Wednesday 23 March 2016

Bible Book:

Isaiah 50:4-9a Wednesday 23 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 70


Sometimes, following our conscience can bring us into sharpconflict with authority. When we put God at the centre of ourlives, other powers and influences end up being displaced. This iswhat is summed up so eloquently in today's passage.

This passage proclaims a commitment to God, and to divine truth.This is shown not just in a willingness to teach about God, but inthe commitment to learning from God. The speaker has the tongue ofa teacher, but the ear of one who is taught. And he listens, evenwhen what he hears is not comfortable. In Hebrew thought, to hearis to obey; if we hear God's words for us, but rebel against them,then we are not really hearing them.

Flogging and pulling out the hairs of the beard seem to bepunishments that the Persian authorities inflicted on those whorebelled in minor ways against the regime. These are theconsequences of following God's teachings, where they causeconflict with the state authorities. And this isn't just milddisapproval - the description of the punishment is visceral andphysical. And yet the speaker calmly remains committed to God.

Fortunately for Christians in Britain, we don't usually facephysical punishment for serving God. But we may occasionally findourselves standing against prevailing opinion, criticisinggovernments or upsetting our families, and none of these are easyor comfortable places to be. And in some parts of the world,Christians do indeed face persecution or even death for theirfaith. Sometimes this is political - a faith in a loving God leadsthem to speak out against oppression or marginalisation. Sometimes,the very act of proclaiming a Christian faith is itself a dangerousact. Either way, the cost can be huge.

But this Holy Week, we remember and celebrate a God who paid thehighest cost for love of us. We celebrate a God who accepted bothhuman life and human death for our sake. We worship a God who facedhumiliation, rejection, betrayal and torture, because God's love isstronger than fear (1 John 4:18).

To Ponder

  • Where today might we make ourselves unpopular with many, orwith those in power, if we stand for the values of the kingdom ofGod?
  • There have been many occasions when faithfulness to God'steaching has turned into arrogance and refusal to accept that we'vegot it wrong. This has happened in the Church's understanding ofscience, its attitudes to (among many others) women, and its abusesof power and privilege. How might we avoid this happeningagain?
  • How might we better support Christians and others around theworld, who are persecuted for their faith, their ethical orpolitical beliefs, or aspects of their identity?
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