TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- ISAIAH 41:17-43:13
The Lord God is the comforter and help of Israel.
Isaiah 41:17 17 “The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.
Isaiah mocks the impotent idols of pre-exilic Israel and Judah and those who worship them (Isaiah 41:21-24).
Having dismissed the false gods worshiped by those who have been turned to idolatry, Isaiah highlights the supremacy of the true God, the Holy One of Israel, who accurately assesses history and predicts the future.
In verses 25-27, Isaiah gives evidence of this by foretelling the rise of King Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus represents the north (Media) and the east (Persia) and so he is described as being ‘stirred up from the north’ and coming from ‘the rising of the sun’ (the east). He will call upon the name of the Lord, in the sense of using diplomatic god-talk when he decrees official permission and sponsorship for Israel to return to Jerusalem under his rule (Ezra 1:1-4). He was a Zoroastrian, and not a true worshiper of the God of Israel. Yet God used him as His instrument in bringing an end to the Babylonian exile and sponsoring the people’s return to Jerusalem.
Concerning other gods, Isaiah proclaims ‘they are mute idols’ who give no worthy counsel or answers (Isaiah 41:28-29).
Isaiah 41:29 29 “Behold, all of them are false; Their works are worthless, Their molten images are wind and emptiness.
Chapter 42 introduces the first of four “Servant Songs” in this section of Isaiah. (The other “Servant Songs” are found in Isaiah 14:1-13; 50:1-11; 52:13 – 53:12.)
Israel and the Messiah are both called ‘the Servant’ in the Book of Isaiah. Israel as God’s servant is helping to bring to the world the knowledge of God. They have the revelational record of God’s redemptive history, the oracles (the fully inspired Scriptures), the covenants, and were chosen to preserve the Messianic line (See Romans 9:3-5). The Messiah is the fulfillment of what is promised. The prophets preached the Word. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-3).
Whereas it is clear that Israel is the Servant in Isaiah 41:8, though there are applications to Israel, the clear fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ. The gospel writer affirms this in Matthew 12:17-21:
Matthew 12:17-21 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 18 “BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL IS WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES. 19 HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT; NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS. 20 A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. 21 “AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.”
Christ’s baptism by John at the river Jordan is pictured in verse 1.
Christ’s character is pictured in verses 2-4. His way was not one of self-promotion, even when He spoke of His authority, centrality and indispensability as the Messiah. He offers salvaging to those regarded as spent and useless (the bruised reed and smoking flax). He persistently pursues not just proclaiming justice, but attaining justice, righting every redeemable wrong with His perfect sacrificial offering for the atonement of our sins. Although he suffers the contradiction of sinners, he is not discouraged. “He endures the cross, despises the shame.”
Hebrews 12:3 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Jacob, David, Elijah and Jonah all had episodes of discouragement. But Jesus was never discouraged! Thank God, He never gave up, and never gave in to discouragement, even when His soul sorrowed unto death (Matthew 26:38).
All the covenants given to Israel will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (verse 6). He will be a light to the Gentiles, the Promised Seed in Whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. He fulfills the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 15, the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7 and the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31.
His gospel calls us from death to life. From darkness to light, from bondage to freedom (v.7).
He gives His glory to no other, because there is no other God. He is the ONLY GOD and He intends to make that known and all who know Him will rejoice (v.8).
His former prophecies have come true. So will these new prophecies concerning the Messiah (v.9).
Verses 10-13 is a call for all to worship Him. Whereas those who worship idols will be destroyed along with them, those who turn to the Lord will be shown God’s salvation.
God promises to reclaim His people for His own glory. His people failed to be a responsive servant. They had become a people “plundered and looted” with none to rescue. The Lord allowed this because they had become blind and deaf through their disobedience. God will redeem Israel through His faithful servant, Jesus Christ. In the mind of God, it’s as good as done.
Isaiah 43:1 1 But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
The Lord promises His gracious care, protection and deliverance. He is the God who threw back the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan, and would deliver the three Hebrew boys from the fiery furnace.
Isaiah 43:2 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
God declares that He is the Creator, Redeemer and Savior of Israel. Therefore, they are to be His witnesses (43:10-12). There is no other Savior (43:11). This is what the Apostle Peter proclaimed:
Acts 4:12 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – EPHESIANS 2:1-22
Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus morphs into a proclamation of the saving grace of God. He describes the totally depraved condition of the human being since the Fall.
This is the story of every Christian, without exception. There are some who say, “I’ve always believed in God.” The question is when did you realize your condition of Ephesians 2:1-3? These words convict us of our very real need for God’s intervention through the substitutionary life and death of Jesus Christ.
We all were born DOA- Dead on arrival (Ephesians 2:1), spiritually subject to Satan (2:2), in bondage to the selfish desires of our fallen nature, and under the wrath of God (2:3). The root of our sinful nature soon manifests itself with the fruit of sinful deeds. We are born sinners (Psalm 51:5) and we live in a world that is presently dominated by the lies of the devil and has produced a culture of disobedience to God. This does not mean that human beings are as bad as they possibly can be, but they are as ‘bad off’ as they possibly can be, unless they humbly repent and lay claim to God’s mercy in the Person and work of His Son.
In contrast to the bad news of man’s condition, there is the Good News of God’s provision:
Ephesians 2:4-7 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
In these words we have the truth about our past and present condition– we were dead in our transgressions, but are now made alive together with Christ. We also are given the truth about our present position. We have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places by virtue of our faith union with Him.
He also gives a revelation of our future possession, the ever-surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us. The best is yet to be!
This is a revelation that God gave Paul. The truth of our past and future condition is vital. We were positioned as ‘dead in Adam’ (alienated from the life of God). Now we are ‘alive in Christ’. Once we owned our sentence of death under God’s righteous wrathful judgments. Now we own exceeding riches and are shown God’s grace and kindness towards us.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. He does for us what we could not do for ourselves. We owed a debt we could not pay, and He paid the debt He did not owe.
Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
There is no boasting in ourselves in heaven! Our salvation is not based on our performance, but on Christ’s performance on our behalf.
To be saved, is to be thoroughly salvaged. We are being restored to function by the power of God’s Spirit for the works that God has beforehand ordained that we should walk in (Ephesians 2:10).
It is important that we appreciate the gospel and preach it to ourselves! We should never forget what it means to be a Christian. We no longer are separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. We are no longer outsiders when it comes to God’s New Covenant promises. We have been grafted in. We are no longer without hope and without God. We are in the world but no longer of it. We are no longer subject to the people of the lie.
We are positioned in Christ, the holiest of all. He is all that the tabernacle represented of a saving work to give us peace. By offering Himself on the cross, Jesus made peace with God on our behalf and now has become our peace.
In His ascension He has become head of a new creation, a new man, that has fulfilled the law, and rather than being under the law, lives by the law of the Spirit of His life.
There were walls in the temple that separated Jew and Gentile, male and female, the worshiper from the presence of the Testimony of the holiest of all. These walls have come down in Christ.
Now we are members of a new community, the household of God, fellow citizens with the saints, and are being built upon the foundation of the Word of God, the New Testament revelation with Christ as the cornerstone. The whole building gets its shape, life and stability as it relates to Him with saving faith. In Him we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (2:22).
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALMS 67:1-7
This prayer opens with a benediction that reminds us of our life purpose.
Psalm 67:1-2 1 God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah. 2 That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.
We are here to know Christ and make Him known.
You may remember the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:22-27. Jesus has made it possible for the light of God’s countenance, His eternal favor, to rest upon us and give us peace.
The Psalmist reminds us that this blessing serves an evangelistic purpose. We who experience the good news are called to display it and declare it.
There are four parts to the news that makes it good to all people.
First, God makes Himself known (v.2).
Secondly, He is a perfect Judge, not overlooking sin, and is qualified to judge with equity. He is worthy to be worshiped and obeyed by all. He is competent to guide all the nations upon the earth (v.4, 6; Acts 17:31; John 5:22).
Thirdly, the gospel makes God’s way and saving power known (v.2). We see God’s ways in Jesus. He claimed to be the way back to the Father as our peace-making mediator (John 14:6). His resurrection power proclaimed victory over sin and death and in that power we are called to proclaim it.
Fourthly, this God provides all that we need, furnishing all our creaturely needs (v. 6) and spiritual needs. Through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Word we have all things that pertain to life and godliness. In Him we are blessed with every spiritual blessing! (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3).
Therefore, “Let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” (Psalm 67:7)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 23:29-35
Proverbs 23:29-35 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things. 34 And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. 35 “They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.”
This proverb highlights not only the dangers of alcohol but also all addictions. What poor substitutes are chosen instead of God’s perfect substitute. Don’t medicate your pain with drink. Go to the Great Physician and let Him deliver You.
Ephesians 5:18-19 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – NORWAY
(from “Operation World Prayer Guide” and “Prayercast.com”)
Kingdom of Norway
Area: 323,878 sq km
A long, mountainous fjordindented land. One of the four Scandinavian countries. Also included are the Arctic dependencies of Jan Mayen and Svalbard (Spitzbergen) Islands 62,000 sq km.
Population: 4,855,315 Annual Growth: 0.93%
HDI Rank: 1 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)
Peoples: 56 (25% unreached)
Unreached Peoples Prayer Card
Official language: Norwegian (Bokmal and Nynorsk) Languages: 20 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Answer to Prayer
The state church of Norway, Lutheranism, is a rarity in that many of its leaders are soundly evangelical and stand firm on many theological and moral issues. Praise God for this positive influence in the Church and nation.
Challenge for Prayer
The Lutheran Church, while a pillar of society and the most evangelical of all state churches in Europe, faces challenges nonetheless. It has, in the past, seen revivals, prayer and mission houses and many mission and volunteer agencies formed. But today it faces the same pluralistic challenge as other European societies as well as an internal battle over homosexuality. Pray for new revival and for a deep commitment to biblical faith and practice.
- Pray for a movement of the Holy Spirit among the 86% of the population who are church members but do not attend worship.
- Pray for vibrant churches to be planted in Oslo among Muslim and Asian immigrants.
- Pray for spiritual awakening among increasingly secular high school and college students.
One of four Scandinavian nations, The Kingdom of Norway is located on the western side of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Its name is derived from the word Norge (“the Northern Way”), reflecting its location on the northern periphery of Europe. Norway joined Sweden and Denmark in the Union of Kalmar in 1397 and was ruled by Danish kings until the Napoleonic Wars of 1814. A separate union with Sweden was formed, and a constitution was written. Due to political differences, the nation became independent in 1905. Norway is now a constitutional monarchy with the king as head of state and parliament as the supreme authority.
Norway has large offshore oil fields in the North Sea and is the second largest exporter of gas and the seventh largest exporter of oil in the world. Its economy is dependent on this production of petroleum, which constitutes a third of state income and is the largest portion of export revenue. Norway also has one of the leading merchant fleets in the world. There is a widespread belief in egalitarianism among the Norwegians, and division of labor is based on skill, not status or seniority. A national 60-40 rule requires that women make up 40 percent of most committees, and eight out of 10 women are employed outside the home. Independence and self-sufficiency are important attributes in Norwegian culture.
Freedom of religion is granted, with the Church of Norway being Lutheran. Christianity was introduced when King Olaf I was converted and made it the state religion in 995. The Church emphasizes missions, and Norway is one of the top missionary sending nations in the world. Though the majority of the population are church members, a large number of them are no longer committed. Islam is now the second largest religion in Norway, with many Muslims emigrating from places such as Pakistan and Iran. Many are not fully committed to the Islamic faith and are open to the Gospel.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Servant, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On our behalf, He humbled Himself and became a servant, identifying with our humanity, and became obedient unto death to purchase our salvation. You are God and there is no other. Thank You for making Yourself known through our Lord Jesus Christ who became our way to You. We were dead in our sins and utterly useless broken reeds and extinguished candles. But You in Your rich mercy sent Jesus to our rescue. We praise You and ask that Your would empower us to make You known as we share the good news with others. In Jesus Name. Amen.