Today's Readings: 1 Samuel 23 | Isaiah 66 | Matthew 11


Reading 1 - 1Sa 23

David saved Keilah (men of his own tribe) from the Philistines, but then found himself, with his men, in a walled town. To Saul this was a splendid opportunity to capture or kill David -- it was so much easier than hunting him in the open wilderness. And the men of Keilah, mindful of what had happened at Nob (1Sa 22:18,19), were disposed to seek Saul's friendship by betraying David to him (1Sa 23:7). Divine counsel by Urim and Thummim saved the situation (vv 9-12). David had no desire to be encircled, because the last thing he wanted was to have to fight against "the Lord's anointed". And so (directed by divine counsel?) he cleared out.


What helps to explain the attitude of the men of Keilah is the fact that they were Calebites, as also were the men of Ziph (1Ch 4:16,19). Their disreputable link with Nabal (see 1Sa 25) evidently counted for more than their honorable descent from the courageous and faithful Caleb. The men of Ziph likewise attempted a betrayal (1Sa 23:19); had it not been for the providence of God (1Sa 23:27) they would have succeeded.


Reading 2 - Isa 66:23

" 'From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,' says the LORD" (Isa 66:23).

"There is an evident counterpart to the Mosaic monthly institution in the blessed age that is coming with the advent of the saints to power. It is 'from one new moon to another', as well as from Sabbath to Sabbath, that all flesh appears in the temple courts to worship. It is 'every month' or once a month, that the Apocalyptic wood of life (the saints) yields its fruit for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2), and it is 'according to his months' that the literal tree on both sides of the temple river yields its fruit 'whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed... the fruit thereof shall be for meat and the leaf thereof for medicine' (Eze 47:12). There will be no monotony in a state of things in which the whole population is roused with the advent of every new moon in the heavens to a special service of worship and praise, and a special distribution of healing and blessing. The prospect of the Kingdom is a prospect of an endless succession of joyful activities" (Robert Roberts, "Law of Moses" 198).


Reading 3 - Mat 11:4-6

"Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor" (Mat 11:4,5).

Jesus is healing those people who previously would have been excluded from the Lord's service (Lev 21:17-21; cp 2Sa 5:8) -- those people who, if they had been animals, would have been imperfect sacrifices (Lev 22:22-24; Mal 1:8,13,14). So here is emphasized the fact that we are all imperfect specimens and imperfect "sacrifices" -- and we all need the only One who is perfect to heal and cleanse us! And he can do this: through the forgiveness of sins -- which he only can provide -- he can present us, as a radiant bride or church, "without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish" (Eph 5:27).


"The good news is preached to the poor!" The last point on Jesus' list... the poor have the gospel preached to them... is the greatest miracle of all! Because it lifts Jesus' work out of the physical realm and puts it into the spiritual. In fact, it comprehends all the other "miracles" in one: because the gospel believed does -- in the most meaningful sense -- give sight to the spiritually blind, give strength to the weak, and cleanness to those who were "leprous" with sin, and hearing to the spiritually deaf. So here is Jesus' way of lifting his work out of the ordinary (if any miracles can be ordinary!) and putting it on the higher plain: the greatest "miracle" (and such miracles are occurring all around us) is a life changed by true belief in Jesus Christ. Which means... the greatest work of God's Holy Spirit has never ceased from among men, and never will, so long as sinners hear the Word of God and repent.


*****


"Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Mat 11:6).


Nothing that was 'blemished' was fit for the animal sacrifice, for it would be offensive. Jesus had outward scars, but his life was perfect, and so he could make the perfect sacrifice.


One might look at Jesus, even then, and say: "He's not perfect"... and of course, and especially, when he might see that same man, beaten and broken, on his way to the cross, it was painfully true that "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isa 53:2,3). To all outward signs and human expectations, Jesus couldn't be the perfect sacrifice either... because of his physical appearance. And thus the observer -- who saw only the surface of things -- might be offended, and fall away (cp Isa 8:12-15).


But the heart, and the life, of Jesus was perfect -- and that was what the Father saw. And that is what we must see, with the "eye of faith", as well. And thus the promise of Jesus: "Blessed is the man who is not offended by ME!"


Even the cross itself was -- as Paul said -- "foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Co 1:18), and the man who looked at the mere "letter of the Law" would undoubtedly be offended by the whole process: "This just CAN'T be right!"


But the man of faith sees his own sins "mirrored" in the face of the suffering Saviour, and his own deserved punishment reflected in the bruises of his Lord. And he realizes the absolute perfection that is necessary to cleanse, and forgive, and pardon him.


And so he sees the beauty of this divine arrangement, and thankfully embraces it, and joyfully proclaims, as does Isaiah himself, prophetically: "Surely he took up OUR infirmities and carried OUR sorrows... he was pierced for OUR transgressions, he was crushed for OUR iniquities; the punishment that brought US peace was upon him, and by his wounds WE are healed" (Isa 53:4,5). If Jesus appeared to be a blemished and imperfect offering, we need not be "offended" nor "stumble" at this. Instead, we need only remember that such blemishes and imperfections were inflicted, and accepted, on OUR behalf. He was made "sin" for us, so that we might be made "righteousness" in him (2Co 5:21).

 





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