Day 246 – September 3
Isaiah 37:21-29 – harsh words from God, but a simply reality: God knows
21 Then Isaiah, Amoz’s son, sent a message to Hezekiah: The LORD God of Israel says this: Since you prayed to me about Assyria’s King Sennacherib, 22 this is the message that the LORD has spoken against him:
The young woman, Daughter Zion, despises you and mocks you;
Daughter Jerusalem shakes her head behind your back.
23 Whom did you insult and ridicule?
Against whom did you raise your voice
and look on with disdain?
It was against the holy one of Israel!
24 With your servants, you’ve insulted the Lord;
you said, “I, with my many chariots,
have gone up to the highest mountains,
to the farthest reaches of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars,
the best of its pine trees.
I have reached its most remote lodging place,
its best forest.
25 I have dug wells,
have drunk water in foreign lands.
With my own feet, I dried up all of Egypt’s streams.”
26 Haven’t you heard?
I set this up long ago;
I planned it in the distant past!
Now I have made it happen,
making fortified cities collapse into piles of rubble.
27 Their citizens have lost their power;
they are frightened and dismayed.
They’ve become like plants in a field,
tender green shoots,
the grass on rooftops,
blasted by the east wind.
28 I know where you are,
how you go out and come in,
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me and because your pride has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you go back the same way you came.
Comment: there are many sayings from the Psalms in this divine poem. All scriptures agree: to rely upon our own strength is folly. To boast in our own strength is like saying Israel saying “I felled the tallest cedars in Lebanon and its choicest cypresses.” These are trees of amazing strength. God’s response is: “I know your rising up and your sitting down.”
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them] out of their resources.
4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that
‘looking they may not perceive,
and listening they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also. 2 I went there because of a revelation, and I laid out the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles for them. But I did it privately with the influential leaders to make sure that I wouldn’t be working or that I hadn’t worked for nothing. 3 However, not even Titus, who was with me and who was a Greek, was required to be circumcised. 4 But false brothers and sisters, who were brought in secretly, slipped in to spy on our freedom, which we have in Christ Jesus, and to make us slaves. 5 We didn’t give in and submit to them for a single moment, so that the truth of the gospel would continue to be with you.
6 The influential leaders didn’t add anything to what I was preaching—and whatever they were makes no difference to me, because God doesn’t show favoritism. 7 But on the contrary, they saw that I had been given the responsibility to preach the gospel to the people who aren’t circumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 The one who empowered Peter to become an apostle to the circumcised empowered me also to be one to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas, and John, who are considered to be key leaders, shook hands with me and Barnabas as equals when they recognized the grace that was given to me. So it was agreed that we would go to the Gentiles, while they continue to go to the people who were circumcised. 10 They asked only that we would remember the poor, which was certainly something I was willing to do.
The Jewish-Gentile controversy
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was wrong. 12 He had been eating with the Gentiles before certain people came from James. But when they came, he began to back out and separate himself, because he was afraid of the people who promoted circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also joined him in this hypocrisy so that even Barnabas got carried away with them in their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they weren’t acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, though you’re a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Comment: remember from the readings in Acts that the early church struggled with the inclusion of people from outside of their “norm.” Unfortunately this struggle continued throughout Christianity which I am sure is exactly why the struggle was recorded in scripture: so that the Church could learn to accept all whom God sends to us.
Prayer: by your Spirit, dear Lord, do we face the challenges of this day. Amen.