Bible reading for June 21-- 22
Jun 21 -- Isaiah 53 and Matthew 1
Jun 22 -- Isaiah 54 and Matthew 2
"But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
WHO WOULD BELIEVE IT? (ch 53) This is the longest, the most beautiful, and the most surprising of the Servant Psalms. The Messiah prophesied in the OT might have been viewed as a kind of super-hero were it not for this chapter! It's unbelievable that God's holy Servant should be abused in this way by mankind (v 1). He is not a handsome caped man, rippling with muscles and charisma (v 2). He is despised, rejected, looked down upon. If this were not surprising enough -- many prophets beforehand were so treated -- but here the suffering and death is not some kind of martyrdom but actually brings forgiveness even for the perpetrators: "by his wounds we are healed" (v 5 NIV). The Servant is stricken for, and bears the guilt of, the transgressors (vv 5, 7-8, 10). He is the sacrificial Lamb who dies a substitutionary death for sinners. And here's a surprising turn: he would be designated a criminal in his death, but his body, rather than being cast out, would be laid in a rich man's tomb. How ever could you come up with that scenario, but that's exactly what happened (Matt 27:57-60)! But the story doesn't end there. The Servant "shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied..." (vv 10-11).
THE COVENANT OF PEACE (ch 54). "Fear not...," says the Lord to his people (v 4). He says, "'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the LORD, who has compassion on you" (v 10). The covenant that Messiah brings is eternal and unchanging (see also Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36). If a covenant relationship with God depended in any way upon us for its continuance, then surely we, and it, would fail and be broken. But since the covenant relationship rests upon the work of one Man, the suffering Servant (our Lord Jesus), then God's covenantal love shall never be removed from us. It's important to remember that the truths of chapter 54 follow and are based upon the suffering and death of the Servant in chapter 53.
REFLECT. "Who has believed our report..." begins chapter 53. How amazing is this plan of God! That his perfect and holy Son should save us in this remarkable way! The Cross shows forth God's love, goodness, wisdom, holiness, judgment, and power. Think about this: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.” (A. W. Tozer)
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
READING THE GOSPELS. In his opening lines of Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, J. C. Ryle writes, "The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete. Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ's doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words. How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian. To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ."
THE GENEALOGY (ch 1). The four gospels are not full biographies of our Lord, of course. They are four portraits of Jesus Christ in his life, ministry, teaching, and his suffering, death, and resurrection. Gospel means "good news". It's a proclamation. Matthew pays special attention to the ways Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. First, he gives a genealogy, which in Jesus' case was a kind of address, tracing the lineage of Jesus in his humanity, and showing that he was a legitimate heir of King David's throne. Our Lord was fully God and fully human. His virgin birth, also taught by Luke (ch 1), points to his unique nature and his sinlessness. And right off we are told that Jesus came not primarily to save us from our political enemies but to save us from our own sins (v 21). In this story we see Joseph and Mary being obedient to God. In the gospels we witness a mix of natural and supernatural elements at work. This is why most nativity scenes have angels and camels, sheep and shepherds, with our virgin-born King, God in flesh, lying in a manger.
THE MAGI (ch 2). These foreign emissaries may have been Persians or Parthians, and were likely schooled in the traditions taught by the prophet Daniel (Dan 5:11). Jesus' royal kingship was not kindly received by Herod, the local monarch, but Jesus was honored by these Magi from the east. Both David and Abraham are highlighted in Jesus' genealogy (1:1). King Herod, appointed by Rome, exemplifies the kings who oppose the legitimate reign of Christ, the son of David (Ps 2; Isa 9). And the Magi exemplified the nations coming to worship Christ in fulfillment of the blessing of Abraham (Gen 12:3). After being spared from the slaughter in Bethlehem, Jesus and his family go down to Egypt for a period of time, much like the Israelites of Jacob's day. Jesus himself will become the Israel that Israel (the nation) never was.
REFLECT. We are reading an account of real history. The Apostle Paul writes, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). Savor those words, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son..." Behind the scenes of the events we are reading about, both natural and supernatural, is God. He guides history. He preserves human lineage over the centuries. He inspired the prophets. And he fulfills all his promises in his perfect timing. Shouldn't we trust him completely with our lives?
Image credit. Detail of the illuminated manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew, drawn by a Lindisfarne scribe in the 8th century, from Wikimedia Commons. 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.