Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16

OT: Isaiah 22:1-24:13

Today's reading brought us some cool names. I liked the "Valley of Vision" (22:1), and the "Palace of the Forest" (8). And I have to admit that Isaiah's indictment of those trying to fortify the Palace of the Forest on their own could often be said of me. It seems from verses 8-11 that those around the Palace of the Forest recognize that they are in a vulnerable position. Rather than rely on God, however, they decide to try and fortify it with their own efforts. In these verses, Isaiah lists several of the steps the people take to strengthen their position, concluding with verse 11:

"You built a reservoir between the two walls
for the water of the Old Pool,
but you did not look to the One who made it,
or have regard for the One who planned it long ago."

Similarly, whenever circumstances reveal my own vulnerability, my instinct is to throw up a quick prayer to God and then to leap into action. And it is not that action is wrong; it's just that often, my actions show my "reliance" on God to be nothing more than a token gesture. Instead of pausing a second and seeking His will, instead of waiting on Him, I just plow ahead with my own measures of defense. In such times, introspection is not my forte. And though my actions appear to be practical, these type of verses remind me that everything is in God's hands. I don't ward off disaster by being a busy and dedicated worker bee. If disaster veers away from my house, it is God alone who gets the credit.

In the case of those in the Valley of Vision, God orchestrated these events to prompt them to throw themselves on His mercy. Instead, they treat the dire straits with nonchalance and jocularity:

"The Lord, the Lord Almighty,
called you on that day
to weep and to wail...
But see, there is joy and revelry,
slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,
eating of meat and drinking of wine!
'Let us eat and drink,' you say,
'for tomorrow we die!'" (12-13).

While this devil-may-care attitude might strike some as almost courageous, God is not amused. And He makes His thoughts clear to Shebna, the man "in charge of the palace" (15). In a prophecy specifically directed at him, God clarifies that Shebna will not even retain the small modicum of control that he thinks he has over his life. Though Shebna seems to realize that his death is eminent, he apparently comforts himself my creating a magnificent grave. God has other plans:

"What are you doing here and who gave you permission
to cut out a grave for yourself here,
hewing you grave on the height
and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you
and hurl you away, O you mighty man.
He will roll you up tightly like a ball
and throw you into a large country.
There you will die
and there your splendid chariots will remain--
you disgrace to your master's house" (16-18).

I can't say for certain, but I get the feeling that God is saying that Shebna's bones are not going to rest in his magnificent grave. It seems to me that the point God is trying to make here is that there is no independence from Him, there is no real power apart from him. You can delude yourself into thinking you control certain aspects of your life, however small, but the fact is, it is all from God.

NT: Galatians 2:17-3:9

Today Paul emphasizes that our actions are not what saves us, but salvation comes instead from our belief. As such, it absolutely baffles him that the Galatians are returning to obedience to the Law as a means of salvation. Now, I understand his frustration, but I can also see how it is a complex situation. Like, I understand that it is not obedience to the Law of Moses that saves me. But doesn't Christianity require some outward action? I guess the way I've always heard it explained is that we don't do good things to be saved; we do good things because we are saved. And that the good things we do aren't on our own at all; we are simply bearing fruit from the Spirit within us. So...if you aren't bearing fruit, then there is reason to question the Spirit's presence. Okay, I think I just explained all of that adequately to myself. Moving on.

I love verse 20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." That verse is so good that we even have a song about it, one that quotes it verbatim. And come to think of it, this one verse goes a long way to explain the conundrum of faith versus works that I was just talking about. Our works come from faith in Christ, who lives within us.

By the way, I know that the authorship of some of the Pauline epistles are in dispute, but I bet no one is questioning this one! The whole argument today is straight Paul--it sounds sooo much like the stuff he said in Romans!

Psalm 60:1-12

David calls to God for salvation.

Prov. 23: 15-16

A father delights int he wisdom and righteousness of his son.

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