Christ is God’s Never Changing ‘YES’ by Alan Gaunt
Isaiah 40. 1-11
In spite of all the ‘thou shalt nots’ in the ten commandments, and in spite of all the negative judgements of God against Israel, the thread that runs right through the Hebrew Scriptures is a positive one. God, in effect, always says ‘yes’ to the chosen nation. Even the fiercest judgements of God are to be compared with a deeply loving parent’s passion for the good of a wayward child. This is summed up in this passage from Isaiah. God’s people have endured more than enough punishment, now is the time for a double measure of comfort: ‘Comfort, comfort my people… speak tenderly to Jerusalem…’ (1,2) God’s way will go straight through the wilderness of the world, with all obstacles removed, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed, for all the people to see. (3-5).
Humanity is weak and frail: the people’s integrity is like grass, or the flower of field: withering, fading. Our word is not to be trusted. When the Spirit blows, it withers, fades – dust in our mouths! ‘But the word of our God will stand for ever.’ (6-8) God has made promises to the Jews, which will be fulfilled. Some Jews speak of The Time of the Nations, when, with God’s promises fulfilled, all the nations will see the glory of the Lord. We Christians do not replace the Jews in God’s affection; but Christ gives us the privilege of entering into their inheritance with him. Our integrity, though, is no more to be trusted than was the word of God’s people then; but still the proclamation is made – ‘good tidings… Here is your God.’ (9) Our totally reliable God continues to come with power and tenderness. (10,11)
Matthew 5. 33-37
We assert our shifty honesty by adding words to words. We complicate the simple by the self-justifying embroidery of language, through the sheer artistry of which we even manage to convince ourselves! ‘Honest to God!’ or ‘On my mother’s grave!’ Such words, or their more refined equivalent, are used; but the more reinforcement of holy names we need, the less we should trust ourselves! To bring in my mother or God, makes them party to my own untrustworthiness. It is taking their names in vain. ‘Let your word be “Yes, yes” or “No, No”,’ Jesus says, ‘anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
2 Corinthians 1.15-20
Paul had problems with some of the Christians in Corinth. There are places in the two letters he wrote to them, where even he adds words to words in self-justification, because of the hurt and anger he feels – being, like us, an imperfect human being! Here, he seems to be responding to a suggestion that he was not being honest about his proposed visits, which he was not able to make. He seems to have been accused of saying that yes, he wanted to come, but really meaning that no, he had no intention of coming: saying ‘Yes, yes and No, no’ at the same time.
‘As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No”.'(v18). Is Paul matching up here to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5. 33-37? Even if not, we can forgive him, because he goes on to make an important theological assertion about the integrity of God in Jesus Christ. ‘The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes”.'(19,20) God’s promises, going back to faith’s earliest days, will not be broken. God’s determination to do us ultimate good never changes. The crucified Jesus, victim of human sin and cruelty, in his cry for the forgiveness of those who crucified him, is God’s ‘Yes’ even as he dies. As the resurrected Christ, he is God’s sounding and resounding “Yes” through all time and eternity!
A number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures, the people are called to say ‘Amen’ or else spontaneously to respond ‘Amen’ to some commandment from, or some affirmation about, God. An example of it is in Psalm 106. The psalm is a long hymn about God’s integrity, the people’s faithlessness, God’s anger and God’s enduring mercy, and determination to save. It ends, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise the Lord.’
And, according to Paul, through Jesus Christ, who is God’s living ‘Yes,’ we too are able to say ‘Amen, to the glory of God.’ (20) We say ‘Amen’ to God’s glory, and by saying ‘Amen’ we glorify and praise God, and we are anointed with him, so that by faithful service, our lives, too, become God’s continuing ‘Yes’.
© 2000 Alan Gaunt. Copying facilities provided are limited to local use by owners of HymnQuest. Wider or commercial use needs negotiation with the copyright holder.
The copyright in this bible study vests in the author. Permission is given for them to be reproduced by HymnQuest purchasers for local use. Wider or commercial use requires their consent.