Jesus’ early years?

I wonder if Isaiah 53 is a pointer to Jesus’ years as a young adult?

My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground.

Isaiah 53v2

So, here is Jesus growing up in his Father’s presence and into spiritual truth though in a spiritually arid environment.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. … He was despised, and we did not care.

Isaiah 53v3

I wonder if Jesus was despised and rejected because he ‘stubbornly’ held views of the Bible over the synagogue’s teaching. That rejection easily extends to every area of life.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; … And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

Isaiah 53v4

In this case it would be his leaders’ insecurities that he carried. I wonder if being a carpenter was a solace, a place where he could reflect on life and receive comfort from his Father.

… He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53v5

Then Jesus would have learned early to stand up to abuse that went on through his ministry and eventually to his death. It contributed to our salvation.

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart!

Hebrews 12v3

Free?

What does it look like to be spiritually free?

“Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. … But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power.”

Isaiah 52v4-6

The choices we make can leave us in emotional cul-de-sacs. Life situations can oppress us. It is from these places that the Lord can reveal his power in our lives!

Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem … Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52v1-2

It is while we are captive to circumstances that the Lord tells us to wake up and clothe ourselves with strength. We are asked to clothe ourselves with his beautiful character of love seen through joy, peace, patience, kindness and the like.

When we can live like this by the power of God in us, whatever the circumstances, then we are demonstrating freedom in Christ. Then his name is revealed and we see his power.

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Where hope?

Many hoping for relief are disappointed, Covid is resurging, society has shrunk, …

“Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance …

Isaiah 41v1

Everyone has situations needing rescue. Maybe a personal tragedy, maybe a global crisis …

… think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.”

The Lord lifts up a hopeless case that he turned around.

The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins.

Isaiah 51v3

The Lord knows about our ruins. He encourages and comforts us.

… Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.

There is hope for the future.

Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing.

Isaiah 51v6

But, that hope is not worked out in the global situation.

The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!

Our desires will often be disappointed but if we focus hope on the Lord we will see his salvation that makes sense of everything.

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Integrity

Franchise owners ensure that outlets maintain standards. The Lord is even more concerned with the use of his name.

“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who … call on the God of Israel.

Isaiah 48v1

It is very easy for us to apply labels, but is the inside of the tin as described on the outside?

You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel …

Isaiah 48v2

We are identifying with Jesus, the truth. When teaching his disciples to pray to the Father, he said, ‘Hallowed be your name’. How does our speech reflect our hallowed Father?

Thankfully that same prayer says, “Forgive us our sins.” Mercifully he knows when we fall short and is ready to forgive. He is also ready to intervene when we slip. I once made a flippant statement to which a colleague took offence – “… and you call yourself a Christian!” He tried to prove me corrupt, but the Lord justified me to that colleague. I was so grateful.

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Facing Challenges

With new challenges it is encouraging that the Lord has been preparing me for them.

Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.

Psalm 144v1

We might not welcome the challenge ahead, but without it, the skills he has developed in us will never be fully realised.

He is my loving ally and my fortress … my rescuer … and I take refuge in him

Psalm 144v2

I can go forward without fear knowing that he will keep me safe.

Open the heavens, Lord, and come down. Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.

Psalm 144v5

When the Lord acts we can be disturbed. Yet, our response is to pray, and this prayer is not without effect.

I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.

Psalm 144v9

Seeing him do new things, we worship him with a new song.

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.

Psalm 144v12

Then, after patient endurance, we look back and see the fruit of his work with joy.

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Who is my brother?

Seeking God’s blessing it is easy to focus on spirituality, worship and style of ministry. We forget the Lord has desires.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!

Psalm 133v1

Harmony is easy between those who share forms of worship, spirituality and style of ministry. When we differ, not so much.

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.

Psalm 133v2

The Lord values harmony as we do the outpouring of his Spirit. As Jesus said,

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

John 13v34-35

What would it take to develop the love of our brothers irrespective of being conservative, liberal, charismatic, high church, …

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

Psalm 133v3

There are practical constraints. We shouldn’t undo beliefs or paper over differences. It is however, possible to have a welcoming heart and a positive attitude. It is possible to treat as brothers. We can build up rather than scores points. We can choose to be together rather than merely acknowledge from afar.

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Reality Check

How do we interpret events? 

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 

Acts 14:11-12

Core beliefs overrode reality. Paul had preached Christ, but since he did a miracle he must be a god.

Paul and Barnabas ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! … Even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.

Acts 14v14-18

Each of us can fall into this trap of holding too strongly to treasured theories. They might appear Biblical but are not in fact in the Bible. Our Father will bring us events to challenge our clever man made ideas. Do we have the humility and peace in our hearts to listen to what God is actually saying?

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Response to wickedness

There are people who seem to spread a spiritual death wherever they go and whatever their intentions.

These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.  They spit venom like deadly snakes; they are like cobras that refuse to listen,

Psalm 58:3-4

These people are likened to snakes and since the devil is equated to a snake, that leaves us with a very sad evaluation. They have some characteristics that are worth noting. The use of deceit, the determination to go with their own will and their use of words to bring death to those who are listening to them.

ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play.

Psalm 58:5

When such people brim over with evil it does not matter how skilful or wise those who try to intervene might be. That evil is going to come out. In such cases retreat is the only real option.

We don’t want to step back because it leaves the arena free for wickedness. Yet, this is the place of humility. We are not God.

God will sweep them away, both young and old, faster than a pot heats over burning thorns.

Psalm 58:9

Only God can deal with such people. The Godly need to step aside and allow him to do his work.

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Forcing Righteousness

When I try to force God’s righteousness, I am tempted into wickedness.

The wicked conceive evil;

Psalm 7:14

I find myself plotting a course of action to achieve my view of righteousness. I become the one conceiving evil!

they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies.

I justify my actions and my words but they don’t have that ring of Jesus. In essence I am pregnant with trouble.

Will I allow the Spirit of God to challenge me and draw me back from wickedness? Can I pray, surrendering the need to control to God?

They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves.

Psalm 7:15

As I try to force “God’s will”, I find myself trying to trap people. Eventually I entrap myself.

The trouble they make for others backfires on them.

That trouble I justified comes back to me.

Jesus does not need me to enforce his righteousness. So, when I sense wickedness expressing itself through me, the only way back to Jesus is surrender, entrusting the issue to him.

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Whom do we receive?

To whom can we show Jesus’ kindness?

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees … complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

Luke 15:1-2

Our society seems caught in a trap of polarised views. Each side has its legalistic lines that define acceptability. The outcome is the same as in Jesus’ day – dividing lines and fear over whom we can be associated with. Jesus countered with parables that speak of value-

“suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Luke 15:8-10

I used to think, was one coin worth the effort? Then my wife lost her engagement ring. She went through a whole year’s compost to find it! Her motivation was not financial value but heart value.

Jesus seeks racists and misogynists on one side and progressives on the other because they are his dear lost children. Are we willing to accept the slander that comes from sitting with people Jesus would love to welcome?

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