Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 11 2019 - Isaiah 45:14-25 – Turn to me and be saved

Yesterday we saw that the Lord is at work through all the turns of human history to save his people and fulfil his promises. The focus yesterday was on the way in which God was at work to rescue his people, Israel, from captivity in Babylon, but we also noted that God is at work through all human history to save a people for himself from every nation on earth. And we might add that he is at work to rescue every part of his creation from the dominion of evil and death.

This theme is picked up in today's reading. God's salvation of Israel from captivity will bring other nations to see that the God of Israel is the living God in contrast with the useless idols in which they have placed their trust (vv. 14-17).

God declares himself to be the creator of the heavens and the earth. He did not intend his creation to be an empty shell (v. 18). He intended it to be populated with animate creatures. In particular, he created the earth to be populated by men and women made in his own image. He intended them to enjoy his love and to love him in return, and that they should be his agents in caring for his creation.

But something has gone very wrong with God's world. Most obviously, humankind has rebelled against God and made a complete mess of his world. In particular, "Jacob's descendants", the people God rescued from slavery in Egypt, turned their back on him and turned to idols. God now calls upon them to turn back to him (v.19), to return from the nations where they had been scattered under his judgment. He calls them to leave behind their useless idols and return to him (v.20).

Bus since there is no other God and Saviour except the God of Israel the Lord calls upon people from every nation to leave their idols and turn to him:

Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (vv. 22-23)

In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul quotes the last of these lines from Isaiah 45:23, but gives them a new twist. Perhaps quoting or adapting a first-century hymn, he writes of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for our salvation. The Son of God became incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ and humbled himself not only by living a human life of poverty and self-denial but supremely by taking our place when, at the cross, he endured the judgment that our sins deserved.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Jesus is God our Saviour. He calls on people from every nation under heaven to turn to him and be saved; to bow the knee to him and to acknowledge that "Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." We rejoice that God's saving mercy and goodness has embraced us in Christ. Surely we must join our voices to swell the call of God, "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth"?

Father God, we thank you that there is no other God like you and no other Saviour like the Lord Jesus Christ. His is the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved. Help us by your Spirit to turn our joy over sins forgiven and the promise of eternal life into an invitation for others to come and share that joy by turning to and acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Oct 11 2013 - 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 – Discerning God’s will

It is common to hear Christians speak about seeking God's will for their lives. This is understandable when we face decisions such as jobs and careers, where to live, who we might marry and so on. We want to discern how we may best live to please God. But this very desire to please God reminds us that many aspects of God's will are quite plain; they do not need searching out, they only need working out.

Paul speaks of one such aspect of God's will in his first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. An older translation renders it, "This is God's will for you, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Here is one area where there can be no doubt about God's will for our lives; God wants us to be holy. Paul goes on to speak particularly about the need for a holy life in the area of our sexuality. This was a particular problem in the Gentile world of the first century and it is equally a problem in the contemporary world. Here is an area where Christian lives can stand out as distinctly different from prevailing culture: chastity before marriage; faithfulness in marriage.

I recently came across a report suggesting that a significant proportion of Christians are addicted to pornography. Indeed a survey suggests that 20% of Christian ministers are involved in regular viewing of pornography on the internet. Satan whispers that such private preoccupations do no harm. He is a liar; they harm our character, harm our effectiveness, harm our witness. God wants us to be holy; this is one key area where our devotion to him should be reflected in a pattern of life which is distinctively different from the preoccupations of contemporary society.

It is said of Augustine that when he began to read Scripture and come under the conviction of the Spirit that he prayed, "Lord, make me holy – but not yet!" I'm sure that we would not dream of praying like that, but maybe we think like that: "Lord, I want to be holy, but not right now!" Let's not run away from the call of God. Let our prayer be that God would help us to lead a holy life now and in every moment of every day that he gives us. A holy life is a powerful testimony to the sanctifying power of God.

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality" (4:3).

But a holy life is displayed not simply in abstaining from things. A holy life is a Christ-like life and this is to be seen in the way we relate to other people. This is a lesson that the Christians at Thessalonica had learned well. Paul writes, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more” (4:9-10). The holy life that is God’s will for us is a life characterised by love for others. This is the life the Spirit of Christ is teaching us to live. We need to apply ourselves to our lessons and live a life of holy love.

Lord Jesus, you have drawn us to yourself by the loveliness of your holy character and your love for us. Help us to grow more like you – to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. May your love shape our lives so that, taught well by your Spirit, we may love one another and draw others to you by showing them your love. Keep us from those idols that would undermine and destroy our witness.

Peter Misselbrook