Agapé Chicago
inviting Chicago to feast on the love of Jesus


In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 20, Psalm 16

Have you ever felt conflicted about God’s role in your circumstances? We see that Jeremiah is disappointed in constantly bearing terrible news of judgement (Jeremiah 20:8). Still, Jeremiah cannot help but proclaim God’s words; in fact, he cannot hold them in (Jeremiah 20:9). Jeremiah recognizes that neighbors are against him, while God is for him. This leads Jeremiah to praise God, but only for one verse of song. Jeremiah ends our reading cursing the day he was born and the person who announced his birth. This back and forth of emotions, thoughts, and evaluations leaves the reader confused as to what to make out of Jeremiah’s raw and sporadic expressions.

Jeremiah, like the book of Psalms, provides us with words and a range of feelings which we can appropriate in our times of distress, mixed with worship, alloyed with depression. We all know that kind of experience, when life seems to toss us around like a shirt in a dryer. Jeremiah is beloved by God and faithful, but that does not exempt him from the chaos of our world.

Jeremiah shows us that when in chaos, we must stay our minds on the King of peace. Even if we can only sing one verse in worship, that can be sufficient solace in those days when we wish we had never been born. Even if we don’t like to admit it, those days come, and may God use the scriptures to ready us for such times.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 18-19, Psalm 15

God is the potter and Israel the clay. What God has created from nothing, a large nation from a man and woman beyond the years of child-bearing age, God can still refashion. At the time of Jeremiah’s writing, Israel had proven faithless time and again. God intends to judge them, but this judgment, if we are to follow the logic of God, isn’t primarily for destructive purposes, but for reformation.

When God makes this illustration, Jeremiah has been so mistreated that, after having earlier in the book interceded desperately for Israel, he is now ready to have God strike this people in full wrath. Why does Jeremiah feel this way? As the old saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished,” and Jeremiah feels as though his previous prayers for Israel have only been met with disproportionate mistreatment and ridicule. How does one go from praying desperately for a people’s protection one minute, then next wishing God to punish them severely? Jeremiah gets a sense of the profound evil of His people, the weight of their sins as he has experienced the crushing weight of their injustices. So, he wants payback.

Thankfully for them, as we see, God intends His judgement to work to strengthen the work of the Lord’s hands. Israel will be re-shaped but not thrown away. God of justice, we thank you today for your mercy!

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 16-17, Psalm 14

In paradoxical fashion, we learn that it is possible to make gods that “are not gods” (Jeremiah 16:20). Jeremiah introduces in simple language something the apostle Paul will explain in depth to the church in Corinth hundreds of years later. Jeremiah and Paul agree that idols, to use the language of Christopher Wright, are “nothing, but we making them something.”

First, they are nothing, for the gods which humans invent or craft are unable to fulfill their promises. They are weak and impotent. YHWH is less threatened by idols than I would be that my wife would fall in love with her niece’s drawing of my face. Idols are genuinely nothing, but we make them something. In Jeremiah’s days, people constructed idols and made sacrifices, even human sacrifices, to handmade gods that supposedly could provide rain, crops, sun, fertility, military success and so on. Even today, God is not threatened by the person whose esteem controls your actions, but to you that person is something. God is not threatened by our upward mobility or buying power, but we spend all of our resources at their service. Idols are genuinely nothing, but we make them into something.

God doesn’t simply judge this because it is evil, but God also builds into the practice of idolatry misery and disappointment. God is gracious in ensuring the futility of idolatry and even the attending judgement against it. Both are strong invitations to find our home in a powerful “refuge in time of distress” (Jeremiah 16:20).

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 14-15, Psalm 13

Many have noted that God’s imposition against Jeremiah praying indicates just how far gone Judah has become and how determined God is to bring justice for their sins (Jeremiah 14:11). Very few have noted how Jeremiah prays anyway, interceding for God’s people by appealing to God’s name and jealousy for His glory (see Jeremiah 14:13, 15:16). In hope of procuring mercy, Jeremiah speaks to the fact that false prophets have deceived the people. In response God says that even if some of God’s most faithful were alive to intercede, that would not be enough to stay the Lord’s judgement (Jeremiah 15:1).

This presents a problem. If Moses and Samuel couldn’t even appeal to God to spare God’s people in their times of rebellion, how can there be hope that the cycles of repentance, restoration, disobedience, judgment, repentance, repeat will not go on forever? This problem finds its resolution when we find someone to intercede for us in a way that permanently stays God’s judgement (see Hebrews 7:25) and doesn’t simply bear God’s name like Jeremiah, but is God and knows the mind of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Jeremiah’s intercession will not be enough to prevent the judgement and exile that await Israel. Jesus’ intercession will be enough to take us out of our exile (see tree of life in Revelation 22) and stay God’s judgement against our sins. Hallelujah, what a savior!

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 13, Psalm 12

Psalm 12 gives us a glimpse of what Judah was probably like in Jeremiah’s time. “The faithful have vanished,” “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor,” “the poor are plundered, the needy groan."

Take a minute to reflect on just how strong the images in this passage are. Filthy underwear, left to rot and decay after being worn. A drunken brawl that tears Jerusalem apart, sparing not a family. The Israelites’ sleaze, filth, and evil utterly exposed to the world in humiliation.

Sometimes, I read passages like this and wonder why the Israelites didn’t just go back to God and avoid all this. Yet every time I am answered by the scope of how evil and awful God’s chosen people were. If even God’s chosen people, who God called over and over again to worship and follow him, did not obey him, who among us possibly could?

Jeremiah 13 ends with a rhetorical question: “When will you clean up your act, Judah?” We, the readers, know the answer: “They won't."

We are in the same situation. Apart from God, our sins, our evil, our depravity is like the ugly, rotted loincloth. Yet in the loincloth image God describes what his people should be – clinging on God to glorify God and to be God’s beloved. Today, let these images remind you of the filth of sin, and give praise for Christ’s work, in which the free gift of God is to have our evil cleansed.

Scott Arnold
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 11-12, Psalm 11

God has determined that the time for judgment is near! His covenant with His people has been shattered. Their worship and allegiance to Baal is beyond shameful. Jeremiah’s message of repentance and obedience is met with a conspiracy to kill him. They want him silenced. The Lord’s message, ”Obey My Voice,” was stubbornly ignored as Jeremiah faithfully called out to God’s people.

They had no ears to hear or hearts to respond; they would have none of it! Jeremiah is told not to pray for the people; disaster is at their doorstep. He recognizes that God is righteous, that He acts out what is fair and correct, but his situation overwhelms him, and he laments and complains to God. Everything is coming to ruin. The evildoers believe that God will not see their end (12:4).  Their arrogance is astounding. They are determined to survive on their own. An amazing statement from the Lord ensues: ”I will abandon my heritage.” The impact of how that unfolds is devastating.

Wrath is never God’s final word to His covenant people. He will pluck Judah from the land, but in time He will have compassion on them and will restore not only their heritage but all those nations who will listen and learn His ways.

Psalm 11 reminds us: “The Lord is in His Holy Temple…the upright shall behold His face.”


Mollie Hassett
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 8:18-10:25, Psalm 10

Whenever we read a portion of Scripture, we should first ask, "What does this passage tell me about God?" In today's reading we see the following characteristics of God:

  • ·         God is just (9:24)
  • ·         God is powerful (10:12)
  • ·         God is righteous (9:24)
  • ·         God is sovereign (10:12-16)
  • ·         God is true (10:10)
  • ·         God is unequaled (10:6)
  • ·         God is wise (10:7,12)
  • ·         God is wrathful (10:10)

Today's text is the end of the prophet's public ministry at the temple gate to a deluded people deceived by idols (Ch. 7:1-10:25). Jeremiah and the Lord mourn over the future judgment, which is exile (8:18-19a). Insensitive to their sin, the people feel abandoned by God (8:19:b). God explains why there's the distance between them (8:19c). Remember He doesn't move; we do (Isa. 59:2): He is faithful; we are not. But we can always return to Him by way of the cross.  
     Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet (Jer.9:1,10). Weeping for God's people steeped in idolatry; Weeping, knowing the Lord will follow through on His judgment of exile. Next, Jer.9:10 pictures the countryside abandoned, without humans or animals, because of exile. 9:17-18 refers to women who are semiprofessional mourners called to lead people in mourning a death. Some Jewish families still practice this social rite today.
     Jer. 9:3 (NKJV) says, "And they do not know Me, says the Lord." God delights in our knowing and understanding Him (Jer. 9:23-24). And how do we do that? He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures. Jeremiah Chapter 10 alternates between the emptiness of idols and the greatness of God. As you read, find attributes of God, and praise Him for Who He is.  

Audrey Ellis
Untwisting Idolatry -- Jeremiah 7:1-8:17

I have a worship disorder. So did the Jews of Jeremiah’s time. So do we all. In Jeremiah 7, God calls the Jews’ idols “deceptive” and "worthless” (v. 8) and warns them that they pursue these idols to their “own harm” (v. 6).

An idol needn’t be a statue. It’s anything that competes with God for room in our hearts. In our twistedness we run after substitutes for God, wanting to satisfy our desires or numb our pain, on our terms and timetable as we strive to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways, at illegitimate times. We can untwist our idolatry by working to meet legitimate needs (as God defines legitimate) in legitimate ways, on God’s timetable.

One legitimate need is for belonging, especially belonging to a loving family. (It’s awful to feel like we don’t belong!) In our attempts to convince ourselves that we belong to a group (whether to family, friends, coworkers, etc.), what do we inappropriately sacrifice to gain their acceptance? God intends earthly families, especially Christian families, along with a community of believers (the family of God), to meet this need as we speak and live the truth in love (though we do so imperfectly). Our need for belonging will find its ultimate, joyful satisfaction in heaven with God our Father and His perfected family.

As we identify our true and deepest needs and embrace God’s ways and times to meet them, we can progressively find relief from our twisted, self-destructive idolatry.

Scot Martin
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 6, Psalm 8

By now, you know why Jeremiah was predicting God’s judgement on Israel. This chapter is probably one of the most vivid pictures of the destruction that is awaiting Israel: the destruction of her fortresses. God has warned Israel endlessly that if they did not repent from their sin, He would punish them. They did not listen, and God finally sent other nations to destroy them. In this particular chapter, the nation God chose to punished is already in the land. Jeremiah continued to warn them to flee (Jeremiah 6:1-8). They chose not to listen. They are indifferent to God’s word, and His word offends them (6:9-15).

Our world is not too different from Israel. They hear the message of Hell and remain indifferent. They say Hell does not exist, or say that the Christian message is offensive. They don’t fear because they don’t believe it’s true. They are not ashamed of their sin (6:15). They would rather listen to the wrong message.

God never gives up. He is still pursuing them (6:16). Israel were supposed to be in awe of God holiness and power; instead they were stubborn in their ways. God warns us against sin. We must be in awe of God’s wonder and run from sin. When we sin, we offend God and hurt ourselves.

David reflects on God’s character and says “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4). How can a God who is so majestic, mighty and holy care so much for sinful man? We must think on that. Unlike Israel and like the psalmist we should be in awe of God’s glory. We should fall on our knees and worship.

Kesny St. Louis
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 4:5-5:31, Psalm 7

Apocalyptic literature reveals through cataclysmic imagery. Film communicates the weight of traumatic events by showing someone’s vision of their outer world going out of focus, while sounds become dulled and life is experienced in slow motion. Similarly, apocalyptic literature conveys the indescribable judgement of God through hyperbolic descriptions. For example, when Jeremiah envisions God’s judgment on Jerusalem and describes the earth as “formless and empty”, this is literary technique to describe the chaos that comes with God’s judgement. Certainly, the world will not go back to pre-creation form. Rather the imagery intends to convey that the judgement of God will be so extreme it will be experienced as world-changing, in a bad way.

Another powerful image Jeremiah uses to convey the judgement of God on Israel is bringing together two images which likely stir memories from the Exodus: “He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind.” When God delivered His people from the chariots of Egypt, God led them to Sinai and made His gracious presence known through a moving cloud. This time, God will move against HIs people to punish.

Still, like we saw many times in the book of Isaiah, when God judges Israel, there remains hope that God “will not destroy you completely” (Jeremiah 5:18). Even when God judges His people, it is never the end for them, but rather an opportunity to purify, rectify, and empower them to be faithful to God once again.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 3:6-4:4, Psalm 6

Eschatology is the study of scriptural teaching about the end of human history. Apocalyptic literature in the Bible unveils or reveals God’s surprising plans to judge, to heal, and to restore all things. From the standpoint of Jeremiah and his original audience, Jeremiah 3:14-18 would serve as an “apocalypse” that would inform their eschatology.

As Jeremiah reveals, God intends to issue a day where the two kingdoms of Israel would be reunited, other nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor God, and there will be no need for an Ark of the Covenant. Moreover, God promises to give His people shepherds after his own heart. In a number of passages in the New Testament, church leaders (elders) are called to shepherd God’s people (for example Acts 20:25-28). In fact, Peter himself charges elders to “Be shepherds of God’s flock” while we await the appearing of the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Why is this interesting to me? The abovementioned revelations of God’s ultimate purposes, like a restored northern and southern Kingdom, as well as the nations gathered in Jerusalem to worship, haven’t occurred yet. At the same time, part of God’s apocalyptic revelation through Jeremiah is being fulfilled now. The early apostles declared that, due to the cross and resurrection, we are living in the last days, in a new era where God is unveiling His purposes in Jesus, and those decisive events are kickstarting God’s future plans.

Back to Jeremiah-- God giving His people shepherds after his own heart reveals, like the first budding of flowers in a spring garden, the sign that all of His promises are coming true. This bestows hope as we await the nations bringing glory to God and living in a day where God’s presence is obvious to all throughout the entire world.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 2-3:5, Psalm 5

God makes accusations against Israel using two powerful images: They have returned to slavery, and they live as harlots. Both these metaphors convey rejection and poverty. Prostitution is a historically well-known last alternative for women who are broke and only see one way to survive. It is more fathomable to many of us, however, that a woman could choose alternatives to prostitution, even in dire poverty. What is less obvious is how anyone could or would choose slavery. That is the very accusation God makes against Israel, that they have chosen slavery willingly. God accuses Israel of forsaking their birthright as bride and children to choose slavery (Jeremiah 2:14), and God frames the reliance of Israel on Assyria as if they are returning to the rivers of Egypt as slaves (Jeremiah 2:18).

The most powerful charge comes when God combines these two images to explain exactly how God’s people choose slavery. God says, “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill. and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute” (Jeremiah 2:20). God charges Israel, in powerful imagery, with giving up both their freedom and their marriage to be ruled by idols, which cannot satisfy their deepest thirsts (Jeremiah 2:13).

This problem presents a major dilemma. God’s accusations against Israel are quite harsh, though accurate. What is to be done to keep them and others from choosing the slavery that comes from giving our best to idols? Jeremiah will resolve this concern with a profound answer much later in the book. In the meantime, let us beware the human propensity to sell out to that which cannot give life.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Jeremiah 1, Psalm 4

Notice how differently Jeremiah responds “to the word of Lord” than Isaiah responded when seeing God surrounded by angels’ praise (see Isaiah 6:1-10). God tells Jeremiah that the Lord foreknew Jeremiah’s prophetic purposes before he was conceived (Jeremiah 1:5). Unlike Isaiah, who experienced God’s majesty and responded to God’s call for a mouthpiece with a willing heart, Jeremiah is unsure how God could use a prophet with speaking problems and inexperience (Jeremiah 1:6). This shows us, along with other important info, that it pleases God to use very different people to speak the truth. As we will see, Jeremiah’s life will be much more bound up with his message than Isaiah. While reading Isaiah, very little info about Isaiah’s life was given, but Jeremiah’s struggles will be part and parcel of how God speaks to Judah.

Though I have emphasized their differences, I want to note that both prophets have their mouths “touched” by God (technically an angel of God touches Isaiah’s mouth) to purify, prepare, and enable their words as messengers of heaven to Israel. No one speaks for God unless God empowers, and despite Jeremiah’s hesitation, God intends this work to be done for Jeremiah. I look forward to showing you how God enables Jeremiah not “to be terrified by them” and more importantly to “stand up and say to them whatever I command you” (Jeremiah 1:17-19).

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 65:17-66:24, Psalm 1

Isaiah is the first person in scripture to reveal God’s intent to make a new heaven and new earth. We have already noticed that much of what is revealed in Revelation 21-22 has already been disclosed in snippets throughout Isaiah 56-66. However, there are different emphases from time to time in those two sections of scripture which best inform our imaginations concerning our future home. For example the peace between animals found Isaiah 65:25 showcasing the complete healing of creation isn’t prominent in Revelation.

Let me redirect, though, and end our reflections on Isaiah by examining a different emphasis from Isaiah which prepares us for New Testament teaching. Isaiah returns to one of his favorite themes: God can look with disdain at Israel carrying on prescribed worship, offerings, and sacrifices. In fact God makes plain His frustration that those who do not tremble at holy scripture with humility are like those who murder, even when they obey God's commands (Isaiah 66:3-4). This shocks us, but also prepares us for the New Testament, framing sin primarily as a power of darkness which dominates us, from which we need rescue (Colossians 1:13). Our hearts are captured not by sins, but by Sin, a power that compels us to make our hope something other than God. Sins are the symptom, Sin is the disease. Thus it is very possible to attempt to address sins, through sacrifices in the Old Testament or through behavior modification today, without addressing the real problem. Our very best deeds can actually be stained with sin, with false motives and untrue allegiance. This is one of the most controversial aspects of Christian teaching.

Isaiah is one of the first Biblical writers to put forward truths which will cause much trouble for Jesus and the early apostles, who will assert that it is not what goes into a person (i.e., through food or defilement) that contaminates a person, but what comes out (i.e., from our hearts, the seat of our desires) that corrupts us (Matthew 15:1-20). May we then attend to our hearts, for that is what God cares about most.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 65:1-16, Proverbs 31:10-31

On occasion scripture presents us with expressions unfamiliar to us. When God warns of judgement for wickedness, the Lord uses an unfamiliar saying about grapes: “'As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, "‘Don’t destroy it, there is still a blessing in it," so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all'” (Isaiah 65:8).

Though we have never spoken about blessings being found in grapes, we get the point; God will judge Israel, but some will receive the blessings promised to God’s people (showing they have a “blessing in them”) and others will be excluded. This prepares the way for the teachings of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostle Paul years later when they warned that not all children of Abraham are true children of Abraham, resembling him in character and faith (see Romans 9:7-13). God doesn't rescind the promises of a remnant of Jacob’s line that would receive His blessings (Isaiah 65:9); instead He considers as children of Jacob both his physical descendants characterized by faith, and the faithful who are not physical descendants. John the Baptist paints it clearly and stands obviously in Isaiah’s tradition when he says, "And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10).

Faith is the only pleasing response to God’s kindness, forbearance, and kingdom. May we be glad that Christ was bent on rescuing a remnant and welcoming in more children of Abraham that we might have life.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 63:7-64:12, Proverbs 31:1-9

Christians have long debated the doctrine of God’s impassibility. Discussions around this topic are made more difficult because of how this doctrine has been differently defined and redefined. For our purposes, the doctrine of God’s impassibility is the belief that God isn’t affected by human circumstances, nor does he experience emotions like humans. Like I have already suggested, this definition isn’t going to satisfy everyone. Whatever one’s definition and belief, those who believe in impassibility must have satisfactory answers to how Isaiah can appeal to God’s compassion (com, with; passion, suffering) or even acknowledge God’s former compassion (see Isaiah 63:15, 63:7). For the person who believes in extreme impassibility, explaining Isaiah’s words, “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them” proves difficult (Isaiah 63:9).

God’s ways are certainly not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and even when the Bible speaks of God by ascribing emotions to the Lord, we must be careful not to project human emotions onto God. Still, whatever our doctrinal formulations, we must make sense of how prayers like Isaiah 64:1-12 move God on some level. Certainly Isaiah expects God to hear this prayer, often seen as a “prayer for revival”, and respond with favor, even the blessing of God’s very presence in space and time. Any doctrine that nullifies the Bible’s straightforward calls to action or the foundational truths which spur us to respond, like prayer and the fact God answers our prayers, must be reconsidered in light of the plain meaning of scripture.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 62:1-63:6, Proverbs 30

Twice in the first two verses of Isaiah 62, Isaiah speaks of Zion’s “vindication”. What does Isaiah mean by choosing this word? The nations have ridiculed both Israel and God during their times of exile under the Assyrians and the Babylonians. When Isaiah speaks of Zion’s vindication, of course he means that Zion will one day prove to be God’s bride (Isaiah 62:5). At the same time, God will also vindicate both the Lord’s power and love in rescuing Zion from her mockers. This vindication will include reward for Zion, but also judgment for the mocking nations (Isaiah 63:3-6). The book of Revelation takes this image of God treading the “winepress of the nations” and vindicates Jesus, the lamb who took the judgment of our sins, as God's servant who will move in judgement against opposing nations and kings.

Ultimately, Jesus will be vindicated by God in resurrection, will Himself vindicate God’s faithful, and thus vindicate God’s saving purposes in the world. For this reason, we delight in the name of God, for in it comes our protection and ultimate vindication for trusting in Christ in “this present evil age” (see Titus 2:12).

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 60-61, Proverbs 29

Isaiah 60 portrays God’s future kindness to Israel by promising to fill the earth with true light and drawing the nations and many kings of earth into the Lord’s kingdom. We know that a few of the promises of Isaiah 60 haven’t yet come to pass (see Isaiah 60:11,18-19 and Revelation 21:22-27). Though we await the day when, as God’s people, we will live in our world where our “sun will never set again” (Isaiah 60:20), some of Isaiah’s prophecy has already found partial fulfillment.

Consider the beginning of Isaiah 61 and how Jesus, years later, would speak Isaiah’s words to demonstrate the manifestation of the “year of the Lord’s favor” (see Isaiah 61-1-3, Luke 4:16-19). Jesus’s ministry brings good news to the poor in healing and rescue. Jesus also in bears on the cross the shame and ridicule in solidarity with of all the world’s poor. Jesus has come to ensure that the “brokenhearted” will be made into “oaks of righteousness” through faith (Isaiah 61:1,3, see Matthew 5:1-11).

When we read Isaiah, it is essential to read his promises in view of Jesus’s unveiling of His true identity. In Jesus, Isaiah is either already proven true or will be proven true, and the differences aren’t always hard to sort out. For example, Jesus’s work fulfilled the promise in Isaiah that “you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6). Only Levites could be priests to God in Isaiah’s day, but in our day, Jesus has “set the oppressed free” and made them into a “royal priesthood” for God (1 Peter 2:9), to the praises of God’s glorious grace in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 58-59, Proverbs 28

Imagine this: you go to a worship service, and most of the congregation are lifting their hands in praise. But you notice something strange: everyone singing has blood on their hands, and these aren’t farmers. This unlikely scene would strike fear into anyone’s heart. In Isaiah 59:3 tells us that Israel as a nation of worshiping people has blood on their hands while they make offerings and sacrifices. This blood is not from the sacrifices. Rather, this blood represents their business practices that destroy (Isaiah 59:5), robbing the innocent of their rights and acquitting the guilty (Isaiah 59:4), and violent acts (Isaiah 59:6).

God chastises Israel for crying out in frustration for God’s lack of deliverance from their evil foes while Israel have become evil themselves (Isaiah 59:1-2). God’s justice isn’t just about rewarding moral rights and punishing moral wrongs, but rather about making and pursuing a just society. God’s justice rectifies wrongs, and he intends for His people to be instruments of such justice. Instead they prefer shallow worship, fasting, and prayers while they mistreat their brothers and sisters whom God loves.

Isaiah began with a call to focus on justice over fasting. As we wind down this marvelous book, let’s remember that pursuing justice is part of being God’s people, lest we find our hands stained with blood.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 56-57, Proverbs 27

Hundreds of years after the book of Isaiah was written, an Ethiopian eunuch reads about Isaiah’s suffering servant who, “was led like a sheep to the slaughter” (see Acts 8:32-33 and Isaiah 53:7-8). This prompted the eunuch to ask Phillip, one of Jesus’ apostles, to explain the identity of this servant. Why is this eunuch so interested in the identity of the servant? He had at least two very good reasons.

First, without this servant, Isaiah 56:3-8 doesn’t happen. In that brief passage, this Ethiopian, whose genitals, and thus child-bearing potential, have been destroyed for empire-building, finds hope in the promises of greater honor that comes through having many sons and daughters. Second, and more significantly, Isaiah’s servant will welcome foreigners into God’s house, for it will be called “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). Without this servant, the Ethiopian eunuch and all those from other nations have no hope; however, Philip teaches that because of Jesus, nothing prevents us from being baptized in the name of the Servant, Jesus the Christ, and receiving the benefits of all His promises (Acts 8:34).

May all who have had hope destroyed, who have been crushed or looked down upon find great comfort in the savior who suffered a shameful death in order to turn our misfortune upside-down.

Jeremiah Vaught