Bible reading for May 26 -- 27
May 26 -- Isaiah 27 and 1 John 5
May 27 -- Isaiah 28 and 2 John 1
"Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes will not be in haste.'" (Isaiah 28:16)
THE SWORD OF THE LORD (ch 27). Leviathan, a large sea creature (or mythological sea monster), is representative of Satan (Gen 3:1; Rev 12:9). It is the sword of the Lord that will slay him and restore the garden and the fruitfulness of God's people (vv 1-6). The people of Judah would not be destroyed as their enemies were, but idolatry would be removed from the land and the Lord's people will return (vv 7-13). Even today, and rightly so, the nation of Israel is protective of the land God gave them. There have been several exiles and returns in the history of Israel. The real and final restoration from exile will be accomplished when the people embrace their Messiah, our Lord Jesus (Zech 12:10; Rom 11:23-31).
THE CROWN AND THE CORNERSTONE (ch 28). Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph, is a name used to refer to the ten northern tribes of Israel. They have a crown of faded glory in their eating and drinking (vv 1-4), but the remnant of Israel -- those in exile after Samaria the capital falls in 721 BC -- will come to find the Lord alone is their glory (vv 5-6). Meanwhile in their drunken pride the northern tribes treat the law of the Lord as childish and elementary, like practicing lines of writing on a tablet (vv 9-10). The Assyrian invaders, however, will have a language they don't understand (vv 11-12), and so humbled (being "taken to school", so to speak), the people of Israel will need to return to the first principles of their faith in the Lord (v 13). Meanwhile, Isaiah's word to the leaders in Jerusalem is not to trust their own superstitious schemes (which didn't involve trusting the Lord)(vv 14-22). Again, Isaiah looks into the future and sees a new temple, a new city, a new people, established upon a true, righteous, and sure foundation. Jesus is that cornerstone (Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6). He himself is the pattern and embodiment of God's design for his people both now and forever.
HIS JUDGMENTS WISE AND MEASURED. In the rest of chapter 28 the Lord tells the people that his chastisement of them is not endless or ultimately destructive. In chapter 27 the Lord says, "I have no wrath..." (27:4). And he calls his judgment "strange" and "alien" (28:21). Constable writes, "Defeating the Israelites was strange work for the Lord because He customarily defended them. Judgment is His 'strange work,' especially judgment of His own people, a work foreign to what He usually does, namely, bless." Anger (or wrath) is not an essential attribute of God like his love, holiness, and goodness. His wrath is the response of his righteous and holy character toward sin, rebellion, and injustice. God is always and eternally holy, but at times he demonstrates anger. He is always loving, but at times he must bring judgment. Once sin and evil are dealt with he has no wrath. His judgment of Israel -- unlike his judgment upon their enemies -- would be temporary and purposeful, to bring about a desired outcome (vv 23-29), to bless and not to destroy. In commenting on the verses 27:4-5, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) writes,
God will show His wrath, and make His power known in the destruction of the sinner. But it is a more glorious work of power to redeem that sinner, and thus He engages to do for you, if you will take hold of His strength. He would greatly prefer this way of making His power known. He does not want to enter into the battle with you, or to consume you like stubble by the breath of His indignation. No, He wants to transform sinners into saints: He wants to transform vessels of wrath into vessels of mercy, and to make known the riches of His glory on those whom He had afore prepared unto glory.
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)
FAITH THAT OVERCOMES (ch 5). John returns to the theme of obedience (5:1-3) and then to the topic of faith (5:4-15). Faith is receiving God's testimony about his Son (vv 9-10). It is to receive life and to have the assurance of life. We pray now for the things that God wills and have confidence that he hears and answers. On the "sin unto death" see Tom Constable's notes on this chapter in the NET Bible. Those born of God cannot continue their habit of sinning (or, the practice of sin, vv 18-19). "Keep yourselves from idols," is an unusual way to end this letter, but it is an arresting way of saying that whenever we accept false teaching about Christ, or whenever we neglect obedience to God or love to others, we are acting like idolaters. In that sense, we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25; see Exod 20:2-6). D. L. Moody once said, "Satan doesn't care what we worship, as long as we don't worship God."
ON HOSPITALITY (2 John). "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works" (vv 10-11). Some have felt that the verse above prohibits greeting people of other faiths (or cults) and inviting them into your home. But in John's world to greet meant to pronounce the Lord's blessing upon them, and inviting someone into your home meant giving them overnight accommodation and a place to lodge while they did their work in the community. Here's a helpful introduction to 2 John from the ESV editors:
"Second John warns against the same false teaching mentioned in 1 John. This letter, however, was addressed to 'the elect lady and her children' (perhaps a local congregation), and focused on Christian hospitality. False teachers were using the kindness of Christians to gain influence within John's congregations. John's letter spoke of this danger and warned against opening one's home to these destroyers of the faith. While the basic themes of 1 John—holding fast to truth, love, and obedience—are evident, there is the additional focus on what Christian hospitality is all about. Only when you find agreement on sound doctrine will you find meaningful fellowship. The letter was probably written by the apostle John in the late first century AD."
REFLECT. As Christians we must be aware of the boundary between benevolence (good will toward people) and the approval of sin and untruth. We must be ready to extend mercy in meeting human needs, but we cannot affirm, approve, celebrate, or support wrong beliefs and sinful behavior. See Jesus' words in Matthew 10:11-14. Charles Hodge, the Princeton theologian, summed it up this way: "This is true religion, to approve what God approves, to hate what he hates, and to delight in what delights him."
Image credit: photo source unknown. 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.