Devotional · Uncategorized

Heaven

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Revelation 22
There seem to be many more questions than answers, on the subject of heaven. Where is it? What will it be like? What will we do there? There are 3 levels of heaven described in scripture – the firmament where the birds fly – what we now refer to as sky. The second is the heavenlies where galaxies go on, into infinitude. And then there is the dwelling place of God where He sits on His throne, a visible presence of the One who until now is the invisible God.
Martyrs and saints who have passed from this life, are with the Father, as is the Son who is seated on a throne at the Father’s right hand. Surrounded by angels, singing praise to the holiness of our triune God, we might envision heaven as just a bright and happy place to be. We are not told a lot in scripture about heaven – just enough to make us curious. We are given some idea of things that will be missing – no more death or crying or pain; no longer will one have to fear evil, nothing impure, no restrictions in a physical, visible temple, no longer any curse, no more night, (21:4, 8, 25, 27, 22; 22:3, 5).
However, the New Jerusalem is described in detail as a city of brilliance and beauty! Coming out of heaven this holy city will be as breath-taking as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). It will be the abode of the saints according to Hebrews 12:22-24 “the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven.”
There will be work to be done in heaven. “His servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3). Where did we ever get the idea that we would be completely idle, sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp? Jokes have been made about this, but the truth is, we will be busy. Having experienced a life-time of challenges as God stretches and teaches us in His service here on earth, one might wonder what sort of service will there be in heaven? Will there be lessons to learn?
Perhaps the greatest joy will be the Father dwelling visibly with men. “They will be His people and God, Himself, will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Just imagine! God in visible form – majestic, loving, accessible! What greater prospect could any human being have than to live in the visible presence of Almighty God?
But…. There is often a “but” in life and here it is. Day by day, those of us who know God personally here on earth will continue in His presence, in heaven. However, many have chosen to live in a world of their own making here without God as part of their daily experience. For many this seems to be a hell on earth. Just so – it will continue in the after-life, living in the absence of the glory of our Father. The choice is ours to make now.
When our thoughts accuse us, when circumstances aren’t to our liking, when we are angry and afraid, when we are vulnerable and hurt, or disappointed by others, life can feel very bleak. Even black! Darkness enters the soul. This is certainly not God’s will. Jesus came to bring light (John 1:4). Sometimes our responses to situations make life anything but heavenly. Yet that was God’s intention when He sent Jesus to show us the way to eternal life. “In Him was life and that life was the light of men!”
Reflection:
Why would anyone choose to live in darkness?
Is it really possible to experience “heaven on earth”?
What might that look like?
What do you look forward to most when you get to heaven?
Devotional · Uncategorized

Leaving Things Behind

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Philippians 3:7-14

This devotional is a corollary following ‘My Sin Is Ever Before Me’. It’s absolutely necessary for us to understand the glorious freedom we have been given in God’s forgiveness. Think about it. Perhaps you have destroyed someone’s reputation by passing along unnecessary gossip, which in the end proved to be untrue. You feel terrible and apologize. Then, marvellously, your friend forgives you. How do you know you are truly forgiven? They don’t rub your face into the memory of what you said. Fellowship is restored.

Forgiveness uplifts us! That is what brings glory to God. In spite of our wrong-doing, when we confess and turn from our sin, He lifts us up to have communion with Him, because we’ve been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus! His forgiveness facilitates our moving forward. He even shares His plans with us so that day by day we are able to worship Him, serve Him and revel in the abundant life Jesus promised to God’s children!

The joy of knowing that our lives can please God brings us tremendous hope that today, and in all our future days, we have something special to strive for. In order to do so we must leave the past behind. The Apostle Paul knew all about that. He wrote to the church at Philippi that he found “straining toward what is ahead” took all his energy. It required leaving the past behind. (Philippians 3:13)

You see – Paul had a renewed vision! God was sharing His purposes for ministry that gave impetus to Paul’s plans, his hopes and his work. He was totally committed to doing the will of God. It cost him; he was tested by shipwreck, human violence and rejection, imprisonment and so forth. But it wasn’t only the bad things that imprisoned Paul. His status as a Pharisee, his position in society had also had a negative impact and it was all this which now he told the Philippians, he had to leave behind.

Just imagine saying “I consider everything a loss [good and bad] , compared to the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things!” (Philippians 3:8). It takes maturity to leave the past behind, while remembering its impact on our lives. Certainly our vulnerability to pride often blasphemes the very sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it brings glory to me and you, rather than glory to Him! We live in ever-present danger because our enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour [destroy, separate from our Father, God] (1 Peter 5:8).

Reflection:

The Holy Spirit brings balance to our thinking, as He reminds us of all that Christ taught. We are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. If we remain in a state of hatred for what we have done it will colour our relationship first of all with God. It means we really haven’t received His forgiveness, but also it makes us suspicious of others. Instead of rejoicing with all that God is doing to bring folks into sweet fellowship with Himself, we lose sight of the glory of God! This is a grave danger. The Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and to think about whatever is true. My prayer is that we will leave the past behind, pressing on toward God’s goal for you and me. There is a prize at the end of the journey. (Philippians 4:4, 8, 14)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Stuck in a Rut

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Psalm 51:10-13

When Jesus came to earth God had been silent for 400 years, historians like Josephus tell us. No prophets or priests had been given special messages for God’s people in such a long time! Yet the people waited. As circumstances unfolded, spiralling downwards, Israel still looked for Messiah. It is truly amazing that although their worship had degraded, they still held onto the hope that God would deliver them.

However, they had forgotten something. God’s promises would be fulfilled, but only on His terms. His promised deliverance would be of a spiritual nature, not political or temporal. What were those terms? Who would Messiah be like? The Jews had been given clues. Isaiah wrote about Messiah, as did David and some of the prophets. Whatever had been taught in the synagogues, or in the Temple at Jerusalem, it seems that the nation only had a partial understanding of what to expect.

Pain is a great catalyst calling for action ….some action, any action seems to be better than waiting. Ripe with expectation the Jewish people were ready to grasp at straws. If Jesus were truly Messiah, they were ready! The question was – were they ready to return to the loving arms of God? Were they prepared to follow Christ’s teachings? Certainly the religious elite were not…and they were the teachers of the people!

We know how that ended. Death seemed to have removed their only hope. Very few got the message. And Jesus wept (Matthew 23:37).

Have we, who are blessed to hold scripture in our hands, learned anything from these mistakes? Does Jesus weep today, watching people stuck in the same rut as the children of God, in ancient times? Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. What sort of deliverance are we waiting for, when we remember Jesus is coming again?

How often do we pray for deliverance from our circumstances – health issues, financial binds, unfulfilled relational needs and the list goes on? Are we interested in those deeper blessings only known as we shelter safe within the arms of God? Dottie Rambo wrote about that –

I’ll have no fear, for Jesus walks beside me…and I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God”.

Is that true for you and for me? Whatever happens today or tomorrow with COVID-19, are we ready to walk with God through it all? If Jesus should come today or tomorrow are we ready to meet Him?

Reflection:

What does your relationship with God mean to you today?

Do we anticipate a glorious reunion when we meet Jesus, Messiah, face to face? Or are we stuck in the rut of religious tradition, looking for relief of unpleasant circumstances, of a temporal nature?

Can you say with King David:

Cast me not away from Your presence O Lord; take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:11-12 KJV)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

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Ezekiel 3:20
Tell me the old, old story is a well-known hymn which was written as a poem by an English evangelist, Miss Katherine Hankey, in 1866 when she was recovering from a serious illness in London.[1] (Wikipedia). It was recited at a YMCA convention in Montreal where it inspired Bishop Doane to set it to music. As a child I remember my heart thrilling as we sang the words of this old hymn.
Imagine our devotions inspiring us to write about unseen things above. Do we pause in our frenetic world long enough to actually see Jesus and His glory, to sense His love? In the fight to succeed do we recognize our tremendous need as little children in the faith, weakened and weary by the battle to survive feelings of helplessness and guilt?
Time is of the essence today. When might we find time to take the story of redemption in slowly, soaking up God’s remedy for sin through Jesus’ Christ our Lord? Ah! How soon we forget! Perhaps it is only in times of great fear that we recognize our need for comfort from the truths of scripture, and how dearly our pursuit of happiness has cost us in the realm of spiritual reality.
In my own life it has often been through the experience of being set aside that my own needs had been replaced by the deepest joy of abiding in Him. The cost of my personal peace procured at the cross is an old story, but one that I like to hear and tell often, one that I need to hear repeated.
1 Tell me the old, old story  2 Tell me the story slowly
Of unseen things above, That I may take it in –
Of Jesus and his glory,  That wonderful redemption,
Of Jesus and his love. God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story simply,  Tell me the story often,
As to a little child; For I forget so soon;
For I am weak and weary,  The early dew of morning
And helpless and defiled. Has passed away at noon. [Refrain]
Refrain:
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love.
3 Tell me the same old story
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear.
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me. [Refrain]
Reflection:
Which Biblical story (stories) brings you the greatest joy?
Do you find it easy to share your life story with others, and what does it say about Jesus?

By Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Apple of His Eye!

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Deuteronomy 32

We hear some interesting expressions from time to time and wonder where they came from. Some we think might be in the Bible but when we search, they are not. How often has someone describe a child as “The apple of the parent’s eye”? Is that a Biblical expression?

As it happens – Moses was singing a song that God had commanded him to write and to teach to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 31:19). The purpose of the song was that it would review their attitude towards God and be a witness against them. Always tender, in the midst of judgment, the heart of our Father God is mentioned. “Is He not your Father, your Creator?” (Deuteronomy 32:6).

The song goes on to describe the tender care this Father took of His people. He gave them an inheritance, dividing the land and making boundaries for each tribe. He shielded them and cared for them in the desert while bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. His people were fed and nourished with the choicest of meat and vegetables. Why? Because they were the “apple of His eye” (32:10).

Everyone needs to feel significant, accepted and secure. Here we see the significance of the Israelites! In spite of their waywardness, their Father loved them. He would have to discipline them – yes! Foolish and unwise, even corrupt, God’s people would be punished. But God – ever a God of hope, tells how He will care for them once again. God Himself would make atonement for them, and for the land He had given to them. Not only does He give His people cause to hope, but He calls the nations to rejoice with them (32:43).

At Easter we celebrate God’s atonement through Jesus Christ our Lord. Scripture tells us Jesus was made like His brothers…took on human flesh in order to make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:14-18). In fulfillment of the ancient prophecy made in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), He became the offspring of a woman, God with us (Matthew 1:23). By His death and resurrection He dealt a crushing blow to the head of Satan.

Oh how blessed to be “The Apple of His Eye”!

Reflection:

What gives you assurance that you are “the apple of God’s eye”?

How does one approach this God of mercy?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Songs in the Night

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Acts 16:16-30

How often have you been awakened in the night with the strongest impression God wants to speak to you? Samuel and others are Biblical examples of such an experience. Job’s friend Elihu thought he knew the answer to Job’s problems, reminding him that God our Maker is the one who gives songs in the night (Job 35:10). What experience he was drawing upon we do not know, but I know what it is like to sing praises to God in the middle of the night. Do you?

Two thousand years ago, at midnight, though a strange choice of hour to sing praises to God, Paul and Silas were doing just that from a most unlikely place. They were in prison, but that did not stop them from glorifying the Lord their God. In the quiet of night, without officials rushing about and the clamour of daylight hours, it was a testimony to other prisoners at the very least. Imagine! God heard them and responded. He sent a violent earthquake which released them from their chains.

What chains bind us in the night? Are our hearts free from oppressive thoughts, resentment, disappointment or despair? What is it that keeps us awake at night? Do our hearts fail us for fear? Do we regret succumbing to temptation? Have we hurt someone we love, immeasurably? Do we care that we have displeased God? Does our faith waver?

Or – are our hearts overflowing with joy in the faithfulness of our mighty Saviour? Slowly dawning in the silence of night, spiritual truths take shape with spectacular joy as we meditate on our glorious Lord. Haven’t we heard the voice of God responding to our cries? Haven’t we felt the touch of His loving hand through the physical presence of a brother or sister in Christ? Hasn’t God’s Holy Spirit suddenly enlightened our understanding on a scripture with which we have been long familiar?

What marvellous sights have we seen, or sounds have we heard, that draw us to worship the Creator of all things? What thanksgiving replaces sorrow and loss! What hope pierces the darkness! Hallelujah!

Reflection:

It is often in the darkness of night that my spirit burns within as I see the Light of God, and listen to His voice. Whatever my cries may have been, healing comes in the sweetness of His presence. Thank God for the mercies of victory in Jesus that is only understood when all other distractions have been taken away!

Why are you downcast, O my soul?….by day the Lord directs His love; at night His song is with me”

(Psalm 42:5a & 8a)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

There is None Like You

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Exodus 20:1-7

A popular song today describes the uniqueness of the Christian God.

There is none like You,
No one else can touch my heart like You do,
I can search for all eternity Lord
And find, there is none like You.

Your mercy flows like a river so wide,
And healing comes from Your hand.
Suffering children are safe in Your arms,
There is none like You.

In a world threatened by political instability, one might ask where can we find security? What is truth? Who can we believe, rely on? Then suddenly the words of this simple song spring to mind and we know! God is our Rock! (Isaiah 26:4). He never wavers (Psalm 110:4). His word is truth (John 17:17) and it endures forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is none like YOU!

Just imagine the condemnation our world faces because it has ignored or rebelled against the will of God. Yet His mercy continues to flow. Today He is saving people from every tribe and nation, sometimes through the reading of His most Holy Word. By sending visions, or sometimes sending missionaries to share about His mercy and His love, the Holy Spirit is moving to draw men, women and children to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

Indeed He is the only one who can touch hearts with His incredible love. What other god declares He is love? Did you know there are 18 Bible verses that reassure us of God’s unconditional love? What is that like? It means He loves us while we are still sinners (Romans 5:8). We did nothing, nor can we do anything to earn God’s love – faith is a free gift, born of God’s love (Ephesians 2:8-9). We just need to receive and believe (John 1:12-13).

As we, God’s children, suffer anxious thoughts about the conditions in our world, we are reminded that God’s love is eternal….that He is faithful to His covenant love, so we are safe in His arms. That is eternal security, not physical. Bad things happen. People get sick in our fallen world, but believers know that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. The most important healing of all is cleansing of our souls from evil. This only God can do, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Reflection:

Do you believe “there is none like YOU”? How is that demonstrated in your daily walk? Does God know your faith wavers? Do others see you stable and secure in His love? Would others envy the security and peace you bring into situations that would rock their boats?

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Gospel of John

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As I prepared to study the Gospel of John I realized my approach has always been to use it as a tool for evangelism. So many verses from John’s gospel have been committed to memory, perhaps the best known being “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). What is the thrust of that verse? God’s character, His love. The world is secondary, though it is very important to know His love encompasses everyone – the whole world! Suddenly I am reading this well-known gospel with fresh eyes. Jesus, who is God incarnate [in the flesh] reveals to us the heart and mind of God, as John records His life and ministry, His prayers and His passion.

 

What does this mean for us 2,000 years later? God’s love forms the foundation for all that I am as a Christian. His love is supernatural, sacrificial, and strong. God’s love really defies description, so we needed the only begotten Son to demonstrate the purity, and purposefulness of Divine love. More than any other of the gospels this one reveals the deity of Christ; John’s starting point takes us back to before Creation! There was the WORD who is God, the Creator of all things, the giver of life, both physical and spiritual. Awesome!

 

Ryrie reminds us that Jesus’ deity is asserted “in the series of “I AM…” claims which Jesus made (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).[P. 1615 Ryrie Study Bible]. John’s purpose in writing as he did was “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). In his epistle John again refers to the importance of knowing that we have eternal life, because we trust God’s revelation through His Son (1 John 5:13).

 

“New birth” is one of John’s themes. John 3:6 is not as well known as verse 16, but clearly is key in Jesus’ teaching. John quotes Jesus “…no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (3:5-6). Prefaced by “I tell you the truth” Jesus thunders down through the ages this truth which still stands today “You must be born again” (3:7).

 

Babies who are born and neglected, sometimes die. John’s gospel perpetuates themes that nurture the growth of spiritual infants. For example we are completely dependant on the Holy Spirit. This member of the Trinity is often ignored. How is that possible when He is the source of all comfort, the One who guides us in our decision-making, and teaches us the meaning of all that scripture records?

 

Jesus’ dependency upon God His Father is an example to us. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (5:19). Should you and I call ourselves children of God if we do not follow His example? At the end of the day will our Heavenly Father say “This is My son/daughter in whom I am well pleased”? (Matthew 17:5). John identifies sufficient of Jesus’ works for us to grasp the idea of what God reasonably expects. However, Paul expands that concept “ I urge you…..to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable service” (Romans 1:1-2).

 

John did not call Jesus the “Word” carelessly. Jesus said “Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me….the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:57, 63). Nurturing babes in Christ was important to Jesus. Three times He told Peter to “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15,16,17).

 

Reflection:

Are we listening to the truth of scripture, of Jesus’ words?

Does it matter that our lives are pleasing to our Father in heaven?

What motivates us to feast on the Bread of Life? (John 6:35)

What happens to babies who are not fed?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Perfect Man

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Job 42:1-6

The Bible spells out the realities of man’s sin nature in every example. Thankfully it doesn’t drop a veil over human folly, but rather gives hope to you and me. Even in the case of Job, described as blameless and continually devout, we find him repenting in dust and ashes. Why? What was his sin? We know he suffered cruelly from loss and bereavement, from physical illness and mental cruelty. When his wife advised him to curse God and die, she attacked the thing most precious to him – his faith.

What then did he repent of, in Job 42:6? Was he humbled by the greatness of a God he could never fully comprehend, God who had blessed him so abundantly in the past, a God who was personal in spite of his own lack of knowledge and understanding? Job now saw God whereas before he had only heard of Him.

Perhaps Job realized how deeply he may have offended God by cursing the day of his birth. We can only guess at thoughts and feelings arising from his renewed understanding of the supreme God he worshiped.

Like David, Job’s adoration and intentionality toward God had never failed. In this regard he was blameless. However, he now saw the difference between himself as a created being, and the Creator of a design far beyond his understanding. God, seeing his heart, through suffering opened his mind to greater things than Job would have perhaps ever explored in the normal course of everyday living.

We know scripture tells us Jesus was without sin; the only human form that can claim that distinction. Was this because He knew the mind of God and fully understood His heart and will? Certainly no other human being ever has.

However, as we struggle here on earth, let us rejoice that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to guide our hearts and minds. Having placed our feet upon the Way of Jesus Christ, and with Him as our supreme example, we have every cause to hope that we might be found blameless of intentionally rebelling against God Almighty, even if we do not achieve perfection in this life.

Reflection:

Describe in your own words what a perfect man would look like? Example?

How has God gifted us in order to achieve perfection?

Does God demand perfection?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

On That Day

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Isaiah 25-6

In these chapters Isaiah is talking with God. In his prayer Isaiah exulted in His personal God, the One worthy of exaltation and praise. He had done marvelous things in perfect faithfulness, according to His perfect plan (25:1). God had been a refuge for the poor and needy, a shelter from the storm (25:4).

From the past, Isaiah looked into the future. “In that day” His people, Israel, will recognize their God as One who is trustworthy, the One who saved them, the One in whom they rejoice (25:9). On this mountain they will enjoy a great feast provided by God, celebrating the end of the Millennial reign of Christ. Death will be swallowed up forever, and the Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears (25:6-8).

Many of us are familiar with Isaiah’s words: “You will keep in perfect peace him [her] whose mind is steadfast, because he [she] trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Isaiah was still rejoicing in his God.

All around the Israelites, nations raged. Ruthless nations. Nations whose very breath is like a storm driving against a wall! (Isaiah 25:4). Not only was God a shelter from that storm, but He shaded them from the heat – just desert heat? No, heat also from the breath of the ruthless. That conjures up a real picture in our minds of the fear with which the Israelites lived, doesn’t it? (:4).

We can only imagine what desert heat is like. Slowly taking a caravan across the hot sands, moving through a sand storm with nowhere to hide – must have had its moments of terror and panic, deeper perhaps than any anxiety we have known. Sand in the eyes and ears, gritting in their teeth; smothered in its cloud, with unbelievable heat coming in waves. This picture depicts the troubles of life, swirling around us, overwhelming us!

But then God! “You silence the uproar…as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud”. Isaiah is celebrating God who, with inexplicable power and precision stills the song of the ruthless (25:5), removes the shroud that covers all nations (:7) and even swallows up death (:8). Amazingly all nations – even the ruthless ones will eventually reverence God for who He is! (25:3). Let us be clear….this does not mean everyone will spend eternity in heaven. Who then will? Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 20:15).

In that day” at the end of the Millennial reign, when death is cast into the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:14), peoples of the earth will celebrate the salvation of the Lord, with joy and gladness! It is in that day that the song of peace will be sung (26:1-3).

Isaiah has just painted a picture of God for us. He is gentle and caring, a comforter of tears (:8). He is all-powerful, tearing down and building up according to His will (25:10, 26:5, 26:1). He protects His vineyard, continually watering and guarding it (Isaiah 27:2-3). He is also a God of hope, of forgiveness. Those who were perishing in Assyria, who were exiled in Egypt, will come and worship the Lord on the Holy mountain” (27:13). “In that day” judgment will fall on the ungodly. But God Himself will be a ”glorious crown….a spirit of justice….a source of strength” for the remnant of His people (28:5-6). Praise be to God!

Reflection:

Describe the God you worship personally. What faithful deeds make Him worthy of your praise?

How might this prayer of Isaiah’s become an example for our prayer life?

What triumphs of the Kingdom age do you look forward to?