Christmas 2018 – Day 16

6c71ae8a2e28de60d9b754ddbfb08722--isaiah--isaiah-bibleAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 16: We just finished up our week on Psalms. Today we’ll start in on a mini-series on Isaiah by looking at Isaiah 7:14.

In Isaiah chapter 7 the prophet Isaiah predicts the Messiah. For context, God is trying to encourage Ahaz and asks Ahaz to request a sign. But instead of obeying God and allowing himself to be cheered up, Ahaz is arrogant enough to quote Deuteronomy 6:16 back to God! But God is not flustered, He proceeds and gives this prophesy:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

What an incredible verse! And yet for years there has been debate around the word “virgin.” Even this week I saw a tweet mocking the use of the word “virgin” when the word can also be rendered “young lady.” But my question is simple: What kind of a sign is it for a young lady to have a baby? You can mock the Bible and you can mock the spiritualnatural but at least use common sense if you’re dealing with a prophecy! The miracle must be a virgin giving birth or there is nothing special. (And we’ll talk more about the importance of the name “Immanuel” tomorrow.)

The fulfillment of this prophecy was not going to happen in Ahaz’s day, but it would happen in God’s perfect timing. As we look back we find ourselves encouraged and cheered up at the words God has given. May we find hope in knowing that we serve the one true God who is able to prophesy and fulfill His amazing love and salvation through the story of Christmas!

Christmas 2018 – Day 15

joy-to-the-world-wreath-square-e1511374928398As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 15: This is our seventh of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. We’ll be looking at Psalms 96-98 today. Here is what Martin Tel says about them, “There are three psalms that have long been associated with Christmas: Psalms 96, 97, and 98. These psalms are handed to us as a set. As bookends, Psalms 96 and 98 both begin with an exhortation to sing a new song to the Lord. All three psalms depict the cosmos bursting out in joyful song at the coming of the Lord. The coming king will judge with truth and righteousness.” (see Article).
I love that these psalms rejoice in the Lord coming in righteous judgment. If we are on the side of righteousness, then we have nothing to fear. Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World” from Psalm 98. I’ve always found it interesting that this Christmas hymn focuses more on His Second Coming (after the Tribulation) than the first (His birth). For example, consider these lyrics:

“He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The light of His righteousness”

For more, see this article by C. Michael Hawn.

This Christmas, sing a new song (that you made up!) to the Lord! Thank Him for bringing salvation as a baby, and thank Him for His future righteous judgment!

Christmas 2018 – Day 14

bonhoefferAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 14: This is our sixth of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. Psalm 74 is a plea from Asaph to the Lord for relief from oppressors. We’re going to look at how this fits into a famous Christmas carol and the Nazis. Reverend Adrian Dieleman says, “Psalm 74 is an Advent Psalm. It starts with the need for Emmanuel. It continues with the victory of Emmanuel. And, it ends with a prayer for Emmanuel.” (Read the sermon here). Psalm 74:7-8 says,

They have set fire to Your sanctuary; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground.
They said in their hearts,
‘Let us destroy them altogether.’
They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land

Some of the lyrics to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are:

“O come, Thou Key of David, come. And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high. And close the path to misery. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel. Shall come to thee, o Israel.”

Do you see the connection? That need for safety and an end to misery is crucial. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Nazi Germany and the only date he wrote into his Bible was here in Psalm 74:7-8. It was November 9, 1938, which was the day the Nazi’s started burning synagogues.

In later devotionals we’ll talk about the meaning of the word Emmanuel, but for now let’s view Christmastime as a way to be empathetic to Israeli as Bonhoeffer did. As his book, The Cost of Discipleship explains, “cheap grace” is accepting all the benefits of Christianity without accepting any of the costs. Christmas for the Christian is supposed to be more than trading gifts. We must prayerfully and monetarily and physically seek the Lord’s safety for those in need. Emmanuel is the only answer!

Christmas 2018 – Day 13

a0386c3c6f06b90ea6b1e14840aac381As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 13: This is our fifth of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. Even in our day and age there are false assumptions about the Messiah. Theories that King David was the Messiah, or that Jesus’ spiritualnatural birth and the assassination attempt by Herod (as we talked about on Day 8 and Day 9 didn’t really happen as the Gospels say. Instead, that it was written to typify the similarities with Moses’ early life. But those theories ignore Psalm 45:6-7. Let’s read it:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

How can we understand that God says He has anointed Himself (v. 7b)? What does that mean?! Hebrews 1:8-9 make it clear:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions

Re-stating what Psalm 45 said is helpful because we see Who is speaking. Here in Hebrews we clearly see that this is God the Father, speaking to God the Son! When we hear irrational theories or people are missing Jesus as the reason this Christmas season, point them to the Bible!

Christmas 2018 – Day 12

TheChristmasStory-55962-5957c2535f9b58843f7eb1ecAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 12: This is our fourth of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. Having explored a little of Psalm 22 yesterday we’re looking at another psalm of David today. In Psalm 40:7 David gives the voice of his future descendant Jesus Christ,

Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me.’”

For context, David has just explained that sacrifices aren’t enough to save us from our sins. The answer is given in John 1:14,

“…the Word became flesh…”

I love the many connections Jesus gives us over thousands of years speaking of how words and scrolls and books and writings are in the Word! Thank you, Jesus, for having the conversation with God the Father recorded in Psalm 40:7 and fulfilled in John 1:14 about Your glorious birth!

Christmas 2018 – Day 11

Unknown-2As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 11: This is our third of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. Psalm chapter 22 comes from the perspective of the Messiah during the Passion week. If we just read one verse it’s easy to dismiss as prophecy of Jesus but when we read the whole chapter, we see very clearly these statements didn’t happen to David who wrote the psalm, but instead they would happen in the future. I love how specific the prophecies can be, such as, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (v. 16c) and “They divided My garments among them” (v. 18a)! But today I want to look at two verses regarding the birth of Jesus. Psalm 22:9 says,

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts

This was fulfilled in Luke 2:40 showing the Messiah would know His Father from childhood:

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”

Then in Psalm 22:10 David said,

I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God

This was fulfilled in Luke 1:30-33, showing the Messiah would be called by God while still in the womb. It says,

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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.”

Just like yesterday (Day 10), it is such a blessing to read through context and find prophesies of Jesus’ birth in unexpected places!

Christmas 2018 – Day 10

psalm18-49As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 10: This is our second of seven Christmas devotionals focused on Psalms. Although not initially obvious as a Messianic prophecy, Psalm 18:49 can only truly be fulfilled by Jesus. In this psalm David is recognizing and worshipping God for His salvation from enemies, especially Saul. So, in the end, when he says,

Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name

…David is clearly looking towards a future where the Messiah provides salvation to Gentiles (non-Hebrews). I had a friend ask the other day about Jesus’ earthly ministry only being to the Jews. True, they were His first priority (Matthew 10:5-6) but He did minister to the Gentiles also. We have the knowledge here, now we must see God’s wisdom on how this applies to the lives around us. Jesus’ long-term mission was to save everyone regardless of their bloodline or where they came from. The fulfilment of this psalm is seen in Ephesians 3:4-6:

“…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel…”

As we read through the Bible this Christmas keep an eye out for prophesies and promises that may not be overtly “Christmasy” but are overtly about Jesus’ love!

Christmas 2018 – Day 9

MassacreAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 9:

For the next 7 days we’ll be looking at Psalms for our Christmas devotionals. One in every six psalms includes at least one prophecy of the Messiah. Today please read Palms 9-10.

““Blest Are the Innocents” is not a psalm. But Sylvia Dunstan obviously took cues from the laments that we find in the psalter, such as Psalms 9 and 10. (Taken together, these two psalms form an acrostic poem in which every second verse begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.) These psalms protest the murder of the innocent, crying out to the God who hears the prayer of the afflicted, the Lord who takes note of the blood that has been spilt.” (see Article).

As we’ve talked about several times in this Christmas series the theme of suffering is integral to Christmas. We think of it as a happy time but why? Because Jesus coming to earth saves us from suffering! As I was writing yesterday’s devotional tying the suffering of Job to considering Jesus’ birth persecution (Day 8), I came across the event called “The Massacre of the Innocents” when Jesus was two years old.

We are saddened by events like “The Massacre of the Innocents” and yet reminded when we sing “Blest Are the Innocents,” that indeed, there is a blessing only Jesus can give. And the best way we can be comforted in the face of tragic events is to consider that we have a Messiah who knows that pain and will comfort us through it.

Christmas 2018 – Day 8

Job ChristmasAs part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 8: what does “typified” mean? Typify means “to be characteristic or a representative example of.” Having looked at 1 & 2 Samuel yesterday, and thinking about how David can typify Jesus, I’d like to briefly look at the following books with characters who typify Jesus.

Books of 1 & 2 Kings – Solomon seated on the throne (1 Kings 10:18) as Jesus was (Acts 2:30). For more go here

Books of 1 & 2 Chronicles – Solomon’s Temple (1 Chronicles 28 – 2 Chronicles) as Jesus would bring down and raise up His “temple” (John 2:19).

Book of Ezra – Ezra. “Jesus typified in Ezra as a man of the Word and prayer. He was passionate for the purity of God’s people, seeking to bring God’s Kingdom and to do God’s will on earth as in heaven” (see Ezra 1:1-2). For more go here.

Book of Nehemiah – Nehemiah. Opposition to building walls (Nehemiah 2:19-20) as Jesus faced oppressors (Matthew 27:42). For more go here.

Book of Esther – Mordecai. Mordecai was an ambassador for deliverance (Esther 8:10) and we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). For more go here.

Book of Job – Job. The righteous suffering, a mediator theme, and the problem of suffering not being fully resolved leaves us needing Jesus! For more check out this great article.

Keep in mind no human can perfectly typify the perfect Lion and Lamb of God, but it helps us understand that Jesus appears all the way through the Bible. Because I hate to leave a devotional without Scripture quoted, I want to blow your mind really quickly. I was meditating on the persecution of Job and persecution of Jesus mentioned above. We often think about the persecution of Jesus regarding His arrest, crucifixion and death, but have you ever considered the persecution because of His birth?! This was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15:

 “Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more

Matthew confirms the fulfillment in Matthew 2:17-18:
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more

Jesus knew His life would be persecution at the beginning, middle and end of His life, and yet, He came anyway! Consider the typology from the books we’ve seen above but also mediate on the harsh world Jesus humbled Himself into this Christmas season. Oh, how He loves us!

Additional resource:

Christmas 2018 – Day 7

image1 (2)As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 7: Not long after reading Ruth (Day 6), which talked about Obed being the grandfather of David, we are introduced to David (1 Samuel 16:13) and find the Messiah would be born from his lineage (2 Samuel 7:16). Let’s read it:

“‘And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Prophecy is such a crucial part of believing that Jesus was who He said He was. There are other things like His perfection, miracles, heralding from angels and the Father’s audible words from heaven, and we’ll talk about those, but now we’re going to be focused on prophesy for a while. Here in 2 Samuel 7:16 we find that God clearly had a plan around something more than an earthly kingdom being established through David. Let’s look at the fulfilment:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

I love that the book of Matthew gets right to it! As a book written for the Hebrews, Matthew needed to establish Jesus’ preeminence immediately. And what does that do for us 2,000 years later? It gives us comfort and assurance that what God prophesies comes to fruition and Jesus is who He said He was. How amazing that we get to partake in worshipping the Messiah who came in the lowly form of a human being from an imperfect but very specifically ordained lineage!