Tag Archives: sanctification

Isaiah 34

Scripture: from verse 16

…none will be lacking a mate.

Observation:  Yet more death and destruction.  Edom will be razed to the ground and burned and filled with wild animals, none of whom will lack a mate.

I find this kind of amusing because the only other instance of that phrase that I can think of is in Song of Songs, in which the lover tells his beloved that she has beautifully white teeth like freshly-washed sheep, none of which are lacking a mate.

The beloved in Song of Songs is often said to symbolize God’s people, washed and made perfect and presented to Him as a bride (Ephesians 5).  So whether God is perfecting His people or destroying Edom, not a detail is left undone.

Application: Trust God with the details.  He’ll get to them in time.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you because you do not overlook or forget things.  You will do your work in your time.  Please help me to be patient with your schedule and not try to change other people or myself on my own power.  Amen.

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Isaiah 33

Scripture: from verse 6

…the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Observation:  I was thinking about this and couldn’t really come up with a good meaning.  Fear of the Lord is an emotion or a choice or perhaps a pattern of thoughts, not a possession.  It works better in my head if I use a more evocative phrasing: “the fear of the Lord is Zion’s Precious.”

Gollum may have been a creepy, corrupted little sneak, but he knew how to treasure a thing.  He kept the One Ring with him always (well, until it made him sick), constantly taking it out to look at it and stroke it, constantly referring back to it and devoting his life to recovering it when he lost it.  He was devoted to something that made him evil, but he was devoted.

In return, the ring lengthened his life and allowed him to be invisible, though at a horrible cost.  God, not being evil, offers similar return when we treasure Him: long life and blessing and being hidden in Him from all who would accuse us.

So we are to be like that with our relationship with the Lord.  Always thinking about Him, always remembering who He is and the things He has done and will do.  Turning His name over in our heads.  Always returning to our Precious.

Application:  Treasure the fear of the Lord.

Prayer:  God, I praise you because you are worthy of being treasured.  I praise you because it would take a very long time indeed for me to finish listing good things about you.  Thank you for shielding me when I turn to you.  Help me to remember you, to treasure you as my Precious.

Isaiah 9:1-10

Scripture: from verse 2

They rejoice in Your presence
as if rejoicing at harvest time,
the way men rejoice
when dividing up the spoil.

Observation:  Back in chapter five, God rebuked those who are “skilled in drinking wine, and heroes in mixing strong drink,” which incidentally is a great insult.  Never say God can’t talk smack.

Anyway, what struck me here is that we have the same attitude in two groups of people.  The godless party animals and the people of God are both rejoicing and laughing and getting drunk.  (You cannot tell me they didn’t get drunk at harvest time.)  The difference is not the action, but the motivation and attitude.  The godless people have made pleasure their goal, and they don’t notice anything else that happens around them.  You could probably storm their houses without them noticing, rather like the final scene of Hamlet with slightly less angst.  The godly people, on the other hand, have been focused on God and waiting for God, and when He shows up, they can party.

I’ve been struggling lately (as everyone does) with the knowledge that parts of my life are not submitted to God.  And I don’t really want to submit them.  I like daydreaming when I should be focusing on other things.  The farthest I’ve gotten is that I know that if I do submit them, the joy I will get in the end will be far greater than what I have now.  That’s still head knowledge and not heart knowledge, but it’s better than nothing.  All I can do is give God permission to change my heart.

Application:  Believe in the joy God has promised.  He doesn’t ask us to sacrifice anything that He won’t give us in abundance later.

Prayer:  Yeshua, you know where I’m struggling.  You know that right now I don’t really want to change.  But I am choosing to believe that you have something better for me.  So please help my unbelief.  Amen.

Isaiah 1:16-31

Scripture: from verse 25

I will cleanse your impurities as with lye…

Observation: Psalm 51 says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”  But the psalmist was repentant and eagerly turning to God for cleansing.  Israel in the time of Isaiah was ignoring God and putting their time and energy and wealth into other pursuits and deities.  So instead of a (relatively) gentle cleansing with herbs and hot water, they get lye.

God wants His people clean.  He will not allow us to continue in destructive behaviors and bad habits.  He wants what is best for us and He wants us to be close to Him, so He removes the things that hinder that.  It isn’t always fun.

Application:  Surrender to God.  He’s only trying to help, after all, and keeping things back from Him won’t work.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for cleansing me.  Help me to see the areas I have not given over to you and allow you to come and purify them.  Thank you for helping me grow.  Amen.

Colossians 1:21-25

Scripture: from verse 25

Yes, I [Paul] am completing in my own flesh what has been lacking of the Messiah’s afflictions, on behalf of his Body, the Messianic Community.

Observation:  This doesn’t make any sense.  I mean, it does – he’s saying that he is continuing Messiah’s sacrifice to further God’s goal of restoring harmony between humans and God.  The problem is that that’s impossible.

Nothing was lacking in Yeshua’s afflictions.  He finished it.  He paid the debt for us, completely and in full.

But I guess, if we are joined with Messiah in doing His work, and joined with Him in His suffering in the form of whatever persecution or deprivation or sacrifice God calls us to, then we are helping complete what Messiah has already done.  He did the work.  We’re helping.

Perhaps it makes more sense if I remember that, from God’s point of view, we’re only children.  If I comb my daughter’s hair, and then she combs her own hair, I did the work and she helped.  Admittedly I usually need to give it a quick re-comb before inserting the barrette, but that’s okay.  Because she needs to try doing it herself.

I don’t know how it works.  I don’t know how we could be contributing anything meaningful to Yeshua’s work and sacrifice.  But apparently we can.  Because He lets us help.

Application:  What you do has value.  God has a plan and a calling and a purpose for everything He has you do, even if it seems meaningless and random.

Prayer:  Yeshua, I don’t get this one.  I don’t even know whether to be comforted or humbled or inspired to greater effort.  But I know you have a plan for it.  I know you have a plan for me.  Please help me follow it.  Thank you for helping me grow and letting me help.  Amen.

Leviticus 21:13-24

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.

Leviticus 14:1-32

Scripture: verses 6 and 7

As for the live bird, [the priest] is to take it with the cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered over running water, and sprinkle the person to be purified from the tzara‘at [leprosy] seven times. Next he is to set the live bird free in an open field.

Observation:  The rituals for purifying someone from leprosy have got to be one of the most elaborate sets of rituals in Leviticus – certainly it seems more complicated than consecrating the priests did.  This is the first ritual, done after the priest has examined the person and determined that he is clean again.

We see numerous symbols of purification and preservation here.  Cedar wood was probably used then, as it is now, to keep critters away from clothing.  Isaiah 1 promises that our scarlet-dyed sins will be as white as snow.  Hyssop is a purgative, as mentioned in Psalm 51.  Running water was used for washing, and the live bird was freed after being dipped in sacrificial blood.  (Incidentally, I would not want to try dipping a live, healthy bird into blood.  That seems like something that would go horribly!)

But what gets me is that these things don’t make the person who had leprosy clean.  He still has to spend another seven days outside his tent (though he can be inside the camp) and then offer more sacrifices before he is truly clean.  These things are the promise of being clean.

We aren’t given purgatives and bleach so we can make ourselves perfect.  It doesn’t work that way.  God gave us those things as a picture of what He offers.

Living clean and doing good things and being generous to others and all the good things we do are not things that make us holy.  God gave us those things to be a picture of His grace and His will.  But if we spend all our time looking at the picture, we’ll never accept His offer.  We’ll never be clean.

There’s only one way to be clean: through the sacrifice of the Lamb.  Everything else is just a promise of what’s to come.

Application:  Don’t spend all your time and energy on the picture.  Claim His blood and His gift.  Seek His face.  See the rest for what it is: a set of useful tools and helpful pictures, but not salvation.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for being my Lamb.  Thank you for making me clean when nothing else could.  Help me not to get distracted by things that don’t work.  Amen.

Leviticus 8:18-36

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.

Leviticus 6:12-23

Scripture: from verse 20

Whatever touches its flesh will become holy…

Observation:  The sin offering made things holy.  The person who was repentant and brought the sin offering became holy, of course, but the holiness doesn’t stop there.  Anything that touched it became holy, anyone who ate it became holy, and whatever objects came in contact with it (clothes splashed with the blood, dishes used to cook it or hold it) had to be treated as holy.

There is power in the blood of the Lamb.

Yeshua is our sin sacrifice.  When He touches us, we become holy.  We are put into an entirely new category, new role, new family.  We are no longer just human, but something more.  Something different.

His blood makes the desert bloom.  The desert gets very little rain, but when it comes, the plants and flowers appear overnight – the entire landscape is transformed in the blink of an eye.

The same thing happens to us, in our hearts.  Yeshua’s touch allows life to grow where there was only dryness before.  He transforms us completely.  He makes us holy.

There is power in the blood of the Lamb.

Application: …I assume there is one?  Gratitude, I guess.  The verses I’m most excited about tend to have the least obvious applications.  That’s okay.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you so much for being my Lamb.  Thank you for transforming me, for infusing me with new life and new hope.  Thank you that I don’t have to be just myself anymore, but that I can be your daughter.  Amen.

Ephesians Wrap-Up

I noticed at some point (beginning of chapter six, I think) that the phrase “In union with Him” recurs several times during Ephesians.  Which makes sense, because Ephesians is largely a “now what?” book: it covers the things that happen to us and the things that we should be doing, now that we are in union with Him.

In union with Him…

…we are set free (1:7)

…we are created for a life of good actions which God has planned for us (2:10)

…we are held together and growing as a community into a dwelling-place for God (2:21-22)

…we are all heirs in God’s promises (3:6)

…we have boldness and confidence when we approach God (3:12)

…we no longer use sterile ways of thinking (4:17)

…we are to obey our parents and other authorities (6:1)

…we grow powerful in the Lord’s mighty strength (6:10)

In union with the Lord, our identity changes first.  We are free of sin, and given a new life and a new calling.

The next thing to change is our relationships.  God moves us to live in community, to glorify Him together.  God uses the strengths and weaknesses and giftings of each person together, so that we no longer have to rely on our own abilities but have others to support us.  We are not only free, but we are also family.

Then our thinking changes.  We gain confidence and creativity and love for others.  We learn what the truth looks like, and our words and actions create life.

And finally (finally!) our actions reflect our faith – we learn love for others and humility that makes it easier to submit to authority and put others first.  We rely on God’s power and not our own.

Union with God is not to be taken lightly.  It sweeps through and changes more than we realize.  But it’s also a process, and some of the most visible signs are the ones that happen last.  The presence of sin doesn’t mean the process isn’t happening.  Making a mistake doesn’t change my identity, or my place in the community.  It just means I’m not there yet.

Thankfully, God is there already.  And He’s still holding my hand and lifting me higher.