Bible reading for weekend June 11-- 13
Jun 11 -- Isaiah 43 and Revelation 13
Jun 12 -- Isaiah 44 and Revelation 14
Jun 13 -- Isaiah 45 and Revelation 15
"...that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:6)
MAGNIFICENT MONOTHEISM (ch 43). These chapters in Isaiah are breath-taking. He is the only God (cf Deut 6:4). "I am he" (vv 10, 13, 25) reflects the divine name, "I am who I am" (Exod 3:14). "There is none besides me" (45:6, 21). There is no other god. Therefore, those who trust and obey him need fear no thing, nothing (vv 1, 5; 44:2). God's people are created for his glory (vv 7, 21). Israel shall return from exile, and here specifically, the return from Babylonian captivity is in view (v 14). Because he is the only God he also is the only one who can deal with our sins and forgive us (v 25; cf 44:22).
WHO IS LIKE GOD (ch 44)? Idolatry runs deep within the human heart. We persistently honor the creature over the Creator, and we turn to others and to the works of our hands for deliverance and comfort rather than to the Lord (cf Rom 1:18-23). Isaiah gives an extended illustration of the vanity of idols and false gods. Therefore, God says, "Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any" (v 8). In this chapter and the next we are introduced to the anointed king, Cyrus of Persia, who will decree the return of the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
THERE IS NO OTHER (ch 45). Throughout this chapter we read the repeated phrase, "I am the LORD, and there is no other..." (vv 5, 6, 14, 18, 21-22). And he calls us to trust in him: "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (v 22). We turn to God not merely because he is the absolutely righteous Judge over all (which he is), but because he is the absolutely trustworthy Savior for all who seek refuge in him. He alone can deal with our sin problem. The Persian monarch Cyrus was anointed king for a brief season, to enable the Jews to return to their land. But there is another king coming to deliver us from all sin, death, and judgment. He is the Anointed One (Isa 61:1) and, "to me every knee shall bow," which is applied in the NT to our Lord Jesus (Phil 2:10-11). As well, there's a contrast of images in these chapters, of humans who fashion (Heb, yatsar, "to form, shape") useless idols, and God who as Creator, and like a potter, forms (same word) all things according to his good will and design. The Lord, unlike humans, is completely good, infinitely wise, and powerful enough to accomplish his purpose and design. False gods can't do that.
THE GOSPEL IN ISAIAH. How can God take wayward, idolatrous people and declare them righteous in his sight? With men this is impossible! "Only in the Lord is righteousness and strength" (45:24). God will forgive and blot out sins not because we deserve it, but for his own sake (43:25). And, "In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory" (45:25). The call is to "turn to me and be saved" (v 22), and all the glory shall belong only to the Lord for he alone is God. How subtle and dangerous it is to think that there is something inside of us -- our good intentions, our efforts, our sincerity, our attempted good works, our good feelings, our church involvement, our love for others -- which moves God to save us. These things, as good as they may be as fruits of salvation, are never the cause of God's mercy and grace. And this grace is received by faith. This is written for all of us: "Turn to me and be saved." Jesus Christ himself is the salvation God gives. In him, and him alone, is our righteousness before God. As Horatius Bonar wrote, "Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another's life, another's death, I stake my whole eternity."
"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:4)
THE BEAST (ch 13). There's a "trail of the serpent" from Genesis to Revelation, and the devil plans to unveil his own version of the Messiah. Read more here.
A SONG, AND SMOKE (ch 14). "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus" (v 12). Read more here.
THE LAST ACT (ch 15). What follows is the beginning of the end -- the outpouring of the last plagues of the tribulation, symbolized in seven bowls of God's wrath (v 1). All of the tribulation saints are safely home and worship God with the song of Moses (vv 2-4; Exod 15; Micah 7:13-20). This does not mean the lyrics are identical to what Moses sang, but rather that God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt, being the first great redemption of that nation through God's awesome power, foreshadowed and now consummates Israel's final deliverance (Rom 11:25-36). We as Gentile believers in Christ are included in that great redemption ("all nations"), but much of the book of Revelation regards the deliverance and vindication of believing Israel. And so it is fulfilled, "You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode" (Exod 15:13).
WHO IS LIKE GOD? This is a truth seen also in our Isaiah readings this weekend. There is none like the Lord. There is no other God. There is none to compare with him. And so Isaiah tells us, "fear not", that is, once you have turned to the Lord, then do not be fearful for your safety and destiny. In Revelation, we are told to "fear" the Lord, that is, to revere him and be in awe of his greatness, seen in all his works (Exod 15:11; Mic 7:18; Rev 15:4). Who will not glorify him and give him his rightful place? Will we not come to our senses and see that there is no other hope than our God and his anointed Lamb? Why will we not see that he alone is the way, and there is none other who can save us (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)? We were created, and have been redeemed, that we might glorify his name.
Image credit: photo of sunrise by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash. 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.