Daily Reflections June 9, 2017
Our world is full of things that can terrify us. It is not hard for us to be overwhelmed and feel powerless. There may not be a real threat of physical war like the people of Israel experienced like in this chapter. But many of us, especially as evangelical Christians, can identify with the feeling of being fearful in having this hostile world pressing against us. We will inevitably have this experience if we are true believers. Thankfully, this chapter in Isaiah gives us some encouragement as it did Israel.
We should first see that God controls all history. Often, historians do not consider God in their work. It is simply a record of events that is connected by the passing of time. But here we see that God is immanently involved in the rise and fall of every nation in every age. Verse 4 says,
“Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord – with the first of them and with the last – I am he.” (Isaiah 41:4).
Therefore, we do not need to fear a ruler, nation, or generation that threatens us. They are bound by the chains of God’s sovereign rule.
We should secondly observe that God is the source of all strength for his people. God chose the small, insignificant nation of Israel to be his servant with whom he would dwell among and bless. And God assures them that if he has called them and walks with them then they have nothing to fear because he is their strength and help in time of need. In the same way, if we are Christians, we can be confident that God will sustain us and protect us as his beloved children. The apostle Paul tells us this by saying,
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33)
We should finally recognize that God often gives us reminders of his promises. The people of Israel, like us, were prone to forget the grace and power of God in their time of desperation. When they experienced famine or drought, their minds tended to think that God had forsaken them. But continually God showed them that he has not forgotten his promises to them. These are not small hints or reminders that can be misconstrued. God gives undeniable evidence of things that only he can do to show them that he has not forgotten them. As Christians, we sometimes want to seek supernatural signs and wonders like we see in the Old Testament to verify that God is still working for our good. But when we do not readily see these, we become fearful. Instead, consider the supernatural grace of God in regeneration, sanctification, repentance, faithful submission to God’s Word, spiritual gifting, etc. God is still showing himself evident and powerful through these things which should give us great strength and hope even in the midst of a fear-inducing world.
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
The first section of Revelation 11 (vv. 1- 14) is widely regarded to be one of the most interpretively challenging passages in the entire book. These fourteen verses are loaded with symbolic imagery already found in the previous chapters of Revelation, but there is also found a great deal of Old Testament allusions which inform our understanding of the text. We are required, therefore, to work for the fruits of this text, but once this is done the church is given a message that we cannot afford to miss.
The chapter begins with the Apostle being instructed to measure “the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there.” This is a clear allusion to Ezekiel 40-42 and is meant to convey that God has a thorough and complete knowledge of His temple. In light of other NT texts (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22) we know that God’s true temple is not a structural building, but instead the body of Christ, the church. While the Apostle is instructed to measure certain parts of the temple, he is clearly told not to measure the outer courts. This area is going to be trampled on by the nations. From all of this we are provided with two important pieces of information. First, we are reminded that God intimately knows those who are His, the true church. Secondly, we are made aware that tribulation will come and that those who do not persevere through the trampling will not be measured as part of the temple.
We are then introduced to two witnesses, clothed in sackcloth, who will prophesy for 1,260 years. In v. 2 we are told these witnesses are “the two olive trees and the two lampstands.” Once again this is a clear OT allusion, this time to Zechariah 4:1-14. In the context of Zechariah the identity of the olive trees are the high priest Joshua and Zerubbabel, the Davidic governor. These two men were God’s chosen vessels for the restoration of the holy city. They did this through powerful, anointed ministry. Elsewhere in Revelation, however, we have already been told that the lampstands are representative of the church (1:20). Combining these two images it is safe to assume that the two witnesses are representative of the true church involved in anointed ministry.
It is then said that the church is protected until the completion of its witness. Allusions to the ministry of both Elijah and Moses are used to demonstrate this point (vv.5-7). Nothing can stand against God’s Word as its proclamation is accompanied by great signs and wonders, and all enemies are consumed as by fire. This protection is granted until the work is complete. Once the work is completed the church will drink the cup of its Lord and suffer the same fate of death. Just as this was not the end of our Lord’s story, so it is not the end of the church. Three and half days later the church will respond to the call of the Lord and rise from death to meet with him in the sky.
Having worked through the text we must now ask what it means for us as a church. Allow me to propose three points to take away.
1. God is sovereign over all things. It is impossible to read this text and not be struck by the fact that nothing lies outside the control of God. It is God who permits and anoints our ministry, it is God who provides us with supernatural protection, and it is God who permits the beast to make war and kill the church. Whether we find ourselves in a season of great triumph or opposition, we must remember that the Lord is the author of both and is never acting without a purpose.
2. We must be actively engaged in witnessing. There is nowhere in the NT that we can escape this call, least of all in Revelation 11. When the Lord not only commissions, but also equips and protects we have no excuses to not be engaged in taking part in the proclamation of God’s testimony.
3. Opposition to the gospel is not a possibility, but a certainty. This, however, should lead us not into fear. The worst that man can do to us is kill our bodies, but we serve a God who has the power of life in His very breath.