July 17 — Isaiah 18-22 — In What Day? (about 725 – 715 BC). Eleven times in these chapters, the expression “in that day” is used to point to an unspecified time when certain prophecies from God will be fulfilled. Six of them are used regarding sometime in the future when Egypt will be so influenced by God’s people that they will “tremble with fear” (19:16), they will have whole cities of Hebrew-speaking people (v. 18), they will “know the LORD” (v. 21), and they will be a blessing in the world along with Israel and Assyria (v. 24). That sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It will happen, however, because God, who sees the future perfectly, has declared it. Four other times in a prophecy about Jerusalem, the expression “in that day” is used (22:8, 12, 20, 25) to describe the eventual fall of that center of Judaism. Although they were spared by God when being attacked by the Assyrians during Isaiah’s life, Jerusalem eventually fell to Babylon in about 586 B.C. One special and glorious Day that awaits us is when “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2) at Christ’s Second Coming.
July 18 — Isaiah 23-27 — Pompous Pride or Perfect Peace? (about 725 BC). Twice in this passage, God pronounced judgment on a nation for their “pompous pride” (ESV). The first was Tyre, that island city near Sidon, known for its wealth from buying and selling merchandise. For them, God “purposed … to defile [their] pompous pride” (23:9). The other country was Moab who was proud of the things their hands had made, “but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride” (25:11). God hates people’s pride—here, it was the pride of what was collected and what was crafted. In contrast to this pride is God’s peace, presented in this beautiful promise: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (26:3). What is more important to you today, the satisfaction of pride or peace? To build pride, we must work hard to accomplish things. For peace, we only have to keep our minds concentrated on God. The product is much greater and the process is much easier if we follow God’s way.
July 19 — 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, Ps. 48 — Israel’s Best King (about 726 – 701 BC). Seven descendant kings compared favorably with David, honored with statements like, “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 and 2 Chron. 29:2). When this was said of King Hezekiah, something was added that set him apart, even from David: “… there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5). What was it that made him better? It was that “he held fast to the LORD … [and] did not depart from following him” (v. 6). David failed miserably in his affair with Bathsheba. Others failed by not removing false images or worship centers at “high places” outside Jerusalem. But Hezekiah “did not depart from following” God. It might be too late for most of us to have the honor of being the “best” in our “kingdom” of extended family or church because we have departed from following the Lord in many instances but the standard of faithfulness still remains as our target. Let’s be the best we can be today, this week, month, and year!
July 20 — Hosea 1-7 — Knowing God (about 753 BC). The tragic family life of Hosea was used to point out Israel’s failure to stay faithful to God. Their lack of knowing God is a strong theme in the first half of this book, mentioned repeatedly. Rescued by Hosea from a life of prostitution, Gomer didn’t know how good she had it. Also, Israel (rescued from slavery in Egypt) didn’t know the benefits they had by being faithful to their Savior. Both Gomer and Israel said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me bread …” (2:5), not knowing “that it was I who gave her the grain …” (v. 8). What they sought in other lovers, they already had in the one who rescued them. Here is the reason they suffered punishing discipline: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge … you have forgotten the law of your God” (4:6). God gave them a hope that He would return to them if “they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face” (5:15) saying, “Come, let us return to the LORD … let us press on to know the LORD” (6:1, 3). Reading through books like Hosea helps you to know God better. Together, we are seeking God to know God.
July 21 — Hosea 8-14 — Dense Israel (about 753 BC). When I read about the history of God’s chosen people, I often think or say to myself, “Dense Israel!” How could they be so insensitive, so uncaring, so disobedient?! Well, one reason is that they did not have the advantage of the indwelling Spirit of God like we do today. They were pretty much operating on willpower alone. God revealed their early insensitivity: “out of Egypt I called my son … [and] taught Ephraim to walk … but they did not know …” how loving God was toward them (11:1-3). Even after worshiping other gods, God cried out, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?” (v. 8). In their superficial sensitivity, they cried, “My God, we—Israel—know you” (8:2). They knew Him only casually. They still worshiped Yahweh but Hosea declared that “their sacrifices shall not please him” (9:4). When they became materially prosperous as “a luxuriant vine” (10:1), they said in their false hearts, “we do not fear the LORD” (v. 3), even claiming that others “cannot find in me iniquity or sin” (12:8). Hosea called out to them, “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (14:1), asking Him to take away their sin (v. 2), for them to admit that man cannot save them, and to vow to stop worshiping false gods (v. 3). How often do we appear to God to be dense to who He is and to what He is doing in our lives and circumstances? Let us “return” today in humble admission of our emptiness and our sinfulness.
July 22 — Isaiah 28-30 — Waiting to be Gracious (about 725 BC). Assyria had come to be a dominating power, expanding its territory by conquering neighboring peoples like Israel and Judah. Israel was in the process of falling to them and being carried away to other lands. Judah was afraid and began to panic. They had a plan that perhaps Egypt would save them but it was not God’s plan (30:1). God rebuked them for planning “to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction” (v. 2). They were challenged to return to God and rest in Him, thus, “you shall be saved” (v. 15), but they replied, “No! We will flee …” (v. 16). Then, Isaiah made a general statement that also applies to us today: “the LORD waits to be gracious to you … blessed are all those who wait for him” (v. 18). That is a great reminder that would be good to memorize. God doesn’t want us to depend on our own plans for solving threatening problems that face us; He wants to guide us with His subtle voice: “This is the way, walk in it” (v. 21). We cannot get that guidance without asking for it, without being sensitive to His voice, and without waiting for the grace He wants to give us.
July 23 — Isaiah 31-34 — Righteous Nations (about 725 BC). As Assyria continued to threaten Jerusalem, God challenged the Jews to “look to the Holy One of Israel” (31:1). Before rescuing them, however, God pointed out the sinfulness within Jerusalem. There were fools who were being called “noble” (32:5), scoundrels with evil devices (v. 7), and complacent women who were told to “tie sackcloth around your waist” in repentance (v. 11). Repentance must come before salvation. Then, a later Jerusalem is described after the king of righteousness had arrived (v. 1), looking forward to a time still to come, when “the Spirit is poured upon us” (v. 15). At that time, “justice with dwell … and righteousness … And the effect of righteousness will be peace” (vv. 16-17). Until Christ comes again to rule on the earth, we should be praying regularly for our nation. Leaders need to turn from selfish purposes toward what is best for all. They need to turn to God for an understanding of how to lead a nation toward righteousness because “righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34). Please pause now to pray for the leaders of your nation.