Names of Jesus: The Mighty God

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Savior child to be born of a virgin, and said that he will be named Mighty God.  Isaiah is referring to two prophesies of different times – a child and a king.  We celebrate the birth of the child at Christmas, but we will celebrate again at the return of a mighty king who will restore and redeem.  Isaiah gives us a hint of this Mighty God in his earlier prophesy:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time
and as they rejoice when diving spoils.
For You have shattered their burdensome yoke
and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor,
just as You did on the day of Midian. (Isaiah 9:2-4)

This Christmas, when you hang your lights, think of the great light that will overcome the darkness and will once again fill the earth with joy.  We have hope!

Leah, the Unloved – a Christmas story

I’ve discovered a little known part to a story that often gets overlooked in the amplified fairy-tale type stories we usually like to hear.  At this time of the year, squeezed in between the endless Christmas tunes and the joyous family images we are constantly presented with, there’s a lot of heartache and loneliness for many people.  Even the psychologists have recently stated that too much Christmas music can be bad for your mental health, which reaffirms what many of us already know and feel this time of year.

This a story for all of us – a reminder for some and a hope for others.  It is about Leah, the unloved one.  I have never thought of this particular story in this way before.  If you are familiar with Bible stories, then you have probably heard of the love story between Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 28-29.  Jacob, who is also known as the father of the nation of Israel, is the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.  Jacob fell in love with his boss’ daughter Rachel at first sight.  She was “shapely and beautiful”, while her older sister Leah had “ordinary eyes”.  It was not the custom back then for the younger daughter to be married first, so Jacob agreed to work for their father for seven years so he could marry Rachel.  After he finished the seven years, he was tricked into marrying Leah instead.  Jacob had to agree to another seven years of labor so that he may also marry Rachel, which he did.  In telling this story, we often focus on Jacob’s love for Rachel and his sacrifice, but what about Leah?  How did she feel?  She was forced into marrying a man who did not love her or want her.

As the story continues, when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb and she produced four sons, but Rachel was unable to conceive.  Each time Leah said, “surely my husband will love me now.”  But the beautiful Rachel may have started to become bitter, because when she saw that she was not bearing any children to Jacob, she began to envy her sister Leah.  She demanded that Jacob give her children, of which Jacob became angry with her and replied, “Am I in God’s place, who has withheld children from you?”  So Rachel instructed her slave to sleep with Jacob instead, and they had a son named Dan (who is later associated with pagan practices).

Fast forward a little through the turbulent life of Jacob and his twin brother Esau, and his demanding father-in-law, until we get to the end of Jacob’s life.  He eventually has a son with Rachel named Joseph, who has an incredible story all of his own in Egypt, but this little known story is still about Leah.  On Jacob’s deathbed, he gathers all his sons together to tell them what will happen to each of them in the days to come.  As a side-note, Jacob’s twelve sons will become the twelve tribes of Israel, who later fight and split apart into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.  Jacob begins to tell each of his sons their fate – some good and some bad.  But it is Leah’s son Judah who receives the best blessing and prophecy:

Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
Judah is a young lion—
my son, you return from the kill.
He crouches; he lies down like a lion
or a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until He whose right it is comes
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.
He ties his donkey to a vine,
and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine.
He washes his clothes in wine
and his robes in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49)

It is through the lineage of Leah, the one who felt unloved, from her son Judah that the line of David will come and the birth of a Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in the end, it was Leah that Jacob honored in her death by being buried with her in Abraham’s burial site.

Then Jacob commanded them: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.  This is the field Abraham purchased as a burial site.  Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there, Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried there, and I buried Leah there. (Genesis 49:29-31)

If we only look at life from the short view, it can often seem very unfair and full of disappointments and sorrow.  But we must look at life with the long view in mind just as God does.  We are all beautiful in God’s eyes – with true beauty.  God has something special in mind for all of us whether we see it in this life or when we get to heaven.  I believe that Leah was loved after all.  And from her offspring, came Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ Words: A new era of God (Mark 1:1-20)

Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”  (Mark 1:14-15)

A new era of God’s relationship with mankind had begun, just as it had been promised to Abraham’s generation.  The time had come for mankind to make a decision.  The Old Testament sacrifices and laws were now represented through the long-awaited Messiah.  The Kingdom of God was present on the earth, and this certainly was good news!

The last prophet was John the Baptist.  He was the messenger sent ahead of time to prepare the people for a new era, a new way.  Mankind’s only required response to receive God’s salvation: Repent and Believe.  It sounds simple, and it really was.  Jesus would take the place of the sacrifice.  A new era had begun and it changed the world in a very short time-frame, unlike no other ever has.

But even in today’s more-sophisticated climate, repentance seems hard for people.  It requires admitting our faults, admitting there is a higher power than ourselves, and admitting that we cannot be our own savior.  But Jesus says this is Good News!  Take a look around at our world.  The probability of us doing very well in this life (and death) by our own power are not very high odds.  Every day I pass by car accidents, or hear of friends and family with sudden health problems, and I’ve lived long enough to see people at the top of the world one day only to fall so hard the next.  The good news is that we do have a higher power who is compassionate, merciful and only has our best interest in mind.  It would be very frightening to live in this world without having a stronger help than myself, someone I can call out to anytime.

“Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!”  (Mark 1:17)  I imagine Jesus saying that with a smile and delight.

Jesus did not ask the people their qualifications, where they came from or what they had done.  He wanted to have a relationship with them, teach them, and show them what life was really meant to be.  Mark’s first recorded words from Jesus says almost everything we need to know about Jesus’ message in this new era of God: “Repent. Believe. Follow Me. It’s good news!”

In Jesus’ Words: Final Words – The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)

The book of Matthew has taken us on quite a journey.  It is filled with Jesus’ words from his sermons, the stories and parables he told to the crowds, teaching for his disciples, arguments with the Pharisees over the meaning of the law, and many dinner conversations with sinners and tax collectors (Matthew being the most famous tax collector).

From Jesus’ humble beginning in Bethlehem, he taught in the temple, he healed many – a man with leprosy, a paralyzed man, a woman who was bleeding, blind men –  he casts out demons, miraculously turns water into wine, calms the storm, walks on water, clears out the temple from the sellers and money-changers, proclaims to be the Messiah and is crucified on the cross for making this claim, is resurrected and witnessed by many. Jesus was constantly on the move during his ministry, and everywhere he went, crowds followed him. This was not an isolated event in history.

Now we come to the last statement from Jesus before he ascends back into heaven.

~ The Great Commission  Matthew 28:16-20 ~

The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Most likely there were more than just the 11 disciples with Jesus, since crowds always followed him. The fact that Matthew says some doubted gives the most credibility and transparency to his writing. Matthew is not trying to cover up facts or push some fake story to us. There will always be people who doubt, but a story like Matthew’s cannot be told in such detail, and during the time these events happened, if it were not true.

Jesus, in his final words to us, confirms the gospel message:

Jesus’ authority:  His humility on earth has ended and He has now been exalted and given all authority in heaven and earth.

Trinity:  He mentions the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I am with you:  Just as it was announced in the beginning that the baby Jesus should be named Immanuel, “God with us”, Jesus is still with us to the very end.

If you would like to see how Jesus is shown throughout the entire Bible, go to my menu series on “Christmas Story from Genesis to John“. It has 31 entries, one for each day of the month, showing how Jesus was present with God from the beginning as the promised Savior, and how his life is accurately prophesied throughout the Bible.  I will soon have a downloadable version too.  God Bless!

In Jesus’ Words: Forsaken and the Gift (Matthew 27:45-51)

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice. Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?  My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.
Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.
~ from Matthew 27:45-51

Forsaken.  At this moment, Jesus was abandoned by God. Jesus had been with God from the very beginning, and now he was alone, abandoned, and in despair. Jesus became the sin-bearer for us, carrying all of our sins and those of the entire world, while God poured out his wrath and punishment on sin.  It was far worse than any physical pain and torture he had received – it was the moment Jesus feared the most.  God could not look at his son.  He was forsaken, shamed, and separated from God.  It was the ultimate sacrifice, and for no other reason than the love for his creation.

There is so much to think about from this event and Jesus’ final words before his death:

Jesus has already paid the price for our sins (past, past and future). For those who accept this sacrificial gift, we will not be punished again for any of our sins.  God does not punish twice for the same crime.  Here, Jesus represents the loving, compassionate, and merciful side of God.

But God also hates sin.  It goes against His holy nature.  For those who do not accept Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s wrath will still be on their sins.  People often have difficulty imagining God sending people to hell, especially with the images of devils and fire and torture.  But the reality is, hell is a place where there is complete abandonment of God.  A place where you can no longer call out to God and have any hope of Him responding. It is a place where there are no good characteristics of God available anywhere – of love, compassion, mercy, sacrifice.  Hell is permanent abandonment and separation from God. People sometimes doubt there is any evidence that God is even in our world today, but imagine if you took out all references to God and love and good in our world, what would be the effects then?  Complete lawlessness and chaos and evil without any hope of goodness or love.  And definitely no self-sacrifice.

But why is Jesus the only way?  I would rather ask the question like this… Why would God promise a Savior and then punish and sacrifice his son so much, only to turn around and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, there are many ways.”  No other way or religion offers a sacrifice for you.  But just like when someone gives you a gift, you have to accept that gift.  It cannot be forced on you or it is no longer a gift.

Finally, I always get asked this question… What about those before Jesus, or those who have not heard, or places where their culture prevents it?  Jesus came for past, present and future.  He is not time-bound.  Let Jesus deal with those things.  He is the gate-keeper, and His gift is for everyone and He gives everyone a chance to accept.  We should be more concerned about those of us who know better, who have knowledge, and yet have openly rejected his gift.  Once you have been offered a gift and refuse, you may not have another chance to accept.  Others may not have been offered yet.  We are to accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life and fellowship with God, and pass the good news on to others.  This is what Jesus died for, so that we may never have to experience separation from God.