31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 12 – Expect a forerunner

001-john-baptist

The prophet Malachi gives us the last recorded words we have from God before the 400 year period of silence begins between the Old and New Testaments. No more prophets, no more writings, and no word from God. Only 50,000 Jewish exiles return to Judah after their captivity in Babylon. And with this last prophet’s words, God closes out the Old Testament history and prophecy.

Malachi 3:1
“See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts.

The prophet Isaiah also confirmed this messenger, or forerunner to the Messiah.

Isaiah 40:3
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.”

How were the people to know when the Messiah was to come, and how would they recognize him? Malachi said a messenger would come first to clear the way for the Messiah. He would be a witness, one to help prepare the way.

Four hundred years later, when all hope seemed lost, an unusual man named John the Baptist arrived on the scene. He lived in the desert wilderness and came preaching a unique message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” He was the forerunner to Christ.

“See, He is coming”, says the Lord of Hosts.

This Christmas season, may you feel the joy and anticipation of the Savior that is Jesus Christ. 

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 11 – Place of birth is named

3-wise-men

Micah was another Hebrew prophet that was a contemporary of Isaiah. He was considered to be a great communicator and was known as a prophet to the common people. If Isaiah had been the only prophet to prophesy about the coming Messiah then it might have been less believable, but when there are multiple witnesses and sources, it becomes even more credible.

Micah’s writings were read and studied by kings several hundred years after his death, and they also appear in the United States Government today. In this next prophecy from the book of Micah, he actually names the place of birth for the Messiah – Bethlehem!

Micah 5:2
Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity.

These are the words the wise men read that led them to the Star of Bethlehem. They had studied Micah’s writings, where it was prophesied 700 years earlier that the coming Messiah would be from the small town of Bethlehem, from the tribe of Judah, and with an origin from the beginning of time lasting for eternity. What incredible faith they must have had to travel such a long distance to a foreign land with nothing more than these ancient prophecies. God clearly rewarded their faith.

And today, if you look in the Library of Congress next to the U.S. Capitol building, you will see these other words from the Prophet Micah inscribed above one of the reading alcoves.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Judeo/Christian principles are found everywhere in the beginning of the U.S. Government.
~ In God We Trust is imprinted on the U.S. currency.
~ A painting of the Baptism of Pocohontas at Jamestown in 1618 hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
~ The Liberty Bell is inscribed with Leviticus 25:10 (proclaim liberty throughout all the land).
~ A large bronze statue of Moses with the 10 Commandments is located in the Library of Congress, along with over a thousand rare Bibles including an original Gutenberg Bible.
~ All 50 State Constitutions reference God.
And there are many other historical references. God rewards our faithfulness.

This Christmas season, may you have the faith of the Wise Men, the prophets Micah and Isaiah, the founding fathers of America, and countless numbers of others who have gone before us. May God bless you for your faithfulness during this special season of celebration – from a little town of Bethlehem long ago.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 10 – Salvation through His death

watchman

Harper Lee is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the famous book, To Kill a Mockingbird, written in the 1950’s. In recent years, another novel of hers was discovered and released, called Go Set a Watchman. I didn’t understand the meaning of the title at first until I learned the phrase actually comes from the book of Isaiah.

For thus has the Lord said to me: “Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees.” Isaiah 21:6

Much of our literature, art, and culture has Biblical references. A watchman was to be a moral compass, one to keep you on the right path and to guide you in the right direction when things go wrong.  Chapters 52 and 53 of the book of Isaiah contain some of my favorite references and literature in the Bible.  I hope you enjoy reading these amazing and undeniable prophecies from Isaiah about the Messiah’s death, written several hundred years before Jesus was born and while the nation of Israel was still in captivity.

Isaiah 52-53
“Wake up, wake up;
put on your strength, Zion!
Put on your beautiful garments,
Jerusalem, the Holy City!”

For this is what the Lord says:
“You were sold for nothing,
and you will be redeemed without silver.
At first My people went down to Egypt to live there,
then Assyria oppressed them without cause.
My name is continually blasphemed all day long.
Therefore My people will know My name;
therefore they will know on that day
that I am He who says:
Here I am.”

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the herald,
who proclaims peace,
who brings news of good things,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
The voices of your watchmen—
they lift up their voices,
shouting for joy together;
for every eye will see
when the Lord returns to Zion.

See, My Servant will act wisely;
He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
His appearance was so disfigured
that He did not look like a man,
and His form did not resemble a human being.
Kings will shut their mouths because of Him,

For they will see what had not been told them,
and they will understand what they had not heard.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
Y
et He Himself bore our sicknesses,

and He carried our pains;
He was pierced because of our transgressions,

crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth.
They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man
at His death,
although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

My righteous Servant will justify many,
and He will carry their iniquities.
B
ecause He submitted Himself to death,

and was counted among the rebels;
yet He bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels.

May you listen to the watchman’s words and let your life be guided by the truth. Jesus came as the messenger of truth, and He is the true “Peace on Earth.” 

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 9 – Jesus is fully human and fully God

servant-songs

There are four servant songs in the book of Isaiah, which describe the coming Messiah as a servant, a savior, one who will suffer, and one who will be exalted. This second servant song from the prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of God’s purpose from the beginning to the end. Jesus was with God from the beginning, and came to earth as a man to serve, suffer, and offer salvation through his death. God’s message is this: salvation for all people, made possible through his servant, Jesus. All four of the servant songs can be found in Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 49:1-13, Isaiah 50:4-11 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

The song of the servant, the Messiah.

Isaiah 49:1-6
Coastlands, listen to me;
distant peoples, pay attention.  (for all people)
The Lord called me before I was born.  (Jesus was with God from the beginning)
He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.  (virgin Mary)
He made my words like a sharp sword;
He hid me in the shadow of His hand.  (not to be revealed until the right time)
He made me like a sharpened arrow;
He hid me in His quiver.
He said to me, “You are My Servant, Israel;
I will be glorified in him.”  (Jesus will come through Israel)

But I myself said: I have labored in vain,  (Jesus will suffer)
I have spent my strength for nothing and futility;  (Jesus will be rejected by some)
yet my vindication is with the Lord,
and my reward is with my God.
And now, says the Lord,
who formed me from the womb to be His Servant,
to bring Jacob back to Him  (God’s purpose is to restore His people to Him)
so that Israel might be gathered to Him;  
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is my strength—
He says,
“It is not enough for you to be My Servant
raising up the tribes of Jacob  (in the Tribulation, the 12 tribes will be witnesses)
and restoring the protected ones of Israel.
I will also make you a light for the nations,
to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”  (through Jesus, salvation is for all)

The Apostle Paul wrote these beautiful words in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians: “We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” It is a simple but powerful message to all, from the Creator.

May you seek the God of Israel, the God of salvation, your Creator, this Christmas season. 

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 8 – Coming as a Servant

jesus-resting

The prophet Isaiah gives a vivid description of the coming Messiah as a servant – one with a gentle manner, who brings comfort and encouragement to the oppressed, and is a light to all. In our world today, this is exactly what we need, and it is exactly how Jesus lived. This beautiful Hebrew prose from the prophecy of Isaiah, woven in with the teachings of Jesus, says it well.

Isaiah 42:1-4
“This is My Servant; I strengthen Him,
this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him.
I have put My Spirit on Him;
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or shout
or make His voice heard in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed,
and He will not put out a smoldering wick;
He will faithfully bring justice.
He will not grow weak or be discouraged
until He has established justice on earth.
The islands will wait for His instruction.”

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Isaiah 42:5-7
This is what God, Yahweh, says—
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and life to those who walk on it—
“I, Yahweh, have called You
for a righteous purpose,
and I will hold You by Your hand.
I will keep You and appoint You
to be a covenant for the people
and a light to the nations,
in order to open blind eyes,
to bring out prisoners from the dungeon,
and those sitting in darkness from the prison house.”

Matthew 4:13-16
Jesus left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

along the sea road, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles!
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned.

Gentle. Comfort. Encouragement. Light. This is Jesus.
For all who are weary and burdened, may you seek Jesus where you will find the gentle rest that only He can give.
It is His promise to you – “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 * Merry Christmas *