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“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself” (John 13:3-4).
Everything of God is in him; all glory and power he possesses. In that moment of recognition and acknowledgement, how does Jesus choose to put it all on display? By washing the feet of his disciples (13:5). When you know what you know regarding God the Father, and what he has entrusted to you through Christ, his son, what do you do? You don’t gloat, and neither do you make demands; with great humility, you serve.
“Making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
Annus mirabilis means “a remarkable or auspicious year.” Following an outbreak of bubonic plague in England, Cambridge University closed its doors, sending Isaac Newton to his Woolsthorpe Manor home. From there he would transform the quarantine of 1666 into his annus mirabilis; making discoveries that would become foundational to the disciplines of calculus, motion, optics, and gravitation. I think of this story when, in the midst of our pandemic, I hear the often-made pledge, “I’m going to different after all of this is over.” Perhaps. But that vision becomes reality only if you are doing constructive things today. These days are different but they are not days to be wasted. Something is going to fill your time; make it for the greater good.
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6)
Theologians have given much debate as to the identity of God’s servant described in this chapter. For the church, however, since we read Christ into this text as its fulfillment, the more relevant issue isn’t so much the identity of this One as it is the expression of service embraced and pursued by every servant of God. Like the prophet, to correctly assume a posture of humility requires the recognition of one’s own sins as contributing to the brokenness of the human condition.
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3).
In contrast to the popular cultural models of success and power that inspire the masses, and their deceptive allure of prestige, status, and victory, God’s prophet offers forth a completely different perspective on the power of the One who came in fulfillment of this passage. The only kind of power that matters, and the kind of power honored by God, is that which seeks to alleviate the suffering of others. Instead of political power, pray this would be the kind of power sought by the church.
“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3).
Isaiah’s vision of Divine glory is so unexpected that kings are silenced (52:15) and the prophet himself is astonished (53:1). That God’s glory identifies with suffering and sorrow, and that his salvation will be ushered in by One who is despised, rejected, ugly, weak, and vulnerable, is a startling contrast to the vainglorious pursuits of humankind. There is great irony to be found in man’s continual posturing for the applause of others, when the only true glory attained is by those who identify with human suffering.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2).
While scripture utilizes hunger and thirst as frequent metaphors to describe our longing for God, this desire for the transcendent is an affirmation of and argument for God’s existence, and that he can be known. The argument being, just as thirst proves that the drinking of water is natural, the fact that we desire something that the natural world cannot offer suggests the existence of a supernatural one. It is this for which we are created and the process of discovery and experience begins with a thirsting desire.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Things…so many things…things that demand our time and attention…or so we imagine. I think back to, seemingly, important things I poured myself into only to find out with age, maturity, and the passage of time that they really didn’t matter at all; they just faded away into obscurity. Regardless of the circumstances that, at the moment, seem so necessary, there’s only one thing that matters—a commitment to the Lordship of Christ. Once this is in place, we discover the wisdom to know the difference between the necessary and unnecessary.
“Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel” (Isaiah 46:12-13).
In matters of faith, stubborn-mindedness is most often associated with those whose arrogance leads them to believe they have no need of God’s deliverance. Here, however, the hard-headedness isn’t so much the absence of faith as it is a deliberate refusal to believe in the nearness of God’s salvation and his power to fulfill all promises. What may, from our perspective on time, look delayed is but an accomplished certainty from the perspective of the One having no sense of past or future, but who exists as I AM.
“To whom would you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me, that we would be alike” (Isaiah 46:5)?
Speaking through his prophet, Isaiah, the point of God’s three question test is that the One called I Am transcends all standards of human measurement. The gods of Babylon you have found so attractive were fashioned in the likeness of men; a vast pantheon of choices to suit your desires. As Babylon falls, however, their impotence is now showcased. Putting I AM to such a test reveals the uniqueness of his being; he is beyond comparison, has no equal, and is like no other. The Living God cannot be tested; only the quality of our faith in him. That we have such angst and unrest in times of exile, or a pandemic, seasons that bring such disruption to our lives, reveals that we, perhaps, have been trusting to greater degree the gods of our culture than the Lord our God. Put it to the test and discover where your true confidence lies.
“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).
The narrative of scripture weaves an account of God’s faithfulness not only in days gone by but, also, the assurance of his provision for the future that is to come. The five verbal phrases found in this verse, in association with the personal pronoun “I,” offer a stark contrast to the impotence of the pagan Babylonian gods, Bel and Nebo, who, in the hour of national crisis, are dependent upon their human creators for sanctuary and protection (v.1-2). Ours is a God who carries us; we do not carry him.