September 26 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no lights of dawn.” ~Isaiah 8:20

OLD TESTAMENT

I had a seminary professor who helped me understand the prophets so well that I make it a point to pass along what I learned from him. First, think about the book—be it Isaiah or another of the prophets—as a collection of sermons, some of them part of a sermon series. Each sermon or sermon series was written for a particular occasion/situation. (Any good introduction to Isaiah will list the divisions by chapter and verse.) For example, the series of sermons found in Isaiah 7:1-12:6 were given during the Syro-Ephramite War, when the northern tribes of Israel allied with the nation of Aram (modern-day Syria) and threatened to destroy Judah. (Recall that Israel was divided into two nations, Israel and Judah).

Second, keep in mind that the prophets often looked at both the near and distant future, and often in the same sermon. In today’s reading, the prophet promises that God will protect Judah during the invasion, which is in the very near future. He will even give Isaiah a sign. His virgin wife (or young wife) will bear a son (compare Isaiah 7:14 with Isaiah 8:3). The boy will have to live off the land, eating yogurt and honey (Is. 7:15), because of the invasion, but it won’t be for long. Before he knows right from wrong, God will defeat Israel and Aram (Is. 7:16). Then, looking toward the distant future, the prophet envisions a day when another child will be born. One whose name will be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God” (Is. 9:6). This is a reference to the future coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Hopping around in time can be a little confusing for modern readers, but it really makes a great deal of sense. Isaiah lets God’s people know that He not only will save them from the coming invasion, but He also plans to bless them way into the future. God plans to bless His people now and FOREVER. Wow! No strategy can succeed against us “for God is with us” (Is. 8:10), and He has promised to bless us for all eternity in a kingdom ruled by Christ. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Is. 9:6-7). May His Word encourage us today!

NEW TESTAMENT

I once heard legalism wrongly defined as works-salvation (by a legalist pastor, no doubt). That is, legalism was described as the attempt to pursue salvation by doing good works. Except, that isn’t what legalism is at all. It is works-sanctification, which is roundly rejected in Galatians (so is works-salvation, by the way). Having received the Spirit of God upon faith, one does not then attain the goal of perfect holiness through human effort (Gal. 3:3). We are saved by God’s grace and sanctified (made holy) by God’s grace. That’s the elegantly simple message of Galatians. To be sure, the process of change involves human effort, but not the kind proposed by the false teachers. Not a lengthy list of rules and regulations.

To illustrate his rejection of do-it-yourself spirituality, Paul uses the story of Hagar. Abraham, tired of waiting for God to deliver on His promise of a family, slept with his wife’s handmaid, and she gave birth to a son, Ishmael. That’s do-it-yourself spirituality. I’ll make it happen on my own without God’s help. However, Abraham’s wife Sarah giving birth to Isaac, the promised son, is all God. It’s not as though Abraham was passive, of course. But Isaac’s birth has nothing to do with his father’s effort. The child is God’s blessing. Neither are we passive in growing spiritually, but (and here’s the point) spiritual growth is the work of God produced in our lives because of His promise. Man-made rules make for artificial spirituality. Authentic spirituality, rooted as it is in God’s handiwork, produces change that results in joy, peace, gentleness, and all of the fruits of the Spirit.


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.