December 29, 2011

Sixth Day of Christmas

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 33, Is 59:1-21, 1 Jn. 2:1-17
Evening - Ps. 111, 112, Is. 60:13, Heb. 2

Commentary
Isaiah 59:1-21

The Christmas season is one of the highlights of the year, and it is made even more precious as we follow the daily Bible readings. Hebrews shows how Christ fulfills the meaning and intent of the Old Testament ceremonial laws, and how they pointed to Him as the only real sacrifice for sin, the great High Priest who intercedes for His people, and God Himself purchasing and applying salvation and forgiveness to His people. 1 John is a practical guide to living in Christ's Church, and in the fallen world around us.

Isaiah 59:2 expresses the very heart of every person's problem with God. Our problem is not that God is unable or unwilling to do good, but that our sins have separated us from Him. Fallen humanity (and many Christians) blame God for the mess of the world. They conclude that, because God does not give world peace, personal affluence, freedom from disease, and a general happiness, He either does not care, does not hear their prayers, or is unable to do anything about the problems they face. Such people impose two contradictory demands upon God. First, they demand total freedom to choose their own way and shape their own destinies. Second, they expect God to force all people to act in accordance with general principles of goodness, so they can live in peace. They refuse to see the irrationality of their demands, and they refuse to see that their own sin is the cause of their separation from God, and that they themselves have contributed greatly to the general malaise of life on planet earth.

Because of sin, judgment and wrath have come upon all people. Isaiah addresses first the people of Judea and their situation when the Babylonians came upon them in bloody and murderous conquest. But the principle is true of all nations, all peoples, and all individuals. We live in a world of sorrow because our sins have made it so. The human race is naturally reaping what it has sown, and it is important for us to see that sin has consequences for us in this world as well as in eternity. Yet there is hope. God has not deserted us, nor has He abandoned His plan to save His people. "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression" (59: 20). Throughout the Bible we see God working out His plan of salvation. He called Abraham to be the father of a new people. To them He gave His Commandments and His Word. Through them He sent the Messiah; the Saviour, not for Israel alone, but for all who will receive Him as their Saviour and their God. The descendants of Abraham were not always faithful to God. More often than not, they were like sheep straying from the protection of the Shepherd and away from the safety of the Fold. Though God allowed them to reap the bitter fruit of sin, He did not abandon them. In the fullness of time the Saviour came to purchase their forgiveness and to call both Jews and Gentiles into His Kingdom and Church. By His grace He overcame our sin, and even now He is working in the lives of His people to prepare us to be with Him in Heaven forever. The surprise is not that we suffer hardship and troubles in this world. The surprise is that God has not abandoned us to destruction and hell. The surprise is that He came in grace to redeem us.

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