Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 39-41:16; Ephesians 1:1-23; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 23:25-28
The events of Isaiah 39-41 are also recorded in 2 King 20-22. See my comments on those passages.
Hezekiah, who was a very good king of Judah, had just been miraculously spared a certain death by God and granted 15 additional years to live when he gets a visit from envoys from Babylon (Isaiah 39:2). I don’t think this is a coincidence. It is not unusual for God to test us right after He blesses us. We’ve seen this a few times including in the New Testament when Jesus tested His disciples with a storm on the Sea of Galilee immediately after they had just witnessed Him feeding the 5,000.
Tests like these are great opportunities to reinforce what we just learned about God as we have a chance in a trial to apply the truth we just learned in the blessing. Usually, though, we miss these opportunities to cement our faith just like the disciples and Hezekiah did because we focus on ourselves and what we can’t do rather than the power and strength of God that we just witnessed. If we would only go through life a little slower and be ready for these lessons we could be much better people. Sadly, we aren’t as interested in the quality of life as we are in the quantity of it.
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah were focused on God’s judgement of His people and the surrounding nations. Beginning in chapter 40, Isaiah records promises of blessings from God towards Israel. Those people who claim that the God of the Old Testament is mean fail to consider the many, many verses that proclaim His blessings. God’s goal is never to permanently crush our spirits. Its important to learn and remember that God’s discipline is always followed by comfort and restoration.
The greatest comfort anyone could have is knowing that their sins have been pardoned (Isaiah 40:2). Despite all our sinful behavior (just like Israel), God still offers reconciliation. That is an amazing truth that reveals much about God’s character.
Throughout history many have tried to eradicate the Bible. Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, ordered copies of Scripture burned (this was before the Bible as we know it existed). But this effort failed. Voltaire, the famous French philosopher erroneously predicted that Christianity would cease to exist within 100 years. Its now been over 300 years since he died and Christianity is still the best hope of man. Isaiah lived 2,200 years before Voltaire but has been proven to be a better prophet (Isaiah 40:8).
Today we start reading Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a coastal city in what is now modern-day Turkey:
Paul had planted a church there, but it appears that his letter was intended to be a “circular” letter in that it was written to multiple churches in the area – it was circulated among them. Since this letter was written to believers (as were all of Paul’s letters) we should understand that the instructions and promises it contains are for believers. Although non believers can learn from this letter, it was not written with them in mind.
In his greeting to the Ephesians Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus by God’s will (Ephesians 1:1). Paul lived his life according to God’s will. Its important to do what God has designed us for. God has given us each talents and gifts. We should use those talents and gifts to serve Him.
Believers have every spiritual blessing that God has to offer (Ephesians 1:3). Notice the verb tense is in the past. So many Christians are waiting for God to bless them but He already has. And He has already given us all the blessings He has to offer. We don’t have to wait for them. We don’t have to earn them. We need to use them.
The main message of the Bible is that God is creating a family and He wants to adopt you into it. This has been God’s plan all along. It is something He enjoys doing (Ephesians 1:5). Everyone is invited. But notice that the only way in is through Jesus. This is where people have trouble. They want to make their own way to God by pointing to their own good works or allegedly moral behavior. But that is not the way. This concept is not something to be disdained for being closed-minded. In fact, it is something to celebrate (Ephesians 1:6).
Without Jesus there would be no way into God’s family. God didn’t have to let us in. We are undeserving. Yet He decided to. This is something we should be thankful for. But this attitude requires humility. And human beings don’t like being humbled.
On a related note, Psalm 66 is all about praise. It encourages us to praise God (Psalm 66:1-2). To do that we first have to stop and consider all the wonderful things He has done (Psalm 66:5), not the least of which is sending His Son to earth to die so that a way could be made for you and I to spend eternity with Him.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.