What???!!! Isaiah ended on a really confusing note for me, as I was totally baffled by verses 2-3:
"Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?"
declares the LORD.
"This is the one I esteem:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
and trembles at my word.
3 But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a man,
and whoever offers a lamb,
like one who breaks a dog's neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig's blood,
and whoever burns memorial incense,
like one who worships an idol.
They have chosen their own ways,
and their souls delight in their abominations;"
I'm sorry, what?? I thought that the people were supposed to sacrifice offerings to God. I cannot fathom these verses...unless they are saying that the people worshiping are like the people talked about in chapter 58 (and chapter 1, for that matter). Perhaps these people are "worshiping" God externally, but are living unjust lives. Maybe verse 5 backs that up when it says that these sacrifice-burners have been hating and excluding those who are truly "humble and contrite in spirit" (2). I don't know. Regardless, I was clearly a bit confused by that section.
The book ends with some more childbirth imagery, which has been quite popular throughout Isaiah. In this image, a woman gives birth without the labor pains (sounds nice). The woman is Jerusalem (10), and the children are all the other nations, which will then (to continue the image) nurse from her breasts and be bounced on her knee. I kind of thought this imagery was a little odd, but the point was that in "the new heavens and the new earth" (22) that God is going to establish, Jerusalem will be the center, and will be the...the life giving force, I guess...to all the righteous people from other nations. The wicked, on the other hand, will be dead. I keep thinking back to that Randy Alcorn book, and it seems to me that this is another one of those prophecies about heaven. Maybe.
And thus concludes Isaiah. I can definitely say that it was a very interesting book. Depending on the day, I was either totally in love with it, or completely baffled by it. My lack of background info was definitely a factor, but I also just think that this book is complex. Over all, though, I really liked it. I especially enjoyed the prophecies that seemed to be about the kingdom of God coming in its fullness.
NT: Philippians 3:4b-21
I am a forward-looking type of person, and as such, I love Paul's words in verses 8-14. They are all about putting the past behind you and straining toward God's plans that are ahead of you. For me, the highlights of this section are:
--when Paul calls "rubbish" all of the things he could boast about and all the "righteous" things in his past (8). I love how he disowns any idea that he is righteous in and of himself, and gives all credit to Christ's work in him in verse 9.
--Paul's articulation of his desire to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings," and of his desire to "become like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead" (10-11). You know how I feel about "knowing" Christ, and I really admire the level of Paul's passion. His desire to know Christ is so strong that he is willing to imitate Him to the point of suffering and death. Clearly, to know Christ and to be like Him are Paul's top desires.
--Paul's admission that he is not at the goal yet. Again, I have often struggled with the idea that, according to my understanding of the Bible, I should be done with sin and living fully and totally for God. As I've read through the NT this year, I've found more and more verses that refute that picture. Verse 12 is yet another such verse. As sold out as Paul is for Christ, he readily admits that he is not where he wants to be. He has not attained the full, Christ-driven life to which he aims. Rather than let that discourage him, though, he determines to forget "what is behind" and strain "toward what is ahead" (13). I love that, and I know that that is what my attitude should be. Paul agrees. After all, he tells the Philippians to follow his example (17) b/c his lifestyle should be followed by all mature Christians (15). I agree.
--the idea that "our citizenship is in heaven" (20), even as we are surrounded by so many people whose "mind[s] are on earthly things" (19). The struggle for me is to not be like that myself. It is so easy to get caught up in what is going on right in front of my face, and not to see the bigger picture of my purpose here on earth.
--the hope and promise of transformation in verse 21.
Just like last time, I was haunted by this one verse:
"We are given no miraculous signs,
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be" (9).
Proverbs 24: 15-16
Um, don't raid people's houses. It's sad that we need a proverb to tell us that.