Isaiah 43 and Revelation 1


Today’s readings are Isaiah 43 and Revelation 1. Both readings are addressed to the people of God, a people who are under the pump, whose backs are up against the wall. Israel remains in Babylonian exile and the first century churches are suffering severe persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian.  Like them, we too languish in a land not our home. Peter describes the Christian community as ‘foreigners and exiles’ (1 Peter 2:11).  Like them, our home is in glory with King Jesus. Our context is also marked by opposition. The Christian community is increasingly being pushed to the margins of mainstream society. Our voice is being drowned out.  The fundamental Judeo-Christian biblical principles, which formed the strong fabric and solid foundation for a just and moral society, are being denied and overthrown. Today our children and grandchildren are being brought up in a world where values are fluid and flexible. It’s a bit like playing football on a field without any boundary lines no one knows what’s in and what’s out? This chaotic and disturbing situation can unnerve and unsettle us. Like ancient Israel and the first century church, we need to hear and embrace the encouraging words of the LORD so that we may not grow weary in well-doing and fulfill our vocation to live for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:7) and proclaim his praise (Isaiah 43:21) in the power of His Spirit (Isaiah 44:3).

Isaiah 43-44:5 (44:1-5 properly belongs to Isaiah 43)

This section of Isaiah reaffirms that exiled Israel remains the LORD’s servant despite the promise of another greater servant (Isaiah 42). Dr Barry Webb helpfully notes that there are six statements of encouragement in this passage. Six words of affirmation for all people of God to be encouraged by:

  1. Isaiah 43:1-7 There is no need to fear the world, for the LORD is invested in his redeemed. Yet there is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future. What is promised, using some of the most tender language in Scripture (see 43:1, 4, 5), is God’s sustaining presence right through until journey’s end, no matter what.
  2. Isaiah 43:8-13 The people of God may feel inadequate and feel like failures but the LORD has a ministry for them anyway. This ancient people of God, and also Christians today, are called to be witnesses to God’s uniqueness in the world (43:10-12).
  • Isaiah 43:14-15 The LORD reminds his people that he is King, the invisible, yet greater reality that will bring Babylon and indeed all nations, to heel in his perfect timing. The fact that history records the fall of ancient Babylon should encourage us that the Lord is able to do the same in our time, when he is ready.
  1. Isaiah 43:16-21 Nothing can stop the LORD fulfilling his promises. The history of the Exodus from Egypt testifies to this (43:16-17). But he will now do a new thing in providing a way through the desert out of exile (43:19-21). Jesus is the way through our wilderness (John 14:6).
  2. Isaiah 43:22-28 Despite this text drawing attention to Israel’s failure to obey God and worship him rightly, the heart of the text’s encouragement comes in the LORD’s description of himself as the one who ‘blots out transgressions and remembers sins no more’ (43:25). We Christians know that it was the Lord Jesus who was the means of this grace for all time.
  3. Isaiah 44:1-5 This sixth and climactic encouragement focuses on the future and the outpouring of the Spirit (43:3), when not just Israel but non-Jewish people will also become the LORD’s (43:5, see also Acts 2:16-21). What a spectacular promise we see fulfilled today. The very same Spirit that energized Jesus’ ministry and who wrote the Scriptures, lives in us as we engage with a less than friendly society.

Ultimately all of God’s promises would eventually find their spectacular ‘YES’ in Christ, which is exactly what we find in the second reading.

Revelation 1

Despite its strange apocalyptic (unveiling) language and scary beasts, the overall message of this book is this: The people of God win in the end. The Satan inspired world and our society may huff and puff and seek to blow God’s house and purposes down. However they will fail, as did the evil one when tempting Jesus in the wilderness. The book calls Christians of every generation to endure opposition, to hold fast to the truth, resist the devil and to obey the commandments of God. The symbolic visionary image of the risen glorious Jesus (1:12-15) reminds us that while he is human, he is also much more gloriously and sublimely divine. This glorious Jesus stands among the churches (lampstands). He is the chief Pastor (Elder/Bishop). He is walking among the churches, patrolling, supervising and assessing, as the following two chapters will reveal. But here in Revelation 1, we do well to note that the image of the lampstand for the church is one. This indicates that it is designed to be a light bearer in the darkness of the world. However, to do this the church needs to remain in Christ’s presence.


We must not be surprised when an unbelieving society acts like an unbelieving society and does all it can to shut us down and turn us off. But we must not be afraid. We have the LORD on our side and one day he will call all to give account. Just like the Babylonian nation, all nations and societies that persist in opposing the Lord and his church will be called to account. Remain close to the Risen Lord Jesus today as you engage society. Be encouraged by his promises. Remember you have come to know he who is ‘the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was, and who is the come, the Almighty.’ (Revelation 1:8). Represent Jesus to the all you meet in word and work. Be a witness to his grace and glory.

—Steve Abbott


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.

Get Out Your Eagle’s Wings!

What a great read is Isaiah 40! So full of promise, challenges and reminders of God’s sovereignty.

When I read this chapter it encourages me with comfort in my life, to be filled with hope and to persevere in all circumstances. God is in control and apparently The Creator of the Universe doesn’t need my assistance or even really helpful handy tips.

Things I see I need to focus on include looking forward – to the coming of Jesus. Comforting one another with God’s love and hope – especially those of weaker faith. Encouraging fellow Christians – to build our faith together based on God’s word and finally…..


May we all be blessed with hope, comfort and perseverance as we wait on what our loving Father has planned for us, now and in the future.

Isaiah 40

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

What can we rightly ask of God?

This psalm is in five clear sections, delineated rather by the thrust of the address to God rather than by any particular form or voice.

The first five verses make up the first part remarking that God is the one whom David praises and therefore the one from whom he seeks help. The help is needed because David is under attack from “wicked mouths”.

Then there is a shift from the suggestion of many attackers to just one; “him”. Perhaps this is a sort of personification of all his attackers. David then invokes a long string of quite vitriolic curses against this enemy. The first request is that God will appoint an “accuser” against this person. Make a counter attack! Does it seem right to ask God to invoke all of these terrible things against not only David’s enemy but his children and his wife also? Recall that David himself was guilty of some horrendous crimes. He asked forgiveness and mercy from God for his own crimes but he doesn’t leave much room for that in the case of his enemy. A difficult conversation to have with God, calling on Him to horribly punish another soul.

Thirdly, David throws himself on God’s mercy, begging and imploring Him for help. He declares his own weakness and rests on his prayer and fasting record, before returning for a few more curses.

Finally, he returns to where he started, declaring his praise for God and assuring the reader that he is trusting in God to act in his favour.

Just a few observations:

  • Is it just me, or is David quite hypocritical? He calls his enemy wicked and calls down multiple curses on him from God while knowing full well that he himself has done some terrible things.
  • Historically speaking, it would appear that this call upon God was successful as David survived to a ripe old age of kingship.
  • Would you take this as a model for a prayer to God?
  • Has David the right to assume that God will save him from those who condemn his soul to death?
  • Verse 31 would seem to put all of this into a spiritual context. Who is it who would condemn his soul to death? Satan, the accuser is a spiritual enemy, and so while it may appear that David is asking for Earthly help, v31 may be putting a more spiritual spin on the whole argument. What is it that God will do? He will save us from those who would condemn our soul to death.

Some Reflections on Paul before Felix

Today we read about Paul being dragged before a court to defend himself regarding blatantly false charges. 

Read Acts 24

Here’s some things that came to mind/struck me as I read this:

  • The injustice of the accusations against Paul
  • How unfair it was that Paul was left under house arrest for 2 years simply as a favour to the religious leaders
  • How calm, and reasonable, Paul was e.g. ‘you can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship’
  • How God used this situation as a means of Paul proclaiming the Gospel to the leaders of society

Here are some questions I had after reading it:

  • If I were in Paul’s situation would my conscience be ‘clear before God and man’?
  • When things are unfair, do I respond as reasonably as Paul does?
  • Jesus promised to give his disciples the words to say in these situation (Luke 21:15). Similarly, Paul had been told on several occasions that these types of situations would happen to him e.g. Acts 20:23. I wonder what role these promises played in helping him to remain calm in this situation?
  • In times like these, do I rely on God’s promises?

Peter Lenehan

Living in the Now but not Yet

Todays readings are Isaiah 35 and Acts 23:23-35.

What a stark contrast as we turn from the page from Isaiah 34 over to chapter 35. Death and destruction gives way to life and salvation. We read words of hope that “[God] will come and save you”. And when he does,

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Perhaps like me this reminded you of Matthew 11:2-6

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

It’s not hard to see Jesus in Isaiah’s prophecies. They speak both of Judah’s geopolitical context at the time, reminding the people of God’s covenant with them, and also about God’s plan to save all nations through a coming messiah. The highway referred to in verse 8 as the Way of Holiness reminds me that Jesus said He was the Way to the father.

Yet while God’s messiah has come, and He has come to save us, it doesn’t seem that we are living in the full realisation of verse 10.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Indeed our reading second reading, in Acts 23 describes Paul being transported to the Governor, Felix, under guard. Paul who has been shown how much he must suffer for the name of Jesus. Is this suffering part of the everlasting joy, mentioned above, where all sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The theological term for this idea that Jesus ushered in the “end times” and God’s kingdom is here but not fully experienced, is Inaugurated Eschatology, but personally I like thinking of it as living in “the now but not yet”.

If we hear Jesus’ words and believe God who sent him, we have eternal life and have already passed from death to life (John 5:24). We are already experiencing resurrection life.   Yet Jesus was also clear that His kingdom is not of this world–to fully experience it and the everlasting joy declared by Isaiah, we will need to wait until we see it.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” – John 18:36

And it’s in the Now but not Yet that Paul begins years of imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. Years in which he hopes to be able to use his circumstances, before governors and even Caesar to declare that God’s kingdom has come in the form of Jesus – the messiah foretold by Isaiah, who was always part of God’s plan to save not only the people of Israel, but the entire world.

May God bless you today, as you live in the now but not yet, with a taste of his Kingdom that we will one day fully enjoy.

Chaos in Jerusalem……Paul the smarty pants

In the Acts22:30 – 23:11 reading it’s all getting pretty chaotic. On the TV news if you’ve ever seen middle eastern street demonstrations or even public funerals  they seem to be on the verge of getting out of control – to our Anglo eyes at least!  Middle Eastern people seem to be more passionately expressive in the opinions they hold!

The Roman commander isn’t quite sure what the crowd have against Paul and what he’s done wrong. He releases Paul (who he has held and now is alarmed he has done so). Paul has previously spoken to the crowd and told them of his conversion experience and the hope hes now has in Christ.

Paul faces the Jewish crowd exclaiming “My brothers I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day”. I’m sure I could not say this about myself……..well not honestly at least!

Paul receives a smack in the mouth for what the chief priest considers insolence. There is debate about what Paul says in saying that he didn’t recognise it was the high priest. Some commentators say Paul’s eyesight was poor and so didn’t recognise him…….others say Paul was being something of a smart mouth………in that no true high priest would have given such a command. The latter explanation appeals to me more 🙂

Then Paul seems to purposely stoke up the crowd to cause division between the Pharisees and Sadducees with the exclamations about his hope of resurrection. Now he’s got the Pharisees on his side who also hold this view strongly. They declare now him to be innocent of any wrong doing – how fickle they are. The argument gets so violent the commander rescues Paul and puts him in his own barracks. What a sight.

I love verse 11 in that the Lord stood near Paul telling him ” Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome”

How we yearn for the Lord to also stand near us in time of difficulty and trial. Lets ask Him and trust Him to do so.