Scripture: verse 24 and 25
On that day Israel will be a third partner
with Egypt and Assyria a blessing here on earth;
for Adonai–Tzva’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.
Scripture: from verses 9 and 10
Listen, all of you from distant lands:
arm yourselves, but you will be shattered;
devise a plan, but it will come to nothing;
say anything you like, but it won’t happen;
because God is with us.
Observation: God is the Overriding Factor. I usually talk about Him being the Source, which He is, but this is a different facet, a different end of the equation.
Humans like trying to guess the future. We like spotting patterns and gathering data and identifying important variables. We come up with signs and lucky tokens and ways to keep the juju flowing. We’re surprisingly rotten at it, actually, but we keep trying.
But none of those things matter when God is involved. He’s the Game Breaker and the Invincible Hero, and He’d be the God-Mode Sue if He weren’t, you know, actually God.
According to The Hobbit, “it does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” And that’s exactly what we do. We forget that God is able to override and overcome all of our pat little plans for how life is going to be.
We also forget that God is able to overthrow all the plans of the Enemy to destroy us. That the bureaucracy or the bully or the impossible situation that stand in our way are nothing to Him. He made them, and He knows the way through.
Application: God is the Overriding Factor. Don’t leave Him out of the equation.
Prayer: Father, thank you for simplifying the mathematics of chaos so easily. Thank you for being the one variable that actually matters. Help me to pay more attention to where you are and less to where I think I am. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 4 and 5
When Adonai washes away the filth of the women of Tziyon…with a blast of searing judgment, Adonai will be over the whole site of Mount Tziyon and over those who assemble…for the Glory will be over everything like a hupah (wedding canopy and shelter).
Observation: This chapter is only six verses, but it has some major mood whiplash going on. It starts by describing the disgrace of the prideful women of Israel, and their desperation to hide from it, and then states that in that day Israel will suddenly be blooming and glorious.
The pattern repeats in this section – searing judgement followed closely by glory and love and protection. But I think the key is that their filth is truly washed away this time. Instead of insisting that they are still in the right, the pride of Israel is finally humbled and they are asking to be rescued. God is happy to rescue us as soon as we call.
Francis Schaeffer pointed out that humans have spent the past millenia trying to figure out how to fix mankind, and concluded recently (in the 70s or so) that mankind either isn’t broken, or is supposed to be broken. Modern society tends to say that humans are the way they are and that’s a good thing.
Humans are prideful and selfish and broken. As soon as we recognize that, we can ask God for help. As soon as we ask God for help, He covers us in His Glory and we are safe.
Application: Ask for help. Know you are broken.
Prayer: Father, I need your help. I am not able to be good on my own. Thank you for covering me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 14 and 15
I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its character.
Observation: That word translated “character” is another tricky one. It’s derived from the Greek for “name.” At the time this was written, people believed that names had power. Your name was the sum of yourself – your thoughts, authority, personality, everything – and to know someone’s name gave you understanding of them and control over them. There are several times when demons, meeting Yeshua, screamed that they knew His name, probably in an attempt to assert power over Him. And this idea is still powerful today – it’s a common part of magic in fantasy, and even without a magical component we attach a great deal of meaning and and thought to our names.
And here we learn that every family in heaven and on earth receives their Name – their identity, their character, their role and authority – from God. From the context I’m sure that this was meant to be about Jews and Gentiles, but it’s also about my family, and my husband’s family, and the family that we’re building together. It’s about your family. It’s about the Jews and the Irish and the Chinese and the Arabs and the people across the street. All of them, individually granted a unique identity by God.
Application: To love my name. To love my family. To love my married name, which has always been a bit of a struggle for me. To know that God has a calling for all of us.
Prayer: Father, thank you for my name. Thank you for my family name, for your calling on us. Thank you that we are not all the same, that we are not like others and they are not like us. Help us to work together to glorify you. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 9 and 10
This plan, kept hidden for ages by God, the Creator of everything, is for the rulers and authorities in heaven to learn…how many-sided God’s wisdom is.
Observation: “This plan” is (still!) referring to the way Yeshua’s death brought the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, allowing anyone who wishes to do so to boldly approach the throne of grace. Apparently one of its purposes (there’s probably more than one) is to show the heavenly powers – the angels and demons – how rich and deep and varied God’s wisdom really is. I always said God was running a Xanatos Gambit, and now we know one of the reasons why.
The cool part here is the word translated “many-sided” – other translations use things like “rich variety” and “manifold.” The word in Greek is polypoikilos, and this is the only place it’s used in the Bible. The funny thing is, the second part, poikilos, already means “manifold” or “variegated” all on its own. The prefix poly- means “many.” So the word really means “many-many-sided” – it’s indicating that God’s wisdom is varied and rich and multifaceted beyond anything we can imagine, and certainly beyond what we usually mean when we say “many-sided.” It’s like Joseph’s amazing technicolored dreamcoat: “red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach….”
Application: Don’t expect God’s plan to look like your plan. And don’t assume that what’s unexpected to you is unexpected to God. His wisdom is polypoikilos, far more complex than anything that would ever make sense to me. I can trust His plan, even if I can’t understand it.
Prayer: Father, I praise you for having wisdom and knowledge beyond mine. Certainly if I could understand you, we’d both be in trouble. Help me to trust that you know exactly what you are doing. Amen.