TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- ISAIAH 62:6-65:25

God promises to relentlessly pursue His vision for the salvation of the nation of Israel. Jerusalem shall one day be a reflection of the brightness of God’s righteousness and glory (Isaiah 62:1-2).

He will use His appointed watchmen to preach His Word and bring His remembrance to the minds of His people (v.6). Their ministry will not come to an end until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her ‘a praise in the earth’ (v.7). The Lord will continue to speak and work through the ministry of the Word until His purposes for Jerusalem are fulfilled. He will do this not only for Israel’s sake but for all the nations on earth.

An honest reading of this portion of Isaiah will prove that there are still many promises given to Israel that have not yet been fulfilled. Yet the Lord has sworn by His right hand and His mighty arm that:

 “I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; Nor will foreigners drink your new wine for which you have labored” (Isaiah 62:8).

Notice the repetition of the word, ‘never.’  That word is absolute.

Isaiah 65:20-23 20  “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be thought accursed. 21 “They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 “They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. 23 “They will not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, And their descendants with them.

Nor can we say that these promises have already been fulfilled in the church.

The promise of the new heavens and new earth is yet in the future (Isaiah 65:17-19).

Isaiah 65:17-19 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. 18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness. 19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying. 

We have reason to believe in a real millennium.  

Isaiah 65:25 25 “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Do we spiritualize this away? Do we turn this prophecy into a mere symbol of utopianism? We did not treat the many prophecies in Isaiah that have already been literally fulfilled as mere symbolism; why then should we treat the future prophecies differently?

Some might say that the prophecies in Isaiah 64:10-11; 65:12 were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BC or the Romans in 70 AD.  Yet, the same imagery is used by the Apostle John in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to describe more accurately a future judgment. Most scholars believe that the Apostle John wrote “The Revelation” 25 years AFTER the destruction of Jerusalem, while John was banished on the island of Patmos in 95-96 AD under the reign of Domitian. Surely, he is not writing about the past but about the future (Revelation 1:19).

The imagery of Isaiah 63 is picked up by John as he looks to the future in Revelation 14:18-20 and Revelation 19:18-21. The Book of Revelation speaks of Christ’s intervention at Armageddon with garments dipped in blood (Rev 19:13- Isaiah 63:3).  The great winepress of God’s wrath is spoken of in Revelation 14:19- Isaiah 63:5-6).

Isaiah 63:3-6 3 “I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment. 4 For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. 5  I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me. 6  I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

Revelation 14:18-20 18  Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19  So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Isaiah prophesies the Lord’s intervention with righteous judgment as He ends the battle. He treads the winepress with His fury (Isaiah 63:6).

Revelation 19:13 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

Revelation 19:15 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

We also can see the mystery of Israel’s hardening of heart (Romans 11:25) predicted in Isaiah 63:17.

Isaiah 63:17 17 Why, O LORD, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage.

We also can see God’s extension of the New Covenant blessing to the Gentiles predicted in Isaiah 65:1

Isaiah 65:1 1 “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.”

God’s blessing on the Gentiles will provoke Israel to jealousy while He is incorporating a remnant into the new man (Isaiah 65:13-16).

Romans 11:11 11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

In today’s readings, the prophet Isaiah exposes the folly of those who refuse to repent while holding on to their own brand of self-righteousness, trusting in their good works. 

Our righteousness amounts to nothing but filthy rags compared to His infinite righteousness. His righteousness is the minimum requirement for acceptance by God. This is why salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone. No one is justified before God by religious observance or keeping the law because “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (His standard of righteousness) Romans 3:23.

Isaiah 64:6 6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

 TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – PHILIPPIANS 2:19-3:4a

In this part of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we learn about two of his coworkers. What great team members they were!

TIMOTHY- He was Paul’s apprentice, chosen to join him on his second missionary journey for his good reputation as a participating member in his local church at Lystra (Acts 16:1-3).  His faithfulness in ministry had been proven.  Paul mentored Timothy on his mission trip and became a spiritual father to him, even though Timothy’s biological father was Greek and most likely not a believer. Timothy became Paul’s right-hand man, a trusted servant, and an apostolic ambassador to the churches. He eventually became an elder/pastor/overseer (all three words are used interchangeably) in the church at Ephesus.

Paul praises Timothy’s spirit as being one with his in selfless concern for the welfare of the church at Philippi.  Sadly, Paul recognizes how rare this quality was at that time!

Philippians 2:20-21 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.

EPAPHRODITUS- He is described as 1. A brother 2. A fellow worker 3. A fellow soldier, and 4. A messenger.  Epaphroditus brought word from Philippi to Paul while Paul was in prison. He had taken ill and came near to the point of death. But God mercifully spared his life, enabling him to get back into action and return to Philippi!  Like Timothy, he had a reputation for selfless concern, tirelessly investing in the work of the gospel, even risking his life to do so!

THE LOCAL CRISIS

False teachers, Judaizers were undermining the work of God’s grace in the gospel by teaching that believers needed to conform to the rituals of the Mosaic covenant. Paul called them’ dogs’ (scavengers) because of the destructive work they did, feeding on new believers who were not yet fully grounded in the apostle’s doctrine. (Ironically, a ‘dog’ was the derogatory slur Jews had used for Gentiles. Paul was reversing this to put a mirror to the legalists who insisted Gentile males be circumcised and that all Gentiles become proselytes to Judaism.

True believers are described as those who 1. Worship in the Spirit 2. Glory in Christ Jesus, and 3. Have no confidence in the flesh. 

Does this describe you? Don’t let Satan rob your joy!  Paul underscores the importance of this by saying:

Philippians 3:1 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

He will say this again and again. Why? Because of the gospel of God’s grace!

Philippians 4:4 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALMS 73:1-28

This Psalm speaks to us of the danger of losing our footing in the finished work of Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are firmly positioned in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:3), standing in grace (Romans 5:3), standing through faith (11:20), and standing in the gospel (1 Cor 15:1).

But we are to be watchful, standing firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13).

Psalm 73 describes a situation in which we can lose our firm standing- when we compare ourselves with others.  We slip when we envy someone else’s story and are not mindful of the grace of our own story, and are not thankful.

The Psalmist is deceived by those whose faith is in their self-manufactured idols.  They worship a false God rather than the all-knowing God of the Bible.

Psalm 73:11 11 They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?”

They are seduced by their own prosperity gospel. They are carefree, and they increase in wealth, not recognizing that they are on slippery ground, one day to fall in the judgement (Psalm 73:18-19).

Psalm 73:18-19 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!

The Psalmist is momentarily deceived by getting his eyes on the wicked (a term for ‘the unbeliever’) who prospers. He imagines that his devotion to God’s revealed truth has been in vain.

This happens today when people get their eyes on the popular culture and its insistence that we conform to its new sexual ethic. People say to themselves:

Psalm 73:13 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence.

But when the Psalmist comes into the sanctuary (a place where one can partake of fellowship with God’s mind expressed in His holy Word) he experiences a paradigm shift, a changed viewpoint, a restored vision of reality. He realizes that when he was comparing himself with others, he forgot the big picture. He was not being renewed in his mind but was being pressed into the world’s mold (Romans 12:2).

Psalm 73:21-22 21 When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.

The Psalm ends with a great declaration of faith! (v. 23-28)

May we share in his resolution:

Psalm 73:28 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 24:13-14

Proverbs 24:13-14 13  My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste; 14  Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; If you find it, then there will be a future, And your hope will not be cut off.

Health food is good for the body, but the knowledge of salvation through the Word is even better for you. It is sweeter and healthier than honey because it gives you what nothing else can- eternal hope! 

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – PARAGUAY (from the “Operation World Prayer Guide” p. 676-677)

Paraguay

Republic of Paraguay

Latin America

Geography

Area: 406,752 sq. km

Landlocked nation between Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. The Paraguay River divides the more fertile and developed east from the scrub forests, marshes and ranches of the sparsely populated Gran Chaco.

Population: 6,459,727    Annual Growth: 1.81%

Capital: Asuncion

Urbanites: 61.5%

HDI Rank: 101 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)

Peoples

Peoples: 39 (3% unreached

Official language: Spanish, Guaraní. The latter is understood by almost 90% of the population    Languages: 27 All languages

Religion

Largest Religion: Christian

Religion

               

Pop %

Ann Gr

Christians

6,220,717

96.30

1.8

Evangelicals

393,263

6.1

3.1

Challenges for Prayer

The Roman Catholic Church has long dominated the spiritual and political life of Paraguay. Although it admirably opposes corruption and immorality, there is also much superstitious traditionalism, strong devotion to Mary and occult-related bondage to many pre-Christian deities and customs. These practices keep millions from liberty in the Lord Jesus and must be broken by prayer. The Church often actively opposes the work of evangelicals. Paraguay has never had a true spiritual awakening, and few of the Catholic Spanish-Guaraní majority have a living relationship with Christ.

A large proportion of Paraguay’s believers are from immigrant backgrounds: German-speaking (Mennonites and Lutherans), Brazilian (Pentecostals), Ukrainian (Baptists and Pentecostals) and Korean (Presbyterians). These immigrant communities are sometimes inward-looking and isolated from mainstream national life. But there is a growing awareness of their responsibility to reach out with the gospel; Mennonites actively work with indigenous peoples in the Chaco, and Koreans are involved in outreach also. Pray for a spiritual awakening and great mission vision in the immigrant churches.

PRAYER:  Lord, You have continually proved Yourself to be faithful! Not one of Your promises ever falls to the ground unfulfilled. We have great hope that You will complete the work that You have begun in us. Thank You for the certain promise of Your return and Your future kingdom on earth. We pray today that Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thank You for Your present reign on the Throne in heaven, Your present work in the world, and Your ruling Presence in our hearts through the Indwelling Holy Spirit. You are Sovereign over all, and we find our true refuge in You.  May we be like Timothy and Epaphroditus in our selfless concern for others, and particularly our concern for the welfare of Your church. May we never be deceived by comparing ourselves with others, or by adopting a mere temporal viewpoint. May we abide in the sanctuary of Your revealed truth in Christ Jesus and walk by faith and not by sight.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

-Pastor David MacAdam