God’s Jealous Love

Isaiah 1-4

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Today, we begin the book of Isaiah. This book is full of poetry, prophecy, but also includes some narrative sections, as we will see tomorrow. Isaiah speaks of the coming judgment and future restoration upon the nation of Judah. The book contains lament over the nation’s sin, warning against God’s wrath, and the promises of a wonderful future for the faithful. As I read through the first four chapters, a single theme stood out to me. These passages reminded me of God’s passionate love and desire for our hearts. Like in the song “How He Loves” God is jealous for us.

The verses in Isaiah 1:10-15 express God’s disgust at the people’s empty rituals and sacrifices. While they may be executing all the correct religious actions, they are done without sincerity. Simply going through the motions. This is something we can fall privy too, as well. Routine worship. While Covid may have interrupted our usual routines, it is important to keep our worship sincere, in whatever form it may take.

While a rather grim verse, the verbiage in Isaiah 1:28 hints at a key factor regarding God’s love. Isaiah claims, “But rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who desert the LORD will be consumed.” Those who desert the LORD. It does not say those the LORD has deserted. God does not walk away and leave us. He is always ready to accept a repentant heart. At a time when you may be feeling particularly lonely, remember, God is always ready to receive you.

Finally, Isaiah 1:22 struck me as bittersweet, but very true: “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are frail as breath. What good are they?” Don’t misunderstand, Isaiah and I are not advocating for hermit life. There are plenty of verses in the New Testament, whole chapters written by Paul, that explain the need for church community. Our faith is not something we are meant to go about alone. However, this verse tells of one of the most important life lessons: people will fail you. The only ones we can truly depend upon is the LORD and His son, our redeemer. In fact, it is when we live from a place of securely trusting in God, we can have better human relationships. When our trust and hope is put in God alone, we become more ready to accept and forgive the failures of those around us.

The themes of God’s overwhelming jealous love for us are evident throughout the first four chapters of Isaiah. God’s anger over the people’s worship of idols, promises of a bright future, and redemption for the faithful exemplify God’s desire to be our number one priority. God knows the worship of idols and sin led lives will not fulfill us. That is why his anger burns so strong against His people in scripture like today’s. For He knows what is best, and they are not listening. He is not a narcissistic God who is angry and pours His wrath out in a desire to be right. He is a God of mercy who longs to bring His people to Him so they may experience true and abundant life.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Isaiah 5-8 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

The Weight of Sorrow

Matthew 11

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There is a destiny that makes us brothers:

None goes his way alone;

All that we send into the lives of others

Comes back into our own. —Markham

 

Today’s chapter is a solemn one for me. Jesus just finished the send-off of the 12 disciples out into the proving grounds and I imagine was watchful about the results. As word of the disciples broaden, John the Baptist hears about the Messiah’s latest turn of events and sends a question to Jesus in (verse 3): “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 

This question intrigues me because of what it doesn’t ask. “Why won’t you help me? Do you not care that I sit suffering in this prison cell?” John the Baptist was the cousin, a dear friend, and a mentor of sorts who baptized Christ himself. He knew Jesus and Jesus knew John. They most likely grew up together. Jesus simply replied, (verse 4-6)  “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

 

While this is a message of good report for the current gospel cause, what strikes me is what isn’t said to his friend. John would surely have known by this response that Jesus was referring to Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6, or 61. These were the credentials of sorts that the coming Messiah would fulfill. Isaiah 61 is one of the most famous passages using phrases of comfort  like “ bind up the brokenhearted,” “proclaim freedom for captives,” and “release prisoners from darkness.” Yet, Jesus doesn’t convey any of THOSE phrases in the reply to John because he knew they couldn’t be upheld. Silence often speaks louder than words.

 

Have you ever had a friend or family member truly in sorrow and are unable to comfort them due in part to the schedule you must maintain? Maybe they were grieving a death, consequence, job loss, betrayal, or abandonment. You want nothing more than to stop everything and sit with them in their sorrow and to share the load. I have to believe this is what Christ wanted more than anything with John the Baptist, but his circumstances made this impossible and he ultimately knew that freeing John from prison was not the will of the Father. John was soon to die. Jesus sent a loving message of “omittance,” perhaps suggesting that he had not forgotten John, nor his sufferings. The tribute upon which Jesus bestows upon John in the next 14 verses following this makes me believe he was hurting for his brother. He wanted nothing more than to comfort, but his schedule and AGENDA would not allow.    

 

Jesus models a very important lesson here and later in Matthew 14 upon reaction to the terrible death of John the Baptist. SOMEtimes the best way to ease heartache is by getting back to work. Use your grief to empower your ministry. Rather than turning in on yourself and thinking “woe is me,” turn outward to serve and to love the crowds. It is ok to cry. It is ok to mourn for lost people or situations, but we must not let our emotions turn inward for long, lest it becomes pity. In our brokenness God is able to use us mightily. In desperation our dependence on Him will serve as a powerful testimony to a lost and dying world.

 

Is your heart broken today? Does life seem empty? Do you feel like giving up? Take hope in the example of Jesus. Take up whatever duties lie before you and dedicate them to God. Refuse the luxury of self-pity. Do something to lift the burdens of others and Jesus will strengthen you.

The final verses (28 – 30) of Matthew 11 confirm this truth. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

When you serve others you will find yourself.

 

-Julie Driskill

 

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God Has Us

Isaiah 43

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Sticking with TV themes, MacGyver was a sitcom from the 1980’s that was filled with intense and often times ridiculous storylines.  MacGyver worked for a research company and often got into unreal and challenging situations, often including action, fire, and explosives. Time after time, he nearly escaped death by using strange and rare objects to escape danger just in the knick of time.  Conversations after each week’s episode would often include endless  jokes as to how MacGyver could narrowly escape getting blown from a yacht filled with massive explosives while speeding directly towards a huge rock.  Surprisingly, week after week, he successfully escaped and had great ratings in the process.  

 

You could say MacGyver and the girls from “Facts of Life” have a common theme.  Maybe it is a cheesy theme from the 80’s sitcoms that we can consider in our day to day lives.  Things may feel like they are falling apart.   Our relationships with others may have bumps along the way. We may feel overwhelmed and like we are heading towards that massive rock with things exploding all around us. If this hits close to home to you, repeat over and over the thoughts in verse 2 of Isaiah 43:  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you:  and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned:  The flames will not set you ablaze.”  We may feel like things aren’t going the way we have planned, but in our reading today let’s keep in mind: God has us.  He has our lives in his hands.  He is so faithful.  He will be there through it all- we have nothing to fear. We have the best ending ahead of us if we continue to stay focused and true to his will for us.

-Emily Moyer

Rejoice!

Isaiah 64-66

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Saturday, February, 25

These 3 chapters follow a similar theme to the rest of the week. We are not perfect, and we all mess up, that is just in our nature, but there is so much hope for us. 64: 4-5 says, “For from of old men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides You, what God has prepared for him who waits for him. 5 You meet him who rejoices and works righteousness, those who remember You in Your ways…” God will meet us who rejoice! He will be with us. That is amazing.

Chapter 65 talks about creating new heavens and a new earth. Not only does this apply to the world, but it applies to us as well- he is making us new, when we ask to be his again. 65:17 says, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” God also calls us to rejoice! Verse 18 says, “But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”

Again, chapter 66 talks about rejoicing with Jerusalem, that is such a simple command. Rejoice! God says. We can find something to rejoice about in almost any circumstance, because God is our God, who has not forsaken us, and he loves us. I challenge you to Rejoice!  In all things Rejoice!

-Jana Swanson

Some songs for today:

Your Name by: Paul Baloche https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7CFr8w9z38

!0,000 Reasons by: Matt Redman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

Blessed Be Your Name by: Matt Redman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA

 

(Photo Credit: https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/1017-isaiah-64/)

Who Do You Do It For?

Isaiah 58-60

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Thursday, February 23

Overall today’s chapters really focus on being genuine as a follower of Christ. This is sometimes really difficult for a lot of people to recognize and to truly understand. If you grew up in a church, or if you have been to church often, or you’re a “New Christian” you might feel like there are rules to follow, whether written or unwritten. Rules like, read your Bible every day, pray before every meal, go to church every single Sunday, go to church camp, talk to all your friends about God all the time, invite a friend to youth group, or Bible study. Some people fast, there are certain rules about when to be baptized, etc. I hope you get the gist, that sometimes it feels like in order to be a “perfect” or even a “good Christian” you have to do these things all the time. All of those things are awesome and great, if you remember to do all those things, I think you are amazing, and you inspire me, because I will be completely honest; I don’t read my Bible every day- I do most days, but sometimes I don’t. I don’t pray before every meal, again, I pray before most meals, but sometimes I am eating while I am walking to class and I forget. Sometimes I miss going to church on Sunday because I slept in, or the snow was really deep (although that would be a pretty poor excuse right now, as there is so snow in February in central Indiana) or I was sick. We are not perfect and these chapters recognize this, but especially in chapter 58. Doing “all the right things” can be important, but not if we are seeking the approval of people. Reading your Bible often is important, and praying often is important, going to church and fellowshipping with other believers is important, but it is not right if we are doing it to “fit in” or to look like a “good christian” to other believers. These chapters call us out- if we choose to fast, it needs to be to focus on our relationship with God, if we choose to read our Bible every single day, it needs to be to deepen our understanding and trust of God. I challenge you today to think about your heart and your attitude. Why are you reading your bible? Is it because you want to please people? Or because you want to please God. -If you do read your Bible every day as you might be if you are following the 2016 FUEL Bible reading plan, I hope you check your “attitude at the door” before you read and really focus on growing closer to God, because that is the point of spending time in his word. Praying is awesome, but again check your heart and do it to talk with our heavenly Father who is amazing and all powerful. Do all good things for God and only for him. Do not do them to gain favor from people, only do them to focus on God and your relationship with him, because we are blessed to be able to have an individual relationship with him. I hope you enjoyed reading today, and I hope you come back tomorrow. Thanks!

-Jana Swanson

Some songs for today:

Beautiful Things by: Gungor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is6weMrenls

Come As You Are by: Crowder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2zhf2mqEMI

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/isaiah-59-and-60/)

HOPE

Isaiah 51-53

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Tuesday, February 21

These three chapters go together much better than some of the other chapters, in my opinion, so they are easier to write about all together, instead of chapter by chapter. Again there is SO much hope in these chapters, you just have to know where to find it. Throughout these chapters, God is comforting his people, and reminding them that he is always there for them, that he always knows what is best for them, and that he always comes through on his promises. He reminded them, and is reminding through these words that we can look to our ancestors and the promises that he made to them. He reminds his people of what he did for Abraham and Sarah, by giving them children and promising Abraham many children-we are all known as children of Abraham. How super cool is that promise! God is still fulfilling the promise that he made to Abraham even though Abraham has been gone for many many many years. He later in 51 says that the heavens will vanish and the earth will diminish and the people will die, but there is more in store for us as believers. God’s salvation will last forever and his righteousness will never fail. This is an amazing promise that talks of the promise of the coming kingdom. 52 talks about the history of the people of Jerusalem. He talks about how his people were forced into Egypt as slaves-they were bought with no money, and with no money they will be freed, because God has always known what would happen and had a plan to get them to freedom, God knows our hearts, and he knew that we would all go down a path of destruction, just like Adam and Eve-this is in human nature. This is why God sent his one and only begotten son into the world- that we might live. God knows everything; he knows your heart and mine, and he put a plan in place thousands of years ago for us to be saved. We need to heed all of the warnings in Isaiah, but we also need to rejoice in the good news this book carries as well.

A song for today:

“This Is Love” by Aaron Winner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQbjSTo3lYc&list=PL0v5rBOVXt3yiPNooFzmz_JxdInamLeIK

-Devotion by Jana Swanson
(photo credit: http://hiswordinpictures.blogspot.com/2011/08/isaiah-516.html)

His Promises!

Isaiah 48-50

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Monday, February 20

Isaiah 48 talks about how patient God is and his plan as well. God had chosen Israel, he had chosen the House of Jacob, and they did not follow what he had asked, they had been called transgressors from the womb. Yet even when they did not listen and they turned away from him, God waited and he refined them through the flame. Isaiah 48:10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” God did this for the house of Jacob, and he is waiting for you too. Later in chapter 48 God talks about how he led his people through the desert- they were not thirsty because he caused water to flow out of the rocks, he split the rock for them. He does this for you and I too! He has plans of prosperity for us, all we have to do is be committed to him, and share his love. How amazing are God’s promises!?

Isaiah 49  This chapter is again talking about how God has promised to care for the house of Jacob, and that he will be their savior. He says in verse 16: “Behold I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before me.” Verse 22 says, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold I will lift up My hand to the nations, and set up My banner to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” God is so sure of his promise to Jacob and his house, that he has engraved them on his palms, and they are always before him. This demonstrates the permanence of the promises or covenants that God makes. He is an amazing God, and he will not forget us, he knows you and will remember you, and he is for you, not against you! How cool!

Isaiah 50 is a very short chapter, but it gets right to the point. There are rewards for following God. He has promised us his kingdom. My favorite verse in this chapter is so hopeful and it is important to understand. Isaiah 50:10 “Who is among you who fears Yahweh, who obeys the voice of His servant? He who walks in darkness, and has no light, let him trust in the name of Yahweh and rely on his God.” Even when we feel like we are in darkness, even when we feel hopeless and overwhelmed, God is there and he will always be by our side, and we NEED to rely on him.

-Jana Swanson

Some songs for the day:

“Desert Song” by Hillsong United.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlgUUeQh0CQ

“Always” by Kristian Stanfill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r67f4zYNrmU&list=PLijcA4N7GQ20-fSfNyFA1YRgbnqiuUaLN&index=7

“You Never Let Go” by Jeremy Camp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pn4KQqSrrA

(photo credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/09032014/)

Stop Dwelling on the Past

Isaiah 43-44

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Saturday, February 18

In Isaiah 43:16, Isaiah remembers that God is the one who parted the Red Sea and led Moses and the Israelites into it followed by the Egyptians. Right after he remembers this powerful act of God, God says “Forget the former things! Stop dwelling on the past (43:18)!” If we always look to the past, we’ll miss the things that God is doing right now. Sometimes we get so caught up thinking about all the good places we used to be that we don’t realize the good that is happening right in front of us. We look back to when we were younger, fitter, smarter or anything else we can imagine. All that does is blind us! No matter where we are right now, whether north, south, or the ends of the earth, God is trying to take us home (43:6). Don’t let the treasures of your past keep you from seeing the path that God is trying to take you down. Open your eyes and see. Open your ears and listen. Follow the cloud and the fire in your life.

– Nathaniel Johnson

(Photo credit: http://dustoffthebible.com/Blog-archive/tag/isaiah-43/)

My Helper

Isaiah 41-42

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Friday, February 17

 

God gave us all eyes to see and ears to hear. If we are using our eyes and not seeing, and using are ears without hearing, how can we be a proper messenger of God (Isaiah 42:19)? Maybe you’ve read the whole Bible before. So what? If you saw it, but paid no attention and your ears were open, yet you heard nothing, then what good is that? The first step is reading the message, but the most important part is actually understanding it. In order for you to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), you need to understand the message that you’re meant to bring to people.

 

If you used to be on fire with the Holy Spirit, but now you’re feeling like you’re running on empty, you aren’t alone. But just because your wick is smoldering (42:3), don’t let it burn out! These winter months can be tough to stay positive but we aren’t called to be a light to the world for just three months out of the year. God is our helper and he will take you by the hand as you grow into a better servant (41:13). Get in touch with your brothers and sisters in Christ, reignite your flame, and bring forth justice to the world!

-Nathaniel Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/02262013/)

He Knows Me

Isaiah 38-40

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Thursday, February 16

Isaiah 40:14 sounds like the questioning of a young child: “But if God created the world, then who created God?” Even though we know that God exists and that he created this world that we live in, we still can’t even begin to understand how that works (40:28). Even more unfathomable is that all the nations of the earth are nothing to God (40:1), yet he still knows me and you as individuals. God knows exactly how many hairs are on your head (Matt 10:30). God sees everything you do, the good and bad (Job 28:24, Hebrews 4:13), yet he loves you anyway (Romans 8:39). God even knows so much that he knew you well before he crafted you by hand in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:4). God knows more about you than you know about yourself. He knows your hopes and dreams, what motivates you (Psalm 139:13). Honestly, it’s a little scary to have someone know you this deeply, but there is no one I would rather have know everything about me than the compassionate and gracious God, YHWH (Exodus 34:6-7).

-Nathaniel Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.dailylifeverse.com/posts/2012/08/isaiah-40-31)