Tuesday, 7 October 2014

(281) October 8: Isaiah 40 & Philippians 4

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what exactly it is that should be a comfort to Jerusalem.

To ponder:
With chapter 40v1 we jump a hundred and fifty years. Many have been shipped away from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon. Isaiah’s prophecy is therefore one that was to be kept for that time. And in it God urges Isaiah to proclaim comfort to both people and city, that Jerusalem’s sin has been more than paid for by her trials (40v1-2). Moreover he is to urge her to prepare for God’s speedy coming, in which nature would be levelled as is fitting for such a king (40v3-5), and by which all humanity would see God’s glory (excellence) in saving his people. Although God did come to their rescue in Babylon, this is ultimately fulfilled as John the Baptist promises God coming to rescue them through faith in Christ, who displays the glory of God (Mk 1v1-3).
            Isaiah is called to cry out that people are like grass, which whither under God’s breath, whereas his words of promise stand forever. God’s people can therefore be sure that he can deal with the Babylonians as easily as grass in order to fulfil his purposes (40v6-8). And so Isaiah is told to proclaim God’s arrival to Jerusalem from a high mountain, calling people to see God come in power bringing the exiles with him like a shepherd carrying and leading lambs (40v9-11). It is with this same tenderness that the Good Shepherd carries and leads us to his heavenly Zion.
            With Job-like language, God asks who has measured and weighed aspects of creation as a way of showing that just as none have such wisdom, none can expect to fathom or instruct God in what he does. This is important to grasp as we ponder why we or the church might suffer, just as Judah would have in being conquered. God continues by stressing how seemingly insignificant the mighty nations of the world are to him. Indeed, the whole of Lebanon’s resources are insufficient to properly please him through the giving of offerings (40v12-17). In the light of this, he asks who can he can be compared to, implying the foolishness of crafting an idol to present offerings to. Instead, he asks whether people have grasped that he is enthroned in heaven above earth, so that its people are like mere grasshoppers to him; that he stretches the heavens out like a tent and brings mighty rulers to nothing with a breath (40v18-24). In short, he declares he is incomparable, and in his mighty power in particular, by which he brings out the stars at night as if calling them by name (40v25-26). In the light of this, he then asks why Israel complain that he doesn’t see their afflictions or has disregarded them, affirming that he is the everlasting creator of all, who doesn’t tire or grow weary in his attentiveness. But he affirms too, that none can grasp his understanding of things. His encouragement, however, is that even young people struggle, but anyone who hopes in him will find their strength renewed so they become tireless (40v27-31). Although there is literal fulfilment in the new creation, this, no doubt, applies also to God’s strengthening those feeling despondent as they would have at Israel’s predicament.
Praying it home:       
Praise God that he is a caring shepherd to his people, in carrying them to glory. Pray that you trust him in times of trial, knowing that his ways cannot be fathomed.

Thinking further:
None today.

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