Monday, June 13, 2016

Isaiah 65:1–9 Turning Gift into Fruit

KEY TEXT: Isaiah 65:8-9 This is what the Lord says: "As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, 'Don't destroy it, there is yet some good in it,' so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

KEY THOT: Israel and Judah sinned against the Lord through their garden-variety idolatry, necromancy, disregard of dietary laws and super-spiritual religiosity. The Lord was ready to judge and reject the nation that was called by his name (Israel) and to offer his salvation to those not called by his name (Gentiles). Nevertheless, he was not willing to abandon Jacob (Israel) totally because there were still some good people in the nation: “I will not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.” (v.9). This promise God has kept when he restored Israel during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah (537-516 BC) which lasted till AD 90 when the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered again--this time globally. But the Lord restored Israel once more in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was "born in a day" (Isaiah 66:8) through a UN resolution passed on 29 November 1947. 

God remembers and keeps his promises made to His people. As long as we are willing to repent and return to Him, He will restore us and bless us again as His people. This not only applies to Israel but to the Church as well, for the church is the branch that has been grafted into the olive tree. As much as Israel will be re-grafted onto the olive tree as the natural branches, we who were formerly wild olive branches remain attached to the olive tree only through faith and obedience. Even as we are wild branches grafted into the olive tree by grace through faith, let’s continue to stay in the olive tree through an attitude of gratitude and fear: “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” (Romans 11:22-24). 

Let’s not be arrogant in our attitude towards Israel, for God is able to graft them back easily into the olive tree of salvation again as the natural branches. In the meantime, let’s “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13), and let's not “be arrogant, but be afraid” (Romans 11:21).

If our lives are not as it should be (bearing the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), then it's time to get to work! The gift of salvation is freely given and like seed in the soil, it needs to be watered and the soil needs to be tilled and weeds and rocks need to be removed so that the seed can become a tree bearing the fruits of salvation. There is no such thing as easy discipleship--bearing fruit like growing a fruit-bearing tree is hard work. 

Father, deliver us from the weeds of materialism and sexual immorality in the church. Take away from our hearts the hard rocks of super-spiritual religiosity that is proud and unyielding. Help us work out Your gift of salvation with fear and trembling, so that Your gift may become our fruit. Amen.

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