January 3, 2012

Wednesday after the First Sunday after Christmas, Eleventh Day of Christmas

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 92, Is 65, 1 Jn. 4
Tuesday – Ps. 91, Is 66:1-13, Heb. 6:1-12

Commentary
Isaiah 65:17, 66:1-13

The Jews returning to Jerusalem will be under the special protection of God. They will be delivered from war, and life will not be cut short or hampered by battle. The Lord will answer their prayers before they pray, and the land will enjoy a time of peace and rest. But the language of this passage obviously looks for more than just the restoration of Jerusalem. Isaiah is supernaturally enabled to see far into the future to the new heavens and new earth, which God will bring into existence in the Kingdom of the Messiah. Like us, the prophet sees this dimly, as through a smoked glass. He describes it in terms of earthly blessings, using things we understand to describe things we cannot really understand while we live in this world. So, as wonderful as the Messiah’s reign sounds in Isaiah’s words, its reality will be immeasurably greater in every detail. His Kingdom will not be completed until the end of time, but it has begun already. We in the Church have begun to reap the fruit of it. One day we will see it fully. We will walk in its streets and know its joy more fully than we now know the present world. We now call that Kingdom “Heaven.” One day we will call it “Home.”

Isaiah 66 takes up a different subject. There are those, in both Israel and the Church who attempt to mix the pure Gospel with the unbiblical views and practices of the people around them. In the time of Isaiah and the Jews, they mixed Biblical teaching with pagan religion. Today it is more likely to be mixed with pop psychology and humanistic ideas of self-fulfillment and personal happiness. Either way, God is dethroned and man becomes the center of his own religion. In Isaiah’s time, pagan people believed their deities lived in houses built for them by people, and ate as food the sacrifices offered to them. Many Jews applied the same ideas to God, the Temple, and the Sacrifices. God explicitly denies any dependency on people (66:1-2). He owns all things, so, people can really offer Him nothing. Furthermore, anything offered unto God under such false understandings or motives is absolutely rejected by God. An ox sacrificed to God in such a way (even with the greatest sincerity and best intentions) is as bad as any other kind of idolatry (66:3). A lamb offered in this way is no better than a dog. This passage is a clear and desperate call to true repentance and to Biblical faith and practice. Those who truly repent will be welcomed to God as a loving mother welcomes her beloved child. Even Gentiles are welcomed into the love of God. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so I will comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13).

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