Archives for category: Devotional

And thou shalt derive sweet nourishment from the nations, Yea on the bounty of kings shalt thou be sustained,— So shalt thou know— That I、 Yahweh am thy Saviour, and That thy Redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:16, EMPH)

This verse is set in a context in which Isaiah is addressing Israel as a country.  When God sums up and concludes history, the nation of Israel will “derive sweet nourishment from the nations.”  We know, however, that this passage applies beyond just the nation of Israel because vs. 11 [“Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.” (Isaiah 60:11, ESV)] is reflected in Rev 21.25, when God sums up all of history and calls home his people to be with him forever.

Isaiah is looking beyond just the Jewish nation to the time when all those who follow Christ by faith will join together for all of eternity to praise and worship God.  We–Christians–will know [by experience] that Yahweh is our Saviour and Redeemer.

This is a promise that cannot cease to amaze us, and if the promise is remarkable, how much greater the actual reality?

For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, ESV)

In this verse God, the Rock of Israel, is compared to the false gods, the so-called “rock” of the enemies of Israel.  The second half of the verse is a difficult to translate because the Hebrew is uncertain.  Here are some options:

  • But their “rock” is not like our Rock; even our enemies concede.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, HCSB)
  • For their rock is not as our Rock, Even our enemies themselves being judges.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, KJV 1900)
  • For our God is not like their gods, but our enemies are unintelligent.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, LES [English translation of the Greek Septuagint])

If the meaning of the second half of the verse is uncertain, the meaning of the first half is not.  Israel’s Rock is a true rock that can be counted on.  He will do what he says he will do; he will keep his promises; he will watch over his people; he will punish sin.  The “rock” of the pagan nations around them?  This god is a literal rock, he cannot make promises nor keep them; he certainly cannot watch over his people; and he will only lead them further into sin, not punish it.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll stick with the Rock of Israel.

“For ||thus|| saith he that is high and lifted up—
Inhabiting futurity、
And ||holy|| is his name:
<A high and holy place> will I inhabit,
Also with the crushed and lowly in spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly, and
To revive the heart of them who are crushed;— ”
https://ref.ly/Is57.15;emphbbl

There is an amazing juxtaposition in this verse between God and what Isaiah calls “the lowly.”  Here God is the “high and lifted up” one, the one who inhabits futurity [or eternity].  This God is called holy.  Now, if we didn’t know better, we would assume that this God would be too busy with other things to worry about the lowly.  He is great and powerful and holy and lifted up, so doesn’t he spend his time with the powerful and wealthy?  Does he have any time at all for those who are poor and oppressed and hurting?

The funny thing is, he certainly does, indeed he goes out of his way to assure us that his heart and mind and strength and power are committed to “the crushed and lowly in spirit.”  He wants the lowly to live and those who are crushed he wants to bring to life and sustain and comfort.

What does God get from this?  Nothing from the lowly, they don’t have anything at all to offer except their own crushed and broken spirit.  The funny thing is, this seems to be exactly what God is after.  He calls the broken to himself and comforts them.  Jesus will put it this way:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
https://ref.ly/Mt11.28-29;esv

Doesn’t Jesus in Matthew sound a lot like God in Isaiah?

 

 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ”
https://ref.ly/Is55.10-11;esv

I love this passage and often pray it before I am about to preach or teach.

The promise here is that the Word of God will accomplish its purpose. My own words do not have this power, it is only God’s words that have this power and that carry this promise.  This is why it is so vitally important to get people to read or hear God’s word.

A missionary couple from our church [Gabriel and Rachel Nunez] work with the Ka’apor tribe in Brazil and a team came down to Brazil this spring and recorded some native readers reading the Ka’apor Bible so that they could make a recording and play it for Ka’apor tribe members, since literacy is spotty in the tribe.  I think this is an awesome project because it takes God’s words in Is 11 seriously and seeks to get God’s word into the eyes (and ears) of as many people as possible.  God has promised to bless these efforts.

Of course if this statement from God is true, and it is, then looking at our own lives we ought to be diligent students of God’s word because this is what will carry power in our own lives, not books on Christian subjects and issues, though they are certainly good, not even what someone else thinks about the Bible, even though these are good to read and helpful.  The power, as God points out clearly here, comes from God’s words themselves so we should read and meditate and absorb and love and enjoy God’s word.  There are no words so true, no words so powerful, and nothing more important that we can be doing.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ”
https://ref.ly/Heb4.12;esv

 

O thou humbled one、 storm-tossed、 uncomforted,— Lo! I am about to set、 in antimony、 thy stones, And will found thee in sapphires;…And all thy children shall be the instructed of Yahweh,— And great shall be the prosperity of thy children.” (Isaiah 54:11,13, EMPH)

What strikes me about this passage is the way that the Lord describes his people.  Using the singular to refer to all of Israel, he calls them “thou humbled one, storm-tossed, uncomforted.”  This sounds like a people in need of rest and refuge, and this is exactly what we discover.  The humbled and storm-tossed can expect the prosperity of their children to be great, and they will be instructed by Yahweh himself.

There is an incredible promise here of people who are tossed about by the difficulties of life being able to rest in the Lord in peace, comfort, and security.  Whether this passage refers to a millenial kingdom on earth when God will reign, or if it looks forward to the end of the ages when God’s people will be with the Lord forever, depends upon your particular brand of theology.  What isn’t in dispute is that God’s people can look forward to a time of peace and safety.  The humbled one(s) will be lifted up in the presence of their Father, the storm-tossed wind and waves will subside, and the ones who are uncomforted will rest in the peace and comfort of God’s kingdom. Happy days indeed!

 

And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments,” (Deuteronomy 26:18, ESV)

The word that the ESV translates “treasured possession” here means “something that is owned and of very high value or something for which the owner has special affection.”  This is both flabbergasting and extraordinary because, let’s face it, neither Israel nor we who follow Christ by faith today are “worthy” of the special affection of the Lord.  Indeed, the Bible goes out of its way to say again and again that the Lord didn’t choose Israel [or us] because of some remarkable trait in them/us that made us “choosable.”  God chose to make us a treasured possession out of the good pleasure of his own will.  Like I said, flabbergasting.

Lest we think this is true of only the nation of Israel, Peter goes out of his way to make clear that we who follow Christ by faith are members of God’s covenant using much the same terminology that Deuteronomy does here:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

If you follow Christ by faith, dear reader, you are God’s treasured possession, not because of what you have done, or how smart you are, or beautiful, or powerful.  You are God’s treasured possession because he set his love on you because he could…and he did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve taken a screenshot of Deuteronomy 24.17-22 so that you can see how often the word “sojourner” suddenly appears in the text.  The word can also be translated “alien, stranger, foreigner, or resident alien.”  It refers to the people living in Israel who were not Hebrew.  These were immigrants or aliens residing in the land and they were very often poor.  Notice how God’s heart and concern were for the alien, and he wanted the people to be for them also because they had once been foreigners themselves in the land of Egypt.

Notice also that they were grouped together with the fatherless and the widow.  The reason for this is that orphans and widows, along with resident foreigners, were often the most financially vulnerable in the country.  This was the position of Naomi and Ruth when they returned from Moab after the great famine.  Indeed, Ruth herself went out and gleaned grain left over from those who had harvested the crop so that she and Naomi could survive.

The point of all this is that the most vulnerable in society should be the ones that the people were most concerned about.  We see this same concern in the New Testament as well.  One of the instructions that we see again and again there is to remember the poor.

How we remember the poor and how we serve them is a matter for our own wisdom and creativity to figure out in our particular culture.  Tim Keller has written an excellent book on that particular subject that is well worth reading.  That we remember and serve the poor, is not a subject for debate because this is one of the clear commands of Scripture, and something we see practiced throughout the Bible.