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Unexpected and Ironic Gifts for God

August 18, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Isaiah 18:7 (NIV)

At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers — the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.

Focus

There is a profound irony in our giving gifts to God. Whether we’re giving God our labor or the financial fruits of our labor, in fact, we are giving to God what God has provided. God doesn’t need our stuff. And God doesn’t need our effort. But God chooses to use our stuff and our effort for his purposes and glory. When we give to God, we aren’t supplying what God lacks. Rather, we’re expressing our gratitude, commitment, and love to God.

Devotion

Reading between the lines of Isaiah 18, we can see that certain ambassadors from far away came with an offer of military help for Israel. They came from Cush, a region south of Egypt along the tributaries of the Nile River, roughly equal to modern-day Ethiopia. Ambassadors from Cush came down the Nile in their boats in order to enter into an alliance with Israel. But the Lord rejected their offer, noting that he had more than enough power to deal with countries that would attack Israel.

But then Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Cush ends with an ironic and unexpected twist. The ambassadors from Cush would come to Jerusalem again, this time bringing gifts to Jerusalem, and offerings for the Lord. Their gift-giving would implicitly recognize the Lord’s own sovereignty and power. It was almost as if the ambassadors knew of the Lord’s glory. How ironic that the people of Cush would be so generous in their offerings to the God of Israel!

Have you ever thought of the irony in our giving gifts to the Lord? Everything we have is from God: our talents, our time, our money, and our very lives. In a very real sense, we give back to God only what God has already given to us. In fact, we give to the Lord that which is ultimately his. Yet the Lord is honored, not so much in what we give, but in our act of giving. In this way, we recognize his worthiness and sovereignty, much as did the ambassadors from Cush.

Remember that your giving to God has to do with much more than offerings in church or going on mission trips. We are to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that everything we do can, in principle, be an offering to God. Whether your work involves poring over spreadsheets, selling services, building furniture, teaching children, or nursing babies, every kind of good work can be an expression of worship.

Reflect

As you think of gifts you have given to God, which gifts stand out to you? Why?

What difference does it make to you that in giving to God you are essentially giving back what is already his?

Do you think of your daily work as an offering to God? Why or why not?

What might help you in offering your work to God each day?

Act

As you do your work today, picture yourself using well the gifts God has given you. Thank God for the privilege of stewarding these grace-filled gifts.

Pray

Gracious God, you have given me more than I can possibly fathom. In fact, you have given me the opportunity and privilege of giving back to you a portion of what is really yours. It isn’t that you need my money or my abilities to get your work done. Yet you have chosen to use me and my contributions. What an honor! Thank you!

May I learn to give to you all that I am all the time. In particular, help me to offer my work to you as worship, honoring you with what I do and how I do it. Be glorified in my work today, Lord.

Help me, I pray, to give to you freely and joyously, without hesitation or reservation. And when I give, may I be aware of your unique worthiness to receive all glory, honor, and power . . . and all that I am. 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: Living Sacrifices for the Sake of the Community (Romans 12:1–3)


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