Bible reading for May 10 -- 11
May 10 -- Isaiah 8 and James 2
May 11 -- Isaiah 9 and James 3
"To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." (Isaiah 8:20)
THE PROPHET'S SON (ch 8). Isaiah names his child "Swift-booty-speedy-prey", which refers to the speed of the prey (Judah) in evading the predator (Assyria). This child is not the same virgin-born child mentioned in chapter 7, who is "Immanuel" (v 8; 7:14). The Assyrian army will fail in its attempt to capture Jerusalem and gain hold of Judah (vv 9-10). Meanwhile, many Jews are fearful and panicking, trying to uncover political conspiracies (such as between neighboring nations and Assyria) and seeking information by occult means. They want a political or military solution -- or a situation they can control -- rather than deal with their real problem, which is spiritual and moral (vv 11-22). The people are called to fear the Lord and seek refuge in him as their sanctuary (vv 13-14), rather than stumbling over him in unbelief (cf Isa 28:16; Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8; Matt 21:44).
GOD'S SON (ch 9). In Galilee of the future (from Isaiah's perspective), in the region once under the control of Assyria, will come a glorious light, a Child, a Son. This is the great King, the Son of David, who will sit upon an eternal throne of righteousness (Psalms 2; 110). His names reflect his power and goodness, and show forth his divine nature (v 6). This prophecy combines his first coming (the Light to Galilee) and his second coming (the Warrior to defeat all enemies). Four times we are told that God's hand will continue to be outstretched in judgment, specifically toward the northern kingdom of Israel, also referred to as Samaria, Ephraim, or Manasseh (9:12, 17, 21; 10:4). Special mention is given of the national leaders and the false prophets who deceived and misguided the nation.
CONSPIRACIES AND THEORIES. Even in our day people are given to conspiracies and theories that usually find one group (or category) of people to blame for national problems. People today are fearful, given to hysteria, and believe that this group of people or that political group is the big problem in our nation. Like the people of Isaiah's day we need to see the problem is us, all of us. We need to find refuge in the sanctuary which is God's son, Jesus Christ. We need to find our forgiveness, our trust, our confidence, our peace, and our safety in him. We need to repent, to seek him, and to search his word for answers, rather than putting our trust in leaders, political parties, popular influencers, podcasters, or media outlets. It is not the fear of God but the fear of man that leads us to believe untrue theories and conspiracies. Let us return to God's law and testimony (8:20)!
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creation." (1:17-18)
THE EPISTLE OF JAMES. This is, along with Galatians, one of the earliest NT letters, written from Jerusalem in the AD 40s. This James was the brother of our Lord Jesus (1 Cor 15:7), who was an influential leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Gal 1:19). In this letter he introduces himself simply as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (v 1). His epistle was written to Jewish-background believers in Christ who lived in various regions around the Middle-east and Mediterranean. He refers to them as the twelve tribes scattered abroad. Jews living outside of Israel, for whatever reason, were referred to as the Diaspora, which means the dispersion.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT. James' letter is direct, practical, and similar to the OT Proverbs in that there are many brief statements and exhortations. These bullet points may seem unrelated but there are a number of interwoven themes. In chapter one we read about trials, wisdom, the rich and poor, being steadfast, the dynamic of temptation and sin, God's gift of salvation, being doers of the Word, bridling the tongue, and visiting widows and orphans! James is also rich in imagery: waves of the sea, the sun and wildflower, conception and birth, a mirror, a planted seed, firstfruits, and a bridle. Don't rush through James. Ponder these images, and think about their meaning, and about the relationship between these seemingly unrelated statements.
FAITH AND WORKS (ch 2). James deals with partiality in the church meeting (vv 1-7) and then he writes of the comprehensive demand of God's will upon our lives (vv 8-13). Mercy was not being shown to the poor within their congregations, which means there was a disconnect between the mercy James' readers received and the mercy they should be showing (cf Matt 18:23-33). This introduces James' teaching on faith and works (vv 14-26). There seems to be a contradiction between what James says here and what Paul teaches elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Rom 3:20; Gal 2:15-16; 3:10-22). What may help us is to realize three differences in context. Read more here on faith and works.
WISDOM FOR LIVING (ch 3). James, like Proverbs, includes counsel regarding use of speech, having good interpersonal relationships, attitude toward business, and choosing humility over pride. Wisdom is more than knowledge -- it includes the right use of knowledge in living well before God and with fairness toward others. This also involves insight and discernment. As we look around our information-rich world we see much knowledge (seemingly infinite amounts of data), but little of the insight, discernment, and wisdom that the Scriptures promote. T. S. Eliot once wrote, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? It is for lack of wisdom, not lack of information, that the people perish." Just like the people of Isaiah's day and James' day we too should seek wisdom from the Lord for the problems we face in our world. It is too easy for us to be rash, hasty, misinformed, and quick to judge others. Wisdom brings meekness, gentleness, and mercy, along with other good things.
Image credit. Photo of wheat field courtesy Thinkstock Photo. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.
Bible reading for May 10 -- 11