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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

January 2015

Daily Bible Thoughts 794: Monday 19th January 2015:Isaiah 17-25

 Isaiah 65:17-25

This is a remarkable prophecy. It’s theme is picked up and reiterated in the New Testament ( See, for example, Revelation 21, 22.) Although Isaiah may have had in mind, to some extent, the joy and peace to follow the restoration of Jerusalem and return from exile, it is obvious that he had in mind something greater and far more glorious; a reality that even now is obviously still future tense. The vision of the Bible is immense, and we so often scale it down. God’s purpose is nothing other than a totally renewed cosmos, free from the ugliness of sin, suffering and pain. The allusion to (11:6-9) implies that this will be brought about through the Messiah.

‘’The new is portrayed wholly in terms of the old, only without the old sorrows; there is no attempt to describe any other kind of newness. Hence the familiar setting, Jerusalem, and the modest satisfactions, largely the chance to ‘enjoy the work of (one’s) hands.’ This allows the most important things to be prominent in the passage: the healing of old ills (17b); joy (18-19); life (20…); security (21-23a); fellowship with God (23b-24) and concord among his creatures (25). The point of a hundred years old is that in this new setting a mere century is shamefully brief, so vast is the scale…all this is expressed freely, locally and pictorially, to kindle hope rather than feed curiosity.’’ Derek Kidner: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.669

Prayer: Thank you for the glorious hope you hold out to all your people,

 

Daily Bible thoughts 793: Friday 16th January 2015: Psalm 112

Stuart Briscoe, in his autobiography, ‘Flowing Streams’, recalls a mission at Manchester University, in which, during a ‘Question Time’, John Stott was aggressively asked, ‘’How can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?’’ Briscoe says that as well as he can remember, Stott replied, ‘’My dear young friend, I have asked myself that question a thousand times but always coupled with another question of equal importance, namely, ‘How can there not be a God when there is so much good in the world?’ We cannot ask the one without the other, can we?’’ (pp.47, 48)

The truth is that in this fallen world, scarred by suffering and pain, bad things happen, even to good people. This beautiful psalm speaks of a man who fears God and is committed to His ways. It does not say that he will receive no ‘’bad news’’ (think about what happened to that ‘’gracious and compassionate and righteous man’’ Job), but only that he will not ‘’fear’’ it (7). He has a ‘’secure’’ (8) and ‘’steadfast’’ (7) heart that comes from ‘’trusting in the LORD.’’ (7). There is an absence of ‘’fear’’ (8; Luke 1:74, 75). ‘’Even in darkness’’ he has ‘’light’’ (4), and he takes the long view (8b). Whatever ‘’bad news’’ may pay him a visit in the short term, he knows that ‘’in the end’’ it is all good news. ‘’Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people – God’s grace and mercy and justice!’’ The Message.

Godly people are not necessarily prosperous, but they may be (3). There are many, many godly poor in the world, but there are also the godly wealthy. Of course, at different stages in their lives, believers may experience both poverty and plenty (Phil.4:11-13). But one thing that marks people who ‘fear the Lord’ and have a lot of money is this: the ‘’Wealth and riches’’ that are in their houses (3a) are not hoarded there. They are generously shared (5) and given away (9; see 1 Timothy 6:17-19). ‘’Their houses brim with wealth And a generosity that never runs dry…The good person is generous and lends lavishly…They lavish gifts on the poor – A generosity that goes on, and on, and on. An honoured life! A beautiful life! The Message. Ungodly people who just want to have lots of lovely lolly for themselves, look with envy (10) when they see the blessing of God on those who fear Him and honour Him with their lives (including their goods). They can’t work it out. They just don’t get it. So they become angry, seeing something of what they want, but it eludes them.

Just as it is important to point out that godly people are not all, and always, wealthy, so it needs to be said that they don’t all have trouble-free times with their children. This psalm should not be taken as a cast iron guarantee that the children raised in believing homes will always turn out well. Nevertheless, it must be said that those children who do grow up in Christian homes are in a place of privilege and blessing (2). They are exposed to the example of their parents day after day, and they are the recipients of so much teaching and prayer. It is not surprising that many do turn out to be ‘’mighty in the land’’ (2). This is a great prayer to pray for your children, wherever they are today.

Prayer: Help me Lord to be fearless and generous as I seek to love you, worship you and honour you in every detail of my life. Thank you for your truly undeserved blessings.

Daily Bible thoughts 792: Thursday 15th January 2015: Ephesians 4:25-5:7

Paul has established that because this radical thing called conversion has taken place, and we have put off the old life and put on the new (20-240, we must no longer live as we used to. He is insistent on the point (17-19). This is not ‘up for debate’. As he goes on to now spell out some of the practical implications of this, it becomes clear that the ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ continues. It’s an ongoing process of taking off our ‘dirty clothes’ and putting on ‘clean’, fresh ones. Here are some of the things he says:

  • Put off dishonesty and put on truthfulness (25). The reason is because we belong together in ‘’one body’’. ‘’In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.’’ The Message
  • Put off sinful anger and, by inference, put on reconciliation and peace-making (26, 27; see Psalm 4:4). The wrong sort of anger can ‘’give the devil a foothold.’’ Many married couples have spoken about the importance of applying these verses to themselves; sort things out before you sleep. ‘’Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.’’ The Message.
  • Put off theft and put on generosity (28). It is true that you work to support yourself and your family, but the reason Paul mentions here is in order to help other people who are in genuine need. That’s an interesting perspective on why to earn a living.
  • Put off bad words and put on those that benefit others (29). ‘’Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.’’ The Message.
  • Put off bad attitudes and actions and put on good qualities (4:31-5:2). Another way to state this is to say, take off everything that is not like Jesus, and clothe yourselves with Christlikeness and Godliness. ‘’Forgive one another as quickly and as thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.’’ The Message. Paul shows that there are ways of thinking and feeling and behaving that can actually cause pain to the Holy Spirit who is in us, with whom we have been ‘’sealed for the day of redemption.’’ (30; see 1:13). The Holy Spirit is God’s ‘mark of ownership’ upon us. He has bought us and one day He is going to come back and take us home. On that day our ‘’redemption’’ (4:30) will be completed. Remember that salvation is in three tenses: we have been saved (4:20-24); we are being saved (4:25-5:7); we are yet to be saved (4:30). ‘’Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.’’ The Message
  • Put off immorality (and everything unbecoming for God’s people) and put on holiness (5:3).
  • Put off dirty and trivial talk and put on thankfulness (5:4) ‘’Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, Christians have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.’’ The Message.

Our passage for today concludes with serious words. The kind of ‘lifestyle’ we are called to put off is really a clear indicator of not being part of God’s Kingdom and under His rule. People who consistently behave in these ways are surely not in the process of being saved from sin, but are heading for judgment (5-7).

Prayer: Lord, help me to put off today the things that displease you, and put on what delights you.

Daily Bible thoughts 791: Wednesday 14th January 2015: Ephesians 4: 20-24

Theses verses supply the doctrinal heart of an intensely practical section of ‘Ephesians’. The entire range of individual, yet inter-connected, exhortations to follow find their basis in this radical change that is conversion. I read on one occasion that in the early church, when someone was going to be baptized, they took off an outer garment before going into the water. When they came up out of it, they put on a clean white robe. This was emblematic of taking off the old life and putting on the new. Note three things about the new life in Christ:

The new life is all about Jesus (20, 21).It starts with hearing about Him (21) and coming to know Him as a real Person (20). Part of this involves hearing the truth about Jesus, and the truth Jesus Himself taught. It also entails following the truth that Jesus is (21; see John 14:6). You may remember from yesterday that Paul’s insistence that we should live a new life was ‘’in the Lord’’ (17), and it is because we are ‘’in him’’ (21) that we can do so. Just as a bird is at home in the air, and a fish in the sea, so we believers are at home in Christ. He is our supernatural habitat; the very atmosphere that surrounds us. We can follow the truth of Christ’s life and obey the truth of His teaching because of this vital union with Him (John 15).

The new life begins with repentance – a change of mind leading to a change of behaviour (22, 23). I believe Paul, in today’s passage, has in mind something that not only happened at conversion, but which must continually happen as we live the Christian life. It’s a day by day, and even moment by moment, thing. But he is in particular looking back to that decisive beginning of the life of discipleship in which someone makes a clean break with sin. One preacher said to the congregation at the end of his sermon, ‘I want to invite you to make a step of commitment and come down to the front of the church building to give your life to Christ. But don’t come out here unless you’re prepared to leave your favourite sins behind you in the seat where you’re sitting!’ In our pre-Christian existence we all had a problem in the area of our ‘’thinking’’ (17) so something radical has got to happen in our ‘’minds’’(23). (By the way, our minds will still come under assault even after we have turned to Jesus and will require constant protection. Think about chapter 6 verse 17a in this connection. It is important to always remember that these temptations are ‘’deceitful’’ (22). They tell you lies. They are expert liars, and they find us only too willing to swallow them.)

The new life is about the restoration of God’s image (24; see also Colossians 3:5ff.). God doesn’t just want to forgive our sins, as marvellous as that is, but to restore in us the image of Himself that was marred and defaced at ‘the fall’. His purpose in sanctification is to glorify us (Romans 8: 30). It is to make us exactly like Him. As we are in this process of being made like God, we are exhorted to copy Him even now (See 5:1). C.S. Lewis observed that if you could see your ‘brother’ now appearing as he one day will, you would be tempted to fall down and worship him! God is going to make him so like Himself and cover him with glory.

Finally, the language of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ implies that conversion is not something that is just done to us, but that which we are actively involved in. Everything we do is only done by the grace and power of God. We know this. We couldn’t do it without Him. Nevertheless we have to decide to turn away from sin and embrace Christ’s way. It is a choice we must continue to make every day of our lives.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that I’m a new creation in you, called and enabled to live a new life.

Daily Bible thoughts 790: Tuesday 13th January 2015: Ephesians 4: 17- 1

In John Stott’s break down of the structure of ‘Ephesians’, he says that God gives people new life, bringing them into a new society in which they have new standards. The section dealing with these ‘new standards’ starts here at chapter four verse seventeen and goes through to chapter five verse twenty.

When you are in Christ you are supposed to live differently (17), and along with the apostolic insistence about this, we are going to see that there is also a divine infilling (Ephesians 5:18) to make it possible. The Christian life begins with repentance which is an ‘about turn’. The word to repent literally means to change your mind. It’s a change of mind leading to a change of behaviour. It is a fact that ‘’futility of thinking’’ lies behind all pre-Christian conduct, and the Bible always connects the dots between the way we think and the way we behave. As we think in our hearts, so are we! That is why you have to repent in order to live the life God is calling you to.

It is imperative to live a new life once you are in Christ. Paul’s language is strong. But his insistence is not his own, but Christ’s: ‘’…I …insist on it in the Lord…’’ The new standards are set by Christ. Indeed they are shaped by who Jesus is. We are intended to be a reflection of Him (20, 21) The call to Christian discipleship is not on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. We are under orders to live differently. Jesus Christ is ‘’Lord’’ (17).

So before someone becomes a Christian they are ‘’separated from the life of God’’ (18). This is at the heart of being spiritually ‘’dead’’ (2:1); it is to be cut off from God. Someone in that state has a problem with their ‘’thinking’’ (18) and ‘’understanding’’ (18). They are ignorant regarding the most important matters. And not only do they have blind minds, but they also have hard hearts (18b). Most of all this is hardness towards God, but it often shows itself in hard-heartedness towards people. But the loss of ‘’sensitivity’’ is particularly God-ward in direction, and shows itself in doing things that displease Him (19) and wanting to do ‘’more’’ of them.

It’s been said that the last words of (19) could be engraved on the tomb of every materialist: ‘’…with a continual lust for more.’’ Materialism is like drinking sea (salt) water; the more you have, the more you want!

When God raises you from death with Christ, He makes it possible for you to live in a way that is totally different (2:10), and He ‘insists’ that you do.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for setting me free from that old, futile, sin-dominated way of thinking and living.

Daily Bible thoughts 789: Monday 12th January 2015: Isaiah 65:1-17

When God ‘’called’’ to His people they ‘’did not answer’’; when He ‘’spoke’’ they ‘’did not listen’’ (12). We know from our reading of this great prophetic book thus far that if we do not listen when God speaks to us, we cannot expect Him to listen when we try to talk to Him in prayer. He calls us to turn from our own sinful ways that are displeasing to Him (12b). Think back to Friday’s notes on chapter 64 (verses 4-7 especially).

God takes the initiative in salvation (1). But so many of the people He revealed Himself to turned away from Him to idols and disgraceful practices (2-5), for no religion can be better than its gods! So the Lord was going to bring punishment upon His sinful people (6, 7, 11 and 12).

But, thankfully, this is far from being the entire story. Amidst the prevalent unfaithfulness there was a godly remnant (8-10). There were those who genuinely did seek the Lord, and He promised His blessing to them. God would take care of them. Beyond the inevitable exile there would be a new dawn; a new beginning for God’s chosen people.

This chapter is headed ‘’Judgment and Salvation’’ in the ‘New International Version’ of the Bible. It is true that both ‘options’ are ‘on offer’ here (13-17). We can turn from our sins, to the Lord, and find blessing; or we can turn from Him to our idols and have judgment. Someone observed that ultimately all God does in judging people is to confirm the choices they have already made. So be wary of what you desire for it will surely be yours. As C.S. Lewis said, in the final analysis there are only two kinds of people in this world – ‘’those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’; and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’ ‘’

Thought: What is God saying to me today? What am I doing about it? What am I going to do about it?

Prayer: Lord God, help me to approach you with a clean heart. I want to repent of all my sin so there is no blockage in the prayer channel.

Daily Bible thoughts 788: Friday 9th January 2015: Isaiah 64

Isaiah’s ‘prayer for revival’ continues through this chapter. This sort of prayer asks God to come back (63:17: ‘’Return’’ ) and ‘’come down’’ (64:1). Prayer for revival has intensity: ‘’Oh…!’’(1), and I fear that too much contemporary praying lacks this heart – cry; this anguished ‘Oh’. It also is prepared to ‘’wait for’’ God to manifest His presence and power (4). Isaiah called on God to ‘’come down’’ and make His ‘’name known’’ to His enemies (1, 2), just as He made His Name known to Pharaoh centuries earlier (Ex.14: 3, 18). God made the mountains tremble when He came down on Sinai (3; see Ex. 19:18). Revival prayer is also holy prayer. If we cherish sin in our hearts God will not listen. At (5) Isaiah pauses in his prayer and recalls how Israel continued to sin against God’s ways, and sin creates a barrier. It did for the Israelites; it will for us. If we want to pray effectively for an outpouring of God’s Spirit we must be earnest and patient, as we have seen; but also have to be committed to purity, and turning from everything wrong in our lives as God shows us what He wants us to change. It’s important to ‘keep short accounts’ with God.
In (6, 7) Isaiah confesses on behalf of his people. He is praying himself – obviously! – but he has to confess a general prayerlessness among God’s people. There is probably a need for us to do the same: ’’No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you.’’ The Message. It’s not the case that no one is praying in the contemporary church. Far from it. Yet there is such a need for a great outpouring of the Spirit of prayer. The prayer meeting is pretty ‘desolate’ in many church settings.
God is rarely called ‘Father’ in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16), but in (8-12) Isaiah pleads with God as a son with his father. It’s been said that he asks God to remember, not their sins, but their standing as His children. In (10, 11) he looks ahead and sees the terrible punishment to be inflicted by means of the Babylonians.
‘’Isaiah’s prayer ends with a question; God’s answer to the question will be given in the final two chapters of Isaiah. In many ways, Isaiah’s prayer in this chapter is a model prayer for all of us who sometimes find ourselves ‘’wasting away’’ because of our sins (verse 7). Note that Isaiah’s prayer begins in the previous chapter with praise (Isaiah 63:7);here it ends with the humble expectation of God’s answer. That’s a good beginning and ending for any prayer.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1070.
Warren Wiersbe, writing on this chapter makes the point that there is a ‘missing demonstration’ of God’s power, and it is linked to ‘missing intercession’ on behalf His people, and ‘missing submission’ among His people.
Prayer: ‘’Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend…’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 787: Thursday 8th January 2015: Isaiah 63:7-19

‘’…many good things…many kindnesses.’’ (7)

We too have experienced God’s immense blessing: ‘’Compassion lavished, love extravagant.’’ The Message. He has done great things for us and we are glad. How should we respond? a.) By telling (7a); by praising (7a), and by not rebelling (10). We surely don’t want to grieve His Holy Spirit, which is always a possibility (Ephesians 4:30). He has been so good to us, carrying us through all the days of our lives, just as He did for Israel (9). We don’t want to disappoint Him (8), or in any way turn our Divine Friend into a Foe (10).

But God’s disciplinary acts are meant to bring His people to their knees in prayer, intensely seeking Him afresh. This is what we see in (11-14). It’s a prayer for revival, or, at least, the preliminary to it. When God turned away from His people, they ‘’recalled the days of old.’’ (11). They asked, ‘’Where is he?’’ ‘Where is our great wonder-working God who visited us in such power in days gone by, and who magnificently glorified His Name?’ They longed for their God to return to them as in the past. ‘’And what happened to the One who set his Holy Spirit within them? Who linked his arm with Moses’ right arm, divided the waters before them. Making him famous ever after…’’ The Message.

At verse 15, Isaiah’s prayer on behalf of Judah begins. It continues throughout chapter 63. It is a prayer for God to ‘’Return’’ (17). That in essence, is what prayer for revival is, and there are a number of examples of such prayers in the Bible. ‘’Isaiah’s prayer reflects the feelings of a people who have rebelled against God, lost His protection and blessing, and now recognize their sin. They feel abandoned; they remind God that they are His children and He is their Father. And they ask Him to return to them as before. Many believers have uttered similar prayers, and we know that God hears them; God will never abandon His children, His servants (verse 17), who confess their sins and place their trust in Him.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1069.

Prayer: Revive your mighty work among us O Lord our God, for the honour of your Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 786: Wednesday 7th January 2014: Isaiah 63: 1-6

This bloody, but triumphant picture is one of God in His judgment of the nations. It is a portrayal that lots of people find repulsive, and even as believers we can struggle with it. But the reality is that God is the Judge of all the earth. He will only ever do what is right and just and fair. But He will judge all people. However, the prophetic books, like ‘Isaiah’, show that this will not happen until there has been ample warning. God is longsuffering and sends back His prophets repeatedly, calling people to repent. He does not close the door of the ‘ark’ until a long period of preaching has elapsed. The day of opportunity to turn to God and be saved is a long one. But it is not open- ended. It will come to a close. God is ‘’mighty to save’’ (1b), but He is also mighty in judgment. His enemies will not triumph over Him; He will conquer them.

There is coming a day when all the things in the world we wish were judged are going to be. Every wrong will be righted; each injustice will be overturned. The problem for us is that there are things we don’t want to have judged, like our sins. But they too will come under judgment if we don’t trust in Christ.

But here also is our hope, and I believe we pick up in this passage a number of echoes of Jesus. His garments are ‘’stained crimson’’ but He is also ‘’robed in splendour.’’ He trod ‘’the winepress alone.’’ He went to the cross for our sins so that we can be free from their condemnation and judgment, if we trust in Him. The cross is about salvation for all who believe because it is also about God’s judgment on sin. The cross does not overlook sin, but condemns it, showing how exceedingly sinful it is. It demonstrates both God’s justice and love. It shows that God is just and does not overlook sin. It also reveals that He is love and wants to save sinful people. It is through Christ alone that anyone can be saved (3, 5).

‘’ It is a victory obtained by the grace of God in Christ over our spiritual enemies. We find the garments dipped in blood adorning him whose name is called The Word of GodRev. 19:13. And who that is we know very well; for it is through him that we are more than conquerors over those principalities and powers which on the cross he spoiled and triumphed over.’’ Matthew Henry’s Commentary.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for your glorious triumph at the cross.

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