Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21

Isaiah 37:1-38:22; Galatians 6:1-18; Psalm 65:1-13; Proverbs 23:24-25

“O you who hears our prayer, to you shall all flesh come” (Ps. 65:2).

How do you respond to bad news? What do you do when something unexpected and catastrophic happens?

As the king of a large nation, Hezekiah received some pretty bad news in our Isaiah reading today. We have read this account twice before in 2 Kings 19 and 20, and then again in 2 Chronicles 32. But in Isaiah we really see into the heart and spirit of how Hezekiah responds to some really bad news.

Yesterday we read that Sennacherib king of Assyria had come into their land with plans to destroy it. This army had destroyed every nation it had attacked, and Hezekiah was facing the destruction of everything he held dear. His life and the lives of all of his people were being threatened by an evil, unstoppable force.

“As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself, and went into the house of the Lord” (Is. 37:1). He then called all the priests to join him in lifting up prayers to the Lord for God to somehow deliver them from this army. And as we read on, we saw that the Lord did in fact hear, and grant, his plea for divine intervention.

And then in the very next chapter, we read about how he became seriously ill. Isaiah came to tell Hezekiah that he would die from this illness, and as soon as he left, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord…..And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Is. 38:2-3). Again, we see Hezekiah, in deep distress and anguish over the news that was delivered to him, turn to the Lord and literally cry out to him.

How do we respond to bad news?

My dad tells the story of my great-grandfather as a new Armenian immigrant to America in the early 1900’s. My great-grandfather would get up each morning and go out to look for work for that day. If it was a good day, he would earn enough money to buy groceries on his way home to feed his family for that night. If it was a bad day, and no work was to be found, he would come home empty-handed. On one such bad day, he remembers walking through the front door and seeing all his kids gathered around the table hoping for some food to eat that day. When they saw him walk in empty-handed, they all burst into tears, knowing they were going to be left hungry. My great-grandfather just kept walking straight through that front room and went into the back room and shut the door, and fell on his knees, crying out to God, “How am I going to feed my babies?” He would spend his nights on his knees, pleading with God.

These men, Hezekiah and my great-grandfather, knew what to do when bad news came and tragedy hit. They knew what it meant to lay prostrate before the Lord, powerless to change anything in their own might, but confident that a powerful God could intervene on their behalf. Through bold and persistent prayers, they petitioned the Lord, audaciously asking for the miraculous to be done.

And God heard, and granted, their requests. God heard, and was moved to action by their supplication. We saw it in Hezekiah’s life and I saw it in my great-grandfather’s life. My grandmother, his daughter, died a rich woman. She was known for her generous table full of rich and delightful food to share with anyone who entered her home.

How do we respond to bad news? Let us walk straight through the turmoil, heading to our quiet space to meet with the Lord, and hit our knees, crying out, “O God, hear our prayer!”

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation” (Ps. 65:5)

 - Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20

Isaiah 33:13-36:22; Galatians 5:13-26; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 23:23

One of the qualities I love so much about Scripture is its consistency (Mom mentioned this characteristic earlier this week, too).  The same themes run throughout the Old and New Testaments; images are repeated; even words and phrases are used over and over.  Today's reading gives us several examples of this consistency.  Let's look at them:

Isaiah 33:15-16 reminds me of portions of Psalm 15, where the way of the righteous man is characterized by (among other things) a blameless walk, upright speech and aboveboard financial dealings.

Isaiah 35:5-10 develops the theme of reversals that we've seen before, like in Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2 or in Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1.  God takes that which is not and turns it into that which is.  Barren women give birth; deserts are filled with water; the blind and lame and deaf see and walk and hear.  God overturns the status quo, bringing life and health and wholeness and flourishing.

Galatians 5:14 is a direct quote, directing us back to Jesus and his conversation in the gospels (see Mt. 22 and Mk. 12).  In responding to the questions of the teachers of the Law, Jesus says that the second great commandment is "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk. 12:31) - but Jesus himself is quoting from Leviticus 19:18.  Paul, quoting Jesus, quoting the Old Testament.  Talk about a repeated idea; clearly, this is an important concept!

Galatians 5:22-23 (the fruit of the Spirit) is offered in contrast to vs. 19-21 (the acts of the sinful nature).  Another example of "not this, but this."

Psalm 64:7-10 are the antithesis of vs. 3-6.  The plans of the wicked are upset and overturned; their own weapons of destruction are used against them.  Yet another example of the theme of reversals.

Even the idea of "get wisdom" (Pr. 23:23) has been seen before.  Look at Proverbs 4:5 and 7, which urge us to acquire understanding, wisdom, knowledge as a foundation for good living.

God recognizes how much we need to hear and see the same truths over and over again.  We are prone to forget, prone to think we've learned this lesson.  God's goodness and love for us know better; he gently reiterates these important concepts through the steady consistency of his word.  How good of him!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.