II Corinthians 12:1-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v9). Paul said that “visions and revelations” (v1-5) were nothing to boast about, despite their “surpassing greatness” (v7). Instead, he celebrated the fact that God revealed His kindness and power in Paul’s struggles, in “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (v1). When we are facing our own “thorn in the flesh” that is not easily conquered (v7), our eyes are open to how much we need the Lord’s grace every day.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (v10). Our own weakness teaches us to rely on the Lord, and we experience His powerful love working in us and through us.

Isaiah 20

“Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast” (v5). God used Isaiah as a living prophecy to warn people about the destruction to come. Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot (v2) for three years to show what was going to happen: the Assyrian empire would crush the Cushites and the Egyptians and lead many into exile. Those who had leaned on these nations for support and protection against Assyria would see that they too were vulnerable.

“Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped” (v6). If we put our trust in anything but God – leaders, work, relationships, ourselves – we will be disappointed. God alone will never fail us.

Isaiah 19

“Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance" (v25). Amazingly, Isaiah looked beyond the clash of nations and empires and saw a day when many of Israel’s enemies would be included in the people of God. “And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day” (v21). Instead of being at each other’s throats, Assyria and Egypt would worship together, and Israel would be “a blessing in the midst of the earth” (v24).

“When they cry to the Lord … He will send them a Savior” (v20). God’s desire is to know and be known by every person on earth.

Isaiah 18

“Go, you swift messengers, to a nation, tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering …” (v2). Isaiah prophesied that the strong people of Cush (either Ethiopia or Sudan) would, just like Damascus and Israel, face their reckoning with God. Their trade and diplomacy along the Nile (v2) would come to an end when God brought His justice. One day, instead of being rebellious idolaters, they would bring “tribute” to Mount Zion and join with God’s people (v7).

“All you inhabitants of the world …” (v3). Isaiah’s prophecies extended beyond Israel to other nations, because God’s desire is that those who are “far off” would be brought near by Jesus’ blood (Eph 2:13).

Isaiah 17

“For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge” (v10). God allowed Israel, just like Damascus (v1), to experience devastation at the hands of the Assyrians, because they had turned to reliance on themselves and their idols. The prophet said that their productive fields, the abundance of their harvests, couldn’t save them (v10-11). Only after it was all taken away would a remnant of Israel return and “look to his Maker” (v7).

God calls us to resist making an idol out of work and self-reliance. Our confidence is not in “the work of our hands” (v8), but in God’s grace and mercy poured out in Jesus.

Psalm 125

“Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (v1). When our trust is in the Lord, and not ourselves, the psalmist said that we are unshakeable. The Lord surrounds us day by day (v2), showing mercy, guiding us, defending us, and leading us in His ways. His ultimate goal is that we live under His kind authority – not the authority of evil (v3) – so that we can enjoy abundant life.

“Do good, Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!” (v4). When our hearts are set on God, what He says is good becomes our desire.

II Corinthians 11:16-33

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (v30). Paul’s opponents, the “false apostles” leading the Corinthians astray, were taking advantage of the believers (v17-23). Paul was angry that the Corinthians admired these “deceitful workmen” (v13) who demanded money, boasted about their accomplishments, and put themselves on a pedestal. The Corinthians, like everyone, eagerly followed attractive, self-promoting leaders, but Paul said this was not Jesus’ way. He described a life of suffering, of pastoral concern, and of humility (v23-29).

“Are they servants of Christ?” (v23). Jesus “made himself nothing” in order to save us (Phil 2:7). Those who truly serve in His name are marked by the same love and humility.

II Corinthians 11:1-15

“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed …” (v4). Paul was very “jealous” for the true gospel (v2), and he was concerned that the Corinthians were being led astray (v3). So-called “super apostles” were showing off with charismatic preaching (but changing the message) and enriching themselves; Paul, on the other hand, was humble in person and worked hard to not to financially burden the believers (v7-9). Paul said that these “false apostles” were doing Satan’s work (v13-15).

To cultivate “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (v3) and avoid false teaching, we must know Jesus as revealed in the Word and through the power of the Spirit.

Isaiah 15-16

“When the oppressor is no more, and destruction has ceased …then a throne will be established in steadfast love, and on it will sit … one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness” (16:4-5). Isaiah prophesied that Moab, Israel’s neighbor, would also experience judgment at the hands of an invading empire (Assyrians); Moab’s “pride” would crumble (v6). Yet Isaiah saw beyond the cycles of war to the rule of Messiah, a throne based on “steadfast love,” a peaceful kingdom.

“Shelter the outcasts …” (v3). Moab, like Israel, couldn’t save themselves; the cycle of sin and violence continued. The only real refuge is to serve the true King who reigns by steadfast love.

Isaiah 14

“The LORD has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge” (v32). God’s judgment on Babylon (and by extension, other people) was due to their self-importance and oppressive ways. Their leaders said in their hearts, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high” (v13), and they felt justified in enslaving others. After years of being “afflicted” by foreign empires, Isaiah saw that God would redeem Israel (Zion) and make them a refuge for all His oppressed people (v1).

The injustice and suffering caused by sin isn’t God’s plan. One day, oppression and violence will end, and “the needy will lie down in safety” (v30).

Isaiah 13

“Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it” (v9). Isaiah’s terrifying vision of God’s judgment on Babylon (v1) served as a warning to all rebellious peoples. “The day of the Lord” (v6) usually referred to Christ’s return, when “every human heart will melt” (v7) because God’s justice will be accomplished on earth. Isaiah warned his own generation and those to come to seek God’s mercy and grace before it was too late.

“The day of the Lord is near” (v6). When we trust in Jesus and pledge our lives to His reign, we can welcome His return without fear (I Thess 3:13).

Isaiah 12

“For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (v2). God had already demonstrated His saving power to the Israelites by miraculously leading them out of Egypt, yet Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would “become” Israel’s salvation in a more complete way in the future. “In that day” (v1), the Messiah would bring God’s reign to earth, and “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” forever (v3). Knowing this wonderful promise, the prophet said, “I will trust and not be afraid” (v2).

“Make known His deeds among the peoples … in all the earth” (v4-5). God’s great salvation in Jesus deserves to be made known to everyone.

Psalm 124

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side …” (v1). The psalmist lived long enough to recognize that God’s hand of mercy and His powerful kindness stood between him (and all Israel) and total destruction. Because the Lord is on our side, the “raging waters” of loss, sickness, relational conflict, and our own failures cannot win; the floods surround us but can’t sweep us away (v3-5). He is our rescuer, especially from the bondage of sin.

“The snare is broken, and we have escaped!” (v7). In Jesus, God showed that He is “on our side” forever. He rescues us from chaos and darkness and shows us how to live in freedom.

Isaiah 11

“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (v9). God showed Isaiah that sin’s destructiveness would not continue forever. Even though it looked like Israel would fail, “a Branch from his roots would bear fruit” (v1). That Branch, the Messiah, would inaugurate a new beginning under His perfect rule. “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding …” (v1).

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb …(v6). As citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, we submit now to His reign of love and holiness, waiting for the day when the whole earth is renewed.

Isaiah 10

“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!” (v1-2). God brought Israel out of Egypt, put them in the Promised Land and blessed them, yet they disregarded His laws and used their power to oppress “the needy” and the fatherless. Isaiah warned Israel that God’s day of punishment coming (v3).

Our gifts aren’t our own. God’s blessings and favor, “a fruitful land” (v18), are given so that we can bless others, showing mercy and glorifying Him.

Isaiah 9

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light …” (v2). Isaiah prophesied that the Assyrians would attack Israel as the consequence for their rebellion against God. But Isaiah also saw a new day coming, when sin’s darkness would be overcome by God’s light. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6).

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brought light into the “deep darkness” of our world (v2), calling us to abandon sin and, by faith in Him, become part of His righteous, everlasting kingdom (v7).

Isaiah 8

"Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread” (v12). God told Isaiah not to be terrified by the challenges Israel was facing from the Assyrians. Because the Israelite people had turned to sin and followed idols, they were truly “in dread” of their enemies and seeing conspiracies everywhere. Instead, “the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (v13).

Rather than fearing our enemies, we are called to honor God as holy. He is “a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling …” (v14).

II Corinthians 10:7-18

“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you” (v13). The Corinthians questioned Paul’s authority because he wasn’t a wealthy, charismatic, attractive leader. “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account” (v10). However, God had given him spiritual authority over the faith and maturity of the Corinthians (v14-15). Paul determined to do his best with the “area of influence” given to him.

We often measure ourselves by society’s approval and our own standards. But it is what God thinks of us, His approval of our work, that counts (v12, 18).

II Corinthians 10:1-6

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (v4). Paul didn’t have an army or even a large institution to back up his correction of the Corinthians. He wasn’t battling against the sinful world, but against lies and false beliefs inside the church. Paul depended on the “divine power” of the Holy Spirit to do battle for the souls and minds of the Corinthian believers, who were being led astray by “arguments and lofty opinions” (v5).

Our minds are most difficult battleground we will ever face. We are called “to take every thought captive to obey Christ” (v5), by the power of the Spirit.

Psalm 123

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (2). At times the struggles we face in the world can feel like “contempt,” (v3); we personally feel diminished and weakened. The psalmist said that when we have had “more than enough” (v3-4), we call on our Father for mercy. Being humbled by our troubles can reveal how much we need Him.

“Have mercy on us …” (v3). Whether we are comfortable and secure or deep in trouble, we are not self-sufficient. We depend on God’s mercy and grace.