The Living Word for January 16, 2022, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, an inter-denominational resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The Bible version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref. TLW02C
God’s glory seen in church and community
Psalm 36:5-10 — sets the scene: God’s light and glory in His love, faithfulness, justice and secure life.
Isaiah 62:1-5 — God’s people renamed in move from shame to glory
John 2:1-11 — Jesus miraculously changes water into good wine
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 — Paul teaches balance in spiritual gifting
Psalm 36:5-10 — Introduction to theme
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Yyour wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.
10 Continue Your love to those who know You, Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Isaiah 62:1-5 – God’s people renamed in move from shame to glory
His gracious vindication will resound until it shines out for all to see
This passage expands Isaiah’s earlier theme of man’s shame erased by God’s glory
1 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.
2 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”.
3-4 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”– biblical names often reveal a person’s character or reputation or even their call. Sometimes people changed their names to reflect this. This change of name reflects how God now sees His people differently.
“Married” —– the change is from being lonely, deserted and desolate, to the intimacy of an exclusive and delightful relationship of love and protection, like the covenant of marriage. This way of expressing a deity and a territory in covenant is unique to the Bible, and specifically between the One God Yahweh and Israel, only in Isaiah.
5 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.
SUMMARY 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 Isaiah 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.
APPLICATION God’s sure purpose 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, and 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 good 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 under obligation to provide a plentiful feast and people would drink 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.
4 “Woman, why do you involve Me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
“Woman” – a formal but not inappropriate expression which could be rendered “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.
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
6 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.
7 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
SUMMARY 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.
APPLICATION 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 disrupt the familiar order?
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 — Paul teaches balance in spiritual gifting
The glory of God is shown in supernatural enabling for ordinary people 70
1 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; the “common 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.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
8 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 often called 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 heal or release or impart. The word of wisdom works with the first in the sense of revealing how to proceed with the insight that has come. e.g. sensitivity to the other person and timing.
9 …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 to grasp 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” — 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 has another avenue of expression. In practice, tongues 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’, the gist of the tongue, to speak out for others to understand. It is an alternative 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. God gives the gift needed, situationally, to minister for Him. But some people find they have more affinity with a certain gift or group of gifts.
SUMMARY AND APPLICATION 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! It is a narrowly religious and exclusive view 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. God loves 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. That was the learning point for the church in Corinth, and also 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
We ask for more love and justice to break out, transforming our churches and families and communities.
We pray it in Jesus’ name and for Your glory alone. Amen.
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