Wow, sisters. I am humbled and overwhelmed with the amazing testimonies shared by Karen, Stephanie, and Deena. I am so moved that you shared so deeply and I am praising God for the grace He has lavished in your lives. Wow. Again, I’m overwhelmed. Thank you so much.
I was going to start working through the gospels to meditate on the passion of Christ because this is supposed to be a Lenten devotional. I’m not a big fan of the “open the Bible and see where you land” approach to hearing from the Word of God. BUT, whew! I opened the Bible today and my eyes immediately landed on Isaiah 59:2--
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.
Well, Lent is traditionally about repentance but in this century of the church we don’t really like to dwell on sin and sound harsh. But let’s face it, our sin is the reason Christ suffered and died. And we need to take it seriously and personally.
So my attention was grabbed and I started to read all of Isaiah 58 and 59 from a devotional point of view. I won’t quote all of the two chapters but I wanted to share portions with you so you can meditate and be nourished along with me. I’m not going to comment extensively, but I’ll put some of my thoughts in black and then you can share your thoughts.
Isaiah 58:5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Okay, I could preach on this alone all day long. It is certainly challenging to me because I am not concerned enough with these things. I think evangelicals as a whole have a narrow focus on what the gospel is. We over-correct for the way we’ve seen the church in the past focus on social needs to the exclusion of spiritual needs.
Also, often I/we look at church as a place for our own needs to be met. I know I could use a lot less focus on myself. The last line of verse 7 is especially speaking to me.
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
THEN…. THEN… Grace is by definition free. Yet, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously noted, grace is free but it is not cheap. It cost Christ everything. We have an obligation of love to respond to the grace that has been lavished on us by being concerned about what God is concerned about and loving as he loved. THEN we will experience the manifest pleasure of the LORD.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
This verse has long spoken to me of rebuilding the walls of our families after they have been devastated by generational sin and family dysfunction. We do not have to be bound by generational curses. The devastation can stop in our generation. We can be the repairers of broken walls, the home builders. Our children do not have to suffer what we have suffered.
59:1 - Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.
From verses 3-14 some of the phrases that caught me include:
… your tongue mutters wicked things. (v.3)
…Their feet rush into sin (v.7)
… We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves.(v.11)
Anyone been moaning or growling lately?
Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities (v.12)
uttering lies our hearts have conceived. (13)
Brings to mind a favorite verse of mine in 1 John that says God is greater than our hearts. Even our hearts can lie to us but we can look to God for the truth about our own selves.
Picking up at v. 15b
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm worked salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
18 According to what they have done,
so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes…
He was appalled! Do you love it! And he was the only one who was able to completely do something about it. He himself intervened (and intervenes) in our dire situation. He put on the same armor that Paul instructs us to don in Ephesians 6! The armor we put on is the armor the Redeemer Himself took into action! And we know that turned out well!
…men will fear the name of the LORD,
and from the rising of the sun,
they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.
20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.
21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD.
LOVE the imagery of verse 19 – the pent-up flood of God’s glory… His breath that gave us life to start with (Genesis 2:7) and that breathes the Holy Spirit into us (John 20:22).
And I cling to the promise of God’s Spirit for my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren….
Well, this is a lot of ground to cover and it calls forth a thousand thoughts. But I thought I’d share some of my reflections with you and then listen to what grabs you out of these verses.
Love you - Kimberly