HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

In the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, verses 20 and 21 read as follows:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Reading these words so soon after the celebration of Jesus’ birth I am reminded of the words written in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the prophet says:

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. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ….

The Child Jesus was born long after Isaiah made this prophesy, yet the Child born in a stable was the same Person Isaiah prophesied would be born.  The Child laying in the manger was the same Person the Apostle John wrote about when he penned the words quoted above from Revelation 22:20-21.

John was one of Jesus’ disciples. He knew that Jesus had been crucified and died.  In fact, he was standing at the cross when Jesus told him to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother. And, even before he wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in our Bible, John knew that Jesus rose from the dead and had ascended to Heaven, our Savior and King.  He also had confidence that Jesus would come again as He had promised. John 14:3.

So, what is Isaiah saying when he said that the government will be upon this Child’s shoulder?

The US Capital Building
U. S. Capitol Building

For us, the concept of government does not necessarily carry connotations of security or permanence. Not only do we have elections with the associated change of personnel, there are upheavals in governments all over the world with various groups fighting for control.  On top of that we have numerous allegations of sexual assault leveled at high government officials, with multiple investigations undertaken that seem to overwhelm the news cycle each day. Permanence and righteousness in government is hard to find these days. So, what is the Scripture saying here

The Hebrew word translated in Isaiah 9:6 as government is transliterated as misrah which, according to Strong’s Number reference, has a Hebrew definition of “dominion” and it comes from a root word which means “to rule”.  We understand that someone who rules, governs. But when “dominion” is incorporated into the meaning of “rule”, an entirely different picture is created.

The Reformation Study Bible says that these words in Isaiah 9:6-7 mean that “He will carry the burden of rule and authority.”

The Scripture allows for no change. Full dominion and authority will be Christ’s.  Isaiah does not say that He might rule for some period … His ruling dominion will not end. Whatever needs to be done, will be done. He has absolute supremacy in all things.

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that this Ruler can handle whatever is happening in your life, because He is in absolute control.

Who will be doing this ruling?   It is the Child for whom sovereignty is just one of His divine attributes.  It is the Child who was born in the stable and who was wrapped in swaddling cloths.  It is the Child who has incredibly wonderful, powerful names:

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 The Christian knows this Child by the name of Jesus.

The One who heals the sick. The One who takes our sins and burdens. The One who carried a cross and endured its torture and shame on our behalf.   If you don’t know this Child, Jesus Christ, please take time at the beginning of this new year to seek Him and respond to the Holy Spirit’s quickening of your heart — believe in and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

The concluding verses of Revelation 22 say:

Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

Revelation 22:20-21.

As we look forward to 2018, may we pray along with Henri J. M. Nouwen:

“Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence. We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To You we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Father, we come to the close of the year 2017 and think back of all that You in your providence gave to us, and we thank You for your presence and support in both the blessings and the difficulties.  We look forward to 2018, a year that is as fresh and clean as new fallen snow.  While we don’t know what will happen, we can face the unknown with confidence because You are in control, and we know that Jesus will one day come again, but this time it will be in power and glory.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

 

JOY TO THE WORLD

When Isaac Watts was a young man, he became dissatisfied with the quality of singing in the British churches.  The songs sung were almost entirely taken from the Psalms in Scripture which were translated into poems with rhyme and rhythm so that they could be sung.  Watts, therefore, began writing hymns to be sung that were outside the Psalter thereby “inventing” the English hymn. 

Nativity with angel and wisemen

He did not ignore the Psalms, however.  In 1719, Watts wrote Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.  In this work, he paraphrased 138 psalms from the perspective of his New Testament faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Watts stated that: “I have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done if he lived in the days of Christianity.” 

The hymn “Joy to the World” was included in Watts’ work and it describes the incarnation of Christ, the presence of Christ in our hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ as described in the book of Revelation. 

Psalm 98 depicts the salvation of God in three tenses:

  1. Salvation in the past for the people of Israel (verses 1-3)
  2. Salvation in the present for all the earth because God is King (verses 4-6) and
  3. Salvation in the future for the entire universe because God will be coming to judge at the end of time. (verses 7-9)

In other words, Christ is not just a Babe in the manger.  Christ is our Savior and, as such, He is the Victorious Warrior and Judge who is the fulfillment of David’s prayer for righteous deliverance.

Christ has won the battle.  It is the Lord who completed the prophesy of Genesis 3:15 as the One who put enmity between the serpent and the woman.  Both the carol and Psalm 98 tell us what our response should be to such great salvation given by our God.  For the Christian, the carol rightly proclaims Joy, which is our gift from God because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

God’s covenant people in all nations and of all tongues joyfully tell of His salvation and righteousness, His sovereign reign and judgment.  When we consider God and all that He has done on our behalf, both in the past and in the present, we cannot possibly do anything other than praise and worship Him.

Even nature joins in the celebration of praise.  Nature gives God praise because God is its creator. 

Paul says in Romans 8:18-23 that all creation waits and longs for the return of the Lord.  When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, all creation including nature was corrupted.  But, when Jesus Christ returns as the triumphant victor over sin, the creation will be released from bondage and will receive the freedom of the glory of the Lord.

Psalm 98 envisions the glorification that is referenced centuries later in the New Testament writings and to which we are still looking forward to with eager anticipation:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22:20 

Here is “Joy to the World” from the Christmas program entitled “The Joy of Christmas”, as sung by the choir of my home church and as accompanied by members of the Knoxville Symphony. 

Scripture says:

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance” (Proverbs 15:13) and

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Psalm 33:3)

May this Christmas season find you praising the Lord and singing carols and hymns, even if you can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  The Lord looks at your heart, so He will know you are praising Him no matter how it sounds to those around you!

Cheerful countenance and loud shouts!  That sounds like joyful praising to me!

Father, thank You for the One who provides true joy to us daily and for the joy that comes eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – Part Two

In Part One of this post, we considered the question Jesus posited to His disciples disciples: “Who do YOU say that I am?” 

In ruminating on this question, we pointed to, and quoted from, C. H. Spurgeon’s sermon, preached on January 7th, 1872, entitled “The Glorious Master and the Swooning Disciple.”  In the earlier post we looked at what happens when we have a low opinion of our Lord and Savior.  Now, we continue with the text of the sermon and consider the flip side of the question’s answer – if we have a high opinion of the Lord:

If our conceptions of the Lord Jesus are very enlarged, they will only be His due. We cannot exaggerate here. He deserves higher praise than we can ever render to Him. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high is He above our loftiest conceptions. Even when the angels strike their loudest notes, and chant His praises most exultingly on their highest festal days, the music falls far short of His excellence. He is higher than a seraph’s most soaring thought! Rise then, my brethren, as on eagle’s wings, and let your adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord your Savior.

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

So, what does Scripture say about Jesus Christ?  How high is our Lord and Savior?

The Prophet Isaiah testified as follows:

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'”

Isaiah 45:22-23 ESV

Paul, in the New Testament letter to the Philippians, elaborates on what Isaiah prophesied centuries before.  Paul, speaking of Jesus Christ, said:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus Christ] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV.   See also Romans 14:11-12.

We may know this intellectually, but sometimes we fail to see Jesus in the proper light.  We see him as the Babe on Christmas, or as a Hollywood actor who walks through crowds with slow and steady gait, dressed in the browns and grays.  We see the poor itinerant teacher, without a place to lay His head.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

But do we recognize Him for Who He is?  Do we think of Him as He really is?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-4, 14 ESV

Did you comprehend that statement of John?  The Word, Jesus Christ, was with God before the world was created and through Him were all things created.  For the believer, we should do as Spurgeon urged: “let your adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord your Savior.”

A further description of the Word is found in Revelation as follows:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”

Revelation 19:11-13 ESV

Who is Jesus Christ?  John’s Revelation answers:

“And he said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.’”

Revelation 21:6 KJV.  Remember Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman at the well?  

“’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

Revelation 1:8 ESV.  See also Revelation 22:13. 

May we have a high opinion of our Lord and follow Spurgeon’s urging to let our adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord our Savior!

 

Father, I pray that these words would be edifying and encouraging to those who read them.  I pray that You would use Your Word to strengthen those who are struggling today and I pray that You would send Your Spirit to convict us of our sin so that we may rejoice in the strength and majesty of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.