TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- ISAIAH 60:1- 62:5
Isaiah 60 begins with a revived nation hearing the Word of the Lord: “Arise, shine! For Thy Light has come! There is now a receptivity to the Word. The entrance of His Word gives light and it gives understanding to those who make room for it (Psalm 119:130).
These three chapters, Isaiah 60-62 constitute one movement. They express the ecstatic joy that comes with the certainty that God’s purposes to establish peace have been accomplished through the Prince of Peace.
Prophetically it speaks of the veil that has been over the minds of Israel has been lifted, and now she is reflecting His light as a witness to the nations.
They were once living in the darkness of their duplicity. The prophet in the previous movement had cried aloud enumerating her sins. She pretended to be pious, humble and holy, but there was an absence of compassion and justice. They failed to reflect His glory.
But now, by the grace of God, and according to His covenant promise, Israel has been restored to her original purpose to shine forth His light to the nations.
The picture we have here is that Jerusalem will be as she had never yet been. The Lord will establish her in righteousness and cause her to radiate His glory. She will be the center of the world’s light.
The world is in deep darkness (Isaiah 60:2). But through the redeeming grace of the Servant, the light of the world has come. The day of the Lord begins with great darkness, but soon the dawn comes. When the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings, Israel will look upon the one she has pierced, repent, believe and be saved. Israel will see His glory and be converted. This will inspire all nations to marvel and come to Jerusalem to pay tribute, bringing their wealth into the city. People of all ages will come, gladly and not grudgingly, proclaiming the praise of the Lord (60:3-6).
Where there was darkness, there will be light. Where people were disenfranchised and scattered, they would be healed and gathered.
This is not utopian dream. This is a Divine promise.
There will no anti-Semitism there.
Isaiah 60:14 14 “The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
The city’s glory will be glorified all the more. ‘Peace’ will be her governor. ‘Righteousness’, her ruler. Her walls will be called ‘Salvation’ and her gates, ‘Praise’ (Isaiah 60:17).
Israel’s long checkered history and its years of sorrow will come to an end.
Isaiah 60:20 20 “Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.
The words of Isaiah 61 will sound familiar. We hear them on the lips of our Savior as he launches his public ministry when it is his turn to read from the scroll of Isaiah at the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21).
The scroll was handed to him. He read Isaiah’s prophecy and ended His public reading in the middle of verse 2. And then he expounded the text by announcing His Messiahship, saying “Today, in your hearing, this Scripture is fulfilled (Luke 4:21).
Isaiah 61:1-2 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD…
Jesus stopped with the words, ‘the favorable (or acceptable) year of the Lord’.
He did not read further because at that time He was not appointed to preach the day of the Lord’s vengeance. He will proclaim the day of vengeance when He returns to earth as this world’s judge. There will be mourning then. But after repentance and faith, there will be a complete restoration. Jerusalem will be a glorious city set upon a hill subject to the reign of the Prince of Peace, the King of Righteousness.
Today, we are still in ‘the acceptable year’, the year of gospel jubilee. God’s plan of salvation through faith in Jesus (Yeshua) liberates the captives who were in bondage to sin and death. This is the day when we are called to make the gospel appeal to receive the good news of His saving grace:
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”—
Those who repent of their sins and believe on Him shall be given the royal beauty treatment as the city of Jerusalem one day shall receive (Isaiah 61:3, 10).
Isaiah 61:3 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:10 10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
In the kingdom age, God will make good on His promise to make Israel a royal priesthood, a people blessed of the Lord. They will receive a land inheritance of a double portion, treated according to the promise given to the firstborn. Through Israel righteousness and praise will spring up before the nations (Isaiah 61:11).
In Isaiah 62, the theme continues as the Anointed One of Chapter 61 pledges to see God’s choice purposes for Jerusalem come to pass.
Isaiah 62:1 1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning.
The Lord promises to give Israel a new name (Isaiah 62:2). She will no longer be called “Forsaken” and her land “Desolate”. Instead, she will be called “My delight is in her” (Hephzibah) and her land, “Married” (Beulah).
The Lord promises to rejoice over her as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (62:5)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – PHILIPPIANS 1:27 – 2:18.
Paul writes the Philippians from his apartment in Rome where he is held in chains while waiting for his trial. He had planted the Philippian church on his second missionary journey in about 50 AD (in Acts 16:11-40).
Paul has great affection for the believers in this church. We see this in the Chapter 1 which consists of three major sections. In Chapter 1 he thanks God for:
- The Fellowship of the Gospel (Philippians 1:3-11)
- The Furtherance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12-26)
Today’s reading starts with his exhortation for them to contend for:
3.The Faith of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27-30)
He is encouraging them to be bold, to stand firm in one spirit, and contend as one man for the faith of the gospel (1:27). Paul says that Christians are called not only to believe on Christ but to suffer for Christ. Paul hopes that they will take courage from his example and to realize that suffering the consequences for believing in Christ is to be expected in a world system that is opposed to Him (1:29-30).
How can they stand firm and contend as one man for the gospel? They can only do this through fellowship with the Holy Spirit who gives us Christ’s mind of humility.
He asks a rhetorical question. If they have experienced anything of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit so far in their faith, should they not be acquainted with the nature of Christ? Should they not be filled with His selfless concern for others? Should they not have the same mind and the same love that was in Christ Jesus?
Paul then gives a description of Jesus’ self-emptying example of obedience to God the Father by quoting what might have been a hymn of the early church:
Philippians 2:5-11 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This hymn affirms Jesus’ preexistence with God as God. It affirms his equality with God as God. It affirms that as God He became man in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation, without ever being anything less than God. He temporarily laid aside his divine rights in order to willingly fulfill the Father’s plan to be our substitute. He died on the cross to take the penalty of our sins, so we could be justly forgiven and not have to face eternal death. God raised Him from the dead for our justification and brought Him to His original position, but now as our representative. There He reigns forever as the One who has been appointed as Lord and Judge of all.
In light of this, believers are to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. This means we are to act on the basis of what we know. It is like working out a math problem. The facts are given, now calculate how it is to impact your daily life.
C.T. Studd came up with this equation: “If Jesus Christ be God, then no sacrifice is too great for me to make for Him.”
The good news is that the grace of God that provided our pardon for sin, also gives us the power to overcome sin by saying ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age (Titus 2:12).
Philippians 2:13 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
This means that we must get rid of complaining and worldly trains of thought so that instead we would shine as lights holding forth the Word of life (Phil 2:16).
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 72:1-20
This is a prayer for the Royal Son. He will do God’s work as His appointed King who will judge and rule all people in righteousness. This is a picture of the Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus Christ.
He brings salvation, justice, deliverance, prosperity, and His righteous rule extending from sea to sea. He will subdue all His enemies.
Psalm 72:11 11 And let all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him.
His compassionate reign is described in verses 12-14.
He is a specialist. He only does wondrous things! He alone works wonders!
Psalm 72:18-19 18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. 19 And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 24:11-12
Proverbs 24:11-12 11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. 12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – PAPUA. NEW GUINEA
Papua New Guinea
Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Area: 462,840 sq km
Eastern half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, and many smaller islands in the north and east together make up the nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG). A land of high mountains, dense forests, lowland swamps, coral islands, torrential rainfall, many rivers and great biodiversity.
Population: 6,888,387 Annual Growth: 2.40%
Capital: Port Moresby
Official language: English, Tok Pisin (Melanesian/English Creole) and Motu Languages: 830 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
- Pray for an end to tribal fighting, revenge killing, and sorcery-related violence.
- Pray for audio discipleship materials in all 300+ languages still needing translation work.
- Pray for unity of the Spirit across isolated and diverse church communities.
Papua New Guinea is a complex island nation and one of the most culturally diverse in the world. Located in an area called the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. The nation consists of the eastern half of the island, as well as smaller islands. It is one of the most rural countries, with only 13% of the people living in urban centers. It is also one of the world’s least explored countries, both culturally and geographically. With a population of nearly 7 million, roughly 830 different languages are spoken. Each indigenous language group has only about 1,000 speakers, though some are now only spoken by a few.
The biggest challenge for this country is reflected in its motto, “Unity in Diversity.” The motto has a complex and ironic twist behind it, as there is a history of tribal fighting and revenge killings, a sign of great division amongst the people. In the present day, gang violence is increasing in the cities. “Witch hunts” are on the rise, and those suspected of black magic are at risk of violence and even death. Human trafficking is a widespread problem, as the government acknowledges it, but has not taken significant attempts against it, nor complied with minimum international standards. The youth are especially at risk, as they face gangs, unemployment, and a culture of fear and violence.
Ninety-six percent of people are Christian, but there are spiritual strongholds over the people through traditions of witchcraft, spiritism, and related violence. God’s word is not easily accessible to many people because of the diverse languages, hence there is continued need for translation and more literacy programs. Forty percent of the population is illiterate, which hinders the working of God’s word in their lives. May God establish a true peace and a new identity that rises above tribal and ethnic ties so that the people are brought together in a way that will only be accomplished through Christ as He provides creative solutions to meet the people’s needs.
Challenges for Prayer
There are many challenges facing the churches:
- a) Effective discipling is the most urgent and prevalent need. Nominalism, syncretism and pollution of Christianity with spiritism and the occult are sadly widespread. Culturally appropriate ways of building biblical faith, character, lifestyle and worldview must be developed; pray for creative, insightful groups to achieve this.
- b) Failure to engage with Scripture. Lack of Scripture translations and widespread functional illiteracy generate both spiritual stuntedness and vulnerability to nominalism or theological error. Pray for more Bible and discipleship material specifically developed for oral learners.
- c) The Wantok (“one talk”) system is one of mutual sharing– important in a society of subsistence hunting and farming. Yet the communal, trans-generational sense of obligation and mutuality can not only hinder economic progress but also restrain those who wish to press on in their Christian walk.
- d) Continued divisiveness based on ethnicity. Strong tribal ties, ancient animosities and diversity of languages persist. These barriers hinder fellowship and the flow of spiritual blessing.
- e) Denominational division is less now than in the past, but unity and cooperation are far from achieved. The PNG Council of Churches draws together mainline denominations; the Evangelical Alliance does the same for most Protestant and many independent groups. They see good progress at the leadership level. Pray for divisions to be broken down, particularly on the local congregational level.
- f) Attempts to Islamize PNG are underway and will be an increasing challenge to the Church. Pray for adequate preparation and equipping that will enable Christians to wisely face such encroachment.
PRAYER- O Lord, Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Your dominion endures throughout all eternity! Our world was plunged into darkness through sin, yet You sent forth Your light and Your truth in the Person of Your Son. He who is the Light of the World, has enlightened our heart’s understanding. He has shown us our need for His saving grace. Thank You for calling us out of darkness into Your marvelous light though the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, thank You for demonstrating the mind of humility in Your obedience to Your substitutionary death on the cross. May we honor Your victorious Name by continuing in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and expressing the same mind, the same love that You demonstrated, standing firm in the faith of the gospel. Amen.