We have three stirring sections of Scripture to challenge and encourage us today. Paul tells the Thessalonians how they have been “entrusted with the gospel … not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery” (2:4,5). Our sense of God’s all-knowing presence is an essential ingredient in our thoughts.

That original gospel, the ‘good news’ of God’s presence at work, needs to be an increasingly central part of our thinking and doing. Paul tells them you “accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers” (verse 13). It cannot “work in” those who rarely make the time to read and reflect.

God’s word through Moses was the foundation in the formation of the nation as they entered the promised land. Moses bequeathed Joshua and all the nation the inspired record of the work and presence of God from the beginning of creation. As this record is completed Moses dies and God tells Joshua, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night … be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous … Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you …” (1:8,9).

The ultimate promised land and these words of God to Joshua should echo in the hearts of believers today. Our reading in Isaiah has a parallel message. The prophet is told to go out and challenge the fearful king Ahaz in Jerusalem for his “heart … and the heart of the people shook as trees of the forest shake before the wind” (7:2). The prophet is to tell the king, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear … if you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (verse 4,9). That is also a message for today.

Finally, we can link God’s words through Isaiah with some words of Paul. In encouraging the Thessalonians he told them he was “constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope …” (1:2,3). If there was a Paul here today, could he write to us in the same terms? How wonderful if he could stress that God’s word “which is at work in you’ is completing that work, because we are “strong and courageous” as we are about to enter the ultimate promised land, God’s kingdom under Christ.