Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17

OT: Isaiah 25:1-28:13

Well, whereas Isaiah has previously been full of dire predictions, today's medley offers a dichotomy of sorts. One the one hand, the proud and strong will be brought low:

"You have made the city a heap of rubble,
the fortified town a ruin,
the foreigners' stronghold a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt" (25:2).

On the other hand, the poor will be lifted up:

"You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in his distress
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat" (4).

Along those lines, Isaiah crescendos to a beautiful vision of hope in verses 6-8, in which he describes a huge banquet on a mountain that God will prepare for "all peoples" (6). Furthermore, on the mountain, God will destroy death itself and will then

"wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth" (8).

However, those who are not his people will not fare so well (9-12). To give you an indication of their fate, there is an apparent image of them swimming in manure (10b-11a). Yikes!

The rest of the reading similarly fluctuates between describing the deliverance of the saved and the destruction of the unsaved. Apparently, the difference between the two groups is not their circumstances. They both suffer horribly in this world. At one point, Isaiah describes some of the saved people as suffering like a woman in labor (26:17-18). The difference is in their reactions to their suffering. Those who turn to the Lord in their distress are saved by Him (26: 16-21). Those who rely on their own strength are destroyed (28:1-13). God's preference is for the former. In describing the punishment he is about to bring forth against rebellious people (it's all discussed in a weird vineyard metaphor), He pulls up short and says,

"Or else let them come to me for refuge;
let them make peace with me,
yes, let them make peace with me" (27:5).

What I got from today's reading was that, despite His clear willingness to shower His wrath upon the rebellious people, God's stronger desire is for us to be reconciled to Him and live.

NT: Galatians 3:10-22

The 7th grade girls in my cell group are supposed to be reading through Galatians this week, and the whole time I was reading this passage, I was thinking, "I'm going to have so much explaining to do!" Paul's argument is pretty intricate here, though the good thing is that his point is still pretty simple: justification is from faith, not from external obedience to the Law. Law does not equal salvation. Got it?

To make sure that we do, Paul quotes several passages from the Law and then contrasts them with one from Habakkuk and with the life of Abraham. His position is that when God made His promise to Abraham, He was planning to ultimately fulfill that promise through Christ's sacrifice (14, 16). In the meantime, the Law was added to guide people toward God. At least, that's how I read the phrase, "It was added because of transgressions" (19). In the time elapsing between Abraham and Christ, the Law was put into place to show people what sin was and to urge them not to do it. Furthermore, in verses 21-22, Paul maintains that the problem was not with the Law, but with man. The Law would have been a great way to come to God, had man not been so enslaved by sin. It's all a bit mind-boggling to me tonight, but that's basically how I read Paul's argument.

Psalm 61:1-8

David asks God for both physical blessings (deliverance from trials, and long life) and spiritual blessings (to dwell in God's tent forever).

Proverbs 23:17-18

An admonition to follow God and not sinners.

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