Silence in the Court

Isaiah 41.  Acts 28: 1-16

Isaiah 41 depicts a courtroom scene, emphasizing the authority and power of God. He is the judge, he declares the case and he pronounces the verdict. God rules. Be silent. Respect His position and recognize yours.

God rules! The chaotic events Israel find themselves in are under God’s control. God calls Cyrus, the Persian(v2), to defeat the Babylonians, Israel’s captors and thus bring their freedom. God has done this (v4), not man’s schemes and cunning. The ‘ coastlands’ are afraid of the impending aggression, and draw together (v5) for morale.

God reassures Israel, (v8) that they belong to God – they are His. His servant; chosen, called, not rejected. His word encourages them as it does us:

‘Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (v10)

Acts 28:1-16 retells Paul’s experiences in Malta and Rome, a case study as he lives out these words, trusting the promise-maker amidst the seeming chaos, prayerfully depending on Him rather than giving way to fear.

God will also hold Israel’s right hand against their enemies (v13) redeem Israel (v14), answer their prayers and restore them (v17,18). The result is that Israel will rejoice and glory in the Lord (v16).

God initiates all this action, and brings it to pass, in His time. The future is unknown to us, as it is to Israel (v22) – only God knows (v26). Therefore God is always right. In comparison, everyone else is a delusion.

Whilst there is much in our lives that can potentially make us fearful, and certainly much clamour, God calls us, like Israel, to Listen to God in silence (v1). It’s a kindness; a call to recognize  who we are and who God is. To free us from the delusion of self importance and the deception that God is unwilling or unable to help us and bring His purposes to pass.

God is in control, no matter how events seem. He has chosen; he has redeemed us. His words are true, and time and future are known to Him. So,

Listen to your God in silence this morning.

Listen to His Holiness

Listen to His Majesty

Listen to His Power and Rule

Listen to His Glory

Listen to His redeeming Love.

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Bear witness to God

Isaiah 6. Acts 12:1-24

My father wrote this devotion on Isaiah 6, some 12 years ago.

Today we read the testimony of one who belongs to a very special company of people; those to whom God has revealed himself in an extraordinary manner: Abraham, Moses, Isaiah,Jesus’ disciples, Paul and the Apostle John. In the year the king died Isaiah saw The King, high and lifted up, and holy. His presence and glory filled not just the temple, but also the whole creation.

The vision did four things for Isaiah. It gave him a sense of God that he never forgot.It convinced him  of his uncleanness, and the uncleanness of his people. It led him to an experience of cleansing. It prepared him for his commissioning  as God’s spokesman to a rebellious and hardhearted people. He was equipped to bear witness to God.

To have experienced God in this way prepared Isaiah for the thankless, difficult, and theologically bewildering role of warning about destruction and exile at the hands of pagan and evil powers that did not worship the Lord. It also enabled him to hold out the promise of a magnificent restoration beyond judgement, because he was speaking the words of the One who was Lord  over all.

The vast majority of us do not see God as Isaiah did, but we are meant to see the God whom Isaiah saw. We are to see him through his eyes, and through the eyes of all those whom God has chosen as the vehicles of his self-revelation.

For a brief moment in time these men of God saw eternal realities that are permanent and unchanging. We are called to live each day with, and by, these realities. We can, by God’s word and Spirit, make the substance of this vision our own. A deep personal sense of God as the Holy One, high and lifted up, will help us to ‘bear witness to God’.

Thanks Dad, for always bearing witness to God.

“Siri, tell me all.”

Joshua 8:30-9:27, Luke 22:63- 23:5

Information overload. Siri, Google, Facebook. Facts and features about people, politics, music, culture. Knowledge is sought.

Nothing new, it seems. The leaders of Israel, and the leader of Roman occupation of Israel, asked questions. Wanting information.

“Are you the Christ?   Are you the Son of God?    Are you the King of the Jews? ”  Filling their knowledge gap.

Knowledge and information does not constitute belief , Jesus tells us (v 67). We can know the answer to these questions, but let that knowledge have limited impact on our lives. The implications the answers to these questions raise, deeply impact our self perception, self reliance, and how we ultimately view reality.

Jesus answers that he is at the right hand – in a position of power and rule- of the mighty God (v69), and yet those around him see him  as trapped, weak and condemned. We are tempted to see him that way at times, as our culture challenges God’s sovereignty over  choices, and challenges His very existence.

Seeing the mighty God and seeing his Christ, takes faith and belief. It takes the power of God working in our lives to heal our blindness, and set our captive hearts free. Without this, our questions about about God remain merely information. We may take it or leave it. follow another thread, another trending topic. We continue to be self- determining. Like Israel, we will fail to seek His council (Joshua 9:14), and suffer the consequences. We remain clouded by sin in our thinking, our hearts remain kidnapped.

Praise our mighty God who is indeed, mighty to save.  Save his creatures from their sin, and dwell with His children through His Spirit and power. May knowledge drive us to belief, to trust and obedience, and to praise.

To this you were born

Psalm 96

This Psalm meditates on the splendor, majesty, strength and glory of God, particularly in respect to His salvation and judgement. It calls us to ascribe to God the glory due  his name (8). It invites us to join  the chorus of creation- praise to our great God. The reality of Heaven (Rev ch 4,5) is praise, fulfilling our purpose, acknowledging God’s ultimate position.

Our reluctance to join, is evidenced by our failure to fulfill the first Commandment; a diagnosis of our heart, resistance to God’s position and our desire to rule.  What stands in the way is our self. Our self focus. Our self preoccupation. Our self glory. Our self pity. Our self satisfaction. Our self-ishness. We steal the praise due Him.

Acknowledging to God our selfishness, our sinfulness; drawing on His power to save, to bring us into His family and to indwell us by His spirit, and falling on His grace, may our hearts form prayers of praise to our great God as we meditate on Him through this Psalm today.

May we proclaim His praise and His salvation day after day.

What you need.

Num 21. Luke 5:12-26

 

Word had spread.This guy was doing and saying amazing things. Interest was growing. From all over Galilee- every single village!, and from Judea and Jerusalem- the Jewish world was arriving to observe, assess and decide. Some curious, some skeptical, some concerned. Not just anyone -Our sin Pharisees and teachers of the law. Political and social heavyweights. Broadway opening night. Big.

Jesus’ reputation had drawn a crowd, and a single paralytic. A person helpless, desperate and out of options. We might resonate with him. We might experience fear, failure and situations of life; marriage stress, health concerns that wont go away, rebellion of children, loss of work, betrayal of friends, disappointment with church, disillusion with politics, which can at times make us feel paralyzed. We want to be healed from that.

Jesus shows grace. He meets us as we are, and where we are. He knows our weaknesses, and he knows our Weakness. Our sin. More paralyzing than any physical or emotional conditions. Our sin paralyzes, our sin destroys.

And Jesus forgives him! A miracle. Worth jumping up and down about.

The Pharisees recognize this as a deity- claiming statement, and Jesus replies that both forgiveness and healing are Deity actions. Then Jesus tells the forgiven man to jump up!

How happy would he have been? The physical healing was a visual image of the greater healing that had occurred, unseen to our eyes. The result was amazement and awe, praise to God, and a recognition of being witness to things remarkable.Big.

Our sin leads to death. Numbers 21 records that those dying from poisonous snake bites, only need to look to the salvation God had provided, hanging on a cross for all to see, and they would be saved. The mercy and grace of God.

Jesus dying did all that was needed for your forgiveness. You were paralyzed, unable to do anything, other than look to Him.

Look to Jesus today and be thankful in your heart for your healing.

Horrible histories… Jephthah.

Judges 10:1- 11:40 and Matthew 26:14-30

We see in Judges, how God  raised people to deliver Israel from the effects of their waywardness and sin. And for a brief time they would have peace and freedom from oppression – before they turn away from God and do evil once again. And these Deliverers were not only limited in their impact and duration, but in themselves.  Jephthah, whilst a mighty warrior, was the son of a prostitute, disinherited and a social outcast. Yet the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (29) to defeat the Ammonites, despite his stupid vow to offer his daughter as a human sacrifice. Horrible.

Israel needed a better savior with better results…

Israel became a nation after fleeing Egypt. The Passover was the birthday celebration of Israel. Celebrating the event when God saved them from slavery by the death of the firstborn- the blood of the Passover lamb providing protection; and blessing them with the wealth of Egypt. They became God’s particular people -for Himself.  Yet their sin caused them to be enslaved and poor. They betrayed God.

Jesus is celebrating Passover, in the context of betrayal. Celebrating and fulfilling it. Jesus announces the new covenant in His blood and body. He is the perfect savior who brings unimaginable results – the forgiveness of sins! Our sins, our horrible, deadly, deforming sin. Ours and others. Delivered from the power and effects of sin… Finally.

He is the Perfect Savior. His body and blood. His achievement, not ours.

We are not just freed from slavery , but blessed with the ‘wealth’ of being in relationship with God- being His particular children, because we are in Jesus. Reflect this morning on who you are in Jesus. Remind yourself of your privileged position. Value it. Dwell on the love of God for you; that Jesus gave himself for you. Feed on Him, He is close to you, completely knows you and cares for you.

Prosperity

Psalm73

You may be able to relate to this Psalm. On some occasions or your whole life, almost always, you may be inspired and impressed by the successful, self made winners;  inspired and impressed by the magazines you buy, the ads that may motivate you to choose a coke or a jeep. The idea of being carefree, of being successful is an easy one to indulge,the Psalmist finds. However he finds that this is what sinners are like (v12). They are prosperous, healthy, strong (v6), unburdened , powerful (v8) and popular (v10). And in their hearts they are sinful (v7) and proud (v6).

On some occasions, or your whole life, you might be envious. Envious of such people. In our hearts wanting what they have. Wanting success. Wanting an easier life than the one  you have, free of care (v13).  Envy (v3), is not as apparent as stealing or swearing, but it attacks our hearts, making us grieved and embittered (v21), and ignorant before God (v22).

For those who belong to God, the presence and the person of God is far more valuable than prosperity. Without God, we face ruin (v18),terror (v19), and wrath (v20). By God’s activity and Grace we can know and say that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v26). We are with God always, held by Him (v23), guided (v24), and promised future grace.

Treasure this, ” whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Meditate on this and on how rich we are.