In our Isaiah passages today, Hezekiah foolishly shows off his nation's treasures to the prince of Babylon. The Lord rebukes him for expressing hope in Babylon as his ally against Assyria. Although Judah lasted about 125 more years, Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, was especially brutal and became the cause of the Babylonian captivity. Hezekiah's dynasty was threatened with being cut off (sons or descendants would be eunuchs in the Babylonian court), but in mercy, the Lord preserved the heritage of Judah's kings, as promised to David and realized in the Messiah.
In chapter 40, the Lord promises comfort and restoration for the Babylonian exiles. These promises, fulfilled through John the Baptist's ministry, have personal consequences for you and all people. Just as the Lord doubled the comfort and forgiveness for the exiles, He has doubled comfort and forgiveness for you in the person of His Son. The Lord's messenger contrasts the Lord's faithfulness with the unfaithfulness of all people. Rather than defending our weaknesses, we ought to confess them before the Lord, who gives us life through His Word. Israel has an incomparable God who watches over her. Though the Lord may use His power for condemnation, He acts as our Good Shepherd for our salvation. (Btw, I love how in 40:22 there is a reference to "the circle of the earth". So much for the ancients thinking the earth was flat, huh?)
In Mark, Jesus teaches that God wants a man and a woman in marriage to be exclusively committed to each other for life. Attempts to alter or get around God's good intentions bring condemnation, not greater liberty. Thoughtfully and prayerfully embrace God's way. What He establishes is for our good and stems from His love and grace. The story of the children is the key to the chapter, showing us that salvation is a gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We trust the Lord as a child trusts a parent. We do not earn God's love and favor by keeping the Law, especially when we look for loopholes to excuse our sinful behavior. All people, like helpless children, receive Jesus' blessing and enter the Kingdom through faith in Him. Jesus teaches His disciples that not even people with the greatest worldly means can enter the kingdom of God on their own merit. We cannot justify ourselves; we receive salvation solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, just like a little child.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 41-42; Mark 10: 32-52