A Savior is Born (10)

 

A musical celebration of the Advent of the Christ.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

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Don’t Kick ’em While They’re Down

This is interesting.

Zechariah 1:14-15 (ESV) So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

Me: these verses are a partial answer made by God to the question posed in v 12. “How long will You be angry and withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah?” (Paraphrase).

The Israelite people of Zechariah’s day were experiencing the predicted disciplinary response for having turned away from following God (read Leviticus 26:27-46). Specifically, they would be subjugated by the surrounding pagan nations whose ways they chose to adopt in spite of receiving strict instruction to the contrary.

Verse 15 (above) indicates that the civilizations which the Hebrew people were subjected to took full advantage of the national disgrace of the Israelites…that they actively abused the people in a way that far exceeded the authorization God had given them.

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It left me thinking that God is always good to correct us and allow us to experience the well-earned results of our disobedient choices…for our good, to encourage repentance.

And sometimes, the temporal consequences we bring on ourselves are extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

However, it is a very bad idea to recognize that someone is being chastised/humbled and take it upon one’s own self to add a greater load of pain or shame to their burden through mockery, looting of their possessions or physical abuse.

Thoughts about James/Hebrews

We’ve been going through James’ letter at our local assembly. I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking careful notes of what has been said during the meetings, so will not attempt to relay the teacher’s words. Still, I figured I’d share my personal observations regarding some interesting similarities between the two books.

~ The two letters are conveniently arranged with one immediately following the other in the NT

~ Both James (see opening words @ 1:1) and the author of Hebrews are addressing the same group of people Not necessarily the exact same personalities, but those of primarily a Jewish/Israelite heritage. I believe these would be the “natural branches” which Paul spoke of in Romans 11. If I’m correct, these were not scripturally ignorant Gentiles, but were individuals who were religiously, culturally and historically exposed to the sacred writings known as “The Law and Prophets”, which Jesus said He had come to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

~ Both writings are evangelistic in focus Hebrews makes an extensive case for Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment and reality of OT “shadow” references. James makes reference to the law, yet pleads with his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word” which is what actually has the power to save us (James 1:21)

~ Both books deliver very stern reprimands James outlines a long list of persistent issues regarding arrogance, partiality, lack of devotion to God, empty religion and goes so far as to call out his readers as an “adulterous people” (4:4) and demand that they humble themselves and submit to God, resist the devil, cleanse their hands (of evil works, I presume) and purify their hearts as they mourned over the seriousness of their sin (4:4-10).
The author of Hebrews warned readers to not “harden their hearts” against the truth (3:15) and admonished them to accept God’s loving chastisement and teaching (12:5-8).

~ Regarding teaching : This is one of the most fascinating comparisons, IMO, because James said that “not many of you should become teachers” because teachers incur stricter judgment (James 3:1). That was one of the points addressed last Sunday.
The writer of Hebrews, however, spoke corporately when (s)he said: “by this time, you ought to be teachers” (as though this is a desirable…even expected… thing,) and then backed away from that by emphasizing their spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:12). If I am correct about general audience and overall themes of the two letters, this actually makes a lot of sense.

If both groups SHOULD have had many mature individuals who understood that the main purpose and point of the Law is to lead us to Christ, and they had obediently submitted their hearts to the direction of God’s Spirit, they would have been able to help others to understand, as well. But instead, they all needed to be re-introduced to the basics and recognize for themselves that the true foundation of God-pleasing faith is humble acceptance of the Person of Christ Jesus as rightful Savior and Lord.

In other words, the majority of them likely did not know what they were talking about and would have caused a lot of long-term damage within the greater body of Christ (ie, the Church universal).

My thoughts. You will need to test for validity on your own.

Joel 2:17-18

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Image courtesy africa @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Biblical passage is referenced at the bottom of the page.

Some things I noticed:

  1.  The call to repentance is continued
  2. It was to be initiated…or supervised…or mediated by the priests.
  3. If I’ve correctly understood the floor-plan image I located, Solomon’s Temple would have had three separate courts:  The outermost being that of the gentiles (perhaps those who had an interest in worshiping God but were not naturalized Israelite citizens).  Then, the court of Israelites.  The third, inner-most court was that of the priests (who had direct access to the altar of burnt offerings).    This LINK shows another picture minus the outer courts. I’m guessing the porch which Joel mentioned was the series of steps which led from the court of the Israelites up to the inner court of the priests.
  4. It appears that the purpose for the weeping and mourning at this particular location is to signify to God a desire to return to His ways…so that HIS inheritance…(I believe this means His people) and His reputation…would not have to suffer shame among His (and their) enemies.
  5. God’s promised, gracious response to repentance is seen in v 18.  And here is another mention of the all-important combination of grain, wine and oil (My pair of personal observations regarding these sacrificial elements are located HERE and HERE)
  6. The “church-age” equivalent of the Levitical priesthood would perhaps be the body of genuine, professing believers (See 1 Peter 2:8-10).  If I am correct, then Christians today bear a great responsibility before God as servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If the warning of Joel’s letter is to be taken seriously, maybe we should be the first line of repentant intercessors who pray for the return to God of our respectively wayward countries and citizens.

17 Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers,

Weep between the porch and the altar,
And let them say, “Spare Thy people, O Lord,
And do not make Thine inheritance a reproach,
A byword among the nations.
Why should they among the people’s say,
Where is their God?”

18 Then the Lord will be zealous for His land,
And will have pity on His people.
And the Lord will answer and say to His people,
“Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine, and oil,
And you will be satisfied in full with them;
And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.”

Joel 17-18 (NASB)

With Respect For Joseph…

Image Courtesy Prawny @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy Prawny @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:19-21  (KJV)

This is the time of year we tend to remember the significance of Mary’s role in the birth of our Savior.  But there was another whose involvement is equally worthy of note.

In Joseph’s positive response to the angel’s message, we can see a measure of faith and obedience to God’s will that many of us today may not truly appreciate.  His belief in God’s promise of redemption does not appear to be any weaker than Mary’s.

However, I suspect that Joseph’s internal conversation might resonate with any man who has fully committed himself to love and provide for not only the attractive woman who first caught his eye, but also any child(ren) she may have from a previous relationship. This promise to enter into a lifelong connection would be an especially delicate undertaking as “step” children might, on some level, be viewed as outsiders…if not by the adoptive father, then perhaps by biological half-siblings or society in general.

Such men deserve our respect and a show of appreciation, whenever possible.


Peace On Earth. Peace Of Jerusalem

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Image Courtesy Prawny @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most of this post involves excerpts from scripture.  I happen to think the parallels are interesting, but please carefully consider context if you choose to read what I’ve shared here.  Thank you.

Luke 2:10-11, 14
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

*Psalm 122 (of David. I only shared the last half)
This is really interesting when compared to the announcement of the angel regarding Christ’s birth.*

Psalm 122:6-9 (ESV)Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

*And Jesus’ teaching:*
Matthew 5:9 (ESV)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

*But then….Upon His rejection, Jesus also mourned over the beloved City*

Matthew 23:37-39 (ESV)
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
See, your house is left to you desolate.
For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

*But note that Jesus said “until you say…”. So, we are to continue to pray for peace (with God, through faith in Christ) because the epic story of the redemption of Jerusalem isn’t finished, yet*

*Paul:*
1 Timothy 2:1-4(ESV) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

*Paul again:*
Romans 11:25-29 (ESV) Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

*May God’s provision of peace be made known throughought the earth. And may His holy city be blessed forever*

Joel 2:1-17

Can you imagine being one of the OT prophets?  Seriously! According to the Bible, most of the OT Hebrew people considered these guys to be the ultimate “party poopers” (Luke 11:46-48; Acts 7:51-53; Romans 11:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).  They were designated messengers who were hated by wrong-doers simply because of the message they were chosen to carry.

It’s a good thing to remember, I think.  If the world hated God first, it will also hate those who strive to please Him.  It’s just a fact of life.

Moving into chapter 2:

vs 1-11 issues stern warning regarding “The Day of the LORD”  The darkness, destruction and utter desolation that would be experienced because of the invading army that God Himself would direct to attack (v11).   And Joel wrote that absolutely nothing would be exempted from this impending scourge. The judgment would be violent and complete.

God warned through the prophet Amos that the “Day of the Lord” would actually be an incredibly difficult time of judgment for those who thought they were ready, and yet were not…

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
     as if a man fled from a lion,
    and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
    and a serpent bit him.

Amos 5:18-19 (ESV)

Oh!  Consider reading Joel 1-2: alongside the judgments of Revelation 6-9.  There is a startling similarity with some of the imagery.

Incidentally, today we mark a major division in time through the use of BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, which is a medieval Latin phrase meaning “In the year of the Lord”)  Accidental coincidence or Divine design?  You can do with that information what you like.


Now this is the really incredible part…

Beginning in verse 12 is the continual call to repentance.  I really love this part, so will include the text

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
    and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
    for the Lord your God?

Joel 2:12-14 (ESV)

There’s another mention of the previously referenced grain and drink offering here…

The rest of this section (through v 16) describes the completeness of the prescribed repentance.  There would be no “business as usual”, and everyone was instructed to participate.  This looks remarkably similar to the universal state of mourning that Jonah’s message brought upon the Ninevites (see chapter 3).  Only, the inhabitants of Nineveh seemed to immediately recognize what it meant to be told that their entire civilization was about to be wiped off the face of the planet. They weren’t actually told to repent…but they did anyway and God spared them.

At any rate this whole scenario in Joel (both the horror and the hope) was predicted by God during Solomon’s reign.  Ready?

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (1 Chronicles 7:13-14 see also v19-22)

See? He didn’t say “if” you all mess this up and get into trouble.  He said “when“. He knew all along the disobedience and idolatry that was going to happen in Israel.  And He said from the beginning that He has the only solution.

And this is because He loves us and wants us to see the danger we create for ourselves so we willingly turn away from choosing our own stubborn death-path and embrace the life that we can only experience through knowing Him.

Read the words yourself.  Ask God to verify or negate my thoughts.  The truth will always stand up to honest examination.