September 24 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” ~Isaiah 1:19-20

OLD TESTAMENT

Today we open the final and longest section of the Old Testament, the prophets. The story of God’s people is told from Genesis through Esther—creation, chaos (the fall), the call (of Abraham), and the formation of a community of God-worshippers. The book of Job through Song of Solomon provides the poetry and proverbs (wisdom sayings) of the worshipping community. The sermons of the preachers (prophets), who ministered to the worshipping community, are contained in the books of Isaiah through Malachi.

Don’t be drawn into the common misconception that the prophets are only about predicting the future. There is the occasional prophecy that is predictive in nature, but most of these books are simply sermons. The predictions run more toward the kind parents issue to their kids when they say, “If you do that again, there will be consequences.” (There are some prophecies regarding the coming of a Savior, and those we’ll visit.)

The prophets were constantly calling God’s people back to a place of faithfulness. They were specific about the things that God didn’t like, and they often grabbed the attention of listeners with colorful language and poetic flair. Sometimes the imagery is hard to miss. At other times, you have to read carefully or miss the clever innuendos. For example, in today’s reading God is unhappy that His children have rebelled against Him (Is. 1:2). They have done the unthinkable. Even a dumb ox or a stubborn mule knows better (Is. 1:3). Ouch! Isaiah points to the leaders of Israel and calls them hurtful names on purpose. He says,  “Hear the word of the Lord, ‘You rulers of Sodom’” (Is. 1:10). Wow! Nobody slept through these sermons. In fact, many of the prophets lost their lives for their bold preaching.

Isaiah is largely concerned with religious hypocrisy. The people are going to church, giving their offerings, and singing in celebration to God, but it isn’t real. It is all a sham because their heart isn’t in it. And their lives reveal just how shallow is their worship. They are greedy. They live to make as much money as they can in order to spend it on themselves. They don’t care about the poor. They ignore the plight of the widow and the orphan. God has blessed them, given them the land of promise, but they have abandoned the Giver.

Isaiah forces us to ask the question, “Is our worship real?” Does it get out of the sanctuary on Sunday and into the street on Monday? When it doesn’t, God says, “I cannot bear your evil assemblies” (Is. 1:13). He will not hear our prayers, even when we stand in the place of worship and lift our hands to Him. But there is hope and help for the repentant. There is cleansing and forgiveness for those who confess their sin and change. May God help our worship be real!

NEW TESTAMENT

Paul is so upset about legalism that he even calls out a prominent church leader for submitting to legalistic teachers! He confronted Peter, and then recounts the face-off right here in this book. Peter had happily partied with the Gentiles Christians, that is until the Jewish Christians showed up. So as not to offend them, he distanced himself from the Gentile Christians. This not only embarrassed the suddenly abandoned believers, but Peter’s action also sent the wrong message. The gospel is not about ethnicity, or food, or drink, or personal preferences, whatever they are. The gospel transcends all of these things, and therefore, we should embrace each other because we embrace the gospel.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.