I’ve been reading in the book of Isaiah and many of the chapters begin with Woe to _____________.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary woe (n.) late 12c., from the interjection, Old English wa!, a common exclamation of lament in many languages (compare Latin væ, Greek oa, German weh, Lettish wai, Old Irish fe, Welsh gwae, Armenian vay). And I am lamenting my selfishness today. At the same time I am celebrating God’s faithfulness.
Every once in a while “something” happens to show me how selfish I am deep down inside and God did it again last Thursday night. I made Hot Fudge Sauce for our 5 sons for Christmas and had enough left over for a large jar for me. Do you notice anything odd about the photograph? In order to end up with a large jar for me, I had to fill the sons’ jars only 2/3s of the way. The Holy Spirit convicted me about it over night, and I even tried to rationalize it with Him. “I did that because the sauce was so hot and I didn’t want the jars to break,” I fudged.
In the morning, I heated up my jar in the microwave and divided it between the sons’ jars. It was exactly enough to fill them all nicely to the top with NOTHING left over. I was glad I did it, but it was a struggle.
It just goes to show how deeply our selfishness is rooted. And what a faithful gardener God is to root it out.
For the word of God is living and all-efficient, and much sharper than a double edged sword, and it pierces to the separation of soul and spirit and of joints, marrow and of bones, and judges the reasoning and conscience of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
I never realized until recently, the relationship between unbelief and disobedience. Conversely, the relationship between belief and obedience are just as strong.
See the mini-word studies below:
How much of our disobedience comes from not really taking God’s words seriously and instead deciding that we are the ones to listen to?
Focusing on God’s awesomeness.
As a tent-making missionary, I’m a curriculum coordinator at an American school in Costa Rica. As Mike and I are preparing to return to the States after 17 years on the mission field, the first question my co-workers ask is, “Why are you going back NOW?” followed by a list somewhat like this: “There’s no good candidate to vote for, healthcare’s a mess, and the country is polarized.” And yes, we also run into conspiracy theorists here and from the states.
I can’t pretend that there are not times when a bit of worry creeps in. But God. It’s always “but God,” isn’t it? But God showed me this passage from Isaiah.
11 For in this way the Lord spoke to me with His strong hand [upon me] and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people [behaving as they do], saying,
12 “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear nor be in dread of it.
13 “It is the Lord of hosts whom you are to regard as holy and awesome.
He shall be your fear,
He shall be your dread [not man].
14b “Then He shall be a sanctuary [a sacred, indestructible shelter for those who fear and trust Him]; (Isaiah 8:11-14b)
At the time the situation in Israel was terrible–they had an evil King (Ahaz), several countries were ready to pounce on Israel, and there was a spiritual famine and drought in the land. Fear against these things can put us on crooked courses to preserve our own security, where a believing fear (reverence) preserves us against a disquieting fear of man (M. Henry).
In chapter 1, God speaks to Judah through His prophet, Isaiah, about the choices they’ve made–choices we can make as well.
…The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. v. 3
To know means to know experientially, not just intellectually. And to understand means to show oneself discerning and consider diligently. Further, in v. 4 God says that His people have despised the Holy One of Israel. It sounds–and is–terrible when we read about it and I know I immediately begin to judge the people of Judah, but the better choice is to ask God to investigate my heart and give me a spiritual check up. Am I taking the time to know Him experientially? To seek Him diligently?
Our choices lead to consequences. Always. Since our God is a God of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, He offers us the opportunity to be changed:
Come now, let us reason together says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. v. 18
Do you hear the love? The hope of change? To reason together literally means to stand in the sunshine together. It means to bring our sin to the light. To be convicted of our sin so we can turn from it. If we do not choose to reason with God, He will mercifully do what it takes to humble us and bring us back to the path of righteousness. He says,
I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. v. 26
Look at the detail God has put in our world.
Almost 9 months ago, I taught a ladies’ Bible study where I mis-taught Isaiah 28:13:
Therefore the word of the Lord to them will be [merely monotonous repetitions]:
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Rule upon rule, rule upon rule,
Here a little, there a little.”
That they may go and stumble backward, and be broken, ensnared, and taken captive.
The mis-teaching isn’t so important in this context, but my nine-month obsession with Isaiah began at that moment. And I began to study the book of Isaiah according to Isaiah 28:10:
“For He says,
‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Rule upon rule, rule upon rule,
Here a little, there a little.’”
The Amplified neatly catches the difference between the two verses. In verse 10, the drunkards were mocking Isaiah’s instructions with the Hebrew version of “Blah, blah, blah.”
In verse 13, Isaiah responds that the drunkards will never enter into true rest because the scoffers mocked with frivolous contempt what is good and upright–the precepts of God.
I do want to enter into rest and repose and so began my word-by-word study of Isaiah. I will begin sharing some of the riches with you soon, but let me say that God’s Word never disappoints. It is a marvel that fills and fulfills; gives rest and repose, when one is willing to listen.
It’s almost the end of rainbow season in Costa Rica. Each day when I walk home from work during these few months there’s either a wide rainbow in the Central Valley, and if it’s not, the very air is opalescent. 1 Peter 4:10 speaks of the manifold grace of God. The Greek word for manifold, poikilos, means “of various colors.”
Rainbow season also brings to mind the vision of God’s heart-stopping throne as is spoken of in Revelation 4:3.
28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day.This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking. And He Who sat there appeared like [the crystalline brightness of] jasper and [the fiery] sardius, and encircling the throne there was a halo that looked like [a rainbow of] emerald. Rev. 4:3
It is refreshing to be reminded of the glory of God and the multi-colored grace of God–especially at the end of a long day. The rest of the year I enjoy his multi-faceted grace in the flowers and birds and clouds around me–and during the upcoming season, enjoying the power of the torrential rains.
This morning I was studying Matthew 11: 28-30 for an upcoming Bible study and then I sat down to read Orphan Train for a few moments before school. I couldn’t believe how this quote from the front of Orphan Train matched with what I’d been studying:
In portages from one river to another, Wabanakis had to carry their canoes and all other possessions. Everyone knew the value of traveling light and understood that it required leaving some things behind. Nothing encumbered movement more than fear, which was often the most difficult burden to surrender. -Bunny McBride, Women of the Dream
We carry so many burdens that are unnecessary. And because of that we’re tired so much of the time. Down deep tired. Just reading Matthew 11:28-30 makes me sigh with relief.
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment andrecreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.
Vine’s dictionary defines burden as “the obligations Christ lays upon his followers, and styles a “burden” by way of the contrast to the precepts of the Pharisees, the observance of which was most oppressive.”
Sometimes others have such huge expectations of us and we carry burdens placed on us by others. Sometimes we are our own worst Pharisees and carry burdens not meant for us to carry, but which are meant for Jesus to carry. I need to stop and ask myself every once in a while, “Why am I carrying this/doing this/feeling this? Is it because Jesus wants me to?” If the answer is no, that burden needs to be tossed out of the canoe.