Tag Archives: Book of Isaiah

Messianic Job Description

Many Jews of Jesus’ day were looking forward to the coming Messiah, the “Anointed One” who would save them. But they pictured being “saved” as being freed from Roman rule politically.

Check out Isaiah 61, one of the many passages that describe what the anointed one was to be about when he came to earth…

isaiah61_1

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.

The focus isn’t directed toward the religious or the chosen… but rather the Anointed Messiah, Jesus, would be concerned with the poor (they get good news), the brokenhearted (they get comfort), the captives (they get release), the prisoners (they get freed), the mourners (they get hope along with God’s blessing and a crown of beauty and a praise party).

As ones who self-identify as followers of Jesus, his disciples of this modern era, are we about those same things? Are we spending a majority of our time, treasures, and ministry reaching out to those to whom the Anointed One was sent to minister to?

Why not?

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Dreading Christmas?

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

—Isaiah 7:14

Christmas is almost here again & people are pretty much doing one of three things: they’re looking forward to it, ignoring it, or dreading it. If you’re one of the ones looking forward to the holiday, you probably are one who has some very specific memories attached to Christmas from your own past. And it seems the day just can’t get here fast enough. (Just ask any 7 year old!)

It only takes a mild case of procrastination for one to ignore Christmas: “I’ll worry about Christmas when I get done with these other things.” And of course, you never get done with the other things in time. So this action eventually turns into dread.
For those dreading it, I suspect it may be financial. These are tough times. Yet Christmas is still coming.
But some that may be dreading Christmas have a much deeper reason than just finances. You see, there’s been a story going around for a while now that Christmas is actually a celebration of JESUS. And for those who, for whatever reason, hate Christianity and anything to do with Jesus, the Christmas holiday becomes almost a horror. You have to hear that name. The songs of old talk about the ‘new born king’ who is laid ‘away in a manger’ bringing ‘Joy to the world’ are just too much.
Often, these are the people who push aside the “Christ” of Christmas and opt for some “Happy Holidays” instead. And in the past seventy years or so, our society has even developed a whole canon of ‘Happy Holidays’ music so that Christmas can be celebrated without all that Christ talk. So now we hear the music of White Christmas, of Rudolf saving Santa, of Frosty and his magic hat, of grandma in a hit & run accident with a reindeer, of chestnuts being cooked by a fire, of a kid who wants teeth as a gift, and of another kid who’s misbehaved so much that he expects nothing for Christmas. And there’s even a few that are so suggestive that I’m embarrassed to even write about them.
What on earth do these songs have to do with Christmas? Very Little. And Lots. They have very little to do with the gift of a savior given by God Himself; sending his one and only son to live and die and be raised again.
But they also have a lot to do with Christmas because the savior who was born came to a world that wasn’t Christian and didn’t really even realize how much they needed a savior. They didn’t know God. They didn’t even know that they didn’t know him… let alone care.
The gushy, warm feelings of imagining a peaceful land without war is about as close to heaven as many people can ever get. In fact, without Jesus, it is as close as ANY of us could ever get. But with Jesus in our lives, we CAN know the peace of God.
Besides, the influence of Jesus Christ on the world around us is still pretty pervasive. Courts and marketplaces may have walked away from many of our earlier, Christian practices as a nation, but people the world over still know Christmas as a day of peace and hope, whether they know Jesus or not.
The first Bible passage I quoted, from Isaiah 7:14, is in the midst of God delivering Judah’s King Ahaz from an attack by a foreign army. God tells the king he’s going to deliver him from his enemies and he allows the king the privilege of a special sign as proof that God will keep his promise. Ahaz tells God “No.” He doesn’t want a sign. But the Lord gives him a sign anyway, so that everyone will understand that it was GOD ALMIGHTY who really rules and reigns. God’s sign describes a young woman who will give birth and have a miraculous son. And it goes on to describe how the birth, and life, of that child will be a reminder of God’s care for his people in Ahaz’s kingdom. In fact, whoever that little child was in Ahaz’s day, he didn’t grow very old before the enemies of Ahaz were no longer even nations! The child’s name was Immanuel. His name literally meant “God is with us!” Every time Ahaz (or anyone else) said this child’s name, they were reminded how much God was with them and how he had delivered them from their enemies. What a reminder! What a gift! What a gracious and loving God!
And yet, like so often in Scripture, God had a double meaning in that sign of the child. Yes, it referred to someone that Ahaz would have been able to see in his day (if not, then God would have been a liar). BUT God also was looking ahead to another day when another young woman, this one an actual virgin, would conceive and have a baby who would also be called Emmanuel… the very one that would save us from our sins.
And that second child, Emmanuel (from Greek) or Immanuel (from Hebrew) was truly more than just a reminder that God was with us… He literally was GOD WITH US!
In the midst of our day in and day out stuff that happens, even when it seems so ungodly and even hostile or painful, God is still with us. When the finances are tight, when the neighbors cause trouble, when things aren’t going well at work, God is still with us.
And, like Matthew did with a verse in Isaiah written to a king about an invading army, God will take seemingly unimportant things from our pasts and our surroundings and open up spiritual truths to us… helping us to see that God really is here with us at all times and in all places if we’ll turn to him.
And so it is that the world feels the ‘warmth’ of the season and celebrates as best as it can with “Happy Christmas’ and ‘Feliz Navidad,” and yet doesn’t realize that there’s more to the story. But as they see that story and peace exhibit itself in our lives, then they too will want what we have… and they won’t just have to imagine.

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” —Matthew 1:23

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ADVENT 5: Christmas Eve

FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, Reynoldsville
ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING LITURGY
December 24, 2007

READ SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:6-7

READING: In this prophecy, Isaiah offers hope to the people of Galilee of the Gentiles… for out of them will come a great light shining in the darkness… a Deliverer to free them from oppression. And with those famous words: “For unto us a son is born…” God let them know that the Deliverer would be one of their own… Born into the chosen people of God who would know them and their ways and understand them in their entirety.

But the oppression the Deliverer would set them free from wasn’t just a political system… as evidenced by the names God ascribes to the Deliverer… “He will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR… MIGHTY GOD… EVERLASTING FATHER… and PRINCE OF PEACE.” They didn’t yet realize it, but God was telling them in advance that this Deliverer would come to rule a kingdom of hearts… and set them free from the oppression of evil… And destroy the power of Satan.

As we light this last candle in our Advent Wreath, the white candle in the center that we call the CHRIST CANDLE, we remember that Jesus came as Deliverer… for them and for us… to deliver them, and us, from the oppression of evil. Thousands of years have passed, and Jesus still offers to deliver people from the effects of sin and evil… if we will allow him.
Let’s make this Christmas complete by inviting Jesus to be our Lord, our Savior, our Friend, and… our Deliverer… Let’s allow Him to reign as King and Lord of our lives.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we welcome you to our church, our homes, and our lives. Reign on the thrones of our hearts as our King and Lord. Deliver us from evil and help us to follow you for the rest of our lives. AMEN.

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Advent 4

This is the liturgy for our fourth week of Advent Candle Lighting.

 

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ADVENT 4

 

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:2

READING: Isaiah offered hope to those who lived in times of spiritual darkness… There was a LIGHT that was coming… and that light would shine forth and pierce the darkness. All in darkness would be able to see the light… even those that actually lived in the midst of great darkness… even the ones that lived in the shadow of death would see the light.

Hope WOULD come!

The light WOULD shine!

HALLELUJAH!!!

As we light this fourth Advent candle, we remember that although Isaiah’s prophecy spoke about Jesus coming some 2000 years ago, it also speaks of His second coming which is yet to happen. And like that first coming, He will come as the light when there is a time of great darkness… and everyone living in darkness will have a chance to see the light… Even those who live in the darkest recesses of the darkest, most grievous shadows of death itself.

Hope IS coming!

The light WILL shine!

HALLELUJAH!!!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you said you were the light of the world and then, for those who follow you, you said we also would be light. Lord, as we live our lives we recognize more and more the deepness of the darkness around us. We need to be light like we’ve never been before… sharing the good news that YOU love us and want to save us. But ultimately Lord, it’s YOUR light that we hope for and wait for. You are coming! HALLELUJAH!!! AMEN.

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ADVENT 2

This was the Advent Candle Lighting liturgy from this past Sunday.
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SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 7:14

READING: In this second prophecy about the coming Messiah, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, has just delivered God’s message of hope to Judah’s King Ahaz… Judah will NOT be conquered by the enemies that are threatening them. God offers to give King Ahaz a sign that he’ll keep his promise… and says that Ahaz can ask for any sign he wants that God will really deliver His people.

Ahaz has always tried to be non-committal with Isaiah, trying to play it safe, and so he tries that same thing now with God… he refuses to ask for a sign… even though God has commanded him to.

So God picks… The sign will be a virgin who will conceive and then bear a son. And as that child grows, the people will be delivered from their enemies. In Ahaz’s day, there was a partial fulfillment of this. A young woman who was a virgin when Isaiah spoke these words, truly did conceive and bear a son… but it was in the normal way that sons were born. And before that son was grown, the people actually were delivered from their enemies … the two kings that Ahaz had so feared, were dead.

But God also had a deeper message of a longer lasting deliverance in mind when he prophecied to Ahaz through Isaiah: There would be another virgin who would conceive… as a virgin! And her son would not only bring deliverance to His people, but he would actually be the deliverer!

So many times in Scripture, and in our daily lives as well, we think we understand what God means and what He has said. But quite often, we only understand a portion of His word… only a part of His will is truly understood. As we light the second purple candle in our Advent Wreath, we do well to remember the apostle Paul’s words from centuries later, when he wrote “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.” Only when Christ comes back again, will we finally be able to see the big picture the way God sees it… and has seen it all along.

PRAYER: Father God, we read your word and hear your message, and we think we understand your will and your ways. But just like Ahaz and Isaiah, Paul and the prophets, we only see a part of what you are doing. We don’t understand your ways or what you’re trying to do. Teach us to trust You and Your Holy Spirit as you lead us and guide us… whether it makes sense to us or not. AMEN

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