Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

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Getting What You Want (Judges 14)

what-patients-want

Samson most certainly has a weakness, which shows to be his biggest problem. His weakness? Philistine women. In this chapter, we see his first recorded showing of this weakness. While he was in Timnah, Samson came across a Philistine woman. I’m sure she was very attractive, because he told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” (14:3, NLT). His parents tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t have it. So Samson’s parents went to Timnah to get the woman to be their son’s wife. While traveling, Samson was attacked by a lion, which he defeated with his bare hands. He kept it a secret from everyone. During another trip to Timnah, for his wedding, Samson came across the lion’s dead body. He went to investigate and discovered that bees were now living inside it and had produced honey. He grabbed some and ate it on the way to Timnah. Samson made a wager with his groomsmen that they couldn’t figure out his riddle before the celebration was over. Then men spent days trying to figure it out. When they couldn’t, they went to Samson’s wife to have her make him tell them the answer. She persisted for days to try to get the answer from him. On the final day of the celebration, he told her the answer for the riddle. She told the men, and they came back to Samson with the correct answer. Samson then lost everything, including his wife.

Have you ever wanted something so bad you would do anything to get it? We pray and we pray for God to give us this thing we want so badly, and we get upset when God says “No”. The truth is that God doesn’t say “no” just because. Jesus said, “You fathers — if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:11-13, NLT). God wants to give us good gifts, not the ones that punish us. When we fight against Him, and take what we want anyway, the thing we want usually comes back to give us problems. Just like Samson. The woman he wanted, no matter what, ended up being his downfall.

Are you fighting God for what you want? I know I do it, and I might even be doing it now. The truth is that God doesn’t want to give us gifts that will destroy us. He wants to shower blessings on His people. We must be content with what God has given us, and if He says “no”, there is probably a good reason for this. So trust God. He knows what is best.

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Psalms to Pray: Psalm 69-72

Righteousness of Abraham (Romans 4)

Abraham in The Bible miniseries
Abraham in The Bible miniseries

Something I think most of us have trouble with is bridging a connection between the Old and New Testaments. We find it pretty easy, as Christians, to connect with Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the New Testament, but the Old just seems a little irrelevant. I, however, disagree with that thought. The Old Testament is what gives us the frame of reference for why Jesus is important.

I think that in this chapter, Paul does a very good job “bridging the gap”. In the previous chapters, he began to roll out his argument that all you have to do for salvation is have faith. This concept was obviously a little hard for the ancient Hebrews, and Gentiles, to understand. So Paul made a case for the main figure in the Jewish faith.

Paul spoke of Abraham, the father of the entire Israelite nation. Abraham was the man that God came to in Genesis 12, and made him a promise based on his faith and righteousness. Paul states, “Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” (4:9b-10 NLT).

The circumcision issue being raised here, I’m sure comes from some of the debate going on with the Roman church. Many times Paul has had to combat the issues of being bound by the Law while also accepting Christ. One of the points being made was that Gentile Christians had to become circumcised because that was part of the Law. But Paul disagrees. His statement is, once again, that faith is what is necessary for salvation, not Law. He speaks of Abraham because he is one of the highest people in the Jewish faith. He wasn’t circumcised, but God counted his faith to him as righteousness. Not because he was following the Law (which hadn’t been written yet) but because He believed in God and in His promises.

So where’s the connection? It is through our faith in Jesus. “So the promise [given to Abraham] is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” (4:16 NLT).

For us today, this means that we still get to be recipients of God’s promises because of our belief in Jesus Christ. His sacrifice opened the door to us Gentiles, and allowed us to have salvation as well. People still come up to us and say that we are doing the wrong thing, or we need to be doing something else. But honestly, so long as we have our faith in Jesus we get to be counted among Abraham’s children as the People of God!

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