Bible reading for weekend May 28 -- 30
May 28 -- Isaiah 29 and 3 John 1
May 29 -- Isaiah 30 and Jude
May 30 -- Isaiah 31 and Rev 1
"For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.' But you were unwilling..." (Isaiah 30:15)
ARIEL, ARIEL (ch 29). The Lord addresses the city of Jerusalem (Ariel likely means the "lion of God"). Like the northern kingdom (Israel) the people in Judah lack discernment and are very fearful of the coming siege by Sennacherib of Assyria (c. 701 BC). Isaiah says the people will be humbled but the city would not be captured. Deliverance would come suddenly from the Lord (see Isa 37; 2 Kgs 19). Overnight, many thousands of Assyrian soldiers would die mysteriously, perhaps by a plague sent from God. Though the remnant of God's people would glorify the Lord (v 23) many in the city were proud and unteachable. But after those days people would return to the counsel of the Lord, that is, to God's law and prophets, and it would come about that "The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel" (v 19; cf Matt 5:3-5). Read Constable's notes on this chapter in the NET Bible.
EGYPT NO HELP (ch 30). The prevailing desire among many in Jerusalem was to align themselves with Egypt, trusting their military power to help defend the city. But that was an empty hope, for Egypt too would fall to Assyria. God tells them to repent of their obstinate self-reliance: "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength" (v 15). In his grace and mercy (v 18) God promises that one day they will see their Teacher (vv 20-21), which I believe is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. (We see throughout Scripture this truth: salvation comes to people by God's mercy and grace, through his chosen mediator, to be received by faith.) As a result God's people will want to walk in his ways. Earlier, the Lord said through Isaiah, "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'" (28:16). The word for "in haste" may also be translated "be disturbed" (NAS), "not panic" (NET); "never be dismayed" (NIV), or "need never be shaken" (NLT). Faith in Christ brings a composure the world does not have.
WHAT NOT TO TRUST (ch 31). Another word on Egypt: their army will not prevail against Assyria. God will defend his own city. Throughout Israel's history there had always been a temptation to trust in horses and chariots, that is, in military and technological superiority. These chapters of Isaiah remind us that God is guiding all of history for his glory and for the good of his people. History is His-story. We should rest in God's wise handling of national and international events. He is near to us for comfort but also he is infinitely wise and powerful in handling global affairs. We should beware of trusting in human leadership, science, technology, military strength, and worldly counsel. God will protect his people and will re-establish his visible and glorious reign over the earth in due time. We are to return to the Lord, rest in him, and walk in the way he has shown us in Christ. We should ask ourselves, how do we throttle back on the amount of news, media, entertainment, and popular culture that we access? Much of this only serves to cause us anxiety, fear, anger, and unnecessary divisions among people. Remember: "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength."
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5-6)
LOVE IN TRUTH (3 John). Truth and love are two favorite themes of John the Apostle, as we saw in his first epistle. The next two letters are brief messages that he wrote to individual churches. Second John is about not neglecting truth for the sake of love (e.g., giving hospitality to false teachers). Third John is about not neglecting love for the sake of truth: "I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority" (v 9). Most people, including Christians, don't handle authority and power very well. John is writing to his friend Gaius about a problem in one of the local churches with a dictatorial pastor who gave no support to legitimate Christian teachers with itinerant ministries. Diotrephes even opposed Apostolic authority. Power can be abused in every place -- in homes, at work, in governments, in churches, and even in good churches. Because we have an indwelling principle of sin we are quick to turn the blessings of God to our own self-serving ends. John commends the example of another man, Demetrius (v 10). Christians, especially those in authority, need to have Jesus' mindset: "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant... " (Phil 2:5-8). The slide above is from a recent study we did on servant leadership.
HEY JUDE. Here are my notes on Jude. What stands out to me is that the faith has been "once for all delivered to the saints", meaning that, as muddled as the history of the church may seem, the gospel has never been lost. Also, there's a beautiful doxology (vv 24-25) which reminds us that the Lord is able to preserve us for himself. As Oswald Sanders wrote, "The perseverance of the saints is only possible because of the perseverance of God."
IT'S ABOUT JESUS (Rev 1). The Revelation (singular, not plural) of Jesus Christ shows how history will culminate with the visible, glorious, universal reign of our Lord Jesus. It is apocalyptic literature, meaning that it involves visionary and symbolic language. Bible scholars differ on what some of those symbols may represent. We are promised, however, a blessing when we read or hear the words of this book (v 3). It was written by the aged Apostle John in the mid-90s AD. He's in exile on the isle of Patmos and will address this book to the seven churches near his home church at Ephesus. He writes about the state of the church and about future events. Disclosure: I'm a futurist in my approach to Revelation, meaning that I believe the events recorded after chapter 3 are yet in the future, rather than having been fulfilled in the first centuries or in church history.
THE GLORY OF CHRIST. Lest we think the Bible presents Jesus merely as "meek and mild", John is powerfully reminded that the risen and ascended Lord Jesus reigns in glory. There's no high-fiving when Jesus appears to him. And yet... Jesus then stoops to touch John and tells him not to fear. I think we must always keep in mind both the terror and the tenderness of our Lord. He is both Lion and Lamb (Rev 5:5-6). In the first chapter there is a wonderful doxology that you can use in your prayer time (vv 5-6). It reminds us of the full breadth of Christ's work on our behalf. We are redeemed by his blood (past), and are being loved (present), and have a glorious destiny (now and future) in which we will serve God in the fullness of his glory forever. Why not commit this verse to memory or place it somewhere on a card where you can see it often?
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.