Author Archives: Steven Davis

Singing with the King @ Christmas (6)

Christmas Star

Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows!
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.

Yesterday we talked about this Advent being a celebration of the coming of our Deliverer and Savior. There is no greater Old Testament passage to explain the redemptive work of Jesus our Messiah than Isaiah 53. In verses 4 and 5 we learn there are six substitutionary acts accomplished by the Christ for us; four of mercy (taking our punishment so as to not get what we do deserve); and two of grace (taking our punishment so as to get what we do not deserve). They are:

  1. Surely he hath borne our griefs
  2. Carried our sorrows
  3. He was wounded for our transgressions
  4. He was bruised for our iniquities
  5. The chastisement of our peace was upon him
  6. With his stripes we are healed

When Mr. Handel wrote Messiah, he put this Chorus (24) in what is typically considered the Easter portion of his Oratorio. But since the very name of Jesus means “The LORD is salvation”, and will save His people from their sins, it is most appropriate to know and worship the Holy Child as not only our King, but our Savior.

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (5)

Christmas Star

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

It had been about 400 hundred years since Israel had heard from the Lord, and within six months, the angel Gabriel came down twice to speak of Messiah’s birth. When Mary heard the above words from him, it’s easy to skip to the part about kings and thrones and forever. (Don’t we do the same… get to the good part and skip over the hard stuff?) But the first thing Gabriel told Mary was to name Him Jesus; and we learn from another angelic vision that the Child will live up to His name: for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21).

Mr. Wesley got it right, for the first line of the above verse is: Born Thy people to deliver. The advent we celebrate is for the One Who will deliver us from our sins. The advent we expect is when He will rule as King of kings and Lord of Lords forever.

 

Singing with the King @ Christmas (4)

Christmas Star

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

When the author of the hymn came to this verse he must have had Isaiah 9:2 on his mind: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. And as he composed this verse, he visualized the host of heaven in a vanguard invading the earth, and leading the Son of God to His incarnation in a glorious, dazzling, and blinding display. All who worshiped the darkness were put on notice, the light of the world had come into the world.

And the light is still here, which is why the shadows are being cleared away and the powers of hell will vanish: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Singing with the King @ Christmas (3)

Christmas Star

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive
Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O
Israel.

Emmanuel: God with us. This was not a new concept, for Israel knew and saw on numerous occasions that God was “with” them:

You with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt, and you will say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews has met with us.” (Exodus 3:18, 5:3)

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us. ( 1 Kings 8:56-57)

Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Psalm 46:7)

Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; state a proposal, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10)

But Emmanuel being with us is different:

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:  He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Spirit took on flesh; and the Presence became a Person.

Singing with the King @ Christmas (2)

Christmas Star

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Charles Wesley penned these words in the early 1700’s. And this hymn is rife with inspiration and insight.

The 1st line tells us who delivers this great message: the angels.                                           The 2nd line reveals Who is the content: the Christ child.                                                       The 3rd line shows results of this miraculous birth: peace and mercy incarnate came to earth.                                                                                                                                             But the 4th line exclaims what has happened; that which mankind has been incapable of doing, and centuries of sacrifices could not accomplish: God and sinners were reconciled.

Reconciliation literally means “according to change”. The situation between God and man had to be changed; both parties who were at enmity with one another, needed to be reconciled.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. (Colossians 1:21-22)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)

On that angel-filled night, we became witnesses to the first step of this reconciliation: The Son had come in the flesh, to earth!

Don’t miss what the Apostle Paul and Wesley were saying about our condition: we were sinners and we were enemies. But now, we are reconciled.

Our reconciliation, our salvation, became incarnate; that’s why He was named Jesus; “For He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

When you ponder His birth, may you recognize your salvation.

Singing with the King @ Christmas (1)

Christmas Star

Truth You Can Sing About!

We’re less that two weeks out from Christmas, and I wanted to pause for a time with the Psalms, and consider some of the great hymns and carols of the Christmas season. So leading up to Christmas, let’s part company with David for a time, and ponder the music which sings about the One from David’s house and line: Jesus!

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 43

spilled wine43. Wine & Myrrh

Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. (Mark 15:22)

Much of the crucifixion narrative is not recorded here in Mark. So to get the entire landscape of what went on, it is necessary to walk through all the Gospels. But here, just before Christ is nailed to the cross, they offer Him a drink of wine mixed with myrrh.

Apparently this concoction was used to dull the senses. But Christ chose not to drink this. He chose to be fully aware of all the sins of the world that were clinging to Him. He would be conscious of each and every sin ever committed by mankind. He would feel the pain and heartache of everyone of those sins.

Do you understand why it was necessary for the Son of God to die?  No one else could fathom the length, breadth and depth of these accumulated and concentrated sins; and no one else could identify them individually—the sins and the sinners. He knows your sins—each sin, every sin—so when He stood before His Father in heaven He could say: I died for his sins. I died for her sins. He died for your sin.

Now the question is: Are we fully conscious of our own sins? Or is there some sort of variation of the wine and myrrh that is a regular part of our diet? Is there something clouding your understanding Who Christ is?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 46

46. Cursed and Redeemed

freeChrist 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. (Gal 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us. There are only four occurrences of this particular Greek word. The three other passages are:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

So, we were redeemed from the curse of the Law to receive blessing and promise; we were redeemed unto adoption; we are to redeem our time; and we are redeem opportunities to witness to those around us. The Greek word for redeemed is exagorazo, which means to be bought out of the marketplace. When Christ redeems us, it is not simply a purchase or a ransom; rather, it is to purchase you and me for something (a blessing and promise, and being adopted); and when we redeem time—or an opportunity—we are being a good steward and a good witness.

But let’s stick to the context of the Greek her in this verse. Christ has obviously redeemed us from the marketplace of sin. We were slaves on the sales block—He bought us and made us sons and daughters.

But what about the marketplace from which we redeem time? What marketplace is that? Maybe it’s just the marketplace of life. We run through life at breakneck speeds, moving from one emergency to another. How often to we make time for the truly important things? Our Father knows we are busy—too busy.

That’s why He has given to us these two priorities:

  • The first is rather general, and therefore we need to rely on the wisdom He has given us: to redeem the things of life. And here’s where the Intentional Living verse comes in handy: Figure out what pleases Christ, then do it. There’s the answer for the Ephesians 5 passage; the answer to how we are to redeem our time.
  • The second is more specific. We are to redeem the opportunity to share Christ with others. Remember,  those who are lost are still slaves—as you once were—in the marketplace of sin, and you have an opportunity to show them how to be set free.

As Jesus Himself said: So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) Free to redeem our days, and free to proclaim Christ’s redemption to those who are lost.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 42

42. Whose Law?

Jesus and Pilate5

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”  (John 19:6)

Pilate knew the Jews wanted His death, now he knew how much: to crucify Him. Crucify is found only in the New Testament, and it was first used by Christ to prophecy the kind of death He would die. The next time the words appear was when the chief priests and crew cried out for His crucifixion.

As far as these court proceedings, Pilate had determined His rightful innocence and saw no reason for His death, at least under Roman law. This Gentile, although unable to stick to his conviction and ruling, did what the Jewish court could not. He pronounced Christ innocent. He did not see Jesus as a threat to his authority, nor to the authority of Rome. This was some sort of religious squabble within the Jewish community.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

Note: the charge had changed, the other shoe had dropped. We learn specifically in Luke that Christ was first accused by the Jews for sedition. And for that Pilate had made his ruling: not guilty. So then came their real reason, their real motivation for coming to Pilate. Christ had claimed to be the Son of God; and that was interpreted by the Jews as blasphemy. Not knowing if the accusation was true or not, Pilate opened himself up to be maneuvered into sentencing Christ the way the Jews wanted.

It was no longer about Roman law, it was about Jewish law—Jewish religious law. From a cultural perspective, Pilate would have no expertise from which to make such a ruling. But from a political perspective, He had to make a ruling. But the question here is: Why would he have to? It should have been irrelevant. One could easily make more room in the Roman Pantheon of god’s for this minor Hebrew God. But it was a much bigger deal for the Jews.

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:8-11)

Pilate’s fear grew. He was running out of options, and his commitment to do the right thing was overwhelmed by the commitment of the Jews to get rid of Christ once and for all.

The Greek word for fear is phobeos and has to do with getting out of Dodge—or rather, Jerusalem. Pilate wanted to flee, to fly away; but he could not.

His authority obviously held no sway over the convictions of the Jews—his not guilty sentence was ignored.

His political maneuvering obviously didn’t work either—the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus.

His wife’s warning didn’t work.

Nor did further political negotiations work.

As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

As we had seen earlier, Pilate was the one who had given Christ the title of “King of the Jews”. What he heard from the lips of Christ and His “otherworldly kingdom” posed little threat to Rome. The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, took this as a threat and forced it into a Roman context.

“If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar”. I find it interesting that this politico-religious body way outside the Roman culture should know just who is and who is not a friend to Caesar. But just the reference was enough to drag Pilate back to the Jew’s version of reality.

Everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar. The Jews would not let this rest. Pilate picked the name King of the Jews, and the Pharisees picked the fight; and they made sure this was a fight they would win.

Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:13-16)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 41

41. Check Your Hearing

Child listeningJesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

The question that must be asked: Do you hear His voice? If you do, then you are of the Truth. If not, then you are not of the Truth. And with Christ using the word everyone, this is a sweeping statement and stands as an insurmountable wall, which separates those who hear from those who do not; those who are of the truth from those who are of the lie.

We’ve seen the Greek word for everyone before; and it is most often translated as all. So one could just as easily say: All who are of the truth; and we find that the inclusive nature of Christ’s statement continues to stand.

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice, is a proclamation made by the Living Christ, the Son of God, that we must grapple with. He does not leave us any wiggle room. There’s no way you can say this declaration does not apply to you. You either hear, or you don’t hear.

Hear in Greek is not just the physical ability to audibly hear; it also has within its meanings understanding, perceiving, to consider, and to learn. But we cannot allow this to be merely a simple hearing test or an intellectual exercise. The proof of the hearing is in the doing:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. ( Matthew 7:21)

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21)

So what is it we hear? His voice. Do you understand, do you realize what an awesome blessing and privilege you’ve been given to hear His voice?

There is probably not a more beautiful sound than the voice of our Savior. And its beauty is two-fold: the actual sound of His voice, and what He is saying.

Think of the most beautiful song that you know. Is it beautiful because of the music? The one singing it? Or the words? Such is the voice of our Lord. The Person, the performance and the point, all come together to fill our need and satisfy our soul.

But when we hear Him now, in this place, before Pontius Pilate, I should think the sorrow in the song is overwhelming. Our hearts will be broken, to the point where it is almost too great to hear or bear. And yet in the midst of His sorrow, His suffering, His sacrifice, His separation, His torment, His torture, and being crushed by the sins of the world, He speaks to you.

There is a warning in Hebrews which appears over and over: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7) So the question is: when you heard His voice, did you also hear with your heart? Or did you harden your heart against it.

And finally, note the incredible work that has been accomplished in your life: Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25) Hearing and responding to the Truth has brought you from death to life. What else did Jesus say about the Truth? It will set you free!