Friday, December 31, 2010
4But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
So often, we look at the law of God as something bad, something to be juxtaposed with grace. The problem is that the law is presented as something good in the Scriptures. We are the problem. Mankind, indeed the whole of creation, was groaning and still groans because of the Fall. The apostle Paul refers to the "futility" that the entire world was subjected to because of the Fall of the human race in Adam. But God's law is holy and gives a pattern for how a perfect man should live. No one had lived the law perfectly until the promised deliverer, born of a woman, had come in the fullness of time. Jesus lived perfectly to the law's standards and fulfilled the law in His life and death. And now, in Him, the perfect Son, we also stand like perfect law abiders, because of Him who came in the fullness of time. In Him, we have been adopted as sons of the living God.
—Pastor Garrett Craw, Christ Church, Santa Clarita, California
Lord of the ages, you promised a deliverer, who would come in time, born of a woman. Your Son has come and having been born under the law has fulfilled it so that, in Him, we also receive adoption as sons and daughters of the only true God. We praise You for Your perfect love and timing. AMEN
Discuss with your family the story of the adoption by Julius Caesar of Gaius Octavius who became Augustus Caesar. Adoption meant inheriting a name in the ancient Greco-Roman world and in Augustus' case it meant taking Julius Caesars status as well. Unlike the ruthless world of Roman adoption, we are lovingly adopted as sons of God the Father, by the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have a royal status in Jesus as though we had never rebelled against God.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
2 CORINTHIANS 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
During Advent we read through Christ's birth narrative in Luke. In the King James translation, it is some of the most beautiful writing in the world. It has a little bit of almost everything: surprise…faithful obedience…pathos… suspense…sheep. And it's got glory. Full throttle, wide-eyed, Oh Wow!-type GLORY!!!! Those who would usually be in heaven singing "Holy…Holy…Holy!" were down below singing "Glory be to God in the Highest, and on earth Peace, goodwill toward men." The text tells us that a multitude of the heavenly host joined the first angel, praising God. They were down here celebrating Christ's…humiliation.
Even before the incarnation, Christ was rich beyond anything we could possibly imagine. Our minds and language don't have the thoughts or words to express it. He was God the Son even before He became man, equal in power and glory with the Father, Yahweh. But He gave up all of that richness to become poor for us. He became humble…He was humiliated.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism question 27 asks it this way: "Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?"
It answers: "Christ's humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time."
The Catechism describes Christ's humiliation as beginning in the manger of the Nativity and ending at the resurrection. It is a whole. The world, if they regard the nativity at all, sees only a cute baby in a manger, and much of the church seems to agree with them. We must understand that manger and cross are inseparable, and that the 'cute baby' is born crucified…for us. The little child of Bethlehem is also the Son of God going forth to war with Satan.
God's glory is infrequently so manifestly revealed in Scripture. The nation Israel sees Yahweh's glory upon the mountain, and is led by the glory-cloud through the wilderness. Moses sees the glory of God's backside, and his face glows from the experience. The glory-cloud of God appears in the commissioning of the Tabernacle and Temple. But at all those times, the response of joy (or fear) is that of men. Only at the nativity do we see heaven itself celebrate. That should speak volumes to us about how truly glorious is Christ's humiliation.
—Pastor Tom Brainerd, Trinity Reformed Church, Edgewood, NM
Father, we join with the angel chorus in praising You for Your covenant faithfulness. By Your Holy Spirit enable us to comprehend that which You have revealed to us in the coming of Christ at Christmas. May we and Christ's whole church look past the cuteness of the child in the manger and see the glory of Christ's humiliation in your plan of redemption. AMEN
Sing (or read) Infant Holy, Infant Lowly and The Son of God Goes Forth to War.
The riches we possess bear no relationship to those Christ gave up for us. But absolutely everything we have and are has been given to us by God. Spiritually and materially, all of our riches are from Him. Consider with your family tangible ways in which you might give up some of your 'riches', whether money or time or even comfort, and take on some poverty in order to share the riches of Christ. We could all stand a little humiliation. It's truly glorious.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Without a doubt John 3:16 is the most famous verse of the Bible. Placarded in all sorts of interesting places for the sake of witness and evangelism, this verse is used to declare the message of the Gospel in a single sentence. You can probably recite this verse from memory without hesitation, but what is John 3:16 really about?
While it most certainly testifies to the eternal life that has come in Christ—a new life that comes from being "born from above" (3:3)—the verse is speaking first, and most fundamentally, to the love of God. And what do we learn about His love? That He loved the world in such a way that He gave. A supreme act of the giving love of God was demonstrated in the Incarnation and Crucifixion of His Son; even as Paul declares in Romans, "but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8).
Verse 17 parallels verse 16: as God gave, so He sent His Son. Was Jesus given, was He sent for Israel alone? No, the Son was given and sent for the sake of the world, for the sake of all humanity. He was sent to be "lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life" (3:14-15). Though deserving of judgment, the world was sent a Savior. Isn't that the surprise of the Gospel? Isn't that the unexpected twist in the story? Instead of condemnation rendered, love is lavished.
Do you want to see the measure of God's love? Look first to the manger; see the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and there behold the love of God. Then look to the Man stripped of all and lifted up on the cross, and yet again behold the love of God. Behold Him and believe that, for the sake of the world, the cross was the ultimate destination of the manger.
—Pastor Joe Thacker, St. Mark Reformed Church, Nashville, Tennessee
Heavenly Father and Mighty God, how great is the love that You have lavished upon us in the Lord Jesus Christ! Teach us to understand more deeply the love displayed in the birth and death of Your only-begotten Son, and may our lips and lives express the thanksgiving that You are worthy to receive for such a great salvation. Fire our hearts with Your love that we may never grow cold to the Gospel. We pray in Jesus' name, AMEN.
Has John 3:16 become too familiar to you? Too mundane? What are some things that you can do to keep from "getting bored" with such a familiar verse? In what ways is the love of God a model for own lives? Meditate on Genesis 28:12; John 1:51 and John 3:14, and consider how the cross is the ladder between heaven and earth.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
1 PETER 1:10-12
10Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
Imagine yourself reading through a great story, and you sense that the climax is approaching. But before you have a chance to finish it you lose the book, or your dog uses it as a chew toy. Old Testament prophets didn't know the whole story they were writing either. The Spirit had given them much, but there were still many unanswered questions. They did know that the Christ would come and that He would suffer. And Peter tells us that this is because Christ Himself ("the Spirit of Christ") was in them, predicting His own sufferings through them. But there were many unanswered questions. How would the Christ come and accomplish all these things. How will he defeat sin and death? And what about the glories which would follow? What would that be like? And when will all this happen? When they weren't writing down or delivering God's message, Peter tells us that they were searching and sifting it...looking for clues or unnoticed details that might tell them more about the Christ. But we have the completed story. That which prophets and angels longed for has been delivered to us. And what is better, we are included in it. It is the story of what our Savior did for us in His sufferings and the glories we now share with him. That which prophets and angels long for is ours. It is the good news that we have believed and that the nations now must hear.
—Pastor Eric Sauder, Christ the Kings Church, Springfield, Missouri
Gracious and Merciful Father, we give you thanks that the prophetic Word is now fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We give you thanks for the good news we have heard and believed. We ask that it would continue to grip us and to change us. Through Jesus Christ we pray, AMEN.
The prophets of old looked intently into the Word of God expecting to find Christ there. How does this challenge us to read and hear the message of the prophets today?
Monday, December 27, 2010
56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." 57Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" 58Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
In today's reading, Jesus was responding to the accusations of the Jews that He was possessed by a demon. In this response, He declares to them that He is the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham in the book of Genesis. How did Abraham rejoice to see His day? He rejoiced when he believed God. He laughed with joy when the promises of God were declared to him. He rejoiced when a barren womb delivered the promised heir. He rejoiced when God provided for Himself the sacrificial ram in the place of Isaac. He saw, played out right before his eyes, what was actually far off; Jehovah-Jireh (the God-who-provides) providing the sacrificial Lamb for His people in the Incarnate Christ.
Also, we see Jesus declaring his eternality and divinity in the strongest words possible—"Before Abraham was,
"I AM." He was telling them that, within Him dwelt all the fullness of God. The use of these words also tells us, among other things, that God is the creator of time, and His existence, His love for us, and His lordship transcends all barriers of time. He loved us and chose us from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
Isn't it wonderful that we can look back in history and see what God has done, when so many of those who preceded us could only look forward in faith, seeing the promises from afar? It is a special blessing that we should thank God for.
—Pastor Jay Barfield, Christ Covenant Reformed Church, Billings, Montana
Our Father, we thank you and praise you for the faith that you gave to Abraham to look forward to the coming of Christ and rejoice. We likewise rejoice as we look back to His Incarnation. We rejoice further that He lives and rules today as the great I AM, ruling over the great and the small with justice and mercy. Help us, Lord, to live our lives trusting in the fulfilled promise of our redemption, and the continuing promise of your presence with us.
In Christ's name, AMEN.
Discuss with your family the excitement that comes with anticipation of a future event (birthdays, weddings, etc.). Talk about how the entire Old Testament is filled with anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. Then, discuss how blessed we are to be able to look back in time and know that the reality of His coming was even better than the prophets in the Old Testament could have imagined! Talk about how this knowledge and insight should help us to live lives of joy.
- Deadlines are the mother of invention. – John Shanahan
- Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow. For when I had them with me, it was with the feeling that I was going to lose them, and now that I have lost them, I keep the feeling that I have them with me always. – Abraham Kuyper
- In India, "cold weather" is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass doorknob, and weather which will only make it mushy. – Mark Twain
- It is always the secure who are humble. – G.K. Chesterton
- Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. – Barry LePatner
Sunday, December 26, 2010
9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
In the verses before this, the Gospel-writing John has been describing that other John. The camel-hair wearing, brood-of-vipers preaching, wilderness baptizing John. But that John wasn't the light; he only pointed us to the true light, who has now come into the world that He made. But, wonder of wonders, the world He made didn't recognize Him when He came to them.
When someone turns on the lights in your bedroom in the morning, does it take a while for your eyes to get used to the light, after being closed and in the dark all night long? So it was for Israel, when Jesus came. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light" (Isaiah 9:2). And sometimes you might roll over and demand the light be put out. Or you might even get out of bed and turn it off yourself, and then go get back in bed! This is what Israel did. They went out of their way to put out the light that came to them, so they could go back to their darkness.
But that is like trying to put out the sun. The sun is our source of heat and light, and the sun was made through the Son of God, Jesus. He is our source of light. December 21 is the shortest day of the year this year, when the sun shines the least. Our church fathers put Christmas at this time of year on purpose, partly to remind us that in our darkest hour, the Light of the world dawned. From Christmas Day on, the sun starts shining longer every day. And the Light that gives light to you shines fuller every day in your heart and life. Is He getting brighter in your life? In the tabernacle, God had a lampstand that was kept constantly burning (Exodus 25:31). In Solomon's temple, this became 10 much bigger lampstands (1 Kings 7:49), as God's light to the world in Israel grew. And the lampstand was fueled with oil from olive trees (Ex 27:20-21). Zechariah has a vision of a lampstand fed by olive tree branches, while God says His Word will rule by His Spirit (4:2-6). The anointed ones (Messiah, in Hebrew) stand by the lampstand, just as Jesus walks among the lampstands of the seven churches in Revelation 1. The Spirit fills Him and He is the light of the world (John 8:12). The Spirit fills us, and Jesus calls us the light of the world (Matt 5:14). Our family is also like an olive tree, Psalm 128 tells us. Mom is a vine laden with fruit. Children are like olive shoots springing up around the table. And the oil of the Spirit from Jesus fills and fuels us to shine the light of the world around us.
In the beginning, God spoke His Word and said, "Let there be light," and there was light. Now again, at the birth of Jesus, God has spoken a new creation into existence. He does this, not so that you can get presents at Christmas time. He does this so that you know His Son, through whom all things are made. He speaks so that we will glorify and enjoy Him forever. Do you know this light? Do you know Jesus?
—Pastor Steve Hemmeke, Covenant Heritage Reformed Fellowship, Newport News, Virginia
Our gracious heavenly Father, You have given us the ultimate gift. Forgive us for not honoring You, the Giver, or receiving Your Gift with joy, thanks, and faith. Thank you for giving us light and life. We rejoice before You for every good and perfect gift You give us. We believe that you have given us a Savior. We pray in His name, AMEN.
Discuss with your family what light your neighbors can see of Christ radiating from your family. How can you bring them some light and life in this season?
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Our family tree (like most family trees), is littered with a long list of tragedies and train wrecks. I'm sure we've had our share of scoundrels, adulterers, drunks and thieves, all of which illustrate the pitiful human condition and the wages of sin. "The way of the unfaithful is hard" (Pr. 13:15). The Booth clan can lay no claim above any other, since "there is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10). Just look at this picture and you can see the flaws right there in 2-D. Image how bad it looks in 4-D. But as this band of Christians gathered around the family table today I considered the great gift of God in the person of His Son, and what a profound affect that grace has had on every person you see in this picture―how it has radically changed our family tree―I was both humbled and grateful. After the Apostle Paul enumerates all kinds of sins―most, if not all, of which were surely present in our ancestry, he declares: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). That truth has made all the difference, and will continue to make all the difference for many generations (Ps. 103:17-18). It is at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When God called Abraham, part of that call was for Abraham to instruct his family in the way of the Lord so that God would bring blessing to his family for many generations and ultimately to the whole world (Gen. 18:19). At the close of the Old Testament many had lost sight of this calling and the prophet Malachi declared in the last two verses of the Old Testament: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." As the New Testament opens an angel of the Lord appears to the old priest, Zacharias, to tell him that his wife Elizabeth will have a son, and the angel quotes from this passage in Malachi, applying it to John the Baptist: "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Gospel promises and blessings flow downstream.
At some point our family was "without God and without hope in the world" (Eph. 2:12); we were "dead in our trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1); "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7). At every point where the gospel broke through individuals were changed and families began to bear fruit. The family tree began to look very different. It was filled with hope and happiness and expectation. Procreation reclaimed its original purpose. "But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring" (Mal. 2:15).
And so, (back to the joy of this Christmas day), as four generations of grace gathered around a table I couldn't help but recall Psalm 128:
1 Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
6 Yes, may you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!
We now press on, knowing that the good news keeps on doing its good work in us and through us. This is deep evangelism. I am grateful to my parents, for they led the way and told us and showed us the truth of God's grace in Jesus Christ. My children are busy instructing my grandchildren (two more on the way), so that they too can see their children's children reveling in grace.
4 We will not hide them from our children, telling the
generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His
strength and His wonderful works that He has done"
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
6 That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born, that they may arise
and declare them to their children,
7 That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. (Ps. 78:4).
1 TIMOTHY 1:15-17
15This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Too often the Christmas season is just all a hustle and a bustle. People are rushing around; shopping, cooking, and traveling. So much so, that the real meaning of Christmas is almost forgotten. Imagine what would happen if all the traffic on the way to the local mall was delayed while a man with his pregnant wife riding on a donkey crossed the road! Everyone would be honking their horns and yelling, "Hurry up! We are trying to get ready for Christmas!"
Our text provides us a meditation on what the arrival of Jesus meant to the Apostle Paul. He never forgot the real meaning: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That meant a lot to Paul because he thought that he was the biggest sinner of all. He had hunted Christians down and put them in prison. He was, in many respects, the original Grinch. He hated the fact that people believed that Jesus had come as the Messiah and so he was doing everything he could to stop the spread of the Christian faith.
But when he was converted on the road to Damascus, he realized the reason that God sent His Son into the world. That is why, right after he writes about the meaning of Christmas (verse 15) he sings! (verse 17).
—Pastor Laurence Windham, St. Peter Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Virginia
Our Heavenly Father, thank you for this season of celebration. Help us to never forget that the reason this time of the year is so special is because of what Jesus did for us. He came to die for our sins and bring peace between You and us. AMEN.
Phillips Brooks wrote the Christmas hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," upon returning from a trip to the Holy Land. While there, from the hills of Palestine, he could see the town of Bethlehem and as he reflected on the significance of that small corner of the world at the advent of Jesus, he included these words: "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…"
As a family, let's sing, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and then we'll talk about the lyrics.
Friday, December 24, 2010
4 For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
5 For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
6 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.
7 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.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
What this child inaugurates in a seemingly small beginning will have within it potentialities of unbelievable growth. His rule and the peace He achieves will develop endlessly. By the time Isaiah appeared on the scene the great promise to David about the continuance of his line was very well known and accepted in Israel. Because of the permanent reign of this king, our joy too will be progressive, permanent, and perpetual.
Progressive: His reign would have small beginnings, but it would grow until it had no end. It would spread from Bethlehem, to Galilee, to Antioch, to Asia Minor, to Rome—to the whole world. Why will our gladness (v 3) keep growing? Because the reign of this king will keep growing.
Permanent: This last Davidic King will establish His throne on justice and righteousness, and no power will ever be able to overthrow it, unlike Israel's former kings.
Perpetual: and His reign will extend "From then on and forevermore"; it will carry over into the next age of the New Heavens and New Earth. "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev. 11:15).
The description closes with two emphatic declarations: First, His work reaches into the vast vistas of eternity. Second, the Lord with burning zeal for this whole undertaking stands continually behind His chosen one. This is one of the clearest and most meaningful Messianic prophecies in the whole Old Testament. In case any doubt remains, Isaiah ends with a statement that is used only three times in the OT: "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." "Lord of hosts" means "Lord of armies."
The Lord has at His disposal three kinds of armies. He has creation itself—the stars, the elements, hail, rain, snow, etc. He has all national armies at His call; no matter whether they are Christian or pagan, all military powers are at his disposal. He has the angelic armies at His beck and call. Isaiah is saying that all of the Lord's passionate zeal, together with all of his resources as Commander-in-Chief, backs the reign of this King. All three of these armies worked together to put into effect God's plan at the birth of Jesus. God used the Roman government's census to ensure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, thus fulfilling prophecy. A star in the heavens guided the wise men to the Christ-child. And God had the angels direct the shepherds to the child, and lead the heavenly choirs in songs of praise at the birth of the Messiah.
—Pastor Randy Booth, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Nacogdoches, TX
You are King, O Christ. The right to rule over the entire universe, the affairs of men, Your church, and our individual lives, is in Your hands. Cause us to understand that fact and submit to Your authority. Cause Your church to recognize the absolute necessity of bowing before You in everything. Cause the nations of the world to see that the government must and will be upon Your shoulder. May this great truth be a reality in our lives today. On the basis of Your life, death, and resurrection, You could say, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt.28:20). And it is on the basis of Your sovereign authority and rule that we Your people have been commissioned to disciple the nations. For the Father has highly exalted You and given You 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 You are Lord, to the glory of God the Father. AMEN
"Advent" means "arrival." In this case, it is the expected arrival of the Messiah. And so, with great anticipation, God's people, believing what He had promised, looked with hope, for a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord! We look now with remembrance of what God has done in the sending of His Son. Indeed, He came! He came to be the light of the world. And so He was, and is, and will be forevermore! "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. On this eve of Christmas we look with great anticipation; the Light will soon shine on the world!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.The Government of the Promised Son
Though very difficult days were in the offing, the conclusion of chapter 8 indicates that the gloom might break. In particular, the one through whom this significant change is to come to pass is identified and described as a child. Verse one is a transition verse to what follows in the next six verses. The picture of total gloom which closed the preceding chapter gives way to a picture of brilliant light. The words of the Christmas carol, "O come, O come, Emmanuel," were taken right from this text in Isaiah:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
The Great Happiness (vv. 2-3).
The opening statement ("the people who walked in darkness") seems to refer specifically to this geographical area. So Matthew construes it: "Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." (Matt. 4:14-16). The "great light" referred to is Jesus Christ in person, as we can now clearly see in the light of the fulfillment that the New Testament brings.
Jesus was indeed that light, not only to those in Galilee but also on throughout the whole wide world. This role He affirmed in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." "Then Jesus said to them, 'A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.' These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. 37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.' 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. (John 12:35-41).
"Light" in this context includes every possible blessing that the age of the Messiah can bring. This passage deserves to be classed with other great passages of the Bible like Genesis 1 and John 1, which also speak of the coming of light. As impossible as it might have seemed to the one who beheld it in its desolation at Isaiah's time, this child would increase her joy—two comparisons are used: On the one hand the joy involved will be like that when "men rejoice over a harvest," a type of joy indicative of unusual satisfaction. On the other hand it will be like when "men exult when they divide spoil." What makes such joy deep is that it sets in after the pains and griefs of war have been resolved into victory and peace. This is what the gospel does for sinners.
—Pastor Randy Booth, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Nacogdoches, TX
O Lord, our God, we humbly bow before the Son of Your love. We gladly acknowledge that without Him there is only gloom and despair. We must confess that the words of the prophet Isaiah have been true of us as well:
9 Therefore justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!
10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places.
11 We all growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them:
13 In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God (Isa. 59)
Our hope rests in Your zeal to perform Your purpose of redemption for Your people.
20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," says the Lord.And may we, O Lord, be found faithful in Your covenant, as again declared by the prophet:
21 "As for Me," says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the Lord, "from this time and forevermore."AMEN
All of us have known gloom and darkness, because all of us are sinners, living in a sinful world. And as the people of God, we have all seen the Light. Immanuel, which means, "God with us." Our covenant God keeps His promises. By His grace, we have forsaken ourselves and entrusted ourselves to Him who is our Savior. The child born in Bethlehem is indeed, our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to the saints at Colosse: "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:9-14).
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
14Inasmuch 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, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Our reading for this Christmas Eve speaks of those who were subject to a lifetime of bondage. Who were these in bondage as slaves? All mankind—ever since the Fall of Adam—from the very beginning. And the Word of God, in every place, shows that this bondage is to sin—sin that leads to eternal death. The very thought of death causes fear, for death has great power over us; death is inevitable, it stalks every son of Adam, and every daughter of Eve. But what if there were a remedy for this deathly bondage? What if there was Someone Who could rescue us, Who could redeem us? The Hebrews writer declares that there is such a One! The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is that One. He Whom the prophets foretold took on flesh and blood; He was made like us, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. He came to this world of death to defeat death, by suffering death in our place. By His death, He destroyed Satan's hold over us (our former slave-master), and now we are released into a glorious liberty. Christ has set us free, we are free indeed! Is it any wonder that the Advent/Christmas Season is a time of joy, of singing, and feasting? So let us do what this old Christmas carol says:
Rejoice and be merry in songs and in mirth;
Oh praise our Redeemer, all mortals on earth;
For this is the birthday of Jesus our King,
Who brought us salvation His praises we'll sing.
—Pastor Brian Penney, Christ Covenant Church, Copiague, New York
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, in Your great wisdom You sent Your Only-begotten Son to be our Savior. We thank and praise You that He has accomplished for us what we could not do ourselves. We thank You that He made propitiation for our sins, appeasing Your righteous wrath, and delivering us from sin and death. Help us, by the Holy Spirit, to be filled with gratitude and joy for such a great deliverance! Help us to rejoice in the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we look forward to the Day of His appearing, when we shall be made like Him, and inherit eternal life. AMEN.
Review and discuss with your family the questions found at Lord's Day Five and Six in the Heidelberg Catechism. Discuss how God is both perfectly just and at the same time perfectly merciful.
The Heidelberg CatechismLord's Day Five
12. Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment and be again received into favor?
God wills that His justice be satisfied; therefore, we must make full satisfaction to that justice, either by ourselves or by another.
13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction?
Certainly not; on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.
14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us?
None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.
15. What kind of mediator and redeemer, then, must we seek?
One who is a true and righteous man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.Lord's Day Six
16. Why must He be a true and righteous man?
Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin; but one who is himself a sinner cannot satisfy for others.
17. Why must He also be true God?
That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God's wrath, and so obtain for and restore to us righteousness and life.
18. But who now is that Mediator, who in one person is true God and also a true and righteous man?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given unto us for complete redemption and righteousness.
19. From where do you know this?
From the Holy Gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise, afterwards proclaimed by the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, and finally fulfilled by His well-beloved Son.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
1Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
As we approach Christmas and the time of rejoicing at God's presence with us in Jesus, it is important that we think about the plan of God revealed in Jesus. Our readings up to now have focused on the promise of the Messiah coming to save His people from their enemies. So, the anticipation of what God will do through the birth of Mary's son has been growing. We may naturally think that the world will rejoice in this birth and that all that has been amiss in the world will be put right by this little baby boy.
But we see something very different revealed to us in the pages of Scripture and in the life and death of Jesus the Christ. He is set before us, even in the days prior to His birth, as someone who must suffer, be despised and die. This rubs us the wrong way at Christmas time. We want joy and laughter and feasting. And we must remember that Jesus does lead us to joy and laughter and feasting but the way there is through sorrow and tears and fasting. There is resurrection life in Jesus Christ but only after sacrificial death. We must look at the glorious birth of Jesus with the wretched cross in mind. And then, beyond that, to his even more glorious resurrection, in which all things will be put right.
He did, indeed, come to save the world but not on the world's terms. He changed everything and since He did so, we too, must see life, this good and joyous life, in terms of the cross. In the Advent season, we see a dying world in need of a Savior and Jesus is that promised Messiah. Then Jesus is born to suffer and die Himself, revealing also the need for all men to die to sin and to live to righteousness.
When Isaiah asks, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" it is clear that he is thinking that few, if any, believed the report. But by God's grace many did believe and from the despised man of sorrows, the victorious arm of the Lord is revealed.
At Christmas, we celebrate all God's work in Jesus Christ, from His glorious Advent to His victory on the cross, His Resurrection from the dead, His Ascension to the place of power and rule, and His coming to establish His Church in power at Pentecost.
—Pastor Virgil Hurt, Providence Church, Lynchburg, Virginia
Our Father in Heaven, we give You praise for sending Jesus to us to redeem the world and save His people from their sins. We could not have foreseen the way that You would do this. Your thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways Your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are Your ways higher than our ways, and your thoughts than our thoughts. We thank You that Jesus suffered and died on our behalf and that at Christmas time we are reminded that we are to be like Jesus, giving ourselves away to others. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men. AMEN.
Talk about a time when your good intentions were misunderstood and rejected by the very ones you were trying to help. What was your response to this? What does this have to do with entering into the sufferings of Jesus? How do our sufferings turn into victory?
Monday, December 20, 2010
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
The Bible does not provide a moment by moment picture of the people of God. From the last prophecy of Malachi to the announcement of John's birth to Zacharias, God had not spoken for four hundred years. But just as in the days of Elijah, God has, as He always does, preserved for Himself a remnant, a chosen few who remained faithful, and who longed for the coming of the kingdom.
Anna, like Simeon, was one such faithful servant, as were those to whom Anna spoke, those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Her service came in the form of prayer and fasting. We, when faced with trouble, typically seek a strategy to solve the problem, and turn to prayer as a somehow weaker response. We ought instead to begin with prayer, and rejoice that our prayers, like Anna's, not only served the saints, but as our text reminds us, serve God as well. The prayers of this righteous woman availed much, as our Father sent His only Son for the redemption of not just Jerusalem, but Judea, Samaria, and the outermost parts of the world.
—Pastor R.C. Sproul Jr., Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Virginia
Our loving and faithful Father, we ask that You would make us a people faithful in prayer, and in hope. In Your grace remind us O Lord, to look, and to pray for the coming again of Your Son, and to speak boldly of the Christ, as Anna did, to all those who hope in Him. AMEN.
Consider how you might add occasional fasts to your prayer life. Miss a meal, or a day's worth of meals, and when hunger comes, use it as a goad to prayer, for a pressing issue in the life of your family or church, or to pray that Jesus' name would be known throughout the land.
- Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea. – John Ciardi
- As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. – Leonardo di Vinci
- Learn to say no. It will be of more use than to be able to read Latin. – Charles Spurgeon
- You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument. – Samuel Johnson
- Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length. – Robert Frost
Sunday, December 19, 2010
33And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Simeon was a devout man who had waited a long time for the Christ. Even though we expect this to be a moment of great joy and celebration, Simeon delivers a message of danger. He tells Jesus' mother, Mary, that Jesus will be a tremendous troublemaker. Simeon knows his Old Testament. He knows that the prophets don't promise a Christ as someone who gets along with everyone and never upsets the powerful. Simeon speaks of the "consolation" or comfort of Israel, and when Isaiah uses that language we see that the Christ is coming to "contend with him who contends with you" (Is. 49:25) and to "feed those who oppress you with their own flesh" (Is. 49:26). In a similar message, the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah that "I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:9,10). We might think that this would be a shocking and troubling revelation for Jesus' mother. It means certain doom for her Son. One doesn't take on King Herod and the Roman Empire without provoking a deathly reaction. Simeon even promises Mary that "a sword will pierce through your own soul." Disturbing claims, but this isn't really news to Mary. She, herself, had sung similar words about her Son's dangerous work. She knew that in Jesus, the Father, "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" (Lk. 1:51-52). She knew Simeon's words were true. Jesus would be a premier troublemaker for the enemies of God. He came to pull them down, to overthrow them by the Spirit, and to lift up the people of God. The birth of Jesus is just the beginning of this path of the "fall and rising of many." The world would never be the same. The enemies of God had little clue about the dramatic consequences of Christmas.
—Pastor Douglas Jones, Trinity Church, Moscow, ID
O Father, thank you for the fall and raising of many that Jesus still brings to us. Thank you for the privilege of serving in Christ's kingdom. We praise You for allowing us to be part of this adventure. Give us eyes to recognize His enemies and friends. Give us the courage to pull down and to build up. Give Your church the strength to withstand those who seek to frighten us. Let us rejoice in the work of Christ. AMEN.
Discuss with your family what sort of enemies Christ would seek to pull down today. What enemies today resemble King Herod and ancient Rome? What sorts of Christians provoke the sort of anger and deathly retaliation that Jesus provoked? Why does our celebration of Christmas often try to hide the more dangerous side of Jesus' mission?
Saturday, December 18, 2010
25And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
During Jesus' ministry, He was known to have picked up little children and hold them in His arms. He would hold them and bless them (Mark 9:36; 10:16). Jesus welcomed the little children (Mark 10:14) then and now, and this is wonderful. However, there was a time when Jesus Himself was a little child and someone scooped Him up in his arms and uttered a blessing (Luke 2:28). This man's name was Simeon, and he is the man we just read about.
Simeon had been waiting to see Jesus, and some think that he was a very old man by this time. We really do not know how old he was, but from his words, we know he is ready to die, and die in peace: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word" (2:29). Here was Simeon, holding the baby Jesus in his arms and calling upon the Lord. Simeon's eyes looked upon the salvation that had been promised, and was now (somehow!) in his arms. The Holy Spirit had assured Simeon that he would not die before seeing the promised Messiah, "the Consolation of Israel."
"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
Simeon had longed to see this day, he lived for it, and he would now peacefully die because of it. It was on that very same day that Joseph and Mary and Jesus were in the temple to offer a sacrifice when the Spirit sent Simeon into the temple too. This is when he met Jesus.
For Simeon, this was a day of life and death, and life. Simeon looked in the face of Jesus; and as he did so he was full of life and ready to die. Simeon was holding Life in his arms, while at the same time he was approaching death. The Lord's promises have been realized (again!); and while the dying face of Simeon is looking into the face of Jesus, he proclaims that this life is not some simple and private matter only for one elderly man. No, this is for the entire world: "a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
—Pastor Jeff Niell, All Saints Presbyterian Church, Ft. Worth, TX
Grant, O Lord, that we adhere to Jesus, the Savior of the nations, with a tenacity throughout our years, so that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Train us in our youth and sustain us in our old age so that we may love You and display our confidence in Your promises. AMEN.
Noting the example of Simeon, discuss the importance of living lives of devotion based upon the sure word of the Lord, asking how this promotes confidence in life and death. Sing: The Song of Simeon (also known as Nunc Dimittis, which are the first two words of Simeon's blessing in Latin, meaning "now dismiss"), and/or Comfort, Comfort Ye My People.
Friday, December 17, 2010
17Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Shepherds. Day and night, watching sheep, feeding sheep, protecting sheep, guiding sheep, and otherwise doing whatever else the care of sheep calls for. Not exactly what one would call a "glorious" job. This was just the case with the shepherds in the field at Bethlehem, as they "watched their flocks by night." They did not hold high positions in the local city government. They were not religious leaders to whom people looked for theological answers or spiritual direction. They were not the intellectuals of the day, seeking to spearhead cultural change. They were just plain, ordinary sheep-herders, doing their jobs on a typical "winter's" night.
Yet, despite all their relative unimportance to the rest of the world, it was these humble shepherds whom God chose for the incredible honor of being the first men not only to see the miracle of God come in the flesh but to announce it to the world as well. In the same way, God chose the humble maiden Mary to carry His Son in her womb. Just a simple "peasant" girl, yet the Bible says she is to be honored above all women.
As He often does, God exalted the simple and humble to be the first among men to know and proclaim the great coming of Christ our Savior. This is a wonderful thing. And if God used at the outset simple shepherds and maidens to bring the gospel into the world, He surely can use you and me as well in building the kingdom of God today.
—Pastor Bill Izard, Grace Covenant Church, Texarkana, Arkansas
Great God in heaven above, we give You thanks for Your own Son who took on the flesh of a newborn baby in order to save the world of men. We give You thanks for Your choosing the weak and the lowly to be a vibrant witness to the waiting world. Thank You for the shepherds who first "preached" the gospel that has now come to us. Thank You for humble Mary who carried God-Become-Man in her womb. Now hear our prayer: Make us faithful bearers of the Gospel ourselves, weak and helpless as we are. Fill our hearts with the joy of the shepherds, our minds with the ponderings of Mary, and loose our tongues to sing Your praises for the wonderful thing You have done in sending Your Son to be our Savior, in whose name we pray, AMEN.
Even the smallest child or the quietest family can help spread the good news of Christ's coming to save the world by celebrating His birth loudly, proudly, and publicly. Plan with your family to carol in the neighborhood or at a local nursing home, throw a party, give gifts to others, etc.; and brainstorm other ways both to celebrate and spread the gospel this Christmas season.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
15So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
The angels had gone, the heavenly singing was over, and now the shepherds had to decide what to do. It didn't take them long. They had no doubts, for they were going to see "this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord made known to us," but they desired to see for themselves nonetheless. It isn't enough to hear about Jesus. Our religion teaches us that we must each come to Him ourselves. This we do as we join with one another each Lord's Day and partake of His Word and sacrament with the same faith as the shepherds. There, we are also lifted up with the singing of the saints joined with the angels themselves in worship before Jesus Who, no longer a Babe, sits as our Resurrected Savior at the right hand of God the Father.
Making haste, they came to Mary and Joseph. There, they certainly shared stories of their visions and encounters, strengthening one another's faith over this wonderful event. And this is what we do as well when we gather together as a family or when we gather together as a church, encouraging one another with our stories of how God has met us, changed us, and fitted us for service in His kingdom.
—Pastor Dave Hatcher, Trinity Church, Woodinville, Washington
Heavenly Father, we thank You for all the ways in which You encourage us and build us up in our faith, including this time of singing, reading Your Word and discussing Your work in our lives together. And we thank You for summoning us together each Lord's Day to do the same but with all the saints gathered together. Strengthen us again and let us strengthen one another for greater service to You for the sake of Jesus, in Whose name we pray, AMEN.
How might we do a better job of encouraging one another to "make haste" and come to Jesus each day? How might we do a better job of preparing ourselves and one another to "make haste" in our gathering on the Lord's Day? Discuss the fact that kings were not first brought to Jesus, but rather ordinary people, even simple shepherds.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
The text we have just read is the famous announcement from the angel of Yahweh to the shepherds that the Savior has been born in the city of David. The city of David is Bethlehem, and Bethlehem is near where Jacob's wife Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin (Gen. 35:19) as well as where Ruth returns with Naomi after God visits His people with bread (Ruth 1:6, 19). Both stories are about women in desperation, experiencing trials related to childbearing, facing death and famine. The angel announces that something wonderful has happened in the city of David, and it has to do with the birth of a child who is the Messiah. The angel also gives the shepherds a sign. Signs first appear in the Bible when God calls the sun, moon, and stars "signs," but later the rainbow, circumcision, plagues, the Sabbath, miracles, the law, and prophecies are called "signs." In the Bible, signs are not merely locators to show you where you are, signs are places where God speaks with authority and marks His intentions. Signs should be seen by people, and they should provoke faith and repentance and love for God. Perhaps part of what the angel means has to do with who the shepherds are themselves. Twice in our text the angel says "to you" or "for you." That the Savior of the world should be found in a cattle stall, in a barn, would be particularly meaningful to shepherds. It was a sign for them because they would find their Savior in the very sort of place they would be likely to go. The Savior had come for them, and the proof was that He was lying in a feeding trough, as though He were food. The text says that immediately the heavenly host appeared, praising God. The heavenly host is the army of God; we call upon this army to praise God whenever we sing the Doxology. At Christmas, we sing Angels We Have Heard on High, joining our voices to that heavenly army praising God, announcing peace to shepherds in a field in the middle of the night. This text reminds us that God's power is made perfect in weakness; the army of God sings praises and announces the birth of the Lord of heaven who has been born in a barn. God has visited His people in Bethlehem again, and He has come to be the bread of life for them.
—Pastor Toby Sumpter, Trinity Church, Moscow, Idaho
Gracious Father, we thank you that you sent your Son to break the curse of sin. We thank you that in His birth, He was the greater Obed who brings life to a dead and dying world. We ask that you would remind us again and again that the birth of Jesus is for us and for our salvation so that we might continually join our voices to Your heavenly army. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.
Discuss with your family how the stories of Rachel, Naomi/Ruth, and Mary are similar. How is Jesus like Benjamin and Obed? Discuss how God has specifically met the needs of your family in various circumstances.