Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

Advent – Family: The Messiah Is a Descendant of Jacob

by Bethany

Advent Text: Gen. 35:11-12 (underlined below)

Promise Made | Rebekah was pregnant with twins – Esau and Jacob. Her discomfort, however, was worse than normal. As God said, “Two nations are in your womb … the older shall serve the younger” [1]. As they grew up, it became clear that Jacob was a deceiver. First, he manipulated Esau into handing over his birthright [2]. Then, he deceived his father Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing: “Let peoples serve you and nations bow down to you” [3]. Jacob also had two dream-like encounters with God – the ladder [4] and the wrestling match [5] – where God promised to extend Abraham’s blessing through him and gave him a new name – Israel. Later, God said, “No longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel … be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you” [6]. In the end, Jacob had twelve sons – the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Promise Kept | Hundreds of years later, God prophesied through Malachi about His having chosen Jacob over Esau: “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated’ … Great is the LORD – even beyond the borders of Israel!” [7]. Yes, God chose Jacob over Esau – although they were brothers, although they were twins, and although Jacob was younger! In doing so, God showed that His love was free (not bought) and sovereign (not coerced) and unconditional (not earned). Then, after 400 years of prophetic silence, a descendant of Jacob was born – Jesus – and he told his twelve disciples to go and “make disciples of all nations” [8] – Israel and beyond.

Promise Meant | Today, we are the result of Jacob’s obedience to God’s command: “Be fruitful and multiply”, and the disciples’ obedience to Jesus’ command, “Make disciples of all nations.” And God loves us as He loved Jacob – freely, sovereignly and unconditionally: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [9].

Prayer | Lord, You are in heaven, where you love us because you chose to love us. Thus, we humbly and joyfully proclaim, “Great is the LORD – even beyond the borders of Israel!” Teach us, therefore, to take up the commission of Jacob and the disciples – to be fruitful and multiply your kingdom by bringing the unconditional love and gospel of Jesus to our neighbors and the nations. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 14 + 2 Chron. 2
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[1] Gen. 25:23 ESV  |  [2] See Gen. 25:29-34  |  [3] Gen. 27:28-29 ESV  |  [4] See Gen. 28:10-22.  |  [5] See Gen. 35:10-12  | [6] Gen. 35:10, 11-12 ESV  |  [7] Mal. 1:1-3 ESV  |  [8] Matt. 28:19 ESV  |  [9] Rom. 5:8 ESV. See also Rom. 9.
November 29, 2011

Advent: Family – The Messiah Would Be a Descendant of Abraham

by Bethany

Advent Reading: Heb. 11:17-19 (underlined below)

Promise Made | Abraham laughed when God said that he would be “the father of a multitude of nations” [1]. After all, he was 99 years old and his wife was 98 and barren. Nevertheless, God insisted, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring” [2]. A year later, Isaac was born and they rejoiced. When he was a child, however, God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” [3]. How could this be? Hadn’t God promised to make a nation through Isaac? Yet, Abraham obeyed and prepared Isaac for sacrifice. As Abraham raised his knife, however, God stopped him: “Do not lay your hand on the boy … for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” [4]. God then sent a sacrificial lamb and Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide” [5]. Yet, Isaac remained their only son – hardly “a multitude of nations.”

Promise Kept | God didn’t forget His promise. First, He told Solomon to build the Temple – where all sacrifices, including the Passover Lamb, were to be slaughtered – in the land of Moriah, where Isaac was spared [6]. Then, a thousand years later, one of Abraham’s descendants – Jesus – was born as the only Son of the Father. Then, in his thirties, he was taken to Jerusalem – in Moriah – to be sacrificed as the Passover Lamb.

Promise Meant | In Jesus, God provided. He opened the way for anyone to become Abraham’s child and heir. Today, Abraham’s children are those who trust God – even in confusing circumstances: By faith Abraham … who had received the promises, was offering up his only begotten son … He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead” [7]. Indeed, God raised Jesus from the dead “that the world might be saved through him[8].

Prayer | Lord, In Jesus, we are Abraham’s descendants and heirs of the promise. Therefore, strengthen our faith in him as the fulfillment of your promises. Give us the faith of our father Abraham, who – in the midst of confusing circumstances – trusted in you so much that he reasoned that you could do the impossible – raise his precious son from the dead. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 12-13 and 2 Chron. 24
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[1] Gen. 17:4 ESV  |  [2] Gen. 17:19 ESV  |  [3] Gen. 22:2 ESV  |  [4] Gen. 22:12 ESV  |  [5] Gen. 22:14 ESV  |  [6] See 2 Chron. 3:1  |  [7] Heb. 11:17-19 NIV  |  [8] Jn. 3:17 NIV

November 28, 2011

Advent – Introduction: Is Christmas a Jewish Holiday?

by Bethany

Every year, 843 Acres anticipates the incarnation of Jesus through advent reflections that focus on Old Testament promises and their corresponding New Testament fulfillments. We do this because the Old Testament is precious to Christians – it is the Word of God in preparation for the Messiah and the key to understanding the meaning of Jesus and his work in bringing salvation to all people.

Advent Text: 2 Cor. 1:20 (underlined below)

Jewish Heritage | Christianity does not exist apart from Judaism. As Jesus said, “salvation is from the Jews” [1]. Yet, what did he mean? First, God freely chose them and covenanted with them through Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation” [2]. Second, God gave them the Scriptures: “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” [3]. Third, Jesus was Jewish: “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God” [4]. Fourth, in his earthly life, Jesus prioritized his ministry to the Jewish people, telling his disciples, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [5]. Thus, we have no hope apart from the heritage of Israel and no salvation apart from the Jewish Messiah [6].

Christmas Miracle | This is why it was shocking that Jesus came to redeem all people: “For God so loved the world” – Jew and Gentile – “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him” – Jew and Gentile – “should not perish but have eternal life” [7]. Christ opened the way of salvation to welcome all believers as God’s chosen people – by faith, not heritage: “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring” [8]. Therefore, the good news of Christmas is that Jesus came to redeem his people and also that his people included Gentiles – that they could become  “fellow citizens” with Israel [9] and “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus” [10]. This means that all those who believe in Christ – regardless of nationality, race, language, moral track record or culture – can claim every single Old Testament promise because Jesus fulfills all of them: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ[11].

Prayer | Lord, We praise you for being our Father by adopting us as your children. In this advent season, we feast on our Old Testament heritage – for there was a time when we were not fellow citizens of Israel or heirs according to the promise [12]. Rather, we were aliens and strangers – without God and without hope in the world [13]. In Christ, however, we are members of your household [14]. Therefore, we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of the Messiah, who expanded the way of salvation so that anyone can receive it by faith. Amen.

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What is the non-advent reading for today? 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chron. 22:10-23:21
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Footnotes: [1] Jn. 4:22 ESV.  |  [2] Gen. 12:2 ESV. See also Gen. 12; Neh. 9:7; Amos 3:2; Rom. 11:28-29; Deut. 7:7-8.  |  [3] Rom. 9:4. See also Rom. 3:1.  |  [4] Rom. 9:5 ESV.  |  [5] Matt. 10:5 ESV. See also Matt. 15:24; Rom. 15:8 (where Paul calls Jesus “a servant to the circumcised”).  |  [6] Indeed, in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that the Gentiles are like branches on a tree and that the Jews are its roots and then says, “You do not support the root, but the root supports you … Do not be arrogant” (see Rom. 11:11-25). Yet, the Jewish people, however, have no priority over the Gentiles in their righteousness (see Rom. 3:9-10, 22-23) or their way to be saved (see Rom. 3:29-30; 10:12) or their sharing in God’s blessings (see Eph. 2:12-13, 18-19; 3:4-6) – namely, we all alike are under sin and must be saved by faith and will share in immeasurable blessings in Christ.  |  [7] John 3:16 ESV. Note, however, that inclusion of the Gentiles should not have been so shocking to the first-century Jews because all throughout the OT there are hints and shadows that God would redeem all people – both Jews and Gentiles – e.g., (1) In Psalm 87, God says, “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me – Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush – and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion’ – noting that non-Israelites will be reckoned by the Lord as having been born in Jerusalem / Zion; (2) Ruth converts to Judaism even though she is a Moabitess – see Ruth 1:16; (3) The Lord speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to warn the Israelites that “true Israel” (as Paul later calls it in his letter to the church in Rome) are those who are circumcised in heart, see Jer. 9:23-26.  |  [8] Gal. 3:29 ESV. See Eph. 3:4-6; Phil. 3:3; Gal. 3:9; Rom. 2:29; Rom. 11:17.  |  [9] Eph. 2:19 ESV.  |  [10] Eph. 3:6 ESV. See also Rom. 9:4; Eph. 2:15.  |  [11] 2 Cor. 1:20 NIV.  |  [12] See Eph. 2:11-22.  |  [13] Id.  |  [14] Id.

November 25, 2011

I am thankful for God – who is good but not safe.

by Bethany

This week, as if I were sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, I’m daily saying, “I am thankful for …”

Relevant Text: 2 Kings 9:7
Full Text: 2 Kings 9-10

Aslan | After the Pevensie children ate dinner with the Beavers, Mr. Beaver told them the prophecy about Aslan – that “wrong will be made right when Aslan comes in sight.” But they were confused about him:

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not … Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver: “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you” [1].

Judgment | God certainly is not safe or tame: “For if we go on sinning deliberately … there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment … It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [2]. Thus, God called Jehu to execute His judgment against the house of Ahab – a dynasty that ignored His mercies for decades [3]: “You shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge … the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord” [4].

Cleft | No, God is not safe, but He is good. How can these coexist? As John Piper has suggested, being in God’s presence is like hiding in the cleft of a rock on a glacier in the dead of winter in the midst of a terrible storm. Yes, you have found refuge and are safe – yet, you can see the storm and, thus, you tremble at its power and wonder, knowing that you would never want to be its adversary [5].

Prayer | Lord, You are a great storm to those who run from you. Yet, to those who find their refuge in you, you are a great savior. Therefore, we confess that we do not want to be your adversaries. Instead, we want to run to you as the Pevensie children ran to Aslan – full of hope and trust. Amen.

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[1] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Ch. 8: “What Happened After Dinner.”  |  [2] Heb. 10:26-31 ESV  |  [3] His mercies came – and often come – in warnings. Elijah and Elisha and other prophets repeatedly warned the house of Ahab about their willful disobedience.  |  [4] 2 Kings 9:7-8 ESV  |  [5]  John Piper, “The Pleasure of God in Those Who Hope in the Lord.” DesiringGod Ministries. Sermon, 15 March 1987.


November 24, 2011

I am thankful for tears that come with smiles.

by Bethany

This week, as if I were sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, I’m daily saying, “I am thankful for …”

Relevant Text: 2 Kings 8:12  |  Full Text:  2 Kings 6:24-8:15

Happy | Last week, I suggested that we might show our hope in God by “enjoying Him with great happiness and gladness of heart” [1]. C.S. Lewis even said that we must pursue happiness: “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can” [2]. In fact, the Bible repeatedly commands us to enjoy God [3]. Yet, how are we supposed to be happy in the midst of so much pain and suffering? Even if we genuinely trust God and humbly admit our inability to understand fully, are we really expected to be happy?

Sad | Elisha repeatedly faced sorrowful situations. Here, for example, he prophesied during a seven-year famine that was so severe some women even ate their children [4]. As Joseph Conrad reflected, prolonged hunger is unbearable: “No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze” [5]. After the famine ended, Elisha wept when he confronted the man who would assassinate the king and then brutally harm the people: “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women” [6].

Mix | Yes, we are called to “rejoice always “ [7], but we are not called to ignore the real suffering in this world and in our lives. In fact, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” [8] and Jesus wept on multiple occasions [9]. Yet, although he “offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” [10], he also joyfully endured the cross [11] because his sacrificed life “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” [12].

Prayer | Lord, You are in heaven, where you long for us to be infinitely and deeply happy. Yet, in and through our circumstances, we can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” [13], as we trust in your promise – “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” [14]. We pray for our faith to grow so that we know that you are good and you are for us and you are using all things for our deep and eternal happiness [15]. Amen.

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[1] See 843 Acres. “How to Live a Questionable Life.” 18 November 2011.  |  [2] C.S. Lewis, in a letter to a friend, Sheldon Vanauken. Quoted in Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), p. 189.  |  [3] See, e.g., Ps. 32:11; 67:4; 37:4.  |  [4] See 2 Kings 6:25-29.  |  [5] Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness.  |  [6] 2 Kings 8:12 NIV1984.  |  [7] Phil. 4:4.  |  [8] Is. 53:3 ESV.  |  [9] John 11:35. See also Luke 19:41-44.  |  [10] Heb. 5:7 ESV.  |  [11] Heb. 12:2 ESV. |  [12] Heb. 5:7-9 ESV.  |  [13] 1 Cor. 6:10 ESV  |  [14] Rom. 8:31-32 ESV  |  [15] Tyler Kennedy / John Piper, “If God Wants Me Happy, Why Do I Suffer So Much?” DesiringGod Ministries. 20 April 2010 (noting that – even though Paul experienced tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness – he was “always crying and always happy. How could he not be crying? He was so beat up. His back must’ve looked like a hunk of jelly most of the time because he had these five-times-thirty-nine lashes beat over his back and then healed in all kinds of gnarly ways … And he had enemies all around him. And he said, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice!’ So, yes, God wants you happy. But he doesn’t do it with circumstance. He does it in and through circumstances.”)


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