It is the Gift of God– Not By Works, So that No One Can Boast

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ISAIAH 41:17-43:13 | EPHESIANS 2:1-22 | PSALM 67:1-7 | PROVERBS 23:29-35

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Isaiah continues to serve as the Lord’s mouthpiece, and in these lines we can’t help but see the realization of these conditions in modern Israel when soon after the creation of the state of Israel, there was an agricultural explosion across the land.

It is astounding to think that these are recent historical facts from as recently as a half century, but Isaiah predicted them several centuries ago:

18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Isaiah goes on to offer more promises where the last came from.  He says of the Lord:

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

One can’t help but marvel at how these prophetic words seem to have already come to pass:

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

Turning now to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find Paul carefully expostulating on a theme dear to his heart.  He starts with pointing to the great love that God has toward his creation—both Jew and Gentile, and speaks of God’s great plan of reconciliation with all creation by way of the coming of God incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ and the redemptive work on the cross. 

Paul says4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And then he spells it out even more clearly in these lines:  13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 

Paul is vehement to ensure that there is no misunderstanding among these young Greeks who have newly adopted this novel faith in Christ to not become confused about observances of the old Mosaic Law. 

To this end, Paul says: 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Paul ends this chapter by using the analogy of a building.  He says:  19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We now turn to our psalm for the day, and find the psalmist offering up wonderful words of praise and thanksgiving that are timeless in appeal.  David says:

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

Finally, a few verses from Solomon, the wise king of Israel, who speaks to the dangers of imbibing a little too much and a little too long.  He says:

31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
   when it sparkles in the cup,
   when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
   and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
   and your mind will imagine confusing things.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

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