Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 22 2019 - Isaiah 54 – The glory of Zion

In looking at Isaiah 53 yesterday we said that the atoning work of the Suffering Servant will result in people from all nations being brought to know the living God and we quoted the Septuagint translation of part of Isaiah 53:11, "He will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied". That theme is continued in today's reading.

Zion /Jerusalem is pictured as mother to the people of God. Jerusalem had been left desolate and all but uninhabited. She was like a childless woman. But that is now being brought to an end. The city will now rejoice in the abundance of her children as God brings his people back from captivity (54:1). This is the fruit of the labours of the Suffering Servant. Indeed, so abundant will her people now be that the city will no longer be able to contain them. They will spill out to occupy many desolate cities of other nations (v. 3). Zion must get ready to accommodate a great crowd:

Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (v. 2)

William Carey, the pioneer of the modern missionary movement, preached a famous sermon from Isaiah 54:2-3 in 1792 at a gathering of local ministers. He was urging them to enlarge their vision of God's saving purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ – urging them to realise that God's purpose was to save for himself a people from every nation on earth. The title of his sermon was, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." William Carey went on to devote the rest of his life to missionary work in India and to translating the Scriptures into several of the languages of that great continent. He had grasped something of the immensity of Christ's saving work and understood that it called for a response from his people; they/we must work for the extension of Christ's kingdom. Do we share that vision?

Isaiah 54 continues with God's promises to his people, again picture in terms of Zion, their mother. She may have felt abandoned, even widowed, but she is now to know her Maker is her husband (v. 5). The Lord abandoned her to judgment for a short while but now, with compassion is restoring her (v. 7); "'With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer" (v. 8). The Lord has determined never again to turn his back on his people:

'My unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
    says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (v. 10)

This is the fruit of the Servant's suffering. He has purchased a people for God; a people who will never be forsaken or abandoned. These will be a people who will, "be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace" (v. 13). The risen Saviour has poured out his Spirit upon his people to ensure that this promise is fulfilled; he has given us peace with God and continues to instruct us by his Spirit. The Servant has made us also "servants of the Lord" and no weapon forged against us will prevail (v. 17).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… [Nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37, 39)

Father God, we thank you that in your great goodness, we are part of the fruit of the suffering of Christ, your Servant and beloved Son. Thank you for the promises we have in him and the assurance that nothing will now separate us from your love. Help us to learn of him and ourselves become your obedient servants through whom your kingdom is extended until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your glory as the waters cover the sea. Help us to attempt great things for you.

Oct 22 2013 - 2 Timothy 1:1-18 – Handing on the faith

Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him in the faith, a faith "which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy had learned of the living God through his mother and grandmother. His life had been shaped by their faith, a faith which had now become his own.

Timothy had grown up learning of God’s great acts of salvation recorded in the pages of the Old Testament. He had learned how God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt, bringing them through the Red Sea, caring for them during forty years in the desert and bringing them to the Promised Land. He had learnt of the faith and conquests of King David and the glory of Solomon and of the Temple he built for the Lord. Timothy had been told how God had promised Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed, a promise echoed time and again in the words of the prophets.

Then Paul had turned up at Lystra, preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. Timothy had come to understand that in Jesus all of the promises of God to his people were now finding their fulfilment. He is the descendant of Abraham in whom all nations will be blessed. He is the Saviour of the world. Timothy had joined Paul’s missionary team and, having been thoroughly trained by Paul, had now been entrusted to minister to the church in Ephesus.

Paul is writing to Timothy from prison in Rome. He knows that he may soon face death. This is probably the last of his letters (the letter to Titus probably having been written between 1 and 2 Timothy). This is Paul’s “last will and testament to the church” (Stott). In it Paul reminds Timothy of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and his consequent call upon our lives; “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1:9-10). All that God promised and purposed beforehand has been accomplished and brought out into the light in Jesus. Death has been destroyed; indestructible life has been given in him.

Paul had been appointed by Christ to herald this message and he had been faithful to that calling. Now he is entrusting it to others – to Timothy and to those whom he will also train and equip for the work of the gospel. Timothy is being encouraged to be fearless in ministry; tireless in teaching others the things he has learned not only from his mother and grandmother but also from Paul.

And so the message of salvation has been passed on through the generations: from parents and grandparents to their children and grandchildren; from ministers of the gospel and evangelists preaching to those gathered to hear them; from many ordinary Christians captivated by this message gossiping the gospel to friends and strangers. And many generations later it has come to us. From whom did you learn this saving message?

What are you now going to do to herald this message to generations to come: to children and grandchildren; to friends and strangers? The best inheritance we can leave is an inheritance of faith.

Father, thank you that Jesus has destroyed the power of death and has brought life and immortality to light. Thank you that this good news was passed on to us. Help us by your Spirit to respond to his call to a holy life – a life devoted to his service. Help us also to make him known to others that the message may resound through coming generations to the blessing of the nations and the glory of your name.

Peter Misselbrook