Scripture: verse 8
He said, “They are indeed my people,
children who are not disloyal.”
So he became their Savior.
Observation: I don’t know where God got the idea that Israel wouldn’t be disloyal. Israel ignored Him and rebelled against Him over and over again. But the passage isn’t about Israel’s loyalty. The passage is about the abundance of God’s steadfast love, which is apparently undeterred by all the idiocy that Israel has already gotten up to.
God is our Savior. He sets us free and defends us. He gives us a new identity and a new safety, and keeps re-giving them as often as we mess up. He loves us, just like I will always love my children, no matter how many times they cut their own hair or spread yogurt all over the table or leave plastic bricks on the floor to be stepped on. They are mine. I am His.
Application: Trust in His love. Lord knows we can’t trust ourselves.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you became my Savior when I wasn’t interested. I praise you because your love is bigger than ever mistake and every wrong decision I make. Thank you for defending me. Help me to trust you. Amen.
Scripture: verse 12
For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Observation: God is speaking of redeeming and freeing His people. I think this is a callback to Exodus, when they did depart in haste. In Exodus God’s people had to endure ever worse working conditions until Pharaoh finally had enough of a moment of weakness to let them go, and then they had to pack and leave quickly, in the narrow window before he changed his mind.
But God never quite repeats Himself, and our spiritual redemption does not work the way our physical redemption did. We are not refugees in God’s kingdom. We are sons and daughters, who came in because it is our right to do so. We did not time our escape for a moment of weakness; instead Yeshua freed us by His abundant strength. We walk tall.
Application: Relax. You’re much freer than you think you are.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because your life has overcome death. I praise you because you have made sin and death irrelevant to who I am in you. Thank you for redeeming me. Help me to walk in my new identity. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 4
I name you, though you do not know me.
Observation: God is speaking to Cyrus (probably the king of Persia) here, saying that God has chosen to bless and enrich Cyrus because by doing so He will bless Israel.
I’ve noticed lately (or rather, God pointed out) that I lack faith in certain areas. So I’ve been praying for more faith, but without really believing that I’ll receive what I ask for, because that’s part of the faith I’m lacking. Logic and scripture both indicate that my prayer will be answered, mind you. I just don’t believe it yet. (In other news, brains are not nearly as rational as we might wish.)
So I’m asking God to move unilaterally, because I can’t move to meet Him. And part of me worries that it doesn’t work like that: that nothing will happen unless I do something to increase my own faith. That God has better things to do with His time.
But the truth is that God has nothing better to do with His time. The truth is that He delights to bless me. The truth is that He named me before I knew Him, and He will continue to pull me close. And if I don’t believe those things, that’s my problem. My worries don’t change who God is.
Application: Ignore your worries and let Him work.
Prayer: God, thank you for naming me before I knew you. I praise you because you are not limited by your nature, but can move and work to do your will. Please bless me and teach me about yourself. Amen.
Scripture: verse 22
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Observation: This verse comes immediately after a mocking description of idolatry: a man might cut down a tree, use half the wood to cook his dinner, and carve the other half into a statue, which he worships as his god. It defies all logic (not to mention the laws of thermodynamics) to think that we can be rescued by the works of our own hands, and yet, time and time again, that is exactly what we believe.
And then God calls for Israel to return to Him. Israel is not His people because they did not worship idols. Israel was just a stupid as everyone else, and tried over and over to create its own deliverance. But God redeemed them. The difference is not that they never sinned, but that God erased their sin.
And today we do the same thing. We may not worship wooden idols, but we put our faith and our hope in our careers or our families or money or education or other things that we know are made by humans and therefore fallible. And time and time again, God wipes away our sin and calls us back to Him.
I can’t fix myself. No matter how organized and assertive and pro-active and educated I am, everything that I do comes from me. Which means it will be exactly as broken or as whole as I am. Only God can come from the outside and make me whole.
Application: God is calling. Let Him in.
Prayer: Father, I praise you because you defy the laws of thermodynamics. I praise you because you are not subject to entropy. I praise you because you are always bigger than yourself, because you can draw on your own might to fix all of creation. Thank you for redeeming me. Help me to hope in you. Amen.