different and weird to us.  Which is probably just as well, given how hopeless our perceptions tend to be.

Application:  Believe God, even when His words don’t seem to make sense.  Ask for His perspective instead.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you are the one who sees reality as it is.  You are the one who can see both sides of the coin and the other 90% of the iceberg and all the colors not in the rainbow.  Thank you for rescuing me and keeping me safe.  Help me to see what you see.  Amen.

Isaiah 54:9-10

Scripture: from verse 10

My covenant of peace shall not be removed

Observation:  The phrase “covenant of peace” is only used a few other times in the Bible.  In Numbers 25, God gave His covenant of peace to a priest named Phineas, in recognition of His dedication to preserving the righteousness of God’s people.  (Admittedly that dedication took the rather unusual form of killing two people while they were having sex, but that’s a discussion for another day.)  Phineas’ family would have a perpetual priesthood, because of the covenant of peace.  Israel is promised a covenant of peace in Ezekiel (chapters 34 and 37), which means that God will protect them in their land and they will live securely.  They will have peace with God, peace with the surrounding nations, and peace with their environment – even the wild animals will be kept back from them.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it encompasses much more than simple peace.  It includes health and wholeness and safety and friendship and restoration.  God has entered a covenant to give us those things, and His promise will not be shaken.

God recently gave me a new piece of shalom – He healed an old hurt I only recently realized existed.  The effects have been fascinating.  It might not appear dramatic, but I can tell that I’m more whole and better integrated than I was.  Yesterday I picked up a dozen things without feeling stressed or worried or compelled to keep working.  Today I made a phone call to customer service without worrying that I would say the wrong thing.  It wasn’t momentous, either – I can just do it now.  God wove the torn neural patterns back together.

Application:  Ask God to fix what isn’t whole

Prayer:  Lord, I praise you because you can see the whole of creation and you know how it is supposed to fit together.   I praise you because you can integrate all things seamlessly into your plan.  Thank you for giving us shalom.  Help me to come to you for help when I need it.  Amen.

Isaiah 54:4-8

Scripture: from verse 4

…you will forget the shame of your youth…

Observation:  More of God’s blessings for His redeemed people.  He promises to wipe out the things that we look back on with shame.

I have plenty of things from my youth to be ashamed about.  Some of my journal entries are mortifying, though of course that’s a small thing.  Some of my actions were not so small, and much more shameful.  Some of those things were sinful.  Some were just thoughtless.  Some were rooted in the anxiety I didn’t realize I was experiencing, which means they probably shouldn’t really be a source of shame, but there it is.

And it will all be gone.  God is wiping the shame away, as if it never happened.  Poorly-chosen words and thoughtless actions and all the times I forgot to shower (which was more often than it should have been, during my teen years) and choices made out of anger or jealousy or pride….all gone.

I can’t imagine it, to be honest, but that is still God’s promise.

Application:  In the immortal (and seemingly endless) words of the song, let it go.  Don’t keep hanging on to shame that God has already erased.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I praise you because you are Truth.  Thank you for changing who I am.  Help me to walk in the freedom you have given me.  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 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 25:6-12

Scripture: from verse 6

On this mountain AdonaiTzva’ot (Lord of Hosts) will make for all peoples a feast of rich food and superb wines…

Observation:  There’s a number of wonderful promises here: that God will swallow up death forever, that He will open our eyes to see clearly, that He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  But…I like this one.  Maybe I’m just hungry.

My family recently had our Strawberry Shortcake Day – we went out in the morning to pick strawberries, and then in the evening we had strawberry shortcake for dinner, with fresh whipped cream and shortcakes my sister and brother had made the day before.  Each year we invite some of our favorite people, and we all have our strawberry shortcake and sit on the porch and eat and talk and eat some more.

This verse is a promise of that kind of meal.  Not just food eaten to keep from being hungry, but a meal that combines the sensory pleasure of good food with the harmony and connection of being with people who love each other.  The rich cream and the soft breeze and the warm sun and the happy conversation and the long satisfying drinks of tea or wine or homemade lemonade and the knowledge that there is nowhere to go and no one to impress and I might as well just relax.

There’s no magic on earth that can make that happen for everyone, for all time.  But God can.

Yeshua said that the peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).  It’s not an arbitrary designation – by creating peace, we are doing God’s work.  Strawberry Shortcake Day would not work these days if Mom hadn’t taught us to appreciate it and work together to make it happen each year.  She started it, and now it’s our job.

And when we live at peace with those around us, we help God make this feast for all nations.  We help create the harmony that makes food into a meal.  We help Him make Strawberry Shortcake Day for everyone.

Application:  Live at peace with those around you.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for making peace.  Thank you for making harmony between humans possible, and for promising to finish your work someday.  Help me to respond to others out of peace.  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 11:9-16

Scripture: from verse 13

Ephraim will stop envying Judah,
and Judah will stop provoking Ephraim.

Observation:  God decided to make a people for Himself, and he chose a man, and that man’s son and grandson, and then the grandson had twelve sons so God made each brother into his own tribe and told them to live in harmony with each other.  Because that never ends badly.

So now, centuries later, two of the tribes (and realistically, probably all of the tribes) are in the habit of annoying each other.  And God is saying that when Yeshua comes and establishes peace, they’ll stop.  And it isn’t even that they’ll stop attacking each other, like two children told to sit on their hands in the back seat of a car.  They’ll stop annoying each other because their hearts will change.  Envy and jealousy will be replaced by love.

Lots of kings have imposed peace.  It takes the King of Kings to create peace.

There’s a frequently-quoted section in this chapter about the peace that Yeshua will establish in nature: the lion will lie down with the lamb, and so on.  And that’s a beautiful image, but it doesn’t really illustrate how good God is at making peace happen.  Lions eat lambs because that is their nature; it can’t be all that hard for God to just reprogram their nature if He wants to, though I suspect there’s a little more to it than that.  But this is God creating internal harmony in people and families and nations, without changing who those people are.  This is laser-guided heart surgery.

Application:  Ask God to bring peace to your relationships with others.

Prayer:  Yeshua, please help me live in harmony with those around me: my children, my husband, my siblings, my parents, my in-laws, my friends.  Help me to love them without fear or envy or annoyance.  Amen.