Bible reading for May 31 -- June 1
May 31 -- Isaiah 32 and Rev 2
Jun 1 -- Isaiah 33 and Rev 3
Take some time today to pause, remember, and thank God for the many soldiers who died in military service for our country. Here's the USAF band performing Dvorak's "Going Home" at the National Cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia.
"Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:1-2)
LOOKING FOR FEW GOOD MEN (ch 32). Don't we all long for good leadership? Good leadership in homes, in businesses, in the church, in communities, and in the nation? How much suffering and misery comes from corruption, bribery, conflicts of interest, immoral decisions, unjust laws, bribery, and favoritism. Whether leadership is weak or overbearing, all of the people suffer from being under such rule. One day -- one day, says the Scripture -- there will be a king who reigns in righteousness (vv 1-8). Note these beautiful images: a hiding place from wind, a shelter from storms, streams of water, the shade of a great rock? And, "he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands" (v 8). There are a few good leaders in history, and really, only One who is the righteous King (Ps 2; Isa 9). How wonderful will be the day when "the fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable" (v 5). Leadership is noble when it imitates the character and manner of our Lord Jesus. We should ask ourselves, when we are in a position to lead, am I like "a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, streams of water in a dry place, and shade in a weary land"?
NO MORE COSMO AND VANITY FAIR. Previously, God's judgment had been pronounced upon the peoples of the northern and southern kingdoms, upon the false prophets and occultists, upon the scheming political leaders, and now upon the women at ease (vv 9-13). The affluent society that gloried in clothing, beauty products, and jewelry would vanish (cf 3:16-26). Since the countryside would be stripped of crops, the grape harvest would not produce enough wine for their happy hour. Following defeat and humiliation will come a day when the Holy Spirit is poured out (vv 14-20; upon men and women both, Joel 2:28-29). This is a different kind of adornment, a holy beautification. Fulfilled in part at Pentecost (Acts 2), the complete fullness (affecting all of creation) will come at the return of Christ. God's Spirit creates a harmonious community: "And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever" (v 17).
UNTIL THE DESTROYER IS DESTROYED (ch 33). Meanwhile, we like Judah live in the presence of our enemies, and so we too pray, "O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble" (v 2). This chapter declares that God will be exalted in the judgment of the enemies of his people. Primarily in view is the Assyrian empire, but this is true of all empires who oppose God and his people (Dan 2:44-45). Here are two great promises for God's people: "he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is Zion's treasure" (v 6); and "Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar" (v 17). Why not put those truths on a card on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator, and get them into your heart? God is the stability of your times, and you will behold him in his beauty!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:17)
THE SEVEN CHURCHES. Chapters two and three contain personal addresses from the Lord to the seven churches in Asia Minor near Ephesus (southwestern Turkey today). Are these churches symbolic of the church age? I think it more likely these churches were actual local churches, but the problems they faced are encountered by churches all through the church age. Each address usually contains the following: a description of the Lord Jesus, an affirmation or commendation, a reproof, a call to repentance, and a promise to those who overcome.
THE ONE WHO CONQUERS. In Revelation, to conquer (or, "overcome; be victorious") means to prevail by being faithful to the Lord, even to death (2:10), by maintaining our testimony before the world (not conforming to its wickedness), and by being steadfast to resist the lies, threats, and influence of Satan. The common word for believers in Revelation is "the saints" (or, "holy ones"). As we see in these chapters, to overcome means to have the discernment and courage to reject false teachings that affect the church. The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle, "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?" (5:4-5)
REFLECT. No particular church (local gathering of believers) is promised perpetuity. That is, the Church will endure though individual congregations may not. A local church may only be a generation away from extinction. Churches should not be smug in their success, since most churches have blemishes that are offensive to the Lord, though they might be blind to them. One of the many encouraging promises in these two chapters is the "white stone with a new name written, that no one knows except the one who receives it" (v 17). There are a number of explanations as to what this stone represents -- whether the new name is the Lord's name or the individual's name -- but one thing is clear. The whiteness represents forgiveness (and God's approval), and the new name indicates a personal, intimate relationship between the believer and the Lord. God's people are not saved merely as one big undifferentiated group called "the church", but they are a multitude of individuals, each of whom knows the Lord in a close, personal, even private way. We will maintain our individuality throughout the ages!
Image credit: photo of text from Revelation (chapter 10) in P47 from the third century, courtesy Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (csntm.org). This papyrus manuscript is housed in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. 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.