Showing posts with label Church Year. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church Year. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bring the Good News ~ The LORD Reigns
How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
    you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
    in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth
    will see the salvation of our God.
(Isaiah 52:7-10)
Let the word go out: Good news has come. Break forth with singing. Shout out for joy. Let there be loud rejoicing. Isaiah is speaking about the gospel, the good news, the glad tidings. This is the content, and cause for unrestrained celebration: Your God reigns!

Jerusalem was still in ruins and Israel in exile, but the prophet sees behind the veil and beholds God returning to Zion. Though everything seemed dark at present, Jerusalem would not be forgotten. The Lord would come to console his people, to redeem Jerusalem and set her free.

The consolation of Israel was what Simeon had been longing for that day in the temple when he saw Joseph and Mary bringing their newborn infant into the temple courts. He swept the Christ Child into his arms and thanked God: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Then he blessed the baby Jesus: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (See Luke 2:25-35.)

The redemption of Jerusalem is what Anna had been watching for those many long years she spent fasting and praying in the temple. When she saw Simeon blessing Jesus, she immediately recognized what was happening: the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy was at hand. “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

This is the good news of “salvation.” The Hebrew word, which the prophet used twice in this passage, is yeshuah. When it is used as a personal name, it is Yeshua, which is translated into English as Jesus — his name means “salvation.”

Salvation is a person, for Jesus himself is the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem. He is the good news of the gospel, the Lord who reigns, and he has returned to Zion. The New Testament speaks of the new Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that is free, a Jerusalem that is above, a heavenly Jerusalem that comes down, joining heaven to earth (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2).

This new Jerusalem is the Church, which is identified as the body and bride of Christ. It is important, however, to understand that the Church in the New Testament is not a separate entity from Israel in the Old Testament. Indeed, the Church is Israel. What was promised to Israel in the Old Testament is received by Israel in the New, by all who come to Jesus the Messiah. Even the nations (the Gentiles) who receive him as King are, to use Paul’s words in Romans 11, “grafted into” the root, which is Israel.

The Lord Jesus has laid bare his holy arms at the cross, where he defeated the powers in the sight of all the nations. And all the earth will know his salvation.

A few years back, I wrote an Advent version of Psalm 122, in light of Isaiah 2, Isaiah 52, Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem and the coming of King Jesus into the world: Psalm 122 and the New Jerusalem.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

We Shall See Him as He Is

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)
The Transfiguration of Christ is found in Matthew and Mark as well as here in Luke. In all three, the sequence of events leading up to it is the same: Peter receives the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus foretells his impending death, then speaks to his disciples about the need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. This is followed by the statement that some standing there would not die before they saw “the kingdom of God” (Luke), “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew), “that the kingdom of God has come with power” (Mark). About eight days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him to the mountain to pray. The Transfiguration, then, is a very powerful revelation of the kingdom of God and the glory of Christ the King.

Jesus was deep in prayer when his face and clothes became radiant with light. Moses and Elijah appeared suddenly, also full of glory and splendor. Moses was the great Law-giver and Elijah the great prophet of the Old Testament. They were conversing with Jesus about his “departure,” which would soon be accomplished at Jerusalem. They had both had unusual departures themselves: Moses was buried by God and nobody ever found the grave, and Elijah did not see death but was translated to heaven in a “chariot of fire” in the middle of a whirlwind.

The word Luke chose for “departure” is significant. It is the Greek word exodus, a very evocative term, being the Greek title for the second book of the Old Testament. The book of Exodus was about how God led the children of Israel out of Egypt through Moses.

The exodus Jesus was about to fulfill was his death on the cross but also his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to his throne at the right hand of the Father. It was not a departure through death but a departure from death, for his death became the death of death itself. By his death, we also are set free from death, and from the one who holds the power of death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The exodus Jesus accomplished became our own “deliverance from Egypt,” for in him we are crucified, made alive again and seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-6).
Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9:32-36)
Peter, James and John had been asleep — it was often Jesus’ way to go off and pray in the night or early morning hours — but now they were fully awake, though understanding very little of what they were witnessing. They had missed much of it and by now Moses and Elijah were leaving. Peter, being the earnest and impulsive man that he was, wanted to build three dwelling places: one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. He did not understand what he was saying — so he went ahead and said it.

At that moment, a cloud came over them and Peter left off what he was saying, terrified as it enveloped him and the other two. The voice of the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” It was not Moses or Elijah but Jesus alone who is the Son and whom the Father anointed as Messiah. Moses and Elijah — the Law and the Prophets — were always about him, and in him they find their fulfillment. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Christ is God’s final and complete word. He is the one we are to listen to, and in him we will understand the meaning of Moses and Elijah.

But now let’s consider the transfiguration itself, for Christ is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). The transfiguration was not a transformation of who Jesus was but a revelation of who Jesus is, a manifestation of his divinity in the form of his humanity. It was his divine glory being revealed for what it is.

In the beginning, man was created in the image of God, to be like God and to bear his glory. However, Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have each turned away from God and broken the connection — fellowship with God, each other, the rest of creation, and even our own selves. But God became one of us, joining himself to us in order to reconcile us back to himself, that humankind might bear the divine glory for which we were originally created. That we might, in the words of 2 Peter 1:4, “participate in the divine nature.”

In the transfiguration of Christ, we see what God has always intended for humanity — to conform us to the image of Christ, transforming us as we allow him to renew our minds. He is at work in us not only empowering us with the ability to do what pleases him but also creating in us the desire to do so.

As Christ was revealed in his transfiguration that day on the mountain, that is how we, too, shall one day see him — and we shall be like him, for the revelation of Christ transforms us. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Even now, “the darkness is fading and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Gospel According to John the Baptist

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (Luke 3:15-18)
This is how John the Baptist preached the gospel, or at least how Luke summarized his preaching of the gospel. It is all about the Messiah, the Christ, and there are two main points to his message. First, while John baptized the repentant with water, Messiah would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire.

In Ezekiel, the Lord had promised that he would sprinkle his people with clean water, cleanse them from all their impurities, give them a new heart and put his own Spirit within them (Ezekiel 36:25-27). At Pentecost, the promise of the Father was fulfilled and the Church received this baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon each of them as “tongues of fire.”

This fire of the Spirit burns with the love of God, for the God whom the Scriptures call a “consuming fire” is also the God who is love. His love is a refining fire that burns away the dross so that the gold may shine brightly. In this sense it is a judgment, separating what is good from what is evil. So also, the baptism of divine fire refines us, burning away what is worthless so that the light and life of Christ may shine brightly within.

The second point of John’s message flows from the first: There was to be a winnowing, a judgment that would separate the wheat from the chaff. Messiah would gather the wheat into the barn and the chaff he would burn up. As the Holy Spirit is doing in us, so Christ is also doing in the world. The fire of God’s love through Christ burns away what is evil and worthless so that what is good and fruitful may be safely gathered into his own.

The good news of the gospel is that the Lord Jesus Christ comes to judge the world — with the consuming fire of his love. For as Paul said to the Athenian philosophers, God has “set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed [Christ]. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

God’s purpose in Christ is to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). So shall Christ make all things new, with the fire of the Holy Spirit and the love of God.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

When You Pass Through the Waters

But now, this is what the LORD says —
  he who created you, Jacob,
  he who formed you, Israel.
When you pass through the waters,
  I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
  they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
  you will not be burned;
  the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
  the Holy One of Israel,
  your Savior.
(Isaiah 43:1-3)
God’s promise is that he would be with his people when they passed through the waters and the rivers and the fire. As he was with Noah, when he and his family passed safely through the deadly waters of the flood in a wooden, pitch-covered ark. As he was with Moses when Pharaoh had every infant male Hebrew cast into the Nile and drowned. Placed in a tar-coated papyrus basket by his mother, Moses passed safely through to new life.

God was with the children of Israel when they miraculously passed through the waters of the Red Sea, escaping bondage and death in Egypt, but Pharaoh’s army all drowned. God was with them again when they passed through the waters of the river Jordan, which miraculously parted for them to enter into the Promised Land.

As for fire, God was with the three young Hebrew males who were cast by Nebuchadnezzar into the blazing furnace. A fourth person, who was “like the Son of God,” stood with them in the flames, and they passed through unharmed.

Messiah is hidden in all these passages, and he it was, as the eternal Son of God, who was with his people in all those instances. Now as we come, in the season of Epiphany, to the celebration of the baptism of the Lord Jesus, we are presented again with water and fire. And we find John the Baptist preaching the gospel about the coming of Messiah:
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (Luke 3:15-18)
The ministry of John was a messianic one, announcing the coming of the kingdom of God and preparing the way for God’s anointed King by means of baptism. There is no surprise, then, that many were wondering if John himself might be that Anointed One. But no, he explained, he only baptized with water, but the One to Come would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit indicated the time of Messiah, when God would cleanse his people with water and give them a new heart and a new spirit — God’s own Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27). Baptism with fire is the burning away of whatever does not belong, whatever does not come from God. For God is a “consuming fire.” But God is also love, so what his fire consumes must be for the sake of love, burning away everything that does not come from love. This is good news for all who belong to God, who hunger and thirst for what is good and right, who hunger for the love of God to be revealed throughout the world. But first we find that the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire comes to be baptized with water.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
The people who came to John for baptism came in repentance, for the baptism he preached was one of repentance. They were turning away from their sins, from their old life and their old ways — dying to themselves — that they might know the life of the age to come, the age of God’s Messiah King.

They were passing through the waters of death. Yet into these waters stepped Messiah himself, not that he needed to repent himself, but to identify with his people in their repentance and death, and from that death bring life. He passed through the waters with them and in that way blessed them. But in his baptism, he also prefigured his death on the cross — a death for the sake of his people, and indeed, of all the world — and his resurrection from the dead. And now all who are baptized into him, Paul tells us, are baptized into his death, that we may know his resurrection life.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
But let us go back to Isaiah’s prophecy for a moment. For there God, the Holy One of Israel, and their Savior who passes through the waters with them, promised to gather in all their children from the far reaches of the world.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
  I will bring your children from the east
  and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, “Give them up!”
  and to the south, “Do not hold them back.”
Bring my sons from afar
  and my daughters from the ends of the earth —
everyone who is called by my name,
  whom I created for my glory,
  whom I formed and made.
(Isaiah 43:5-7)
As we discover in the gospel, it is not only Israel that is being gathered back to God through Jesus the Messiah, all the nations of the world are being drawn to him by the shining of his light, to be grafted into the “olive tree,” the Israel of God.

By baptism, Jesus passed through the waters of death with us, that by baptism, we may pass through the waters with him to resurrection.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphany: Light to the Nations

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip.

Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. (Isaiah 60:1-6)
“Arise, shine,” Isaiah says to Jerusalem, “for your light has come.” In a world of darkness, light shines brightly. The Law and the Prophets, Jesus said, are about him. So the Church has, from the beginning, understood this light as Jesus himself.

John the Gospeler tells us of this Light, the Word who was in the beginning with God, and is God, and who became flesh and dwelt among us. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it ... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).

All the nations and kings of the world will come to this Light and see its brightness, Isaiah says. In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate how the Light of Christ first began to be revealed to the world, and how the world began to come to its brightness. The Magi who followed the light of the Star all the way to Bethlehem were the first from the nations to recognize Lord Jesus as God’s Messiah King (Matthew 2:1-12). They came, as Isaiah foretold, “bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.”

“Lift up your eyes and look about you,” Isaiah says, “All assemble and come to you”— sons and daughters from afar, gathered from among the nations. The mystery hidden here in Isaiah but revealed in the gospel is that these sons and daughters include the nations.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. (Ephesians 3:1-6)
Paul’s great glory and delight, then, was to shine this light to the nations, for God is gathering many sons and daughters to the new Jerusalem, to reveal the light of Christ not only to them but through them. This has always been God’s purpose, “that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:10-12).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Small Town, Eternal Significance

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace. (Micah 5:2-5)
The prophet Micah alternates, as the prophets often did, between the warning of judgment and the promise of restoration. He foretold the fall of Samaria, capital of the northern Kingdom, Israel, and the people were carried off into Assyrian captivity. He foretold the fall of Jerusalem, capital of the southern kingdom, Judah, which was later carried off into Babylonian captivity. But then, in chapter 5, he speaks of a remnant, a return and a Ruler whose reign would cover the earth. He speaks of Messiah, God’s anointed King.

It would begin in the small, seemingly inconsequential town of Bethlehem, but one mighty in eternal significance. For from there this Ruler would arise who comes from long ages past, indeed, from eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” says John the Evangelist. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).

But until then Israel would be abandoned, given over to captivity, for as with all births, there is a time of travail. And though the Jews were eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem, they remained under foreign rule and so also in exile. Yet there would come a true return, a gathering together of Israel with this Messiah who was to be born in Bethlehem.

Messiah would stand up for his people and shepherd them. He would not be a transient ruler who would pass away or be overtaken but would persevere and endure for their sake. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus identified himself as this shepherd: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

This Messiah does not stand in his own strength but in the strength of the LORD. He does not stand in his own name, yet he has been given the majestic name of the LORD, and his greatness extends to the ends of the earth:
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does ... By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:19, 30)

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“He will be our peace,” the prophet says. Not only Israel, but all the world benefits from Messiah’s reign and will know his peace. In the end, every knee will gladly bow before him and every tongue gratefully confess him as Lord. After the cross and resurrection, but before he ascended to his throne at the right hand of the Father, Lord Jesus gathered his disciples and said to them,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The nations will not lose their identities but will find them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. They will be included in God’s people, Israel — “grafted in” is how Paul puts it — through faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

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 22, 2015

God’s Wild, Exuberant Joy Over Us

Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

“I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD. (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
The burden of the book of Zephaniah was a warning to the people of Judah and Jerusalem to repent, for the Lord was about to allow judgment to fall on them because of their wickedness. Historically, this occurred when Jerusalem was captured and the people were carried off to Babylon. But then, in the last half of the last chapter, there is a word of hope and restoration. God would remove their “punishment” and “turn back” their enemies. Benton’s translation of the Septuagint (an ancient Greek version of the Old Testament) says, “The Lord has taken away thine iniquities, he has ransomed thee from the hand of thine enemies.”

This was a prophecy about the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity. Yet it was never quite fulfilled, for though the Jews were able to return to Jerusalem, they were never free from foreign rule and in that sense were still in exile. But the New Testament teaches us to read this now in regard to Messiah, because all the law and the prophets, Jesus said, are about him. And, indeed, that is how the early Church understood them.

Especially at Advent, then, we read this passage theologically, as fulfilled in the coming of Messiah. For he has taken away our iniquities, which distanced us from God. In him we have forgiveness of sins and through him we are reconciled to God. He has also delivered us from the enemy of our souls. Paul puts it this way in the New Testament: God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

In Jesus the Messiah, we now have exuberant celebration: “Sing, shout aloud, be glad and rejoice.” But that translation doesn’t quite capture the enthusiasm of the Hebrew text. More like: wild singing, ear-splitting shouts of triumph, exhilaration and jumping for joy. For Jesus has delivered us from the oppressor — he has disarmed the “principalities and powers,” destroyed the works of the devil and broken the power of death. He “rescues the lame” so that we may walk straight and sure. He gathers us from our exile and replaces our shame with honor.

God joins in the celebration, too, taking “great delight” and “rejoicing” over us with “singing.” Again, the NIV seems too tame here. Rather, God exults over us with exhilaration and dancing, whirling and twirling over us in boisterous song. For he is gathering his sons and daughters and bringing them home. He is like the father of the prodigal, with unbridled joy at the return of his son:
Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:22-24)
As we draw near the Christmas season, let your heart be open to God’s wild, exuberant joy over you.

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 15, 2015

King Jesus and the New Jerusalem

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
At the time this was spoken, Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians. The city was destroyed, the temple decimated, the people carried off into captivity. God allowed this to happen because of their wickedness, their faithlessness, their idolatry. But that would not be the end of the story. Not by any means.
Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it. (Jeremiah 33:6-9)
“Nevertheless” — a wonderful word with wonderful promise: Restoration. Rebuilding. Return from captivity. Healing. Abundant peace and security. Cleansed of sin and rebellion. Forgiveness. Prosperity. Awe. Praise and honor to the Lord before all nations.

“The days are coming,” says the LORD, and in those days, two realities would come to pass. The first concerns the “righteous Branch” that would “sprout from David’s line.” God had promised King David that there would be a son and heir who would reign on his throne forever. After the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah and their thrones eventually fell, it was understood that this promised king would be the Messiah, who would restore Israel and rule over the nations with his peace.

This promise is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus the Messiah, who is called the Son of David. He came in an unexpected way, born in a lowly cattle stall, to the Virgin Mary. He established his reign through the contradiction that was the cross and resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God the Father.

This leads us to the second promised reality: Judah restored and Jerusalem dwelling in safety. As with the promised Messiah, this too would be fulfilled in an unexpected way, for the New Testament speaks of the new Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that is free, a Jerusalem that is above, a heavenly Jerusalem that comes down, joining heaven to earth.
  • But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:26)
  • But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22)
  • And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:2)
This new Jerusalem is the Church, which is identified as Messiah’s body and bride. However, it is important to understand that the Church in the New Testament is not a separate entity from Israel in the Old Testament — indeed, the Church is Israel. What was promised to Israel in the Old Testament is received by Israel in the New, by all who come to Jesus the Messiah. Even the nations (the Gentiles) who receive him as King are, to use Paul’s words in Romans 11, “grafted into” the root, which is Israel.

The coming of King Jesus into the world fulfills the promise God made through the prophet Jeremiah. He is the Lord Our Righteous Savior, who comes to bring his peace and set things right in 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.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mary in Expectation
Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
The angel Gabriel spoke the promise to Mary, “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” (Luke 1:30-33).

Mary did not doubt, but she did not understand. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” she asked (v. 34). So the angel told her. Now, the promise was amazing enough, but the explanation was even more astonishing: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”” (vv. 35-37).

The favor of God had indeed come upon Mary. Her response was simple and direct: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” The word of the Lord had come; she presented herself to God and laid hold of His promise. Her expectation was now set: Whatever the angel of God had spoken, that is what would come to pass. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, she would bear the Son of God, who would assume the throne of David and bring His eternal kingdom into the world.

As the Child began to grow inside her, so did her expectation of what God’s word to her meant. Pregnant and pondering, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was beyond childbearing years but also miraculously with child. When Mary entered the house, Elizabeth’s babe quickened inside her and she immediately recognized the significance, for the angel Gabriel had also come to her husband Zachariah, with the promise of a child who would “turn the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16). “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb,” the angel said (v. 15).

So, Elizabeth, too, was living in divine expectation, and now the child in her womb was alerting her that the Lord had come to her home. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke vv. 42-45). Elizabeth’s expectation had increased and now included expectation for the promise that had been given to Mary. At this, Mary poured out her all her ponderings in a song of praise.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
    For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
    He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
    and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
    in remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his seed forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55)
See how big her expectation. It was not just about what God was doing for her but what He was doing for Israel and, more than that, how He was fulfilling the word He spoke to Abraham. This was the promise that He would bless all the families of the world through the seed of Abraham. Mary’s expectation was as big as the world. Even though she had not yet given birth to Jesus, she counted God’s promise to Abraham as fulfilled. For whatever God has begun, He will bring to completion.

Advent is a season of great expectation. A season for believing the fulfillment of all that God has promised. A season for presenting ourselves to the Lord and saying, “Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

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, April 22, 2009

Forty Days Opening Their Understanding

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)
Jesus had been with the disciples for three years, living with them, leading them, teaching them, ministering with them, even sending them out to do the work of the ministry. But for some reason, they still just did not get it. Even His death and resurrection came as a surprise to them, though Jesus had foretold them of these things more than once.
Now He suddenly appeared before them, inviting them to touch His hands and feet. This was no ghost they were dealing with. This was flesh and blood — Jesus in His resurrection. After eating some broiled fish and honeycomb, He said,
These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. (Luke 24:44)
Luke’s comment at this point is, “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” The Greek word for “opened” means to open thoroughly. The word for “understanding” is the word for “mind.” Jesus thoroughly opened their minds. There were now no obstructions to impede their understanding of these things. It had been in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms all along, they just never understood it before. To be fair, we should recognize the truth of what Paul said,
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (2 Corinthians 2:11-12)
We have been conditioned by the world too much to recognize spiritual realities. The spirit of the world can never understand these things, they must be revealed to us by the Spirit of God. That is what happened with the disciples: Jesus caused them to “comprehend.” The Greek word means to “put together.” They were now able to add up all that Jesus had taught them and all the Scriptures had taught them and bring it all together into one magnificent picture. Jesus continued:
Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)
Now they got it. It was all making sense for them as it never had before. But there was more. They were about to receive the “Promise of the Father,” power from heaven. This was the promise of the Holy Spirit, who came upon them at Pentecost! Now they would be able to take this glorious portrait of Jesus and present it to the nations in a living and powerful way.

By His Spirit, God opens our understanding to comprehend that the Scriptures, the witness of God’s eternal plan and redemptive purpose for all the nations of the world, all comes together in the Lord Jesus Christ.