Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010

2010 to 2011: Planning a Relationship

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 31, Romans 15

THE FRUIT OF PLANNING

Melodie and Brenton know that meaningful results require forethought and planning. Thus, they spent 12 hours designing and 40 hours building their gingerbread house from 3 batches of hard candy, 40 sleeves of large Smarties, 8 bags of powdered sugar, and 12 square feet of gingerbread dough. The result? A magnificent replica of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

THE WISDOM AND ORIGIN OF PLANNING

According to Proverbs, the wise person makes plans [1]. For example, the “wife of noble character” has a plan for each day (“she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants”) and for her household (“she considers a field and buys it”) [2]. Similarly, Paul planned to take the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, where he hoped to establish an operational base, and then to Spain [3]. Interestingly, although his plan fell through when he was arrested in Jerusalem and then incarcerated in Rome, his plan inspired “the greatest letter ever written”, Romans [4]. Ultimately, however, we plan because we are God’s image-bearers and, as we saw during Advent, He promised and planned from the beginning [5]. Even Jesus, for example, refused to perform a miracle at Cana because His hour had not yet come [6].

THE SUBSTANCE OF PLANNING

When it comes to our spiritual lives, however, how much fervor do we put into forethought and planning? Even though we long for a more meaningful relationship with the Lord (as discussed yesterday), most of us do not know how to make plans to achieve it. Participating in the 843 Acres reading plan is a great way to get to know the Lord through His Word, but we must also plan to spend regular time praying and asking Him how He may want to use us. Therefore, how will you plan to know and enjoy the Lord in 2011? Will you set aside weekly time for planning?

THE PRAYER OF PLANNING

Lord, Your Word teaches us to plan for the days to come – even Your Son set His face to Jerusalem when He faced death on a cross because it was in accordance with the most loving and amazing plan ever crafted. Oh, Lord, as You planned for our joy, help us plan for Your glory [7]. And, to the extent that our plans are not Your plans, we submit to You as our loving and holy Father. Amen.

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[1] See Prov 6:6-7; 14:15; 15:22; 16:3; 24:2 | [2] See Proverbs 31:15-16 NIV. | [3] Romans 15:23-33 (see below). | [4] N.T. Wright | [5] SeeIsaiah 46:9-10; Ephesians 1:9-10; Acts 2:23. | [6] See John 2:4. He stayed with His plan – even though it meant death in Jerusalem. See Luke 9:51. See also John 10:18 (noting that Jesus was not driven against His will; the Father’s plan was His plan as well). | [7] Loosely quoting John Piper. | FN: In 2011, 843 Acres will follow a chronological reading plan, i.e., a plan that reads the Bible in the order of events as they occurred in real-time. Therefore, for example, a day’s readings may include an event in David’s life and then also the Psalm that he wrote in reflection on that event. For more information, check back on Monday and begin the reading plan and also visit the “About 843 Acres” page, where more information will be posted on Monday. Until then, prayers to you all this weekend as you plan for your relationship with the Lord! Happy New Year!

December 30, 2010

2010 to 2011: Striving for Contentment and Discontentment Simultaneously

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 30, Philippians 3

STRIVING FOR CONTENTMENT

In 2010, I dealt with a new threat to my contentment – financial insecurity. Prior to founding The Park Forum, the source of my income seemed certain – whether it was the Federal government, the NYSE or Simpson Thacher. Now, however, I am dependent on voluntary donors. Thus, in January 2010, I prayed for as much funding as possible so that I would not have to worry. As the year progressed, however, I found that God was faithful in providing as He determined – even though we never had an overabundance [1]. Today, although I pray for funding, I do not pray for a large reserve of resources. Instead, I ask the Lord to give us what He apportions as daily bread so that we are constantly dependent on Him: “[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” [2].

STRIVING FOR DISCONTENTMENT

In 2011, although I want to continue striving for grateful and peaceful contentment in all of the many wonderful gifts that He has given me, there is one thing in which I never want to be content – namely, the current state of my spiritual life. Like Paul, I want “to be content whatever the circumstances” [3], but I want more intensity in worship, depth in truth, purity and holiness in life, and determination in pursuing His kingdom: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” [4].

PRAYER

Lord, In 2011, let us strive for contentment with all that You have apportioned to us, but let us strive for discontentment in our relationship with You. There is always more of You to know and experience because You are infinite and Your wonders and glory are eternally inexhaustible. Although we confess that we know so little of You because of our sin, we ask one thing from You: “that we may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of our lives, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple” [5]. Amen.

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[1] Due to our 400-word limitation, I do not have the space to tell you about the generous donor in January (who told me how much he loved the mission and wanted to support it any way that he could) or the surprise donor in June (who unexpectedly gave online enough to keep us alive for several months) or our monthly donors (who give us stability and faithful commitment) or the many other generous donors (who give with cheerful hearts) or the people who attended our launch event (who came to support us even if they could not give) or the kind friends and family (who treat me to dinner or take me shopping) or the non-financial “donors” (whose gifts of encouragement have no monetary value but whose emails or notes I keep in a special file and read on the tough days). Even as I write this list, I think of how many of you, as readers, contribute financially, spiritually and emotionally. When we started The Park Forum, we chose to do the first Subway Series on Philippians because, to me, it is the sweetest and tenderest of Paul’s letters. I am convinced that his heart is evident in that letter because he considered the Philippians to be his “partners in the gospel,” since they were the only ones who financially contributed to him, suffered alongside him, and sent people to him to help bear his burden. As I look back on 2010, I echo Paul’s words when I think of each of you: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6 NIV). I love you and I thank you for being a part of God’s answer to my prayers. |  [2] Proverbs 30:8-9 NIV  |  [3] Philippians 4:11 NIV  |  [4] Philippians 3:8-9 NIV  |  [5] Psalm 27:4-5 NIV (Ed. Note: I changed “I” to “we” for grammatical accommodation) |   If you would like to contribute to the work of The Park Forum at year-end, see here (and thank you!).

December 29, 2010

2010 to 2011: Moving from Being Snared to Being Free

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 29, Luke 12

FEAR OF MAN

In September 2010, I decided to take a two-month sabbatical from alcohol to seek the Lord about a certain issue. Although I didn’t think that it would be a big sacrifice, I was wrong. The difficulty was not in craving alcohol, however; it was in fearing man. I had not yet realized how much single life in the City revolves around alcohol – it is a go-to casual first date option, an easy after-work meet-up with a friend, and a requirement at some of my favorite places like Rockwood Music Hall. Thus, every time that I met up with someone or saw a friend perform, I confronted the inevitable questions and confusion about my voluntary abstinence.

TRUST IN GOD

The first few weeks were hard because God was showing me that I cared too much about making sure that people knew that I was not crazy. He was molding me to care more about His opinion than the opinion of others. As Solomon wrote, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” [1]. Likewise, Jesus – who remained silent before His wrongful accusers – said, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do … Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God … Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” [2].

SOBER MINDSET

As I let go of others’ opinions, I ended up loving my sabbatical. I found creative cocktail alternatives like crushed strawberry lemonade and discovered that Rockwood lets you order tea or seltzer. In 2011, I want to continue pursuing a “sober” mindset that loves and craves the opinion of my Lord more than the opinion of others. I want to obey Him and have fun finding new and creative ways to do so.

PRAYER

Lord, Quiet and faithful obedience is difficult in a culture that does not care about pleasing You. As a result, many of us struggle with things that the world loves but You despise, e.g., alcoholism, sexual sin, mental impurity. This year, open our hearts to see the joy that obedience to You brings, as You mold us into people who love Your opinion more than the opinion of others. Amen.

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[1] Proverbs 29:25 ESV  |  [2] Luke 12:4-7 ESV |  For an extended reflection on fearing God more than fearing man, I highly recommend When People Are Big and God Is Small by Ed Welch.  |  If you would like to contribute to the work of The Park Forum at year-end, see here (and thank you!).

December 28, 2010

2010 to 2011: Taking the Risk of Confession

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 28, James 5

I [HEART] NY

… but not for the reason that you may think. I do not love it for Broadway, Jean Georges, Saks or Tenjune. I love it for its people. New Yorkers are some of the most interesting, passionate, clever and successful people that I know [1]. Yet, these adventurous inhabitants can be quite intimidating. After all, they exude success and rarely show weakness.

MY CONFESSION

In 2010, however, I admitted weakness and found healing. One summer night, at a rooftop party downtown, I unexpectedly had a conversation with two friends that led to my confession of a hidden sin. Yet, it was not easy. I was ashamed and embarrassed, wondering if they would still love me after they knew that I was unattractive. Without hesitation, however, they embraced me and encouraged me that, although it was good to take sin seriously, it was also good to take grace seriously: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” [2], and “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” [3].

I WILL RISE

In 2011, I want to confess sins regularly and wisely. I want to be a person who admits that life is messy and that, although I long to live in a way that pleases my Lord, I oftentimes miss the mark. I want to be a part of a community that recognizes that, through confession and the redeeming work of Christ, we can defeat the Accuser’s power to paralyze us and kill our faith: “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until He pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness” [4].

PRAYER

Lord, You take our sin and Your grace seriously. You love to expose sin through confession because You love for us to live in the light, where we can be authentic and vulnerable. Show us where we are hurting ourselves and Your kingdom by keeping things private that we should be confessing, e.g., a grudge or a failure or a habit? Give us hope and joy in Your healing. Amen.

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[1] In his essay, Here Is New York, E.B. White wrote of the beauty of the composition of New York: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company … “  |  [2] Proverbs 28:13 ESV  |  [3] James 5:16 NIV  |  [4] Micah 7:8-9 NIV

December 27, 2010

2010 to 2011: Planning our Precious Yet Precarious Lives Without Presumption

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 27, James 4
This week, 843 Acres will consider the proverb that corresponds to the date (e.g., December 27 will consider Proverbs 27), as we look back on 2010 and forward to 2011.

PRECIOUS YET PRECARIOUS

In 2010, as I have walked alongside a dear friend battling cancer, I have been thinking about how life is precious yet precarious. We will not always have eyes to see a child’s surprise at Christmas or mouths to rejoice or legs to run on the beach. We will not always see snow falling or eat molten chocolate cake or read great novels by the fire. Indeed, life is precious yet precarious.

PLANNING WITHOUT PRESUMING

Recognizing this, what do we do? How do we live today? How do we write our 2011 resolutions? Solomon offered guidance, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” [1], and James wrote, “ Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” [2].

Thus, it is our boasting – not our planning – that displeases the Lord. After all, Jesus planned “tomorrow” when He set His face to Jerusalem, “He was determined to go to Jerusalem” [3], yet He also humbly submitted to His Father’s plan, “Not My will but Yours be done” [4]. Likewise, Paul planned “tomorrow” when he embarked on his three missionary journeys [5], yet he told the Ephesians, “I will return to you again, if God wills” [6]. Thus, as we recognize that it is God – not us – who holds every minute of our precious yet precarious lives in His good and wise hands, let us beg for humble hearts that cling to, “… if God wills.”

PRAYER

Lord, You decide how long we will live and what we will accomplish. As we plan our precious and precarious lives in 2011, give us strategic minds that plan and humble hearts that do not presume. Let us rest in the security of Your providence that is stronger than chance or storms or cancer. May Your will – not ours – be done. Amen.

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[1] Proverbs 27:1 ESV  |  [2] James 4:13-17 ESV  |  [3] Luke 9:53 NASB  |  [4] Luke 22:42 NASB  |  [5] See Acts 27-28  |  [6] Acts 18:21 NASB. See also 1 Corinthians 4:19 NASB (“I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.”)  |  [FN] If you would like to make a year-end tax-deductible donation to The Park Forum, we would love it! You can do so here.

December 24, 2010

ADVENT: He Would Give Us New Hearts

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Ezekiel 36, 2 Corinthians 5

Promise Made

This Advent season, we have seen that, “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” [1]. We have yet to consider, however, God’s greatest promise – namely, to give us new hearts. For just as detailing a junkyard car would be useless without replacing its broken engine, cleansing our sins would be useless without replacing our faulty sin-oriented hearts. Thus, God promised, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” [2].

Promise Kept

When Jesus’ parents presented Him at the Temple, Simeon immediately recognized Jesus as the Christ and told His mother, “The 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” [3]. Indeed, Jesus saw into the heart of the woman at the well and forgave her [4], redeemed the life of the criminal on the cross [5], and opened the eyes of the self-righteous Pharisee who was intent on murdering Christians [6]. Each of these people – and many more – walked away with new hearts that loved God. Although seeing the profundity of their sin pierced their souls, they left with eternal hope in the love of Christ.

Promise Meant

God knew that we did not merely need cleansing; we needed replacement hearts with new desires and new orientations and new abilities to see and taste and hear what is good. In Christ, we receive the Spirit and a heart of flesh: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died … Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” [7].

Prayer

Lord, Rather than merely forgiving our sins and leaving us in a state of perpetual transgression, You give us hearts to see and know and love You. Thus, this weekend, as we contemplate Your glory enveloped in a tiny baby, transform us into Your image with ever-increasing glory and invigorate our hearts to see You afresh. Amen.

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[1] 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV  |  [2] Ezekiel 36:25-26 NIV. See also Deuteronomy 30:6.  |  [3] Luke 2:34-35 NIV  |  [4] John 8:1-11  |  [5] Luke  23:26-43  |  [6] Luke  23:26-43  |  [7] 2 Corinthians 5:14, 17 NIV

December 23, 2010

ADVENT: He Would Crush and Be Crushed

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Genesis 3, Hebrews 2

Promise Made

Our longing for God’s promises arose the moment that sin entered the world. Since our sin separated us from God, who is our greatest good, we needed the promise that – somehow – our sin problem would be solved so that we could grasp Him. Recognizing this, God did not wait one minute to offer the first messianic promise after the fall. Before He even announced Adam and Eve’s punishment, He said to the serpent (Satan [1]): I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” [2]. In other words, although Satan would wound a descendant of Eve (“you will strike his heel”), that same descendant would crush and defeat Satan (“he will crush your head”).

Promise Kept

On the cross, although Satan struck Jesus’ heel by killing His body, Jesus crushed his head by rising from the dead: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” [3].

Promise Meant

Satan is mainly interested in accusing and damning us, not killing us. His joy is to accuse us before God, telling Him that we are guilty and deserve to die eternally. When Christ died on the cross, however, He nullified Satan’s accusation by nailing sin and death to the cross and, thereby, taking away the fear of death from all those who would trust in Jesus: “[God] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” [4].

Prayer

Lord, In Christ, nothing can separate us from Your love – not even Satan. The accuser of this age [5] has been rendered powerless by the magnificent work of the cross. As we look upon baby Jesus, let us rejoice in the forgiveness of sins that He purchased by His blood. Enable us to live fearlessly in Your love and power. Amen.

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[1] See Revelation 12:9; Matthew 13:19; John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2.  |  [2] Genesis 3:15 NIV  |  [3] Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV. See also Romans 16:20 (“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” NIV).  |  [4] Colossians 2:13b-15 NIV  |  [5] Revelation 12:9-11 (calling Satan “the accuser of our bothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night” NIV).

December 22, 2010

ADVENT: He Would Be the Horn of Salvation

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Psalm 132, Luke 1

Promise Made

The Lord promised David that He would raise up a horn in Jerusalem: “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown” [1]. Yet, this horn would be the strong and victorious horn of a wild ox, not a musical instrument: “For surely your enemies, LORD, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox …” [2].

Promise Kept

When the Lord declared to Zechariah that he was going to be the father to the forerunner of the Messiah, Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us …” [3]. Jesus is the strong and powerful horn of salvation because he conquered sin and death: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks to be God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [4]

Promise Meant

The goal of His redemption and the raising up of Jesus as the horn of salvation is “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” [5]. Thus, our salvation is not purposed to give us greater ease and comfort, but to make us courageous people who fearlessly live for the sake of the Name as holy and righteous people.

Prayer

Lord, You are our great spiritual conqueror, defeating death and fear and unrighteousness. Jesus is the horn of salvation for all those who call upon his name and trust in him. Yet, we confess that we often live fearfully and safely. As we see baby Jesus, help us to see our mighty and powerful horn of salvation, who defeated our enemies so that we could live fearlessly. Amen.

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[1] Psalm 132:17-18 NIV  |  [2] Psalm 92:9-10 NIV. See also Micah 4:13.  |  [3] Luke 1:67-71 NIV  |  [4] 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NIV  |  [5] Luke 1:74-75 NIV

December 21, 2010

ADVENT: His Own People Would Reject Him

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Isaiah 8, Romans 11

Promise Made

The Prophets and the Psalmists prophesied that the Messiah’s own people, the Israelites, would reject him [1]: “He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah, He will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem, He will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured” [2].

Promise Kept

When Jesus came, the Jewish leaders rejected Him as Messiah and charged Him with blasphemy for repeatedly claiming to be the Son of God [3]. Although they ultimately killed Jesus, they did so according to the sovereign plan of God. Speaking to his “fellow Israelites,” Peter preached, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” [4].

Promise Meant

In part, Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah because He did not meet their expectations [5] – especially when He was crucified: “ … we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” [6]. Yet, this is only half of the story. God planned for Israel to reject Jesus as Messiah for a set period of time and a specific purpose: “Israel has experience a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” [7]. Thus, when Israel rejected Jesus, God opened a way for all people – not only Israel – to receive the Lord: “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” [8].

Prayer

Lord, We thank You for providing salvation for all people. Yet, living in New York City, where we know and love many descendants of Israel, we see how Christ crucified is a stumbling block. This season, open the eyes and the hearts of Your people to see the consolation of Israel in baby Jesus. Rather than stumbling, cause us to walk firmly in Christ. Amen.

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[1] See Isaiah 28:26, 49:6, 50:6, 53:1-3, 60:3; Psalms 22:7-8, 118:22. | [2] Isaiah 8:14-15 NIV | [3] See Luke 22:67-71 (claiming that God endorsed Him as Messiah and claiming to be the Son of God). | [4] Acts 2:22-24 NIV | [5] Some say it is because Jesus did not meet their expectations for the Messiah – they expected a glorious king who would be a national savior, but Jesus came as a humble servant who died as a criminal – yet the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be a suffering servant. See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22. Others say that belief in Jesus violates monotheism, e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4, since He claimed to be diety, see Mark 2:1-12; 14:61-62; Luke 22:66-70; John 10; 17:10, yet the idea of the triune God is evident as early as Genesis (“Let us make man in our image.” 1:26, NIV, emphasis added). | [6] 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 NIV | [7] Romans 11:25 NIV | [8] Romans 11:11 NIV

December 20, 2010

ADVENT: He Would Be Crucified

by Bethany

Advent Readings: Zechariah 12, John 19

Promise Made

In the Old Testament, although dead bodies were occasionally hung on a tree as a warning, live criminals were executed by stoning, not crucifixion. Thus, it was mysteriously prophetic when the Prophets foretold that the Messiah would be “pierced” in a way that mirrored the type of crucifixion that would come 800 years later in Rome [1]: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grives for a firstborn son” [2].

Promise Kept

When it came time to kill the only begotten Son of God, Jesus, the political and religious leaders determined to kill Him by crucifixion: “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head … As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ … ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified” [3].

Promise Meant

When the Messiah was crucified, He was cursed. Not only was crucifixion forbidden under Jewish law [4], it was reserved in Rome for the worst types of criminals – slaves, pirates and enemies of the state. Its goal was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonor the body of the condemned. Yet, on the cross, Christ the Accursed became Christ the Savior: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” [5].

Prayer

Lord, Although we deserved to be cursed for our sins, Your Son received the curse that we deserved when He took on our sins on the cross. This week, as we see the baby in the manger, help us to remember that He was born to be crucified and cursed. Cause us to simultaneously mourn as for an only Son and to rejoice as for an only Savior! Amen.

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