The book of Isaiah can be divided into three parts—the time before, during, and after Babylonian exile. Our passage comes at the end of the third section. It is a lot like the end of the whole story. But it doesn’t tell us about what people did; it tells how the people should feel.
What the people did, upon returning to Jerusalem was rebuild the city walls. Walls and gates are there to protect the people from invaders. Nehemiah led the work crews to rebuild the walls, to make Jerusalem a safe place to live. (The neighbors were very unhappy about this!)
- Our passage begins with a call to rejoice. Jerusalem is safe and secure. God’s house (the temple) was in operation, and people could conduct their lives without fear of attack by outsiders. (v. 10a)
- Jerusalem is “personified”—Jerusalem becomes a woman. She is Mother Jerusalem. A nursing child is a beautiful image. We used to joke about this regarding our own kids. After nursing, they were so blissfully at peace that they seemed to be drugged! This is the image reminds God’s people that they should feel blissfully happy and secure. (vv. 10b-12)
- Now, the Mother Jerusalem imagery fades, and God Himself is the comforter. God will comfort them, they will be joyful, and be at peace, assured that they will be protected from their enemies. (vv. 13-14)
In our story, God has brought his people home and cared for them. They can feel as safe and secure as a nursing child. We, too, can rejoice in the knowledge that God also loves us. He has sent his son to teach us, lead by example, and die for our sins. Those of us who are in Christ know that God is our comfort and guide. We should also be blissfully at peace, secure in the fact that our God loves us, nurtures us, even dandles us on His knee.
These are the concluding words of Paul’s letter. He uses this opportunity to summarize the key points of his letter. Much of this is review for us. But because these points are so important, reviewing is good to do. Most often, Paul is concerned about the whole community of believers, rather than developing a personal relationship with Jesus. In this part of the letter, he dedicates instruction not only to the community but to individuals as well.
One thing to note is that these letters were often dictated to a scribe. There were good reasons to do this. Sometimes, the letters were more legible than if written by the one dictating. Also, scribes can write smaller, and use less paper. This will become evident in verse 11.
- Verses 1 & 2 are a specific application of the Lord’s command to love one another. If someone has gone astray, the rest of the community should gently try to restore that person to spiritual health. Bearing one another’s burdens is one way of obeying Jesus’ command to love one another.
- This odd little verse, at least to me, means that we should all try to be humble, and not trick ourselves into thinking we are better than others. (v. 3)
- We should still carry our own loads, testing ourselves as we go. (vv. 4-5)
- Here again is a contrast of behaviors, using the terms “in the flesh” vs. “in the Spirit”. It is presented in a sow/harvest metaphor. Paul encourages us to conduct our lives “in the Spirit”, as we discussed last week. (Details are in chapter five.) If we live in the Spirit, we reap those benefits. Do note that Paul is clear that salvation does not come from our works, but by faith. Salvation is not the discussion point here. But, when we get a chance to work for the good of all, especially for our fellow Christians, we reap the satisfaction and inner peace that comes from doing the Lord’s work. (vv. 6-10)
- At this point, Paul has taken the pen from the scribe. His letters aren’t as small as the scribe’s. The next points must have been important enough for Paul to do this. Let’s pay close attention to what he has to say. (v. 11)
- He wants to reiterate the importance of not falling into the trap of seeking salvation by following a set of rules (in this case circumcision). We should not boast (or pin our hopes on) anything but the cross of Christ. (vv. 11-14)
- What matters is that we are all new creations through our baptism in Christ. Obeying or not obeying some old laws pale in comparison to that. (v. 15)
- The last verse is Paul’s closing to this letter. (v. 16)
Both as individual Christians and as a faith community, we are guided by the Spirit to love one another in thought and in actions. We should not just concentrate on “keeping our own back yard clean”, but become involved in the lives of those around us. It’s part of Jesus’ command to love one another.
LUKE 10:1-11, 16-20
In the beginning of the previous chapter, Jesus sent his apostles (the twelve) out to do the same things that he had done—preach the Good News, heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. Last week, we read that he set his face on Jerusalem; he’s preparing to open the final chapter of his mission. We read last week in 9:57-62 that Jesus was calling for people to follow him. He must have had a large following; we call these people disciples. Since many women followed Jesus, too, and were his disciples. Now, Jesus cranks up the mission into high gear.
- Jesus now appoints seventy “others” to go and do what the apostles had done previously. He sends them off in twos. They are to go on before him; to the places he intends to stop on his way to Jerusalem. (vv. 1-2)
- He gives them warnings and detailed instructions. He tells them that sometimes it won’t be easy. In those cases, just shrug it off, and go to the next town. But to those who receive the word, proclaim that the “Kingdom of God has come near”. (vv. 3-11)
- This is key—Jesus tells them that whoever listens to them is listening to Jesus himself. What a powerful statement! (v. 16)
- They return with great news—it worked, just as Jesus said it would work! Jesus takes delight in their success, but then gives them a different perspective. He says that instead of rejoicing in what they had done, they should rejoice in the fact that their strong faith has won them the keys to heaven. (vv. 17-20)
We are all Jesus’ disciples. We are all sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God to anyone who will hear. We should not concern ourselves with those who reject this message, but focus on those who want to hear the Good News. Our salvation comes not from doing these good things, but from the faith that caused us to do them in the first place.