I’ve met few people in this world who embody Isaiah 66:2:
“But on this one will I look: on [her] who is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at My word.”
Because when was the last time your heart trembled at God’s word? Or how about the last time God reprimanded you in pointing out a sin or something harmful in your life…how did you react? Did you accept it with a humble heart and seek repentance? Or did you get defensive and tune the reprimand out?
A woman with a contrite spirit trembles at God’s word because she knows His greatness and His power. She recognizes that although compared to Him she is nothing, yet He loved her so much, He thought it was worth sending His son to die on a cross for her. She knows of His great wrath against sin and unrighteousness, but she also knows the warmth of His pleasure and the abundant blessings that arise from walking faithfully and obediently before Him. She is careful to listen to His instruction – even when He tells her she’s wrong and must change her ways, because her trust for Him runs deep. Humility seasons her interactions with others, because although she’s the daughter of a King, she knows her Kingdom is one of service and being last, rather than first. She treasures her Bible because it’s her Father’s words to her and it’s her only source of information.
And when He makes her a promise, she stands in awe, already firmly believing that the words will come to pass in His timing…and it will be good, so, so good. But she also knows that if she loses her way, there will be consequences to pay for her disobedience and sin. Still, He always welcomes her back – no matter how stained, dirty or wounded she is. And that is the root of her contrite spirit – that when she was nothing, He gave her everything. So, she bows down before her King, knowing there lies her true source of life.
As I prayed one night, the vision was clear: A neglected lot. Abandoned skyscrapers, cracked pavements, overgrown with weeds and littered with waste. Everything was gray in this ghost town where beauty and wealth used to reign. But then I saw a single pink bud peeking out high above the rest of the weeds. A bloom. Could it be? Here?
And a voice so clear: “just wait until I shine My light on her. Watch her bloom. Watch her transform the rest of the world. Her aroma will please the senses and her beauty will inspire many hearts to become unburdened. She will lead and not grow weary.”
Friend, if you are in a season of hardship, pain, failure, loneliness, financial struggles, unemployment, illness, or heavy spiritual battle, know that this is not your story and that this season won’t last forever. God is able to take even the most desolate of circumstances and make something beautiful. He can take broken hearts and make them whole again. He can transform a malnourished spiritual life into a flourishing tree planted by the spring of living water.
Above all, the Lord can take even the most ordinary, plain girl and give her an extraordinary story to live out. Because He gives beauty where ashes remain and joy after mourning. He can peel of that garment of heaviness surrounding you and dress you in praise.
Don’t give up on yourself just yet and, more importantly, don’t give up on God. He’s got plans for your life, girl, and they are truly beautiful and awe-inspiring. Yes, even if all that remains are the ashes of past heartbreaks, failures, mistakes, and broken dreams. Even there a rose can bloom with the promise of a better tomorrow.
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers.” -Isaiah 58:3(b)
Fasting is a rare practice today, but Jesus and the apostles spoke often of fasting and it’s benefits. Fasting has power because it means you put your fleshly desires on the back burner in order to focus on God. It means saying no to your body and saying yes to spending more time with Jesus and loving on others. Fasting is both a spiritual and a physical practice.
But like the people in the Old Testament, we often disgrace this sacred practice by treating our day(s) of fasting much like any other day. Sure, you may give something up – most commonly food – and maybe you read your Bible and pray three times per day instead of once. But that in itself is not enough.
To God, a fast is putting others above yourself on a magnified level. It means saying no to spending hours scrolling through social media and tuning into worldly entertainment. And saying yes to lightening someone’s burden, to sharing bread with someone who may need food or just a listening ear, to giving the money you would have otherwise spent on food that day to someone in need and, overall, just being hyper aware of ways to serve others and put to death your fleshly pleasures.
Then your light shall break forth like the morning and your healing shall spring forth speedily. The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul. You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. You shall call, and He will say, “Here I am.”
We’ve all felt the sting of rejection – whether it’s from a parent, the cool girls at school or an ex-boyfriend. It might even be something as subtle as seeing other girls being asked out while you remain without any dating prospects…for years. Rejection is not a pleasant feeling, and sometimes it takes a lifetime to recover from. It makes you wonder if it’s because you’re not enough – not pretty enough, not smart enough, not loving enough, not something enough.
But there is someone out there who could have the whole world and still chooses you. He has all these majestic names and more power than any human mind can even fathom, and yet He still chooses to love you – just as you are. Even when you had nothing to offer Him, He still chose you. The entire chapter of Isaiah 54 overflows with promises that your God will never leave you and that even if it seems like the whole world is crashing down around you, He will not forsake you.
Sin separates us from God because we serve a God who is holy and cannot tolerate sin. But if we confess our sin and repent, God will forgive us and welcome us back with arms wide open. If you’ve ever been separated from a loved one but were then reunited, then you know the joy you both experience when that person returns. That is like the joy God experiences when you repent and return to Him. The Lord keeps choosing you, but are you choosing Him?
The people of Israel got to see it in real life: a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night guided them to the Promised Land. I imagine that the cloud offered shelter from the desert sun and the fire was their light and a symbol of hope. Or maybe that’s just my whimsical thinking.
What I do know for certain is that God continues to be those pillars for us today. The Lord wrote an extraordinary story for each one of us – He chartered every milestone of your life and fashioned every characteristic of yours to best live out His plan for your life. Then, once He sent you on your way, He stayed near – to be a source of comfort, to give you strength, to encourage you, to guide you and to just be there in case you need Him. He gave you free will – like a parent letting a child run free at the park, but He also stayed close by and kept an eye out for you.
Sometimes though, it feels like He’s not there. Like maybe He gave us too much space, got bored watching us or, frankly, just gave up on us. That will never happen though. I hope you know that. As long as there is breath in your body and until you’re ready to enter His Kingdom, He’s got your back and He has a plan for your life.
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. -Isaiah 40:25-26
How amazing is that y’all? Who are we to say we cannot do anything? We have God on our side! The Holy One has got our back. He stands by our side every single day. If He set forth the stars and orchestrates their appearance, how much more will He orchestrate our lives?
Isaiah 40:25-26 is the perfect companion to Philippians 4:12, which states, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Paul recognized that he could do anything through the Holy One because the our God can do anything. Paul witnessed the Lord orchestrate amazing miracles throughout his life, so he knew that if God could create and orchestrate the Heavens, he could orchestrate his daily coming and goings.
Do you recognize how big and powerful God is? Friend, if you have God on your side, you can do anything.
We are commanded to set an example for other believers and break the mold. We are told to fix our eyes on God. The Holy One has told us to walk righteously and faithfully. Yet, in today’s society we are inundated by things of the world. We are told that God accepts everyone and everything. If you do not accept everyone and everything, you are uncool, close-minded, and stubborn. It is difficult to be a Christian and avoid the stumbling blocks placed in our lives today.
It becomes a lot less difficult though when we recognize that God gives us the strength to do anything. With the Holy One on our side we will succeed. Trust that He will orchestrate our lives to be living examples of His excellence.
How do you see God working in your life? How have you seen Him use you as an example of His glory? What things have you believed you could not do but became possible with God’s help?
“Now therefore, O Lord our God. Save us from his hand, and all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are the Lord, You alone.” -Isaiah 37:20
King Hezekiah stood on the brink of seeing his country taken over by the king of Assyria, so he came before the Lord and asked Him to protect Israel. In response, even though Hezekiah had sometimes strayed from the Lord’s path, God promised to step in for Israel and sent an angel to kill 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp.
I love how earlier in this passage, it says how Hezekiah brought the actual letter from the king of Assyria threatening to take over Israel, before the Lord in prayer. We’ve spoken often about remembering that the Lord fights our battles for us, and today we have another example of trusting God to solve the problems that come our way.
So, the next time you get some bad news – a bill you can’t pay, a rejection letter, or news of an illness – physically bring it before the Lord in prayer. If you’re a student and you find yourself struggling with a math problem you can’t figure out or a paper you can’t seem to write, that is when you need to call on the Lord for help. At the very least, write your needs on a piece of paper and then carry it in prayer, every day, until God sends an angel to solve your problem. It may take a few days, or a few years, but He will come through for you.