Day 263: Leadership (Biblical-style), pt. 1

Ezra 7-8; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Ezra and Paul – both were amazing leaders…

Today’s passage in Ezra fast-forwards 57 years from the building of the temple to describe Ezra, the priest, coming to Jerusalem. We learn from the text that Ezra wasn’t just any priest…he could trace his lineage all the way back to Aaron. He also had authority from the king of Persia AND extensive knowledge of the law of Moses. But in addition to all of his earthly qualifications, he dedicated himself to serving God and studying His law (Ezra 7:10). He was uniquely qualified to lead the people of God. 

Now consider Paul’s testimony from our reading in 2 Corinthians…He was beaten, imprisoned and starved (among other afflictions) yet he persevered in his apostolic calling (2 Cor. 6:4-10) . Paul’s leadership was refined through weakness – and because of Paul’s weakness – the power of God was revealed. Paul was also uniquely qualified to lead the people of God.

Both leaders respected and loved the Lord, His word and His people. But above all, they gave their very lives in service to their God. Leadership begins with service and requires great sacrifice. Are you cut out to be a leader in God’s kingdom? If so, get used to being on your knees – in humble reliance on God for all he’s called you to be!

Day 249: The transcendent gospel

Isaiah 51:9 – 53:12; 1 Corinthians 10

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Paul details the Israelites idolatrous history in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians as a warning to the church… “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (10:12).

We, too, should heed Israel’s history, for hidden in her history is the love of Jesus Christ for the sinner.

Consider the flow of today’s passages from Isaiah.

Isaiah 51 is written to the Babylonian exiles. Why were they exiles? God’s chosen people were being punished for the gross sin of breaking God’s Law, especially for the sin of idolatry.


God gave his afflicted people good news. He exhorted them to no longer fear men – because He would rescue them from their oppressors! And God, in Isaiah 52, promised that His people would return to Jerusalem in peace for the sake of His name!

The exiles experienced the gospel. They experienced salvation based on grace, alone!!

And then we come to the final servant song…the familiar words of Isaiah 53. Here we learn how forgiveness is made possible…how grace is made available to us all…Forgiveness and Grace are available because of The Servant…

He was pierced. He was afflicted. He was silent before his accusers. He was the sacrificial lamb, led to slaughter.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

Here is the gospel – written by Isaiah 700 years before Jesus came in the flesh!

This gospel must be the agent for change in our lives…for we are also called to walk in the way of “the servant.”

This is the message Paul has been preaching to the Corinthian church over the last few chapters of 1 Corinthians…

He teaches that as members of Christ’s body, every decision and action we make should be influenced by affecting good to others (10:24) and bringing glory to God (10:31). We are called to lay aside our self-interests. We are called to become like The Servant.

Day 248: Victory through submission

Isaiah 49:1 – 51:8; 1 Corinthians 9

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Paul speaks of relating to people as their servant… from a position of humility. He was intentional about this. He made an effort to relate to people on their own terms – not from a position of superiority or piety (9:19-22).

I believe this was the Spirit’s work in Paul’s life – shaping him to be more like Christ. For Christ came into the world so that He could identify with the world. He came to save, not to judge. He came in humility, and associated with “sinners.” He came as a servant.

Which brings me to Isaiah. Isaiah’s “servant” was a mysterious figure. Jewish scholars of Jesus’ day (for the most part) had not connected the “servant” with the Messiah. It seems so obvious to us that the Servant in Isaiah has to be the Messiah. But the concept of a great conquering Messiah also being the “servant” was a new paradigm and a concept that even Jesus’ disciples didn’t fully grasp until after Jesus’ ascension.

But fortunately, we have the hindsight to see. We read two of the four Servant Songs (42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-952:13-53:12) in today’s reading. The voice in these “songs” is the Messiah himself. He was the one to rescue the remnant from the hands of captivity and restore his people in the land! And he is the one who rescues our souls from the clutches of death – and restores us to new life!

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

But consider the way in which the Servant saves… It is not through power and strength – but through righteous suffering. This was a new paradigm…

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting (Isaiah 50:5-6).

Who would have thought that victory could be won through submitting to the strong? This is the way of the Kingdom. This is the way of our God!!

Behold, the Lord God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of [my adversaries] will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up. -The Servant, Isaiah 50:9

Day 247: Our story is a Gospel Story

Isaiah 46-48

These chapters in Isaiah are just the gospel wrapped in exemplary language. Isaiah esteems the exclusive power of God and mocks the idols of Babylon. Listen to the opening verses…

Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save (Isaiah 46:1-4).

God doesn’t need the faith of his people to carry out his purposes. He will keep his Covenant promises for his name sake, in spite of the people’s stubborn hearts…

Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory (Isaiah 46:12-13).

For Babylon and all those who trust in the salvation of idols will be handed over to destruction…

You felt secure in your wickedness,
you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
But evil shall come upon you,
which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly,
of which you know nothing (Isaiah 47:10-11).

But hear the good news which rings out to all who have sinned and fallen short of faithfulness and righteousness…

For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
and that from before birth you were called a rebel.
For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:8-10).

But he has sent someone to rescue us! One greater than the powerful Cyrus. He has sent someone to deliver us both from the hands of this world and from the stubbornness of our own hearts! He has sent his servant!

And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit (Isaiah 48:16).

He comes in the power of the Spirit to rescue us from the darkness in our souls. This is the will of our Lord. He leads us in the way we should go!

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it out to the end of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!” (Isaiah 48:20).

Do you see the beauty of the gospel wrapped in the history of Israel? It is our story, our salvation story. He is our God, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel!

Day 245: The Servant

Isaiah 41-42

One of the more amazing aspects of Isaiah is that he prophesies historical events that occurred during the Babylonian exile. Remember, Isaiah lived approximately 100 years before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. And Isaiah is looking beyond that to Babylon’s eventual defeat by Persia!!

Isaiah alludes to the rise of Persia and the fall of Babylon in 41:2, “one from the east whom victory meets at every step…” He describes the fear of the nations as Cyrus, King of Persia “trample(s) on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay” (41:25). The nations look to idols to protect them (41:5-7), but God mocks their efforts (41:21-29) and assures his people to trust in Him, alone…

But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:8-10).

It is within this passage that Isaiah first refers to Israel as “my servant.” The idea of “the servant” is prevalent in this middle section of Isaiah… occurring 20 times in Chapters 41-53.

The servant’s role was special. The servant was appointed to be a light to the Gentiles by faithfully upholding the Law in righteousness. We learn in Isaiah 42:18-25 that Israel dismally failed in its role of being God’s anointed Servant… Because of Israel’s failure, God promised to send another Servant – a Servant who was able to be a light to the Gentiles – a Servant who was able to uphold the law in All righteousness.

The Servant is the Messiah.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Throughout the next 11 chapters, Isaiah sometimes refers to the “servant” as Israel and other times as the Messiah. The role of the servant applies to both Israel and the Messiah – because the Messiah was the ultimate fulfillment of all that the Servant was meant to be, and which Israel failed to be.

I’m so thankful for Jesus. He is the Servant that obeyed the law perfectly on my behalf, and because of His sacrifice, I can rest in the sure salvation of God!

For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13).