June 12, 2015

 Isaiah 52-54
Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion!  Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city! Those who want no part of God have been culled out.  They won’t be coming along.  Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem!

Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion! God says, “You were sold for nothing. You’re being bought back for nothing.”... Now it’s time that my people know who I am, what I’m made of—yes, that I have something to say. Here I am!”...

Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts, shouting in joyful unison.  They see with their own eyes God coming back to Zion... “God has comforted his people!  He’s redeemed Jerusalem!” God has rolled up his sleeves. All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.  Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,  sees him at work, doing his salvation work....

“Just watch my servant blossom!  Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd! But he didn’t begin that way.  At first everyone was appalled. He didn’t even look human— a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.  Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see him.  For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”  Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?  Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.  There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.  We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.  We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him,  that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!  He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.  We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.  We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word.  Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.  Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening?  He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people.  They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain.  The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.  Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.  Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,  will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins.  Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly— the best of everything, the highest honors—Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest.  He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep....

Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed. Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.  You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.  For your Maker is your bridegroom, his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!  Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth...
Your Redeemer God says: “I left you, but only for a moment.  Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back. In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you -  but only for a moment.  It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you.... My love won’t walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” The God who has compassion on you says so....

All your children will have God for their teacher— what a mentor for your children!  You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness, far from any trouble—nothing to fear!.. far from terror—it won’t even come close!  If anyone attacks you, don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them,  And if any should attack,  nothing will come of it. I create the blacksmith who fires up his forge and makes a weapon designed to kill.  I also create the destroyer—but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged.  Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar.  This is what God’s servants can expect.  I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best.”  God’s Decree.

Luke 18 -

Jesus told them a story that it was necessary for them to pray continuously, and never quit.  He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people.  A widow in that city kept after him...He never gave her the time of day.  But after this went on and on he said to himself, “I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think.  But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice---otherwise, I’m going to end up beaten black and blue by her pounding.”  

Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge---corrupt as he is, is saying?  So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help!... He will not drag his feet.  But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son Of Man find on the earth when he returns?

He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people.   Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man.  The Pharisee prayed for show while the tax man prayed slumped in the shadows.  Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God.  If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” 

People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them.  When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off.  Jesus called them back.  Let these children alone.  Don’t go between them and me.  These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy.  Mark this, Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.

One day one of the local officials  asked Jesus what he must do to deserve eternal life.  The man then went on to inform Jesus that he had kept all of the commandments to which Jesus responded, “Then there’s only one thing left to do.  Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor.  You will have riches in heaven.  Then come follow me..”  This was the last thing the official expected to hear.  He was very rich and became terribly sad.  He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.  Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom?  I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.”  

“Then who has any chance at all?” the others asked.  “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself.”  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”  Peter tried to regain some initiative.  “We left everything we owned and followed you, didn’t we?”  “Yes” said Jesus, “and you won’t regret it .  No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children--whatever--will lose out.  It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime.  And then the bonus of eternal life.”

Then Jesus took the 12 off to the side and said, “Listen carefully. We are on our way to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will take place, including him being killed and resurrected three days later.”  But the 12 didn’t get it, could make neither heads nor tails of what he was talking about.

Jesus came to the outskirts of Jericho.  A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts.  He yelled for Jesus to have mercy on him.  Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up but he only yelled all the louder.  Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over at which time the man told Jesus he wanted to see again.  Jesus said, “Go ahead--see again!  Your faith has saved and healed you!  The healing was instant;  He looked up, seeing---and then followed Jesus, glorifying God.  Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.