“The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Psalms 146:9 NAS95)

Yahweh thwarts the way of the wicked.  The word thwarts is probably not a good translation here because it is somewhat archaic—it is still used, but not very often. Other versions translate this word as:

  • he brings to ruin  – ESV
  • he frustrates – NIV, NLT
  • he turns upside down – NKJV

The psalmist sets up a contrast here between the fact that God protects strangers and supports the fatherless and widow, but frustrates the wicked.  Yahweh treats the wicked the opposite way that he treats the stranger, fatherless, and widow.  These types of people will be supported, upheld, and protected, the wicked will not be.

To me, the amazing thing in this is that the wicked do not have to stay wicked.  God has provided a way for them to leave their wickedness and enter into fellowship with him, there to find support and protection.  Here is the remarkable thing about the gospel, it can take one who is wicked, whom God opposes, whose way God frustrates, and turn that person into a God-worshipper, an eternal member of God’s family in and through Jesus Christ.

 

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““For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely.” (Jeremiah 6:13 NAS95)

There is an interesting juxtaposition between two of the verses in my Bible reading this morning.  One is the above.  In it, Isaiah writes for God about unfaithful Israel: Everyone is greedy for gain.

In Psalms we have: “You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalms 145:16 NAS95) Neither nature, nor human beings need to be greedy because God provides for both of them in a way that satisfies their desires.

Men take the good provision of God, which was meant to satisfy their desires, and turn it into an ever present grasping for more, more, more.  More of course, is never satisfied.  A reporter once asked John D. Rockefeller—founder of Standard Oil and world’s first billionaire, “how much is enough.”  Rockefeller’s answer was: “Just a little bit more.”

More, of course, never quite arrives.

 

 

“‘Do you not fear Me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” (Jeremiah 5:22 NAS95)

This verse comes in the midst of a passage about how God’s people have been unfaithful to him.  God asks the rhetorical question, Do you not fear me?  [They did not]

What I find interesting is the word picture that God draws to communicate his power.  I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea. Think about that for awhile.  Who places sand as a boundary to hold back anything?  Sand is worthless at holding back stuff, concrete is good, but sand?

My grandsons and I built a stalwart sand castle at the beach in North Carolina with two moats and outer walls to protect from the encroach of the waves.  Do you know who won that encounter?  The tide!

The waves of the sea, one of the most constant and powerful forces of nature, are hemmed in by sand… by sand!  Who designed that particular interplay?   God designed it, and, somehow it absolutely works perfectly—though they roar, they cannot cross over it.

 

 

““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.” (Isaiah 65:1 NAS95)

I have to preach on the book of Jonah in a couple of weeks and that book is a practical outworking of this statement from God in Isaiah.  The Assyrians in Nineveh had their own gods and worshipped those gods and had zero interest in Yahweh, God of the despised Israelites.  Yet that very God chose a rebellious prophet to go to Nineveh and warn them that catastrophe was coming [It’s interesting that Jonah’s message is five words in the Hebrew and doesn’t mention repentance or sin, it’s almost like Jonah is doing the bare minimum of what God had commanded him, because he despises the Assyrians].

Surprisingly to the reader, but not to Jonah, the people of Nineveh right up to the king himself repent and tear their clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. The king declares: both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. (Jonah 3.9)

How do we explain this reaction?  It can only be understood in light of these words from Isaiah, God had called the Assyrians of Nineveh to become God-worshippers even though they neither sought for him, nor asked for him.

Ultimately, isn’t this the story of every one of us?  God says Here I am, here I am and draws us to himself, even though we aren’t looking for him, nor seeking for him.

 

I just couldn’t narrow down my Bible reading to one verse today, so I chose three:

He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken.
He will be gentle with the weak and feeble,
until his victory releases justice.
And the fame of his name
will birth hope among the people. (Matt 12.20-21; Passion Translation)

*I love the Passion Translation: the fame of his name will birth hope.  Yes.  Yes it will.

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4 NAS95)

“O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption.” (Psalms 130:7 NAS95)

*Abundant redemption.  One could spend a long time meditating on that phrase.

 

“In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit;” (Isaiah 63:9–10 NAS95)

Isaiah looks back here into Israel’s checkered past and contrasts Yahweh’s faithfulness with Israel’s unfaithfulness, it’s quite a stark comparison.  Israel was afflicted/in distress/in trouble because of her unfaithfulness and Yahweh was afflicted with them. This is surprising because since it is God who brings affliction, why would he enter into affliction with his unfaithful people?

This is the amazing, surprising, unexpected thing about our God.  He enters into suffering with us, indeed he became suffering for us at the cross.  The affliction that he suffered with Israel’s unfaithfulness is a type or shadow that points forward to the ultimate affliction that he will suffer as he takes on the sins of the world, affliction of which Isaiah has already prophesied:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5 NAS95)

This is as good a description of in his love and mercy he redeemed us as I can think of, and it leaves me breathless with awe and wonder, praise and adoration, and a thankful heart.

 

 

“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6–7 NAS95)

Isaiah is speaking here about those who intercede for the people before the Lord—watchmen…they will never keep silent. In short these are people who are praying, and of course we know that we are all to be praying.

Here is the interesting thing about this passage.  God wants the people to pray for something that he has already promised to bring about. In the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come (Matt 6.10), even though God himself had already promised that it would come. the Bible Knowledge Commentary points out here: “The “watchmen” were to hold God to His promises, knowing that is what He desires. God’s people should pray for things even when they know God has promised them.”

God has been teaching me a lot about prayer lately.  I’ve read four books in the past couple of months that emphasize the importance of prayer again and again: By Searching, by Isobel Kuhn; God in the ICU, by David Walker; Behind the Ranges, by Geraldine Taylor (which has one whole chapter dedicated to intercessory prayer); and Miracle on Voodoo Mountain, by Megan Boudreaux.

I wonder if the Lord is trying to tell me something…