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: 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.
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.
Scripture: verse 17
None of [Aharon’s] descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.
Observation: Men of the priestly families who had congenital deformities or major health problems weren’t allowed in the sanctuary. They were still allowed to eat the things set aside for priests to eat, but they didn’t participate in formal worship.
This wasn’t fair. It still isn’t fair. Today God would get hit with all sorts of lawsuits for discriminatory practices.
But the fact is, God discriminates against all humans. For being sinful. For having lied or gossiped or been prideful or resentful. None of us measure up.
The point of the formal worship laid out here is not to make humans good. Its point is to remind humans that God is holy and they are not. It’s there to remind us that we can’t be good.
But Yeshua didn’t come for humans that were good. Like a doctor, He comes for those who need Him (Mark 2). The tired and the hungry and the poor and the sick. The sinners. He came for us.
Application: Stop worrying about whether you measure up. You don’t. But He does.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for coming for me. Thank you for covering me with your righteousness. Help me to trust you too make all things new. Amen.
Scripture: verse 33 and 34
You are not to go out from the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration are over; since Adonai will be consecrating you for seven days. He ordered done what has been done today, in order to make atonement for you.
Observation: This is part of the instructions Moses gave Aaron and his sons after the sacrifices were made to consecrate them as priests. They had been washed and dressed and anointed and sprinkled in the blood of the sacrifice, but they weren’t done – they had to spend a week in God’s presence, letting Him do His work.
What strikes me here is that Aaron and his sons weren’t especially holy or qualified to be priests. They needed atonement like everyone else. They needed to let God purify them, like everyone else. God doesn’t choose us because we are special or perfect or better. He chooses us because He loves us – and that is a fact about Him, not a fact about us.
God’s grace is not a fact about me. It didn’t start with me, I didn’t make it happen, and I can’t make it stop. His grace is about Him. I’m just in the right place at the right time. And He was the one who put me here.
God put you where you are, too. He placed you there to receive His grace. It has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t done. It has everything to do with the fact that He made you and He loves you.
We are safe and loved because of Him. There is no deserving or earning. There is only His love and our decision to accept it or ignore it.
Application: Accept His love and His grace. Let Him work on you. Don’t worry about whether you are good enough; none of us are. He is Good enough for all of us.
Prayer: God, thank you for being my goodness. Thank you for placing me where I am to receive your grace. Thank you for taking all the steps I am unable to take for myself. Amen.