Archive for December, 2020
“And in that day you will say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted’” (Isaiah 12:4).
The life of faith is to make evident the centrality of God’s working in our lives; that our manifesting of the fruit of the Spirit might kindle afresh within our neighbors, coworkers, or friends an ember of faith that through the years has grown cold due to neglect or disappointment. Not only this, but it is through the living testimony of our faith that a new generation will receive, experience, and come to understand the salvation of God and the expected practices of a distinctive community called a holy people of God. What are you telling them?
“Then Joseph said to his brothers…‘Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:4, 5).
Joseph was in a position to demand justice and mete out retribution against those who had sold him into slavery. Even so, he chose to forgive and prosper his brothers. In a culture where justice was maintained by a moral code of an “eye for an eye,” Joseph initiated an unprecedented ethic–turning the other cheek. Even before Jesus would introduce it as a new standard, “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” Joseph was role-modeling the power of forgiveness for the preservation of life.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray” (1 Timothy 2:1,8).
Paul’s urging is a sweeping summary statement of a prayer life pleasing to God–all kinds of prayers, for all kinds of people, in all kinds of places. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (v.3). In other words, when the “amen” is finally proclaimed, the only opinion that matters is God’s.
“Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).
Having come to the realization that God alone is the source of life (v.2), the believer’s joyful pursuit is to drink from these enriching springs of salvation; to draw vitality from the living waters that bring refreshment and satisfaction to every facet of life. By these waters alone are we sustained and pushed forward, triumphantly, across the parched landscape and the embattled existence that so often imposes itself upon us. With this drink comes a redeeming perspective.
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2)
The significance of this verse is the singular declaration that there is no salvation apart from God. Once this is conviction is truly beheld it eliminates the delusional notion of any possible deliverance by the systems, structures and methodologies of this world. This is the incessant and unceasing message of every true ancient and modern prophet. Isaiah envisions a coming day when God’s people will finally “get it,” and abandon their trust in human and earthly alliances for their sense of well-being. Sadly, that day has not come. Just a cursory glance at the social media accounts of many professing believers reveals they have not yet abandoned their dependency upon earthly means for their desired ends; even perpetuating a false hope among their “followers” through an unceasing stream of angry, bitter, and divisive posts and tweets. It’s really something to behold.
“Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me’” (Isaiah 12:1).
Do not misunderstand what is described. The holy God of all creation has not had a change of heart regarding sin and its offensiveness to him and the laws of the universe. As a result of their rebellion and disregard for the things of God, even the people know that God’s anger against them is justified. They understand that his anger will be turned away only because of a blood atonement (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22); that another will be the sacrificial recipient of God’s wrath. We are comforted by the fact even in his anger against sin, God has unceasingly worked for the forgiveness of the sinner.
“Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord’” (Isaiah 12:1).
The life of faith isn’t a past tense fairy tale built upon the idyllic premise of “once upon a time.” No, the faith we pursue lives with the knowledge of what God has done, the faith that he is still doing, and the anticipation of what lies ahead. What he will fulfill “on that day” is not for us a day of dread, as it will be for some. Beyond the judgement of that day, there is the promise of our joyful hope that is to be fulfilled. No matter how dark this day, keep looking ahead.
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).
It’s not uncommon during this pandemic experience to hear comments about feeling isolated, alone, and detached from all normal social connections. That’s what makes these words of Jesus so timely. He describes a peace (v.33); that is, a state of existence and sense of well-being that has nothing to do with favorable circumstances or the nearness of friends. His relationship and nearness to His heavenly Father is such that, even when he is alone, he isn’t lonely. It is this same peace he desires to share with us when we make him the pursuit of our lives.
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also” (John 10:16).
These words of Jesus highlight the needed reminder that God’s offering of salvation is inclusive and not exclusive. We must be leery of humanly construed teachings of a salvation that depart from the natural reading of the biblical text; holding forth that salvation is for some but not others. The God who condemns the sin of partiality in James 2 would not, himself, practice such. Let whosoever will come.
“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11).
To imitate is to reproduce someone’s behavior or look. Paul challenged two congregations to imitate him–the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. You are imitating someone. Who is it? Someone is going to imitate you. What will they see? And, is what they see worth imitating?