Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bowing to the Stump

Isaiah 44:1-28
     I'm trying to imagine how jealous I would be if my children were to give all their affections to another adult as if that person were their mother.  Furthermore, if they took gifts I gave them to shower adoration on this person. How would I be able to endure that?   I see the same thing here in this passage.  The Lord gives great detail on how Israel fashions these idols, and gives her devotion to them.  Yet, every step of the way, Israel fails to see, God provides the materials and skills to do that.  The rain used to grow the tree that will be fashioned into the idol?  God's rain.  The tree itself?  God's tree.  The fire the smith uses to melt down the metal for the idol?  God's fire. God's bread and meat sustains the strength of the worker.  It is all God's.  These workers work tirelessly to produce a small piece of wood or metal, to the point of exhaustion.  In the end, God says they are bowing down to a tree stump.  Why would they waste all that talent on something that will never love them back?  How would I feel if my children were to do that to me?  If I clothed them, fed them, protected them, comforted them, and they called someone else ""Mommy"".  And what if that person they honored wanted nothing to do with them?  How frustrating that would be! 
An Apple Tree Laden with Fruit--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book One
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
Standard Publishing Company, 1925
     We do the exact same thing.  Many times we do not give our love to an idol.  But we often spend our time, our talents, our gifts, our devotion, on things that are not worth our attention.  We use the gifts God has given us, not for His glory, but for our own gain, our own pleasure.  Lord, I am your child.  Yours alone.  I do not want to waste my affections elsewhere.  I know that they will never be returned by anyone or anything else.  I know how it must hurt You when I do not give you all my love, all my appreciation.  I know how jealous it must make you to see me devote myself to things that will not bring You any glory.  Remind me each day, Lord, when I am not doing something worthwhile for You.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

For Your Sake

Isaiah 43:1-28
     God reminds Israel how He has preserved her.  He did not create her to worship other gods.  He created Israel to be His witness.  He is the only God who has protected her, cared for her, supplied for her.  None of the gods Israel worshipped after have done or will ever do what He has.
     "...For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships."  This tells me that sometimes God does bring hard things into our lives so that we will serve Him better.  The Bible and history both tell us how Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.  He then deported many of Israel's citizens to the land of Babylon.  God could have prevented this.  But instead, it was what He used to bring Israel back to Himself.  Eventually, she did turn back to God.
Babylonians - Captive Jews Led into Babylonia
     Is every hard thing that God brings into our lives a result of being rebellious towards Him?  No.  But how many times has He done something in my life to get my attention?  Perhaps there has been an area in my life that God wants me to tend to, and for my sake He brings a trial to help me adjust.  He may allow a difficult circumstance because He wants me to serve Him better.  Then, instead of complaining, shouldn't I be thankful for the problem?  Isn't it for your sake?  Doesn't He want to make me better?  In the long run, is He trying to prevent problems for me?  He allowed Babylon to dominate Israel, because He knew that it would be for her good, that it would bring her back to Him.  She may have continued in this cycle of worshipping idols and false gods forever.  But God wanted something so much more for her.  Towards the end of this chapter God tells us how weary He is of rescuing a people who would never even acknowledge Him.  They failed to praise Him.  They neglected the sacrifices.  They were tired of Him.  They ignored the God who " he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."  What other god would do that?
     Do I weary you, Lord?  Do I neglect to praise you, honor you, thank you?  Thanksgiving is next week and I don't want to forget to be thankful.  Thank you Lord for your great, great love towards me.  Thank you for your protection every day, even when I don't know it.  Thank you for supplying all my needs (and wants).  Thank you for bringing things in my life that I don't understand, that I want to complain about, that I would rather not endure.  You love me as noone else can, and it is for my sake so that I will serve you better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back to the Prison House

Isaiah 42:1-25
     I think about how all of Christ's ways were perfect.  He knew how to act in every situation.  He knew what to say in every circumstance.  He didn't have to be dramatic to get attention, although many might claim that was the reason for His miracles.  He didn't have to call out like a carnival barker to gather a crowd, yet He was always surrounded.  He never had reason to be discouraged, because He knew God's plan.
     In verse 7 of this passage, I read that He would open the blind eyes, that He would set the prisoners free from their prison.   The last half of the verse says:"..and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."  What a beautiful picture of how He rescued me spiritually!  At one time in my life, I was sitting in complete darkness, with a knowledge of God, but not really knowing Him.  Jesus released me from the bondage of sin and instead of sitting in my cell, I can walk out into the open air, into the sunlight, and know that I am free.  I am fortunate that I have never been in a physical prison.  I pray I will never know that experience.  But I do know what it is like being a prisoner to sin, trying to free myself by my own works, and never being able to achieve that.  Jesus paid the price for sin, so I could go free.  He handed Satan the key to my cell, and told him to let me go.  And Satan had to listen.  He had to let me go.  He no longer has any power over me, nor does the sin that had me shackled.  So, when we know that Jesus has released us, why do we so often return to the prison house? 
I Was In Prison--Taken from The Children's Friend (Part 4)
By Mrs. Adelaide Bee Evans
Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1911, 1928
When we return to our sin (which we will, because we are not perfect), aren't we in essence going back to that cell, handing the key back over to Satan, putting the shackles on our wrists, and closing the cell door behind us?  Fortunately, at this point, we can leave the cell anytime we want, because we have been declared innocent and Satan has no power to keep us there.  But why return at all?  The inmate who has just been released into the world  has a long rough road ahead of him.  He doesn't instantly return to his way of life before prison.  As Christians, especially when we are newly saved, everything in our life isn't going to instantly be made better.  We have to let God lead us through His Word, through praying, through church attendance, through taking an active part in our local church. The getting involved part is hands-on training.  Jesus gives us the power to have victory over our sin.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Yes, he freed us from sin instantaneously, but we still have a sin nature that will always want to keep us locked up.  I need to follow Him in every way that I can.  I don't want to go back to the prison house.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Leaky Pitcher

Isaiah 41:1-29
     It is hard to fathom why God tolerates the kingdoms of Israel with her idolatrous ways.  She has never been faithful to the God who delivered her from so many of her enemies.  She never seems grateful for all the miracles He performed on her behalf.  Then I think about all the times I've failed Him.  They have been numerous.  I think about all the times I've been greedy and wanting more, instead of being grateful and thankful.  Certainly God has been tolerant of my behavior.  My life is not over yet, which means the likelihood that I will still mess up and fail him are 100%.  Israel has had a very long life, thousands of years longer, so maybe the number of times she has messed up, compared with mine, is about even.
    God reminds Israel how He made them a nation.  He raised up Abraham out of practically nowhere and gave him a land.  Apparently according to verses 2-3, Abraham ruled over kings.  I guess I need to review Genesis, because I had not remembered this.  Or maybe this is the first time God chooses to share this information with us.
     "Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away."  This verse, 9, says a lot.  Israel had been called, and through all her mistakes and failings, God has chosen her and has not discarded her.  God does the same with me.  There are some times in my life when I feel like I have completely disappointed God and let Him down.  Fortunately, He does not abandon me.  He still chooses to use me, despite my flaws and defects.  Perhaps it is because I am imperfect, that He does choose to use me.  It just shows how impressive He is.   The leaky pitcher used to serve lemonade probably is not as effective as the pitcher that doesn't leak, and may not serve as many drinks, and may be wasteful, but the fact that it may get the job done at all is a tribute to the person using it.  However, wouldn't I rather be the pitcher that is not leaking? How much more could I accomplish if I were whole? How many more glasses could I fill?  I should not be wasteful of what God has given me.
Public domain clip art pitcher drawing.
Taken from Harry's Ladder to Learning
Ward, Lock & Tyler, London, 1869

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unsearchable Understanding

I have always enjoyed journaling the things I learn from God's Word.  But I started to think that perhaps it would be fun to have an electronic journal of sorts.  So every few days, I plan to post the different things God is teaching me.  Mostly through His Word, but also through different circumstances.
        I am over halfway through the book of Isaiah.  It is a very long book, and I don't always have the opportunity to read a whole chapter.  That is always my goal but with three young boys, it is not always achievable.  Today I was finishing Chapter 40.  I love the fact that God is never weary.  I wish I could say the same.  It seems that I am always searching for renewed energy.  His understanding is unsearchable.  I realized that if I had the same discernment, I could be the perfect parent.  Think about it.  I would always know when my children were lying to me.  I would always be able to determine their motives for doing something, and therefore, could come up with the appropriate response. 
     Verse 31 is probably the most quoted verse from this chapter, but I was intrigued by verses 29 and 30.  Youth does not guarantee strength.  The sheer might that a young person has will eventually fail him.  But the strength that God gives is everlasting.  It may not always be a physical strength, it may be only be spiritual strength that He will give. In either case, His strength is what we seek.  It will not fail us.
Full color drawing of a white headed eagle.
White Headed Eagle--Taken from Birds of Prey, Prang's Natural History Series for Children
By Norman Allison Calkins, Illustrator Unknown
L. Prang & Co., Boston, 1878
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