Bible reading for June 9 -- 10
Jun 9 -- Isaiah 41 and Revelation 11
Jun 10 -- Isaiah 42 and Revelation 12
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations." (Isaiah 42:1)
"DO NOT FEAR" (ch 41). A recurring theme is that there is no other God, and he is sovereign over history. He is the one who determines the future, "calling the generations from the beginning" (v 4). He is the First and Last (Rev 1:17; 22:13). Idols, and other gods, are no gods at all. They cannot tell the future nor determine the future. Idolatry is any wrong concept of God, or anything we deem of ultimate value which takes the place of God as the center of our lives. Usually, it is something we can see (or manufacture) that becomes our main security and source of pleasure -- it may be actual idols, or it may be false hopes of deliverance, whether in money or possessions (Eph 5:5) or the worship of creation and its lusts (Rom 1). Idolatry can mean placing our ultimate hope in politics, portfolios, or people. It can be the worship of what our hands have made, such as technology. We may certainly enjoy what God provides for us, but not by making a god out of those blessings (1 Tim 4:4-5). Idolatry finally results in fear and anxiety, but the people who know their God have an eternal source of security, comfort, and pleasure. Because of who God is, and what he has promised, we as his children have strong encouragement (ch 40). Have you memorized Isaiah 41:10? These are wonderful words from God to recite to yourself or others in times of anxiety: "...fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (v 10).
THE SERVANT PSALMS (ch 42), or the Songs of the Servant, are contained in our upcoming chapters (ch 42, 49, 50, and 53). We are introduced to a character -- "my servant Israel," or simply, "my servant". Sometimes this phrase means the nation of Israel as a whole, but in other cases it seems to be an individual. Some scholars think this might be Isaiah, or perhaps an idealized Israel. In other words, "my servant" is Israel considered in its perfect or ideal state. But how can either Isaiah or a fantasy Israel (which never existed) be a deliverer and redeemer for the nation of Israel (chapter 53)? So, most scholars agree (as all the rabbis have through the centuries) these are poems about the Messiah, introduced earlier in chapters 9 and 11. And this Servant shall suffer and die, but not for his own sins (ch 53). These are some of the most beautiful passages in the OT, showing us that Jesus himself would be what Israel could never become. These songs are like the Himalayas of the Old Testament, giving us a glimpse of the magnificent character and work of God's Son, our Lord Jesus.
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
TWO WITNESSES (ch 11). Two unnamed witnesses exercise their faithful ministry for three-and-a-half years and are martyred. Some have suggested that these two witnesses, written about in Zechariah 4:1-4, are Elijah and Enoch, since these two were both removed from the earth before experiencing death. Here's one interesting point: the world is observing and exchanging presents during the three days of this event (vv 9-10), which means it occurs in a day of instantaneous communication. (News did not travel that fast in John's day, which is one reason to take this as a future event.) The goal toward which these Revelation judgments are moving is the restoration of the kingdom of this world (all of earth) to be under the visible and glorious reign of Christ (v 15; cf Dan 2:35; Hab 2:14). This is the main over-arching theme of the Bible, that through Jesus Christ God will re-establish his visible reign over the earth, and so will the prayer be fulfilled, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10).
AUTONOMOUS MAN. One of the effects of the new birth is a change of heart regarding God's authority. As redeemed creatures we begin to love and yield to the law and will of God. Here are some excerpts from Herman Bavinck's book, Christian Worldview, that relate to our calling to live under the reign of Christ.
WAR IN HEAVEN (ch 12). Behind the flow of history lies a cosmic battle. In this chapter and the next we see the great dragon (Satan; the devil) being cast down to the earth (ch 12) and the unveiling of the Antichrist and false prophet (ch 13), together a kind of infernal trinity. The woman is Israel, the twelve stars in her crown represent the twelve tribes, and the Messiah is born from her, pursued by Satan, and ultimately ascends to heaven. The woman will suffer yet for three and a half years in the great tribulation. The devil will accuse and persecute Jesus' followers, but they will overcome because they trust the blood of Christ for forgiveness, and they hold fast to their testimony that Jesus is Lord (cf 17:14; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3).
REFLECT. "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death" (12:11). We live in a supernatural universe, surrounded by unseen powers (Eph 6:12). These chapters tell us that we are living in an epic drama being played out in history. Will believers go through the tribulation period? Bible students disagree on this, but one thing is for sure -- those of us who follow the Lord Jesus must be prepared to suffer the rejection and hostility of the world (Matt 10:17-39). Not all believers will go through the great tribulation described in Revelation, but all of God's people will experience some degree of tribulation, as Paul says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim 3:12-13). We should ask ourselves, are we prepared for this? How can we prepare?
Image credit. Photo of the Virgin and Child mosaic in the apse of the Hagia Sophia (Istanbul), built in the sixth century. 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.
Bible reading for June 9 -- 10