Amazed By the Word… Again

50-dollar-bill-new-front-back.jpgThe Word of God is still full of surprises to me, even after 25 years or more of learning and reading it.  I have mentioned before (here and here) how my Ladies’ Bible study in Isaiah has been impressing on me just how well the Bible substantiates itself and sets itself apart as a divinely inspired book.  Check out what I picked up at today’s study, our last of the semester and a review of all we have learned.

It was the very end of the study today, and we were all just throwing out our last thoughts, when someone said, “I think God could have given us just Isaiah, and that would have been enough.”   Then someone else said, “Yeah, did you know that Isaiah is called the ‘mini-Bible’?”

No, I did not, thought I.  And this is what I then learned.

There are 66 books in the Bible (I knew that part). The first 39 are the Old testament, which, in general, tells the story of God’s law and resulting judgment on His people.  The last 27 books are the New Testament, which tells the story of God sending His Son as a redeemer to  buy back His wayward people.  It tells of His forgiveness and mercy, and the comfort His people find in Him.

Isaiah is a book of 66 chapters (I knew that, too, just never did the math). The first 39 tell of Judah’s rebellion and God’s resulting judgment on them. The last 27 tell of God’s plan to redeem His people through a suffering servant, and of the mercy, comfort, and peace that will result when His people learn to rely fully on Him and nothing else for their salvation.

Are you amazed yet?

Of course, I had to go home and check this out for myself (you know, like the Bereans).   Sure enough, chapter 39 ends up like this:

“5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.  7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.   8 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good. For he thought, There will be peace and security in my days.”

In spite of Hezekiah’s relief that this wouldn’t take place in his own lifetime, the outlook isn’t all that cheery there. Then chapter 40 begins like this:

“1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

If you want to read the whole chapter, it just gets better and better.   I suddenly feel as though I need to go back and do the whole study again.  I am in awe.  Each new truth that I discover about how God’s Word holds together as a unit is like a water mark (or whatever they do nowadays that’s even more clever) on money.  It’s just too hard to fake these things.  It would be enough for me to know God’s hand in my life and His grace in my heart, but I thank Him today, once again, for going so far to satisfy my mind with the reality of His Truth.

Water For Thought

glass_of_water.jpg I’ve been nursing a dull headache all morning. I don’t get many headaches, so when I do, I can usually pretty quickly figure out what’s causing it. My first thought is always, have I had my coffee? If not, then problem solved. Lately though, I’ve been getting headaches because I’m not drinking enough water. Nursing mothers require a pretty crazy amount of water, and I just always forget that. Every night I go to bed just a little bit parched, and I think, I really must remember to drink my water tomorrow. But come morning, I drink my orange juice and then my coffee, and I feel pretty okay, and I forget again. Every so often it catches up with me, and I have to have a two- or three-day water-thon to get feeling normal again. Today was one of those days.

So this morning I dragged my dull headache to Bible study with me, where, wouldn’t you know it?  We were studying, among others, this passage in Isaiah 41. “17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. ”

Of course the fulfillment of this prophecy has and will come on several levels, but looking at its partial fulfillment in Christ lead us to this well-known story in John 4, and these verses in particular: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Now I don’t have a lot of experience with thirst. I’ve been told it is a painful and debilitating thing to be truly in need of water. But I do know that if I can have a headache after just a few days of not drinking as much water as my body would like me to drink, then my body must really need water. Yet, as I start to feel the symptoms of this thirst, I often look to other things first. I crave coffee when I feel a headache coming. I reach for a snack when my mouth starts to feel dry.

And isn’t that *just* how I am with the Lord sometimes?  ‘Hmm… I’m feeling lonely/worried/overwhelmed today.   Maybe I should… pick up my Bible? Call out to God in prayer?’ Those are almost never my first thoughts, if I’m honest.  ‘I know!’ I think.  ‘I’ll call my mom/ask a friend for advice/play on the computer for a while!’  And sometimes, those things help a little.  I feel better.  I can go on.  But I haven’t addressed the real need, and sooner or later, I’ll have to realize, once again, that God has been waiting for me all along with a lovely, tall glass of water that is exactly what my soul needs.

I am so thankful for the picture and reminder God has given us of our own spiritual needs in our daily, urgent physical needs. The Bible is so full of imagery comparing God to water, to bread, to air!  There’s also a beautiful picture here of God comforting His people the way that a nursing mother can comfort her child. If you’ve ever nursed a baby after leaving her with grandmom and a couple of bottles overnight, you know what that kind of blissful comfort and satisfaction looks like!  What if with each drink, each meal, each breath, I remembered the God who gave me those things, and that my need for Him is greater than my need for any of those things?  It might just whet my appetite for the only One who really satisfies.

The Real Deal: Part 2


I mentioned a few weeks ago how my ladies’ Bible study of Isaiah has really impressed on me how well God’s Word holds up to close scrutiny and how it authenticates itself.  This morning, we finally reached the chapter of Isaiah that we’d all been waiting for.  Chapter 53 (and the couple of verses before it) is one of the “Servant Songs” written to foretell Christ’s life and death.  Go ahead.  You go read it.  I’ll wait here.

Just wow, huh?

A tiny bit of background for anyone reading this who is not very familiar with the Bible.  Isaiah was an Old testament prophet who spoke and wrote down his prophecies hundreds of years before Christ was born.  I mentioned in my last post how he called king Cyrus by name before he was even born, but this chapter about Christ is where the real meat is, for me at least.

What must have been going through Isaiah’s mind, I wonder, as he was speaking and writing down these words from the mouth of God?  The people of Israel believed that their Messiah would come in great majesty and take up the throne of David.  What would Isaiah have made of these words (53:2): “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” ?

They believed their Messiah would be for *them* only.  What must he have thought about these words, then? “so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. ” (52:15, emphasis mine).  (This great mystery is referred to quite a bit in the New Testament, particularly in Ephesians 3.)

And what about His purpose?  The Israelites thought he would bring political success to Israel.  Yet these words describe His excruciating mission on earth: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (53:11)

Not a king who would come in power and strength, but a servant who would willingly give his own life to bear the sins of mankind away.  What a beautiful, bittersweet picture Isaiah painted of our Lord.  I just wonder how much he understood.

Another verse appealed to the more analytical part of my brain, as another ‘proof’, if you will, of how perfectly Christ fulfilled the many prophecies about himself written in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:9 says this: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”  The New Testament tells us in Matthew 27:37 that Jesus was crucified between two robbers, fulfilling the first part of the prophecy.  Then a few verses later, starting in 27:57, we are told that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man.  Some Bible scholars believe there are over a hundred such specific prophecies of Christ in Isaiah alone, and each one has found its fulfillment in what we know of Christ from New Testament eye-witness accounts.

This verse that Pippa memorized for her AWANA Cubbies club this week, sums it up very nicely:

(PS  I don’t think all the red marker is supposed to look so gruesome.  She just loves red.  And purple.)