Category Archives: Old Testament

Isaiah 36-37; Ephesians 6; Psalm 76

If there’s one thing Christians have in common, it is suffering. Trials are part of God’s plan for our lives because through resistance, pain, and turmoil, our faith is proven strong and He is proven faithful. Much as I wish there were another way, real growth only comes through those times of testing.

The account of Sennacherib coming against Hezekiah and the nation of Judah in Isaiah 36-37 has a lot to teach me about how to handle persecution, suffering, and trials.

First, Hezekiah recognized that this was a spiritual fight, not a physical fight.

Isaiah 36:13-15 NIV
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

This encounter was not about one king fighting another – it was a spiritual battle, and it was about God. In my own life I often fail to recognize God at work in my circumstances, instead chalking things up to not getting enough sleep, a day of bad traffic, someone else’s ignorance, or even dismissing things with the mindset of, “that’s just how it is.” But what if God wants to use everyday difficulties to grow me and to teach me how represent Him in every painful or frustrating circumstance? Even more, what if He wants to use my daily frustrations to defend His own power and glory through my responses?

Next, Hezekiah understood the importance of not engaging the enemy in conversation.

Isaiah 36:21 NIV
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Do you have any idea how hard that is? When someone attacks me, I am overwhelmed with a desire to defend myself and put them in their place. But that urge is far greater when the person attacked is someone I love and respect. Yet, when their beloved King was disparaged, the people remained silent.

Oddly enough, silence is one of our greatest tools in a trial. My gut reaction is the complete opposite – it’s to defend, accuse, cry, fuss, and demand. But when I begin to engage the enemy in conversation, I quickly find myself on a slippery slope to justifying compromise. At best, I end up overwhelmed and discouraged; at worst, I throw caution to the wind and engage in sinful behavior to deal with the pain.

Finally, Hezekiah sought God’s direction.

Isaiah 37:1, 15 NIV
When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord

Rather than engaging the enemy in conversation, Hezekiah engaged God in conversation. This chapter records a beautiful plea from Hezekiah, where He reminds God of His power and His promises and asks Him to defend His name and intercede for Judah.

Sometimes I take the “keep silent” part a little too far, and I don’t go to the Lord with my struggles. In doing so, I miss out on what God is doing in the situation because I’m not seeking His direction, and I also cut myself off from my only source of hope, as He is the only one who has the power to deliver me from what I’m going through. Therefore I have to make a conscious effort to engage God in conversation, reminding Him of His promises and asking Him to intervene in my life.

Isaiah 37:35 NIV
“I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

God gave Hezekiah and the people of Judah a great victory.

I want that victory, too.

So whether I’m just “having a day,” or I’m going through a months-long trial, I will choose to see what God is doing in my situation and look for what I can learn through it. I will choose to take my thoughts captive and refuse to entertain and engage the temptations that come to me. And most importantly, I will pray and plea with the Lord for His direction and deliverance.

Father, forgive me for losing sight of you in the messiness of life. Help me to see you in the things I go through, and help me to represent you well. Help me to keep my mouth shut with the enemy and my mouth open with you. Help me to seek Your glory and help me trust You for deliverance. Thank you for how you’ve delivered me before. Thank you for being loving and faithful in all you do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Ephesians 5

We read in 2 Chronicles 31 that Hezekiah sought the Lord wholeheartedly in all that he did. Yet, the first sentence of 2 Chronicles 32 can make you question that.

After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. (2 Chron 32:1)

Wow—here is King Hezekiah tearing down statues and Asherah poles and leading the people away from false gods to follow the teachings of Moses and the one true God. These are all really good things he is doing out of love and devotion for God. Why would God allow this to happen?

Don’t I ask that same question? “Lord, I’ve been serving You doing all these good things for You! How could you let __________ (fill in the blank with any number of trials) happen?”

The truth is, I am not God and I have no clue what his plans for me entail. I know he is a good God, that he loves me, and anything that comes into my life he plans to use to draw me closer to him and make me more like Jesus. So, what am I to do when these trials come my way? I know my enemy is going to come after me—much like Hezekiah knew the Assyrians were on their way.

I think Hezekiah gave me some insight as how I can prepare. First, he looked at how the enemy might drain his resources or benefit from their resources. The battle might be a long one so he didn’t want to make it easy for the Assyrians to wait them out.

They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?”

Then, he fortified the city itself and found places of weakness where the enemy could easily enter. He also made sure he had weapons to protect the army.

Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces[a] in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.

Then he spoke truth into their minds–to fortify that as well. We know the enemy uses words to try to deceive us and intimidate us. Our minds and thoughts are right where those fiery darts are aimed! He will try to get me to be afraid and to doubt God. I need to have words of Truth to shield me and deflect the lies.

He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.

I need people encouraging me, reminding me that God will help me and fight my battles for me. I don’t have to go it alone. Of course, I need to prepare for battles to come my way because they will come. I need to take stock of my resources, my gifts, my talents. I need to make sure I haven’t left myself open to attack by unconfessed sin. The enemy can’t use what I’ve brought into the Light. I need to keep God’s Word handy. That is my weapon to protect myself from lies. And I need to have my close friends close by and praying for me. Isolation is one of the greatest ways the enemy chooses to devour me.

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Mostly, I need to stay connected to God through prayer. His guidance and direction are there for the asking. Just as he directed Hezekiah and Isaiah, he will direct me. Just as he fought their battle, he will fight for me.

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. (2 Chron 32:20-21)

Lord, I am so thankful for your love, your steadfast love. You are always there. I admit I do not always turn to you first when life comes at me. But I want to! I want to think of you first. I know I can trust you to be with me, to hear me when I cry out, and to direct my steps. You listen, you comfort, you correct, and you pick me up when I fall. You are my Abba who is my shelter in the storms of life. To you be the honor and glory forever. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Isaiah 30-33; Ephesians 1

I love reading the perspective of Old Testament prophets when it comes to understanding God and what He is doing and making it relevant to the day. I pick up today that hope remains as I participate and stay with my community of believers. It is where God wants me to serve and not be tempted to go where I think there may be more…more of anything.

 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures,  and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. – Isaiah 30:23-24  ESV

The reason I have hope is because it is God who teaches and disciplines when it comes to judgments.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. – Isaiah 32:1,16  ESV

I am still learning that there is security when I am under a just and righteous God. As long as I understand that He is reconstructing me. With that comes some times of mourning for sure. Sorrow is not the ultimate purpose God is looking for in my life, but is only the breaking of ground in my heart to be receptive to the Holy Spirit.

Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
    and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
    and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. – Isaiah 32:15  ESV

 

At the same time, I need to understand that the period of mourning is followed by blessing.

Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
    who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free. – Isaiah 32:20  ESV

This is where I come in with thanksgiving and prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life making all of this happen.

Who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory.  For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints. Ephesians 1:14-15  ESV

How else can I love those who follow Jesus? My fruit needs to be real so that others can see that I am authentic and a genuine follower of Jesus myself. Then that love we have together is a powerful witness to the world. So while I strive on my own, it is so much better to be followers of Jesus together.

Thank You for walking with me in this journey!

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

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Isaiah 26-29; Romans 16

“In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation.  Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter.  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.  Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.” Isaiah  26:1-8 NLT

Am I building walls around my mind to keep the enemy out? Or am I willingly letting him in? These questions come to my mind as I read these verses.  I let my guard down and fear can creep in when I least expect it. Isaiah 26:3 has been a refuge to me when I am going through a dark time. It reminds me that trust is greater than fear. And I ask Jesus to fill me again.

“The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord.  The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  That is why the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the people of Israel, “My people will no longer be ashamed or turn pale with fear.  For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob.  They will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” Isaiah 29:19, 22-23 NLT 

I am in a season where I am in need of fresh joy.  There has been hard battles fought in my family and I am weary.  But, these verses give me hope. I see God working in our midst and I am in awe.  He still does miracles today.  He still restores and makes broken things whole. May I never grow tired of that.

“But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord.  That makes me very happy.  I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16:19 NLT

Dear Father, thank you for your faithfulness.  I am humbled by how you would use someone like me.  Thank you for always directing my path.  Help me to fill my mind with your word. This is the true battle.  Thank you for your promises to always be with me. Amen.

“ In the night I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek you.” Isaiah 26:1-9 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

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Hosea 9-12; Romans 7; Psalm 73

Wow – where did this dark reading come from? Three selections of scripture that paint a pretty dark picture of life. It starts with punishment and it leaves me thinking I am a fool or at least mad for following Jesus.

The days of punishment have come;
    the days of recompense have come;
    Israel shall know it.
The prophet is a fool;
    the man of the spirit is mad,
because of your great iniquity
    and great hatred. – Hosea 9:7  ESV

Even if I am alone, it is my task to speak the kingdom of God to deaf ears. In doing so I know there will be those who think I am strange and startling.

And yet, how true am I really? I end up not doing what is right, but rather wrong. I am amazed how my true self is revealed in Romans chapter seven. I am nothing really. Look how the chapter ends:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. – Romans 7:25  ESV

How I wish I could have read Romans chapter eight this morning. Then maybe I could have shared some good news.

The Psalms, true to their nature, did not help, well not exactly. Psalm seventy-three starts rough. There is a full attack on naive faith. The world has declared that God is not King, His will does not rule and that He is irrelevant at best.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. – Psalm 73:2-3  ESV
What do I tell people who ask me if it is useless to serve God with a clean heart. What if they ask me what is the point of “being on God’s side?”
I thank the Lord that the end of Psalm seventy-three offers a turning point. There is something special about being in the presence of God, of belonging to Him. How did I perceive this truth? Worship has a way of confronting the false claims. Worship has a way of pulling the veneer off the face of evil. Worship refocuses my eyes so that I can see “the rest of the story.” I end up confessing clearly the ground rules for renewed faith.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end. – Psalm 73: 16-17  ESV
I see that once again I experienced very narrow tunnel vision. Need to experience my eyes seeing more and my ears hearing more. Worship helps.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works. – Psalm 73:28  ESV
Father, thank you for worship. Thank you Holy Spirit for drawing me into who Jesus is. May my dark days, turn to dark moments and may they be shorter and shorter as I enter Your presence and spend more time with You. Amen.
Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Hosea 5-8; Romans 6

Oh Israel and Judah, what shall I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.  I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:4-6 NLT

I imagine God saying, “Oh Amy, what shall I do with you? Don’t you remember that it all comes back to knowing me?”

What am I trying to offer God, other than myself?

Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean that we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” Romans 6:15-18 NLT

What am I a slave to? The reality is that I am a slave to whatever is consuming me.  If it’s not Jesus, than what is it?  I have fallen into this trap more times than I would like to admit.  But God’s hand is waiting to pull me out.

“But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God.  Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ  Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:22&23 NLT

I painted a picture of a girl holding broken ropes. The girl is me. It is a visual reminder of bondage that is breaking. Freedom. Letting go of things that I would rather hold on to. Habits, behaviors, ways of thinking that are causing death in areas where God wants me to have abundant life,  He wants my heart.

“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us.  He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.  In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence.  Oh! That we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:1-3 NLT

Dear Father, thank you for your grace and forgiveness.  Thank you for restoring what is lost and for healing my wounds. Give me the courage to release what is keeping me bound. And trust you with it.  Trust you with my life.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Isaiah 6-7; 2 Chronicles 26-27; Romans 3

My phone sounded an alarm as the storm moved in. I figured it was a warning about the coming storm or a flash-flood. Our friends were pulling in the driveway and I stepped outside as the rain just began to fall gently. The winds were a little gusty, and I was surprised at the cracking sounds of tree and limb I heard from the woods. We got inside as the downpour began. My oldest watched from the window and saw the trees shaking in the storm. I chatted my friend until the rain let up and she could drive safely on.

The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm (Isaiah 6:2, NLT).

It turns out the alarm was about taking shelter because we were under a tornado watch. I didn’t see the full of the message until 30 minutes later, after the watch period was over. I truly thank God for all the ways He shelters me and protects me and provides for me.

Unless your faith is firm,
    I cannot make you stand firm (Isaiah 7:9b, NLT).

I think on storms and faith and fear. I think on times my heart trembles, shaking, and times I’ve felt my spirit steady and cling to Him in the storm. He tells me He watches over me and shows me how He protects me from threats I’m not even aware of.

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law (Romans 3:27-31, NLT).

Only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. Faith is so powerful and yet so simple. I hold it like a jewel and turn it over in my hands, like a beautiful gift. Oh, love.

Lord, I treasure you. You surprise me. You amaze me. I’m so very grateful you love me. So very grateful to be called yours.

Courtney (66books365)

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