Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing!
I love this carol. It is indeed joyous, and is rightfully sung as such. But is the world joyous? Will Earth receive her king? Will every heart prepare Him room?
And that greatly saddens me. There are those who worship other gods, and will find no joy in His coming. There are those who think Him a myth and will not receive Him. There are those who think Him irrelevant or undeserving, and will not make room for Him. For these there is no joy.
Part of reason there is no joy is our fault—the Church’s fault. Do we judge instead of love? Are we inconsistent? Do we preach legalism rather than forgiveness? And though we understand The Truth, do we wield it as a weapon rather than share it with grace?
For those who may have ended up on the receiving end of our hypocrisy, I am sorry. But don’t let our failings get in the way of you seeing a Loving Heavenly Father, and His Son, dying for your sins.
Scripture tells us that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11) So we will kneel and confess either because we love Him or because we have to.
Listen to the music; listen to the words; and discover The One who loves you this Christmas. He came for you!
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:
Surely he hath borne our griefs
Carried our sorrows
He was wounded for our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
The chastisement of our peace was upon him
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
Are you OK with that statement? Is the God of David the only god? Well, what does God Himself say about Himself? Isaiah was present to record some of His comments:
“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be.” (Isaiah 43:10) Note that God had made this known to His People; not only Israel, but the Church.
All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 25)
Back to Isaiah:
I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them. (Isaiah 45:5-8)
“Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isa 46:8-10)
The LORD is not leaving us much wiggle room here. And He even speaks of those who whine and complain about it:
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’” (Isaiah 45:9, 10)
But it’s not just a matter of whining and complaining. No, we take the matter of god into our own hands and rather than acknowledge we are made in His image, we make gods in our image.
Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)
How sad that we, who were created in the image of the Living God, would choose to embrace the image of things that are dead.
Let’s go back to Psalm 86 and see why David is able to say: “You alone are God.”
Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. (vs. 2-4) Why can David ask the LORD to Protect, save, be merciful, and give him happiness? Because…
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (vs. 5) And…
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (vs. 15)
David also contrasts the One True God with the gods of the pagans, and puts it into a global context: No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do! All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. (vs. 8-9)
Paul echoes a similar reality: Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
All nations, all peoples will bow and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Some will do so out of love; others because they are constrained to do so. Will you acknowledge the One who alone as God? The One who protects you, saves you, is merciful to you and gives you happiness. I hope so.
Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Israel, trust in theLord now and forever! (Psalm 131)
Last time I looked at this Psalm, I focused mainly on the author. It was King David, who was, shall we say, a reasonably successful King. Yet this is where his heart was. But this time I want to look at our hearts in relation to this Psalm.
This is one of the Songs of Ascents, there are 15, which are presumed to be the songs the Jews sang as they walked up to the Temple. If that is indeed the case, then the four David wrote were for future generations.
So here we are walking to worship, and it’s probably a good time and place to give up your pride and turn away from your arrogance. God’s not particularly fond of either of those attributes:
Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. (Psalm 136:6) It’s going to be tough to worship—to draw near—if the LORD is keeping His distance from you.
All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13) Fear of the LORD means you understand Who He is and who you are. Pride and arrogance will not only NOT lead to understanding, it will put you in a dangerous place where God hates you.
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) Disgrace or wisdom…it’s your choice.
Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19)
Disgrace, distance, and finally destruction and a fall.Can you see how impossible it is to have a loving and worshipful relationship with Him, with all that against you? Pride exalts us beyond our place. Pride replaces God, or at best ignores Him. Pride completely re-writes our priorities. Pride makes us stupid. And the damage? Well that’s what the Psalms and Proverbs are talking about.
So what is it that grabs your attention? Great things? Difficult things? In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with either. But what if they become a distraction? What if they complicate too much? Find the simplicity of a child’s love and rest in the Lord.
Finally, lets not forget the context. You’re on your way to worship. God knows your heart. He knows when you’re being prideful and stupid, and he knows when you’re being humble like Jesus. He knows when you are near, and when you are distant. But what about your friends around you, as you’re going to worship? Are you being transparent so they can see that you’re struggling, and therefor could encourage you and strengthen you? Or are you keeping to yourself, hurting alone, being alone? It could be that your willingness to be open could bring about the healing you need, the truth you need, and so as your walking to worship, you’re actually being made ready for worship.
Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) You might even find yourself held in His loving arms.
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? (Psalm 130:3)
Have you ever noticed that the Bible asks some pretty tough questions? And I see this verse within the context of another verse from the Psalms: For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage. (Psalm 40:12) Yeah. There are days like that, when my sins pile up so high around me I can’t see my way out.
Please understand, we’re not talking about sins which are committed by those who do not love the LORD. They wouldn’t even recognize them as sins, let alone even know what sin is. Psalm 40 is about a soul who is vexed by and overwhelmed by his sins. And being in such a state, you see no way through, no way out. Paul felt this:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:18-24)
Now he good news is that Paul does not leave us waiting. The answer comes immediately in verse 25: Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 7:25-8:2)
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. So when Christ died for our sins, and we accepted His sacrifice and His salvation, the Father stopped keeping records.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (Isaiah 44:22)
“You have put all my sins behind your back.” (Isa8ah 38:17)
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)
“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
Once our sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. The problem is WE keep remembering them. And that’s where we need to learn a lesson in Divine forgiveness. If He has buried our sins in the sea, scattered them like the mist, and removed them as far as the east is form the west, don’t you think we should forget them as well. Otherwise we could be saying that His forgiveness isn’t good enough, and that’s terrible and scary position to take.
In lovehe predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s gracethat he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5-8)