Vacation – June 12

Text: Isaiah 40.1-11 (Read it here.)20160612

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”

(Isaiah 40.9, NIV)

“Comfort My People!”
Author: Jesse Long

With words that echo across the centuries, the God of Israel and all creation charges the prophet to “Comfort, comfort my people” and to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” to a people in exile who have paid a heavy price for their sins (vv. 1-2, ESV). A voice cries out: “Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. . . . The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed and all flesh will see [God’s salvation (LXX)]” (vv. 3-5). A voice commands the prophet to “Cry out” that all men are like grass which fades away, but the word of God stands forever (vv. 6-8). The voice then calls Zion/Jerusalem, as a “herald of good news,” to “lift up your voice” from a high mountain and announce to the cities of Judah that the Lord Yahweh comes as king in strength and as a shepherd who will “gather the lambs in his arms” and “carry them in his bosom” (vv. 9-11).

With a powerful, trustworthy voice, Isaiah proclaims the good news of divine comfort from God (cf. Isa 40:1; 49:13; 51:3, 12, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 61:2; 66:13). In so doing, the prophet anticipates the coming messianic deliverance (cf. Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6), when God himself would return as divine warrior and as shepherd to lead His people in a New Exodus from the bondage of sin and death.

Waiting for Isaiah’s promised comfort/consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), the righteous Simeon saw the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, took him up in his arms, and proclaimed, “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (vv. 30-31). Isaiah’s comfort appeared in the form of a baby and flourished in the ministry and mission of Jesus of Nazareth, the divine shepherd who comforts, who in resurrection defeated evil to bring about God’s salvation.

For the Christian who mourns, Jesus offers comfort from God. As our victorious king who has conquered death, He protects us from the evil one. As our shepherd, he holds us close. In his arms, we take comfort!

Questions:

When you think about the story of the Israelite people, why would a word of comfort from God be such an important part of their story? How do you feel when you are punished for something you have done? How do you feel when that punishment is complete? How has God offered a word a comfort to you for sins you may have committed?

How would you define “sovereignty?” How is power and might related to your definition? When we think about God being the one who created the entire universe, what implications does this make about his ability to take care of us?

How would you answer Isaiah’s question: “To whom can you compare [God]?” (Verse 25) What examples would you give to show there is none comparable to God?

Proverbs 7 – June 7

CC Image courtesy of Max Nathan on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Max Nathan on Flickr.

The Tablet of Your Heart (Prov. 7:3)
Author: Jesse Long

In the tenth “instruction” in Proverbs (7:1-27), the introduction uses an infrequent, yet compellingly descriptive metaphor to describe how the wise son should internalize the father’s teachings. The father tells the son to “bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 3, ESV throughout). “Bind them on your fingers” probably refers to wrapping a box (containing the Shema, Deut. 6:4 ff.) and leather straps (phylacteries, in Hebrew tefillin) around the arm and fingers of the left hand to call to mind Moses’ declaration that Israel should love Yahweh “with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might” (Deut. 6:5). The wise son, however, should do more than bind them on the outside, but also on the inside, on “the tablet of your heart.”

This uncommon image (elsewhere only in 3:3 and Jer. 17:1) describes the heart as a stone tablet on which the wise son should write words of wisdom. As Yahweh inscribed the “Ten Words” (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13) on stone for Moses and Israel (Exod. 24:12), so the son should engrave words of wisdom on his heart.

The apostle Paul conjures up a similar image when he describes the Corinthians as “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3). Paul goes on to contrast the covenant written on stone with the new covenant in which Yahweh puts his law within (2 Cor. 3:1-18; see Jer. 31:31-34). Like the Moses coming down the mountain (Exod. 35:29-35), those adhering to the old covenant have veiled faces, hearts that are unable to see, but with unveiled faces Christians see the glory of the Lord and are transformed “into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:13-15, 18).

For the Christian, wisdom from God comes not just with inscribing on our hearts wise words, but with transforming our hearts by keeping our eyes on Jesus.