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Garry started a new series tonight, looking at Isaiah 61. This is a very famous passage, the beginning of which was quoted by Jesus at the start of His ministry (see Luke 4:14-19). It speaks of the Messiah and shows us how God desires to change situations and how He goes about changing those situations. It shows us the Sovereign Lord speaking (using both His names – ‘Adonai’ and ‘Yahweh’ – which identify Him as God Almighty, the One who will be what He will be). When God speaks, we have a duty to listen, for He speaks with authority (as did Jesus – see Matt 13:43, Mark 4:9, Luke 14:35). Jesus Himself spoke so persuasively that guards sent to arrest Him returned, saying ‘no one ever spoke the way this man does.’ (John 7:46)

Isaiah 61 shows us God commissions people. We may think this is obvious of the Messiah, that He was sent by God to secure mankind’s salvation, but in fact, God commissions all kinds of people, including prophets (Isaiah himself was commissioned in Is 6:8-9 and Jeremiah was commissioned at an early age – see Jer 1:4-7). Jesus gave His disciples authority and a commission to drive out impure spirits and heal every disease and sickness (Matt 10:1) and in 2 Cor 5:17-19, Paul makes it clear that God has given to every believer the message and ministry of reconciliation. We are all commissioned to spread the message of good news. (For those interested in learning how to do this more effectively, the Franklin Graham mission training day is on 29th February from 9.30 a.m. until 12.30 p.m. at Full Life Church in Maltby).

We are all at different stages of learning on this journey with God, however. Just as a baby comes into the world unable to speak and only gradually learns to understand words and eventually to speak them, so too the question of how God speaks to us and recognising what God is saying to us often comes gradually. We hear God’s word preached and read it for ourselves and gradually learn to recognise God’s voice. At first, it may not be clear what He is saying, but gradually we learn to discern His voice and to know Him better. As with any relationship, conversation is a two-way process. With strangers or casual acquaintances, it is hard to sustain conversations, but with friends, it is much easier. As we grow in intimacy with God, we learn to hear His voice more clearly.

Our response to God’s voice needs to be that of a servant, willing to work on behalf of another. Paul described himself as a servant and an apostle (Rom 1:1) – we have to learn to serve before we can be sent and set apart. The challenge before us is to listen, respond, obey and serve God when He speaks specifically to us. We are invited to be part of His plan, to be ambassadors for Christ. We too are called to speak.