UNENDING MISERY?

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, the depths of your love for me are beyond my comprehension. I am so grateful that you choose to use me for your glory.

Read ISAIAH 9:8–21

The Lord’s Anger Against Israel

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob;
    it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it—
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
who say with pride
    and arrogance of heart,
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
    but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled,
    but we will replace them with cedars.”
11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them
    and has spurred their enemies on.
12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west
    have devoured Israel with open mouth.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them,
    nor have they sought the Lord Almighty.
14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail,
    both palm branch and reed in a single day;
15 the elders and dignitaries are the head,
    the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 Those who guide this people mislead them,
    and those who are guided are led astray.
17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men,
    nor will he pity the fatherless and widows,
for everyone is ungodly and wicked,
    every mouth speaks folly.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

18 Surely wickedness burns like a fire;
    it consumes briers and thorns,
it sets the forest thickets ablaze,
    so that it rolls upward in a column of smoke.
19 By the wrath of the Lord Almighty
    the land will be scorched
and the people will be fuel for the fire;
    they will not spare one another.
20 On the right they will devour,
    but still be hungry;
on the left they will eat,
    but not be satisfied.
Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring[a]:
21     Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh;
    together they will turn against Judah.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

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Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 9:20 Or arm

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Pray for a softness of heart, so that when God speaks into your life, you are ready to say, ‘Your servant is listening.’1

Think Further

Isaiah now addresses the northern tribes of Israel (Jacob / Ephraim). In a cheerless passage, did you get a jolt reading that the Lord will not ‘pity the fatherless and widows’ (v. 17)? Surely, caring for the disadvantaged was the very thing he was known for, and his main complaint against Judah was their failure to do so.2 Have things really gone so far downhill that the Lord has lost his compassion for those at the bottom of the pile? It seems that even they do not get a ‘get out of jail free card’ enabling them to escape responsibility for their actions before God, every level of society (‘both head and tail’, v. 14) is liable for their proud refusal to listen to the Lord. Frighteningly, after each expression of judgment, we are told that ‘for all this, his anger has not turned away’ and his hand is ‘still upraised’ (v 12, 17, 21). God is a completer-finisher and will continue to work in the longing that they will return to him (v. 13), even when it involves a painful and grievous path involving a breakdown of family relationships (vv. 19–21).

Few people perceived God’s hand in their downfall. I guess we can also struggle to live in the light of his presence and purpose. We too can fall into the trap of thinking we can fix things ourselves rather than seek the mercy of God (v. 10). We dither around with our schemes and strategies and forget to fall on our faces. Discerning God’s discipline in our lives and responding to it is fundamental to producing a ‘harvest of righteousness.’3 Misinterpreting it has the danger of producing bitterness as opposed to repentance.4 These people have adopted a hard-heartedness which failed to recognize God’s hand.

Apply

What experience have you had of God’s discipline? How did it feel? What has it produced in you? Is there someone you see veering into bitterness who needs your help?

Closing prayer

Almighty God, I look to you for wisdom to do your will, for strength to follow your commands. I need you to be first in all that I do.

Last Updated on July 6, 2024 by kingstar

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