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Posted By Nan

Isaiah 48

If you look for the reference to Joy in this chapter, you won’t find it until verse 20. It is the Joy of being redeemed by God. In this case, freed from Babylonian exile.

The first 19 verses are the precursor to God’s redemption.

They are a warning to ascribe the work of redemption to the actual redeemer.

So often in life we forget to thank God for all the good things. We thank our own brilliance at managing our time, we thank the money we used to pay for those things we needed, we thank our contacts who led to something happening. We thank coincidence, karma, you name it. We thank anything but God.

The first verses of this Psalm are directed at God’s people, in their original context, the people of Israel.

God challenges them, just as He challenges us now. We are His and we say we pray to God. 

But do we mean it?

Do we live like we mean it?

We claim we are God’s people, the followers of Jesus, but do we actually live that way?

God told the people of Israel that He had told them in advance what would happen so they wouldn’t be able to say it was their god-idol that did this.

What are our god-idols that we attribute with giving us the things we need? With performing the miracles in our lives?

God told the Israelites their history was to be fickle and ignore God. 

We are the same.

God has always loved us and shows great restraint in not punishing us.

How have we been in 2020?

How have we included God in our lives this year?

Have we chosen to listen to God and those He has sent as messengers? Or have we listened to ignorant social media bloggers and ignorant, uncaring politicians instead?

Have our prayers been for those afflicted by the events of this year? 

Or prayers to god-idols?

Living in the state of Queensland in Australia, my 2020 started with bushfires around Australia. Terrible fires that left few communities untouched. 

My prayers for the first part of the year were for the people impacted by the fires and those fighting them. I prayed for the natural environment, for the multitudes of animals killed. And I meant it.

Then there were floods in some areas. These were not without impact on local communities. I prayed for them too. And I meant it.

Then came a pandemic. I prayed so much for the people affected, the people making decisions about the community response, for those who lost their livelihoods, for those who were homeless and for the frontline workers who couldn’t stop working. Those working in supermarkets and other essential shops and services. Those working in hospitals, medical care facilities and emergency services. Those working in nursing homes and those locked up in nursing homes unable to see their loved ones. For those who were separated from loved ones. For the ignorant who claimed COVID was some conspiracy and would not cooperate with community guidelines. And I meant it.

I prayed over an indifference that allows 46 thousand year old, archaeologically significant caves, to be destroyed by the greed of a mining company with few consequences. If Stonehenge with its few thousand years was destroyed there would be an outcry, but 46 thousand years of non European history amounts to little. And I meant it.

I prayed for asylum seekers, locked up for years in harsh government detention with no end in sight. People subjected to unnecessarily harsh treatment by a government that is not listening to God. And I meant it.

I prayed over the injustice in this world. And I meant it.

And I prayed for those impacted by a drought that refuses to end. And I meant it.

That was just my prayers for Australia. There has been so much suffering in this world this year. There have been natural disasters that were largely ignored. There have been too many people considered “black” who have been killed. There has been too little interest in their lives. There is too much greed and complacency and white privilege.

Living in Queensland I have escaped the worst of what this year offered. And I am grateful for God's miracle in this.

Yes we had devastating fires in our local area. But God protected my home and for that I am very grateful.

Yes there were COVID cases in our area. Not many. And yes we were subject to restrictions. But those restrictions were not harsh enough to negatively impact my life. And my family remained healthy. And for that I am very grateful.

We didn’t have the terrible months of second wave conditions and harsh lock downs suffered by other parts of Australia and indeed the world. And for that I am very grateful.

We had a pretty good year.

I am grateful to God for the year that was.

I know that many have had a far worse year.

There are many who are questioning God about their year. Who are wondering when the pain and suffering will let up.

My prayers are with you. And more importantly, God is with you.

I know that seems cold comfort when you are struggling to pay bills, find food and keep a roof over your head. But I know God is with all of us, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

I wonder how much of this pandemic was due to human greed. How much of this was brought on us by our own greed and that of the politicians who could have taken steps to reduce the spread of COVID?

The answers are not very important. What is important is that we trust God. We look to Him for strength and guidance as we step forward into 2021.

It is important that we rejoice in His redemption. 

It is important that we care and pray for others and mean it.

Whatever our circumstances, may God guide you and reveal Himself to you in 2021. And may you experience God’s Joy, true Joy, in 2021.

 
Joy
Posted By Nan

Isaiah 44: 23

"Sing for Joy because God has displayed His glory. He has fulfilled his promise."

Wonderful words. They apply well to Christmas. 

We prepare for Christmas. We put up decorations, we read advent readings, we plan for the celebration of Jesus birth.

Then it is Christmas Day and we somehow manage to get a little lost. The whole day is not a focus on Jesus. Instead it is a celebration of family and being together and relaxing and not feeling guilty about not doing things. 

I had a Christmas Day like that yesterday. 

I woke up Boxing Day feeling I had failed God. 

I had not spent all my time celebrating Jesus birth.

It was a strange Christmas. Not all the family could come as one was self isolating. So it was quieter.

I wondered if that is why I didn’t feel I had spent enough time honouring Jesus birth.

So I prayed.

As I prayed I realised my first thought on rising had been about this being the day we celebrate the long awaited promise of God to send His son as our saviour.

As I prayed I realised I had honoured Jesus in every meal, every gift, the grace said before each meal.

I realised the whole relaxing, joyous day had been about Jesus.

I have battled for years against the cultural expectations churches set for us to be “Christians”. Yesterday I fell under the spell of cultural expectations instead of truly worshipping as God intended.

What do we do on a birthday of someone we love? We are happy. We give them gifts. We celebrate.

And we do that, not just on the day of their birthday, but on every day that we prepare for that birthday. 

At Christmas there is the preparation. The planning of the feast to honour the Saviour’s birth. The planning of the presents to celebrate the Saviour’s birth. The setting aside of that day to do nothing. The knowing of this being a special day.

God set the template in the Bible passages that relate Jesus’ birth. The angels joyous singing. The shepherds curious and awe filled visit. The eventual arrival of the three Magi.

Christmas is about celebrating and knowing that celebration is about Jesus’ birth and God’s promise fulfilled.

It is not about feeling pressure to be perfect. To be the perfect Christian. It is about honouring the birth of one who was perfect. About His life on earth that allows me to be called Christian.

It is about honouring Jesus every day of the year, not just the days representing his birth and death.

That is the way of following Jesus.

 

 
Joy
Posted By Nan

Isaiah 42

In this wonderful chapter, which I recommend you read in the Message as well as your usual Bible, God powerfully speaks of the coming Saviour and all He will do. God speaks of the Joy the people will feel.

He describes His servant as one who will come quietly without loud speeches or gaudy parades. He will stop and attend to the bruised, hurt, small and insignificant.

He won’t get tired and quit.

We are then reminded that God created the Cosmos and all within it, including our earth and everything on it. 

Our God has called us to live right and well and has taken responsibility for us.
In The Message He states that He doesn’t franchise His glory or endorse “no-god idols”.

As God describes the Joy of the people He tells us He has been quiet long enough but now He is letting loose. God was calling the people He chose to spread His message to the world.

As we read on we learn that God is there, showing us where to go and what to do.
French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God”.

It rings true in these verses, especially verse 11, where the people feel such Joy. If you keep reading past verse 11 you will see the people were not joyous because of having wonderful, easy, prosperous lives but because of the terrible things that had happened to them.

Earlier this week, I was reading a blog by Holley Gerth in which she spoke about this very issue. 

She related that in her experience she has felt God nearest in moments of despair.
She believed Joy “is the whisper of God saying “hold on, I’m still here”.

As I read this chapter, her words came to me. I believe that is the message in this chapter. No matter what happens we cannot fake Joy. Nor can we command it to come. All we can do is accept that Joy will find us and live our lives in faith. We can live knowing that Joy will come at just the right moment and usually when we least expect it.

I love this interpretation of Joy as the whisper of God saying “Hold on, I’m still here.”

2020 has been a difficult year for the world, but there have been wonderful moments as well. And those moments have been particularly wonderful if you have listened to God saying “Hold on, I’m still here.”

 

 
Joy
Posted By Nan

Isaiah 35

I love the title given to this chapter in the NIV Bible: “Joy of the Redeemed”

This chapter speaks of the joy of redemption and returning to God and His presence.

It is a beautiful place to be. 

But being in that lovely place of feeling at peace and resting in God’s presence is not always where we are in life. 

So often we find ourselves in terrible places. We may be in a place of poverty. We may be refugees fleeing persecution and trying to find a safe haven. We may be having to deal with bullies and abuse. We may be facing injustice.

Those who are in terrible places are mentioned here too. In verses 3 and 4 the writer asks God to strengthen the feeble hands and steady the knees that are giving way. He offers words of encouragement. He urges those in terrible places to be strong and not fear. “Your God will come”. He will come with vengeance and with divine retribution. “He will come to save you”.

We all know the story about the redemption of Jesus. But we sometimes need reminding that when we are waiting God is there to strengthen us.

He has promised.

Jesus is the evidence of that promise.

Your God will come.

Your God will come to save you.

That is great cause for Joy.

 

 
Joy
Posted By Nan

Isaiah 26:19

The first verses of this chapter are often quoted. And they are wonderful verses. But by the time people reach verse 19 there is little interest.

This verse follows a section that covers the importance of humility in our lives. How we best serve God when we are humble. 

For the people of Isaiah’s time, there seemed to be endless waiting with fading hope of any resolution of God’s promises.

But here in this chapter we see God repeating His promise. 
“Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise.”

This was a real puzzler for the people of Isaiah’s time. What did it mean?

Of course we know. This refers to those who have died in faith rising from the dead as Jesus rose from the dead.

But what did the people of Isaiah’s time make of this?

This promise of resurrection was to be accompanied by great Joy. 

For the people of Isaiah’s time, it was accompanied by great hope and a promise of Joy to come.

As Christmas approaches, it is important to remember that the people waiting in darkness for the light did not understand what was coming.

All the people of Isaiah’s time could do was hold on to the words of this chapter. To stand firm with the reminder that God would keep in perfect peace all whose mind was stayed on Him. It was then and is still essential to trust in God and His everlasting strength.

It is essential we set our minds to trusting and believing in all God’s promises.

We can’t wait for the feeling to come. We have to set the intention to trust God every day, through every difficulty. 

Just as God kept in perfect peace those who trusted in Him and waited patiently for the arrival of their saviour. God will keep us in perfect peace as we wait for Jesus’ promised return.

 

 


 
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Nan
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