Spring had just turned into summer and crops were beginning to produce fruit as our train rolled across the fertile landscape of West Michigan’s shoreline. Strawberries had ripened, and people were kneeling in the morning dew to pick the sweet fruit. Blueberry bushes were soaking up sunshine from the sky and nutrients from the earth.
After passing field after field of ripening fruit, we came to a rusty pile of abandoned metal. The harsh image of orange scrap metal poking out of the earth was a sharp contrast to the soft greens of growing crops. The metal produces nothing. Fruit, on the other hand, grows, ripens, and nourishes hungry humans.
The contrast between the fruit and the metal reminds me of God’s prophecies against ancient cities like Damascus (Isa. 17:1,11). He says, “Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, . . . the harvest will be a heap of ruins” (Isa. 17:10-11). This prophecy serves as a contemporary warning about the danger and futility of thinking we can produce anything on our own. Apart from God, the work of our hands will become a pile of ruins. But when we join with God in the work of His hands, God multiplies our effort and provides spiritual nourishment for many.
Lord, I want to be a part of what You are doing in Your world. Apart from You, my work is nothing. Lead me, fill me, use me. Nourish others through me.
“Without Me you can do nothing.” —Jesus (John 15:5)
At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Assyrians were a military threat to the region. The northern kingdom of Israel formed a military pact with Syria to fight the Assyrians. Because King Ahaz of Judah refused to join the alliance, Syria and Israel attacked Judah (2 Kings 16:5; Isa. 7:6). Isaiah had assured King Ahaz that God would protect and deliver Judah. But instead of trusting God for help and deliverance, Judah turned to the Assyrians for help and protection (2 Chron. 28:16-21; Isa. 7:1-12). Ahaz rejected God and turned to idols instead (2 Chron. 28:22-26). In Isaiah 17, the prophet pronounced judgment on Israel and Syria, warning that they would be defeated by the Assyrians (see also Isa. 7:17; 8:4).
Alf Clark walks the city streets looking for Zacchaeus. Well, not the actual one in the Bible—Jesus already found him. Alf and some friends who serve with an urban ministry do what Jesus did in Luke 19. They go purposefully through town to meet with and help those in need.
Alf walks house to house in his neighborhood, knocking on doors and saying to whoever peeks out, “Hi, I’m Alf. Do you have any needs I can pray for?” It’s his way of opening up communication and—like Jesus did with tax-collector Zacchaeus—seeking to supply needed counsel and spiritual life and hope.
Notice what Jesus did. Luke simply says that Jesus “passed through” Jericho (Luke 19:1). Of course, a crowd gathered, as usually occurred when Jesus came to town. Zacchaeus, being “height challenged,” climbed a tree. Jesus, while passing through, walked right over to his tree and told him He had to visit at his house. That day salvation came to Zacchaeus’s house. Jesus had “come to seek and to save that which was lost” (v.10).
Do we look for Zacchaeus? He is everywhere, needing Jesus. In what ways can we share Christ’s love with people who need the Savior?
God, guide our steps toward and not away from those who need You. Then guide our words and our actions so that we can be purposeful in our encounters with others.
God’s good news is too good to keep to ourselves.
When Zacchaeus said he would “restore fourfold” (v.8), he followed the highest pattern rather than the one required under Jewish law. While fourfold restoration was required for sheep stealing (see Ex. 22:1 and David’s response to Nathan, 2 Sam. 12:5-6), the restitution for normal theft was a return of the principal plus an extra 20 percent.
On a plateau high above the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the world’s largest radio telescopes is giving astronomers a view of the universe never seen before. In an Associated Press article, Luis Andres Henao spoke of scientists from many countries “looking for clues about the dawn of the cosmos—from the coldest gases and dust where galaxies are formed and stars are born to the energy produced by the Big Bang.”
The Bible celebrates the mighty power and infinite understanding of God who “counts the number of the stars” and “calls them all by name” (Ps. 147:4). Yet the Creator of the universe is not a remote, uncaring force, but a loving heavenly Father who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (v.3). “The Lord lifts up the humble” (v.6) and “takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (v.11).
He loves us so much that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
British author J. B. Phillips called Earth “the visited planet,” where the Prince of Glory is still working out His plan.
Our hope for today and forever lies in the loving mercy of God who calls each star by name.
The God who made the firmament, Who made the deepest sea, The God who put the stars in place Is the God who cares for me. —Berg
God, who knows the name of every star, knows all our names as well.
The book of Psalms concludes with five hymns of praise (Psalms 146–150) that begin and end with the refrain, “Praise the Lord!” (Hebrew, Hallelujah). In Psalm 147, the psalmist calls for grateful worship (vv.1,7) as he reflects on the goodness of God to Israel (vv.2-3,6) and on His greatness in creation (vv.4-5,8-9). The psalmist celebrates God’s loving faithfulness in caring and blessing His chosen people individually (vv.2-3,7) and in displaying His mighty power in creating and sustaining His creation generally (vv.4-5,8-9). Focusing not only on God’s greatness but also on His closeness, goodness, and kindness, the psalmist affirms that it is God alone who provides security and prosperity (vv.13-14).