Universal Call to Salvation

God’s words of reassurance and promise were for the people of God, for the Judahites who had been taken captive and sent into exile.

But God opens up God’s appeal to all people in every nation.

Assemble yourselves and come together;
    draw near, you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge—
    those who carry about their wooden idols
and keep on praying to a god
    that cannot save.

Declare and present your case;
    take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    There is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is no one besides me.

Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!

    For I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn;
    from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:

“To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear.”

Isaiah 45:20-23 NRSV, modifications mine)

God would make God’s own self available not only to God’s own people, but to anyone who comes to the Lord.

Jubilation over the fall of Babylon | By Auftraggeber: Otto III. oder Heinrich II. – Bamberger Apokalypse Folio 47 verso, Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, MS A. II. 42, Public Domain

Every Knee, Every Tongue

This is what the apostle Paul was referring to when he quoted Isaiah in his letter to the Philippians,

Therefore God exalted him even more highly
    and gave him the name
    that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Philippians 2:9-10 (NRSV)

God the Son – Jesus – is the one being exalted. He is the one to whom every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth. Jesus is God the Savior

This is why the Paul could say

and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:11 (NRSV)

Later, Paul again quoted Isaiah in his treatise on salvation to believers in Rome. We are not to judge each other, or hold each other under judgment because we all of us answer to the Lord alone.

For we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each one of us will be held accountable.

Romans 14:7-12 (NRSV, modifications mine)
More details
The Last Judgement | By Auftraggeber: Otto III. oder Heinrich II. – Bamberger Apokalypse Folio 53 recto, Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, MS A. II. 42, Public Domain,

It Is All Good

Therefore, Isaiah said,

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
    are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
    shall come to him and be ashamed.

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
    shall triumph and glory.

Isaiah 45:24-25 (NRSV)

 Do not be incensed against God, Isaiah was saying. The Lord is working together all things for good.

It looks bad right now because of us, not God. Because people exercise their freedom of choice by choosing the wrong things so often. And yet, even in spite of the wrong that people continually choose, in spite of all the evil that dark spiritual forces foster and bring about, God is not overcome.

Those who trust in the Lord Jesus will be found righteous before God.

This was God’s reassurance through Isaiah and again through Paul.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 

  • For those whom he foreknew
  • he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
  • And those whom he predestined he also called,
  • and those whom he called he also justified,
  • and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:18, 28-30 (NRSV, modifications mine)
We know …

… both from the testimony of the word – the scriptures – and the testimony of the Word, the Spirit of Christ indwelling every believer. As you and I experience the reality of God’s love and God’s faithfulness, we can know with ever stronger belief that this promise is true, it is real and it is personal.

… that all things …

In things that seem good, and in things that, at least from our own human perspective, seem bad, God works with all of it for good. This does not say that all things are good in and of themselves. What it says is that in all things God works for good.

God can use even evil, even bad decisions, mistakes, wrong intentions, all that is not good, for God’s own purpose, and God does this routinely.

God can turn a curse into a blessing.

God can take the most awful things that happen, things you and I thought would never, ever happen to us, frightening, distressing things we can hardly believe are really happening, and work even things like this together for good.

What about random disaster? 

What about violence? 

What about malevolence, abuse, trauma?

Sometimes it takes our whole lives for God to work it all out, and when we look back over the years, at the heartaches and crises, all the terrible things that have been so hard to suffer through thus far, we might begin to see God’s wisdom, and the intricate ways the Lord has woven God’s goodness into it all: for you and me, and for the others our lives have touched, for God’s glory.

Even, in the end, our own deaths will glorify God as the Lord works through it for good, just as God worked through the death of God’s own Son.

… work together for good …

When we think of “good,” we think of things that make us happy, that feel good in some way. And even though Paul was talking about suffering, this promise is not just about trials and heartaches. It is everything that happens, including all the delightful, beautiful things that happen.

But this “good” is the ultimate good, the eternal good, which will survive even the remaking of the heavens and the earth. This is always the steady reforming into something of glory.

… for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.

All-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God is actively at work in the lives of everyone, and to the glory in those who put their faith in the Lord as Savior.

New Jerusalem | By Facundus, pour Ferdinand Ier de Castille et Leon et la reine Sancha – Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Public Domain

So What Is the Mature View of God? 

That God is going to do the unexpected.

That you and I cannot condense God into a set of doctrines.

As Creator and Commander, God moves the heart of a king and yet God also has given every person the ability to make moral decisions. God bends history to God’s will and yet every person chooses for themself whether they will bend their knee to Savior or Judge.

You and I cannot confine God to a few Bible stories. God raises up someone like Cyrus, as Shepherd and Messiah to free God’s people, a Persian warlord who simply made it his policy to acknowledge the god of every people group the Babylonians had taken into exile and provide the way for all of them to return to their homelands. The reality may not match up with our tidy Sunday school view.

The mature view of God remembers all of God’s attributes as God and therefore chooses to trust God.

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