A lot of people use the phrase "wait on the Lord," but what does it actually mean, according to Isaiah? God’s people, Israel, historically rebelled against the LORD many times. There were periods of restoration as the nation repented, but they would fall again into sin and rebellion. We can observe in Scripture that there are consequences for disobedience but great rewards for obedience. It was true for Israel, and it is still true for us today. The text can be understood as a chiasm in verses 27-30. This works to emphasize the central idea at the end of verse 28 with the point that follows in verse 31. “[God’s] understanding is inscrutable.” In other words, we cannot figure out Him or His ways of thinking. As our Creator, then, we cannot figure out our purpose on our own. That is why the chapter concludes, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. …” This truth gives us fuel in our tank to live our lives in a way which pleases our Creator. The question is, “are you a self-centered person?” In light of God’s greatness, our proper response is to wait--to surrender—to Him.
We Stumble in Our Selfishness
Looking at the chiastic pattern, we can see it verses 27a and 30b an attitude which results in a just consequence. To think we can actually live independent of God is foolish. In His mercy, He allows us to stumble. An example of my stumbling in the attic can illustrate this.
God Sustains Those Who Wait
If we are truly due something good, God will give it. It just may not be one our timing. We can see this in verses 27b and 30a. We do “grow weary and tired” in this life, but as we claim the LORD as “my God,” He will prove Himself. The gracious elderly man helping his neighbor boys shovel his own driveway can illustrate this.
God Supernaturally Changes Those Who Wait
God is spirit. We are fleshly human beings. To attain to the spiritual stature which He expects—that of Christ—we cannot rely on our own resources. Only the LORD, who is our everlasting, all-powerful Creator, can give us the power to change (vs. 28a). We just have to recognize we are powerless (v. 29b). Think of Newton’s 3rd Law of Thermodynamics. We need someone outside ourselves to transform us. That is a universal law.
God Strengthens Those Who Wait
God does not grow weary (v. 28b); therefore, He is the only one capable to “give strength to the weary” (v. 29a). We must simply recognize our dependence on Him for this renewal. This is an invitation to work alongside Him. Matthew 11:28-30 speaks to this, in the words of Jesus.
We Surrender in Awe of Him
To “wait” is to surrender. We surrender when we realize the cause we are fighting for is hopeless. Again, the “cause” we all fight for naturally is our selfish way of living. This wars against God and our very own spirits. When we see that “His understanding is inscrutable” and love Him for it, we will gladly surrender. Jesus speaks of those who understand God as “infants” (Matthew 11:25-27).
To wait on the Lord is to surrender our wisdom, intelligence, delusions of strength, and our goals in life. The promise is renewal—a new life sustained by the LORD. That is what verse 31 speaks to. We must simply let go of our selfish ways. Where/how are you selfish?
A Dependent People
Today is July Fourth—Independence Day—the birthday of the United States of America. I am truly thankful for the freedoms I enjoy in this nation. Our founding fathers and most of the colonial Americans did not want to be governed by a distant king. They sought and fought for their independence, and they eventually won. While a lot has changed in the last two-and-a-half centuries, the basic human drive for independence remains. Our oppressors may take different forms, with different types and degrees of influence, whether they are people, ideologies or other phenomena. The human need for freedom has always stood, and it is truly accomplished in one simple way.
God has offered true freedom, joy and fulfillment through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This has been the message from the beginning.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…” God spoke this message to His people Israel. After they entered the promised land, they were to drive out the nations and serve God wholeheartedly in everything. Instead, they mingled with the nations and fell into idolatry serving those nations’ gods. They asked for a king to lead them in victory, yet failed to recognize they already had a king—the LORD Himself. The rest of the verse reads, “You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” Israel forgot they belonged to the LORD. Instead of resting in Him and His mighty power to give them victory, they wanted life their own way, on their own strength, and on their own terms. Ultimately, they would not accomplish this desire. God was looking to support a dependent people. They thought God was distant, and they wanted to throw off His rule, as if He did not understand or care about their plight (just as the colonials experienced with King George III). They forgot God’s promises. “The LORD is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17). God is victorious over and for His people. He just wants them to draw near to experience His love.
This promise is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Trouble in this world will not be overcome by mere human means. The trouble we have is our sin, physical death, a fallen world, and the influence of satan. Only through accepting eternal life in Christ will we be victorious.
The Lord is looking to support a dependent people. The question is “where is your heart?”
Imagine a rusted barrel by a well-beaten path. It looks worn out, useless. Next to it, another just like it. They look the same on the outside, but on the inside they contain something completely different. You do not know until you open them up…or put holes in them. They had both originally been prepared for the same purpose, useful, then they were corrupted.
The owner of the one barrel thought they should clean up the barrel, so they did their best to de-rust the outside, clean it up, and make it look brand new. They put a label on it to advertise its quality and usefulness. The owner of the second barrel did nothing except fill up their barrel with a certain liquid.
Over time, the first barrel continued to wear out, despite its owner’s efforts. As holes developed from the inside out, the liquid inside began seeping out—toxic waste.
The second barrel also wore out, but starting with the outside, exposed to the elements. Like the other barrel, the liquid inside began seeping out—white vinegar. Slowly, the rust was dissolved and the barrel was restored from the inside out. Now it could be filled once again with purified water for the weary travelers who would pass by and for the owner, who expected to enjoy it.
When we come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we may be rough on the outside, like the second barrel. Slowly, as the world wears us out, we have various trials, but those are opportunities for fruit of the Holy Spirit to be shown in our lives. These sanctifying experiences clean us up from the inside out, making us useful to the Lord. Like the first barrel, any efforts we put in to better ourselves are useless, outside the grace of God who alone can fill us with what is useful.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
We have a tendency to focus on external decisions or worldly efforts in determining what is of true eternal value. Too many think that cleaning themselves up on the outside is what saves them from sin, death, the influence of satan, and the world. Too many think they have something to offer because they, their lifestyle, their physical resources, or even their perceived spirituality have an attractive appearance.
However, what is truly life-giving? These verses remind us that the unseen, eternal things are what can truly have glorious substance. For those who are true believers, God has given the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. By the power of the Spirit, we can be certain of the life to come, even as we suffer in this life. We may not be perfect now, but we have the hope of perfection, made sure by the transformation we see in our lives now!
What comes forth from you when you experience trials from the world or discipline from the Lord? Is it like toxic waste which can only bring about death? Or is it like the vinegar which has a bitter taste but is useful in the end? This world will not like the “taste” of one walking by the Spirit, but it is worth the suffering of denying myself in this life in order to please the Lord! I have to recognize I have nothing of value apart from Jesus Christ. We can take nothing else with us. Let us also boldly share what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in us. Will you allow yourself to be poured out?
“For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened…so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a pledge” (2 Cor. 5:4-5).
Message for Centre Union Church, 12/18/22
We serve a great God, don’t we?! As children of God we can enjoy all the benefits of our Creator. He has a challenging, yet encouraging message for us in the Scripture. God reminded His people, Israel, through the prophet Isaiah that He has faithfully crafted the whole universe down to naming every single star. If the Lord has taken such care to detail the backdrop to the grand storyline of redemption, how much more does he care for his chosen people!
If you are among God’s chosen people—His children—He has set His love on you. In this relationship, the Father has certain expectations. Throughout the whole canon of Scripture we can see two broad principles at work (among many): rewards for obedience and consequences for disobedience. In our culture, we are encouraged to have a self-starting, self-sufficient, even self-exalting outlook on life—and this sometimes surfaces in church contexts. At least two of these cultural phenomena seem positive on the surface, but there is a problem. All three are self-centered outlooks. Are you a self-centered person? (FCF) Scripture is challenging us to consider whether we are self-centered or God-centered. Those really are the only two options. The Scripture testifies to God’s greatness, and it describes the blessedness of those who simply praise and honor His greatness, regardless of what may come in their lives. GOD IS GREAT. WE MUST WAIT. (MIM)
As we look at Isaiah 40:27-31, let us consider some key terms. We are also going to consider the text in the greater context of Isaiah’s ministry, ultimately culminating in his prophecy of the Messiah. These prophecies were indeed fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 40:27-31 says:
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not became weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”
A Walk Through of the Text
Let us make some important observations. God is addressing His people, “O Jacob,” then “O Israel.” Many of you are probably familiar with the account of Jacob being renamed Israel. This was a sign of God’s covenant, continued from Abraham and Isaac, to continue further to Israel’s offspring—the nation called by that name. God is reminding His people of His covenant faithfulness. This great God is loving, patient and faithful to His promises. The preceding discourse in chapters 39 and 40 illustrates God's faithfulness despite His peoples’ rebellion. Zooming out slightly to chapter 40 as a whole, by way of summary, we can observe God declaring comfort for His people. This comfort is not a fleeting, worldly comfort but an experience of the discipline of the LORD who will reveal His glory. There will be recompense for the rebellious, yet tenderness toward the repentant. The nations, their rulers, manmade items, and creation itself all pale in comparison to the LORD’s might and eternal perspective. Zooming out a little more in examining chapter 39 gives us a character study in King Hezekiah. He hosted messengers from Babylon to brag on the riches of his house. Isaiah brings the word of the LORD to Hezekiah stating that all his riches and even his sons will eventually be carried off to Babylon. Hezekiah’s response? “‘The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘For there will be peace and truth in my days.’ “ What a self-centered response from a faithless ruler! Yet God’s word which follows begins, “Comfort, O comfort My people…" What a selfless, faithful God! Clearly, His people are in need of Him. Though Hezekiah was far from perfect, his utter need of the LORD his God is one thing he did get right. As 2 Chronicles 31:21 reads, “every work which he began…seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” The disobedience of his fathers resulted in judgment, but his obedience, though not perfect, resulted in the reward of prosperity.
A further look at the genre and structure of Isaiah 40:27-31 illuminates more of God’s greatness. This discourse given by Isaiah is poetic. You may notice some of your Bible translations have indents, extra spaces, or incomplete lines. With that, his flow of thought is not necessarily linear. We do see a linear flow of thought from God’s attributes and actions in verses 27-30 to Israel’s proper response in verse 31. In light of God’s greatness, the proper response is to wait on Him. In verses 27-30, we can observe a chiastic pattern. That is, the first statement relates to the last statement, the second statement relates to the second-to-last statement, and so on.
Selfish Ways Cause Us to Stumble
The first statement, “My way is hidden from the LORD,” relates to the last statement in verse 30, “and vigorous young men stumble badly.” The “way” and the “stumbling” in this poetic form should be understood in more than just physical terms. One’s “way” can refer to not only actions taken in their body but also ways of thinking, ways of feeling about things, ways of reasoning, ways of relating to others, and more. Ultimately, it speaks to one’s functional center of operation. If one's way is hidden from the LORD (or so they think), then their functional center of operation is SELF. Functioning this way, according to this Scripture, will cause even the strongest and most capable to “stumble badly.” The context of these verses makes it clear that nothing is hidden from God, who created and sustains everything. The invitation is to surrender to the Sustainer which requires letting go of one’s ways. We can “vigorously” try to sustain ourselves and make a good life on earth or we can wait on the Creator of life to reveal Himself in us.
Illustration / Argumentation
I had to walk with crutches this week. We had a church work day in which some of us were blowing insulation into the attic of the church building. It's pretty dark up there! I decided I would try my hand at spreading the insulation by working the hose rather than functioning as one of our deacons asked me by being the liaison between the machine operators on the floor and the spreaders in the attic. It was pretty disorienting with my headlight and mask on in the dark corners of the attic with insulation floating around. At one point, I lost my balance because, with my hands full, I could not hold onto the beams above me to stabilize myself like I had been doing before. Upon losing my balance, I stumbled badly over some rafters, putting my leg through the ceiling of one of our Sunday School classrooms. My other leg caught me, but some bones were put out of joint. This experience served to remind me that if I fail to follow the Lord's direction, I will indeed suffer harm. Consequences for disobedience. God is not demanding we follow Him because He is some oppressive dictator. He loves us and knows what is best for us.
God Sustains Our Lives
The second statement, “the justice due me escapes the notice of my God” relates to the second to last statement, “though youths grow weary and tired.” This speaks to the one enduring the trials of this life on self-strength. Even those who have the most energy and ambition will wear out if they rely solely on their own resources. The implied meaning to this statement, having been preceded with the rhetorical question, “Why do you say…” is that nothing actually escapes God’s notice. We also may have the wrong perspective about what we actually deserve! Do you ever try to take things into your own hands? Sustaining your own life is wearying, if ultimately futile BECAUSE WE ARE ALL DYING. We indeed have suffering on Earth, and Jesus promised His disciples that this often would be proof that they are following Him as they should. We have to rest, knowing He will make all things right. Things just may not go as I expect, especially if I am operating from a place of selfishness.
Illustration / Argumentation
Let’s say two kids were recruited by their elderly neighbor to help shovel snow off his driveway. In exchange for their work, the man offered to make them hot fudge sundaes and to enjoy a warm afternoon sitting by the fire in his house while he told them stories all about his life. The kids jumped at the opportunity, as they loved ice cream, and the old man was delighted to see their zeal. He brought out shovels for them, and they got to work right away. As they began their work, they looked at each other sheepishly, wondering what they had gotten themselves into. It seemed like the snow was a foot deep and the driveway a mile long! Thinking they would run out of time, they sprinted, shoveling left and right. Soon, as they began to wear out, the handles of their shovels broke. Ashamed, they looked up at their neighbor’s house to see if he noticed. They had indeed gotten a lot done, but they decided to retreat to their own home, leaving the job unfinished. A while later, they heard their doorbell ring. Opening the door, they saw the smiling face of their elderly neighbor. “Come, children, the ice cream is ready!” the old man said. They followed him to his house, wonderingly. As they crossed the fully-shoveled driveway in astonishment, the man beckoned them to enter his house. They sat by the fireplace as the old man brought out three of the biggest bowls of ice cream they had ever seen. “Kids,” he began gently, “why didn’t you wait for me? I was preparing to come out and help you. I knew you wouldn’t be able to finish the job alone, and I had hoped that we could enjoy the afternoon together. Anyway, have I ever told you the story about how my family began?” The kids began to understand their wise, gracious neighbor even better, and, while the ice cream was indeed very good, they enjoyed the man’s stories even more. This serves to illustrate the fact that we do not really deserve anything from God except death. Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God has placed the desire for eternal life in every single person, and we have to realize attaining to it is only possible by accepting God's gracious gift. He is interested in a relationship with us as we recognize in the present time that, “having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Only God Has the Power to Change Us
The third statement—God’s very name, “The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth” relates to the statement “to him who lacks might He increases power.” In comparison to the LORD, we all “lack might.” Isaiah is speaking to the choice to recognize our need. Any power that we might have to accomplish or understand anything of eternal value will only come from our Creator.
Illustration / Argumentation
God does indeed give common grace, which allows humankind to come to true conclusions about the world around them. Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics essentially states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” In order for anything to change, an outside force has to act. That is an indisputable scientific fact. Scripture is telling us this truth applies to not only the physical realm but also to the psychological and spiritual realms. Romans 12:1-2 tells us that as we simply “present [ourselves] to God,” refusing to live according to the ways of the world, we will be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s], so that [we] may prove what the will of God is…” Do you fear God enough to recognize His ultimate authority and power? Do you love Him enough to entrust yourself to Him? As you are willing, He will change you to love and fear Him more.
Walk With the Lord, Our Strength
“Does not become weary or tired” relates to “He gives strength to the weary.” God is faithful to finish the work He begins in those who entrust themselves to Him. The weariness in this verse, like the rest of the verses, is not just speaking to a physical weariness. We are all burdened in many ways. Ultimately, we are burdened with understanding our purpose in light of God’s greatness. Jesus told people plainly that He fulfilled the Law and Prophets, to include Isaiah. When John the Baptist’s disciples began inquiring who Jesus is, as the crowds were also wondering, Jesus answered, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus’ offer was and still is to simply walk with Him and experience eternal life—true rest. Only those characterized as “infants,” as indicated in Matthew 11:25, who are humble enough to put their full hope and trust in Jesus, will experience what God has intended for humanity. We must, as Jesus says in the first part of Matthew 11:25, throw off any delusions of being “wise and intelligent.”
Complete Dependence is Required
Now we have arrived at the central statement in the chiasm, the crux of the discourse, and ironically the key to unlocking the meaning: “His understanding is inscrutable.” Some versions say “unfathomable” rather than “inscrutable.” In other words, we will never fully have God’s perspective on things.
Illustration / Argumentation
There is no better illustration than the words of Jesus in Matthew 11. An infant is completely dependent on its mother and father. In the present time, we have come to a fuller revelation than Old Testament Israel, as the Son of God has come in the flesh for our redemption. Further, He has promised to come again to establish His everlasting kingdom. Of the coming of His kingdom, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). As we wait for His coming again, we also have to be patient for the revealing of His will in our individual lives. He is looking to support a dependent people.
So what is expected of us? The expectation is the same as the encouragement to Israel in Isaiah 40:31. WAIT. “Waiting” does not just entail sitting around twiddling our thumbs. It is an active way of life driven by certain convictions. Selfish ways cause us to stumble. God sustains or lives. Only He has the power to change us. He gives us strength as we walk with Him. He is looking to support a dependent people. He is calling us to rest in his power to prepare us for His coming again. We walk in obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit as He reveals His will. This is not something we can choose how to do on our own strength, our own understanding, our own resources, or our own time. Those self-sufficient and self-exalting attitudes will lead to disobedience and dire consequences. He is promising to do it for us, and His promises are sure. God is Great. We Must Wait.
We Have a Trustworthy God Who Holds Us
Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in your will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Picture a relay race. The teammates pass a baton after running their leg of the race. While one teammate runs, the next has to wait. After passing the baton, those finished with their leg cheer on the next. Only after the last runner runs his leg of the race do all the runners on the team win. They were in the same race, with the same baton, with the same goal, though each ran at different times. Remembering the 4x100 relay race in Track and Field, it was very strategic. Usually the fastest runner would run the last leg, and each runner had certain strengths which lended themselves well to running either a straightaway, a curve on the track, against the wind, with the wind, etc.
Likewise, God has sovereignly placed us in our time in history, so that He would prove Himself through his people. The course is our time on earth, the goal being glorified with Christ in His coming kingdom. The baton is the testimony of Christ in His Word and the perseverance of the faithful church through history.
vs. 3-4…Paul remembering the Church at Philippi in prayer, thanking God joyfully.
vs. 5…The reason he thanks God with joy is their participation in the gospel. *We can notice that the gospel is something to be participated in.*
vs. 6…”For” (or because) Paul has confidence in God’s ability to finish His work begun in the Church.
vs. 6…Paul is confident because he knows the Lord himself, but also the Lord is proving Himself through the Philippians’ faith! This encourages Paul. He is seeing what he has passed on to the Philippians come to greater fruition—the ultimate goal of being ready for “the day of Christ Jesus”—that is, Christ’s return.
So, “participating in the gospel” is participating in God’s faithful work! It is not just passing along a rote message.
The faithful work of God is to prepare a people for Himself, demonstrated by certain characteristics, as seen in the verses which follow:
vs. 9—abounding in love which stems from knowledge of Christ
vs. 10—discernment on what is of true value, worth focusing on. Sincere and blameless.
vs. 11—full of “fruit of righteousness,” that is Christ Himself being seen in our lives more. It is all about the glory and praise of God—not me.
These are all characteristics of those who entrust themselves to God’s faithful work.
It is not about what we are doing as much as it is about what we are becoming. We all have a different leg of the race we are running. I may have to forget even the ways I have operated in the past in my own life.
Philippians 3:12-14. In view of being perfected in Christ, Paul forgets what is behind and presses on toward the goal. CHRIST HAS LAID HOLD OF HIM, as He has laid hold of us for the same purpose.
THE GOAL OF THE “RACE” IS THE UPWARD CALL.
While we are running different legs of the race with different obstacles and challenges, the same principles are at work which were in Paul’s time. What we have to go through:
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
—power of His resurrection…to live the new life now
—fellowship of His sufferings…the repercussions of living the Christ life now causes waves in the world around us
—being conformed to His death…we have to deny ourselves—our own desires, comforts, goals, plans, ways of thinking, self images (position, power, personality).
—WE WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED. Our trustworthy God will take us through this, ultimately to resurrect us and glorify us with Him.
THE “BATON” OF THE “RACE” IS THE FULL COUNSEL OF GOD outlined in these brief verses.
Is the full counsel of God what we are holding onto and passing along to the next generation? We can suffer through anything as we stay faithful to the gospel, knowing we have a trustworthy God!
Hebrews 11:39—12:2 carries the same message, also with the race illustration. Those who ran before us will not be perfected before us, but they currently stand rejoicing and cheering us on, as those who have run the previous legs of the race!
A trillionaire heard about a volcanic island ready to erupt and sink into the sea. All the inhabitants were helpless to save themselves and would surely perish without outside intervention.
The trillionaire decided he would spend every last penny to build a ship big enough to save everyone on the island. So the ship set sail and arrived at the island. The inhabitants were perplexed. Some recognized that help had arrived, understanding their destiny apart from this gracious act. Others preferred their life on the island, come what may.
The terms were simple. Those on the island were to leave everything behind and trust that the ship would bring them to safer shores. They would be expected to live with their rescuer and serve him in his mansion--a cushy life, though subject to the one they would serve for the rest of their lives. They would be expected to read the book on what life would be like living with the trillionaire. They were told to stay on the boat, even if they did not like the terms. They were promised that their new life was even better than what they could read, and they could hear recordings on the boat of the trillionaire describing himself and their future home--which gave them further hope.
They had their times of restlessness and would often not get along with one another as they were in such close quarters, but, remembering the gracious character of their new master, they grew in that same character--which also gave them further hope.
Finally they arrived to safer shores--a glorious new home. The trillionaire, though he had spent everything, received back what he had spent and more. The ship returned, as it had never ceased to be HIS ship--his wealth had just changed forms for a time. His dependents would graciously and adoringly live with and serve him for the rest of their lives.
This to illustrate some things. Jesus did not cease to be God. He just "emptied himself," "[becoming] flesh," one day to be glorified once again, having accomplished His mission (Philippians 2:6-7; John 1:14). Calvinists and others point to the limited atonement--and misconstrue many Scriptures--because they struggle with the idea that somehow some of Jesus' blood would have been wasted. If he truly died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to return again and establish his everlasting kingdom, then nothing was wasted! Yes, not all of God's creation would choose to honor Him as God, but they did indeed have the chance. Romans 1:20 speaks very clearly, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
A verse cited for the idea of exclusive predestination (related to limited atonement) is Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." The Greek verb tense translated "has [not] been written" is a combination of perfect and imperfect tense. The perfect tense implies a completed action with continued results. The imperfect tense implies past action which was continued, repeated, or habitual. John is writing of future events, so the "past" in the context could still be our future from the standpoint of our current time.
Considering the imperfect tense: If God did the writing continuously or repeatedly, that implies a work completed over time--from the foundation of the world onward. This further implies that everyone will have had a chance to have their name written in the book of life.
Considering the perfect tense: their names, once written, would always be written.
Interpretation: Those with a true saving faith have assurance of salvation, and the opportunity for this kind of faith has been given every person from the creation of the world onward.
The sad reality is that many have rejected this gracious offer. Some even put on a ruse or deceive even themselves who make a profession of faith without an actual conversion--submission to the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration.
The key is understanding that God, not man, is the center of all things. It does not diminish God's attributes to say that He has truly offered eternal life to all. In fact, it magnifies His character.
Revelation 4:1-11. This passage is a picture of true worship, and it is fitting that it follows messages to the seven churches (each message was really for the universal Church).
--There are four living creatures which cry “holy, holy, holy.” These most likely represent the cherubim—angels which are messengers or intermediaries. The description of each speaks to an aspect of God’s character.
--There are 24 Elders crying along the lines of “you are Lord & God & Creator.” Most recognize the elders represent the faithful Church before the tribulation. This can be supported by Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
--There were seven churches being spoken to, each with an exhortation to overcome—and something in particular to overcome. By the power of Christ, the Church can overcome the love of self (Ephesus); death (Smyrna); satan (Pergamum); the world (Thyatira); apathy (Sardis); testing/trials (Philadelphia); and the Flesh (Laodicea). Those who do so get the awesome privilege of sitting with Christ—a place of honor and victory.
vs. 1…this is a vision of the future, unlike the instructions just given to the churches for the present.
vs. 2…John saw God on His throne
vs. 3…jasper—crystal clear like a diamond (Rev. 21:11); sardius—bright red (fire, blood); Rainbow—a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness! Emerald (green is a picture of renewal). NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST’S BLOOD. WE WILL SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL HE IS ONE DAY!
vs. 4…24 elders around the throne—these are those who have overcome (Rev. 3:21)
vs. 5…”flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder.” God in His majesty and righteous judgment speaks. The very presence of God, much like Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19). “Seven lamps …are the seven Spirits of God.” This likely refers to the seven functions of the Holy Spirit as in Isaiah 11:2: Spirit of the I AM (LORD)—his very presence, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the LORD. It is also in fulfillment of Zechariah 4:1-10. The word to Zerubbabel was that the LORD would give the Spirit to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple—God’s dwelling place. No human resources would be sufficient. In the vision, the oil was flowing from the olive trees to the lamp. Olive tree represents God making peace with humankind. The expectation on our part is that we would cease from our vain efforts to reach God on our own.
vs. 6…the way to the throne has been paved with what is pure, clean and clear. Nothing is blocking access to those who have overcome.
vs. 6-8..the four living creatures are likely cherubim, or angelic servants. They have eyes in every direction—the purpose is to take in all of God’s holiness and declare it! (Ek 1, 10; Isa. 6)
vs. 9-11…those who have overcome and been given crowns cast them at God’s throne and fall down in worship.
-All things created by God, and all things are to be rendered back to Him (see also Rom. 11:36).
What about NOW?
The Question is, “What Do You Adore?”
In light of the future expectation of seeing the fullness of God’s glory, honor and power, we should be seeking that in the present by overcoming what the 7 churches were expected to overcome.
The questions to reflect on:
1) Where am I selfish? …*I could want attention and recognition for service. *I can set goals and aspirations without thinking of others. “What’s in it for me” rather than laying down my life.
2) Afraid of death? …Or Afraid of losing anything? …Relatives or friends: I can be overprotective or possessive of those relationships. Job: I’ll do what I have to, even lie cheat or steal. Dying: I’ll exhaust my family’s and my resources to preserve my life instead of trusting in my Heavenly Father.
3) Succumbing to temptation? I am not content with what I have, so I could develop obsessions and bad habits—overeating, tobacco, technology, immoral thoughts of others…”Why not if it doesn’t hurt anybody?”
4) Following worldly patterns? Have to live the “American Dream” with what I own. I could get caught up in gossip or course joking. I could get involved in church activities while neglecting my own relationship with the Jesus.
5) Apathetic? *Many needs around me I could fill easily, but I think others can take care. *Children in need of a home…soften my heart to help! *Lost and dying world needs the hope of the Gospel.
6) Victorious or defeated over various trials? Health: I can see God’s hand at work and adjust my outlook/lifestyle, or I can get down on myself. *Mistreatment: I can love others, knowing I am accepted in Christ, or I can return insult for insult. *World systems: I can have peace, knowing Jesus will make all things right, or I can force peace.
7) How is my submission to Christ?
SOLUTION: Christ at the Center
WE SEEK TO OVERCOME BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT. THIS IS NOT FOR OUR GAIN EXCEPT THAT WE WOULD SEE GOD FACE TO FACE!
THE ROOT PROBLEM OF ALL WE NEED TO OVERCOME IS SELF AT THE CENTER.
(See Diagrams below)
He came once, and He is coming again!
Do you adore Him and value Him above all else?
He is not asking us to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but to simply submit to Him.
Rely on Him, and He will finish His work in you.
OVERCOME AS HE OVERCAME.
RESPONSE: Are you self-centered or submitted to Christ? Those are the only two possibilities. THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE: Those who have not committed to Christ (Self-centered by default), 2) Self-centered Christians, 3) Submitted Christians. Are you content where you are, or do you want to grow?
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!