Dear Lord, you are good. You are good even when I mess up and you’re good in ways that I not only don’t expect, but don’t even always believe. You reach out to me, you seek after me, you want the best for me, even more than I want for myself. I’m sorry for how I’ve stumbled this week. Forgive me. Thank you for putting me on a road of hope and onto a way of peace. Help those who are struggling and help me in my struggles. Guide me this week in all parts of life and lead me to ways I can help others on their way. Amen.
1. Psalm 94
2. Reading through Isaiah 1-20
We’ve had the law. We’ve had the histories. We’ve had the songs and the advice and even some romance. Now we’ve arrived at another key section in the Old Testament: the prophets. The Law, the Writings, the Prophets.
What comes to mind when you think of “prophetic”? Saying things about the future? Statements of encouragement or special insight about a person’s life? Sadly, a lot of the current versions of “prophetic” have a lot more in common with fortune telling then the Biblical models. First and foremost, a Biblical prophet is a spokesperson for God (there were men and women prophets after all). The thing is that God communicated with people from the beginning and shared his goals, his mission, his love, his Promise. We’ve read all these things. We should know now exactly what God did and what God was expecting.
We also have learned that people just didn’t care sometimes. And to bolster their not caring there were people who said that everything was just fine, and said what kings and people wanted to hear, which is that they’re good, and things are good, and what they’re doing is good. People like to hear they’re good, and that God is happy, or that there’s not really even a God to worry about, but instead there are gods of various kinds and we can mostly do what we want, and that’s fine.
But life happens. People run into problems, get caught up in complications, and all the fine they thought they had is suddenly exposed as nothing more than mist. Where to turn? How to find a way back?
How do we hear God when we’ve lost a sense of God and yet need God. God hasn’t given up, but does get rather frustrated and angry. Sometimes things aren’t so easy to fix, and the process of being put right involves that always scandalous word: discipline.
The prophets are spokespeople for God, and often what they speak about is the discipline of God. The rules have been broken. God is good and God is just and God is love, and that means God doesn’t look away when the rules are broken but nor does he completely wipe everything out. The prophets tell us what is going on, what God is doing, and maybe most importantly, what God will continue to do.
Have faith. Hold on, trust God, abandon idols, don’t let go and give in. Keep standing. If you don’t stand firm in faith, you won’t stand at all.
Even more, God has a vision for salvation, knowing how people are and what they are doing, he still is committed to their thriving. God made a promise, and God has a plan, and God despite how he is treated continues to love.
These chapters also show that God is not just the God of Israel and that the ethics God demands isn’t just for a small group of people. God is lord of all, whether people acknowledge him or not, and that means that those nations that indulge in evil will also get judged. Ethics don’t start on the borders of Israel, and God’s work isn’t limited to the story of a certain group. God is charge and Isaiah tells us what this lordship will look like in action.
And in this we also learn a lot about who God is, with these chapters a wonderful companion to God’s continuing, and prophetically anticipated, work in the New Testament.
3. Reading Through Luke 22-24
What does it mean to have faith in difficult circumstances? What moments have you made a stand when others around you thought you were wrong? It’s hard! When even your closest friends betray you or simply abandon you, it can be too much. A person can easily waver, give into the pressure.
When we read the story of the crucifixion, it’s common to jump right to what this means for us, and to celebrate what Jesus did. The story is familiar, maybe among the most familiar in the whole Bible.
So familiar we can skim over each element.
Try to read through these chapters like it’s the first time you’ve encountered the story. What stands out? What images or sights or even smells come to mind. Have you ever tried to imagine the smells in a scene? The sounds?
What do you think it took for Jesus to walk through these events? Yes, he is God, but he is also fully human, and in this we can see how difficult it must have been. How difficult? Jesus knew what was going to happen, what he needed to do, how to be obedient, and it filled him with anguish. Sometimes we think we have to have perfect smiles no matter what happens or we don’t have faith. Or be absolutely excited about something for it to be the right thing to do. This story shows that the way of obedience was a way of great trouble. There was pain, there was abandonment, there were insults, and even death.
The way of God doesn’t shelter us from these experiences, especially since we are in a sin-drenched world that rages against righteousness. But we learn that the way of God isn’t limited to these experiences, that just like the story of Israel in the wilderness, the way of hope is to keep pressing on, trusting that even after it seems impossible for God to save, God still saves. Not only saves, God triumphs. And in triumphing, in having fullness of faith, God shows grace beyond measure.
In these chapters, what stood out to you? Did you notice anything new? Do you hear the call of God to you in some new way?
4. Psalm 95-96
If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry. Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.
I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff!
Since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.
Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage.
It helps to share as we learn from each other.
Our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering. Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.
Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.