The Well: September 1-5
September 1: Psalms 33, 34
Psalm 33 is a rapturous celebration of God’s faithfulness. His word stands firm, and all he is and does can be trusted without hesitation. The only proper response must be unfettered praise, and sincere trust in our God.
By his word he made the heavens, and all creation. This alone testifies to the majestic power and intelligence of our God. We do no live in a random world where chaos reigns. Rather, we live in God’s world, where he reigns in justice and righteousness. His truth and love are unfailing.
God reigns over his world, moving the nations and their leaders around as best suits his perfect plans. He sees all that is done on the earth, and is never taken by surprise by the actions of his creations. Again, this brings great peace to those who find refuge in his sovereignty.
Our greatest joy is found in knowing that the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him. We are never out of his view. He promises to deliver our souls from death, and bring us to life everlasting. This is our great hope, and brings purpose to our lives. We are waiting for our Lord, and until he comes, we will be glad in him, trust in him, and rejoice in his steadfast love.
Psalm 34 recounts David’s praise and thanks to God for delivering him from the hand of the Philistine king (1 Samuel 21). It is also an acrostic poem, with each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
David begins with a triumphant declaration that the Lord is his security. The psalm is an invitation to magnify the Lord along with David.
David found himself in peril, but he cried to the Lord and was delivered. The “deliverer” motif is found throughout David’s writings. He, as King was God’s deliverer, but God was his deliverer, and the One through whom all protection for Israel would come. David knew his place, and here he declares his utter dependence upon the Lord.
He urges his readers to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” How often do we miss God’s goodness by failing to run to him? How often are we so focused in “tasting” what this world has to offer that we have no time to taste the good things God has for us through obedience to him?
David ends the psalm with the recognition that pain-free living is not to be expected. Rather, what the righteous understand is God will be with them through the pain, and ultimately delivers forever those who take refuge in him.
Prayer: O Lord, you are my refuge! I have tasted again and again of your grace and love. Yet, it is common for me to become too preoccupied with things in my life. As David saw your goodness during times of trial, help me to see your greatness and love in every part of my day today, that I may bring joy to your heart, through Jesus, Amen.
September 2: Psalms 35, 36
In Psalm 35 David the king is calling on God to stand with him as he battles against the opponents of his day. He understands that, as God’s king, those who stand against him are standing against God himself.
David does not mince words. He implores God to put his enemies to shame, to turn them back, to drive them like the chaff before the wind. He asks God to make their way slippery and dark. These are the ones who have spread lies against the king, and have brought him to a place of great suffering and anxiety.
David is in a terrible place. He cries out to God “How long?” He understands God is aware of the situation, and intimately acquainted with his king’s despair. Why doesn’t God move? Why doesn’t he come to the aid of his king?
These are questions we all often ask. Why doesn’t God move according to our desires? The answer is always found in knowing God’s ways are best and right. His purpose for our lives may involve some pruning, some cutting away of pride, some re-arranging of our priorities.
David ends the psalm declaring that when deliverance comes, as it surely will, his mouth will be unrestrained in declaring the greatness of his God. His tongue will sing the praises of the Lord forever.
Psalm 36 presents the stark contrast. On one hand are those who fear God, and have come to know and find refuge in his faithful love. On the other are those who have no fear of God, and are driven by the voice of transgression in their hearts.
The wicked plot against truth, utter words of deceit as a common course, and prefer the ways of evil to good. But those who understand the steadfast love of the Lord choose a different path.
It is the love of God that has amazed the righteous. It extends to the heavens, and along with it, God’s righteousness and justice are like the great mountains. These beautiful poetic images allow our hearts to rejoice in the magnificence of our God.
Our God loves his people, and provides both safety and nourishment to all who find refuge in the shadow of his wings. Of special note is David’s asserting that “for with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”
We are reminded here that all the world is in the darkness of sin. Only through the light of life found in Jesus Christ can we see the beauty and grandeur of God’s faithful love.
Prayer: Lord, too often I take your faithful, steadfast love for granted. I wrongly assume that you exist for me when in reality, I exist for you. Help me to love you as your angels do, as your deserve, and as my hearts longs to love. Clear away my pride and selfishness and let me walk joyfully and purposefully as your child today, through the power of my Lord Jesus, Amen.
September 3: Psalms 37, 38
In this psalm David offers several important principles for living in a broken world. He is mindful that the obstacles of everyday life can erode our trust in God, and our obedience to his word.
One reason our faith may wane is the prosperity of the evil ones in our world. Why to the wicked prosper? David sees it, but advises us not to fret over them. Rather, we should trust in the Lord. He sees all and will settle all the accounts in his time.
The smart play is to commit our lives to the Lord, to sincerely trust that what he asks and where he leads is always our very best option. At times this will mean being still, waiting, believing God will always work to bring about his purposes in our lives. God is never late, while we are often much too early.
David describes what we all know: there is a battle going on between the wicked and the righteous. The wicked seem to prosper, and have much. But David is clear. Better is a little when combined with righteousness than the fortune of the wicked. This life is not the final chapter. The wicked will perish while the righteous will dwell with God. We’ve simply got to keep our eyes on the finish line.
When all is said and done, it will be seen that the salvation found in our God is the stronghold now in time of trouble. We live now in light of the future, resting in the promises of God.
Psalm 38 gives us a portal into David’s soul, and his anguish over his sin. He declares “my iniquities are over my head.” He is overwhelmed with the reality of his own sinfulness, the depth of his own selfishness.
How long has it been since you felt the terror of your own sinfulness? It is a terrible thing to allow our hearts to be so hardened by sin that it no longer hurts us when we reflect on the way we live. David here models what ought to be a consistent thing in our lives.
It is important to note that David’s despair drives him to the Lord rather than away. Too often our sinful actions, and their painful consequences, become a reason to turn away from God, to belittle his love, and scoff at his promises. But, for the righteous, adversity turns our faces toward our God who alone can heal our brokenness. David confessed his sin, admitting his sorrow, and found God waiting to surround him in love.
Prayer: O Lord, I have become very good at rationalizing my sinfulness. I have made a place for pet sins in my life, refusing to acknowledge that they are arrows aimed at your loving heart. Forgive me Lord, for ever thinking I knew better than you do about what is the best way for me to live. Fill me up with your ways. Make my heart rejoice is what you love, and allow me to rest in the comfort of your truth, through the Spirit who dwells in me, Amen.
September 4: Psalms 39, 40
This short psalm begins with David’s resolution to guard his tongue. He realizes words can hurt, and can hinder his ability to reflect the glory of his God.
Not much has changed. We all regret things we’ve said, or the way we’ve said them. The tongue can start a huge fire with a small, unfiltered spark.
David’s remedy is to plead with God to show him just how fleeting life is. David realizes his life is such a short span, and he must use every day, every hour, for good purposes. He calls upon his God to guard him from sin, and allow him to make the most of the years he has left.
In our day we seldom contemplate death. We don’t like to think about the fact that our time here on earth is actually quite short. David was not like us. He realized one of the more powerful restraints on his tongue and other vehicles of sin was to understand just how short his life would be. It was this sobering thought that motivated him to take every thought and word captive, and use whatever time and means he had to testify to the greatness and glory of his God.
Psalm 40 describes David’s heart of thanks for the faithfulness and delivering power of his God. He reminds the readers of his recent past when he was in distress, as though in a deep pit. He cried out to God, and God heard and responded in rescue.
We read this theme often in David’s psalms. But it is not as though each one corresponds to a drastic military conflict. Rather, David seems to have been a man who wrestled with the obstacles of daily life. He had a heart for God, but was surrounded by the wickedness of this world with all of its distractions and temptations. These he pictured as spiritual battles, and it was from this vantage point that he cried out to his God constantly.
David can testify to the blessings enjoyed by those who makes the Lord his trust. This does not mean wealth and health are guaranteed. It does mean the Lord will accomplish his purposes in our lives. Remember, God has saved us, not to fulfill our desires, but to accomplish his glory in and through us.
At the end of his psalms David almost always comes back to this: No matter the situation, our best option is to say continually “Great is the Lord … You are my help and my deliverer!”
Prayer: Father, you are the great deliverer of my soul, and Lord of my life. And, while I too often go off on my own, pursuing the wicked desires of my heart, I do love you. Forgive my wandering heart O Lord, and strengthen my understanding of your truth so that I may walk well, for your glory before a watching world, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
September 5: Psalms 41, 42
Psalm 41 is a short cry of the heart from a leader who has become despondent over his sin and its consequences. David cries out to God, reminding him of the promise to be near to those repent and return.
It may seem strange that the psalm begins with a reminder that God blesses those who consider the poor. In David’s day – as in ours! – sincere faith in God is evidenced by our relationship with those who are weak, and cannot take care of themselves. James 1:27 reminds us that true and undefiled religion is seen as benefiting the widow and orphan.
David admits his plight has resulted from his own sin. Yet, he has repented, and is now resting on the promises of God. His enemies are gleeful at his desperate situation, and David calls on God to right the situation.
The point of this psalm is the unconditional love of God for his own. He “delights” in them, and is near to the cry of the repentant heart. But repentance is hard! It demands humility, admission of guilt and weakness, as well as agreement with God that his ways are right and we’ve been wrong.
Yet, our God is a faithful God. He forgives because he has promised he would. He accepts, and reforms, and rejuvenates because he has promised he would. This is what it means when the text tells us God did something “for his name’s sake.” He is moved primarily by his own righteous character, and meets our needs as a result of his perfect integrity and faithfulness.
Psalm 42 is among the best known psalms in the Psalter. With this psalm the second of five collections that form the book of Psalms begins.
The poetic image of a deer finding water in the desert beautifully pictures the thirsty heart that longs for the water of God. Our souls are to thirst for him, recognizing that life itself depends on what he alone provides.
The author has been in torment. He has feasted on tears throughout the night longing to be refreshed by God. His soul is cast down, filled with despair. He likens it to be in the deepest of waters, with waves breaking over his head.
He has called out to God for help, for light, wondering why God has turned away and forgotten him. But has he? The psalm ends with a sharp command to his own heart. “Hope in God!” Never allow trials to turn your heart away. Rather, may they spur you on toward the heart of God.
Prayer: Lord, my life is good because of you. Despite the obstacles I face, I know you are my God, and my Savior, and my strength from day to day. Keep my near to you Lord, and guide me as I obey your truth, for your glory, Amen.
The Well: September 8 – 12
September 8: Isaiah 21, 22
In chapter 21 the prophet continues his various judgment oracles, this time against the mighty city of Babylon. In a very poetic description, he predicts a time when the destruction of the city would be visible. We see the scene through the eyes of a “watchman” whose job it is to describe the siege of Babylon, and it downfall.
The scene is so terrible that it brings pain to him. The judgment on Babylon will be so severe that the watchman will not only watch its end, but also be among the first to hear that fateful news that the city has fallen
Verses 11,12 describe God’s judgment on Edom. The text reads “Dumah” which literally means “silence” and is a word play on Edom depicting the fact that, when God is done, the land would be silenced. This Dumah
This short oracle is quite vague, but can be understood in terms of the word play mentioned above. Edom is in darkness, and they are calling to the watchman as to the time. When will this night be over? The answer brings them no satisfaction. Yes, morning is coming, but then night will come again. Perhaps the sense is, yes, Assyria’s oppression is ending, but another oppressor is coming upon you.
The chapter ends with an oracle against Arabia, where the descendants of Ishmael settled. Kedar, one of the areas of Arabia, is signaled out. It appears that the inhabitants of these areas were no match for the Assyrian invasion and have been forced to flee. God’s declaration is that ultimately, all the “glory” that once was representative of the region would be no more.
Chapter 22 shows that God does not overlook the sin of he own. When Jerusalem became as wicked as the surrounding cities and clans God turned his righteous wrath upon them as well.
This chapter divides into two sections: vs. 1-14, and vs. 15-25. The first declares Isaiah’s anger at Jerusalem for the way in which they responded to God’s deliverance from their enemies. The second focuses on two men who are leaders in the city.
The charge against Jerusalem here is their disdain for the deliverance God had given them. Instead of recognizing their own sin, which had brought about the danger, they ran up to the housetops for feasting and revelry. Isaiah understood that such behavior would only bring about the total collapse of the city at the hand of their enemies. This was fulfilled in 586BC at the hands of the Babylonian army.
The second section foretells fall of proud Shebna, and the honoring of Eliakim speak to the downfall of the proud – the secure peg – and the uplifting of those who honor God.
Prayer: Father, you are a just God, a holy God, who does not overlook our sin. I realize that, if I were to receive what I deserved, I would cease to exist. But in your grace, you have put my sin on my Savior, and through his death and resurrection I am freed from a horrible penalty, and ushered into life eternal. For this I thank and praise you, and commit my life to be a reflection of your love and truth, through Jesus, Amen.
September 9: Isaiah 23, 24
Chapter 23 describes God’s judgment concerning Tyre and Sidon. These cities, though small, had great influence in their day due to their ships, harbors, and commercial abilities. These two cities were the ports of the Phoenicia, a nation that bordered Israel and was consumed with idolatry.
Vs. 9 summarizes the judgment. God will defile the pompous pride of this pagan nation. No matter where they turn, they will not escape the judgment of God.
Vs. 12, 13 depict the severity of Assyria’s desolation of the coastal cities. If the Phoenicians fled to Cyprus, or even to Chaldea (Babylon) there would still be no refuge.
Surprisingly, at the end of the oracle there is a note of grace. There is an interval of 70 years between the first wave of judgment and the final destruction. It is here we see the providential care of God for his people. It was during this time period that the Phoenician ships were needed to supply the needs of the house of God in Jerusalem.
Chapter 24 begins a rather lengthy oracle of God against the whole earth. It runs through 27:13. These chapters are often referred to as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse.” They depict the world in cosmic terms while never losing contact with the events of the day.
Ultimately, God will judge the whole earth and its people. These verses speak directly to the accountability we all have toward our creator. One day God will settle all the accounts, and will as well deal decisively with the virus of sin that has infected the entirety of creation. But, the good news is, the righteous will dwell on the new earth, quite apart from any possibility of sin!
The description of God’s judgment on the earth is both beautifully poetic and devastatingly painful. Here we see a picture of what creation deserves because of pervasive presence of sin.
The idea that we are accountable to God, our creator, is fast becoming assigned to the area of myth in our day. But here we are brought back to the sobering truth that God is in charge, history is heading purposefully toward a goal, and God will one day make all things new. He is the judge of all, and only faith in Jesus Christ can assure that, when our day comes, we will stand and be welcomed into his presence for eternity.
Prayer: Almighty God, this chapter is a radical reminder that the earth belongs to you, as well as everything in it. Lord, I know I fall far short of your standards, your laws. And like the earth stand guilty before you were it not for the salvation you have granted me in Jesus Christ. May I live today as one brought out of darkness and into light. Help me to shine that light in my world, that all may see how you’ve changed my life, and come to love you too, through the gospel and the Spirit, Amen.
September 10: Isaiah 25, 26
In the midst of God’s pronouncement of judgment, the prophet takes time to thank and praise the Lord for his amazing grace.
Isaiah praises God for the plans and promises, made long ago, that are now being fulfilled. He has been a refuge for the poor, and a shelter from the storms.
The scene here is meant to be juxtaposed with the judgment detailed in the previous chapter. Yes, God will judge the sins of the world, but he will also bring rest and reward to his faithful ones. He will prepare a feast for them, of rich food and well-aged wine.
Of greater importance, the same God who brings death as judgment upon the wicked, will “swallow up” death forever on behalf of his own. No longer will tears, sorrow, or death plague those whose rest is in the Lord.
The great hope of the righteous will at last be fulfilled: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us!” And now he has!
The celebration continues in chapter 26. When God settles all the accounts, and brings eternal life to his faithful on the new earth, then the land of Judah will be a place of worship and praise. The people will wait on the Lord, fearing him, obeying him, and rejoicing in his presence.
Their trust will be in the Lord, and they will once again yearn for their God. This certainly speaks to the future restoration of Israel. God’s people will one day be purified, and will find the peace they are seeking, in the presence of their Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Vs. 20, 21 indicates that Israel will be enclosed safely in their chambers even as God goes forth to judge the nations.
This future restoration and reformation of Israel as a people for God’s own possession is consistent with Paul’s insistence in Romans 9-11 that God has not forsaken his people. One day Israel will be restored, in Christ, and join that throng of people from every tribe and nation under heaven who will spend eternity praising our God.
Prayer: Father, it is comforting to understand that, while judgment is certain, so also is deliverance. You Lord, are righteous and holy and cannot disregard sin. I know that one day you will return and when that happens, you will judge the wicked and usher the righteous into their eternal reward. O may you find me faithful when you come, Lord Jesus!
September 11: Isaiah 27, 28
The restoration of Israel is continued in chapter 27. “In that day”, used twice, depicts the final day, the Day of the Lord, when the books will be opened, and every account settled.
The picture in vs. 1 is of God, the mighty warrior, winning a decisive victory over the monstrous enemies that represent sin. In contrast, vs. 2ff speaks of the pleasant vineyard of the Lord. The nation of Israel is often depicted as God’s vineyard in both Old and New Testaments. While to his enemies God is a fearsome warrior, to his own he is a tender vineyard keeper.
Israel will become a place that is holy to the Lord, where no idolatrous practices will be found. In the end, the trumpet calling people to worship will draw the dispersed from the far countries. The people of Israel will once again gather in Jerusalem, to worship on God’s holy mountain.
Chapter 28 uses the judgment of God on Samaria (Ephraim) as an object lesson to the people of Isaiah’s Jerusalem. Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes, settled in the north. As it became more and more prominent it became common for this tribe to be representative of the northern Kingdom, whose capital was Samaria.
The sin of Ephraim is illustrated by the phrase “proud crown of the drunkards” (vs. 1, 3). That they reveled in their sin, and took pride in their wickedness is the point. This stands in great contrast with the “crown of glory” (vs. 5) that the Lord is to his faithful ones.
The general corruption of the nation is illustrated by the fact that the priests and prophets stagger with wine. Their tables are “full of filthy vomit with no space left.” As a result, their ability to teach and guide is severely impaired.
Vs. 9, 10 are the statements of the drunkards. They are not meant to make sense. Those responsible for teaching and leading the people in the ways of God were unable to speak anything but nonsense. The Hebrew words here are akin to babbling of a child, or the slurred, unintelligible speech of the inebriated.
Drunkenness here is not understood as their main sin, but as a picture of those devoid of proper knowledge. They had rejected God and turned to live their own way. They were “drunk” with sin, and headed for destruction.
Vs. 14 turns the attention to Jerusalem. They are to take notice of Ephraim’s plight, and respond correctly. God is laying a foundation stone in Zion, a precious corner stone. This text is repeated in the NT referring to Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the Church.
The only proper response is to turn from sin, to God, and not stumble over what God is doing.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for laying a cornerstone in my life, by drawing me to Jesus Christ. He is faithful, loving and true. Father, help me to model my Lord, to walk faithfully, act lovingly, and speak truthfully, that others might come to love you too, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
September 12: Isaiah 29, 30
Chapter 29 gives us yet another declaration of judgment against Jerusalem. The prophet uses “Ariel” to refer to Jerusalem, and more specifically to the “altar hearth” that stood at the middle of the sacrificial system. The denouncement of Jerusalem here is really centered on her rejection of true worship in favor of idolatrous practices.
Isaiah predicts a siege that will put Jerusalem in grave danger. Certainly this was pointing to the Assyrian invasion which devastated the north, and almost overwhelmed the south as well.
Had God not miraculously intervened, Jerusalem would have fallen. But he did intervene, in the days of Hezekiah (see: 2 Kings 18) and Jerusalem was saved. It is to this deliverance that vs. 5-8 refer.
But God’s deliverance was not a sign that the people were repentant. No, their sinfulness was rampant. It is described in vs. 13ff in a text quoted by Jesus in Matthew 15:8. Their worship practices were all merely external. They said and sang the right words, but it was not representative of their hearts. They were not devoted to God, but to their own forms of worship. For this they would feel the judgment of God.
Chapter 30 is God’s warning that his people should not flee to other countries in order to escape judgment. They are chastised for seeking alliances with foreign kings but remaining unwilling to ally with their own king, Almighty God.
The prophet proclaims that his people are rebellious by nature. They are unwilling to hear the truth of God! It turns them away, and they instruct their prophets and teachers to stop telling them the things of God. Imagine! Being so spiritually blind that the truth makes you sick. “Don’t tell us anymore about the Holy One of Israel” they say.
It is this total rejection of God and his truth that judgment will overwhelm them. Like the smashing of a clay pot the city and its inhabitants will be broken. This ultimately was fulfilled in 586BC as a result of the 3rd Babylonian invasion.
But, the destruction of Jerusalem will not be the final chapter. As we know, God sent his people into captivity for 70 years, but was faithful to his promise and brought them back to rebuild their city. This return becomes a preview of the ultimate escape from captivity which will be accomplished on the final day.
The national deliverance and return experienced by Israel becomes a preview, a model of the final deliverance by God of his faithful from all nations. Vs. 19-33 describe the beauty and rest and hope of such a deliverance.
Prayer: Lord, you are my song in the night, my Rock, the one who makes my heart glad. In the midst of a broken world, your steadfast love holds me together, and sets my feet on solid ground. Father, help me to look beyond my circumstances to see that all my moments are in your hands, and I can trust you with all my heart, because you have drawn me to yourself, in Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Well: September 15-19
September 15: Isaiah 31, 32
This short chapter is the word of God, through Isaiah, to those in Jerusalem who thought they could escape the judgment of God by fleeting to Egypt.
In the face of the Assyrian invasion, King Hezekiah had attempted to enter into a protective alliance with foreign powers instead of leading his people in repentance and trust in their God. He had failed to learn from history. The same strategy had not worked for his father Ahaz, and went directly against the stipulations for God’s king laid out in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
Vs. 1 states the problem. We are too prone to trust in our own devices rather than our God. Yet, it is their God who will bring disaster (literally “evil”) upon the land as judgment for their wickedness and sinful reliance on their idols.
But God will not forget his people. They have sinned, and his judgment is coming, but it will not be their end. The promise of future deliverance for the righteous, and protection for God’s own is never far from the prophet’s heart. The Assyrians will come, and there will be judgment, but God will prove faithful to his promises in the end, and it is always our best option to trust him, even in the dark.
Chapter 32 interrupts the string of judgment pronouncements to encourage the readers that all is not lost. God has not turned his face away forever. His promise to David, that one would come from him to rule (9:1-7), was not empty. One day the king would come.
This beautiful poetic chapter systematically goes through the list of things that are wrong in Jerusalem and shows how the righteous king will rectify them all. Error will no longer be called true. Folly will no longer be considered wisdom. Those who devise evil will no longer succeed but rather the noble and righteous will be lifted up.
If you are like me, you read this and long for such a day. It is often the case that we who follow Christ wonder if we have kept ourselves for God in vain. All around us error is offered as truth. Daily we are shocked by the depraved actions of those in our world. Morality seems to be a lost concept, along with honesty, nobility, decorum, and love.
But as this chapter did in Isaiah’s day, so it can do in ours. The promise of God to send the Deliverer has been fulfilled. We know Jesus is God’s son, the Redeemer, and Risen King. And one day the whole of this chapter will be a reality for us.
Let us find hope in the promise of vs. 18: “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.”
Prayer: Lord, I love you and trust you, and am so thankful that you are mine and I am yours. Hold be fast today, Father, lest my heart wander down to Egypt in search of strength. Keep me near to you, so that I may live out the truth and love that is mine as your child, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
September 16: Isaiah 33, 34
This chapter forms the final oracle of woe. It differs in that it is not directed at a nation or at God’s own people, but at the foreign power that will be used by God to bring judgment.
The prophet announces that the destroyer will one day also be held accountable. Here we have an amazing paradox. God indeed raised up Assyria to use as his vehicle of judgment on his people, and the surrounding nations. Yet, later he held Assyrian responsible for their violence against Israel and Judah, and brought about their destruction. This is evidence that our God has a plan, and he uses the nations as best pleases him. The result will be the declaration of his majestic glory, and the deliverance and eternal wellbeing of his righteous people.
This chapter also yields promises to those who, despite the adverse circumstances of the Assyrian invasion, remain firm in trusting the Lord. Too often adversity causes us to turn from God when the best option is to run to him. The prayer of vs. 2 is a good model for us as well.
During times of trial it is essential to remember that God is still in the heavens, exalted, and in charge (vs. 5-12). If we focus on the temporal things may look overwhelming. But, if we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1ff) we will see things through the biblical lens and find rest and hope.
Chapter 34 represents Isaiah’s bold proclamation to the nations that the Lord’s anger at their sin will one day be unleashed. We must remember that Isaiah was preaching this in Jerusalem. The nations he addresses (“O nations … O peoples … the earth … the world”) could not hear him. His purpose was to make sure all Jerusalem understood the sovereign position God held, not only over them, but over all nations.
Isaiah particularly mentions Edom. These people had descended from Esau, and had always been a thorn in Israel’s side. They were a marauding people, who would come from the east, across the Jordan, to raid and terrorize their cousins, the people of Jacob. Their treachery defined them, and meant they would always be objects of God’s jealousy for his people.
The place where the Edomites live will one day be the home of owls and hawks and wild goats only. Historically, this did come to pass. There minor prophet Obadiah, in only 20 verses, declares the end of Edom. There is some thought that the Edomites were among those who lived in Petra, who believed their fortress to be impregnable. Yet, ultimately they were defeated, and Edom passed away completely and is known no more.
Prayer: Father, today is laid out before me, and I am tempted to think that it is just another day. Yet, this day is a gift from you, and I will never have it again. Fit me for its opportunities, strengthen me for its challenges, but in all things, keep me near to your heart that my life may be a reflection of your truth and love, for Jesus sake, Amen.
September 17: Isaiah 35, 36
In the midst of Isaiah’s robust declarations concerning the certainty of God’s wrath, he also pens chapters like this one which gives comfort to those who trust in God.
The fact is, we live in a broken world that is riddled with sin. We can’t escape it’s effects and consequences. We must admit: even the righteous suffer. But how will we respond? Will we run away from God because life has not lived up to our expectations? Or will we re-set our expectations to align with God’s perfect plan for our lives and all human history?
Isaiah calls us to remember this world is merely a prelude to the next. And in the end, God wins. The glory of the Lord will fill the earth. All will see and have to admit his greatness and worth.
Vs. 10 sums up what lies ahead for all who trust savingly in God. The ransomed shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away! Can’t wait!
Chapter 36 is great history. We are placed inside the negotiations between the Assyrians and Hezekiah. The arrogance of the Assyrian leadership is acutely represented, as is their disdain for Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord.
We can’t help but feel the anxiety that must have permeated the people of Jerusalem. The news of Assyrian victories surely had reached them. Fortified city after fortified city had fallen as the massive invasion force made its way down from the north. The northern Kingdom of Israel had been decimated. Thousands had been taken captive, thousands killed, and thousands more forced from their homes to take shelter in the caves and canyons of the wilderness. And now Assyria was knocking on Hezekiah’s door.
This chapter gives us no mention of Hezekiah’s response. From previous chapters we are led to wonder if he still is trusting in some foreign alliance. The Assyrians mock Egypt, and it appears Judah is standing all alone. The chapter ends in suspense and pushes us to read further.
Prayer: Father, as I read this story I am reminded that there are times when I think the problems I face are insurmountable, that there are no good options left. In those times, Lord, hold me fast. Pull me tightly to your heart, and remind me with your truth and love that if I have you, I have all I need. May today be one of victory and joy, despite what it may hold, so that those who see me may understand that my trust is in you, my Savior and my God, Amen.
September 18: Isaiah 37, 38
Hezekiah proves to be a great model for us today. He is facing an adversary who has all the leverage, power, and opportunity to utterly destroy the city and all its people. Yet, the adversity pushes him to God rather than to his own cunning. He sends messengers to God’s prophet, Isaiah.
History records that the Assyrians had laid siege to Jerusalem. Vs. 3 indicates the people were in a state of famine, without strength. The siege had cut off food and the necessities of life, and those within the city were nearing death. The situation was critical.
The request was made to Isaiah for him to entreat God on behalf of the city. It seems Isaiah had already been in prayer, and had received an answer from the Lord. Despite what seemed apparent, Hezekiah was not to worry. God would deal with the Assyrians and save the city.
Hearing this, Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer. The prayer, founding vs. 16-20, is simple, yet grand. The king pleads for deliverance so that the nations will know that Israel’s God is the only God, and Lord of all.
God’s response is direct. In attacking Hezekiah, Sennacherib has made war against God, and will not prevail. As the chapter records, God sent his angel, and decimated the Assyrian army. Sennacherib returned home, was murdered by his own sons, and the kingdom passed to Esarhaddon. So much for his big talk!
Chapter 38 describes yet another battle facing Hezekiah. Apparently, he had contracted a deadly disease and was certain to die. God expressed as much to him. Yet, Hezekiah chose to beseech God to heal him.
This is an interesting episode in the biblical story. Hezekiah’s plea reminds us of Jesus in the garden. Both men had been told that death awaited them. Both agonized in prayer for a different outcome. In Hezekiah’s case, God allowed him fifteen more years of life. In Jesus’ case, he walked the path of death that we might live.
Hezekiah’s prayer is a beautiful, poetic psalm. His confidence in the Lord surely came from the miraculous defeat of the Assyrians, but Hezekiah never became complacent, nor took the faithfulness of God for granted. When adversity hit, it drove him to his God in confidence and great trust.
Prayer: Lord, there are many things in this world that I don’t understand. Adversity, tragedy, evil … they all seem more and more common. Yet, I also know that you are working all things for my good; that is, for my progress in holiness and likeness to Christ. Father, take me, break me, and make me, in the image of Christ, that my life may be a glowing tribute to your grace, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
September 19: Isaiah 39, 40
These two chapters present a dividing line in the book. It has been recognized that the first 39 chapters largely present the themes of the Old Testament’s 39 books (God’s judgment, and promise of Messiah), while the remaining 27 chapter present themes found in the New Testament’s 27 books.
Chapter 39 gives the last story from Hezekiah’s life. It appears that his pride got the best of him, and he ended up allowing emissaries from Babylon to see the treasures of Jerusalem.
Isaiah takes opportunity to offer a prophecy that is important to the coming chapters. He tells the king one day all of those treasures, and all of Jerusalem, will be carried of by Babylonian captors.
The Babylonian captivity would happen over 100 years later, in 586BC. But this important historical marker is necessary if we are to make sense of the remaining chapter of Isaiah.
Chapter 40 begins that section in Isaiah with which we are most familiar. The final 27 chapters speak of the Servant Messiah, and flesh out the promises of God regarding deliverance and eternal salvation.
We see the change in vs.1 where “comfort” is pronounced. The messenger has come to Jerusalem bearing good news! The war is over, and iniquity has been pardoned. These pronouncements tell the reader that a new era has dawned. God’s promise of salvation will now be understood as guaranteed.
This salvation centers in the coming One, the Lord who is on his way. The proper response is to prepare his way so that his coming may be widely recognized and heralded.
The rest of the chapter begins to describe this deliverer. Unlike other created things, he will not fade, will not pass away. He and his word will stand forever. The promises of God are in no danger of passing away unfulfilled.
The sovereignty of God takes center stage. He sits above the nations, above the heavens. He alone holds the universe together, and orders it according to his plan. His people may rest secure in the knowledge that he is in charge. Neither the opposition of his enemies, nor the disobedience of his people can in any way derail his plan.
Compared with the transitory nature of every created thing, our God stands forever. He is secure. He is sovereign. His love is unfailing, and his will unbending. While youth may experience weariness, those who wait on the Lord, who trust in him with all their heart, will be like eagles. The prophet here speaks in terms of eternal life, which the Lord has promised to all who trust in him.
Prayer: Father, you are the fountain of life to me! Your love fuels my love, even as your truth guards my heart and mind. Help me, Lord, to wait on you, to rest in you, and to walk in your ways, all the days of my live, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
The Well: September 22-26
September 22: Isaiah 41, 42
In chapter 41 God speaks. He addresses the history of his might acts on Israel’s behalf. The prophetic message is clear: judgment will come on the people of God, but he will not desert them. He will bring a deliverer from the east, before whom nations will bow.
Before going further we should note that Isaiah is referring to Cyrus (see: 44:28). The future king of Persia would be the one God would raise up to conquer Babylon, bring Israel to Susa, and later decree their return from captivity.
Throughout this poetic speech by Almighty God we see the events of Israel’s history are under his control. He calls the generations even before their time. He is the first and the last, meaning he views time from the start and the end at the same time. He knows all things in one eternal moment. He is God, and there is no other like him.
The subject here of God’s intentional control is his people Israel. Those who are against Israel will be put to shame. They are not to fear, despite the coming captivity. Their God will not forget or forsake them.
As a result, Israel is never to seek help from idols. They are nothing, without power, and to worship them is to turn from the glory of the one true God.
In chapter 42 we see the first of 4 “Servant Songs.” All four of the Servant Songs (42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12) speak of Messiah in his coming mission.
This first one (42:1-9) contrasts with Cyrus, the human deliverer God will raise up to free his people. The Servant will not be grand at first. He will not cry loudly or act violently. Rather, this one will have the Spirit of God on him to open blind eyes, free prisoners and bring in the day of liberty.
The news of the Servant’s mission ought to elicit great bursts of singing and praise. The people should celebrate the glory of God and his faithfulness. But the people are blind, deaf, and disobedient. God gave them the Law and they disregarded it. Now they are in great trouble. Judgment is coming. And while God’s faithful love will mean deliverance, it will come on the other side of humiliation, deportation, and captivity.
Prayer: Father, in the midst of Israel’s darkest days you reminded them of your promise to send the “He” of Genesis 3:15, the son of Isaiah 9. Yet, they didn’t hear you, just like so many today. Lord, use my life as you will, for your glory. Let my words and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable to you today, that through my life some might see the light of your glory in my Savior Jesus Christ, in whose Name I pray, Amen.
September 23: Isaiah 43, 44
Chapter 42 ended with the Lord’s anger over Israel’s spiritual lethargy and wickedness. But God will never desert his people. Chapter 43 expounds the seeking, delivering, and transforming grace of God as he seeks to redeem his people.
Israel’s wickedness and refusal to repent and trust in God has brought about great judgment from his hand. Foreign armies will settle down in the land and vanquish the nation. Isaiah warns the people not to look to other nations, or their idols for help. Security is found only in a return to their God, to love him with all their heart.
The tender relationship between Israel and God is displayed in this text. He says to them “I have called you by name” depicting their close familial relationship. God loves his people as a father his children. They may walk through danger, but ultimately, they will be delivered and prosper simply because the Holy One of Israel is their God.
God’s people are called away from fear, away from tumult, away from despair to find refuge with the One who has called each one by name, and created them for his glory.
Yes, God will bring down the Chaldeans from Babylon, but after judgment will come deliverance. God will do a new thing for Israel, bringing water as it were in the desert.
But first will come destruction. The chapter ends on a solemn note. Since the people have profaned the worship of God, he will bring down their places of worship, and deliver them to destruction.
Chapter 44 responds to the pronouncement of judgment with a beautiful reminder that desperate conditions ought to make the people turn back to their God. He is the one who made them, who drew them to himself as a peculiar people. His promises are everlasting, and he will fulfill them.
Vs. 6-8 are a beautiful depiction of the grandeur of our God. There is no other that can compare to him. In fact, there is no other at all! He alone is God. And he is their God, and they need not be afraid.
Vs. 9-20 present one of the best descriptions of idolatry in that day. The people who trust in idols are blind to the reality that they are powerless. They have foolishly turned from the one true God to follow blocks of wood and pieces of brass. In response, God has allowed their eyes to go blind and their hearts to hardened so that when judgment comes, they will realize the deserved nothing less.
Prayer: Father, I know my attempts to envision you in my own way is really idolatry of the heart. Lord, you are great, and cannot be manipulated, or domesticated. You cannot be made to respond to my commands. Rather, I am yours, and all you have for me is always best. This I know, but Lord, my heart is often consumed with my ways, not yours, my desires not yours, and my comfort not your kingdom. Wean me away from all that would keep me from being useful for you today, O Lord, my King and My God! Amen.
September 24: Isaiah 45, 46
In the previous chapter Isaiah introduced Cyrus, king of Persia as the one God would raise up to bring freedom to his people Israel. Chapter 45 continues the oracle concerning this king in wonderful detail. In this we understand the sovereignty of God, knowing the end from the beginning. All that Isaiah prophesied actually was fulfilled.
God intends to go before Cyrus, to level the ground, and bring down nations before him. Why? Simply for the sake of Israel. The Holy One of Israel is the One who forms light and creates darkness; who makes well-being and creates calamity. He is the one in whom Israel must place their trust.
Over and over God declares that he is unique, that there are no other gods, and that he alone is the deliverer of his people. The final declaration is found in vs. 22-25 in which the invitation goes out to all the earth. Here we see God’s design which was first mentioned in Genesis12:3. It was always his intention for all the world to find blessing rather than curse through Abraham’s seed, eventually understood as Messiah.
Those who turn to God will be saved. Its that simple! By “turning” is understood a commitment of the heart and life to turn away from sin and self determination to rest completely on the promises of God concerning the Messiah.
Vs. 23 is quoted by Paul in Philippians 2, and ascribed to Jesus Christ, whose resurrection and ascension validated his position as Lord of All. One day, all will acknowledge his place and power. Only in him is there salvation. Only in the Lord is there justification and glory before God.
Chapter 46 is the first time the idols of the nations are named. Up to this point Isaiah’s denunciation of idolatry has come in general terms. Now the gods of Babylon are named, as if fitting for Cyrus would vanquish Babylon in the future. Isaiah is clearly predicting the gods of Babylon would be powerless against Cyrus, who would come in the power of the one true God.
The sovereignty of God does not just rule out other gods. It also confirms that all things are under his control, and will flow according to his plan. He declares the end of things from the very beginning. He will accomplish all he sets out to do.
We often balk at the idea of God’s all-encompassing sovereignty. This is probably due to the fact that we have no human models. In our world, someone with all power would be dangerous. We could never trust them to use it righteously, all the time. But this is not true of God. His sovereign power never is at cross purposes with his goodness, holiness, and love. In all things his every action is both right and best. Thus, we can rest in him especially when we can’t see through the darkness ahead.
Prayer: Lord you alone are God, and there is no other. You alone are in charge, and my life is best when I am close to your heart, rejoicing in your will. May that be true today, Father, and may my life be a tribute to your great love for me, through Jesus Christ, Amen.
September 25: Isaiah 47, 48
In 586BC, God was going to use Babylon, that great city state of the Chaldean people, to judge his own people. As Isaiah was preaching to the people, this was still generations in the future. Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity. But God had a plan of his own.
He would raise up Cyrus of Persia, who would overthrow Babylon, take many of the Israelites captive to his capital in Susa and later be moved by God to free them to return and rebuild their city and land.
This chapter is Isaiah’s prophecy that Babylon would be destroyed for their arrogance, and their violence against God’s people. Babylon is pictured as a refined lady who is not to be made to be a servant. The arrogant aristocratic nation would become slaves, and it would be accomplished by God through Cyrus.
It is nothing short of remarkable that this very specific prophecy, written @ 710BC, would be fulfilled in 586BC without fail. Isaiah has been saying over and over that God knows all things from the beginning, and there is no other like him. This amazing prophecy and fulfillment element certainly underscores the truth of that.
Chapter 48 describes God’s declarations to his own people that the coming judgment will be used to refine them, not to destroy them. Despite God’s great love and provision, Israel has turned away. They have left their God, but he will not leave them.
Israel is described as obstinate, with necks like iron. They are stiff-necked, which is an ancient word picture of an arrogant heart.
God calls to his people to turn to him, to trust in him, to acknowledge his greatness. But to no avail. He pleads with them to draw near to him, but instead they draw away from him, turning to live out their own selfish, wicked desires. O the tragedy of it all!
From our vantage point we may look at Israel and shake our heads at their foolish choices. Yet, in many ways, we are just like them. God has called us to himself, but we too often run away to follow after our own lusts and comfort driven desires. We may not be attracted to idols as statues, but it is often the case that we trust in our own strength, our own devices, and leave God’s Word and ways behind. May Israel’s story be a lesson for us all.
Prayer: Lord, you have declared “there is no peace for the wicked.” Father, I long for peace, not as I define it, but as you do. I desire to be true to you, in every situation, able to know your will, and follow it cheerfully. Lord, deepen my faith through the study of your Word, that I might be a light in my world, for your glory, Amen.
September 26: Isaiah 49, 50
Isaiah 49:1-13 is the second Servant Song, and speaks to the servant’s commissioning. We hear the servant himself speaking, and it is clear that the servant is none other than Messiah – the one we come to know later as Jesus Christ.
Notice that the servant is also called Israel. In many ways, Jesus Christ comes to be the true Israel, the true Servant of God. What the people of Israel could never accomplish, Jesus the Messiah would.
Vs. 6 is especially telling. Here we see once again the promise first made to Abram in Genesis 12:3. The promise of life and blessing was never intended to be for Israel only. Through the seed of Abram all the earth would find blessing. Here we see God telling the servant he would be the means both of the salvation of believing Jews, and of believing Gentiles. God intends his saving message to reach to the ends of the earth.
The song ends with an invitation to celebrate and sing, for God’s renewed promise of deliverance through Messiah is a message of great comfort and compassion to the people who are on the verge of judgment. God will not forget those who are faithful to him.
The remainder of the chapter speaks to the eventual restoration Israel will experience after their time of captivity. It is important to note that, in the Old Testament, the freeing of the people from captivity always points forward to the greatest deliverance that will be accomplished when Messiah returns to fulfill his kingdom. One day we will be freed from this wicked world to live in a new earth, face to face with our Lord, without even the possibility of sin.
Chapter 50 contains the third Servant Song (vs. 4-11). Here we read, in the servant’s own voice, the commitment that he has made to accomplish the will of God in redemption.
Vs. 6 speaks specifically to the brutal beatings Jesus would receive. Nevertheless, despite the suffering and humiliation, the servant vows to “set his face like a flint” to fulfill the mission he has joyfully taken on. He will suffer judgment even though he bears no guilt.
In these Servant Songs, and other places in the Old Testament we see just how intricate and detailed God’s plan was. A substitute would come to bear our sins, even as the Passover lamb died in the place of those in the household. As a result, God would “pass over” the sins of those who place their trust in God’s promises regarding Messiah.
As followers of Jesus, we have found the Messiah. His death was ours, and his righteousness is now ours. In God the Father’s eyes, the death of Christ paid our debt, and his resurrection secured our eternal life. All for free, by his grace, and for his glory.
Prayer: Lord, today is laid out before me, and I desire to live it for you. Your love for me overwhelms me, and my greatest desire is to love you more, to know your ways, and stand for your truth so that others may see my good works, and bring you praise and glory, Amen.
Sept. 29: Isaiah 51, 52
In these two chapters Isaiah calls for the readers attention in a dramatic way. We are called to listen (51:1,7,21), awake (51:9; 52:1), look (51:1,2, 6), and finally to depart (52:11). The main theme is for the people of Israel to reflect on being God’s people, and ready themselves to leave Babylon for their return to the land.
You will also notice the many references to previous parts of Isaiah in these two chapters. 52:7 is especially recognizable.
Chapter 51 begins with a call to listen and look back to their origins as a people. They are to remember Abraham and Sarah, God’s miraculous love in providing a son, and the law of Moses which represents God’s righteousness to the nation. This law is to take residence in their hearts.
They are to remember the faithfulness of God during their journey from Egypt, as God dried up the sea. They are to look to the skies and remember the strength of their God, who put the stars in place and continues to keep all things in order.
They are to remember as well the wrath of God, and the judgment they have endured as a result of their sinful rebellion against his law. Their devastation and destruction has come without consolation. Yet, God has not forsaken his people! His steadfast love is never overruled by their disobedience for his will remain faithful to his own name, his promise, his covenant. Consequently, the cup of wrath is over for Israel, and now it will be poured out on their tormentors.
Chapter 52 is a short but beautiful poem calling Jerusalem to awake and prepare to welcome the people once again. Singing shall once again be heard in the city, as the Lord is about to deliver his people and once again establish them in the land.
The chapter ends with the declaration that the Lord will lead his people out of captivity, and back to their own land. Unlike their flight from Egypt, they will not leave captivity in haste. Rather, they shall go forth in victory, following their King and God.
The chapter division here is unfortunate for 52:13 actually begins the 4th Servant Song in Isaiah which continues through all of chapter 53. We will discuss these verses tomorrow.
Prayer: Lord, these verses remind me your promises are never empty, and your word can always be trusted. You have promised eternal life to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and I qualify! Father, thank you for eliminating my greatest fear by granting me a place in your family forever. Help me to live courageously for you today, resting in your great love, walking in your truth, and always thankful for your redeeming grace, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
Sept. 30: Isaiah 53, 54
Beginning in 52:13, chapter 53 gives us the final Servant Song in Isaiah. All of these point us to Messiah, the Servant of God.
Taken in context, this Song answers the question the previous declaration must have raised. God was telling his people to prepare to leave captivity and return to the land. But such an undertaking would certainly demand the presence of a great leader. Historically, it was to be Zerrubbabel, who led the first contingent back and rebuilt the Temple. But he, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, were also previews of the Great Servant of God who would arise to lead all people out of their captivity to sin through his death and resurrection. It is this Servant who is now described in the Song.
The Song is unusually symmetrical. Made up of 5 sections, the first and fifth extol the Servant, while the middle three describe his intentional and sacrificial work. Paul uses this same structure in Philippians 2:5-11, beginning and ending with glory while describing the humiliation of Christ in the middle. Isaiah also places the whole thing in the past tense in order to underscore its guaranteed fulfillment.
Isaiah presents the career of the Servant. Messiah is great and lifted up, yet he will leave his exalted place to take on the great humiliation of incarnation and death. But this will not be without purpose, nor will it be without restoration. His incarnation will not be remarkable. He will not come as the most remarkable, but rather as one open to being despised as befits the sin-bearer. He will be despised and rejected. He will be charged, condemned, and crushed, but not because he in any way deserved. Rather, all of his suffering will be as a substitute for those “sheep who have gone astray.” In this way he will accomplish salvation for his people, for which he will be rewarded with restoration to his position in glory.
Chapter 54 presents the appropriate response to the triumphant Song of Messiah. In that day, a childless woman would have nothing to sing about. Yet, the promise of Messiah, and deliverance would fill even the barren with joyful praise.
Israel is exhorted to put away their fear, and look forward to deliverance, freedom, and prosperity from the hand of their God. He promises to rebuild them with precious stones, with children, and with peace. He promises no weapon fashioned against his people will stand now that he had ended their judgment and brought about their deliverance.
In context these promises are directed at Israel as God brings them back to their land. Yet, in principle it is also true that those who have been delivered from bondage to sin through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ need never fear the weapons of spiritual warfare brandished by the Enemy. Our God stands with us, for us, and has surrounded us eternally with his power and love.
Prayer: Great God of mercy and love, you are my Savior and I am your child and joyful servant. May I serve you today in the way I live, love, walk and talk. Make my life an instrument of your grace today, through the Spirit you have made to dwell in me, Amen.