God Has Answers

Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah 8 20 NLT sgl

Today’s reading contained some pretty grim and possibly confusing stuff. In some sections it seems the people of Judah are completely doomed for destruction, while other parts tell of a coming protection. If you have come here today looking for an explanation and clarification on all that took place in these chapters – I’m sorry to say, I haven’t got one. Mainly because one perfect answer doesn’t exist. Scholars, theologians, historians, have all made attempts at understanding biblical prophecy. There has yet to be one universal agreed upon interpretation. The language barrier is one reason, as is the lack of context and historical gaps. If you want to know more about today’s reading and other prophecy, I encourage you to do two things. One, reach out to your local pastor with your specific questions. He or she would love to help you digest the Old Testament. Many have a wealth of biblical knowledge and bookcases stocked with resources. Plus, during this Covid time, many pastors are feeling a disconnect with their congregation, unable to meet under normal circumstances. They would welcome your questions and this opportunity to serve.

My second bit of advice is to follow that in Isaiah 8:20, “Look to God’s instruction and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (NLT) Isaiah goes on to describe the type of darkness these people experience as a sort of wandering aimless search for answers. He paints a picture of people looking at the sky and shaking their fists at God. These people sought psychics and other mediums for answers, instead of seeking the LORD’s instruction. Whenever you are reading scripture and stumble upon a passage that confuses you, look to what you know to be true about God. Some of these Old Testament passages can be tricky and may produce the picture of God as being only angry and vengeful. Be sure to look to ALL of God’s instructions and teachings. Personally, when reading doom and gloom in the Old Testament, I try to keep in mind what God says about Himself as being “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV). I love this verse in Isaiah, because right in the midst of confusing prophecy, he gives us an answer, encouraging us to seek “God’s instructions” known to us through scripture.

This advice from Isaiah can also be applied to other aspects of our lives when searching for answers. I would say all aspects, except I’ve not yet found the part in scripture that explains calculus. Math aside, when we face difficult or confusing challenges, wandering in unknown darkness, we as believers are encouraged to seek God for the answers. We can approach God through our wonderful redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whether these answers are revealed to us by understanding scripture, receiving peace, or prayer, answers exist. I am experiencing some personal challenges in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends sent me a text reminding me to seek answers from God during this trial. Her encouragement applies also to you, and whatever your current struggles may be. The last part of Isaiah 8 reminded me of her words. I want to share some of them with you as a closing thought.

“It may seem like the pain, loss, confusion, and hole in your heart, are the only things you will ever know, but please remember, the Lord has a plan for you and He is there to listen to you, He is there to listen to your cries of anguish and despair. And He will console you, but you have to ask Him for His help. Please don’t shut yourself out of His sweet  and divine presence, my dear friend. Ask Him to give you guidance for what you should do next. How you should proceed with your life. Ask Him for His wisdom so that you can understand what lesson He wants to teach you, how He is trying to mold your character. And also maybe think of what He wants you to ask Him. What is HIS will?”

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin another prophet writing at a similar time – Amos, chapters 1-5 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Reminder!


Deuteronomy 24-27

Deut 26 17 NIV

Continuing in our search for principles we can apply to modern believers found in the instructions that God gave to the Israelites, we’re going to pause in chapters 26 and 27.

At the end of Deuteronomy 26, we find an exchange that reminds me somewhat of marriage vows.  Here’s what it says,

“You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame, and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

How lovely.

I can picture the minister, looking down at the loving couple and announcing to all gathered, “You have declared here in the presence of these witnesses…..I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Perhaps we need a similar declaration at baptisms?  Or maybe just a reminder for the church body now and then…Hey church, remember what you promised God?  Remember the contract you made with him?

Reminders of expectations

Another reminder that we see in chapter 27 tickles me a bit.  Just before entering the Promised Land, Moses instructs the Levites to stand on a mountain and recite curses to all the people.  A reminder of the consequences of the things God told them not to do. Eleven “cursed is the man who” statements that they shouted at the people.

Now, to be fair, they also blessed the people.  But in this chapter, only the curses are recorded.

What tickles me is that, as a mom, I can remember sitting in the car before taking my kids somewhere and reminding them of the expectations.

“There will be no….”

“Don’t even think about…”

“I expect you to…”

Moms everywhere know that kids that are prepped immediately before an activity are far more likely to behave than those that are maybe just reminded of expectations at random times.  Being reminded of the consequences of not following directions keeps those expectations in our mind as we enter the situation.  God knows that we are the same.

Perhaps this would be helpful to us in our daily lives as well.  Reminding ourselves of the expectations God holds for us, especially before entering possibly tempting or difficult circumstances, could help to keep us on the narrow path.

We’re going to read more about blessings and curses tomorrow.  Stay tuned…

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+24-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 28-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Why Give to God?

Deuteronomy 14-16

Deut 16 16b NIV

I kind of love Deuteronomy.

Although it contains a lot of laws and instructions that were specific to the Israelites, I find that many of the themes of God’s instruction to them can apply to us as well.  The ‘why’ behind many laws and rituals is at the heart of God’s best for all of us.

Our section today offers a couple of those that we’re going to peek at.

Tithing

In chapter 14, God instructs the Israelites about tithing, saying,

“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.  Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.” 

Do you see that little nugget at the end?

So that.

Little phrases like that often lead to big insights.  Here, it leads us to the ‘why’ behind God’s instruction on tithing.  We all know that God needs nothing from us.  Everything already belongs to him.  The purpose of giving to God from the top (instead of the leftovers) is for us to learn to revere God.  To honor him.  To trust him.

Saying we honor and revere and trust God means nothing if we don’t show it. And when we do show it by putting him first in this way, it can provide a lens that shapes every other area of our lives.

What am I offering God?

We see another giving principle pop up in chapter 16.

“No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.  Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”

This instruction was given specifically regarding three of the appointed feasts that the Israelites celebrated.  But I believe that the principle applies to us as well.  We see the proportion principle repeated in Jesus’ illustration of the widow’s offering and in Paul’s teaching on sowing/reaping generously (Luke 21, 2 Corinthians 9).

But beyond that, how would it change our church-going experience, our daily Spiritual life even, if we kept that first sentence in mind:  No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed.

Am I coming to God, offering him my monetary giving, but also my time…my talents?

What are you bringing today?

 

Susan Landry

 

Susan lives in balmy Minnesota with her favorite person, Greg, and (except for this year) their two sons.  She teaches, tutors and writes.  You can find her blog, The Sparrow’s Home, online at thesparrowshome.com  Some of Susan’s favorite words include grace, kindness, and authenticity.  Also snuggling.

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+14-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 17-20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Just Two Choices

A Free Theme Week into the Book of Psalms

Psalm 1 6

Greetings!  I’m introducing a week of devotions based on the Psalms.  There are 150 psalms in the Bible. (Note there are Protestant Bible translations and Catholic Bible translations.  The psalm number has a variation in Catholic translations.  I’ll be following the psalm numbering in Protestant versions ie. NIV, KJV, NRSV etc…)

The word psalm comes from the Hebrew word “mizmor” and means melody.  When translated into Greek it is “psalmos” which means song for the harp or the plucking of strings.  The key is that they are musical pieces.  Just as we sing hymns and praise and worship songs in church, the psalms were written to be sung as part of worship.  Most of the Psalms have been used in Jewish and later Christian worship settings for over 3,000 years (and you thought Frank Sinatra or the Beatles was old music).

Not all psalms are alike.  Different commentators call them different things and they are grouped differently.  I like the following 7 groupings:  1.Wisdom, 2. Royal, 3. Lament, 4.Imprecatory, 5.Thanksgiving, 6. Pilgrimage, 7. Enthronement.  During this week I’ll focus on a different type of Psalm and give the description and brief example each day.

Let me also talk to you a bit about how I incorporate psalms into my daily worship.  For hundreds of years men who live in monastic communities or monks have used the psalms as part of their daily worship.  In many communities they sing/pray/chant through the entire Book of Psalms every month.

A few years ago I came across an idea for going through the entire Book of Psalms every month using 5 psalms a day.  On the first day of the month read Psalm 1, 31, 61,91 and 121, the next day read Psalm 2,32,62,92,122.  Whatever day of the month you are on, read that, and then add 30 and keep going up by 30.  That way, in 30 days you will read all 150 psalms.  I break this up during the day: one when I first get up, one mid-morning, one at lunch time, one at supper time and one at the end of the day.  This way I surround my day and fill my day with these prayers and songs to God.  You don’t have to do it that way, but you might want to try it, or whatever way works for you. (On months with 31 days I just pick a few of my favorites for day 31).

The first type of psalm is a wisdom psalm.  It’s a kind of teaching psalm pointing out the way to live a Godly life.  An example of a wisdom Psalm is Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

This psalm is a simple but clear message about the choices we have in life.  This theme has been taken up by many through history.  Robert Frost talked about having a choice to take one of two paths and he took “the road less travelled” and that it made all the difference.  Jesus talked about wide gates and narrow gates and the importance of following his path “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Even the classic rock band Led Zeppelin sang “yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

This psalm teaches us that we do have choices.  We can follow the path of the righteous or we can follow the path of the wicked.  The path of the righteous is the “right or correct path.”  This path is the path of one who follows God’s instructions.  The law of the Lord is not so much a law like a legal code as much as an instruction about the way to live.  Jesus showed his disciples/students how to live a life that was faithful to God.  Those who follow this path delight in following God’s instructions for life and spend time meditating upon, praying about, thinking about God’s instructions.  What do you spend your time thinking about, focusing on, absorbing?  The person who is fully absorbed in God’s ways will live a fruitful and prosperous life.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will be financially wealthy, but they will be successful in the way that God defines success, they will be godly, they will have life.

The other path is the path that leads to destruction.  This is the path that does not end well.  If I told you that there was a fork in the road: if you go right, you’ll end up at Disney World and a lifetime of fun and adventure, if you go to the left, you’ll be at the garbage dump and there’s no turning back.  I’m guessing you’d choose Mickey over a trash heap.  It all boils down to a simple choice.  If you feel like you’re currently heading on the wrong path, there’s good news “there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

-Jeff Fletcher