An Important Personal Event (Part Two)

Genesis 48:1-7

In our last article, we saw that Joseph had taken his two sons to visit his dying father, Jacob. Everyone needs to honor the older members of their family, even when the visits might prove to be difficult. In our text, the visit became a little testy, because Joseph did not perceive what his father was doing. But Jacob was privy to God’s plan for Israel’s future. God told Jacob to do something that would affect the course of the tribes hundreds of years later. Jacob’s action is an example of God’s sovereign choice, an instance of gracious action (48:3-7).

Jacob recounted God’s goodness to him. He gave an account of God’s historical appearance to him. In a day without the written word, this would be very important to the next generation (cf. 35:9-13). We ought to give thanks for our Bibles, through which we have eyewitness accounts to the story of God’s glory. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19 NIV).

Jacob also reminded them of God’s covenant blessing and promise. This was Jacob’s greatest treasure, and he shared it with his dear grandchildren. Those saved by grace should always speak highly of God’s grace. “In all our prayers, both for ourselves and for our children, we ought to have a particular eye to, and remembrance of, God’s promises to us” (Henry, Commentary). Let there be no doubt, Jacob was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:21). If Ephraim and Manasseh were worldly-minded, what would they have seen? Only a dying old man, who had been living off their father’s generosity for seventeen years. What could such a man give to them? To the spiritually-minded, however, the sight is vastly different. One of God’s chosen people, an heir of God, was speaking with them. Faith sees what human wisdom cannot.

Jacob received his grandsons as his own children. Though born in Egypt and not his own, Jacob called them his own sons. This is a picture of our adoption as sons (Galatians 4:3-5). Jacob pointed the two young men to the place where blessing truly is to be found. It was better for them to embrace God’s people in their affliction than Egypt in its wealth. This is a lesson rarely learned in our day (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Hebrews 11:26).

In this way, Joseph came to receive the birthright, for he received a double blessing (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

Jacob added a wise proviso in the event Joseph had other sons. Wisdom on the part of parents can prevent much grief in a family after their departure. What struggles, by those who call themselves Christians, have been carried out for a small earthly inheritance!

Jacob spoke of his long-departed wife, Rachel. It was very natural that Jacob would think of her that he deeply loved such a time. Ephraim and Manasseh were her grandchildren, too! “Strong affections in the enjoyment cause long afflictions in the loss” (Henry). In the end Rachel was vindicated, for she was the wife Jacob chose, and though barren for a while, her firstborn received the pre-eminence. In summary, this section shows a man of faith with his eye on the promised land to the end. We will do well to imitate his faith (Hebrews 11:13-16). Let us keep Christ and our eternal inheritance fully and firmly in view.

Grace and peace, David

Nearness

SAMSUNG

Ephesians 2:13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (ESV)

When the Lord saves us, we experience many spiritual changes. Some are objective and concern our position and are not felt. Others are subjective, and we and others can discern changes in our attitudes, words, and actions. However, the changes in our spiritual position ought to affect our spiritual condition. For example, you may have heard some teacher say, “Be what you are in Christ.”

In the words before our text, Christ’s apostle described our hopeless situation before the Lord saved us. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12 ESV). We were separated from God, Christ, the covenants that established a relationship with God, and from the people of God.

The words “but now” signal a complete change in our situation. The separation and alienation came to an end by the blood of Christ. His life was poured out in a violent death as the sacrifice of the new covenant. It brought us near. What did it bring us near to? The sacrificial death of the Messiah brought us near to God, to Christ himself, to the covenants that establish an unending relationship with God, and to the people of God.

Usually, American Christians think of this verse in an individualistic way: “I myself know God through Christ and have a personal relationship with God, and I’m a member of the church.” It is certainly right to rejoice in one’s changed relationship with God and his people. But not to the exclusion of sharing in these blessings with other followers of Christ. What do I mean? Through many years of being a pastor, I have heard individual believers express their own desire to feel near to God. The question is, “How can I feel close to God?” And the answer is given by the ‘experts’ in individualistic ways, like “learn how to have a quiet time, to mediate, to journal” and so on. This type of approach is to ignore the very corporate nature of this passage. (Please read Ephesians 2:1-22 slowly. Can you see people from your small and big groups in it? Would you have thought that way if I had not suggested it?)

Instead, what happened is that the Lord Jesus brought us near by his shed blood. Yes, we are personally near to God, but the point in context is that we are near to God. This is a position that we share together. When we gather in our small and big groups, we ought to act according to the truth that we are near to God. Our Father is not far away.

Since this is true, we should communicate it in our meetings. I do not mean that we need to say it every time we meet, but it should be part of the ‘DNA’ of who we are. “We are the people who have been brought near by Christ’s blood. We are a gathering of the Father’s family, of followers of Jesus on a journey together.”

Nearness to the covenants of promise ought to form the basis of our covenanting together in the mission of Christ and the good news. We then accept each other as close to God. Too often this kind of acceptance is only allowed to those in the inner circles of leadership. Others are assumed to be farther away and are looked at that way. However, if we start with the correct idea that all Christ’s people are near to God, we will highly value the contributions of everyone. This produces a welcoming atmosphere in all our gatherings. We then never need to tell anyone, “Please make visitors feel welcome,” because visitors will automatically sense that God is near and his people welcome them.

Since we know that we are near to God, we will feel confident about drawing near to God in worship together. The truth of James 4:8a (Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you) will occur constantly. Then we will experience what Paul wrote to the Corinthians when new ones are among us when the word is proclaimed. They will worship God and declare that God is really among you (1 Corinthians 14:24b ESV).

I want this for all the gatherings of Christ’s people. May yours start to be what you are in Christ this weekend!

Grace and peace, David

Thoughts on Leviticus (Part Two)

img_3270Leviticus 9

And Moses said, “This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord may appear to you” (Leviticus 9:6 ESV).

Leviticus presents the worship and way of life of God’s old covenant people. The time of the law or old covenant occupied a specific period in the history of redemption. It started at the giving of the law covenant at Sinai after the exodus from Egypt. It ended with the great events of the gospel: Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost. God’s people under the law were required to live under its rituals and regulations. We look at that time from the perspective of its fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. Or, perhaps I should say, we ought to look at them that way. But do we know enough about that time to understand what God was doing during the working out of his plan in redemptive history?

Exodus tells the story of God setting his people free from slavery in Egypt, the formation of Israel as his covenant people, the giving of the law covenant, and the building of the tabernacle. It was at the tabernacle that the sacrifices listed in Leviticus 1-7 had to be offered. Leviticus 8 tells us about the consecration of Aaron and his sons to offer the sacrifices of the law. Here we see the binding together of the priesthood and the law as referred to in Hebrews 7:11-12.

This brings us to Leviticus 9. The significance of this chapter is overlooked, because we forget or fail to consider the larger story of God. When God gave the law, he caused his glory to shine (Exodus 19-24). After the people had sinned with the golden calf, Moses pleaded that he would let him see his glory (Exodus 33). When the tabernacle was set up, the Lord’s glory filled it (Exodus 40:34-38). In our text at the start of this article, Moses told Aaron and his sons that the Lord had promised an appearance of his glory to them. The living God had committed to make known his glory through their worship. People could know that the God of glory was with them. He was in a covenant relationship with them. The glorious God had accepted them as his people.

The end of the chapter records the historical event of this fulfilled promise. Aaron made the prescribed offerings, as the Lord had commanded (Leviticus 9:8-22). Read that passage like you were there watching. What would happen next? And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces (Leviticus 9:23-24). Some truths to think about:

  • Moses and Aaron went in the tabernacle after they had done what the Lord had commanded. The ministry of the priests had begun, and there was access to God.
  • When they came out of the tabernacle, they blessed the people. This was an event for the whole covenant community.
  • Next, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. God kept his promise. Later through Isaiah, the Lord God made another promise of the appearance of his glory through his Son. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 40:5).
  • God answered by fire from heaven. Later this would happen at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1) and when Elijah opposed the false prophets (1 Kings 18:38).
  • The response of the people was praise and worship

In the new covenant, we also experience the glory of God. On Pentecost, tongues of fire appeared to the church and rested on every member. The Spirit of God had been poured out on the people of God. Now, we are in Christ, our new covenant with God. We have surpassing glory (2 Corinthians 3:10) and the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us (1 Peter 4:14), the whole new covenant community. Do we respond with praise and worship?

Grace and peace, David

In the Days of Herod

img_4560Luke 1:5-10

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:5-6 ESV).

Luke opened his account of Jesus, God’s Anointed One, and the good news with these words. They also begin his telling of the Christmas story, which is part of God’s great story. I do not think that most people consider this part of the Christmas story, but it provides the setting in which the story occurs. In fact, if we listen to and learn this part of the story, we gain important information to understand the whole story.

Consider the historical setting. In the days of Herod… He was a ruler noted for his cunning, cruelty, and constructions. He was called Herod the Great for the last of these, for he built many fine buildings, including the rebuilding of the Temple. He died in early 4 B.C., which means that Jesus was born sometime in 5 B.C. (Yes, the calendar is off by five years. People, not God, make calendars.) Jesus was born in the full light of human history. Luke tells us of two people, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who, although not in the line of the Messiah, had an important role in the early part of the story. Notice the details. Zechariah was in the eighth division of the priesthood that had been established by King David over a thousand years before that time. Zechariah and Elizabeth were godly people; they were fully committed followers of the Lord. However, there was an emptiness in their lives. Elizabeth was barren, and since they were advanced in years (probably their later forties), there was little human hope of having a child. One of life’s mysteries is the experience that many people who would love to have children have none, while others who do not seem to care for children easily have them. Both situations produce many tears. This is history in agony. People need a Savior for many reasons.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense (Luke 1:8-10 ESV).

The Christmas story is connected with the old covenant and its worship. Priests and the temple are found throughout Luke 1-2. Worship of God fills both chapters. It was the time of the law covenant that pointed to the coming Messiah in all its types and shadows (cf. Hebrews 10:1). The curtain started to fall on that era when Zechariah went into it to offer incense as prescribed by the law. However, on that day no one anticipated the supernatural event about to happen. Zechariah was merely one of a long and large company of priests that had offered incense over a course of nearly fifteen hundred years. A crowd of faithful people had gathered for the event. During a time of Gentile rule over God’s covenant people, they remembered the God who had called them to be his people and who had promised the Messiah, the one who would set them free. But on that day, no one expected God to speak. He had not spoken in four hundred years, but they still had gathered to pray to wait on the Lord. Faith.

Christmas is a season of waiting, not for parties, programs, and presents. It is the time to wait on the Lord in worship. Many waited for Messiah’s first coming; we wait for his second coming. They waited in the rituals and regulations of the first covenant; we wait and watch in the Holy Spirit in the second covenant. They gathered in worship; we should also gather together to worship in love, joy, and peace. The days of Herod are long past. We live in the last days. Does an attitude of hopeful worship fill our souls this Christmas season?

Grace and peace, David

A God-initiated Relationship

IMG_1006Exodus 5:22-6:12

God knows what happens in our world. He knows the joy and the sorrow of every person. God also remembers the promises he has made to people. God had made a covenant with the Patriarchs of the Hebrew people to give them the land of Canaan (6:4). He had also told Abraham that they would not gain the land for four hundred years, during which time the people would be enslaved and mistreated (Genesis 15:13-14). God told Moses that the time had arrived for the Lord to remember his covenant promise. We can only understand God’s plan when we take the position of learners and confess that his way is best because he is God. It’s not about us, but about him. When faced with hardship, this can be a very troubling truth, until we grasp that the Lord also works through our adversity for our greater good. This good purpose involves a God-initiated relationship. Here is the way that the Lord would act to make the descendants of the Patriarchs his people.

  • The Lord promised to bring them “out from under the yoke of the Egyptians” (6:6). The Egyptians were using the people of Israel like yoked oxen. God would end that oppression that had brought much suffering to them. In our time we see many of the people of God under tyrannical regimes. God will rescue them at his appointed hour, as he rescued Israel.
  • The Lord presented the method of deliverance (6:6). The method was to set them free from “being slaves to them” and to redeem them “with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment.” To redeem means “to set free by the payment of a ransom”. In this case the focus is on the idea of setting the people free from slavery in Egypt. God used this act to set up a pattern that would teach us about our redemption from sin. Notice how the redemption would be accomplished. God would act with power and judgment against those who had oppressed his people. Here is the justice of God, bringing judgment on those who had done evil. God will judge all evildoers with justice at the last day (Matthew 25:31-36; Revelation 20:11-15).
  • The Lord procured the suffering slaves as his people (6:7). Though very great and majestic, God is “gentle and humble in heart”, as Jesus made known God’s character (John 14:7; Matthew 11:29). So the infinite God was willing to take the weak and lowly and the despised (1 Corinthians 1:27-28) as his own people. He did not need great people to validate him as a great God; instead, he sought out those who were assumed to be nothing, slaves, to transform them into his free people. In this way he would demonstrate his greatness, and in this way they people would “know that I am the Lord your God”.
  • The Lord pointed out the goal, which was to bring them to the land he had sworn by covenant oath to the Patriarchs (6:8). Observe how the Lord says twice that he would give them the land. It would be their gift from him. This was his grace to the old covenant people, and it is clearly shown to be by grace and not works, because of their constant rebellion against them before they went into the land.

So then, God took the initiative to make them his people and to provide for them. And Moses told them the message that the Lord had told him to tell them (6:6, 9). However, they failed to listen to God’s words, because of their discouragement and experience of cruel bondage. An assessment of Moses’ situation from a worldly perspective was bleak, as he well understood. This made the whole conversation rather dissatisfying to Moses. If a message with great promises could not convince Israel that God was soon to help them, how could a bare command to a cruel monarch persuade him to let Israel go?

This is the reason we need to have faith in God and his words, especially when everything seems to be against us. How is your faith in God? Does it fill you with hope? Or can you see no further than your present dissatisfaction with what God is doing now? Trust in God.

Grace and peace, David

God Reviews His Story

IMG_5248Exodus 5:22-6:12

Our text presents an unsatisfying conversation that the Lord had with Moses. The Lord’s servant presented his complaint to the Lord, and God responded by giving his promise for immediate action. I have no idea what Moses expected the Lord to do, but as the end of the section shows, the answer did not satisfy him. It amazes me how we can act like Moses. For example, people will pray, and God will answer precisely, but doubt lingers, like some still doubted after they saw the risen Christ (Matthew 28:17). Our Father in heaven knows our weaknesses, and he doesn’t stop his plan to wait for us to arrive at full satisfaction about our complaints, questions, or fears. Having answered Moses, God moved on to other matters that Moses needed to learn, so that he could teach others.

Before the lesson, the Lord chose to preface it by setting it in the historical context of the story of his glory. We see two main presentations in the Bible. The first is the narrative of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ through salvation by judgment. The second is God’s commentary on or explanation of the narrative. Here, God talks to Moses about part of his story that will set the stage for the next step in his plan for his people. You see, God’s plan was not simply to rescue them from something, but to rescue them for something better. People tend to focus on the “from” part, since no sane person likes to suffer. But the Lord not only wants to end the pain but to increase the joy by sharing his glory and goodness with us. People go wrong by the delusion that they can have an incomplete rescue (the “from” part) without friendship with God (the “for something better” part). But rescue apart from God will only fall back into a deeper experience of bondage and pain (cf. Luke 11:24-26). For this reason, they needed more than an immediate rescue from the bondage and pain of Egypt. They needed a relationship of God that would bring them to a better position as his people.

  • The living God provided a new explanation of his identity (6:2-3). He had made himself known to the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) by his name “God Almighty”. It made known the ability of God to the founders of God’s people in contrast to the inability of the gods the people among whom they lived. God used another name, the Lord (Yahweh), which is perhaps a shortened form of the name “I Am Who I Am” to declare his character as faithful and dependable as he enters into a covenant of relationship with the nation of Israel. God would be the covenant Redeemer of his people; they could rely on him as the one who set them free from slavery to belong to him.
  • God reminded them of the covenant that he had made with the Patriarchs, which was the covenant of promise (6:4). The promise covenant, among other matters, involved the plan to give to the people the Promised Land, where the Patriarchs had lived as strangers and foreigners. Their life in the land in this way pointed to something better, as Abraham understood (Hebrews 11:8-16). The covenant that God was about to make would be something that came along (Romans 5:20) as God pursued his plan for the something better. God works out his plans step by step. He still follows this method as his people spread the god news of salvation in Christ to all nations.
  • The Lord reassured Moses that he knew about the suffering of his people (6:5; cf. 2:24-25; 3:7). He was not ignorant of the suffering of the people that caused Moses’ dismay. He also knew their oppressors. Instead, God reaffirmed that he, the covenant making and keeping God, had remembered his covenant, and was about to rescue his people.

All this information was crucial for the way of life of Moses and Israel through the exodus. All that the Spirit of God has revealed in the Bible is also crucial for our way of life now. Are you in suffering? Listen to God’s word. It is important for you to know how to live with the living God now, while you wait for the day of salvation.

Grace and peace, David

Holding Firmly Our Profession

DSCN0646Hebrews 10:23

Perhaps too often we use terms in our churches that sound strange to twenty-first century hearers. Some of these, like “making a decision for Christ”, are not found in the Scriptures and can be safely abandoned. But other terms, such as “covenant”, are good Biblical terms and need to be defined and explained. On the simplest level, we can say that a covenant is a contract or an agreement. In the Bible we find five covenants between God and man clearly mentioned: the one made with Noah, the one with Abraham and his seed (also called the “promise” in Galatians 3), the covenant made with David, and two covenants dealing with the life and worship of God’s people: the law or old covenant and the new or better covenant.

The writer has been presenting the great benefits of this new and better agreement. In chapter eight of Hebrews we read of four major provisions of God’s new agreement with us.

  • God is our God and we are his people. This is the basic promise of the contract. God enters into a personal, dynamic relationship with us, individually and corporately.
  • God’s laws are written on our hearts (the heart meaning the inner person). This means that the Holy Spirit gives us an inner responsiveness to God’s directives. Our minds agree with the truth of the Scriptures and we desire to see them actualized in the way we live, even if we know little about them. Truth resides in us.
  • We know the Lord. Since we are in a living relationship with the living God, we know more than facts about him or how to approach him. We also know him (John 10:27).
  • We have the forgiveness of sins. God does not hold our acts of rebellion against us. Instead, we are right with him.

Now since these things are so, the writer draws a few applications from this truth. We have already considered the first (“let us draw near to God”); now let us examine the second.

The writer directs us to something believers have made: “our profession or confession of hope”. What is the meaning of “profession or confession”? He is not speaking of a written document. Confessions of faith or doctrinal statements or catechisms are useful if used properly (sadly they are too often misused), but he is not talking about such documents in this verse. We should periodically examine such documents to see if they are communicating what we want to say in the present generation. Word meanings shift; errors and opinions change and we must guard the truth (2 Timothy 1:14). We should avoid empty talk about “always reforming”, until we are actually willing to evaluate what people before us have written and what the Holy Spirit is teaching us from the Word in our generation.

Instead, the writer is referring to an open acknowledgment or public declaration about our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This confession should be made early in your new life by the means of believer’s baptism, Acts 2:41; etc. (The Bible knows nothing of such human rituals like “confirmation” or “walking forward”.) The confession leads necessarily to an ongoing, public testimony. We do this among God’s people by such means as sharing in the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:26), attending the meetings of people who follow Christ (Acts 2:42), and responding to the truth of the preached word by saying “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20) and discussing the truthfulness of what has been taught (Acts 17:11).  We do this outside the assembly by living and speaking in such a way that seeks to draw people to our Lord and Savior.

Are you regularly participating in a local gathering of God’s people (a church)? Are you building up and encouraging those that are your gospel partners? Do they experience you sharing life with them? Do they help you in your walk with the Lord?

Grace and peace, David

When God Speaks to His People

IMG_0519Isaiah 43:14-17

In the book that bears his name, Isaiah prophesied of the exile of Israel to Babylon. This was difficult news for God’s old covenant people to receive. God had given them the Promised Land. It was the place where he would live among them; it was the place of blessing and peace. The Lord God had warned them that if they did not obey him fully, he would remove them from the land; in fact, he would scatter them among the nations. Exile would mean separation from all they had known, loss of their property, separation of family and friends, and no way to worship the Lord according to the terms of the law covenant. The prophesied exile to Babylon was a warning shot over the bow, and as we sadly know, they did not listen.

However, Isaiah’s prophecy was more than a gloomy message of punishment for their breaking of the covenant. It was also an encouraging announcement of hope. At all times God wants us to understand our situation in his presence and the better life we can experience when we walk with him in faith. For this reason, the Lord talks to Israel through the prophet about “a new thing” that he will do in what was then their future. In order to give them this word of hope, he reminds them of who he is. It is necessary to know God, so that we might be able to lay hold of what he is able and willing to do for those who trust him. To know him, we need to listen carefully when he reveals himself to us.

First, the Lord (Yahweh) calls himself their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (43:14). God joins two names that might seem to pull them in opposite directions emotionally. Redeemer is a joyous name. God proclaims that he cares about them and is willing to do what is necessary to set them free. This would fuel confident expectation in people contemplating the horrors of exile. Though they would be exiled, God promises to free them from captivity. Yet at the same time, he is the Holy One of Israel. He is the One supreme over all things, including the false gods they had been worshiping. He is set apart from the sinfulness of people. A study of the Old Testament Scriptures reveals that idolatry was a constant problem in Israel before the exile. Idolatry in the heart is a very serious spiritual problem (Ezekiel 14:3-5). A life based on idols will breed sinfulness in a person’s way of life. So then, God promised to free them from exile, but the deliverance would be consistent with his holiness.

Second, the Lord repeats the truth of his holiness, and then reminds them that he is their Creator and King (43:15). God is asserting his rights in relation to Israel. The Creator has ownership rights of what he has created. This is one motive for people to deny creation and to prefer evolution. God is telling Israel that they belong to him, and so he has the right to send them into exile and to free them. Since he is their King, he also has the power and authority to do this. The people needed to have a proper view of the dependence on God for their destiny, in order to have a firm basis for confident expectation in God’s plan. Simply put, you cannot deny God’s rule and have real hope. Without hope, you fall into defeatism, depression, dread, and despair. God calls to his people to avoid this dark path.

Third, the Lord reminds them of his glory in the exodus from Egypt (43:16-17). He points them to redemption in their past to lead them to hope in a fuller redemption in their future. Egypt had seemed unbeatable, and they had acted arrogantly toward Israel, oppressing them in terrible ways. However, God had set them free from Egypt through ten mighty signs and wonders. But then, Egypt had decided that they did not want to lose their slave labor and pursued them to the brink of the sea. When all seemed hopeless, the Lord made “a path through the mighty waters” and defeated the enemy army totally. In the same way, we need to remember how God has set free those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. His victory in that redemption provides us a firm basis of hope as we contemplate our future. We can know that followers of Christ are now like “scattered exiles”, and yet God has already given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-3). Is your hope and trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ? You can have eternal confidence when you turn from your rejection of God as God, your refusal to love him first, and your rebellion against him and his ways to trust in Christ for forgiveness and freedom from sin, guilt, and condemnation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).

Grace and peace, David

Christ Our Covenant

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

Isaiah 42:6-7

I really enjoy a good Reuben sandwich; in fact, I like to make them. But a good Reuben sandwich can be hard to find, because often the restaurant or diner cuts various corners that lower the quality of their Reuben. All parts of the sandwich are important, and having the right ingredients and putting them together the right way can dramatically increase the taste of the Reuben. For example, having delicious rye bread is essential. Skimp with the bread, and the sandwich is inferior. But the insides of the sandwich are just as important: quality corned beef, coleslaw, sauerkraut, and homemade Russian dressing. (To use factory made Russian dressing is probably the worst thing you can do to a Reuben sandwich!)

Our text is like a sandwich. The bread is found in verses Isaiah 42:5 and 42:8-9. And we could rightly have started with those verses. But today, I want to focus on the innards of the sandwich, verses six and seven. However, don’t think for a moment that the “bread” is nonessential.

First, God appointed his Servant for a mission (42:6a). God the Father has an active part in the plan of salvation. Though the Bible should be read in a Christ-focused manner, it is thoroughly Trinitarian. In various places in the Bible we see this truth. For example, in 42:1, we saw that the Father is the One who chose the Servant. In John 3:16 we are told that the Father gave his Son so that people who believe in Jesus might be saved. The Father presented his Son as a propitiation (Romans 3:25). And in many places we learn that the Father raised the Son from the dead after his finished sacrifice for sin (Ephesians 1:20; etc.)

Here, the idea is that the Father called his Son “in righteousness” or “for a righteous purpose”. God wants all people to know that his plan of salvation is right. Justice is satisfied and sinful people are justly forgiven and declared right with God when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. In addition, since God’s purpose is righteous, it is also wise, good, and loving. This is important, because for anything to be wise, good, or loving, it must first be righteous. All God’s love alone could not have saved us apart from Christ’s propitiation on the cross (Rm 3:25-26).

God the Father guarantees his power to help his chosen Servant in his mission. When God says that he is holding your hand, he is letting you know that he is with you. In this way, the Father watched over the Son up to the cross. After the Son paid the full price for our redemption, the Father was there to receive his spirit (Luke 23:46). Three days later, the Father raised Jesus from the dead! So then, in the psalm of the cross (Psalm 22), we read great words of hope and trust from the Suffering Messiah by way of prophecy.

The Father promised to keep him. And so, after forty days of fierce temptation, the Father sent angels to serve his Servant (Mark 1:13). At Christ’s baptism (Mark 1:11) and transfiguration (Mark 9:7), God owned his Servant as his Son. At the conclusion of the public teaching ministry of Jesus, the Father spoke from heaven to affirm the message of his Son (John 12:27-28). After the resurrection, the Father had him sit at his right, the place of honor. He kept him all the way to glory.

The Father was actively involved in the saving work of his dearly loved Son. The God who made covenants with people is the one who called Christ to be a new and better covenant. He was directly involved in this event. And Jesus did all to glorify the Father (Jn 17:4). Are you honoring the Father for the way of salvation? To honor him, you must first believe or trust in Jesus Christ whom he sent (Jn 17:3). God the Father is close to his Son (John 1:1-2); the only way to get near the Father is through the Son he sent (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). The way to nearness to God is through Jesus, the Servant of the Lord.

Grace and peace, David