The glory of God seen in the church and outside


January 20, 2019

Isaiah 62:1-5 — Glory comes to Zion in a new name. God’s gracious vindication will sound until it shines out for all to see

John 2:1-11— Jesus miraculously changes water into wine. Social shame is averted as Jesus shows God’s glory at a community gathering

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 — Paul teaches the balance of spiritual gifts. The glory of God is shown in supernatural enabling of ordinary people

And also: Psalm 36:5-10

Isaiah 62:1-5

Glory comes to Zion in a new name. God’s gracious vindication will resound until it shines out for all to see

This expands the theme of shame erased by glory e.g. Isaiah 60:15; 61:7 and the general thrust of previous weeks’ Isaiah readings, Isaiah 60:1-6 and Isaiah 43:1-7 (Jan. 6 and 13). Isaiah sees the servant-Messiah keeping on speaking out, in the manner of Psalm 28:1-2, until the transformation of Zion – a metaphor for God’s people – is complete. This is a long-sighted view, through rebellion and exile, then regathering, the coming of the Messiah in earthly ministry, and the presently-expected coming again of Jesus in judgment and glory.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.

The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.

“Vindication” – or righteousness. In Isaiah 46:13 the same word in Hebrew is translated “righteousness”.

You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah [My delight is in her], and your land Beulah [married]; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.

“You will be called” – names often made a statement about a person’s character or reputation or even call, and sometimes people changed their names to reflect this. The change of name for the people of God reflects how God now sees them differently.

“Married” – the change is from a state of loneliness, deserted and desolate, to intimacy, in an exclusive and delightful relationship of love and protection, like the covenant of marriage. The expression of a land being married to a god, especially the One God, is unknown in other literature of the time. This way of expressing the unique covenant between Yahweh and Israel is only found in Isaiah.

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

“Your Builder” – the One who has formed you. Other versions render this “so shall your sons marry you”, the idea of the blessing of an expanding household.

IN PRACTICE  Many passages in Isaiah see far ahead of his time to a series of events which will only come to finality when Jesus returns. Here he sees a time of Israel’s “desolation” from abandoning trust in God and failing to listen to those charged to proclaim His message. But Isaiah has also caught God’s heart – that He is for His people, that his fundamental nature is to be merciful, that he can always bring His purpose out of man’s mess. That is reassuring when everything around seems to be a mess, and even if we are convinced that we caused it. God is bigger, and already has a new name and new life for us. Renewing is what He does. Sometimes our little bit of personal glory or fulfilment just has to die, because God will have us see His glory, His alone.

QUESTION  If renewing, vitalising, “re-branding” is what God does, why are we reluctant to let go of what we have and allow Him to bring change?

John 2:1-11

Jesus miraculously changes water into wine. Social shame is averted as Jesus shows God’s glory at a community gathering

1-3  On the third day a wed­ding took place at Cana in Gal­i­lee. Jesus’ moth­er was there, and Jesus and His dis­ci­ples had also been in­vit­ed to the wed­ding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ moth­er said to Him, “They have no more wine.”

“Wine was gone” – a social embarrassment. The family was obligated to provide a feast of the expected standard. There was no variety on offer, and people drank wine, water or a mixture.

“No more wine” – some commentators see here a problem that symbolised Israel’s spiritual barrenness. The OT background of Judaism in the first century saw plenty of wine as a figure for God’s blessing and joy,.

For further study, read Psalm 104:15, Proverbs 3:10, Matthew 26:2

“Wom­an, why do you in­volve Me?” Jesus re­plied. “My hour has not yet come.”

“Woman” – formal but not inappropriate. Perhaps “With the greatest respect, why are you involving Me?” Jesus would not let the nature (and cost) of His ministry be set by a human agenda. There is a hint here that Jesus and the disciples arrived unexpectedly.

His moth­er said to the ser­vants, “Do what­ev­er He tells you.”

Near­by stood six stone wa­ter jars, the kind used by the Jews for cer­e­mo­ni­al wash­ing, each hold­ing from twen­ty to thir­ty gal­lons.

“Ceremonial washing” – as we wash hands before eating, so did they, but with ceremonial law more of a motive than practical hygiene. For a feast with many guests, over several days, large quantities of water were needed.

Jesus said to the ser­vants, “Fill the jars with wa­ter”; so they filled them to the brim.

8-9  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the mas­ter of the ban­quet.”

They did so, and the mas­ter of the ban­quet tast­ed the wa­ter that had been turned into wine. He did not re­al­ise where it had come from, though the ser­vants who had drawn the wa­ter knew. Then he called the bride­groom aside and said,

10   “Ev­ery­one brings out the choice wine first and then the cheap­er wine af­ter the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

“The best” – symbolising how everything Jesus introduced in the Messianic age He inaugurated, was better.  Good wine was viewed as a sign of God’s blessing, Amos 9:13-14. God’s particular and personal blessing, the Messiah, had now arrived.

11  What Jesus did in Cana of Gal­i­lee was the first of the signs through which He re­vealed His glo­ry; and His dis­ci­ples be­lieved in Him.

“First of the signs” – John records seven or eight, each of which make a statement about who Jesus is, His lordship, and the glory of God.

• For further study, see also John 1:14, 11:4, 11:40

IN PRACTICE  When Jesus turns up, everything is likely to change. Averting shame by the miraculous provision of choice wine was a good change. However, Jesus’ ministry was to get more conflicted. Surely healing the sick could only be good, but for some people, not good if someone was ‘meant’ to be sick or blind, and not on the Sabbath. Life with Jesus at the centre opens up all sorts of possibilities but as it always challenges the established order of how things are, it may not be comfortable, and we sense Jesus’ reticence in performing this miracle as He started out.

QUESTION  Do we want Jesus to show up at our party? For that matter, how much do we want Jesus to show up in our church, knowing that He will disrupty the familiar order?

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Paul’s balanced teaching on spiritual gifts. The glory of God is shown in supernatural enabling for ordinary people

Now about the gifts of the Spir­it, broth­ers and sis­ters, I do not want you to be un­in­formed.

“About the gifts” – the Corinth church flowed in the gifts, which was good, but there had been tensions and a lack of balance where the more demonstrative gifts had been allowed too much prominence. He will continue beyond this passage to teach that sacrificial love is the standard for everything else, where the good of the whole body is a higher value than individual expressions.

2-3  You know that when you were pa­gans, some­how or oth­er you were in­flu­enced and led astray to mute idols. There­fore I want you to know that no one who is speak­ing by the Spir­it of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” ex­cept by the Holy Spir­it.

“Speaking by the Spirit of God” – the mark of true worship, a sincerity of heart beyond words that comes only through the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives. In a pagan society with many processions, temples and idols, expressing Jesus as one of many deities was not the same as exclusive allegiance to Jesus as Lord. The Greek word for Lord is that used to translate ‘Yahweh’ in the old Greek-from-Hebrew OT.

4-6  There are dif­fer­ent kinds of gifts, but the same Spir­it dis­trib­utes them. There are dif­fer­ent kinds of ser­vice, but the same Lord. There are dif­fer­ent kinds of work­ing, but in all of them and in ev­ery­one it is the same God at work.

“Different… gifts” – gifts of grace, i.e. unmerited, and explained in a way that reflects the Trinity (like Matt. 28:19), a way of emphasising the diversity and also unity of spiritual gifts.

Now to each one the man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Spir­it is giv­en for the com­mon good.

To one there is giv­en through the Spir­it a mes­sage of wis­dom, to an­oth­er a mes­sage of knowl­edge by means of the same Spir­it…

“Message of wisdom” – these gifts are familiarly referred to as the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. The first is a supernatural flash of insight into a person or situation, usually to raise faith as God ‘flags’ what He wants to do e.g. in healing or other release or impartation. The word of wisdom works with the first in the sense of knowing how to go ahead with the insight that has come. Sensitivity to the other person and timing are examples.

…to an­oth­er faith by the same Spir­it, to an­oth­er gifts of heal­ing by that one Spir­it…

“Faith… healing” – faith and healing often work together (as all the gifts work in concert) to raise faith to pray with expectation and confidence for healing. The gift of faith is distinct from general faith or saving faith – it is an impartation of the moment to see heaven’s much bigger picture, and go for it.

10  …to an­oth­er mi­rac­u­lous pow­ers, to an­oth­er proph­e­cy, to an­oth­er dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween spir­its, to an­oth­er speak­ing in dif­fer­ent kinds of tongues, and to still an­oth­er the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of tongues.

“Miraculous powers” – goes with the gift of faith, the ability to ‘see’ God doing something that could not be humanly explained. “Tongues” was the gift that the Corinthians rather over-emphasised and used (wrongly!) as a badge of spirituality. It is essentially an unlearned prayer and praise language. Paul calls it elsewhere “speaking in the tongues of angels”. When you don’t know what to pray, have run out of praise or the mind gets in the way, the Holy Spirit uses this as His bypass. It acts as a conduit for other gifts. A very specific and less usual use is a public’tongue’ where another person (or persons) present will be given an ‘interpretation’ which is the gist of the tongue for others to understand. That is another way God brings a prophetic word.

11  All these are the work of one and the same Spir­it, and He dis­trib­utes them to each one, just as He de­ter­mines.

“Distributes” – anyone may seek any gift, and situationally, God gives you the gift you need to minister for Him. But some people find they have more affinity with a certain gift or group of gifts.

IN PRACTICE  God’s glory is poised to be seen in the church, not exclusively, but as training ground for what He may do with us in the wider community and even with people of tenuous faith. He loves people, and it is narrowly religious and exclusive to suggest people  earn favour by church attendance or service. That denies the basis of the gospel which is God’s grace, unearned. However, church is a great place to learn to exercise gifts of the Spirit, and as Vineyard church founder John Wimber used to teach words of knowledge and healing, “This is the kind of thing we ought to do in church”. It brings God glory when someone is healed, or an intractable problem springs free in a way we couldn’t have predicted. He likes to partner with us and involve us in what He is doing – at a minimum, exercising faith in prayer for what we discern He wants to do. But the bottom line is, the glory is must be His, and He is not about to share it with another, just so that we can become proud – the learning point for the church in Corinth and for us.

QUESTION  What would make church more relevant for 21st century people? Would more of God’s glory seen in extraordinary happenings, help? 

PRAYER  Lord, there will come a time when Your glory will be over all the earth and everyone will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. For now, we see it dimly, here and there. We come to You and ask fervently  for more of You, more of Your light, more transformation, love and justice to break out in our churches and families and communities, and we pray it in Jesus’ name and for Your glory alone. Amen.

Also: Psalm 36:5-10

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