How God goes ahead of us

Readings this week, leading up to Easter Sunday, April 1

Isaiah 25:6-9 – The prophecy of death swallowed up in victory on Mount Zion

Mark 16:1-8 – The women’s shock at finding the tomb empty

Acts 10:34-43 – Jewish Peter enters Roman officer Cornelius’ house

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – Paul reminds the Greek church in Corinth of their core beliefs

MONDAY, MARCH 26
Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah’s prophecy: death swallowed up for ever

They will say, “We trusted in Him and He saved us”.

6  On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.

“On this mountain” – Mount Zion. This connects back to Isaiah 24:23: “The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders — with great glory.”

The prophet has already foretold a time when Gentile nations will come to Mount Zion for worship, Isaiah 2:1-4.

7  On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;

The allusion is to death; it could also encompass the blindness of spiritual death among the Gentile nations – which is set to be reversed.

8  He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

Paul in setting out the doctrine of resurrection quotes the first part of verse 8 (but not literally) at 1 Cor. 15:54. “…the saying that has been written is true: death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Christ by His death destroyed the power of death; He took away the sting of the first death, and prevented the second (everlasting death) for those who would turn to Him.

This victory also spells – positionally – the end of the disgrace God’s people commonly experience in a world of conflicting values.

9  In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

“Saved” is yasha and the noun form is yeshua (as in Jesus’ name in Hebrew). The saving is God’s work; our part of the partnership is trusting and rejoicing.

Application

Here Isaiah sees in the Spirit a time when disgrace and death will no longer rule and God will delight in honouring all kinds of people.

God’s intention for those created in His image has always been life and peace – shalom in all its rich meaning. The Garden of Eden is an enduring picture of such an environment, where everything that man needed for life and health and companionship – everything that was life-giving – was freely provided. Man was created with freewill but also with a close relationship with God to guide choices in that freewill. The one thing that wasn’t on offer was independence from God. As we know, appropriating the one thing God did not want us to have, allowed in every source of pain, fear and death. And these influences rule our lives more than we like to admit.

What Isaiah saw in the Spirit was a different order of things. Instead of the inevitable slide of all things to rot and corruption and death, he saw the shroud of death torn, the vision for good choices restored and the power of death submerged by an unstoppable tide of God’s generosity. This is God’s kingdom in the Lord Jesus Christ, which we can experience in Him as a foretaste of the full realisation of His kingdom rule on His return. We still have the freewill to choose – either to satisfy our desire for independence, or to break its hold by choosing dependence on God who is so good and so loving and so worthy of our trust in Him.

For reflection or as a discussion starter

How much influence does fear, and the ultimate fear of death itself, have in our thought lives? How does Jesus, who said “I am the Way”, lead us to take authority over this influence?