Devotions on Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20, 37:1-7, 2:1-4
November 10-16, 2014
What do you do when tragedy strikes? The doctor walked into the hospital room and told Mike that Mike had cancer. It wasn’t a “good” cancer and it was stage four. There was only a twenty-five percent survival rate. Mike was beyond stunned. Suddenly all of his hopes and dreams came crashing down, and Mike’s faith was shaken to its foundations.
The people of Jerusalem were surrounded by the Assyrian army. Things looked hopeless. Their understanding of the world–that they were God’s chosen people–was being shattered. Do they surrender, give up and hope that the Assyrians will be merciful, or do they continue to hope in the Lord.
Whether it’s cancer, being surrounded by an alien army, receiving a pink slip, or a late night call, life is filled with events that threaten our lives and shake our faith. In these circumstances we are given the opportunity to decide how we will respond. Will we cave in and give up or will we trust that God is present, powerful and moving. When all else fails we must ask ourselves, “Is God up to the task?”
Faithful Lord, life overwhelms us at times. Though our faith is shaky, help us to trust in you and rest in your embrace. Amen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
“Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord” (Isaiah 36:15).
Frequently things go from bad to worse. We lose our job and then the car breaks down. We find out that we have cancer and it has metastasized. The high school calls and we are told that our son or daughter is not only failing classes but is also using drugs. A faith that was shaky now begins to fade. The representative from the invading army tells us not to depend on the Lord.
As we look around at our physical world,and things appear to have changed. What was once seen as controllable suddenly becomes uncontrollable. Where there was once a glimmer of hope it now seems dark and hopeless. Some things in our lives may have changed, but many things remain consistently the same. God’s steadfast love is one. God’s promise that nothing will ever be able to separate us from God remains. The presence of God is assured and God’s power cannot be decreased.
When things go from bad to worse, it is good to look away from them. (Don’t deny their existence, but don’t be overwhelmed by them either.) Focus on God, who never changes and who has the power to create good from evil.
Loving God, thank you for your promise that nothing can separate us from you. Empower us that we may boldly live life in that knowledge. Amen.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
“Make you peace with me and come out to me” (Isaiah 36:16).
Life isn’t simple and at times the choices are hard. The Assyrians were offering (if they meant it) a way to end the war and live peacefully. That’s not a bad path to take, though it came with a price. The people in Jerusalem and their king had a difficult choice to make.
It is easy to say that God always gives us the victory, but that just isn’t true—at least a victory in our eyes. There are times when the cancer or other illness cannot be cured. Relationships break apart and cannot be put back together. Children make bad choices that cause them—and others—a lot of pain and suffering. We may be tempted to say that God has failed, but there’s another view-point.
God never promised to take the pain out of life, but only to share the pain with us. There are times when we may need to stop pounding on the gates of heaven for healing and victory and, instead, open our hands and heart and release the situation to God. Our song changes from “We Shall Overcome” to “Abide with Me,” or “Amazing Grace.” We find rest and peace in God’s embrace.
O Wise One, we cannot see what you can see or understand life like you can. Comfort our troubled hearts, quiet our fears and enable us to find rest and peace in you. Amen.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
“Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard” (Isaiah 37:6).
Faith has a short shelf life. God may do great things in our lives one day—things that cause us wonder and awe, and inspire us to be thankful. We wake up the next morning and we wonder if God will walk with us, love us, and move in our lives. This is what happened in Hezekiah’s life.
The Lord had moved powerfully in Hezekiah’s life. It wasn’t as if Hezekiah hadn’t seen answers to prayers or miracles, he had. Yet, when he was surrounded by the Assyrian army he wondered if God had “left the building.”
There’s no magic wand that takes away our doubt and shaky faith. We can practice some spiritual disciplines that help us, however. We can remember what God has done. We can be still before God and let God speak to us in the silence. We can surround ourselves with God’s people and accept their prayers and their words of encouragement and assurance. We can confess our struggles, ask for the Spirit’s help, and step into a new day.
Forgiving God, one man approached Jesus and said, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” We echo that man’s prayer and ask that you move in our hearts and in our lives. Amen.
Friday, November 14, 2014
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established” (Isaiah 2:1).
The prophet was not specifically referring to the hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem called Calvary. Still, we can certainly say that it was there on the cross of Christ that the Lord’s kingdom was established. Jesus’ message was “Repent and believe, for the Kingdom of God has come!” We as disciples of Jesus Christ continue that proclamation.
It is on that hill that our relationship with God is restored. It is on that hill that we see the immensity of God’s love for us. It is on that hill that we see what life in God’s kingdom is and what life in general is all about.
God’s Kingdom has been established on that hill and life will never be the same.
Loving Lord, thank you for the gift of Jesus and for all that he accomplished by his life, death and resurrection. May it always shape and direct our lives. Amen.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:3).
Religion is not an acceptable topic of conversation in much of the world. The subject incites too much conflict, so we both agree and disagree in silence. Personally, we don’t want to be known as people who jam our religion down other people’s throats or appear unaccepting of other people’s thoughts or ideas. We decide to take the safe path and limit our conversation to the weather, sporting events and the latest news on CNN.
God’s Kingdom is not one of judgment, nor one of conflict. It is a Kingdom of invitation. The lives of subjects of that Kingdom are shaped as much by that Kingdom as they are by the nation in which they live. The Kingdom’s subjects are invited to experience the love and grace of God along with God’s comfort, strength, peace and hope daily. Molded by the Kingdom and by a relationship, the lives of the subjects—their words and deeds—become paths of invitation.
Invitations to come to the mountain of the Lord are not effectively broadcast on radio or television waves. Invitations are extended on a one to one basis. Those who have experienced life in the Kingdom—God’s love and grace—share that love and grace with others. They do this in the parameters of a relationship. Their words and deeds speak the invitation. Others receive the invitation. They can either accept it or reject it, but the invitation is never rescinded. There are no barriers to entering the Kingdom of the Lord.
O Holy Spirit, make us bold and loving in our words and actions that people may receive the invitation to live in your Kingdom and accept it. Amen.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).
God has his own recycling program. There will be a day when swords will be melted down and made into plows and spears will be shaped into pruning hooks. There will no longer be any war between nations. What a picture of peace and tranquility.
It will take a while for peace to be established between nations. Until that time, we can have our own recycling program. We can recycle our hate into love and our unforgiving attitude into words and actions of forgiveness. Our self-centeredness can be reshaped into service for others and our selfishness into generosity. This recycling program leads not only to transformed lives, but also to new life.
God of Peace, in a world so full of conflict, may you empower us to be peacemakers. Amen.