October 29 “Darkness”

Darkness

It was a cold kiss.
Oddly enough, just as the crowds began turning away from Jesus, some of the leaders began to turn in His direction. It would take great courage for any of them to take a stand for Jesus and against the powerful Pharisees. They would lose everything. They would be excommunicated, thrown out of the fellowship of their synagogues at home and the Temple in Jerusalem. And what would they gain by such a rebellion? Nothing, to their minds, worth the cost it would exact. The whole system was based on pleasing the elders, the priests, and the Pharisees. The praise of men was sweet, immediate, and gratifying. Pleasing God was secondary in their hearts. It was wonderful to think of a Messiah moving among them with miracles in His wake. What they needed was one who could do all that and still submit to the Pharisees. That prospect was not only unlikely, it was preposterous! The love of these leaders was a cold kiss indeed.

The Grief of a Messiah Rejected
Jesus saw it all happening just as the prophets had predicted. People who once were lame, now walked away from Him. Those who once could not hear anything, now listened and rejected what they heard. Some who been blind before Jesus healed them could no longer see their way clear to follow Him. Lepers who once were outcasts now gathered with friends to discuss their disappointment in Jesus.

The Costs of Rejection
All the while, Jesus knew that there was more at stake for the people than their acceptance or rejection of Him. When they turned away from Him, they were turning away from the Father, they One He had instructed them to pray to each day.

“He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.
And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.”

The Father was the source of life, of everything good in this world. To turn away from Him was to turn toward death, a turn to a path that seemed right but in the end was the way of death. This rejection resulted in a preference for darkness over light.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me
should not abide in darkness.”

The darkness was deep and impenetrable. There was no escaping the hidden pitfalls and traps on the dark road. It was more than danger, it was death. And after the death came judgment.

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him
— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”

The Authority of Jesus
The crowds slipped away. The interest of the leaders cooled. A few faithful ones stayed with Jesus and something else remained with Him—the authority of His words.

“For I have not spoken on My own authority;
but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command,
what I should say and what I should speak.
And I know that His command is everlasting life.”

Though the actual sound of His voice faded away, the authority of His Words remains in effect even to this day.

Scriptures:
John 12: 42-50

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your words do not age. They are as fresh and powerful today as they were when You first uttered them. Your instructions are clear. Your promises are sure. Your love is constant and unchanging. The Light You bring defeats any darkness that falls across my path. Your voice sounds sweetly, deep in my spirit. I know it is the witness of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness that I am Your child, treasured by You always. I know that Your “command is everlasting life.” Amen.

Song:
The Church’s One Foundation

Words: S. J. Stone; Music: Samuel S. Wesley

1. The church’s one Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is His new creation, by water and the Word;
from heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

2. Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.

3. Tho’ with a scornful wonder, men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

4. The church shall never perish! Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end;
tho’ there be those that hate her and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor she ever shall prevail.

5. ‘Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace for evermore;
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

6. Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 28 “Isaiah”

Isaiah

The ancient books were not ancient to Jesus.
To Him they read like a morning news feed does for us. Writing in the past about the future, a reporter named Isaiah told the story as he saw it. Imagine how it affected Jesus when He read what we know as Isaiah chapter six—the prophet’s report on his visit to the throne room of God.

Jesus knew the place well for it had been His “Zion”—His dwelling and ruling place. It was important for Isaiah, engaged as an historian for the palace, to see the majesty of the King of Heaven. In time, he would also see Messiah as a suffering servant, a lamb slain for the sins of the world, a wounded healer, a man ridiculed by those who should have loved Him, and rejected by His own to whom He came but who received Him not. As he looked at the shrinking crowds, Jesus remembered the report of Isaiah.

“I have seen the King.”
Somehow in that time-flexible place in the Spirit of God where prophets do their work, Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord. He saw the Lord on the throne of Heaven, surrounded by thousands of angels in joyful assembly. He saw the glory of His majesty like a robe of light, filling the temple. He heard the music of heaven, octaves higher and lower than he had ever heard before with rhythms at once more pounding and profound and complex than any pattern of earth. So great was the music that the doorposts of heaven shook in sympathetic vibration.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”

This vision of heaven was both thrilling and profoundly disturbing. Isaiah was honored to be granted entrance to such a place but he was also stricken to the heart with his own unworthiness. He had no right to be there. His own sins buried deep in his heart and in his record roared in his ears louder than the worship all around him. The hammer of justice pounded in his mind drowning out the rhythms of the music all the angels produced.

His confession was an involuntary spasm.

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

One of the angels flew to the altar before the throne and with tongs extracted a live coal from the fire. Winging his way to the weeping prophet, he thrust the coal to Isaiah’s lips. It burned with a fire that did not injure; it was a healing touch. In an instant, his sins were purged from his mind and from his record. The pounding in his mind quickly faded and in its place was a still, small, yet commanding voice.

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”

His grief gone, his sorrow departed, his mission was now clearly seen.

“Here am I! Send me.”

Remembering Isaiah’s Words
As people continued to turn away from Him, Jesus remembered Isaiah’s words. The people had heard His voice but not His truth. They had received His gifts while rejecting Him. All of this was unfolding just as the ancient book had said it would.

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes,
lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”

Scriptures:
John 12: 37-41

But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, if You never answered another prayer, if I never felt Your presence again in my life, I would never turn away from You. How it must have hurt deep in You to see the people You loved so much give up and turn back. Isaiah’s words were a warning to You. You knew it would happen, yet it still had to hurt so much. There have been times when I turned away, preferring some momentary diversion instead of Your sweet presence. I asked You to forgive and You did. Save me from such nonsense ever again!

Song:
I Will Follow Thee

Words: Johnson Oatman; Music: Edwin O. Excell

1. Savior, I will follow Thee; Thou art all the world to me;
Tho’ the way I cannot see, Savior, I will follow Thee.

Refrain:
Follow Thee, I will follow Thee, Follow Thee, I will follow Thee;
Follow till the day is done, Follow till the crown is won,
Savior, I will follow Thee.

2. Savior, I will follow Thee, Tho’ it lead me to the cross;
Counting all things here but dross, Savior, I will follow Thee.

Refrain

3. Savior, I will follow Thee,Tho’ it lead through toil and tears;
Through the long and weary years, Savior, I will follow Thee. .

Refrain

4. Savior, I will follow Thee Till the toils of life are o’er;
Till I reach the golden shore, Savior, I will follow Thee. .

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved