Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: April, 2015

Watching Jehovah’s Performance

JEREMIAH 1:12B [YHWH, (or the LORD) SAID] “I AM WATCHING OVER MY WORD TO PERFORM IT” (ESV)
I want to take this verse, and use it as the basis for an overview of God’s word. If you like, I am going to give you a whistle-stop tour of the story of the Bible.
Our text tells us that Yahweh is watching over his word to perform it. That word “perform” conjures up an image in our heads that I want to develop. The image is of a theatre. I wonder if you enjoy going to the theatre, or if it just seems a little too posh for you! I did A level English Literature, so I’ve seen quite a lot of plays in my time: mostly William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Christmassy productions. I love the theatre to bits. So I’ll run with this illustration of the theatre.
In the imagery it is as though God is performing a play. The play we could call “History”. God is the one who performs it. God is the playwright of this play History; he is the one who writes it. He is the boss, and he’s in control. What he says happens. God is also the one who performs it- he is the main character in this play of History.
So for the introduction of the play we need the narrator to explain: who is God? We are given a clue in Jeremiah chapter 1. His name as translated in English is “the LORD”. “The LORD” means he’s the one in control and he’s the boss. Jesus when he was on earth was called “the Lord”. He proved this by his teaching, his healings and his other miracles. Jesus is therefore God himself. So God isn’t just a mathematical oneness like the Allah of the Quran. God is Father, and also the Son, and God is also Spirit. There are three who are God, but there’s only one God. The Father isn’t the Son who isn’t the Spirit who isn’t the Father; but they are all fully God.
God is perfect, and he’s satisfied with himself. The Father, Son and Spirit are perfectly united and happy with each other. He didn’t need to create us because he is totally fulfilled within himself.
Our word translated “LORD” is the word YHWH in Hebrew. In English this means, “I am who I am” or “I am the self-existent One”. This illustrates the fact that God is completely satisfied with himself- he doesn’t need us. God exists in a perfect, united community of love, joy and peace. He is compete. God didn’t need to create this play of History. But because God is love, he wanted to share his love with others, which is why he created us.
This play of History has five acts. Let me take you quickly to the first act. We’ve had the introduction where we met God. Now we come to quite a short act, although it covers the period of a week. The first act is called “Creation”. God is watching over his word to perform it. His word is powerful. This first act is powerful, impressive, full of special effects, awe inspiring, and encourages worship of God.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And God said, let there be light, and there was light. God created sky, land and sea. God created the sun, moon and stars. He created the plants. God created fish, birds and land animals. And at the pinnacle of everything God made (for he made everything) is mankind.
Genesis 1 says,
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Psalm 19 says,
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands

Romans 1 says,
For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and deity; so that they are without excuse

The conclusion of the act is that God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. The play gets off to a good start. It’s majestic, beautiful, and praiseworthy. Surely nothing could go wrong. Sadly, as you know, it does go horribly wrong.
We move on to the second act, which is called “Shadows”. In Genesis 3 a dark shadow falls across the pages of History- a shadow that is as black as a starless and moonless night. Adam fell into sin. He disobeyed God. Sin is rebellion against God. Adam chose to listen to that deceiver the serpent, rather than the God who made and loved him. In that one act of disobedience Adam plunged the whole human race into darkness and the curse of God.
The second act isn’t just called Shadows because Adam plunged us into darkness. As we know from Psalm 119- Yahweh’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Scripture is supremely a revelation of the light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is full of shadows of the light of Christ, and they are all designed to point us to Christ. All the ceremony and ritual of the temple worship point forward to their fulfilment in Christ.
The shadows I want to consider this evening are the shadows of the Old Testament prophesies about Jesus. There are literally hundreds of prophesies about Jesus in the Old Testament. But I’ve been very restrained, and I’ve limited myself to 7 [?]- which in Biblical symbolism is the perfect and complete number.
1. After the fall God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, he shall crush your head, and you shall strike his heel”. In some ways this play History is a bit like Romeo and Juliet. In this, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, there are two rival families- the Montagues and Capulets. It’s also a bit like the musical West Side Story with the rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets. In our play the rival groups are the offspring of Satan the serpent and the offspring of the woman Eve.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil!” Human history is divided between those who are set in their sinful ways, however religious, and those who trust in Christ, the seed of the woman. Jesus crushed Satan’s head on the cross when he paid the price for our sins and freed us from Satan’s control. And of course the resurrection on the third day guarantees Christ’s victory.
2. The Lord said to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. The Pharisees claimed to Jesus that they were sons of Abraham, but as I’ve already mentioned, Jesus told them that they were of their father the devil.
We become the seed of the woman and the offspring of Abraham by faith. It’s just the same as it was for him, who believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. We are justified through faith in God’s word of promise, not through obedience of the law. No-one is declared righteous in God’s sight through obedience of the law, rather, through the law we become aware of sin. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. The work of Christ on the cross is applied to the nations through our obedience to the Great Commission- go into all nations and make disciples of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. We are still in the act called Shadows. We are looking at the prophesies that reflect something of who the Christ, the promised Saviour is. We come now to Isaiah chapter 9, where the theme of light and dark shines through strongly. [v1-7]
Immanuel, or God with us, came to us in poverty, humility and danger. But God preserved him. He enjoyed the worship of the shepherds and the wise men, before his family fled from Herod to Egypt. God is with us, he tabernacled among us, he made his dwelling with us.
“He walked my road and he felt my pain,
Joys and sorrows that I know so well;
Yet his righteous steps give me hope again-
I will follow my Immanuel.”

(Stuart Townend- From The Squalor of a Borrowed Stable- Immanuel)

4. We stay in Isaiah for the next prophesy and we move to chapter 53 [v1-12]. Christ bore the full force of the rod of God’s anger at our sin on the cross, taking the place of guilty sinners. All we need to do to avoid God’s wrath is to trust in Christ. If we do this his righteousness is reckoned to our account and not only do we avoid hell, but we also gain heaven. Heaven is a place where we will worship and adore our Saviour forever.

5. My final three Shadows, or prophesies of Christ are all linked. Theologians tell us that Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King. I want to take each of these titles of Jesus in turn and explore from the Bible why we attribute these titles to Christ.

So firstly Christ is our Prophet. In Deuteronomy we are told, “Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers- it is to him you shall listen”. Muslims claim that this prophesy points to Mohammed, because his ancestor Ishmael was brother to the Jew’s ancestor Isaac. This can be quite easily refuted however, even from the passage itself- the Prophet will be from “among” the Israelites. By “brothers” it means the descendents of the sons of Jacob, or Israel as he was also called.

Jesus himself claimed to be the promised Prophet. When he was rejected in Nazareth, he said, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown”. Not only did Jesus claim to be a prophet, but he was also recognised as such by many people. In John 6, when the people witnessed Jesus feeding 5000 of them with a young lad’s packed lunch, they said “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world”.

As a Prophet, Jesus foretold his death. Death is unnatural in this History play. God introduced it as a curse because of our sin. As the sinless Son of God, Jesus didn’t need to die, but he chose to be crucified. This was so that we, even though we still die, can enjoy eternal life. Jesus said “We’re going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him, and spit on him, and flog him, and kill him. And after three days he will rise”. Jesus also prophesied that when he returned to the right hand of the Father in the glory, he would send his Spirit of Truth to empower his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

6. Not only is Christ the Prophet, but he is also our Great High Priest. The book of Hebrews is an epic exposition of who Jesus is as our Priest. As I’ve already mentioned, Jesus is ascended at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is interceding with God on our behalf. He makes our prayers acceptable to the Father- sinful though they are. He is our advocate before God. He is able to plead his blood as the power to cleanse us from our sins and make us acceptable before God.

Hebrews 4 says,
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Not only is Christ our high priest, our go between with God, but he is also the perfect sacrifice.

Hebrews 10 says,
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

7. In this second act of Shadows in the play History, we come to one final shadow of who Christ is from the Old Testament. Christ is our king. God promised David in 2 Samuel 7:

“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your throne will be established forever.’”

Throughout the gospels Jesus is referred to as the Son of David. In saying this, people were testifying to the fact that Jesus is the king whose kingdom will never end. We will learn more about this kingdom in act 4 because we are subjects, servants and citizens of this kingdom of heaven. As such we have a great gospel work to be done.

Now, if we’re picturing History as a play, one thing that plays always have is an interval. So at this point we will have an interval. A lecturer of mine always paused his lectures to tell a joke and have a pause. Apparently it improves concentration. I’ve also known a preacher do something similar.

What we’re going to do in our interval is go back to that hymn that I quoted: From The Squalor of a Borrowed Stable, or Immanuel. Technically it’s a Christmas carol but it links in quite nicely to the next act so I will sing it!

So where have we been so far? We’ve been introduced to God. We have seen him perform his word firstly in Creation. We have seen that his word is powerful and perfect. We have also seen his word in the Shadows of Christ. We have seen that his word is faithful and true, as told in the prophets.

We now come to the third act- which is simply called The Word. Here we finally meet the hero of the story, of whom we have only had shadows previously. God comes onto the stage to perform the part of the leading actor. We have already seen his shadows, but now we see him in the dazzling light and splendour of his glory. We’re like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, getting a view of the glorified Christ.

God is watching over his word to perform it. In this third act we see a revolutionary reality- the Word, who we have heard so much about and is exalted in heaven, the Word became flesh. The shadows melt away in the light of the glorious word become flesh.

John 1 says,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of who God is. God isn’t some distant, heartless, unfeeling deity who doesn’t care about having a relationship with us. God is not (thankfully) the Allah of the Quran. God loves us, cares for us, and has made his dwelling with us.

Though Christ is eternally glorified with the Father, he “being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
That’s from Philippians 2

Thomas asked him to show the disciples the Father, and that would be enough, he said. Jesus said, “you’ve seen me, that’s pretty much as good as seeing the Father!” Jesus lived a perfect life on earth. The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one with authority unlike the scribes and Pharisees. John the Baptist was a faithful herald of Christ, but when he was put in jail by Herod he began to have his doubts. He sent messengers to Christ asking, “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” That’s from Matthew 11 by the way.

4. Our play started in eternity past with the introduction of the eternal delight of the triune God. In Act 1, Creation, we went back thousands of years to the beginning of time. Act two, Shadows, covered a period from several thousand years ago to 400 years before Christ. Act 3, the Word, took place 2000 years ago. Act 4, which is called “Go!” takes us from 2000 years ago to the present day, and on to the end of time.

Christ has gifted us with his Holy Spirit to empower us with his strength to go out and make disciples of all nations. Jesus said in Matthew 28“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We have a gospel to proclaim. The fall plunged us all into darkness. The fall would be better described as the Jump- Adam didn’t fall, he jumped! The Old Testament as we saw in Act 2 is full of shadows of the bright and morning star, the Son of God. Act 3- the Word- reveals Christ fully as our substitute- the one who bears our punishment and gives us eternal life.

Act 4 reveals to us the mission of the church of Christ here on earth. Are you a church member? Are you part of God’s family? If so you are a partner of this great gospel work! As Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field”. You need to be careful about praying for God to send out workers into his harvest field because his answer might well be to send you! He sent the disciples out immediately after he told them this.

It is not just for preachers, evangelists, missionaries and “full time” Christian workers to witness; it is the duty of every Christian. We are called to gossip the gospel as it were. In Acts it talks about Christians scattered by persecution preaching the gospel wherever they went. These were the lay-people, so when it talks about them preaching the gospel it would perhaps be better translated as “gossiping the gospel”. Our speech is to be seasoned with salt. We are to fill our conversation with Christ, so that we leave people thirsty for more.

We are told that we must give a reason for the hope we have within us. However, this doesn’t mean to say we are to simply wait for the opportunities to come to us. We are not just to be witnesses. We are to actively create opportunities. We are called not just to speak a word in season, but called to actively make disciples, people who are prepared to leave everything behind and follow Jesus.

So we too are actors in this play History. We have a part to play, given to us by God. This great story includes us as believers, as we spread the good news to the world.

Let me tell you a story of the Great Commission in action in Australia. This true story takes place in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. A very traditional church called a Welshman, named David Norman Jones, to be their pastor. He feels that Christians today are overfed spiritually and under-exercised missionally. So he said that they were going to have one meeting on a Sunday and one congregational prayer meeting mid-week. He wanted the prayer meeting to become the hub of church life. He wanted it to be the beating heart of the church. He said that if people wanted their fingers on the pulse of the church, they would have to attend the prayer meeting. He emphasised the importance of praying very specifically for conversions. And guess what? God answered their prayers!

They put on an evangelistic event. Only one girl turned up. But she became a Christian, the boyfriend she was living with became a Christian and his best friend became a Christian. There was like a domino effect among the young people of Hobart, until about 80 people were converted! They used to invite their friends to church and if they saw them at the other end of the church, they would climb over the pews to get to them before they ran away. Some of them had dreadlocks and nose rings; one who is now a pastor used to turn up in his pyjamas! The pews had doors on them, so to try and make things more inclusive, one day they decided to open the doors on them. An elder went round after them and shut them!

The very people who had faithfully prayed for conversions were the very people who found it hardest to integrate and welcome the new converts into the church. There was almost a church split, but people came from the denomination, and told them to do a church plant with the new converts. So they did. The minister, David Norman Jones, has now seen 8 church plants in Tasmania, with more still to come.

It’s the Great Commission at work! We’re not here to build our own little empires, to service our own church gatherings. We’re here to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Maybe you’re saying that you can’t go out to be a missionary in Africa or Asia. What you can do is start where you are. Get to know your neighbours; witness to your friends and family. I’m sure you do this already- but will you commit to praying for conversion? Will you seek to be the answer to your own prayers, and watch to see Yahweh to perform his word?

The final act is called Recreation. Because all of God’s promises have always come true, we can trust that he will create a new and perfect world for us to enjoy him forever. When Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for us he is telling the truth. In his Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so he would have told us.

Revelation 21 says,
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.””

God is watching over his word to perform it. His word is powerful, it is good, it is faithful and true. The word made flesh is the Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled himself in order to save us. The word of the gospel has been entrusted to us to share with the world. God’s word tells us that there is a glorious new creation for those who trust in Christ. This new creation will enable us to love and enjoy him forever.

So as the curtain descends on God’s play of History, I wonder if you will become part of the story. Will you take the bait and join in on this awesome gospel adventure, this Great Commission?

Maybe you already have come on board with Jesus. Let me encourage you not to grow weary, because those who persevere to the end WILL be saved. Hallelujah, amen. Let’s pray!

Jehovah Alone

I had a dream about a man in Sowerby Bridge. “What do you do?” “I’m a farmer” “what do you farm?” “I keep a hundred sheep” “oh, so you’re a shepherd!” “no, I’m a farmer!”

He was an old man so I thought I’d give it a try- I told him that the Bible has a lot to say about shepherds. He remembered from Sunday School that it said “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. He always found that verse perplexing and I explained that the Lord was prepared to lay his respectability to one side and get dirty looking after his wandering sheep, the people of his flock.

I told him there was no shame in being a shepherd and that in fact there was a lot of dignity in it. So he replied that perhaps I could describe him as a shepherd!

The second shepherd was scratching out a living in the Malian wilderness with ten goats. He had no problem with being called a shepherd, even if the chief looked down on him. His wife was related to the witchdoctor and every now and again they had to give him a goat to avoid getting cursed. Then one day some soldiers came from the north on camels with Kalashnikovs and forced everyone to bow down to the east and pray. The shepherd valued his life too much to kick up a fuss so he got down with everyone else, and saw the witchdoctor sheepishly prostrating himself in the sand. “So much for his curses” he thought, “what a con artist!”

Then an army of white men came from the south and the soldiers from the north scarpered pretty sharpish. “So much for bowing down to the east” he thought, “what a bunch of con artists!” His brother came from a jubilant crowd in the capital where he had seen Mali’s messiah, Francois Hollande, the president of France. He heard of a rather less jubilant crowd in the capital of France who marched against gay marriage, which Hollande (who’d had a few partners and not made an honest woman of any of them) was determined to force through. “Well I’m grateful he saved us”, the shepherd thought, “but at least I’ve made an honest woman of my wife, even if she is looking a bit worse for wear after eight children!”

Then the shepherd remembered an encounter a decade before, when there was peace in his land. A white man had come with a translator, and asked to stay at his house. It wasn’t every day he had such distinguished guests, so he felt privileged to host them and slaughtered a goat in their honour. As they enjoyed the rich feast prepared by his good wife, the white man, through his translator, told him a story about a shepherd, a good shepherd, who had compassion on his sheep and fed and watered them. Not only so, but he laid down his life for the sheep. The Malian shepherd was impressed- he wouldn’t lay his life down for the witchdoctor, for a bunch of camel riding bandits, or even for an atheist president of France. If he was honest he probably wouldn’t even lay down his life for his goats!

The white man told him that his goats wouldn’t listen to the witchdoctor, or to thieves, but only to his, the shepherd’s voice. Only he could lead them out to safe pasture. The Malian shepherd was intrigued by this good shepherd, “I’d like to meet him!” he said. “I’ll introduce him”, the white man said.

But before we pick up the story I should really talk about this passage I’ve been given, Isaiah 44-47. This is such a rich passage and there’s a lot to say, but we’d only be scratching the surface so I want to just zoom in the lens on a couple of verses. It’s Isaiah 44:27-28 and it’s the Lord speaking…

“That says to the deep ‘Be dry’, and I will dry up your rivers; that says of Koresh, ‘my shepherd, performing my pleasure, saying ‘Jerusalem, built; temple established’”

To Isaiah’s readers, the deep being made dry is immediately reminiscent of the parting of the Red Sea by the Lord, to enable his flock Israel to escape out of Egypt into the Promised Land. But here was the Lord’s flock scattered once again in exile in Babylon: what was the Lord playing at? The Babylonians taunted the Israelites- “our god beat your god!” and made them sing redemption songs as they wept by the rivers of Babylon.

The Lord’s flock needed another miracle to get them back to where they belonged. If the Lord was their shepherd, he didn’t seem to be doing a very good job! So there they are, sat by the rivers of Babylon and the Lord says through Isaiah “I will dry up your rivers”

Are you listening?

What do you listen to?

Do you listen to radio one? Maybe you feel you’ve outgrown radio one and moved on to radio two. Perhaps you want to keep abreast of current events and listen to radio five live. Or maybe you feel too intellectual for that and have evolved into radio four listening. Or perchance, conceivably, within the realms of possibility, you are one of those higher beings who is attune to the finer reverberations of radio three.

I don’t know where you are on the listening spectrum but I want to take you right to the pinnacle of your listening journey, to hear the kind of thing you would hear on Radio three.

Jehovah is the prodigious, virtuosic, celebrated composer of this symphonic magnum opus of Isaiah chapter forty-four verse twenty-three to chapter forty-five verse eleven.

But before we tune in, I need to tell you that this passage isn’t simply an audible experience. This is a multimedia masterpiece by the acclaimed director Jehovah. His work, this passage, is in fact a surround sound, 3D, IMAX spectacle. It features a hundred piece orchestra, two choirs, and soloists; this passage features beautifully and spectacularly choreographed dances; and a scientific documentary and a war film are two other features.

I hope I’ve sold it to you because I’ve bought us all tickets on the middle row and I’ve provided popcorn and drinks!

If you listen carefully to this passage, as the cinematic symphonic dance unfolds, you will hear eleven themes which all conveniently start with the letter H!

So, without further ado, Lady and Gentlemen roll up, roll up, and allow me your narrator to introduce you to the multimedia event of infinity: This is the spectacular show of eternity, entitled-

“JEHOVAH ALONE”!

The lights dim, the curtains open, the rustle and chatter of the audience fades into an expectant hush.

The black screen suddenly becomes ablaze with the light of myriads of stars, as we camp out in the open of a desolate wilderness under the heavens, away from any light pollution and in awestruck wonder of the breathtaking beauty of it all; as at the fanfare of trumpets a women’s choir breaks forth to our right into jubilant singing.

This is the first theme, from chapter forty-four verses twenty-three to twenty-four; behold-

THE HEAVENS!

The women proclaim:

“Sing, oh you heavens; for Jehovah has done it!”

At the tremor of the timpani’s the earth quakes and a male voice choir sings from our left-

“Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing you mountains”

We break camp in the desolate wilderness as day breaks, and hike up into the snowy mountainous landscape.

As the woodwind pipes up, the men and women unite in surround sound praise to Jehovah alone as they sing-

“Oh forest, and every tree in it”

We descend from the mountains into the sticky, humid heat of the rainforest, which is alive with the sound of insects chirping, primates screeching, birds chirping and beasts growling.

The focus of this cacophony of noise from every corner of the cosmos is expressed in the song of the massed choir, accompanied by a soaring string motif-

“For Jehovah has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel”

The narrator chronicles:

“Thus says Jehovah your redeemer, who formed you from the womb”-

A rich bass soloist rhapsodizes over a brass and timpani accompaniment-

“I am Jehovah, who made all things, that stretches out the heavens alone; that spreads out the earth by myself”

Science tells us that the universe is expanding. Isaiah explains why: because Jehovah is stretching it out, like a man unravelling a scroll to reveal the unfolding story of God’s plans for mankind. The furthest stars are millions of light years away: how does this fit in with a universe that is no more than 10,000 years? This is only problematic if we assume that light has always travelled at the same speed. This verse seems to suggest that it’s as though God pressed the fast forward button as he expands out the cosmos as a display of his splendour.

What about the earth? Old earth creationism seems to have a lot going for it. Even before the week of creation, we are told that the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the deep.

Now listen as the second theme kicks in from verse twenty-five; it’s time to hear-

THE HAUGHTY! The bassist’s melody continues but is suddenly juxtaposed with the dark dissonance of the bassoon liars, the double bass diviners, and the French horn wise men.

We see amazing footage of stars, galaxies and supernovas; deserts, mountains and forests; but against this amazing display of the glory of Jehovah, who alone made this awesome beauty; is the profane commentary of the Richard Dawkins liars, the Steven Hawkins diviners, and the Brian Cox wise men-

[Jehovah] “Frustrates the evidence of the liars, and makes diviners mad, that turns wise men back, and makes their science foolish”

Even the intellectuals who strut across our TV screens and lecture theatres stumble over their words and let slip superlatives about the breathtaking “artistry of creation”, the “miracle” of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and the “intricacies of design” of a bird’s wing.

The jarring discord of the voices of these commentators only serves to contrast starkly with the luscious polyphony of JEHOVAH ALONE in his exalted mastery of creative ingenuity.

From the darkness of the irreverent big heads, the light is switched on with the clarion call of the clarinet. It’s an energy saving light bulb so rather than dazzling us it gently dispels the blackness in a revelation of majesty in increasing intensity.

Listen to the third theme of verse twenty-six A-

THE HUMBLE are the servant clarinettist who “a bruised reed will not break” and his trumpeted messengers, proclaiming the one who “a smouldering wick will not snuff out”-

[Jehovah] “Confirms the word of his servant and performs the instructions of his messengers”

The crescendo of the brassy messengers is stripped away to reveal the next theme (of verse twenty-six B)-

THE HOPE

A guitar plays a haunting subject: Jerusalem is about to be raised to the ground by the Babylonians. But the bassist articulates Isaiah’s prophesy-

“Jerusalem, she shall be raised up, she shall be built, and she shall be inhabited”

As he sings, female and male dancers rise up from the ruins of the razed city and whirl together in a circular congregational assemblage.

The low trill of the timpani’s and the harmonic hum of the basses accompany the bass soloist singing that the deep of the river bed becomes dry in verse twenty-seven-

“[Jehovah] says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’”

This verse sounds out of place within this symphonic dance, but a brief historical re-exaction reveals what’s going on.

We have the promise that Jerusalem will be rebuilt but the Babylonians who destroyed her are the world superpower with an empire encompassing the majority of the civilised world. As long as they are enthroned there is no hope for the struggling people of Jehovah, weeping in exile by the rivers of Babylon as they sing redemption songs to their mocking Chaldean captors, in an ethereal backdrop to the drama of an oncoming war.

Babylon’s arrogance infuriated the Lord of Hosts. Their assertion that their gods Bel and Nebo have overthrown Jehovah incensed him. But despite all Babylon’s outward religiosity, the great whore that she is said in the pride of her heart, “I am, and there is no other”. She claimed to worship her gods but in her heart, practically, she was an atheist who worshipped herself.

But one hundred and fifty years after Isaiah, you remember the story in Daniel’s prophecy, that Babylon’s king Belteshazzer was weighed in the balance and found wanting.

There was a problem though. Babylon’s capital Susa was seemingly impregnable. The walls were like skyscrapers, a dazzling feat of engineering. They were so wide that a chariot could gallop along the top.

The walls were considered so unassailable that the Babylonians didn’t even bother to post a guard.

But King Koresh of Persia was inspired by Jehovah to outwit the arrogant Chaldeans. He timed his attack to coincide with a feast of all the leaders, all the elite of Babylon, when they were all drunk and impotent. You remember in Daniel five that they sobered up pretty quickly when they saw the writing on the wall, but it by then it was too late.

The river Euphrates ran under the crick-in-the-neck inducing wall of Susa. Koresh the master tactician employed his army as engineers to divert the river Euphrates into a canal that ran away from the wall, enabling them to march on the dry river bed underneath the wall, and take the city with hardly a fight. We hear the rhythmic pounding of his vast army’s boots pulsating through the auditorium as his unexpected and harmoniously adventurous cello motif weaves its way into the narrative.

In Daniel’s account at the end of the fifth chapter of his prophecy it reads “That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old”.

So you could quite rightly question my mention of Koresh the Persian when the Bible seems to talk about Darius the Mede. Is there a discrepancy between the Biblical account and the accepted historical narrative?

Of course not, the Bible is always historically accurate. The explanation is that those two verses I read- one about Belshazzer and one about Darius are separated in the Aramaic text by a chapter division. Between those two verses we can read that Belshazzar was killed by Koresh the Persian, from whom Darius the Mede received the kingdom, Koresh’s successor.

The irony is that Belshazzar means “Bel (the Babylonian god) will protect”- a name that proved vacuous, hollow and empty.

Who was this heaven-sent King Koresh?

We know him in English as Cyrus the Great.

We meet him in our fifth theme of verse twenty-eight to chapter forty-five verse five-

THE HEATHEN: the short lived violence of the Persian army’s overthrow of the Chaldean oppressors gives way to a song of triumph sung by Jehovah’s deep bass accompanied by trumpets, guitars, harps, tambourines, strings, a pipe organ, cymbals and a dance reminiscent of that amazingly choreographed building of a barn in the film “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”! –

“Cyrus my shepherd shall perform all my pleasure; say to Jerusalem ‘you shall be built; to the temple established’”

Cyrus was a political minnow, a vassal king of a region of southern Persia called Anshen. How he became great is revealed as the bassist continues, and a trio of trombones weave a polyphonic masterpiece-

“Cyrus, whose right hand I have seized”

The trombones are joined by the rest of the brass in a militaristic march as we see Cyrus’ army sweep throughout Persia, Chaldea, and the Fertile Crescent, encompassing Judah also-

“to subdue nations before him; and I will ungird the loins of kings, to open before him the double doors; and the gates will not be shut; I will go before you, and straighten out the slopes, breaking doors of copper, destroying bars of iron: giving treasures of darkness, stashes concealed; that you may know that I, Jehovah, calls your name; the God of Israel.”

As the bassist sings of Israel and Jacob, a barbershop quartet lifts up its voice with scat singing to accompany his tune-

“For Jacob my servant’s sake and Israel my elect; I’ve called you by name: sung your praises- even though you don’t know me. I am JEHOVAH ALONE; no God except me: I’ve girded you even though you don’t know me.”

The arrogant Babylonians claimed that their god Bel had trumped Israel’s God Jehovah having destroyed Judah and taken the Jews into exile. But thanks to Jehovah’s messiah Cyrus, Bel had been shown to be the nonentity he was. God’s purposes can be fulfilled by a heathen just as easily as by a devout Jewish prophet like Isaiah. The Jews must have been mystified that their messiah was an unbeliever, but after all- an enemy’s enemy is a friend, and to the Jews Cyrus was a fellow enemy of the Chaldeans!

We come now to the zenith of this beautiful work of art, the thematic heart of the symphonic dance, in verses six and seven that is called-

HOLISM: from which we get the word holistic. God’s purposes are comprehensive and all encompassing. The violins play a bright and uplifting air as Jehovah sings that he’s rolled Cyrus’ sleeves up so-

“…that they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west that there’s nothing beside me. I, JEHOVAH ALONE. I form light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil.”

Around the time of Isaiah a false prophet arose in Persia called Zoroaster. He preached of an eternal struggle between Ormazd- the god of creation, light and goodness; and his arch-enemy Ahriman- the spirit of evil and darkness. It has echoes of the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang; light and dark.

Zoroastrianism was Persia’s pre-Islamic religion and was probably followed by Cyrus, who our passage declares didn’t know Jehovah. He was a magnanimous, tolerant and pluralistic leader, and was happy to order the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple of Jehovah as we read in the book of Ezra.

Zoroastrianism is a depressing religion, claiming that evil and darkness will never be overcome.

We must guard against slipping into a Christianised version of this dualism- pitting Jehovah the God of light and goodness against the evil spirit of darkness and evil that is satan.

We must tread carefully, but also challenge the lie that darkness and evil are outside of the sovereignty of God and are in the sole dominion of satan.

We must stress that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus is the light of the world: whoever follows him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

We have a choice: to walk in the darkness of sin or in the light of the supreme Messiah, the Christ of whom Cyrus the messiah is but a pale shadow.

It must be said however that the creator of light has also made a place of outer darkness for satan, demons, and every person who rejects the light of Christ.

Being enlightened by Christ isn’t necessarily a completely pleasant experience. Do you remember when he first shone a light on the darkness of your sin and convicted you of it? Your gut reaction was to cringe and shrink in abject terror, retreating into the dark shadows of your depravity. But the Holy Spirit worked in your heart. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but you knew that if you followed Christ, you would be able to leave the darkness behind.

Both peace (shalom) and evil (rah) are very rich, holistic words that don’t translate easily into English. Shalom encompasses such ideas as wholeness, community, blessing, prosperity and fruitful, good times. At first glance rah appears to be irreconcilable with shalom and the Prince of Peace; it appears to be diametrically opposed to shalom, to be the antithesis. Rah communicates such concepts as brokenness, loneliness, cursing, poverty and barren, bad times.

But it is bad theology to only thank God for the good times and only to blame satan for the bad times.

Let me stress that God is not the author of evil. Evil was born in the proudness of satan’s heart. But God didn’t wring his hands helplessly when satan, the demons and mankind fell. God is sovereign and it was all part of his plan to showcase his eternal plan of love for his redeemed people who are for the praise of his glory.

Remember Joseph’s words to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”.

Satan goes round like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour. But all his evil plans are used by God for good. Take for example the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”, the “messenger of satan” sent to torment him: God used it to humble him because of the “surpassingly great revelations” that he had experienced.

And how about the most evil act that has ever taken place in the history of the universe- the torture and murder of the eternal Son of God- an act of deicide. Isaiah sheds light on this evil later on in his book of prophecy: saying that “it was Jehovah’s will to crush him”. So does this mean to say that God is some kind of evil sadist? By no means! “When his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days”. Christ’s death was an offering for sin once and for all; in it he broke the power of evil. And on the third day he rose again victorious. His offering, the salvation he gave is truly holistic: it swallows up darkness, evil, brokenness, loneliness, cursing, poverty and barren, bad times; and instead Messiah’s salvation lavishes upon us light, peace, wholeness, community, blessing, prosperity and fruitful, good times.

I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of verse seven: “I am God, the only God there is. I form light and create darkness; I make harmonies and create discords. I, God, do all these things”

At this point of the performance the orchestra descends into a pandemonium of noise, like the sound of when they’re tuning up at the start of a performance. This communicates the discord of darkness and evil, which don’t sound pleasant to the untrained ear, but only serve to accentuate the beauty of the work of the whole. It’s like the Messiah “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame”: the darkness, evil and shame of the cross aren’t pleasant at the time, but the cross bears fruit of salvation, righteousness and joy for those who come in faith.

Now listen as out of the chaos the pizzicato of strings heralds the arrival of rain. Then out of the timpani tremor of the earth is born a gentle, joyful jubilant duo of two flutes, called Yesha and Tzedakah as we come to our next theme in verse eight of-

HARVEST: “Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I Jehovah have created it”

Yesha and Tzedakah are dance partners, skipping and entwining together in a captivating, intricate and ecstatic interpretative performance of breathtaking intensity. Yesha and Tzedakah are known in English as Salvation and Righteousness. The flautist’s duet interweaves and dances over the contrapuntal prelude of a string quartet.

As you continue to listen and watch, the next theme is (in verse nine)-

HOLLOWNESS: For this theme I envisage the invention of a percussive instrument of different sized clay pots, to be struck with drumsticks in a perplexing and atonal display of creativity-

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among clay pots!”

A tenor soloist provides the voice of the clay pot-

“Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?”

Here Israel is objectified as clay pot. And he’s hollow. By the New Testament however the empty Israel of God is filled with the Holy Spirit-

“We have this treasure in clay pots, that the pre-eminence of the power may be of God and not of us”

Two Corinthians Four verse Seven

Now listen in verse 10 to the theme of the-

HERITAGE of his parents- a boy soprano-

“Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you fathering?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labour?’”

We come now to the penultimate theme in verse eleven A, the-

HOLY ONE:

“Thus says Jehovah,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him”

Right here in this verse we have the bass of Jehovah, the baritone of the Holy One of Israel, and the tenor of the one who formed him. We know that Jehovah alone is God and that beside him there is no god. Jehovah is the one true God, the Father of mankind. We have here the Holy One of Israel, revealed to us in the gospels as the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father not created; and the one who formed the Messiah, who is none other than the Spirit of the living God.

Here on display for us is the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Jehovah is his name and he alone is God. And this trio is united in the oneness of his challenge, revealing the purposes of Deity for his creation in our final theme in verse eleven B-

HEIRS: “Ask me of things to come. Will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?”

Jehovah’s purpose for the work of his hands is to adopt children by the Spirit of sonship through the sacrifice of the Son by the Father out of love for us, repentant sinners from every nation, brought into the Israel of God, his people; through faith and the new birth of the Holy Spirit. We are now heirs of the glories of the new creation!

This is a dazzling passage of God’s word, full of mysterious truths. Why would God choose a pagan king to be messiah for his people and bring them back to Judah? And more profoundly, why would God choose Gentile dogs like us to be brought into his family. We might not be able to fathom the purposes of God but we are thankful for them and the blessings he lavishes upon us, even in the midst of this dark world as we look forward to the new heavens and the new earth.

God is love

God is love and has proved it,
in the person of His Son.
By the Word and the Spirit
we have a testimony.

God is love and sent His Son
for all our sin to atone.
The sacrifice has been done,
he gave His life to cruel men.

God is love- it’s true for me!
– a sinner who despised Him.
Jesus died upon a tree,
I trust for my salvation.

God is love- His Spirit tells
that I am forgiven
I know it is not to hell
that my soul will be given.

God is love- and accepts me.
I’m now united with Him.
At last I have been set free,
and forever I will sing.

God is love

What do you rely on? That you’re a hard-working person who looks after your family? Or the fact that God loves you?

Two brothers relied on very different things. One was a hard working family man who built a city and a dynasty. Another was a humble shepherd who loved God.

Cain the hard working man was jealous of the fact that God accepted his shepherd brother- so much so that he murdered him. In the world’s eyes the city man was the successful man, and his murdered brother never got to make anything of his life. From God’s eternal perspective though, Abel has life and Cain is dead.

Adam sinned and death came into the world. Jesus lived perfectly and died as the substitute of all who trust in Him. That is true love. Here’s how a man called John puts it:

“God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love.”

1 John 4:8b-16a

Death is abhorrent: something that the world prefers to take place behind closed doors so no-one can talk about it. But when Jesus was publicly executed on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem, he didn’t fail: he defeated the power of death over us. Death is God’s curse on mankind for Adam’s sin. Jesus’ death is God’s blessing for mankind that our sins can be dealt with. Now he is risen triumphant over death, and His Spirit lives with everyone who testifies to the fact that he is the Son of God who is the Saviour of the world.

What do you rely on? That you’re a hard-working person who looks after your family? Or the fact that God loves you?

Our best isn’t good enough. God’s love is enough, trust in Him and live for Him rather than yourself.

Isaiah 35

This poem’s a paraphrase of Isaiah 35:

The wilderness and dry land
shall both alike be glad,
and the desert shall become
a meadow, no longer sad.
The glory of the nations
shall all be given to it:
The glory of the LORD God,
the One who is majestic.

So strengthen up the weak hands,
and make feeble knees firm.
Say to the anxious hearted
“Be strong, do not fear, and learn-
that your God who is beheld
will arrive in vengeance
and repay, our fears quell.

Your God will come and save you”
The blind eyes will open
and the deaf ears unstopped;
the mute will have spoken,
and the lame leap like a deer.
For there’s wilderness waters,
and streams in the desert,
from sand now springs appear.

Thirsty ground becomes a pool,
in the dens of jackals,
grass becomes reeds and rushes,
and a way to travel,
called the way of holiness,
where there is none unclean,
and there are no fools straying,
or wild animals seen.

Instead the redeemed walk there,
and the ransomed of God,
they shall all of them return
to God’s city with song.
Everlasting joy shall crown,
they have gladness and joy,
sorrow and sighing flee,
sadness will flee away.

Book Review

Married to a Martyr: A Story of Tragedy and Hope
Jonathan Carswell with Joanna Wright
This book is the story of a German missionary lady whose husband and two Turkish colleagues were murdered by some Turkish Muslims at a Bible study in 2007. I remember weeping when I heard about it and reported to a prayer meeting of students at university.
This was her statement at the funeral:
“We came to this country to live a normal life, the same as the Turks came to Germany as Muslims. We wanted to come to Turkey and live here as Christians. For us this is a very hard time. I have lost my lifelong friend and the children have lost their father. But I know that Tilmann died as a martyr in the name of Jesus Christ. His blood was not in vain. For Malatya and for Turkey this is a new start. Jesus said from the cross to the people around him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” and I want to do the same”
One of the Turkish widows said this:
“Forgiveness sets us free, and it is a powerful resolution of love against unjust pain. Love does not keep an account of wrong. To forgive is a decision and a gift. If we want to protect our hearts from the knives of the murderers we have to choose to forgive. Not to forgive, not to leave judgement to God, is the same as disregarding His authority. The Lord unconditionally forgave us with His own holy and priceless blood, and so we also ought to forgive others.
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture… But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace” (Psalm 37:1-4, 11)
I am always humbled and deeply moved by people who lose their lives for the Prince of Peace, rather than for the prince of this world. May God grant us all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that transcends death and wells up to eternal life.

Set up for life?

(I wrote this in 2009 for the Evangelical Times Youth Supplement)

Imagine your dad is the richest, most famous, and wisest man in the world, and you live in the most beautiful palace in the world. The capital you live in is so rich that silver is as common as stones. It’s also the cultural and intellectual capital of the world.

On top of all this, your dad writes you a bestseller that’s full of practical tips on how to get wise. You might have thought that such a son was set for life. Well one such son was someone called Rehoboam (whose dad was King Solomon). But despite his dad being one of the best rulers the world has ever seen, as soon as Rehoboam got into power he managed to provoke a civil war that tore his country in half.

“What has this got to do with me?” you may be thinking. Well that book Solomon wrote: Proverbs- is not only the best bit of parental advice still in print, but also one of the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate truth to every generation. As one of its sayings puts it: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to all who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

This book divides humanity into two camps: the wise- who fear God and take refuge in Him; and  the foolish- who despise wisdom and truth.

Our postmodern society questions the assertion that wisdom can only be found in God’s truth. We live in a nation where many do as they see fit in their own eyes, and while this doesn’t make everyone murderers and paedophiles, it does constitute moral anarchy.

If God is so holy, how can we take refuge in Him? The key is Jesus and His message: “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). The kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon was a symbol of God’s kingdom, a peaceful place where people can take refuge from God’s wrath for their sins.

Such safety is made possible by Christ’s death, in which he bore the punishment we deserve for our sins. Christ’s resurrection confirms Him as the Lord over all  things who welcomes all who repent and trust in Him.

There is safety from the coming storm of God’s wrath, but it is only for those who shelter in the side of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Meditations on Lamentations

After this post there’ll be some thoughts on Philippians

Day 10. Read Lamentations 5:12-22

Important people were disrespected

People were enslaved

The city was deserted

It was a miserable place

A once glorious place wasn’t so, because of the people’s sin

This fact wearied the inhabitants

The problem was spiritual

The comfort for God’s people is that the LORD reigns forever

When he seems not to listen it causes us to pray out all the more

We ask him to restore us and to renew us as he has done before

If he didn’t we’d feel like he’d rejected us forever

Reflection: When we see the hardships of life, it’s easy to despair, but we are encouraged when we remember the sovereignty of God and cry out to Him to strengthen us in our weakness. The fact that he hasn’t given up on us but receives us in Christ empowers us to live for Him each day

Meditations on Lamentations

Day 9. Read Lamentations 5:1-11

Reflection: Even on a day of joyful remembrance like this Easter Sunday: when we remember that Jesus rose victorious over sin and death and hell; our joy is tinged with the sadness that sin and death and satan continue to cause in our lives. It was similar for Jeremiah: even after the siege of Jerusalem ended, the occupation meant that life continued to be oppressive for the people of God.

He again asked the LORD to remember and to have regard for the disgrace they suffered

The land was overrun by their occupiers

Many had lost their lives

Everything had become expensive

They were weary and restless as their pursuers snapped at their heels

They had to import bread to survive

They were paying the price for their ancestors’ sins

The land had become an outpost of a vast empire, with slaves ruling over them

It was unsafe to even go out and about because of the violence

Famine consumed

People were abused

Reflection: Faith in Jesus doesn’t make the world a nicer place to be, but his resurrection power at work in our lives gives us hope and strength in the midst of the turmoil and upheaval of the world that in Christ we have the victory, and in Him we will prevail, even over our sins, the deaths we all face, and the hell we all deserve.

Meditations on Lamentations

Day 8: Lamentations 4:12-22

No-one thought Jerusalem could be captured

But it happened for her sinful prophets and priests who shed the blood of the righteous

They had become pariahs

No-one wanted anything to do with them

It was the LORD’s doing that the priests would be dishonoured and the elders not favoured

They looked for help but none came

They were stalked at every step, their days were numbered

Their pursuers were relentless

Even the LORD’s anointed, the Messiah, was caught in their traps, they thought He would rule them throughout the nations

Their enemies rejoiced and were glad, but their judgement was coming too, the cup of God’s wrath would be drunk by them too

Zion’s punishment and exile were for a time, but her enemies’ exposure and punishment would be prolonged

Reflection: How would you expect a Messiah or Saviour to save? Maybe by establishing a utopian society where everyone is nice to one another. The idea that a Messiah would be crucified to save us is a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. Jesus took our punishment on the cross so that we can be delivered from our sins.