When everything fails

I’m currently reading in the book of Isaiah, about 20 chapters in, to the part where God pronounces judgment on different nations. To be honest, it’s not a section I look forward to or revel in. In the past I probably would have summarized the chapters as:

Chapter 16: God judges Moab
Chapter 17: God judges Damascus
Chapter 18: God judges Ethiopia
And so on…

But this time, either because God is opening my understanding (something I have been praying for Him to do), or because I got a new ESV study Bible, or, more likely, those two factors are working together, I am seeing some things I never saw before.

It started with the footnote on chapter 18:4-6:

Working as silently as heat or dew, God frustrates human attempts at securing the world without him. He watches until the moment is right, and then acts. This is the truth underlying the appearance of human might in history. (ESV Study Bible, p. 1272).

Then I noticed a lot of things in chapter 19, focusing on Egypt.

In verses 1-4, the “idols tremble at his presence” and there is social unrest.
In verses 5-10, the Nile is dried up, affecting their economy and daily lives.
In verses 11-15, the wisdom of Egypt (which the ESV footnote says they were famous for) fails and “the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.”

But this is not just dishing out judgment. It’s showing the futility of everything they trusted in, much like the plagues that occurred before the exodus of Israel from Egypt were not just random events but a triumph of God’s power over that of supposed deities. And why do that? Because that’s the only way they’d turn to Him, the one true God, the only One who could help them.

19 In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. 21 And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. 22 And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.

All of the terrible things in the first part of the chapter were not just a matter of judgment, but they were an evidence of mercy, to open their eyes and bring them to Himself.

And someday, Egypt, once an enemy and an oppressor of God’s people, will take its place with Israel as a blessing:

24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

A few take-aways I’ve gleaned from this section so far:

  • God is not only behind history, always observing and evaluating what’s going on, but often orchestrating it.
  • His purposes are mercy and redemption unless that mercy is spurned, and then there is nothing left but judgment. But God is patient and longsuffering, giving nations and individuals as much of a chance to repent as possible.
  • Sometimes awful things that happen are not just a matter of His judgment, but of His opening eyes to false hopes and saviors to the only true one.

What does this mean for us in our day?

If these things are true in Isaiah’s day, they’re still true now. I see a lot of people, especially young adults, despairing over the state of the world. Sometimes it seems like God is not at work. But He is. He’s doing things we can’t see with larger purposes and on a grander scale than we can take in. Some day wrongs will be made right. We can trust Him for that and for every day until then. That doesn’t mean we don’t pray, speak out, or act – God often uses those efforts. But our dependence is on Him.

Also, there are times when everything we look to or rely on is taken away or fails us. That’s an opportunity to look to Him. That was my situation when I was saved: my family was falling apart, my parents were divorcing, we moved from everything familiar to a large metropolis, I had no contact with friends for a while. I felt like the rug had been completely pulled out from under me. I’d had encounters with the gospel and believed to an extent, but at this time everything crystallized for me. I became aware of deep spiritual need and cast myself on God in a way I hadn’t before. It’s not that God orchestrates problems in our lives to create a need for Him: rather, He strips everything away to reveal a need that was already there that we couldn’t see or hadn’t paid attention to. Sometimes He has to show us that nothing else is sufficient to meet that need before we’ll turn to Him. It may seem terrible and confusing and unsettling, it may seem like God is absent or doesn’t care. But He’s very much there, He does care, and He is acting in wisdom and mercy. He’s more than sufficient to meet any need we have.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Telling His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to share the interesting reads I’ve come across, so I have quite a list accumulated.

Love Is More Than a Choice.

How I Process the Moral Failures of My Historical Heroes. I’ve been pondering this for some time, with the thought of possibly writing a post about it, so I was glad to see some thoughts very similar to my own.

Pray Them Home: Three Prayers to Pray for Prodigal Children.

The Father Who Eliminates Shame.

Ecumenical vs. Evangelical, HT to Challies. A good, concise summary of the history and the issues involved.

The Not So Simple Life. “No matter where you land on this simplicity spectrum, all of these endeavors don’t satisfy the peace we hope to gain from the ‘simple life’…Even simplification is a vain pursuit when it takes up so much room in our minds and our hearts.”

Don’t Take This Personally. “We each cast ourselves as the star (and director and producer) in our own movie. All our life’s plots revolve around us. And all the people in our relationships are supporting actors. But here’s the catch: The supporting actors in our movies are actually busy starring in their own movies.”

Dear Girl: Please Don’t Marry Him. “Your fear of breaking off the relationship should be obliterated by the fear of making a foolish marital choice which is far, far worse.” I don’t know anything about this author, but thought this was a good article.

Teens Who Choose Life in Unplanned Pregnancies Need Support and Respect, Not Shame, HT to Challies. Being pro-life is not just a matter of being anti-abortion.

The Art of Days. Seeing beauty in the everyday tasks.

Let Your Kids In On Your Ministry.

Desire, Choice, Consequence: Building Character Through Stories, HT to Story Warren.

Member of the Family.

As You Grow, So Should Your Dresses.

Is the ESV Literal and the NIV Gender Neutral? HT to Challies. Very little, if any, translation from one language to another is literally word for word the same, due to differences in sentence construction, words for which there are no equals, etc.

6 Keys to Help You Be the Boss of Your Blog.

The Numbers Trap, HT to True Woman.

Is Screen Time the Enemy of Reading? I almost didn’t read this, figuring I knew where it was going to go, but I was pleasantly surprised.

To a Schoolgirl in America: Writing Advice From C. S. Lewis.

Free ebooks, HT to Worthwhile Books.

I saw this on a friend of a friend’s Facebook, and I don’t know who originated it, but I think it’s great. The OT is so much more than moralistic stories.

What the Bible's About

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement of site or author.)

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This is my first chance in a couple of weeks to share noteworthy reads discovered around the web in that time. Enjoy!

A Case For Christian Magnanimity.

The Hero of the Story Is Always God.

Why Doesn’t Our Faith Move Mountains?

The Providence of God in History.

5 Christian Cliches That Need to Die.

When Does Old Age Arrive? I’m facing a milestone birthday next year, and I found this very encouraging.

Mothers in the Church.

Learning to Let Go. “Even though a parent’s spiritual influence is so important, I was never meant to fill the place that only God can in my daughter’s life. He is a better teacher, protector, and guide than I can ever be.”

Which Expired Foods Are Okay to Eat.

And a few concerning the holiday season:

Evangelism, the Holidays, and My Atheist Grandpa.

5 Ways to Make the Holidays More Peaceful.

Navigating Family Tensions at the Holidays.

The Problem With Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs.

No wonder our pets get confused sometimes. 🙂

dog-under-tree

And finally, this brought a smile that I am sure my fellow Southerners will understand:

honey

Happy Saturday!

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I’ve discovered some great reads around the Web recently. Here are the latest:

Treat Yourself to the Voice of God. “We’re prone to take one of the single greatest gifts available to us and treat it as a life-sucking obligation rather than a life-giving opportunity.”

After my post about Principles For Interpreting the Bible, I was pleased to see “Contending For Old School Hermeneutics” said some of the same things but also said some things I didn’t.

The Whole Sentence Matters. An illustration of the above, how one “popular” verse changes meaning a bit when read with the verse above it.

Kindness Changes Everything, and it’s different from just being “nice.”

Waiting to Die, HT to Challies. Working through the dark thoughts and emotions that come with a terminal diagnosis.

On Empty Nests, Christian Mommy Guilt, and Misplaced Identity by Jen Wilkin. “It’s as if our love is a cosmic batch of heart-shaped cookies we must divvy up. Give anyone more cookies than Jesus and your identity is misplaced. But shouldn’t there be a way to give Jesus all the cookies without depriving our families as well?”

A Prayer For Kindred Spirits. “The nurturing of just one kindred spirit can be enough to keep the voices at bay. It’s as if this secret I’ve been carrying around, afraid to share, has been loosed into the world, and it’s okay. There’s nothing like the deep, soul hug which takes place when realizing you’re amongst those who know the kind of person you really are. And it’s okay.”

3 Reasons Your Small Group Is Not the Church.

4 Practical Guidelines For Reading Old Testament Stories.

Do’s and Don’ts For Visiting Someone With Alzheimer’s.

Everyone Can Do Something.

9 Things You Should Know About Mother Teresa.

[Food and the Bible] When Eating Is Sinful.

Spelling Out Unconditional Love.

The High Calling of Bringing Order From Chaos. Sometimes I feel frustrated that this is such a constant battle, but this helps give it perspective.

Old Books, Disagreements, Loving People, HT to Worthwhile Books. Reasons to read books that contain things you disagree with.

Permission Not To Change a Thing. With all the nice photos on Pinterest and plethora of decorating and house-flipping shows, sometimes we feel a constant urge to do something to our homes. It’s certainly not wrong to redecorate or freshen things up or even do a grand remodeling. But it’s also ok not to.

With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow, there are a lot of articles about it. I’ve only read a couple in depth so far: “We’re the only plane in the sky” about the president and those with him the first 8 or so hours (warning: a bit of bad language) and The Story Behind the Haunting 9/11 Photo of a Man Falling From the Twin Towers.

That’s it for today – hope you have a good Saturday.