Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 11-14; Hebrews, chapter 9
Scripture: Isaiah 14:26-27 (NRSV) – This is the plan that is planned concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?
Hebrews 9:23-28 (NRSV) – Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Observations: In these two passages we see two aspects of a central truth: God’s plan is moving forward toward its completion, and no one can stop it. From the time of the Fall, God knew what needed to take place: his Son would come and offer himself as the perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay the price for sin once and for all. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that plan coming together, moving ever closer to the time when the Messiah would come; the New Testament tells us of the Messiah’s coming, and instructs us on how we are to live as agents of God’s Kingdom in this world, while we wait for the Messiah’s return.
The sacrifice is complete – Jesus does not have to continually offer himself to die for us. That sacrifice was once for all, as the writer of Hebrews puts it. But we have to continually receive the offer of forgiveness and life which Jesus makes. He does not force himself on anyone; the offer is open to “whosoever believes in him” (John 3:16). He calls those of us who have believed and received forgiveness and life to be his representatives in this world – to be those who are the points of intersection between God’s Kingdom and this world.
What that means, at the most basic level, is that we need to stay connected to God each day, so we can be sure that we are operating within the framework of God’s plan. As Isaiah says, the Lord of hosts has planned. He’s not looking to us to come up with the plan; he simply wants us to fulfill our part within the plan.
The New Testament makes it clear that while we are all called to make disciples, we have different gifts and abilities that God wants us to use within the framework of his plan. Not every believer is called to preach, to teach, or to shepherd the flock. Ephesians 4 makes clear that God’s plan is that all believers will be built up and strengthened for the works of service which God has planned for them. None of us should think, “If you’re really a Christian, you’ll do everything the way that I do.” God has a plan, and God has chosen roles for each of us within his plan. Let’s seek God’s role for ourselves, and encourage others to do the same; then let’s encourage each other as we fulfill the plans that God has for us!
Applications: God is reminding me today how important it is for everyone within the Body to fulfill the role which he has for them. He hasn’t called me to pastor some other church; he’s called me to pastor the church which I serve. He hasn’t called me to be involved in other ministries or causes; he’s called me to focus on making disciples. God’s plan will be fulfilled when his people individually and collectively do what he has called them to do. This has been his plan from the beginning of the Church (see Acts 6, for example). That’s when we will see his Kingdom come, and his will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me today of the ministry that you have called me to – and the ministries that you have not called me to. Help me to walk today in the path that you have set out for me, and help me to be faithful in responding to the ministry opportunities which you provide. Help me not to focus on what others are doing; help me not to get caught up in wishing for other opportunities; help me to just be faithful and obedient to you today. Amen.