August 1, 2017 Bible Study — There Is No Other God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 43-47.

    This passage is so chock-full of things I want to write about that I do not know where to start. So, I will start with the first thing that came to me as I read it through for the first time (I usually read the passage at least twice before I start writing). The writer begins today’s passage by telling the people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, that God has told them not to be afraid because He has ransomed them. God will gather them together from the distant corners of the earth. He will instruct the earth to gather them together for Him. Then comes the interesting part, God tells those gathering His people together to gather everyone who claims Him as their God. Throughout today’s passage this theme keeps coming up, the prophet refers again and again to the fact that God will welcome all who claim Him as their God. Through this prophet, God predicted that people from every nation and ethnicity would claim Him as their God and this has come to pass.

    The main theme in today’s passage, around which several other themes wind (such as the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph), is that there is no god other than God. Nothing and no one is comparable to Him. The prophet goes on to write about the different ways in which people make their own gods from wood or from precious metals. The writer does not list this out, but there is another way in which people create their own gods, they do so by the works of their minds. Some people become enamored of the products of their mind. They begin to worship their own thoughts, or the thoughts of others. Throughout history various people have come up with ideas which they believe will allow them to predict the future. In modern times, we call these ideas “science”. While there is some utility in using science to predict the future, whenever we become convinced that we understand this world well enough that we no longer need God, God shows us how limited our science truly is. Those who put their full trust in science rather than God will soon discover that it is no more reliable for what is important than an image made of wood, or one made of precious metals.

    The final theme in today’s passage which I want to touch upon is the writer’s disdain for those who believe that, when He made them, God got it wrong. Whether it is those who believe that their hair is the wrong color, or their nose the wrong shape, or their sex the wrong one, in every case what they are truly saying is that God got it wrong. We are to God as clay is to the potter. If God decided to make us a “vase”, than a “vase” is what we were meant to be. It gains us nothing to argue that we should be a “pot”. We are what God has made us and desiring to be something else will only result in unhappiness. However, if God made you a “vase”, He made you one according to HIS specifications, not according to any human’s. So, if God has created you a man, or a woman, listen to what He tells you that means. Do not allow the people of this world to define what it means to be a “man”, or to be a “woman”, not even if they go to the same congregation you do. This is where it gets complicated because those who are seeking to serve God may provide an avenue through which God will tell you what it means to be what He has made you. But listen closely for His words and seek what He has to tell you and reject those who speak only with human wisdom.
    As a Church we have become lost because we did not talk about this when people started to be unhappy with the shape God made their nose, or the color He chose for their hair, or the myriad other ways in which people objected to the way God chose for them to look. God has a purpose in the way in which He shaped us, rather than reject it, let us embrace it.

July 31, 2017 Bible Study — A Straight Path Through The Wilderness

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 39-42.

    My first thought when I read where this passage talks about Clearing the way for the Lord and how transient people are was about how so often we set aside God’s directions for human ideas. Time and again I have heard people in the Church say that a particular passage, which they do not like, was written in a “different time”. They will say that life was different then, or the culture was different. Those passages no longer apply because people have changed. However, God knows how people change over time and His commands and instructions cut through the mountains and valleys of culture. God’s word will straighten the curves and fill in the rough places of human culture. If we follow the Scripture we will see that they clear a path through the wilderness of the culture around us.

    What I wrote in that previous paragraph is a bit of a stretch from the message I think the writer meant to convey, but it is consistent with what he wrote later in this passage. He tells us that the words of Scripture go back to before the world began. I do not think he means that literally. What it means to me is that the commands given in Scripture, the instructions in those passages which some of us dislike, are expressions of God’s intent from before He made the first human. The author addresses the idea that people have changed, that culture has changed, so that those passages no longer apply in chapter 41 verses 21-24. Those “changes” that supposedly invalidate the words of God are no more than idols. They are unable to tell us what is going to happen in the future. In fact, their very premise is that they cannot tell us what is going to happen in the future. Worse than that, those “new” ideas are unable to make things better now. They fail to show us a path into the future, and they fail to aid us today.

July 30, 2017 Bible Study — The Ruling Class Believes That They Are God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 36-38.

    The official message given by the Assyrian chief of staff contained a modicum of respect. It lays out the reasons why King Hezekiah and Jerusalem cannot withstand the Assyrian army: Egypt is too weak to defend them, King Hezekiah had insulted God by forcing everyone to worship Him in Jerusalem (indicating a lack of understanding about God), The King of Assyria had more spare warhorses than Hezekiah had soldiers, and God Himself had told the Assyrians to attack Judah. While this is somewhat arrogant (claiming that God had sent them to conquer) and demonstrates a lack of understanding of God’s will (not realizing that centralizing the worship of God in Jerusalem was God’s will), It is not blasphemous, or something which would otherwise anger God. However, when the Assyrian chief of staff went “off script” and revealed what the Assyrians really thought he went too far. In his address to the people on the walls of Jerusalem, and then Sennacherib’s letter to Hezekiah a short time later, they revealed what they truly thought of themselves and of God.

    The Assyrians did not believe that God was any more than the gods of the other nations. I believe that the Assyrians did not believe that there truly were any gods. Or, at least, the ruling class of Assyria did not believe there were any gods. They believed that they themselves were gods. They were convinced that nothing and no one could stop them from doing whatever they pleased. As this passage demonstrates, whenever people begin to believe that they cannot be held accountable, that they are the sole arbiters of what they can accomplish, God is prepared to show them that they are mistaken. There can be no doubt that no human agency was involved in preventing the Assyrians from conquering Jerusalem. There was no human agency that was capable of preventing the Assyrians from conquering Jerusalem. Nevertheless, not only did the Assyrians fail to conquer Jerusalem, they never even laid siege to the city. I am sure that, in the day, many people said that Jerusalem got lucky because plague struck the Assyrian army before Sennacherib could turn his army to attack Jerusalem. However, those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear knew (and know) that this was the hand of God, not just coincidence.

July 29, 2017 Bible Study — A Righteous Ruler Is Coming

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 32-35.

    I hear people complain about the corruption of government all of the time, but they never think about what sort of society is required in order to have an honest, just, and righteous government. In this passage Isaiah describes those conditions. We will continue to have a corrupt, and even evil, government as long as ungodly fools are held up as heroes and people have respect for scoundrels. As long as we hold up people who lie to convict the poor as people to be emulated we will have corrupt and evil government. Until the complacent among us begin to beat their breasts in sorrow over the evil being done around us, and not just by government officials, nothing will change.

    Later in the passage, the prophet reminds us that most people do not really want an honest and just government. The godless find such a society unbearable. Living in it is like being in a devouring, all-consuming fire for them. Only those who are honest and fair, who do not attempt to profit from fraud and deception will find a society with an honest, just, and righteous government to be a comfortable place to be. If you do not avoid all enticements to do wrong you are kidding yourself if you say that you want an honest government. All too often what people mean when they say they want a less corrupt government is that they want a government corrupt in their favor. However, the day is coming when God is going to bring about His rule upon all of mankind. In that day, only the honest and upright will thrive. Are we preparing ourselves for that day>

July 28, 2017 Bible Study — It Is Not Enough To Say That We Desire to Honor God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 29-31.

    This passage says some things that are often misused and misapplied. In chapter 29 verse 13 the prophet accuses people of following worship practices which are nothing more than man-made rules learned by rote. This passage has often been used to attack those who believe in a traditional interpretation of Christianity. There is something to this. All too often we get caught in the rut of doing things because we have always done them that way. There may have been good reasons for doing things the way we do them, but we have forgotten those reasons and do things that way because that was how we were taught to do them. When that happens we are in danger of following practices which result in the exact opposite of the purpose for which they were created. On the other hand, many times this passage is used to argue for throwing out practices and beliefs which still serve a useful purpose in favor of rules which themselves were created purely in human minds.

    In both cases, the key part of the verse comes before the part which is most often referenced. The prophet tells us that it is not enough to honor God with our lips. We may utter the most pious platitudes and sayings, we may give God credit for every good thing we perceive to have happened, but if our hearts are not aligned with Him, if doing God’s will is not our heart’s desire, then we are hypocrites. No matter how wise we are, no matter how smart we are, we are not wise enough and we are not smart enough to make better plans than God’s plans. If you do not understand why God gives the commands He gives, do not assume that you know better. Study the traditions you follow, make sure that they are truly God’s commands and not just man-made rules. Seek God and you will find Him and His will. Of course, if you instead seek justification for doing your own will, you will find that as well.

July 27, 2017 Bible Study — If Our First Priority Is Bringing Glory To God, Our Path Will Be Smooth

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 26-28.

    The key element of today’s passage comes to me in verses 7-9 in chapter 26. God smooths out the way ahead of those who are righteous. It may not always seem that way to us, but the prophet tells us how it works. Those who are righteous will trust in God because God not only is God righteous, but HE is the source of all righteousness. Those who trust in God keep His commandments, not because they are commandments but because they trust that God knows what He is doing. God gives us the commandments He does because He loves us. Those commandments are designed to lead us onto the path which God has smoothed out for us. In the long run, Life becomes difficult for us when we try to take the “easy way” of not following God’s commands. When we do that we are demonstrating that we do not trust God.

    I got to the end of that and realized that I had not properly set the stage for the observations in the previous paragraph. Part of what makes the path smooth for the righteous is that their heart’s desire, the thing they desire more than anything else, is for their actions to glorify God. They seek God and His will morning, noon, and night. They actively seek to bound with God and to do His will. Life becomes much easier if bringing glory to God is more important to us than gaining glory, or wealth, or pleasure for ourselves.

July 26, 2017 Bible Study — God Calls Us To Mourn the Coming Disaster

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 22-25.

    I am not able to fully extract the message of this passage. However, part of that message is a warning to those who see the invaders coming and plan their defense without calling on God. I see it all around me, people who see how the degradation of our culture is leading to the collapse of our civilization, but fail to turn to God. Instead, they seek to implement their own defenses against the disaster they see coming. I, also, know people who see the oncoming collapse of our civilization and, rather than mourn the suffering which will follow, party while times are good.

    And this is where I am missing something. The prophet tells us that those who mourn the suffering that is coming for those who do not follow the Lord will rejoice when that judgment comes (or perhaps at some time after that). In chapter 24, verse 11 the prophet tells us that gladness will be banished from the land as a result of God’s curse. Yet in chapter 24, verse 14 he tells us that all who are left will shout and sing for joy while they praise the Lord’s majesty. The prophet tells us that God is going to be bringing a disaster upon the entire earth, suffering for all. And yet, He will, at the same time, provide refuge for the needy.
    Let us mourn now for the suffering those who reject God will experience. Perhaps by doing so we can convince others to turn to Him, so that when that disaster strikes, they too will be able to say:

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

July 25, 2017 Bible Study — Tragedy Causes People To Look To God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 17-21.

    I am not sure that my title today quite captures what this passage says to me today. The prophet predicts the downfall of Damascus, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Egypt, Cush (Ethiopia), Babylon, Edom and Kedar (Arabia). The writer describes how when the disaster he is predicting comes to pass, the people will turn to God. The disaster will come because people have forgotten God, they no longer honor or worship Him. As a result of this failure to honor God all of their efforts to obtain wealth are futile. While the prophet initially refers to the people of Israel coming back to God after disaster strikes, he later predicts that the people of other nations (Egypt and Cush in this passage) will come to God after disaster strikes their land.
    There are two points I want to focus on. Let us not forget God when times are good and thus bring disaster upon ourselves and those around us. And, let us remember that sometimes God allows disaster to strike in order to give us the opportunity to show Him to those who might never otherwise be receptive to His love.

July 24, 2017 Bible Study — God’s Judgment Will Strike Every Person And Every Nation

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 13-16.

    Today’s passage describes how the destruction of a powerful nation will bring tragedy and destruction beyond its borders. The prophet Isaiah prophesies the fall of Babylon before Babylon had risen to dominance. He warns against celebrating that fall, since it will have far reaching impact. The fall of Babylon (or perhaps the fall of Assyria) will lead to death and destruction in other nations as well. There are really two messages in this passage. One I have already mentioned: the destruction of a powerful nation will have disastrous consequences for other nations which might wish for that destruction. We should pray that the wicked turn from their sins before God’s judgment falls upon them because the results of God’s judgment will be unpleasant, at best, for everyone.

    The second message is that no matter how powerful a nation or person, when God casts judgment on it, or them, they will be brought down. In the long run, each and every one of us will face death and the grave. The rich and powerful will in the end face the same fate as the poor and destitute. All will be held accountable by God and the power you accumulate in this world will not protect you from His judgment.

July 23, 2017 Bible Study — Messianic Prophecies and Why We Need a Messiah

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Isaiah 9-12.

    This is a very messianic passage and, as a Christian, I view it as a prophecy concerning Jesus. However, I am going to try to look at this as those before Christ would have read it. Before I get to that I want to write about God’s judgment which came before the Messiah and how that might apply today. Judgment came upon the people of Israel because their leaders, rather than lead them to righteousness, had led them to sin and destruction. They had told them that evil was good and that good was evil. However, that is no defense for the people. They had such evil leaders because even the most powerless among them, the widows and the fatherless, had sought to take advantage of those around them. Rather than building each other up, neighbor had taken advantage of and devoured their neighbors. Rather than working together so that all might rise up the people attempted to prevent their neighbors from bettering themselves. Time and again God has brought judgment against people and nations who have gone down this path. If you want to make things better, do not wait for the leaders to lead people. Be the one setting an example for others.

    Then there is the judgement which God declared against Assyria. God had raised Assyria up to power for His own purposes. He had chosen them to bring judgment on the people of Israel, but not just the people of Israel. He had raised them up to bring destruction on those who practiced evil in other nations as well. Unfortunately, the Assyrians believed that their power was their own doing. They believed that they could do whatever they wished and no one could stand against them, that there was no power which could hold them to account. Their arrogance was their downfall. The same holds true today. Those who fail to acknowledge that there is a power greater than themselves will, sooner or later, find themselves being held accountable by that Power.
    I said at the beginning that I was going to write about the messianic prophecies in this passage, but I am going to stop here.