When Righteousness Reigns.

Isaiah 31-32, 3 John

Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:16-17 NLT

So much of what Isaiah had to say to the people of Judah dealt with their coming judgment at the hands of God. They had refused to remain faithful to Him and has instead forsaken Him for other gods. They had put their trust and hope in other nations, seeing them as the answer to their problems. With Assyria breathing down their necks, they decided to make an alliance with Egypt, rather than repent and return to the Lord. But God warned them, saying, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1 ESV). What they didn't understand was that the very presence of the Assyrians and the looming threat of destruction at their hands was from God. It was His doing. He was bringing the Assyrians against them because of their many sins. He was preparing to punish them because they had failed to live according to His laws and in keeping with His commands. But God kept calling His people to repentance. “Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel” (Isaiah 31:6 ESV). God wanted His people to come back to Him in order that He might bless them. But they would prove to be stubborn and hard-hearted, refusing the call of God and falling victim to the unforgiving Assyrian army.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But as has been the case all throughout the book of Isaiah up until this point, God's message of coming destruction is intertwined with a promise of future restoration. God continued to tell them that, while they could not manage to be faithful, He would be. He would fulfill all of the promises He had made to Abraham and David. He would one day do for them what they could not do for themselves. It is the same message He conveyed through the prophet Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV).

They had broken their covenant with God. So He was going to make a new one. The result of this new covenant would be that obedience to His law would be internally driven, not externally. Their obedience would be made possible because He was going to change their hearts. Their relationship with Him would be motivated by love and they would finally be the people of God He had always planned for them to be. And God gave Isaiah a glimpse of what was going to make this all possible. “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice” (Isaiah 32:1 ESV). They would have a new king – the Messiah. Their would be a new kingdom, the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. His kingdom would be marked by righteousness, justice, peace, quiet and “trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man's ability to live in keeping with God's righteous standards is extremely limited. We can try, but we ultimately fail. Because of indwelling sin, we can never seem to stay faithful to God's call on our lives for very long. Which is why He sent His Son to die for us. Paul tells us, “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:5 NLT). He repeats this theme in his letter to the Romans. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). God had to do for mankind what mankind could not do for itself. No man can save himself. The Israelites couldn't keep themselves from forsaking God. They couldn't remain faithful. They tried, but always failed. So God would have to do it for them. And the day is coming when He will do just that. God will do for them what He has done for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. We have had our hearts transformed by the Spirit of God. We have had our sins forgiven and the punishment for our rebellion fully paid for by Christ's death on the cross. We have the Spirit of God within us, providing us with the inner motivation to obey His will and apply His Word to our lives. As a result, we have the inner capacity to walk in the truth. John commended his readers for doing just that. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4 ESV). The Greek word Paul uses for “walking” carries the meaning “to walk about.” It conveys the idea that they were to live their daily lives in the truth of who Christ was and what He had done. It is the Spirit of Truth within us that makes this possible. In this life we are surrounded by lies and all kinds of deception. We will be tempted to turn to other sources of help and hope. We will find ourselves quick to listen to the lies of the enemy and accept his alternative sources of salvation. But we must walk in the truth, constantly recognizing that our salvation comes only from the Lord.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John told his readers, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11 ESV). Our relationship with God, made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, should change the way we live. We have the capacity to live righteously, even in the midst of all kinds of unrighteousness. We can experience the rule and reign of the risen Christ in our lives even now. We don't have to wait until heaven. We can experience the peace, security, quietness and rest of His righteous reign in our lives, even as we wait for His return. Paul puts all of this into practical perspective in his letter to the Colossian believers. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV). When we let Christ reign in our lives, it changes everything. It improves our relationships. It alters our behavior. It impacts our character. It influences the world around us.

Father, You are not only my Savior, You are my King. You are to be the Lord of my life. And when I let Your righteousness reign over my life, things change. Good things happen. Thank You for reminding me that I am completely dependent on Your help for living the life You have called me to live. You have given me Your Spirit and equipped me with all that I need to live and walk in truth in this life. And for that I am grateful. Amen

Soul Strength.

3 John

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. – Vs 2 NET

I love this prayer. John writes to his dear friend and fellow elder, Gaius, and tells him that he loves him and that he is praying that he would be in as good health physically as he is spiritually. He prays that all areas of life would prosper like his spiritual walk is prospering. Could you pray that for your friends? Or better yet, would you WANT your friends to pray that for YOU? Think about it. What is John really praying? He is telling Gaius that he is asking God to prosper his life to the same degree that his spiritual life is doing. How could John pray this kind of prayer? Because he knew that Gaius was doing well spiritually. He even mentions it in his letter. "Some of the brothers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living in the truth" (Vs 3 NLT). Gaius was living in the truth. He was acting faithfully and showing love for the rest of the church. John knew this to be true of Gaius and had had it confirmed by others. So when he prayed that Gaius physical well-being prosper like his soul, he was praying a true blessing on this dear friend.

But it makes me think. Would I really want anyone to pray that prayer for me? I mean, how well is my soul really doing? Would I want my physical, emotional, and general well-being to prosper on the same level? That's kind of a scary thought. But the real issue is that John had his focus on the right thing. He was more concerned about Gaius' spiritual health than his physical health. Sure, he wanted him to be well in body, but he was more concerned that he be well in soul. His greatest joy was to hear that Gaius was "walking in the truth." We all know that we can be doing well physically and tanking it spiritually. We can prosper on a physical level and be an absolute pauper in the spiritual realm. John knew this would never satisfy. And so should we. Think about how you pray for others. Do you concentrate on their physical well-being? Do you pray mainly for their physical health, their circumstances, situations, and emotional well-being? Nothing wrong with that, but how much do we pray for the spiritual health of one another? I would encourage you to go and read through the letters of Paul and see how he prayed for the people under his care. It is amazing how little he prayed for anything having to do with their physical state or needs. His prayers were almost always on their spiritual growth and walk with the Lord. He knew that was the key to true prosperity and health. To be strong in spirit and soul is to have what we need to make it in this world, whether we are healthy or not, prosperous or not, successful or not. May we learn more and more to concentrate our attention on the souls of one another, encouraging spiritual health over anything else.

Father, I pray that in all respects my brother and sisters in Christ may prosper and be in god health, just as their souls prosper. Amen