Thursday, December 29, 2011

Displacing Kings


The coming of Jesus the Messiah into the world does not just add another king into the mix. No, He is the King, whose kingdom displaces all other kingdoms.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
King of the Jews? Herod was under the impression that the Jews already had a king — him! He had worked hard to win that appointment from Rome, and he had already killed two of his own sons to protect it. Now come these foreigners looking for a king who was not him. He was not happy about that.

The Jews had been looking for the king God promised David centuries earlier, the king who would rule over Israel and subdue all her enemies, the king who would reveal the rule and reign of God in all the earth. Not a king, the King. With each successor to the throne of David, the Jews hoped that this would be the one. But they were always soon disappointed.

Now they had Herod, an Idumean whose family had been converted to Judaism, and who was selected by the Roman senate to be “King of the Jews.” His rule, which began about 40 BC, lasted for about 36 years, until his death in 4 BC, not long after Jesus was born. Though he built many cities and reconstructed the Temple in Jerusalem, he was not well-liked among the Jews. The Sanhedrin condemned his brutal ways, the Sadducees did not care for the way he ruled, the Pharisees hated the way he lived, and the Zealots wanted to kill him. Not to mention the public that was heavily taxed to support all his building projects.

So Herod was very paranoid. But the wise men, being out-of-towners, asked where they might find the King of the Jews. Not Herod, of course, but the newborn King, the one promised long ago, whose coming would put Herod out of his place. Faux pas?

Herod obliged them. Not because he was a nice guy but because he wanted to find this King himself and put an end to him. So he asked the chief priests and scribes where Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said. Herod told the wise men and sent them on with instruction to return when they found the Child, so he could worship Him also. Liar!

As the wise men approached Bethlehem, they saw the star again, the one that had alerted them to the birth of the Messiah King, and they rejoiced. After honoring the newborn King, they were wise to Herod’s deceit, being warned in a dream not to return to him, and they went back by another way to their own land.

The coming of King Jesus the Messiah into the world displaced Herod as King of the Jews, but that is not all, for He comes as King over all the nations of the earth. He displaces every king. The prophet Zechariah spoke of what the coming of Messiah would mean, not just for Israel and the Jews, but for the whole world.
And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be — “The LORD is one, and His name one.” (Zechariah 14:9)
The announcement of the gospel is the good news that the King has come into the world, and with Him, the kingdom — the rule and reign of God over all the earth. That is how the apostle Paul understood it.
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name. (Romans 1:1-5)
The faith to which all nations are called to be obedient is the truth that Jesus the Messiah, born to the throne of David and declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, is Lord. This term, “Lord,” is not just some religious expression, as it so often seems to be reduced to today. Jesus is not Lord merely over “spiritual” matters (as if spiritual could be separated out of every other aspect of life and the world), He is Lord over everything in heaven and earth — which is to say, He is King over all! Before He ascended to heaven, to His throne at the right hand of the Father, He announced to the disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus is King and the nations must reckon with that. Paul said, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus [Jesus is Lord] and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). That is the central confession of the apostolic Christian faith.

Paul was playing with dynamite, preaching a message that was both powerful and subversive. Throughout the Roman Empire in those days the only acceptable confession was “Caesar is Lord.” It was the time of the Imperial cult, when emperors were worshipped as gods and each new Caesar was thought to be the son of God, honored as savior and king of the world. But Paul’s declaration of the gospel repudiated this. Caesar is Lord? NO! Jesus is Lord and God and King over all the earth.

Jesus is far greater than every king, every president, every head of state — all put together! They must all eventually bow their knees before Him and agree that He is Lord and God and King over them all.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
The King has come, and is coming again. His kingdom displaces every other kingdom and His rule shall never end.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Greater Fulfillment and God With Us


The Gospel According to Matthew makes it clear that the child Mary carried was conceived, not of any man, but by the Spirit of God. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). The angel of the Lord told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (v. 20). Matthew sees in this the fulfillment of a prophetic word spoken by Isaiah some 700 years earlier.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the LORD through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14)
This word from Isaiah is something of a mystery. It was given in response to a particular historical moment within Isaiah’s own day. Many Bible scholars agree that it had a meaning pertaining to that time. But as with many of the signs and events of the Old Testament, it also seemed to have significance larger than its own time. Alfred Edersheim comments on how Jews tended to view the Old Testament writings.
Perhaps the most valuable element in Rabbinic commentation on Messianic times is that in which, as so frequently, it is explained, that all the miracles and deliverances of Israel’s past would be re-enacted, only in a much wider manner, in the days of the Messiah. Thus the whole past was symbolic, and typical of the future. It is in this sense that we would understand the two sayings of the Talmud: “All the prophets prophesied only the days of the Messiah” (Sanh. 99a), and “The world was created only for the Messiah” (Sanh. 98b). (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, cited here)
On the day Jesus was raised from the dead, He encountered two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. They had not recognized Him and He had not revealed His identity to them, but He spoke to them about the meaning of Messiah. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). This was not merely a matter of citing an explicit prophecy here and there about Messiah — no, the whole of the Old Testament continually pushes toward the coming of the messianic age, the coming of God’s rule and reign over Israel and the nations, the coming of God’s King.

Isaiah’s prophesy about the virgin, whatever else it may mean, does appear to speak beyond its own time and with a greater meaning. In the immediate context, Isaiah gives the word to King Ahaz, but he addresses it to the “house of David” (Isaiah 7:13), thus enlarging the word with messianic significance. This would be quite in line with the messianic theme that is woven throughout the rest of the book.

However, saying that this prophecy had a greater messianic meaning does not explain how it would actually work out in history. There does not appear to have been any expectation among the Jews that their Messiah would be conceived by the Holy Spirit — they probably would not have been able to imagine such a thing. Some things are better grasped in retrospect, not ahead of time.

And isn’t that how God works so very often. He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). God comes and arranges things and answers prayers in ways that may be very different, and much better, than we might have expected or could have even imagined.

So here is how the Messiah came into the world, conceived not by any man but by God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. Now that it had happened in that way, Matthew could readily see how it fulfilled the ancient prophecy, unexpectedly and in a way much greater than could have been imagined. It also gave greater significance to the prophetic statement, “They shall call His name Immanuel.”

Immanuel means “God with us.” In Isaiah’s day, they could easily have understood that as God watching over, hearing and delivering His people with mighty acts of divine providence. God is certainly with us in that sense. But to see that what actually happened, that the Messiah was conceived by the Spirit of God, that He was actually divine as well as human … well, that raises the meaning of Immanuel to new and unexpected heights: God is really with us — in Person!

Now, the name actually given to this child was Jesus, not Immanuel. But He is called Immanuel, “God with us,” because it is actually what He is. John, in his telling of the gospel, brings this out in a different way. He speaks of Jesus as the Word and identifies Him as God, in John 1:1. Then, in verse 14, he declares “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The God of heaven making His abode with humanity on earth.

In Jesus the Messiah, God is truly with us. This I believe with all my heart. I have known the Lord Jesus for about 50 years now, ever since I was a little child. Over the years, I have come to recognize His presence more and more. It is a very real relationship and a very deep presence that I have experienced. More real and deeper than I can say.

On the other hand, there is a man in the Bible study I teach who has come to know the Lord late in life, in just the last couple of years. He is in his sixties and regrets that he did not come sooner. But he is very aware of the presence of God in his life and he rejoices in the great change the Lord Jesus has made in his heart. He knows very well that God is with him, dwelling with him.

My hope for you in this Christmas season is that you may experience God with you through Jesus the Messiah. That you may know the joyful expectation of that to which He has called you, that you may know the riches of the wonderful inheritance He has for you, and that you may know the mighty working of His great power on your behalf, the same power by which He raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him as King over all.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, December 23, 2011

You Shall Call His Name Salvation

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child she carried was conceived of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The connection between the name of Jesus and what it means is not apparent in our English translations. Even the explanatory comment in this verse does not explain much for us in English. “Jesus” is how the name comes over to us from the Greek name “Iesous” (phonetically, Yay-soos). In turn, “Iesous” was the Greek rendering for the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” and it is the Hebrew name that we want to focus on here, because even in Greek, the explanatory comment is not very helpful.

So the angel said, “You shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins,” but the connection is still not clear. We need to remember, however, that the angel did not speak to Joseph in English. Joseph probably did know Greek as a matter of his occupation. He was a “carpenter,” a builder, perhaps a stone mason, who was probably involved in the building projects at nearby Sepphoris, which was a prosperous city for commerce. But Greek was not his primary language. He was a Jew in Judea, so his first language was most likely Hebrew, or else its cousin language, Aramaic.

In Hebrew, the word for “save” is yasha. The noun related to this is yeshuah, which means “salvation.”As a name, yeshuah becomes Yeshua. So the name of Jesus means “Salvation.” The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call His name Salvation (Yeshua), for He will save (yasha) His people from their sins.”

Now the connection is clear. But what does it mean that Yeshua will save His people from their sins? Notice that this concerns His people, that is, Israel. And remember that one of the divisions Matthew presents in the genealogy of Jesus has to do with the Babylonian captivity. “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17; see The Christmas Story and the Story of Deliverance). The prophet Ezekiel speaks concerning this captivity:
Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name — when they said of them, “These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of His land.” But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. (Ezekiel 36:17-21)
Israel was sent into exile, scattered among the nations, because they had defiled the land by their bloodshed and idolatry, and profaned the name of the LORD. But God promised that He would sanctify His name again among the nations. “‘And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘when I am hallowed in you before their eyes’” (Ezekiel 36:23). He would sanctify His name by delivering Israel, and here is how He would do it.
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
God promised He would cleanse Israel from all her filthiness and all her idolatry, by which she had defiled the land and profaned the name of the LORD. In other words, He would save her from her sins. What is more, He would give her a new heart and would put His own Spirit within her (think of Pentecost, in Acts 2), so that she would walk in His ways. And so she would be restored.

The Son born of Mary would be called Yeshua — Salvation! — because He would save His people from their sins. What was immediately in view here was Israel, Jesus’ own people. But as we see from the Ezekiel passage, by this salvation the LORD would cause His name to be sanctified among the nations. The salvation Jesus brought to Israel would become salvation for the whole world, and indeed, at the end of the book of Matthew, we find the disciples being sent out to declare Jesus to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20; see The Christmas Story is Not Just for Jews).



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is the Birth of the New Adam

Matthew begins his telling of the Gospel with this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). We have already looked at the significance of Abraham and David in this lineage, but there is also another interesting feature in this verse, particularly in the way it begins: “The book of the genealogy.”

The Greek words rendered as “book of the genealogy” is biblos geneseos. It is very reminiscent of another genealogy, the one given in Genesis about Adam: “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam” (Genesis 5:1). In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 5:1 has the same phrase Matthew used, biblos geneseos. Though there are a number of other genealogies in the Old Testament, we find this Greek phrase only here, in Genesis 5.

There is something important going on here, I think. Matthew is paralleling the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah with that of Adam. The apostles Paul, in a couple of his letters to Jesus believers, makes explicit comparison between Adam and Jesus. He states that Adam “is a type of Him who was to come,” and shows that what was lost to us through the rebellion of Adam was won back to us, in greater measure and with much more besides, through the obedience of Jesus (Romans 5:14-21).

The difference between Adam and Jesus is the difference between death and life. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul again compares Adam and Jesus: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (v. 22). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (v. 45). Paul drills down further.
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)
The life in view is not just spiritual in nature but physical as well. First Corinthians 15 is about the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead and what that means in regard to our own bodies. The contrast between the man of earth and the Lord from heaven is not that the Lord comes to carry our bodiless spirits off to heaven, far, far away. No, the point is that Jesus has come to bring heaven to earth, that we may bear His image and live in His resurrection in the world, now and forever.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)
The kingdom of God is heaven come to earth. It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. The gospel is about the kingdom of God, and Jesus came preaching it: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Though it has not yet arrived in all its fullness (and will not until King Jesus returns), it has indeed already begun. However, our bodies are frail and subject to death (that is what is indicated by “flesh and blood”), and if we are to be a part of the eternal kingdom of heaven on earth, our bodies must be changed. Not put off, mind you, but changed — made incorruptible, immortal.

This is new creation. It was described prophetically in the Old Testament, and King Jesus declared it in the New, saying, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Indeed, this has already begun in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which is the firstfruits of the new creation and the guarantee of our own coming bodily resurrection from the dead. What is more, those who receive King Jesus the Messiah are already part of this new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even now, the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:19-20; Ephesians 3:20 — let the marvelous truth of these passages sink in). All creation itself is waiting for this, that it may be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21)

Adam was the first man of the old creation — Jesus is the first Man of the new! His coming into the world not only fulfills the story of Israel that began in Abraham, it not only fulfills the promises God made to David, it goes back all the way to the beginning, to Adam. In Jesus, the New Adam, what was lost is now being restored and, indeed, all creation will be made new.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Story is Not Just for Jews


Christmas is a Jewish story. Oh, I know — this time of year, we are used to greeting our Jewish friends with Happy Hanukkah! and our Gentile or Christian friends with Merry Christmas! However, Christmas is a Jewish story (see The Christmas Story and the Story of Israel and The Christmas Story and the Story of Deliverance).

Jesus was a Jew and He came to fulfill the story of Israel that God began with Abraham, continued on through to David and down through the generations that went into Babylonian captivity, all the way to the birth of Jesus. He is the Messiah, the Anointed King that God promised would come into the world to deliver His covenant people and through whom all God’s promises would be fulfilled.

But as much as the story of Christmas was for the sake of the Jewish people, it was also for the benefit of all the people of the earth. It is significant that Matthew begins the genealogy of Jesus with Abraham, who was not a Jew but a pagan, which is to say, a Gentile. But God chose to make a great nation through Abraham and promised that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Matthew makes an unusual move in his genealogy and refers to four women. Not the ones that might have been expected (Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel), but four others: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. They highlight four irregularities in the line of David: They were all Gentiles. Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites, Ruth was a Moabite and Matthew refers to Bathsheba as the wife of “Uriah the Hittite” (she might actually have been an Israelite, but Matthew highlights the Gentile connection of her husband). Yet, in the grace of God, they were all whirled into the humanity of Jesus,

Matthew’s account of Jesus coming into the world also includes the wise men who journeyed from the East to see the newborn King of the Jews. We do not really know who they were or where they came from. The Revelation of the Magi, an ancient eastern document written in about the third or fourth century AD, identifies them as kings from the “Great East,” mystics who prayed in silence and glorified “the holy majesty of the Lord of life.” They were most likely not Jews but Gentiles, yet they are given a place of honor in the Holy Scriptures.

Matthew begins his telling of the Gospel with significant reference to non-Jews and the roles they played in the Christmas story. At the end of the book, we see that the Gospel is just as much for them and all the rest of the nations as it is for the Jews. Before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, King Jesus commissioned His followers to take the good news into all the world.
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Christmas is all about the coming of the Messiah King into the world and it is very much a Jewish story. It is not just for them but for all who believe and follow Jesus.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Story and the Story of Deliverance


Matthew lays out the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah in three sets of fourteen generations. In this way, he highlights Abraham and David — yesterday we looked at their significance in Israel’s story and the story of Jesus — but it also draws attention to something else: Jewish captivity in Babylon.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations. (Matthew 1:17)
The kingdom of Israel divided in 922 BC, soon after the death of King David’s son, Solomon. Both kingdoms eventually proved to be unfaithful to God, breaking covenant with Him and following after false gods. The northern kingdom, Israel, fell to the Assyrians and began to be carried off into exile in about 740 BC. From 597 to about 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah, capturing the city of Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and deporting the inhabitants. This captivity lasted for about 70 years, after which they began to be allowed to return to Judea, though many chose to remain in Babylon.

Though the Jews were returned to the land and even allowed to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, they were still held captive by a series of foreign powers that were hostile to them and their God. But God promised that there would be a deliverer, the Messiah, who would come and conquer all His enemies and lead His people into freedom and prosperity. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, writing during the first years of the Babylonian captivity, delivers this message from the Lord.
Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”

‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it.”

‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”’ (Ezekiel 36:22-38)
This was the messianic age that the Jews looked forward to, an unprecedented time of peace and prosperity. God promised to cleanse them of their unfaithfulness, to put a new heart and a new spirit — God’s own Spirit — within them. And all the nations would give testimony to Yahweh, the God of Israel. The prophet Jeremiah, writing just before the captivity, brings a similar message in Jeremiah 31:23-40 (which I will not quote here but is well worth the read), saying that Yahweh would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This covenant would not be like the one they broke but would be one God Himself would write on their hearts (vv. 31-33). This covenant could never be broken because it would be God’s own Spirit fulfilling it in them.

The Babylonian captivity, so carefully highlighted for us by Matthew, reminds us of that dark time and the grimness of the captivity that still remained for the Jews. More than that, however, it puts us in mind of the promise God made of a Deliverer who would come for Israel.

Matthew’s genealogy brings to light the promises God made to Abraham and David, indeed to all the Jews, who were still in bondage at that time, of an Anointed King and Deliverer. These promises are fulfilled in the coming of King Jesus the Messiah into the world.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Christmas Story and the Story of Israel


The Gospel according to Matthew opens with a genealogy that has an important story to tell us. Even the very first sentence is loaded with revelation.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)
The mere fact that there is a genealogy at all tells us something significant: Jesus did not come from out of nowhere, from some distant land, nor did He drop down from heaven to begin a brand new story. No, He came as part of an old, old story. One stretching back generation after generation, back through David, back to Abraham, and through Abraham, all the way back to the beginning.

Nor was Jesus merely the latest installment in that story. No, He came as the Messiah (your Bible probably says “Christ,” which means the same thing) and, as such, is the one in whom that old, old story finds it fulfillment. God had long promised, through Moses and the prophets, that one would come who was Anointed (which is what “Messiah” or “Christ” means) and would not only deliver His people, the nation of Israel, but would be king over all the nations of the earth and would set everything right that was wrong in the world. Matthew makes it clear, right from the beginning, that Jesus is that Messiah.

The story of which Jesus is the fulfillment is not only a very old story, it is also a very big one, big enough for the whole world. Although Matthew could have gone all the way back and begun his genealogy with Adam, he begins with Abraham.

Abraham was a pagan whose father was an idol maker and served others gods. God called Abraham to leave his father’s house and family and go to a place that God would show him (Genesis 12:1). God made him a promise: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). God was not out to bless only Abraham and His physical descendents, His plan was to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham. The apostle Paul picks up on this in his letter to the believers in Galatia: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us … that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Jesus the Messiah is the Son of Abraham through whom that promise is fulfilled. He is also the Son of David. God had also made a marvelous promise to David, that He would make David’s house great and establish his throne forever.
When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever … And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16)

I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:
“Your seed I will establish forever,
And build up your throne to all generations.”
(Psalm 89:3-4)

The LORD has sworn in truth to David;
He will not turn from it:
“I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.
If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I shall teach them,
Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His dwelling place:
“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation,
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
There I will make the horn of David grow;
I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
But upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”
(Psalm 132:11-18)
Jesus the Messiah is the Son of David, the Anointed One who perfectly fulfilled the covenant and testimony of the LORD. In Him, the throne of David is established forever, with salvation, joy, strength and prosperity for all who belong to Him.

In this very first verse of his Gospel account, Matthew draws up the history of Israel, along with the wonderful covenant promises God made to Abraham and David, and announces that it is all fulfilled in Jesus, who is the Anointed One. The Christmas story enlarges the story of Israel to include all, whether Jew or Gentile, who receive Jesus as Messiah and King.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Psalm 140 ~ His Victory Over My Enemies


A personal confession based on the Psalms.

His Victory Over My Enemies ~ from Psalm 140

Yahweh rescues me
From those who are evil;
He guards me
From those who do wrong,
Who plot out perversity in their hearts
And stir up strife day after day,
With sharp tongues and poison lips.

Yahweh protects me
From the hand of the troublemaker;
He preserves me from the arrogant,
Who set traps and snares
To trip me up.

Yahweh is my God,
He hears my cry for help.
He is my God, my strength,
My salvation ~ Jesus,
Who brings me out safely.
He covers me in the day of conflict.
The wicked will not get what they want,
Their plans will not succeed,
Their names will not be exalted.
Jesus gives the victory to me,
And His name will be exalted
Above all.

The words of my enemies,
The mischief of their mouths,
Will come back to them,
Upon their own heads.
The snares they have laid
Will cause them to stumble;
The pit they dug for me,
They will fall into themselves.
Their slanders will fail
And they will be overtaken
By people just like them.
This will be of their own doing,
And it will be their undoing.

As for me, my confidence is this:
Yahweh will do justice for the afflicted
And set things right for all those in need.
So I will give Him thanks,
And all who right with Him
Will be at home in His presence.



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Psalm 139 ~ Yahweh Knows Me


A personal confession based on the Psalms.

Yahweh Knows Me ~ from Psalm 139

Yahweh has examined me, proved me,
Knows everything about me,
Sees everything in me.
Everything.
He knows my every action
And my every thought,
Even as it is being formed
Within me.

He winnows all my ways,
Separating the wheat from the chaff.
He is familiar with all my moves.
He is completely aware of every word
That comes out of my mouth,
What I say and what I mean.

Yahweh goes before me
And follows behind me.
He surrounds me on every side,
Above and below.
His hand is always upon me.

His knowledge of me is more wonderful
Than I can comprehend;
He is able to do
Exceedingly abundantly
Above all I can ask or imagine,
According to His power
At work in me.*

Everywhere I go,
Yahweh is there already.
Everywhere.
From the highest heights
To the deepest depths;
From the courts of heaven,
Where I am seated with King Jesus,**
To the ends of the earth,
He is there with me.
He guides me, protects me,
With His strong hand.

Even if darkness overwhelms me,
It will not hide me from Him.
He sees through it all;
He is Light
And He gives light.

He has made me for Himself,
Formed me in my mother’s womb,
Set me apart as His marvelous creation,
His wonderful possession.
Indeed, all His works are marvelous;
I know this deep inside
And I give Him praise.

I am His craftsmanship,
An intricate tapestry,
The handiwork of heaven
And the dust of the earth.
He saw me before I was fashioned,
And designed His purpose for me,
The book of days He desired for me
From the beginning.

How marvelous His thoughts,
How wonderful His plans for me,
They are more than I can number.
Even if I could count them up,
When I added the very last one,
He would still be with me ~
The best of all.

Yahweh examines my heart
And knows my thoughts.
When I go astray,
He restores me to the path
Ancient and eternal ~
Life!

* Ephesians 3:20
** Ephesians 2:4-6



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Psalm 138 ~ Before All the Kings of the Earth


A personal confession based on the Psalms.

Before All the Kings of the Earth ~ from Psalm 138

Everything in me
Gives thanks to Yahweh.
I sing His praises
Before all the angels of heaven
Before all the kings of the earth.

I focus on Him in worship,
In the place of adoration,
Among His people
And in my heart.
I praise His name
Because of His covenant love
And faithfulness.

Yahweh has magnified
His Word and His name,
Made them great above everything else.
And He has given to Jesus
The Name that is above all names.*

So when I cried out to Yahweh,
He encouraged me, made me bold,
With strength in my soul.

Now all the kings of the earth
Will acknowledge Yahweh
And give Him praise
When they hear His Word.
They will sing about the way of Yahweh
When they see the greatness of His glory.
Because Yahweh, though He is high,
Has regard for the lowly,
But the proud and the arrogant
Do not rate with Him at all.

When I am beat down and in trouble,
Yahweh revives me again;
The power of His right hand
Takes care of all those
Who rage against me.
He does this on my behalf.

Yahweh will bring to completion
Everything He has begun in my life
And fulfills every good purpose
He has prepared for me.
His love for me is faithful forever
And He will never turn me away.

* “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Psalm 136 ~ Yahweh’s Faithful Love for Me


A personal confession based on the Psalms.

Yahweh’s Faithful Love for Me ~ from Psalm 136

I give thanks to Yahweh
Because He is good,
And His love for me is faithful forever.
I give thanks to Jesus,
Who is King over all kings
And Lord over all lords,
And His love for me is faithful forever.

He is the one who does great wonders,
Because His love for me is faithful forever.
He laid out the heavens and the earth*
With skill and understanding,
Because His love for me is faithful forever.

He struck down the enemy,
Destroyed the works of the devil**
Because His love for me is faithful forever.
And He brought me out of bondage,
Because His love for me is faithful forever.
He has given me an inheritance,
Heaven on earth,***
Because His love for me is faithful forever.
He remembered me with His favor
When I was brought down low,
He lifted me up and rescued me,
Because His love for me is faithful forever.

Yes, I give thanks to Yahweh
Because He is good,
And His love for me is faithful forever.

* “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).
** “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
*** “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The kingdom of God is wherever the will of God is done on earth as in heaven. See The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew.



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Psalm 133 ~ Where the Anointing Flows


A personal confession based on the Psalms

Where the Anointing Flows ~ from Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is
For me to walk in unity
With the family of God,
With my brothers and sisters
In King Jesus.

That is where the anointing,
The high priestly anointing,
The anointing of Jesus,
The Anointed One,
Flows freely ~
Faith working through love.*

It is like the heavy dew
On the mountain,
That refreshes and revives
The people of God.

That is where God promises the blessing,
That is where life comes forth abundantly,
Now and forever.

* “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Psalm 131 ~ Quieting Myself in Yahweh


One thing I notice quite a bit in praying the Psalms is how one psalm sits next to another. In the psalm I worked with yesterday, Psalm 130, the metaphor was of the watchman, diligent, focused and waiting for the morning. Today, in Psalm 131, the metaphor is of a weaned child sitting quietly with its mother, waiting patiently. Both instances speak of an assurance that God knows and cares, that help will certainly come and our needs will be met.

Quieting Myself in Yahweh ~ from Psalm 131

My heart is not lifted up
With pride or self-importance,
As if I have any good thing in me
That did not come from Yahweh.

My eyes are not lifted up in arrogance,
As if I was sufficient of myself
To think anything as of myself.
I have no room for the ego
That eases God out.

I do not concern myself
With things too deep
Or too difficult;
It only gets me agitated,
Frustrated, confused.
And Yahweh does not need my advice.

But I quiet myself, calm myself,
Take my eyes off me
And put them on Yahweh.
I am like a young child,
Sitting with its mother,
Trusting that she knows and cares,
That is how my heart is with Yahweh;
He knows and cares.

So I set my expectation on Yahweh
And wait for Him,
Patient and content.
All is well, now and forever.



Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Personal Confessions from the Psalms
Prayers and Affirmations for a Life of Faith, Happiness and Awe in God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.