Showing posts from December, 2022

The New Name

The New Name Read Revelation 19:11-19 “His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.”               The Christmas story is one filled with wonder and amazement. We are confounded that the God of the universe would be born as a baby in a manger. While the arrival of Christ was announced through the dramatic appearance of the angels, the birth of Christ presents Christ in his humility. It should always cause us to stop and reflect when we read the narrative that the God of the universe would appear as a tiny baby in the manger. Christ came to bring salvation in the first advent, and he was seen in humility. Jesus as a baby, is safe, one that we can identify with for his weakness and vulnerability. He is a person we can identify with. However, as C.S. Lewis reminds us in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan (who represents Christ) is not safe but is good.   We want a savior who is safe, one that brings mercy

Jesus is The Word

Jesus:  The Word Read John 1:1-17 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”               When we think of the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus, our thoughts go immediately to Matthew and Luke and the story of the Wisemen and shepherds. We turn to the passages that tell us what happened on that incredible night. However, John 1:1-17 is equally focused upon the birth of Jesus. While Matthew and Luke tell the of the event, John focuses more on the importance of the event. He begins by announcing not the birth of Jesus but the arrival of “The Word.” In this name or title, John connects the person and activity of Christ to the person and action of God.             The first thing that strikes us is the phrase “in the beginning.”  These words point us back to the very beginning of time and God's creative work. When God created the universe, he spoke the world into existence. By stating that Jesus was the Word, John affirms that it was through

The Name "Lord"

The Title Lord Philippians 2:1-11 “And every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the God the Father.”               Of the names and titles used of Christ, none was more unexpected and astounding than the title “Lord.”  To understand the significance of the name, we must go back into the Old Testament. Since the New Testament was written in Greek, we must also go back to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (commonly referred to as the Septuagint). In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words are translated by the title “Lord.”  The first is “Adonai,” meaning “lord, master, or owner.” When it was used of God, it focused on the authority and majesty of God. The second word translated as “Lord” is the name used most frequently of God, and that is the name “Yahweh” (which means “He is” taken from “I am” In Exodus 3:14). Throughout the Old Testament, this became known as “the Name” so the phrase “the name” as became synonymous with Yahweh. For example, in

The Name Christ

The Christ Luke 2:1-20 “For today in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”               On that night, shepherds were gathered together, unaware that everything would change. As they tended to their flock, it started as an ordinary evening, uneventful and nondescript. Yet, unbeknown to them, everything would change, and they would be forever celebrated in the Christmas pageants. Suddenly the calm of the night was interrupted by a dazzling display of God’s glory as an angel stood before. Surrounded by the flaming glory of God, they were terrified. We can only imagine the thoughts that must have swept through their mind as their night went from the mundane to the startling to the terrifying and then to the subline. But the most amazing event was not the appearance of the angel but the announcement he made. The statement that would bring wonder to the world is found in verse 11, “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”   

The Names of Jesus: Jesus

The names of Jesus Read Matthew 1:18-25 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.”               In Matthew 1, we find the angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph. The reason for the focus on Joseph is that it was revealed to him that the name to be given to his firstborn is the name “Jesus .”For the Jews, this name was nondescript. It was a common name that people would give their sons. For the Jews, the name Jesus would be comparable to someone naming their son John. It was a popular name. The popularity stemmed from the background of the Old Testament hero, who bore the same name. The name Jesus in Hebrew would be pronounced Jeshua, thus connecting the name to the Old Testament personage of Joshua (Hebrew: Jeshua), the great military leader who led the nation in seizing possession of the land promised to Abraham in the covenant god made with him.               When the angel informs Joseph that he is to name his firstborn Jes

Man's sin and God's faithfulness.

Man’s sin and God’s faithfulness Nehemiah 9 “But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and you did not forsake them.               In his classic work, the Existence and Attributes of God, Stephen Charnock describes our sinful aversion to God and our misrepresentation of him. Because of our sin, we have no desire to converse with God. Instead of pursuing towards him, in our sinful state, we do not long for him. Thus Charnock writes, “Not his dawn sword as a God of judgment, nor his mighty power as Lord, nor his open arms as the Lord their God could move them to turn their eyes and their hearts towards him. The more he invites us to partake of his grace, the further we run from him to provoke his wrath: the louder God called them by his prophets, the closer they stuck to their Baal. We turn our backs when he stretches out his hand, stop our ears when he lifts up his voice; we fly from him when he courts us and shelter ou

When Weeping Turns to Joy

When Weeping Turns to Joy Nehemiah 8:1-12 ‘Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”               It was not enough to merely rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple; Israel needed to reconstruct their heart for God. Rebuilding the city's walls was easy, but how do you rebuild a nation that had been cast into exile because it had abandoned the covenant with God and failed to walk in obedience to the word of God? Israel needed a spiritual revival. Stones are easy to restack, but how does one rebuild the spiritual vibrancy of people and a nation?             Ezra and Nehemiah called for a national meeting to bring about a revival. All those who had returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding towns were summoned to gather at the Water Gate. The gate was located on the eastern wall of Jerusalem in the Kidron Valley, so it would make a perfect natural amphitheater for the people to hear the words of Ezra. To bring a spiritual revival, Ezra did the only thing tha
  Fear or Faith Nehemiah 6 “But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.”               After the Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem failed to discourage the people through their ridicule, they changed tactics. Instead of trying to intimidate the people, they went after Nehemiah. As the walls of Jerusalem were nearing completion, they became even more concerned. They needed to stop this project soon. So they contrived a plan. Under the pretense of meeting to broker peace, they invited Nehemiah to meet with them in the plain of Ono. However, their real intent was to develop a peace treaty; it was to get Nehemiah away from the protection of Jerusalem so that they may kill him.               Nehemiah was not fooled. Even though they insisted that he come, Nehemiah continued to refuse. Nehemiah recognized that opposition to God often comes in the guise of peace. When that did not work, they changed their tactics again. Th
Rubble or Opportunity Nehemiah 4:1-21 “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”  In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a man of despicable character. He was a manipulator and seducer who was bent on revenge for any wrong done to him. Eventually, he would offend the god Zeus, who would then punish Sisyphus to spend an eternity wrestling a giant boulder up a steep hill. However, just as he would reach the crest of the top of the hill, it would slip from his grasp and roll back to the bottom. So he would have to repeat the process, forever laboring while accomplishing nothing. As the Jews were starting to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, there were times when they must have felt like Sisyphus. Surrounding Jerusalem were piles of stone rubble from the destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. No matter how many stones they manipulated and stacked upon the wall, the rubble only seem
  Finding Hope in the Faithfulness of God. Read Nehemiah 1 “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.”               The report could not have been worse. After the return of the Jews under Ezra, those who remained in Babylon were anxious to hear the news of how the people were progressing in rebuilding the Temple and the city and re-establishing the nation. Finally, a group of men returned from Israel, and Nehemiah quickly asked them how the rebuilding project was going. Unfortunately, the news was not encouraging. The people were in great distress, and the city of Jerusalem was still in disrepair as a result, the people were unprotected and still threatened by the surrounding nations. Instead of rejoicing that the nation was being restored, there was distress with little hope of protection for the people. As a result, Nehemiah was deeply grieved. The word “wept” is no
The Holiness of God and the Call to a Holy life. Ezra 8:28-36 “Then I Said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the utensils are holy; and the silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord God of your fathers.”               Of all the attributes of God, his holiness remains central and governs all aspects of his nature. When we think of one attribute that captures the essence of God, we think of his love. However, in the heavenly temple, we find that the attribute that the angels proclaim in a continual anthem of praise is his holiness. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is given a vision of heaven with God sitting on a throne. In the midst of his throne room, Seraphim hover above him. The word “Seraphim” refers to “Fiery beings” and describes angelic beings who were brilliant as flaming fire, symbolizing the power and purity of God. They proclaim an eternal anthem of praise that celebrates the holiness of God. So powerful is their cry that even the thresholds of the temple were shaken at t
Trusting in God. Ezra 8:21-32 “That we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions..”               Ezra and the families that were to travel with them faced a daunting task. They were going to travel from Babylon back to Jerusalem, a distance of approximately 1500 miles.   The journey would take them four months and traverse a dangerous country. Although the caravan would be significant, they were still vulnerable to the marauding bands of thieves that roamed the wilderness. They were not trained soldiers who could fight. They were priests, laborers, and ordinary people, making them a target for thieves and opportunists who would see this caravan as a prime objective.             To add to the threat, they traveled with a vast sum of money. After collecting offerings from the Jews in Babylon, they would take 750 talents of silver and silver utensils. A talent weighed approximately 75 pounds. A talent of silver
When the heathen rage, God laughs. Read Ezra 5-6               Psalm 2 reminds us that when the nations and kings of the earth “take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed…He who sits in the heavens laughs.”  This is a lesson that the adversaries of the Jews were about to learn. For 16 years, the opponents of Israel had succeeded in their attempt to hinder the Jews. However, under the prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the people began to rebuild the temple. Yet again, opposition arose. Tattenai questioned the legitimacy of their actions and saw their work as an act of rebellion, so he sent a dispatch to Darius, who had now succeeded Cyrus as the King. He did what all subordinates do; he asked for a memo of clarification.             In response, Darius searched the archives to examine the past edicts of Cyrus. After a careful search, Darius discovered the past edict. In it,  he found that Cyrus had not only permitted the Jews to return and rebuild the temple but a
When problems become big, God becomes small. Ezra 3:11-4:5; 5:1-5 “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and frightened them from building.”               With great excitement, the people return to the land of Israel. They were finally home. Even though they initially faced opposition, the people continued, setting up the altar, celebrating the Feast of Booths, and offering burnt offerings to the Lord. Encouraged by their worship, they continued with the work, and by the end of the 2nd year, they had appointed Levites to lead the building project and set the foundations of the Temple. As a result, many were shouting for joy (3:13).             However, the joy soon turned to discouragement. The first hint of trouble came from the Jews. As the “old timers” who had seen the original Temple saw the size of the new Temple, they became discouraged (4:4). It was nothing like the good old days. So instead of joy, they wept in sadness and became downcast. When discourage

The God who Controls History

The God who Controls History Ezra 1:1-11 “The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.”               Nothing seems so arbitrary as the political winds sweeping back and forth across the political landscape. In every election, it appears that the winds change as the fickle whims of the voters dictate them. One moment a politician is touted as the next great leader, the next, he is cast off by the voters as a has-been, only to be discussed by the pundits who speculate why his popularity suddenly vanished. In a world where events seem to move so quickly and erratically, how do we gain a sense of security and stability?             The first verse of Ezra seems to be another testimony of the impulsive whims of world leaders. In a sudden turn of political winds, Cyrus changed the national policy of his predecessors, who deported people from their homelands. Instead, Cyrus desired to gain the loyalty of his new subjects.

The Power of God's Grace

The Power of God’s Grace Read 2 Chronicles 33 ‘When Manasseh prayed to God, God was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” (vs. 13)               Of all the kings of Judah, there was perhaps none more wicked than Manasseh. Manasseh was 12 years old when he ascended to the throne after the death of Hezekiah. It was said of Hezekiah that there was not a king of Judah before him who walked in obedience to God (2 Kings 18:5-6). He had been faithful in following God’s commands. However, his son chose a completely different path. While Hezekiah set the high water mark of righteousness, Manasseh would set the low water mark. The writer of the book of Kings would summarize the depth of Manasseh’s perversion by stating that he had done “wickedly more than all the Amorites did who were before him.”  He led the nation of Judah into the most depraved forms of idolatry. The depth of his sin is h