Thursday, 27 August 2015

God’s Hardening of Hardened Hearts

“Make the heart of this people dull…. lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed”    (Isaiah 6:10)

These words, given to Isaiah during his commissioning as a prophet, might seem like a denial that God is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Was Isaiah to preach, only to create obscurity among his listeners? No. Here are the principles:

1. Persistent hardening against God eventually becomes underlined in a permanent judgment.  Most of Isaiah’s listeners were going to be contemptuous, treating his words as na├»ve ‘kid’s stuff’ ( Isaiah 28:9). They would finally remain in their blindness. This does not mean that we stop praying – and preaching! But from the outset Isaiah was warned.

2. History repeats itself.  Earlier, Pharaoh of Egypt repeatedly hardened himself against God’s word through Moses to ‘Let my people go.’ The ultimate hardening of him beyond recovery became God’s judgment on him (Exodus 11:9,10).   Such wilful blindness reached its height in a later generation of religious leaders who hardened themselves against Christ – who himself quotes the Isaiah passage (Matthew 13: 10-23) His use of parables would act like a judgment, sifting out receptive hearts (‘the good ground’) from the unheeding, in his story of the Sower.

3. Some stay hardened, but others will prove receptive! Later still, the imprisoned apostle Paul quoted the Isaiah passage to his unheeding fellow-Jews (Acts 28: 23-28). From now on, he said, God’s salvation would be proclaimed to the Gentiles, “and they will listen!”  The result - as they say - is history. Where do YOU come into the story?


Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Switching Lodgers in your Life

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning    (Psalm 30:5)

Many will have the recollection of having two people to stay in quick succession – one of whom, maybe, was inspiring, the other exhausting!  Was this something of David the psalmist’s experience towards the end of his life?  He looks back on the occasions when disaster and recovery seemed to alternate: ‘When I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be shaken …. but when you hid your face, I was dismayed”’ (v. 6).

Regarding verse 5 today, the German theologian Hengstenberg wrote that ‘“Weeping” is personified as something like a travelling back-packer, who in the morning leaves the lodging into which he had entered the previous evening.  After him another guest arrives, namely, “Joy.”

The knowledge that such ‘lodgers’ can switch affects believing people:

1.  It makes us humble, because none of us – however rich or self-protected - can guarantee our own well-being and security, even for the next twenty-four hours!  The smallest thing can bring us down. 

2.  It makes us hopeful, because – when pitched into even the severest test – there is always the trusting belief that a new morning will bring a welcome switch of lodger.

3.  It makes us holy, because (v. 5) the believer steadily learns of the permanence of God’s ‘favour’ over a lifetime.  Whatever lodger is in residence, it is the Lord who is in occupation.  Knowing this keeps us growing in godliness and (v. 4,12) causes the heart to sing!



Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Real King

“As for me I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 ESV)

Where is the rule when the world is wobbling? Psalm 2 is about true kingship. We see 1. The earthly kings in their angry rebellion against the Lord (v. 1-3); 2. The heavenly King Himself in his holy scorn (v.4-5); 3. The divinely appointed King in His universal triumph (v.6-9).

It is apparent that here is no earthly king. For we then have a quote from this King (v. 7-9): “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

This is no mere angelic figure. Here is the universal Christ, very Son of God, exercising universal dominion! Verse 7 is quoted in the New Testament; in Hebrews 1:5; in Acts 4:25 and in Acts 13:33.

The phrase, ‘Today I have begotten you’ is to be interpreted not in terms of Christ’s conception (for He is eternal), but rather in terms of His HEIRSHIP as Son - now presented to the world. It was the resurrection in New Testament days that was interpreted as the divine setting forth of the Son of God as rightful Heir to the heritage of the nations - as universal Lord and Messiah. The apostle Peter made this very point on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36).

You may defy Him, but just wait – it’s this King who has the final word.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Listen to the Hoofbeats!

Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”  I looked, and there before me was a white horse…. A fiery red horse…. A black horse….a pale horse (Revelation 6:1-8)

In his vision here, the apostle John learns how our earthly story will unfold.  We are introduced to four ‘Apocalyptic Horsemen,’ as they gallop their way through history.  Start with number 2:

The RED horseman (v. 4) – represents war and slaughter, for he wields a sword and is the destroyer of peace, as people kill each other. Then we read of the BLACK horseman (v. 5) – representing economic hardship, for basic food gets priced high – but not luxuries.  The PALE horseman (v.8) – the colour of a corpse - represents death by the unexpected, including epidemics and disaster. Notice! 

1. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE EXPECTED.  A voice in the vision cries “Come!”…. and they do and will come – to the end of the age.

2. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE ENGAGED.  The followers of Christ  are to follow His example in bringing salvation’s message and loving service to a dying world – from leprosy patients onwards.

3. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE ELIMINATED, not in time, but in eternity.  Such evil will not end until the time comes for the Rider on the white horse to take over completely.

Yes, it seems that the crowned pure-white horseman - who goes ahead of all else in His ride through history on a conquest of LOVE – is Christ.  He carries His church through every ordeal; reappearing towards the end of the visions (chapter 19) – still riding, having been with us all alon