Advent…Omniscient God

In Luke 1:76-60 Zechariah turns his prophesies of praise towards God for who and what his newborn son will do with his life. Only an Omniscient, All Knowing God could have revealed these truths about a newborn baby.

“And you, my little son,
    will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
    through forgiveness of their sins.
We know of John’s ministry thought the gospels. Matthew 3:1-2 tells us what John was doing, just as had been prophesied. “In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace.”
John preached about the coming Messiah in Matthew 3:11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”.

80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel. Luke was able to add this comment about John’s adult life. Verse 80 was not part of the prophecy of Zechariah but added by Luke truthfully about John’s life and character. Matthew 3:4-6 also gives a bit of background for this unusual preacher. “John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

The thing that jumps out at me in this song of prophesy is God’s purpose and plan for John was specific. He had a ‘job’ for John to accomplish in his life. The same is true of each one of us. Jeremiah 29:11 speaks of God’s plans, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do you believe that God has good plans for your life? Do you believe His plan is designed to give you a hope and a future? Essentially this boils down to believing that God is good and can use all things, even our screw ups and hard circumstances, to bless us and bring about good. Romans 8:28 speaks to this point “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. If you truly believe that God is who He says He is and will keep His promises, then you can be assured beyond any doubt that He will bring it to pass and it will be for your good and His glory. We cannot see into the future and know all the twists and turns of our lives but God can! Walking with Him is a walk of daily trust and obedience.

In light of what God specifically had in mind for John, may you meditate on His truths in Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 and be assured anew of His love and goodness causing you to live with hope knowing your future is secure in Him.

Linda

Advent…A Time of Reflective Praise

After being mute for 9 months because he questioned God’s ability to create a child through he and Elizabeth, Zechariah let’s his praises pour forth in a song of praise and prophecy about the Messiah to come and his own new born son. Luke 1:67-75 is today’s portion of this song. I have interrupted Zechariah’s song with verses from the Old and New Testament that speak of his prophecy being true.

67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
Jesus came to redeem and save us. Romans 10:9-10 assures us of this. “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
Jesus was repeatedly called the Son of David. The blind beggar called him Son of David and was healed, “They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” 42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” Luke 18:37-43

70 just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
Paul proclaimed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah in Acts 13:23 “And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!

71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:9-10 how Jesus saves us “And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.

72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
Genesis 17:1-10 describes God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God reminds him repeatedly in Genesis 18:18, 22:18 and 26:4 that all nations will be blessed through him.

7We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
Jesus call us to serve and follow Him in John 12:26 “ Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”

75 in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16-17 how we are to live. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

May the prophesies of Zechariah’s song reassure you that God has a plan, God is sovereign and God desires good things for us through faith in Jesus. May you too raise your voice in praise for all God has done for you.

Linda

Aftermath, Herod- Evil Incarnate

This portion of the Christmas Story is not very pleasant. It shows how evil, greed, power and the thirst for absolute power can consume a person. It shows how selfish desires can cause irreparable damage to those around us. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod’s reaction and subsequent actions when he heard that the Magi had not returned to tell him about the child born ‘king of the Jews’.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children,    refusing to be comforted,    for they are dead.”

Herod was an evil, self-centered, tyrannical dictator who wanted no one else to come between him and his reign. He saw the child who would be king as a personal threat to his power and throne. God protected Jesus and his family by sending them to Egypt to escape the reaches of Herod and the Magi He sent home by another route after appearing to them in a dream. There was no escaping the evil Herod showed by killing all the male babies under 2 in Bethlehem. The anguish and sadness brought upon the people of Bethlehem at his hand is unspeakable. You might ask the age old question, why God? Why did God allow this to happen? My only answer is that we as believers live in a sin-filled world. We have to cling to the goodness of God and that His purposes are just and bring goodness to us and glory to Him. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him”. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This action towards the innocents of Bethlehem shows the omniscient power of God to know the future as the prophecy in verse 18 from Jeremiah was given hundreds of years before. God knows the heart of mankind and the evil that our sin natures can cause. We have seen evil in the world century after century and the destruction it brings. We only need to remember the times of Noah, Judges and David in the Old Testament and those who plotted to kill Jesus, Paul, Stephen and Peter. It is by God’s grace that we are saved through faith and can rise above the desires and pressures of this sin-filled world. We can know God’s love, forgiveness and comfort even as the world struggles with sin that effects all the world around us. We can thank God for His eternal protection and salvation. We can know that in Him all is right. Take heart in these verses from Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Linda

6th Sunday of Lent, Resplendent with Palms!

IMG_0501Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before Passover and His death on the cross is a wild an joyous event.  I have walked the Palm Sunday Road and it is a very steep hill leading down from the Mt. of Olives that leads to the eastern gate. As I walked that road, I could see this scene in my mind that is included in all four gospels.

Matthew 21:1-11    Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

IMG_0505The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Blessings today as we usher in the final week of Jesus’ life on earth with Palms, Shouts of Hosanna and Praises to Messiah, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.

Linda

IMG_0513
Jesus entered into the city through the eastern gate that is now closed.  In later times the gate was blocked to keep Messiah from entering,  not realizing that Jesus had already come that Palm Sunday so long ago.

Suggestion:  As you praise God today in worship, choose an attribute of God that you are most thankful for and let God know what it means to you.  Consider- Savior, His Grace and Mercy, Sovereignty, Faithfulness, His Hope, His Assurance of Salvation in Jesus, His granting Freedom from Sin or His Provision for you.  Praise His Holy Name!

Anguished Prayer Brings Hope

The Messiah continues today with prophecies from the Psalms about the coming Messiah’s fate.  Psalm 22:7-8 “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;  8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him.”   This psalm by David spoke his anguished prayer to God as he was pursued and persecuted by Saul for years on end.  It is frequently quoted in the New Testament as it readily applies to Jesus.  Verse 7 tells of mocking and ridicule the psalmist is receiving from his enemies.  This found fulfillment in Matthew 27:39 “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads.” Verse 8 speaks of the psalmist’s trust in God, deliverance and rescue that is assured because he knows that God loves and cares for him.  Jesus knew this to be true and it was partially quoted in Matthew 27:43 “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  

god-ideas_guide-delightWhat encouragement do we receive from these prophecies today?  I am encouraged that God knows what I am going through just as He knew David’s and Jesus’ situations.  God is accessible and will hear our anguished prayers.  He is filled with compassion and love as He listens to us.  I am also encouraged that my trusting in God delights Him and He promises deliverance.  Each deliverance looks different as we are all are in various situations but God keeps His promises and will bring us through.

Be encouraged today as you walk with Him and thank Him for sending Jesus to bring the ultimate deliverance which is from sin and death.  These thoughts make Christmas even more special and give us HOPE.

Linda

The Righteous King Arrives

The next prophecy used by Handel in the Messiah was in Zechariah 9:9-10.  He only uses a portion of these verses in the script.

Zechariah 9 9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

These words point to Jesus’ coming at a special time.  This is just before the cross and Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on a donkey.  The people praised Him that Palm Sunday waving branches as they sang His praises.  Matthew 21:7-9 “They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,  “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  Zechariah’s words were given hundreds of years before and Jesus fulfilled them exactly!  Zechariah also says that He will be righteous, coming to save and bringing peace to all nations that seek Him.  We see those completely fulfilled in Jesus’ life.   He came as the righteous Lord, Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.”.   He came to bring righteousness to us, 1 Corinthians 1:30 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  He came to bring peace.  John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  Those that seek Him do not go away empty handed nor empty hearted.

Rejoice today in the righteousness of God, His Peace and  Jesus’ righteousness imparted to you and me to save us from our sins.

Linda

Messengers from God

Today’s passage comes from the Old Testament prophet Malachi.  He was a contemporary of Nehemiah who had returned to Jerusalem during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Babylon.  Nehemiah and those with him found the temple in disrepair and faced major opposition as they began the restoration.   Desiring to encourage His people, God gave Malachi a message of Hope to deliver in the midst of their trial.  Malachi was the last prophet to speak from God for 400 years until the announcements of John, the forerunner, and Jesus, the Messiah that are recorded in the gospels.

Messenger JohnMalachi 3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.  God wanted the people to be ready and watching for the forerunner that would come preparing the way for Jesus, Messiah.  Luke 1:13-17 tells the story of the angel Gabriel announcing the coming of John to his father Zachariah.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”   John’s birth and life are a direct fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy in Malachi that was given 400 years prior. 

The second line of Malachi’s prophecy is about Jesus, ‘the Lord who you seek, will come to his temple bringing a message of the covenant’.   God’s covenant was recorded in Genesis 17:7 “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between Genesis 17 7me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”  This covenant or agreement with God was His promise to be their God and they would be His people.  Jesus was God’s messenger of the covenant and the fulfillment of all God’s promises.   He was coming in the flesh to His temple to be with His people bringing a message of love, repentance, restoration and redemption from God.   John was going to come in the spirit of Elijah and prepare the way calling mankind to repent and return to God.  He was to prepare the hearts of the people so they would be ready to listen to Jesus.

This was the glorious message Malachi delivered about the arrival of His messenger who would prepare the way for the Messiah, their deliverer.   Their long awaited Messiah would come with a message of hope and righteousness.  Jesus still has that message for us today.  Let this remind you of the Hope and the right standing with God that Jesus brings.

Blessings of Hope as you listen to this instrumental version,

Linda

Prepare the Way for the LORD!

Isaiah 40 1Isaiah 40:1,3,4 opens the Messiah and that is where our Advent story begins.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”  A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.

It had been 400 years since the prophet Malachi had spoken and the people were hungry and eager to hear from God.  Hundreds of years before Isaiah had prophesied that the people would be comforted by the voice of one crying in the wilderness who will proclaim the arrival of the Messiah.  The one spoken of here is John the Baptist.  His mother Elizabeth was Mary’s Aunt and their babies were due months apart.  Zachariah, John’s father, had received visit from the angel Gabriel foretelling the birth of this forerunner of Jesus.  Luke 1:13-17 “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will luke 1 17bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.   Just as Isaiah had prophesied,  John came and proclaimed a message of repentance and prepared the people for the Lord’s coming.

Isaiah also spoke of leveling the ground in Isaiah 26:7 The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”   Jesus, Messiah, would come and make way for the righteous.  Jesus indeed smoothed the way for mankind to be made righteous through His coming, His death and His resurrection.  All the mountains of sin that stood between God and man were made low through His sacrifice.  Jesus made “every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain” for those of faith to come to God.  He removed the barrier of sin between us and holy God.  Jesus made the way for us to be saved.

John, the herald of Jesus, came to call Israel to repentance and faith.  Let us answer his call today  as we meditate on the beauty, exactness and completeness of God’s Word and the hope we have in Jesus.

Let our Advent journey begin with repentance,

Linda

Journey through Advent with the ‘Messiah’

Psalm 22In Psalm 22 David wrote words that described the coming Messiah’s work and anguish while here on earth.  When he took the sins of the world upon himself Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far for the words of my groaning?” (verse 1)   The Psalmist describes Jesus’ conditions on the cross, “they have pierced my hands and my feet.” (16b) “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (18)  These visions of Messiah and what awaited him were given to David.  By reading them, we can see proof that Jesus fulfilled each and every prophecy made about him and be assured that He is from God.  We catch a glimpse into the Omniscience and Sovereignty of God.

HandelMessiahThis advent season I will be blogging each day using prophecies about Messiah and His coming as highlighted in Handel’s Messiah.  He turned the words of Charles Jennens, his librettist, who created the story from Old and New Testament passages into glorious song.  Handel wrote the Messiah in about 3 weeks in the late summer of 1741.  His divine inspiration has humbled and inspired audiences ever since.  Recently, I got a copy of a handbill that is given out when one attends the Messiah.  It contains all the scriptures that the ‘story’ is based upon and their references.  Each time someone attends a performance of the Messiah, they are presented with these scriptures in both writing and song.  Praise God!  He has used Handel and his work ‘The Messiah’ to tell his story to the world since 1741 in this unique way.

Join me in a journey this Advent Season through the ‘Messiah’ to catch a glimpse of our Savior and His mighty works.

Excited about the journey,

Linda