August 28, 2015

Manna for each day, for each situation

Isaiah 58:1–59:21, Luke 22:24–62, Job 13:1–12

Devotional time with God includes learning His will for my life’s situations. What He tells me in the realm of application might not be the same as what the Holy Spirit reveals to others, even those reading the same Scriptures. This is not about interpretation, but what I do with that interpretation.

Applications can vary. This means when someone is in a similar situation to something I’ve experienced, I can share what helped me and how I applied it, but it is far better to encourage them to seek the face of God for His direction for them.

For instance, today’s passage in Isaiah suggests two things I need to apply in my life. One is in a list of personal sacrifices God expects from His people rather than a self-centered fast that might look pious but is really not. That list includes sharing food with the hungry and bringing the homeless into my house, but one that jumped into my face. It was the phrase telling readers to “not hide” from their own flesh. I hear the Holy Spirit saying that instead of doing my own thing, I must spend more time with my children and grandchildren. The Spirit might give another application to someone else, but that is what He says to me.

The second is about Sabbath-keeping. I’ve already shared that the NT takes the Sabbath beyond a one-day-a-week rest from work and applies it to salvation. A true Sabbath rest means ceasing from our own efforts to be saved and instead resting in the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Isaiah speaks of the blessings God wants for His people and contrasts them with the things we do that block those blessings. One of them is about the Sabbath . . .

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth . . . .” (Isaiah 58:13–14)

For me, the application is this: resting in Christ and God’s salvation does not mean that I can do whatever I wish. I am not to seek my own pleasure or even make idle conversation, but give myself entirely to the will of God, doing and saying what the Holy Spirit gives me. This is a sacrificial approach, not to earn or deserve eternal life, but to live out my days in demonstration of the grace of God in all I do and say.

Job understood. As his ‘comforters’ offered advice, he knew what they were saying, but he also knew that they were making assumptions and their ‘applications’ were not his applications. They spoke true things but with answers that did not fit Job’s need. He said to them . . .

“Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God. As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all. Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” (Job 13:1–5) He sounds annoyed, and I don’t blame him. I’ve been given worthless advice too. It just adds to the suffering.

Reading the passage in Luke sharpens the contrast between the way the Lord thinks and the ways we think. Jesus says the greatest are those who serve, that I will deny Him no matter how sincerely I claim otherwise. He sends me without resources at times, and at other times with resources, which makes no sense. He tells me to pray that I will not be tempted, but I often think the solution to temptation is to distract myself with a different activity. He advocates submission when I feel like fighting. When I put myself in dangerous situations, I find out that He is correct when He says I will not always rely on Him.

Learning to apply the Word of God is a great challenge. Not only that, each day brings new challenges, but also variations on solutions. What He said yesterday will not be my manna for today. I must gather fresh and listen carefully.

One lovely statement to Peter gives me instruction for this day: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

Surely the enemy would also sift me, but Jesus prays for my faith and bids me to help other Christians stand firm in their faith. My prayer is that He can use what I say and do, even these daily devotions, to do just that.

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