Scripture: verses 10 and 11
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
Observation: I was praying with my someone this weekend, and we came to the conclusion that we had created a false yardstick by which to measure ourselves, and we needed to lay it down. I commented that humans like to think we are good at measuring, but we never take into account the nonlinearity of everything.
We have this notion that we can help ourselves. We think that we can strive towards our goals and measure our own progress and accomplish things and that will please God. The problem is that we are uniquely bad at measuring things, and our whole purpose is to build castles in the air (whether they are art or stories or songs or logic or discoveries or engineered structures) that reflect God’s glory. We have inverted our purpose.
And when things look difficult, we rush around in circles, determined to fix the problem ourselves. But we can’t even see the whole problem – not properly – and we can’t fix it. That’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to trust in the name of the Lord.
Application: What problems are you determined to fix? Are you lighting your own torches when you should be praying for light?
Prayer: Father of lights, I praise you because you will always have a way out of the darkness. I praise you because you have a plan and a purpose for every darkness that I go through. Thank you for walking with me. Help me to rely on your light. Help me to value my castles in the air the way you do. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 17
I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit…
Observation: “Profit” is the Hebrew word ya’al, which is a root word meaning to gain, to profit, to ascend, etc. With a very slight tweak it becomes the word ya’el, which means mountain goat. (Yael (usually spelled Jael because Hebrew transliteration conventions are stupid) is also the name of a woman in Judges 4 who killed the commander of the Canaanite army.)
So we’ve got two images for what the Lord teaches us. He teaches us to profit, meaning to gain good things. Following His rules, our finances prosper. No law of economics or business can counter the presence or absence of His blessing. And He also teaches us to be nimble and safe like a mountain goat. We can move freely in dangerous and rocky terrain, knowing that He is between us and the drop.
In Matthew 6, Yeshua tells us that if we make seeking God a priority, all other blessings (such as food and clothes) will be given to us. In Matthew 11, He says that He will give us rest for our souls.
We are safe.
Application: Follow Him. Find rest.
Prayer: God, I praise you because you are the one who teaches us how to profit. I praise you because you are the only one who can see the whole of our world and how its elements interact, to make poverty and to make wealth. Thank you for leading me. Help me to trust you, and to let my soul be at rest. Amen.
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.
Scripture: verse 2
Focus your minds on the things above, not on things here on earth.
Observation: “Above” is where Messiah is, according to the verse before. We are to focus on God and God’s plan, not the things we see around us.
In Next Level Living, the author comments that when things are confusing in the physical realm, it means that something is happening in the spiritual realm. We are sitting on top of a floating iceberg, quite certain that our little island of ice is the whole story, unaware of the giant mass of ice below the water. But it’s only by studying the giant mass that we can understand the little island.
I made a playlist of cheerful music recently for someone who is having a rough time with life at the moment. I included Creed by Third Day, which isn’t really cheerful. The lyrics are the singer’s creed: a simple list of the things he believes. But the more we think about God, the more we see from His perspective, and the more we can understand about the spiritual forces that underlie the events we see.
The song ends “This is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.” The other advantage of focusing on God is that He is outside us, that He is objective and eternal and unchanging. He is our firm foundation, our secure footing. Without Him we have to rely on our own judgement and emotions and thoughts, and that’s a scary thought.
Application: Focus on God-things, not human-things. Look for the underlying spiritual happenings.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for seeing what I can’t. Thank you for guiding me through events far too complicated for me to understand and predict. Help me to value your perspective above my own. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 41
You are to observe the feast to Adonai; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation…
Observation: My family tends to be big on traditions. My mom is really good at instituting them, in part because she found that one big Tradition was usually less work than trying to figure out multiple smaller iterations. And I like traditions. Well, I like the traditions we make up. I tend to get cranky about traditions that come from outside our immediate family. *Those* are the boring kind 🙂
But traditions change and shift over time, adapting to new people and new circumstances. And that’s why God didn’t create traditions. He created regulations.
God doesn’t change over time. He’s outside of it. And He doesn’t shift for new people and new circumstances. He’s far too big for that.
So when He creates a feast meant to remind us about who He is, He doesn’t leave it to the flux and flow of tradition. He requires it, as a permanent thing.
God is who He is, no matter who or where you are. He is still the God who saves us, who leads us through every trouble and rejoices with us in every victory. He still knows where you are and what you need.
Generation to generation, God has protected and nurtured and redeemed us. And generation to generation, we remember who He is and worship Him for it.
Application: Don’t get caught up in traditions, which can change and should change. Spend time with God, who is unchanging.
Prayer: Father, thank you for providing a solid rock for us to build our lives on. Help me to keep going back to you when I need help seeing. Amen.