Foretold: agents of change 1

2013-43.1

Isaiah 60:21-22

Monday, October 21, 2013

 

Made right by the right measure

Building site

…Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise… influential… of noble birth. But God chose…

Isaiah 60:21-22

Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.

THE light transforms. Here, Isaiah sees a people made right with God, and given favour – even favour of possession – of the land.

To the people of Isaiah’s time, the idea of all being made right with God was beyond their expectation. Possessing the land was similarly a long reach for people who had a long history of being under threat from other nations surrounding them. This was before Jerusalem was finally lost, but the threat was already there.

This is a prophecy of people being made numerous, significant – and, important to grasp, enabled to display God’s splendour. No wonder, then, that when the people of Jesus’ time were looking for a Messiah, they were looking for a high-profile, successful warrior leader. They didn’t see that in Jesus, who turned all the stereotypes upside down.

After the Resurrection, the perspective shifted. The early church had a Jewish rootstock but soon grew its own distinctive shape and foliage, so the church in Corinth, for example, was cosmopolitan and mixed. Paul, who started the church, did his best to continue to mentor them. In such a rich and poor, influential and very ordinary, Jew and Greek society they needed to look beyond where they had come from (probably comparing themselves to others) and get clear on who they were called to be – what they were to grow into. The new identity which was the basis of their influence was not based on who they were, or how they imagined themselves, but simply on who they were in Christ.

1 Cor. 1:26-31

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

For them, it was a fundamental shift. Status-conscious Corinth needed to get the new nature, in which the rich and able learned to kneel before God and the ordinary and sometimes despised learned to stand up tall in God.

This is what the world calls self esteem and Christians call their identity. It is a key understanding. “Who am I, what am I doing here” runs the old joke question. When we learn to have confidence in answering that, according to who we are in Christ Jesus, and letting go of other yardsticks, we are starting to look like those righteous people whom God is able to use to (prayerfully) “possess the land” and be builders – of His kingdom.

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