Worth the Wait

patience

<Image retrieved from http://bookboon.com/blog/2017/02/patience-important-soft-skill/.>

Please use your favorite Bible to read Isaiah 30:18-26.  In a momentary departure from the usual, I’ve used the NRSV to prepare my remarks.

Wait for it – God will dispense perfect justice.

Today we’re going to talk about patience.  I am always grateful for the opportunity to TALK about patience but aren’t always as appreciative of the opportunity to practice it.  Patience is a virtue, but not everyone understands it in the same way, as illustrated by the following quotes on the subject of patience.

+ “At my age, patience is not a virtue… it’s a luxury.”  – Erma Bombeck, humorist

+ “You can learn many things from children… how much patience you have for instance.”- Franklin Jones, businessman & humorist

+ “Patience and diligence, like faith, can move mountains. – William Penn

+ “Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” – Mac McCleary

+ “I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.” – Edith Sitwell English biographer, critic, novelist & poet

+ “Opportunity knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.” – Dr. Laurence J. Peter, educator & writer

+ “Patience is what you have when there are too many witnesses.” – Anonymous

+ “Genius is patience.”  – Sir Isaac Newton

+ “Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to maintain a good attitude while waiting.”  – Anonymous

An even better understanding of patience can be found in Isaiah 30:18.  It is an unusual verse in that it explains the patience of God and commands His people to follow His example.  There are texts aplenty to be cited to support either of those propositions, but to find both in one verse is, to my knowledge unique.

  1. The general principle: God graciously waits for our repentance; we must patiently wait for His justice (v. 18).

God waits for us to repent; He graciously gives us a lifetime of opportunities because He wants to be merciful.  Mercy tempers JUSTICE.  God is just, but He waits for people to repent and be saved. Justice delayed is not justice denied.  God’s justice will be perfect and universal and complete when it happens.  Peter also explains what seems like a delay in God completing his plan.  (See 2 Peter 2:8-9.) God’s holiness demands justice be completed, so this is a limited time offer.

This prophecy has an immediate and ultimate fulfillment.  The immediate recipients were the people of Judah.   They were to be faithful until He delivered them from Babylon.  The ultimate recipients of this promise are all those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  Judgment Day comes at the end of human history and is the day of ultimate justice.

  1. A specific example: God’s promises to His people (vs. 19-26).

This section explains and expands on the promises of vs. 15-18 by applying the principle to the situation in which the Judahites found themselves.  The people of Judah were captives in a foreign land and they would be for 70 years. It was a situation so far outside our own experience we can’t imagine how lonely and forsaken what that must’ve felt.

But – and this is the important part – God had not forsaken his people.   He made promises to them to motivate their faithful endurance.  We will examine each of them, noting the immediate and ultimate fulfillments we see.

Promise #1 = No more tears (19).  Restored to their homeland, the Jews would have no more reason to WEEP.  This promise fits perfectly with Revelation 21: 4, where God promises to wipe every tear from their eyes.

Promise #2 = God hears and answers prayer (19).  We should never use the expression “unanswered prayer.”  Verses like this assure us God hears and answers them all.  His answer may be “yes,” “no,” or “hold, please,” but those are all answers.  Seventy years is a lifetime to most of us, but even if you have to wait a lifetime, the point is that God responds at just the right time to the cries of His people.

Promise #3 = He sends ADVERSITY and AFFLICTION only for a limited time (20).  BREAD and WATER are the usual fare of prisoners of war.  Isaiah uses them as metaphors of the trials we face in life. The end of the Jews’ Babyloninan trial would be the appearance of their TEACHER (the Messiah).  This was fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming.  For us, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is that our trials will end at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Promise #4 = He will guide you (21).  The emphasis here is not on the fact that God would be willing to guide them for that had always been the case.  The emphasis is on the degree of their repentance; they will at last listen and heed God’s guidance.  They will no longer ignore God and thereby wander off the path.

Promise #5 = He will meet your needs (23-25).  The references to RAIN, SEED, GROUND, GRAIN, CATTLE, PASTURES, OXEN, DONKEYS, SILAGE, and RUNNING WATER all sound worldly, like God is offering prosperity in return for loyalty.  It is a mistake to see these verses in such materialistic terms.  Instead, this promise has two less obvious meanings.

One, it is a promise to the Jews that they will be restored to their land.  In Judaism, the land is of central importance.  It was the Promised Land and to be out of it – even for just 70 years – was the worst sign of God’s having forsaken them.  To return to it was a sign of forgiveness.

Two, it is a promise that God would provide all they needed to survive.  Everything from SEED to GRAIN comes from God.  If we think our brains and strength are the means by which we provide for ourselves, we had better stop and remember who gave us brains and strength in the first place.

Promise #6 = In fact, God’s care will be so complete that even the DAY OF SLAUGHTER will not be a thing to be feared (25).  Referring to something like a DAY OF SLAUGHTER and the falling of TOWERS seems out of place, a downbeat in a passage packed with positivity.  Instead, its realism.  In this world there will never be a time of ONLY good news.  Everything is a mix of pleasant and unpleasant, gain and loss, good and bad.

It is a warning, based on fallen human nature:

– Do not take God for granted during the days of prosperity.

– Do not turn to idols and give them the credit for days of ease.

– Do not repeat the sins of the generations that resulted in your current exile, for you will suffer a similarly disastrous outcome.

Promise #7 = Enlightenment (26).  The repeated use of the number seven is not an accidental one; it is a significant number in the Bible, starting with the seven days of creation.  It is a divine number.  Scientifically, I’m not sure that the sun shining with seven-fold intensity would be a good thing.  However, most of us would be happy to have the sun shine seven times more often than it seems to shine.  I think the point is that – along with everything else from SEED to GRAIN – God will provide abundant sunshine to make the crops grow.  This factor is singled out because sunshine is one part of the ag process over which we exercise no control.

Promise #8 = Healing (26).  The LORD is clearly the power behind the throne of Babylon.  Though it was Babylonian soldiers that overran Jerusalem, they achieved victory only because God allowed them to do so.  Just as God allowed his people to be injured and wounded, He will be the means of their healing.  He will personally bind up the hurts of His people.

Look verse twenty-two, for here we find the application of these truths, the human half of this promise-keeping: repentance. Verser twenty-two is clear that repentance involves throwing away your idols.  THEN YOU WILL DEFILE YOUR SILVER-COVERED IDOLS AND YOUR GOLD-PLATED IMAGES.  YOU WILL SCATTER GOLD-PLATED IMAGES.  YOU WILL SCATTER THEM LIKE FILTHY RAGS; YOU WILL SAY TO THEM, “AWAY WITH YOU.”

The references to the idols being plated with precious metals is meant to remind us that idols are things that look precious and important on the outside but are worthless and woody underneath.  Idols are always superficial things that have no lasting value.

Repentance involves rejection of idols.  This is not a casual attitude.  The word RAGS describes the most foul, defiled thing of which the writer could think.  Repentance involves an 1800 turn, hating and casting aside the sinful things we used to worship and adore.

Since most of us do not have silver or gold-covered statues set up on little altars at home, we have to think of “idols” in a more symbolic sense.  We need to think about the things in this life that we love but cause us to sin and worse, occupy the place in our life that God is supposed to take: first place.  Those are the things we have to cast out.

What are the gold-plated idols in your life?  Even good things like Family, friends, church, business, can all be idols.  When you pray, ask God to reveal them to you and be prepared to act on His response.

Joseph: Prisoner (Part Two)

(Please read Genesis 40.)

     Dreams have always fascinated us and since they can have such a profound emotional impact, we have long sought to understand them.  The “Dream Bible” website is one example of our attempts to utilize our dreams.

“Welcome to The Dream Bible.  A free online A to Z dream dictionary dedicated to helping people understand the meaning of their dreams. Unlike other dream interpretation websites or books we extensively research dream symbols by interviewing people about the events occurring in their lives at the time of their dreams.  Inspired by the work of Gillian Holloway Ph.D, we are using a database of over 350,000 dream reports to create the world’s most practical dream dictionary based on the waking life experiences of regular people.      “We hope that our work will help you to gain insight into the hidden meanings of your dreams.  Please feel free to browse the site, post your dreams on the forum, or contact us with any of your requests.”

They list 4,851 “symbols” (specific dream interpretations) on their website.  As a example of what you can expect to find at the website, I’ve included the entry for “umbrella” below.  Have you ever dreamed about umbrellas?  If so, this one is for you!

“To dream of an umbrella represents emotional protection from disappointments or uncertainty you are experiencing. Casual feelings about disappoints effects others having no impact on you. Preparedness for troubling or sad moments. The ability to shield yourself from depression, pessimism, or being inundated by a negative situation. A reflection of how optimistic or prepared you feel when problems or delays arise. An umbrella may be a sign that you are trying to keep a positive attitude during an unpleasant situation.      “To dream of an umbrella that won’t open represents a lack of preparation for disappointment. Preparations not working as expected or not enough preparations. Having a hard time keeping optimistic or positive when problems arise.      “To dream of an umbrella that leaks represents an optimistic or enthusiastic attitude despite a persistent problem. Feeling that you level of preparedness was barely enough.

“Example: A man dreamed of seeing someone carrying an umbrella. In waking life he had been working very hard on his business to make it comply with potential future regulations when suddenly the regulations became mandatory. His felt that his responsible foresight made him very prepared for the difficulty of complying with the regulations while he watched his competition fail hard due to their lack of preparations.”

<Retrieved from DreamBible.com on 8/29/15.>

Now that we’ve seen the amateur approach, let’s turn to Genesis 40 and see how a real “pro” interprets dreams.

Message: God does not always immediately reward our faithfulness.

  1. Joseph got two new “cellies.”

Let’s note two things to set up this portion of the story of Joseph:

– SOME TIME LATER (v. 1) – though the length of time is not specified, this phrase implies that Joseph’s imprisonment was not brief.

– THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD ASSIGNED THEM TO JOSEPH (4).  Ironically, this is Potiphar, the guy who put him there.  Maybe based on the warden’s recommendation (39:20b-23), Potiphar’s attitude toward Joseph changed; maybe his anger at being reportedly cuckolded cooled.  However we describe it, this is a vote of confidence for Joseph from a “hostile witness.”

One of Joseph’s new cellmates had been the CHIEF CUPBEARER.  He did more than carry the king’s goblet around.  He tasted all the king’s food and drink first to make sure it was not poisoned.  He was also in charge of Pharaoh’s vineyards.  The word for CUPBEARER is also translated as “butler” and shows that this position had a considerable range of responsibilities in providing care for the king.

In this very personal kind of service, the cupbearer often became a person of great influence.  For example, hundreds of years later, Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, enjoyed the favor of the king and had enough personal wealth to return to Jerusalem and oversee the restoration of the City of David.

Joseph’s other new cellmate was the CHIEF BAKER. The word BAKER is used in the Bible to refer to all kinds of cookery (see 1 Samuel 8:13; Hosea 7:4), so it’s possible this man had charge over all the eats in Pharaoh’s house.  This would be like a “head chef,” or “chief chef” in this case. Ancient Egyptian documents confirm that there were 38 kinds of cakes and 57 kinds of bread baked in Egypt, so this man had a lot of responsibility. Though the Bible does not confirm this, tradition says that the prophet Hosea was a BAKER as well.

They had both OFFENDED (v. 1) Pharaoh, and that’s the reason for their imprisonment.  The word OFFENDED has a lot stronger emotion in the original language – “enraged” would be a better translation.  But he couldn’t deal with them too harshly: their politically-connected families might make trouble.  We’re not told what the offense was, but we’ve all had that experience that when problems arise, it’s the middle-level managers who take the fall.  SOME TIME (v. 4) passed as they were prisoners under Joseph’s management.  Having this relationship with Joseph explains why they took news of their dreams to him.

  1. Joseph renewed his ministry as dream interpreter.

Whereas before, he had interpreted his own dreams, now Joseph interpreted the dreams of others.  Notice that these men do not seek Joseph out to interpret the dreams for them: he asked them why they were so down-hearted (vs. 6-8).  Joseph is careful to note that interpreting dreams is something that comes from God, not himself: “DO NOT ALL INTERPRETATIONS BELONG TO GOD?”  This is a considerably more humble attitude than he showed as a young man back in c. 37.

The divine origin of Joseph’s interpretations is born out in the fact that the meaning is not immediately obvious.  For example, the chief cupbearer’s dream is explained in vs. 12-13.  “THE THREE BRANCHES ARE THREE DAYS.” See how that’s not obvious?  I could have been three of anything.  The dream predicted the CUPBEARER would be restored to Pharaoh’s good graces.  He would be recalled from prison and restored to his place of service.

The chief baker hoped for similarly good news (vs. 18-19).  His expectation may’ve been based on the similarity of the numbers: “THE THREE BASKETS ARE THREE DAYS.”  The difference was that Pharaoh drank the cupbearer’s wine but he did NOT eat the baker’s bread.  Pharaoh’s anger burned more hotly against the baker and he was executed by cutting off his head and leaving his body hanging to be eaten by vultures.  You can imagine how the BAKER might be disappointed with this interpretation.

  1. Having your dreams come true isn’t always a good thing.

The occasion (v. 20) for Pharaoh’s reconsideration of these men and the significance of the three days in their dreams was Pharaoh’s birthday party three days after Joseph’s interpretations.  Pharaoh LIFTED UP [both their] HEADS during the feast, but with entirely different results.  No reason is given for the split decision: the will of Pharaoh needs no explanation or justification.

The chief cupbearer got the best part of this deal (v. 21).  HE RESTORED THE CHIEF CUPBEARER TO HIS POSITION, SO THAT HE ONCE AGAIN PUT THE CUP IN PHARAOH’S HAND.

The chief baker got the worst of the deal (v. 22), being put to death.  I wonder if this meant Pharaoh got no birthday cake!

Here is a further injustice Joseph suffered: his situation did not change. In vs. 14-15, Joseph made an extended plea with the CUPBEARER to REMEMBER him when he had regained Pharaoh’s trust and his ear.  The CUPBEARER would be in a good place to alleviate Joseph’s unjust imprisonment.  This did not take place immediately.  Ch. 40 ends with this note: THE CHIEF CUPBEARER, HOWEVER, DID NOT REMEMBER JOSEPH; HE FORGOT HIM.  (SPOILER ALERT: He will make up for this shortcoming in 41:9-13.)  No doubt this was human nature; we get excited about good fortune and forget how we came by it.

One reason this is important is to prove that Joseph did not misuse his divine gift of the interpretation of dreams for personal gain.  It was of no immediate benefit.  In fact, as we’ll see next week, Joseph would remain in prison for TWO MORE YEARS before the CUPBEARER would use his position to help Joseph!!

Another reason for this lapse is to teach us – along with Joseph – that good works do not always receive an immediate reward.  This is one of those situations where faith is required.  We exercise faith to remain steady in doing the good work to which God has called us and trust Him to reward as He wills, in His timing.  As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9, LET US NOT BECOME WEARY IN DOING GOOD, FOR AT THE PROPER TIME WE WILL REAP A HARVEST IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP.

Why are we studying Joseph’s life in such detail? We do so because he was a man of particularly noble character.  Apart from some youthful boasting the fault for which can be laid partially on his father, Joseph is the patriarch with the most godly character.  He is also the one who rises to the greatest height of worldly achievement.  Joseph is the one man in Genesis of whom it is written, that God’s Spirit indwelled.

Pharaoh (41:38) said, “CAN WE FIND ANYONE LIKE THIS MAN, ON IN WHOM IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD?”  He answered his own question in the next verse; “SINCE GOD HAS MADE ALL THIS KNOWN TO YOU, THERE IS NO ONE SO DISCERNING AND WISE AS YOU.”  This is a secular witness agreeing with what was said twice in the previous chapter (39), that the LORD was with Joseph.

Hundreds of years later, God would raised up Daniel, a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams very much like Joseph.  God used both these men to prepare His people for the two most important points in their history.  He used Joseph to prepare them to become a nation in the first place.  He used Daniel to prepare them to become a nation again, after God’s people had been carried away in captivity.  In both cases, God’s people emerged from slavery to forge a new national identity.

God may not use you or I in such historical fashion, but the example of Joseph is one worth studying and following just the same.  We should desire to be filled with the Spirit and gifted for service as Joseph was.

“What’s in Your Wallet?”

(Please read Jeremiah 9:23-26.)

Samuel L. Jackson want’s to know, “What’s in Your Wallet?”  You can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their wallet, but what’s in their hearts is what really counts.  What’s needed in our hearts is the humility to forsake self-sufficiency and instead embrace dependence on God.

MESSAGE: Self-sufficiency is one of the biggest roadblocks to a godly life.

CONTEXT: The previous 21 verses of the chapter have been spent in pronouncing woe upon Jerusalem, similar to what we heard Jesus doing a couple weeks ago.  So this set of four verses sounds a little out of place, but t point is that in desperate days we’ve an even greater need to rely on God.

COMMENT:

  1. Do not rely on any worldly thing (23, 25-26).

Why we should not rely on worldly things.

– They will not ward off trouble or tragedy.

– Trusting in worldly things is a subtle idolatry.

– It pleases God if we rely on Him & trust Him.

– The problem with all forms of worldly self-sufficiency is that they can blind us to our need for God.  In that blindness, we fail to seek God & are thereby not saved.

– The world honors its scholars, athletes, warriors, and wealthy, but their assets will not save them.

Jeremiah gives four examples of worldly things that have been proven untrustworthy.

Do not rely on your WISDOM (v. 23).  Man’s wisdom is not God’s wisdom – not even close (see Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:67; 9:10).  We have a tendency to self-deception and can be deceived by others – only God is always true.

Do not rely on your STRENGTH (v. 23).  Neither physical might nor any other form of worldly power will have the spiritual and moral strength that God’s righteousness endows. Worldly STRENGTH will fail us.

Do not rely on your RICHES (v. 23).  Jesus told us that only treasure kept in heaven is safe from thievery and decay – all kinds of loss (see Matthew 6:19-21).       Jesus pointed out how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 19:23-24).

Do not rely on your religious credentials (vs. 25-26).  In the Old Testament, circumcision was the ultimate religion credential.  It was the physical sign that distinguished men of God from everyone else.

But Jeremiah dismissed any notion of privilege based on circumcision: “I WILL PUNISH THOSE WHO ARE CIRCUMCISED ONLY IN THE FLESH.”  While it is stated in the Old Testament, the people often missed the fact that keeping the Law was not about the letter of the Law as much as it was changing the heart.  So being circumcised only in THE FLESH was a way of describing the kind of hypocrisy that can occur with people who observe only the letter of the Law.  The Apostle Paul dealt with this same issue in Romans 2:25-29 and also observed that true circumcision is a matter of the heart, done by the Holy Spirit. This is a recurring them in Jeremiah:

– 4:4 calls Judah to circumcise their hearts.

– 6:10 condemns “uncircumcised ears” that fail to listen to the LORD’s commands.

The only thing all the nations listed in v. 25 have in common is that they are going to be punished by the LORD.  (It’s easy to dismiss others as irreligious, but to truly seek God is not.)  So, in spite of the spiritual advantages God gave them, in spite of all the grace He had shown them, His people continued to trust in their worldly wisdom, strength, and riches instead of God.  Ironically, this is when God’s gifts become perverted into idols.  What He gives to empower godliness can sometimes become substitutes for Him.  When we worship the gifts and not the Giver, we sin.

As an alternative to worldly priorities, God wants us to value the following – this order:

– Dependence on God.

– Interdependence on each other.

– Independence and self-support.

In our culture we often have these backwards, don’t we?

  1. Rely on the Lord alone (24).

The LORD is the only one worth boasting about.  Our highest good is relationship with God.  Understanding Him is an intellectual experience.  Knowing Him is a spiritual, emotional, and moral experience.  From this primary relationship flows true wisdom, power, wealth, and religious relevance.

The life of faith is a matter of knowing what delights Him and DOING IT.  This is one way to demonstrate a real faith-relationship with God.  Jeremiah offers three virtues that characterize a life in which God delights:

– KINDNESS.  This Hebrew word is hard to translate into English.  It refers to an inner attitude good will to people whether it’s expected or deserved.  “Steadfast love” is an alternative translation.  It is the kind of love God has shown to us, the example He has set and we are to follow.  This is GRACE – the single most important way to demonstrate love.

– JUSTICE.  This is a far-reaching term; it describes a society where good people are protected from evil people so that they are free to continue to do good.  One of the sins condemned by the prophets is the oppression of the poor.  God rejects all forms of injustice as a violation of His will.  Those who are blessed in worldly things need to be careful to use their wealth to lift up those not as endowed in worldly things.  For examples, see how Hosea 5:4; 6:3; 8:2 called the people to know God and His justice.  See Micah 6:8 and 7:18 to find activities that please God.

– RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Similar to justice, this term describes a culture in which doing the right thing is the predominant, normal, expected behavior.  As with all God’s standards, the bar of behavior is set at its highest.  “Righteousness” involves doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.  God sets His standards impossibly high to force us to rely on Him.

– We rely on His forgiveness when we fail.

– We rely on His Spirit to succeed.

– All of our life experiences are supposed to direct our attention to Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

Self-sufficiency is one of the biggest roadblocks to a godly life.

Do not rely on your WISDOM (23).

THE PROBLEM: People who are intellectually self-sufficient insist on forms of evidence they can verify with their five senses.  Whether well-educated or not, they take God’s gift of intelligence and turn it into an idol.  They proudly believe they’ve got it all figured out.

THE SOLUTION: The remedy for intellectual self-sufficiency begins with 1CT 3:18-20 = DO NOT DECEIVE YOURSELVES.  IF ANY ONE OF YOU THINKS HE IS WISE BY THE STANDARDS OF THIS AGE, HE SHOULD BECOME A “FOOL” SO THAT HE MAY BECOME WISE.  FOR THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD IS FOOLISHNESS IN GOD’S SIGHT.  AS IT IS WRITTEN: “HE CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS” AND AGAIN, “THE LORD KNOWS THAT THE THOUGHTS OF THE WISE ARE FUTILE.”

The remedy continues by a reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This individual grows in faith by trusting the subjective, intuitive guidance of the Spirit and experiences divine wisdom as they respond immediately.

Do not rely on your STRENGTH (23).

THE PROBLEM: This kind of self-sufficiency represents all the resources that an individual has WITHIN themselves.  This power may take the form of their physical, political, economical, egotistical, or circumstantial power.  They exert their will over others based on the prideful notion they have the right to do so.  “Might makes right” leads to sin.

THE SOLUTION: The remedy for strength self-sufficiency  starts with PSS 20:7-8 = SOME TRUST IN CHARIOTS AND SOME IN HORSES, BUT WE TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD OUR GOD.  THEY ARE BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES AND FALL, BUT WE RISE UP AND STAND FIRM.

The remedy deepens as the individual pays more attention to the Giver than the gifts.  They need to do the hard work of being more responsive and less reliant on their own plans.  They need to purposely seek ways to worship God and serve people that are outside their usual powers.

Do not rely on your RICHES (23).

THE PROBLEM: Money is not the problem; it’s the LOVE OF MONEY.  RICHES represents all the resources we have OUTSIDE of self.  These are the things we own that we think we’ve earned or somehow deserve.  They can easily become a point of pride and an idol.  Money is one example.

THE SOLUTION: The remedy for this kind of self-sufficiency starts with LKE 12:13-21, the Parable of the Rich Fool.  In this parable, Jesus tells of a man blessed with wealth whose sole concern is making more wealth.  “BUT GOD SAID TO HIM, ‘YOU FOOL!  THIS VERY NIGHT YOUR LIFE WILL BE DEMANDED FROM YOU.  THEN WHO WILL GET WHAT YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR YOURSELF?”

The remedy continues when we take a spiritual view of things; increasingly seeing the world as God does.  For example, “Savers” need to stop relying on money in the bank for their sense of security.  It’s better to trust in God than in the FDIC.  On the other hand, “Spenders” need to stop relying on material things to bring them joy.  Give less time to your toys and more time to your relationship with God and the people around you!

Do not rely on your religious credentials (25-26).

THE PROBLEM: This kind of self-sufficiency is based on the notion that religious acts can earn salvation or authority.  You’ve heard people suppose they’re good enough to get into heaven.  You’ve heard people recite their good works in church and/or community.  Each are equally false.  True good works begin with a heart of love for god and people and have no such strings attached.

THE SOLUTION: The remedy starts with having the attitude shown by Isaiah when he encountered the glory of God in the temple.  He said, “WOE TO ME!  I AM RUINED!  FOR I AM A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND I LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE KING, THE LORD ALMIGHTY,” (ISH 6:6).  The Lord, in response, cleansed the prophet of his sins, preparing him for divine service.

The remedy deepens when our focus is on the Lord and not on ourselves and when our motive is love and heavenly riches, not worldly gain.  We practice the three virtues characterize a life in which God delights: KINDNESS, JUSTICE, and RIGHTEOUSNESS.

The Just Judge

(Please read Isaiah 11:1-5 and Acts 10:34-38.)

            A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard.

When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day.

“What for?!?!?” he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: “Twenty dollars contempt of court! That’s why!”

Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: “That’s all right. You don’t have to pay now.”

The young man replied, “I know. But I’m just seeing if I have enough for two more words.” Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcNoDGA6

A Charlotte, North Carolina man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against …. get this …. fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.”   The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued … and won!! In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unaccep-table fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested… on 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one year terms. Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcORaAmH

Examples of unjust judges and jokes about them abound.  In Scripture, one of the things God hates in injustice.  The abuse of power is a violation of the trust God and people invest in those in authority.  For example, in Leviticus 19:15, the LORD is quoted as saying, “DO NOT PERVERT JUSTICE; DO NOT SHOW PARTIALITY TO THE POOR OR FAVORITISM TO THE GREAT, BUT JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR FAIRLY.”

Get the Message = Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be a Just Judge; Peter announced Jesus Christ is the Just Judge.

  1. The Son of Jesse would be a Just Judge. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

CONTEXT: Isaiah has just written about how a remnant of Israel will survive all their tribulations and return to the land (ch. 10).   In chapter 11, he explains that one of the descendants of King David’s father Jesse will be the agent of saving the remnant.  In chapter 12, he pauses briefly to compose a song of praise for God’s salvation action.

COMMENT:

As a human being, the Messiah would be an eternal version of a king in the dynasty of David (v. 1).  This is important because most of David’s descendants were lousy kings – either idolatrous or cowardly.  (This may be why Isaiah made no mention of David but jumped back to Jesse.)  The Messiah will dramatically break out of that pattern.

Isaiah used an arbroreal image to depict this prophecy of hope: A SHOOT…F/T STUMP OF JESSE.  It is a continuation of an imagery that appeared earlier in this book:  In chapter six, the burned-down forest symbolized the downfall of prideful Israel.  In chapter ten, the forest representing mighty Assyria grew up to replace Israel but was cut down. Now the imagery goes full circle as a SHOOT grows from the STUMP of the failed monarchy.

By the time Jesus was born, no king of the line of David had reigned over Judah for 600 years.  But, through Isaiah God promised that a fruitful BRANCH would grow FROM HIS ROOTS.  God worked powerfully to restore His people.

The Holy Spirit would empower His rule (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when people do things that normal people couldn’t do, the explanation is always that the Spirit of the Lord empowered them to do it.  The prophet elaborated extensively on this point because, as we saw last week, it is crucial

– THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM.  (This prophecy was very literally fulfilled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a DOVE, rested on Jesus.  Even more miraculously, a voice from heaven explained the meaning behind the event: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”  (See Matthew 3:17.)

(Notice that five of the six elaborations are things that occur between the ears.  This underscores the importance of the mind as the place where our life of faith is realized and sensed.)

– THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND OF UNDERSTANDING.

– THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND OF POWER.

– THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF FEAR OF THE LORD.

This is summed up with a statement of the Just Judge’s character.  His would be the kind of life that makes justice possible and at the same time is a work of the Spirit = HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  The kind of powerful but righteous individual, the perfect ruler described here, must be both divine and human.

As a divine being with perfect character, the Messiah will judge with perfect justice (vs. 3-5).  In the Old Testament, pronouncing wise judgments in court is the “acid test” of all authority, whether it is good or evil.

His godly character empowers His just judgment.  How the authorities treat the most vulnerable members of society reveals where their hearts and heads are.

– WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE NEEDY.

– WITH JUSTICE HE WILL GIVE DECISIONS FOR THE POOR OF THE EARTH.

Judgment is both recognition of the truth and an appropriate response: reward for the righteous AND wrath for the wicked.  Notice that it is the Just Judge’s WORDS that will accomplish this.  His judicial pronouncements have the authority to make the will of God occur.

– HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH.

– WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED.

RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.  The words BELT and SASH miss the imagery of the original language; the virtues just listed are like the undergarments of the Messiah.  When all outward appearances are stripped away, He is still righteous and faithful.  He does not go by appearances as people do, He is righteous all the way beneath outward appearances.

  1. Jesus is the Just Judge. (Acts 10:34-38)

CONTEXT: Acts 10 is an important transitional event in the history of the Church.  Peter received a vision and an experience in which God revealed that salvation is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Our verses are Peter’s testimony about Jesus as he summarizes what he has learned.

COMMENT:

The Just Judge will not show favoritism (vs. 34-35).  To the poor and oppressed, justice is equated with salvation; at last their cause will be vindicated.  PETER BEGAN TO SPEAK is a formulaic way to introduce an important address.

“I NOW REALIZE,” Peter began.  After the visions he and Cornelius had, Peter sees God at work to change his mind about the Gentiles.

“GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM,” the word translated as FAVORITISM literally means “face-taking.”  God does not put on a smiley face for one set of people and condemn another based on arbitrary factors like nationality.

Here is a point on which Peter and Paul agreed.  In Romans 2:11 it is written, FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.  (The context for this verse is what Paul wrote on the subject of God’s righteous judgment.)

“HE ACCEPTS MEN FROM EVERY NATION,” but NOT from every religion.  This text can’t be used to justify our culture’s indifference about religion, our studied attempt to overlook the differences or understand which faith is true.

This same point has already been revealed in Acts:

– Acts 1:8 = Jesus promised His disciples would be His witnesses “TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

– Acts 2:17 = In his Pentecost sermon, Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Joel that the Spirit would be “POURED OUT ON ALL PEOPLE.”

– Acts 8:26-40 = An Ethiopian had already been saved and received baptism at Philip’s hand.

Also, prior to Jesus’ ministry, Luke 2:32 records Simeon declaring that Jesus would be “A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.”  In spite of these warnings, it required this experience to move Peter to an understanding of this revelation of God’s plan.

Persons who have made an acceptable response to God have two qualities.

– The FEAR God.  The oft-repeated teaching of the Proverbs is that FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.

– Because we tend to associate FEAR with negative things, this rubs us the wrong way.  BUT, it makes sense to fear God as He is our Judge.  Whether it takes the form of respect or anxiety, FEAR is a perfectly acceptable motivator to DO WHAT IS RIGHT =

In verses 36-38, we see that Jesus demonstrated He is the Just Judge.  For starters, He took the message went to Israel first: THROUGHOUT JUDEA, BEGINNING IN GALILEE; predominantly Jewish areas of the Roman Empire.  This was the plan of God, to offer salvation first to His people, and through them, to the world.

AFTER He had received THE BAPTISM JOHN PREACHED, Jesus began His public ministry.

GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND POWER, which He used to…

– …do GOOD.  It’s incredible that though all Jesus ever did was good, He had to endure such opposition.

– HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.  This explains part of the opposition He suffered.  The devil arouse opponent because Jesus delivered people from his influence.

All this was possible because GOD WAS WITH HIM.  May this be our greatest ambition, our most fervent hope.

At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated.

The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”

Justice is not something that just happens.  It is too contrary to our sin nature and human nature, the things that dominate our thinking otherwise.  Fortunately, we have Jesus as our example as the Just Judge.  We are given the same Holy Spirit by God the Father, so we have everything we need to obey His will and exercise His will.  In the name of the One who IS Justice, let us go forth and live justly.