Archive for November, 2010

November 30, 2010

Advent: Why Did God Make Promises?

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Genesis 1, Luke 24

In December, 843 Acres will journey to the manger through advent readings that consider promises made and kept by the Lord [1]. Yet, before we begin, let’s think about God’s promises as a general matter.

Need for Promises

In the beginning, God spoke into nothingness and created life. Creation was meant to live in perfect harmony with Him [2]. Made “in His own image” [3], Adam and Eve enjoyed His ultimate good – an unbroken, personal relationship with Him [4].

Yet, they were unsatisfied. Rather than enjoying everything He had given them, they wanted the one thing He had not – the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden [5]. Thus, they engaged in a foolish cost-benefit analysis [6], embracing sin and pushing God away.

As He looked upon them – hidden and ashamed, yet bearing His image – He loved them and longed for restoration. But how could His holiness coexist with their unholiness [7]?

Made and Kept

God planned the grace of our forgiveness before eternity [8]. Century after century, although His people repeatedly rejected Him, He made promises of salvation, using many images to communicate with them [9].

In Jesus, God kept those promises. As Jesus told His disciples, the Scriptures were written about and fulfilled in Him: “[A]ll things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” [10].

Long Delay

Yet, why wait thousands of years to send Jesus? Why promise salvation rather than just provide it when it was needed?

Without His promises, we would not have understood Jesus as Messiah. By delaying, He taught us about Israel’s persistent rebellion and His long-suffering forgiveness through the sacrificial system. Without the Old Testament, we were tempted to see Jesus as a mere therapist, good example, or hero.

Yet, these are not His deepest attributes. The truest part of Jesus was that He solved the greatest mystery of all time – namely, how God could punish the guilty and forgive iniquity [11].

Prayer

Lord, Over the course of thousands of years, you gave us an epic display of your love, grace, mercy and patience, as you made promises to your rebellious people and kept those promises in Jesus, who is the center of history. How we needed your promises! How we long to be restored to you. Keep our hearts tethered to you, as we continue to hope in your promises until the return of Jesus. Amen.

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[1]  For the regular reading plan, see here.  |  [2]  Jonathan Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World provides an excellent theological foundation concerning the reason for creation. Since Edwards’ essay was written to philosophers of his time, however, it is very difficult to read. John Piper has written an excellent work, God’s Passion for His Glory, that accompanies the full text of the essay and has hundreds of footnotes of explanation. I highly recommend it.  |  [3] Genesis 1:27 NASB  |  [4]  When God looked upon His creation of Adam and Eve, He said it was “very good.” For an extended reflection on the concept of friendship with God, see Billy Graham’s The Journey, chapter 3 (“The Great Design”).  |  [5]  Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-6  |  [6]  Genesis 3:1-7  |   |  [7]  The frequent Biblical analogy to show that holiness cannot coexist with unholiness is that light cannot coexist with darkness. Once a light shines in the darkness, there is no more darkness; the light has overcome it. Similarly, once holiness shines in unholiness, the holiness overcomes the unholiness; the unholiness has been extinguished. See, e.g., Luke 11, John 1, John 12, 1 Corinthians 6.  |  [8] 1 Timothy 1:9  |  [9]  As we will see in the advent readings, God used the covenant, the law, the temple, the sacrifices, etc., to communicate His promise of salvation in ways that we could understand.  |  [10]  Luke 24:44 NASB  |  [11] Exodus 34:6-7 (announcing His character to Moses, the Lord said that He was, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished … NASB).

November 29, 2010

Was Jesus a Hypocrite?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Micah 4, Luke 13

That is, did He express “zeal for those virtues which he neglect[ed] to practice” [1]. For example, although He claimed to “fulfill” the Law [2] and knew it read, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” [3], did He “abolish” it [4] when He healed a woman on the Sabbath?

He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit … When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness” [5].

At once, someone recognized His transgression:

But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed and not on the Sabbath day” [6].

Jesus responded:

You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day? [7].

Jesus was not a hypocrite; the religious leaders were. He knew that the Law – as it was given to Moses – merely read, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Yet, Jewish law added to the commandment when it defined “holy” to be the prohibition of thirty-nine categories of activity on Shabbat [8].

The religious leaders were hypocrites. They focused on peripheral distractions of their own creation and “neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” [9]. They were selfish, using religion to protect themselves from inconvenience (a woman’s healing) and help themselves in convenience (an ox’s nutrition). They were not interested in keeping the Sabbath holy; they cared about their donkeys and their money [10].

Jesus, however, was not a hypocrite. Unlike His opponents, He loved the Sabbath and kept it holy. He did not add to the Law; He fulfilled it.

Prayer

Lord, You love an honest heart. Yet, we confess that we are prone to hypocrisy and making our religion a farce. Forgive our hearts that seek to add to your Word. Show us how keep your law in faith, as we fully trust in your having met its demands in Christ.  Amen.

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[1]  Samuel Johnson, Rambler 14, P. 154. In Chalmers, Alexander: Full text of “The British Essayists.”  |  |  [2]  Matthew 5:17 NASB  |  [3]  Exodus 20:8 NASB. See also Exous 31:12-17.  |  [4]  See FN2 |  [5]  Luke 13:10-13 NASB  |  [6]  Luke 13:14 NASB  |  [7] Luke 13:15-16 NASB  |  [8] Wikipedia, Activities Prohibited on Shabbat |  [9]  Matthew 23:23 NASB  |  [10]  See Luke 16:14

November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks (Part 3)

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Micah 1, Luke 10
This Weekend’s Readings: Micah 2-3, Luke 11-12

While Thanksgiving is for Marthas,  the day after Thanksgiving is for Marys.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:38-42 NASB]

Yesterday, most of us were Marthas – distracted with all our preparations. We cleaned and prepared and cooked and served and ate and cleaned and ziploc-ed. Today (and every day), let us be Marys – who sit at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. Let us rest and listen and sit and be still.

Prayer

Lord, The greatest good we can do is to listen to you. In fact, your Word tells us that the only work that you require of us is to “believe in Him whom He has sent” [John 6:29 NASB]. Yet, we see the seemingly urgent demands around us and we get distracted from the good of listening to you. We think there is so much work to do and that we will have time to listen to you only after we finish everything on our to-do lists. We confess that we are deceived in our thinking and we need your help. Work in our hearts to desire you more and in our ears to hear you more. Show us what it means to be Marys as we live in a world with practical tasks that are made for Marthas. Amen.

November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks (Part 2)

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Jonah 4, Luke 9

For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? [1]

Lord,

Today, as we give you thanks for the many things that you have given to us and the many ways that you have worked in our lives, we recognize that all of our achievements and privileges are rubbish compared to knowing you [2]. Our jobs, our homes, our food, our families, our children, our spouses, our money, our righteous living – although these are nice things, none can save but Christ alone.

Yet, we were formerly separate from Christ and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Now, however, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ [3], whom you raised from the dead and seated at your right hand in the heavenly places. And you put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all [4].

Who can understand this great mystery? Therefore, we pray that you would give us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, so that we will know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of your inheritance in your people, and what is the surpassing greatness of your power towards us who believe [5].

We want to gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Chist, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead [6].

Thank you for you. Thank you for letting us know you. Thank you for living for us. Thank you for dying for us. Thank you for saving us.

Amen.

[1]  Luke 9:25 NASB  |  [2]  See Philippians 3:7-8  |  [3]  See Ephesians 2:12-13 NASB  |  [4]  See Ephesians 1:20-23  |  [5]  See Ephesians 1:17-19  |  [6]  See Philippians 3:8-11 NASB

November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks (Part 1)

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Jonah 3, Luke 8

Lord,

As I read today’s passages, I am thankful that …

  • … in spite of our sinful pasts, You call us into Your mission: “The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses” [1].
  • … in spite of our spiritual numbness, You grant us to know the mysteries of Your kingdom: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” [2]
  • … in spite of whether we have families or whether our families are marvelous or miserable, You call us into Your family: “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” [3].
  • … in spite of our weak faith, You calm our storms: “They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’” [4].
  • … in spite of our total dependence on You, You ask us to participate in advancing Your kingdom: “He sent [the man whom He had healed] away, saying, ‘Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you’” [5].
  • … in spite of our presumptions about life and death, You call forth life from the dead: “He said [to those mourning the girl’s death], ‘Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him … He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Child, arise!’ And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately” [6]
  • … in spite of our rebellion against You, You speak to us again and again: “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time” [7]
  • … in spite of our wickedness, You show us mercy and love: “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” [8].

For all these things, I give You thanks.

Amen.

As you read today’s passages, for what are you thankful?

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[1] 8:1-2 NASB  |  [2] 8:10 NASB  |  [3] 8:21 NASB  |  [4] 8:24-25 NASB  |  [5] 8:39 NASB  |  [6] 8:52-55 NASB  |  [7] Jonah 3:1 NASB  |  [8] Jonah 3:10 NASB

November 23, 2010

What amazes you? What makes you marvel?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Jonah 2, Luke 7

Architecture of New York

Living in New York, I frequently see tourists marvel at buildings. They stop in the middle of oncoming foot traffic – clueless that jaded New Yorkers stumble to avoid collision – because they are enthralled with the beauty of the skyscrapers and the landmarks.

Faith of a Centurion

Jesus once stopped to marvel at the faith of an unnamed Roman centurion [1]. By all accounts, this man was an unlikely candidate to amaze Jesus. As a Roman soldier, he would have been stationed in Palestine to subject Israel to the foreign authority of Rome [2]. As a centurion, he would have been experienced in the brutal warfare of Rome [3]. As a Roman, he would have been raised as a pagan Gentile and considered “unclean” under Jewish law [4]. Yet, he understood something that even his Jewish contemporaries did not.

Amazement of Jesus

As Jesus approached Capernaum, He was met by a group of Jewish elders, who were sent by a Roman centurion to ask Jesus to heal his dying servant. Recognizing the oddity of their partnership, an elder said to Jesus, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue” [5]. Perhaps sensing His Father’s hand, Jesus joined the elders and headed to the centurion’s home.

Yet, as they drew near, the centurion sent a messager to Jesus, saying, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof … But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes …” [6]. When Jesus heard this, “he was amazed,” and said to the crowd, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” [7]. When the messenger returned to the centurion, he found the servant well [8].

Prayer for Faith

Lord, We confess that we marvel more at what we can see than what we cannot see. Yet, you do not see as we do – we look at outward appearances; you look at the heart [9]. But since your Word teaches us that faith is a gift, we ask that you give us more faith so that we will stop and marvel at you and your work in our hearts. Amen.

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[1]  See Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-13. See also Mark 6:6 (recounting the other instance at which Jesus “marveled” at the faith of others – except, here, He marveled at the lack of faith of the people in Nazareth, His hometown)  |  [2]  Since the sprawling Roman Empire occupied Palestine, the Israelites saw the Romans as their enemies.  |  [3]  The rank of centurion in the Roman military was an honor gained by distinction. Generally, a centurion was named for the 100~ soldiers under his authority. For more information, see here.  |  [4]  See Acts 10 (declaring to Peter that Gentiles were clean despite the Jewish law that dictated otherwise)  |  [5]  Luke 7:4-5 NASB  |  [6] Luke 7:6-8 NASB  |  [7] Luke 7:9 NASB  |  [8] See Luke 7:10  |  [9]  1 Samuel 16:7

November 22, 2010

“Do You Have Good Reason to Be Angry?”

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Jonah 1, Luke 6

What do you wish for those who oppose you? When someone has injured your pride or attacked your character, do you hope that they will experience embarrassment or mercy?

Jonah

When God called Jonah to preach against Ninevah, he ran away [1]. After he ultimately obeyed God and preached to the Ninevites, who immediately repented and received God’s mercy, Jonah told God why he had not wanted to go to Ninevah: “Please LORD, was not this what I said … ? Therefore in order to forestall [Your mercy being shown] I fled …  for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” [2].

Jonah was a hyper-nationalist. He did not want to go to Ninevah because he knew that God would show mercy to his enemies. He wanted their destruction, not repentance. In fact, he openly admitted that he would rather die than see his enemies receive mercy [3].

Thus, after he saw God’s love poured out on the Ninevites, he sulked and went outside of the city, where he shaded himself with a plant. Yet, God killed the plant and sent heat and wind that made him miserable. Then God said, “Do you have good reason to be angry? … You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Ninevah, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons … as well as many animals?” [4].

Jesus

Hundreds of years later, Jesus had the same message: “[L]ove your enemies, do good to those who hate you … Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them … But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” [5].

Prayer

Lord, Although we were your enemies and hated your great name, you sent your Son to die for us. Like the Ninevites, we did not get what we deserved. Therefore, make our hearts merciful to others. Amen.

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[1] Jonah 1:2-3  |  [2]  Jonah 4:1-2 NASB  |  [3] Jonah 4:3 NASB  |  [4] Jonah 4:4, 10-11 NASB  |  [5] Luke 6:27-36 NASB

November 19, 2010

How To Make Ready a People

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Amos 8, Luke 3
This Weekend’s Readings: Amos 9-Obadiah 1, Luke 4-5

The Ending of the Era of Promise: John the Baptist

The last words of the prophet Malachi were, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet … He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” [1]. Four hundred years later, an angel told Zacharias that his son, John, would “turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God” and “go as a forerunner before [the Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children’ …  so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” [2].

When John began his public ministry, he preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” [3], which was offensive to the Jews because it suggested that their nationality could not save them [4]. Instead, he preached that neither Jewishness nor non-Jewishness mattered because everyone’s hearts needed to turn to the Father through repentance unto forgiveness of sins.

The Beginning of the Era of Fulfillment: Jesus Christ the Messiah

While John ended the old era, Jesus began the new: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it” [5]. Although Jesus was without sin [6] and, therefore, did not need to be baptized unto forgiveness, John baptized Him [7] because He resolved not to sin and to trust in God.

Then, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” [8]. The ministry of Jesus would be like a dove – pure, simple, meek and innocent [9]. His message of salvation included the Jews and the Gentiles, just as John’s baptism and message had foreshadowed [10]. This is the reason that Luke’s account of Jesus’ geneology traces back to Adam, the origin of all humankind – Jew and Gentile alike [11].

Prayer

Lord, You are the God of all creation and Your plan of salvation is long, not short. Thank You for not caring about nationality, race, culture, or wealth. I repent, however, that I have not turned my heart fully toward You. Mold my heart and affections to You and Your dove-like kingdom. Amen.

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[1] Malachi 4:5-6 NASB  |  [2] Luke 1:16-17 NASB  |  [3] Luke 3:3 NASB  |  [4] Since baptism was a rite for non-Jews to convert to Judaism, John was, in effect, telling them that they could not rely on their nationality for salvation.  |  [5] Luke 16:16 NASB  |  [6] See 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15  |  [7] The climax of John’s ministry was Jesus’ baptism, which is why his ministry ended, largely, after Jesus’ began.  |  [8] Luke 3:22 NASB  |  [9] The dove, unlike the eagle or the peacock, was not fierce or showy.  It was the kind of bird that poor people – like Jesus’ family – could offer for sacrifice. See Luke 2:24, Leviticus 12:8; see also Matthew 10:16.  |  [10] See Romans 4:11-17; Galatians 3:7, 29.  |  [11]  Luke traces Jesus’ genology back to Adam, while Matthew traces it back to Abraham. Luke’s audience was Gentile, while Matthew’s audience was Jewish. Thus, Luke had a strong incentive to  remind his audience that Jesus came to fulfill the promises that God made to all people, not just Israel. For more about the differences between the geneology of Luke vs. Matthew, see John Piper, Who was Jesus’ Grandfather? (addressing the differences between the Lukan and Matthean geneologies of Jesus and noting that the two writers were highlighting different aspects of the lineage of Jesus – Luke was highlighting His physical lineage, while Matthew was highlighting His legal lineage to the throne of David).

November 18, 2010

Wise Waiting or Foolish Hoping?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Amos 7, Luke 2

Although much of life is spent waiting, at what point does wise waiting become foolish hoping?

The Sound of Silence

Israel saw its glory days under the reign of King Solomon (c. 971–931 BC), when the Temple was built in Jerusalem. After Solomon died, however, civil war broke out and the nation was divided into two parts – Israel and Judah. When these nations rejected God and embraced idols, God sent Assyria to conquer Israel (922 BC) and Babylon to destroy Judah (597/586 BC), which caused the exiles to mourn: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” [1].

Yet, during the exile and shortly thereafter, God sent prophets to comfort His discouraged people with promises of salvation through a coming Messiah (c. 770–433 BC). After that, however, God became silent. The Davidic line no longer occupied the throne and the Temple was partly destroyed. Had God forgotten His promises? Was it foolish to continue hoping for Him to act?

The Gong of Redemption

Four hundred years after God spoke through the last prophets, there was a man named Simeon who was “looking for the consolation of Israel” and a woman named Anna who was “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” at the Temple in Jerusalem [2]. On a seemingly ordinary day, a young couple came to circumcise their eight-day-old son and offer a sacrifice.

When Simeon took Jesus in his arms, although Mary and Joseph had so little money that they could only afford a poor man’s sacrifice [3], Simeon saw the consolation of Israel and the salvation of the Lord in the baby. He told the parents, “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. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” [4]. Anna also saw the redemption of Jerusalem and thanked God [5].

Prayer

Lord, The era of promise has ended [6]; the era of fulfillment has begun! The suffering, groaning and waiting are over!  You kept Your promise in a poor newborn, which You revealed to two people who were waiting for You. Today, as we wait on the final consummation of Your kingdom in Jesus’ return, open our eyes to see You and to loosen our grips on this temporary life. Amen.

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[1] Psalm 137:1 NASB  |  [2]  Luke 2:25, 38 NASB  |  [3]  Although the Law required that a new mother offer a lamb as a purification sacrifice, it made an alternative provision for a family that could not afford a lamb: “But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Leviticus 12:8 NASB). Thus, the King of the universe, who had all of the world’s wealth at His fingertips, chose to be born into a family that could not even afford a regular sacrifice! How little God cares about money, power and status!  |  [4] Luke 2:34-35 NIV  |  [5] Luke 2:38  |  [6]  Many of the prophets proclaimed the salvation of the Lord. See, e.g., Isaiah 52 (“Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city … Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. For this is what the Lord says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed’ … Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.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 … See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness — so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” NIV)

November 17, 2010

Nothing Is Impossible with God

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Amos 6, Luke 1:39-80

As God ushered in the three decades that would change the entire course of history, He was not among the wealthy and powerful. Instead, He was with two humble and unknown women – an old barren woman and a young virgin.

Old and Barren

Elizabeth was barren and beyond childbearing years [1]. In her culture, not to have children was a disgrace [2] and, unlike today, there was nothing she could do about it medically. Yet, even though she and her husband Zacharias may have felt neglected by God for years, they continued to worship Him [3]. Then, one day, as Zacharias was going about his regular priestly services, an angel told him that God was giving him a son named John and that he would be the forerunner of the Messiah “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” [4].

Young and Virginal

Mary, on the other hand, was a teenager and a virgin. In fact, since she was not yet married to her fiancé Joseph, it is unlikely that Mary even wanted to be pregnant! Yet, an angel told Mary that the Spirit was going to conceive within her a son, who would be the Son of God and reign over the house of Jacob forever. As confirmation, he told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was already pregnant, thus demonstrating that God the Creator was not dependant on the state of a woman – whether barren or untouched: “For nothing will be impossible with God” [5].

Humble

As Luke wrote to his wealthy patron, Theophilus, he emphasized the cheerful humilities of Elizabeth and Mary. When Elizabeth discovered that she was pregnant, she said, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me” [6]. Similarly, she told to Mary, “How has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” [7]. Likewise, Mary sang, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave” [8].

Prayer

Lord, You are not partial to powerful. You are not impressed by our accumulation of knowledge or wealth. Rather, you love those who fear you, humble themselves, and embrace self-denial for your sake. Father, make us aware of our lowliness and fill our hearts with the awe of your condescension. Cause our souls to feel your greatness and mercy. Amen.

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[1] Luke 1:7 NASB  |  [2]  When Elizabeth discovered that she was pregnant, she proclaimed, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men” (Luke 1:25 NASB).  |  [3] See Luke 1:6. Recently, I have had the occasion to reflect upon the fact that disappointment in life’s circumstances is usually not a one-time moment. Rather, it happens moment-by-moment. In fact, month-by-month, Elizabeth may have been disappointed that she was not conceiving a child. I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been for her.  |  [4]  Luke 1:17 NASB  |  [5] Luke 1:37 NASB  |  [6] Luke 1:25 NASB  |  [7] Luke 1:43 NASB  |  [8] Luke 1:46-68 NASB

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