The Innkeeper – A Gift for Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas!! This is the last post of 2013, and it is fitting to come on Christmas.  I’ll begin again on January 1, 2014.  Until then, praise God, rejoice in Him, don’t waste your life.

As a gift for each of you today, I have posted the following video for your enjoyment. It is on the birth of of Christ from a unique perspective, the innkeeper.

Jesus Came to Live, to Die, to Rise Again

In a few days it will be here.  Tree’s will be lit up with lights.  Families will be gathered together.  The smell of breakfast casserole’s will fill the air.  Present galore will be under the tree.  Christmas is two days away, and most of us will sit in the near vicinity of a nativity scene with Joseph and Mary, three wise men, shepherds, various animals, and not to be forgotten, baby Jesus.  After all, that’s what Christmas is about right?  Baby Jesus?  Wrong.

Baby Jesus is a huge part of Christmas indeed, this is the time of year we rejoice over His birth, His entrance, His advent here among us!  This is a huge event that changed the course of world history forever.  But what most of us forget during this time of year that we would do well to remember is that Bethlehem was pointing to something.  The birth of Christ calls us to remember why He came.  Why did He come?  He came to live, He came to die, He came to rise again.

To live, so that we would have a perfect righteousness imputed to us upon belief in Him.

To die, to embrace the wrath of God and pay the penalty for our sin as our substitute upon the cross.

To rise again, to usher in not only the death of death, but His kingdom here and now on earth.

Jesus, baby Jesus, accomplished these great and glorious things.  No one else could have done this, and by doing this Jesus gave us all that we need to salvation and life in Him.  He provided all He was for us, and it was more than enough.  How can we not, in view of all this, offer all of us for His glory and fame as a joyful embrace of God’s gracious gift to us in His Son?

Rejoice!  Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings.  Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die! Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth! Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Do Not Mock God This Christmas, Glut on Him!

Now to close our time in Matthew 2:1-12.

Did you notice 2:10?  Once the wise men saw the star stop over the house where Jesus was, it says that they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”  This funny language describing how the wise men rejoiced literally means in the original Greek “their joy joy’d!”  This is supreme happiness, supreme delight, so much so that words in any language cannot describe a higher level or degree of satisfaction or pleasure.  The wise men are white hot with affection.  But why did they rejoice?  Why was their joy joying?  It’s simple isn’t it?  We all know the answer, but do we really?

In a few days time, most of you reading this blog right now, will be sitting around a lit Christmas tree, unwrapping presents that you asked for.  Some of you will unwrap a new Xbox one, maybe a new gold iPhone 5, or a 70″ TV, even maybe a new car.  I’m convinced that if you rejoice exceedingly with great joy over these gifts you will waste Christmas.  How then will not waste it?  Not by not rejoicing, but by rejoicing is what is worth rejoicing, Christ!  Glut your souls on Him as you open gifts, and use and handle and be happy over your new gifts in such a way that people know you love Jesus more than these gifts.

God is not honored when His gifts are treasured over Him.  Do not mock God this Christmas.  Honor Him by enjoying Him.

The Wise Men’s Three Gifts

Matthew 2:9-12 says, “After listening to the King, they went on their way.  Behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed another way.”

After being politically obligated to share with Herod when the star had risen, the wise men now set off again.  The same star they once saw rise, they now see moving south and coming to rest.  They went south, and where the star stopped they see a house.  The fact that it was a house they saw, and not the inn with no rooms available, means it took such a long time for the wise men to get from Babylon to Jerusalem that baby Jesus is now boy Jesus.  Going in to the house, they saw Him, and upon seeing Him they fell down and worshiped!  They recognize God has given mankind a gift in this boy King, and they rightly respond with gifts of their own. 

Gold because it is a King’s abundant and overflowing currency.  Nothing befits a King like fountains of gold to share with His people!  The resin Frankincense to acknowledge the presence of absolute divinity and the worship due to Him from all peoples and nations.  The other resin Myrrh to symbolize death, burial, foreshadowing that King Jesus will suffer death to usher in the Kingdom of God.  It is quite timely the wise men came the moment they did, for this little family (Joseph, Mary, Jesus) would soon have to travel another far distance – to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod when he seeks to kill the Christ by killing all boys under 2 in Bethlehem.  I say it’s timely because this family probably used and survived solely on these three gifts until they arrived at Egypt.  We see God caring for His Son here, protecting Him from Herod, providing Him with all He needs.  The same is true for us. 

The same is true for the wise men also.  We read in 2:12 that God warns the wise men in a dream to not return to Herod, but to return to Babylon on a different road.  So off they went – Happy to have beheld the Christ, safe with new directions from our Father.

Old News: Political Power Play Using Religion

Matthew 2:3-8 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

Well, it appears that not everyone is as happy about the birth of the King as the wise men were.  Herod the King, known also as Herod I and/or Herod the Great was the appointed King of the Jews under the authority of Rome.  History teaches us that Herod was ruthless.  He killed his wife, many of his sons, and many family members during his reign.  If he was this way with his own family, can you imagine what he would have been like to the people?  Also, you aren’t placed as King in Jerusalem if you’re a big deal in Caesar’s or Rome’s eyes.  If you’re big wig in Rome – they keep you in Rome!  To put it in perspective, placing Herod in Jerusalem is similar to once playing for the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field to playing 3rd base coach for church softball.  It is not career move marked by improvement or success.  All this to say, Herod was oppressive.  

Upon hearing the news from the wise men that the Christ had been born, he was troubled, and if Herod is troubled, you can bet the whole city was trembling.  After all, this Christ had to be a great King to call such men of renown out of the affluent east to all the way to dusty Jerusalem.  This prompted Herod to inquire as well and ask his learned men, the chief priests and scribes saying, “Where is the Christ to be born?”  They answered him honestly and said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for it is written by the prophet, “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”  In answering Herod the priests and scribes quote Micah 5:2, and this was no small prophecy to quote at this time.  You see, Micah 5:2 describes the time when the time when a King will come from the little city of Bethlehem.  But Micah doesn’t refer to just an ordinary king, but the King.  This King, Micah says, is from of old, from ancient days.  This King is nothing less than the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord of all Lords, the King of all Kings!  Can you understand the position of Herod?  He is King in Jerusalem and to his knowledge he has just learned that One who has been foretold and has now come.  In Herod’s eyes this Christ, this Messiah, this Savior, is a political problem, a threat to all that is established by Rome in Jerusalem.  It must be stopped before it has a chance to begin.  And that is exactly what Herod intends to do.

At this point, we don’t know how it happened but Herod secretly had the wise men brought to him and from them Herod learned what time the star had appeared.  So after learning these things, Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem saying in 2:8, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you’ve found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.”  Of course we have here a great display of something we see all too often throughout history and in our day – the incorrect and corrupt use of religion to serve the purpose of political power.  It is plain to us that Herod will not worship this Child, but will try with all his might to end the boy’s life before Jerusalem is overthrown.  If this it is plain to us, you know it was plain to the wise men.

“All Nations Shall Stream to Him!”

Matthew 2:1-2 says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”

It is quite telling that non-Israelite men would journey this even more gospel roots.  Long ago, it was spoken of in prophetic visions that “all peoples” and “many nations” would come streaming in to Mount Zion to behold the King on His throne and worship the true God.  Both Isaiah and Micah say, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and they will all say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…”

These wise men remind us that there is only one God, and that this one God is the Christ who was born in Jerusalem.  He is the King who reigns, He is the One who made the world and all in it, who desires all tribes, and tongues, and peoples, and nations to come and worship and bask in the light of His infinite glory.  Jesus has just been born and already the peoples and the nations are streaming to Him worship!  What a King!  What a Man!  What a Savior to draw peoples of all nations to Him!  You know what this means right?  The Kingdom is here.  God has come.  The darkness is about to fade.  Light is breaking through, dawn is here!

Men of Renown From the East

It is always fitting to mention the birth of Christ during Advent, for that is what it is about.  But did you know that Jesus’ birth carries far more weight and meaning to it than can be found in 1st century Bethlehem alone?  His birth was the culmination of promise after promise after promise made by God to His people.  This means that to properly understand the birth of Jesus one must understand that the birth of Jesus is not beginning of the story.  You see, Jesus’ birth has roots and like a plant’s roots usually must go deep underground before the plant grows tall, there are prophetic gospel roots all throughout the Old Testament.  In fact the whole of the Old Testament exists to prepare the way for the King of Kings hundreds and even thousands of years before He arrives on the scene.  It is no small thing when the Author of the play walks on stage, and in the birth of Christ we have such an event.

For the next while I’ll be blogging through Matthew 2:1-12.  It is the famous story of the Wise Men who came to see Jesus.  Throughout this you’ll see why this passage is found within Matthew’s gospel rather than Mark, Luke, or John.  Why is this so?  Out of all 4 gospels it’s Matthew that uses the Old Testament most in describing how it all began.

Our text today following last week is Matthew 2:1-12.  It easily divides into three sections, and I’ll walk through one at a time, hear the Word of God:

Matthew 2:1-2 says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem of Judea while King Herod was ruling over Jerusalem.  Immediately Matthew tells us of the famous wise men, or “magi” in the original Greek.  He doesn’t tell us how many wise men there are (most people say there are 3 because there are 3 gifts) nor does Matthew tell us exactly where they came from.  All we know from the account in Matthew is that there is a group of wise men coming from the East.  Why did they come?  Verse 2 tells they came asking a question: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”  Why did they ask this question?  Verse 2 continues with their reason, “For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”  

Now, in order to understand this question and the reasoning behind it we have to look deeper into who the wise men were.  Here’s what we know.  When Jesus was born they saw a star rise in the East.  Like today, not very many people in ancient times normally and habitually watched and noted the behavior and pattern of the stars.  People notice them, and maybe even talk about them a little bit.  But it was the Astrologers who studied and noted their individual and collective movements in ancient times.  It is from this that most throughout history have concluded that the wise men were in fact learned Astrologers: watching, studying, noting, and learning from the patterns displayed in the heavens.  Now, think about it.  What large, affluent, urban city was east of Jerusalem at that time in history?  Every map of this time will lead you to one answer, Babylon.  It was large enough and affluent enough to have men within it that could devote their lives to the scholarly occupation of Astronomy.  Therefore, I conclude that the wise men were learned Babylonian Astrologers who knew the heavens like the back of their hand, and when they saw something abnormal occur in the sky, like a star rising over Jerusalem, they not only noticed it, but ran toward it!  This is no small thing.  It was near 800 miles between Babylon and Jerusalem.  It not only would have taken them a long time to travel that distance, but they would have needed a large group carrying a large number of supplies, and most of all, they would have needed a very good reason for being willing to travel such a distance.  So why go?  Remember, they were learned men who would have been familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.  They knew what was going on, remember they said, “We saw HIS star rising, and have come to worship Him.”  

For them, the star rising indicated a Person worthy of their worship had come.  What led them to believe this?  They knew the prophecy written down around 1600 years earlier found in Numbers 24:17 which says, “I see Him, but not now.  I behold Him, but not near.  A star shall come out of Jacob, a scepter shall come out of Israel.”  You see it?  A star will rise?  A scepter shall come out of Israel?  They saw the star, they knew that only a King could hold a scepter, and they knew He had finally come. 

So off they went.

Jesus Came, Do You Believe?

I wonder though, where are you right now?  What problems do you have going on right now where stillness and simple trust in God seems like the most impractical thing to do?

Think about Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Life is going smooth, and all of the sudden he finds out that Mary, his fiancé, is pregnant, and it’s not his baby.  Normally, when this happens, any guy would freak out because he wants nothing to do with an unwed teenager with an unplanned pregnancy.  Matthew 1:19 says that Joseph had planned to divorce her quietly, and leave.  God then came to Joseph in 1:20 and told him that everything would be okay, and that this child was from Him.  Joseph believed God at a time when it looked impractical to do so.

And praise God that he did right?  Who knows what would’ve happened to the baby if Joseph left.  Mary might’ve gotten a primitive abortion in an effort to save her marriage.  “No more child, and Joseph won’t leave me!”  I don’t say this flippantly, there are records of abortions taking place all the way back to the Egyptians 2000 years before Mary was born.  This would have been a real option, and Mary probably had known girls who had done this.  If she had done that, there is no Jesus!  If there is no Jesus, there is no hope for any of us because the cross never would have happened!  But, praise God that God was in charge here and not Joseph, or Mary.  When faith in God looked impractical, it was this impractical faith in God, that made the first Christmas happen.

So if you’re in this spot right now, wanting a sign from God to let you know what to do, wanting a sign to tell He’s there, that He’ll take care of you, and hasn’t left you.  There’s good news – The Lord Himself has given you a Sign.  The sign we have received is the same sign Ahaz and Judah received, the virgin born Messiah.  God told Ahaz and Judah to trust in the virgin born Messiah who would one day come and make all things right, and God is now calling us to trust in the Messiah who has come and is now making all things right!

Though we might look foolish or impractical, may God for His glory, cause such faith to be found in us.

Jesus Came to Usher In His Kingdom

Let’s all take a step back from this passage.  There’s a bad question and good question to ask at this point.

The bad question is, “Why does God urge Ahaz to trust Him by prophesying about a future event rather than prophesying about something dealing with Ahaz’s most immediate circumstances (the army coming against him)?”  This is a bad question because it implies that the future virgin born Messiah has nothing to do with Ahaz’ current problem.  The good question is this, “How does this sign of a promised future Redeemer encourage Ahaz to trust God in the present moment?”

Here’s what I think God is up to: though the promise of a future Redeemer does not remove the imminent threat facing Ahaz and Judah, it does allow Ahaz and Judah to encounter their current problem with hope that one day God will right this wrong that’s coming upon them (if they believe it).

God is saying to Ahaz and Judah, “I have given you My sign, the virgin shall give birth to My Son, and He will save His people from their sins, He will make all things right, and He will usher in a new age and a new kingdom into the world.  Trust in this sign Ahaz, trust in this sign Judah.  Trust that I will one day make this right!  Trust that I’m in control, no nation is!  I know that being still and trusting Me looks and feels like the most unpractical thing to do right now Ahaz, but you need to trust Me, and not run to another source to save yourself and your people.”  We can read how the events unfold and 2 Kings makes it clear that Ahaz did not trust the sign God provided, but God was faithful (as He said He would be through Isaiah’s son Shear-Jashub!) and kept a remnant of the people of Israel alive.

Jesus Came As Immanuel

7:12 – But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”

Nope, he won’t ask for it.  WHAT!  Why not?!  I think it’s because Ahaz has already made his plans, and God’s not in them.  If he asked for the sign, clearly God would have done it, and Ahaz would be required to believe God and forget the option of asking another nation for back up.  On the other hand if he did not ask for this sign Ahaz knew that Isaiah would expose his own evil heart, unmasking him before the whole nation.  So rather than putting himself in a position to trust God or expose himself before the people, he decides to hide his intentions and mask his choice in religious language.  This makes the rejection even more hideous in God’s eyes.  Not only is he refusing to obey God, he quotes Scripture to do so!  Doesn’t he know that it’s not testing God to do what God says?!  His choice reveals that he hates the Lord and would rather lean on his own understanding.  To reject such a command is the essence of stupidity.  No wonder Ahaz is the king frequently named in Proverbs as the personification of foolishness.

7:13-17 – “And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.  The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

Well, Ahaz’s really done it now.  He must know that what he has just done, in rejecting the Isaiah’s God, will affect more than just himself.  God’s patience has grown thin, and God discloses to that He’ll give them a sign anyway.  But when we hear what the sign is, we think “What?  There are two huge nations in Judah’s backyard ready to tear them apart, and God is talking about a child that isn’t even born yet?”  Yes.

I should say here that conservative theologians have historically been very eager to interpret this prophecy in light of Jesus’ birth and very un-eager to interpret this passage in its historical context to Ahaz and Judah; while on the other hand liberal theologians have been very eager to interpret this prophecy in light of the historical context to Ahaz and Judah while being very un-eager to interpret a messianic meaning out of the passage.  So what are we to do with this?  Here’s what I think God is doing in this passage.

I think it’s completely correct to interpret this passage in light of Jesus – He is this Child!  But, this prophecy about the Messiah’s birth also has real significance for Ahaz and Judah in their current situation.  The meaning is that this Child to come, Jesus, will reject evil and choose good because He (as our Savior) will not do what our first parents did, namely, choose evil.  In this manner the Child to come, is called Immanuel, because by His works of choosing good, the people of God will be ushered into the presence of the best and most enjoyable good ever, God Himself!

Jesus Came to Create Faith

7:7-9 –Thus says the Lord GOD: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'”

Isaiah reassures Ahaz with some words about the two kingdoms coming against him.  The first word is powerful, “It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.”  Ahaz should know through these words that his own present fears are not present in the mind of God.  This coalition and their plans will fail to come about because God has said so.  Though it has begun, God will not allow it to come to its completion.  Isaiah’s next comments are strange, and need some explaining.  By saying “the head of Syria is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin” he means that the center of Syria is now in Damascus, and the king in Damascus is now Rezin.  As for Ephraim, Isaiah says both it and its king will soon disappear, “Now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people, and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.”  Ahaz hears the future here, that within 65 years of this prophecy, the Northern kingdom would fall to Assyria and be no more.  How much encouragement to trust God do you need?  Not only is Ahaz told that this won’t happen, but that these nations won’t last much longer anyway.

Isaiah then closes with a word from God that Ahaz will never forget, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”  It often helps me to read a verse in reverse manner to hear the weight of it, such is the case here.  You won’t last, if you don’t believe!  If you want to last, believe God!  Faith in God seems simple enough, but when we’re in the thick of it we’re so quick to leave it behind and trust in something else to rescue us.  Although this choice belongs to Ahaz alone as king, the word “you” here is plural in the Hebrew, indicating that this message was directed at the whole house of David, because the whole house could be destroyed.  If there is no faith, there will be no people.

7:10-11Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

To confirm His own promise to Ahaz God Himself invites him to ask for a sign.  This is no normal offer for a sign from God, it could be as supernatural a sign as Ahaz wanted, “…let it be as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven.”  There are a million possibilities when God gives you that kind of green light!  Turn the sun green, make the grass blue, make my sheep as small as grasshoppers or as large as elephants, cause the Falcons to win the Super Bowl!  Few times in Scripture is God so clear as He is here.  Why does Ahaz receive such a green light to ask any sign his heart desires?  It’s clearly not based from any of Ahaz’s own merit, he was an awful, stubborn king.  The favor he receives here is due to the line of David, from which Ahaz comes.  He receives such favor because in God’s eyes, Ahaz is still part of the people that God has a brought into covenant with Himself.  Again the “ball” is in Ahaz’s court, will he choose to ask for this miraculous sign?

Jesus Came, Don’t Fear

7:3-6 – And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,”

The people of God are in a place where they need God Himself, and God is not too far away to know what His people are feeling and fearing.  He responds to their “shaking” by sending Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub outside the city to meet Ahaz.  The margins in most Bibles indicate that the Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub means “a remnant shall return”.  This is important because God didn’t tell Isaiah to bring his son for no reason, Isaiah 8:18 makes that clear when Isaiah says, “I and the children the Lord has given me are signs to Israel.”  The boy’s presence with Isaiah would have indicated, to Ahaz, that God will be faithful to His people and will always keep a remnant alive and close to Himself.  Did you notice where Isaiah meets Ahaz by the upper pool?  This is important because an adequate water supply is an absolute necessity for a city under siege.  Why so?  Because if these two nations cut off their water supply, Jerusalem’s done.  I think Ahaz was at the pool already to check on its condition, or was already making improvements to it in case battle took place.

At this pool, Isaiah proclaims two positive commands to a trembling Ahaz: “Be careful, be quiet…” and two negative commands “do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…”  Each of these four commands pleads with Ahaz to trust God rather than fear man.  The message to Ahaz is when one trusts in the Lord, there is no need to fear the actions of any man, army, or nation.  Similarly, Proverbs 3:25-26 says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”  Indeed, when God says “Do not fear” one should not fear.  But put yourself in Ahaz’s shoes; two large nations joining together to attack your small city?  I’d be afraid for sure!  This would have felt like the entire US Army and Navy coming up against Delaware.  Isaiah knows this, so he continues to encourage Ahaz by saying that even though these nations are large and fierce, they are nothing more than charred smoking wood.  Isaiah doesn’t even mention the name of the puppet king they’re hoping to install on the throne and merely refers to him as the “son of Tabeel”, one who is obviously not a son of David.  Ahaz has no reason to fear, because no one can lift a finger against or nullify the covenant God has made with the house of David.

Jesus’ Coming Promised in Isaiah

Isaiah 7:1-17 is without question famous for its wide use around the Christmas season; because it is in this passage where we find one of the most well known prophesies of the birth of Jesus, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  I believe God has an exquisite meal for us in this text that will meet us exactly where we are.  So let me set the table for you by walking through this passage so we can enjoy this meal together.

7:1-2“In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. 2When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”

The stage is set.  King Uzziah has died (6:1), and Ahaz, his grandson, now sits as king on the throne of Judah, and it seems like right away we become aware of a problem: two nations have made an alliance.  Israel ruled by Pekah and Syria ruled by Rezin.  These two allies are coming to wage war against Judah.  Even though they’re not quite ready to attack Jerusalem, you get the feeling that it’s coming soon.  We read in 7:2 that “Syria is in league with Ephraim, and “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind .”  It appears that some kind of treaty has taken place between these two nations and the people living in Ephraim, implying that Pekah and Rezin have made camp within the borders of Israel.

When the word of this treaty went public, it went fast and it went everywhere, and struck fear into the hearts of Ahaz and the citizens of Judah.  This is not meant to be taken as a minor detail.  This “shaking” was intense because the same Hebrew word (nua) is used earlier in 6:4 referring to the temple “shaking” due to the heavenly voices crying out as they saw the Lord on His throne.  This was the first time the throne of David and the city of Jerusalem had actually been in peril.  The shaking was so intense that it was not only the people who shook, but the king as well.  “The heart of Ahaz shook” it says.  This reveals Ahaz’s underlying sin, fear due to a lack of faith in God to protect them from Rezin and Pekah.  He should have trusted God because in God’s covenant with David (2 Sam. 7) Ahaz has a clear word from God about the protection covering David’s house.  Yet Ahaz shook with fear at the coalition coming against him, and as he shook, so did the people.

Jesus Came to Bring us to God

Some Christians are very big on the forgiveness offered to us in the gospel, this is not the end goal of the gospel.  Other Christians are very big on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness offered to us in the gospel, this is not the end goal of the gospel.  These two reasons for Jesus coming to earth are very huge, very Biblical too.  But there is another reason that is almost never mentioned that I want to mention today.

Christ died on the cross to give us what we needed most, God.

1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” Jesus died so that you would have God. In God, is the fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16:11).  In God, is a river of pleasure (Psalm 36:8).  Therefore Jesus died to bring us to that infinite pleasure.  If you do not receive this pleasure, then you are like a person dying of thirst in the desert who comes across a beautiful oasis, only to eat a mouthful of sand thinking it will satisfy you.  Stop eating sand, come to the waters, come to Jesus.  Infinite joy is waiting.

Jesus Came to Learn Obedience

Let me say before I begin this post that I believe God never changes, He never makes mistakes, He never says oops, and He certainly does not grow in knowledge, as if anything ever came into His mind that did not originate there in the first place.  God is God.  But let me also make clear that I do believe Jesus, the Son of God, learned obedience throughout His earthly life.  Do these two ideas contradict each other?  Not at all.

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”  (Hebrews 5:8) Crystal clear in this verse we have it.  Jesus, the 100% God and 100% Man Person, learned.  He grew in knowledge, He learned obedience.  Two questions come to me at this point: First is how this happened.  Second is why this happened.

First, how did Jesus learn obedience?  Doesn’t He already know everything there is know?  If He is God is there something He can learn?  Clearly Jesus, as God, knows all things, and cannot learn something because all things came from Him.  But, in Jesus’ human nature, there were things He did not know.  He did not know who touched Him when He felt power leave out of Him (Mark 5:30), He did not know the time of His second coming (Mark 13:32), and He did not know such great faith existed in Israel (Matthew 8:10).  Jesus did know the woman at the well was hopping around from man to man (John 4), He did know Judas had to leave and do his deed (Luke 22:21-23), and He knew all things (John 16:30).  In his divine nature Jesus knew all that God knew, and in His human nature Jesus was limited in His knowledge, learned things, and grew in stature and understanding (Luke 2:52).

Now for the question of why.  Why did Jesus come to earth to learn obedience through suffering.  The question is posed to us from Hebrews 5:8 (above) and the answer is given to us from Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”  This means that with each new trial and temptation (Hebrews 4:15, Jesus was tempted as we are) Jesus learned what it meant to obey the will of the Father.  When this verse says Jesus was made “perfect through suffering” it does not mean that God was ridding His Son of defects or sin through suffering.  He was perfect, sinless, and needed no such “ridding.”  Rather it means that Jesus was gradually fulfilling the perfect righteousness required to save us (Matthew 3:15).

The point is that if the Son of God entered into the world, and went straight to the cross without having lived a life of trial and temptation at all, He would not be a qualified Savior for fallen men/women like us.  He not only died the death we deserved, in His life Jesus lived the life we never could have.  Thus, we have in one Man, both the sin-bearer, and the giver of perfect righteousness.  He came to do both.