This weekend is my first exposition as lead pastor at New Covenant Church. How does one choose a text when the whole Bible is open before him? I have, however, made a choice. It’s a marvelous text that elucidates the central commitments of our evangelical Christian faith: God’s majesty, human weakness, the wonder of redemption, and the calling for men and women in Christ to take the good news to world. The text is Isa. 6:1-8.
Lest I steal my own thunder (to whatever extent I bring the thunder on Sunday) I would in this week’s Pondering post like to highlight the way in which we maintain the routine of feasting on God’s truth for holiness sake. By way of introduction, let me take us back to the late fourteenth century.
The classic medieval romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is a legend of adventure and temptation. It begins with Sir Gawain bravely guarding the court of King Arthur against the mysterious Green Knight. It ends with his resisting the seducements of the Green Knight’s alluring wife: “[O]ften with guile she questioned [Sir Gawain] that she might win him to woo her, but he defended himself so fairly that none might in any wise blame him . . . ”1 Sir Gawain resisted temptation—he persevered in holiness—because he was motivated by what was most valuable to the fourteenth-century Englishman: chivalry. What inspires Christians to persevere in holiness? The answer is found in our even more ancient text.
In Isaiah’s vision, we encounter the triune God who is holy, holy, holy. It is because we have relationship with this God through the victory of the crucified Savior, Jesus Christ, that we may lay hold of his life-giving truth. Stepping into worship, with prayer on our lips and an open Bible in our hands, we find ourselves confronted with the One who is himself the truth (John 14:6). Every moment of every day, access to this God remains open to us. And because this is so, we have resources of divine strength that transcend anything in this world. With Sir Gawain we can stand firm in faithfulness, because the God who is holy stands with us.
This description of the heavenly vision that we encounter in Isaiah 6 has more in common with our earthly lives than we may at first realize. Angels minister in the world as well as in heaven (Heb. 1:13-14). The Lord is ever present, even in humble circumstances where only two or three are gathered together (Matt. 18:20). The pews hold assemblies of “the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” In Bible study, saints study with other “spirits of the righteous” being made “perfect,” though not yet perfected. All the while, the Savior “mediates” for them on high (Heb. 7:25). In other words, Christians can have a taste of heaven on earth.
What could be more encouraging to those in the midst of struggle than to see, in advance, the victory won? If God had given the D-Day invaders a preview of their parade through the streets of Paris, it would have only strengthened their resolve on the beaches of Normandy. Hope of triumph and peace breeds fortitude. And as good as the promise of chivalry might be, it is nothing compared to the hope born of Calvary.
1 “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” in English Literature: A Period Anthology (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. 1954), 98.