The beginning of the end

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What are you waiting for? Is there something you’ve been praying for, perhaps for a long time? Don’t lose hope. Bring it to God today as you read his Word and pray.


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Bible passage Isaiah 66:1-16


Isaiah 66

Judgment and Hope
 1 This is what the LORD says:
       "Heaven is my throne,
       and the earth is my footstool.
       Where is the house you will build for me?
       Where will my resting place be?

 2 Has not my hand made all these things,
       and so they came into being?"
       declares the LORD.
       "This is the one I esteem:
       he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
       and trembles at my word.

 3 But whoever sacrifices a bull
       is like one who kills a man,
       and whoever offers a lamb,
       like one who breaks a dog's neck;
       whoever makes a grain offering
       is like one who presents pig's blood,
       and whoever burns memorial incense,
       like one who worships an idol.
       They have chosen their own ways,
       and their souls delight in their abominations;

 4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them
       and will bring upon them what they dread.
       For when I called, no one answered,
       when I spoke, no one listened.
       They did evil in my sight
       and chose what displeases me."

 5 Hear the word of the LORD,
       you who tremble at his word:
       "Your brothers who hate you,
       and exclude you because of my name, have said,
       'Let the LORD be glorified,
       that we may see your joy!'
       Yet they will be put to shame.

 6 Hear that uproar from the city,
       hear that noise from the temple!
       It is the sound of the LORD
       repaying his enemies all they deserve.

 7 "Before she goes into labor,
       she gives birth;
       before the pains come upon her,
       she delivers a son.

 8 Who has ever heard of such a thing?
       Who has ever seen such things?
       Can a country be born in a day
       or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
       Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
       than she gives birth to her children.

 9 Do I bring to the moment of birth
       and not give delivery?" says the LORD.
       "Do I close up the womb
       when I bring to delivery?" says your God.

 10 "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
       all you who love her;
       rejoice greatly with her,
       all you who mourn over her.

 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
       at her comforting breasts;
       you will drink deeply
       and delight in her overflowing abundance."

 12 For this is what the LORD says:
       "I will extend peace to her like a river,
       and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
       you will nurse and be carried on her arm
       and dandled on her knees.

 13 As a mother comforts her child,
       so will I comfort you;
       and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

 14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice
       and you will flourish like grass;
       the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants,
       but his fury will be shown to his foes.

 15 See, the LORD is coming with fire,
       and his chariots are like a whirlwind;
       he will bring down his anger with fury,
       and his rebuke with flames of fire.

 16 For with fire and with his sword
       the LORD will execute judgment upon all men,
       and many will be those slain by the LORD.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Explore the Bible


Ending with birth?
Some births are long and drawn out, exhausting the mother (and often the father too!). Others are quick, leaving the parents desperately hoping that they will get to the hospital in time.

But here is a birth which is over even before labour has begun (v 7). This is not the birth of one or two children, it’s the birth of a people, a nation (v 8). Isaiah’s vision is of the end, the fullness of God’s kingdom.

"Making all things new"
Judgement has come to Zion with the destruction of the Temple (v 6) – God’s people had offered ceremony rather than brokenness (v 2). So although the suddenness is shocking, it’s not surprising (see Malachi 3:1). This is God at work (v 9).

Nevertheless, this is not the end for Jerusalem. The death of the old leads to the birth of the new. The failures of the old are replaced. Unlike the old Zion, this new Jerusalem will be a city of peace and prosperity (v 12). Grieving for the destruction of the old will be replaced by comfort (v 13). Isaiah’s message is ultimately one of hope for the whole world, not just for Israel (v 18).


Respond


The gathering of people of all nations and languages has started. What part are you playing in bringing people to see his glory (v 18)?

Emlyn Williams


Deeper Bible study


Rejoice in God’s promise: ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree … They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.’ (Psalm 92:12,14)

Today’s reading takes us to an ending so severe that when it is read in the Hebrew synagogue verse 23 is read again after verse 24 to soften the effect. Jesus also used worms to describe the severe ending awaiting those who chose to ignore God (Mark 9:47,48). There is an alternative ending, however: as after a long pregnancy, a return to Jerusalem, their mother – a re-birth into their mother’s loving arms (vs 12,13). The end’s sudden coming would require no human effort but involved a choice. In other words, those rejecting God would choose their own ending – not to flourish but to perish.

Followers of Jesus will not perish (John 3:16), but what does it mean to flourish in today’s world? Simply having enough food and shelter would be a great improvement for many, but Volf suggests that flourishing in family life, in creative work and in care for others is the needed Christian witness in the first world today1. Just as the alcoholic who stops drinking finds money and discipline to carve out a new life, so living God’s way brings natural benefits because it is how God created us to be fully and wonderfully human. We may not describe flourishing as plenty of breast milk (v 11) – though new mums experiencing feeding difficulties or poverty would put milk as number one priority! We can, however, count on the God who is remaking us to help us flourish.

The gospel is always this mix of warning and hope: ‘’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved’2. To welcome the incredible message of God’s restoration we acknowledge how far short we fall and how much we need that grace. We do not wallow in our inadequacy but accept the free salvation and the new community the Messiah offers and rejoice in the gift of Christ’s righteousness.

Jennifer Turner

 

1 Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith, Brazos Press, 2011
2 John Newton, 1725–1807, ‘Amazing grace’


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Ezekiel 8,9

Psalm 119:121–144
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Praise is rising
Brenton Brown & Paul Baloche
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music & Integrity's Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Music UK
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com



Adore Him
Samuel Lane
Copyright© 2010 Vineyard Song (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk




Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 03 November 2017

    May our flourishing, our joy and our prayers cause many to turn to the Source of all things, the One Who holds the power of true life and everlasting death. Comments on distance from God were helpful and interesting, thank you all. Drew and Jack especially spelled out for us it is not always a simple answer. Many experience a 'long dark night of the soul' when God seems absent in spite of cries for His presence and His help. Remembering all WL family, especially those who have expressed needs. Praise God for the help you received Peter.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Paul prayed in Eph 3 for us to know the love of God which passes all understanding, Once we get a revelation of this we will be filled with the fullness of God and flourish like the tree planted by the water whose roots are so deep that nothing, absolutely nothing will knock us off course.

  • Eileen Smith | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Thank you for your update Peter-. Thelma-- how is Don settling-- was the phone issue solved ? Praying for those who have asked for prayer -- may you be continually aware of the Peace of the Lord with you in your situations.

  • Angela Munday | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    When our Saviour, Christ Jesus was near death He felt God was far away; the world's sins and wrongdoing that Jesus had taken upon Himself had somehow blocked the love from God that was His to enjoy. Jesus, at this time, felt all alone until evil was defeated and the victory His....... Our hope is in God alone and His love is there for us all to enjoy as we live each day to glorify His Name. PETER MOORE I am so happy that God is speaking to you; may He continue to Bless you as you trust in Him. Amen.

  • John Hartley | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Very good to read the name Stewart Speed once more over a Comment yesterday - "Great is His Faithfulness", indeed. Hadn't seen the link between yesterday's v24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear and today's v4 For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. How good to find he answers - great is HIs faithfulness.

  • Roger Hall | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Isn't the book of Isaiah amazing? It makes me think of his visit or vision to the throne room of heaven. So many peeps at God's Majesty, such perception of the future, the inspiration given to him to begin to make us wonder about God. It is important to keep our wonder and thinking about God, and about the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world! All day, all night!

  • Derek Forster | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heav’n to earth come down; Fix in us Thy humble dwelling; All thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love Thou art; Visit us with Thy salvation; Enter ev’ry trembling heart. Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit, Into ev’ry troubled breast! Let us all in Thee inherit, Let us find the promised rest; Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty.

  • Jack Russell | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Angela - good point, building on recent discussion about not sensing God being near not necessarily meaning that someone has moved with the example you gave of Jesus feeling God was far away when he was nearing death. The chariots of fire combined with the wealth and peace we read of today are of course both a warning and blessing common in prophetic utterances. And given that the line between good and evil runs down everyone, although it is tempting, it's not enough to think of them as the ones experiencing the wrath of the chariots of fire and us the wealth and blessings. Rachael, you are welcome and indeed you made a good point about the "dark night of the soul". It may be tempting to think that in times when peace and wealth are absent that there has been a falling out of favour with God. But it may very well be that this is an important time of spiritual growth and strengthening in faith for great things to come. Also remembering that Jesus said if you hold onto your life, you will lose it and if you lose your life for his sake you will gain life. Who can do that without a daily dying to self, to the ego and paradoxically finding self - true self, one created good and in the very image of God?

  • Peter Oliver | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    The rest of this concludes with saying that all will be put right at the end I.e new heaven and earth.

  • Barbara Sabin | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    To all life Thou givest, to both great and small; In all life Thou livest, the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish, but nought changeth Thee.

  • Roger Hall | Saturday, 04 November 2017

    Angela, I've thought about your words about Jesus feeling his father had left Him. Personally, I think I see how He dreaded his terrible trial, for God is of Purer Eyes than to look upon evil. For the first time in eternity was Jesus cut off from His Father, as He became sin. and there was darkness over the earth for 3 hours until sin was dealt with. That was when He became sin our sin. His call of triumph, "it is finished!" Would have been when they reconnected, the end of the ordeal, and his awful and terribl time was over! May He Be Praised for ever and ever!

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