Wednesday 7th September 2022

2 CORINTHIANS 9

‘Generosity’ Part Two is today!  The background: for a year or two, the believers in Jerusalem and Judea had suffered disproportionally from famine and intense persecution and so were severely financially disadvantaged compared to the Christians in Macedonia and Greece, for example.  Therefore, a big gift of money to the Judean Christians was planned by the Gentile churches in SE Europe.  Corinth had been the first to suggest this and the idea was adopted with great enthusiasm by the churches in Macedonia, who had already followed through with it.  Paul warned the Corinthian church that they would look rather silly if they were caught unprepared to give when the time came.

What follows in the letter are some fabulous verses on the truth about giving and generosity.  Paul starts with specifics and generalises to include every believer on the planet!  Read again verses 6 – 11.  He says:

  • The principle of sowing large and then reaping large is written throughout creation and scripture (see Proverbs 11:24-25;  Luke 6:38 and Galatians 6:7).  You reap what you sow!
  • Giving needs to be done cheerfully and voluntarily – not grudgingly nor under compulsion
  • God is no man’s debtor, and he gives even more generously back to us, as we give to others
  • A miracle is going on here: one that is similar to grains of wheat turning into loaves of bread; it applies not only to food or money, but to every aspect of a generous person’s life
  • God plans to make us rich in every way, so that we can be generous on every situation; and that generosity will reflect well on God’s reputation (so even He gains from this giving!).
  • Through the grace of the gospel we learn obedience; from that we do works of righteousness; from these we receive praise and are remembered in people’s prayers.  And they praise God too.

What an amazing gift God has given us!

ISAIAH 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17

A vast and powerful human empire is no match for the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!  God has decided that Babylon’s time is up – prophetically at least – and he is preparing to change this empire for a new one.  The description is synonymous with the actual end of the world – the Day of the Lord – but the first fulfilment is simply the end of the word for Babylon!  The actual instrument of God’s destruction is the new emerging empire of the Medes and Persians; they cannot be bribed, and they have no mercy either; Babylon will not stand a chance!

Of course God’s purpose for Israel is linked with that of the fall of Babylon; Persia was the tool that restored the Jews from exile to their own land again.  The taunts in chapter 18 against the King of Babylon are echoed in Revelation 18.  It speaks of the open-mouthed grave waiting eagerly to devour the dead emperor – having become weak just like any other human and having lost all his earthly power and pomp.  His inheritance now is a bed of maggots and worms.

And yet there is a darker and deeper reference implied in these passages: “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”  (Isaiah 14:12-14).  The fall of Satan himself may be described here, with the phrase ‘Morning Star’ being translated ‘Lucifer’.  Jesus, in Luke 10:18 may also be describing the same event.  Look also in Ezekiel 28: at the King of Tyre.

Isaiah 16:5 talks about a throne being established in love and faithfulness – in complete contrast to the one by the King of Babylon – a throne from the House of David.  Clearly this is a short messianic prophecy.

Finally, in Isaiah 17, there are prophecies against Damascus, which would become a heap of ruins.  Its ally Israel – the Northern kingdom – will also be waste away.  But a remnant will remain faithful and will return to their true God.

The end of Isaiah 17 is significant for the interpretation of later prophecy: “Woe to the many nations that rage – they rage like the raging sea!  Woe to the people who roar – they roar like the roaring of great waters!… In the evening, sudden terror!  Before the morning, they are gone!”  The imagery of the sea represents the oppression of God’s people by the godless nations surrounding them; and the Lord promises that one day, they will all be swept away for ever!  In Revelation 21:1 we read the glorious words:  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”.  The absence of the ‘Sea’ indicates the removal of the evil surrounding nations who persecuted God’s people and rejected the true God; this clean-up by the Lord extends to the entire old order of things, including pain, crying, mourning and death itself – no more, not even, never again!  The one seated on the throne makes everything new.

Back in Isaiah we will have to wait a little longer for this great day, but rest assured, it will come!  How happy will God’s people be!  How terrible it will be for those who are not!

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