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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


December 2014

Daily Bible thoughts 781: Wednesday 31st December 2014: Isaiah 61: 4-11

We have seen that these verses relate to the restoration of Jerusalem following the exile in Babylon, and to the transformation of people and their spiritual flourishing under the anointed ministry of the Messiah. So both an immediate and a long-term fulfilment are woven together in these verses. It remains true that those transformed by the Messiah, Jesus (1-3) become society’s transformers (4). ‘’They…’’ who have been worked on by God go to work on a broken world in His power. They are called and equipped to be difference-makers. Verse 4 describes a situation of profound brokenness. Change seems totally unlikely. But the transformations God brings about through His people are nothing less than miraculous. If God wasn’t in it, such devastation would never be overcome. God must first do a work in us (1-3) before He can do a work through us (4-11)
Here is a message for New Year’s Eve: God is the God of new beginnings. He gives fresh starts. Even if you feel you’ve made a mess of your life, and you are surrounded by ruin and devastation of your own making, things can change. The same applies if others have been responsible for the damage: ‘’They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.’’ The Message. God has shown that He rebuilds cities; He rebuilds nations; and He rebuilds people;He rebuilds lives. What a turnaround the Jewish people were to experience in their fortunes. Verse 9 has certainly come to pass historically (even if there is still a greater fulfilment to come): ‘’Your descendants will become well-known all over. Your children in foreign countries will be recognized at once as the people I have blessed.’’ The Message. It is perhaps a great irony that a people so obviously blessed as the Jews, should also be so repeatedly and ruthlessly persecuted. Maybe, in part, envy over their blessing has caused this? Verse 6b reminds us that God owns all the wealth in the world, and He can get it to His ‘children in need.’ He knows where they are, and He knows where it is! He can get the two together!!
There is a breadth of vision here; a world vision (5, 6, 9, and 11). God is going to do a work in and through His people, and, ultimately, in and through the Messiah, that will affect the entire world. In (10, 11) Jerusalem herself ‘speaks’. Using figurative language, Isaiah describes how this city (Zion) will be clothed with ‘’salvation’’ and ‘’righteousness’’. The Lord will make His people grow like plants in a garden, and do such a work in them that ‘’all nations’’ will be affected for good. (See Genesis 12:3). We don’t save ourselves. Salvation – the gift of a right standing with God – comes from God. It is all His doing and for His glory. God dresses His people up in clothes of salvation and right living God’s purpose in choosing one man, Abraham, to become one nation, Israel, was so that through this nation the Messiah would come and bless the whole world. What a plan!
‘’I will sing for joy in GOD, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jewelled tiara.’’ The Message. What a way this is to ‘see out the old’ and ‘ring in the new’ – with an explosion of worship!
By the way, the blessing of God is an evident thing. People can see it in a human life (9b). They can even ‘smell’ it. So here is a prayer as we stand on the verge of a new year. It’s a line from a hymn by one of the early leaders of the Pentecostal movement. The hymn is: ‘’Move me, dear Lord, and others I shall move, to do thy will.’’ Here’s the line I have in mind…
Prayer: ‘’Under the anointing daily let me live…’’

Daily Bible thoughts 780: Tuesday 30th December 2014: Isaiah 61:1-3

Isiah 61:1-3

These great words apply to the Messiah. We know this because Jesus spoke many of them about Himself at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:14-21). If the words did apply to Isaiah it was in a secondary sense. Maybe to some degree they did relate to his obviously anointed ministry. But there was a much deeper meaning and intent in them. Whatever your situation or need may be today, you will find what you require in Jesus. He has an answer. He is your answer. Verse 3b is similar to chapter 60:21b. Jesus has come to make strong, sturdy, stable people; men and women, and boys and girls who are right with God and who live right, and who, in so doing, bring glory to God.

In the first place, Isaiah was again writing about a physical, literal deliverance from exile in Babylon. The ‘’captives’’ would be freed. The ‘’prisoners’’ would come home. There was going to be a new day in ‘’Zion’’ (3). The whole atmosphere of Jerusalem would change as the city was restored. People’s hearts and lives would be transformed. That happened about 150 years after Isaiah wrote these words. But at a much deeper level, Isaiah was anticipating the coming of the Messiah who would ‘’release’’ many prisoners from darkness’’, setting them free from bondage to sin. Jesus came about 700 years later.

I think this word of explanation from Tom Hale is important: ‘’When Jesus quoted verses 1-2, He omitted the last part of verse 2 about proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God. Jesus did not come to earth to proclaim vengeance; He came to proclaim salvation – the year of the LORD’s favour (see Isaiah 49:8). However, when He comes a second time, it will be to gather his elect and to proclaim judgment (vengeance) on all the rest of mankind (Mark 13:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Christ is both Saviour and Judge. Now He is Saviour of those who believe; soon He’ll be Judge of those who do not. In a very real sense, these centuries between Christ’s first coming and His second coming can be called the ‘’year of the Lord’s favour,’’ the period during which we are offered salvation. For each person this ‘’year of favour’’ ends at death; our choice in this life will determine whether Christ becomes our Saviour or our Judge.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1066.

If Jesus needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fulfil His ministry, how much more do we need the Spirit of God for ours? We are faced with a dark, sad and broken world, full of needy people. We cannot serve them as we should, in Jesus’ Name, without being clothed with power from on high. But with the divine equipping what power we will know to see people utterly transformed.

Prayer: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; fill me anew.

Daily Bible thoughts 779: Monday 29th December 2014: Isaiah 60

This glorious chapter describes the restoration of ‘’Zion’’ (14). We need to interpret it on at least three levels: a.) it refers to the restoration of Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile; b.) it speaks about Christ’s shining church in this present age; a divinely illuminated community filled with people, provision and power; c.) much of the prophecy (especially verses 15-22) will only be fulfilled when Jesus comes again and establishes His Messianic Kingdom in its fullness (e.g. verses 19 and 20 – see Revelation 21:23 and 22:5; 21:4, 27). ‘’You’ll name your main street Salvation Way, and install Praise Park at the centre of town.’’ The Message. What a day that will be!
Thinking about the church in the present age, there are a number of points to note. Some years ago, I believe God led me to this chapter, and Saturday night by Saturday night, as I was preparing for Sunday, I prayed through its contents. I got ‘stuck’ here for a while, and I believe it was God’s intention that I should. It was a wonderful spot to camp out on. God’s church will be full of light (1-3); it will be filled with people and provision (4-9), authority (12) and victory (14). Jesus is building a church that is ‘’open’’ to the outsider (11): outward – looking and always ready to receive new people. ‘’Your Jerusalem gates will always be open – open house day and night!’’ The Message. (Ultimately, Jesus is that open ‘’gate’’: John 10:7)The church will be a community composed of Jewish (4) and Gentile people (10a; see also Acts 15:14-16; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). (By the way, the coming of the magi from the east to visit Jesus resonates with the early part of this chapter. Think also about Psalm 72: 10, 11 and 15, and the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon.)
This world is a ‘dark’ place, and 2014 feels like one of the darkest years I have lived through. What is the church’s responsibility in such an atmosphere (2a)? It is to ‘’Arise, shine…’’ (1); to be that ‘’city on a hill’’ that ‘’cannot be hidden’’ (Matthew 5:14). This is the divinely appointed answer for a world shrouded in deep darkness. But our light is not our own; we shine with ‘’the glory of the Lord’’ (1, 2; see also 9b, 13b and 21b). The church is like the moon: ‘’the lesser light to govern the night.’’ (Genesis 1:16). We do not shine with our own inherent light. We reflect the rays of ‘’the greater light’’ – the Lord Himself who is our Sun (19, 20). When the church is most true to her calling; true to herself; and when she shines like God Himself because of her relationship with Him, crowds of people from all across the globe will flock trough her ever open gates (11). There will also be the arrival of abundant provision so that the church can fulfil her true calling. ‘’God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.’’ Hudson Taylor. The word ‘’but’’ (2b) draws attention to the fact that God has put a clear distinction between the church and the world, and people in the world should be able to see it. The church is most attractive when she is most counter-cultural.
‘’Whenever the glory of the Lord rises upon thee, be sure to reflect it. Arise, shine! Arise, to catch as much of it as possible. Shine, that others may catch as much as possible also…Sometimes Christians seek release from their positions in business or social life, on the plea that they are uncongenial and ungodly. Yet these are the very circumstances under which Zion is bidden to arise and shine. The darker the staircase, the more need of the candle.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.291.
Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for giving us the privilege to shine in this dark world. Thank you that in you our lives have meaning and purpose.

Daily Bible thoughts 778: Friday 26th December 2014: Psalm 111

Ponder and remember! (2, 4)
We can’t see it in our English translations of the Bible, but this is an acrostic poem. Each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a song of praise to God for His faithfulness to His covenant people. The psalmist shows that what God says He also does. His Words and His Works always go together. We Christians know this even better than the ancient Israelites. How thankful we should be.
With Christmas day now over for another year, we will start to turn our attention to the next 365 days and thoughts of what they may hold. Before doing that, however, why not take some time during the next week to ponder and remember? Look in the ‘rear view mirror’. Think about what God has done in your life during the past year. In fact, you might like to deliberately set aside some time to mentally work your way through the now disappearing twelve month period and thank God for specific blessings. When you try to ‘’count’’ them and ‘’name them one by one’’ you will find that you are genuinely ‘surprised’ at what the Lord has done. Think about it and thank Him for it! Remember the wonderful miracles He has done (2-4a; 7a); His manifestations of power (6). Consider His generous provision (5a), giving you far more than you could ask or imagine (6b). Think about what His faithful truth has meant to you (7b, 10). Rejoice in His covenant (5b), meditating on the redemptive sacrifice at the heart of it (9). As you look back, and turn all this over in your mind, your heart will surely burn, and you will give your God fervent praise (1, 10) and revere His ‘’awesome’’ (9b) Name. (See also 10). This year may have had its ‘ups and downs’. Most of them do. But as you reflect, you will surely come to the conclusion that God has been so good to you. That’s how I feel anyway, and I’m deeply grateful.
Here are some words from this psalm as found in The Message. (If you get chance to read the entire psalm in this modern version of the Bible you will almost certainly find it rewarding to do so.)
‘’Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got – Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation. GOD’s works are so great, worth A lifetime of study – endless enjoyment! Splendour and beauty mark his craft; His generosity never gives out. His miracles are his memorial – This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love…All his products are guaranteed to last…’’
‘’Probably this will be our employment in eternity; ever passing into deeper and fuller appreciation of the works of God, and breaking into more rapturous songs.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.235.
‘’…the unmerited grace and passionate love which flowed out first in redemption, brought the Lord’s people within the embrace of his covenant where they experience his providential care in daily needs, his power over all the power of their enemies, and his word by which they live.’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.561.
Prayer: Thank you so much for the blessing of belonging to your covenant people; for redemption with all it means; and for your constant care and power at work in my life.

Daily Bible thoughts 777: Thursday 25th December 2014: Ephesians 3:14-21

What a text for Christmas day! It speaks of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and resonates with the Christmas story, which tells how the Father God sent His Son into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, who did a miraculous and marvellous thing, causing a baby to be conceived by a virgin. That was something way beyond what anyone could ‘’ask or imagine’’ and it has indeed brought glory to God ‘’in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations’’. It continues to do so and will ‘’for ever and ever! Amen.’’ (See 20, 21). If the mystery and wonder of the Christmas story doesn’t get you on your knees (14) in prayerful adoration, I wonder what will?
Today, we remember that God has a ‘’family in heaven and on earth’’ (15), and we thankfully carry in our hearts those who are experiencing the reality that we only dimly realise in our Christmas celebrations here. They see His face (Revelation 22:4).
It also speaks of the ‘’deep, deep love of Jesus’’ (17-19), and I am reminded that ‘’Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas…’’ Christina Rosetti. God wants us to ‘’know this love’’ (19) even though it is beyond full knowledge. But we do know things about God’s love. We see what it looks like. It looks like Jesus. Would Jesus ever pass by a need that He could meet? Would He fail to give to anyone requiring His help? A self-indulgent Christmas that pulls up the drawbridge and closes out others is ultimately disappointing and self-defeating. I know this for, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve been there. I now realise that we cannot celebrate the coming down of love at Christmas without also sharing it. ‘’Love divine, all loves excelling…Fix in us thy humble dwelling…’’ Charles Wesley.
I also realise that for us, Christmas and New Year walk hand in hand. We move seamlessly from the one into the other. We do not know what lies ahead, whether good or bad, but we do know that the same Spirit who made the incarnation possible will strengthen us inwardly for whatever lies ahead (16).
The Christ who came down at Christmas wants to ‘’dwell’’ in hearts by ‘’faith’’ (17). The challenge of the Christmas message is, ‘Will we make room for Him there?’ Or will there be ‘No room’? It’s the abiding, provocative issue raised by this season. The world wants to go to Jesus’ birthday party (in fact, they want to run it; be in charge of proceedings.) But they don’t want Him there. He’d ruin it. Keep Him out back in the cold! It’s a great irony. We see it all around us if we have eyes to see. ‘Christmas begins with Christ.’ But for many people Christmas would not be Christmas for them without Christ being removed. (I understand that the meaning of verse 17 is: ‘’so that Christ may feel at home in your hearts…’’. Will Jesus ‘feel at home’ with the way we are living this Christmas time? And how about every other day of the year? The Holy Spirit has come to enable us to live lives that Christ will feel at home in. See verses 16 and 17a.)
Returning to the thought of (20, 21) once again, here’s a question for Christmas day 2014: ‘’He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’’ (Romans 8:32). David Hill was a missionary to China. David Hill’s father said, ‘’The greatest gift I gave to China was David Hill. After that, everything else was easy.’’
Prayer: Thank you Father God for this most wonderful day. Help me to honour your Son, Jesus, in all I do this day, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be pleased with my celebration of your birth.

Daily Bible thoughts 776: Wednesday 24th December 2014: Ephesians 3:1-13

The first thing to strike me in this chapter is the realisation that Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of Rome but ‘’of Christ Jesus’’ (1). He was so aware of the sovereign control of the Lord Jesus Christ over all his life that he knew there was no accident about his current circumstances. He also saw that his suffering was not pointless but purposeful: ‘’for the sake of you Gentiles.’’ God would bring good out of bad. (See also 13). His ministry was not about him, but it was for others (2). ‘’This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ.’’ The Message.
The thought of what God was doing in the church (2:11-22) gave Paul cause to pray: ‘’For this reason…’’ (1). But then he didn’t get round to the prayer for another several verses (14). We too can know what Paul knew, that through Jesus we have free and confident access to God in prayer. So verses 2-13 are in ‘brackets’. Paul was slightly distracted and began to write about the ministry God had entrusted to him to bring Gentiles into the same church community as Jews. Verse 6 is a summary of chapter 2:11-22. Paul saw his ministry as being totally due to the ‘’grace’’ of God (2 and 7). It was not something he deserved (8). There was a genuine humility about Paul, and he recognised he was completely dependent on God’s ‘’power’’ (7) and that his ministry was a sacred trust. He was ‘’a servant of this gospel’’ (7), and it was a ‘’gift’’ to be able to serve. ‘’ I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.’’ The Message. The content of his ministry was a ‘’mystery’’ (4, 6 and 9). This does not mean something closed but something wide open – an ‘open secret’, now revealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s about how God is shaping ‘’one body’’ centred in Christ (11) and comprising Jewish and Gentile believers in Him. Paul’s ministry was primarily about preaching the gospel to the Gentiles so that they could come into God’s new society. ‘’I got the inside story on this from God himself…The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.’’ The Message.
The church God is building on Christ is ‘Exhibit A’ of God’s ‘’manifold wisdom’’ (10). I once heard that this can mean God’s ‘many coloured’ wisdom. That seems significant when you think that God is building a multi-ethnic; multi-cultural community in Christ. Whether ‘’the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’’ (10) are angels or demons or both, is not clear. But certainly in the church spiritual beings see a demonstration of God’s immense wisdom. ‘’Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!’’ The Message.
Prayer: Thank you Lord that I am included in your plan, and that I have been brought into your new society. I am amazed at your goodness and grace.

Daily Bible thoughts 775: Tuesday 23rd December 2014: Isaiah 59: 20, 21

As we saw yesterday, God’s judging work would prepare the way for what Derek Kidner calls a ‘’kingdom of converts.’’ We can be judged for our sins, or we can repent and be forgiven. We get to choose (20).
God’s Spirit and His Word go together. There cannot be a genuine work of the Holy Spirit that dismisses or undermines the importance of the Bible. In a truly Pentecostal or Charismatic church, God’s Word will be honoured and taken seriously. The Scriptures will be searched. They will be faithfully, meticulously and systematically taught.
As a prophet of God, Isaiah was speaking Spirit inspired words. Here God gives him the encouragement that these words will be repeated by his ‘’children’’ and ‘’their descendants from this time on and for ever.’’ (21). There will be an enduring impact.
God’s Word should be in our ‘’mouths’’. We need to speak it to ourselves and to others. It is important to speak in line with it and according to it; to allow God’s wonderful Book to shape our speech. ‘’We must receive the Holy Spirit, and we must utter the words which He puts into our lips.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible, p.291. Meyer goes on to quote Acts 2:4: ‘’All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…’’ I heard a preacher say that when a bath gets full, the water goes out through a hole called an ‘overflow’. He went on to say that we are all fitted with an ‘overflow’. It’s a little hole beneath the nose called a ‘mouth’. He argued that if you work your way through the book of Acts you will find that when anyone got filled with the Holy Spirit, they overflowed, in some way, through the mouth.
‘’Here God gives His people two great covenant gifts, His Spirit and His words, and they will not depart from His people. These two gifts are given to us today – through Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift of all.’’
’In verse 21, God says His Spirit and His words will not depart from the people’s mouth (see Joshua 1:8). Neither will they depart from the people’s hearts, because the new covenant will be written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). Heart and mouth go together; the mouth expresses what flows from the heart (Matthew 12:34; 15:18; Romans 10:9-10).’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1064.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for your mercy to the genuinely repentant. Thank you too for the gift of your Spirit and your Word, showing us a new direction to walk in, and giving us the power to do so.

Daily Bible thoughts 774: Monday 22nd December 2014: Isaiah 59:9-19

Good is missing in action.’’ The Message.
Spiritual darkness is what we opt for when we turn our backs on God (13b) and towards sin (9-11). We may not like it when we are in it, but we will get what we have chosen (John 3:19; 12:35-40). ‘’We long for light but sink into darkness, long for brightness but stumble through the night.’’ The Message. When truth (light) is not wanted, ignorance (darkness) is courted (14b, 15; see Revelation 11:8.)Sin is self-destructive. If you love darkness rather than light you will get what you love. As someone observed, truth is always the ‘first casualty’ in turbulent times. The ‘’justice…and righteousness’’ are ‘missing in action’ because they are not wanted (9 and 14.) They are pushed away because God is pushed away. Because right living is not popular, right living people are persecuted in such a society (15b). ‘’Perhaps the most revealing touch is the victimization of the decent man, the only one out of step. It is a worse breakdown than that of Am.5:13, i.e. not only public justice has warped, but public opinion with it.’ Derek Kidner: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.666.
In this section (9-15a), Isaiah confesses the sins of the nation as if they were his own. Was he personally guilty of these terrible wrongs? No. He surely was not. But there is a thread running through the Bible of prayerful people identifying with the sins of their own fellow citizens; standing in solidarity with them before God and crying, ‘Have mercy on us.’ This must have relevance for us as we seek to pray for our wayward and rebellious nation.
One reason why godly intercessors pray like this is at least in part because they know that ultimately God will move in judgment against sin (15b-19). He will come with a tsunami of justice. But even in His judging work there is mercy, for it paves the way for a ‘’kingdom of converts’’ as Derek Kidner puts it (19a).
Prayer: Oh Lord, please have mercy on our land. We have rebelled against you and resisted your ways. We have shaken our fists at you. We have shown hatred for your laws. We will not have you to reign over us. We deserve your judgment, yet we plead for your mercy. Forgive us our sins, for the sake of Jesus who died on the cross for us.

Daily Bible thoughts 773: Friday 19th December 2014:

 Isaiah 59: 1-8

The unavoidably sad truth is that sin separates. The vertical dimension of sin is the most serious of all. Sin separates us from God. But as the passage progresses the horizontal aspect comes ever more clearly into view: sin separates man from man. Isaiah highlights the social injustices the people of his day had been guilty of. In Romans 3:15-17 Paul quotes from verses 7 and 8 to show that everyone is guilty before God (even the Jews themselves).

‘’Your hands are drenched in blood, your fingers dripping with guilt…They trust in illusion. They tell lies, they get pregnant with mischief and have sin-babies…They compete in the race to do evil and run to be the first to murder. They plan and plot evil, think and breathe evil, and leave a trail of wrecked lives behind them. They know nothing about peace and less than nothing about justice.’’ The Message. Sin hurts God and harms people. It divides us from our Maker, and from one another.

But there is another truth that we have to face. It is that sin can separate our prayers (and even fasting, as we saw yesterday) from God. If we cherish sin in our hearts the Lord will not listen. However much we love religious exercises, our prayers are likely to be ineffective if we refuse to wash our ‘muddy’ hands. The people in Isaiah’s day were tempted to lay the blame on God for their difficulties, saying that His arm was ‘’too short’’ to help them or His ear ‘’too dull’’ to hear (1). ‘’But to blame God is always wrong. Whenever God seems distant and His blessings few, we need to look to ourselves to find the cause: it is our own iniquities that separate us from God.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1063.

‘’If God seems far away, guess who moved!’’

‘’God’s hand is unable to work when our hands are defiled with sin. Our prayers accomplish nothing (Ps.66:18), and His power is absent from our lives and ministries.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word, p.488

‘’Look! Listen! GOD’s arm is not amputated – he can still save. GOD’s ears are not stopped up-he can still hear. There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.’’ The Message.

It was to bridge that unbridgeable chasm between God and people that Jesus came into the world and died for our sins. His cross is the ‘Bridge’ over that immense gulf. Have you walked across it from darkness to light, and from death to life? You will find there is no other route.

Prayer: Help me Lord God to put down my favourite sins and cling only to Jesus’ cross.


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