The Servant of the Lord.

Abide in Me and I will abide in you.

“I am already in you, a constant presence since you were born again; but the concept of ‘abiding’ is more than a presence, it is a warm participation in your life – in your thoughts – in your heart. It is a Presence which is contributing to your growth and without which you cannot produce the fruit of this relationship. Notice though – I will abide in you, IF you abide in Me. This close relationship depends on you making the choice to abide in Me – yet even in that, I am motivating and drawing you to Me – all you need to do is listen to My voice. Also, while abiding is a warm fellowship of growth, for that to happen redundant branches must be pruned, so that growth is in the right direction. The the promise holds that if you abide in Me – you may ask anything in My Name and it will be given you, because your abiding will be leading you on a path of My Kingdom’s desires.”

In Isaiah 42 the concept of “The Servant of the Lord” is introduced, and continues for several chapters. Notice though that, in typical prophetic layered fashion, although the initial quote is quite clear about who the prophet is talking about, confirmed by Jesus Himself in Mathew 12:18-21, this cannot be the same servant as mentioned in vs 19. While the initial servant brings justice, the servant from vs 18 onwards is actually under judgement.

The Servant, who is predicted in 42:1-7 will come, according to vs 4, to establish justice on earth. He will come to bring hope. Now notice an interesting thing: in Isa 42:4, the promise is that the hope will come when the islands (Nations according to Jesus) put their hope in God’s law. So, the purpose God had for His servant Jacob in the OT, was to represent Him to the islands (the rest of the nations of the world) so that they would “put their hope in the law”. Israel had failed dismally in that. Just look at the words of judgement in vv 18, ff. Instead of representing Yahweh in a way which would attract the nations, they had followed their own ways, spurning His law and becoming a source of plunder..

So we can see that this prophecy points to Jesus taking over that role, as expounds this passage in Mat 12:21. “In My name the nations will put their hope”. The Servant Jesus came, to correct that failure by being the “first fruit” of the New Covenant. Isa 42:6. But do you see what the role of the people of the New Covenant is to be? They must take up that role of being a “light to the gentiles”. “I will keep you and make you a light for the gentiles”. 42:6.

Our responsibility in the world today, as in the past is to be a priesthood who are representing Jesus to the unbelievers. When we quarrel in public. When we are unloving and selfish. When we are dishonest and self-satisfied, these attitudes all serve to drive people away from Jesus. So we all have a huge responsibility to the world, which can only be accomplished if we continually abide in Christ.

Is the church succeeding in that? Yes in many respects and places, but NO in many other. Notice the seminar that is proposed at the Kweekskool in Stellenbosch for March with the title, “Queering the prophet (Jonah)”.

Now look at the tension in 42:14. For a long time God has been holding back His judgement, because of His patience. But in His heart he has been bursting, like a woman giving birth to bring about this judgement, which will surely happen. Yet in he midst of that is still His grace for those who are blind. (vs 16). This must surely be referring to the ‘remnant’.

What do I hear from Jesus? Abiding in Him is not merely remembering that he is present with me, it is actively pursuing a warm relationship with Him. If I am doing that, I will produce the fruit which He desires so that His church can continue and grow in its task of being a light for the gentiles. I have a promise and a responsibility.

Yahweh, the only Living God.

“You’ve been washed by the blood of the lamb. I have been meditating on the ‘mystery’ of Jesus’ blood.

“Everyone has a veil over them, that prevents them from seeing and hearing and understanding Me and who I am. My blood is the only thing that can wash that veil away – My blood is the symbol of My death. It is the key to My life and death. It was also necessary to verify a Covenant with blood. My blood verified the New Covenant. Now I have washed away the veil from you and you can see Me and meet with Me. Yet there are still vestiges of sin which need to be washed away by water and the Word and ultimately by My blood. My blood is most precious because it represents the gift I have given you of life – you could not have that without My blood.

Isaiah 41, opens with a challenge from Yahweh directed at the “Islands” or “The Coastlands”. These “Peoples”, are symbolic of the Nations of the world. It is almost like an accusation in a court case. He starts with two challenging questions in vv 2 and 4. Note the similarity to God’s challenge to Job in Job 38.2 ff. He also challenges them to present their case in v 21. Can you see what the challenge is? We may have felt like questioning God at times in our lives, but Have you ever felt He is questioning you?

The challenge is for them to understand the huge difference between Him and any other gods or idols they may be trusting in to act on their behalf. Can you see the case He is making? He has acted in history and will act in the future. He is the only one who can predict the future, in fact, because He controls it. cf vv 26 ff. The diviners of those days made a big thing of predicting future events and to some extent that is still happening today. cf vv 20 -29.

His most important act in history, after the creation, was to choose a people, in Abraham for Himself. V 8. Then, He proclaims that, as weak as Israel may seem, He is capable of giving them enough power to carry out His plan. cf vv 14-16.

Central to the message of this chapter (and the whole of Isaiah) is God Himself. cf vv 4b,13,16b, 17, 20b. He is this great God who acts in history for His people and there is no-one or anything that can compare to Him. The challenge to us is: “Do you really believe this?” I don’t mean in your mind only, or even your heart. Is it demonstrated in all the practical applications of your life?

He has the future in His hand, how comforting is that? Especially with the events unfolding in the Ukraine at the moment.

Lastly I was struck again by how He chooses the weak to demonstrate His strength cf v 14 ff. This so reminds us of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:5,9b and 10. It is exactly when you are feeling weak and vulnerable that God can use you most to glorify Him, because then your ego does not get in the way and His power is demonstrated.

Comfort for a People in the Wilderness.

Singing, “My love is like a mighty flood”.

“I took My people into the wilderness to make it possible for them to serve and follow Me, without the distractions of Egypt. There they would also learn to depend on Me entirely for everything, not on their own devices and plans. Many years later I came to the earth and My ministry started in the wilderness – to demonstrate to My people that I was going to rescue them from the wilderness and take them into the ‘Promised Land of milk and honey’. You are still living in the wilderness, although there are many signs of My generosity and creativity around you, it is totally marred by sin and the curse. However today, I remind you that My love is like a mighty flood in the wilderness, ‘streams in the desert’. It comes to bring you abundance and fulness of life and that flood was released the moment I died on the cross – that is where My love was and still is being poured out from. If you ever doubt My love, just look at the cross.”

Now we come to the most encouraging chapter 40 of Isaiah. After chapter 39, it forms an introduction to the next “book” of Isaiah (ch 40-56). 200 years have passed since the prediction of the Babylonian invasion. The Israelites have experienced that invasion by Babylon, when they were taken into exile. The time of the exile is almost over and the people are preparing to return to Israel.

The message is quite clear, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God“. 40:1. The key to understanding the need for comfort is found in 40:27. “Why do you say, O Jacob and complain O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? The Israelites obviously felt abandoned by God and had no word from Him for some time.

It is a universal question, asked by almost every believer over the years at some stage or another in their lives. So what is this message of comfort as set out in this chapter? Firstly there is a message that her sin has been forgiven, because it has been paid for 40:2. What sin, you ask? Well that is what the first 39 chapters details isn’t it. Mainly a lack of trust in God.

This forgiveness is linked to the one who is bringing a message in the wilderness, vs ,3. It is a message of hope. that the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind will see it vs 5 (note, not just the Israelites).

It is a message which, unlike man’s fleeting life is linked to God’s word, which “stands forever“. It is so important that it needs to be declared from the highest mountain. The Hebrew is the equivalent of the Greek “evangel” of the New Testament. The message’s central point concerns the Souvereign Lord and what he is going to do, using all His power. Yet at the same time acting like a shepherd, who knows all His sheep and cares tenderly for them.. vv 9-11.

Verses 12-26 go on describing a beautiful picture of this Souvereign Lord of ours, comparing Him to the empty idols along the way. But perhaps one of the most important emphases, completes the picture in the last 4 verses. Against the background of the question, whether God cares, the answer comes. God is everlasting, continually faithful, concerned for the weary and those who stumble and fall. The key word in these last verses is the word “hope” in vs 32. Read the word “trust” instead (those who have faith), who believe this message. It is to them that the promise of having their strength renewed comes, which enables them to soar on wings like an eagle.

That was the message to the Israelites in Babylon. What about us? The voice crying in the wilderness leads us to the one whom this verse points to in the NT. John, in the desert, once again calling out a message of repentance and faith in the One who would soon be baptized by him. This was all happening in the wilderness, where Jesus launches His ministry from. A fulfillment of the earlier predictions of the coming Messiah in Isaiah.

We look forward, with expectation, to the further predictions of the One who will bring comfort, in the next chapters of Isaiah.

In he meantime, what is Jesus’ message for me today? A clear reminder that when I feel God is not caring, I should visit scriptures like this to remind me of who God is and what He has come to do. And then to put my faith and trust and hope in Him. May God bless you all as you imbibe this most encouraging chapter.

King Hezekiah, an Ordinary Man.

I have been singing: “My God is for us”.

“In all the vicissitudes and uncertainties of life it is important to know that I am for you. Who then can be against you? There is one who tries everything against you – but I have already won the victory. While you may catch glimpses of him, it is I that call the shots. So remember when you feel discouraged or doubtful – I am for you – I am rooting all the time for your glory – ultimately to bring Me glory – that is My aim. So do not allow Satan to put you in bondage again – I have sat you free – free to enjoy Me and be completely satisfied in Me. Live that life as you serve Me”.

Today I am reading Isaiah ch 38 and 39, which bring to an end the first “book of Isaiah’. Just to give a broader view. The first 39 chapters have covered a period when Isaiah was prophesying to his contemporaries. King Ahaz was a bad king but his son Hezekiah was much better. They are also subtly contrasted with another expected King cf 9:7. The book ends with a prophecy of doom in ch 39:5-7. This describes a devastating invasion by Babylon. This prophecy would only be fulfilled some 100 years later, thus long after Isaiah had gone to be with the Lord. From ch 40 – 56 Isaiah brings a series of prophecies of comfort for the Israelites in their slavery. Of course, a major figure in this section is the Comforter/Suffering Servant/Messiah, which means it is actually looking forward to a time way past the Babylonian invasion.

Looking at ch 38 and 39 we come to the conclusion of book 1. Hezekiah has just faced and resisted the words spoken against Israel by the Field Commander. There is a picture of repentance and turning in trust to the Lord in prayer. He doesn’t seem to be doing too badly. However ch 38 and 39 show up the weak streak in him.

There is a description of a severe illness and the devastating effect it has on him, not only physically but also emotionally. cf 38:3d. He begs God to prolong his life, reminding God of his previous devotion. There is a glimmer of insight in to his thinking though, which leads to the events of ch 39. Cf 39:17 ff. Notice the emphasis on MY benefit in vs 17 and the gist of the prayer that follows.

His mind still appears to be focusing on himself. This is what seems to lead to the foolish mistake that he makes in showing the envoy from Babylon, the riches of Israel. The final proof lies in his last statement in 39:8, where he is only relieved for himself and doesn’t seem to care what happens to the nation as a whole.

Am I being unfair in this assessment? I don’t think so. Firstly, this is a universal problem. Adam demonstrated it in the garden. As you trace the lives of many people in the bible, that seems to be the one area which stands out as a central problem. It is the problem which lay behind Hezekiah’s running to the Egyptians for help, in the first place. Demonstrated by his forgetting to trust the Lord. He also seemed to be acting in a way to ‘save face’.

The question, as we come to the end of Ch 39, is “who will help Israel and for that matter the world, to deal with this problem?” Well that sets the scene for where the Comforter, the Suffering Servant comes in, isn’t it?

In fact he whole of the first book of Isaiah, with all his oracles, demonstrate the lostness of mankind, even God’s own people, the Israelites. It seems to me God has gone to great lengths to show how much we all need the work of the Messiah. It is a fact, that until people can perceive their need, they usually won’t be interested in Jesus. The difficult thing is that, though we may have been set free, we still carry the footprints of sin in our lives. Perhaps the most basic one being self centeredness. That acts directly against God centeredness and our ability to fully trust Him.

I have spent a lot of time considering why God included these two chapters in the story. Of course commentators tend to avoid giving their opinion. I would like to hear what you guys think.

God’s Glory.

I am deeply desiring to “know” God’s glory. I see a light upon the mountains, it is growing in intensity and brightness – till it fills the whole earth – till it fills the whole universe.

“That is My glory – My glory is the reason I created. My Glory is the reason for history – and ultimately, when the ‘The Marriage Supper of the Lamb’ is celebrated, will be when My glory will finally be revealed. I have created each person individually and uniquely different – yet with one purpose – to bring Me glory. Yet, sin causes each man (woman) to seek his (her) own glory rather than mine. Even those who serve Me and love Me are often drawn away to seeking their own glory. So I am manipulating the whole of history to demonstrate My glory. You cannot see it, yet the whole earth is covered in My glory like the waters cover the sea. Go out and allow Me to show My glory through you and enjoy it, rejoice in it, it is the highest goal”.

We follow Israel’s story in Isaiah 36:21- 37:28.

What was the reaction of Hezekiah and the people to the threats of the Assyrians? The immediate instruction was to not answer the Field Commander. Not to try and argue with him. No explanation is given. (37:21)

Secondly there is this picture of various people tearing their clothes (37:22; 38:1). Associated with that, of putting on sackcloth. What does that mean? Well it was the outward sign of the people of that era of distress (37:3) and mourning. There is also a hope expressed that God will still act (37:4c). The bible often associated mourning with a recognition of sin and a sign of repentance. How do we interpret this action here, though?

Its almost as if the people are driven there by fear and hope that their mourning will move God to rescue them. Notice where the hope of the rescue is focused – 37:4d. The remnant which we have been following throughout this story. Something of Hezekiah’s spirituality is revealed in the prayer that follows in 37:14-20. Notice where the focus of his prayer is. He reminds himself of God’s souvereignty in creation and calls on Him to show this by rescuing them, “So that all the kingdom’s on earth may know that you alone are God.

Presumably he is being reminded of the importance of this. Notice the parallel to what God said to me this morning. His glory is paramount. His name is inextricably linked to His glory. This places Hezekaiah’s prayer right alongside the will of God in defending His name, in the face of all the mocking blasphemies that have been made.

Finally then, Isaiah brings God’s reply (37:22 – 35). I suggest you study it carefully. Here are some interesting points that I have noticed. In vs 26 we have a strong reminder that God has had a souvereign plan throughout the whole of history. Nothing has happened by chance, in the past and because of God’s zeal everything He has ordained for the future, will still happen 37:32.

Secondly we are reminded here of God’s omniscience (knowing everything) concerning everyone in the world(37:28), not only of each one of us Christians, as in Psalm 139 . God has an intimate knowledge of friend and foe alike. Finally as in 37:4d, the focus for the future of Israel lies with the remnant 37:31.

Maybe you may see something more. If so please share it on the blog.

So what do I hear Jesus saying to me from this passage? The comfort I received is that God is still working out His plan, which might at some times appear unlikely in the face of disaster. That plan still focuses on “the Remnant” of which Jesus was the first fruits in the New Testament. Everyone who is “in Jesus” is therefore part of that remnant and hence, I am still part of this unfolding plan. Then there is a reminder of something in our lives, which should be reflected in our prayers. God’s name and His glory should be central. If we do that then our prayers will be right alongside God’s will.

Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Hebrew verb translated “commit” there, actually means “lay your plans alongside God’s”. That is the great reminder of the power in prayer. The challenge to me lies to live that out.