Prophets Project

Prophets Project – Isaiah 60-66

This post will be my last for the book of Isaiah. For any new readers, a friend and I have been blogging through our reflections on this book for the last couple of months. It’s been an awesome thing and I would encourage others to go for it, too. I feel like recording our thoughts before we talk (in a deeper way than just taking general notes) makes the conversation deeper and more productive. You can read Crystal’s posts here.

I’ll just make a few comments about these last six chapters (which won’t begin to do justice to their rather intense and sometimes confusing message).

Isaiah 61:11: “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”

Okay, I’m going to do something I despise, here, but I’m disclosing it, which makes it different. I hope. 🙂 I’m going to take this verse out of context and nitpick it to make a point that it might not make on its own. I frequently wonder how directly involved God is in my daily life. I don’t doubt His presence, but I have a hunch that he doesn’t always reveal my keys to me when I lose them and pray, “God, please help me find my keys.” What I like about this verse is that it seems to indicate that God creates things with the capacity to do something, and then… it does it. So, God gave the garden the ability to grow things, He doesn’t necessarily weave and summon every weed and flower. Just an interesting thing to think about. Sometimes I think we’re too quick to place responsibility (for good things and bad) directly or solely on God.

Isaiah 62:7: “And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”  This verse instructs the “watchmen” of Jerusalem not to let up – to remind God of his promise to redeem Jerusalem. I love this reminder (and Isaiah has been full of them) that we affect our God. We can ask Him for that which we need and he hears us.  

And in the same vein, Isaiah 65:1: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.” So, again, if we want Him, we should seek Him. For example, if I want someone to answer a question, I have to give them the opportunity. I have to ask it.

Finally, I’m not well-read in this department, but I really wonder about the nature of the new heavens and new earth. Chapter 65:20, indicates that despite the new earth being a joyful place, people will still die. So, how does this work? Do all who live in the new earth go to the new heavens after death? Just made me curious. 

Happy Thursday!

 

 

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Uncategorized

Prophets Project – Isaiah 49-60

So often when I read my Bible the verses that speak to me are those that I find beautiful… and I’m terribly picky. I eat up melancholy poetry and evocative words of comfort. Poetry is not lacking in Isaiah, it just hasn’t been (generally) the kind that really affects me. These chapters were different, though. Each was a feast, and not for the usual reasons. It wasn’t so much the lyrical promises, but this sort of general-to-the-troops call for strength that stood out. You know, when the strong leader rides out on his white horse and shouts confident words of encouragement to his down-trodden, terrified soldiers preparing for war. And I needed that. I’ve been feeling a little weary lately, so it was good to be reminded that our spirits, while often burdened, are also robust, vibrant and strong. We have battles to fight, but ours is the side of light and ultimate victory. I’m not a very physically expressive person, but I almost felt like pumping my fist. 🙂 Just a few favorites from my reading:

Isaiah 50:7: “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.” (Man, I love the word “flint.”) 

Isaiah 51:1: “…Look to the rock from which you were hewn and the quarry from which you were dug.”

51:9: “Awake, Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord…”

51:17: “Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the Lord’s hand the cup of His anger; the chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.”

And a couple of the beautiful, lyrical ones, too:

Isaiah 55:12: “For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

58:10: “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.”

I hope you can find encouragement and renewal today as well. These chapters are full of thought-provoking themes, too, so don’t pass them over! Happy reading.

PS- Don’t forget to check out Crystal’s thoughts on these same chapters at www.treasurecontained.com if you’re following our project. 🙂

 

Spirituality · Uncategorized

Faith and Religion – Subjectivity and Validity

I love to think about and study my religion. I don’t do it in a terribly deep way, but I also love the idea of making that study an academic pursuit; approaching it in a way that is objective, even scientific. Growing my knowledge and improving my critical thinking skills are ever-present goals (not that I’m always working very hard at them). But I keep coming face to face with the inherent subjectivity of the thing, and it frustrates me. Our personal experiences shape our faith. They affect our mental pictures and interpretations of scripture. I think there is both beauty and relevance… and a certain danger in that. Our culture expounds upon the truths we find in scripture until we can’t seem to separate biblical teaching from societal wisdom. But really, what philosophy, what science isn’t subject to these challenges? Doctors, scientists, even mechanics practice their professions according to different schools of thought. Just because people hold different opinions about religion doesn't invalidate it. If anything, it makes it all the more important, because some things are true. Some things are right and real. I’d venture to say it’s much easier to learn answers to questions if we actually ask them. Seems to me, putting our minds to the task of discerning those true and right and real things should be a priority for all of us.

Prophets Project · Spirituality

Prophets Project – Isaiah 37-48

On this New Years Day, as I consider plans for the year ahead and make decisions for myself and my family, I find myself reflecting on and in awe of God’s… bigness. And littleness. This post, then, is an attempt to put those reflections into words. It wanders a bit. I’d apologize, but that’s just the way I roll. 🙂

I wonder at the long-range plan of God. It seems incredible to me that while he understands and manipulates the long-term, he also reveals himself to individuals in very immediate ways.  Hezekiah’s deliverance from Assyria and his miraculous healing (Isaiah 37:6-7  and 38: 1-6) remind me of God’s personal interest, his willingness to show himself to us. Maybe these particular acts had more impact later, as a part of the prophet’s story, but they certainly were meaningful for Hezekiah, too.

And then I read Isaiah 40:22, which paints a picture of humanity as insects beneath an all-powerful God. Our individuality is almost… demeaned in this verse. Sort of the same way I feel when we read about God dealing with “nations” as though all the people in them are the same. It feels like God has a corporate mentality now instead of small and family-owned. Now, that might not be quite fair; I think the Bible is clear that we are God’s beloved creation and the drivel I read into things sometimes would probably be better left unsaid. It does seem, though, like we walk a bit of a tightrope in the ego department. Take Isaiah 45:9-10. We’re reminded of our place. Who are we to assume we understand what God is doing? Creation does not equal Creator.

While I was struggling to reconcile what seem like two separate sides of God’s character (the intimate and the CEO), I realized that they aren’t separate at all. I mean, to be able to act in the best interest of both future generations and the current population all at once speaks simply to his love and crazy awesome power. Chapter 48:3-5 brought this home for me. Reading this book, I frequently wonder what the people of Isaiah’s time made of his prophecies; maybe I even harbor the occasional suspicion that they had more to do with future events and people than with Isaiah’s own; and then I get this awesome reminder that those people, too, had seen old prophecies come to fruition. God does things for us here and now, but those same things might be carefully planned to impact the future, as well. The scope and magnitude of God’s action… breathtaking. Trying to imagine the ripple effect of the actions of earth’s millions of people over thousands of years never fails to astound me and, quite frankly, make me sweat. When I consider the potential outcomes of even a small personal decision, I might feel quite paralyzed.

How must the view be from the top?

Happy New Year, all! And one parting holiday/food/theology thought: How can one deny the existence of God when faced with the miracle of whipped cream? 🙂