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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

May 2014

Daily Bible thoughts 628: Friday 30th May 2014:

Isaiah 10: 1-4

How we treat others is a matter of great importance to God, and it will be taken into account in the judgment!                                  This is the final part of the message to Israel that we began to listen to yesterday. It begins at 9:8 and concludes at 10:4. It is a stinging message; direct and hard on the ear. This last section deals with some of the evil practices of the people. It is important to remember that God hates injustice. He is burning with anger over the oppression of the poor and helpless by the rich and powerful, and, we need to ensure that we are never complicit with such conduct. God states clearly that a ”day of reckoning” is coming upon these unjust people (3), and they will either become ”captives” or ”fall among the slain” (4). Even then, God will not be finished with them (4b). Perhaps that is indicating that beyond any preliminary, and terrible, judgment that may be visited upon them in this world, there is still the final judgment to come.

”Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims – Laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, Exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children. What will you have to say on Judgment Day, when Doomsday arrives out of the blue? Who will you get to help you? What good will your money do you? A sorry sight you’ll be then, huddled with the prisoners, or just some corpses stacked in the street.” The Message.

”What will you do on the day of reckoning…To whom will you run for help?” (3; see Job 31:14). These are big and important questions. Only those who are trusting in Christ for salvation can give the right answer. Every other supposed refuge will prove illusory on that day. There are many people who hope to shelter under ‘rocks’ that are like the sort you find on a stage set.           They might look good from a distance, but the truth is they are flimsy and not the real thing.

”Where will you leave your riches? (3b). One thing is for sure, you will leave them. Two ladies were talking about a wealthy man who had died. ‘How much did he leave?’ asked one. ‘Everything!’ replied the other. Everyone does. There are ‘no pockets in a shroud.’ Remember the story told by Jesus about the rich fool (Lk.12:13-21) and his words about the shrewd manager: ”I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Lk.16:9). What good is our wealth if we are not ready to meet God? What use is it if we do not steward it as He dictates?

Prayer: Lord, everyone I will meet today bears your image. Help me to see you in them and treat them as I should.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 627: Thursday 29th May 2014:

Isaiah 9:8-21

”Those who were supposed to lead this people led them down blind alleys, And those who followed the leaders ended up lost and confused.” The Message. The leaders of Israel led the people astray. They led them in pride and arrogance and dismissing God’s Word (8-12). Leaders always carry the greater responsibility (James 3:1), but the people who follow are also held responsible (17). They were a guilty lot. In (8-12) Isaiah begins a new prophecy. It is specifically directed against ”Jacob” (the northern kingdom of Israel) and its capital city, ”Samaria”. From the outset the northern kingdom had always been more godless and wicked than Judah. Now God’s judgment was ready to fall on Israel. Yet God’s Hand was ”still upraised” . In other words, His full judgment was yet to come. Recently I was loaned a powerful dvd in which a Messianic Jew, a preacher in America, was showing how major U.S. leaders quoted Isaiah 9:10 publicly after recent traumatic events, without realising that they were expressing words from a passage about judgment. (A similar message of proud defiance is engraved on one of the topmost stones of the new Number 1 World Trade Centre, by the way). These prophetic words are not ones you would want to quote if you really understood the context, for they invited, and in fact led to, more judgment. ”The Master sent a message against Jacob. It landed right on Israel’s doorstep…they were a proud and arrogant bunch. They dismissed the message, saying, ”Things aren’t that bad. We can handle anything that comes. If our buildings are knocked down , we’ll rebuild them bigger and finer. If our forests are cut down, we’ll replant them with finer trees.” So GOD incited their adversaries against them…The Message.

Clearly God wanted the people to respond to His chastisement (13-17), and return to Him. But that did not happen (13) and, as we have seen, the leadership of the land did not lead the way in what was required (16). So the punishment was going to intensify, and God was going to deal with the bad leaders.

”Surely wickedness burns like a fire” (18 -21). Unchecked wickedness spreads rapidly throughout a nation. There is a clear warning here for the U.K., and for every nation under heaven. The message through Isaiah goes on to say that the spreading fire of human wickedness will soon be followed by the fire of God’s judgment (19). Part of God’s judgment on Israel will come in the form of civil war, in which brother will eat brother. ”Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh” (21) and they together ”will turn against Judah” (20, 21). But still God’s anger will burn against them because of their refusal to repent. (Manasseh and Ephraim were sons of Joseph and founders of the two most prominent tribes in the northern kingdom).

”Their wicked lives raged like an out-of-control fire, the kind that burns everything in its path…’ The Message.

Prayer: Lord, so fill me with Holy Spirit fire that I light up everyone and everything in my path for good, and your greater glory.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 626: Wednesday 28th May 2014:

 Isaiah 9:1-7

Yesterday we considered the darkness that people get into by rejecting God’s Word, and true preaching such as Isaiah’s, and when they start dabbling in false religion; particularly when they splash around in the muddy waters of the occult. There was great darkness in Isaiah’s day, brought on through sin, the rejection of God’s revelation and turning to false gods. This would ultimately lead to the darkness of invasion and captivity. But when we step into to chapter 9 there is a huge contrast. Bright light floods the stage. In the darkest days of Israel’s history, the prophet Isaiah received this vision of light and hope, and it concerns the coming of Jesus.

God will save His faithful people in the end (1). A day will come in the future when He will once more give His people ”light”. In (1) Isaiah mentions the humbling of ”Zebulun” and ”Naphtali”, Israel’s two northernmost tribes. These were the first areas to be invaded by Assyria; they would also be the first to witness the ”light” of salvation in Christ. Jesus was to commence His ministry in northern Israel, in Capernaum, a Roman (Gentile) town on the Sea of Galilee. In this way God would ”honor Galilee of the Gentiles” (see Mt.4:12-15).  Compare 9:2 with 8:20. The ”light” was Christ, who is the ”light of the world” (John 8:12). He is a ”light for the Gentiles” (Is.42:6; 49:6). It’s interesting to look at the tense Isaiah uses. He says the people in darkness ”have seen a great light”. Bible writers often spoke of future events in the past tense. They did so to indicate their complete certainty that their words would come true. If God says it, it’s as good as done already. Isaiah did not know when the Messiah would come, but he was sure that he would. Likewise we do not know when Jesus will come a second time (Mark 13:32, 33) but we know that He will. His Word says so repeatedly.

The enlarging of the nation (3) may well refer to the return from exile or the growth of Christ’s worldwide church. Perhaps both. There is going to be an ”increase of his government” (7). In (4, 5) Isaiah compares this future deliverance to Israel’s amazing victory over Midian, when God enabled three hundred Israelites to defeat a large and powerful army (Judges 7). But the means of this great future deliverance would not be a small army of 300; it would be a ”child”, a ”son” (6): a royal descendant of David (Matt.1:1), who would ”reign on David’s throne” (7). The coming of this Son would fulfil the promise God made to David that his throne would be ”established forever.” (2 Sam.7:16). Isaiah cannot have in mind merely a future great king of Judah. The person described here is God Himself (6). ‘’He’ll take over the running of the world.’’ The Message. He is the key to the growth of the church (3), the increase of joy (3b) and the releasing of ”their shoulders” (4). He is the One who has ”the government” on His (6). And He is God’s gift ”to us” (6).

”…he who has extended the dominion of Jesus to the furthest limits of his being, will know most of the peace that passeth understanding.” F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.272.

Prayer: Lord I ask for deliverance for your oppressed people who are under any yoke other than that of Christ. And in my life may I know the increase of your government and enjoy all the peace that goes with that.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 625: Tuesday 27th May 2014:

Isaiah 8:18-22

Don’t go to the religious rubbish dump to pick up your religion! Listen to God: Seek Him always and seek Him only. We should look to the living God for our answers (19). He is well able to speak to us (18). The people of Isaiah’s day did not need to turn to other religious practices to get their guidance. God had clearly spoken. However, they did not like what they heard. That is regularly the case. The demonic powers will often oblige you with more palatable messages in the short term. They will use the ‘sprat’ to catch the ‘mackerel’. But in the long run they intend to destroy (21, 22). They do not deliver what they appear to promise. They draw you close to them so that they can put a knife in your ribs.  (Note: the writer to the Hebrews applied verse 18 to Christ and His ”children,” His followers. They were a ‘sign’ to the New Testament Jews that the Lord was once again dwelling with His people.)

Stick fast to His Word (20; Ps.119:105): Here is the right way to test preaching; to measure the religious ideas and messages of others. ”When people tell you, ”Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?” Tell them, ”No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” People who try the other ways get nowhere-a dead end!” The Message. People who do not ”speak according to this word” have no light to share with those who are in darkness.

Recognise the futility of false religion (21, 22): It will leave you ”Distressed and hungry” and angry and in ‘utter darkness”. In rejecting the truth of the Bible, it is fascinating and shocking to see what some people will turn to and believe. People are incurably religious. They have a ‘God-shaped hole’ in their hearts and must fill it with something. They do try to stuff it full of some pretty ludicrous things. But behind all false religion there are deceiving spirits, and in some forms of religious expression people are actually seeking to make contact with the spirit world. This is dangerous and expressly forbidden in the Bible (Lev.19:31; Deut.18:9-12)

”Frustrated and famished, they try one thing after another. When nothing works out they get angry, cursing first this god and then that one, Looking this way and that, up, down, and sideways – and seeing nothing. A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing.” The Message.  Empty religion has ultimately nothing to offer to empty people. It just leaves them feeling even more empty, and hungry!

In reading (21) I am reminded of a couple I met whilst doing ‘door-to-door’ work with my church in Wigan. We were attempting to meet people where they were and engage them in conversation about Jesus. One night a husband and wife came to a particular door. They were both spiritists. While she was gentle and kind, he was livid. He was so angry. In fact I would say he was ”enraged” (21). But they were willing to talk and we spoke to them more than once. What that man got from his religion was not attractive. Although his wife wore more of the form of an ‘angel of light’, tragically they were both lost in the darkness. I trust something we said may have encouraged them into the light, but I have no way of knowing.

In these days there is a renewed interest in occult activity, especially among the young. Here is a solemn warning to steer clear of such deep, dark, demon-infested waters where people will surely be gobbled up and savaged or drown!

Prayer: Lord, in this dark world, and in these dangerous waters, I choose your Word as my constant navigation aid. Let me never stray from the sound of your voice.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 624: Monday 26th May 2014:

 Isaiah 8: 11 – 17

Isaiah begins by saying: ”The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me… (11). God didn’t simply speak to Isaiah with words, but He also ordered the circumstances of his life so as to confirm His verbal message. It is remarkable when we see this happen; when we watch doors firmly close and others open wide as we seek His guidance.

God’s people are called to be different. They are meant to have alternative standards and values, and follow a counter-cultural lifestyle (11-13). This different way of living flows from the worship of God at the centre (13). It is knowing and loving and serving a Holy God that makes all the difference. The fear (reverence) of God will drive out every other unnecessary fear (13). The Lord can be your ”sanctuary” or a stumbling stone (14, 15). He was going to be the latter to ”both houses of Israel” (i.e. the northern and southern kingdoms). They chose not to trust in God. God will either be your Rock of protection or Rock of destruction. You get to decide. ”The Holy can be either a Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking your way, The Rock standing in the willful way of both houses of Israel…Many of them are going to run into that Rock and get their bones broken… ” The Message.

The words of Isaiah in (14) are quoted by several New Testament writers and applied to Christ. Those who trust in Jesus will be saved; but those who do not believe will be condemned (Rom.9:32, 33; 1 Pet.2:6-8). Christ is the ”stone” that the builders rejected; but He has become the ”capstone”, the cornerstone without whom His church cannot stand(Ps.118:22, 23; Matt.21:42-44). There is no avoiding the clear message of judgment for those who reject Christ, as unpopular as such a notion may be. Neither can we evade the implication that the New Testament writers believed Jesus to be none other than God Himself.

I am arrested by the words of (12b). One of the magnetic differences about Christians should be an absence of fear. We are not afraid of the things others so obviously fear. ”Don’t fear what they fear. Don’t take on their worries.” The Message. We have heard and responded to the words of Jesus as He says, ”Fear not”. The inner tranquility we possess will be so attractive in a world where the hearts of so many people are ”shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” The Message.

”On the prairies men often fight fire with fire. Against the career of the wall of flame there is but one resource; before it reaches the terrified fugitives they must light a fire to sweep the ground bare, that when the advancing horror reaches the spot there will be no fuel left for it to feed on. So with the heart of man, the only true preservation from fear of our fellows is an overmastering fear of our God. Sanctify Him in your hearts. Let Him be your fear and dread.” F.B. Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.272 (see 1 Peter 3:13-16).

The alternative to fear is faith. Trust would be Isaiah’s chosen path (17). Even though these were dark days for the people of God, he chose faith over fear and was prepared to wait for God’s activity. It may even be that he withdrew from public ministry for a time. Isaiah’s prophecies (”testimony” ) and teaching (”law” ) were to be sealed up (16). That way, when what he said came to pass, no one would be able to accuse him of later on changing the words to fit the facts (see John 14:29). Isaiah didn’t just speak empty words. He believed in them fervently and believed they would be proved true. They were! And we are still reading them today.

Prayer: Lord God, let there be a lasting legacy from my life for the glory and honour of your Name.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 623: Friday 23rd May 2014:

 Isaiah 8:1-10

There is a natural flowing on from chapter 7 in the Lord’s instructions to Isaiah (1, 2). They relate to the impending Assyrian attacks on both Israel and Judah. God told Isaiah to prepare a legal document and write on it the name of his next son to be born:       ”Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz”. It means ”quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Like the name of Isaiah’s first son (7:3), it is symbolic. It refers to the destruction that was about to be unleashed by the invading Assyrians. (Just an additional thought: God still uses ”ordinary” pens to write His story. He delights to use ordinary things; ordinary people so that He gets all the glory).

In (3, 4) he describes his marriage to a ”prophetess”. Afterward, she gave birth to his second son. It is assumed that his first wife died. The Lord told Isaiah that before the boy had learned to talk, the Assyrians would capture both Damascus (the capital of Syria) and Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom, Israel). In considering this remember the words in 7:4-9.

In (5-8) the prophet, as he so often does, switches from matter of fact prose to beautiful poetic language. The                           ”waters of Shiloah” (6a) were Jerusalem’s water supply. Here they symbolise the Lord’s preserving, sustaining power, which Ahaz and his people rejected in favour of looking to the king of Assyria for help. (See 7:2 and what comes after. They were faced with a clear choice between panic and peace.) The people of Judah were rejoicing over the downfall of the kings of Syria and Israel respectively (6b), but soon they would find themselves steamrollered by Assyria. The victory over these two gave Assyria a clear path to Israel. Indeed, the ”floodwaters” (7) would reach up to Judah’s ”neck” (8). That is, all of Judah except Jerusalem would be captured (see 2 Kings 18:13). All would seem lost, except for one thing; God would still be with a faithful remnant of His people:        ”O Immanuel” (8b).

The thought of ”Immanuel” leads Isaiah to look beyond the gloomy immediate future to a triumphant distant future, when all Judah’s enemies will be defeated; not only Israel and Syria close by, but also ”distant lands” such as Assyria and Babylon (9). These enemies will not be able to conquer God’s faithful remnant for, says Isaiah, ”God is with us” (10). This eventually happened. One by one Judah’s enemies fell and the exiled remnant returned to rebuild in the land. But this deliverance was but a foreshadowing of a far greater deliverance yet to come: the deliverance of God’s people from sin, Satan and death, through the real ”Immanuel”, the Lord Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                                                                                     Today we face the same choice as the people in Isaiah’s day. We can choose fear, or we can choose God’s ”gently flowing” peaceful provision. May He help us this day to choose wisely.

Prayer: Help me Lord to not live another day in panic, anxiety and stress when my ‘inheritance’ is Jesus’ own peace.

 

Daily Bible Notes 622: Thursday 22nd May 2014:

Psalm 105:23-36

In these verses the psalmist deals with the 400 year period the Israelites were in Egypt, and he sees God’s overarching sovereignty in it. Being a different people in the world’s culture needn’t work against us (23). In this strange and often threatening environment, we can flourish and grow (Remember verse 12, and consider what a change God can make). We may be ”aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11) but that should not be seen as a drawback. If God is on our side, who will be against us (Rom. 8:31)?God gives the growth (1Cor.3:6, 7).

So it was in that ”alien” place that God gave huge population growth to His people, which was a matter of grave concern to the Egyptians (Ex.1:6-10). They oppressed the children of Israel until God raised up a deliverer (24-26). ” God gave his people lots of babies; soon their numbers alarmed their foes.” The Message. It was in that self-same place that God performed His miracles through Moses and Aaron. ”They worked marvels in that spiritual wasteland, miracles in the Land of Ham.’’ Once, in this passage we read about what ”They” did (27). But even there ”They performed his miraculous signs…his wonders… Thereafter the emphasis is repeatedly on ”He” (7 times in 28 -36 in the NIV. See also ”his” in 28) God was the One who struck the Egyptians with plagues (In 26-36 eight of the ten plagues are mentioned), and they finally caused Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage (Exodus chapters 7-11).

In the New Bible Commentary, Alec Motyer makes the point that the people of Israel did not enter Egypt due to any sin on their part, but by God’s command and under His promise (Gn.46:3, 4). Nor was it for any sin of their own that they experienced Egyptian hostility. Indeed (25) it was by an act of God! Here is the mystery of divine providence. His thoughts and ways are not ours, but higher (Is.55:8). But how marvellous His ways are (Rom.11:33-36)! He brought them into an atmosphere of intimidation, danger and pressure, and there He revealed His great power. God always, it seems, has a man or woman ready when a job needs to be done. He waits to hear you say: ”Here am I! Send me!” (Is.6:8)

Some people argue that we now live in a ‘post-Christian’ culture. There is a growing indifference on the part of many, and even antagonism, and a shrug of the shoulders that says, ‘This is just irrelevant to me.’ But let us take heart, for if God could do such a mighty work in Egypt, He can do it here in our day. He is the same God for all time, and eternity. Nothing will ever change Him.

Prayer: Thank you Almighty Lord that you still show your wonders in ‘Egypt’.

 

Daily Bible Notes 621: Wednesday 21st May 2014:

2 Corinthians 7: 8-16

Leaders have to develop a toughness that is also tender, and it’s not always an easy line to tread. It is certainly a narrow one. How can you be firm when and where you need to be without at the same time becoming cruel and harsh? As we saw yesterday, and see again today, Paul was in turmoil over a severe letter he’d had to send to the church at Corinth. At the same time he was tough enough to write it and courageous enough to put it in the post. He was strong enough to say and do things that might hurt (although it was not his intention to hurt them) in order to see a God-honouring result. The ”Godly sorrow” his letter had caused them had led to ”repentance”. So all was well.

”I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad – not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him…Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?” The Message.

‘Trust in God and do the right.’ There are times when a leader has to say to himself or herself, ‘Whatever anyone else is doing, I’m going to do the right thing in this set of circumstances.’ It may not be popular. It may not win you a lot of friends. But if you see people straying from God and His ways, and you try to bring them back to the fold, you can live with your conscience and sleep at night. Hopefully, as here, the outcome will be good. But whatever, you will always know that you showed the courage of your convictions.

A person’s response to confrontation and correction reveals a lot about their heart. Paul believed he knew what the Corinthians were really like at heart, and he had ”boasted” to Titus about them. They had not let him down (14). The seed sown by Paul had fallen into good soil (which was essentially his conviction about their hearts) and produced good fruit. How lovely it is when you meet people who ‘refresh’ you (13). I guess we all know what that feels like.

Maybe you are facing a difficult situation today. You have to say or do (perhaps both) something that is really tough. May God give you the courage to do the right thing, being willing to stand alone if necessary; and the courage to leave the outcome with Him.

Prayer: Lord, let me not be lacking in the courage department when backbone is what is required.

Daily Bible thoughts 620: Tuesday 20th May 2014

 2 Corinthians 7:2- 7

Is there someone you know who is downcast? How can you help them today, and enable their sagging spirits to soar? This passage provides a clue, and we’ll get to the answer shortly.

When you love someone you will not willingly harm them. You might have to hurt them for their good, by chastising them (Paul’s experience with the Corinthians: 8ff) but you wouldn’t wrong them by corrupting or exploiting them (2) or wilfully doing bad things to them. Although Paul had received unjust criticism from some of the Christians in Corinth, out of his great big heart towards them he just wanted to bless them (4). He is a powerful example of a magnanimous, forgiving spirit. Others might want to grub around in the dirt, but he took the high road.

When you are going through difficult seasons in life, nothing lifts your spirits more than to know that there are people who love and care for you, and who are genuinely interested in your welfare. (This was also Paul’s recent experience with the Corinthian church: 6, 7).

Many people will be able to identify with Paul’s words: ”When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true assurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!” The Message.

(According to 2 Cor.2:12, 13, Paul had gone to Macedonia to meet Titus. The latter was on the return leg from Corinth, carrying with him news of the church there. Titus had earlier been the ‘postman’, carrying to them a severe letter from Paul, and the apostle was concerned about how they had reacted to this (2 Cor.2:3). Had they become angry and rejected him totally? Or had they repented and obeyed his admonitions as they did in the early days. Such questions were preoccupying his mind as he journeyed to Macedonia to find Titus. Thankfully, Titus was carrying news that was music to Paul’s ears: 6, 7). Church leadership is never easy, and at times can be excruciatingly painful. Remember the burdens leaders bear. Keep them in your hearts and prayers and regularly encourage them.

So here’s how to lift up someone’s drooping morale today (and it may be a leader. It could be a great general in the church like Paul.) Be a ‘Titus’ to them. Your very going to be with them will encourage them. And if you carry a message that they are loved and cared for and thought about you will be doing a great work for the Kingdom.

”Have you ever been an answer to someone’s prayers as Titus was?” Warren W. Wiersbe: With the Word, p.760

Prayer: Make me a channel of blessing today.

 

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