by Tammy Perlmutter
Sunday, July 4
Waiting in Stillness
In ancient times servants were trained to wait in perfect stillness, not just for a word but for the merest twitch or sigh indicating their master needed something. They didn’t just wait with their ears, they waited with their eyes. We are also called to wait, listen, and look. We are longing for home even now as we wait for him to come again in glory. We look and listen for him now in the middle of a global pandemic, our eyes straining to see his grace and redemption as we pray for healing.
This is a Psalm of Ascents, sung on pilgrimage to the feasts. The writer directs our gaze to our Master: “Our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy” (v. 2, NIV).
Not until we reach our destination, not until we figure ourselves out, but until he has mercy upon us. Not if he has mercy, but until. This is a promise that endures for eternity. God will have mercy on us, wherever we are, whatever we’ve done. In financial straits, personal failings, tragedy, and trauma, he will have mercy. He, too, watches for our every twitch and sigh.
Merciful God, still my heart and body so I can attend to you with my eyes and ears. Remind me of your eternal promise to have mercy. AMEN.
Monday, July 5
2 CORINTHIANS 12:2-10
A Holy Exchange
Paul asks three times for his thorn to be taken away, but the Lord told him no each time. Perhaps you have asked for your own thorns to be removed infinitely more than three times. We have all had our own facedown, crying-out, desperately pleading prayer sessions. Our weaknesses do not naturally remind us of God’s power. They remind us of shame, inferiority, embarrassment, and comparison. What God offers amid our thorns pricking and poking us is grace and power. True confession: sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough. What we want is deliverance from our weaknesses, rescue from our infirmities, and healing of our brokenness. Our idea of wholeness is a worldly one, buried deep in perfection, pride, and achievement. But God’s idea of wholeness is inherently different. God’s perception of wholeness is the power of Christ filling our emptiness—making us one with him. It is an invitation to a holy exchange: our shame for his glory; our weakness not eradicated but redeemed.
Dear Lord, I confess that sometimes I want an easy fix more than I want your deliverance. Help me to accept your invitation to turn my shame into your glory. AMEN.
Tuesday, July 6
2 SAMUEL 5:1-5
For 200 years, Israel had judges and lacked a centralized government. Then the people demanded a king like the surrounding nations, revealing their refusal to be the people set apart by God. Samuel gives them a warning and the answer to their (misguided) prayers—Saul. Although Saul was king, it was David who “led out Israel and brought it in” (v. 2). During a time of corrupt leadership and failed military operations, David shone forth as radically obedient to God. Israel’s hope was in Saul, but it was the Lord who delivered them through David.
We, too, are tempted to put our trust in people and forget we have a sovereign God who turns the hearts of kings. Who is your hope in today?
Dear Lord, when I am prone to trust in anything other than you, turn my heart toward you and lead me to hope in you alone. AMEN.
Wednesday, July 7
It is Ezekiel’s vision of wheels and wings and the presence of the glory of the Lord that causes him to fall face down in reverence. This prostrate position is exactly the response expected when confronted with such majesty and power. What else is there to do but surrender in awe? There is a time for being bowed low and a time to get up and move. There is a posture for receiving and one for action. Ezekiel is a priest, he knows the rhythm of prayer—but the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, sets him on his feet so that God will speak with him. The Lord is calling him to attention like a soldier waiting for orders.
The past year has brought many of us low, not from heavenly visions like the exiled Ezekiel’s, but from witnessing the senseless loss of life through systemic racism and a rampant, deadly virus. We may find ourselves unable to get up off the floor, literally or metaphorically, but God sends his Holy Spirit to put us on our feet so we can fulfill his calling.
Father, make me ready to hear you. Help me surrender to your call and set me on my feet so I may bear witness to your glory. AMEN.
Thursday, July 8
From Astonishment to Offense
At first, when Jesus was teaching, the people were astonished at his wisdom and knowledge. But their amazement soon turned to alarm as they zoomed in on a very human carpenter. They were shocked by his ordinariness, by his calloused hands that measured and sanded the wood that became their tables and chairs. Could this be the man who just raised a girl from the dead? The words they were in awe of moments before now became outrageous. They talked themselves out of a holy wonder and into a visceral disdain. The Word was imparting the Word and they still would not believe. Jesus, whom we might think would be beyond surprise, marveled at their unbelief. How often have we been “offended” by Scripture, put out by what was asked of us, frustrated at the hard sayings that required an unpopular stand? How have we reasoned ourselves out of holy wonder?
Lord of the Sabbath, spark holy wonder in me as I listen and respond to your Word. Help my unbelief and draw me into worship. AMEN.
Friday, July 9
Mark’s account of Jesus sending the apostles two-by-two reads like a disaster story. They were to take nothing with them. They couldn’t pack bags the night before or grab their keys or cell phone off the table. Take only a staff, Jesus orders, and this Holy Spirit anointing. They will find welcome in some places and be driven out of others. They will be met with violence. As much as their call was to benefit others, it was for the disciples themselves as well. Not just a lesson in obedience, but an invitation to absolute dependence on Jesus. He wanted them to learn that in the throes of hardship, hatred, and scarcity, the one who numbers the hairs on their heads would provide for them. We may often feel like we are running on fumes, overwhelmed by the needs of the people we are called to love. Jesus gives us just enough to pour out on others and replenishes us as he promises in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”
Father, I confess that I have depended more on people and things than I have on you. Give me the grace to follow you wholeheartedly. AMEN.
Saturday, July 10
A Place and a Prophecy
Zion was unparalleled in beauty and mythic in its dominance. As a place, it held the power to reduce the strongest armies to a trembling mass of cowardly soldiers. As a prophecy, it announced the sacred promise to endure eternally in the person of God. It is God who is the true protector of Jerusalem. For all its towers and ramparts, Zion, in its physical form, would not last forever. Eighteenth-century scholar and minister Matthew Henry wrote, “Its bulwarks that were mostly to be relied upon were the special presence of God in it, the beauty of holiness he had put upon it, and the promises he had made concerning it.” This psalm invites us to tour the majesty of the temple as it implores us to tell the next generation, “This is God . . . he will be our guide forever” (v. 14). The place God will abide forever is in his people—his beloved church—built on the rock that is Christ. And the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
Lord, be my fortress and my rock as I behold your eternal beauty and presence. Abide in me as I abide in you. AMEN.