Accepting the Invitation.

Singing, “see Him in Jerusalem – see Him there upon the hill”. I let my mind caress that scene and I am thinking how the whole of the history of the world before then had waited with bated breath for that moment. Then I remember the events of the weekend at Noordhoek, where I met Him face-to-face for the first time. My whole life up to then was a preparation for that moment and that moment determined the path of the rest of my life. I think of Jesus’s suffering and relate that to my life – I don’t know that depth of suffering but I have experienced the fallenness of the world.

“As you move through this week in anticipation of next weekend, relate the week to your life so far in this world – remember Sunday when the light of the resurrection breaks through. There will be a moment when your faith will be turned to sight – and you will see Me face-to-face – in My brilliant glorious light – where there is no darkness anymore.”

Returning to Chapter 55. Look at the word, repeated four times in the first verse. “Come“. Further down we see another invitation in vs 6; “Seek the Lord“. Can there be a clearer invitation in this Holy week to move beyond the intellectual acceptance of the events prophesied in chapter 53?

There are a couple of conditions that are applied to the invitation which we should take seriously:

  1. We are to buy without money. A strange statement, don’t you think? Yet it is quite clear what is meant. What God is offering, is absolutely free. It is, in fact, an affront to offer Him something in return for what He wants to give us. This is such an important principle, which everyone, including us, should take seriously. We cannot earn what God wants to give us free. No matter how we may think our efforts are winning more approval for ourselves, we negate this basic principle.
  2. How do we receive the enormous benefits He is offering? Vs 3; “Pay attention to Me; Listen, that you may live“. We continue to be confronted by this command. His word is meaningless, unless we listen to it. Not just superficially, but in our hearts, and act on it.
  3. Vs 6 reminds us of the urgency of this invitation. “Seek the Lord, while He may be found“. It is never too late to be saved, yet the invitation fades if it is not accepted, while He may be found.
  4. The central point of the New Covenant is what the whole of ch 53 represents. The forgiveness of sins vs 7 b. That is what removes the barrier between us and God. Therefore the whole benefit of the New Covenant only becomes a reality when that forgiveness is received. For it to be received, there must be repentance, 7 a.
  5. The statement about God’s thoughts, in the immediate context, means we need to allow God to renew our whole thinking. cf Romans 12:2. (It also has a much broader application).
  6. Verses 10 and 11 remind us that God’s promises are absolutely sure. We can trust them completely.

Lastly, not a condition, but a reminder of the fact that the benefits of the New Covenant extend to the whole world cf vv 3b,4,5.

For me personally, this is a reminder that God continues to call us to “come to Him and to seek His face”. This is not just a once-off action. The more we come to Him, the closer we will get, as we remember all that this chapter is reminding us of. May the happenings in Jerusalem 2000 years ago be vivid in your imagination this week as we approach Easter.

The Invitation.

Watching the singing of “Jesus I give you thanks”,I am struck by the many beautiful faces, hairstyles, clothes, glitz and glamour – and I find myself comparing them with the simple band of disciples who followed Jesus – not always clean, home spun clothes – such a contrast.

“ Yes there is a huge outward contrast – but they were just as human as the singers and everyone around you. They had the same desires for making a name for themselves, for entitlement and self-centredness as you have and everyone in my creation. That is why I came – I came to rescue them, to rescue you and all mankind from their sinful, selfish desires. Your position has nothing to do with your worth. I create people for different purposes and put them into the places I will use them for my kingdoms sake. All of them have this in common – I am rescuing them and changing them and you Romans 8:28. All things work together for the good of them that love me and are called by my name, but to make sure I’m not talking about giving just good things I remind the reader shortly after that, that I am good! Why? It is because it is easy to misinterpret that passage and think I’m handing out worldly goods – instead the greatest blessings you may experience come during the most difficult of times – and in the midst of that you need to remember– I am good and my intentions are for your good – to grow you to be more like me. Prince and pauper – the beautiful singers – their reality is deep down the same as the shack dweller – I have come to rescue all – no one is more valuable than the rest!

Coming now to Isaiah chapter 54, the writer continues to put the events of the previous chapter into the perspective of Israelites.They are depicted as a barren woman and compared with the new covenant which is now being introduced as a mother of a great and growing family.This family will not be confined to the people of Israel but will spread across all the nations of the world.

The certainty of the fulfilment of this prophecy is depicted by the husband of the woman who is actually Yahweh himself. The future relationship with God will be as close as a marriage.

In verse 10 the love of God in the new covenant will not be removed from Israel, but will continue and be greater than his wrath. Verses 13 and 14 God promises prosperity but that should not be confused with physical prosperity it will be a spiritual prosperity.

So we come to chapter 55 which opens with this wonderful invitation to come and partake of the benefits of this new covenant. I suggest that you read chapter 55 and consider the application of what is written there in terms of understanding what that reveals about the new covenant and how that relates to us. Then we can revisit that chapter on Monday and discover what we have been shown. Don’t hesitate to share your discoveries. That’s how we can teach each other.

In the meantime what has Jesus been saying to me from our reading today? The clearest word from him is that it’s not just good enough to know the truth of chapter 53 but that one must actually receive it for yourself. You must apply it to your heart.

The Servant, Suffering for you and for me

We have a Father in heaven above,/ with eyes full of mercy and a heart full of love,/ He really cares when your head is hung low,/ consider the lilies and then you will know.

“Consider the fact – that you have a Father in heaven above. Consider My attitude towards you and all My children, an attitude of special care – I made you, I rescued you, I have always provided for you- spiritually as well as physically – that is Me! I do really care about you, just as you can see I care for the whole of My creation – I see when your head is hung low . I want to pick it up – I want you to start rejoicing – from the deepest part of your heart. You cannot start rejoicing when your head is hanging. So, by faith, trusting in Me completely – in My Fatherhood – pick it up and start rejoicing. I want you to fly with Me – stand on the roof-top and shout ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it'”

Today with Easter approaching, we come to one of the most precious sections of the Old Testament; Isaiah 53. It was from this chapter that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading, in Acts 8 that led him to the Lord. There is so much in this chapter. I am going to give a few pointers and invite you to soak yourselves in it.

We start at 52:13. which brackets the whole section with vs with 53:12a at the other end. Up till now the identity of the “Servant” has not always been clear. Sometimes it seems to be the remnant of believers, sometimes the prophet and sometimes a figure far in the future. These bracketed vv clearly show us the identity of this Servant. He is High and exalted and given a portion among the great. It can be no other than the Messiah Himself.

Secondly we see that the whole thrust of the section is on the substitutionary nature of the servant’s suffering and death. This is the central doctrine of our faith. Over an over He is depicted as marred, stricken, rejected, oppressed and ultimately assigned to the grave. But His sufferings have a specific purpose. Vs 4 He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Vs 5 He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment which brought us peace was on Him. Vs 6b The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Vs 10b The Lord makes Him a guilt offering.

Now I want to take you back to 51:22b “see I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger”. That is the cup, as we saw, of God’s wrath. God, Having reminded us of the reality of His wrath, then says He has taken the cup away (prophetically). Having shown us this important fact He now shows how He has done that in ch 53. He has asked Jesus to take it on our behalf. He was the only one that could do it, because He had never transgressed. Now the whole of Ch 53 depicts various aspects of Jesus suffering and death. How intense it was. Drawn out, ongoing, till He died.

I want to ask you to stop, as we approach Easter and consider. The cup of God’s wrath which is described as making us stagger, is what awaits every person who does not avail themselves of this vicarious death. By showing the extent of Jesus’ suffering, a picture of what God’s wrath is really like, should come home to us . That wrath that we have now escaped. In the inadequate words after taking communion service, “And be thankful”.

Thankful! How can we ever thank Him enough? There is no way we can repay Him. We must simply respond in love and thanksgiving. “Could my zeal no respite know/ Could my tears forever flow/ all for sin could not atone/Thou must save and thou alone/ Nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to thy cross I cling”. (Rock of Ages cleft for me). I invite you to come and cast yourself alongside me this Easter at the foot of the cross where He accomplished this and express our deepest thanksgiving, together.

Awake, Awake!

Jesus, Name above all Names, Highly exalted!

“Come and take My hand and let Me show you”. Its as if God is leading me outside where I can see into the distance – even up into the unplumbable depths of outer space. “I have created all things in order – despite the disorder you see around you, which is ongoing because of sin. Despite that, there is a massive well-oiled order which is driving the whole universe. I am the King of Kings, I have the authority over all of this, because I made it, I own it. I have made you to fit into that order and am orchestrating it constantly. Now the true contentment that comes from being in harmony with that order does not only come from making the right big decisions – it comes from recognizing that you have nothing intrinsically to commit to that order. Only doing what I have laid out for you, can you contribute to the harmony of My order. The starting point of your usefulness in My kingdom, is recognizing – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”. That is the starting point of true discipleship”.

Now back to Isaiah, from 51:9 to 52:12. There are three calls of ‘awake, awake’, which provide the structure. The first in 51:9 seems to come from the remnant, still in bondage in Babylon. They are feeling that God has abandoned them. Fallen asleep? So they are reminding Him of His relationship with them and His promises to them of their return to Zion. They are reminding Him of the great deliverance of the Exodus.

God answers “awake, awake” in vs 17. He puts their suffering into the context of His wrath. This passage strikes a special cord, as we read of God’s wrath being likened to a cup that makes you stagger v 22b. Look at the promise in vs 22 a. “See, I have taken out of your hand this cup”. How has He done that? Pause for a moment and allow your thoughts to go to a garden. The garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ prayer. “take this cup away from Me, yet not My will but yours, O Lord” (Luke 22:42).

Prophetic words looking forward to the greatest event of all time, which started with the difficult submission of a Man/God to His Father’s will; to drink this awful cup on behalf of the whole of mankind, that we may have the opportunity of escaping the full effect of that wrath. See it is only God Himself that can take away the cup of His wrath so that we never have to drink of it again. (52:22 b).This little section illuminates that scene in the darkness of the night in he garden with the brightest of light, because it is only when we fully understand how awful God’s wrath is, that we can appreciate the full extent and value of what Jesus did there, taking it with Him to the cross.

That is why the last “awake, awake” (52:1), becomes so logical. This act of removing God’s wrath has made it possible for every one of us to be clothed with garments of splendour. These garments are further described in 61:10 “the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness”. If we understand what this means, we will be the first to go out and proclaim what has happened 52:7. We will hasten to stand on a mountain top and shout it aloud. As we appreciate it we will burst into songs of joy as God comforts us while we “return to Jerusalem”, to His bosom.

Isn’t it wonderful how the Old Testament keeps referring us to the gospel. That is the key to life. That is the only key to life. The key that opens the door for God’s abundant blessings. We see also here how the word comfort is used to show how trusting in he gospel message brings the greatest comfort. Because comfort can only come when we are in a healthy relationship with the Lord.

Listening to Jesus, how does the promise of God’s comfort make you feel? Let us all rejoice together.