Thought for June 30th

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 11&12, Isaiah 55, Revelation 19&20

“COME, EVERYONE WHO THIRSTS”

This is how our 55th chapter in Isaiah starts.  Of course it is not about physical thirst – but the thirst our minds need to have for eternal things – and these are beyond wonder!  If we fully grasp them, this is spiritual food!  It is an invitation – “”Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

The 2nd verse is equally interesting – and challenging!  It asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?”  That is – to satisfy our minds, opening them up to an eternal vision!   If we are just living for the day or the week – or the month – life is not genuinely satisfying.

The 3rd verse invites us to “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live …”  If we do not do this we will not “live” – that is, live eternally; but we need to respond with all our heart to this invitation.  If we do, says the LORD, “I will make with you an everlasting covenant …”  just as he made with David.  Jesus is referred to as the “Son of David” 16 times in the gospels. Those who become brothers or sisters of Christ also share in this “everlasting covenant.”

Verses 6 & 7 jump out and into our minds (if our “hearts” are listening!) “”Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Few hearts are listening today, they think they have learnt every possible thing there is – that is important or of interest to them.  But look at the friction nearly everywhere in the world!  Nearly all hearts are listening, or eyes absorbing the wrong things – godless things!

Look at what the LORD “declares” in v.8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”  But we can be conscious of God’s ways and thoughts, look at v.11!  “My word … that goes out from my mouth … shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose …”

The “purpose” will be accomplished by the return of God’s Son to the earth – and then “you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace” [v.12]

For “everyone who thirsts” – these words quench their thirst, and rid them of all sense of emptiness in their minds as to the eternal meaning of life – they open up a vision of their future when they “Come” to their Creator and his Son and “quench their thirst.”  They come to Jesus, who told those who would listen and understand, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”[John 6 v.55]   They do not thirst!   Do you?

Thought for June 29th

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 10, Isaiah 54, Revelation 17&18

“GOD HAS REMEMBERED …” 

Babylon was the greatest city in the earth at the time of Nebuchadnezzar.  We read of its greatness in Daniel. But when John received the visions that are in Revelation, the original city had long been in ruins.  It had been destroyed “to rise no more” as Jeremiah prophesied (Ch. 51, note the last verse)  In recent years the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, visited the ruins and in 1982 his workers began building a 600 room palace for him there!  It all came to nothing.

   The description of ‘Babylon the Great’ in Revelation is a challenge to understand!  Nebuchadnezzar was told he was the “head of gold” of the image he saw in his dream, and he was a failure.  The ‘Babylon’ in Revelation is a counterpart – a dominant head that that proves to be a spiritual failure.  Today we read of “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations’ [17 v.5], a “woman drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” [v.6]

   So we identify Babylon as the power that made martyrs out of those who truly followed Jesus, they  believed and practiced what he taught – and taught the same.  History shows that down the centuries, for well over 1,000 years, the Roman Catholic Church has made martyrs of true believers, especially those who proclaimed her teaching wrong.

   In her power she dominated many nations and some kings came to be crowned by the Pope!   It is remarkable that today most nations have a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican.  She has a unique standing among the nations, members of the British royal family and even the Russian leader have visited the Pope.   

   We read today of her riding on a beast (v.3) “arrayed in purple and scarlet” [v.4] but she comes to a dramatic and sudden end “in one hour” [18 v.10].  It says, “her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine and she will be burned with fire for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” [v.8]

   Have her actions been purely spiritual?  No, she has exercise much influence in all ways of life. It is fascinating that when she is destroyed the “merchants … shipmasters” etc. “wept and mourned.” [v.15,17] . 

Some see that because the European Union was established by the “Treaty of Rome” that there is a connection here. Is there a form of judgement God will bring upon it?  But the subject is too vast for us to comment further. But we note how John also says, “I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues for … God has remembered her iniquities  … “ [v.4,5]

The Almighty has unlimited ability to remember!  May He remember the reality of our faith

Let us remember what we read in 1 John 5 v.4 earlier this month. “…everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” How close are we now to the end of “the last hour” – from God’s perspective?  Let us be “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” was the warning of our Lord. [Luke 12 v.40]

Thought for June 28th

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 9, Isaiah 53, Revelation 15&16

“GREAT AND AMAZING”

Our chapter 9 in 1 Samuel is about how God gave his people the type of king they desired.  The LORD was later to emphasise to Samuel that  “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” [1 Sam. 16 v.7]  For their first king the LORD allowed the people to have a king that was desirable by their standards. “Saul, a handsome young man. …. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” [9 v.2]

There is a great contrast to this in today’s 53rd chapter in Isaiah.  This familiar  and heart-moving chapter unfolds to reveal “the arm of the LORD” to discerning readers. Recall how this chapter challenged the thinking of the Ethiopian eunuch and led to his conversion (Acts 8 v.26-39)  How the Ethiopian must have puzzled as he read, “He was despised and rejected” and became “acquainted with grief … and we esteemed him not.” [v.3]   

This is the case today – in a different way!  The true picture of Christ as revealed in the Gospels is blurred as a result of philosophies about ‘the trinity’ invented in later centuries.  Thankfully the original scriptures are readily available today and can and must be absorbed into human thinking and understanding by those who truly desire a real relationship, day after day, with the Saviour which the Father, the Eternal God, has wondrously provided.

We read in v.10 & 11 ” … it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;  by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

Our chapters 15 & 16 in Revelation dramatically picture the ‘prospering’ his ‘hand’ is to accomplish!  Ponder “the song of the Lamb” in ch. 15 v.3,4: the words are ” “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

These are “revealed” after the events we read at the end of ch. 14, our godless world will not find them so: indeed the very opposite!   How awesome to imagine “the great winepress of the wrath of God.”  How much does our world deserve this wrath! Thankfully this will be followed by “great and amazing” deeds, causing “all nations (to) come and worship”!   Let us be aware of who will be counted faithful believers! They are those “who stay(s) awake, keeping (their) garments on” [16 v.15]. May it be that many, of both spiritual and natural Jews, “put on … beautiful garments” – as we read yesterday in Isaiah 52 v.1. What a “great and amazing” experience awaits them..

Thought for June 27th

Todays readings… 1 Samuel 7&8, Isaiah 52, Revelation 14

“FEAR GOD AND GIVE HIM GLORY”

In 1 Samuel ch. 8 we read how Samuel was displeased because the people ask him to appoint a king for them.  As events turn out Saul becomes king; a good king, but only by human standards.  Then in Isaiah ch.52 (the prelude to that wonderful and familiar ch. 53) we are told – commanded – from the start of the chapter,  Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion … O Jerusalem, the holy city”

We should take this as message to ”awake” as being for us personally!  We need to be “awake” – and see the comparisons with their need to be awake!

Verse 5 tells us that in Isaiah’s days, as is the case today, “continually all the day my (God’s) name is despised.” And then, wonderfully, Isaiah is caused to look forward to the time when “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” [v.10]

That verse is a fitting prelude to our chapter in Revelation of how “on Mount Zion stood the Lamb” [14 v.1].  An angel has “an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” [v.6]  The Lamb of God has become a king and God’s “holy arm” is seen by ” the eyes of all the nations.”    

A “loud voice” is heard saying, “”Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth… “ [v.7]   

The Lamb of God is now the world’s king and “every nation” is now in awe. 

Think of the awesome significance of v. 8 when another angel comes on the scene and announces, ” “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

We meditate on the word ‘Babylon’!  This is the Greek translation of the word ‘Babel’ and we remember God’s judgement on the original Babel (Genesis 11 v.5-9)

Verse 12 in Revelation is one for us to particularly note. ” Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”  Let us heed this call today. 

Those familiar with the A V  will know that “endurance” is rendered there as “patience.”  It is a word which significantly occurs just 7 times in Revelation.

How much patient endurance will those who “fear God” need before the time when they can literally “give him glory.”? When we come to ch. 16 we will read in verse 9 of those who ” did not repent and give him glory.”  Let us “fear God” today “and give him glory.” We can do this in the way we think and talk about him, revealing our faith – for “the hour of his judgment” must be nearly here.

Thought for June 26th

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 5&6, Isaiah 51, Revelation 12&13

“THE HEAVENS VANISH LIKE SMOKE”   

    Our readings in Isaiah and Revelation both challenge us with figurative language about the climax of life on earth.  There are many passages in God’s word which make reference to the heavens in a way in which it seems clear they symbolise, in certain contexts, the ruling powers on earth.

    Through Isaiah God says, “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the people; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm (Jesus) they wait.  Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke and the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever …” [51 v.5,6]  

     This earth is being physically abused by human beings and needs renewal, but mankind is unable to agree how to stop this abuse. Representatives of many nations have just gathered together but nothing was achieved!  They, and the people they represent, are too self-centred in their attitudes: a world govt. is essential. The few people today who really know God, find it dangerous in an increasing number of countries, to make their faith openly evident.

    Now note the next verse in Isaiah, “Listen to me you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings … but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.”  And so “the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [v.11]

    When “the heavens vanish like smoke” then “the number of the beast … the number of a man … 666” [Rev 13 v.18] will become clear.  There have been many proposals as to the interpretation of this number, most of them focusing on the Papacy.  After 6 comes 7 and this is the opposite, the number of perfection and completion with the opening of the seventh seal. 

    There are hidden seven’s in Revelation, there is one in this chapter, “Here is a call for the endurance (AV patience) and faith of the saints.” [v.10]  The Greek word hupomone occurs in Revelation just 7 times, and is a message to those who carefully search the Scriptures.  As the “heavens vanish like smoke” let us patiently endure knowing God’s righteousness is about to appear.

Thought for June 24th

Todays readings.. I Samuel 3, Isaiah 49, Revelation 7, 8&9

 

“SPEAK FOR YOUR SERVANT HEARS” 

Today – do we ‘hear’ what God says to us through his written word?  Can we, in praying to our Creator, say I am “your servant” who ‘hears’ what you are saying through my reading of your written word for I read it every day.  Parts of it, especially as we are reading Isaiah and Revelation have messages, both of warning – and encouragement. 

Our first reading was 1 Samuel ch. 3 and how young Samuel first heard the voice of the LORD and eventually responded, under the direction of Eli and said “Speak, for your servant hears” [v.10] Let us ‘read’ intent on ‘hearing’ the message God has made sure is preserved for us.  Let us make sure we absorb it into our minds – and hearts.

  God’s initial message through Samuel was about the fate of Eli’s godless sons – although they served in the Tabernacle.  Samuel grew up to serve the LORD in a meaningful way – and challenge others to do the same – and what a wonderful eternal future awaits those who do: a lesson for us!  In the language of Revelation – they were “sealed.”

Today’s 7th chapter begins with a picture of those “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” [v.4].  Then the vision opens out in v.9 & 10; “after this I looked, and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

    This event was prefigured when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowd “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” [John 12 v.13] and the crowd said, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”  These words will find their complete fulfilment when Jesus comes again.  The symbol of the white robes is explained in v.14 (of Rev. 7) “These are the ones coming out of great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We can understand the symbolic language here.

Ch. 9 tells us of the final terrible judgements, “but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” [v.4] will suffer.  How vital to be among the “sealed”- surely those who see themselves as servants, who hear!

  The words about those “sealed from every tribe in Israel” –  tie in with today’s Isaiah reading,  “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold , I will lift my hand to the nations … and they shall bring your sons … and your daughters … Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” [Ch.49 v.22,23]  They will be those who truly ‘hear’ among “the nations”.

     World crises are increasing, especially north of God’s Holy Land – Lord, how long? At that time Israel will be caused to know! But the question for each one of us today is – will I be among that “great multitude”?    How we “hear” really matterseternally.

Thought for June 23rd

Todays readings… 1 Samuel 2, Isaiah 48, Revelation 5&6

“I AM THE LORD … WHO LEADS YOU”

We have 4 chapters to inspire and challenge us today.  In 1 Samuel ch. 2 we have Hannah’s inspiring song of thankfulness after the birth of Samuel: it is an inspiration for all of us who are thankful for the way the LORD is leading us today in our godless world.  Sadly, it is to have a negative application to the godless sons of Eli. 

Hannah’s inspired words should put us in a mood of heartfelt awe “for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed  for ” “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones …” [v.3, 9]  But these words are immediately followed by “but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness … The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth” [v.10] The ultimate fulfilment of the LORD’s judgements is surely near: may we be among “his faithful ones.”

Verses in our reading of Isaiah ch. 48 have parallel thoughts, it starts, “Hear this … (you) who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right..” [v.1] A divine warning that has echoed ominously down through the centuries, constant failures by so many who claim to believe in God to recognise it is “the LORD  who leads…” them! 

Verse 17 has words from our Creator that we need to particularly highlight for ourselves. “”I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”  God’s people in those days were paying little attention – is it any better among those who claim to believe today?  Look at the divine lament in the next verse! “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river …”

Our world is such, despite God’s word being available in every language so ‘seekers’ can recognise it is “the LORD who leads” them: but his leading is only for those who pay attention to his word every day and put into practise what they read. 

The chapter ends with the declaration, “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”

This world will soon face its’ divinely appointed destiny and how awesome is the vision of this at the end of our 6th chapter in Revelation!  We note its declaration – and its question!  ” … the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  The answer is – those who have responded to the divine declaration “I am the LORD … who leads you.” Let us make sure we are among those who “stand” and who the LORD leads.

Thought for June 22nd

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 1, Isaiah 46&47, Revelation 3&4

“HE WHO HAS AN EAR LET HIM HEAR”

Don’t we all have ears!?  Yes – but how do we use them?  And eyes – and see with them!?  Our human nature is such that we usually only hear and see (& read) what appeals to us!

It is how we think, the attitudes that develop in our minds, that motivate us in what we choose to hear. If our minds are totally (or largely) focussed on this life – we will only hear and look at – things on which our minds are focussed.  Our minds have become like modern cameras, they develop an ‘automatic’ focus for the things we want to see – and hear!  This meditation is both simple – and yet – profound.  How few are thinking ‘through’ the evidence – and seeing – the eternal meaning of life today?   There appear to be increasingly few. 

Our thoughts were propelled along these lines as we completed reading the letters to the seven churches in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation. 

The believers in each church are challenged    “He who has an ear, let him hear.”  The seventh church is portrayed as saying, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing …” [v.17] – their “hearts” have not absorbed the words and warnings of Jesus, their ears heard – and yet didn’t!  We have a saying – ‘it went in one ear and out the other!’

We need to think deeply about the ‘picture’ language employed here:  is not this the ultimate parable of Jesus!  Verse 19 takes our thoughts to the relationship – and inter-reaction – between Jesus and his disciples. He said to them, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”  All 12 had occasion to repent – but for one it was too late!  Judas came and declared to those who had given him money to lead them to Jesus by night, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” [Matt 27 v,4]  His ears had heard the words of men more clearly than those of his Master.  Jesus had taught, ” “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” [Matt. 6 v.24]

We all have “an ear” to “hear.”  But what do we listen to?  Our world’s ‘words’ become ever louder in our ears – and seen – with our eyes.  Jesus counselled that seventh church in Laodicea, ” I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” [v.18] and we can add, ‘and hear.  Are not the minds of the world today ‘naked’ and their ears deaf!!

Our minds are ‘naked’ if this world dominates – and therefore – penetrates our ears and our hearts and minds.  Let us become ‘rich’ – that is, “rich in faith”  (James 2 v.5) ” so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 1 v.7]

May we all have “an ear” with which to “hear”  and hearts that are, as a result, motivated by God’s word.

Thought for June 21st

Todays readings.. Ruth 3&4, Isaiah 45, Revelation 1&2

“HOLD FAST TILL I COME”

Today we started reading the thought-challenging last book of the Bible; but before we endeavour to extract some meaningful thoughts from it we reflect on the sequel to the life of Ruth.   

Ruth’s faithfulness to her widowed mother-in-law led to her coming to Bethlehem. The heart-stirring sequel to this little book is how she ended up being the grandmother of Jesse who became the father of David.  [ch. 4 v.17]

Our ch. 45 in Isaiah is largely about the folly of the “idols”  humans make and  “carry about … and keep praying to a god that cannot save” [v.20] So many in these days, have “idols” they carry about and which constantly occupy their attention – but they can only communicate with fellow mortals – not with the immortal God and his redeeming Son!

Verse 15 is interesting – and challenging! “Truly, you are a God who hides himself….”  Because of this faith is the essential foundation principal in our lives, faith would not be necessary if it was undeniably evident that a Creator existed; the time is coming when he will reveal himself, represented by his immortalised Son! And then unbelievers will be “put to shame and confounded …” [v.16] 

Then v. 18 proclaims, “thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it … he formed it to be inhabited!”  And how wonderfully it provides for the needs of its inhabitants – as long as they cultivate it wisely.

We now come to Revelation.  The symbols in the opening chapters are made plain to us: letters are sent to  7 different churches. These can be taken as representing all the different types of churches that existed then – and have done so ever since!  Each letter starts, “I know your works  We must absorb the significance of this?  The churches are called “lampstands” [1 v.20] and John “saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man …” [1 v.12,13]  Jesus was – and still is – there in spirit with all groups of believers.

The 7 letters all start – “I know your works“!  Let us humbly take into our hearts and minds, that our Saviour now has the power to know all.  He does not see one of these 7 communities as being a perfect church. It has been of great value to believers in every century to consider which of the messages apply to them and their community.

As one example we take the letter to Thyatira. “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” [v.18.19]  What a wonderful commendation – if it was a letter to us!  But the next verse shows they are not perfect, there is a member who is “teaching and seducing my servants …” [v.20]

Jesus says, ” I gave her time to repent, but she refuses …” [v.21]  Finally, we ponder v.24 “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching … Only hold fast what you have until I come.” [v24,25]  Let us all make sure we are holding fast the true teaching – till he comes.