Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 53-56; 2 Peter, chapter 2
Scripture: Isaiah 54:1-5 (NRSV) – Sing, O barren one who did not bear; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord. Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will settle the desolate towns. Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
Observations: As I read this passage this morning, I was reminded that God had used this passage to speak to me once before, about 15 years ago. I was at a pastors’ prayer retreat, and one of the things that the facilitator had us do was to go off by ourselves and read Isaiah 40-66, and see if God used any passage from those chapters to speak to us. When we came back together, he asked if anyone had “heard” anything, and I said that God had directed me to this passage. He asked me what I thought it meant, and I shared that I felt it was a promise from God that he was going to expand his work in Traverse City, and that we – pastors from the area – needed to prepare for him to do that work. He shared that God had used that same passage to speak that same message to people at other prayer summits around the world. God used that experience to confirm for me that he does speak through his Word, and that experience gave me the confidence to read his Word in that way.
So as I read this passage today, two thoughts came to my mind. First, God’s promise has not changed; he still wants to expand his work in the Traverse City area, and he is waiting for his people to “enlarge the site of their tents…and lengthen their cords and strengthen their stakes.” Second, he is still speaking to his people, and waiting for them to listen and respond. Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace…For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. God’s promise does not change; his power to fulfill his promise does not change; he will not leave his people to be ashamed or disgraced.
As I think of that, I think too of what Isaiah prophesied about Jesus in chapter 53: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (53:7) If we trust in God and his promises, we do not need to defend ourselves; God will do that for us. I’m struck by the contrast between the description of Jesus in Isaiah 53 (and Philippians 2, for that matter) and the way that Peter describes false prophets and false teachers in 2 Peter 2:18-19 – “For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them.” Jesus “did not open his mouth”; the false teaches and false prophets “speak bombastic nonsense.”
Applications: I believe that God is reminding me that he is still working and moving toward fulfilling his promise. At the beginning of this year, our congregation adopted the theme for the year, “It’s Time!” We’ve expressed that theme in a number of ways, but one of the primary ways is that God is telling us that it’s time for us to see him work to fulfill the promises that he’s given us. This passage is reminding me to not lose sight of the fact that God has declared that “It’s Time!” The second thing that God is reminding me is that he told me years ago to “enlarge the site of our tent,” and he is reminding me that his promise – and call – in that regard still holds. Those two reminders encourage me that God is at work in our congregation, and we should continue to work, continue to believe, and expect to see him do great things!
Prayer: Father, I thank you today for your reminder of your faithfulness. Help me to walk in faith, knowing that your promises are unchanged, and that you are at work to bring glory to your name. Thank you, too, for the reminder of your call for us to have the same attitude as Jesus – not opening our mouths to defend ourselves, but trusting in you; avoiding the “bombastic nonsense” that seems to be so prevalent in our culture. Help me to live today like Jesus. Amen.