How God in his providence weaves things together is sometimes really quite stunning. Take the autumn sermon series’. When these two series were planned I scarcely gave thought as to how they would dovetail. In the morning we would preach 1 Peter. In the evening we would preach Isaiah. And that, as they say, would be that.
Except it wasn’t. A feeble plan on my part turned out to be a better one on God’s. Some pre-series reading has surprised me, revealing an array of overlapping themes. They may have been separated by centuries, but Peter and Isaiah seem to have been colluding! I suppose by the Holy Spirit, they were!
1 Peter – New Testament
1 Peter was written to 1st century Christians who lived in the “last days” of history. We live in the very same period. The exceptional, exciting, end-days of history. These are truly remarkable days. Days when the cross-work of Jesus is finished, and the tomb of Jesus is vacated! These are days of discipleship, and ends-of-the-earth global mission! It’s the age where the Son of God has gone up, and the Spirit of God has come down!
Yet this is only half of the story.
History’s last chapter is not just a bed of roses. There are thorns among those roses, as believers today know all too well. Our sufferings and trials are mingled with our hopes. Or to put it in the words of Charles Dickens: we live in “the best of times” and in “the worst of times.”
This tension – if we might call it that – is reflected in 1 Peter. The Christian is a “foreigner” and “exile” on the one hand, yet they have an “inheritance” stored in heaven on the other. They are assailed with “griefs”, “trials” and “sufferings”; yet their hearts are full of “faith”, and they brim with “joy” and “hope.”
1 Peter then, is written for people like us. People who feel the tension of living between the now and the then. 1 Peter reminds us that we are “not home yet”; but it also encourages us that we are going home!
And the letter equips us. We learn from it how we should live ‘in the meantime.’ We are focus on salvation, fully expect suffering, and faithfully live lives of humble submission.
Isaiah 55-66 – Old Testament
While Isaiah wrote his prophecy seven centuries before Peter, he peered forward to “the last days” of history. The final section of Isaiah (56-66) was written to Jews returning from exile. These beleaguered believers needed a fresh injection of hope. Isaiah certainly gave them that! He told them that God’s promises would “soon” be fulfilled. God’s kingdom, despite appearances, was going to come!
But waiting for the kingdom has lifestyle implications. Waiting isn’t a passive thing: it means to obeying God’s laws, striving for justice, avoiding religious hypocrisy. Above all in Isaiah, God’s people are to look forward to the coming kingdom.
For us in 2017, that kingdom has already started to come. When Jesus walked this earth he could say “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21). Yet the same Lord Jesus could teach his disciples to pray: “Your Kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).
So the kingdom has arrived in part – but it is still to come in it’s fullness. We still look forward to the full establishment of Christ’s reign in a new heavens and new earth.
But we learn from Isaiah how to live “in the meantime.”
Between the now, and the then.
*1 Peter will begin on the 10th of September. Isaiah on the 3rd.