GOOD MORNING, SIBLINGS!
Today’s readings are Isaiah 31-35
These notes are new for the 2023 reading cycle.
From time to time in our study I share some of my notes that have little to do with the particular text we are reading and everything to do with studying the bible and living out our faith. Today may feel like such a day but if you happen to read my notes first, and then go to our readings for the day, I think the relevance and relationship between the notes before you and these assigned chapters of Isaiah will be pretty shocking. This becomes even more so when you consider I wrote these notes not knowing what day they would appear in our reading cycle.
So fasten your seatbelts. It may be a bumpy ride but the destination is absolutely worth it.
In our time, we have unprecedented access to knowledge, unlike anything humans have ever experienced before. My husband and I have taught ourselves how to repair appliances, install flooring, and even begin to learn new languages simply by accessing information freely available to us thanks to the current technological age we live in. To have such access to the knowledge of experts in so many fields is a great blessing.
The fact of the matter is, one person cannot possibly learn all the things they would need to know in order to be fully reliant on their own intellect in this world.
Just think of what that would entail! In order to look after your health, you’d need a medical degree. In order to look after your car you’d need to become a master mechanic. In order to have a home you’d need to have the knowledge of an architect and then that of a whole team of builders. The list goes on and on and it’s already overwhelming, isn’t it?
And so, as humans, living in community with one another, we must learn to trust demonstrably qualified experts in those areas in which we, ourselves, are not experts. And it is a wonderful thing to be able to do this.
As a result, we tend to go on autopilot when it comes to these things. We don’t have to think about it because it’s someone else’s job to do so. This is true for anyone who has electricity in their home but has never managed a utility company, who has clean water but doesn’t work at a water purification plant, or who has taken a flight but doesn’t know how to fly a plane. Countless daily activities require us to trust that others have taken the time to become experts in their field.
But this can also desensitize us to the need to investigate some very important things for ourselves. This trust can bleed over into areas of our lives in which trusting in others can be a very dangerous thing.
For example, if you are married, did you take the time to get to know your spouse for yourself or did you appoint someone else to do that and then report back? Sounds ridiculous, right?
The same is true when it comes to our faith. In many ways, we have appointed trusted individuals to not only read our Bibles for us but to also develop a relationship with God for us. And, in relying solely on these people, we are following them, not Him.
These trusted individuals don’t necessarily have to be a singular person, they can be an organization, a generation, a group of people, or an entity. And this teaching, this conditioning to accept what they present and not look any further can be intentional, unintentional, malevolent, or benevolent.
However, putting the energy into determining whether or not something is well-meaning is useless if the outcome is the same- if it stops us from thinking for ourselves in an area of our lives in which it is vital to think for ourselves.
Throughout my notes, I try to be judicious in my word choice, although I fear this is often overlooked. I do my best to offer up possibilities rather than conclusions, and to highlight areas in which there is benefit to digging deeper. So where a subtle word choice may be placed purposefully as a queue to dig deeper on an important topic, it can easily be overlooked on the reader’s end should they be looking to my notes to provide all of the information they need in order to understand a passage. In reality, rather than even attempting to solve all mysteries and answer all questions, one of my goals is to encourage readers to ask more questions in those areas that the Father calls us to seek.
I firmly believe that where God has left a question mark, man ought not to put a period and where God has put a period, man ought not to put a question mark. Tragically, though, this is exactly what we have been conditioned to do.
But sometimes we are not able to see something right before us, either because we have been trained to see something else or simply because we do not realize it is there.
Here is a prime example: A great many of the members of the Seeking Scripture bible study have been Christians for most of their lives. Many were raised in a church and many came here having studied the bible all their lives and simply looking for something deeper. And yet, if you were to have done a poll of people before beginning this study, of lifelong Christians, asking them to answer on the spot, I’d venture to say a good 90% would respond “2” to the question of “How many of each animal did Noah bring onto the ark?”
How could we think this, after having been lifelong Christians? Had we never read the story before? That is highly unlikely as it is a story that is introduced to believers as toddlers and taught repeatedly throughout life. So why didn’t we know the real answer this?
Because, by the time we read the story for ourselves, we had been conditioned to see what we have been told is there. Now this is a clear and easy one to overcome so I think it is a great blessing that it is at the front of the book so as to position us to open our eyes and be on the lookout for other such instances. You’d think so, right?
But rather than do that, in most cases, we express our surprise at the difference between our faulty inherited knowledge and the truth, and then, rather than sharpen our discernment and hold all other inherited knowledge up to the microscope, its as if we momentarily remove the filter, process this one thing, and then put the filter right back in place. Like taking our sunglasses off in order to see one thing clearly and then putting them back on to block out the sun again.
We take this wonderful blessing of a lesson from the Father, use it once, and put it back on the shelf as if we have no more need of it.
And so here we are, almost ¾ into our year through the Bible. We’ve noticed some things we’ve not seen before, and perhaps are holding onto skepticism about others until we get further into the book, but we are still not fully using the Word as a tool to examine our lives, our doctrine, and our practices.
I get it. It’s hard to do, and honestly, it’s usually not something we even realize we need to do. By this point in the cycle, we’ve likely made some adjustments to how we walk out our faith, our understanding of the Father, and our dedication to His word. There have probably been some moments of discomfort that we wrestled out with the Father – but did we then settle back into comfort or did we push up our sleeves and ask Him to show us where the next wrestling match needed to be?
The Father is calling us to separate our knowledge from His wisdom – who we think He is from who He actually is – and this part of the refining process will take time. But we often have this one elephant in the room that prevents us from even realizing we need to do that.
You see, tragically, at some point in our history as a people, we decided that we needed to be able to answer any and all questions about God in order to follow Him, fully defining him so that no mystery remained. When we couldn’t do that, because even the Father Himself tells us this is impossible for us (Isaiah 40:28), rather than accept this, we turned to those who claimed that they were able to do it for us, people we considered qualified experts. And thus, countless extra-biblical doctrines were born.
These were people who declared themselves qualified experts and so they even went so far as to establish a series of fixed questions and answers for us and then we set about learning those rather than looking for the questions YHWH calls us to ask. Did you catch that? Let me explain.
Why didn’t we know that there weren’t just two of each animal on the ark? Because rather than use the word of God as our authority on God, we gave that authority to traditions and people we viewed as qualified experts to teach us. And that wasn’t a question we were taught to ask.
We have fallen victim to the very real danger of being accustomed to relying on experts in so many arenas. Rather than being like Berea’s Jews and searching scriptures, we became like infants who are now grown but still insist on being served food that we barely have to digest.
Often, steak is before us, but we don’t notice it in our habit of reaching for fruit puree because we’re just not used to chewing.
I want to encourage you here. I know when we started, many of you felt intimidated by the Bible. You may have spent your life thinking you had to have a seminary degree to understand it or that you, yourself, simply weren’t smart enough to make sense of it all. But look at you now! Look at how far you’ve come. Is there still much to learn? Absolutely! And that will be true for the rest of your life on into eternity. The pool of the Father’s wisdom is one of endless depths, but you are here now, swimming in it, living in it, allowing it to wash over and change you as it draws you closer still to him.
He has brought you so far, and He plans to take you so much further. You have achieved so much and yet there is so much ahead that you will achieve. Just as you can likely look back now and marvel at how much you’ve read, understood, and learned, you will be able to do this all the more six months from now, six years from now, and for the remainder of your days beyond that.
The giver of the book you read each day is with you, guiding you, illuminating his word and writing it on your heart. The more we read it, the more we apply it to our lives and do as it says, the easier it will become to discern his voice from all the noise we come from, to exit the loudness of the world, and enter into that quiet place where we reside in the holiness of our relationship with Him.
But we are going to have to learn to rely on the Father, to trust in Him above all others, and when He says jump, to be brave enough, bold enough, and sure enough in Him to jump – even if no one else is jumping. Even if everyone else is telling you that it’s silly to jump. Even if there are “no jumping” signs all around.
We really do have to decide, once and for all, who we are going to follow, whose voice will have the authority in our lives, and then we have to cling to Him as if he were our very source of life – because he absolutely is.
So, I want to encourage you.
When a student is learning, the teacher expects questions.
And the truth has nothing to fear from inspection.
Ask the questions of Him.
Turn on the lights.
Open the windows.
Take every aspect of this faith that you have, whether you’ve carried it with you since childhood or only recently taken your first steps on this path, and hold it up to His word. Test what you have been taught outside of the word, test what knowledge you have absorbed through daily living, test it to see if it proves true. Every story, every belief, every doctrine, hold it up to the pure light of His word to see if it is of holy origin or manmade origin.
Don’t ask others to do it for you.
Don’t ask others which doctrines they’ve found wanting. This isn’t about them. This is between you and your Father and He’s lovingly, gracefully, waiting to walk you through this.
Then, whatever honors Him, cling to it. But whatever doesn’t honor Him, let it go with just as much fervor. Cling to holy, release unholy.
If it makes you uncomfortable to think about, don’t run from it, sit with it. Sit with it in His presence and talk it out. Be direct and honest and share the fullness of your struggle with Him so that He can teach, guide, correct, and strengthen you as no one else can.
Because the longer you read the Bible, the more you give your heart over to the Father, the less you will be able to keep these things that contradict Him in your life. He will not allow us to misrepresent Him. Our behavior and our lives must be in a constant state of lining up with His word as He reveals it to us. If the Holy Spirit is living within you, holy will not step aside and make room for unholy. Instead, Holy is going to reject unholy. And if we insist on allowing unholy, Holy is going to reject you.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:22-23
To whom much is given , much is required.
And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12:47-48
We have been given a place in the household of the creator of the universe, a name better than sons and daughters (Isaiah 56:5), and as a result, we are charged with representing Him to a lost world.
Seek Him. wholeheartedly.
With all your heart and all your soul.
The most authoritative expert we have on the Father is the Father Himself.
Approach His word with boldness to see, learn, and apply its truth to your life, knowing that you have been called here by YHWH Almighty Himself.
He has answers He is longing to give you to questions you’ve not even thought to ask yet.
So, ask the questions you have.
And then, ask Him what questions to ask next.
Seek the answers in Him.
And be refined.
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!