A New World

Isaiah 64-66

As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.

God called Jacob and He made the descendants of Jacob his Holy people. These are the ones who call on the name of the Lord. Yet today, there are those in Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, America, Canada, Samoa, the Philippines and all over the world who know the name of the same God who called chose Jacob so many years ago. Even though they were his chosen people, God said, “Here I am, here I am” to a nation that was not called by his name (65:1). God has called Christians to the same promise that he called the Israelites. Indeed, He says “I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory…I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations…and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory” (66:19).

Eight hundred years later, God sent a sign by the name of Jesus. Jesus himself performed sign after sign, from healing the blind (John 9) to raising the dead (John 11). The final sign was being raised from the dead himself, but this was different from the sign that he performed by raising Lazarus, for Lazarus returned to the grave. Jesus never returned to the grave; to make sure there could be no confusion, Jesus was taken up into the sky in the presence of his followers (Luke 24). The fact that Jesus was taken up is key here because it signifies his resurrection to something new, just as Isaiah prophesied that the world will be transformed into something new.

The closing words of Isaiah state that just as the new earth will endure, so will we. We will endure from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath. That is, we will continue living indefinitely. But the final verse takes a turn from the uplifting words that precede it; it promises destruction to God’s enemies, those who rebelled against him. It does leave you with a few questions though, what does it mean for their fire to never go out? It might point to an eternal suffering of those rebels as is believed by many Christians. I am not entirely sure, but asking questions that make you examine your own beliefs is important for growth. We must always be humble and accept that these prophecies are complex, and we may never fully understand them until the end has come.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+64-66&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Better Things are Coming

Isaiah 59-63

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Isaiah 59 describes what it is like to be separated from God as we are now. Our sins are responsible for the barrier between us and God. Because of this barrier, there is sadness, there is depravity and there is a hope for something that cannot be attained. Everything in this world is touched by this separation. Our attempts at justice are a pale reflection of the true justice that God promises. In the American courts for example, there are instances where innocent men are punished, and guilty men go free. This is not justice, but it is the closest that we are able to get to it because of our human nature. We try to imitate true justice as well as we can, but we will always fall short. We even fall short in our pursuit of truth. Even when truth is proclaimed, there will be some who accept it and some who won’t. Truth is meant to have the power to convince anyone.

The following chapter speaks of what it will be like when that barrier is broken down, when God establishes His perfect kingdom. Everything that we love now, that brings us joy, will be replaced with something better. It says, “I will bring gold instead of bronze and silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood and iron instead of stones.” If you had no possessions and someone asked you if you’d like $20, you would be excited and would gladly accept it. But if you knew that later someone was going to give you $1000, you would be grateful, but not nearly as excited. This is the way it is in God’s perfect kingdom. When thinking about the coming kingdom, we often lament the things that we will miss doing in our current lives if Jesus were to return today. “I can’t wait for the kingdom, but I’d like to finish college first.” Or, “I’d like to have children first.” There are so many things that we look forward to in this life, but here it says that the good things will be replaced with something better, and more than that, we will still have some of the good things that we already enjoy! It says that iron is replaced with silver, but also that stone is replaced with iron. When we think about our future in God’s kingdom, it can be hard to imagine, but we have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and that he will give us something so much better than all of the good things we have now.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+59-63&version=NIV

Tomorrow we finish the book of Isaiah with chapters 64-66 as we continue working through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Let the Rains Fall

Isaiah 54-58

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There is an endless cycle of the outpouring of God’s word followed by Man’s obedience and satisfaction before Man disobeys and becomes dissatisfied. This can manifest itself over the course of generations, as is the case in the story of Noah. God is with Man in the Garden and Man knows God. Man is obedient but his obedience quickly turns to disobedience. Once God decides it is time to pour out His Word, He speaks to Noah and Noah listens. Then the cycle repeats. We see an obedient generation in the early kingdom of Israel under David which becomes disobedient in a matter of generations. The cycle can also be seen in the life of individuals. I was fed the Word from the time I was an infant; I grew up with it and accepted it. Then I became disobedient as I became a teen only to see God’s word in a whole new light and to be brought back to obedience and satisfaction in God. In fact, I have seen this cycle no less than three times in my own life. The cycle can be a minor affair, not having to represent a complete falling out with God but instead moments of spiritual hunger and moments of spiritual contentment.

Isaiah 55:8-11 is a wonderful metaphor for this cycle. We see that God’s word is like the rain, for it exists for a purpose; it exists to nurture the earth and to bear fruit. At times the rain can come as a veritable monsoon, as in the days of the early church when men were prophesying and speaking in tongues and the church was spreading like wildfire. It can come and it can go without warning, bringing with it the full force of a thunderstorm, forcing everyone to watch in awe. It can also come gently in the night and no one will hear it.

Droughts can stretch on seemingly endlessly, but survival is still made possible by the preparations that we make during the rainy season. We store up food for ourselves so that we won’t go hungry. Droughts are tough. Some people don’t survive. Some are victims of their own inaction, unable to survive because they didn’t reap a harvest while it was available to them. Yet still others seem to be innocent, faithful in the harvest and responsible in the draught, but they fall victim to it nevertheless. It is possible that there was water nearby and all they had to do was search for it. Sometimes it requires the wisdom to move on from a place to survive a draught. After all, there is a reason that not many people live in the desert.  The draught is difficult to overcome but one thing is certain: the rain will come again.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+54-58&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 59-63 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

I am He who says: Here I am.

Isaiah 49-53

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I feel as though it would be a great disservice to pass over this portion of scripture and not comment on the incredible prophecies of and allusions to the Christ. So here is a comment: it is incredible. Please study this passage with a focus on the light it sheds on the history contained in the New Testament. Though I feel as though I should spend more time on this topic than those two sentences, my thoughts can’t help but be drawn to a seemingly simple, yet complex and culturally pervasive game known as “Peekaboo.”

Everyone has seen a parent play peekaboo with their infant child. They will hide behind their hands to the dismay of the child only to pop out with an exclamation of great joy from the same child. This game is not often given much thought, but it illustrates an important concept in developmental psychology known as object permanence. When an infant has yet to develop object permanence, they don’t know that an object still exists when it leaves their sight. Once they have grown and developed, they are able to understand the idea of “hiding,” and can tell that their mom or dad is still there hiding behind their hands even though they are out of the child’s sight.

Object permanence has parallel applications in all aspects of life. If you have never seen the ocean, you still know that it exists albeit with a lesser degree of knowledge than one who has been to the ocean, has seen the ocean, has been in the ocean and experienced the ocean personally. The act of knowing an object exists doesn’t extend just to objects that we can personally experience but also to those which we have no possible way of ever experiencing. We may know that the inner core of the earth is molten metal and that it is close to 10,000 °F even though we can’t see it, we can’t touch it and we may never be able to experience it in any direct way.

Of all the things that we cannot see and yet believe in, God is the one of whom we have the hardest time convincing ourselves. From the age of one, we begin to believe in things which we cannot see, which we cannot touch, which we have yet to experience. As we age and grow “wiser,” we begin to doubt that we cannot truly believe in something that we cannot experience. How foolish that is. If you have never been to the ocean, yet someone told you that it exists, would you not believe them? If a scientist told you that the inner core of the earth is 10,000 °F based on seismic and magnetic readings, would you not at least consider his claim plausible? Yet for some reason, when you tell yourself that God exists, there is a voice in the back of your head that says: “How can you believe in something you cannot see?” Again, I say: How foolish that is.

The Lord has displayed His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. The oral history of our God, the written history of our God and finally the life and works of Jesus Christ and those who witnessed him are an incredible power, foreseen centuries beforehand and proclaimed in the ear of a man, Isaiah, and then to the world, should be enough to convince anyone of the things unseen if only they are mature enough to see it. If you cannot see it, do not take that as a sign of your lack of faith. Instead, pray that you would develop and grow and develop the ability to believe in the things that you can’t see. It is self-evident in our experience as humans that it is indeed an ability that needs to be developed, to believe in that which we cannot see. When you cannot see God, wait and watch, for he is the one who says: Here I am.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+49-53&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 54-58 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Strength and Battle Plans

2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46, 80 & 135

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David was a small man compared to Goliath. Based on some Egyptian recordings, men of the time would stand around 5.5 feet tall. Now Goliath was either 6’9” or 9’9” depending on if you look at the Septuagint or the Masoretic texts. Either way, David was significantly smaller than the champion of the Philistines, yet God gave him the power to triumph over the giant. We have a few similar stories in the conquest of the Levant (the region where the Israelites were led to settle by God). When Joshua led Israel to defeat Jericho, there was no reason to believe that a small army could conquer such a well-fortified city, so God conquered for the Israelites. The defeat of king Og is another story of the Israelites conquest against a giant, and again, God conquered for the Israelites.

This story of Judah versus Assyria is really a story of David versus Goliath. Assyria was the ancient near east’s most powerful nation. The Assyrians turned Ninevah into a wealthy city and a center for culture and art. They also coerced all the surrounding nations into vassalage in order to fund these massive feats of architecture. This essentially means that the king of Assyria demanded large sums of gold and silver from the nearby kings in exchange for the “protection” of the Assyrians, which is a euphemism for, “Give me money or I’ll kill you and enslave all your people.” It’s a pretty good setup they’ve got going on. At the beginning of the passage you’ll see that Hezekiah is one of those kings who is a vassal to Sennacherib. Judah manages to cough up 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. That’s a lot of money. Even with that generous donation, Assyria couldn’t leave Judah alone. Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem, mocks their God and insists that they will be forced to eat their own excrement if they stay on the side of God.

Choosing to stay on God’s side usually isn’t that difficult for me, but when the cost is eating your own filth, it certainly adds some weight to the decision.  Many kings of Judah and certainly most, if not all, of the kings of Israel would have submitted to Sennacherib’s will, but not Hezekiah. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God will take care of everything, like he always does. Once again, God conquers for the Israelites.

We often want God to act through us, to perform some mighty feat of strength or wisdom with ourselves as the focus. However, God often chooses to do things without us so that we can know that the glory is his and his alone. We want to be like David, to be a man after God’s own heart, but also to be like David, a man who performed valiant feats. Let us remember that it is God’s will that will be done and not ours. We can build up fortresses for ourselves but they won’t save us. Our God is a mighty fortress, an ever present help in trouble. Nothing we create will ever be as effective a shield as Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A9-19%3A37%3B+Psalm+46%2C+80%2C+135&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 49-53 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Maker of All Things – including Science

Isaiah 44-48

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In this short passage, there are three profound thoughts. Indeed, they are incredibly profound considering this text was written by a man who lived around 2500 years ago. The first is that God is uncreated, he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. How can something be uncreated? Everything seems to be created. You yourself were formed in the womb against your own will, even before you had a conscious will. We create things every day by taking something with potential and turning it into something with value. We turn raw meat into an edible meal, turn wood into heat, turn metals into computers. But even those raw ingredients came from somewhere; the meat came from another animal, the wood came from another tree and the metal came from minerals in the Earth. The fact that something can be uncreated is completely antagonistic to our entire human experience. It may appear there is no reason to believe that there is such a thing as “uncreated,” yet Isaiah believes there is a reason. (It may help that he heard God say it Himself.) God mocks the gods of Babylon, Bel and Nebo who were also known as Marduk and Nabu, for being crafted by human hands. Even those who worshipped these gods knew that they were created since both Nabu and Marduk had parents. How can one who is created be anything close to a god? One who has a beginning cannot begin to come close to the power of one who is uncreated, one who IS the beginning. It is also interesting to realize that shortly after Isaiah’s time (relatively speaking, as it is nearly two centuries after the fact) Greek philosophers began to ponder questions of metaphysics and the meaning and even the existence of time. There were some who concluded that time does exist. More than that, they concluded past and future do not exist, but only the present. Two and a half millennia ago, God said, “I am the beginning and the end.” He is the past and the present. He always has been and always will be. In this day, quantum physics affirms the existence of a beginning. The expansion of the universe can be traced backward to a single point in time where it began. The beginning exists, therefore God exists.

 

Second, God can provide things which cannot be created. While we marvel at our creations, modern technology, architecture and art, though impressive and beneficial to be sure, God creates things that we can only begin to understand. God creates light and darkness. He says he will give us treasures of darkness and riches from secret places. This probably makes me a little odd, but it makes me think about gravity and magnetism. Everyone knows about gravity and magnetism. We know that if you drop something, it will fall. If you place metal near a magnet, they will be attracted. Everyone knows this, yet it is still an incredible mystery. Why do things fall? Why are magnets magnetic? Now you can apply equations all day long and understand exactly how objects will move in certain environments, but no one can explain why matter has a gravitational field or why a magnet has a magnetic field. Wouldn’t it be quite inconvenient if the universe were set up such that gravity actually repelled all matter away from each other? Why do the equations even work? Why are the laws of physics constant? It would be rather chaotic if you were suddenly 100 pounds heavier or lighter from one day to the next based on a non-fixed gravitational constant. Yet someone decided to set up the universe in a way that would be useful for us. That’s a little bit too convenient to call it chance, if you ask me. That was a bit of a tangent, but it is related to God’s creation of light, which is an electro-magnetic wave. The interesting thing about light is that it is affected by gravity. Some guy called Einstein figured that out. Light can be bent through space if the gravitational forces are strong enough. There is a phrase from the Psalms (104:2) that says that God wraps himself in light. How could David have known that this is a physical possibility? Only that God created light, knows everything about it and revealed Himself to David. God promises in this portion of Isaiah to give us these treasures of darkness so that we may know that He is God, and that he calls our name. Knowing that we know hardly anything about light and gravity, even with all our technology and many years of study, convinces me of the intricacy of the universe and the necessity of a Master to tame it.

 

The last thought is the most important for us as Christians. At the beginning of chapter 44, God promises to pour out his spirit on the descendants of Jacob. We see this come to fruition some seven centuries later during Pentecost. God also promises to give us the choice to be heirs to this promise. He says that those who declare themselves as belonging to the Lord are included in this promise. This is our story as Christians. This is reiterated in Galatians 3, when it says that we get to share in the inheritance of Abraham through Christ and thereby receive the spirit of God.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+44-48&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46 80,135 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Isaiah 40-43

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” ~ Is. 40:1-2 

While the first 39 chapters of Isaiah consist of the judgment pronounced on Israel & Judah, the book of consolation begins in chapter 40 and continues for the last 27 chapters of the book (mirroring the set-up of the Bible itself). Isaiah 40-43 contains beautiful pictures of who God is and breath-taking prophecies of the future messiah. When we look at the story of the Israelites a central theme that we see is the forsaking of the true God for idols. Because they could see the idols and because other nations worshipped in the same way, they felt like it was more profitable to worship them. However, these idols always proved to be worthless and caused pain and destruction. If we see that we are worshipping idols, what should we do? How can we turn away from the worthlessness of these idols to the infinite value found in God through Christ. 

Isaiah 40-43 gives us an answer to that as well. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah reminds us who God is. He asks the question in v. 18-19, “Who will compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to? To an idol? Something that a smelter casts, and a metalworker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it?” Instead of worshipping a created thing, God points us to what he has created to show his power and to show us that he is the only one worth worshipping. In v. 26, he says, “Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.” When we find ourselves looking towards idols for our value and worth – and in turn worshipping them, we need to remind ourselves of where our true value comes from. To do that, we have to turn our eyes away from ourselves and the things we think define us – whether that’s our relationships, money, career, or anything else – and turn them towards the only thing that really gives us worth. By focusing on God and basing our lives on his unchanging character, we can rest in God through the storms and trials of life. He is our firm foundation. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 40-43.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 44-48 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76

I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David._

In Isaiah 36-37, we read more about the good king Hezekiah. Like we learned last week, Hezekiah worked hard to take down the idols in the land and point the people back to God. In Isaiah 36, Judah came under attack from the neighboring nation of Assyria. Hezekiah then undergoes a battle for the minds of the people as he argues against King Sennacherib and the people of the court. In these two chapters, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military officer, tries to convince the people to forsake their kingdom and God. In his three speeches, we may see some similarities between what he says and the way that we are tempted today. At the heart of all of his speeches is a desire to turn Judah away from trusting solely in God. 

In the Rabshakeh’s first speech, he points out one of Israel’s insecurities. He says in Is. 36:4-6, ‘What are you relying on? Your strategy and military preparedness are mere words. Look, you are trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.’ Israel and Judah had both sought protection and manpower from Egypt as we read about in Is. 31. Now the Rabshakeh was pointing out that weakness and mocking them for it! We’ve all experienced a time when we have had our insecurities pointed out. I’m a terrible volleyball player. When I would have to play volleyball in gym class, I remember one of the cute guys at my school saying to me ‘You just have to hit the ball like this. It’s not hard!’ You can imagine that in that moment – when a shortcoming of mine was pointed out – all I wanted to do was for someone to take that problem away from me quickly! In my gym class that meant sitting out the next game, but the Judeans didn’t have that option. The Assyrians gave them the option instead to give him 2,000 horses if they could supply riders for them (v. 8). Again, this pointed out the lack of manpower and ability for the Israelites to protect themselves. 

At this point, we would probably say, ‘Well, that’s fine! Israel doesn’t need to protect themselves – they should trust in God!’ The Rabshakeh thought of that too. In verse 7, he says, ““Suppose you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God.’ Isn’t he the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?” The Rabshakeh twisted the actions of Hezekiah to make it seem like he had done something against God rather than something that God wanted. He even goes so far as to say in v. 10, “Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’ In his second speech, the Rabshakeh describes how he had destroyed the gods of the surrounding nations, which would just show that God himself wouldn’t deliver the people either (v. 18-20). 

This is some powerful psychological warfare! We know the Judeans had trust issues to begin with. Now, someone is coming and laying out all of their insecurities for the world to see (right before they try to march in and destroy their kingdom)! The heart of all of the Rabshakeh’s temptation can be summed up with what he said in Is. 37:10, “Don’t let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria.” He basically says ‘Did God really say that he would save you?’ which may sound eerily reminiscent of another ancient tempter (Gen. 3:1). At this point, if someone had tried to break our trust in God in this way, we may have caved and believed them. However, Hezekiah does what we all should do when we have people who try to break our trust in God. He prays and then reminds himself of God’s unchanging character. 

God hears his prayer and we read about the victory that God brings in Isaiah 37:36-38 when an angel of the LORD strikes down the Assyrian army and the king is killed in the temple of his god, Nisroch.

When we face temptations and challenges that try to break our trust in God, we need to be reminded that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. We can trust in what the Bible says. We can trust in the promises of God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 40-43– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 35-36

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

The book of Isaiah holds many judgments against Israel, Judah, and all the nations surrounding them. Page after page contains descriptions of how God will deal with these people, because of the sin that they commit. In the midst of this, there are glimpses of a wondrous hope to come and worship God in his future kingdom. We see the beautiful future that God has prepared for all those who love him despite the brokenness of our current realities. 

Isaiah 35 describes this future in a continuation of the prophecy beginning in Isaiah 34. In Isaiah 34, Edom’s eventual punishment and destruction is described: “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her soil into sulfur” (v. 9). In this place, jackals, hyenas, goats, birds of prey, and snakes will gather – all symbols of destruction and brokenness (v. 14-15). The very land has turned bitter and worthless under the consequence of sin. In contrast to this, Isaiah 35 describes the land of the Israelites as a desert that blossoms like a rose (v. 1). In this place, “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool of water and the thirsty land springs of water” (v. 5-7). Unlike the land of Edom, in the redeemed land, “There will be no vicious beast, but the redeemed will walk on it” (v. 9). In fact, the places where the vicious beasts resided, like the lairs of jackals, will be turned into a meadow of grass, reeds, and papyrus (v. 7). A road will go through this land called the Holy Way; “the unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray” (v. 8). This path will lead up to the mountain of God where the people will come to worship God. 

We live in an incredibly broken world that seems like it is full of vicious beasts and people bent on destroying themselves and others. We can see the consequences of sin in the hurt that is being done so carelessly to everyone, including our most vulnerable. We can rest in the hope that this will not always be the way the world will be. Those that would be overlooked by society and viewed as less than are the very people that God includes in the description of his future kingdom: the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. These are the people who lead the way for praising God’s redemption of the land. We will not always live in these broken times. We can trust that one day streams of water will flow through the desert and the whole world will blossom like a rose. In fact, through the Holy Spirit, we can begin to redeem our time here for God and be his hands and feet in this broken world. How can you bring the living water to those around you? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 35-36.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 31-34

The Lord gives victory to his anointed. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

One highlight of my year is going to South East Camp held on the mountaintops of the NC Blue Ridge. Years ago, we drove down the mountain to a center with a high ropes course. Everyone suited up with a helmet and a buddy and clipped their carabiner to the first level on the course. Now, I have some friends who are into rock climbing and would be happy to dangle off the top of a mountain just to get the adrenaline rush. However, I am not that person. As a child, I used to get weak knees going to the edge of the second floor balcony at my church. In fact, there are still some rides I refuse to go on at amusement parks, because the drop is just too much. I’ve gotten better, but I definitely am still scared of heights. Going back to our high ropes adventure, I made it through the whole course, including the more difficult parts, but then I came to the end where I needed to zip line down to the ground. 

Looking down off the ledge, I could already feel a tingling in my knees and my palms getting sweaty. At that moment, I felt like turning around and going through the whole ropes course again just to make it back down to the bottom, because I felt like that was something that I could control with my body. Even though my heart was racing, I paused to take a few deep breaths, and then I stepped off the side to zoom through the air. In truth, once I picked up my feet, I felt safe and secure in my harness. The obstacle I had to overcome was one of trusting that my harness would do what it was supposed to do. I had to trust in something that I couldn’t control, but was probably the quickest and safest way down. 

In Isaiah 31, we read about some trust issues that the Israelites had developed with God. They weren’t afraid of heights in this case; instead, they were afraid of the nations around them. Israel had chosen to rely on numbers of men and horses when they faced battle, and because of this, they had grown to depend on Egypt’s help. They thought that by controlling the amount of man- and horsepower they could bring to a fight they could ensure their victory. However, God reminds them that the “Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit” (Isaiah 31:3). God was so much stronger than anyone the Israelites would face, but they refused to see it. By not trusting in God, they paved the way for their own demise (v. 3). 

We also have a daily choice between trusting God or trusting our own flesh. It may come in the form of choosing to be obedient to God’s command, by giving away our money or time to someone in need, or by sacrificing a desire to make room for a deeper relationship with God. In those times, we may want to trust in our own minds or bodies, because we feel like we can control those things. But, remember, God is so much more mighty than we are. We can trust him in whatever situation that we face. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 31-34.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 35-36– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.