Bible Study 6th December 2020 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Second Week Of Advent- 

The Old Testament prophets and the Path of peace.

Ways, Paths, Byways and Highways.

 

Reflections : 

 

The second week of Advent introduces us to John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, who emerged from apparent obscurity to be a forceful and forthright preacher challenging both people and authorities to repent of their sins, and to look out for the ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah’ who was soon to come. The gospel writers (and Jesus Himself) saw in John the Baptist the embodiment and fulfilment of Isaiah’s old testament prophecy of ‘A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. 

 

Here are the prophet Elijah’s original words 


 

Isaiah 40:1-11

New International Version.  Comfort for God’s People

 

40 Comfort, comfort my people,

    says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

    and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

    that her sin has been paid for,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

    double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

    the way for the Lord[a];

make straight in the desert

    a highway for our God.[b]

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

    every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

    the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out.”

    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,

    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.

    Surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

    but the word of our God endures forever.”

9 You who bring good news to Zion,

    go up on a high mountain.

You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]

    lift up your voice with a shout,

lift it up, do not be afraid;

    say to the towns of Judah,

    “Here is your God!”

10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,

    and he rules with a mighty arm.

See, his reward is with him,

    and his recompense accompanies him.

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

    He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young.

 

Footnotes

 

a. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one calling in the wilderness: / “Prepare the way for the Lord

b. Isaiah 40:3 Hebrew; Septuagint make straight the paths of our God

c. Isaiah 40:9 Or Zion, bringer of good news, / go up on a high mountain. / Jerusalem, bringer of good news.

 

Ways, Paths, Highways.

 

John the Baptist was someone who told things as they were. No smooth talking language from him; he always went straight to the point. “Turn your life around, stop sinning, and live God’s way” (My paraphrase). Perhaps today’s equivalent might be the songwriter who penned the song, “You can’t get to heaven by living like hell”! (Gary Sanford Paxton). https://youtu.be/OyueiWVEJng

 

John was as ‘wild looking’ as was the wilderness he spoke out of, but the path of life he advocated was only wild, in that it was also radical. It was the message that needed to be heard, leading to renewal, hope, formation and peace of mind that had always come out of the wilderness as people encountered God in its expansive desolation and deprivations.

Moses, together with the people of Israel following God’s “cloud by day” and “pillar of fire by night”, meandering across the wilderness, learning hard lessons of faith along the way. The quickest way to Canaan, the promised land was along the kings highway, but God led them the long way around; this was the only way to give them enough time to learn the lessons of life and living they needed.

 

 

There are times when we, as did the people of Israel, wonder quite what is going on; when the path we are following through life suddenly takes an unexpected or unwelcome turn; Illness, unemployment, conflict in the family, betrayal by friends, bereavement, problems at work, depression or anxiety. These are all difficult experiences and situations to negotiate and there are no easy answers to be offered. However, I would suggest that these are situations where faith counts; where we might feel that we are hanging on by our fingernails but in reality we are being held in the living arms of Almighty God and walking in the footsteps that Jesus has made ahead of us in the Sandy soils to make our pathway easier to find. 

 

The psalmist wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”. Psalm 16:11

 

When we hit “the sinking sands of life” it is God’s love that we look to, to pull us up and through to the places of hope beyond. 

 

Sidney E Cox, the hymn writer put this into words in his song, “ My Lord Knows the way through the wilderness”. All we have to do is to follow him. 

https://youtu.be/N1F3jNTeMNw

 

God’s Timing is not always our timing!

 

2 Peter 3:8-15

New International Version

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]

 

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

 

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.

 

Footnotes

 

a.2 Peter 3:10 Some manuscripts be burned up

b.2 Peter 3:12 Or as you wait eagerly for the day of God to come


 

“A watched kettle never boils”. “Are we nearly there yet”? “Can I open my presents before Christmas Day”? “Why can’t I stay out all night- All my friends do”? “Take the wanting out of waiting”! “Take a seat, the doctor will see you soon”! “Your call is valuable to us, an agent will be with you soon, you are 32nd in the queue”!

 

It is never easy to wait !  In fact it is often downright frustrating. We want something now, or preferably we want it by yesterday! But as we all know, real life is rarely that accommodating. We really do have to wait sometimes!

In matters spiritual, wanting things to happen sooner rather than later is also a natural trait. Why am I not growing in spiritual gifting like Mr or Ms so and so! Why is it that my children, my wife, my husband, my ? (Insert as relevant) are not responding to God? Why is it that our church is not filled to capacity every Sunday? etc , etc, etc……. ( Actually it nearly was last Sunday!). Still, you know what I mean!

 

Here’s the good news. The path, the highway, we are called to walk is to leave all of those things to God and to instead “Walk Blamelessly” ourselves. How? What does this involve? Answer: To “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” and not to forget that “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. God’s timing is not our own. 

 

Choose to Dwell, to Live Closely with God


 

Psalm 84[a].    New International Version

For the director of music. According to gittith.[b] Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

 

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,

    Lord Almighty!

2 My soul yearns, even faints,

    for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out

    for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,

    and the swallow a nest for herself,

    where she may have her young—

a place near your altar,

    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;

    they are ever praising you.[c]

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,

    they make it a place of springs;

    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]

7 They go from strength to strength,

    till each appears before God in Zion.

8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;

    listen to me, God of Jacob.

9 Look on our shield,[e] O God;

    look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts

    than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

    the Lord bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold

    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,

    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Read full chapter

Footnotes

 

a Psalm 84:1 In Hebrew texts 84:1-12 is numbered 84:2-13.

b Psalm 84:1 Title: Probably a musical term

c Psalm 84:4 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 8.

d Psalm 84:6 Or blessings

e Psalm 84:9 Or sovereign

 

Before we walk the path of the day it is always best to begin with prayer and reflection upon His word, the Bible. To this allow God’s peace to marinate our souls. The path through the day that follows may not be easy, but we will then be better prepared to live its distance with God's Grace , Strength and presence. 

 

How Lovely is thy dwelling place.    https://youtu.be/VRf1HIsEfwo


 

Ways and Destinations - The train now boarding ……..

 


 

Jesus spoke about pathways of life. In fact, at the heart of the good news that He shared was that God's Kingdom was close at hand through Him; not only as people followed his teaching but particularly as they allowed the Holy Spirit to change their lives from the inside out: a new birth made possible by his death, and resurrection.

 

“I am the way the truth and the life”.  John 14:6

 

Such a path is open to all but there is only one gate, and that is Jesus himself.

 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”. Mathew 7:13-14.

 

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture”. John 10:9.

 

The second Sunday in Advent, not only introduces us to what the prophets said about the “Messiah” or “Anointed One” to come but it reminds us that he came as “Prince of Peace”.

Thus, when you and I walk His Highway, we do so knowing his peaceful presence alongside, ahead, and within us.

 

“ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. John 14:27.

 

Which Station - Len Magee.     https://youtu.be/wtP3SmoJaYY

 

May God Bless You all.

 

Colin