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Showing posts from August, 2014

Isaiah 61-66

As I read this verse today, I was reminded of these words from author John Leax…. A curious thing happens to humans who tangle with skunks. Their nose hairs absorb the odor, so they sneak around trying to keep their distance from their friends because they think they stink. And indeed, to themselves, they do. An analogy comes to mind. The same thing occurs when we sin. Long after the noticeable consequences have passed from our lives, long after those around us have ceased to be offended by our reek, we live in the stench of our actions, for they have become a part of us. And like skunk, it takes more than tomato juice to restore us to an acceptable state. I am thankful for that cleansing power that works better than tomato juice to restore me to an acceptable state of purity and freshness…the blood of Jesus Christ. …but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanse

Isaiah 57-60

According to Isaiah, our faith must be practical, and not merely pious. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?   Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?   Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.   Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,   if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.  

Isaiah 53-56

This section of Isaiah contains many memorable verses, but perhaps the most revered passage, by Christians at least, comes in Isaiah 53. Many years ago, I took a class on Isaiah from one of the foremost Hebrew scholars in the world, David Noel Freedman. When we were studying Isaiah 53, an elderly Jewish woman in the class asked, “How could God allow one person to suffer for someone else’s sin?” It was a good question. Dr. Freedman explained how Jewish scholars interpret this passage as a reference to Israel. The woman was still not satisfied with the professor’s answer. Thus, finally, Dr. Freedman offered the Christian interpretation of the passage as a prophecy of Jesus as the Messiah. The woman was still mystified, and maybe we should be too. How could God punish one person for someone else’s sin? It does not seem fair. However, if this passage is, as I believe, a prophecy pointing forward to Jesus, and if Jesus really was, as I also believe, God in human

Isaiah 49-52

“The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.” Isaiah 49:1 Isaiah had a similar conviction to that of Jeremiah, that the Lord called him before he was even born, that before his birth, God had a special plan for him. Jeremiah says, Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5 What Isaiah and Jeremiah believed was true for them is also, I believe, true for us. First, God knows us and shapes us before we are even born. We discovered this same truth in Psalm 139…. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.        My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the dep

Isaiah 45-48

Out of these four chapters, these were the verses I found most encouraging today…. Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb;   even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Isaiah 46:3-4) I confess, sometimes I doubt that the Lord remembers me or cares about me. For the most part, I often do not think I am worthy of his remembrance or care. Perhaps you often feel the same way. It is in moments when we do feel like this that we need to take to heart verses like these. Granted, these words were addressed first to Israel long ago, but does not Jesus say something similar? Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Isaiah 41-44

Often it is hard for us to step into the new thing that God is doing because we are still clinging to the old. The Jews in exile probably could not imagine that God was going to do as great a thing with them as he had done when he brought their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. The Jews in exile probably worshipped the glory days of Israel as they were told stories about the reign of David and his son Solomon. They could not conceive that they themselves were going to be part of a new story of God’s great work. What are you holding on to from your past? Is it keeping you from stepping into the new thing that God wants to do with you and through you? Along with the Apostle Paul, and every child of God who has ever lived or will live, we need to focus on one thing today. But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil

Isaiah 37-40

We left off our study of Isaiah with the thought of living in the wilderness, something most of us have to do, spiritually speaking, at some time, but that does not mean we like the thought of it. God’s people, Israel, spent time in the wilderness on more than one occasion. They wandered in the desert for forty years under the leadership of Moses. Then, after being settled in the Promised Land for a good long time, God sent them out of it as a punishment for their sins, a “time out” if you will. After seventy years in exile in Babylon, God brought his people home. Isaiah 40 (to my mind one of the most beautiful, comforting, and stirring passages in all of Scripture) speaks of this return. Traditionally, this chapter was viewed as a prophecy, a foretelling on the part of Isaiah, about the return of God’s people after the exile. The historical Isaiah never lived to see it. Modern scholars believe that chapters 40 through 54 were written by an anonymous sixth cent


We are in the process of moving house, so don't be surprised if I don't post much in the coming days. Once we are re-settled, I will pick up where I left off in Isaiah. Have no fear, we are still on track for getting through the C. S. Lewis Bible in a year, even with this little break. Blessings....

Isaiah 33-36

Before I made the journey from California to New Jersey to begin my studies at Princeton Seminary, a friend gave me a gift, a framed photograph of the California desert. On the back of the frame, she gave me a Scripture verse. Perhaps it was from Isaiah 35…. The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, The desert shall rejoice and blossom…. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. I did not want to think about my journey to and through seminary being a journey to and through the wilderness. However, in some ways, my friend’s gift was prophetic. Then, at the end of my three years in seminary, I got married. Billy and Ruth Graham gave us as a wedding gift a beautiful leather-bound copy of Mrs. Charles Cowman’s devotional book, Streams in the Desert . It has been a treasured volume ever since. Ruth wrote on the flyleaf something about finding joy in the ministry always. However, to be honest, I must admit that so

Isaiah 29-32

Despite all the words of warning and judgment in Isaiah, there is also much of comfort here. Chapter 30 contains two verses that have been meaningful to me for many years. In verse 15 we read, For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and in trust shall be your strength. When I was a teenager, I had a poster in my bedroom with this verse on it. The picture was of a duckling in the pocket of a denim shirt. I think, unconsciously, I thought of myself as being like that little duckling, protected in God’s pocket, close to his heart. I believe that is true for everyone who trusts in the Lord. Israel refused, for a time, to find her strength in quietness and trust in the Lord, to find her salvation in repentance and rest. However, that does not mean that we cannot take advantage of this promise. Whenever we turn to the Lord we find rest, salvation, quietness, and strength in him. In the mid

Isaiah 25-28

There are a number of verses in these chapters that find their fulfillment in Jesus. The most obvious one is Isaiah 28:16 which is quoted in the New Testament: See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, A tested stone, A precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: “One who trusts will not panic.” In 25:8, we have words that are echoed at the end of the book of Revelation: “Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Why will our tears be no more? Because “he will swallow up death forever.” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that this is exactly what was and is and will be accomplished in Jesus. Regarding death, C. S. Lewis writes most eloquently in his book, Miracles , On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Live of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.