This part of Isaiah was written after the Israelites had returned home from their captivity in Babylon. In the years that followed, God’s people had divided into two camps. One group closely followed the Laws of Moses. Others embraced parts of the Canaanite culture and religious practices. There was a lot of polarity and tension, much like we have today.
- The Lord declares that He is ready for His people to seek him out, but they do not ask or call for Him. Sadly, He calls out “Here I am, here I am”, but nobody calls on Him. (v. 1)
- He calls out to them, but they are busy doing other things. They are involving themselves in Canaanite rituals. A list of activities follow, many of which are forbidden by Jewish law. It is an impure act, for example to frequent the tombs of the dead. Eating pork and “abominable things” is also forbidden. (vv. 2-4)
- They even have the audacity to claim that they are “too holy” to associate with the Lord! They must have thought their gods superior to Him. (v. 5a)
- This does not set well with our Lord. He will remember this, and fix it in His own time. (vv. 5b-7)
- But here is the loving grace of God. He calls His people “a cluster of grapes”. Sure, there are some bad ones in the cluster. But to destroy the cluster would mean destroying the good ones, too. His beloved will not have to pay for the transgressions of the bad ones. (vv. 8-9)
God has high expectations for us, His people. Many around us see God through different lenses than we do. All think they are the holiest group. God’s job is to sort this out, which He will in His own time. Our job is to strive to live godly lives as defined by the bible. Meanwhile, we must try to get along with all those other groups, in spite of our differences.
The church in Galatia was mainly comprised of Gentiles. Apparently, some Jewish Christians became involved after Paul’s departure. They not only believed in Jesus, but also believed that it was important to comply with all the Jewish laws, especially those pertaining to circumcision and diet. In this section of his letter to this church, Paul is very angry. He wants to set the record straight as to what is important and what is not.
- Paul says that before we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we were “imprisoned” by the [Jewish] law. (v. 23)
- He calls the law our “disciplinarian”. This was in effect until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith [and not by works of the law]. (v. 24)
- With the coming of Christ, we no longer need a disciplinarian—we are now children of God through faith! (vv. 25-26)
- All of us who have been baptized, wear Jesus’ saving act like a beautiful robe. (v. 27)
- Next, Paul wipes out all types of potentially separating factors. It doesn’t matter who you are—we are all one in Jesus. And if we belong to Jesus, then we are all sons (and daughters) of Abraham. [Jewish, in a way.] (vv. 28-29)
Elsewhere, Paul makes it clear that the law has not been obliterated. It still stands as a guide to the abundant life. But our salvation is not linked to works of the law, but to faith in Jesus. This is the good news for all!
In the verses preceding today’s passage, Jesus and his disciples hopped onto a boat, and sailed across the Sea of Galilee. A storm kicked up, and they almost drowned. But to their amazement, Jesus calmed the storm.
- They now come to the Gentile side of the lake, the eastern shore. There was no invitation to come here, and there was no crowd waiting for him. (v. 26)
- Instead of a crowd, they are met by a naked, crazy man who is possessed with many demons. He is an outcast from society. (v. 27)
- The demons recognize Jesus straightaway. They beg Jesus not to disturb them, but it is not to be. (vv. 28-29)
- Jesus asks the demons what their name is. They reply “Legion”. It is good to know that a Roman legion consists of about 5,000 soldiers, so there were a lot of demons tormenting this poor soul. (v. 30)
- A deal is struck. Instead of sending them into “the abyss” (Hell?), Jesus agrees to send them into a herd of nearby pigs. The pigs destroy themselves! (vv. 31-33)
- The swine shepherds saw this, and ran into town to report it. The remarkable thing to me is that Jesus did not get in trouble for destroying livestock. No! Everybody was focused on the formerly possessed man. (vv. 34-36)
- Apparently, this was too much for these Gentiles to take. They were not ready for the awesome power that Jesus possessed. They asked him to leave! (v. 37)
- So, Jesus left. Interestingly, the cured man wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus asked him to stay behind and witness to this community to the miracle that had been performed. (vv. 38-39)
Jesus’ saving grace is available to everyone—even naked, crazy people! But some people are not ready for the Good News. Our task is to witness and share our faith experiences with everyone. They may fall on many a deaf ear. But there will always be some who want and need to hear the Good News.