Here are the verses that stood out to me today:
This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
"I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your righteousness like the waves of the sea."
I like this description of God as a teacher who wants what is best for us. I also love the images of peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea. I thought that Martin Luther King Jr. alluded to these images, but maybe I'm wrong...
In these verses, it seems like Isaiah is having some struggles with his purpose, to the point where he declares, "I have labored to no purpose;/ I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing" (4a). Though he doesn't turn from God at all, he is still quite discouraged. I love God's response to him, where He tells him that He has an even greater purpose for Isaiah than even Isaiah understands. God tells him that not only will he help restore the tribes of Israel, but he will also be "a light for the Gentiles,/that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (6). And today I read all the way through verse 24 in the light of that context. Perhaps all of that is in reference to Christ and the inclusion of the Gentiles. For example, in verses 19-21 when Israel asks where all these children have come from, maybe those children are the Gentiles. I don't know. I am really, really tired right now, but I keep having the urge to read Isaiah in the light of the coming of Christ and its aftermath.
Plus, in that section, I have always loved verses 15-16, in which God tells the people that He would never forget them, that He has them engraved on His hand.
NT: Ephesians 4:17-32
I've realized that it is harder to write about the parts that I really, really love, b/c I tend to just gush.
That said, I really, really love the image of putting off our old selves, being "made new in the attitude of [our] minds," and putting "on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (22-23). I think these images fit in nicely with the idea of dying to oneself. In a way, they show the positive side of that idea. Dying to one's self does not create a vacuum; instead our old self is replaced with our new self, which is who we were actually created to be.
I like that idea of replacing the bad with the good, and it is continued through the rest of the passage. Paul tells us to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully," a command that replaces a negative with a positive (25). He tells us to stop stealing and to do something useful with our hands, to stop saying bad stuff and start saying things that encourage and edify (28-29). He tells us to "get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger," and instead to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (31-32). I like that Paul doesn't just tell us what not to do; he gives us positive things to do in their place. I personally don't like to define myself or my religion by what I don't do, or by what I oppose. Rather, I tend to define my faith by what I do. If nothing else, my active love for others should define me. And so I like how Paul follows up the negative commands with positive commands here.
Psalm 69: 1-18
David prays to God to save him from a severe trial.
Proverbs 24: 5-6
Praises wise men and stress the need for guidance during wartime.