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We who belong to God through Christ are also his vineyard, which each individual Christian as a branch on the vine of Jesus (see John 15:1-8). Jesus shows us that we are to bear much fruit. Indeed, this is the sign of true discipleship.
The biblical notion of holiness doesn’t have a negative connotation. To be holy is to be special, special to the Lord. Holy things are not for ordinary use because they are dedicated to God, say, for use in the temple. Holy people, by analogy, are set apart by God for relationship with God and for his purposes. Holiness isn’t simply a matter of being separate from the world. It is being distinct from the world in order to be fully devoted to and invested in God’s kingdom.
Last week, a guy came to our city. He arrived in a gigantic tour bus and he had a police escort and he stood on the steps of our Capital building and drew a great crowd. I knew he was coming. All around town, for weeks, there had been posted fliers and posters and placards announcing his arrival. I saw the announcements, made a mental note of the date, and reminded myself to avoid the area that day.
In his book, “No Future Without Forgiveness,” Bishop Desmond Tutu writes about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. As he establishes the foundation of the book and sets out to walk the reader through the work of the Commission, Bishop Tutu is careful to make the distinction between retributive justice, and restorative justice…
Scripture teaches us to pour out our hearts to God without holding back. Prayers for personal help are modeled throughout the Psalms, God’s “textbook” for prayer. So, I am in no way suggesting that there is anything wrong with asking God to help you. In fact, failing to seek God’s help for yourself would border on arrogance, if not foolishness.
But, as we grow in our faith, as our hearts grow bigger through the presence of God’s Spirit within us, we find ourselves praying bigger prayers. We see this sort of enlargement in Psalm 67.
The Hebrew word translated as “plowshare” in Isaiah 2:4 is ‘et. It referred to a “cutting instrument of iron,” which could include the wedge-like blade of a plow. Some linguists think ‘et was used instead for some kind of axe. Be that as it may, the point of Isaiah 2:4 is that as people are taught and judged by God, they will take their swords and beat them into tools for farming. They will do the same with their spears, making them instruments for pruning trees.
When Isaiah prophesied that “the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as the highest of the mountains” (2:2), he wasn’t predicting some massive movement of the earth that would make Mt. Zion, currently at 2,430 feet in elevation, literally higher than Everest. Rather, the temple mount would be, figuratively speaking, the highest of all. It would be more important than any other place, such that people from the whole world would “stream to it” (2:2).
Even in the first chapter of Isaiah, where the emphasis is upon God’s call to Israel to obedience, we are also reminded that God alone can forgive sins. God is the one who can take our scarlet sins and make them “white as snow” (1:18).
Isaiah reminds us that we are to worship God, not only on Sundays or whenever we come together with the people of God. Rather, we are to worship God each day, in every action and every intention. God is honored as much by how we treat our employees at work as by how we praise him in church. God is worshiped when we, like the Israelites, learn to do right, seek justice, and defend the oppressed.
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