Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your God is Coming

Isaiah 40:9-11
New Living Translation (NLT)

 9 O Zion, messenger of good news,

      shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
   Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,

      “Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.

      He will rule with a powerful arm.

      See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

      He will carry the lambs in his arms,

   holding them close to his heart.

      He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Here is another passage from the beautiful book of Isaiah prophesying the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ. (And another passage engraved in my memory through the magnificent music of Handel’s Messiah.)
First, this passage reminds me that the coming of Jesus is news worth shouting. Jesus came to earth and lived, died, and rose again for us. Jesus has come into my own life. “Shout, and do not be afraid.” Yes.
This passage also speaks to me of the saving power of Christ and the tender shepherding of Christ.
I can see why the people of Israel were awaiting a political/military savior. Verse 10 speaks of the Sovereign Lord coming in power and ruling with a powerful arm. I know this speaks to the return of Jesus Christ, and I am challenged and heartened by the reference to the reward he will bring with him. And I love the tense “is coming”… “he brings.” This is a “done deal.” It is declared in the heavens and it is happening. It reminds me of the transcendence of God, his transcendence over time.
While we see this as a reference to the 2nd coming of Christ, I also see how Jesus ruled with a powerful arm when he first came. (Just not the temporary kind of “conquer the Romans” power people were hoping for at that moment.) Think of the many signs of power.
The very heavens were involved – the star, the visible breaking through of hosts of angels. Surrounding his birth as a helpless baby, there were signs of power and authority.
We know that Jesus seemed different to people because he spoke and taught as one with authority. The power of God was not completely veiled.  (Luke 4:32 and many others)
Evil spirits recognized him and had to obey his commands.
He had authority over the manifestations of the fallen nature of human bodies – he healed every kind of sickness, disease, and congenital condition. Even the seeming finality of death was not a hindrance to his healing authority. (John 11 and many others)
The transfiguration. Peter, James and John had a glimpse of his full glory on the mountain. (Mt 17, Mk 9, Lk 9)
His behavior throughout his trial and crucifixion. This was a person in complete control of himself and of his destiny.
His resurrection and ascension.
This is so exciting. I could sit awhile and preach on each one of these!!
But I’ll refrain.
I do want to mention that the powerful arm of God is inextricably associated with his salvation of his people. He uses his mighty arm to save, to deliver, to protect his people over and over in scripture. He saves us from temporal things, yes – he saved the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, for example – but he saves us for himself forever. Even our passage yesterday (Isaiah 52:10) can be translated into English as referring to “victory” or “salvation.”
So this is a lesson in not trying to fit Jesus into our own wishes and interpretation of who he says he is but discerning his actual meaning when he says who he is.
Gentle Shepherd
The very first song I ever studied in voice lessons as a young teen was “He Shall Lead His Flock” – you’ve got it, Handel’s Messiah.
The same God who broke through time and space and was fully God and fully human (!!) is our tender shepherd who
            Carries the lambs (us) in his arms
            Holding them (us) close to his heart
            Gently leads the mother sheep with their young
In his arms
Close to his heart
Gently leading
 Take a moment to realize that you are enfolded in his arms, that you are close to his heart, that he is gently leading you. If you are a mother, he is gently leading you WITH your young. They are in his care.

Tomorrow’s scripture: Genesis 3:8-15

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beautiful Feet

Isaiah 52:7-10
New Living Translation (NLT)
 7 How beautiful on the mountains
      are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
  the good news of peace and salvation,
      the news that the God of Israel reigns!
8 The watchmen shout and sing with joy,

      for before their very eyes
       they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.
 9 Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song,

      for the Lord has comforted his people.

      He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has demonstrated his holy power
       before the eyes of all the nations.

 All the ends of the earth will see

      the victory of our God.

What beautiful realities are spoken in this passage!
Good news
                                    Reign of God                                               
                                                The Lord’s return – His presence
                                                                                    The Lord’s holy power
                                                                                                Victory (salvation)
I am grateful for the reminder to join the “ruins of Jerusalem” in breaking into joyful song over these realities God has demonstrated in my own life.
This is a timely passage for us at Faith Fellowship as we are in this season of learning to make ourselves available to be “the messenger who brings good news!”
This passage speaks of a time when messengers would bring the welcome news that the Lord’s people, exiled in Babylon, would be returning to Jerusalem, accompanied by the presence of the Lord - just as a messenger would bring news of victory from a battlefield. This return from exile foreshadows our own redemption and deliverance from sin and death through Christ.
The return of God’s people to Jerusalem would be a demonstration of the power of God, just as our own deliverance is a demonstration of God’s power. The NIV renders verse 10b “and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. …  13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
My questions today are:
Am I a messenger who brings THE Good News in my actions and words? (Or am I cranky, depressed, complaining…)
Am I recognizing and rejoicing over the peace, salvation, reign, presence, comfort, redemption, power, victory, and salvation of God – all the realities described in this passage of scripture?
I am enjoying meditating on these scriptures and on our Advent theme this year, “Christ is Here” and look forward to reading your thoughts!
Tomorrow’s passage: Is. 40:9-11

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 2011 - First Sunday

Sunday, November 27 – Isaiah 40:1-5

Those of you who attend Faith Fellowship have a calendar of daily scripture readings for Advent. I'll be posting a short devotional on the scripture reading for each day and I hope you my sisters will share your thoughts in response.
As women in America, we often become scattered in December, trying to create the perfect holiday experience for our circle of loved ones. It’s a joy to be able to join together and focus on Jesus, who came and “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
I have read and heard some scriptures countless times, to the point that I am numb to them. Sometimes I am refreshed by reading the New Living Translation (NLT), a very sound, newer translation that words things just differently enough to make me pause and reflect. So for this blog I will be using the NLT.

Isaiah 40:1-5
New Living Translation (NLT)

 1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
      says your God.
 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
   Tell her that her sad days are gone
      and her sins are pardoned.
   Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
      for all her sins.”
 3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
 Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
 4 Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
 Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”

I can’t read this scripture without having the glorious music of Handel’s Messiah ringing through my mind. And every time, I am comforted and renewed.
But to pause and think anew… “Comfort, comfort my people.” Comfort! Comfort my people. Says your God.
Please stop for a moment and let God speak comfort into your heart and mind.
Speak tenderly.
Revel in the comfort and tenderness of God. As nurturers, we are in the “business” of administering comfort and tenderness. I do not often allow the LORD to comfort me, to speak tenderly to me. May I make room in my spirit for the comfort the LORD is offering me.
I’m going to resist the temptation to get scholarly and do research and talk about background and context, which you know I love, and try to keep these meditations short. But we do know that these words were written perhaps 2,700 years ago to a people, Israel, who were scattered in darkness. We also know that these same words are written to us today. There is a reason they are read every year at this time. For thousands of years, wise people have agreed that these words refer to the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.
In the gospels, this passage from Isaiah is used to describe the ministry of John the Baptist. (John 1:23, Matt. 3:3, Luke 3:4-6, Mark 1:1-4)
Pardon for sins has come through Jesus. Eternal comfort that starts right now has come through Jesus. He is wanting us to clear the way, make the highway straight, remove the obstacles that are keeping us from seeing his coming, from seeing the glory of the LORD revealed.
I’m so glad I’m on this journey of seeing it together with you!
Questions to ponder:
I usually think of God or of some person, such as John the Baptist, clearing the way. In “Messiah,” the text reads “every valley shall be exalted, and the rough places plain,” etc. It is just going to happen, right? It shall be, right?! But reading this today, I’m thinking in terms of the obstacles I have placed in the way of Christ revealing his glory my life, or the obstacles life has thrown up. When John the Baptist came with this message, it was a call to repentance, to making our hearts ready for Christ. What do you think?
What does it mean to you to see the glory of the Lord revealed?
What does this passage say to you about the character of God?
Tomorrow’s passage: Isaiah 52:7-10.