Isaiah 45-46

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime-until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” 46:3-4

I love this beautiful contrast God makes to Israel. In the verses above, he points out that the Babylonian gods Bel and Nebo are meaningless. These gods, completely lifeless and manmade, both required child sacrifice as a part of their worship ceremonies.

Yet our God sends his only son to take our place as a sacrifice for our sin.  He tells us “I will carry you out of the wilderness like a father carries his son” (Deut. 1:31).  In these chapters, he reminds us over and over again that there is no one like him. I love how he paints himself here as a loving expectant mother, carrying us before we were born and loving us the entirety of our lives.

Sometimes when I read verses about idols, like these, I feel removed from it. It doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have statutes, I don’t physically bow down to things and it just seems irrelevant. Plus how could these dummies possibly worship something shiny and manmade when the living, holy God that rescued them is at their fingertips?  And then I spend the next forty-five minutes thinking about myself. Or maybe mindlessly scroll through social media and covet the heck out of everyone I know (primarily people with access to In N Out Burger or with exceptionally clean kitchens) and realize I am constantly idolizing myself. Or worshiping a five inch electronic device in the palm of my hand. How could I possibly worship something shiny and manmade when the living, holy God that rescued me is at my fingertips?

Ask yourself what your idols are and look for verses in today’s chapters that refute them. I love 46:5-8 where God challenges Babylon’s gods, pointing out that they don’t answer prayers or rescue anyone from trouble.

“Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God and there is none like me.” 46:9

Amen!

 

-Carly

Isaiah 43-44

I really want to hear your thoughts on these chapters because they are truly astounding and I think we could all say something about them.

  1. God’s deep incredible love is the source, fuel, motivation, inspiration for everything. He is love and thereby approaches His people, wooing them by His love. Your Creator says, 43:1-7
  2. God’s perfered method of reaching the world is the glowing report of a bride gushing about her Husband. How can they know there is no other Salvation unless His people sing of His glorious Salvation? 43:8-13
  3. He knows the faults of His people, but He wipes them out for the sake of His reputation. 43:25
  4. He’s not giving up, He will continue to pursue every generation. 44:3
  5. Idolatry is what slows down the salvation of the world, which is infuriating, because idolatry is about the dumbest thing in history. 44:9-20
  6. But even if we are idolatrous, we are not lost causes. Do not get stuck in your shame!! Your Husband is calling, “Return to Me, for I have redeemed you!” 44:22
  7. He is the One who does it. 44:24. Let us respond to the gracious, powerful, beautiful, redeeming, unrelenting love of the LORD!

Praise Him today!! And sing His praises to someone who doesn’t know Him!

-Bethany

Isaiah 41-42

So here we are, in the second half of Isaiah where the people of Israel are given an announcement of hope. Exile is over! Revisit Bethany’s post from yesterday and watch the Bible Project video on this if you didn’t yesterday, they are so helpful! (I swear we aren’t sponsoring them, we just love their work…) I gain so much more understanding of God’s word when I’m reading it in context. ANYWAY, back to the chapters:

This jumped out to me today:

“Who has stirred up this king from the east, rightly calling him to God’s service? Who gives this man victory over many nations and permits him to trample their kings underfoot? 41:2

This ‘king from the east’ is Cyrus II of Persia, who will become king within a century, conquer Babylon and help release the exiled Jews and bring them back to Jerusalem. God, sovereign over world politics, uses a pagan ruler to execute his plan. God is exceedingly sovereign over the hands of man, no matter their earthly position. (Good news for all: the American presidential election doesn’t impact God’s standings.)

“Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the Lord, the First and the Last. I alone am he.” 41:4

I love what my commentary has to say about this verse: “Each generation gets caught up in its own problems, but God’s plan embraces all generations. When your grandparents lived, God worked personally in the lives of his people. When your great-grandchildren live, God will still work personally in the lives of his people. He is the only one who sees 100 years from now as clearly as 100 years ago. When you are concerned about the future, talk with God, who knows the generations of the future as well as he knows the generations of the past.”

If you want a good perspective shaper: talk to someone from an older generation. Grab a grandparent or an older friend at church and get them talking about what they’ve seen God do over their lifetime. It’s humbling, encouraging and life-giving to everyone involved.

 

-Carly

 

Isaiah 39-40

Chapter 39 caps off the first section of the book with Hezekiah’s silly mistake. He shows Babylon all the wealth of Israel and yeah, they’ll be back for that.

Suddenly 40 begins a new section, which means it’s time for Part 2 of the Bible Project’s Isaiah.

God is not only going to save Israel from exile, He is going to fulfill the original dream, which was every nation reconciled to Himself. 

“Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” (40:5)

I’ve been increasingly burdened over the past few years about the situation in the Middle East. ISIS, the war in Syria, the displacement and mistreatment of Kurds, Iran remaining under a ruthless regime, the refugee crisis and the horrific ways our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered and died. 

Working with YWAM allows me opportunities to travel and work in an international community. I have friends in these countries. It feels so huge, hopeless, insurmountable. Can we even begin to solve ONE of these problems? It’s a giant, complex mess.

Then I read chapter 40 and God says, “This is nothing. I am infinitely bigger. I sit, enthroned over the circle of the earth. I reduce rulers to nothing. I don’t get tired, in fact I have energy enough to share.” I’m reminded that not only CAN He bring peace to the Middle East, but it has been His PLAN all along! A beautiful finale to human history we can all look forward to!

We hear stories all the time about people in these countries coming to Christ in DROVES. The largest movement of conversions in recorded history, they’re saying. You won’t read about that on the news! Even so, it won’t end there, God has more in store:

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (40:11)

Pray for our family in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palastine, ETC! They are beautiful, clever, funny, beloved and tired

-Bethany

Isaiah 37-38

This morning my friend Tiffany Jensen will be guest blogging. I love the way she consumes God and processes the gospel and we think you will too:

In chapters 37 and 38, King Hezekiah has his city and his own life threatened, on separate occasions. His response is the same in both scenarios; he goes straight to God. I love how in 37:14 Hezekiah takes a threatening letter up to the temple and spreads it out before God; as if God is going to sit there and read it with him. He knows that God cares deeply about his life and the life of his people. When Hezekiah get sick and is told he will not recover in chapter 38, he simply reminds God that he has been faithful and has always done what is good. He doesn’t beg God to heal him or get angry that he is going to die. Graciously, God sees Hezekiah’s sadness and extends his life 15 years!

How often do we find ourselves facing something difficult in life and try to walk through it on our own? And then later, when we fail or find it too much to bear on our own, we bring it to Jesus. Is now that time for you? Is there something you need to bring to Jesus? Maybe Isaiah 38:17a speaks to the season you are in. “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.” And if this is where you are, bask in His goodness! Personally, I simultaneously smile and cringe at these words of Hezekiah. I smile because I know that I’ve walked through hard times and come out at the end with a very real understanding of God’s love and provision in my life. But I cringe because the journey is hard and when you are in the middle of those dark times it is difficult to see that there is new life and light coming.

Take time today to write down which part of the journey you find yourself in. After you have written it down, spread it out before God. Either sit and take in His goodness for delivering you; or sit with Him, weep bitterly, and await faithfully His deliverance. New life and light is coming!

Love this perspective. Thanks for sharing, Tiffany!

-Carly

Isaiah 35-36

“Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.” (35:3-4)

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, the mute will shout for joy, streams of water will fill the wilderness! The Messiah will restore all brokenness!

“With everlasting joy upon their heads, they will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (35:10)

Even though Judah will be disciplined by the LORD, taken in to exile in Babylon, it is not forever. The LORD does not forsake. He will bring them home safely.

Jesus is deeply wonderful. I think we’ve settled for the Sunday school version of Him, who merely saves us from our sins. All our other problems are for doctors, therapists, Netflix, ice cream, you name it. We’ve somehow managed to compartmentalize Him into a very small jurisdiction, leaving us feeling pretty hopeless about the issues were actually concerned with. 

He is more. He physically heals. He emotion absolves. He promises political righteousness (which is incomprehensible) and justice. He teaches. The Holy Spirit counsels and convicts. 

“In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3

He made everything! Don’t you think He can handle your everything? Ask Him! Invite Him in the the corners of your life that feel unresolveable or hopelessly broken.

Meanwhile, in chapter 36 there’s the immediate threat of Assyria, knocking down Jerusalem’s door saying, “You think your God will save you? Has anyone else’s god saved them?” You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out!

-Bethany

Isaiah 33-34

Time is out for the Assyrians. God used their defiance and rebellion for his ultimate plan (he’s quite resourceful), and now he is standing up to show his power & might and rescue his people. 

This stuck out to me: 

“Those who are honest and fair, who refuse to profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong-those are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountain will be their fortress. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance.” 33:-5-16

When it seems like evil is succeeding, the plans of the wicked are advancing and you can’t catch a break, read this and take heart. 

A few verses later, Isaiah promises that this terror-filled time will soon be in the rear view mirror and they’ll mocking their enemies. There’s something strength-building and character-forming about looking back on hardship and being pleased with how you handled it. That you didn’t join in on your coworkers schemes at work. Or that you didn’t give in to your peers and stood apart from them. That you chose integrity instead of shady shortcuts. 

I’m at the beach this weekend, typing this as I watch the waves from a recliner behind a window. The waves crash relentlessly on the shore and I think of the rocks: a stable fortress that don’t  wash away like the sand around it. It’s making all those biblical analogies of God being our rock come alive.

David says “the Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior, my God is my rock  in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety”. (2 Samuel 22:3) 

The psalmist tells us “he is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me”. (Psalm 62:7-8) 

Take a minute and think about what you’re facing in your life right now. Financial strain, social pressures, relationships with the ungodly, etc. How are you going to look back on how responded to it? Do you find yourself standing on sand, or rock? 
-Carly