Day 296: Luke 2-3; The Birth of Jesus

The Gospel of Luke contains the highest degree of detail surrounding the account of Jesus’ birth.  Like we talked about yesterday, Luke’s whole goal and purpose in writing this Gospel was to “compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us”  as he writes in his intro to Theophilus.  Luke wants to know the facts, which is why there is so much detail surrounding His birth and also why there is very little mention of the Scriptures that these events are fulfilling.  Unlike Matthew, this is not the emphasis of Luke’s writing.  Yet if we read the Old Testament and Luke’s account of Jesus’ life carefully, it becomes quite clear that He is familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and is showing that there are definite similarities and much fulfillment that are taking place.

Luke’s account of the immediate details of Jesus birth are probably the most familiar of all four Gospel narratives.  Of the Scriptures that are read on Christmas day in my experience, Luke 2:1-20 was probably there over 75% of the time.  Very often we get caught up in the commercialized version of Jesus’ birth, focusing on the star and the three wise men (Magi) that come to visit Him, which is recorded in Matthew.  Yet today I notice that this particular detail is left out of the passage in Luke.  As a matter of fact, Luke records something that would be considered the exact opposite of Magi as he tells of the visit of the shepherds.  Rather than being honored by the highest of the high, baby Jesus is worshiped by the lowest of the low.  Only the diseased would have been considered lower in Jewish society.  Yet these are the people that God chose to reveal the “good news of great joy.”  I think this difference in the two Gospels marks both the significance of Jesus’ birth and the broad scope of who it would impact.  As the angels say, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!”  Both the high and the low from Israel and abroad were drawn to worship Him.  More than that, even the priests and prophets of that time are moved by God’s ‘invasion’ of planet earth.  Truly Christ’s incarnation is for “all the people.

In today’s reading, we also get the account of Jesus’ interactions with the priests at the Temple during the Passover.  We are seeing that Jesus is not just some ordinary kid, but that He is growing up as the Son of God and even at this young age He is “being about His Father’s business.”  It is clear that His parents do not quite fully understand all that is going on in Jesus’ life.  They are astonished that He would act like this, making them worry and search for Him, yet Jesus seems relatively un-phased by the whole thing as if it were only natural for Him to be in the Temple.

Finally today, we see John the Baptist come on to the scene.  Luke makes a point to link John’s ministry in the desert to the passage of Isaiah 52, talking about the one who would come to prepare the way for the Lord.  There is much to be talked about that has to do with Jesus’ preparation for ministry, including His baptism and wilderness experience, however I think today it is important to recognize the preparation that John is doing in the name of the Lord.  We read that “the Word of the Lord came to John” in much the same language that is used to talk about the prophets in the Old Testament.  Though Luke doesn’t always make a point to link what he is writing to the Old Testament Scriptures, in chapter 3 He does it several times making sure that the reader knows that this isn’t something entirely new that is happening, but instead is a continuation of what has already been foretold.  John is preparing the way by calling people to repentance, a voice calling in the desert after several hundred years of what seemed like silence from God.  This direct link along with Luke’s linking Jesus to all of Israel’s history all the way back to Adam is a very specific attempt to show that God has been at work throughout history to bring all of this to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ.



Day 295: Luke 1; Introduction to the Gospel of Luke

The relationships between the three synoptic g...

The relationships between the three synoptic gospels. Source: A Statistical Study of the Synoptic Problem by A.M. Horore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gospel of Luke is the third and last of the “synoptic” Gospels.  Along with Matthew and Mark, the Gospel of Luke seeks to tell the story of Jesus’ life in a fairly similar sequence, often with somewhat similar wording.  In fact, almost half of the content of the books of Luke and Matthew are found in the book of Mark, and about a quarter of the content of Matthew and Luke are the same, though independent of Mark.  The book of John is also one of the Gospels, however it does tell the story of Jesus in quite the same order as the others for various reasons mostly relating to the purpose of John’s writing and his audience.  These “discrepancies” are sometimes sighted as a way of showing that the Gospels are not entirely reliable when it comes to the facts and timeline of Jesus’ life.  However, in many ways this is similar to having four people that were at an event tell you about their experience, not one would be exactly the same as the other, but all would be true from their particular perspective.  If you combine this with the differences in purpose for writing these Gospels, I think that we are blessed in that we can see a several different perspectives of Jesus’ life and ministry, all working together to give us a more in depth view of our Savior.

Though we don’t really know much about Luke as a person, tradition holds that he was a doctor and a contemporary of Paul.  It is also likely that he was a Gentile Christian convert, not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, but who did considerable research into His life and ministry.  If Mark was the “News Report” version of Jesus’ life, Luke would be the documentary.  Luke is the longest of the Gospels, and has really contains the most detail.  Apart from the Gospel of John, Luke also holds within its texts, the highest percentage of unique material of the four Gospels.  Connected to this book is the book of Acts, which we could call “2nd Luke” because it is a continuation of the story as the Apostles transition into the early Church after Jesus is taken to heaven.

Our reading today begins the narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus, talking about their conception and the miraculous events surrounding them  If you read closely the story of Zechariah, you’ll notice several similarities between his story and the story of Abraham and the birth of Isaac.  Both are hold and have barren wives who miraculously conceive in an advanced age.  Both births are foretold by God and are doubted by those that hear them.  More than this though, both births signal the fulfillment of God’s word in both the Covenant and the Prophets and show the reader that God is at work and on the move in a way that only God can be.

Luke 1 also contains the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise for all that has been going on.  Take a moment to think about all that had been going on in Mary’s life.  She had been taken out of her ordinary existence and thrust into the very center of God’s working on earth.  She had been visited by Gabriel, one of the Archangels that has been in the very presence of God almighty.  She now is carrying a baby, still a virgin, of whom she has been told that “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  What is her reaction in all of this?  A song of praise to God for all that has happened.  While she could have been afraid, uncertain, and even upset, she recognizes that God is doing something in her life and she trusts Him, and lifts up this song of praise, one of my favorite in the Bible:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.



Day 279: Matthew 1-4; Intro to the New Testament, The Gospels, and Matthew

The New Testament Photo Credit: www.thinktheology.org

The New Testament
Photo Credit: www.thinktheology.org

And so we come to it at last, the New Testament, the fulfillment of God’s promises to send a Messiah, the fulfillment/expansion of the covenant that God made with His people.  In the New Testament, the term “God’s People” also takes on a new meaning as the promise of reconciliation and redemption extends outward from the people of Israel to encompass the whole world!  In addition to this, we see the culmination of God’s work throughout the whole of the Old Testament to bring about the coming of Jesus in the New Testament and the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies and covenantal promises that had been spoken of for over 1000 years, all coming to fruition in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The Gospels are the first books of the Old Testament, four books that recount the life and work of Jesus Christ from His birth all the way to His ascension.  Each book is written by a different person, two Apostles, Mark who was an associate of Paul, and Luke (also the author of Acts) who was a doctor and one of the first gentile Christians.  Each of the Gospels is written to a different audience with a different purpose.  This will become apparent as we read through each of these books, however here is some basic information about each of the four Gospels, taken from both the NIV Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House Publishing, 1991) and Reading the New Testament Today by Robert E. VanVoorst (Wadsworth, 2005).

Wordle of the Gospels Photo Credit: www.petergalenmassey.com

Wordle of the Gospels
Photo Credit: www.petergalenmassey.com

Matthew: Written specifically to the Jews in an effort to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that the prophets foretold and was the eternal King in the line of David.

Mark: Written to Christians in Rome to encourage the Christians who were undergoing persecutions by relating the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Mark is said to be the first of the Gospels written.

Luke: Written to “Theophilus” which mean one who loves God, but also to Gentiles and people everywhere in an effort to present an accurate account of the life of Christ and also to present Christ as the perfect human and Savior.  Luke also makes an effort here and in Acts to challenge believers to be more devoted to the faith, especially its growth and defense.

John: Written to Christians and searching Non-Christians to prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God, the Word of God incarnate, and also to deepen faith in Jesus as Son of God and the giver of life, and to encourage readers to confess this faith  openly in the face of threats from synagogue authorities.

The Gospel of Matthew Photo Credit: www.spreadjesus.org

The Gospel of Matthew
Photo Credit: www.spreadjesus.org

As I said, the book of Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience, which is apparent right from the beginning of the book.  If you remember some of the culture we learned about the Hebrews, which are now referred to as “the Jews,” the orientation of their lives was towards God, which for them meant looking backward to creation and backing into the future.  This is a bit different than contemporary orientation of looking toward the future.  So naturally we being with a genealogy, a way of linking Jesus Christ with the ancestors of Israel, all the way back to Abraham and the original calling of the people of God by God Himself.  In effect, Matthew is proving right off the bat the Jesus is a decedent of Abraham and from the house and line of King David, two prerequisites for the coming Messiah which, as was said earlier, was one of the purposes of Matthew: to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the predicted King that was to come, in the line of David, to set up God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Saint Matthew Icon Photo Credit: www.internetmonk.com

Saint Matthew Icon
Photo Credit: www.internetmonk.com

Matthew does a great deal of linking the Old Testament Scriptures to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  There are multiple ways in which he does this.  The genealogy which we just talked about is just one way.  Matthew’s account of the angel visiting Joseph also signifies a divine happening, a message directly from God.  Matthew points to this as well, something he does throughout his book.  He writes, “All this took place to fulfill…” In this case, the happening of Mary’s conception took place to fulfill with Isaiah wrote about in Isaiah 7, “The virgin will be with child…”  Interestingly enough, the course of Jesus’ life in the book of Matthew actually mirrors that of the course of Israel’s life as well going to Egypt to escape death while he was very young, a wilderness experience which lasted for 40 days (a mirror of Israel’s wilderness wanderings), and a Baptism before he began His ministry (which is reminiscent of Israel crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan before entering the promised land).  This too, we see was “to fulfill all righteousness” as Jesus says.

Today we also see a taste of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as well.  The very route the Jesus took, Matthew says, was to fulfill what is written in Isaiah 9 about those being in darkness who have seen a great light.  From there he begins calling disciples, preaching and healing the sick.  For one reason of another, the work of Jesus as it has been preached in the Church is often boiled down to His work on the cross to die for our sins.  While this is a very major part of the work of Jesus, we also need to remember that His work was also with the sick, the poor, the homeless, and all those who were downtrodden.  As we will see in the coming chapters of books, Jesus work in the world is the very embodiment of what Israel was suppose to be, an assault on the powers of darkness in the world.   In many ways, Jesus too is an example of the outpouring of the wrath of God against sin, disease, and all forms of injustice.  He has come to bring healing, forgiveness, and restoration… the true nature of the Kingdom of heaven.



Day 261: Hosea 5-9; You Reap What You Sow?

The old saying “you reap what you have sown” is the main message of Hosea’s prophecy in today’s reading.  In so many words, Hosea has rehearsed for the people the entire story of Israel from God’s first calling to Abraham all the way up to the present day… and it wasn’t pretty.  As we read this story and reflect on it, we see that there are really very few times in which the Lord says of Israel, “you followed me well and obeyed my commands.”  Most of the time God is maintaining His relationship with Israel, His side of the covenant while they are still being unfaithful.  That is, however, the nature of the covenant… the nature of any covenant actually, and it is why God’s relationship with His people is covenantal in nature.

There is a difference between a contract and a covenant, a very large difference.  We enter into contracts all of the time.  A contract is an agreement between two parties that describes the actions and expectations of each party to fulfill some sort of a goal.  The contractual obligation depends on the actions of both parties for it to be valid.  If either party breaks the terms of the contract, then it is considered null and void and the other person is free to leave the contract and not have to fulfill his or her obligations.

A covenant is different though.  While there are still two parties, the terms and goals of the covenant are dependent on only one party which is usually the person making that covenant.  For the covenant to remain in place, only the one making it need be faithful.  Of course there are expectations that the other party adhere to the terms of the covenant, but the overall validity of the covenant does not depend on both parties, only the covenant maker.

In Israel’s case, God is the covenant maker.  He is the one who called Abraham and made a covenant with him that “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  Over the years, the covenant took on more meaning and complexity, but ultimately God is still their God no matter what happens or what the people do.  Now, there are stipulations that are placed on the covenant like if the people don’t follow the Law they would be punished, but never would the covenant be nullified.  This is the nature of God’s dealing with His people.  He knows that they will never be able to hold up their end of the bargain, that they are imperfect and could never live up to the standards of holiness that God set before them.  God knows that His people face trials, temptations, and all other manner of worldly things that would draw them away from Himself.  A contract with them would have never worked.  But God, the Lord who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, would have no problem covenanting with them; His very nature is that of mercy and grace even in the light of unfaithfulness.

Hosea, like many of the other prophets, has declared that the people of Israel and Judah would face judgment for the sins that they have committed.  This, as we have said many times, is something that is set up in the Law as the result for what the people have done.  As Hosea points out in such a vivid metaphor, “you sowed the wind, now you will reap a whirlwind.”  And so they did.  In fact, the Northern Kingdom would never again be itself.  The “Samaritans” that live there are considered to be a sort of ‘half-breed’ Hebrew in Jesus’ day.  But even in their punishment, God never says “I am no longer your God” for that would be against the covenant and completely against the character of God.  Even when the people do not follow Him, God is still God and He is still their God as well.



Day 244: Ezekiel 20-21; Old News… Bad News…

There is a great deal of bad news that comes with today’s reading.  It’s almost depressing to be honest.  Ezekiel probably has one of the most comprehensive descriptions about what is going on with the people of Israel, why it is happening, and even how it will take place.  As I was reading all of chapter 20 though, I kept thinking that I had heard all of this in another place before now.  Of course we have heard a lot of this message in Isaiah and Jeremiah, but it wasn’t with them that we had heard all of Ezekiel’s telling of the story of the people of Israel.  Do you remember where it came from?  It’s been a long time since we talked about it and it had been a long time chronologically speaking for the people of Israel too.  However, any good Hebrew scholar of the Scriptures in that time would have recognized Ezekiel’s words as coming from the book of Leviticus, particularly the end, as well as other parts of Exodus and Deuteronomy that talk about the Covenant and all that would happen if they broke the covenant.

What Ezekiel was saying here, the Word of the Lord that came to him, was certainly not anything new for the people of Israel.  I would assume that Ezekiel knew exactly what God was saying and where He was drawing from as the words were flowing out of his mouth.  If you have a moment, read the following excerpt from Leviticus 26, you might notice some similarities between Ezekiel 20 and this:

Leviticus 26

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again seven fold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you seven fold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it.33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

The Word of the Lord to Ezekiel is not something made up on the spot, neither is it contrary to the Covenant that God has made with His people.  Yet even at the end of Chapter 20, as we have seen in the writings of the prophets and many more times throughout Israel’s history, God forgives and His grace abounds.  In so many ways, God’s grace abounds.  Even with the people of God don’t get it, when they don’t repent, God still forgives and still continues to try to teach them.  He even goes so far as to send His Son to do what they could not so that the whole world would know that He is God.



Day 214: Isaiah 54-57; Third Isaiah and the Lord's Covenant

Starting at chapter 56, we enter into the third part of the book of Isaiah.  Before we move on to that though, let’s recap what we have heard and seen.  The first section of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 were largely prophetic oracles against the nations intermixed with messages of hope for all people in the coming “day of the Lord” and the Savior that God would send after these judgments happened.  The second section of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, is considered to be written much later, after these judgments have taken place and the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah had been taken captive.  In this section we find a considerable amount of comforting messages from God to His people regarding the situation that they are in.  These messages are also messages of hope, lessons of the past and how they got here, and prophecies of the coming Messiah, the “servant of God” who would bring with Him a reign of righteousness, justice, and peace.

As we move into the third section of Isaiah, chapters 56-66, the tone of Isaiah somewhat changes again.  It is thought that this section is actually an anthology of 12 different passages that were written at different times, for different reasons, likely by students of the prophet Isaiah a few generations removed.  These were writings to the captives as they returned from exile to Judah, specifically to Jerusalem, and found themselves in yet another foreign situation.  Likely these students couple have been priests or religious leaders that were contemporaries of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The messages of the second and third section of Isaiah flow well into each other though as the focus shifts from the covenant of God in its current context, to what He will do in sending ‘His Servant,’ who we know as Jesus, and then into the future and a look at how God will indeed complete this restoration.  Along with this we are once more given a glimpse into the worldview of the people of Israel, how they view God and how they Divine and the Terrestrial are so intimately linked together.  In some ways too, the people of Israel, specifically the Kingdom of Judah who are the only people left of the once great nation of Israel, are going through a time in which their worldview is being dramatically changed and transformed as they are discovering that the center of the universe is not actually a physical place, like the Temple or the Tabernacle, but rest in God who is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

All of this, the whole message though, as we can see today, rests once again on what some would consider to be one of the central themes of the Bible: God’s covenant relationship with His people.  We have seen this covenant develop from the simplicity of God’s promise to Adam, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.  Here, now as the people of Israel are returning from their exile, the judgment that they endured, God is reiterating once again that He is their God and they are His people and, despite the all that has happened, their relationship is not changed.  Like a father who has to punish his children, even when they don’t fully understand, God’s loving words after the fact are quite clear, “I still love you more than you can possibly understand.  Our relationship has not changed.  The Covenant I made with you is everlasting, nothing you do will ever change it.”  This message is not only for the people of Israel though, but for us as well.  Acts 2 says “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  Through Jesus Christ we too are members of God’s people, heirs to this and all of God’s promises and we too find ourselves caught up in this everlasting covenant relationship with God.



Day 209: Isaiah 41-42; God is With You

After yesterday’s words of comforting assurance to the people of Israel still held captive in Babylon, the writer of this second section of Isaiah continues the theme of God’s work in them and for them, even while they are still in captivity.  One of the ways that this happens is by directly stating that fact in the first part of Isaiah 41.  God, speaking through the writer here, asks some obviously rhetorical questions with even more obvious answers and then speaks more words of calming reassurance to His people.

But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Sometimes I look at this and have to think how it is possible that the people that God had chosen could ever forget the fact that they were the people of God.  They had the temple, the land, the priests, and the worship rituals, not to mention the amazing stories that were part of their heritage, yet they still forgot who they were and whose they were as well.  All to often we are quick to judge the people of Israel for their sins and how quickly they turned away from God, but do not we also loose sight of our true identities in Christ when the going gets tough?  I’m sure we’ve all experienced it, the “dark night of the soul” when we feel as though we are totally alone.  Our tendency is also to turn from placing our strength in God and to put it in other things… video games… TV shows… Money… Things… Food?  The list goes on and on…

Yet into this darkness the Lord speaks even to us saying these same words.  “I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah goes on to speak of the futility of idols, those things we so often and too quickly put our trust in and he is spot on.  We turn so quickly to things that we think will help us, and yet it doesn’t take long for us to realize that they are truly no help at all.  We cannot put our hope in physical things for the offer nothing to us.

Another interesting thing to note in this Scripture today is the statement that God makes at the beginning of Chapter 42 about His chosen servant.  If it sound familiar to you, its because it is very similar to what God says when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan at the beginning of his ministry.  This is the first of the “servant songs” that appear in this section of Isaiah that go very far in painting a portrait of the person that will eventually be Jesus.  Not only do we know much about Him prior to His birth through prophecies such as this, we also see very clearly that type of Kingdom that He will usher in, the restoration that He will bring to the whole world.  There is much more to come on this as well.



Day 199: Isaiah 7-9; The Sign of Immanuel

Portions of today’s reading are probably quite familiar to you if you have been around church during the time of Advent.  There are a great many references to the coming of Jesus, though Isaiah doesn’t name him directly, in these three verses.  Apart from reading over them to read through the Bible, I can’t say that I’ve ever closely looked at the Scripture surrounding these few prophecies of the coming Messiah.  To be honest, I don’t think that many of us have because of the nature of the timing with which we read them.  Advent is wholly focused on the coming of Christ.  We spend a great deal of time “preparing our hearts” for His arrival, to celebrate the incarnation of God into this world as a human baby.  There is so much that goes along with this, much of which I am sure we will talk about when we enter into the New Testament in a couple months.

For now, however, I think it is important to see these verses within the context that they are found here in Isaiah.  As he is writing, and as the Lord is speaking this word to him, Isaiah is prophesying both judgment and hope.  As I was reading this, I first thought that this was all gloom and doom for Israel, but really what Isaiah is talking about are the things that are to happen prior to the coming of the Lord’s anointed One.  So what we are reading here is kind of a back and forth talking about the judgment of the wicked and the hope God is also speaking to here in the coming Messiah and the kingdom of God.

When I read this Scripture and think about the message that Isaiah is speaking to these people, one that would likely be carried all over the people of Israel, I start to see the message of hope being emphasized, even though it seems as though the message of judgment is what stands out.  Isaiah is speaking of how God is going to use another nation to wipe out the Northern Kingdom of Israel, a message that, for the Hebrew people, probably shook their worldview to its foundation.  The God of Heaven had chosen this people to be His people since the time of Abraham their forefather.  All through that time, even in their rebellion and sinfulness, God had always been their for them, to fight for them and protect them as His people.  Yet now, it seems, the nature of God (perhaps ‘nature’ isn’t an appropriate word as God is unchanging) has changed in relationship to them.  They would probably be wondering about the covenant, whether God was dissolving it or not, and what the final straw was that got them to this point.

Yet I think the point that Isaiah is trying to get across to the people, that point being the message that God has for the people, what actually quite the opposite of God “giving up” on them.  Indeed God is saying quite the opposite to them, especially to the people of Judah.  He is saying that, though there is punishment coming, judgment for their sinful ways, that He is by no means giving up on them.  In fact, God already knows how and when He is going to bring about their restoration, both as a nation, and spiritually as His people.  This is a message of Judgement, for the Northern Kingdom especially, but as we will find out, the restoration that is brought about through Jesus Christ is not just for the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but for all nations, just as was originally promised to Abraham… a man chosen and blessed to be a blessing to all the nations of the world.  This is important to keep in front of us throughout the reading of the prophets, even amid the gloom and doom of judgment messages, the focus of God is always towards calling people to repentence now, of course, and towards hope and future restoration that would be and will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.



Day 187: Proverbs 17-19; The Wisdom in Repetition

As I was reading through today’s Proverbs I actually caught myself thinking that this reading was getting a bit monotonous.  I’m pretty sure that some of the things that we read today were things that we read yesterday, or multiple other days.  In fact, there are a great many of the proverbs in the three chapters that we read today that are somewhat repeated from yesterday and days past.  I started to think to myself “why would Solomon repeat things multiple times?”  I definitely had to catch myself here because I think that I was starting to get a bad attitude around them.  Suddenly though, I wast struck but the wisdom in repeating these wise sayings… it isn’t about the vast amount of different wise sayings as much as it is about the wisdom found in the sayings that are there.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

I also realized that there are many examples of repetition in the Bible as well.  There are also many reasons for the repetition we find in Scripture!  Part of it, probably the main reason actually, comes from the Hebrew culture and their writing.  Hebrew writing has no punctuation.  If you read it in the original writing, or look at the dead sea scrolls, there really is very little break in the lines of writing at all.  This means that there are no symbols for adding emphasis like the exclamation point… and certainly no little smiley/frown faces to communicate emotions.  What this means for us, is that when things are repeated, especially when they are repeated in succession, there is a great deal of emphasis that is meant to be heard in it.  Think in Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4 when the Angels are singing “Holy Holy Holy” about the Lord.  This isn’t because they are stuttering or something, neither is it because of some sort of a lack of creativity on the part of the writer.  It is the repetition of the words that makes them powerful in the Hebrew language!  If you were to put it in today’s texting language, God is HOLY! =)

We’ve actually encountered the this type of repetition in Scripture many times in the past.  Think all the way back to Genesis, with the 2 creation narratives that we read.  One was most specific towards the details while the other was more focused on the human aspect, yet both were very geared towards the point that it was indeed God that created all things.  If you think ahead towards Abraham and the many times that the covenant was reaffirmed, we see the emphasis on the covenantal relationship that defines Israel, all which begins with God as well.  We see this with Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the giving of the Law, Joshua, and many many more throughout the history of Israel.  I have written more about this in another blog that I occasionally write in  as well.  It is an article called ‘Pete and Repeat.’  Feel free to check it out!

So today, and in the coming days, as you are reading these proverbs and one sounds familiar, take a moment to think about where you heard it before.  Maybe go back and look for it in the previous days’ readings.  Solomon is repeating these for a reason, not simply because he can’t think of anything else to say.  Perhaps these repeated sections will touch you in a special way today… perhaps they are things that we all need to hear again and again that we may better live our lives bringing honor and glory to God.



Day 173: Psalms 103-105; How Great is Our God

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

These are fitting words for the psalms that we read through today!  All three are psalms of praise that tell of the many acts and words of the Lord and all three proclaim His glory and splendor!  I don’t honestly think that there is a lot to be added to these Psalms… I think that they are best re-read over and over.  I would encourage you to do that today!  Take time to read these Psalms at least two more times.  As you do this, take time to think back over the past 6 months… over all that we have read and encountered in the Scriptures.  Do you remember the times that the psalmist is talking about?  Take some more time to think about the things in your life… how have you seen God at work in your day to day walk?

PSALM 103-105 are psalms of praise and thanksgiving that are written anonymously.  Each is didactic in nature, with psalm 105 actually being more of a historical account of God’s amazing works in redemptive history.  Though all three reference times past, they can also draw our attention to God’s work in the present and in our own lives as well.