Friday, December 28, 2012

A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse

The tree had been felled and all hope had been dashed. The kingdom that once was had been broken in two. God’s promise to David (son of Jesse), of an heir who would reign forever, had apparently failed. But wait! What’s this? There is still life in the old stump. All is not lost and there is still hope, for a new shoot has emerged.
Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1 HCSB)
The tree was the kingdom of Israel, which had been divided into two, Israel and Judah, after Solomon departed the scene. Israel, the northern kingdom, was about to be carried off into captivity by Assyria. That was the prophecy of earlier chapters. However, a remnant of Israel would return from exile — but only a remnant — and would turn to the LORD in faith. Then Isaiah spoke of an “anointing” that would lift the burden of the oppressor off their shoulders and would completely destroy the yoke from off their neck (Isaiah 10:27). The power of the enemy would be broken. And then, a shoot would grow from the stump of Jesse.

A remnant and a shoot. That seems so little, so small. And yet, that is so often how God does His work. Indeed, in Zechariah 4:10, He says, “Do not despise these small beginnings” (NLT). In the book of Daniel, the prophet interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and speaks of the Messiah (the “Anointed One”), who would come in like a stone but would “grow” to become a great mountain that fills the whole earth. He would break in pieces the other kingdoms and establish a kingdom that would stand forever — the kingdom of God (see Daniel 2:29-45).

This is the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that smashes all the other kingdoms and becomes a great “mountain” that fills the whole earth. He came preaching, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand,” and at the cross, He disarmed the principalities and powers, which are the demonic influences behind all the kings and cultures of the world (Colossians 2:15). He established the kingdom of heaven on earth, and it has been growing and increasing ever since. Remember how Jesus described the kingdom in the parables He taught.
  • “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.” (Mark 4:26)
  • “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)
  • “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)
  • “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV).
The kingdom of God starts small but grows big. Even the Messiah, the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), had a small beginning in the world. Born in a tiny, inconspicuous town, nestled in the insignificance of old feed trough, visited only by shepherds and star geeks. And yet, this is the one of whom the prophet says,
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
Messiah came into the world as a child, an infant, a tiny shoot from an old sawed-off stump. But He is a Son, the Son of David, and He grew up to sit on the throne of David, where He will rule and reign forever. His kingdom has come, and it will keep on increasing and advancing until it fills the whole earth.

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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Living Between the Comings

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Bring back our captivity, O LORD,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 126)
The psalm writer is thinking about when Israel first began to return from Babylonian captivity. It was a wonderful time, like a dream full of laughter and joy. It was a God thing. But he also realizes that there is still more that needs to be done — there are still others in captivity, and even those who are already free are still under the dominion of foreign kings. The psalm writer is living between the “comings,” between the first release from captivity and the final fulfillment, and that means there is still much sowing to be done and much reaping. There are still many tears to be shed but also much rejoicing, for the greater harvest is yet to come.

Like the psalm writer, we too are living between the “comings.” Between the first coming of King Jesus into the world to establish the kingdom of God, and the second coming when He will return and the kingdom of God will fill all the earth. In between, however, the kingdom increases and multiplies. Like a mustard seed that a man sows in his garden. It is a small seed, yet when it is sown it becomes a large tree where birds can nest in its branches (Luke 13:18-19). The kingdom is like leaven that a woman works into a large batch of flour. It is a small amount, yet when it is activated and released into the dough it grows and multiplies until it permeates the whole lump and changes it completely.

Jesus taught the disciples to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom, come. Your will, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And His kingdom has come, and His will has already begun to be done on earth as it is in heaven. But it has not yet come in all its fullness, so we keep praying, and watching, and sowing.

King Jesus has ascended to the throne at the right hand of the father, the place of ruling and reigning. When He returns, there will be a great rejoicing and the harvest will be complete.

We live between the “comings.”

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 15, 2012

Psalm 122 and the New Jerusalem

An Advent adaptation of Psalm 122 in light of Isaiah 2:2-5, Revelation 21 and the coming of King Jesus into the world. (See Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the LORD)
I was light and bright and full of joy
When they came and said to me,
“Let us go up to the house of Yahweh.”
Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem,
The city of God come down
From heaven to earth.

It is a city built together,
Joining heaven and earth as one:
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of Yahweh,
To fulfill the testimony of Israel,
And give thanks to the name of Yahweh.

For there He will set things right among the nations.
From the throne of the house of David,
Where King Jesus, the Anointed One,
Rules and reigns forever.

Pray for the peace of the new Jerusalem:
“They shall prosper who love you.
Shalom be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and sisters,

For the sake of the nations,
I will say, even now, ‘Peace be with you.’
Because of the house of Yahweh our God
I will seek your good.”
Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and walk in His light.

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 14, 2012

Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the LORD

We are in the season of Advent. Advent means “coming.” In ancient Rome, the adventus was a ceremony in honor of the emperor, welcoming him into the city, often as he returned from a victorious military campaign. The Christian season of Advent is a time of waiting and preparation that focuses on the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, into the world. This was His first coming, and we remember it as Christmas. But in this season we also have an eye toward His second coming, when He will return at the end of the age.

At His first coming, the kingdom of God entered into the world and the promises of God began to be fulfilled. At His second coming, the kingdom and all those promises will be brought to completion. In the season of Advent, we remember those promises as we prepare to celebrate the birth of King Jesus, but also as we await the return of the King.

God has much to say, through Isaiah the prophet, about those promises. Isaiah long ago prophesied what would come in the “last days.” We often think of this as the “end times,” and envision the robed and bearded man, all cartoon-like, walking the city with a sign that reads, “Repent. The end is near.” But here the “last days” are about the completion of God’s plan, the fulfillment of all He has promised His people. The first anticipation of hope Isaiah brings is found in chapter 2:
In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established
at the top of the mountains
and will be raised above the hills.
All nations will stream to it,
and many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us about His ways
so that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction will go out of Zion
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will settle disputes among the nations
and provide arbitration for many peoples.
They will turn their swords into plows
and their spears into pruning knives.
Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,
and they will never again train for war.
House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the LORD’s light.
(Isaiah 2:2-5 HCSB)
Here is the time of God’s reign, through Christ, over all the nations of the earth, from His holy city, Zion. They will all come to His mountain, to the house of the Lord, His temple, the place where He dwells on earth. From there He sends forth His Word into all the world to disciple the nations in His ways. The Lord will judge between the nations and set everything right. There will be no more need for the implements of war — there will be no more war.

We see the light of fulfillment in the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. The Word, who is God, became flesh and “dwelt” — literally, “tabernacled” — among us (John 1:1, 14). God became present with us as a human being through Jesus the God-man, who is fully human as well as fully divine.

After the cross and resurrection, and before Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gathered His disciples and declared: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Then He commissioned them to go out into the world:
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; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
This is the instruction of the Lord going forth from Zion, His word going forth from Jerusalem to all the nations. At the end of Revelation, the end of “the Book,” and the end of the age, we see God’s holy city, Jerusalem, coming down and joining heaven to earth.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God ...

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it ...

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 21:9-10, 22-26; 2:1-2 )
Here is the mountain of the Lord, the Holy City and the Temple where God dwells forever with His people. It is the kingdom of God come into the world, the will of God being done on earth exactly as it is being done in heaven. Here are all the nations of the world bringing all their glory to honor King Jesus the Lamb. And here they all find their healing and restoration — the Tree of Life.

In Advent, we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world at Bethlehem two thousand years ago, even as we live in the present reality of His Lordship and watch for His future coming, the fulfillment of all things. Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and walk in His light.

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.