Isaiah 61-62 B

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (61:1-3‬)

As I mentioned the other day, chapters 56-66 are a chiasm, a mirroring literary style, which I will point out now, since we’ve arrived at the center. I want you to feel how much of a punch is packed!

E: Obedient foreigners included 56:1-8

D: The need for salvation 56:9-59:15a

C: A divine savior 59:15b-21

B: Zion, light of the world 60

A: The Messiah 61

B: Zion, light of the world 62

C: A divine savior 63:1-6

D: The need for salvation 63:7-66:17

E: Obedient foreigners included 66:18-24

When Jesus arrives at Nazareth and reads Isaiah 61:1-2 in the Synagogue, He says something incredible: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

It, then, comes at no surprise the Nazarenes respond with a, “What? You?! It can’t be you! We grew up with you.” This was what everyone had been waiting for. How could this most cherished prophecy be fulfilled in their neighbor??

Let’s not miss the significance of His assertion, nor what He proclaimed: Good news for the afflicted, liberty for the captives, favor, comfort and glory for the grieved. Jesus not only brought spiritual salvation, He also physically healed and liberated people regularly. He lifted up those who were low; touching people with His divine power.

We are recipients of this wondrous news, as well as couriers of it. The gospel is truly good, especially for the afflicted. Let these chapters wash over you. Take hold of what it means for your own heart. It will help you communicate its power to the hearts of others.

-Bethany

Isaiah 59-60 B

“Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” 59:15-16

I like how things play out in these verses:

God believes the best in us and expects us to do what is right in his eyes. To his amazement and/or horror, we often don’t. So he steps in to save the oppressed himself.

God waits nearby, expecting us to defend people who are oppressed. But he doesn’t depend on it. He will step in and do it himself and, whoa, ya better watch out. There’s a “robe of vengeance” involved for those who harm.

Christ followers, we are called to these actions:

1. To defend truth and not bend towards worldly views.

2. Seek (God’s) justice.

3. To intervene when the oppressed are mistreated.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Evaluate your life. Or even just the conversations you had with peers today. Do they reflect these pieces of Scripture?

-Carly

Isaiah 57-58 B

As I went to write about today’s chapters, I looked back at Carly’s from last time and she really takes the words out of my mouth.

58:3-4 sounds to me like, “fasting the way you do it only makes you hangry and a bad boss.”

Instead of a self deprivation that makes us cranky, and simultaneously self righteous, why not deprive yourself for the sake of others?

Something I admire about how Muslims observe Ramadan, is how they “do it for the poor”. The purpose of this fast is to sympathize with the hungry, then collect and offering for the poor from the money saved during the fast. What a lovely idea.

The more I study the Bible and the law, the more I see how no command is an empty rule for the sake of discipline. Everything is for the practice of loving God and others, which is why Jesus can sum up the whole law and prophets (aka the Old Testament) with this One Greatest Commandment.

He wants us to take care of one another, and not just those who form symbiotic relationships with us. The hungry, homeless, naked, oppressed, afflicted, etc. He says He’s with this crowd.

“For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” (57:15‬)

He has a special relationship with this group. He is with them and invites us to join.

“And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (58:10-11‬)

These verses really hit me, because I can attest to their truth. Much of my adult life has been a bonkers path of closed doors, disappointments, failed plans and dissatisfaction. This somehow all changed when my heart locked into a dedication to refugees. I had no idea what I was doing when I got into this work, but somehow the Lord has boosted my income and given me one open door and victory after another. He was already with them, and I’ve experienced His power in the most profound ways ever since joining Him in loving them.

He loves us, yes, but His blessings are so we can bless others. This is life lived abundantly. He dwells in high, but also with the broken, drawing ever near for healing and revival.

-Bethany

Isaiah 55-56 B

” ‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’ ” 55:8-9

I love this verse. The first time I came across it, I was sitting in the parking lot of my college, reading a little bit before my next class started. It was spring, it was early in the morning. I remember it so well because it resonated with me so deeply. God had been loud and present in that season of my life and I wanted to give this verse a standing ovation.

It’s so hard to relinquish the control. Isn’t it? To surrender your plans and ideas to him. Whether it’s the small details or the over-arching logistics. His plan is perfect. His timing is unmatchable. He brings in the ideal people at the ideal time and hems together the loosest ideas. He turns evil plans upside down and uses them for good (Genesis 50:20). He brings life out of death. Beauty out of ashes.

I look at my life and I can’t believe where he’s brought me and who He’s brought me.

The thing about giving up control to God is that we never really had it in the first place. Something the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me lately is how many things I think I’m surrendering to him-weren’t mine to hold on to in the first place.

Reread the verses at the top of this post again. Is there something God is prompting you to give over to him and trust his thoughts and intentions over your own? What’s preventing you?

Here’s Bethany’s post on these chapters from last time. It’s worth a second read!

-Carly

Isaiah 53-54 B

Read, read and re-read 53. One of the most glorious chapters in Scripture. I don’t think I could single out a verse. This is the gospel.

“As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” (53:11-12‬)

What comes from all this? The curse reversed, the problem of sin dealt with, our weaknesses removed. Suddenly there is hope, life, beauty and abundance in the places once marked as tragic:

“’Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous Than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD.” (54:1‬)

As a single gal, I am enchanted by the LORD’s heart for the childless. There is an inheritance beyond blood, a legacy beyond family, and even she, who has no children can be a victor in this race. Her tent can be larger, her impact wider, her humiliation removed.

“For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.” (54:5‬)

I’m sure this is a love song to the collective people of God, to Fruitless Israel as indicated in verses 7-9, but I deeply resonate with the imagery and my own experience with the LORD as a husband and the chance to be a Spiritual Mother.

The removal of sting from death, the tearing of the veil between God and Man, it carries ripples of live into our most desperate places. Where we may never had the creativity to hope beyond our circumstances, the LORD paints a new picture and it’s glorious.

“This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” (54:17b)

Soak up these truths today. Read and re-read. There is life for our death, there is hope for our fear, there is vindication for our shame. His loving kindness will not be removed from you.

-Bethany

Isaiah 51-52 B

I couldn’t get away from this verse:

“For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” 51:3

Makes her wildness like Eden. I loved that. I picture overgrown grass, thick with weeds and crawling with snakes, bugs and rodents. Unpruned trees, heavy with dying branches, cluttered with dried leafs and draped in moss. Think about how much hard work goes into gardening a place like this. How much time and patience it requires. There’s a lot of work upfront, to pull out the unwanted growth, to cut back the troublesome plants. Like this, the Lord gardens our souls. 

This year, I’m slowly trying to turn our backyard around. We moved into a new house last year and both yards have been fairly neglected. The soil is hard, red clay, crowded with stones. The grass is thin, mostly weeds, and a host to jumping spiders. Thorny weeds coil around the branches of my hydrangea bushes and meek tomato plants. There have been a few days I roll up my sleeves (actually I’m in a tank top, the south is SO HOT IN JULY) and put in a few hours in the yard. It barely makes a difference! I’m an amateur and I need a lot of help. I need a till for the soil, for goodness’s sake. I need a sprinkler! (And a better shovel, but enough about my wish list.)

Maybe this is what your heart feels like some days. You are overwhelmed by the work load in front of you and don’t feel like you have what you need to get started. Remember, Jesus has what we need to cultivate joy and gladness in our hearts. 

Your sins are not too much for him. You are not too broken to be fixed. You are not too distant or too unloveable.

 

-Carly

Isaiah 49-50 B

Chapter 49 seems to be written in a new voice. Someone who is both Israel and Other; coming to accomplish what Israel was intended to do.

“He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver.” (49:2) Sounds like Revelation 19:15!

The dialogue moves back and forth, between the Servant, the LORD, and the people Zion. But this sweet familiar voice reappears in chapter 50, prophesying something else:

“I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.” (50:6-7‬)

Like I mentioned a few days ago, 49-55 are dedicated to this Servant of the LORD Redeemer. Sometimes the poetry and multiple voices make it confusing to follow, but other times the voice of Jesus is crystal clear.

What is He saying? What is He promising? Who are the peoples of Zion? Who is the mother who received the certificate of divorce? All good, important questions. Let’s stay engaged!

Zion is often referred to as, not only Israel, but the larger people of God, a community including every nation. These people are never out of the focus of the LORD.

“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (49:16)

The mother (49:1;50:1) is usually referring to Judah, with Israel (the northern kingdom) being her sister. The LORD sent her away (exile), and the certificate of divorce doubles as the evidence chronicling her infidelity.

The Servant, Jesus, is different in every way: unrelentingly faithful, obedient and unashamed. I think our best application is to ask ourselves the question He asked in 50:10.

“Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”

-Bethany