Posts tagged soul feed
Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39; Isaiah 40; Galatians 2:11-21; Galatians 3:1-9; Psalm 107:33-43 NIV
The story of Hezekiah found in Isaiah 38 and 39 makes me chuckle. This guy actually reminds me of a certain former president of ours with his self-confidence and his glass-half-full outlook on life. First, in chapter 38, he is told that he is going to die, to which he replies, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.”
First, who of us could say that with a straight face? Second, who of us would say that and risk being struck down? I guess if you’re at the point of death, you don’t have much to lose, but Hezekiah’s boldness and self-confidence just make me laugh.
Then, in chapter 39, he shows the envoy from Babylon all of his riches – a pretty boastful thing to do – after which he is told that ALL of his riches, “everything in [his] palace” will be carried off to Babylon. Now, I don’t know about you, but if somebody told me that somebody was going to come, steal all my stuff, empty my bank accounts and haul my family off to another country, I doubt I would have the same response as Hezekiah.
“The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”
Wha? Either this guy is the most over-confident dude ever, or he has his priorities mixed up – probably both. To Hezekiah, peace and security were more important than his people who would be dragged away and made eunuchs (look it up…not a fun process). Peace is good. Security is good. But at what price?
I think we make the same mistake sometimes. Maybe we look at financial security and are willing to sacrifice our families for it. Maybe we look at peace in our relationships and are willing to leave conflict unresolved to maintain the illusion that everything is OK. Whatever the case, we ignore or diminish the cost and celebrate or look forward to the achievement. But in the end, a wealthy but neglected family doesn’t feel secure. A relationship with no outward conflict, but with unresolved issues is anything but peaceful. But by the time we see the true cost of our actions, it is often too late.
My take? Peace and security have gotten in the way of a lot of people’s pursuit of God. May we not make the same mistake.
Isaiah 33; Isaiah 34; Isaiah 35; Galatians 1; Psalm 107:10-22 NIV
You conceive chaff,
you give birth to straw;
your breath is a fire that consumes you. - Isaiah 33:11
For those of us who have tried and failed to achieve things of significance on our own, we are acutely aware that we “give birth to straw” – that the things we try to create are often worthless. For others, they may have had a lot of success building things on their own. They may have a harder time swallowing these verses. You see, the chaff and straw were the parts of the wheat fields that were leftovers – the useless part.
Of course, to someone looking for a good deal on straw, I suppose the straw has value. And that is what we find so often in this life. We have redefined success to be those things that we are good at. In other words, on our own, we can build buildings, make money, have political or business power, etc. Therefore, we look at those things, gather them together and then call them success. That way, when we achieve any of these things, we can feel successful.
The problem though, with success as with straw, is that no matter how we define it, the “best” of the wheat (and of life) is not found in the straw or “successes” that we dabble in. The best is something other – something only found when we leave the straw behind and run to catch up with the harvester. God, the great harvester is working hard in this world. His definition of success is very different from ours. His understanding of the wheat field is much greater than ours. Therefore, it’s only when we decide to move past the straw of this world, that we get a real glimpse of the best that’s out there.
2 Chronicles 29; 2 Chronicles 30; 2 Chronicles 31:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22; Psalm 103:13-22
Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. - 2 Chronicles 30:18-20
I take a lot of comfort in these verses. The story here is of a group of people who hadn’t spent much time thinking about spiritual things. In fact, they had skipped the annual Passover Feast entirely. It was only after the new king was installed and decided to have a belated Passover celebration that the people even gathered together. So, far from having prepared for the feast, they were nowhere near being ceremonially “clean”.
However, the bible says that they did see the error of their ways and they came to celebrate Passover. They came, like so many of us do, “unclean” - messed up in so many ways. Yet, the story that is presented here is one of grace – of a king asking the God of the universe for leniency and receiving it.
In some ways, it is the story of Jesus, who was installed as King here on earth, who brought his people back to God and whose actions caused God to give grace to a people who had done nothing to deserve it. It’s the greatest story ever told.
2 Chronicles 10; 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12; 1 Corinthians 14:1-19; Proverbs 20:15-24 NIV
The story of Rehoboam highlights just how complicated our relationship with God can be. Throughout the story, the writer makes it clear when Rehoboam was following God and when he wasn’t. The writer also makes it clear when there were consequences for Rehoboam’s actions.
However, in Rehoboam’s life, as in ours, there had to be times that were “in between” – times where he wasn’t really following God closely, yet was having success in his kingdom. I’ve had similar moments in my life where I assumed that because I was being successful that I was following the plan of God.
There are serious flaws in this thinking, of course. The first is that it seems that God sometimes gives us a “grace period” when we head off in the wrong direction. He gives us time to figure it out and make a course correction. The second flaw in thinking, however, is worse than the first. It is when we assume that God’s desire is for us to succeed (in the way we most often define success).
There are plenty of TV preachers (and many more non-TV preachers) who insist that God wants us to make lots of money, get lots of promotions, drive nice cars and live in big houses. Now, let me be clear, I don’t think God is necessarily opposed to those things. I just don’t think any of those things are God’s main interest, nor should they be a litmus test for whether or not we are “blessed”. In fact, I think the whole concept is a lie and a trick from the author of lies.
If we can be tricked into thinking that we can measure God’s love by how much money we have, how healthy we are or how comfortable our life is, then it becomes really easy, in times of discomfort, to convince us that God doesn’t love us at all. In fact, if we judge anyone’s love by whether or not they make our lives easy, we might conclude that no one loves us!
However, when I look at the story of Rehoboam, what I see is a never-ending love of the Father. Like a parent disciplining a child, God didn’t simply allow Rehoboam to do whatever he pleased, but instead, gave consequences for his actions. But through it all, God loved Rehoboam and was ready to extend a hand of grace whenever it could be received.
I’m glad He does the same for me.
Song 5; Song 6; Song 7; Song 8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Psalm 100:1-5
We talk a lot about love, both inside and outside the church. We’ve redefined love many times over and usually in inaccurate ways. However, I think Song of Solomon and 1 Corinthians give us an excellent picture of love and how it manifests itself.
In 1 Corinthians we get a definition of love and instructions of how important it is. In Song of Solomon, we see a demonstration of love as the beloved searches desperately for her lover after he has come to her door. The two passages, taken together, remind us that love is really the backbone of existence.
1 Corinthians says that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. It may seem like some kind of heresy to say that faith is not the greatest. After all, isn’t it our faith and God’s grace that have saved us? But what is grace, if not the ultimate expression of love? If I love someone, I will extend grace to them.
When we are told of God’s grace for us – sending his own Son to die so that we can live – the Bible makes it clear that this was not an act of faith (God so believed in the human spirit…) or hope (God so hoped everything would turn out right…). No, we are told that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. He so loved us that he extended grace. He so loved us that he gave us hope for our future.
He is, using the picture of Song of Solomon, a great lover who will do anything to bring us to him. Yet, like the lover in these passages, he stands at the door and knocks. God doesn’t force himself into our lives. He doesn’t force himself on us. Instead, as someone who truly loves us, he gives us a choice – in fact, many choices – as to whether or not we want to love him, to spend time with him and to give our lives to him.