Friday, December 23, 2011

Four prayers. One Spirit. One Mediator. One God.

    Amidst the busyness of Christmas shopping, Christmas events, Christmas parties with friends&families, Christmas concerts, Christmas baking, and everything else "Christmassy", I have absolutely cherished the down time where I have been able to quiet myself before the Lord and simply be in His Word. I've especially enjoyed being in the book of Malachi this Christmas season. When I celebrate the birth of Christ, I can't help but see it in light of the thousands of years of prophecy foretelling the coming of Messiah. The book I am most drawn to about Messiah is the book of Malachi, largely because these were God's last words to Israel before He sent His Son to be born as Man on earth over 400 years later. It's intriguing. To say the least.

    As I was reading through the book of Malachi, my mind kept wandering back to my favorite prayer in the Bible, which is that of Nehemiah's. Malachi's words seemed to so perfectly echo Nehemiah's prayer, but for some reason I always imagined these two men lived hundreds of years apart? I'm sure you can imagine how thrilled and surprised I was when I found out that Malachi was the prophet in Israel during the time of Nehemiah! It totally makes sense! In comparing the two, I kept coming back to Malachi 3:1, specifically to the fact that God told the Israelites that the Lord (YHVH) would come to the temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant. Naturally, I was intrigued by the only two Israelites awaiting YHVH in the temple over 400 years later; Simeon and Anna. I've been trying to find out how many Jewish people lived in Israel at the time of Jesus' birth, but I can't seem to find an authentic answer. One Bible teacher told me 500,000 to 600,000 Jews, but this could be wrong. Regardless, out of all the Israelites, only one man and one woman were recorded in the Scriptures as waiting for YHVH to come to the temple. Absolutely stuns me.  I mean, seriously, God told them that YHVH (Messiah) would literally COME to the temple!!! And only two people were waiting there? I'm certainly not going to cast the first stone though; makes me wonder how many of us will be watching, waiting, and ready for Christ's second coming (Malachi 4:1-3)? Though these four unique individuals be separated by either time and/or space, they all seem to have one mind. Only a God as great as our God could do this. Only one Spirit could move in the hearts of these four individuals and cause their hearts to beat in unity toward one thing. Ultimately, they all knew there was only one Mediator that could save them all. (Nehemiah 1:4-11; Malachi 1-4; Luke 2:25-35; Luke 2:36-38).


The thing I love most about Nehemiah's prayer is his consuming passion for his people. May we all mirror Nehemiah in our love for people! I've asked myself when is the last time I have "sat down and wept, and mourned for many days" over people who have not come to the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ? Nehemiah was so burdened that it drove him to be "fasting and praying before the God of heaven...day and night" Ne 1:4,6. When is the last time we have fasted? How about the last time we have prayed all day or all night? "You do not have because you do not ask" James 4:2. It seems there were similar burdens on the hearts of Malachi and Nehemiah, and even after more than 400 years later, the Spirit still gave at least one other person the same burden: Anna. Her heart was aligned with Nehemiah's; "this woman...did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" Luke 2:37. Nehemiah and Anna not only understood prayer, but they believed God would answer their prayer. And He did answer them, of course! "Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" Matthew 21:22.

    Anna was a great woman of faith. She must have known the prophecies of the coming Messiah well, because it obviously did not faze her that YHVH was in the temple as a baby. I wish I could've seen her expression the moment she saw Simeon holding that tiny cooing baby! Luke says she immediately recognized who baby Jesus was, because she instantly gave thanks to the Lord for Him. "And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord..." Luke 2:38. Not only that, she went around Jerusalem telling those who were looking for redemption all about baby Jesus, their Messiah!


   And Simeon...how I admire him. Patiently waiting on the Lord is one of the hardest things for me to do...but, like Simeon, I have found it to always be worth it. I serve a Good and Faithful Father who knows me so much better than I know myself...how thankful I am for Him. Simeon understood and lived what it means to wait on the Lord. "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" Isaiah 40:31. You can just feel Simeon's agony of joy in his prayer. Reading his prayer almost always moves me to tears. He whose eyes were probably dimming from old age and ready to face death's door, got to behold the Salvation of the Lord and hold the Consolation of Israel! Simeon had truly found delight in Jesus, the Messenger of the covenant, just as Malachi prophesied would happen; "and the Lord [YHVH], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight." Malachi 3:1. Just imagine what Simeon must have felt...put yourself in his shoes. Amazing. What a beautiful picture to see Malachi, Nehemiah, Simeon and Anna, all with one heart, looking forward to see their Salvation come from God YHVH, the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I know the book of Malachi is not a prayer, I can see his prayer in it; it echos the prayer of Nehemiah, as Simeon's prayer echos that of Malachi's, and Anna's prayer echos Nehemiah's prayer. Absolutely beautiful.

   You know, I've heard people speak of Jesus as if His life didn't "really" start until He started His ministry when He was around 30, but we should know that He, as the only begotten Son of God from eternity, started His life on this earth the moment His little human body took a breath, right? To Simeon, baby Jesus was not just a special little baby that would someday be someone great, but He was THE Prince of Peace to him the  moment Simeon beheld Him, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation" Lu 2:29-20. Jesus, as a baby, fulfilled His role as the Prince of Peace almost 30 years before He started His ministry! It is because He is peace. We've all sung Christmas songs about peace on earth, but I wonder if this has partly been misunderstood? After all, even Jesus Himself said, "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." Lu 12:51. The reaction Jesus, as Peace, made to this sinful world caused all kinds of havoc, because "...the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" Jn 3:19, and Satan would not stand by to let this Peace reign in the hearts of men. Have we forgotten that turmoil, evil, hatred and cold murder of innocent baby boys followed that peaceful silent night (Mt 2:16-18)? In fact, turmoil, evil, hatred and murder followed close behind Jesus all the way to His cross. And yet, amidst the turmoil, Jews and Gentiles alike found Peace in Jesus.


How is it possible to live in a world today that is full of evil and yet still have complete, whole, and pure Peace in your heart? "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33. It is only possible if you are in Him! There is no other peace, no other way, no other Mediator between us and God, except Jesus the Messiah. I am in Him! He reigns, first and foremost, on the throne of my heart, and I can celebrate His birth as knowing that was the day Peace stepped down from heaven and took His place in a manger to be Peace in the hearts of those on earth who know Him as their Savior. I say a hearty amen to the multitude of the heavenly hosts who proclaim, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14! Merry Christmas to all :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Manger and the Cross

 


   Christmas is my favorite time of the year because it brings me to recall all of the wonderful things the Father has done for us, mostly in giving us His Son! In remembering the joy of His birth, I can't help but see it through the blood of His cross. This was His message, even as a babe in a manger. "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21.

   That silent night was the beginning of a cycle Jesus was to complete in living out His life on earth. It wasn't until His death on the cross that we could see more clearly that He would end this journey with life in His resurrection and that He would be the Way in which we could receive new life. Life Death Life. In following His footsteps, we too experience this same cycle. The joy and privilege of life being breathed into us the day we were born into this world is something we should never stop thanking the Father for! The humility of dying to our sins is something we should never let ourselves forget. The pure happiness and honor of receiving new life through the blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, is something that demands our soul, our life, our all. This Christmas when we survey the manger, may we also survey the wondrous cross beyond it, and may it bring us all to our knees to worship this glorious King who came to save us from our sins!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Son of God

Son of God, purest light
Lord on high is here tonight
Stamping through this sacred sky
Suddenly our eyes behold
Heaven's perfect plan unfold
Son of God

Son of God, love divine
Timeless one steps in to die
Who could dream of such a thing
With us now the King of Kings
Man and angels bow and sing
Singing Hallelujah, Hallelujah

We're singing Gloria, Hallelujah!

Our God is with us
Emmanuel, our God is with us
We're singing Hallelujah
Singing Gloria

-Ferrante, Arthur/Teicher, Louis
(It's a Wonderful Christmas, Michael W. Smith)