2 CORINTHIANS 7
Paul had paid a visit to Corinth, which was evidently very unpleasant for him and for them (see chapter 2:1). By way of follow-up, he had written the Corinthian church a harsh letter (now missing, but probably in between 1 and 2 Corinthians) – the contents of which ‘pulled no punches’. Paul had delivered a full apostolic rebuke to them; it hurt, and it caused a good deal of sorrow amongst the members. Initially he perhaps regretted some of the strong things he had said, but later he saw that these Corinthians took his rebukes seriously and to heart; they repented and turned back to right doctrine, a godly lifestyle, and to Paul’s authority.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”. (v10). In other words, if a tough situation is ‘from God’, then we are on the receiving end of the most loving Fatherly discipline that anyone could receive; he punishes us because he cares about us. It is intended to change our attitudes, our lifestyles and to increase our faith. Not all hardship is God’s punishment, but it is all a kind of discipline that he permits and imposes on us – with a guarantee that it is fitting us up for glory!
The chapter ends on a happy note, with relationships restored, believers reconciled and friends demonstrating affection again. Paul was clearly a very affectionate / emotional person and was easily hurt by being ignored by his spiritual children or falsely accused. It is strange that many people today consider him entirely intellectual and unfeeling – which flies in the face of the biblical evidence!
Let’s make room for one another in our hearts; let’s work at being joyful, devoted, affectionate and kind to one another. The unity of the Holy Spirit is so much more than a ‘cold’ doctrinal consensus.
ISAIAH 5, 6, 7 and 8
God is an investor; and he requires ultimately a return on his investment! We are in Isaiah 5 and the prophet is drawing a parallel between a vineyard owner and his vineyard, compared with the Lord and his Israel. The lovingly prepared vineyard produced no grapes and so was allowed to turn to ruin. The nation that the Lord had created produced no justice or righteousness, and therefore the Lord humbled it and allowed it to be destroyed by the surrounding nations. Sadly, Israel proved no more fruitful than the Canaanite nations it displaced, so it was itself displaced.
“Woe” has been the cry of judgment by Isaiah over all the nations in the Middle East, but in Isaiah 6, he now turns that cry around to target himself. He sees the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, seated on his throne in the heavenly temple, clothed in a long-flowing robe (like Jesus in Revelation 1:13) and surrounded by majestic seraphim – like the Living Creatures of Rev 4:6-9, who covered their faces, since they could not gaze directly on the face of glory! Seeing the fullness of this vision caused Isaiah to declare “Woe is me!” – for he was so unclean and yet found himself in the presence of the Holy One. This Holy One was Jesus himself – as revealed in John 12:41: “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him”. Then the Lord deals with Isaiah’s sin, using an atoning coal from the great altar, just as these coals were taken into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:12). When Isaiah was clean, he was then commissioned, to go and deliver a message of judgment. “Oh, and by the way”, says the Lord, “they won’t listen to you at all”. “I will use your rejected words as a rod of judgment in centuries to come. One day, they will turn and repent, however.”
Further prophecies concerning the destruction of Aram (Syria) and Ephraim (Northern Israel) were spoken, and King Ahaz of Judah was given a sign that “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” We know that the ultimate fulfilment of this prophecy was in the birth of Jesus himself; the first fulfilment could have been in the birth of a son to Isaiah’s second wife, after his first one died, possibly in childbirth. This sign would also herald the arrival of the Assyrian armies to surround and attempt to capture Judah.
Back to the present time of Ahaz, and Isaiah had produced two sons from his first wife. God wanted the second named ‘Swift to plunder, quick to destroy’ to signify how Israel would be wiped out by the Assyrian empire, and its people absorbed entirely.
Chapter 8 ends with a warning against consulting mediums and spiritists: “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living!” “To the Law and to the Covenant – if anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light”. Beware of the forces of darkness; their job is to deceive you!