Reading through the Bible together
In a world where humanity is often up against the overwhelming forces of evil that come at us from every angle, where even homes aren’t always safe places, and our own nature itself is pitted against us. It is comforting to be able to turn to a Father-God who is the all-powerful Provider and Protector of His people; One who loves justice; but also loves mercy.
However, there are thousands who have found it difficult to connect with God as Father because they associate Him with the dominant male authority figures (sometimes a mother plays this role) whose harsh, unyielding attitudes and actions have abused them physically or emotionally. God believes their relationship with Him can be healed and they can find comfort (v.13) if we, God’s people, revealed in our lives the gentle, nurturing aspects of God’s love as clearly as they are portrayed in vv. 6-13.
The birth pangs begin with the final judgment on Apostate Israel and the destruction of the Temple (v.6). Out of the pain of Israel’s destruction and from Christ’s agony on the cross, God’s Love-child, the Christian Church is born. This “newborn Church,” that springs from its Jewish roots, will usher in the kingdom of God (56:1-8) and is destined to spread to the ends of the earth with no ethnic, geographical or national boundaries. It will be cradled in God’s own lap, in New Jerusalem. There the Church will peacefully “nurse and be satisfied . . . drink deeply and delight in Jerusalem’s overflowing abundance” (v.11).
God’s foes have been led by a harlot (Rev 17:1-5) – who has stirred the actions and imaginations (v.18) of people throughout the ages by apostate worship. Her followers have “chosen their own ways and delighted in their abominations” (v. 3b). They have sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind of God’s fury against evil (v.15). They will be judged by fire, a fire they themselves have kindled by their own wrong choices.
While God’s people are sheltered by His love they are not immune from the sufferings inherent in the kingdom that is “now but not yet.” They are tested and purified by the fiery trial that comes to all who live on this earth (Rev 3:10), but a remnant survives (vv.16 KJV, 19). Their loving lives are a powerful witness to those who have become disenchanted by the “actions and imaginations” of apostate worship (v.18) so that God will be able to gather a great harvest of souls from every kindred, tongue and people to the glory of His name (vv. 18b-21; Rev 7:9).
In chapter 66 Heaven and Earth has been transformed into “a New Heaven and a New Earth.” At last they have become what the Creator intended them to be: “Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool” (v.1a). God’s people have been transformed, too. They have been purified in the crucible of affliction. Each is “the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. At last the entire universe has come to its Sabbath-rest (vv.1b,23). In a clean universe devoid of the curse, the redeemed will worship the LORD and will ponder through all eternity the greatness of our redemption!
Partners in Ministry Coordinator
Greater Sydney Conference, Australia