Psalm 89:19–29; Isaiah 49:22–51:16; Colossians 1:1–14

Psalm 89:20–30: The psalmist becomes prophet as he writes what God speaks: “Then did You speak in a vision / to Your faithful and did say:” (20) The speech is a reiteration of the Covenant as expressed in its apotheosis: the Godly anointing of King David.In these verses, David becomes the channel of the Covenant between God and Israel: “I found David My servant,/ with My holy oil anointed him.” (21)

As far as God is concerned, “No enemy shall cause him grief/ and no vile person afflict him.” (23). [Of course, the irony here is that David’s woes arise from his own actions, viz. his dalliance with Bathsheba.]  But as per the theme of the earlier sections that limn God’s qualities, “My faithfulness and My kindness are with him,/ and in My name his horn will be lifted.” (25) And David will become the ruler of an empire wherein “I shall put his hand to the sea/ and his right hand to the rivers.” (26)

In return, David remains faithful to God, which of course he did, and David “will call me: My father You are, / my God and the rock of my rescue.” (27) Then the promise, which we can read as pointing forward to Solomon, but also to Jesus: “I, too, shall make him My firstborn,/ most high among kings of the earth,” (28). God will keep his side of the Covenant through David’s offspring: “Forever I shall keep My kindness for him/ and my pact will be faithful to him.” (29) And then the promise that seems to point directly to Jesus: “And I shall make his seed for all time/ and his throne as the days of the heavens.” (30). Because while this promise certainly also applied to Solomon, we also know that his successors abandoned God did indeed “forsake My teaching.” (31) Only in Jesus d we see God’s eternal Covenant.

Isaiah 49:22–51:16: Isaiah describes Israel’s ultimate release from cthe aptivity to come and the eventual subjugation of their captors:
   “With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
       and lick the dust of your feet.
   Then you will know that I am the Lord;
       those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” (49:23)

And through this rescue, “Then all flesh shall know/ that I am the Lord your Savior,/ and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (49:26) Isaiah also explains the reasons for the ordeal to come, and a rebuke to us today, as well, when we desert God for our small-g idols: “Why was no one there when I came?/ Why did no one answer when I called?” (50:2a) Like Israel, we presume God to be irrelevant at best and ineffectual at worst. As a result, “I clothe the heavens with blackness,/ and make sackcloth their covering.” (50:3)

Then an interlude, where Isaiah explains his role as God’s servant:
   “The Lord God has given me
       the tongue of a teacher,
   that I may know how to sustain
       the weary with a word.” (50:4)

Isaiah has been faithful to God –“I was not rebellious,/ I did not turn backward.” (50:5)– despite the personal humiliation he has suffered: “I did not hide my face/ from insult and spitting.” (50:6) Isaiah can withstand these personal insults because “The Lord God helps me;/ therefore I have not been disgraced;” (50:7). He challenges his oppressors in words that ring down through the centuries as Christians, even today, are martyred:
  “Who will contend with me?
      Let us stand up together.
  Who are my adversaries?
      Let them confront me.
   It is the Lord God who helps me;
       who will declare me guilty?” (50:8,9)
And then the challenge to us:
   “Who among you fears the Lord
       and obeys the voice of his servant,
   who walks in darkness
       and has no light,
   yet trusts in the name of the Lord
       and relies upon his God?” (50:10)

Because, as Isaiah declares in the next chapter, God is our deliverer and our comforter:
   “I, I am he who comforts you;
       why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
       a human being who fades like grass?” (51:12)

And he rescues us, as well: “The oppressed shall speedily be released;/ they shall not die and go down to the Pit, nor shall they lack bread.” So the question becomes, with these marvelous promises why did Israel persist in abandoning God. Or more to the point, why do we?

Colossians 1:1–14: As he did in his letter to the Philippians, Paul opens his letter to the church at Colossae with fulsome praise and thanks: “we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” (4,5). “We have heard” tells us that Paul never actually visited Colossae, but through the efforts of Epaphras, “our beloved fellow servant” (7) they “have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you.” (5b, 6) Best of all, just as the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.” (7b)

And it is Epaphras who has brought word back to Paul and “has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” (8)

I am struck by the phrase, “truly comprehended the grace of God” because it suggests that God’s grace is far greater than just something we feel or experience; it is something that we ultimately come to understand. All those words of Isaiah above are an effort to get Israel to understand that God is not only faithful, but that he is graceful.

Paul continues this theme of comprehension of grace in his wonderful words of encouragement that follow: “we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. (9,10) Wow. wouldn’t it be incredible to have Paul say that about us?

In our culture today where feeling seems to trump understanding (or even listening) in virtually every sphere, it is wonderful to hear these words. That as my father said often, to be Christians, and to bear fruit, “we cannot leave our brains at the door.” And that above all, that without understanding what we believe, we cannot comprehend grace, and therefore we cannot we bear fruit.

 

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