Today’s Reading: Isa 20:1–22:25, Luke 7:36–8:15, Job 5:8–16
Today’s Theme: See & Hear Parables
Today’s theme is about us seeing and hearing the parables of Jesus and the parable-like prophecies and warnings in the old testament.
Parables are narratives with a meaning, in that the saying or story seeks to drive home a point that the speaker wants to emphasise, by illustrating it with familiar things from everyday life. In biblical contexts, these are used by Jesus to reveal and illustrate the Kingdom of God.
A parable can be defined as an extended metaphor or simile, often told as a brief narrative. In Greek, the noun parabolē means “juxtaposition, comparison, illustration, to lay one thing beside another”.
I remember in Sunday School (over twenty years ago), our teacher Sister Denise, taught us that Parables are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.
A walking parable
at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Isaiah 20:2 (ESV)
What? Walk around naked? Well this is what God told Isaiah to do, although it is very likely that a loin cloth remained on him, for ethical reasons.
As strange as this sounds, it is known as prophetic symbolic action (prophetic symbolism), which are like the parables of Jesus, in that they point to a parallel message or reality. This was a shocking sign to those who would humble their hearts to hear its message.
In the original context it concerns Egypt and Ethiopia, whose people will be carried off as prisoners by the king of Assyria. It warns that the rebellion committed by Egypt will lead to disaster and serves as a warning to Judah, against joining and trusting in a coalition with them.
Our actions are messages that can speak louder than any words, in telling God’s story, so be a walking parable like Isaiah (but fully clothed of course!).
Let us commit to having humble hearts to hear what God says prophetically, through symbols and actions today.
Fallen, fallen is the city of human pride
And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” Isaiah 21:9 (ESV)
This is a prophecy with more than one meaning, like a parable. The declaration was not about the physical city Babylon, as we see the same prophecy in Revelation 18:2, “And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.”
The prophecy could read ‘fallen, fallen is London, Paris or Washington because the spiritual Babylon has gone far beyond the physical territory (Iraq)’.
Babylon with its vast array of idols (which speak of man’s desire for his own glory, through worshiping what he should use, while using God, the one he should worship), was a city that epitomised human pride.
Human pride is fallen, is fallen. Don’t rebuild the ruins.
Today we bow ourselves to hear the narrative of the King and His kingdom’s victory over the kingdoms of men and devils.
In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; Isaiah 22:12 (ESV)
God called for mourning and weeping but the people were not listening and did their own thing, which was opposite to what God desired.
Isaiah’s weeping for the people shows the softness of his heart, we should have soft hearts.
Here is a note from Pastor which I found in my bible this morning: “Though you may agree that God’s judgment is always right, pray that your heart will always remain soft so that when God’s people are disciplined, you will respond with intercession rather than indifference – Dennis Greenidge”.
Our ears must be turned towards God, to hear what He has to say, and respond in the way He requires today.
We should pray that God gives us the hearts that we need, to hear what He says. It is not just a given that we will hear, we need ears (hearts) that actually hear.
Eliakim , a shadow of Jesus
And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. Isaiah 22:22 (ESV)
Eliakim was a shadow of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Revelation 3:7 tells us that the one Eliakim pointed to was Jesus “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens'”.
The amazing reality is that Jesus, the one who has the keys to the Kingdom, to open and close access to the King’s presence and gives us the keys to the Kingdom in prayer. Our wonderful Saviour said in Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
We have been given a great responsibility, like Eliakim, to use the keys of the Kingdom justly. The principles of the parables helps to give us vision and clarity as we pray. Whilst we stand on the earth, let us use the keys of the Kingdom in prayer today, to the glory of God.
Humble, grateful love
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47 (ESV)
This was an actual event in the life of Jesus, which He uses as a parable, to enlighten us to the example (parable), of what the woman’s actions are to all of us.
The woman’s actions were not to receive forgiveness, but because she had received it, forgiveness was present and this produced love. Notice Jesus used the present tense, He said “are forgiven”.
Forgiveness has three essential stages: (1) the offer, (2) the acceptance and (3) the confirmation. God makes the offer of forgiveness to us as sinners, if we in humility, receive the forgiveness offered, we will see confirmation of this in our lives, through grateful acts of love.
Darrell Brock says “God’s kindness has produced a response of humble, loving gratitude from the woman, rather than self-exaltation like the Pharisee”.
Be humble, recognise that you need God’s forgiveness, receive it and respond to it with love. Love is the evidence of true forgiveness. Do not be like the Pharisee who did not see his need for God or for much forgiveness, we all desperately need God’s grace.
God assures us today, that our trust in His offer means we are forgiven and the fruit is there for the world to see, our lives are changed, we walk in love.
Secrets of the Kingdom
he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Luke 8:10 (ESV)
The secrets of the Kingdom are given in parables so that they serve to enlighten the elect and pass judgement on those who hear but don’t understand, because of the hardness of their hearts.
God has chosen to speak in this way with stories, which means He needs to open the ears of the hearers Himself, the message without the Spirit to open hearts, is of no use.
God has encrypted the message in plain sight as it were, by using parables and the simplicity of proclaiming the story of the good news. This way, even the conversion of sinners cannot be down to our cleverness, God has the encryption key, it is His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit opens ears and eyes to see the truth in the message.
Tell God’s story today, but do it with the Spirit so that hearts are unlocked, so that hearers will receive and respond to the Spirit’s call.
The parable of the Soils
As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (ESV)
This parable is often referred to as the parable of the sower and the seed, which is unfortunate because it misses the main point. The seed is always the same, it is the word of God and the sower is the one who shares the word of God. The thing that is different each time is the soils, this should be more appropriately called ‘the parables of the soils’.
This parable is the key that helps to open all parables and points to our last point; The word of God will only be understood if the soil of our heart is already in a place to receive it.
There are essentially just two soils, good and bad. Our hearts must not be easily distracted (the way side), hard and shallow (the rocks), or given over to the things of this world (the thorns). Our hearts should be in a place to hold fast to God’s word in faith, and be honest as the word challenges and calls us.
So faith and honesty are what we need to receive the word of God well and be fruitful. Ask God to help your heart to see and hear every day.
Injustice shuts her mouth
So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. Job 5:16 (ESV)
We pray this today, we have the keys of the Kingdom, let us pray the poor would have hope through our acts of love as God’s ambassadors and that injustice will be silenced in the light of God’s grace.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.