Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 12 May 2023:
Isaiah 4:2-3 — In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem….
“Closely connected to the concept of ‘the latter days’ in Scripture is ‘the day of the Lord.’ Also known as ‘that day,’ the day of the Lord is the point at which everything will be set right and the enemies of Israel and Israel’s God will receive the fullness of the Lord’s condemnation (Isa. 2:12–19; 13; Jer. 46:1–12; Joel 1:15–20). The prophets often warn God’s people about that coming day, calling them to repentance that they would escape the Creator’s wrath, be reckoned as true Israelites, and enjoy the restoration promised to the faithful in Judah and Israel. In many texts, the day of the Lord and the latter days restoration seem to happen almost simultaneously. Joel 2:28–32 says that those who call on the Lord’s name will escape the day of the Lord. They will survive the day of the Lord to receive great blessing. Malachi 4:1–3 says the righteous will experience great healing and victory over their foes—restoration images—on judgment day.
Today’s passage refers to ‘that day’—the day of the Lord—but it emphasizes the great blessing it will have on those who survive, namely the surviving remnant. Isaiah promised that there would be a branch of the Lord that would be ‘beautiful and glorious.’ Since Israel is often called God’s vineyard or vine in the prophetic literature (Isa. 5:7; Jer. 2:21), the branch represents everything that is left over after the Lord executes His judgment. But there is more. The branch imagery is also applied to the true Davidic king, the faithful ruler from the tribe of Judah—the Messiah (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 4:12). In this we have a hint that the prophets foresaw the Messiah as the true remnant of Israel, as the only righteous servant of God, and the representative of His people.
In the day of the Lord, the prophets said, the fruit of the land would be so abundant and healthy that it would be regarded as the ‘pride and honor’ of the survivors of Israel (Isa. 4:2). By His grace, God would restore the fruitfulness of Israel through His branch, the Messiah. The day would also be one of purification, for the remnant would be cleansed fully of its sin (vv. 3–4). Moreover, the remnant would experience full comfort, for it would take refuge under ‘a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night.’ These are symbols of the Lord God Almighty Himself, who went before the wandering Israelites in Moses’ day in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex. 13:21). In the day of the Lord, the righteous look to God for their shelter.
When we come to the New Testament, we find that the unexpected—from our perspective—has happened. The latter days of judgment and blessing have been extended for many years, with the Lord’s blessing being emphasized through the preaching of the gospel and the conversion of the nations. That does not mean, however, that the final day of judgment is not coming. Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ and thus prepared to meet God on that day?” (Ligonier Ministries)
1 Corinthians 7:5 – Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Satan tempts us by targeting our lack of self-control. Self-control is a spiritual gift that must be empowered by the Spirit. Pray for self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:12-15 – To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
God expects us to take responsibility for our decisions and to keep our vows, regardless of the personal cost. It takes faith to believe that God will bring good out of a bad situation.
1 Corinthians 7:21, 24 — Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity….) So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
We tend to worry too much about our circumstances and not enough about how we are responding to our circumstances. We tend to worry too much about where we are and not enough about who we are and why we have been placed there by God for his purposes. No matter where we find ourselves or how we got there, we are surrounded by opportunities to both glorify God and enjoy His presence. Whether in a palace or a prison, we can proclaim and testify to the glory of God and experience the joy of fellowship with Him.
The Lord has placed us in our current situations for His purposes. If we can improve our conditions, then that is great. However, we need to make the most of the opportunities God has placed in front of us today, where we are now. If we are not careful, we can become so concerned with what we don’t have or where we wish we were, that we fail to appreciate what we do have right in front of us in the place where God wanted us all along.
Consider the lives of people like Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, and the many other people we have read about who God used mightily. Would you want to change places with Noah who witnessed the destruction of all civilization; or Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, then wrongly accused and cast into prison indefinably; or Moses who spent forty years in the desert as a fugitive with a death sentence over his head and then another 40 years in the same desert trying to lead millions of weak-willed people who more than once conspired to kill him; or David who spent much of his life running for his life or in battle, eventually running from his own son who led a rebellion against him? None of them would have chosen the paths down which God led them; but if they had chosen their own paths, they would not have developed the character and competence that made them so usable by God, nor would they have experienced the close relationships with God that they enjoyed. It is exciting to know that God has placed you in your current circumstances on purpose. Remain faithful with today, and see what develops for tomorrow.
1 Corinthians 7:25-40 – I want you to be free from anxieties.
As a general rule, we should seek to remain as free of contractual obligations or debts as reasonably possible. We should maintain as much personal freedom as possible and avoid entanglements with the world. We should live life as simply as possible, avoiding the temptation to make things complicated and stressful. “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
1 Corinthians 7:39 — A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives.
Marriage is permanent, whether you, the government, or anyone else says otherwise.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 May 2023: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Today, see all your circumstances as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ, to walk the Him, to serve Him, to glorify Him, to proclaim Him, and to enjoy Him. Trust God with your situation (along with your mistakes and failures), and have peace and joy. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, and He will work all things (even bad things) together for good, according to His purpose, in perfect love, and to conform you to image of His Son, Jesus.