Tuesday, March 30, 2010
1 “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. For your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. 2 Take heavy millstones and grind flour. Remove your veil, and strip off your robe. Expose yourself to public view. 3 You will be naked and burdened with shame. I will take vengeance against you without pity.” 4 Our Redeemer, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, is the Holy One of Israel. 5 “O beautiful Babylon, sit now in darkness and silence. Never again will you be known as the queen of kingdoms. 6 For I was angry with my chosen people and punished them by letting them fall into your hands. But you, Babylon, showed them no mercy. You oppressed even the elderly. 7 You said, ‘I will reign forever as queen of the world!’ You did not reflect on your actions or think about their consequences.
What are the "sins" of Babylon in this passage? It was that the government and the people did not show mercy. Mercy is showing grace to people even when they do not necessarily deserve it. It is overcoming our rights to do right. Who have you not shown mercy on lately?
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.
Monday, March 29, 2010
1 Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon, bow as they are lowered to the ground. They are being hauled away on ox carts. The poor beasts stagger under the weight. 2 Both the idols and their owners are bowed down. The gods cannot protect the people, and the people cannot protect the gods. They go off into captivity together. 3 “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. 4 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. 5 “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal? 6 Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! 7 They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move! And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble. 8 “Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. 9 Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. 10 Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. 11 I will call a swift bird of prey from the east—a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do, and I will do it. 12 “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. 13 For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem[a] and show my glory to Israel.
The God of Jacob (our God) makes some pretty bold claims in this passage. He says that if the gods we worship have to be protected, they are no good; whereas this God says he has cared for us since birth and carried us beforehand. We have never needed to protect him, but he has protected us several times. Yet how often have we tried to protect God from the world around us? How often have we protected the world from God? Do people see Jesus in us? If not, maybe we should stop protecting them.
O God you are my God, continue to hold and protect me. By your grace, may I be the Google to everyone's internet searches so that all can see you. Amen.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
March 29, Monday Devotion
14 This is what the Lord says: “You will rule the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Sabeans. They will come to you with all their merchandise, and it will all be yours. They will follow you as prisoners in chains. They will fall to their knees in front of you and say, ‘God is with you, and he is the only God. There is no other.’” 15 Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways. 16 All craftsmen who make idols will be humiliated. They will all be disgraced together. 17 But the Lord will save the people of Israel with eternal salvation. Throughout everlasting ages, they will never again be humiliated and disgraced. 18 For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. “I am the Lord,” he says, “and there is no other. 19 I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the
Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right. 20 “Gather together and come, you fugitives from surrounding nations. What fools they are who carry around their wooden idols and pray to gods that cannot save! 21 Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the Lord? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me. 22 Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. 23 I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.” 24 The people will declare, “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.” And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed. 25 In the Lord all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in him they will boast.
So which of these promises are most attractive to you? The fact that we will rule? That all the loot/plunder will be ours? Or that people will say, "God is with you?" Yeah, that was kind of a trick question. Sorry. What does it mean that God is with us? Six years ago, a horrific thing happened to my family. We were pushed to the edge of our faith. The only comfort I remember through that time was believing that God was with us. The pain did not go away. I still have emotional scars and wounds from the tragedy. But I knew, then and now, that God is with me. I was reminded this past night from a friend's band that God, "loves us, Whoa! how He loves us, Whoa! how He loves." So wherever you are in this journey, know that God loves you and is with you... no matter who you or what you are going through.
"I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me."*
(*This was written by John Mark Mcmillan)
Thursday, March 25, 2010
March 26, Friday Devotion
5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, 6 so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. 8 "Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them. 9 "What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ 10 How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?' or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’” 11 This is what the Lord says—the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? 12 I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command. 13 I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people—without seeking a reward! I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
This is a fun passage to take at a personal level. That all of the things that we feel make us stand out in bad ways were apart of God's plan. But this passage is about the forming of us into God's image. That as we struggle through our circumstances and drama we are being refined by the Holy Spirit to become what we were indeed created to be. Doesn't this excite you? The struggles we face in life are what helps form us as people of Christ.
Lord Almighty, thank you for your salvation and righteousness. May my life be formed with love and find ways to love my neighbors. Amen.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
March 25, Thursday Devotion
1 This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. 2 This is what the Lord says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron. 3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. 4 And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one.
Sometimes we see God empower people that we would never expect to accomplish his purposes. Cyrus was the about the least likely person of least likely persons to be enabled by God. Who are the least likely people that you know?
Lord, may I be empowered by your grace to accomplish everything I could ever ask or imagine. Amen.
Monday, March 22, 2010
21 “Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” 23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel. 24 This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer and Creator: “I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth? 25 I expose the false prophets as liars and make fools of fortune-tellers. I cause the wise to give bad advice, thus proving them to be fools. 26 But I carry out the predictions of my prophets! By them I say to Jerusalem, ‘People will live here again,’ and to the towns of Judah, ‘You will be rebuilt; I will restore all your ruins!’ 27 When I speak to the rivers and say, ‘Dry up!’ they will be dry. 28 When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.’”
What a wave of encouragement to read. God has a history of saving us from our sins. He constantly pays the price to set us free. Our Creator and Redeemer continues to save us. How has he saved you?
Lord, may I live into your salvation each and every single day. Amen.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Sorry about the lack of a devotion for yesterday. My computer crashed, but it is all set straight now.
6 This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God. 7 Who is like me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future. 8 Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses—is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock—not one!” 9 How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. 10 Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit? 11 All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame. 12 The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and weak. It makes him thirsty and faint. 13 Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. 14 He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. 15 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! 16 He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” 17 Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!” 18 Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. 19 The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” 20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”
What is an idol? An idol is "a person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion." The person or thing is "visible, but without substance." Some people wrongly think that an idol is something of which we spend too much time. Sometimes we are confusing addiction with idol worship. Most of us live in the American society where we are to give reverence to people and things even though they are hollow. Like the metal and wood mentioned in scripture, idols are just materials that could be used to help others. The God who we read about in Isaiah is not a hollow shell. He is the one who creates out of love. He loves because love makes up the substance of God. Yet there are consequences for those who respond to God's love with idol love.
(both quotations are taken from dictionary.com)
Almighty God, I worship you. You love compels me to love you and those you created. May the materials I use be used to help rather than to make idols. Amen.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
1 “But now, listen to me, Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. 2 The Lord who made you and helps you says: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, O dear Israel, my chosen one. 3 For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children. 4 They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank. 5 Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’ Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’ Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands and will take the name of Israel as their own.”
According to the above passage, how does God plan on helping his people? Does he make a quick fix? No. What he does is he nourishes us with what we need. Water to not only quench our immediate thirst, but also to restore our fields. He sends his Spirit to nourish our souls. Do you realize that God cares more for us so much that he is willing to take time to nourish us correctly?
Lord, fill our souls with your nourishing love and grace. May all of your creation be nourished and nourish. Amen.
Monday, March 15, 2010
14 This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sakes I will send an army against Babylon, forcing the Babylonians to flee in those ships they are so proud of. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King. 16 I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. 17 I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. 18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. 21 I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world. 22 “But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help. You have grown tired of me, O Israel! 23 You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings. You have not honored me with sacrifices, though I have not burdened and wearied you with requests for grain offerings and frankincense. 24 You have not brought me fragrant calamus or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your faults. 25 “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. 26 Let us review the situation together, and you can present your case to prove your innocence. 27 From the very beginning, your first ancestor sinned against me; all your leaders broke my laws. 28 That is why I have disgraced your priests; I have decreed complete destruction for Jacob and shame for Israel.
I do not know how many times it needs to be said, but God saves us. God is the one who saves. We do not save ourselves. By doing right things or by being good, we are not going to get free passes. In fact, more times than not, we try to do it ourselves and get ourselves in deeper trouble. Who do you let save you? God or yourself?
O God, please save me from myself. Every single time I try to save myself, I get stuck farther into my mess. Save me. Please. Amen.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
1 But now, O Jacob, 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. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. 4 Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. 6 I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. 7 Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” 8 Bring out the people who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. 9 Gather the nations together! Assemble the peoples of the world! Which of their idols has ever foretold such things? Which can predict what will happen tomorrow? Where are the witnesses of such predictions? Who can verify that they spoke the truth? 10 “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God—there never has been, and there never will be. 11 I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. 12 First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord. 13 “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
This is a great passage to preach sermons out of. Sometimes we think that God is aloof or that he doesn't care about what is happening in the world. But one of the things going on in this passage is that we see God is actively involved in the world. God did not create the world and go on a long vacation. God is involved both in front of and behind the scenes. Do you realize that God is constantly working for good? Do you realize he wants you to experience good in your life?
Lord, I find comfort that you choose to stay beside me through the thick and the thin. May my life be an offering to you. Amen.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
18 “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19 Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the Lord? 20 You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.” 21 Because he is righteous, the Lord has exalted his glorious law. 22 But his own people have been robbed and plundered, enslaved, imprisoned, and trapped. They are fair game for anyone and have no one to protect them, no one to take them back home. 23 Who will hear these lessons from the past and see the ruin that awaits you in the future? 24 Who allowed Israel to be robbed and hurt? It was the Lord, against whom we sinned, for the people would not walk in his path, nor would they obey his law. 25 Therefore, he poured out his fury on them and destroyed them in battle. They were enveloped in flames, but they still refused to understand. They were consumed by fire, but they did not learn their lesson.
The words that God speaks sound harsh, but you have to remember that the people were the ones who decided they would rather be like everyone else then serve God. The decisions they made afterwards continued to spiral downward until they it was impossible to distinguish the ones set apart for God and the ones who were not. What kind of decisions do you make concerning being separate for God?
Heavenly Father, I want you to be the one who guides my life. Let me be seen as pleasing to you. Amen.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
10 Sing a new song to the Lord! Sing his praises from the ends of the earth! Sing, all you who sail the seas, all you who live in distant coastlands. 11 Join in the chorus, you desert towns; let the villages of Kedar rejoice! Let the people of Sela sing for joy; shout praises from the mountaintops! 12 Let the whole world glorify the Lord; let it sing his praise. 13 The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero; he will come out like a warrior, full of fury. He will shout his battle cry and crush all his enemies. 14 He will say, “I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labor, I will cry and groan and pant. 15 I will level the mountains and hills and blight all their greenery. I will turn the rivers into dry land and will dry up all the pools. 16 I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them. 17 But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame.
Did you know that even in the midst of exile - when you feel like God has abandoned you - that you can prasie God? Did you know that even when you feel pressed in from all around, that you can give glory to God? It seems like when we under pressure, we are less likely to praise God than curse or make pleas to God. Sometimes our pain leads to great things to help bring about the Kingdom.
Lord, I don't know how to give you praise in my sufferings. But I believe that all things can work to good by your grace. Help my sufferings be sufferings of praise. Amen.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
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. 2 He will not shout or raise his voice in public. 3 He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. 4 He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” 5 God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth. And it is he who says, 6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. 7 You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. 8 “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. 9 Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.”
We have made salvation all about an individual decision to Christ. Though true, salvation is more than our individual decisions. Salvation is about saving, rescuing, making right the world. Salvation is justice... redemptive justice. All was created by God... so what does that leave out? Who does that leave out? How are you practicing salvation?
Jesus, let me embark in the salvation process of this world. Let me be an instrument of your justice and grace. Amen.
Monday, March 8, 2010
21 “Present the case for your idols,” says the Lord. “Let them show what they can do,” says the King of Israel. 22 “Let them try to tell us what happened long ago so that we may consider the evidence. Or let them tell us what the future holds, so we can know what’s going to happen. 23 Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods. In fact, do anything—good or bad! Do something that will amaze and frighten us. 24 But no! You are less than nothing and can do nothing at all. Those who choose you pollute themselves.
25 “But I have stirred up a leader who will come from the north. I have called him by name from the east. I will give him victory over kings and princes. He will trample them as a potter treads on clay.
26 “Who told you from the beginning that this would happen? Who predicted this, making you admit that he was right? No one said a word! 27 I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look! Help is on the way!’ I will send Jerusalem a messenger with good news. 28 Not one of your idols told you this. Not one gave any answer when I asked. 29 See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.
God is calling for the people of Israel to explain why they have put other things as first in their lives. However, before they are able to make their excuses, God makes it clear that there is no excuse good enough. Have you failed to make God first in your life? What excuses have you been making for this behavior?
Lord, we often fail to give you the proper place in our lives. As we begin another week of the pressure to re-order our priorities, help us to stand strong and to remain committed to you. Amen
Thanks to guest writer, Shea Zellweger. Shea pastors the Millry Church of the Nazarene in Alabama.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
5 The lands beyond the sea watch in fear. Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war. 6 The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other, “Be strong!” 7 The carver encourages the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. “Good,” they say. “It’s coming along fine.” Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over.
8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, 9 I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. 10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
11 “See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. 12 You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing. 13 For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 14 Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’ 15 You will be a new threshing instrument with many sharp teeth. You will tear your enemies apart, making chaff of mountains. 16 You will toss them into the air, and the wind will blow them all away; a whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in the Lord. You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 “When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. 18 I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground. 19 I will plant trees in the barren desert—cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. 20 I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means—that it is the Lord who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it.
For the next several chapters, we will see an exiled people. Envision yourself in the midst of constant struggle. Everywhere you look, the culture at large is trying to form you to be like them. Not that the culture is particularly bad, but it is not what God has called you to. Does that sound very different than your life today? Do you need God to hold you up as you you are getting bogged down?
Almighty God, Lord come and lift me from the bog. May my life be conformed to you and be beautiful. Amen.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
1 “Listen in silence before me, you lands beyond the sea. Bring your strongest arguments. Come now and speak. The court is ready for your case.
2 “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? With his sword, he reduces armies to dust. With his bow, he scatters them like chaff before the wind. 3 He chases them away and goes on safely, though he is walking over unfamiliar ground. 4 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.”
At the end of chapter 39, we are told that God punishes Hezekiah by sending his offspring into exile. In Chapter 40, Israel is in exile. In these few verses, we are reminded that God orchestrated this conquering of Judah by Babylon - the king from the east. My take is that God is showing great pain that his chosen people have indulged themselves in pride. God allows for them to be destroyed with the emphasis that he is the one who gives and takes away their riches. Sometimes we forget about what we have because we look at what we have lost or what we want. Do you recognize that it is because of God we have what we have?
Lord, I know that I do not always appreciate the free gifts you have bestowed. May my life reflect the grace you have shown in my life to others who need that grace as well. Amen.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
1 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” 3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” 6 A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” 10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. 12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? 13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? 14 Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?
15 No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand. 16 All the wood in Lebanon’s forests and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough to make a burnt offering worthy of our God. 17 The nations of the world are worth nothing to him. In his eyes they count for less than nothing—mere emptiness and froth.
18 To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him? 19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold, overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains? 20 Or if people are too poor for that, they might at least choose wood that won’t decay and a skilled craftsman to carve an image that won’t fall down!
21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God—the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? 22 God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. 23 He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. 24 They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff.
25 “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. 27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? 28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Sorry for the long passage, but this is one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. The imagery is so rich. I will do you a disservice today - the scripture will be the full devotion including prayer.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
1 Soon after this, Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift. He had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick and that he had recovered. 2 Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?” Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon.”
4 “What did they see in your palace?” asked Isaiah. “They saw everything,” Hezekiah replied. “I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries.”
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: 6 ‘The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. 7 ‘Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.’”
8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” For the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.”
Is this really the same Hezekiah from the past few chapters? Hezekiah is happy to hear that his children will be taken in exile because at least his life will secure and peaceful. Unfortunately, Hezekiah is not alone in this attitude. Several Christians do not look to see that what we do now affects the world for years to come. What is the more important to you? Yourself or the future? Is your peace and security worth hardships to the next generation?
O God, may I make the kinds of choices that will bring your peace and your security eternal. Amen.
Monday, March 1, 2010
9 When King Hezekiah was well again, he wrote this poem:
10 I said, “In the prime of my life, must I now enter the place of the dead? Am I to be robbed of the rest of my years?” 11 I said, “Never again will I see the Lord God while still in the land of the living. Never again will I see my friends or be with those who live in this world. 12 My life has been blown away like a shepherd’s tent in a storm. It has been cut short, as when a weaver cuts cloth from a loom. Suddenly, my life was over. 13 I waited patiently all night, but I was torn apart as though by lions. Suddenly, my life was over. 14 Delirious, I chattered like a swallow or a crane, and then I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew tired of looking to heaven for help. I am in trouble, Lord. Help me!”
15 But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16 Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! 17 Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18 For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19 Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. 20 Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.
21 Isaiah had said to Hezekiah’s servants, “Make an ointment from figs and spread it over the boil, and Hezekiah will recover.”
22 And Hezekiah had asked, “What sign will prove that I will go to the Temple of the Lord?”
Sometimes we get short-sighted about faith. Some of us are so ready for Jesus to come back today that we do not tell others about God's ability to bring life from death. We are to share this news not only with those around us, but those who will follow us. Realizing that part of your job as a Christian is to tell the story to others, how does that make you feel? Do you feel empowered - that through you God is bringing life from death? Think about this.
Almighty God, sometimes I forget how deep in death I was. You came to me and brought me to life. May my life now be lived for you. Amen.