Virgin Birth: Believe It To See It

virgin birth

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah gave this prophecy not as a word of encouragement but as a rebuke of unbelief. The context provided by the chapter is that the Assyrians are invading Israel and trying to take Jerusalem. The king and the people are afraid and God promises King Ahaz that they will not succeed.

10 Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying,

11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.

Ahaz was trying to be clever and use God’s own word against much in the same way that Satan tried to twist scripture against Jesus during His temptation. I believe Ahaz knew better that asking for a sign as a condition of faith was prohibited but here the Lord was offering it to him and so it was okay. In spite of what Ahaz said he, in fact, was testing God’s patience.

Jumping forward to the ministry of Jesus we read that He was frustrated with the people because they wanted Him to perform miracles, saying,”Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). This was the proper application of the command that Ahaz was using as cover for not trusting God.

God requires us to trust and obey before we see a miracle. We want to see signs and wonders before we trust Him, maybe. Jesus said that the centurion had faith like no one in Israel because he did not need to see the healing to believe it.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19

Peter saw the miracles of Jesus’ ministry and I don’t think they can be matched by anyone in the Bible or human history. Yet, it was the word that was a more solid foundation for faith. Miracles, signs, emotional experience, all of these will fail us. You have to decide at the outset that God is trustworthy and commit yourself.

The Story Behind “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

ocomeocomeemmanuel

This hymn has become one of my favorites over the last few years. Since I was studying Latin during that time I am partial to this song because of its Latin roots. This song was originally song in Latin masses and eventually made its way to a wider audience.

In its original form, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was known as a song of the “Great Antiphons” or “Great O’s.” The initial Latin text, framed in the original seven different verses, represented the different biblical views of the Messiah. One verse per day was sung or chanted during the last seven days before Christmas.

For the people of the Dark Ages—few of whom read or had access to the Bible—the song was one of the few examples of the full story of how the New and Old Testament views of the Messiah came together in the birth and life of Jesus. Because it brought the story of Christ the Savior to life during hundreds of years of ignorance and darkness, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” ranks as one of the most important songs in the history of the Christian faith.

The song owes its worldwide acceptance to a man named John Mason Neale. Born on January 24, 1818, this Anglican priest was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge. Brilliant, a man who could write and speak more than twenty languages, he should have been destined for greatness. Yet many feared his intelligence and insight. At the time, church leaders thought he was too evangelical, too progressive, and too much a freethinker to be allowed to influence the masses. So rather than get a pastorate in London, Neale was sent by the church to the Madiera Islands off the northwest coast of Africa…

Neale was an avid reader of anything related to the scriptures and came across the song in a Latin songbook. He translated it into English with the lyrics beginning with “Draw Nigh, Draw Nigh, Emmanuel.”

candle

The tune that went with Neale’s translation had been used for some years in Latin text versions of the song. “Veni Emmanuel” was a fifteenth century processional that originated in a community of French Franciscan nuns living in Lisbon, Portugal. Neale’s translation of the lyrics coupled with “Veni Emmanuel” was first published in the 1850s in England. Within twenty-five years, Neale’s work, later cut to five verses and called “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” grew in popularity throughout Europe and America.

The first verse comes from Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23. Isaiah 11 is the inspiration for the verse describing Jesus as the rod of Jesse. Malachi 4:2 tells us that Jesus is the “sun of righteousness,” the Dayspring. The “Key of David” is found in Isaiah 22:22.

This hymn is a great musical source of biblical teaching. It condenses what the Old Testament tells us of the purpose of Jesus’ advent and ministry into seven verses. Just like how Jesus revealed to His disciples what the Law and the Prophets said about Him as they walked on the road to Emmaus so this hymn reveals Jesus’ manifold fulfillment of prophecy. He is truly Christ the Lord.

Don’t Forget God’s Love & Kindness

CrossingRedSea

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.

Isaiah 63:7

The reason why Isaiah had to write this prophecy is because Israel did not agree with verse seven. They did not see in God the source of their blessing, prosperity, and protection so they wandered off the path He set for them. Christians can learn important lessons from this passage of prayer and praise.

Our prayers to God should always include mention of His love towards us and thanksgiving for what He has done for us. When we forget this it isn’t long before we are disappointed and frustrated with what God hasn’t done for us. Our focus becomes fixated on what we want, which happens to be what we don’t have, and we treat God like our butler.

I believe this view causes us to see God as impotent because we are only interested in what He will do for our agenda. We have made our life plans for education, career, and social status without consulting God at all and we expect Him to deliver it like it’s a pizza. We are certainly not interested in His purposes for us.

Remembering His lovingkindnesses to us in the past helps us build our trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. It connects the scriptures with real-life consequences, showing us that we can trust in His power to sustain, deliver, and bless us. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this but I know now that when I look back that I see many times when the Lord has delivered me from my troubles. I get encouraged when I remember that God has a perfect record and always will.

Paul emulates this example well when he often mentions his thanks to God for various things. He is a thankful man to God for what He has done and the people He has put in Paul’s life and ministry.

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…

Ephesians 1:6

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Philippians 1:3; 4:6

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you…

Colossians 1:3

When God Does Not Hear Your Prayers

hand-reaching-out

 

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

Isaiah 59:2,3

As I read through the chapters of Isaiah I am increasingly impressed with the development of this multi-layered prophecy. In chapter 54 the Lord reveals the future glory of Zion. In chapter 55 He invites the thirsty to taste the waters of eternal life. In chapter 56 He foretells the salvation of the gentiles. In chapter 57 He indicts the wicked and identifies with the contrite in spirit. In chapter 58 He calls His people to abandon their false worship and to draw near with their hearts. Now He tells them that their false worship does them no good.

More often than not you will hear people emphasize the importance of praying because God does hear your prayers, and that is true. But we want to be clear that it is not unconditional and absolute. The exception here is that the people were given over to all sorts of evil amongst themselves and so God withholds His protection and blessing.

The word “justice” is used in this chapter in two senses: one has to do with men doing the right thing and the other has to do with God’s judgment of Israel’s oppressors. The people neglected the former and thus God withheld the latter.

I believe this passage in verses 1-15 shows that the main challenge to approaching the Lord is our own evil nature. People are not battering the gates of heaven with passion. They are running to evil at full speed. We are the obstacles to our own reconciliation with God and He has to overcome our sinful natures in order to restore fellowship.

If you want to have your sinful cake and eat it too then do not be surprised when the Lord does not answer because He will not. In 1:15-17 of this book God warns the people that they are lifting up blood-stained hands in worship to Him and He will not even look at them. In Micah 3:4 God again says that He will not hear prayers from those who do ill. James also tells us that a double-minded man who prays will not receive anything from God.

This is a good time to mention that the problem is not so much what the people did not do but what they did do. Their prayers were not answered because they did evil, not because they did not do amazing things. God was not turning away because He was not impressed but because He was repulsed by their wickedness. These are the conditions under which you should not pray. The solution is simple: confess and repent and you will see the Lord reveal His power.

What is holding you back?  

 

God Seeks After Broken Hearts

broken_heart

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.

I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.

Isaiah 57:15-18

In this chapter the Lord is continuing this theme of mercy that goes back to at least chapter 55. He invites the thirsty to come and drink and then, in chapter 56, shows us that His mercy is not just for the Jews but also for men of all nations, peoples, and tongues. Here we see that He is the God of the contrite.

As Jesus said, He came not for the healthy but for the sick. But until a sick person is willing to admit that they need help they will not listen to doctors nor seek their aid. The Lord cannot do anything for, or with, a person who is not humble enough to realize that they need God’s healing. We will not experience the power of God in our lives as long as we believe we are healthy, as the Pharisees believed.

There is a lie from the Devil that is quite pervasive and it leads us to believe that God is harsh and oppressive, if not apathetic about our plight. When we believe the lie we think that the Lord is uncaring and has no interest in helping us. He is like a instructor in basic training who is always yelling at us and telling us we are doing it all wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth and we can thank God the revelation of His compassion and mercy throughout the scriptures.

David understood that God was after those who were broken and contrite. We read in Psalm 51:17:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

In Psalm 34:18 we read:

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

In Isaiah 66:1,2 we read:

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Going to the gospels, in Luke 7:47-48, we read:

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

The woman who was a sinner had brought her alabaster box full of perfume to anoint Jesus and to wash His feet with her tears. Our Lord perfectly explains that such a heart is so pleasing to God because it draws us to Him in gratitude, appreciation, and love. We are no good to God and His kingdom if we have not been forgiven much because then there is not much love in us. The greatest servants in the kingdom know that God has freed them from a tremendous burden. It is for that reason that they have so much love for the Lord and His people.

If you want to do great things for God then never forget the work of redemption He did in your life. God can do great things through you when you are broken because that is when your heart is soft and malleable. When you are soft then He will mold you into the image of Christ, and that is the beginning of a powerful ministry.

His Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways

Illustration - your way my way street signs

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8,9

One of the most insightful and motivational elements of studying scripture is when learn the meaning of a popular scripture, like the one above, in its context. Sometimes you realize that the way it is often repeated, or the way you always understood it, is either inaccurate or truncated. This is the difference between studying the meaning of scripture versus using it to come up with life applications.

I have never read this verse in light of the prior verses which provide the context. This chapter has God’s invitation for sinners to come and seek His mercy and enter into an everlasting covenant.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah 55:1-7

When I read the word “for” in verses eight and nine it made me realize that this may be a reason for what God says in the beginning of the chapter. That is, the Lord calls sinners to forgiveness and repentance because it is His manner of doing things. And since His ways are not our ways (being higher) then that means that mercy and forgiveness are not our ways.

And when we look at scripture we see that whereas God is willing to forgive men are quick to do impose judgment. I think of the parable Jesus tells to explain to Peter how often we are supposed to forgive others.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

Matthew 18:28-30

Forgiveness is a very difficult thing for us to attain and we struggle with it our whole lives. It is where the enemy can be very effective in accusing us and creating divisions within the church. We can hold a grudge for decades over the smallest offense and end up spiritually impotent. Forgiveness is a manifestation of the power of God and when we forgive others we witness to that power and use it for their benefit.

The skeptic has been successful in creating this misperception of God as a harsh, angry tyrant who is looking for an excuse to condemn us. That is nothing more than a lie that we must refute. God is the one who is compassionate and it is men are the cruel, evil seekers of destruction. We would not know what real grace and mercy was if we did not have it revealed to us in the scriptures.

We are evil and our hearts are bent towards wickedness. Retaliation, anger, and judgment are our ways. But grace, mercy, and forgiveness are the Lord’s ways and His ways are certainly higher and more righteous than ours.

7 Blessings Of Being Christ’s Follower

spiritual-warfare

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of theLord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

This chapter describes the inheritance that we now get to enjoy as followers of Christ. It is the glory that Christ attained after suffering on our behalf to redeem us, the glory He had with the Father before He walked among men. It is the promise of an everlasting victory that will never be undone. These are the blessings that are promised to us:

  1. We have protection from every weapon raised against us.
  2. We can retaliate against any accusation against us. Who is that condemns us? (Is. 50:8)
  3. Our children will be taught of the Lord and know great peace.
  4. We will be established in righteousness.
  5. We will be free from oppression and without fear.
  6. We will be free from terror because it will not come near us.
  7. Our righteousness will be of God.

We have the promise of God as our guarantee that we can enjoy these blessings which was fulfilled when Jesus rose again in victory of sin and death. We do not have to worry about losing these things because no one will be able to separate us from the Lord.

What Does It Mean To Be God’s Wife?

Altar wedding

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

Isaiah 54:4,5

One thing that we can always count on in life is that people will let us down whether they mean it or not. We are just not capable of keeping our promises. Fortunately, we cannot say this about God but yet we need to be reminded.

The Devil is extremely effective in convincing us that we have no hope of reconciling with God but the Lord graciously shows us that He is merciful and eager to receive us. This passage reminds me of Hosea 2:16:

And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.

The Hebrew meanings behind ishi and baali are interesting for what they illuminate. Baali is the word for lord, or sir, and refers to the order within the marriage wherein the husband is the head and the wife is placed under his headship and authority. Ishi (my man, my husband) is related to the word, isha (my woman, my wife), which Adam used of Eve and it connotes a relationship that is much more intimate. God is condescending to our level and seeking an intimate relationship with His people in which they are face to face.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Romans 7:4

Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by showing us that He is the bridegroom for the church, His bride. We also are one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. The relationship will then reach its ultimate stage when He comes back to get His bride for the wedding banquet that will never end.

 

 

7 Parallels Between Isaiah 53 And Jesus

jesus_christ_on_trial_resurrection1

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:1-9

1. The first parallel that comes to mind is the birth of Jesus. It was a challenge for Joseph, Mary, and others to believe that Jesus was the messiah that was foretold in the scriptures. Later, during His ministry, we also see plenty of examples of people who struggle to accept that He was the one that Israel was expecting to deliver them.

2. When I read in verse two and three that the servant had no beauty and was rejected by men it takes me to Matthew 13:54-57 where the Jews were offended by the idea that a man as lowly as he, of no repute, could do such miraculous works and speak with such wisdom. This is where Jesus says that a prophet is not honored in his own country.

3. The parallel in verse four is much more explicit and we get it from the text itself in Matthew 8:17. The crowds brought their sick and demon-possessed and Jesus healed them all. We read that this is a fulfillment of the prophecy that God’s servant “would take up our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.”

4. In verse five we see that well-known text which explains what Jesus was doing on the cross to offer us salvation. He was beaten, tortured, and whipped for our sakes and because of that we receive healing. We are healed by His wounds.

5. The scene of Jesus’ scourging comes to mind as I read verse seven. He took His punishment, even though it was unjust and abusive. He did not fight back either. There was never a man as innocent and undeserving of any punishment as Jesus.

6. Verse eight relates to the scene in the Temple and in Pilate’s palace after Jesus’ arrest. He did not try to avoid the punishment because He knew this is why He came and that the Lord would give Him the grace to endure. He did not dispute the charges but He did fill His accusers with guilt and shame as they realized that they were putting an innocent, if there ever was one, to death.

7. We know from the narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection that verse nine indicates the burial tomb that was provided for Him by a wealthy man. He was unlike any man who ever lived and yet His body was laid to rest as if He was just another criminal who failed to throw off Israel’s Roman oppressors.

Think Globally Act Locally

4.29-gentilesgospel

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:10

This verse is one reason why I have come to see Isaiah as an important transition point in the redemptive history of man. We see here that God putting into place a sequence of events that will lead to the arrival of the Messiah who will not only redeem Israel but bring in God’s people from all over the world. In these latter chapters of Isaiah God talks a lot about the gospel that would be taken to the gentiles. God was the first one to think globally and act locally.

The seed, or offspring, that Jesus will see is us, His church and He has enjoyed the fruits of His success for thousands of years. These days we see people are consumed with pursuing “success” but it is usually within the context of some career ambition. We also see many people who are trying to figure what to do in light of their failure to achieve or find any fulfillment in life even after they have succeeded. Jesus teaches us some profound lessons about what real success looks like.

Not only has Jesus benefitted from His sufferings until His death on the cross but we also enjoy those benefits. This chapter describes some of those blessings. We have been healed and justified by the Son after He suffered the punishment of our iniquities. He exchanged our sin for His righteousness and made us one with Him. Hallelujah.

We see a clear summary of this in the New Testament:

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Hebrews 2:10

Do you belong to this number? Are you part of His seed?