I started this blog a little over two years ago. I don’t remember what rekindled my ever-changing passion for God at that time, but I give thanks for it. Through these posts I’ve gained deeper relationships with loved ones and have had the opportunity to interact with new people. Shortly after I started writing, another blogger (see her awesome stuff at http://treasurecontained.com/) took the time to read and thoughtfully comment on my (sincere, yes, but rambling and not-very-convicted) entries. I discovered a grounded, informed, faith-filled and eloquent writer. When she e-mailed and offered to do a Bible study with me via Skype, because she felt that she and her husband could help me with some of the questions I’d been posting, I was… maybe a little wierded out (nothing personal, Crystal 🙂 ), but curious. I went for it and gained an incredible friend and mentor. We’ve kept a steady communication going and I always look forward to talking with her.
Whew. I feel like I should make a toast now. But all that bridesmaid-speechy business was to preface our latest study. Crystal suggested that we study the major prophets through our blogs. We’ll read 12 chapters every two weeks and blog about them. In addition to the scripture, we’ll use at least two outside sources and discuss when we “meet.” Before we start a new book, we’ll do a quick read through the entire thing including the introduction in our study bibles. Hehe. I suspect she senses that I need to step up my study commitment. Today, I’m starting this project with Isaiah. Intimidating, but I’m excited.
I won’t bore you with background or summary. For this initial post, I’ll just reflect on the themes and questions that stood out to me in Isaiah. I’ll get more specific in future posts. Maybe. 🙂
One of my outside sources (A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew E Hill and John H Walton) stresses the importance of reading the prophets for their message and not getting caught up in or confused by specific visions or foretellings. I confess, I often can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to scripture, so this advice struck a chord. That being said, I think it can also be a cop out. I don’t believe that those strange and vivid details are meaningless. I know we can’t always know what they mean, but they impart something. At any rate, I’d say the message is one of anger and judgment for Judah and later, a softening toward it. God’s people will ultimately be redeemed, comforted if they turn to Him; despite their disobedience and hard hearts.
Certainly, God’s desire for his children comes through, but His anger and grief are what really caught me. Even though I accept that people can please God or displease him, that he hates evil and loves good, this idea that his soul is susceptible (I don’t mean that word in a way that diminishes His power) to emotion still stops me in my tracks. In Isaiah 1:14, God uses the words, “hates,” “burden”, and “weary” to describe his feelings.I feel like this should change the way I pray. To show respect and gratitude and share my own pain is one thing; to show sensitivity to the pain God feels because of me is another. Perhaps this is one of the keys to a truly contrite heart.
I also deeply felt the message that God’s judgement and his mercy are inseparable. In the words of a popular song, “…what if your blessings come through rain drops? What if your healing comes through tears?” Isaiah 26:9 speaks to this:
My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
Isaiah 30: 18 and 20 communicate this beautifully as well. I found myself loosely correlating this concept to the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). If we don’t respond to God in a right way despite what we already have been given; despite that which is written on our hearts, even someone returning from the dead won’t convince us. To wit – our self-serving hearts are not easily breached and, while it may seem terrible, God will continue to give us reasons to turn to Him. He know what it will take and the future implications of our suffering. He knows that when we refuse Him, our affliction is much more terrible.
Questions abound when I read this book. I don’t understand so many things. I can’t deny that I question the character of my God as represented here sometimes and wonder if certain details are in contention with other biblical teachings. But that is the stuff of future entires. Thank you so much for reading. Hope you’ll join us on the journey and share your thoughts!
ps- Crystal – you beat me to the punch! I didn’t read yours before I finished mine, though. I promise. 🙂 Here goes.