Day 54: Ish

For your Creator will be your [Ish];

    the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

    the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:5

“Just as I swore in the time of Noah

    that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,

so now I swear

    that I will never again be angry and punish you.

For the mountains may move

    and the hills disappear,

but even then my faithful love for you will remain.

    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”

    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Isaiah 54:9-10

Ish: Husband

There is something hush-inducing about a man in love. I find myself hardly breathing when I watch them, like some sort of majestic animal in the wild I don’t want to spook. Most of them would clamp down inside their shells if they knew how obvious their love is, but as long as they think no one is watching! I can’t help but think that this is the reason why the universe was created, why women were created, why God made a whole audience of angels in heaven to gasp from afar: to see what a breathtaking thing the pure, sincere love of a man can be.

And then He whispers the most incredible truth: “My love for you is like that, only more.”

Ish, the swooning husband of humanity whose love will not break though the world do, is yours. ❤

Day 53: Yahweh Moshiekh

Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior?

    Who can demand that a tyrant[d] let his captives go?

But the Lord says,

“The captives of warriors will be released,

    and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved.

For I will fight those who fight you,

    and I will save your children.

I will feed your enemies with their own flesh.

    They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood.

All the world will know that I, the Lord,

    am [Yahweh Moshiekh] and your Redeemer,

    the Mighty One of Israel.[e]

Isaiah 49:24-26

Yahweh Moshiekh: The LORD Your Savior

“I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood.” Well, that’s quite a vivid and violent picture, isn’t it?

Wasn’t I just saying in my last post that sometimes it can be hard to view God as El Tsaddik, the Righteous God? Wasn’t I just saying sometimes the brutality of this world is hard to reconcile with our own ideas of righteousness, with the kindness and love we believe of God?

Ah, so here we stand in one of those places, and we wonder how a good, righteous God could be so brutal.

But doesn’t He say why? “I will fight those who fight you. I will save your children.” Your children! Yahweh Moshiekh does not fight by His own desire or own His own behalf. He is not one of those souls who delight in the suffering of others. He does not destroy for pleasure. As a matter of fact, He destroys those who destroy for pleasure, those who would dare to destroy something as helpless as a child. And that is the difference. He is a Savior, not a psychopath.

He is Yahweh Moshiekh, who does not save halfway. When He rescues us, He does not let the evil escape to lurk behind another corner, to haunt us in our dreams, to terrorize us. The evil God destroys is utterly destroyed. Even if it is our own sin.

Day 52: El Tsaddik

“For the Lord is God,
    and he created the heavens and earth
    and put everything in place.
He made the world to be lived in,
    not to be a place of empty chaos.
“I am the Lord,” he says,
    “and there is no other.
I publicly proclaim bold promises.
    I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner.
I would not have told the people of Israel[c] to seek me
    if I could not be found.
I, the Lord, speak only what is true
    and declare only what is right.”

Isaiah 45: 18-19

Consult together, argue your case.
    Get together and decide what to say.
Who made these things known so long ago?
    What idol ever told you they would happen?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    For there is no other God but me,
[El Tsaddik] and Savior.
    There is none but me.
Let all the world look to me for salvation!
    For I am God; there is no other.

Isaiah 45: 21-22

The people will declare,
    “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”
And all who were angry with him
    will come to him and be ashamed.

Isaiah 45:24

El Tsaddik: The Righteous God

Of all the names of God, this is the one I have wrestled with the most. El Tsaddik. The righteous God. Righteous.

It is the weak hinge that I see break most often in others’ faith. The Righteous God.

It is the hinge I have felt barely hanging on in my own. The Righteous...

“El Tsaddik” means of all the souls in the universe, God’s is the one that is always – always – right. Just. Morally perfect. Innocent. Those are some of the words we use to define “righteous.”

But if we’re honest, truly, gut-wrenchingly honest… it doesn’t always seem that way sometimes, does it? Sometimes we expect El Tsaddik to act a certain way because He is El Tsaddik, and He defies our expectations. We know what the righteous do, and He did…otherwise. It’s the (we feel) cruelty He condones and sometimes commands in the Old Testament that we stumble over, or the horror stories we hear from others of things that happened in their own lives. It’s the things that twist our stomachs in disgust and terror, and we only human! It’s the things people are capable of doing to each other, it’s the natural things in this brutal, wild world that shock us, it’s that El Tsaddik would create such a world or even for a moment sustain it. (And yet, at the same moment, we’re grateful, surpassingly grateful, that He does!)

This world is so upside down, inside out, twisting, curving, coming fast – like we all have a bad case of the twisties when we try to figure out what’s right, like we can no longer tell which way is up or down until it slams into us hard. God bless Simone Biles for opening the world’s eyes to what that feels like, and the damage it can do.

It has crashed and broken many a strong and healthy-looking faith. But as Miss Biles so courageously pointed out to the world, health is more than the muscle and skill we see on the outside. True, full faith-health is founded on this one crucial, perfectly shaped Cornerstone: El Tsaddik, The Righteous God, is right.

When I don’t understand Him, He is right.

When I disagree with Him, He is right.

However I may feel, He is right!

Without this foundational belief to give shape to the rest, our faith will always be crooked, and crooked is weak, easily broken. What sits at the wrong angle to other things cannot give them its full support; if we do not believe in God’s rightness and righteousness over our own, our faith will never be strong enough. It will never land on its feet.

I believe God is right and does right.

Why is He right?

Because He is El Tsaddik, it is His very name, the exact, perfect standard on which the earth was made. When we can’t trust ourselves, we can trust Him. He never gets the twisties. 🙂

Day 51: Yahweh Bore

O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    [Yahweh Bore] of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Isaiah 40:27-28

Yahweh Bore: The LORD Creator

We live in a world of unbelievable detail. Have you noticed? My older daughter recently threw her arms up toward the trees and declared that she was “born to be a nature scientist!” I’ve spent the last eight years following her interests with her, naming all the garden worms and “foraging” in our own backyard for food, pulling flashlights and books about animals and habitats out from under her covers in the morning, growing food for our pollinators and measuring the pH of our soil just to see. The more I study the world through her eyes and mine, the more I find this truth to be true: God never forgets a thing, not one tiny little thing.

I struggle to meet the needs of the creatures in my care sometimes. I forget the dog’s meds one morning, or wake up to find there are no more undies clean, or show up late to pickup so often it surprises them more when I’m early. I forget things we need at the grocery store, even if they were on the list I probably left at home. It’s hard enough to take care of myself sometimes, let alone the ones I love! So it amazes me to walk out my door and hear the happy humming of the bees while they gather nectar, to see the grasshoppers scatter from my every step! They’re so small, so forgettable – and God does not forget a single one. Every species of plant, every kind of insect, every creature that walks or swims or flies or slithers, the ones we trample or squish without hardly a thought! He designed down the minutiae of every. single. one. – even in the scope of a universe we cannot see the end of, of galaxies beyond count!

The flora and fauna of our world stands as evidence of the depth of God’s attention. He who holds the heavens in His hands created amoebas, too. Nothing is too big for Him to handle or too small for Him to see. Not even you, love. All of it, from the dog mess that won’t come out of the carpet to the loss of a loved one you didn’t think you could live without. Yahweh Bore sees you, and He cares.

Day 50: El Yeshuati

In that day you will sing:
    “I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
    Now you comfort me.
See, [El Yeshuati].
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.”

 With joy you will drink deeply
    from the fountain of salvation!

Isaiah 12:1-3

El Yeshuati: God is My Salvation

Salvation. I’ve heard the word in church since before I could wrap my mouth around it, let alone my mind. Even outsiders know we have a bit of an obsession with the idea, but one thing has become awfully murky in recent years, even inside the church: salvation from what?

In the modern world, we don’t like this idea of ourselves as sinners. Sounds to us like we need to work on our self-esteem, amiright? We’re not dirty rotten scoundrels just because we acted in our own best interests regardless of the effects on others; that just makes us normal! Anyone would have done the same.

Those seem like valid points until just one more comes to light; they’re all sinners too. It may be normal to trample others underfoot trying to climb our highest, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. And the Creator God, Defender of the Trampled does not accept it; those are His children made by His own hands, and we hurt them. Daddy Bear God is coming:

“For see, the day of the Lord is coming—
    the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger.
The land will be made desolate,
    and all the sinners destroyed with it.”

Isaiah 13:9

Salvation from Him. Salvation from the God we all have offended. And the only One who can save us from God – is God. He has made for us a Way, a Way through Truth, the truth of our need, a Way into Life. Yeshua, Jesus. Because He is El Yeshuati, the God who saves us from Himself.

Day 49: El Gibbor

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, [El Gibbor],
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:6-7

El Gibbor: Mighty God

It’s passages like this that make me really flounder to understand those who crucified Jesus for claiming to be God. All Hebrew boys were made to memorize the book of Isaiah before they were 13 years old; Pharisees and Sadducees and other religious leaders dedicated themselves to memorizing even more. Here it is, not ten chapters in, the declaration that the Messiah is both a descendant of David and Mighty God Himself. So what were they expecting? I suppose that’s what I cannot wrap my mind around. Were they not looking eagerly for this exact man, a man who would claim to be God incarnate? If not, why not? And if they were, was it not that a man claimed to be God that offended them, but rather that this man claimed to be God?

Imagine looking into the face of Mighty God and being disappointed by what you see.

But so, so many did. So, so many do.

The Pharisees wanted Him to be an enforcer of the Law, not only the Law of Moses, but also the laws they had built around the Law, like moats and trenches and fences around a castle wall to protect it even further. They wanted someone who told them they were right – they wanted the Messiah to look and think and act just like them. So – did they really want a Savior, or did they want to be the savior?

The zealots and the oppressed wanted Him to be a revolutionary, a king who marched in and broke the bodies of their enemies and scattered the people who had wronged them, someone who told them their anger and vengeance were just – they wanted the Messiah to look and think and act… just… like… them.

The Romans wanted no Messiah at all – he sounded like nothing but trouble and certainly not a Prince of Peace.

And here we sit, the Republicans who want a Jesus who says their politics are righteous but turns a blind eye to their hearts, the Democrats who want a Jesus who champions their causes, and the rest who just want to be left well enough alone by this troublemaker.

But He comes, and His agenda looks nothing like ours.

He comes, and He is not like the princes and rulers of this world – He is not concerned by the squabbles of learned men. He comes, and He is not like the champions of self-righteous causes – He is not concerned about weighing wrongs against wrongs to see which is heavier in the end. He comes, and with the eyes of Mighty God from Heaven, He looks straight through all of the world’s surface symptoms and straight into the heart.

If we could see like the Everlasting sees, He would be exactly what we expect.

Because He is a man, a son of David, but 700 years before He was born, we were also prepped to meet more than a man – El Gibbor. He is Mighty God, a man with ways much higher than our own. He looks like us, but He does not think like us.

Are you disappointed?

Day 48: Immanuel

“All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel: God with us

Here is the name of God many of us know, the name we have heard in songs and services and plastered on decorations from the time we were very small. Immanuel. And we even know what it means – God with us – don’t we?

We know this name belongs to Jesus. But do we know it was His before Christmastime was ever a thought?

Isaiah 7 was a beautiful passage before we knew the half of it. The land of Judah and the land of Israel were divided at this time, and the kings of Israel had long since stopped following God. In fact, they were enemies of Judah, the line through which God’s promise was being carried. At this moment in history, they were plotting with Syria to attack Judah, and it says, “the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.” It was into this moment that God planted this Name – God with us.

Oh, do I know fear. Oh, do I know the fear of things too big for me! And what does God say to this fear? His name – the God who is with us, and like a child beside her father in the dark, I am not afraid.

Day 47: El Hakkadosh

What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field, until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land.”

Isaiah 5:8

What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties – lyre and harp, tambourine and flute – but they never think about the LORD or notice what He is doing.”

Isaiah 5:11-12

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever.”

Isaiah 5:20-21

“So My people will go into exile far away because they do not know Me.”

Isaiah 5:13

“But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will be exalted by His justice. [El Hakkadosh] will be displayed by His righteousness.”

Isaiah 5:16

El Hakkadosh: The Holy God

Everything hinges on this one question: Who is God? It is the beginning question for everything, the one thing we must establish before we know how to relate to Him, how to relate to others, how to live in this world. It is a question too few care to ask. God says there is so much sorrow for those who simply will not ask.

He will reveal Himself to them anyway, though. They will find out who He is, though they did not ask. They will find out when their schemes to inflate their own importance fail and their pleasures gained at others’ expense leave them high and dry. They will find out when it all comes crashing down around them, and then they will know what kind of God He is, and see how foolish their own actions have been in light of Him.

Perhaps they thought they lived under a callous God who cared not what they did; they are wrong. He is Holy.

Perhaps they thought they lived under a cruel God who applauded their own destructive ways; they are wrong. He is Holy.

Perhaps they thought they lived under no God at all; they are wrong. He is Holy.

Who is God? God is the terribly, terribly real Holy One, perfect in goodness and righteousness, and on this perfection are the principles of life laid. When we know this, we know justice brings peace and oppression nothing but sorrow. We know it matters how we act and think and live! It matters that we ask the question, that we seek the answer, that we know El Hakkadosh, the Holy God. He matters.

Day 46: Yahweh Ha-Melech

Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and melodious song,

with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.

Make a joyful symphony before [Yahweh Ha-Melech]!

Psalm 98:5-6

Yahweh Ha-Melech: The LORD the King

A few days ago, the name we studied was Eli Maelekhi, God My King. That is a worthwhile post to read before this one! That King was powerful, rescuing, provisionary – He was a King who took care of His people, and they flourished.

This King in Psalm 98 is all of that – and majestically victorious over all others.

Imagine this: many months ago, the men of the country left for war. Fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins – the whole town is full of nothing but women of all ages, and the too-old and too-young men. The women work the fields and keep the houses, mind the children and the trading, manage servants and stave off trouble. And through it all, they worry.

What could they do if an army marched in now? When the men returned, would their men return? Would their lives continue in freedom, or tomorrow would they be ripped from their homes, ripped from their children, ripped from the land, and forced to serve cruel masters?

News from the battle is rare and unhelpful; runners are the only source of information, and their news is old before it gets here.

But then, one day, over the hills comes one shouting: “The King is coming! THE KING IS COMING!”

That means only one thing: the battle is won, the men are coming home, and the enemy is defeated!

This Psalm is an exaltation – it is written from the moment the King’s arrival is announced, the lift of relief! after the oppressive months of unknown. Have you ever prayed so hard for so long for something and not known what God would say? Has God ever said “yes” after months and years of waiting? This is your psalm; you have seen the runner running and heard him shout, “The King is coming!” and know what it’s like, for the first time in months, to sleep in peace.

So believe it – and sing and dance about it!

Day 45: Yahweh Maginnenu

For the Lord is our defense, and the Holy One of Israel is our King.

Psalm 89:18 (KJ21)

Yahweh Maginnenu: The LORD our Defense (or, perhaps more accurately, the LORD our Shield)

Many years ago when I was first being taught to study the Bible, my teacher continually emphasized the importance of context in understanding Scripture. No verse is meant to stand alone; in fact, the Bible was not written in verses, but rather verse distinctions are simply our way of chopping up one of the longer texts of human history into pieces small enough for our finite minds to absorb.

Here in Psalm 89, I am reminded how important it is to remember that.

I spent a good amount of time this morning reading this one little verse in 53 different translations. Funny thing is, no one seems quite sure exactly what to do with it. (If you haven’t ever used biblegateway.com and discovered all their incredible side-by-side study tools, let me tell ya, you’re missing out! Free and AWESOME tool!)

This little verse is sandwiched between an exaltation of God’s power and love for His people and a desperate plea for God’s favor on behalf of King David. Here it is surrounded by a little of its context in the New Living Translation:

Powerful is your arm!
    Strong is your hand!
    Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
    Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
    for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation.
    They exult in your righteousness.
You are their glorious strength.
    It pleases you to make us strong.
Yes, our protection comes from the Lord,
    and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.

Long ago you spoke in a vision to your faithful people.
You said, “I have raised up a warrior.
    I have selected him from the common people to be king.
I have found my servant David.
    I have anointed him with my holy oil.
I will steady him with my hand;
    with my powerful arm I will make him strong.
His enemies will not defeat him,
    nor will the wicked overpower him.

Psalm 89:13-22

Question is, which section does this little verse belong to? Some, like the translators of the KJ21 version, seem to think it belongs with the previous section and is declaring that the true King and Defense of Israel is God. Others think it’s a transition into the next section and is declaring that God has given Israel protection through the king He provided. Which leads me to the next question…

So what? (My favorite question ever, btw)

Why does it matter how we translate this verse anyhow? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter – much. We have the whole counsel of Scripture to tell us who God is, and we know He both is the real King-Shield of Israel AND provided human kings at their request. So does this verse say God is King or God provided a king? Yes. Something like that.

But it does matter, too. It matters as a way of clearly understanding who God is; is He our King and our Defense (or Shield, as might be a better translation) Himself, or does He provide someone else to be? It is the difference between a parent who shows up at every peewee football game versus the one who sends a nanny in their place; it is good and responsible of a parent to hire a nanny to take care of the needs of their child when they cannot, but it is still not the same, not the face the child craves. My experience with God and my understanding of the rest of Scripture leans me toward the first. Our God is – unequivocally – a personal God. He is personally involved in the minutia of our lives, down to our daily bread! He is there at every game Himself, though we may lose every one.

But why does it matter so much in this particular verse?

Because God is our Defense. He is our shield. He is our “taking up,” as the likely most direct translation suggests; He is that which we carry with us to take for us the force of the blows aimed at us. This is hugely important, because no one else – no king, no stand-in, not the strongest of the strong – could take the blows like He can. Everyone and everything breaks but Him:

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

Behind Yahweh Maginnenu and only behind Yahweh Maginnenu, The Lord Our Shield, we are utterly safe. This is why, I think, the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates it this way for His chosen nation, so that they may understand that whatever human king He places over them, it is still His Kingship that prevails, and ultimately His protection that truly saves them:

For Hashem [God] is our mogen [shield]; and the Kadosh Yisroel [God of Israel] is Malkeinu (our king).

Tehillim 89:18 (OJB)

It matters that this God of ours is our shield-king first, because even when our kings fail and our walls fall as is lamented later in this psalm, Yahweh Maginnenu does not. Ethan the Ezrahite, human author of this psalm, establishes first the kingship and power of God so that it is clear that though Israel’s human king is in decline (and Ethan’s prayer is for him to be revived), Israel is not without hope, and will never be without their King. God is King, God established David as king by covenant, and God alone can revive him – and because of that covenant, Israel has hope He will.

Our hope is in the same; not a man, but the King. As long as we have Him, we have hope. We have a promise. We are safe. ❤