Shabbat Shalom. Peace.

“Shabbat Shalom!” This is the greeting each Friday evening by Jewish people everywhere. May the peace of the Sabbath be yours. Maybe tonight, it’s more of a virtual salutation.

Peace. Rest.

There are two candles lighted at the beginning of the Shabbat celebration each Friday evening. Tradition holds that the first is called the Creation candle. The second light is the Redemption candle. Everything God creates, He has a plan for redemption. We can rejoice in His plan of redemption for us all.

May you find His true peace and rest during this very trying season. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

And one of the key blessings of Shabbat: “May the LORD bless you and keep you. May the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD turn His face towards you and give you His (eternal, loving and grace-filled) peace.” (Numbers 2:24-26, NIV).

Indeed. Let’s pause tonight, open your hands and your heart and find His peace.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 66. Walking With God.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 66.

The last chapter, the final word from this great prophet, is about worship, how we act and His promises to His children who will worship Him once again in Jerusalem.

“The LORD said, “Heaven is my throne. The earth is my footstool.” (v1, CEV). The image is that of a great and mighty king, right?

The Psalmist says, “The LORD says to my lord: sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  (Psalm 110:1, NIV).

So, how are we to worship Him? “The people I treasure most are the humble— they depend only on me and tremble when I speak.” (v2, CEV). The Message says “a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.” We worship God not with brash arrogance nor pride that we are called His children. But rather, with our hands and heart open to receive and a posture turned toward honoring our great King.

Listen to the similar words of another prophet: “The LORD has told us what is right and what He demands: see that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern and humbly obey God.” (Micah 6:8, CEV). The NIV says we “are to walk humbly with your God.” I like the picture of walking with God, don’t you?

God promises that the people of Israel will always have a special place in His heart. “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the LORD. (v 22, NLT). What great comfort for the Jewish people, and all of us who have been grafted into this wonderful community because of the resurrection of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, Jesus, the Messiah!

What is the prophet’s final words, the last verse? “My people will go out and look at the dead bodies of those who turned against me. The worms there never die, the fire never stops burning, and the sight of those bodies will be disgusting to everyone.” (v24, CEV).

This is an image of hell, the true image of not walking with God.

But, as for me and my house, I will choose verse 2 over verse 24. Like Joshua rallied the people of God, I, too, will choose the LORD. How about you?

 

Thanks for reading Isaiah with me these past 66 days! I have loved this journey. I trust along the way you have learned a thing or two about God, and His special love for the people of Israel.  I have.

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 65. Blessings Abound for the Chosen — Us!

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 65.

Bad news for the sinner — that’s us.

Good news for the chosen ones — that’s us too!

“I, the LORD, will make them pay for their sins and for those of their ancestors… they have disgraced me by burning incense (to idols) on mountains.” (v7, CEV). God calls out those who do religious things just to be religious. For those sins they will have to pay. And, we’re in that category, too, right? Because as Paul notes: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). And that’s precisely why Jesus had to come and had to pay the price for everyone’s sin. Even those whom God is addressing here in Isaiah 65.

But, good news! “I won’t destroy everyone.” (v8, CEV).

“I am God! I can be trusted. Your past troubles are gone; I no longer think of them. I am creating new heavens and a new earth. Everything of the past will be forgotten.” (v16-17, CEV).

God CAN be trusted. I love that He, infinite God that He is, forgets our past when we confess our sin and trust in Jesus. And, even though He forgets our past, He doesn’t forget the pain we may have suffered or the heart-ache we might have endured. His love and grace wrap around us like a comfortable blanket.

Look how Paul says the same thing: “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.” (1 Cor. 5:17, CEV). We are chosen because Jesus went to the Cross, and rose again, on our behalf.

Isaiah concludes this chapter with blessings that abound for the chosen ones:

“My people will live long lives and in their own homes.”

“My people will harvest and enjoy their own crops.”

“Your work won’t be wasted.”

“Your children and grandchildren will be blessed.”

“I will answer their prayers before they finish praying.” (parts of v21-24, CEV).

Don’t you just love that? He will answer our prayers even before we finish offering them! What great promises are in store for us, because we are chosen! We are chosen only because of the grace and love of Jesus:

But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God’s wonderful kindness is what saves you. God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven.  God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind He is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own.” (Ephesians 2:4-8, CEV).

Can we thank Him for His good gifts to us… the blessings we are promised in Isaiah and receive through Jesus, the Messiah?

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 64. No Eye Has Seen, No Ear Has Heard.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 64.

Three mind-blowing reminders in today’s chapter, yet all three are one basic thought: We are created by God, in His image, and we can’t even imagine all the blessings that He has for us, nor the supernatural work He is doing in us and through us, for the sake of His glorious Kingdom.

One.

“Since before time began no one has ever imagined, no ear heard, no eye has seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for Him.” (v4, MSG).

Paul even quotes this passage in his first letter to the church in Corinth. “As it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love Him. These are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor.2-9-10 CEV).

God works on our behalf via His Holy Spirit. And we, in our human form, can’t comprehend the amazing things God is doing for us and even through us. We can’t see it. We can’t hear it. Our minds can’t conceive it. But, we can trust that God works on our behalf. Every minute of every hour of every single day! Sometimes when I stand on the beach and look out into the vastness of the ocean, I just can’t imagine what is out there, below the surface of the water. Yet, we know there is an abundance of life and activity in the sea. The same is true in our lives. We can’t see what God is doing, but there is an abundance of spiritual life and activity all around us.

Two.

How do we know this is true? Because He has created us, He has formed us, in His image. Look at these three verses:

“God, you are our Father. We’re the clay and you’re the potter. All of us are what you made us.” (v8, MSG).

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7, CEV)

“Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22, CEV).

We have been created by the Creator and then breathed into by the Son and we are offered the Holy Spirit! We are mere clay. But we are clay in His image and empowered by His Spirit!

Three.

Finally, Isaiah notes that we are all sinners. “We are unfit to worship you, each of our good deeds is merely a filthy rag.” (v6, CEV).

In our human condition, yes, this is true. But as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), because of Jesus, we can be molded into His likeness and filled with the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit. As such, we can live holy lives, new lives, lives capable of working on behalf of the Kingdom. Even Jesus said “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.” (John 14:11-12, MSG).

Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that God has given us assignments to accomplish. And James echoes that works are vitally important to the Kingdom. “You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe… Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!” (James 2:24,26, CEV).

Isaiah’s encouragement today is that God is amazing and we are loved more than we can ever imagine by this Creator. And as Christ-followers we get to do the incredible work of the Kingdom through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 63. Who is our Hero? The Messiah.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 63

“Who is this hero?” … “It is me, the LORD! I have won the battle and I can save you!” (v1, CEV).

Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is Jesus’ robe that is covered in blood as God begins to move in a final judgment.

Look at the comparisons between v2-3 and Revelation 19:19:

“What are those red spots? Your clothes look stained from stomping on grapes.” “I alone stomped the grapes! None of the nations helped. I stomped nations in my anger and stained my clothes with their blood.””(v2-3, CEV).

“He threw the grapes into a pit where they were trampled on as a sign of God’s anger … and when the grapes were mashed, blood flowed out…” (Revelation 14:19, CEV).

Jesus is our hero. He has rescued us from the enemy. So, as the prophet says, let’s rejoice! “I will tell about the kind deeds the LORD has done. They deserve praise! The LORD has shown mercy to the people of Israel: He has been kind and good.” (v7, CEV).

Isaiah goes on to tell again of the human cycle of sin and remembering and repentance and redemption and being saved (remember Chapter 59?).

Yet, the chapter ends on a tragic note: “We act as though you had never ruled us or called us your people.” (v19, CEV). Even though our hero has shown up to save us, for those with hardened hearts, ignoring Him will not be good news. Can you imagine a lifeguard reaching out to a drowning swimmer and their offer of help is refused? We must want to be saved.

May we never forget the Cross and the unconditional love and grace given to us by Jesus. He IS our hero! He has saved us!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 62. Sparkle Like a Flame and Shine Bright!

An ancient oil lamp burns in a cave in the Galilee. Photo: liv.gracefully.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah. Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 62.

A Savior is coming!

God proclaims a special love in His heart for the city of Zion and her people. He promises to protect her until she sparkles “like a flame.” (v1, CEV).

This reminds me of the very words of Jesus in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. And yet, Jesus tweaks this word picture to suggest that we are the light on the hill.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14‭-‬16, MSG).

Is Jesus referring to the prophecy in Isaiah? I think He is. He knows what’s ahead for Him, and for us. And with Jesus, who is The Light of the World, in us, we will be that Light for all to see! Let’s let our Light for Him shine bright!

Later in the Isaiah chapter, the prophet assures the people of a promise from God: “Never again will I give to your enemies the grain and grapes for which you struggled.” (v8, CEV). God says those who grow the grain will eat the bread. Those who harvest the grapes will drink the wine. This is an amazing promise and a nod to the Passover Meal in John 13 and His instituting Communion… to always remember Him when we eat the bread and drink the wine together, to remember His body and His blood, given and shed for us.

Finally, all of Israel today continues to have great hope for this promise:

“Here is what the Lord has said for all the earth to hear: “Soon I will come to save the city of Zion and to reward you. Then you will be called, ‘The LORD’s Own People, The Ones He Rescued!’ Your city will be known as a good place to live and a city full of people.” (v11-12, CEV).

What a joyful day that will be when the New Jerusalem will be here!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 61. Chosen to Proclaim the Good News and Heal the Brokenhearted!

The ruins of a synagogue from Jesus’ day. This one is in Capernaum, about 20 miles northeast of Nazareth.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 61.

I love this chapter! Before we look at today’s text we must start in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4. Jesus has just spent 40 days in the desert, being tempted by the enemy. He kicks the devil to the curb each time He is tested. Now, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14), with a sense of true victory, and preparation for the ministry that is ahead He walks into the synagogue in his Nazareth hometown. Cue the epic music score.

In each synagogue, there were weekly, scheduled readings of the Torah and the Prophets. At that time it was called the “Haftarah.” These were preassigned for a given date. Jesus is so incredible! Because He grew up in this synagogue, He entered the house of worship knowing that a specific text would be the scripture reading of the day! And, He knew He would be chosen to read from the ancient parchments. What scrolls was He handed to read at His hometown synagogue that day? Isaiah 61!

“The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me! The LORD has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives. This is the year when the LORD God will show kindness to us and punish our enemies. The LORD has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. They will be called “Trees of Justice,” planted by the LORD to honor his name.” (v1-3, CEV).

What usually happened following the reading of the Prophets is that the reader would talk, or preach, giving His interpretation of the text He just read. What was Jesus’ sermon after reading Isaiah 61?

“He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:20-21, NLT).

God sent Jesus to preach, to heal, to bring freedom, to pardon, to announce His grace, to comfort, to care, to bring flowers and messages of great joy!

And He continues to do so. Thankfully, He is no longer confined to a synagogue of unbelievers in His hometown. His offer of joy is available to us all. No matter our geography, race, culture or moment in time.

What is our response? To receive this beautiful gift of healing and freedom! And to offer Him praise!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.