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Isaiah 6

November 27th, 2015
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We will again spend some time in Isaiah as it is richly quoted in the NT. Again we need to understand the concept of fulfillment: the final and complete meaning.

 Isaiah 6 contains a striking account of the call of Isaiah.

Many of the prophetic books will feature some passage which refers to the prophet’s initial call. And it’s something we might expect to find at the beginning of the book. So obviously, chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Isaiah as we have seen before.

Lets look at God’s extraordinary message to Isaiah at the time of his call or commission:

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

This sounds descriptive. But the following sounds causal.

 10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

It’s a challenging passage.

God tells Isaiah to prevent the people from understanding, lest through their understanding they turn back to God and save themselves.

He has said he would scatter them out of the land if they disobeyed the covenant. But as a God of mercy we know he wishes to bring his people back. Yet, how can he both punish Israel and and yet save Israel and so fulfill his mercy and love?

When Isaiah asks how long the people will fail to hear, fail to understand and fail to turn back to God and save themselves, God replies,

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
    and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
    and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
    and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
    it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
    leave stumps when they are cut down,
    so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

So God will punish. But there is some life in those stumps. There is hope. It implies that God will at the same time effect the salvation of his people in the future.

And in this way his love and mercy will be shown to them, and God will have been faithful to his covenantal promise to the patriarchs and the royal House of David.

It wasn’t a very consoling message at the time. Because the prophets were essentially saying that the current generation would all but cease to exist in the land.

But we hear of a remnant that will return from exile:

Isaiah 10:21-23,

21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
    will return to the Mighty God.
22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel,
    only a remnant will return.
Destruction has been decreed,
    overwhelming and righteous.
23 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out
    the destruction decreed upon the whole land.

 Two difficult ideas are in this section: the fact that the majority are not meant to hear and repent and only a remnant returning from exile. But as we will see great hope is contained in that remnant.

 In Jesus’ day there was the idea from this that that only a remnant were faithful to God. And of course those who were the most religious like the Pharisees or even the very elect like the Essenes, who lived in isolation from everyone else near the Dead Sea, assumed it was them. That is not uncommon even today to think that one belongs to the faithful elect. And thus one feel superior or more special than others.

 This is probably reflected in the question asked of Jesus “Are only a few going to be saved?”.

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Message for the Day

Isaiah- Who will you trust?

November 23rd, 2015
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Christine Hayes:

Now, we’re going to leave the northern prophets and move to southern prophets. Isaiah is the longest prophetic book. .. it one of the most quoted books of the Bible by Christians. Isaiah was a contemporary of Amos and Hosea.

Second half of the eighth century. He was active for a little bit longer period. He was active into about the 690s, somewhere in there. But he prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah when the Assyrian empire threatened and destroyed the northern kingdom (the northern kingdom falls in 722) and then of course was threatening Judah.

So he’s active for over 50 years and he counseled Judah’s kings. He counsels them through two sieges.

The siege of 734, where he counsels King Ahaz, and then the siege of 701, where he counsels his son, Hezekiah.

This is what happened. In 734, you have the Assyrians, who at this time are under Tiglath-Pileser, and they’re extending their control through the region. So they’re coming from the northeast. First they’re going to hit Aram in Syria, and then advance on the northern kingdom of Israel. So Aram and Israel join together in an alliance. They were trying to resist the advancing Assyrians. Judah refused to join the alliance. The southern kingdom refused. So in anger, Aram and Israel moved south and lay siege to Jerusalem.

So the first siege, the siege of 734 was actually a siege of Jerusalem by the northern kingdom of Israel in alliance with the Aramaeans. They were trying to force Judah’s cooperation in standing against Assyria. King Ahaz of Judah decided to appeal to Assyria for help, to Tiglath-Pileser for help. He submits to the Assyrians as a vassal. He pays tribute. We have a record of the tribute that was paid in the Assyrian records, in 734. And this action is condemned by the biblical writers. Second Kings 16 condemns this action. Isaiah also condemns it.

So, Judah has made itself vassal to Assyria. And this is the case until Ahaz’s son Hezekiah decides that he will assert the nation’s independence. The Assyrians are angry about this. This is now after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians are angry and under Sennecharib they attack. They devastate many of the cities in the countryside (and again archaeology confirms what we know from the Assyrian records) and they advance on Jerusalem and lay siege to Jerusalem in 701.

And just as he had counseled King Ahaz, Isaiah now counsels Hezekiah. In the end Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed. Eventually the Assyrians did withdraw.

That’s a basic idea. But the whole story is more threatening.

 In Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today (Deror Books, Dec 2012) Elizabeth Kendall establishes the context for Isaiah’s message: the situation facing God’s people in the latter part of the 8th century BC

 She describes:

Escalating hostility: superpower Assyria had imperialistic ambition to expand west into the Levant so as to gain access to resources and the Mediterranean Sea.

 In the interests of national security, emerging power Egypt sought to exploit the Levant as a buffer zone to keep Assyria at bay. Amongst the city states and nations of the Levant, the hottest foreign policy issue of the day was whether to align with Assyria or with Egypt or to pursue a policy of independence.

 Consequently the Middle East was a whirlpool of conspiracies, threats and military violence.

 Declining security: as a provincial and independent nation located in that buffer zone, Judah was extremely vulnerable. Whenever Assyrian imperialistic zeal erupted, Judah came under extreme pressure and even faced existential threat.

I think we can see parallels for today—we will come to these later.

 We will finish this introduction with an overview of Isaiah.

David Dorsey ( Literary Structure of the Old Testament, The: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi ) outlines Isaiah as a sevenfold chiasm:

A. Condemnation, pleading, promise of future restoration, 1:1-12:6

B. Oracles to the nations, 13:1-26:21

C. Woes, 27:1-35:10

Centre. Historical narrative, 36:1-39:8

C’. Yahweh triumphs over idols, 40:1-48:22

B’. Servant Songs, 49:1-54:17

A’. Condemnation, pleading, promise of future restoration, 55:1-66:24

He draws out the connections between the sections as follows:

A/A’:

Both condemn empty liturgical practices, liturgical practice without justice (1:12-15; 58:1-14; 66:3).

In both, Yahweh threatens to hide away because the hands of the people are full of blood (1:15; 59:1-3).

Both sections also speak of briers and thorns. In A, the references to thorns and briars all have to do with the Lord turning the land desolate, with the desertification of the garden land (Isaiah 5:6; 7:23, 24, 25; 9:8), while in the A’ the Lord promises to replace the thorns with cypress and thus to restore the land to its prosperity (55:13). Both refer to Sabbaths (1:13; 56:2, 3, 6; 58:13; 66:23) – eight references in all, and framing the entire book. Both refer to the reconciliation of wolf and lamb, lion and ox, and the end of harm on Yahweh’s holy mountain (11:6; 65:25).

B/B’:

This I will develop more fully in a separate sermon. Sufficient for today is to say that the pride and fall Babylon is contrasted to the humility and exaltation of Yahweh’s servant.

C/C’: Both of these sections warn against the misplacement of trust. C includes warnings against going to Egypt to find help against the Assyrians or Babylonians (31:1-3)’;

in the C’ section, the warming is specifically against trusting idols. The connection indicates that the reliance on Egypt is itself a kind of idolatry.

Several verbal connections link together these sections: Isaiah warns against relying on the “help” ( ‘zr ) of Egypt (30:5, 7; 31:1, 2, 3) and the later section warns against trusting in the help ( ‘zr ) of idols (41:10, 13, 14); Egypt’s help brings no “profit” (30:5-6), and neither does idolatry (44:9-10); trusting Egypt will lead to shame (30:3, 5) and so will trusting idols (42:17); Egypt is merely human and not God (31:3), and the idols are also not-gods (44:6, 8-11); the vanity/vaporousness of Egypt’s help (30:7) is parallel to the emptiness of idols (41:44, 12, 24 29; 44:9).

But what is really important is what is central to the book.

D:

The central narrative section is embedded between these two passages about trust, about political trust and about liturgical trust.

They are linked by the message from the Assyrians, who urged Hezekiah and his people to abandon trust in Yahweh to deliver them from their political threats. Hezekiah trusts Yahweh, and the city is delivered.

So the question proposed in Isaiah: who do you trust in a world in which survival is threatened?

Not a hypothetical question right now in the Middle East for many Christian

Sermon

 Fundamental to the book of Isaiah is a very simple question:

 Who will you trust?

 In Isaiah’s day the Middle East was a whirlpool of conspiracies, threats and military violence.

 This parallels the situation facing the church in the early part of the 21st century AD – especially in the Middle East, but also in many parts of the world.

 Escalating hostility: local and global tensions are escalating as numerous strategic trends are converging — trends such as rapid population growth, rapid urbanisation, cultural collapse associated with globilisation, economic stress caused by corruption and rising religious fundamentalism claiming a return to the true faith.

 As trends converge, hardship, criminality, chaos, intolerance and conflict all escalate. Along with this, we have entered a period of power struggles between various blocs and within these blocs.

 Declining security: Christians are finding themselves besieged due primarily to Culture Change driven by the revival of fundamentalist Islam, the rise of political and militant religious nationalism such as Hinduism in India or Buddhism in Myanmar. In the West we see an intellectually driven contempt for and erosion of historic Judeo-Christian values.

 It is clear that in terms of theatre, though the sets and costumes are different than what we see in Isaiah, the plot and script are essentially the same.

God speaks into the crisis: the message of Isaiah

 God sent Isaiah into the fray to answer the question on everyone’s lips: “Who will we trust?”

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Message for the Day

John McLean’s Life Together

November 20th, 2015
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Greetings from the National Office.

 Tasmanian Retreat, Ulverstone

Here’s a report on the Tasmanian Retreat from Geoffrey Miller. Tasmania is always delighted to welcome visitors!

 Beginning on the 19th of October through to the 26th twenty members representing three states enjoyed a week of worship and warm fellowship at this year’s Ulverstone Retreat.

 Held at the modern and comfortable Camp Clayton on Tasmania’s beautiful North West Coast, close to beaches, rolling farmlands, river valleys and picturesque rural towns, it is a delightful location to rejoice and meditate on the wonder of our God who put all this beauty together. 

 In this lovely setting Pastor Philip Hopwood took the congregation on a chapter by chapter journey through 1 and 11 Thessalonians.  We explored the culture that the Thessalonian church existed in and how it affected their lives and journey into Jesus Christ. We explored their challenges and issues they contended with, all framed in the revelation and love of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The study sessions were all interactive and some members presented diverse and interesting aspects of the books that impacted them personally.

 Thursday was a free day and fifteen members took the opportunity to explore the more rugged regions behind the town of Burnie. We stopped at the beautiful Hellyer Gorge, walked through the rain forest and along the pristine Hellyer River before exploring the pioneer mining town of Waratah and travelling back to Burnie for a late lunch at The Hellyers Road Distillery.

 The Retreat was a wonderful uplifting opportunity to explore scripture at depth and see the love and life of Jesus working in inspiring and encouraging ways for the Christians of Thessalonica and all Christians for all time. Thanks to Pastor Phillip Hopwood for the joy of learning and fellowship in the presence of God.  We plan to do it all again from October 17th – 23rd next year, and to study the Parables of Jesus.

 Regional Weekend, Victoria

 Another uplifting and edifying Victorian Regional Weekend was held in Melbourne over the weekend of October 24 and 25th. During the weekend we explored in depth aspects of the reality and ramifications of having “Christ in us”, and being “in Christ”.

 Al Kurzawa, Matt Gudze, Matt and Carissa Sianidis and Randall Bourchier all presented wonderful, encouraging and thought provoking sessions. We also had a Question and Answer session. It was a pleasure and privilege to be involved with teaching on both days of the weekend, and once again I was greatly encouraged by the positive state of our church family, and indeed our growth deeper into the heart of God.

 At the meal and social on Saturday evening a cake sale raised money for SEP.

 MCF hosted the weekend. Thanks to all involved behind the scenes who worked to make this weekend such a success. These Regional weekends have been a delightful and invaluable part of our journey together – “in Christ”.

 Congolese Congregation

 Here’s a report from Pastor Bob Regazzoli on the growing Congolese congregation near Ipswich:

 We now meet in Riverview on a Sunday afternoon, as the congregation outgrew the Scout Hall we were meeting in at Goodna. The building we now meet in was previously a carpet warehouse, but is now run by a small Samoan church. They meet in the morning, and another group at noon, and then our service at 3pm.

 The Bulimwengu family recently arrived, and the first photo shows their introduction to the congregation. The father, Bulimwengu Ekyoci, was pastoring a GCI congregation in the large refugee camp in northern Kenya. There are 10 in his family, with 4 daughters (from age 11 to teens) and 4 sons (all in their early 20’s). Two of these sons have wives who are still in the refugee camp. The family has been settled in Sunnybank, which makes it a challenge transporting them to services. The adults English   is quite good.

Congolese Church 1

Congolese church 2We now have three African pastors – Jafari Nunda, Joseph Malenso, and Bulimwengo. At a recent service, we were joined by an interdenominational choir organised by Pastor Joseph (pictured). On that day, there were around 80 attending – mostly teens and children, so there’s lots of potential here for youth ministry.

Congplese church 3 Paul and Pat Hobbs continue to give invaluable service with helping with their needs, overseeing the finances, and transport.

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