Old Endings and New Beginnings

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
(Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV)

As another year winds down and a new year is about to begin, my heart echoes several thoughts as I look back and look forward.

These thoughts are not in discord but in harmony, not in competition, but in teamwork as I look at the world around me.

I am often reminded of these verses recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, as he remembers the goodness of God in the midst of Israel’s rebellion and waywardness.

I am humbled by God’s grace and love for me, despite all my shortcomings and failures.  He loves me unconditionally, something I will never fully fathom this side of eternity.

And what He asks of me is to walk with Him and share His love with those around me.  Seemingly simple, but yet the battle rages every day for my heart and my mind.

As you look back over this year and look forward to the next, may you take time for worship and for quiet, to consider what God has been and done in your life, and what your heart desires in the future.

Let this old hymn be your praise today:

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Blessings,
~kevin

Merry Christ-mas!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)

11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
(Luke 2:11 NIV)

A promise kept, and yet to come.

Merry Christ-mas!
~kevin

Prince of Peace

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

Today we look at the fourth of four attributes of Messiah – “Prince of Peace”.  There is so much to share here – may you find comfort in these few thoughts.

The word “Prince” (Hebrew “sar”) means leader, commander, or captain – one who has authority and responsibility and is under another’s authority.

The word “Peace” (Hebrew “shalom”) means wholeness and unity of relationship.  The term “shalom” is about internal peace of soul and spirit and is separate and distinct from the external circumstances that surround us.

When God created the world and humans, there was peace, there was shalom between God and humans.  Adam and Eve chose to break that peace by deliberately disobeying God and choosing to live life on their terms.  Our selfishness created strife between God and humans, and among humans that is still in effect today.

God, in His grace and mercy, desired a restored relationship, complete shalom, between Himself and humanity.  Isaiah prophesied that Messiah will be the One who ushers in, who restores that peace and rules over it from that point forward.   Isaiah later describes the peace that will pervade all creation when Messiah takes his throne.

We cannot earn or create peace; God gives it as a gift.  Messiah was God’s gift of peace to humanity, to you and me, to end the strife and war between God and humanity.  We started the war by our deliberate disobedience.  God ended the war with the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.  The question is, will we accept His terms of peace and surrender to Him?

 

Jesus gives instructions to His disciples (and to us) before He leaves earth, reminding them (and us) that we can still experience His shalom after He returns to heaven:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
(John 14:27, 16:33 NIV, Jesus speaking)

The Apostle Paul reminds us of the peace we now have with the God of the universe through Christ:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
(Romans 5:1-2a NIV)

And what is our role in this peace, as followers of Christ?  The Apostle Paul gives us some help:

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
(Romans 12:18 NIV)

Scriptures tell us that complete peace is not possible until the Prince of Peace comes back to restore His rule and reign.  Shalom started with God, and will end with God.  Between now and then, let us continue to share Messiah’s shalom with others through forgiveness and reconciliation, just as we experience it from Him.

A promise kept, and yet to come.

Blessings,
~kevin

Everlasting Father

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

Isaiah continues with the third of four attributes of Messiah – “Everlasting Father”.

In our English translation, “everlasting” feels more like an adjective, a modifier describing the fatherly characteristics of Messiah.  According to Hebrew scholars, these two words are both nouns and are in reverse order in Hebrew.  The experts tell us that the literal translation of this passage is something closer to “Father of Eternity”.

When we stop to consider this phrase, it immediately feels like an oxymoron.  The word “everlasting” refers to both eternity past as well as eternity future.  How can someone or something be the beginning or start of something that has always existed?

The Apostle Paul gives us a little insight into Messiah’s role in eternity:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
(Colossians 1:15-20 NIV)

Paul reminds us that Messiah is the head over all created things from eternity past, including us.  Paul also tells us that Messiah is also the firstborn from the dead, making the way possible for us to have life in eternity future.

Isaiah is not saying that Messiah is also God the Father.  The term “father” is not biological in its context.  Instead, the term “father” here is referring to one who cares for and protects others under his care.  Jesus spoke best about this protective and provisional role in John chapter 10.  Jesus summed up His role as our “father figure” as protector and provider in verse 11:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11 NIV, Jesus speaking)

As you worship today, may you be reminded of Messiah’s care and provision for us, from eternity past before creation, in our current life, and through eternity future when we join Him in our final home and resting place in heaven.

A promise kept, and yet to come.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mighty God

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

Today we look at the second of four attributes Isaiah records about Messiah:  Mighty God.

“Mighty God” is one phrase, consisting of two Hebrew words:

  • gibbor” – mighty (as a warrior), strong, powerful, valiant.
  • ‘el” – a deity, specifically, God (the God of Israel), taken from the last syllable of “Immanuel.”

“Mighty God” is one of the names God gives Himself to help us understand His character and attributes.

The order of these four attributes is also significant.  Isaiah says that the Lord is a Wonderful Counselor, possessing all wisdom and kindness, but also Mighty God, fully capable of carrying out His will and valiantly defending and protecting His own.

Moses understood God’s might and power and taught the children of Israel (and us) about Him:

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty [gibbor] and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
(Deuteronomy 10:17 NIV, bracketed text mine)

Moses continues, not only telling us what God can do, but what He has done what He is doing, and what He will do as the Mighty One of Israel:

18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.

21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
(Deuteronomy 10:18, 21-22 NIV)

God also reminds us through the prophet Zephaniah of His promise to be El Gibbor to His own:

17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

Messiah may have come as a baby, given His life for ours, but has promised to come back one day as a victorious warrior to take back His own:

14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.
(Revelation 17:14 NIV)

As you worship Messiah today, may you be reminded of God’s faithful character and His power to carry out good and protect His own – yesterday, today, and forever.

A promise kept, and yet to come.

Blessings,
~kevin

Wonderful Counselor

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

As Isaiah continues with his prophecy from the Lord, we now see four great attributes or characteristics of Messiah.

We also see the progression of Messiah, from helpless baby, to promised king, to exalted Savior.

Some scholars see the first two words (“Wonderful Counselor”) as one phrase, while others see them as two separate Divine attributes.

We will look at each word separately, then allow you, the reader, to decide if these are two thoughts or one.

The word “Wonderful” (Hebrew “pele’ “) is a noun that indicates something miraculous, something so hard to understand that only God could perform, with no other plausible explanation.  The first usage of this word is immedidately after God had parted the Red Sea, brought the Israelites through on dry ground, then wiped out the entire Egyptian army that had pursued them.  Listen to part of Moses’ worship song:

11 Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?
(Exodus 15:11 NIV, emphasis mine)

We do well to remember, as the palmist did, God’s providential and miraculous hand in history, as a promise of what He will do now and in the future:

11 I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
(Psalm 77:11,14 NASB)

The word “Counselor” (Hebrew “ya`ats“) is a verb that means to advise, guide, or consult with, in order to care for or protect another.  Most often this word is used in the sense of giving good advice, but it is also sometimes used to give selfish or evil advice.

The psalmists capture the heart of God’s good advice to us, His counsel:

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
(Psalm 16:7 NIV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
(Psalm 32:8 NIV)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British preacher from the 1800’s, captured our need for a wise and wonderful Counselor in Messiah:

“It was by a Counsellor that this world was ruined. Did not Satan mask himself in the serpent, and counsel the woman with exceeding craftiness, that she should take unto herself of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the hope that thereby she should be as God? Was it not that evil counsel which provoked our mother to rebel against her Maker, and did it not as the effect of sin, bring death into this world with all its train of woe? Ah! beloved, it was meet that the world should have a Counsellor to restore it, if it had a Counsellor to destroy it.”
(C.H. Spurgeon, sermon number 215, Sept. 26, 1858)

As you worship today, thank the Father for the Wonderful Counselor he sent us in Jesus the Messiah, and how we as followers of Christ have His Counselor living in us (John 14:26) to guide us and protect us and lead us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Broad Shoulders

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine)

Isaiah continues his prophecy, describing Messiah first as a child (taking on flesh and blood, just like us) then to a son (the Son of God) and now ruler (King of Kings and Lord of Lords).

When Isaiah speaks of the burden of government on Messiah’s shoulders, he was looking back and looking forward:

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
(Isaiah 9:4 NIV)

Isaiah remembered back when God defeated the Midianites (Judges chapter 7), and freed the Israelites from their oppressors.  Isaiah looked forward to the day when God would establish His eternal kingdom with Messiah as its King.

And what about Jesus?  Did He embrace His prophecy as Messiah, His rule over all creation, and accept responsibility for the burden of rule over all?  Let’s permit Jesus to speak for Himself:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
(Matthew 28:16-18 NIV)

Just as God defeated the Midianites and broke their rule over the Israelites, so has Jesus broken the power and rule of sin and death (eternal separation from God) over us through His death and bodily resurrection.

So as our Eternal Commander-In-Chief, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, what does He say to us?  Once again, let’s allow Jesus to finish speaking:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

We now have the honor and privilege of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.  The promise kept, and yet to come.

May peace rule in your hearts today, along with thanksgiving and worship of the One who made all this possible.  He empowered us to be part of His plan to show love to a hurting world in desperate need of hope.  May we see with His eyes and hear with His ears and have the courage to share freely what we have experienced in Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin