Daily Reflections June 2, 2017
Isaiah 34 is a chapter that many skeptics will use in isolation to say that God is a monster. It is also a chapter that many Christians and pastors skip over so they do not have to wrestle with the hard truths that it unearths. However, in the first verse Isaiah proclaims that all should hear and pay attention.
This declaration of judgment ought to be heard, but we should be reminded that this is not the first summons to hear. In chapter 33, the people were told to pay attention to sin in verse 13, God’s standard of righteousness in verse 15, and God’s forgiveness in verse 24. God gives ample opportunity for repentance and forgiveness before he imposes judgment. God showed mercy upon Israel by telling them of their problem, the right way to live to avoid judgment, and the way of forgiveness. So, this chapter illustrates that humankind that persists in rejecting God’s warning and instruction will eventually see the end of his patient kindness. Instead of depicting God as a monster, in context we see him as gracious but also as righteous in not letting evil persist forever. It is as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.” (Psalm 103:8-9).
In the description of this judgment, we should feel the weight and emotion of what Isaiah is saying. This is not a small slap on the wrist, this is the full force of the wrath of God poured out on all his creation. Poetically, we can see and experience the consequence of rebellion against God. Edom is used as an example and symbol of people ceaselessly hostile toward God and his people. The judgment that proceeds from the nature of God does not stop with humanity but must touch every fragment of the cosmos because sin has infected everything. Interestingly, in verse 11, Isaiah moves in the progression of judgment from dealing with humans, then to beasts, and then to emptiness. It is as if the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 is being reversed as God takes everything back to square one.
This would all be devastating if we did not know, that for God’s people, this refinement is not the end. God will provide a new heavens and new earth that His people will enjoy without sin forever. Praise be to God!
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
Revelation 3 concludes Jesus’ speeches to the churches and in chapter 4 we are treated to a peek into the throne room of Heaven. Now, we have to remember that much of what we read in this book deals in word pictures. John is describing what he sees, when allowed, to tell us something. Revelation is filled with dramatic imagery and while John literally describes things, those things also have symbolic meaning.
At first read, we can say, “WOW!” The throne room is both amazing and terrifying, and that might just be enough for us, but here are some things that we should take into account when we read this chapter.
First, notice how John does not describe the One sitting on the throne in human terms. All John can make out is color and brightness. There is nothing for us in this description to make an idol of. We are just to be in awe of God and worship Him for who He is. I also appreciate that in the throne room of God, His symbols of promise, namely the rainbow, are still His own and are redeemed from the way that man has twisted them.
Second, many have wondered as to the significance of the twenty-four elders. Why 24 and not 12? Who are they? Matthew Henry writes this:
“Four-and-twenty seats around the throne, were filled with four-and-twenty elders, representing, probably, the whole church of God. Their sitting denotes honour, rest, and satisfaction; their sitting about the throne signifies nearness to God, the sight and enjoyment they have of him. They were clothed in white raiment; the imputed righteousness of the saints and their holiness: they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the glory they have with him.”
Third, when God speaks, the world takes notice. I believe that is what the lightning and thunder symbolize. The torches symbolize God’s gifts of grace to the church.
Fourth, the four living creatures represent the majesty, power, intelligence and providential care which form the basis of God’s rule over all creation.
Lastly, we notice that those who rightly know Jesus, also know that their salvation comes from Him, and so, they bow down and give all praise, honor, and glory to Him who is seated on the throne!
What a day it will be when we can stand together before the throne of God, washed clean by the blood of Jesus, to join in that marvelous choir! No more worry, no more death, no more frustration, thanks be to God!
Associate Pastor Jonathan Welch
 Matthew Henry Concise Commentary Revelation 4