Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ezekiel's Dilemma

Today's readings are from Ezekiel 5, 6, 7, 8

The prophet Ezekiel ministered during the Captivity. He was sent by God to the captives who had been removed from the land and were living in a foreign land. Questions, doubt, discouragement, pain accompanied their daily lives. They couldn't comprehend the "why". To do this God enters into the realities. He "sees" what God "sees". That's the role of the prophet.

Ezekiel's dilemma is providing hope in the midst of discipline. How do we "speak the truth" when the truth is sharp, painful to hear? How do we leave the truth hurt as it should, and yet point to the future when hope is fulfilled and life is restored to God? This is much needed today.

Peace


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Monday, May 30, 2011

Honor where honor is due

Today's readings are from Ezekiel 1, 2, 3, 4

Most of what I'm thinking about today is concerning Memorial Day. I had several Uncles who were WWII and Korean War Veterans. My father did not go into the service because of his leg, but I remember my Uncles silence when it came to the horrors of war and realized the cost of their commitment to serve in our nation's military. Each Memorial Day I'm struck by the need to show honor to these men and women who have given "the ultimate sacrifice" for their country.

Memorial Day began to honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first officially declared May 5, 1868 by a proclamation for May 30th as the day of observance.

Over 20 places claim to be the first to have observed "Decoration Day" beginning as early as April of 1866. One hundred years later for its' centennial, Waterloo, NY was named by President Johnson and Congress as the "birthplace" of Memorial Day.

After World War I, Memorial Day began to honor the fallen from all American wars. It wasn't until 1971 that Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday of May. On December 28, 2000, President Clinton signed the "National Moment of Remembrance Act," which designates 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance, "in honor of the men and women of the United States who have died in pursuit of peace and freedom.

There are no ceremonies that can either adequately express the thanks of a grateful people, or pay adequate honor for their sacrifice in behalf of freedom - but today we honor and say thank you.


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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The end of Jeremiah

The readings for today are the last chapters of Jeremiah, 49, 50, 51, 52

Jeremiah ends his prophecies with words of warnings, primarily at Babylon. The nation that ends Judah and therefore all of Israel will fall within 70 years of the captivity. For 70 years it would reign, and then the Media-Persian empire would overthrow the Babylonians in just a couple of days time.

Jeremiah spends the last chapters writing down the word of the Lord that predicts the Babylonian fall, and the final chapter recounts the fall of Jerusalem - a reminder that the Babylonians served a purpose for God in bringing discipline against the nation for their idolatry.

Nations don't last - that is the story of civilization. Politics by nature is power oriented. Oh yes, politicians claim to have "the people's" greater good in mind; but the overall nature of politics is to "rule over", to use political power to accomplish one's own agenda. It is not a serving under, but a dominating over.

Jesus called us to "serve under"...to allow the love of Christ to rule and to live out our lives upon the earth - this earth of political and national powers - in such a way that no matter who or what rules, our primary allegiance is to His Kingdom..it must be first he said, and all other things will come after.

Peace


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Friday, May 27, 2011

Nations come and Nations Go

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 46, 47, 48

Reading the end of Jeremiah is like reading a preamble to history. The nations that Jeremiah all wrote about disappear...little by little..from history. One could say Egypt is still around, but the Egypt today has no resemblance to the Egypt of Jeremiah's day.

It's an important principle in understanding the Kingdom of God. Sixteen hundred years ago the great North African theologian, Augustine, wrote a massive work to refute the charges of Roman elitists that the destruction of Rome was the fault of the Christian religion. He wrote his book, "The City of God" and in it he lays out the principle: Nations will come and Nations will go, but the Kingdom of God will last forever. God is the one who gives life to nations, but as they develop they often become corrupt and in time they lose their legitimacy for ruling. It should make us as Americans pause to prayerfully think.

Peace


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't go back to Egypt

Today's reading is from Jeremiah 42, 43, 44, 45

Much of the passages in Jeremiah occur after the captivity has begun. Jeremiah was granted the ability to stay in the land, along with others who were left by the Babylonians. Most of the nation was taken into captivity, but these few were left - and Jeremiah.

it wasn't long before the remnant of Jews began to think of leaving the land and heading for Egypt - presumably because Egypt would represent safety, prosperity, and a life apart from Babylonian rule. Jeremiah wants none of it. He hears from the Lord and conveys it quite clearly - we are not to go back to Egypt. While he knows there is fear from being under the Babylonian authority, he knows that Egypt will not serve as a safe-haven; in fact, the Lord shows him that those who go there will be less safe than those who stay behind.

Still they do not listen. In fact, what comes forth is not so much the issue of safety, but rather the issue of worship. There are those in the remnant who no long worship God, but have chosen a faith in an Egyptian deity - "The Queen of Heaven". To Jeremiah it represents the very reasons the nation fell to the Babylonians in the first place - their unfaithfulness to God and their casting their faith on to other deities.

In the end, Jeremiah gets a message from God: "Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.'"

The remnant will prove to be as unfaithful as the others, but Jeremiah's faithfulness will keep him in God's protection.

It's hard for any of us to translate all of this to our own day. Yet, it remains a principle that I believe is still true: "Be faithful to me and I will be faithful to you." That is my hope and prayer.

Peace

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Violence Upon Violence

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 38, 39, 40, 41

The warnings of Jeremiah concerning the impending Babylonian invasion largely went unheeded. He was even thrown in a muddy cistern because he was unwilling to say the "patriotic" thing. Rescued from the cistern by a Cushite (a man from Egypt), he is brought before the King and once again delivers the awful truth - Israel is going to be attacked and destroyed by the Babylonians. Eventually what Jeremiah prophesies starts to happen.

39.1 "In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year, the city wall was broken through."

It took the Babylonians a little over 18 months as they built a siege ramp to the walls and entered through the broken down walls. The violence connected to all of this could have been avoided if they had listened and obeyed the word of the Lord Jeremiah had given.
Once the Babylonians succeed King Zedekiah's sons are killed - more violence. King Zedekiah is taken captive after his eyes are gouged out - more violence. The King who is appointed to take over is Gedaliah. eventually a band of Israeli army who had manage to flee from the Babylonian army come and assassinate Gedaliah - more violence.

The sad fact is - all the way through history - that those who live by the sword die by the sword. Violence begets more violence. Our inner city gangs, Muslim jihadists, wife-beating husbands, and more all get caught in a web of violence, from which there seems to be no escape.

Jesus states it clearly - "bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you". Active love is that which overcomes violence. Violence will continue until Christ's kingdom is set upon the earth to rule, simply because the enemy of God is "a liar, a thief, a destroyer". We do well to practice active love instead of allowing the enemy to take over our anger with violence - which never will do anything more than lead to more violence.

Peace


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Faithfulness

Today's readings are in Jeremiah 35, 36, 37

Jeremiah gives record of the destruction of Jerusalem. As we read the passage it becomes all too apparent that he was not well liked. His prophesying got him into trouble with the ruling authorities and eventually in prison.

How would we see our faithfulness to God in the face of rejection by all those around us? Jeremiah spoke the truth, but no one wanted to hear the truth. They wanted to believe that they were safe and that there was no judgement ahead. Jeremiah's truth-telling wasn't because was an egotist, but because he knew God had commissioned him to speak the truth, no matter what the cost.

So, here we are - 2011 - and truth has come under assault. Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God as present. He didn't come to announce a new religious experience or doctrine...nor of a future salvation in another spiritual world. The gospel he came to announce, and told us to teach to others, is the gospel of the Kingdom. God's goal ultimately is to establish the Kingdom of God over the whole earth. It is not a goal of one religious group, but of God's grand purpose in all of history.

Our faithfulness to God's truth is the ultimate question of our day to day living. It is the question of which story shapes our life and controls our destiny.

Peace


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Monday, May 23, 2011

In the Dominican Republic

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 32, 33, 34

While in the Dominican Republic (last week) I couldn't help but be amazed at the resiliency of the various Pastors and church folk I met. They do an amazing amount of work with very little. Most pastors have to work full time jobs just to make ends meet. The church buildings are meager, and I mean meager. Block walls, metal slatted windows (in some cases nothing in the window areas), and either cement floors, or their rock which is crushable and packed down as the surface. I saw the work Everyday Ministries was doing in helping 7 churches in building projects. The projects are modest - between $10K and $15K is the vast majority of the buildings.

The DR is a developing country. It's not a third world country, but it is a developing one - most of the transportation is on motorcycles. There are lots of cars, but then there are also horses that are traveled on - especially in the country.

The dominant agriculture is rice. There were rice fields everywhere in various stages from being flooded to harvest. They can grow year round.

Into this land God is doing a work in evangelization and growth in disciples. I had the privilege of joining that work for a short week, but it was a memorable week for me. Everyday Ministries is an awesome group of 5 people who work in concert with local churches in their province to make them stronger and more viable...great people...check out the web site in the side bar.

Peace

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The New Covenant

Today's reading is from Jeremiah 30 & 31

The end of this reading contains the words of God concerning a New Covenant. It is thus:

"The days are coming," declares the lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the lord.
"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

The New Covenant gives the promise of a newly changed relationship between God and His people. The Old Covenant was broken over and over again. The nation of Israel was broken into two parts: Ephraim (Israel) to the North and Judah to the south. When Judah finally goes into captivity in 586 B.C. everything changes.

God's promise to the captives is that they will be restored and the relationship repaired. A New Covenant is to be within them - i.e., not based on external rules and regulations of the law. This New Covenant is not revealed in the WHO of that covenant, but the WHAT is revealed. The issue of sin is taken care of - forgiveness is complete because God will choose to remember our sins no more.

Jesus is the New Covenant. Hebrews 10 recounts what Christ has done. All that we must do is worship.

Peace

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Living in Hope, Planting a tree

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 26, 27, 28, 29

As many of you know, today is May 21, the date set by some for the rapture and return of Christ. Evidently the money spent to tell people it is going to occur has been enormous. I don't know all of the details, but one report has one of the persons funding the advertising to have "maxed" out his credit cards, because he won't be here to pay them anyway.

As a follower of Jesus I have no doubt that he will return one day. Of that day, he said, "no man knows the day or the hour...only the Father". So, it's with a great deal of skepticism that I approach the day. Can Jesus return? Sure. His return is in the timetable of the Father's will.

What about the present prophecies and today's date?

I read Jeremiah this morning as I usually read through scripture every day. Today's reading is interesting considering today's proposed events. Jeremiah prophesies a period of captivity for the Israelites in Babylon. He says of that in chapter 29:

"This is what the lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce...Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Yes, this is what the lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the lord. This is what the lord says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

As a Pastor I live in the constant tension of hope and reality. Hope is part of faith...we live by faith, and so therefore live in hope of what God can do. No matter what the struggle, pain, sickness, disease, problem, we live in faith that our God is not only aware, but acting on our behalf. The reality is all of those struggles, and while we would love to escape them, we must live with the hope that all things do have meaning and purpose. We live to seek the peace and prosperity of the place we live in - in exile. Our home is in heaven, and we will get there soon enough. God knows the details and has the time set, and that is all I need to know.

I use a quote from Martin Luther that I think is appropriate for this life of faith and tension: "Even if I thought the world was going to end tomorrow, I'd still plant a tree today."

Peace

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Reflections in Patriotism

Today's readings are in Jeremiah, 23, 24, 25

The story of Jeremiah is the confrontation he has with false prophets. The prophets of Judah mean well...they are trying to rally the people to stay strong in the face of the Babylonian's intended invasion. The problem is that it is a lie! They are not listening to God but instead appealing to national concerns only.

Here's the problem with a patriotism that is stronger than the allegiance to God. Patriotism is a great and admirable feature but it cannot become a greater concern than faithfulness to God. Our citizenship is in heaven, and while I'll love the USA, I must not make the mistake of thinking my citizenship is first as an American. It has led to all sorts of confusion in the church's prophetic stance over the years. We are called by God to live out of the Kingdom of God. "No man can serve two masters", Jesus said.

It is enough to be a voice for God, and that is an awesome job in itself.

Peace


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spiritual Pain

Today's reading is in Jeremiah 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

One of the things that I saw in the Dominican Republic was a church alive to God's presence at all times. I think we who live in the prosperous, more affluent West are so used to the "extra" things in life that we are easily distracted, and more easily put our Spiritual life in a section of life, rather than in the whole.
One of the missionaries I encountered, Adrian, told me that an African had explained it to him like this: Our lives can be likened to a platter. For many, the platter is segmented...there is a section to keep everything separate. The meat doesn't touch the vegetables, etc...; and in our lives we keep job, marriage, church, all separated. The Bible teaches that our lives are not segments that don't touch, and remain separated; but are whole - all in one. So, the platter is not in segments, but everything we put on it is together, even though they might look different. Now, add to that, the platter is not Us, but it's God. He is the place where all of those things rest.

This was the dilemma of Jeremiah. He saw all of life in Jerusalem as a life with God - and it hurt him to see that life ignored. He knew what was happening to Jerusalem was not because of outside forces - the Babylonians; but rather was a direct result of the failure of his people to see God in everything. He felt it himself in a personal way and wrote this to God:

"You deceived me, lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."

And so he prophesied that things would not get better, but rather worse:
The day would come when Judah would also be taken captive. It was a sad day that God showed him would come, and he knew it was preventable, but that it would not happen, simply because the people had grown accustomed to segmenting God to a religious ceremonial part of life, instead of the whole.

"People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, 'Why has the lord done such a thing to this great city?'. And the answer will be: 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of the lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.'"

It is an awesome thing to see God as "all in all".

Peace



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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Barren

Today's readings are from Isaiah 54, 55, 56, 57, 58

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims in chpt 54:

1 "Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,"
says the Lord.


A significant part of Isaiah's prophecies have told of Israel (& Judah's) unwillingness to be faithful to the covenant they said they would obey, with God. The image of the "barren woman" is significant because it puts the relationship of God to the nation as one of a husband in covenantal vow with a wife. In fact, just a little later, God speaks:

5 For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected," says your God.
7 "For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.


Chapter 55 is one of the most beautifully written prose in all of scripture.
1 "Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.


and, the well known verses:

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.


Barrenness is the condition of the soul that leaves out God in life. It is the forgetfulness of the heart that thinks that all that is life is what is in front of us; that there is no other world than this world and that all that we are, or ever will be, will occur because we do it ourselves.

God has called us to listen to his word, and to see that his word in the end is the final thing - the one true thing - that each of us can depend upon. But it is not a word of our own understanding...we don't understand, nor will we.
It should give us great delight - if we want it to - to know that God will always know what he is doing, even if we don't

Peace

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sacrifice of the Lord's Servant

Today's readings are from Isaiah 49, 50, 51, 52, 53

This section of Isaiah seems to go from earth to heaven and back again.

"And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength."

Isaiah's "servant" is the Messiah. He is the one who is called to come to Israel and lead it back to the covenant God made with them, that they subsequently have wandered away from and broken.

The marks of this servant are his faithfulness to listening to God the Father:
In chapter 50,

"The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will."

At the end of chapter 52, the servant's role begins to be detailed:

"See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
But many were amazed when they saw him.
His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man."

He is both exalted and human. He is both successful and debased. Without the chapter division, it continues in chpt 53.

"My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care."

The Renaissance Jesus that looks so handsome, with long flowing hair and a the sleek muscular body bears no resemblance to the prophet Isaiah's picture. Not only was he normal, but he was despised...one who brought out anger, thoughts of disdain, rejection and grief. God's purposes were hidden from most, but he makes them clear:

"Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed."

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah reminds me of God's great work in his son Jesus. Who could have understood what God's plan were? How could we understand that we are not able to solve the dilemma of our sin and rebellion? It is only in seeing that God raised up "his servant" - Jesus, our Savior, as the one who sacrificed himself for our sins that we understand the servant of the Lord.

Peace

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Cyrus - Prophesied Servant

Today's reading is from Isaiah 45, 46, 47, 48

Isaiah prophesied in the late 8th century B.C. (740 - 680). His prophecies covered the destruction of Israel's ten northern tribes as they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The Assyrians continued to dominate that area of the world throughout the 7th century.

SO, when Isaiah prophesied there was nothing but Assyria that could be seen as THE world power. Interestingly, Isaiah jumps over the Assyrians and sees the Babylonians as the ones who would destroy Judah (which happened in a period of time from 605 - 586 B.C., and the subsequent deliverance by the Persians under Cyrus in 536 B.C.

Now, I realize not everyone is a history buff, but the significance of the prophesies can't be ignored. Here is Isaiah, God's prophet, sometime in the late 8th, or early 7th century, prophesying the coming of a ruler who would deliver Judah from captivity - to send them back to the land and rebuild Jerusalem - when the country that was going to capture them wasn't even a world power, and there deliverance from that world power wasn't even known.

Prophecy isn't always this future specific; but in this case, it sure is a marvelous testimony to God's purposes being fulfilled - ultimately - no matter who the people.

As you read this passage, realize that all of this isn't to "wow" us with - look what God can do - but rather to cause us to have faith, even in the darkest of times.


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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Servant of the Lord

Today's readings are in Isaiah 42, 43, 44

First of all, Happy Mother's Day. If you are a mother, be blessed, and if you have a Mother make sure she knows she is blessed.

I read this passage and each time am struck by the contrasts. On the one hand, the prophet introduces the Messiah - the servant of the Lord:

Isaiah 42:1,
“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.

He is my chosen one, who pleases me.

I have put my Spirit upon him.

He will bring justice to the nations.

On the other hand, he confronts the idolatry that has led to the downfall of Israel and Judah - In 44:10 & 15
"Who but a fool would make his own god—

an idol that cannot help him one bit?...

Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.

With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.

Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it

and makes himself a god to worship!

He makes an idol

and bows down in front of it!"

What God wanted them to know and recall is that he brought them into being and he desired that they be special to him.

"But now, OJacob, listen to the Lord who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine."

We have an identity as God's children. It should frame our sense of life and the sense of hope that we have as the people of God. It should affect the way we live and the purposes for which we live. In short, while there is "THE" Servant of the Lord, we also are called to be "servants of the Lord".

Peace

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

God is Big

Today's readings are from Isaiah 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

The chapters 36-39 form a story about Hezekiah and the threatened invasion of the Assyrians. This would have occurred around 715 B.C. The threat of Assyria was real. They had invaded and captured all of Northern Israel's ten tribes less than ten years before. The boasting of the Assyrian commanders was essentially true - nothing had stopped them.

Still, the assurance came from God as Hezekiah turned to God and prayed. The Assyrians would not conquer - not even an arrow would be shot at the wall. When God's angel moved through the camp and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died you got a glimpse of two main things: 1) The size of the Assyrian force, and 2) the power of one Angel!

What I love about Isaiah 40 and onward is that the focus shifts from prophecies about judgment and historical events, to a focus on the character of God. These chapters to the end of Isaiah are rich in helping us think about who God is - our God who we worship.



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Friday, May 6, 2011

Highways of Holiness

Today's readings are in Isaiah 31, 32, 33, 34, 35

One of my most favorite passages is in Isa. 35. It came to me at a low point in my life as I struggled to make sense of life's difficulties and my faith. I spent about 6 months captivated by what this passage was saying.

"The lame will leap like a deer,

and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!

Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,

and streams will water the wasteland.

The parched ground will become a pool,

and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.

Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish

where desert jackals once lived.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.

It will be named the Highway of Holiness.

Evil-minded people will never travel on it.

It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;

fools will never walk there."

I love that phrase, "the highway of holiness" that goes through the deserted land. When we feel dry and barren, and life seems to be more desert than Springs and flowers, think about this - God knows how to get us through that and he doesn't take us around it, or skip it, he takes us through it!


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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Speaking "Woe"

Today's readings come from Isaiah 28, 29, 30

Each of these chapters contains various statements about nations, leaders, people in the population - but none are gratifying. In fact, the common trait is the use of the word "woe". It is a Hebrew word that many of us are familiar with: "HOY" as in "Hoy vey".

It is an expression primarily of exasperation rather than judgement. Most of what we think of when we hear the phrase is Jesus' comments to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23 - a long litany of "woes" that can't help make any of us feel quite uncomfortable. Now, some might approach it as a "yeah Jesus...go get em", but I think given the nature of my own self, I'll prefer to take the "me too, Lord, please forgive" approach.

Isaiah's "woes" are simple. God is exasperated with leaders, nations, people who are fickle in their faith and allegiances. They maintain an outward semblance of religiosity, but there is no inward heart of faith: Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.


Yet even in the middle of strong words of warning there is hope:

Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)
16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.


SO...there's a choice presented, and it seems just as relevant today as then: Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

Peace

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Resurrection Hopes

Today's readings are from Isaiah 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

I was struck today about the number of encouraging promises of God that in spite of the pain and suffering they were experiencing, God did not forget. In fact, he calls us to "trust in Him" when things look bleak...something we all struggle with at times.

Isa. 25: 9 In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

and

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.


If we're honest, we realize that we can't control life, nor death. What we have is God...that's is all we need, and still this is where life after death is our hope:

26:19 But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;


Peace


the earth will give birth to her dead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

God & the Nations

Today's reading is from Isaiah 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

We are reading through a section that has various prophecies concerning the nations that either surrounded or were important to Israel during the 8th century B.C. Isaiah's prophecies took a look at the bigger picture of what was going to happen to these nations - most of whom wanted to destroy Israel and Judah.
The 10 tribes in the North, called Israel, would go into captivity with the Assyrian invasions around 722 B.C. The Assyrians would be repelled by an Angel of the Lord and stopped before invading Judah.
The two tribes of Judah would remain free of invasion until the Babylonians in 605 - 586 B.C.

Isaiah is calling the Jews to turn towards God and also to remind the nations that they would not get away with destroying God's people and land.


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Monday, May 2, 2011

Evil and Justice

Today's readings are from Isaiah 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

On a day when the U.S. can announce that it has finally found and dealt with Osama Bin Laden, I found myself reading the prophet Isaiah's warnings about the nature of evil and the justice of God. It was actually quite "eerie" to read these words. I've read them many times before and the impact has never hit me like it did this morning.

The 14th chapter is directed at Israel's enemies, the Babylonians. Isaiah 14:3-4 (NLT)
3 In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains,
4 you will taunt the king of Babylon. You will say, “The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended.


The passages are stark, filled with the language of happiness that evil is being destroyed, the proud and arrogance of it brought low in humility.

Look around our country today and there is much jubilation. Osama Bin Laden is dead. To write the words is sobering. I am not jumping up and down - I am longing for God's Kingdom to come upon the earth...for all violence, killing, and wars to cease. I am longing for Christ Jesus, the prince of peace to reign.
I can't help but think of the many who lost loved ones during Sept 11, 2001. I think for many of them is a sorrowful reminder that getting this guy was because he caused so much pain and suffering.

Terrorism isn't going to go away. As long as the enemy of God continues to exist, violence and hatred, killing in the name of deity, and the retribution of one group against another will continue. In Christ Jesus there is supreme reconciliation...it can't be found in any other way.

Peace

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Promises

Today's reading is in Isaiah 9, 10, 11, 12

What strikes me in these readings is how the promises of God are mixed in with the awful state of affairs that exist in the country. Read this and see if you don't find yourself wondering how God keeps his promises.

Peace