Scripture: verse 11
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
Observation: God will cause righteousness and praise to grow in Israel and in His people. I think what I find interesting here is that a garden doesn’t grow plants from nothing – the plants all grow from seeds, whether seeds planted by a gardener or seeds scattered by natural forces. Which indicates that God has already planted the seeds of righteousness and praise in us, even when we are not doing a stellar job of being righteous or praising God.
Application: Not sure there is one. I just thought it was interesting.
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you are the one who makes things grow. You are the one who causes cells to divide and DNA to replicate and new pathways to form in my brain that let me trust you. Thank you for growing righteousness and praise in me. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 3
…listen well, that your soul may live.
Observation: This passage is an open invitation from God: whatever our needs, we should come to God and be satisfied. He offers us food and drink “without money and without cost.” He asks only that we come and receive.
I’m trying to learn to be quiet and listen to God more. We’re so quick to rely on our own understanding, and I never seem to remember to ask God for His plan before coming up with my own. It causes a ridiculous amount of unneeded stress. I need to listen, because when I listen, I find rest for my soul.
Application: Listen well.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your offer of goodness. Thank you for sharing answers as fast as I remember to ask for them. Please help me to come to you before my soul gets tired. Amen.
Scripture: verses 16 through 19
Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,
who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Observation: This passage begins with a reference to Exodus 14, the crossing of the Red Sea. The people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his army, intent on killing (or possibly capturing) them all. God opened a path through a sea, and then collapsed the water onto the army when the Egyptians tried to follow. He displayed His power, and also reminded His people that He was ready and willing to rescue them.
And now God says that He is doing a new thing, but the new thing looks like the old thing: He is making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The impassable has become passable.
God wants to remind me that He is powerful, and that He is ready and willing to rescue me when I am stuck.
I don’t know what your wilderness is. I barely know what mine are. I’m pretty sure keeping the house clean is one. Recently I realized I’ve been having panic attacks, so I expect there’s some sort of wilderness behind those. But the point is that it doesn’t really matter what my wilderness is. What matters is that God is opening up a new path that was never there before.
Application: Look for the new way, the new path, the new river. He is making a way through.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are the well that never runs dry. Making new ways and new spaces does not drain you. Thank you for opening new ways for me. Help me to see them and go where they lead. Amen.
Scripture: verse 18
I will open rivers on the bare heights…
Observation: God is promising to meet His people’s needs: when the poor are without water, they will call on Him and He will create abundant water for them.
I sometimes wonder how God would change His messages for people from different cultures. I frequently get words for people about sitting in God’s sunshine, but would that change to shade or a cool breeze if I prayed for someone from Africa? I haven’t prayed for enough people from tropical climates to know, but it seems likely.
The point is that God already has abundant provision for us. All we have to do is ask.
Application: Ask for what you need.
Prayer: Father, I praise you because you put the reserves of water in the Earth, and you know where they are and you can shape them and direct them in any way you want. You can sculpt my climate to be exactly what I need. Thank you for providing for me. Help me to ask you when I need things instead of just worrying. Amen.
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.
Scripture: from verse 26
…and the light of the sun will be seven times stronger,
like the light of seven days [in one]…
Observation: The passage begins by pointing out that if the people of Israel want to be strong and safe, all they have to do is turn to God and rest in Him. The problem is not that God has been demanding anything especially difficult from them, but that they are unwilling to surrender agency enough to trust Him.
God says that someday they will come back and let Him heal them. Among other blessings that happen at that time, the sun will be seven times brighter than it is now.
I can’t imagine this is literal. If our sun (a dwarf star) were suddenly replaced by a subgiant star, I’m fairly certain the ecosystem would be devastated and life as we know it would come to an end fairly quickly. Of course, God does promise a new heaven and new earth someday, but this doesn’t seem to be about that.
However, the number seven generally means completion and perfection and wholeness. So what we have here is the promise of a new kind of light. Not just a new color or intensity, but something that is intrinsically and fundamentally different and more complete. Something completely outside our experience.
I don’t know what that will be like. But I like thinking about it. I suspect it will be even wilder and more mysterious than the light we have now, which is saying something. It might be able to do more than just reveal surface appearance – maybe it will be able to reveal truth or fight oppression. I’m mostly glad to know that God hasn’t run out of surprises.
Application: I cannot possibly be expected to be practical with such a cool new subject for speculation.
Prayer: Father of Light, I praise you for being infinite, for always having a new idea or a new facet or a new form to reveal. Help me to walk in your light. Amen.
Scripture: verse 3
Then you will joyfully draw water
from the springs of salvation.
Observation: When we turn to the Lord, we rejoice, saying that God makes us confident and unafraid and that He “has become” our salvation. We draw water (life, refreshment, energy, sustenance) from the wells of salvation.
The question, of course, is why we weren’t drawing water from the springs of salvation before that. God doesn’t change. He was there all along, and His salvation was there all along. The water was available, and the water was necessary – we just weren’t drinking it.
I’m quite certain that there are places in my life that need God’s water and aren’t getting it. Places where I still think I know best, or where another source seems easier, or where I’ve just forgotten that God cares and has life for me. Blind spots. I need to ask God to show them to me, so I can get them watered.
Application: Turn to the Lord. Ask Him for water.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for loving me. Thank you for providing the springs of salvation, so I can live and grow. Help me to see the places of my life where I am ignoring your provision, and help me to turn to you for help. Amen.
Scripture: verse 8
Woe to those who add house to house
and join field to field,
until there’s no room for anyone else,
and you live in splendor alone on your land.
Observation: The message here isn’t that surprising: if you spend all your time and energy on getting rich or powerful, you won’t have any friends. But I like the way it is phrased, and I like the image of the riches expanding to squeeze other people out.
I had a friend once that I wanted to smack sometimes because he tended to assume that earning lots of money was the primary definition of a good husband. When discussing his work hours or his commute or how he used his free time, his response was always geared towards how it affected his finances, not his time. Admittedly this was while he was engaged, not married, and marriage has a way of teaching firm lessons.
And I do the same thing. Most of the things I am good at are not monetizable, or at least not obviously so. And I don’t feel I should be working – we have no need for it and I don’t think God is calling me that way – but I worry sometimes that I am inferior because of it.
But if I’m seeking splendor, it ought to be God’s glory. Always.
Application: Don’t squeeze people out.
Prayer: Father, thank you for making me the way you have made me. Thank you for building castles in the air with me. Help me to welcome other people into your glory. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 15
let the shalom (peace) which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker
Observation: Following God’s way brings peace. When we allow God to do the worrying for us, and we tell Him about our problems instead of allowing them to overwhelm us, He gives us peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:6-7). Therefore, if we aren’t at peace, something is wrong.
The something can be a lot of things, of course. God has a lot of work to do in us, rooting out old guilt and anger and debt and fear. And it takes time. But even with all that, we can move towards what gives us peace. We can learn to look for God’s peace in our hearts and recognize it and follow it.
Application: Learn to notice God’s peace.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for giving us peace (John 14:27). Help me to follow your peace and not be anxious about things I can’t control. Help me to allow you to handle what I can’t. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 2 and 3
…that [you] may have all the riches derived from being assured of understanding and fully knowing God’s secret truth, which is — the Messiah! It is in him that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
Observation: Paul’s goal is for us to have all the benefit of knowing the Messiah.
I’m somehow reminded of Yoda by this. Admittedly I did see a Yoda-related video on YouTube earlier, so perhaps that is why. But Yoda is a little tiny creature with 900 years of wisdom and experience and knowledge of the Force inside him, and he’s the only source for that knowledge in the entire galaxy. He doesn’t look like much, but he has everything.
And Yeshua is the wellspring of life. If the Force existed, He would be the Source of the Force, the only one capable of seeing every thread and intersection as well as the pattern of the whole.
There’s a lot we can figure out on our own. But if we want to Truth, the real powerful ground-level truth that is capable of keeping us safe and making us whole, we have to go to the Source.
Application: Seek the Truth. Seek His face.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you are the Source of everything I need, and you have every answer to every mystery. You are the one who can show me the beauty you created. Help me to seek your face and not be satisfied with partial truths. Amen.