Thoughts for June 30th.“SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND”

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

            Seeking the LORD is an act of faith.  When it is clearly seen that Jesus has returned the whole situation will change for human beings.  Our chapters in the book of Revelation describe, symbolically, all the causes of godlessness. We are told sin is “bound …for a thousand years” [20 v.3]  and “those who had not worshiped the beast (the symbol of atheism) came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [v.4]

            This is a vision of the kingdom to be established when Jesus returns.  It is not just a New Testament vision, our chapter 55 in Isaiah today has a wonderful appeal for all those seeking the reason for their existence, all such they know in their hearts there must be a Creator, all the wonders that are around us could not have come into being by accident!   

            In verses 6 and 7 of our Isaiah chapter there is this ‘heart-searching’ appeal! “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. ”

            Some will ask – how do I seek?  In Hebrews 11 v.6 we are challengingly told, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Believing in the existence of God is an act of faith!  We must recognise that we have just two options!  There is either a God, a Creator – or there isn’t! 

            We stress again, to believe (!?) that all that exists is the outcome of an enormous series of utterly remarkable accidents is impossible for the really thinking mind to accept!  Those who do believe this – are really worshipping “the beast”!  What or who are you worshipping?

Thought for June 29th. “FOR IN A SINGLE HOUR”

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

            Our chapters in the thought-challenging book of Revelation are now moving towards a climax – those we read today portrayed God’s final judgements on godlessness. The centrepiece of the action is described as God’s judgement on “Babylon”!

            But what are we to understand by that word? It is very interesting to realise that the word Babylon in Hebrew – is – Babel (Genesis ch. 11).  Remember  what happened to the original Babel – this was the first ‘monument’ to human self-centredness!  God acted to bring it to nothing.

            So these verses in Revelation are telling us about the fate of the latter day Babylon (Babel)!  It pictures how those who “who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail” and “stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”  And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn …” [18 v.10,11]

            The prophetic verses we read in Isaiah 47 a week ago jump into our minds! Verse 1 refers to “the virgin daughter of Babylon” who is to “sit in the dust.” Then verses 10 and 11 “You felt secure in your wickedness … your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray … But evil shall come upon you … ruin shall come upon you suddenly”   We are in awe as to how this is going to apply to the ‘latter day’ Babel of today!  And how suddenly – “in a single hour”!

            Back in Revelation ch. 18 we see further reference to this latter day “single hour” in v. 17 which tells us that “in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”  Again v.19,201 ‘”Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich … For in a single hour she has been laid waste … God has given judgment for you against her!”

            Life in the 21st Century has “ships” in the air! Life is dominated by those living to acquire “wealth.”  But it is a fragile illusory wealth, it is not gold and silver – it is very largely financial figures on a computer and already, such as in 2008, there have been times of anxiety for those who trust in this wealth.  Our final thought comes from the words of Jesus in Luke 18 v.24 “”How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

Thought for June 28th. “YET IT WAS THE WILL OF THE LORD”

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

            Today we meditated at length on Isaiah Ch. 53, one of the best known and most meaningful chapters in the Bible.  It is the message Isaiah received about the suffering saviour of mankind that God so wondrously brought into being..

            How challenging for us, who have absorbed God’s scripture into our hearts, to see God at work – working in ways that cause humans to think and search their hearts as to the meaning of life: – to see it from God’s perspective and, in the process, to see the part God is seeking for them, for us, to take in the greater picture which he sees – and which we can only dimly see most of the time.

            Jesus saw this ‘picture’ perfectly – and we have his example to try to follow.  We have been, and maybe some still are, among those who “like sheep have gone astray … have turned everyone to his own way” [v.6]  He alone was “like a lamb” that “was led to the slaughter” for “it was the will of the LORD to crush him” [v.10]! 

            Then we come to the contrast: “he shall see his offspring … the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”  The whole sequence of events was mapped out in the farseeing mind of God and then put into effect through the willing co-operation of His only Son.

            We particularly noted v.11!  “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”   Think about the word “knowledge.”  Think of the “knowledge” of Jesus of God’s will and his commitment to do it. The same challenge is made to us – to gain a true knowledge of “the will of the LORD” through reading his word and then putting that knowledge into action in our lives.

            This made us think of Job and his struggle to understand the ways of God – and the challenge God made to him, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” [Ch. 38 v.2]  This leads to Job’s final confession, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” [Ch. 42 v.2]  

            The more we learn of “the will of the LORD” the more we will say the same as we wait to see “the will of the LORD” for this present evil world!  But even more, as we look to see God’s will for us in the ways we can be more fully among those “working together with him”  [2 Cor. 6 v.1]

Thought for June 27th

“GOOD NEWS OF HAPPINESS”

Todays readings.. ! Samuel 7&8, Isaiah 52, Revelation 14

The nature of present human happiness and its causes are in total contrast to the “good news of happiness” that God will bring about – as we read in Isaiah ch. 52 today.

But first the chapter describes the lament of the LORD, “all the day my name is despised” [ch. 52 v.5] followed by the declaration, “Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak” [v.6] – then we read prophetic words that obviously apply to the transformation of life “in that day” after the dramas at the return of Christ.

Verse 7 tells us, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ “

Jesus will reign for God, “but then comes the end” writes Paul, “when he delivers the kingdom to God … then the Son himself will be subjected to him … that God may be all in all.” [1 Cor.15 v. 24-28]. In Revelation 21 we read John’s vision of the ultimate time when “the dwelling place of God is with man … God himself will be with them as their God … for the former things have passed away.” [v.3,4] The “good news of happiness” will at last be here – for those who have been longing for God’s kingdom.

Returning to Isaiah’s chapter, see the nature of the happiness that is to happen. They “sing for joy (they) break forth together into singing … for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm (Christ) before the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” [v.9,10] Let us take God’s words into our hearts.

Finally, note how the next chapter starts, “Who has believed what they heard from us?” Well, who has? We prove what we believe by the reality of the faith we have in our hearts and how, as a result, we eagerly anticipate, the “good news of happiness.”

Thoughts for June 26th

“LISTEN TO ME YOU WHO KNOW RIGHTEOUSNESS”

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

How few there are today who “know righteousness”! This is because there are few who meditatively read God’s word – to absorb it into their hearts. We read today of the LORD’s appeal to us to “know righteousness” – it is in ch. 51 of Isaiah. We meditate on the contexts in which the word “know” is used in God’s word.

We remember the challenging message God gave to Israel we read a few days ago in Isaiah ch. 43. “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.”[v.10] Do we “believe … and understand” as an outcome of the way we “know” God? Ponder that question carefully!

To “know” God and His “righteousness” is clearly of a higher dimension that knowing within human experience. We read last week the woman’s of Boaz to Ruth, “all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” [3 v.11]

Consider how our Isaiah chapter starts! “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD …” They are then reminded of Abraham and Sarah and way they ‘knew’ God. Then comes God’s challenge to “Listen give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me ….” [v.4] They do not ‘hear’ God actually speaking – but they heard the prophet speaking on his behalf – and we “read” and in that way ‘hear’ God’s speaking! Are we really, fully, giving attention? We must each, individually answer that question.

God’s message through Isaiah is so critical that he repeats it with added emphasis in v. 7. “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man…” Hear is a vital question for us today! Do we “know righteousness”? We do, IF we have pursued it! A vital factor in doing that is to read – and meditate on God’s word every day. We started by looking at Isaiah ch. 51- have a look at it now – as we finish our thoughts.

Thought for June 25th

“MORNING BY MORNING”

Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 4, Isaiah 50, Revelation 10&11

We do not know a great deal about Isaiah’s personal situation. In John’s Gospel we read that “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him” [12 v.41], so the seeing was with the eye of faith, a vivid picture in the mind.

Isaiah “saw” what was to come, believing with such total conviction that the experience was counted as seeing and John’s quotations from Isaiah are of the reactions, so largely negative, people were to have to God’s messages; this causes us to meditate on reactions today.

The more we ourselves read and reflect upon what we read, the more we feel challenged! We meditated on this as a result of reading Isaiah’s words in today’s chapter, “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those that are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious” [50 v.4,5].

It is a privilege each day to start by reading God’s word, to awaken our minds, refresh our thinking with godly thoughts before our minds need to focus on the challenges of the day, let us not be rebellious. This is, as we recall the in the words of James, “the wisdom that comes down from above” [3 v.15].

It gives us that inner strength and ability, not only to sustain us for another day, but also, it may well be, we may be used by our Lord by bringing us into contact with someone “who is weary” and we can impart to them some of the “strength” we have received from God’s word.

Now the passage in Isaiah goes on to record a situation which was fulfilled in the life of the Master at the time of his arrest; but it must, we suspect, have also been part of the prophet’s own experience, “I gave my back to those who strike … I hid not my face from shame and spitting (see Mark 15 v.19) …But the Lord GOD helps me … therefore I have set my face like a flint …” [Isaiah 50 v6,7].

Let us try harder to feed on God’s word “morning by morning” and experience all the benefits that our God can give, setting our minds to serve him in whatever situations we encounter.

Thought for June 24th

“IN A TIME OF FAVOUR”

Todays readings.. 1Sam 3, Isaiah 49, Revelation 7,8&9

Our first reading is the heart stirring account of young Samuel in the Temple/tabernacle at Shiloh and the LORD calling him, “Samuel, Samuel” – and the message he received about the failure of Eli to discipline his sons. The ungodliness of their behaviour in appearing to serve the LORD makes sad reading – but it has had its parallels in every generation – especially today.

In contrast, the vision Isaiah records is fascinating, “Thus says the LORD, the redeemer of Israel …. In a time of favour I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you … to establish the land” [49 v.7,8] We recall what we read 2 days ago, “I am God … declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done … I will accomplish all my purpose” [46 v.9,10]. The Jews over the centuries have often felt abandoned, but how significant are v. 13-15 in today’s chapter! “… the LORD … will have compassion on his afflicted … But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion … Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

As we reflect on the events of the 60 – 70 years ago – and since – we see how remarkable are v. 23, 25 ”… those who wait for me shall not be put to shame … for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.” We have seen this happen in our youth, the nations surrounding the new born nation of Israel contended with her in vain, the “time of favour” had begun.
Our chapters in Revelation are awesome in many ways, especially in the angels of God being “told … to harm …only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” [9 v.4] What does the “seal” symbolise? Ownership! John, in his gospel, recorded Jesus as saying, “Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life … on him (or her) God the Father has set his seal.” [6 v.27]

May we all increasingly live with minds saturated with godly thoughts – and then resultant actions – that show we are committed to God and His Son – and will therefore experience the wonder of the ultimate “time of favour.”

Thought for June 23rd

“THE LORD WILL JUDGE THE ENDS OF THE EARTH”

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

Hannah, who was to be the mother of Samuel, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted … because I rejoice in your salvation.” [1 Sam. 2 v.1] She was exalted in heart because of God’s promises which she whole heartedly believed and embraced: let us do the same. She declares “Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” [v.5]

All those who believe in the LORD (and his Son) must develop the same attitude to the wonder of the all-seeing presence of the Creator. Verse 10 is the awesome climax of her prayer. 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; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

Jesus is the anointed of the LORD! (see Psalm 45 v.7) he is “his king,” David in Psalm 18 opens out a vision of when “his king” reigns, (v.49,50). Let us make sure he is our king.

Our thoughts go in awe to ch. 6 in Revelation which we also read today! A ”loud voice” cries! “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” [v.10] We ask this question even more urgently today!

To say the last 3 verses are awesome is an understatement! “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone … hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

How much does our utterly godless world deserve his wrath!

Our final – and wonderful thought – comes from ch. 5! A “Lamb” appears, “standing, as though it had been slain” [v.6] – an obvious symbol of Jesus. A “new song” is sung to him, “Worthy are you … for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Thought for June 22nd

“LISTEN TO ME YOU STUBBORN OF HEART”

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

What a blunt message from God Isaiah was sent to convey to the godless people of his day – equally it is a message for such people today. Human nature does not change unless it is influenced by an unmistakeable awareness of the ‘reality’ of God, the originator of all that exists.

God causes Isaiah to proclaim to the people, “”Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness” [46 v.12]. But did the people of Israel listen? As a nation they did not. God’s message through Isaiah has been preserved for the whole world to read – it is now available in every language.

Today, we sense the last verse in this chapter is near to being fulfilled. ”I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”

God will act – we will see, if we alive, “salvation” will be seen “in Zion”, for God’s “glory.” How soon now? It will be the time of the resurrection – for Jesus referred to a remarkable prophecy; of the time when, as we read in John’s gospel (19 v.37), of the Scripture being fulfilled (which) says future time when “they will look on him whom they have pierced”. Those who put Jesus to death will be raised for judgement.

Our minds also go to the prediction of Jesus in Matthew 24 v.30, he foresaw a time “when all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Those who mourn in shock – we might also say – terror – because they have been “stubborn of heart” having convinced themselves there is no God, no Creator, that all the wonders of life around them all came into being by some incredible sort of accident. Let us read God’s word more and more so that it comes more and more ‘alive’ in our minds so that we will not be among the “stubborn of heart”.

Thought for June 21st

“TO THE ONE WHO CONQUERS I WILL GRANT …”

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

What a remarkable set of thought challenging chapters we have today. First we read the 3rd and 4th chapters of Ruth which climax by telling us how she became the great grandmother of David.

Then we read the inspiring 45th chapter of Isaiah. Verse 11 jumped out at us! “Thus says the LORD … “Ask me of things to come” [v.11] But we then noticed the declaration in the next verse, God’s declaration which nearly all deny today! ” I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens…”

Then in the book of Revelation the heart challenging personal appeal of “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him …” [1 v.1] We are invited, indeed – challenged(!) to “read(s) aloud the words of this prophecy” [v.3]. And they would have done this in the 1st Century – not realizing, as we do now, that it described events then, and soon to happen, but then stretched forward to the climax when Jesus returned and reigned!

Chapter 2 begins a series of 7 messages to the ecclesias that then existed and they are all types that exist today – good and promising – poor and in trouble. The first message is to the believers at Ephesus. We note its conclusion! “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

That message is for us too! Are we making good progress in doing this? At the very beginning Adam and Eve were denied access to “the tree of life”. It was so tragic; they failed to believe God meant what he said! Let us each make sure we are among those “who conquer” and so gain access to the “tree of life” and live forever and experience the wonders of God’s coming kingdom – and how soon now!?