2 CORINTHIANS 13
Paul reminds us again that the ultimate example of God’s power being shown through human weakness is the Cross. Jesus submitted himself to the most degrading torture and death that mankind could deliver – becoming as weak as it is possible to be – and then unleashed the full power of heaven upon the Sons of Earth. Most of the time we hinder God by getting in the way; if only we would just be available for him to work through us!
If you even claim to be a Christian, test yourself to see if Christ really is in you – the true mark of a believer. (13:5). One of the signs of belonging to Christ is that you recognise that you belong to God’s family on earth too. There is no biblical precedent for the so-called solitary Christian who wants to live life ‘just with Jesus’. And whilst an involvement in our geographical community is highly commendable – particularly if it includes a desire to propagate the gospel – it is not a substitute for engaging with the local body of believers. Are you working for their maturity and edification? Are you serving Christ’s church? Are you devoted to the togetherness of the Christian faith?
What defines a true believer is the ‘new birth’, but this new life is always manifested in an interaction with society and surroundings. 2 Peter 1:10 commands us to: “Make every effort to confirm your calling and election…”. In other words, we need to test and examine ourselves for signs of life! And if the answer is ‘Yes’, then Paul holds out the grace of God as a blessing: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. (13:14).
ISAIAH 31, 32, 33 and 34
Whom do you put your trust in, then? Do you seek help from the Lord when you are sick or afraid or under attack, or in some other need? Or do you seek help entirely from human resources? In Isaiah 31:1, God rebukes those who ignore him entirely and go shopping in Egypt for their military hardware! Don’t trust in those Egyptians, since they are mere men, God says. I can look after you. “Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over it and will rescue it”. This looks back at the great ‘Passover’, when God delivered every Israelite household who had painted blood on their doorframes.
One day, a King will rule in righteousness – the King of Kings. Eyes will be opened, ears will hear again, fearful hearts will be brave and stuttering tongues, fluent. One day – revival! One day, the Spirit will be poured on us from on high, and the desert places will become a fertile field, and the fertile field become a forest. The Holy Spirit in us becomes a giver of life and growth.
Isaiah 33:6: “The Lord will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure”. The fear of the Lord! Respect for his Divine nature and his awesome power. He is our Father-Creator, due our honour.
Psalm 15:2-5 reads in very similar fashion to Isaiah 33:14-16. If you make yourself holy, you will “dwell on the heights, your refuge will be the mountain fortress. Your bread will be supplied, and your water will not fail you”. And better still: “Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar”!
Isaiah points ahead in 33:20-24 in which the new heavens and new earth are described and longed for. “No-one living in Zion will say, ‘I am ill’; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven”. One day, no-one will be ill; we could do with some of that now! And, in a real sense, our prayers today for the healing of loved ones is all about reaching into that future eternal perfection and grabbing some of its blessings for today. It is not guaranteed that we will receive and enjoy everything that we desire – we are servants of God’s sovereignty in these matters – but we can speak up in faith to our Father and ask for an advance now; after all, the scripture says that he gave us his Holy Spirit as a deposit of all the good things that will come. (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14.)
Finally, in chapter 34, we have God being very angry with the surrounding nations. He executes his judgment upon them and soon even the stars are dissolved, and the heavens rolled up like a scroll. Creation itself will fail and be remade into perfection again by its Creator. God will have his day of vengeance upon the rebel nations who have rejected him. Now is our chance to make our peace with our God – don’t wait until time has literally run out!