Daily Reflections June 23, 2017
The most distinguishing mark of a redeemed person is grateful, willing obedience. In bondage, there is an inability to do anything but what the slave master desires. But when someone is delivered from being hopelessly enslaved, cursed, and impoverished, the freedom opens the way to a response.
Throughout the book of Isaiah, we have seen the judgment of Israel both physically and spiritually into the hands of their enemy because of their rebellion against God. Then Isaiah tells us in chapters 52-53 of the suffering Servant that comes to do for them what they could never do for themselves. Now, because of the triumph of the Servant, the way is open for the people to freely react. Isaiah 55 gives them, and us, the proper response of obedience to such remarkable salvation.
Come! There is a beckoning to step out of the old life and into the new. The feast of blessing has already been purchased so there is no need to languish or frivolously seek lesser things. Jesus proclaimed this when he said,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28).
When a person’s eyes are opened to behold what Jesus has done for them, they see that to follow Jesus is the most natural response.
Listen! When the ears have been unstopped and truth that leads to righteousness is heard, heed it like sheep who listen for the shepherd to follow him to better pasture. Jesus gives us this description when he says, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Those who have endured the thief, robber, or hired hand who cares nothing but their destruction pays careful attention to the one who tenderly called them into his loving care.
Behold! The conquering of sin, authorities, and nations cannot be dismissed once he has been seen. God has positioned the suffering Servant, Jesus, as the one who rules and reigns over all things. That means when a person is helped to come out from under the deception of the enemy, they should see that Jesus is Lord and bow before him. Paul tells us this about Jesus: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9). He has been exalted and he will exalt his people in glory. So we ought to keep our eyes fixed on him.
Seek! Do not take for granted the patience and longsuffering of God. After tirelessly chasing false hopes, a person who has the God of all heavens and earth at hand does not waste time in seeking him. Jesus tells us that God is eager, not begrudging when we are in right relationship: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) Through Jesus, we have direct access to the God of this universe. Someone delivered does not delay in delighting in their deliverer.
This is the appropriate response of obedience in the redeemed. Is this true of you?
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
If you have ever read the Gospel of Matthew you will know that one of the author’s key concerns is showing the continuity of Jesus’ ministry with the Old Testament. Chapter one begins with a genealogy of Christ that traces his lineage back to major OT figures, and then in the next couple of chapters, and throughout the rest of the book, you will find Matthew making statements like “this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken” and “for so it is written by the prophet.” This theme of continuity and fulfillment continues into chapter 3 with the introduction of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist, were are told, is the messenger of Isaiah 40:3 who announces to God’s people that their iniquity is pardoned and their exile is over. We are further told that John “wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist” (3:4). This same description is used of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:8. This is a striking parallel indeed, for God’s people had been waiting for the return of Elijah the prophet.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
In confirmation that John the Baptist is this Elijah figure, we are told later in this Gospel that Jesus himself said, “and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (11:14). All of this serves to open our eyes that something very significant is at hand. The day of the Lord is approaching and the exile is over. (It must be noted that the physical exile of God’s people had already ended, but a return from the exile of sin and death was at hand). With all of this in mind, we should be listening to John the Baptist’s message with great excitement and hope.
The message of John the Baptist is summarized in verse 2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the first of 32 times in Matthew’s Gospel that we come across the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” While much could be written on this phrase, it is sufficient to say that it refers to the rule and reign of God. In light of this, John calls the people to repent.
Repentance is a multifaceted action. It involves the changing of one’s mind, the confession of sins, and a conversion away from that sin. When we repent we are acknowledging that God is good, we are not, and we are committing ourselves to begin walking in step with the Lord’s commands. The call to repentance is for all people at all times. We cannot afford to ignore this call, for John says,
“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (3:10).
The kingdom of heaven has come in the person of Jesus. The time for salvation is now. Now is not the time to trust in our heritage, our good works, our wealth, or anything else aside from our faith in Jesus Christ. In repentance we must follow Christ out of our bondage of sin and death and into life everlasting with Him as our Lord.