Isaiah 39:1-40:17; Ephesians 1:1-14; Psalms 66:8-20; Proverbs 17:4-5
OT: “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5 CSB)
The first part of Isaiah dealt largely with God’s judgement of sin. The second part of Isaiah, beginning with chapter 40, deals largely with God’s mercy and grace. Because of that, Isaiah is often referred to as the Bible in miniature, as the 39 books of the Old Testament deal with God’s law and His judgement of sin. The New Testament is about the grace that is available to those who come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus Christ began His ministry on earth, there was a voice crying out in the wilderness calling all the people of Israel to prepare for the kingdom of God and the coming of the Lord. That voice in the wilderness was John the Baptist, and this passage, written some 700 years before John the Baptist walked the earth, foretold his message.
Though the initial fulfillment of this passage was John the Baptist, there are subsequent fulfillments – and one day there will be an ultimate fulfillment. As we live on earth between the already and the not yet, the Lord still desires to manifest His presence in our lives and move with power through His body the church – but for Him to know that He is welcome, we must prepare a highway for our King and our God. The things in our lives that have taken priority over the Lord need to be leveled and given their proper place. The godly things in our lives that have fallen into neglect and disrepair need to be given attentions and awakened back to life. The work of the Lord in us and through us needs to be exalted above our own works, efforts and understanding. If we properly prepare the way of the Lord… if we will make a straight highway for our God and King, then the glory of the Lord will appear in us and all who are around us will see it and glorify God.
NT: “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time — to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him. In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory. In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 CSB)
The letter to the Ephesians is classified as one of Paul’s prison epistles, for it was written while he was imprisoned in Rome awaiting trial. One of the purposes for the letter to the Ephesian church was to unveil the fullness of God’s purpose for the church. Many who are in the church have little, if any understanding of the glorious purpose of and abundant blessings available to the church. Blood-bought believers in the church have limitless wealth at their disposal, yet often live like paupers. The overriding theme of Ephesians is the Christian’s riches in Christ. The great Chinese pastor and teacher Watchman Nee once wrote a book on Ephesians entitled “Sit, Walk, Stand.” That title provides a good outline for the epistle: who we are positionally in Christ, how we walk out who we are in Christ, and how we do all to stand in Christ.
In these eleven verses from the first chapter of Ephesians, there are eleven variations of the phrase “in Christ.” Bear with me as I walk through all that we have as redeemed believers in and through Christ. First, Paul stated that we have been blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Not just a few select blessings… every spiritual blessing in heaven is available to us on earth in Christ. What might those blessings be? For starters, we have been chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless in love. This is the doctrine of election which has caused many a debate over the years – especially since Paul states that believers were chosen in Christ before the world was ever created… before there was ever a need for redemption. I happen to believe that in God’s vast plan for humanity, He knew that humanity would be redeemed through faith in Christ… so before the foundation of the world, God already made the choice to choose all who came to faith in Christ for a holy and blameless life. However it works, it doesn’t negate the fact that if we are in Christ, we have been chosen by God to live a holy and blameless life… and if He has chosen us for such a purpose, then He will equip us for such a purpose.
Paul went on to say that we were predestined to be adopted as children of God through Christ. Predestination is a big theological word that simply means that everyone, before they came to be, were given a pre-destiny. That pre-destiny was that we would all end up being adopted as God’s children. The way that pre-destiny becomes a reality is through Christ. As adopted children of God through Christ, God lavishes His glorious grace on all who are in Christ.
Next, Paul listed several glorious graces we have in Christ: redemption through His blood, forgiveness of our trespasses, Godly wisdom and understanding, and the revelation of His will and glorious plans and purposes for us. All of that is brought together and lavishly poured out on us who are in Christ. In Christ, we have a rich inheritance. In Christ, we have a sure hope of a glorious future. In Christ we are sealed into God’s promises through the down payment of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, empowers us and leads us until God’s glorious plan of redemption is complete.
So much is available to us in Christ. So many blessings are ready to be lavished upon us in Christ. All of it is manifested in our lives through the Holy Spirit by grace through faith in Christ. Let’s stop living as paupers and start living according to who we are in Christ.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that in You all of the blessings of heaven are available to me – and all of the promises of God are fulfilled for me. However sure those blessings and promises are, I know that they are only available to me by grace through faith in You. I want the fullness of all You have for me, so I prepare a “highway” for You to enter fully into my life. Fill my life with Your glorious graces, so that all may see and glorify You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.