Linked to post for Dec 13, 2020
The Good News is about Jesus, and the presence of Jesus spells good news for all who turn to Him. The qualification is not any kind of merit. A sense of self-sufficiency is a real barrier, and that’s why a lot of people fail to hear the good news and never connect with Jesus. The qualification is need and humble expectation, as we see in Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.Isaiah 61:1-3
Under the Old Covenant, every seventh day was a sabbath (shabbat, rest from labour). So was every seventh year, a kind of rest for the land. And after every seventh rest year, the 50th year was declared a jubilee which was about restitution.
“Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years — so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.”Leviticus 25:8-10 NIV
Obligations of servanthood would be ended, bondage turned to freedom and debts cancelled.
Isaiah is painting this picture of the Messiah who would bring a jubilee of spiritual release and emotional comfort. The Messiah is able to cancel the debt of sin for those who choose to belong to Him in a new and “everlasting covenant”, v.8. This new relationship would cause righteousness and praise to “spring up” in the way plants grow — a picture of the working of God’s grace, as distinct from man’s effort. Another dimension of this grace is that it would be “before all nations” and not restricted to the nation of Israel.
We learn more about the nature of this Messiah from John, whose role waas to be a “witness to the light”, John 1:8. He explained to questioners that he was merely the “voice calling in the wilderness” that Isaiah had prophesied, but the One he was preparing people for would be of a different order of greatness. He would not feel qualified to perform even a slave’s menial duty for “One you do not know” who would baptise, not in water, but in the Holy Spirit. In other words, He would confer God’s spirit of holiness on His followers, empowering them to live for God rather than urging them to do it by their own efforts. This is the essence of how Christian faith works and it is quite distinct from the demands of other religions.
Jesus is present in the Thessalonian church through their awareness of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. That is why Paul could write: “
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.1 Thess. 5:16-18
As Spirit-filled believers they were joyful and worshipped with a strong sense of God’s presence and their relationship with Him.
Paul urges them not to lose this:
“Do not quench the Spirit.”, v.19.1 Thess 5:19
It is a problem. The presence and leading of the Holy Spirit is something we can invite but not control or organise. There is an unpredictability in planning and leading worship, and many want the security of a more formal arrangement. However, there is a need to allow space of tjhe Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophesy which is mentioned here:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…’1 hess. 5:19-22
The nature of prophecy is that it is upbuilding and encouraging in the way that Jesus was Himself in His earthly ministry. It will be charcterised by His love. Human emotions and insecurities can find their way in, so what is heard has to be sifted and tested, together with the character of the one sharing it. This is what Paul is referring to. However, to disallow spontaneous contributions of this kind will remove a very important source of encouragement as God speaks to His people. Paul and Barnabas were encouraged to move out on their first mission by words of prophecy shared in this way during the worship of the gathered church at Antioch, Acts 13:1-3. It was essential for them to know that God was commissioning tem for their dangerous task.
This is an example of Jesus present in His church. When worship is too ordered and prescriptive, the sense of immediacy and Jesus being present is lost.