September 1, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Isaiah 27:12 (NIV)
In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one.
Christians live in this world as people in exile. We are part of this world, yet part of us does not belong here. We belong most of all to the Lord. We are citizens of God’s kingdom. As we long for the day when God’s kingdom will come in all of its fulness, we are encouraged by the fact that God has gathered us. We belong to God and to God’s people now. In God we have a home and a homeland.
Isaiah 27 foresees the exile of Israel and, beyond that, the time in which God will gather his people once again. Though they have been scattered throughout the world, the Lord will bring them back to their land and to himself.
Isaiah 27:12 employs a harvesting image to portray this vision. The Hebrew literally speaks of God as threshing and gleaning the grain, using a process that allowed the farmer to distinguish the good grain from the useless chaff. The addition of the phrase “one by one” emphasizes God’s personal attention to each one of his children.
Most of us have not experienced literal exile in our lives. Unlike millions of people throughout the world today, we are privileged to live in the country of our birth and/or of our choosing. Yet the image of exile gives expression to our sense of not quite belonging to this world as it is. There is a sense in which this world is not our home. We yearn for the Lord and the fullness of his kingdom. We look ahead to the day when God will gather all of us into his new creation, a day when we will be truly at home with the Lord and truly united to his people.
Yet, in anticipation of that future gathering, God seeks us and brings us to himself “one by one.” God isn’t just in the business of “saving the world.” God also seeks us out individually, inviting us to know him and to be part of his work of putting the world back together. Our Heavenly Father adopts each of us into his family, making us both sons or daughters and brothers or sisters. He loves us personally and cares about every aspect of our lives. Thus, as we await the fullness of the kingdom yet to come, we are comforted and encouraged by the fact that God has gathered us “one by one.”
Have you ever experienced some sort of literal exile? When? How did it feel?
Do you ever feel as if you don’t quite belong to this world? When? What difference does this make in your life?
Have you experienced God’s personal love for you, his “one by one” gathering of you to himself and his family? How has this experience affected your daily life? Your work? Your hopes for the future?
Take some time to remember experiences you have had of God “gathering” you in the past. Remember how this felt and how you responded.
Gracious God, I’m struck by the image of you gathering your people “one by one.” Though you are the Creator and Sovereign of the universe, and though your plans encompass the whole earth, nevertheless you care about each individual person . . . including me.
Thank you, gracious God, for gathering me to yourself. Thank you for caring about me personally. Thank you for inviting me to have an intimate relationship with you. Thank you for the many times when you have sought me out when I was lost. Thank you for adopting me into your family.
Dear Lord, may I live this day as one who has been gathered by you. May I continue in fellowship with you throughout the day and live each moment for your kingdom and glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: In Exile at Babylon U. (Daniel 1)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.