Bible reading for weekend June 18--20
Jun 18 -- Isaiah 50 and Revelation 20
Jun 19 -- Isaiah 51 and Revelation 21
Jun 20 -- Isaiah 52 and Revelation 22
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" (Isaiah 52:7)
THE REJECTED SERVANT (ch 50). "The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting" (vv 4-6). Perhaps this referred to Isaiah's ministry to the Jews, but more likely in light of chapter 53 this is another foreshadowing of the Messiah. In these chapters we see that although many Jews expected the Messiah to be a powerful, victorious, and unopposed king -- true certainly at his second coming, see Psalms 2 and 110 -- he is actually portrayed as God's servant who suffers rejection and death.
ISRAEL SHALL BE REDEEMED (ch 51-52). God shall judge the nations and restore his people. "For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song" (51:3). The Lord himself pleads the cause of his people, and rescues them, and so, we have such very great news to share (52:7). At the end of chapter 52 begins the psalm of the Suffering Servant, to whom the nations will bow the knee. "Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind- so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand" (52:13-15). On the word translated "sprinkle", Tom Constable (NET Bible) writes,
The interpretation of the Hebrew word yazzeh, translated “sprinkle” or “startle,” has led students of this verse to two different understandings of the prophet’s line of thought. If “sprinkle” is correct, Isaiah meant that even though the Servant was such an unlikely candidate as Yahweh’s representative, He would still perform the priestly function of cleansing the world of its sins (cf. Lev. 4:6; 8:11; 14:7; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; Heb. 10:22). ... If “startle” is correct, the prophet meant that since the Servant was such an unlikely candidate as Yahweh’s representative, He would shock the world (when He made His claims and when God would exalt Him). Both meanings are possible, and both harmonize with other revelation about the Servant. Most English translations have “sprinkle,” and this is probably the primary meaning. There are other priestly allusions in the following verses (53:6, 7, 10, 11).
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." (Revelation 21:3)
THE MILLENNIUM AND FINAL JUDGMENT (ch 20). What is the thousand year period referred to in this passage? (vv 1-10) And when is it? Some hold that it is the same period as the church age ("thousand" being a symbolic way of saying "a long time"), or that the church itself will bring in Christ's kingdom, a golden age where the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth (and after that, Christ will return). Others, myself included, believe this to be a literal thousand-year period where Christ himself will rule on the earth before the final judgment. The great white throne judgment and the lake of fire (vv 11-15) reveal the final destination for Satan and for those who have refused Christ's offer of reconciliation. Though each person is judged by what he or she has done, as recorded in the books (plural), one's final destiny is determined by whether or not one's name is written in the Lamb's book (singular) of life (Rev 3:5; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; cf Dan 12:1). The good news is that we can know in this life that our names are recorded in heaven (Lu 10:20-23). If we have seen that Jesus is God's Son, and have come in childlike faith to him, we can know that our names are already written there!
THE NEW JERUSALEM (ch 21). God's purpose for history will be realized: He will dwell among his people (Ex 6:7; Lev 26:11-12; Ezek 37:27; 2 Cor 6:16). From his footsteps in the garden of Eden to his glorious presence in the new Jerusalem, God is the Alpha and Omega of history. "The sea was no more" (v 1) does not mean that there won't be large bodies of water in the new creation, but that the sea as it is portrayed in apocalyptic imagery, with its dangerous, churning, and chaotic waters, will no longer exist to give rise to evil and destructive beasts (Rev 13:1; Dan 7:3). The holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down like a bride, uniting heaven and earth. The size of the city -- being cubical like the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle -- is breath-taking in its immensity, comprising about 2.5 billion cubic miles. The details of construction, like the mention of gold and onyx (vv 18-21), recall the gold and onyx of the garden of Eden (Gen 2:12). What God begins he finishes. History is a kind of chiasmus with Christ at the center, and Genesis and Revelation serve as bookends. (See chart above.)
A NEW BEGINNING WITH NO END (ch 22). The book of Revelation concludes with the glorious vision of the new creation. After reading the descriptive imagery of the new cosmos, we could easily miss the personal, individual emphasis of these last chapters of Scripture. "His name will be on their foreheads" (v 4). "Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (v 7). "Blessed are those who wash their robes..." (v 14). "And let the one who hears say, 'Come.'" (v 17). In the end it is relational, and individual, and personal. It is not just about the cosmic glory of a post-apocalyptic world. These words are written that we may each know him, each belong to him, and all see his face. We are given a taste of the future, not to satisfy our curiosity, but to draw us to the water of life that we may drink and live: "And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price" (v 17).
REFLECT. Where is human history going? Is it, as atheists and naturalists believe, just a random flow of atoms and energy which will die out in a bang or whimper? Is it an endless cycle of birth and death and being absorbed? Or, is it as the Bible reveals, on its way to being realized in its fullest potential as the creation of the infinite, personal, holy God? Theologian Herman Bavinck summarizes it this way: "The essence of Christianity consists in this: that the creation of the Father, destroyed by sin, is again restored in the death of the Son of God and recreated by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a Kingdom of God."
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.