Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Pleasure of God at Christmas

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (ESV)
This is the crescendo of the good news the angel of the Lord announced to shepherds on the night Jesus was born. A multitude of angels now appeared in the heavens with this praise.
  • Glory to God in the highest. The highest praises heaven can offer belong to God as He brings forth the fulfillment of the promises He made to Abraham, David and the prophets. God’s gift of the Messiah King, Jesus, is the greatest revelation of His glory.
  • Peace on earth. The coming of Jesus into the world brings the peace, the shalom, of God. It is wholeness, restoration, reconciliation, the mending of rifts between God and man, man and fellow man, man and creation.
  • Among those with whom He is pleased. The coming of Jesus into the world is the pleasure of God revealed.
It is this last point that I want to focus on here. The Greek for “pleased” is eudokia. It is used often in the New Testament to speak of God’s pleasure and delight. The angels’ announcement meant that God’s favor and good will were now being made manifest on the objects of His delight.

What is it that delights God and who are those with whom He is pleased, who bring Him pleasure?

First, it is Jesus Himself that pleases God, not only in His divinity (in which the Father always delighted) but now also in His humanity. When Jesus was baptized by John, identifying with repentant sinners whom He came to save, the voice of the Father came from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased [eudokeo]” (Luke 3:22). It was repeated again at the mount of transfiguration, where Jesus shone in all His glory and the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased [eudokeo]. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Eudokeo is the word used when Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah concerning Messiah and which Matthew applies to Jesus: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 13:18; it is also the word used in the LXX, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, in Isaiah 42:1, the passage Matthew cites).

Jesus used this same word when He spoke to His disciples about the kingdom: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). And in His prayer of thanksgiving when the disciples returned rejoicing, having healed the sick, expelled demonic spirits and preached the kingdom of God in Jesus’ name: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good [eudokia] in Your sight” (Luke 10:21). It pleases God to reveal His kingdom to those who simply trust Him.

Again and again, it is in Jesus Christ that the pleasure of God is revealed. Paul says that God “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure [eudokia] of His will …having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure [eudokia] which He purposed in Himself.” (Ephesians 1:5, 9). “For it pleased [eudokia] the Father that in Him [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19).

But it is also in us that God desires to show His pleasure. Paul says, “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure [eudokia]” (Philippians 2:13). In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, he says, “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure [eudokia] of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God is doing a work of faith in us, His power manifesting in us to reveal the glory of King Jesus dwelling within. It is His good pleasure to bring this work to fulfillment in us.

It is by faith that we enter into the richness of God’s pleasure. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The Greek word for “please” here is not eudokia but euarestio, but it means the same thing. Without faith, it is impossible to please, but believing God and seeking Him with great expectation pleases God greatly.

Paul tells us, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). So, “since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased [eudokeo] God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It pleases God for us to believe the good news of Jesus the Messiah and, through faith, bring us to restoration and wholeness in Him.

The coming of King Jesus into the world reveals the glory of God and the peace of God but also the pleasure of God.

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

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