Reading 1 - 1Sa 7:12
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer [which means 'stone of help'], saying, 'Thus far has the LORD helped us' " (1Sa 7:12).
The words "thus far" seem like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. It may have been twenty years or it may have been seventy, and yet, "thus far the Lord has helped!" Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honor, in dishonor, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation... "thus far has the Lord helped us!" We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, seeing a sort of green and living temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves. In like manner we may look down the long aisles of our years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of love and faithfulness which bear up our joys. We hear the birds singing in the trees, and they all sing of mercy received "thus far".
But the words also point forward. For when a man gets up to a certain age and may write "thus far" alongside his life, still he is not yet at the end; there is still a distance to be traveled. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet -- awakening in Jesus' likeness, the glories of God's Kingdom, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the company of the saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity.
Let us be encouraged, and with grateful confidence raise our "Ebenezer" -- our memorial stones of faith: "Thus far has the LORD helped us..." and He isn't finished yet!
Reading 2 - Isa 52:13--53:12
Isa 52:13 -- 53:12 presents one complete song [the chapter division is surely in the wrong place here!]: there are 5 stanzas of 3 verses each:
Isa 52:13-15: "Behold my servant" -- the two-fold aspect of Messiah in sufferings and glory;
Isa 53:1-3: "Who has believed our message?" -- the appeal of Christ heard by Israel, and rejected;
Isa 53:4-6: "He took up our infirmities" -- the reason for his sufferings;
Isa 53:7-9: "he was oppressed and afflicted" -- what his sufferings involved;
Isa 53:10-12: "it was the LORD's will" -- the divine purpose behind Messiah's sufferings.
Reading 3 - Rev 14:19,20
"The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia" (Rev 14:19,20).
"This treading of a winepress by warriors on horseback is no doubt intended to indicate a close connection with the vision of Rev 19:13-15, which in turn is interwoven with the judgement of the Sixth Thunder (Rev 14:18; 19:17): 'And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean ... and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.' This is the beginning of the assertion of the power and authority of Messiah. All things are now to be put under his feet (1Co 15:25,27), and there can be only judgement for those who resist. It will be an infallible and altogether righteous judgement, for even the bells of these horses will be 'Holy to the Lord' (Zec 14:20,21).
"The sombre picture of blood flowing in such depth and distance precludes, of course, any kind of literality of interpretation. This is a symbolic River of Death, designed no doubt as contrast to that remarkable River of Life described by Ezekiel (Eze 47).
"Is the length of this stream of slaughter also symbolic? In judgement against a criminal, the penalty was not to exceed forty stripes (Deu 25:3). Then is this 'thousand six hundred furlongs' (forty forties) intended to suggest both the intensification and finality of this mighty judgement against the enemies of God? Perhaps also there is point in this distance being the measure of the Holy Land, from Lebanon to Kadesh, which are mentioned in Psa 29: 6,8 as the geographical limits of the Seven Thunder judgements" (Harry Whittaker, "Revelation").