A Fresh Discernment of the Times

Thursday 13 July

Bishop Rennis continued his teaching from Isaiah exploring the theme of Preparing for Revival.  Here VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams brings you a summary of Thursday morning's teaching at #Sligo17.

One of the questions that we encounter regularly is someone asking, “What time is it?”  There is an aspect of chronological time.  There is a different time called kairos time - time in God’s purposes. Our question this morning is, “What time is it in God’s purposes?”  What time is it in God’s salvation history?  What is God’s purpose (kairos) for our generation (a multi-age generation)?

We are going to move into the third section of Isaiah (the anointed conqueror).  In seeing the people redeemed from exile and brought back to their home country, Isaiah was seeing how God was planning to reconcile mankind to Himself.  In God’s purposes, Isaiah sees the bigger picture  not just a single event in history but the overall plan of Salvation.

By the time we reach Isaiah 55, the banquet is ready.  But as the prophet looks on, he realises that sin is still alive and the glorious salvation is not complete.  We are in that period in which we are redeemed but sin still rears its ugly head.  There is still evil, corruption and the hostility of the wider world.  Salvation has come but what happens next? 

Isaiah is given a picture of the anointed conqueror who comes at the end of the age to finally defeat death and eliminate sin.  He sees the consummated end, the glorious completion of God’s salvation.

After the resurrection, Jesus opens the eyes of the disciple so that they can see and understand that the servant of the Lord, the anointed King and the anointed conqueror are one and the same person.  It is His name that we lift up and it is His name we are totally reliant on.

In this third section of Isaiah, we are in the in-between time.  Our sins are forgiven and yet we have to deal with sin.  Our salvation has been accomplished but our experience of it is incomplete (our perfect inheritance in Christ is complete but our entry into that inheritance is as-yet imperfect.)  How are we as people of God to live in this in-between time?

Isaiah 60: 1 - 3

Be sustained by the coming glory

We can get weary and disheartened by this struggle against spiritual darkness both within and without.  Don’t lose heart, even though evil is so resilient and the church in many places is in a mess.  Sometimes when you look at history, you feel doomed to the cross-currents of history.  Is the world going anywhere?

What will sustain us during such times?  It is the picture of the consummated end. The lamb upon the throne... and the banqueting table... and all is well. The confusing flux of history will arrive at last at a state of permanent peace, righteousness and praise.

The word of God gives us the strength to cope and overcome the present age.  You can overcome it because you know how it will all end.  We are on the way to a perfected, consummated, glorious future, kept in heaven for us. As the pilgrim people of God, we need to look at the present from the perspective of that completed end.  On that side of eternity, all will be well!  It will all end with sweet complete victory. When you know that, you lose your anxiety.

The consummated end comes in the form of the future glory of zion.  Isaiah majors on the heavenly city of God (not physical Jerusalem).  He sees the glory of God in terms of God’s resplendent city.  Light is the metaphor for salvation. The glory of God will flood the city of God.  Arise, shine, your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

The whole city of God will be bathed in the light of His presence.  Not just light penetrating darkness but light overcoming the darkness.  The presence of God in the midst of His people…Isaiah 60:19 The Lord will be your everlasting light and the Lord will be your glory.  Your days of mourning shall be ended. 

Our faith is not a glib triumphalism.  We have to deal with the in-between time and in that period, we have to mourn our losses and know that one day, there will be no more mourning.  He sustains us in our mourning by this hope. That is what gives us the fire of faith and the light of hope that the world needs. The Spirit delivers us from pretences.  As we see this glorious city, all of us will have tears that need to be wiped away and because they will… we go on living in the present by His strength.

The glory of God is so liberating and healing that the nations will come to the light. This is Isaiah’s way of expressing that the rule of God will be established from shore to shore.  The nations will run to serve God in Zion (the heavenly city) where the wrath of God has been turned to mercy.

We are inviting others to join us in the procession to this glorious consummated end.  Isaiah refers to the covenant of Abraham… blessed to be a blessing to the nations.  As you read Isaiah 60, the foreigners come to build the walls, that speaks of common citizenship.

Hebrews 12:22 - 24 There may be a wrong over-emphasis on physical Zion but Isaiah is referring to the heavenly city (Zion). Zion is where the people of God are in every country.  In the language of Isaiah, you are Zion in Ireland and you bringhope to a lost world.  Every weekend, all over the world, people go up to heavenly Zion to worship!

Be engaged in the present contest

This passage does not obscure the fact that there is darkness in God’s world.  I don’t need to spend much time to persuade you that there is an escalating darkness. Thick darkness is upon the peoples. 

You see it in strife and conflict everywhere not only between groups of people but within groups of people - fighting, fury, murder, killing and violence. You see it in hardened liberalism and the destructiveness of greed. Greed has become institutionalised.  Everyone is thinking about profits.  Then there are the slavery of addiction and the rise of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2: 1 - 12) Lawlessness means anti-authority.  Nobody accepts that they can be told what is right and what is wrong.  We need to ask how we are raising our children because the Lord has given us authority to bring them up in the fear of the law.

So how do we engage this contest? We go to glory via the way of the cross.  We too absorb blows, poison and injustice without retaliation. We disciple our people against idolatry because the world has many mesmerising and destructive idols. And we pray! God is raising up intercessors who know where the real battle is.  When you intercede remember to pray for the persecuted church. 

Be radiant as God’s transformed people

People of God “arise” - that is a word about being buoyant and strong - and “shine” - this is when righteousness is shining out of our hearts and out of our community.  Satan wants to keep destroying Christian community.

  • Don’t shun those different from you.  Be open but with discernment.
  • Don’t be smug at other people’s problems - we all have our problems.  Be compassionate.
  • Treat others with covenantal love, kindness and mercy (chesed).  The light will shine when you feed the poor and set the captives feed.

If we are to be radiant as God’s transformed people, it is a righteousness that is felt on the streets, and office spaces and corridors of everyday life.  Let the light shine!

One writer said, “If Christians are known to be less righteous in their daily living than non Christians there can be no effective preaching of Christ’s kingdom.”

God is not silent when darkness is in the ascendency.  He rises through His church and He doesn’t want His church to be half-hearted.  He wants His church to know that he is making all things new.  His goodness will prevail.  What we sow in weakness, we will reap in power.  Your love for the nations will be the channel of His light.